Authors: Kathryn le Veque
To The Lady Born
A Medieval Romance
By Kathryn Le Veque
Copyright 2011, 2014 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
Text copyright 2011. 2014 by Kathryn Le Veque
Cover copyright 2011, 2014 by Kathryn Le Veque
Library of Congress Control Number 2014-019
Also by Kathryn Le Veque
The White Lord of Wellesbourne
The Dark One: Dark Knight
While Angels Slept
Rise of the Defender
Spectre of the Sword
Lord of the Shadows
Great Protector (also related to BEAST)
To the Lady Born
The Falls of Erith
Lord of War: Black Angel
The Whispering Night
The Dark Lord
Unrelated characters or family groups:
The Warrior Poet
Guardian of Darkness (related to The Fallen One)
Tender is the Knight
Lord of Light
The Questing (related to The Dark Lord)
Beast (related to Great Protector)
The Dragonblade Trilogy:
Island of Glass
The Savage Curtain
The Fallen One
Fragments of Grace
Lords of Thunder: The de Shera Brotherhood Trilogy
The Thunder Lord
The Thunder Warrior
Novella, Time Travel Romance:
Echoes of Ancient Dreams.
Kathlyn Trent/Marcus Burton Series:
Valley of the Shadow
The Eden Factor
Canyon of the Sphinx
The American Heroes Series:
Fires of Autumn
Sea of Dreams
Other Contemporary Romance:
Lady of Heaven
Darkling, I Listen
Time Travel Romance:
Note: All Kathryn’s novels are designed to be read as stand-alones, although many have cross-over characters or cross-over family groups.
Novels that are grouped together have related characters or family groups.
Series are clearly marked. All series contain the same characters or family groups except the American Heroes Series, which is an anthology with unrelated characters.
There is NO particular chronological order for any of the novels because they can all be read as stand-alones, even the series.
January, Year of Our Lord 1388
He was coming.
She knew he was approaching and she knew why. Dear God, she knew and there was nothing she could do to stop him.
He’d been watching her for weeks with a lascivious look to his eye and at sup tonight, he couldn’t take his eyes from her. His gaze had made her skin crawl, the dirty fingers of his mind reaching out to touch her. After the meal, he had ordered her to her room under guard and there was no way she could escape. He had her trapped. Heart pounding, tears threatening, it was a struggle not to panic. She knew he was coming for her.
God help me
, she thought.
The halls of Hedingham Castle were sturdy and big, the corridors thick and smoky with the haze of greasy torches. The keep of the mighty de Vere family reflected the power of the family and the prominence. But tonight, it reflected the instability of the de Vere future. Troops from Bolingbroke filled the halls and grounds since the Robert de Vere’s flight to Ireland and to safety to avoid the barons closing in on him. But he left behind his sister, vulnerable to the enemy troops that now manned the battlements. Her punishment was now approaching.
The walls were so thick that she couldn’t hear the voices of the guards in the hall. She couldn’t hear when he approached, the garrison commander, her jailor, a man as vile as Lucifer and twice as ugly. As she sat huddled on a chair near the fire, fear eating holes in her, she was only aware that the man was upon her when the door rattled and jerked open. Old iron hardware squeaked as the garrison commander slithered into the room.
His brown eyes fixed on her and she met his gaze as bravely as she could. Her green eyes watched him, heart pounding in her ears, as he gave her a lewd grin and quietly closed the door. When he threw the bolt, she knew she was in trouble. Her palms began to sweat and it was a struggle not to scream. But she held her ground, courageously and foolishly, as he approached her. She could tell by the look in his eye that her life, as she had once known it, was over.
He was drunk. She could smell it on his breath from where she sat. When he ordered her to stand and remove her clothing, she refused. Unable to abide disobedience, the garrison commander grabbed her slender wrist and fractured the bones as he yanked her up from the chair and tossed her onto the bed. She tried to scramble off, to run, but she was a small woman against a large man and he didn’t care how much he hurt her in the process. He grabbed an ankle and struck her on the side of the head to still her.
As he tore her undergarments to shreds and threw his big, smelly body on top of her, Amalie Leighton Rossington de Vere screamed at the top of her lungs, fighting with every ounce of strength she had to resist. But the garrison commander was too strong and too big; he quickly overwhelmed and trapped her, wedging himself between her supple legs and ramming himself into her virginal body. He grunted with pleasure as she screamed in pain.
The agony went on long into the night. When he wasn’t raping her, he was beating her. By the time morning arrived, the garrison commander had raped his captive four times and beat her so badly that her right eye was swollen shut. When dawn arrived, he calmly replaced his clothing and left her chamber as if nothing was amiss. But clearly, a good deal was amiss. In his wake, he left blood and weeping.
A sympathetic guard, a very young man with sisters of his own, made sure the lady was tended and put to bed. When the garrison commander began to speak loudly of his conquest at the nooning meal, the sympathetic guard was sickened in to action. Before the day was out, he sent a message to their liege, Henry of Bolingbroke.
Until a reply was received, he took the lady and hid her deep in the tunnels of Hedingham so the garrison commander could not abuse her again. The garrison commander roared and threatened, but no one would tell him where the lady was, mostly because no one knew but the young guard. He kept his mouth shut, praying for a swift reply from Bolingbroke.
Within a few weeks, his prayers were answered; the garrison commander was immediately recalled and another man assigned. All men knew and cheered the new commander, a knight of immense power and reputation, who was both feared and respected. Sir Weston de Royans was a man of supreme talent and strength, newly returned from the siege of Vilnius, a military action supported by Henry of Bolingbroke. Weston had led Henry’s armies in their attempts to defend the Duchy of Vilnius, but the battle was still ongoing. It had been for years.
Now, Weston was coming to assume command of mighty Hedingham Castle, stronghold of the Earls of Oxford and the Duke of Ireland. It was no small assignment during this dark and volatile time.
But de Royans wasn’t due to assume his position for more than a month, so the sympathetic guard spent the next forty-four days guarding the Lady Amalie against those who would resume where the banished garrison commander left off. Such were the orders of Bolingbroke, and the lady was allowed to heal from her ordeal physically. Mentally, it was another issue altogether.
For the occupants of the castle, including the Lady Amalie, the tides were about to turn with the appearance of Sir Weston de Royans.
He wasn’t simply big; he was a colossal man among men, a Samson among average warriors, and was treated with all due respect. With his cropped blond hair, dark blue eyes and granite- square jaw, Weston de Royans was truly a sight to behold in a land of dark and colorless peasants. He was handsome, powerful, and intelligent, a devastating combination for the feminine palate.
It wasn’t so much his size and physical strength that garnered respect from even the mightiest of men; it was also the way he handled himself, his well-spoken and calm manner, his wisdom when all else was chaos. He could pull a man’s head off with his bare hands or gut with one stroke of his serrated-edged broadsword most impressively.
Quite simply, Weston was a man of brains as well as brawn. Henry of Bolingbroke had learned to depend heavily on him and had sent him to Hedingham Castle with the caveat that he could, and would be recalled at any time. But until such time, Weston was needed at the volatile de Vere castle.
It was a cloudy day, threatening snow, as Weston and his column approached the massive de Vere bastion. The destriers were fatigued from a long day’s ride across muddy and sometimes rainy roads and the knights astride them were only marginally less fatigued. At the head of the group, Weston’s dark blue eyes beheld Hedingham for the first time and his dark brows, arched like raven’s wings, lifted.
“So this is Hedingham?” It was a rhetorical question. “I had heard it was a massive structure but surely that description did not do it justice.”
His voice was deep, rippling up from his toes and vibrating through the massive muscles. Riding slightly behind him, a big knight with shoulder-length red hair replied.
“My uncle served the Earl of Oxford years ago,” he said. “He said that Hedingham has great caverns beneath it.”
“I have heard tale that it can hold out indefinitely during a siege.” Still another knight, riding behind Weston, spoke up. He was muscular and bald. “I heard a story once that when King John laid siege to this place, they held out for months, eventually throwing fresh fish at John’s army to prove that they were not starving.”
Weston wriggled his eyebrows. “I would believe that.”
The knight with the red hair spurred his charger up beside him. “What is the first order of business, my lord?”
Weston glanced at his second; Sir Heath de Lara came from an old and distinguished family. He was young and capable, trying to make a name for himself in troubled times.
“Gather the troops in the bailey,” he said. “I will address them immediately and then we will observe Mass. Then find whoever had been in charge for the past month and I would meet with him privately.”
“Sorrell was in charge,” Heath replied. “I heard that he killed a de Vere relative and that was why Henry recalled him.”
Weston cocked an eyebrow. “Sorrell has the self-control of a rabid dog,” he muttered. “He should have never been left in charge of something this important.”
“He has good family ties.”
“His mother was a Bigod. A good family does not make the man.”
Heath fell silent, glancing back to the big, bald knight behind him; the two exchanged glances, wondering what mess they were going to find in Sorrell’s wake.
The man had always had a destructive and immoral reputation. Heath, and his counterpart, Sir John Sheffield, had as much tolerance for unscrupulous knights as their liege did. If de Royans had instilled one thing in them, it was the value of virtue in a world where not much of that seemed to exist. Chaste women and honest men were very important to de Royans because that was the code he lived by. Anything else was a lower life form and unworthy of his respect.
The one hundred man army passed through the small village that surrounded the castle. The road was muddy and uneven, and peasants scampered to get out of the way of the incoming army.
Being January, it was colder than usual and as the column passed through the town, snow flurries began to fall. They clung to Weston’s blond eyelashes as he led his column through the muddy, dirty town and to the powerful castle on the north end of town. He could see Hedingham’s mighty keep rising four stories to the sky, a truly enormous structure made from pale stone.
Crossing the great iron and wood bridge that hovered above a ditch surrounding the castle, they were admitted through the gates and into the outer bailey beyond. The ground was frozen and the snow flurries were building up on the roofs of the outbuildings. The stables and all other structures other than the keep were in the outer bailey, while the keep sat perched atop a giant motte surrounded by its own walls.
Weston took the army to the stables, dismounted, and sent his men about their duties. Eight days traveling in inclement weather had the men anxious to settle down and find some warmth. Weston paused for a moment as he gathered his bags from his charger, gazing up at the keep that was truly an impressive Norman structure.
Off to his left he could see a small lake surrounded by bushes and trees, suspecting that the pond was the fresh fish supply that John had been speaking of. As men and horses disbanded around him, he brushed the snow off his raised visor and began to walk.
He would eventually make his way in to the keep but at the moment, he wanted to see the size and details of his garrison. His analytical mind absorbed the size of the lower bailey, the capacity of the stables, and the outbuildings that housed the smithy and the tanner.
Weston digested the size of the keep, the slope of the motte and the strength of the walls. Nothing escaped his detailed examination as he made his way along the eastern edge of the outer bailey. To the right was the small lake and he headed in that direction to take a look.
The snow was beginning to fall harder now, sticking to the ground in a white dusting. Weston’s massive boots made equally massive footprints as he moved through the brush that bordered the lake, gazing out over the half-frozen pond. He actually found it very peaceful and lush, this little lake, and he liked it a great deal. With the gray skies above and the white-dusted foliage, it was surreal and calm. He could imagine it in the summertime when the grass was green and the bugs danced along the surface. He wondered if he’d have the opportunity to see it.
Wiping the snow off his enormous shoulders, he was in the process of turning for the keep when something caught his attention. He could see a woman several yards away, dressed in a dark and heavy cloak that covered part of her face.
The woman was partially hidden by the snowy brush but he could see that she was of petite stature. She apparently didn’t notice him because she didn’t look up or give him any indication that she was aware of his presence. She was staring at the lake. Not interested beyond a cursory glance, he was turning to resume his path to the keep when the woman suddenly tossed off the woolen cloak.
Weston came to a halt as his gaze beheld the lady; the cloak had concealed a woman of unearthly beauty, with long, silken blond hair to her buttocks and a body of full breasts and slender torso beneath a simple linen surcoat. Once the woman’s cloak came off, it was apparent that she was poorly dressed for the elements. Weston could see the outline of her torso and buttocks through the thin fabric, luscious features that caused him to move in for a closer look.
He moved to within several feet of her, stealthily, his dark blue gaze fixated on her. As delicious as her body was, it was her facial features that had his interest; he could see a pert little nose and rosebud lips set within a porcelain-like face. Even at this distance he could see that she was an exquisite creature. As he paused amongst the trees and watched, captivated, the woman looked up to the sky, her eyes blinking rapidly as snow crystals fell against them. She seemed to look at the sky for quite some time, perhaps praying; he could not be sure. All he knew was that he had never seen such a beautiful woman.
He didn’t even stop to think why she pulled off her cloak in this frigid weather. He was so focused on her lovely face that he was caught off guard when she plunged into the pond.