Read For Love And Honor Online

Authors: Flora Speer

Tags: #romance, #medieval

For Love And Honor

 

 

 

For Love And Honor

 

by

Flora Speer

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2013, 1995, by Flora Speer

 

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Prologue

 

 

St. Justin’s Abbey, England A.D. 1152

 

Father Ambrose, the abbot of St. Justin’s,
was seventy-three years old. The sharpness of his eyes remained
undimmed by his great age, but the once fierce features of a
peerless warrior had softened over the years. Ambrose was now
famous not for his feats in battle but for his great learning, and
for the kindness and concern he showed to those who came to him
with their problems, from within the abbey and from the outside
world. On this late November morning he was particularly interested
in what the newly arrived travelers in his receiving room had to
say.

They were three in number, two richly dressed
men and a girl not quite sixteen. In the courtyard a few servants
and the men-at-arms who had come with them were awaiting Ambrose’s
decision on where they were to spend that night.


You will
need my help,” Ambrose said to his three guests. “You c
annot
do it alone.”

“True, but you must not join us until the
moment is right,” replied the taller of the two men. “If we move
too quickly, all will be lost. The castle is too strong to take by
frontal assault, which is why we ask you to shelter our men until
we need them.”

“They are welcome to stay here. And you, my
dear?” Ambrose’s eyes rested on the young woman. “Will you also
remain at St. Justin’s until this scheme is concluded?”

“By my own wish, I am part of the plan,” she
responded. “I cannot stay behind, nor would I want to. If it were
necessary, I would go disguised as one of the squires.”

“You are your father’s own child, brave and
perhaps a little too clever for your own safety.” Ambrose smiled at
her. “I dare to say that, because ‘twas I who baptized you. I will
also make free to say you have grown up to be beautiful, with a
spirit much like your lovely mother’s.”

“Scandalous priest,” teased the second of the
two male guests. “What would your fellows here at St. Justin’s say
to hear you pay such compliments to a lady?”

“They’d say what they have so often,” Ambrose
replied, his blue eyes twinkling; “that I lived too long in a
foreign land and have not recovered from it even so many years
after my return.

“Very well, dear kinsmen and friends,” he
continued, sobering. “Tell me all you plan to do and how I can help
you. There is a lady who has needed rescuing for far too many
years, a murderer to be brought to justice, and men falsely
proclaimed outlaws to be proven innocent and restored to honor once
more. We have a difficult task ahead of us. I include myself most
willingly in whatever you plan to do for the sake of justice and
the righting of wrongs, so the dead can rest in peace at last.”


For
honor’s sake,” said the tall man,
nodding
agreement with the priest’s words.

“For love,” declared the second man with
barely restrained emotion.

“For love and honor both,” murmured the young
woman.

Part I

 

Joanna

England, A.D.1134

Chapter 1

 

 

Early in the year, Baron Radulf of
Banningford decided the time had come to marry off his daughter.
Joanna was fourteen, the proper age to wed, and others told him the
girl was beautiful, though Radulf could not see it himself. But
then, he seldom looked at Joanna. He was too preoccupied with his
own problems to bother with her.

For years
Radulf had successfully navigated his way among the competing
ambitions of his neighbors, the great Marcher lords who held vast
estates along the border between England and Wales. So far, by a
combination of guile toward those lords and friendship with King
Henry I, he had maintained his independence and kept his holdings
intact, but now the times were changing and Radulf felt himself in
danger. On his last visit to court he had seen that King
Henry was aging
and unwell.
Radulf did not think the King would live much longer – a year or
two, perhaps three. Henry’s heir was his arrogant daughter Matilda,
to whom he had forced his nobles to swear allegiance. Sacred oaths
or no, few Norman nobles wan
ted to be ruled by a woman, and
there were
many who would
prefer to see Henry’s nephew Stephen on the throne. Radulf feared a
period of civil strife and lawlessness would follow Henry’s death,
until a new ruler was decided upon. During that perilous time
h
e would need staunch allies if his lands were not to be
swallowed up by
some greedy
earl.

Radulf was greedy himself. He wanted more
lands. He wanted power. Most of all he wanted a strong male heir
whom he could train as he wished and to whom he could relinquish
both lands and power when the time came for him to lay aside
earthly concerns.

Radulf had no sons. His first wife had
produced only the one girl, Joanna, dying even as her child came
into the world. His second wife had repeatedly miscarried before
succumbing to a wasting disease. And his third wife had given him
no children at all in spite of Radulf’s nightly attempts to rectify
her barren condition. Having now reached the advanced age of
forty-eight, Radulf had come to the reluctant conclusion that his
most likely hope for an heir lay in a grandchild.

Haughston, the barony that bordered Radulf’s
lands to the east, belonged to an old comrade-in-arms who had
recently died, leaving his estate to his only son, Crispin. The boy
was doubtless inexperienced in worldly affairs, and therefore,
Baron Radulf reasoned, he would be willing to be guided by a
well-seasoned father-in-law. An alliance between Joanna and the
lord of Haughston could only be advantageous to both parties.

It seemed the young man’s advisers felt the
same way, for the suggestion of a match between Baron Crispin of
Haughston and Lady Joanna of Banningford was accepted with
flattering promptness. Over the next two months the clerks met to
discuss terms. Joanna’s dowry was decided upon, the marriage
contract was drawn up, and the wedding date was set for Midsummer’s
Eve. Only then did Radulf appear in the solar where the women of
his castle spent much of their time, to inform his daughter of the
arrangements he had made for her. He arrived at the door of the
solar accompanied by his personal guard Baird, who seldom left his
side.

“Do you know Baron Crispin personally?”
Joanna asked her father after hearing the news. “Is he young or
old? Ill-favored or fair?”

“What difference does any of that make?”
demanded Radulf. “You will marry as I order you.”

“Yes, Father.” Joanna knew better than to
challenge her formidable parent. She had been afraid of him for as
long as she could remember.


I did
not meet your father until my wedding day, and ours has been a
satisfactory marriage,” said her stepmother, Rohaise, trying as
usual to be helpful and to mollify any sign of anger in her
irritable husband. “My lord, perhaps if you would mention Baron
Crispin’s age to us, that will be enough
for now. And if you
could tell me how many guests he will bring with him, it would be
of great assistance to me in
planning meals and sleeping arrangements. I do want the festivities
to reflect your importance, yet I would not waste provisions
unnecessarily.”


The boy
is twenty-one. He was knighted only last week,” said Radulf,
grumbling a bit at being thus pressed for information by a woman,
while at the same time appreciating his wife’s admirable frugality.
He reflected that he had little to complain of in Rohaise, save for
the galling lack of a son. Still, she was only eighteen; she might
yet give him what he wanted most. Recalling the previous night and
how cheerfully she had manipulated his aging body into renewed
vigor, Radulf gave her a benign look and almost smiled. Rohaise was
the best of his wives; he would continue trying to get her with
child. In the meantime he had a healthy daughter to use as a pawn
in his quest for more land and a dependable ally. He was feeling
pleased with himself; the ma
r
riage was a brilliant stroke on his part, and Rohaise would
delight in planning the week of wedding feasts. He could afford to
be generous in answering her question.

“You may have a new gown, and Joanna, too, as
well as the linens and other household goods stipulated in the
marriage contract,” he told Rohaise. “As for the company, I’d say
fifteen to twenty extra mouths to feed on the bridegroom’s account.
Add to that the other people I’ll want to invite. Plan for at least
a hundred guests, including servants.”


So
many?” Joanna’s voice quavered at the thought. She was nervous
already, for she had no experience of crowds. Her father had kept
her at home, refusing to let her foster at some other castle as was
the custom with young noblewomen. And all of this crowd of
strangers
– a hundred or
more! – would be staring at her.

“I am a man of importance,” Radulf declared,
flushing with the rise of his easily disturbed temper.


Joanna
and I know that, my lord.” Rohaise hastened to placate him.
“Neither
of us was ex
pecting your announcement, so we are both greatly
surprised. And I think Joanna may be just a bit intimidated by the
change that will soon occur in her life.”

“Hmmm.” Radulf regarded his daughter as if
she were a brood mare, ignoring the tumbling golden curls and blue
eyes, skipping quickly over her chiseled features and slender
wrists and hands, to linger on her squared shoulders and nicely
rounded hips. She was not tall, but she would probably grow a few
more inches in the six years before she turned twenty. For all her
youth she looked like a girl who could give birth easily. That
pleased him.

“Teach her what she needs to know,” he
ordered Rohaise. “Instruct her to be a welcoming and compliant
wife, serving her husband’s needs in the marriage bed. When you
have finished, and when the time is nearer to the day, I’ll have a
few words with her myself, to be certain she understands the
purpose of this alliance.” With that, Radulf motioned to Baird to
follow him and took himself off to the bailey, leaving his quaking
daughter in her stepmother’s care. When the solar door had closed
upon the men Rohaise opened her arms and Joanna went into them.


What did
he mean?” Joanna whimpered, her sapphire eyes wide. “0h, Rohaise,
I’ve heard the serving
women whispering about men, but they
always stop when they see me
approaching. Has it anything to do with the monthly bleeding that
began last summer? You said then that it meant I was old enough to
have children. That’s what he wants, isn’t it? Grandchildren. But I
don’t know how,” she finished on a sob, feeling utterly incompetent
in this most important area of a noblewoman’s life.

“Your husband will teach you how,” Rohaise
said, and launched into a brief explanation of the physical
intimacy between husband and wife.


Do you
mean I will have to let a stranger touch me like that?” Joanna
cried, deeply shaken by the information. “I have accidentally seen
men unclothed once or twice, and I’ve noticed that they are made
differently from women. He will put that –
that –
into me? I do not think I want
to wed. I will tell my father so,” she ended on a note of rising
panic.

“It is a noblewoman’s lot in life to be
married at her father’s bidding,” Rohaise reminded her. Rohaise
knew that Radulf would not allow any change in his carefully laid
plans, and she wanted to spare Joanna the punishment she would
certainly receive if she refused to wed now. “It happens to all of
us except for those who enter a convent. When you are alone with
your husband he will do what I have described.”

“Oh, Rohaise.” Joanna’s face was pale, her
eyes huge and dark with fear. “It must hurt so much.”

“Only a little, and only the first time.”
Rohaise pulled Joanna’s head down to her shoulder and spoke softly,
quickly, refusing to allow her own embarrassment to stop her from
doing what she could to ease Joanna’s terror. “It can be very
pleasant, especially as the man grows older and thus less hasty and
fierce. I have learned not to dread Radulf s attentions each
night.”

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