Rated: ASR · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1955290
A young Louis XIII meets his match.
Prompt: "I have lost my comforter and support."
For "Quotation Inspiration: Official Contest"
He was a king who was just a boy.
It was the year of our Lord, Sixteen Hundred and Twelve. Though just eleven years old, Louis found himself King of France. Too young to rule in his own right, he was nevertheless still not allowed to act as a young boy.
From the moment he was roused at sunrise until the evening's ablutions and bed, Louis's time was properly ordered by his mother and Regent, Marie de Medici. Everything done to and for Louis was to prepare him the lead the largest Catholic populated country in the world. There was no time for frivolous pastimes.
Louis was very aware of the importance of his position. He chafed at his inability to make time for himself. The gardens at the Chateau de Fontainebleau were replete with fruit trees which begged being pilfered by a young boy. Magnificent oaks in the surrounding forest dared a nimble boy to climb to the very top. Alas, such instances of freedom were all too few.
"Mere-ma," said Louis to his mother as he awaited his first lesson of the day on statecraft. "Autumn is here. It is my birthday ... and such a warm September day must be an omen. Please allow me some time for myself this day."
"Non, my son," his mother replied. "There is much to be done to prepare for your future."
"But every day until now has been filled with matters of importance," Louis complained. "What of moi?"
Marie looked at her son's hopeful face, then shrugged, tilting her head toward him. Her raised eyebrows signaled her resignation to her son's desire.
She smiled ... and Louis was gone.
He was free. Well almost. Louis's entourage of servants and bodyguards followed at a discrete distance while Louis raced down the trail holding Lightning's reins for dear life. The stallion, given to him as a foal by his father three years before, was still more than Louis could easily handle. But he loved that horse and worked hard to become strong enough for the spirited colt.
The thunder of hooves pounding the ground echoed in his ears. Exhilaration etched upon his face, Louis opened his mouth wide to get the air his young body needed. He spurred Lightning onward leaving his entourage far behind. Soon their cries faded, lost in the wind that whipped his hair across his face. He rode for what seemed like hours to the young boy. Heart racing, he stole a glance behind him.
Just then, a low branch hit Louis in the chest, sweeping him off his horse.
"Oooff," he cried, hitting the ground tumbling head over heels.He lay there for several minutes, dazed. Rolling gingerly onto his back, he closed his eyes, trying to regain his senses. He heard the rustling of leaves....
"Are you all right?" a high-pitched voice asked. "That was a nasty tumble."
Louis opened his eyes, blinking several times to clear away the tears welling up. He moved his arm and grimaced as pain shot through his right shoulder. His chest hurt where the limb had struck him making it difficult to draw a deep breath.
"I ... I am f-fine," Louis said through clenched teeth.
"No! You are not!" said the young voice. "Mon Dieu, you just had a great fall."
"I-I will be g-good," insisted Louis, still unable to focus on the face peering down at him. All of a sudden tears began to flow more from fear of what his mother would do than from the pain coursing through him.
"Allons ... come with me now." Petite hands reached down to help Louis to his feet. "Can you stand?"
He looked up into piercing green eyes, framed by dark, almost black hair. 'The face of an angel.' he thought.
"I think s-s-so," he said, taking shallow breaths into tortured lungs. She reached under his arms from behind and lifted. "I c-can do it," he added in a sharp voice, not wanting to appear weak.
The strong hands withdrew immediately, and Louis slumped to the ground. He cried out in pain.
"Let me help you," the young girl said in a soft voice. Moments later the two stood face to face.
"I am Jacqui, and ma mere is a healer."
Louis looked Jacqui up and down. Her dark hair was trimmed uncharacteristically close, and she was several inches taller. Her loose fitting clothing hid her apparent strength well. She gazed back at him eye to eye. Louis had never encountered anyone with this girl's temperment.
Leading Lightning to a fallen tree, both children climbed on and rode to Jacqui's village. Despite his torn and disheveled appearance, Louis's obviously expensive garments led the villagers to believe he was a member of a very wealthy family, maybe even nobility. Some voiced the opinion they may be in danger if Louis was found there.
Louis decided to keep his identity secret by telling them he was the son of a wealthy merchant in a nearby town. Smitten by the strong-willed, yet gentle, Jacqui, Louis had no desire to leave. He hoped his servants would not find them before he was ready to return home.
Jacqui's mom calmed the villager's fears and led the two children to her hut where she treated Louis's bruises with a homemade balm. The following morning Louis woke almost pain free and enjoyed the best morning meal he'd ever had. Jacqui's infectious humor made Louis forget he was destined to lead the the strongest country in Europe. His injuries and his life forgotten, Louis and Jacqui explored the wooded glen together.
Louis found what he'd been missing in his short life by falling off a horse. His childhood was all but taken away by the assassination of his father, Henry IV, when he was eight and a half. He was dominated by a mother who found herself in the enviable position of the de facto ruler of France. Louis made a fateful decision that September morning.
Louis managed to get away from his keepers once or twice a month; the two would spend the next three years enjoying adventure after adventure. As the sister Louis never had, Jacqui would teach the future king the meaning of compassion and justice. He learned the wisdom of relaxation and fun. Jacqui inspired the future ruler's moniker, Louis the Just. And so Louis XIII spent these all too few years happy.
But fate's scales often tipped indifferent to one's desires. Louis's destiny would once more turn his life upside down. The Treaty of Fontainbleau, signed in 1611, arranged for Louis to wed the Spanish Infanta, Anne of Austria. His mother decided the marriage would take place on Louis's 14th birthday. No longer able to keep his circumstances secret from Jacqui, he slipped away to meet her one last time.
"Bien-aimée ... dear Jacqui," Louis said, taking Jacqui's hands in his. "After today I will no longer be able to see you. Family affairs shall keep me ... busy." Louis had noticed that his stutter disappeared when he was around Jacqui. He cursed his stutter. He cursed his mother. And, he cursed his fate.
"But, Louis," Jacqui said. "I do not understand. You are King. Can you not do as you please?"
Stunned, Louis let go of her hands and stepped back.
"What...." was all he could manage.
Jacqui lowered her gaze, unable to look Louis in the eyes. She said, "I have known your identity for some time. How is not important," she added to forestall his inevitable question. "I accepted that it was important to you not to tell me."
"I am to be wed in one month," Louis blurted out, as if saying the news quickly would lessen its impact.
Jacqui gazed at Louis, her green eyes softening as a tear slipped down her cheek. She stepped toward Louis and cupped his face in her hands. Sighing, she brushed her lips across his cheek.
Louis responded, kissing his dearest friend for the first ... and last time.
He broke the kiss, saying, "I have lost my comforter and support."
"Allons ... come with me now," Jacqui said, echoing those same words voiced to a scared boy three years earlier. "Let us ride and be free once more."
He was just a young boy who was a King.
Word Count: 1392