Candace C. Bowen - A Knight Series 02

BOOK: Candace C. Bowen - A Knight Series 02
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A KNIGHT OF BATTLE

 

A Knight Series Novel

 

 

CANDACE C. BOWEN

 

Published by Knighttime Press

 

Copyright  2015  Candace C. Bowen

 

Cover art by Gil Murillo

 

 

Kindle Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please delete it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

~DEDICATION~

This novel is dedicated with sincere gratitude to Misty Rayburn of The Top Shelf

Without whom, this tale would never have been told. 

 

~CAST OF CHARACTERS~

 

A KNIGHT OF SILENCE -Volume I:

Baron Fulke of Erlegh (Hero)

Reina of Kenwick (Heroine)

Fulke’s Knights
:

Albin

Gervase

Guy

Talan

Osbert (Squire)

 

KENWICK KEEP:

Hylda (Reina’s Maid Servant)

Lady Baldith (Reina’s Stepmother)

Mistress Sibilla (Reina’s Half-Sister)

Sir Everard (Reina’s Father)

Warin (Reina’s Half-Brother)

 

CASTELL MAEN:

Rowan (Fulke’s Castellan)

 

COURT OF KING HENRY I:

Arabella (Wife to Baron Reynold)

Baron Reynold (Fulke’s Nemesis)

Empress Matilda (King Henry’s Heir)

Geoffrey of Anjou (King Henry’s Future Son-In-Law)

Stephen of Blois (King Henry’s Nephew)

 

A KNIGHT OF BATTLE -Volume II:

Sir Albin (Hero)

Lecie of Rochester (Heroine)

 

THE WOUNDED STAG INN AND TAVERN:

Anne (Staff)

Betta (Tavern Wench)

Clayton (Lecie’s Younger Brother)

Edric (Lecie’s Father)

Gunilda (Tavern Wench)

Hamon (Tapster and Albin’s Nemesis)

Harsent (Tavern Wench)

Joseph (Stable Hand)

Mary (Staff)

Merek (Staff)

Osana and Sabina (Lecie’s Twin Younger Sisters)

Simon (Staff)

Tugger (Family Dog)

William (Staff)

Winifred (Staff)

 

PEOPLE OF ROCHESTER:

Caine (Sheriff Richard’s Son)

Dr. Rayburn (Village Leech)

Edmund (Sheriff Richard’s Son)

Father Bartholomeo (Village Priest)

Frederick (Sheriff Richard’s Son)

Justice de Glanville (King Henry’s Itinerant Justice)

Leofrick (Sheriff Richard’s Son)

Mylla (Sheriff Richard’s Daughter)

Sheriff Richard

 

ONE

 

The Wounded Stag Tavern & Inn

Rochester, England

Autumn 1127

 

“You do realize the ale is on the inside, do you not, Albin?” Outside of The Wounded Stag Tavern, Talan stood staring perplexed at his fellow knight. “I for one am parched after our long journey from Castell Maen.”

Lost in thought as he gazed upon the blue and yellow painted wood sign of a stag with an arrow through its haunch, Albin remained motionless. Excitement for his most recent trip to Rochester had turned to indecision the moment he caught sight of their destination. Temptation in the form of the beautiful alewife lay within.   

Albin had no one else to blame for his quandary. It was he who had volunteered as proxy to oversee the building of Rochester Tower for his liege, Baron Fulke of Erlegh. It was too late for second thoughts.

Glancing at Talan, Albin cocked a dark chiseled brow before extending his hand towards the door. “By all means, after you.”

“About bloody time,” Talan mumbled as he led the way into the crowded and smoky common room.  

Dropping their packs beside the door, Albin ran a hand through his dark wavy hair as he followed close behind Talan towards the bar.

In his home away from home, he scanned the groups of men relaxing around rough-hewn tables after a hard day of harvesting rye and barley in the fields. 

The low-burning fire in the stone fireplace set in the far wall cast flickering shadows along the wood-paneled walls as they made their way between the tables. Perching a hip on the stool beside Talan’s, Albin glanced towards the back kitchen in nervous anticipation of seeing Lecie.

Talan signaled to the gruff looking tapster on the opposite end of the bar with a raised hand. “Shall I order food for you as well, Albin?” 

Greeted by silence, Talan waved a hand in front of Albin’s face. “What is with you this eve? You have been acting out of sorts ever since we reached town.”

Ignoring him, Albin called to the approaching tapster, “Ale.”

“The same for me,” Talan interjected. “Along with whatever fare is available this night.”

Absently wiping a hand down the front of his stained linen apron, Hamon gave a grunt of acknowledgement. Filling two earthenware cups with foaming ale, he set them down on the bar. 

Accepting the brew, Albin drew Hamon into conversation. “I have yet to see Edric about, is he unwell?”

Hamon gave a curt nod as his gaze slid to the steps leading to the upper level. “Coughing up blood for the past sennight, he has.”

“What of Lecie?” Albin could not stop himself from asking. “Is she tending to him?”

“What concern is she of yours?” Hamon narrowed his eyes suspiciously.  

“Just answer the question,” Albin replied angrily.

A thin man of average height with wiry ginger hair and bowed shoulders, there was something shifty in Hamon’s pale gray eyes that had always rubbed Albin the wrong way.  

“Albin is not himself this eve, Hamon,” Talan spoke to diffuse the sudden tension between the two men. “Edric is an old friend. We merely ask out of concern.”

Glancing away from Albin’s cold regard, Hamon shrugged. “Lecie fears leaving his side for long, as he is sure to die soon.”

“That is distressing news indeed.” Talan slightly shook his head. “Has the village leech been summoned to tend him?”

“Dr. Rayburn has not revisited since Lecie took it upon herself to order him away,” Hamon replied with indifference. “I doubt he shall return.”

“Why would she do such a thing if Edric is so ill?” Talan responded with surprise. “Surely, they can afford the physician’s services.”

“Rayburn’s only treatment was to blood-let him,” Albin spoke up on Lecie’s behalf. “It did naught but make Edric weaker.”

“Rumor has it, her refusal centers on somewhat more, Sir Albin,” Hamon cut in with a sly smile.

“What is this more you speak of, Hamon?” Albin responded taking a swallow of ale.

“It is well known in the village that Lecie has been forced to care for Edric for some time now. Some believe it would be to her advantage to hasten his passing along.”

Albin’s hand tightened around his cup. “I am convinced I need look no further for the origin of these baseless rumors.”

Oblivious to Albin’s rising temper, Hamon began to wipe down the bar with a soiled rag. “It was not I who sent the leech away.”

His eyes on Hamon, Albin directed his comment to Talan. “I myself am the one who counseled Lecie to the futility of blood-letting. Had she allowed it, Edric would no doubt already be dead.”

Hearing a summons from further down the bar, Hamon’s pale gray eyes glittered. “I shall be certain to pass on that information, Sir Albin.”

“You do that,” Albin sneered. “I care naught for what you do or say.”

Talan leaned close after Hamon moved off. “What is amiss, Albin?  I have never before seen you comport yourself in such a way.”  

Scowling after Hamon, Albin forced himself to relax. “There is something about the man I do not like.”

“What makes you say such a thing? Hamon has been the tapster here for as long as we have been coming to Rochester. Surely if Edric trusts him he cannot be all bad.”

“It is not any one thing in particular.” Albin took a long swallow of ale before setting the cup down. “For some reason the man sets me on edge.”

Albin looked up as a short slight woman with frizzy dark hair came from the kitchen. Recognizing Gunilda, one of the tavern wenches that serviced the local men, he turned back to the bar.

Sauntering up to them, Gunilda smiled. “Dare I hope it is I you have been seeking, Sir Albin?”

Running his eyes over the hardened young woman, he took note of her stained kirtle and pox-marked face. “You know I am not one to pay for a toss, Gunilda.”  

“A lady can always try,” she replied, tossing her thin braid over her shoulder. 

Talan choked on his ale to hear Gunilda refer to herself as a lady. Coughing to clear his throat, Albin reached around the wench to thump him hard on the back.

“Are you unwell, Sir Talan?” Leaning against him, Gunilda wiped a spot of foam from Talan’s upper lip.

“I am quite well. Thank you.” Leaning away, Talan ignored Albin’s smirk. “Hamon appears to have overlooked our food order. Would you happen to be serving up the victuals this eve?”

Disappointed in his lack of interest, Gunilda straightened. “All we have this eve is watery porridge and scorched bread. With Edric being so ill, Lecie has been slacking on the cookery of late.”

“Perhaps under the circumstances she could use a little assist with it,” Albin replied in Lecie’s defense.

Gunilda threw her head back to laugh, exposing blackened and missing teeth. “I am no lowly alewife to lend assist in the kitchen, Sir Albin.”

“I warrant it is a far nobler calling than the one you now boast.”

“I was not born for such drudgery.” Gunilda shrugged. “If the harvest were better this year the local men would have more coin to spend. As it is, I am forced to tend tables in order to make board.”

“Then I suggest you earn your board.” Noting Albin’s tense posture, Talan spoke from behind her. “The porridge and bread will be acceptable.”

“Suit yourselves.” Running her hand along Albin’s back, Gunilda sauntered towards the kitchen. “You know where to find me should you seek your pleasure.”

“What is vexing you this eve, Albin?” Holding up his cup for a refill, Talan caught Hamon’s eye. “I have never before known you to be so short-tempered.”

“I have a lot on my mind is all,” Albin grumbled as Hamon came to replenish their drinks.

“Sir Talan, what a surprise to see you here.” A tall blond broad-shouldered man called, coming up to the bar. “Why have you not called upon us?”

“Leofrick.”  Talan grinned as he greeted his acquaintance. “Albin and I have only just arrived.”

“Mylla has spoken of little else since last we saw you in London. It appears you have made quite an impression on my young sister.” Dipping his head in greeting to Albin, Leofrick clapped Talan on the shoulder. “I have no doubt we shall be seeing more of you now that you are in town.”

“Aye, I am quite hopeful you will,” Talan agreed. “How has Mylla been faring, if I may be so bold to ask?”

“I am here with my brother Edmund.” Leofrick jerked his head towards the tables. “Come join us and I shall tell you.”

“Thank you, I shall.” Standing, Talan picked up his cup. “Join us, Albin?”

“Go on ahead.” Albin shook his head. “I fear my mood is not fit to be in company this eve.”

“I am sure you will feel better once you have eaten,” Talan said in parting.

“You are most likely right,” Albin mumbled without enthusiasm as he swirled the amber liquid in his cup. “Enjoy yourself, lad.” 

“Good eve, Sir Albin.” Brooding into his cup, Albin briefly glanced up when fingertips played lightly over his shoulder and back. “I am pleased to see you looking so well.”

“Betta.” He absently dipped his head in response. 

Slipping onto the stool beside him, Betta plopped an elbow on the bar. “You do not seem your laughing self this eve. Something got you down?”

Running a weary hand along his close-cropped dark beard, Albin shook his head. “All is as it should be.”

“But not what you would like it to be, eh?” Betta waved Hamon over. “Care to talk about your troubles? I am a good listener.” 

“There is nothing to talk about.” 

“If there is one thing I know, it is the mind of men.” Ordering a cup of ale, Betta turned her attention back to Albin. “You are brooding over a woman, are you not?”

Surprised she could discern his thoughts so easily, Albin took in the tavern wench that had been at The Wounded Stag for as long as he could remember. Time had not been kind to the aging prostitute. Her lusterless blonde hair hung in a limp braid reaching to her waist as a life of hardship revealed itself in every line of her careworn face.  

Changing the subject, Albin glanced once more towards the steps. “Have you two rooms available for us?”

“Lecie has lost coin keeping your usual chamber empty for over a sennight,” Betta admitted with a sly smile. “She has been expecting your visit.”

Turning back to Betta, his surprise was obvious. “She has?”

“Aye, she has.” Betta studied his reaction. “She figures the duration between visits in order to be better prepared for his lordship’s arrival.”

“Right,” Albin mumbled with a sinking feeling. “Makes sense for her to do such a thing.”

“I know not what she will do once the tower is completed. I take it once that happens we shall no longer see you?”

“I have not given it much thought, but I suppose you are right.”

“When the time comes, I know Lecie will miss your visits.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I have eyes, Sir Albin.” Betta changed the subject when Hamon approached. “Is his lordship expected on this trip?”

“No, he has become a doting father of late.” Albin’s smile was genuine when he added, “He and her ladyship have a beautiful newborn daughter.”

“I never would have imagined it of him.” Accepting a cup from Hamon, Betta held it high in toast. “To his lordship’s good fortune.”

“I shall drink to that.” Knocking his cup against Berta’s, Albin took a long swallow of ale.

“Do you not have a chamber to clean, Betta?” Placing a trencher of unappetizing porridge and bread on the bar in front of Albin, Gunilda confronted her competition.

“What are you going on about, Gunny? You know good and well Sir Albin is not one to pay for a toss.”

“That is all well and true,” Gunilda agreed. “And we both know he would not choose to be tossing you if he did.”

Betta shook her head with a sympathetic chuckle. “When will you give up? You always chase after men you have no chance with.”

“So says you.” Running her eyes over Albin’s tall muscular frame, Gunilda’s eyes settled on his dark brown eyes. “Every man boasts a mind that can be easily changed.”

Albin choked down some of the watery porridge as the women discussed him as if he were not there. Quickly finishing his ale, he stood. “If you two ladies will excuse me, I feel the need to get some rest.”

“Let me know if there is anything else you need, Sir Albin.” Gunilda licked her lips. “Anything at all.” 

“I shall be fine, thank you all the same.” With a parting nod, Albin made his way through the common room. Wearily returning Talan’s wave, he retrieved his saddle-pack from beside the door and headed for the upper level.

It took a moment for Albin’s eyes to adjust to the dim light of the long narrow passageway. His hand on the latch to his chamber, he stood for a moment staring at the closed door to the master chamber further down the corridor. Disgusted with himself for feeling jealous of a dying man, he tore his gaze away to enter his room.

Tossing his saddle-pack beside the unlit hearth, he pushed aside the russet woolen bed curtains to sit while he pulled off his boots. As if in answer to his grim thoughts, loud wracking coughs drifted through the door from down the passageway. With an audible curse, he stripped down to his braies before crossing to the window to throw open the shutters. He stood staring up at the star laden sky determined to uphold his knightly vows at whatever cost. 

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