My Lady Jane
Check out our episode here! My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
King Edward is dying of The Affliction. At age 16 he has barely begun to live, he’s never even kissed a girl. But all the signs are there, the coughing blood, the tiredness, aches, pains and no second opinion will change that. He must put the country first and consider his successor. His eldest sister, Mary, thinks she will automatically inherit the crown. She is a Verity, or a regular human, with a deep hatred of Ethians, those who can change into an animal form. Edward's father, King Henry 8th, was a notorious Ethian lion who would get so angry his form would change and most likely the court would be less a jester or minstrel. Lord Dudley, the advisor to the king (cough, obvious bad guy, cough, cough) suggests Edward's cousin, Lady Jane Grey, marry his son and take the throne, after all, the Greys are next in line to the throne after Mary and Edward's other sister Bess, and Mary and Bess were declared bastards by their father, so there is that to consider, too. Plus, Lady Jane sympathizes with Ethians, which is important if she is to marry Lord Dudley's son, hint hint. She and Edward used to pretend to be able to change form during their childhood, though neither could, but now, she has read all about them and thinks they deserve all the same rights as everyone else. Edward reluctantly agrees to sign the papers to wed his best friend/cousin Jane to Dudley’s son Gilford and make Jane his heir. P.S, Gilford is an Ethian. In fact, he is a horse. Doubly in fact, he is a horse all day long.
Jane is getting married! Wait, what? Jane isn’t paying attention to her mother, she’s reading for goodness sake. Lady Grey is reading a letter decreeing that Lady Jane Grey shall marry Lord Gifford Dudley on Saturday. WHAT?!?!?! Jane has had a succession of fiancés all of whom have eventually fallen destitute, never had she been so close to actually getting married. Like hell!! Jane takes a carriage to Dudley's estate to at least meet the fellow she is meant to pledge her troth. When she arrives Gifford is nowhere to be seen only his older brother and The Dudley Nose (shudder) and a field of glorious horses. Whilst Stan blathers on about his younger brother's nightly pursuits and conquests Jane ire is growing. This will not do, this wedding must not go ahead.
Gilford, or G as he prefers to be called, is a horse. At least, he is a horse during the daytime. When the sun goes down and he turns back into a man, he receives a summons from his parents. His father has returned from court? That's odd. And his parents are together? Oh, this can’t be good. They break the news of G's impending marriage to Lady Jane Grey. Though G protests the union (she might be hiding some ghastly disfigurement behind those books she's always reading!), his father will hear none of it. The date is set, the wedding is booked, the flowers have been picked out! Unable to believe this, G heads off to his dalliances... and by dalliances we mean compose and perform poetry.
Edward is asserting his dying kingly right of having dessert before the meal, not wearing all the stiff, heavy clothing and having his dog, Pet, with him at all times. Jane comes to call on him, she doesn’t know he is dying and is shocked to see him looking so ill which bends her sympathies. He impresses the need for her to marry so that she is protected. Jane is not happy with the match, she doesn’t want to tie herself to a debaucher but there is some miscommunication but then Edward realizes she doesn’t know Gifford is a horse. Edward impresses upon Gifford that Jane must know before they consummate the marriage.
Jane travelled to Durham Castle, the Dudley Estate, with her mother and lady in waiting where she was poked and prodded into her wedding dress. The event was not the joyous occasion that a love match would be and there were no books to read! but on the positive side, Gilford’s nose was normal! Thank goodness she did not have to fear losing an eye during the inevitable kiss, in fact the whole of Gifford was very pleasing to the eye. Well... good for him and his dalliances. Harumph.
G is not happy. His wife is beautiful! How dare she! How can he tell her he is a horse... how?!? Instead of doing the right thing, he gets drunk and promptly passes out in their bedchamber, mumbling "im a hoz." Obviously Jane does not hear or understand this because when Gifford awakens the next morning, feeling rather worse for wear and promptly turning into a horse, she is considerably surprised. And angry. How dare he not tell her! How dare EDWARD not tell her! How dare Gifford not turn immediately back into a person and talk to her! Men!!
Edward is being looked after by his physician Booboo and Lord Dudley, his condition seems to be worsening, may be the wedding was too much or maybe there is something in the whispering the two of them keep having in corners, the ‘looks’ they cast him and the fact that Pet will not let him eat the meal they have delivered. Oh! It turns out that Pet is not a dog. Well she is, she is a human who can be a dog. And Edward was very recently rubbing her belly! Pet’s father, Peter, is the Kennel Master and it turns out that most if not all his children are Ethian dogs in the kennels. Pet is there to protect him as their family has done so before.
Jane is not particularly bothered that her husband is an Ethian, that was quite exciting really. What does bother her is that no one saw fit to tell her. Likely her mother didn’t know, but Edward should have said something! So, off to see Edward she goes, still in her wedding dress, but the guards won’t let her see him. Orders from the King are that he is not to be disturbed. When Jane returns to her chamber with Gifford, he is still there, in horse form, asleep. But, with a bright flash! he is suddenly a man. A very naked man! Jane and Gifford verbally duke out their frustrations. They are married and are to go on their honeymoon, there is nothing to be done but it doesn’t mean they have to be happy or quiet about it. During their argument G gives Jane rules for his equine state: 1) No riding the horse, 2) no bridling the horse, 3) no saddling the horse, 4) no horse jokes. In rebuttal Jane gives G her rules: 1) no touching her books, 2) no chewing her books, 3) she should never find hay in the books, 4) no bending the spines of the books. Rules officially on place, they then set off on their honeymoon.
Whilst travelling in the coach they come across a pack of wolves attacking a village for their cow. Jane wants to help and dashes from the carriage, G is reluctant, there is something odd about the situation, men are running with the wolves. A child is hurt during the attack and the cow is lost. This is the third cow lost in a week to the pack, Jane resigns herself that there is nothing she can do to help and they continue on, but she is not happy with G, he didn’t want to help.
When they arrive at the estate, Jane calls out Gifford’s cowardice. But! These were no ordinary wolves. These were the infamous Pack. Jane, who, remember, is well read in the subject of Ethians, does not believe it but G insists that it’s true. Jane then declares she knows how they shall spend the night, caring for the people of the village. They take food and medical supplies and head back to the village dressed in their plainest clothes to tend wounds and help feed the village. When they return, they are both exhausted but have found a new respect for each other.
Lord Dudley persuades Edward to make Lady Jane his heir. It doesn’t take a lot considering the alternative is Mary. Mary and Bess had come to visit him, and Mary tries to feed him some pudding which Pet would not allow. Bess, on the other hand, leans in and whispers that she will help protect him. Et tu Mary? Pet continues to sniff all his meals now for poison. Edward knows Mary and/or Lord Dudley are killing him to take the crown, but surely they aren’t working together. Oh bother. Edward's nursemaid is the one delivering the poisoned food so he can no longer trust her, especially now that she is putting it in all his food. Because he's been poisoned so much, he is very weak. Lord Dudley or Mary have obviously become impatient as there are guards approaching his chamber. Whilst Pet tries to keep them at bay, Edward wishes he could fly free of all of this and turn into a bird like his mother could. And he does! And escapes.
Jane and G spend some days on their honeymoon in quiet contentment. Jane reads to Horse G, and at night they help the local villagers with food and medicine. The honeymoon is disrupted though by the King's Guard who have come to take Jane to The Tower of London. Unsure as to what is going on, Jane, G, some snacks and a book are thrown into a carriage. When they arrive, Lord Dudley reveals that King Edward is dead, long live Queen Jane. In complete confusion and disbelief, Jane is whisked off and coronated without any ceremony or fanfare as usually befitting such occasion. It also seems to G that his father has designs on controlling the new Queen with his subtle wording while Jane believes that they can do great good for the people with this new power. Mary, however, doesn’t seem to have been informed of Edward’s line of succession decree and there is a threat that the popular aristocrat will come to take power.
Edward meanwhile is flying through the air, he even enjoys a mouse or two. The freedom is wonderful, not knowing where he is, is less so. Falling from a tree and hurting his ankle makes him realize two things, 1) he has changed back to a man, and 2) he is naked! After being screamed at by a woman calling him a perv Ethian, Edward flees again in bird form and takes shelter in a barn where he meets an enchanting Scottish lass. Her name is Gracie, she is an Ethian too, and apparently a chicken thief, because they run from the very angry farmer. On the lam, Edward admits that he is Edward Tudor and he was being poisoned by Lord Dudley, his advisor, and he needs her help.
Ugh. Being Queen is boring and heavy. The clothes are awful, the bedchamber is full of wardrobes with no bookcases in sight! and Lord Dudley won’t leave her alone. Jane doesn’t know why Edward made her Queen, but she wants to see his body to say goodbye and arrange a befitting funeral. Lord Dursley however keeps putting her off. At dinner that night Lord Dudley mentions having picked out a crown for Gifford and they should arrange his coronation for the following night. Jane protests, rather too loudly, which embarrasses Gifford. Weren't they supposed to be a team? In her chambers they have a screaming argument. G thinks there is nothing wrong with him being King, Jane insists that a King who spends his time as a horse during the hours actual rule takes place makes no sense. She is convinced Lord Dudley mechanized her coronation to put his son on the throne. As teenagers are want to do, they stomp their feet, slam their doors and declare they will never speak to each other again.
G is mad. He doesn’t want to be king but now that his wife is queen why shouldn’t he be!? Yes, her arguments are sound and reasoned but why does she have to be so unreasonable... neigh G thinks. He’s cantering around the field working out his anger, feeling inferior and powerless and he doesn’t want to be. He thinks about how he and Jane compliment each other and learn from each other. He composes poetry over her lips. After the sun goes down and G changes back into a man, he goes home wondering if it will be his wife or the Queen waiting for him. Jane is alone in the dining hall, they discuss their days, his eating hay, hers with court business, his alone in a field, hers being stuck with his father until he was called away in urgent business. G considers telling Jane about what he heard the night of her coronation, that Mary doesn’t accept her sovereignty but decides against it and to defer to his father. When it becomes clear it is his Queen sitting with him at the table and not his beloved wife with poetic lips, G becomes disinterested and they part, each going to their separate rooms, and don’t see each other for several days.
G has taken to wandering further and further from the castle during his horsey hours. On the eighth day of Jane's reign, he regains human form a fair distance from the castle and is completely naked. Fashioning some leaf vines over his delicate parts, he soon finds a tavern called The Three Ladies. Acting as if nothing is wrong, he enters, makes a distraction and leaves through a window, now with someone else's clothes in hand and leaving stories of a ghost behind. In another inn, he hears whispers of long live Queen Mary from men in uniform and spots a light on the hillside, an encampment, and so close to London. He races home, on two feet, bursts through Jane’s bedroom door and gasps out everything. They call for the Privy Council but they refuse to come even though outside the castle is an army. Mary’s army.
Edward and Gracie have been trudging North through rain and mud for days. They’ve spotted soldiers on the road carrying Mary’s banner, making Edward desperate to reach his grandmother, but he refuses to change into a kestrel and ride on Gracie’s fox back. Still recovering from being poisoned, Edward feels awful and needs to rest. Gracie transforms into a fox and Edward is left alone to think about how foxy and foxy she is, and how he wanted to kiss her. When Gracie returns, she brings him new socks and a rabbit for dinner. Edward admits he doesn’t know how to look after himself because he’s never had to before what with living in a gilded cage, always preparing to be a King and never actually being one. They discuss how Gracie knew she could change into a fox and their journey to his grandmother's house, but then Edward has a seizure. Even though he's been away from the poisoned food, he is still ill and still dying. To make the journey quicker and easier, he gives in and changes into a kestrel so that Gracie can bind him to her and run swiftly as a fox to his grandmother's house while he is unconscious.
Edward awakens to find himself in a soft bed in a room with his sister Bess and his grandmother. His grandmother, a stern woman who wouldn’t let anyone poison her when she was Queen! has given Edward an antidote. Bess explains to Edward that Jane was crowned Queen and that Dudley was coming for her and Mary to lock them up in the Tower. She slipped out when she heard them coming, and Mary escaped to one of her estates. From there, she raised an army with the Catholic Church and took the throne that very morning. As it happens, Mary had been plotting Edward’s demise separately to Dudley’s machinations, but found out after overhearing a conversation about an extra ingredient in his blackberries that Dudley was also planning his death.
When Mary's army arrived, there was no battle for the throne. She went straight to the throne room and sat down on the throne with her crown on her head. Jane’s mother was there in court and Dudley was also there, front and center. As Mary monologues about true lines of succession etc., paying no heed to Jane’s protestations, the sun comes up and Gifford turns into a horse. Mary wants Jane to accept her as her queen and denounce evil, to reject her husband and all the Ethians, and if she does, she will be sent to a monastery for the rest of her life and Gifford will be burned at the stake the next morning. Jane rejects Mary’s offer. She can’t turn her back on the one person who had supported her without question!
So… Jane is taken into a bare room where she dwells on it being her last hours and what will happen on the execution block. She thinks of G and feels guilty for not crowning him as her King. Lady Francis (her mother) visits and explains to Jane that Dudley declared himself a Verity and made it sound as if he was clearing the path for Mary to take the crown. She begs her daughter to do the same and take Mary’s offer, but Jane can’t, she can’t reject Ethians and she points out that her mother too is one! When the guards take Lady Francis away, Jane sinks into a dark depression but suddenly, everything goes white! Now everything feels wrong… the room is bigger, she is shorter, smells are strong. Jane has changed into something! SHE IS AN ETHIAN!! Woohoo!! But... what is she?
She is able to sneak out of the room, not very graceful with her hindquarters seemingly autonomous. Her sight isn’t great but her sense of smell and hearing are astounding. At the bottom of the stairs she overhears Dudley and someone she thinks is the physician talking about a body that will do for Edward(!!!!). They hadn’t yet found his actual body, but he was poisoned and starved so it is only a matter of time before his corpse turns up. So it seems to Jane that Edward may still be alive. She escapes the building, and goes in search of her horse.
Gifford is dwelling on being burned at the stake. He’d seen a stake-burning before, it wasn’t pleasant. He is also thinking about Jane and how she had stood up for him. She would die in the Tower courtyard, he would be burned on Tower Hill where all the convicts died. As he is composing bad poetry with Jane’s name, a letter in Jane’s handwriting is slipped under his door... but it’s just the letter she wrote to Edward written the day after their wedding. Ahh, but it is written in her hand, so he will cherish it until his last breath. Wait… in the corner there is a word written in a different hand. The word is SKUNK…?
Later that evening G hears a scratching sound. Upon investigation, he discovers two beady little black eyes attached to a tiny furry body that jumps out at him. Not screaming like a little girl (yeah, right), G takes a step back. The creature climbs onto the bed and as he’s about to slam a book on top of it, the rodent-not-rodent becomes fascinated by the book... EGADS!! IT’S JANE! But... what is she? Oh, it doesn't matter. Once he realizes that she can steal a key to help him escape, they have a plan! and he’s bloody impatient to get started. They escape the Tower of London with some elegance but mostly luck. Trying to pass the stables they stumble into Peter Bannister who identifies Jane as a Ferret. Quickly mounting a horse that isn’t Gifford and following Peter Bannister’s daughter Petunia, or Pet as a dog, they are off!!
Gracie and Edward are sparring and Gracie is kicking his ass because 1) she is bloody good and 2) Edward keeps being distracted by her tight trousers. Some Monty Python sparring later, Gracie proves how skilled a Swordswoman she is. Exhausted but feeling much better after receiving antidotes to his poisoning, Edward tells Gracie she doesn’t need to stay now because she kept her promise to get him to his grandmother, and that he doesn't really know her - she may be a spy for his sister. She finally decides to tell Edward how she found out she could change into a fox. When she was 7, her family, all Ethians, was locked in a cottage by English soldiers. They were large animals, stags and deer, and we're too big to escape. But she wasn't! She became a fox! Her father told her to escape to France and gave her a map, but on her way, she lost it and got lost herself. The Pack found her and adopted her. Back then, they weren’t as bad as they are now. The new pack leader, Archer, decided to turn the tide, take control and put a price on Gracie’s head (10 whole sovereigns!!). Next ensues some uncomfortable mumbling about moss, eyes and loveliness, and just as they are about to kiss (his first kiss!), his grandmother calls him in for his medicine.
Edward meets with Bess and they strategize, looking over a map and their army numbers against their sister Mary's combined efforts with the Catholic Church. They contemplate getting help from the French army and their cousin Mary in Scotland, but help won't come cheap. They need to think of the many over the few, and with no word from Bess’ Ethian raven spies or from or about Jane, Edward decides he must go to France and petition for help.
Jane and G are fleeing the city, following whatever direction Pet, as a dog, leads them. Going through the woods, with Jane still in ferret form, G proposes a plan. A good plan he thinks. At sun up, he will change into a horse and they can continue to flee and, so long as Jane stays in ferret form, she will be light enough to carry. Jane agrees, well chitters, at G when suddenly she transform s back into her human form NAKED! Whilst G finds her inability to control the change after reading so many Ethian books and complaining about his lack of ability to control his change rather amusing, Jane is not amused and she is also NAKED. She becomes alarmed when G starts to strip before he changes into horse form. Some shenanigans and breaking horse rule number 2 (saddling the horse) later, Jane breaks horse rule number 3, mounts her husband and they are off!
After travelling for some time, they come across an abandoned cottage and barn. G turns back into a human and they fling themselves into each other’s arms. While Jane is squashed against G’s chest she feels a crinkle of paper, her letter to Edward with SKUNK scribbled on it. Recognizing Edward's handwriting and remembering that her Great-Grandmother is a skunk, Jane realizes where they must go and that Edward must be alive. In her excitement she turns back into a ferret.
Pet is whining at the door to be let in, very excited about something, but G can’t understand her. In a flash, a naked girl stands in front of him and exclaims that she has the King's scent! G is somewhat surprised that Pet is a girl... huh… but remembering that Pet said actual human words, they set off again following the King's scent. Pet is able to change at will and turns to human form to tell G that the smell is fading, they must move quickly, that he needs to sort himself out and change forms, and that Edward isn’t travelling alone. They stop at a tavern for food, but everyone there is rather... rough and smelly and very likely The Pack. Oh no. When Jane is spotted in ferret form, screams of rat! and food! come from the less than savory characters and there is a scuffle. G and Jane manage to escape, but Jane is bleeding and badly hurt.
Edward is vexed. Women! Bloody women! He’s surrounded by stubborn bossy women, a pretty girl who he keeps fantasizing about who keeps wearing trousers and mocking him and his best friend is missing. And now a dog wouldn’t stop barking. A dog? Could it be? Yes! Edward races downstairs into the kitchens to find Pet with his Grandmother and a strange man stroking and fawning over a lump of blooded fur. He realizes the man is Gifford, so is the fur… Jane? Yes. Edward finds out that Jane too is Ethian and badly hurt, but she can’t turn back human for her wounds to be properly tended. Gifford watches Jane all night and Edward takes over when G has to go outside at dawn to horse.
Jane is declared better by their grandmother so it has to be true and now the planning begins. How are they going to take back the throne? It’s agreed, well, semi-agreed, with a lot of protesting that they should go to France where Edward will petition the King with Jane bearing witness. Before they go, they need to build the numbers of their army so they decide to recruit The Pack. There are obvious drawbacks and hesitations with this course of action. Edward meets with Archer, the Alpha of The Pack, but he doesn’t want to help. He sees no benefit and nothing in the Tudor monarchs' past would suggest anything would change in Britain if they did. Edward confesses that he is Ethian and wants to make all people equal, Archer scoffs and lays an impossible task before the King that he must complete if the pack is to join them. He must defeat the GREAT WHITE BEAR of legend (?!). Though time is tight, the need for man power is greater, so Edward agrees to it.
At sundown Jane word vomits her research regarding bears to a dazed Gifford. Not because he’s just transformed back to human, but he caught sight of his wife’s bare legs. Jane’s advice was decidedly unhelpful and as she was preparing to become a ferret G tells her she will not be coming bear hunting with them and as she changes, he quickly puts her into a bird cage. Ohhhh no. On route to the Great Bear, G and Edward have a bonding moment. Edward reveals he fancies Gracie, G tells him he can’t have Jane so it’s all good really. When they reach the bear it is HUGE. Absolutely GIGANTIC. In a surprising turn of events, especially for G and Edward, they win the fight. The bear is not Ethian and they are able to run a broadsword through its throat though Edward does pick up a mild scratch which, when they return to the castle, Jane is more than happy to tend to, Oh… is Gifford home? I hadn’t noticed. Now with The Pack at their side, all they have to do is go to France and beg for assistance. Ugh.
When they get to France, Edward looks like a King again all dressed up and clean, Jane looks of her station and Gracie is wearing a dress!! Egads!! Edward asks Gracie to chat with Queen Mary of Scotland, his ex-fiancé which is totally awkward, in order to try and sweet talk her into joining as one Scot to another. The meeting with King Henry of France goes well, both bemoaning upstart women and the audacity of Mary poisoning her own brother to steal the crown, it’s simply not the done thing! King Henry agrees to help, and later that evening at a ball Queen Mary of Scotland approaches Edward, confesses she is a mouse and will rally her Scottish soldiers to his cause too.
When Edward and Gracie are talking later, he confesses how much he wants to kiss her, but she can’t stop remembering that he is the King and runs off. Bess is impressed by the diversity of the army they have, French, Scottish and Ethian, and decides that Edward will be a good King. But does he still want it? Jane and G confess that they only ever want to argue with each other and as Jane can feel the sun going down she realizes how desperately she wants to stay human with G and fights the change... and… she can control it! Unfortunately G can’t, even though he says he wants to stay with her and not become a horse, he doesn't care how much Jane tries to persuade him. Physically. They’re about to finally consummate their vows. And then... Gifford is a horse. Neigh.
At the planning meeting, Jane gives them advice about sieges of London. There has never been a successful one. Mary has an army but they are just standing outside the gates twiddling their thumbs. So, as Mary doesn’t know Edward is still alive, Jane shall go in, find a way to sneak Edward in, and they will take the country back. Good luck Jane! Sneaking in as a ferret, Jane is able to get into the Tower and can hear the commotion outside acting as a distraction whilst she breaks a window. Edward comes flying through the now open window as a Kestrel. The plan to sneak him inside is successful! Edward grabs a fire poker and Jane grabs a frying pan as a weapon, so far so good...
Gifford is waiting for them, whilst bemoaning the fact he didn’t profess his love to Jane, Edward and Jane come running up. Two Tower guards intercept but are quickly dispatched by Jane wielding her frying pan, a very underestimated kitchen implement. Pet comes running up too, Gifford grabs swords for he and Edward and Jane holds on to her frying pan. Time to get into The White Tower. As they enter The White Tower, Lord Dudley, Stan (G’s older brother) and Edward’s former Weapons Master, Dash, are waiting. While Edward fights the weapons master, Stan cheeses it, leaving Lord Dudley alone who begs to be spared. Edward beats his weapons master and demands fealty, Lord Dudley takes a frying pan to the head and is tied up. Before entering Court, G confesses his love and adoration to Jane, he lets all his poetry tumble out and as the sun comes up, he stays a man.
Edward enters the throne room feeling amazing, the siege is going well, he has beaten Dash, Lord Dudley has been captured, Mary should just give him his bloody crown back! But she doesn’t. Mary is indignant and self-righteous. In her mind the crown is hers, she was first born, she will bring the country back to its former glory. In her rage at Edward, Mary loses control and turns into an Ass and an Ass is how she always remained. Edward refuses the crown, he understands now that a woman can lead and abdicates to Bess, or should we say… Queen Elizabeth Tudor.
A day or so later, Queen Elizabeth’s crown has been stolen and a certain Scottish pick-pocket hasn’t been seen. Edward goes out and find Gracie. She is now Pack Alpha, Archer having taken an arrow to the chest 10 minutes into the siege. At last Edward can kiss her and boy does he!! Jane and Gifford have a lovely wedding, well another one. This time, the wedding is during the day with their nearest and dearest. Jane thoughtfully provides books for each guest to read in case the ceremony gets boring but everyone is enraptured. They profess their love, the priests tut at their rushing the vows and that night they consummate with a very special hug.