It was years into their second lives when Catherine Parr decided to write down the queen’s origins in the modern era.
For some, like Katherine, it was only vaguely remembered first hand due to illness and had to be filled in from other’s accounts. For most of the others, like Aragon, the start of her story actually began with her lady in waiting. Regardless of all of that, Parr had finally finished the short tale of entering this new world after months of revisions and consultations.
As Katherine Howard wandered into the room that day - something about how Jane wouldn’t let her get a sword, so she’s “angry” at Jane now - Parr invites her to read it. With excitement in her eyes, she does just that.
Anna of Cleves was the last to die, but the first to arrive.
She gasped awake, eyes wide and wild for a moment before she realized where she was. She doesn’t remember coming here, but she distinctly knows how she did just that.
She looked down at her hands; they were foreign, yet familiar. Her clothes, at least, hadn’t changed style, which she would both thank god and curse at within the next few hours.
She stood a bit unsteadily barely able to stand as she took everything in - things looked the same for the most part, but there were small differences that led her to believe that something was very, very wrong.
She frowned as she looked around, stumbling at first but eventually able to catch her balance. It looked like it was to rain, maybe a few hours time, so she made the decision to find shelter before figuring everything else out.
Just as she was about to move, though, she heard a small, kind, familiar voice.
Anna turned to find the familiar yet unfamiliar woman and she couldn’t help but smile, despite the shock.
Bessie Blount moves forward, wrapping a blanket around her mistress. The former queen took it gratefully, still looking around.
“We’re not home, are we?” Anna asks.
“Not even close,” Bessie replies. “Come on. I have a flat not far from here.”
Anna nods, heavily leaning against her lady in waiting, before she frowns. “How exactly did you find me?”
“I’ve been waiting for you,” Bessie replies. “I don’t… I don’t know how. But I have been. All I know is that you were here and I need to get you ready for meeting the others.”
Anna frowns. “Who are the others?”
“I don’t know. But they’re good, whoever they are.”
Anna nods; for the moment, she’ll take her word for it.
“Let’s go,” Bessie says, clearly wanting to rush out of there. “There’s someone coming. One of them is coming soon, and she’ll need our help.”
A few hours later, that would prove to be true.
Katherine suddenly awoke that early morning, torrential downpour already having soaked her through.
The woman in question, startled, snapped her attention to the person to the right of her; she hadn’t noticed the older woman standing there. Katherine whimpered, scampering away, dress muddied up as she tried to make distance.
“It’s okay, I won’t hurt you,” the woman said gently. “You’re Katherine Howard, right? I don’t… I don’t quite know what’s going on, but I just… I know that.” She tilts her head before slowly crouching to Katherine’s level. “I must say, in all my years of a historian, this is certainly a first.”
Katherine was still breathing heavily, a hand on her neck. She looked around, shivering.
“You must be confused,” the woman continued. “Probably as confused as I am, I’m sure. Do you remember how you got here, Katherine?”
The woman approached slowly, making no sudden movements, trying to ensure that the wide-eyed, terrified girl in front of her didn’t bolt. Katherine watched every single move but shook her head. She leaned back against whatever she was leaning against, her hand rubbing her neck.
“That’s fine, we can figure that out later,” the woman said. “Let’s get you out of the rain-”
Unfortunately for her, a sudden lightning strike close by had her spooked.
Katherine bolted up, rushing away. The woman tried to call to her, to tell her to come back, even following Katherine as she ran, but Kat was too fast and disappeared.
Katherine rushes through the streets of London, already completely out of her mind: there’s weird noises and scary contraptions and nothing looks the same as it was before. She didn’t know what was happening, but she was scared and alone and couldn’t breathe.
Months after this, she would learn that this is what they now call a ‘panic attack,” but the girl had no idea what that was or how to properly combat one. She kept running until her body forced her to shut down, stumbling in an alleyway and collapsing to the ground. The rain was still heavy and her dress was soaked as she lay there, gasping for air while trying not to drown in the flooded street.
Spots in her vision started appearing more rapidly as she tried to fight for breath, but no breath would return to her. Within minutes, her body was limp and she blacked out, body face down in the torrential downpour.
When the girl awoke a few hours later - the rain still continuing, though not as badly as before - she struggled to get herself up. Her body, so tired, barely responded to her commands of sitting up out of the water. She coughed, chest burning; she must have swollowed some water while unconscious.
The girl felt feverish as she stood, cold and barely lucid, wandering the back streets of London as she tried to find somewhere to go. She would have loved to go back to where that woman was - maybe she could help - but she didn’t have a clue how to get back there. Even though the streets were deserted thanks to the torrential storms, nothing was recognizable for the young queen.
She walked for hours, getting very weird looks from very weird looking people. She cried out in pain as she continued; her fever was getting worse, as was her cough. She was barely able to stand by the time she got to where she was going, body trembling as it unknowingly lead her somewhere intentional, yet not a place she ever had been before. Glassy eyes looked around the alley before they closed, the girl pitching forward as her body gave into the pain and fever…
… only for someone to gently catch her before she fell.
She doesn’t know that voice, yet she very clearly does. She doesn’t know the hands holding her, yet she can pinpoint exactly when she saw them last. It’s all very confusing, having knowledge she very well shouldn’t, but it didn’t matter right now. What mattered was she felt safe, especially when she heard the second voice.
The first picks Katherine up. “She’s burning up, m’lady.”
“Let’s get her inside. I imagine she’s as confused as we were. She needs to be ready for when the time comes.”
The last thing Katherine sees is the very, very concerned face of Anna of Cleves before she settles into darkness.
Meanwhile, in Peterborough, another reunion of sorts was happening.
A woman carefully hopped over a fence st Peterborough Cathedral. The chapel had been closed for renovations that day, which was good and bad with the current situation. For one, no one would be around to scare off the person she knew was in there, but this meant she couldn’t just walk through the front door to help her mistress.
Well, she thought, picking a lock with skills she didn’t know she had, wouldn’t be the first time she had to sneak in to find her queen. It wasn’t even the first time this week, actually.
The woman hid behind a corner, listening for footsteps before she made her final few turns through the halls to her destination. Hearing none, she quickly moved and rushed to her destination. She turned left with purpose, as if she had done this before-
- only to stop and gasp in awe.
She was there.
Maria de Salinas rushes to her friends side; Catherine of Aragon was still unconscious, draped over her burial site. After checking every single day for the past week, Catherine of Aragon had finally arrived.
Maria did not know how she knew that Catherine would return.
She only knew that she knew it.
For the moment, it was enough.
She holds her friend in her arms, almost exactly as she did the last night they saw each other. She’s crying - of course she is - and she can’t help but smile widely as Catherine’s eyes flutter open.
In their first life, Maria was the last person Catherine saw.
Now, she was the first person Aragon laid eyes on in this new life.
Maria smiles, tears rushing down her face as she embraces her long lost friend for the first time in centuries.
“Oh, god, I’ve missed you, Catalina.”
“What’s going on?” Catherine asked; she’s speaking Spanish, an old tongue in this new world, but Maria understands every single word.
“It’s alright, I’m not sure but we’ll be okay,” Maria says. “Come on, we need to get out of here.”
Catherine slowly stands for the first time in centuries, smoothing out her dress as she looks around. “Where is everyone? Am I dead?” She looks Maria over. “And what are you wearing?”
Maria chuckles. “They’re not here, you were dead, and it’s complicated but in fashion for our current time,” Maria says. “It’s… it’s going to be a shock. We’ll take it slow-”
They turn to find a man there, eyes wide as he trembles. He falls to his knees, saying a prayer.
Aragon blinks, confused, but Maria steps forward.
“You know who we are, yeah?” Maria asks. The man nods, still trembling as if he’s seen a ghost. Which, Maria thinks, he very well might be. “Can you show us the way out of here? And possibly some clothes for my mistress.”
“Uh… o-of course.”
Maria gently takes Aragon’s hand, giving her a gentle smile.
“It’ll be okay, love. I’ll explain what I can, but when you’re well enough, I think we have people to find.”
Sure enough, at that very moment, the lady of Sudeley Castle drew her first breath in centuries.
She sat upright on top of a marble tomb, catching her breath. Oddly enough, a stone statue of her that was on top of her tomb was now gone, replaced by the woman herself.
The plaque in front of the tomb scared her more than anything else:
KP HERE LIES KATHERINE PARR
Parr carefully moved from the tomb to the ground, looking around with confused, fearful eyes. She knew where she was - she recognized the chapel she had prayed in so many times for safe delivery of her baby - but she just knew that, somehow, it’s been ages since last time she saw it.
Seeing as no one was around at the moment, she quickly moved out of the chapel and into the courtyard, wincing at the light peeking through dark, stormy clouds. She looked around and, sure enough, this was definitely the Castle, but not the way she remembered it.
Something is wrong.
She moves to where she knew her quarters to be, but they’re no longer there; it looks like someone’s made a museum out of her living arrangements.
“I… honestly didn’t expect this to work.”
Catherine turned to find a woman standing there, seemingly astonished. It takes a moment, but the woman bows.
“Lady Parr, I’m sure you’re very confused, but I think I can help.”
Parr, frowning, tries to speak, but her voice doesn’t come to her. The other woman nods.
“I’m unsure of what’s happening, but there are reports of Anna of Cleves and Catherine of Aragon once again breathing. I met Lady Katherine Howard just yesterday morning. I think… if you come with me, I think I can explain some things and, best case, get you to the others.”
Parr tilts her head, swallowing before trying again.
“My godmother is alive?”
“Yes. As, I would suspect, the other wives.”
Catherine nods, a bit dazed, but she looks back at the woman when she extends a hand. She looks at it, then at the woman, and nods.
“I don’t know how I know this,” Parr says gently. “But I must be ready in a day’s time. Then, I’ll have to go.”
The woman nods. “We’ll be ready. Lets get you some clothes that’ll help you blend in, then we can chat a bit more, yeah?”
Parr later would say that historian saved her life - or at least ensured that she wouldn’t have suffered from being dropped so suddenly into this new world. It seemed that, despite not having a lady in waiting to tend to them like the others, Parr and Howard would be taken care of regardless of that.
The final two pieces of the puzzle would suddenly appear an hour later.
Nearby the place where Katherine Howard awoke the day before, a young woman waited patiently with a blanket, an extra set of clothes, and some food and water. She had been waiting here every day, always around this time, for the last week. She didn’t exactly know why at first - she just felt compelled to - but it became more and more apparent as she sat by the grave.
Today, her patience would pay off.
It’s a blinding flash of light that would suggest that her waiting was at an end and, sure enough, her mistress appeared once the flash was over. The woman laid on top of her grave, unconscious at first, her neck scar clearly agitated and visible.
Her lady in waiting is quick to pick the girl up, smiling at the woman she had considered a sister, bringing the girl round while holding her in her lap.
“Anne?” The woman said gently. “Wake up, Anne. Please.”
Anne slowly cane round, gasping in pain at her neck before her eyes fluttered open. At first, Anne seemed confused, but then she recognized the person before her.
“It’s Maggie now, actually,” her lady in waiting replies with a chuckle. “How are you feeling?”
“Weak,” Anne admitted, sighing and closing her eyes.
“That’s alright,” Maggie says softly. “We can rest here for a bit, but after that I’ll need you to change your clothes to something a bit more… suitable.”
Anne frowns. “I died.”
Maggie nods gravely. “You did.”
“Swordsman cut m’ head off.”
“Cleanly, from what I could tell.”
“Still hurt, though.”
“Why do you look younger than me?”
“Dunno. There’s a lot of things I’m unsure of now.”
“Like how a dead, headless woman can talk?”
“And how I even knew you’d be here in the first place.”
“Well, you always went above and beyond your duty, so I wouldn’t put it past you to know the unknown.”
Maggie rolled her eyes fondly before she started to stand. Anne, shakily, is able to as well. Maggie holds up the clothes.
“There’s a bathroom nearby,” Maggie says. “Let’s get you changed. We need to get going.”
“I think you know.”
And indeed, Anne did know; it was like an overwhelming sensation, to get to the place she knew she needed to be. She understood it rather perfectly.
“We don’t have much time,” Anne says. “I’ll need some help.”
“Of course, my lady.”
An hour later, they were on their way; Anne wasn’t entirely sure what they were in - Maggie called it a “train” - but whatever it was was faster than anything Anne had seen. The world, too, had changed since the swordsman’s swing, and Anne found herself both scared but thrilled st the prospect of a new beginning.
They arrived in Windsor less than an hour later, walking the rest of the way. Anne wasn’t sure how both of them knew what to do, but they did, and they knew they wouldn’t be alone in this endeavor.
“Do you know what year it is?” Anne finally asks, having just now gotten the courage to do so.
“Early 21st century,” Maggie replies.
Anne makes a face.
“That can’t be real.”
“It is, I assure you.”
“How long have you been back for?”
“About half a year. The others have as well, I think.”
“I don’t know.”
“How do you know they’re back, then?”
“I don’t know, m’lady, I’m sorry.”
Anne hums in thought as they continue to walk.
“This is quite peculiar.”
“But we just keep walking, yeah?”
“We just keep walking, yeah.”
They arrive at their destination - Saint George’s Chapel.
It was closed for some reason, though Anne would alter speculate that everything had lined up so perfectly that it had to of been fate.
When they get there, Maggie is quick to lead Anne to the back… where a small girl was waiting. She looked worse for wear, a small teenager, shaking and barely lucid.
At first, Anne wanted to avoid her, but there was something about the girl that drew her in.
Anne crouched down next to the girl and felt her forehead; she was hot.
“A fever, definitely,” Anne mumbles. “No way she could have gotten here on her own-“
Maggie stepped in front of Anne, protecting her from the woman that suddenly appeared from around a corner. The woman in question narrowed her eyes.
“Step away from that child, if you please.”
Anne gently cupped the girl’s cheek, smiling gently when she felt the girl lean into it. All at once, a name came to her.
“Katherine Howard,” Anne says softly. “This is my cousin.”
“Your cousin? That makes you Anne Boleyn, no?”
The woman in front of them relaxes, allowing Maggie to do the same.
“My Lady, Anna of Cleves, has been waiting for you two.”
“Why is Katherine out here?” Anne demands, glaring at the girl. She’s never really connected with Katherine - not even in the previous life, they had barely seen each other if at all - but there’s a surge of protectiveness for her younger cousin that rushes through her.
“I… I was compelled to do so,” Bessie says. “I’m not sure why.”
“I think it was to lead you here, Lady Boleyn.”
The three look over to find Anna of Cleves standing there, Maria de Salinas next to her.
“Looks like mostly everyone is here,” Maria says. “My lady, Catherine of Aragon, is inside awaiting her goddaughter’s arrival.”
“Catherine is here?” Anne asks, perking up a bit. “Finally, a familiar face in all of this.” She looks back down at Katherine. “Let’s get her inside.”
The four move into the deserted chapel and, as soon as they do, Anne gasps in surprise.
“Catherine of Aragon, as I live and breathe!” Anne says with a smile.
Aragon scowls. “Be quiet while we’re in here, Anne, surely you remember proper decorum in a chapel?”
“Rules have changed, babe,” Anne says. “Everything’s changed, clearly.” Boleyn watches as Bessie brings in the still sick Katherine.
Aragon frowns. “Is the girl alright?”
“She’ll need a doctor,” Anne says. “But we cant leave. Not yet. We’re missing three.”
Aragon frowns. “You feel it too, right?”
“I don’t know why, or how, but we’re missing-“
Anne points to the back of the chapel where a one Catherine Parr has arrived. She’s different - everyone is - but she instantly zeroes in on one queen in particular.
Catherine is quick to embrace the woman, hugging her tightly. It’s been ages since last.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Parr admits.
“How did you get here?” Catherine asks with a frown.
“A lady helped me. She wanted to come in, but I told her no,” Parr looks back at a particular spot in the chapel. “We need to do this together, but without anyone else.”
It’s a weird statement, but Aragon is inclined to agree.
As Parr says that, a woman walks in from a side door. She seems startled to see all of them, but then she nods.
“I’m Joan Meutas,” Joan says. “I see we’re all present.”
Anna of Cleves nods from her place in a pew, Katherine Howard leaning against her, barely responsive. Anne Boleyn is keeping a close eye on her cousin while also standing next to Catherine of Aragon, who still is holding Parr’s hand.
“What’s this all about?” Aragon asks, but Parr can answer it.
She moves forward, pointing at each queen as they’re related to the poem.
“Divorced, beheaded, divorced, beheaded, survived.” She nods at them. “The only one we’re waiting on, is-“
That’s all she can say, though, as a brilliant light blinds all in the chapel.
When it fades, the final queen is unconscious next to her so-called final resting place.
Joan is quick to attend to her, a bag of clothing and a blanket in hand. Her mistress comes round relatively quickly.
“Lady Jane?” Joan asks quietly. “Are you alright?”
“Joan?” Jane asks quietly, eyes fluttering open as she looks around. “What’s going on, what’s happened?”
“We’re unsure,” Joan says quietly. “But we’re all here now. Exactly where we’re supposed to be.”
“But why, though?” Anna asks, standing as Bessie takes over caring for Katherine. “Why are we here?”
“Is it not obvious?” Parr asks. When they all look at her, she points to the tomb Jane is leaning against.
Jane Seymour’s marble statue is gone.
Only Henry’s remains.
Immediately after the fateful meeting in the church, Parr wandered back outside.
“Did everything go well?” The historian asked, tilting her head curiously. “There was a weird light and-“ she frowns when she sees Anna carrying out Katherine. “She’s not well, is she?”
“She’s not. They’re taking her to hospital,” Cathy watched as they moved away. “The light was Jane Seymour. We’re all back.”
“That’s… incredible, honestly,” the historian leans back against her car, processing all this new information. “The six ex-wives and… three, four of the ladies in waiting?”
“Four, yeah. Howard and I don’t have ones. Margaret Lee, Bessie Blount, Maria de Salinas and Joan Muertas. All are back as well. Apparently have been for a while.”
Then, the historian speaks.
“What’s your plan now, Catherine Parr?”
Parr frowns. “I don’t have one. Not really. I’ll just.. figure something out-“
“Excuse me, Lady Parr?”
Both historian and Cathy looked over at the woman calling for her.
“My lady would like to have a word with you,” Maria says with a soft nod. “We have an extra room in her flat. I’m assuming she wants to offer it to you.”
“Well, that settles that, now, doesn’t it?” The historian asks. “Looks like your godmother’s looking out for you, Catherine.”
Parr nods after a moment before looking over at the historian. “Thank you for all you’ve done to help.”
The historian makes a “pff” sound and shakes her head. “I’ve done nothing. I’m glad you and Katherine are in good hands.” She gives Catherine a wave. “You have my phone if you need me. Lets keep in touch, Alright?” She looks over at Maria. “This is certainly going to be interesting.”
She drives off a few moments later.
Cathy watches her go for a moment and Maria steps up next to her. “Do you trust that woman?”
Cathy nods. “She got me here.”
Maria bums for a moment before she gently takes Cathy’s hand and leads her to Aragon,’who was currently in the car. Parr gets in and waits.
“Can…” Cathy smiles. “Can we go home?”
Aragon smiles back and nods, Maria starting the car.
“Of course we can, love.”
Back in the present, Katherine lets out a low whistle.
“That was brilliant, Parr,” Kat says with a big grin as she offers Parr the story back. “What ever happened to that historian?”
“We still keep in touch,” Parr replies, taking the papers from Kat. “She made that documentary, remember? The one that meant everything to us.”
Katherine nodded, tilting her head in thought. “I don’t really remember those days,” Katherine says quietly. “I didn’t talk much.”
Parr nods sympathetically. “You has pneumonia, love; even then, it’s completely understandable, considering…” she trails off with a frown. She takes a moment before she moves over to hug Katherine tightly. “You’re better now,” Parr says quietly. “That’s all that matters.”
Katherine smiles and nods at that. “And we’re all together still,” Kat says with a grin. “It really was fate or destiny or what have you.”
“I’d like to think so,” Parr agrees. After a moment, she released Kat. “How about we go downstairs?”
Kat huffs. “Only if I can get a sword.”
Catherine laughs and hugs the girl again, kissing the side of her head before leading her downstairs. There, she finds Jane smirking at her daughter, Anna firmly on Jane’s side and also smirking at Kat and Boleyn trying to convince the others of the “importance of swordsmanship in the 21st century.”
The ladies in waiting were there for the morning before they headed out to the two-show day: Joan making breakfast, Maggie assisting, and Maria wandering over to Parr with a glass of juice.
“Aragon’s in the living room, if you’d like to join,” Maria says. “Joan and Maggie are trying to keep the peace while Bessie may or may not be quietly enabling the conversation.”
Parr laughs as Maria wraps an arm around her shoulders, leading Parr towards where Aragon was.
“Bessie is sneakily the most chaotic of the lot of you, I’ll have you know,” Parr says. “Though I wouldn’t mind a sword-“
“Don’t you dare,” Aragon says, not even looking up from her work. “No child of mine is having a sword in this day and age.”
Parr chuckles and is quick to curl up next to Aragon. She hands Aragon the story and smiles.
“Oh, you finished!” Aragon says.
Katherine hears that from the other room. “Oh, right! We can debate this later, it’s story time now!”
They all move into the living room, breakfast cooked and plates full, and settle in for Parr to start.
Parr looks around he room, at the nine other people that have suddenly meant so much to her… and she can’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed by the feelings of love and appreciation for each and every one of them.
They’re telling their stories.
Not only from then, but also from now.
Catherine Parr wouldn’t have it any other way.