So, here's my contribution for this year's picfor1000 challenge! I was stumped by my assigned picture and spent some time trying to figure out a Sherlock or Cabin Pressure story I could tell using that picture and only 1000 words, but nothing clicked for me. Then I watched a movie called La Princesse de Montpensier and realized I could write a story in that, as I only had about a thousand words of stuff to say about it. For anyone who's seen the movie, this is the road not taken. For anyone who hasn't, I'd give it five stars out of ten. And for anyone who's trying to find a connection between my assigned picture and this fic, set in 16th-century France, here it is: there is a rapture to be found in the physical.
Translation of a sonnet by Louise Labé from here. My best thanks to musesfool for doing such a speedy and encouraging beta on this for me, despite not having seen the movie.
(All you need to know about the film is this: Marie de Mezières has had a childhood crush on her cousin, but is married off to the young Prince de Montpensier, Philippe. After the young couple makes their home in one of the Montpensier estates, Philippe is called back to court. He asks his former tutor and current man-at-arms, Comte Chabannes, to teach Marie what she will need to know to be the Princess of Montpensier.)
"Makes Glad My Days and Nights"
"Teach her," Philippe had said, as if she were a child, as if he were not yet a child himself, but Prince Philippe was his lord and master and the request had the force of a command. Chabannes would be working against certain disadvantages; she would have learned none of the pleasing arts, the skills needed to serve at court or in battle. All he knew of her was that she was young and beautiful and, as he had observed and Philippe had shyly confirmed, fond of sunshine.
He watched as she tried to adjust to her new surroundings in this ancillary estate far from the seat of power. He could not see whether it was a sense of freedom or fear that the absence of her family called forth in her; all he saw was the smile that curved her wide mouth but did not light up her eyes. But a new bride separated from her husband by the demands of court needed to offer no excuse for that look of grave sorrow, worthy of a Madonna.
He had no stomach for teaching etiquette and counted himself fortunate that Mezières, coward though he was, had instilled the codes in his prized possession, his beautiful daughter. What she wanted to learn was poetry, though her Latin was barely passable. Perhaps works in the vernacular - the sonnets of La Belle Cordière - would open her up to the wonders of verse, the ways in which ink set down on paper could open up worlds. He searched out the volume, finding it in a dark corner of his chamber; as he blew the dust from the cover, he understood that these words would only find their way if she enjoyed them in the sunshine.
"How pleasant the air is here!" she said artlessly, drawing great deep breaths of crisp air into her lungs. "I am ready for my lesson, Chabannes." She seated herself upon a rock, fresh-skinned as a dryad, earnest eyes fixed upon him.
He nodded and began to recite: "'Twice blessed, the bright return of this clear star,'" and then was surprised into silence when her voice chimed in on the next line.
"'My well-loved sun, makes glad my days and nights,'" Marie said, eyes closed rapturously. "I have learned all of the poems by heart."
"Do they speak to you, then?" he asked, amused, remembering when his own youth had insisted that every poet spoke directly to him.
She clasped her hands together but made no protestations and kept her back ramrod-straight. "It seems to me," she said carefully, gaze trained over his shoulder, "that Madame Labé's poems speak to all wives who wish to secure their husbands' love."
That touch of shyness was what undid him; he could feel his heart declaring its allegiance to this demure child of sunshine, just on the cusp of ripeness.
She had stated her intention to leave behind her childish infatuation for her cousin and to be a proper helpmeet to Philippe, he reminded himself as he lay awake, unable to keep from remembering how the wind and light had turned her hair to whipped gold, how sun and shade had made a chiaroscuro of her incomparable figure. She had no awareness of herself as anything but a child, faithfully following instructions.
In the morning, he told her that they would find a new discipline to study, now that she had mastered poetry.
Montpensier land was her territory; she led him deep into one of the rolling fields and turned her face up to the sun. "What is it you will teach me today, Chabannes?" she asked, hair already falling out of its pins.
His voice was low, as if reluctant to seal his betrayal; his body had no such hesitation. "How to please your husband, madame."
She threw him a smile. Her face was still so open that he could see the pleasantry rising to her lips: "How would you know how to satisfy a man, Chabannes?"
"By being one," he said, reaching out for her. Her arm was soft under his hand, shaming him into loosing his grasp. He must not force her.
"Truly?" she asked. "Out of doors?"
"The better to see you," he said, and tugged at the ribbon that kept her bodice shut. She stood, biddable and delicious, unashamed as the sun poured honey on her skin. Her flesh was smooth and scented; one of her bridal boxes must have contained great quantities of Mezières lavender. She watched him with trusting eyes as his hand traced her contours, fingers rolling one pink nipple as if it were an aromatic herb as well, and her mouth fell slightly open. She was at home in her body; its pleasures seemed to unlock stores of bravery he'd only caught glimpses of before. She stepped forward and pulled free the fastenings of his doublet.
"Why do you only wear black and white?" she murmured, leaning her cheek into his questing palm.
"For simplicity's sake," he answered as he complicated his life immeasurably. Her eyes widened as she saw the scars and hair littering his body, reminding him that her husband was as downy and youthful as she. "Touch him here," he instructed, pulling her hand toward his heart, but she bent her golden head and laid her lips on the spot. "Oh, my child," he groaned, clasping her head close, then releasing her so that she could step from the constriction of her gown.
His mouth laid open on every part of her, he relished her moans and the significant flutterings of her fingers. "Will he do all this for me?" she gasped, voice skipping higher as his hands pushed her silken thighs apart.
"Yes, Marie," he promised, lips still wet with her as he took her mouth, his heated flesh shaking as she took him in her hands.
"And he will love me?" she asked, innocent as a child.
"Completely," he swore, then pressed into her heat and knew no more.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think!