Dragonblade Trilogy - 02 - Island of Glass

BOOK: Dragonblade Trilogy - 02 - Island of Glass
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Island
of Glass

 

By
Kathryn Le Veque

 

 

Copyright 2005 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 2005 by Kathryn Le Veque
Cover copyright 2005 by Kathryn Le Veque

 

To my muse, Lee Reherman

Who was surely Kenneth in another life

 

 

 

CHAPTER
ONE

 

Kirk
Castle

The
Welsh Marches

October,
1333 A.D.

 

“You cannot know my pain,” the
woman wept. “I do not understand where I went wrong in raising my only child.
She has had the best education that my husband and I could provide for her. She
has wanted for nothing. I do not understand why she rebels against me.”

The man seated opposite the woman
had heard this tale before. It was difficult not to yawn in the face of her
agony. He had stopped offering his advice long ago, mostly because he had no
children and was therefore not an expert on their rearing. But he knew where
his sister had gone wrong, experience or not.  A fool could have realized it.

“You have spoiled her,” he said
simply.

The woman’s weeping grew louder. 
She muffled it in her expensive kerchief, held tightly to her nose. “What have
I done that you would not have in my place?”

Garson Mortimer, cousin to Roger
Mortimer and the First Earl of Wrexham, was not a normally patient man. His
only sister was trying him sorely to the point where he wanted to rip out what
was left of his thinning hair. She never listened to him as it was, only using
him to vent her frustrations.

He leaned back against his chair,
a sturdy piece of furniture built by Welsh craftsmen. So close to the border of
Wales, English and Welsh cultures seemed to blend together in a calliope of
disciplines ranging from food to architecture.  His opinions on women and
childrearing, however, were strictly English.

“Do we truly need to revisit this
subject?”

“We do!”

“Then I would not have sent her
to receive her education at a monastery,” he said flatly. “I told you that was
a mistake. St. Wenburgh is far too unconventional.”

“But her father…!”

“God rest his soul, he wanted the
best for Aubrielle, but she does not have the countenance to gracefully accept
the privilege that has been given her. The more she is given, the more she
wants.”

Graciela Mortimer de Witney
sniffled into her kerchief again, the tears in her dark eyes lessening as she
thought on her brother’s words. “Aubrielle is merely curious for knowledge,
Garson. Since the monks taught her to read…”

“A sin!” Garson slapped his hand
on the arm of the chair. “Tevor should never have allowed it.  Imagine, a woman
knowing how to read!”

“My husband was only doing what
he thought best for her. He believed that a lady with education would be an
attractive asset to a potential husband.”

“An asset,
pah
,” Garson
snorted. “Education has only put ideas into that inherently fertile mind she
possesses. And what has it reaped? Only grief.”

Graciela was feeling like a
scolded child, not at all receiving the sympathy she had hoped for. “She has
been a joy at times.”

“Then why are you here?” When his
sister faltered in her reply, Garson stood up and began to pace the rough
wooden floor of his solar. The joists creaked beneath his weight. “You are here
because you cannot handle her. She has become unruly and unless something is
done, she will shame the entire family with this wild dream she pursues.”

Graciela’s tears had faded. “She
is spirited and intelligent.”

“She is out of control. Any young
lady that would set off from her home on a journey, without escort or thought
to her care and safety, is idiotic.”

“I would not call her idiotic.”

Garson emitted a grunt of
frustration. “Graciela, do you hear yourself? Your daughter set off from
Highwood House en route to Glastonbury because the monks at St. Wenburgh told
her that the Holy Grail of Christ was buried there.”

“She simply wanted to prove them
right.”

He threw up his hands. “Not to
glorify God, but to prove a myth.”

The woman fidgeted with her
hands, the golden tassels of her belted dress. “She has always had a
fascination to verify the legend. She believes the discovery of the Grail would
be a boon for the entire country, especially with its war against Wales and
Scotland.”

Garson stared at her a moment
before running his hand over his face. Why his sister attempted to justify her
daughter’s psychosis was beyond him. “Of all the wonderful things she learned,
out of everything she had been told, the only item that sticks in her mind is
the Quest for the Holy Grail. Where Arthur failed, the Lady Aubrielle Grace de
Witney will succeed? How arrogant.”

“She would try.”

He couldn’t continue with the
conversation. It was making him crazy. “If you have not come for my help with Aubrielle,
then why are you here? To lament your woes and aggravation with a daughter who
is headstrong without compare?”

Graciela lifted her pale face.
Soft gray light from the lancet windows fell upon her fine, pretty features. 
“I am afraid, Garson.”

“Of course you are. So am I.”

“I cannot manage my own daughter.
I am afraid tragedy will befall her if she continues on this quest.”

“What do you want me to do about
it?”

“She needs someone stronger than
she is. Since the death of her father, that duty must fall to you. You are all
that I have that stands between me and the destruction of my child.”

Garson exhaled heavily. “I am not
a nursemaid,” he said. “Moreover, I have enough battles on my hands. As we
speak, half of my army is in Wales at Dinas Bran Castle in retaliation for the
raid against one of my villages six days ago. People were killed and the food
stores raided.”

“I am sorry for your troubles,
brother, truly, but there is much at stake with Aubrielle,” she pleaded.
“Please, Garson. You are my only hope.”

He knew he shouldn’t. But he
could not stomach her pleading. “If I agree, then it will be done my way. I
want no interference from you.”

“Of course.”

“If she so much as sets foot
outside this castle, I will lock her in the vault and throw away the key.”

“Whatever you feel necessary.”

He cast her a condescending look.
“You do not mean any of it.”

“But I do! Perhaps you can
convince Aubrielle of the error of her ways. She respects you.”

“She does not. And she fears
nothing, either.” Garson shook his head with regret. “Not even her dazzling
beauty will overcome her character flaws. There is no man on earth that will
want a wife he has to do battle with on a daily basis.”

Graciela toyed with the fine
kerchief in her hand. “Will you… will you perhaps consider finding a husband
for her? She brings an attractive dowry of the Lordship of Tenbury. And then
there is Highwood House….”

Garson waved his hands irritably.
“I know very well what my own niece brings to a husband and if I die without an
heir, she will also inherit Wrexham.”

“Do you intend to remarry soon,
Garson?”

His flustered manner fell
dramatically. “My widower status is not at issue,” he muttered. “We were
discussing Aubrielle.”

“Of course, Brother.”

Garson tried not to linger on
thoughts that his sister’s question provoked. Five years after the death of his
beloved wife in childbirth, the pain was still fresh.

“I will do what I can for Aubrielle,”
he struggled to shift focus. “But I can promise nothing.”

Graciela rose from her chair and
went to her brother. “My thanks,” she put her cold hands on his fingers. “I
know she will be in good hands. Pray be understanding with her.”

He cocked an eyebrow. “You swore
not to interfere.”

Graciela smiled. “That is not
interfering, simply a mother’s request.”

Garson knew even as he agreed
that he was going to regret it. He kissed his sister on the cheek all the same,
resigned to the fact that he was a fool for her troubles.  The door to the
solar creaked opened and a small man with gray hair appeared, bowing profusely
in the presence of his lord.

“My lord,” he said. “I beg
pardon, but we have a… problem.”

Garson knew he shouldn’t ask; he
probably already knew the answer. “What is it, Arbosa?”

The Majordomo of Kirk looked
between the earl and his sister. “The Lady Aubrielle has gone missing.”

“What?” Graciela exclaimed
softly. “I left orders that she be watched!”

“We did watch her, my lady,” the
man assured her. “She said she wanted to gain some fresh air and wandered into
the bailey. We’ve not seen her for some time.”

Garson left Graciela in the musty
solar. If he was to be in charge of his niece’s redemption, then it would start
at this moment.

      

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER
TWO

 

Dinas
Bran Castle

Powys,
Wales

 

 

For early June, the weather was
typical. The rain had fallen so heavily that it had been like walking through
sheets of crystalline silver. Spoiling the effect was the mud that it created,
churning like black rivers as it rolled down the sides of the motte. Men in
chain mail, bearing the seal of Wrexham, had struggled up the slick, sloping
sides en route to the keep at the top to do battle. From beginning to end, the
entire deed had been a nightmare.

The clash had lasted nearly two
days, not particularly long where battles were concerned. Dinas Bran Castle had
been held by Dafydd ap Gruffydd, brother of Llewellyn the Last, though no one
had actually seen the man leading his men to battle. Mostly, it seemed to be
held by raiders disguised as Welsh soldiers. It hadn’t taken tremendous effort
to breach the wooden gate and penetrate the castle. Rather than fight, most of
the Welsh had fled. Kirk’s army had come away with little more than exhaustion
and minimal satisfaction.

On the way back to Kirk Castle,
the rain had washed away the layers of mud accumulated from mounting the
enormous Welsh motte. The men-at-arms were on foot, tired, marching on muddy
roads that had them sloshing up to their ankles. The chargers were wet, filthy
beasts with bad tempers, handled by knights that were equally filthy and bad
tempered. Armor rusted in the rain, creating problems with comfort and
movement. The closer they drew to Kirk Castle, the more evident their misery.

Kenneth St. Héver was one of
those knights with the filth and bad temperament engrained into his skin. Wet
and exhaustion were nothing new to him, as he had been in the knighthood since
his twentieth year. Eighteen years later, it had completely taken over his
nature. He had a reputation for being exceptionally unfriendly though never
unfair. He commanded one hundred and twenty five retainers, men personally
given to him by King Edward for Kenneth’s service against Roger Mortimer.

Kenneth’s relationship with his
fellow knights was an agreeable one but he was very reluctant to form
friendships; he only had two true friends, men he had served with since he had
been knighted, and both of them were tied up in wars with the Scots.  Kenneth,
in fact, had only recently returned to the Marches after helping Tate de Lara,
Earl of Carlisle, and Stephen of Pembury, Guardian Protector of Berwick, subdue
the Scots at Berwick-upon-Tweed. He was back on the Welsh Marches now because
the king wanted him here and was not particularly happy about it. He wanted to
be back at Berwick with his friends. Yet he had no choice; he had a job to do
on the Marches.

BOOK: Dragonblade Trilogy - 02 - Island of Glass
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