Young Prince Louis, only five years old, had been standing patiently in the room where his dying father laid abed gasping for breath and coughing horrendously to expel the air. His young brother was beside him, held in his nurse's arms. He was irritated and rubbing his face against her shoulder, not understanding what was happening and wanting to sleep.
His mother, the queen sat devotedly on the bed beside her husband. There were the doctors mumbling with worried looks. The priests stood, crucifixes in hand, chanting prayers. Then there were dozens of courtiers, all eyes looked upon his father with solemn, yet pensive expressions.
Prince Louis slowly approached the bed and reached out to touch his father's hand. His hand was so small in comparison. How was he to do what his father did when his hand was so much smaller? He would do less; achieve less. Boys were not supposed to be kings. He needed to be a man, like his father. He could never fill his father's position as king if were to begin at so young an age.
"Who is it?" coughed his father.
"Louis XIV," he managed to say. He knew his father would be pleased with such a reply and he was for a minute or so. The king smiled slightly, but soon turned his head away, closing his eyes. Louis returned to his place by his brother.
When his father breathed his last there was silence and his mother let out a single cry as tears ran down her slightly wrinkled face. There were several moments of stillness as the courtiers prayed. Then as if they had entirely forgotten the terrible hours they had just spent at a king's deathbed they all turned to face him, like wolves as they spotted their prey.
They cheered and bowed down to him, their new king. Shouts were heard throughout out the palace and then echoed throughout the streets of Paris. He was not prepared for this role; he had barely mastered reading. His frightened heart asked why did his father have to die now and leave all of this to him?
His mother stood, dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief and commenced with royal protocol. She walked from the bed to him, curtsied at his small feet, and kissed his hand.
"You are now king, my son."
It was the Lord's year of 1643, the 21st of April to be precise, when France's king departed from this life and this young dauphin, Prince Louis was proclaimed king; forever changing his life, all in France, and all of those yet to come.
Nineteen years later, Louis had become a king who was adored by his subjects with his charismatic ways, but at the same time viewed by some as inept, as he made one foolish blunder after another in his rule. The Queen Mother and Mazarin were no longer alive to aid him. He had boldly taken control of the throne by himself and proven to France that he was of age to govern. He had Versailles Chateau built and along with that came the emptying of the royal treasury. To compensate for the king's insatiable spending taxes increased, which no citizen ever liked.
King Louis made his way to his chambers after a long night of revelry. Walking at a brisk pace along side him was his chief advisor and minister of finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert, the Marquis de Seignelay. The king was badgering him once again about the only subject he ever expressed an interest in.
"I find myself constantly loving women," said the king haughtily. "The entire court wants me to end the passion I have, to be with every heavenly creature that crosses my path. I cannot devote my heart to just one woman and sincerely do not think I ever will alter myself. There are so many of these charming creatures whom all have innocuous qualities I desire. It's a delectable thing to conquer the heart of a young beauty by a hundred sweet intimacies; to see yourself making small advancements with her every day; to contest her pristine innocence and her unwillingness to succumb; to break through all her little strongholds, one by one; to eliminate her treasured ethics, and gently bring her around to bestow your desires.
"But once I have accomplished my intent, there is nothing left in the liaison; the ecstasy of passionate pursuit is over. Until that is, some new beauty emerges and restores my desires, alluring my heart with the hope of a new victory.–Oh," he said with a sigh. "Of late my mistresses have been quite dull. Intelligence is something I yearn to find in a woman. All the lovely creatures I have known are so dimwitted and frankly do not think. I wish I could have a woman within my grasp who is as clever as a man. What kind of woman would she be?"
"My Lord, nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.–That woman you speak of does not exist. It is not possible for a woman to have the intelligence of a man. God made woman to serve man, not to think or have witty opinions," said Colbert, nostrils flaring as they always did when he was holding back some insult.
Louis was undressed and changed into his nightshirt by his officers and valets. As he was stripped of his green doublet he recalled the last time that doublet was removed. It was slipped off by a pretty lady with jet-black hair and alabaster-blue eyes. He made love to her in the privacy of his billiard room, shortly before several courtiers were to be admitted to play a few games with him. They made love in such a rough and tumble way, remembering it now it made his loins burn with desire to possess her once again. He could not remember her name at that moment, but he knew she was a cousin to the Comtesse de Maine. She was by now sent away from his court and married he remembered. It pleased him to marry off his dismissed mistresses to his nobles. As he thought more about it he recalled the Comtesse de Maine had been looking terribly desirable of late; she might do nicely as his next mistress.
"Colbert, you are correct I am sure. There is no such woman. I shall never find her. And if she does exist somewhere in this world it is not as if she will not just happen to come to my Versailles in search of me. Things such as this are not so simple."
"You are still quite young; this should not be a worry to you. There are more important things, Your Majesty, such as efficiently governing your kingdom."
King Louis nodded. Colbert knew just when to slip such comments into conversation. He excused the insufferable Marquis as he walked to his bedchamber to retire.
When he went to bed he was still frustrated with women for not being capable of satisfying him. He knew Colbert thought his discontentment was altogether trivial and foolish. Yet he always seemed to be his one advisor that supported him the most. Mazarin had been a fine advisor, but he having controlled Louis reign for so long in his youth, had become a burden to his rule in the last few years that he lived. Colbert had been with him since he was a boy and had always led him in the right direction. Louis wished he took Colbert's advice more often. It nearly always happened whenever crisis struck he followed through with his own ideas, instead of heeding to Colbert's words.
King Louis thought of himself as an irresistible and tantalizing man. He had his way with so many women, he was not sure he remembered them all. He was tired of all the women about him. The ladies of the court no longer sparked his interest, nor brought fire to his loins. The conquest of them was all too easy, which had served him well in previous years, but now had lost its excitement.
Mademoiselle Blondelle de Marlon, his last mistress, was the perfect example of the sort of women he was bored with. She was a beauty with her golden tresses and plump bosom. A month ago she had visited court with her guardian, Viscomte de Folligny. On the day of her introduction, when she curtsied to the floor at the king's feet he received a full downward view of her ample breasts and was henceforth enthralled with her. He was able to seduce her within six days with his flattery and kingly attention.
She had remained her high position as his mistress for barely three weeks. Three nights ago while lying abed with her after making love she began speaking to him about her home and her deceased parents. He would not have minded so much, but this was a topic she had brought up practically every day since she came to court. Then there was her nervous, high-pitched giggle, which ensued after every time she thought she said something witty. Louis was never amused though. All at once her face and lavender scent nauseated him. He stalked out of her chamber without saying one word to her.
The next morning he had his Secretary of State find a courtier to wed Mademoiselle Blondelle. She had a small dowry, but he would provide her with something more substantial to induce the intended bridegroom. He had deflowered her after all. The lady was content enough with the match, not as if it mattered much to him though. Just this day he sent her away from court with a husband, the Marquis de Noyelles.
Louis wanted a young lady for himself whose seduction would be a challenge, a lady who would not give into him so easily. If only he could seduce a woman without her knowing he was a king. He wondered if his skills would still be as proficient on such a lady. Was it he who had seduced all these women or was it truly his crown? This lady would also need to be witty. He liked to laugh and it had been so long since a woman had made him laugh, unless it was from her stupidity.
Colbert stalked back to his chambers after the king dismissed him. He did not like thinking his king was insufferable and lecherous, but he could not help himself. King Louis was forever consumed with himself and his string of lovers that he carelessly dismissed his responsibilities as king. Along with many other advisors, Colbert continued urging him to choose a fertile young bride and sire an heir. Since King Louis' family came into power there were no lawful royalty other than his brother and a few distant cousins. Louis knew all of this and still did not want to consider holy wedlock at present. His fate was to marry an ill-faced princess with a large pocketbook, but Louis told him just yesterday that intended to preclude marriage for a good ten years.
Colbert knew Louis was not safe on the throne unless he had an heir. Louis had to marry a royal heiress and the sooner the better. The country was in debt to the rich nobles because of the construction and garnishing of the Versailles Palace, yet King Louis' attentions persisted on these asinine liaisons with mindless women. Louis usually accepted all of his advice, but on this one subject he could never get through to him. Colbert was at his wits end.
King Louis awoke the next morning feeling only partly refreshed. He reminisced on the mornings he would wake with his arms wrapped around some nude beauty. It was then he was roused from a breathing that was not his own. This did not surprise him, he was sure it was one of his officers standing beside his bed, waiting for him to wake, waiting to attend to him.
He turned to his side, opening his eyes. His eyes practically crossed as he focused in on an elbow pointing right at him, only a hairsbreadth from his face. He quickly sat up as he saw a body lying beside him completely covered by a sheet. His initial thought was to call for the guards, yet the delicate ivory arm, seemed that of a lady, so instead he pulled the sheet away from the body. It was a young woman! Louis feared he was loosing his memory, for he did not recall taking a woman to bed the previous night. Yes, he did go to bed alone, he remembered the cold blanket that covered him and there was no woman there to warm him up.
She certainly did not look familiar to him. She was the most beautiful being he had ever beheld. He would have remembered that face. Her tangled tresses were a shade of red, as he had only seen in the copper metal. If he were to guess by only the length of her hair her would believe she was a boy. She must have lost it to illness and it was growing back so beautifully.
She had a faint aroma on her of an exotic flower, possibly freesia. His gardens would soon have freesia in bloom and perhaps he would stroll in them with this lady. This was a sign, they would someday make love in his garden of freesia.
Her skin was fair and soft looking and sprinkled with light freckles. Then he noticed her face was tear-stained. Who could have been the cause of those tears? It could possibly be him, for he had made many a lady weep, either from too much loving or not enough loving. With her slight frown and her rhythmic breath she captivated him. Her body was trim and youthful. She was resting on her stomach, with her torso curved toward him, one leg slightly bent, and the other straight. Her head was turned toward him, one arm under the pillow, the other closest to him was gracefully resting upon the pillow.
He wondered how she could have slipped into his chamber unnoticed. His Swiss Guards protected the gates and perimeter of the property and his Grade du Corps kept watch at his door as well as throughout the chateau. She could be dangerous, perhaps even an assassin. Still donning her nightclothes he assumed nothing had happened between them. Perhaps her being in his bed, dressed or not, was a part of a treasonous plot. He cared not if she was an enemy; her beauty intoxicated his senses. It would be a joy to die at the hands of such a beautiful enemy.
He had never seen a lady's nightclothes such as she was wearing. They resembled gentlemen's undergarments. She wore knee length breeches and a sleeveless top. Louis never imagined this specific combination of clothing would be so appealing on a young female body. Her mystery allured him further. The idea of making love to that beautiful body consumed his thoughts. He could even wake her at this very moment and make love to her.
Louis did not wish to wake the sleeping angel, but his curiosity overpowered him.
"Madame," King Louis whispered softly, as avoid frightening her. He sat beside where she slept in the bed, tipping his head down toward her. "Madame, please awaken."
Elora slightly stirred from sleep to someone nudging her shoulder. Her limbs felt like they had fifty-pound weights on them. Her eyelids felt glued shut. Her mind was clouded, as if trying to see ahead while in the middle of a snowstorm and seeing nothing but a blanket of white.
She cracked open her eyes and saw a boy facing her. Everything was a blur, but she could still make out his striking turquoise eyes.
I'm dead. I know it. I'm in heaven. This Being before me must be God. But if I'm dead why am I so tired?
"Are you an angel or God?" she mumbled in English.
His eyes widened as he quickly drew away from her. "English!" he replied speaking with a French accent. "Who are you?"
She rubbed her face into the pillow, then peered at him through half open eyes. "Elora," she said beginning to nod back off into her all-escaping sleep. "Am I dead?"
"No, you are within my apartments."
"I might as well be dead," were her last words to him before she fell asleep again, turning onto her side with her back to him.
King Louis looked on the Englishwoman, his mind now cluttered with even more questions. He was disappointed not to be able to speak to her more, flabbergasted she did not recognize who he was, and double angry that she was English. Despite this her beauty echoed through those beautiful emerald eyes and all the terrible ideas he had about her dissipated.
Elora, what a beautiful name, but who was she? How did this Englishwoman get in his bed? He wanted to learn more, but he became aware that she was not in a natural sleep. She must have taken a pretty strong potion. Unless she did not take it of her own free will.
Perhaps someone had drugged her and deliberately placed her in his bed to ruin him, for he had enough enemies. She must be a princess, he thought. If he were caught with her in his bed, he would have no choice but to marry her. A courtier was one matter, but a princess, virginal or not, was not to be seduced. A thwarted princess could easily lead to war. He had to avoid even the chance of starting war. The girl would remain a secret, locked in his rooms until she confessed to this plot to take over his France. He would never ally himself to the English. The man behind the plot could be any of his trusted men and likely even living here in the chateau. Unsure of whom to trust his only decision for the present was secrecy from all. If no one but he knew, then as far as the world knew she was not here.
He would perhaps transfer her via the hidden passages too another chamber once she was conscious. Now though, in the state she was in he could not tend to her. He was king after all. He never even tended to himself; that was his vassals' job. He would have to appoint a servant girl to tend to her womanly needs.
King Louis put on his robe and looked at he clock on his mantle. It was nearly eight in the morning. His officers would be coming in to dress him in less than an hour. They could not find her here. How could he suddenly change the protocol he created to be strictly enforced? He would simply have to be dressed in another room today.
The king opened his bedchamber doors himself, quickly ordering them to be shut them behind him by the guards. Colbert was already standing there waiting for him. Did that man ever sleep? Colbert greeted him with a peppy smile.
"I need a handful of servant girls here, now."
"Did you have that bad of a night, Your Majesty?"
"Colbert, I am in no mood for jokes at the moment."
He turned to a guard standing by his door and told him to inform the servants not to enter his bedchamber this morning. No one would dare question him, even Colbert, no matter how odd his demand.
There were serving women of all sorts that entered only minutes later. Most were fat or old or both. The older the women the more they gossip, Louis thought. He finally chose a young woman with straw blond hair and a shy smile. She was no longer in her youth, but still looked capable. He was pleased with her manner and excused all the rest of the women.
Louis spoke authoritatively to all the officers whom had gathered in the king's apartment, "To the rest of you if any living soul comes into this bedchamber or so much as opens the door they will be executed without delay. Only this serving girl and I are to ever enter my bedchamber. This command will be in effect as long as it pleases me. Am I rightly understood?"
The whole roomful of his subjects nodded vigorously and made assurances they would not disobey, only Colbert looked upset by this command. The king reentered his bedchamber with the servant girl following behind.
King Louis circled her in an intimidating fashion. "I cannot recall the last time I addressed a servant.–Are you prepared to do your duty to your king no matter what he asks of you?"
"Yes, Majesty," she answer, looking only to the floor.
It was obvious to Louis that this creature thought he was going to make love to her, but he would never consider the degradation. A king did not need to bother with servants, ladies of refinement were the only ones worthy of that honor. He did bed one once, but that was only because she was conveniently there in his chamber and her breasts were bursting out of the seams of her gown. It appeared to him she was offering herself and he had no problem taking it. But this scrawny girl was not in his taste, far too flat in the important places.
"I am about to reveal something unto you that no one, not even my advisors nor my servants know about. If you betray this secret and it is circulated I will know it has been you. I will then have no choice but to charge you with treason. Do you understand, girl?"
She nodded the affirmative.
He wanted the young, fear stricken servant woman to rightly understand her new duties. "Madame, there is no reason for you to worry. You are mistaken about the reason why you are here.–I am assigning you to attend to a very important lady for me." King Louis pushed back the curtain enveloping the bed to reveal Elora.
"Who is she, Majesty?" she asked hesitantly.
King Louis would not consider confiding in a servant. How dare she even ask? "That is none of your concern. You just follow my orders. She is to remain in my chambers and no one is to know about her. Tend to her carefully. When she wakes send for me immediately. Do not let her leave this room.–Whatever you need for this lady get it. I will consent to it. No one will be capable of declaring I treated this lady badly."
King Louis left his bedroom, heading for his dressing room. He reminded the two guards beside the door that no one goes in or out of his bedroom except for that servant girl. "You will give her no difficulty. Whatever you hear in there the next few days pretend you did not hear it. If screams echo from the room ignore them. For no reason will you enter that room.–If it sounds like someone is being murdered or attacked what will you do?"
They straightened their posture, showing they were at attention to do the king's bidding. Albert, the elder of the two guards, could not remember a time before now when the king had actually spoken to them directly. Something terrible must be going on if the king was speaking to them. "We will not enter, sire. We will send for you, sire."
King Louis nodded with approval.
Suzanne Gilbert stood beside the bed looking down on the sleeping lady. "No one will be capable of declaring I treated this lady badly," she imitated the king. "Yes, being trapped in King Louis, the infamous seducer's bedchamber is the best treatment a virginal princess could want."
She sat down for a moment and wondered how she got hoisted into this duty. The king was such a selfish man. He gave her this task, yet he could give her no details of the lady's condition. Who was she? Was she unwell? Where was she from? Did she come with trunks of her possessions? Did she speak their tongue? Suzanne hoped she spoke French, for she knew no other language.
Moments like this she wished her husband, Francis, were still alive. Being widowed now for five years she was used to doing things on her own. Francis always knew what to do. His death from the war with the Belgians had been heart breaking, mainly because he was her only family. They had not been able to have children. He was away so often she did not think she would have been so lost after his death. It took her months, practically living on the streets, before she got this job at the royal palace. She diligently worked here for years without anyone taking notice of her, until today.
As the lady slept Suzanne prepared for her awakening. She looked through her mistress' bags beside the bed, but found nothing that could be of help to her. Suzanne knew not what most of the objects in her bags were.
The lady had no gowns or underskirts or corsets or stockings to speak of. There was only a jumbled bunch of underclothes. The material was coarse and looked like something the gardeners wore. The lady's shoes were white, leathery, clunky things that looked like they may have been boots that had been cut down at the ankle. There was an odd, spherical hairbrush that she believed must be meant for animals. She removed from the bag many objects of all shapes and sizes, unable to tell if they were made of a metal or wood. Then there were three transparent, soft-glass bottles containing oddly scented liquids. She had never known there was existence of such a creation as soft glass. It was amazing; she could bend it with a slight touch and then it moved right back into place once she removed the pressure.
"This lady must come from the other side of the world to have such odd possessions as these," Suzanne said to herself.
She would have to make several trips to fetch all the things her mistress would need. Suzanne left the king's chamber to get clean linens, clothes, and every utensil she could think of that could be used to beautify her mistress when she woke. Upon return she found the lady was still sleeping, just as she had left her.
This newly appointed duty would far outweigh her position at the king's court before now. Cleaning the chateau and lighting the chandeliers in the evening with Guy Bouchard was a bore. Caring for this mysterious young lady would certainly be worth the effort.
Thank you so much for reading The Celestial City. This is a complete novel consisting of about 40 chapters. I will do my best to post new chapters regularly. I really hope you enjoy this story. I appreciate feedback so please review and let me know what you think!