Sunday 22 December 2019

What God Has Joined by Nicky Galliers : A Story Inspired By A Song

Read the Story
Guess the Song
here's a clue...

October 1216

No one tells me. I just know. He’s in trouble. 
This doesn’t happen often, he isn’t a daring individual, not in that sense, but this feels different. Wrong. 
    I order my retinue, have my clothes packed, all my necessaries, comb, cloths, kohl for my eyes. I take a rough horse, built for stamina, not my fine palfrey, for I do not need to impress but to travel quickly.
    A long journey, over a hundred miles. And, for what? A hunch? An idea? A feeling. A sense that this is urgent. 
    Three hard days on the road through a landscape rich with the regal reds and golds of autumn, England wearing its colours as if displaying itself at a tournament. We stop only to change horses, calling on favours and issuing demands, to travel to Newark. 
    He’s there; he is now. And I know because I can see the castle by the river. I recognise it. I see what he sees, feel what he feels. Newark. My guards are too familiar with me to question me. 
No man gainsays me. No man owns me. My second husband has been dead these six months, killed in a tourney, the ass. I have heard the stories, met the man who is the Marshal, a man who would never succumb in such a pointless manner. 
    Still, it gives me the freedom to go to his side at Newark, to the man who holds my heart. To my first husband. My lord and my king.

They try to stop me entering his chamber but I glare imperiously, a look learned from my great aunt, Matilda. It comes naturally to me, I have been told all my life. They stand aside and I push through the door into the stifling gloom beyond. 
    Almost indiscernible in the dimness is the curtained bed and within, John. 
    ‘How is it you are here?’ he asks, the lines on his face deepening. 
    ‘I had to come. I couldn’t leave you, not now.’
    ‘So, I am dying.’ His acceptance is agonising.
    ‘We are all dying.’
    ‘But you came.’
    Of course I came. ‘I miss you.’
    He lifts his hand and brushes my cheek. It is a soft touch, his fingers tantalising. He has done this before, but before the sensation was more intense. He is too weak for that now. 
    ‘We never stood a chance.’ His voice is low but I hear him. I shuffle closer to him across the covers.
    ‘You had to be king.’
    ‘Kingship confers all earthly delights, wealth, power, lust. But not love. Love is not allowed.’
    ‘We found it between us. We lost each other but not the love.’
    He smiles and shakes his head. ‘There was never a place for us, never a time. Denied by man’s laws, not God’s.’
    ‘You made your displeasure clear. ‘
    He laughs, a rough sound but not strong. ‘Not that it did any good.’
    ‘It did. It kept them all away and gave us moments.’
    ‘Not enough, not nearly enough.’ He falls back on the pillows, sweat beading on his forehead and the creases resemble a screwed up piece of parchment, and as pale. 
    ‘What can I do?’ I ask, leaning to him. 
    He snatches at breaths until the pallor recedes and the lines are smoothed. ‘Nothing, my love, nothing. You are here. What more is there?’
A drawing of the effigy of King John in Worcester Cathedral

He is so thin. Never heavy, more gracile and elegant than his hideous brothers, he now would sway in the wind. 
    I can’t see beneath the thick woollen blankets and the beaver fur cover, but I realise he is broken, snapped. Too brittle to face all his troubles, he finally splintered. Had I been with him could I have protected him? No, I think not. Not master of his fate, he is certainly the architect. 
    ‘Will you stay?’
    ‘Naturally.’ The corners of my lips twitch. ‘I am between husbands.’
    He grins. Then he sobers. ‘So you are mine again, my first Isabella. Without sharing you with anyone.’
    ‘I was always yours. And I always will be.’
    He curls and twists with pain and I am helpless. We don’t have forever. As young as he is, I don’t wish forever on John. He has had enough. He has lost everything. Except me. Our forever will last until nightfall, no longer.

    I hold his hand and he clasps me as hard as he can but he flutters like a trapped bird in my fingers. No sounds creep in through the gaps around the door. The room is silent but for the rasping of his breath. Everything is still but for the rise and fall of the covers. With each breath his chest lifts a little less and my pain heightens until the blankets remain flat and my heart breaks. I kiss his still warm lips and taste my own salty tears.  I draw back and watch as his handsome face cools; his tousled hair appears more golden against his pale skin. I pull my legs up and lay next to him, my head on his chest, the only heartbeat my own. The tears still fall.

Woman Face, Divorce, Sadness, Candles

I am the only person who will miss him, whose world is now collapsing. They all wish him gone, except me. 
    There never was forever; it is a lie. And if there were a forever, it is purgatory, for I am alone. 
And yet, forever is all I have left, stretching away, empty and dead.

© Nicky Galliers

Historical note: John and Isabella were married at Marlborough Castle in Wiltshire, on 29 August 1189, shortly after John acceded to the throne in 1199, before the end of August, he obtained an annulment.

Did you guess the song title?
Who Wants To Live Forever? Queen

(Official You Tube Video)

Nicky Galliers
is Discovering Diamonds'
 technical editor
and a prospective author

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There will be another story inspired by a song tomorrow!

The Full List of Authors

2nd   M.J. Logue   First Love 
3rd   Richard Tearle Chips and Ice Cream
4th    Helen Hollick Promises, Promises
5th    Paul Marriner Memories
6th    Pam Webber One Door Closing
7th    Louise Adam Hurt Me Once
8th    Barbara Gaskell Denvil Sticks and Stones
9th    Judith Arnopp Secrets
10th  Erica LainĂ©  Silk Stockings
11th   Anna Belfrage Hold Me, Love Me, Leave Me? 
12th  Annie Whitehead Frozen
13th  Tony Riches Alas, My Love
14th  Clare Flynn, Zipless
15th  J.G. Harlond The Last Assignment
16th  Elizabeth St John Under The Clock
17th  Alison Morton Honoria’s Battle
18th  Jean Gill The Hunter
19th  Patricia Bracewell Daddy's Gift
20th Debbie Young It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas
21st   Ruth Downie  Doing It Properly
22nd Nicky Galliers What God Has Joined
23rd  Elizabeth Chadwick The Cloak
26th  Helen Hollick Ever After
27th   Barbara Gaskell Denvil Just The One... Or Maybe Two
28th   Deborah Swift Just Another Day
29th   Amy Maroney What The Plague Brings
30th   Cryssa Bazos River Mud

 Note: There is copyright legislation for song lyrics 
but no copyright in names, titles or ideas

StorySong graphic by @Avalongraphics 
additional images via Pixabay accreditation not required


  1. Love this description ' a landscape rich with the regal reds and golds of autumn, England wearing its colours as if displaying itself at a tournament.' I guessed the historical character at the beginning but am left with many questions as I don't know anything about this couple - always fascinating to guess at what love was in a medieval alliance - the annulment makes this one intriguing and it seems a bit quick to write off possibilities of an heir? Off to do research! And I did guess the song for once - from the story clues not the picture!!

    1. One of those bits of history that often gets overlooked... and I changed the clue as the original was a bit _too_ obscure!

  2. Nicky - you are a great storyteller! this is lovely and, for once, shows a degree of sympathy for John. Add to that my favourite Queen song of all, I bow to you!

    1. Another story that brought a few tears welling up, although this time because of the song creating the atmosphere. And I agree, a rare glimpse of sympathy for John! (note I've changed the clue image)

  3. What an intriguing story. I vaguely knew the name of Isabella of Gloucester but I see she was betrothed to John in 1176 as an infant, both knew each other as children, I'd think, then they had ten years of marriage together.
    Beautifully written, Nicky. Are you going to write the story of her whole life?

    1. I don't think I could do her justice. And a sympathetic view of John never goes down well! He sent her gifts frequently, and that's the ones that were recorded, and I wondered why, when she had married again, he was still attentive to her at all. So he must have liked her else he really wouldn't have bothered. And liking falls so easily into love. It can't be known if they did love each other through political expediency, but it they did, it would have brought each a little comfort.

  4. A lovely vignette of a relationship seldom told. I hope you'll write more, Nicky.

    1. Oh, I do - it just never gets beyond my laptop. One day...

  5. Oh, I must go and look up John and Isabella now!

  6. A lovely, alternative vision of what John might have been like - and a fascinating teaser for a future full-length novel! Lovely writing!

  7. Fabulous story - tight, intriguing and yes I guessed who she was. She could make a wonderful novella or novel. Wonderful.

    1. Thank you Carol - I agree about the novella idea!

  8. I've always been intrigued by John, surely couldn't be as black as he has been painted. Go for it, Nicky, full length from John's pov please :)

  9. Brilliant! I don't know anyone who could make me feel sympathy for King John. Well done!


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