Queen of the Coven

by Julie Ann Nielsen

The glass started to shatter. “Come out from hiding you vile witch!” As the mob grew louder the pauses between breaking glass grew shorter. Versailles housed so many windows that the crashing almost became one long sentence. Marie and Louis ran down the stairs back through the Hall of Mirrors where that evening’s party was held. Just hours before they had sipped champagne and watched Mozart perform, now, their lives were in question. As they ran towards their chambers a massive object smashed through a window and it resulted in one of the halls’ enormous crystal chandeliers plunging to the wooden floor below. With the impact, the life of one of Marie’s closest friends was taken. Marie turned running to her friend, screaming. She knelt down, pushed the black hair from Vivienne’s face and closed her lids with a single brush of her palm. Tears dripped off her chin onto the dead girl’s neck. “What will I do without you?” she whispered. Marie took a piece of the severed crystal lying in her hair and put it in her skirt pocket, a memory of her dear confidant. Louis grabbed her, “Are you mad?!” “Louis, this is all my fault!” she cried. “This is the fault of no one my Queen, this is circumstance. Now come with me immediately, we must find the children and hide, we do not have time!” With blood splattered on her light blue satin shoes, Marie ran with him, obeying her King.

The maze of hallways and the terror of the angry public entering the fortress had Marie’s mind twisted. Lanterns that should have been lit were now out and small fires started to pop up all through the chateau. All she could hang onto in her mind was the fear of never finding her two surviving children, they were her everything. She knew that once she found them and had them safely in her arms, this horrific evening would end peacefully; or at least she kept telling herself that, over and over…and over. They ran down a smoke filled flight of stairs, following a servant’s voice, “Your Majesty! You must come this way, do not inhale. Please hurry!” At that moment, a man covered in filthy clothing, grabbed the servant from behind. Without a moment to spare, Louis grabbed the dagger at his hip and swung. The intruder collapsed. Marie could not believe the death that she was witnessing; she could not understand how everything was unraveling so violently. “Marie, I need you to focus. Use your witch’s intuition. Where are the children?!” He pleaded with her to calm her mind amidst the chaos.

“I cannot my love, the smoke…the…the blood. Where are my babies Louis? I cannot lose them too!” The tears streamed down her face.

When young Marie Antoinette arrived at Versailles, she was a child, barely fifteen. Her mother, also a witch, sold her daughter to France as a political pawn. Marie was ripped away from her friends, her family, and even her dog that she adored. Every sense of family

she had was gone. She was just beginning to learn the structure and the basics of her craft, but once in France, she had no one to teach her. She had desperately wanted her mother to reconsider before that life changing day; she wanted to stay in Austria with her mother. She had wanted to learn more about her craft, not become a wife to a future king she had never even met. Once the future Queen moved into her palace, the pressure was on her. Her mother, her husband’s father and all of France were expecting an heir to the throne, a male heir of course. The first night she was there, a dozen people stood by their bedside, lurking over them to insure that Louis and Marie would try to procreate. Fourteen years old, a witch that cannot control her powers, torn from her family, sent to another country, married off, one day will be queen, and forced to have sex and children with a man that would much rather look at her brother than her did not do well for Marie’s mental health.

Yinuo Liu, Copy of Portrait of Miss Dorothy Vickers

Yinuo Liu, Copy of Portrait of Miss Dorothy Vickers

 “We will find them Marie; I give you my word.” Louis’s voice was stern but comforting, something Marie had grown to love about him. The young couple began to run down a long black and white tile paved hallway of massive white statues, dodging debris along their path. An enormous marble figure of Charlemagne started to tumble off its base, heading straight for the king’s head. With an elegant flick of Marie’s right wrist, the statue defied gravity and hung completely suspended in midair while they rushed past it. As they both rounded the next corner, the piece crashed to the ground, shaking the floor beneath their feet. The least Marie could do was to protect the man that she had manipulated with her craft, but given the young girl’s situation when they first married, what else was a witch to do.

Marie acclimated to her new life surprisingly well. She learned the ways of a French royal, the right things to say, the correct way to dress and curtsy. She certainly did not mind the beautiful clothing, shoes, and jewels. Marie was given the best of the best. Most of her mornings started off with dress makers bringing the finest pieces from Paris. There was nothing she could not have. She spent a lot of time alone, with her book. Before she left Austria, her mother gave her the book that her mother had given her, the Book of Craft. Marie would get lost in the palace gardens and spend hours practicing what she could decipher. Versailles’s extensive library held many books on alchemy and history, Marie dove into them, learning all she could. One afternoon, while Marie was challenging herself to make a dead flower come back to life, she was startled by a noise. Just as the lily’s corpsed petals began to sparkle and dance back to life, a young girl turned the corner of the hedge Marie was behind. “How…how did that just happen?!” The girl’s question burst out of her, a mixture of total fascination and fear. “Who are you? What did you see?” Marie was terrified. “That flower, it was withered and dry! I saw it!…I saw the sparkling..I know what I saw.” Marie assured her she was mistaken but the young girl was relentless. “You are Marie, the Dauphine, I am humbled Madame.” The girl knelt in front of her lowering her head in respect. “Yes I am, but I still do not know who you are.” The girl rose back to her feet, “I am sorry Madame, my name is Vivienne. My father and I moved into your beautiful Chateau yesterday. He works for the King. I was doing nothing but getting in his way so he sent me out here to play…and then I saw the flower…” Marie interrupted her. “You must tell no one what you saw, please, it could mean my life!” She was not sure why, but she felt safe telling Vivienne her secret, something in her eyes looked sad, like a mirrored reflection of her own sadness. “Vivienne…I am a witch. It is my dark secret and now yours. I come out here to practice my craft. I was not taught everything I needed to know before my Mother…before Louis and I met, so I intend to teach myself.” Her words just kept coming out. She was a fool to share her identity to a total stranger, but honestly, Marie wanted a friend. She desperately needed a friend. Vivienne stood there stunned and frozen by what she had just learned. She also wanted a friend; she knew no one. “Oh Madame, I will tell no one, I give you my loyal promise. Maybe I could help you?”

Marie sat with her hand in her pocket, clutching the crystal. Her heart ached for Vivienne, her best friend was gone. The smell of gunpowder and smoke filled the closet that Louis and Marie found safety in. They knew they could not sit in there for long. They just needed a place where Marie could calm her mind before they went back out to find the children.

Vivienne and Marie were inseparable. Almost every day they would run off to the gardens or hidden rooms in the chateau and practice magic. What Vivienne gave her was the strength and love she needed to have faith in herself. She was indeed a loyal friend. Hour after hour, she would read and practice. It did not take long before her spells became flawless. They sat and talked about each other’s lives, woes and joys. Marie told her about Louis, about his fondness towards men. She explained how she was expected to produce a child immediately but her husband would not touch her. One day, Vivienne made a suggestion to put a spell on him. Immediately, Marie said no. She was scared there would be repercussions. When magic is used for power or greed it can come back at you tenfold, every witch knew that, but the more they discussed it, the more the idea seemed highly logical and safe. “Your magic has become so cultivated, I know you fear it, but this would be for good, a child!” Vivienne’s words made sense to the queen. “I will do it!” Over the next few weeks, several spells were practiced repetitiously and Louis began to give her physical attention and it worked. A child was born many months later, a girl named Marie Therese. That little girl was Marie’s world. Having been torn from her own mother, she put her entire being into motherhood. A few years later she finally had a son, Louis Joseph, who would one day be King. All the royals were more than pleased because Marie had finally fulfilled her duty of birthing a boy. Life around the chateau was grand. Two more children followed, Louis Charles and Sophie Helene. The queen’s connection with her children was one of beauty. Marie finally felt whole.

They sat in the closet for almost an hour, the air thick and suffocating. Marie did her best to concentrate on her children and to stay calm in the disaster that was unfolding around her. “Louis, I feel something…I feel something in the ballroom. I can hear Marie Therese!” “Then we must go to the ballroom, Marie. Follow closely to me. Do not let my hand go!” Marie obeyed. They waited for silence and took their chance. The King and Queen ran through their home, ran through room after room. Marie’s mothering and witch’s insight guided them through the darkness. She would stop for nothing to get to her babies. She knew Versailles better than anyone. She had hidden in almost every part of the palace to protect her secret while she practiced spells. As they ran, the sounds of an organ boomed in her head. “Louis! They are behind the organ! I hear them!” The young couple ran across the ballroom floor that they danced on at their wedding. The three story organ sat in the back. The Queen yelled out, “Marie, Louis Charles, my loves…where are you?!” She could hear their screams faintly. They continued to run across floor. They banged on the door to the organ room, as it opened, the faces of her babies peered out.

One year after Sophie Helene was born, she died. Two years after that, Louis Joseph died. Marie’s world fell apart. She did whatever she wanted to dull the pain. She spent enormous amounts of money. She threw lavish and wasteful parties and went from a caring young girl to a heartbroken and angry Queen that abused her royal and witch powers. Her country was starving while she spent and spent. She also focused on teaching witchcraft to her surviving daughter. She was the only one of the four children that showed any signs of inheriting the witch gene. “This is just between us my beloved daughter, we are special, you and I, and no one can know of our magic.” Marie Therese was very advanced; she had incredibly strong intuition and could do incantations with ease.

Louis shut the door behind his family and blockaded it as best he could with whatever he could find. It was dark and cold in the organ room but at least they were all together. “My beautiful Marie Therese, mommy could hear you, you guided me here, you are so brave and strong.” Although Louis was relieved that their children were safe, he could not stop fearing the outcome of this wretched event. He was a King, hiding in his palace, while his country was on the brink of war. He felt absolute failure inside but would not show it to his children.

After a few months of Marie’s depression and bad behaviour, she felt that the curse of using her witchcraft on her husband was to blame for her children’s deaths and the only way to keep it from harming anyone else was to come clean to Louis. She feared for her life and for her two surviving children. She knew Louis would be appalled at who she was and what she had done. She was a witch; surely he would divorce her and execute her! But quite the opposite occurred. She told him everything and he sat stunned, of course, but his reaction was one of intrigue. He loved her, spell or not, because she was loyal to him and, after all, look what she had done to produce an heir to France’s throne. “I can think of worse things than having a witch for a wife.” “I can also come to a conclusion in my mind that your powers can help this family and all of France.” France was growing tired of suffering, while the royals, with the help of Marie’s powers, lived in absolute comfort. One evening, at a party at the palace, Vivienne and Marie were alone in the kitchen drinking champagne and eating petit fours. Using her craft, Marie was picking them up off the silver tray they sat upon and placing them in Vivienne’s mouth, achieving the task completely with her mind. The girls laughed and giggled and drank more. For a moment Marie felt happy again. “I suppose that if you do not even have to lift a finger to eat cake, your life isn’t too bad.” They both roared with laughter. Hearing a noise behind them, the girls turned around just in time to see a man run away. “Vivienne, who was that? How long was he there?!” Marie was in a complete drunken panic. They both ran after him, through the kitchen and down a hall but he was running too quickly and they lost him. It was not long after that fateful event that the rumours surfaced about the Queen of France being a witch.

“Maman, I am so scared. When will they leave? When can we go back out?” The young girl was lying in Marie’s arms, shivering from the cold. “Soon my dear, soon you and your brother will be dancing in the gardens again, now try to sleep my beautiful girl.” After a few hours both the children were asleep. Louis and Marie sat staring at one another. Once in a while they would hear footsteps in the distance or the faint sound of glass breaking. “Marie, this is not your fault. You did what you had to do. This is my fault, I abused your powers. You did anything for me, including using your witchcraft for my greed and political gain. My country was in absolute turmoil and all I could do was think about myself! All I could do was be greedy and self-righteous. I have failed as a King, and as a father!” Tears began to fall from his eyes as he started to accept what was happening. “And now look, look where we are!” “This is no one’s fault my love,” Marie assured him. “As you said, this is circumstance.” Marie slid over and laid her head on his chest. The family slept.

Marie awoke to the sounds of voices growing louder and closer. “Louis, wake up!” Just as he realized what was happening, the door to the organ room shattered open in an explosive blow. Smoke barreled in, restricting their vision. The children were screaming in horror. “Marie, grab Marie Therese, I have Louis!” The King sprang to action as usual. At that moment, she could feel someone pulling on her daughter just as she grabbed her hand. “Maman! Help!” the girl was terrified. With her free hand, the Queen reached into her pocket and grabbed the broken crystal. She swung in the darkness slicing into someone’s flesh. “You disgraceful witch! You can fight all you want, you can cut me all you want. Your bad behaviour is what got you into this horrible mess. It is over! Give me the girl.” The stranger’s voice was terrifying. Choking on smoke, with her eyes burning, Marie lost her grip. Within moments, the strangers were gone and so was her daughter. “Louis…they have her….no….not again…not another child. My daughter, I will find you!” The King, Queen, and their son ran from the room to find clean air. They ran to a side door in the ballroom and opened it. They were met by dozens of people holding guns and torches. It was indeed over.

The three of them were placed in a carriage and taken to Paris. Marie and Louis were both beheaded within months of each other. Their son died in jail.

Months before the raid on the palace, word of Marie’s abuse of powers had spread to Austria to the Council of Witches. You see, abusing your powers for gain, no matter what the intent, does not sit well with the Council, not even if you’re the Queen of France. The witches knew Marie was about to fight a battle she would not win but they had a bloodline to protect.

Versailles stood in silence. Windows were missing, furniture destroyed, and grey smoke constantly drifted skyward from the fires that were burning out. Not a person was left inside. In the trees of the gardens, just next to the Grand Canal, a light flickered. Two women, one with a gash across her forearm, emerged and in between them stood Marie Therese. “You will come with us my dear, back to Austria…we will teach you everything you need to know. You are now the Queen of the Coven.”

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