BEYOND THE PALE
ROBERT DEVEREUX, 2ND EARL OF ESSEX
ROBERT climbs the Queen’s Stair to the first floor and strides across the Presence Chamber, through the chapel, past the Privy Closet into the Privy Chamber. Each door he reaches opens without delay. The Queen’s men still obey their Earl Marshal. The few servants awake at this hour wouldn’t dare to question why he’d be heading to the Queen’s chambers. He’s been there before, they reckon. They’d be wrong. Her chambers, yes. But her bed, never. He would today if she asked him. He would dare anything today if she asked him. Today, his father’s curse will lift and he will be free.
With each pained step towards Elizabeth’s royal bedchamber, the spirits of his father and brother shout in his ears.
He whispers back to them as he strides down the hallway. ‘No, I will not die today. Devereux curse be damned. Yes, she will. She’ll listen to me.’
The passing servants avoid his glance and scurry away. His doublet is so tight his chest will explode. He loosens the ruff around his neck, soaked from either rain or sweat. He can no longer tell. He reaches Elizabeth’s door without a single clash of swords. Neither Grey nor Pygmy is anywhere in sight.
‘You see, Father? I defy the curse.’