Authors: Kathryn Le Veque
By Kathryn Le Veque
Copyright 1996 by Kathryn Le Veque
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any
manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief
quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Printed by Dragonblade Publishing in the United States of America
copyright 1996 by Kathryn Le Veque
Cover copyright 1996 by Kathryn Le Veque
Month of May, Year of our Lord 1235
The sultry August heat was
manageable this day. As the sun broke the eastern horizon, the lush English
countryside embraced the coming day with open arms. Not only was the advancing
day glorious of weather and promise, but the inhabitants of the gentle hills of
Dorset were anticipating this day with excitement.
In faith, the day itself could
have been wrought with storms and foul weather and still it would have been a
grand morn. For on this day, a long-standing celebration was preparing to mount
and nothing could dampen the spirits of peasant and noble alike, fine blood and
common lines readying the stronghold of Chaldon Castle for the activities of
the approaching gala.
The mighty stronghold of Chaldon
guarded the road between Dorchester and Weymouth and was being prepared as a
new bride for her husband. Proud banners of du Bonne red and white streamed
from the mighty battlements, snapping in the steady ocean breeze. The constant hint
of salt-air was heavy upon the fortress, licking man and beast alike with
dampness as they went about their duties.
Just outside of the open
fortress gates lay the field of celebration, a margin of meadow that had been
prepared for the events of competition. A large bank of lodges had been
constructed to accommodate the noble visitors that would be gracing Chaldon
this day, and already a small army of peasants had constructed their vendor’s
shacks and stalls to provide refreshment between contests.
In the enormous keep of Chaldon
that housed the reigning Constable and his family, all was not as sunny as the
day appeared. The object of the pending celebration was not the least bit
pleased at the moment as he tripped over the clutter of his bower.
"God's Blood," the
young man spat. "I cannot find anything in this place."
A smirking face appeared in an
adjoining door, features similar to those of the cursing young man.
"Temper, temper, my young lord,” he cautioned. “You'll chase all of the
young women away with your foul temper and nasty disposition."
The frowning man slugged his fist
into his smug companion's chest, lacking any power to the blow. "Shut your
mouth, Ian. Where in the hell is my hauberk? I cannot find the thing
Ian, at least a head taller than
his testy younger brother, maintained his smirk as he kicked through a pile of
clutter on the floor. "Here it is, lover. Do not fret so."
The younger man snatched the mail
hood from his brother, scowling fiercely. "God's Blood, I'd rather get
dressed by myself. Go and bother someone else."
Ian snorted humorously, ignoring
his brother's demand for solitude and moving for the suit of armor against the
broad stretch of wall. Two young squires sat against the cold stone, polishing
the armor furiously.
"There is no one else to
tolerate me," he said, examining a recently-cleaned greave. "Stephan
is with Genisa, probably mounting her for the fourth time this morn, and Summer
has been in her solar since dawn, demanding to be left alone. She swears this
gala to celebrate your knighthood will drive us to the poorhouse."
The cross young man grunted as he
fumbled with his mailed protection. "I did not ask for a party. 'Twas at
Ian returned the greave to one of
the young squires and moved to stroke the crafted hilt of his brother's sword.
"Be glad he insisted on
celebrating your knighthood at all, Lance," his voice was somewhat
subdued. "Stephan received a new sheath for his broadsword. I received a
Lance glanced to his middle
brother, two years older and sixty pounds heavier. Much larger than any of his
siblings, he was a mild-mannered lout with a wicked sense of humor. It was a
quick wit that Lance had missed terribly when the man had been knighted two
years ago, leaving his youngest brother to finish his training alone.
Stephan, Ian and Lance du Bonne
had fostered together at Shrewsbury Castle on the Welsh border, far from their
coastal fortress of Chaldon. It was an unusual move to keep siblings together
to foster, but the three had insisted. The three men had lived together,
practiced together, and protected each other from the brutal realities of a
careless world. They were a fearsome trio with an unusual reputation of family
unity. Some had even wondered if the brothers were able to work one without the
But they somewhat disproved that
theory when Stephan was inducted into the knighthood at twenty-one years of
age; Ian and Lance functioned quite well when Stephan returned to Chaldon. Four
years later, Ian received his spurs and also found his way home, leaving young
Lance alone at Shrewsbury to finish his training. As the gallery of critics await
Lance's failure, the lad proved them wrong and honorably earned his knighthood.
In a sense, the festivities
planned for this day was in celebration of the du Bonne brother's reunion, not
merely the recently attained pair of golden spurs. The three were looking
forward to a future of tournaments, leisure and exhilarating adventure.
At this moment, however, Lance
could not consider the future beyond locating his boots. As Ian lingered against
the wall, continuing his inspection of the squires' handiwork, Lance fumbled
about in his cluttered chamber like a huffing bear.
"Damn... I cannot find a
damn thing!" he grumbled, managing to locate one boot but not the other.
After a moment, he stood tall and shook his fists in frustration. "How is
it that everything I need is missing?"
Ian shook his head, moving away
from the squires and into the center of the room. "Mayhap if you cleaned
the chamber, you could find what you are looking for."
"Enough from you,
swill-brain," Lance snarled, crowing with triumph when he caught sight of
his other boot. Falling to the mussed bed, he pulled on his footwear.
"Stephan said that Genisa was finishing my new tunic. He should have
brought it to me by now."
Ian pursed his lips wryly.
"I told you that he is most likely with his wife, driving himself into her
lovely body until he dies. In fact, I should be so fortunate to warrant such a
Lance eyed his brother a moment,
his irritation fading as he gazed into the familiar features. "You are
still quite fond of Genisa, are you not?"
The mirth in Ian's eyes faded as
he averted his gaze. "She is my brother's wife."
Lance rose from the disheveled
mattress to collect his hauberk. "You've been in love with her since you
met her. Two years ago, I believe."
Ian refused to look at his
brother. "I never told you that."
Lance put his head through the
mail hood, moving for the open door. Holding out his arms, Ian took the silent
request and helped his brother don the remainder of the heavy mail.
"You did not have to,"
Lance's voice was quiet as he adjusted the protection about his shoulders.
"I can see it in your eyes every time you look at her. I can only imagine
that the feeling for her blossomed when you first met her upon returning home
from Shrewsbury two years ago. Summer swears that you have never looked at
Genisa with anything other than love in your eyes."
The mood between the brothers du
Bonne was reversing; where Lance had been irritable and sullen only moments
before, Ian was now taking on brother's characteristics.
"Our little sister does not
"Aye, she does. She has
wisdom beyond her years."
Ian scratched his blond scalp,
uncomfortable with the subject of his lovely sister-in-law. If truth be known,
Summer was right. And so was Lance. But he would not admit the truth, not when
he loved Stephan far more than his beautiful wife. A sweet fantasy was Genisa
and nothing more.
Moving away from his brother, he
pretended to busy himself with his Lance’s armor. He was eager to change the
"Speaking of Summer,” he
said casually, “What are we going to do about our baby sister today? Has
Stephan made any suggestions?"
Lance shrugged, aware of Ian's
bid to shift the subject. "I do not suppose there is anything we can do
except be with her constantly. Summer should not be alone for a single moment,
Pleased that his brother had
taken the hint to change the topic, Ian nodded gravely. "Indeed. I do not
suppose we could discourage her from attending the tourney altogether, could
Lance snorted. "Not a
chance. She is hardly been out of Chaldon as it is and, as with all young
maidens, is “Not a chance. She is eager to attend her first tourney."
Ian let out a long, harsh breath.
"So be it. We cannot discourage her from attending the festivities,"
scratching his head again, he seemed to be regaining his good humor. "God
help the idiot who is the first to criticize her condition."
"Which is why one of us must
be with her at all times," Lance said firmly. "Under no circumstances
must Summer be allowed to express herself."
"You mean speak."
"Aye, that's exactly what I
mean. We will do the speaking for her."
Ian's gaze was pensive as he
watched his brother mill about the piles of disarray.
"God's Blood, Lance, what
did she do before Stephan returned home from Shrewsbury seven years ago?” he
wondered aloud. “Who protected her from the ignorant rabble?"
Lance found the pair of
protective inner gloves he had been searching for. "She was only three
when I left home to foster and had not yet learned to speak,” he said. “By the
time Stephan returned, she was eleven. Kermit, her childhood tutor, kept her
sequestered in the solar most of the time, teaching her to read and figure
mathematics. I suppose that is why the solar is still her favorite place; she
can hide from the world within the shielding walls. It is the only safe haven
away from those who would taunt her."
Ian shook his head in disgust,
moving to the lancet window. Unlatching the latticed grate, his gaze wandered
over the brightly colored grounds below, inspecting the visitors that had begun
arriving yesterday. Many more were expected during the course of the morn, for
the tournament was scheduled to begin after the nooning meal.
"She still hasn't recovered from
the old man's death, you know," he said quietly, watching the du Bonne
standards whip about in the brisk wind. "You were not here when he died
last winter, hunched over his books in the solar. Father swore he'd never seen
a more dedicated servant. But Summer viewed him more as the grandfather she
never knew, not the aged steward with a blinded eye."
Lance fumbled with one of the
soft woolen gloves, remembering the servant that Summer had been so fond of.
He had been a man who had treated her with dignity and respect, ignoring her
flaw because he had shared a similar affliction. The beautiful young maiden and
the gnarled old man had shared a strong attachment and his death had hurt her
"Summer says she is going to
name her firstborn son after the old steward," Lance said after a pensive
pause, still toying with the glove. "God help her husband with a son by
the name of Sir Kermit."
Ian snorted, his smile returning.
"Little Kermy. How touching." Unwilling to linger on the thoughts of
his baby sister and her flaw, he refocused on the day at hand. "Would you
hurry? I can see more guests on the horizon and whether or not you are the
center of celebration, I doubt they will be willing to wait for your lazy