It's been a slog. I've never really had or understood writer's block until around two years ago, and I have made precious little progress with book IV - or as it shall henceforth be known, Truth to Power - or with any of my other writing, including this very blog. But - and given what I have written about how these stories come out, this is significant - the characters have started acting out their scenes in my head again. They demand to be written, when they come, and they have started to come again. Oddly, a lot of the stuff that is coming is material for book VI, but it does allow me to get back in touch with my story and start to finalise the endings of the fourth book. Why straight into six? Well, there's a gap of story that needs to be told, but for whatever reason it isn't yet fully formed.
So, let's have a little more of the beginnings of book VI, this time with some familiar historical faces involved:
"The King is dying?”
“You and I both know it is a sin and a crime to compass the death of the king, Doctor Cranmer. You should be careful whom you allow to hear you say such things.”
“Your Grace,” Cranmer says, resigned, “it is not the death of the King that concerns me. He will be welcomed by God into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“Ah,” the Duke of Northumberland replies, with a raised eyebrow, “so it is the sister that concerns you.”
Cranmer thinks for a moment before speaking, using the pause to look Northumberland in the eye. Northumberland gives him a forced, wry smile. Eventually, Cranmer settles on the right words. “The sister cannot be queen. This we both know.”
“But she would be queen, were the king to die without an heir.”
“I never thought I would curse Queen Catherine. Nevertheless, this is her doing.”
“It is complicated, as you know.”
“Legally, perhaps. For you or I, morally too. But not for the people. Mary is Henry’s daughter, and that is all there is to it.”
“So is Elizabeth. She might be more suitable.”
“Your Grace is sorely mistaken if you think to bend Elizabeth to your will.”
“You are correct as always, Doctor Cranmer,” Northumberland says, allowing himself a short, bitter laugh. “My son has not made so much progress with her as I would wish.”
“She still pines after that boy?”
“You would do well not to recall his name in my presence, My Lord Archbishop.”
Cranmer smiles back at the frowning duke. “He still thwarts you even now? He has not been in England for three years or more.”
“No, he has not,” Northumberland says. “Enough of him, and of Elizabeth. There are others.”
“I understand that she is even more fervent in her beliefs than your Godly self, Thomas.”
“That she may be. But she is still a woman. Not even a woman, a girl. You cannot put her on the throne, Your Grace.” Cranmer dwells on the title, avoiding using Northumberland’s Christian name. “Not even you can put her on the throne.”
Once again, I write to you knowing that you will not read these words. I have spent the years thinking of you each day, looking at every face I pass knowing it is not yours but hoping nevertheless. Hoping to share a word with you, to explain, to hear your voice speak to me of times past. And though those times were not happy, save for a few moments of clarity between us, wishing to live their promise, their hope, again. I have travelled the world, searching. Not for you, I know well enough where I could find you. But for a way to navigate the endless days that are without you, without hope of you, and without that part of me that always stays with you wherever you are and wherever I am. I do not wish my life were at an end as I perhaps once did. I do not for a moment think that I should be reunited with you in Heaven. The more I see of the world, the less I think of God, the less I think that He has put us asunder, and the more I think that there is no force for good or evil in the world, just people and their choices. Would I choose differently were I to have the chance? Sometimes, I think not, because then I would not have lived those moments that we shared. Sometimes, I think so, because then you would not have suffered as you did. If God is as the Bible tells us, am I then Job? If it is so, He chose the wrong man. I do not have the faith to say that God is good. If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction; For it increaseth. Thou huntest me as a fierce lion: and again thou shewest thyself marvellous upon me.
He does not listen to my prayers. I have stopped making them.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought