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Authors: Roberta Gellis

Roselynde

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Roselynde
by Roberta Gellis

 

IT WAS THE END OF HER WORLD. AND THE BEGINNING OF HER GREATEST
ADVENTURE

After her grandfather's death, Lady Alinor Devaux was alone—proud,
beautiful, impossibly wealthy...and vulnerable. In order to protect the young
heiress, the queen of England charged a warden to protect Alinor. Sir Simon
Lemagne was a fiercely intelligent, loyal and seasoned knight, determined to do
his duty. But he found himself stirred by this dark-haired young woman with
lively eyes....

An honorable man, Simon tries to stifle his passion for the lovely
Alinor. Except, of course, that Alinor's never allowed the object—or person—of
her desire to slip through her fingers...until Simon is called upon by King
Richard to join the Crusades. Now Alinor must fight for what she wants— even if
it means marching to the Holy Land herself!

 

 

ISBN
0-373-83655-4 ROSELYNDE

Copyright © 1978 by Roberta Gellis

ROSELYNDE was originally published by Playboy Paperbacks in 1978
and by Jove in
1983

This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

www.eHarlequin.com

Printed in U.S.A.

 

 

List
of Characters for Roselynde

The characters are listed in order of appearance, not in order of
importance.

Lady Alinor Devaux
—A wealthy sixteen-year old
heiress (well past marriageable age), who is as willful as she is beautiful.

Sir Andre Fortesque
—Chief of Lady Alinor's
vassals.

Alinor of Aquitaine
—Dowager queen of England; a
powerful, autocratic and brilliant woman.

Sir John D'Alberin
—Another vassal of Lady
Alinor.

Sir Simon Lemagne
—The queen's vassal; he's
completely devoted to her until he meets Lady Alinor.

Gertrude
—Lady Alinor's maid.

Brother Philip
—Lady Alinor's chaplain and the castle
scribe.
Lady Crisel
—Wife of the castellan of Kingsclere Keep.
Ian De
Vipont
—Sir Simon's squire.

Isobel of Clarke
—Countess of Pembroke and
Striguk. she's a king's ward who is to be given in marriage.

Isobel of Gloucester
—Duchess of Gloucester, who
is another ward of the king affianced to Prince John, the king's brother.

Sir William Marshal
—Lord Marshal of England;
Sir Simon's closest friend.

Roger Bigod and Milo de Bohun
—Suitors drawn by
Lady Alinor's wealth (and a little by her beauty), who intend to have her
estates by hook or by crook.

Beorn Fisherman
—Lady Alinor's
master-at-arms; a devoted retainer.

King Richard I
—Called Richard, Coeur de Lion, new king
of England; he's about to set out on a Crusade instead of taking care of his
inheritance.

Prince John
—Richard's youngest brother, who is
hopeful of profiting from Richard's absence.

Lord Llewelyn
—Grandson of Owain Gwynedd, Prince of
Wales, (not Richard's son, but a Welsh prince).

William Longchamp
—Bishop of Ely, chancellor
and chief justiciar of England; he's a favorite of King Richard, corrupt and
power hungry, reputed to be a homosexual.

Princess Berengaria
—The lady Richard finally
married, with disastrous effects on both of them.

Lady Joanna
—Widow of king of Sicily, King Richard's
sister; she accompanies Berengaria and Richard on the Crusade.

Robert of Leicester
—Earl of Leicester; one of
the gentlemen who fought in the Holy Land with King Richard.

Guy
de Lusignan
—Deposed King of Jerusalem.

Sir Giles
—Castellan of Iford Keep; one of Lady
Alinor's men.

CHAPTER 1

Lady Alinor, heiress of the honors of Roselynde, Mersea,
Kingsclere, Iford, and enough other estates to make her one of the wealthiest
prizes in England, leaned forward to stroke the neck of her sidling and
curvetting mount. The gesture did not calm the mare. Dawn continued to dance,
and Alinor had to curb the desire to shriek at her. Since the animal was merely
reacting to Alinor's own concealed fear, that would have set the fat in the
fire—a not uncommon result of first impulses with Alinor. Controlling herself,
she added a soothing murmur to her patting.

Above her own murmur, Alinor could hear a tuneless whistling. It
was a sound to which she was well accustomed, yet it set her teeth on edge.
When Sir Andre Fortesque, the chief of her vassals, whistled between his teeth
like that, he was worried. And he has not even criticized my handling of Dawn,
Alinor thought, her throat tightening with fear. Then why did he not permit me
to close my keeps and fight?

But Alinor knew the answer to that. Sir Andre had been quick
enough to call up the other vassals to defend his lady against all threats from
her neighbors or any other magnate who wished to snap such a tasty (and
wealthy) tidbit into marriage. He had fought endless skirmishes and two minor
wars in her defense over the past year. This was different. This was a matter
of the King's writ—or, at least, the Queen's writ. Lord Richard, soon to be
crowned King of England, was still busy in Normandy, but his mighty mother, the
Legendary Alinor of Aquitaine, was ruling as Regent in his stead.

The Dowager Queen had been sixteen years in restrictive custody
for raising revolution against her husband, King Henry, but she had not lost
contact with any event of note that took place in England or France. The death
of Alinor's grandfather, Lord Rannulf, which left an unmarried sixteen-year-old
girl as heiress, had certainly not escaped her notice. One of the earliest
writs that went out as she gathered the threads of government into her capable
hands had gone to Alinor. And now, on her way from Winchester to London, the Queen
was riding some fifty miles out of her way to settle Alinor's affairs.

It was not a mark of royal affection for which Alinor was
grateful, but she was resigned. The important thing was to keep her estates
intact, and defiance of a royal writ amounted to treason, for which crime her
estates, and those of the vassals who supported her, would be forfeit. If only
Alinor had been able to marry while the old King and his sons had been locked
in their death struggle. There had been plenty of offers—from penniless younger
sons, with nothing but smooth tongues and a desire to eat Alinor's substance,
to ancient magnates, with a brood of starveling young ones to divide Alinor's
land among. Unfortunately not one of the smooth-tongued and beautiful
youngsters was capable of holding her vassals together in Alinor's judgment and
the older men were not capable of holding her.

Alinor had judged each offer on its merits, and she knew she had
judged fairly because her opinion had been freely confirmed by Sir Andre and
Sir John d'Alberin, who held the honor of Mersea for her. Now, of course, it
was too late. She would be a royal ward, and the Queen or King would choose a
husband for her. Alinor's soft lips firmed and her expressive eyes sparkled.
Unless they chose wisely, she would be a widow almost before she was a wife.

The mare was quieter now. Alinor's lips curved a trifle. It was
silly to be so nervous. Sir Andre and Sir John loved her dearly. Although they
would curb the foolish impulses her youth bred, they would not permit her to be
ill-used—even by the Queen. The faint smile faded. That very fact placed a
heavy obligation upon her. Alinor knew she would need to be very clever and
very circumspect, indeed, to get her own way and not bring harm upon her loyal
vassals.

A flicker of movement drew her eye. From the rise of ground upon
which Alinor's troop waited, the track snaked downward. Alinor strained her
eyes and, in a moment, swallowed. The flicker had resolved itself into flashes
of sunlight from the armor of a troop even larger than her own coming toward
them at a brisk pace. Sir Andre's whistling stopped abruptly. A sharp word
brought his men to full alert. Almost certainly the oncoming group was the
Queen's cortege, but it was not impossible that a desperate last attempt by a
neighboring baron might be made to capture so rich a prize before it fell into
royal hands.

Another order brought a single man out of the troops to ride
forward at a full gallop. Alinor took a firmer grip of her reins, listening to
the familiar sounds of men loosening swords in their scabbards and swinging
shields from shoulder to arm. The anxiety did not last long. A few minutes
showed a single rider spurring forward from the oncoming group to meet Sir
Andre's messenger. The riders stopped and spoke, then each continued on his
way. Sir Andre's man knew his master too well to take another's word for
evidence. He would see the Queen for himself before he assured Sir Andre it was
she. And the men did not secure their weapons, even though they were virtually
certain there would be no need for them. Alinor was too rich a prize to take
even vanishingly small chances.

Soon enough confirmation brought the small sounds of shields being
replaced and of men dismounting. Sir Andre lifted Alinor from her mare and she
shook out her skirts and smoothed her wimple. The leading horse of the oncoming
troop was snow-white, and its rider was not wearing the glittering mail of the
others. Alinor sank in a deep curtsy into the dust of the road, bowing her
head. She could hear the creak of the men's accoutrements as they knelt in
their ranks behind her.

The Dowager Queen of England pulled her horse to a halt and looked
down at her namesake. "Look up, child."

The voice was not young, but it was strong and full with none of the
quaver that might have been expected in a woman three score years and eight. In
fact, it was a voice that brought instant obedience. Alinor raised her head and
her eyes. Old, certainly the Queen was old. There were deep lines graven around
the mouth and the eyes, and the single strand of hair that escaped from her
soft blue wimple was as white as snow. Nonetheless, the Queen's back was
straight as a rod, the body in its blue gown was as slender, and the carriage
in the saddle as lithe as a girl's. And the eyes—they were young, dark and
bright, sparkling with interest and intelligence.

"Lovely," the old Queen said, her voice softer and
smiling now. "Why, you are lovely, my child."

Alinor blushed with pleasure. In spite of the fact that her hair
was black as a raven's plumage and her eyes a dark enough hazel to appear
brown, her skin was white as skimmed milk and crimsoned readily. Alinor knew
that the words of praise might be drawn forth more by policy than by her
beauty; nonetheless, the Queen's voice was so warm that she could not help
smiling.

"I thank you, Your Grace," she murmured.

"Simon—" the Queen turned her head toward the mailed and
helmeted knight who rode behind her "—raise Lady Alinor to her
mount."

The man moved no more than the graven images in a church, and he
looked a bit like one, the gray-silver mail blending with the gray surcoat he
wore to give him an appearance of granitelike solidity. His left hand, empty of
the lance his squire carried, rested on his hip. His right hand held his reins
in so iron a grip that his stallion, head curved into its neck, was immobile as
he. Alinor's breath drew in sharply with mingled hurt and surprise. Who was
this who was so proud he would not dismount at the Queen's command to assist a
lady?

In the moment that her eyes found his face, the hurt was almost
fully salved. His expression was only slightly obscured by the nosepiece of his
old-fashioned helmet. It was clear enough that this was no proud princeling,
simply a man so stricken by amazement that he was frozen. The Queen could not
see Simon's face without moving her horse or twisting her body uncomfortably,
but she could see enough to know he had not moved.

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