Disclaimer. Some of the main characters in this Uber story will remind you of a starship, a crew and a show called Voyager owned by UPN. The leading ladies of the show, their formidable presence and acting, gave me the inspiration to write it.

If you don't like to read about love between people of the same gender, instead go watch the repeats of Voyager in the Scifiworld.

Notes: I was not born in a country were they speak English currently, so you probably will be correct if a sentence is a bit "strange looking".

Lucky me, I have a very gracious editor, and I thank you with all my heart, merci La Cayan for your kindness!

And thank you trekbeez for checking everything once again, and for your suggestions.

Thanks also to Anik for providing me with very needed opera info. Ich danke dich, Anik. Some of the story is inspired by a book "Mademoiselle de Maupin" (1835) written by Theophile Gauthier. His book was based on a life of an actress in the 17th century who fought duels over the women she loved. Go read it! The setting is the French revolution. I try to stick as much as I can to the most important historical facts, but sometimes for dramatic purposes the timeline will not be accurate. Some of what I wrote about the royal couple is true, some of it is speculation and for the rest I guess it was my muse speaking.

You can find the picture on the Totally Kate website, section filmography.

You can write me:

tocornelia@eudoramail.com

Béatrice, La Reine de Mon Coeur

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4| Part 5Part 6 |

PROLOGUE

They want my head.

I can hear them. They are shouting my name over and again. Wait, no, not my name, the other names.

The whore of Austria. The bitch of Versailles.

The truth be known, it was not me, but the other woman.

Nothing of what is being said is true.

I did not spend money recklessly, nor did I wear the extravagant hairpieces. I had no carnal knowledge of the cardinal, nor did I visit the brothels near Le Palais Royal, as claimed.

It was not I.

There is only one truth. Yet, I will never admit it to anyone.

I love a woman.

No, not a woman. I love an angel. An angel with feminine features who saved me again and again.

Now it is too late. For not even she can save me.

I am living in the depths of hell, my body covered with filth. My once vibrant blond tresses cut, and along with it, my pride. I can only pray, pray that God will take mercy upon me. That he may take my soul before the pain becomes unbearable.

My angel, where are you?

Will you and your comrades make one last attempt?

How? Or shall I meet my destiny on the échafaud, the large scaffold they are building now.

My blood will spill on your hands, and for that beloved one, I am truly sorry.

I was never meant to be a queen.

But was meant to be the queen of your heart.

Chapter 1

The soldier came knocking upon the queen's door

He stated, "I am no longer fighting for you"

The queen recalled his face from someplace before

And slowly she granted him entry.

(The Queen and the Soldier, Suzanne Vega)

The dark of night is slowly encroaching and I am tired, the journey was a good one. To have seen the Italian seaside, Florence, the paintings of Andrea del Sarto and Leonardo da Vinci brought me great joy. Yet, I could not stop longing for my castle, my servants and friends. For Lady B, my childhood friend, Leonore my excellent cook, Antoine, Jacques and Dominique. And, of course, my dearest Theodore.

The forest is a dangerous place, the roads narrow. Yet, there is not a tree, animal or precious flower I am not familiar with. I will turn left just after the river. In another mile or so, I shall see the towers of my castle lying in the distance. Spirit, my brave steed, grows weary. She is hungry and anxious for home, as am I.

To my right, I hear the sound of a woman's voice. Her scream is loud, the fear evident in her voice. I come to a halt. Spirit is restless, her ears detecting the sounds of distress.

I listen intently. Yes, I can hear it clearly now, hear her screams of agony. I dismount and tie Spirit to the branch of a tree, and slowly I begin to move towards the sounds. I draw my sable closer to me and, just between the leaves of the bushes, I can see her, a woman in danger.

Although I am a woman myself, I am very agile and fearless, having learned the art of fencing at an early age from my father. I have seen the weapons drawn, raised high and taking life with a single thrust. I fear not the sword, nor the blood they ultimately draw.

The woman is lying on the ground, her hands tied, bleeding from a wound underneath her right breast. She is barely conscious. A knife is held to her throat, the man threatening her with vehemence. She is a delicate woman, one of wealth and high status. A necklace made of diamonds caresses her skin, her flesh the color of white blossoming lilies. Her garments are exquisite and made of the finest fabrics.

There is a second man near the carriage, his manner nervous. He is holding guard and watching the scene unfolding before him. It is he whom I shall strike down first.

I move slowly around the carriage, careful not to raise alarm, hoping to thrust him in the back. The lady begins to regain consciousness and attempts to bite the hand of the brute that holds her. He lowers his body onto hers and strikes her in the face. With one swift movement, he cuts her garment with his knife, exposing her bare shoulders. She screams, and he presses his body to her, using his weight to pin her, pressing her closely to the ground.

I try to contain my anxiousness and continue to move slowly, revolted by the violence against her. With one jump I attack the guard near the carriage. He is surprised and turns to face me, and with one quick movement, I silence him forever.

The other man tries to rise quickly, but his trousers fall to his ankles, hindering him. He falls victim to my sable, joining his accomplice in death. His throat lies open and his corpse collapses on the body of the woman. She is frightened and begins to drift away again, her shoulders and breasts partially revealed. Her garments are soaked with the blood of her attacker.

Night is quickly approaching and time is of the essence. With difficulty, I take the lady into my arms and carry her to the carriage, covering her body with a horse cloth. I return to retrieve Spirit, attaching her rein to the backside of the carriage. I calm down the agitated coach horses and, turning the carriage around, I drive it carefully in the direction of my castle, aware of the delicate cargo it carries.

I enter the courtyard and Lady B greets me with a questioning smile. She detects that I am fatigued. Using few words, I describe what transpired, and order two of my servants to bury the corpses I left behind, in order to remove any trace of my presence. The country is in troubled times and I cannot afford to be less prudent. I am sure Lady B will take care of the lovely guest, clean her wounds, and bathe her bruised body. I return quietly to my quarters and climb quickly into my cold bed. I gather the blankets to me, and collapse from exhaustion, not bothering to remove the bandages binding my breasts.

*

I awake the next day with my body sour. The three-day journey and coming to the aide of the lady marked my muscles. I change my bandages, for I am eager to make a good impression on the aristocratic lady. I choose my finest clothes to wear and begin to dress. Lady B enters my quarters to inform me of the woman's health and status.

Lady B, Belle de Thorigny, is a dark skinned woman of small stature, with fine features and an agile body. She is no more a lady then I am a count, yet she is my childhood friend and the only person entrusted with my secret. Although she does not approve of my secret life, she cares for me and has served me all of my life. My castle is her home as much as it is mine.

"How is she? " I ask Lady B, "Is she well?" hoping the lady has regained consciousness.

"She is," she answers acidly. "And not only has she regained control over her senses, she also wants to speak with her savior, the flamboyant little man, the mousquetaire who came out of nowhere and saved her from the claws of the dark angel."

I grin and, despite my efforts, I cannot look Belle in the eye. My heart beats an irregular rhythm and my skin turns a deep shade of crimson.

"Inform the lady that I shall visit her shortly" I add abruptly, moving away from the fireplace and settling near a shaded corner. It is evident I am making a fool of myself.

"Who is she anyway? She refuses to speak with me."

"Dear Lady B," I sigh, "I didn't exactly have the time to ask. I found I was quite busy trying to save her from those claws, remember. "

"Of course."

Lady B interrogates me with a questioning look, which I try to avoid by turning my back to her.

"Just announce me and I will attempt to identify our guest for you."

"As you will," she speaks with a touch of anger in her voice.

She leaves and I sigh. Why is it that I have no authority at all when it comes to this woman? She does as she pleases. Is it because she knows me too well?

"And be glad because she cares for you all the same," I say aloud to myself.

Lady B returns.

"She is expecting you."

Before I push the door of the lady's quarters, I pass by the mirror in an alcove of the corridor, the only one in the entire castle. The silver is a bit damaged, but I can see my reflection. A velvet rope (I dislike wearing wigs, and only do so, when it is required for a special event) ties my long hair into a ponytail. The sun highlights the rich auburn with a high gleam and softens the skin of my face. Nonetheless I look ill at ease and concerned.

I open the door of the lady's quarters and I see her standing with her back to me. She is statuesque and stands motionless, regal and impressive.

"Madame," I whisper announcing myself.

She remains still as I enter the room fully, and I stand watching her.

"Madame, I trust you are recovering well from your injuries. I deeply regret what happened and I am very glad I was able to assist you in your hour of need. I gain pleasure in knowing I was in time to save you from the terrible fate awaiting you."

She slowly turns around and I see her pale white skin, reminding me of the lilies in the field. Her eyes are a deep blue, conveying knowledge surpassing the memories of her own time. She bears the eyes of the ancients, the kind that express the knowledge of centuries gone by.

I am unable to stop from being captivated by her stare, and I find myself frightened. Her lips are full, and are slightly colored with a red that resembles a blooming rose glistening with dewdrops in the early dawn.

I am shaken to the core by the vision of the angelic appearance of this woman.

Trying to act as an elegant host, I move towards her as she reaches out her hand to me. I take her hand in mine and make a reverence. She trembles. Did I cause it to occur? I close my eyes for an instant and kiss her hand gently.

What is happening to me? I find it difficult to comprehend, for this should not be happening at all. My lips touch the delicate texture of her skin, and my heart skips a beat. I swallow, and will myself to breathe normally again.

She whispers faintly my name.

"Jean-Charles de La Janvier, you saved my life and I cannot thank you enough for this."

Her voice is melodic, but betrays an accent, perhaps from the northern countries. I am unsure.

Keeping my voice low, I reply.

"To be in your presence is enough of a reward."

She smiles. Her corset is making it difficult for her to breathe. I am certain the wound will cause her pain for days to come. Still, she endeavors to display no sign of discomfort. The white gown contrasts lovely against her eyes, and the corset accentuates her voluptuous form.

"Thank you; however, I must return from whence I came."

She hands me a sealed document.

"If you can send someone to Chambord, an escort will come for me."

I nod.

"Madame, I wonder. Please forgive me, but, you have failed to mention your name."

"My name. Call me..."

She hesitates and looks me in the eye before continuing.

"Call me Béatrice. Béatrice d'Audovère". She staggers slightly, her color paling.

"You'll have to rest now, Madame d'Audovère," I suggest.

"Béatrice," she corrects me. "I will".

She closes her eyes for a moment and the pain ebbs away, leaving her face encased with dark shadows. The sparkle in her eyes is gone. I move closer, ready to support the woman if she should collapse. I can sense she would not let me assist her and that perhaps she is as strong willed as I am.

"Will you dine with me tonight?" I ask, "Leonore, my cook, will make one of her specialties, canard au vin aux feuilles d'épinards, accompanied with a fine wine I brought back from Italy."

"I will be delighted, je serai enchantée, count de La Janvier."

She takes off her wig with the tiny white curls, and throws it in on the bed, moving closer to it.

"I will let you rest now."

She hesitates before responding. "Wait."

The lady searches the secret folds of her dress and, before I can object, she reaches out, grabs and places an object in the palm of my hand.

"Take this."

She tries to close my hand, but I resist, the jewel nestled warmly in my hand. It is a diamond necklace, worth a fortune. The value equal to that of my castle. I am startled by her gesture.

I lower my voice to a whisper and speak gently.

"I can not accept this. Saving your life was the gentlemanly thing to do."

"Really? You could have taken advantage of me as well, or you could have died."

"Do you think every man finds his pleasure in forcing himself on helpless women to accommodate his needs?"

"Not every man," she speaks slowly and with much thought.

She moves towards me, and I can feel her breath on my face. She lifts her finger and traces the line of my jaw, while her eyes are locked onto mine.

"At least not you, not a man like you."

Her touch makes me shiver to the very core of my being, making it difficult for me to think clearly. I manage to speak, "You are a woman and were unprotected. What else could I do?"

She sighs.

"Where I belong, I am protected, but that, too, will change. The day will come when I will lose everything." She hesitates but continues in a whisper, "perhaps even my life."

"How do you know?"

She looks at me, a shadow of disappointment graces her face.

"I know."

Suddenly Béatrice turns to me, her voice risen in anger, her words like a passionate plea.

"I know. Don't you? Don't you listen? Aren't you living among them, among your people? Don't you hear them cry and lament their tormented lives?"

"I do know what you mean," I reply softly, knowing she speaks of the people living in the proximity of her castle, the farmers, craftsmen, the sick and the poor.

Béatrice continues, as she sits down on the bed, hoping to regain her inner strength.

"I can hear their voices. They are always with me, consuming me with guilt."

Béatrice tries to explain as she sees the questioning look on my face.

"Sometimes I wear civilian clothes and I wander in the streets. I listen to their conversations. I want to know who they are. And, I feel guilty because I can do so little about their suffering."

I can detect her thoughts drifting elsewhere and wonder if she suffers a fever, or a touch of delirium.

After a while Béatrice turns toward, me stating, "I am sorry."

"For what?"

"That you met me."

I step forward and take her hand in mine. A sudden desire consumes me, and I want to comfort her and grant her peace of mind.

"How can you say that Madame? Your presence is all the reward I require. I consider it an honor above all. It is almost as if..."

I hesitate, unable to find the appropriate words. I am overwhelmed by her presence, the sensations causing me to lose my demeanor. She presses her arm against my elbow, and I can feel the tender flesh of her voluptuous bosom close, very close.

"I am sorry," she explains with patience, "because I am living a dangerous life. Knowing me will not be easy. Sooner or later, my dear count, you will determine that for yourself."

"Living dangerously," I attempt to ease the tension with a touch of humor "you certainly are!"

I am referring to the terrible attack but I regret my poor choice of words. They only serve to hurt her. She looks at me. Her eyes glisten with tears, and her hand begins to tremble in mine.

"The man who wanted to take advantage of me, the cardinal, I believed him to be a friend, someone I could trust. I was vulnerable and he, well he, was weak in flesh. I found despite his piety, he was unable to restrain himself. In the end he was no different than any before him," she spits out with disgust.

As am I, I think inwardly, lowering my head and placing a kiss on her hand.

"I will leave you know, Madame."

"Béatrice."

"Béatrice."

*

I am a woman, living the guise of a man.

The feelings I have are unsettling. I do not know what do to with myself.

Years ago, when I was twenty, I decided to find the true path of love, and I escaped the home of my youth in the south of France. I wanted to find the truth of my existence, and the love that would make life worthwhile. I would accept nothing less.

I wished to learn about men, to understand their nature, to live among them and thus find the one I would bind to my soul. When my dear father died, he left me with a small inheritance. It was then that I decided to begin my voyage in the guise of a man.

After some time, I became stranded here, near Lisieux, not far away from the coast, where the river Seine meets the sea. I purchased a small castle, with the intent that it would be but for a short time, an experiment to determine what is the true nature of love. I found I enjoyed the liberation of being a man and, as time passed, it became more difficult to return to my womanhood.

I felt exhilarated by the freedom it accorded me, the life of a man far more appealing then that of a woman. I could drink and laugh publicly with my friends. My opinions were heard and bore merit.

I found myself fighting many duels, and winning. My skills and command of the sable out matched those who attempted to use their strength against me, the sable requiring intellect and agility, not brute strength.

Somewhere during my masquerade, I relinquished the hope of ever finding true love. For I learned of men too well, many my friends, comrades in battle. I grew to abhor their boasting of bravery to impress the silly women they lusted after. I discovered they were cowards when it came to tenderness and only heroes when it came to endurance. As strange as it might be, the more I lived within their world the more my desire for them waned.

What can I do? I can never assume the life of a woman again. Although, I would not mind dressing up like a female on occasion, powdering my face, coloring my lips, choosing a wig, exposing my very delicate breasts in a décolleté, and constricting my waist. But, for whom? When I found the men unworthy of me, I soon resigned myself to being a lonely soul until the end of my days.

I asked Antoine, Toine as I call him, to saddle Spirit, my horse. I long to feel the soothing embrace of the wind in my hair, and the strong body of the animal between my legs. I need to make this unsettling feeling stop before I lose myself forever in the twisted path of a desperate longing, for no man is worthy of my body and soul. But what of a woman? I am frightened as hell by the prospect.

.

Of course, I have heard of ladies who content themselves with their female friends in absence of their husbands. Neglected are they, as their men spend months away from home, fighting battles and bloody wars. I have heard of these scandalous women, who sleep with whomever they please, regardless of the gender.

It knows of no class, for even in the highest circles, Marie-Antoinette, the queen of France, has a very special friend, Marie-Therese de Lamballe. What she lacks in intelligence she makes up for in beauty, for she is like Aphrodite, the Greek goddess.

What of I? Should I count myself among them? For surely if the queen is among them, then I am at least in good company.

*

Lady B watches me disapprovingly as I enter the room. My arm is bleeding and she cuts off the sleeve.

"What did you do?" she asks.

"I was offended. My opponent can hardly walk."

"What did he do to offend you?"

"He stood in my way."

She grins.

"Really?"

Lady B smiles approvingly, but I am not in the mood. Another day, perhaps. Another day I will dress myself up, just to please her. I will play poker, until late at night while she sits in front of me looking with admiration at my body. Her desire evident in the corner of her eyes, but not today. For today, I will have dinner with Béatrice d'Audovère.

End of Chapter 0ne.

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