Elizabeth drew her finger across a pale, white, lead covered throat.
Walsingham stopped and looked at her waiting for a sign she might change her mind. It was made up though.
He moved with speed past the courtiers and into the grand chamber of the Privy Council. There in chains at the rebel Essex. The boy looked up, almost laughing, his queen would save him, his lover would pull him from this silly mistake. A lover’s quarrel.
‘Sir’ Walsingham bid him rise. Two men stood at his back, their bodies tense for any fight the callow youth might give.
‘She will see me’ he stated, walking forward. Walsingham halted him with a word.
‘What?’ the boy’s scream curdled the air. ‘You lie, my queen, my Bess, I am here, please!’
Walsingham drew himself up, he was old, but he was strong enough to do this.
‘You have made a silly error boy’ he said, ‘and now you will pay for it.’
The boy turned man too quickly for Walsingham. His hand shot to his throat and a strength that he could not have imagined gripped him, a vice that clasped the flow of air tightly shut and refused to loosen. Walsingham could see the guards hack at him with their clubs to beat him down as his own vision started to blur. Just as his world faded from light to black he was released, wheezing, clasping at his aged neck. He felt buckling and injury, but he could breathe well enough.
Three men held the Earl of Essex on the floor, he writhed like a snake, like the serpent that put the apple before eve.
‘I fucked that old whore’ he laughed, ‘I fucked her and fucked her and fucked her, and look what good it has done me.’ Walsingham turned his back.
‘Hear me old man, I drove my shaft into your Queen and she cried out like the whore of Babylon herself.’
Walsingham gripped the hilt of his sword, his anger rising. He looked away.
‘I will let everyone know on the block old man, I will let every true subject know their Queen is no Virgin, she has tasted man, she has tasted me, oh so often.’
The old master of spies turned back to Essex. The temptation to strike him was supressed as he leaned in, rasping through his damaged throat.
‘My Queen’ he said, ‘I regret to inform you that before sentence could be carried out the Earl of Essex took his own life.’
The boy looked stunned as the withered hand of the Queen’s councillor whipped a dagger from his side and drew a line across the prone Earl’s throat. The injured man protested through bubbling blood that rose from a second mouth.
‘She is my Queen’ Walsingham spat, his voice rolled into a growl, ‘she is your Queen’
The stunned men holding the cooling body of the Earl of Essex nodded their appreciation for the old man’s meaning.