Read The Sunne in Splendour: A Novel of Richard III Online

Authors: Sharon Kay Penman

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Kings and Rulers, #Historical, #Historical Fiction, #Great Britain, #War & Military, #War Stories, #Biographical, #Biographical Fiction, #Great Britain - History - Wars of the Roses; 1455-1485, #Great Britain - History - Henry VII; 1485-1509, #Richard

The Sunne in Splendour: A Novel of Richard III

BOOK: The Sunne in Splendour: A Novel of Richard III
6.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The sunne in splendour.

Copyright 1982 by Sharon Kay Penman vv 'All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
Published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 383 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10017.
Published simultaneously in Canada by Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, Limited.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Penman, Sharon Kay. The sunne in splendour. HE 1. Richard III, King of England, 1452-1485 Fiction.
I2. Great Britain-History-Wars of the Roses, 1455-1485- Fiction. 3. Great Britain-History-Henry
SOUVII, 1485-1509- Fiction. I. Title.
COnPS3566.E474S9 813'.54 81-20149
ISBN 00 3-061368-XAACR2
First Edition her
KILLDesigner: Joy Chu danPrinted in the United States of America


I owe a debt of gratitude to so many: First and foremost, to my parents, for their support, their faith and their patience. To Julie McCaskey Wolff, for her encouragement, her enthusiasm, and her belief in the book. To my agent, Molly Friedrich, who was willing to accept an unknown author's twelve-hundred-page manuscript, and able to pilot it into a snug harbor. To Don McKinney for opening the door, and to Carolyn Hammond and Julie Lord for taking so much of the pain out of my research. To two friends who brought medieval York to life before my eyes, Dorothy Mitchell and Chris Arnott. To the Richard III Societies in the United States and England for making their libraries available to me. To the libraries of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas, Los Angeles, New York City, York, England, Salisbury, Nottingham, Ludlow, Oxford, and London. Last but definitely not least, to my editor at Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Marian Wood, who shapes and polishes words and ideas with the precision and skill of a master diamond-cutter.


RICHARD did not become frightened until darkness began to settle over the woods. In the fading light, the trees began to take on unfamiliar and menacing shapes. There was movement in the shadows.
Low-hanging branches barred his path; rain-sodden leaves trailed wetly across his cheek. He could hear sounds behind him and kept quickening his pace, until he tripped over the exposed roots of a massive oak and sprawled headlong into the dark. Unknown horrors reached for him, pinning him to the ground.
He felt something burn across his neck; his face was pressed into the dampness of the earth. He lay very still, but he heard only the unsteady echoes of his own breathing. Opening his eyes, he saw that he had fallen into a thicket, was held captive by nothing more sinister than brambles and branches broken off by the weight of his body.
He was no longer drowning in fear; the wave was receding. In its wake, he felt shame burn his face and was grateful that none had been there to witness his flight. He thought himself to be too old to yield so easily to panic, for in just eight days' time he would be seven years old. He rolled clear of the bushes and sat up. After a moment's deliberation, he retreated to the shelter of a lightning-scarred beech. Bracing himself against the trunk, he settled down to wait for Ned to find him.
That Ned would come, he did not doubt. He only hoped that Ned would come soon, and while he waited, he tried to keep his mind on daylight thoughts, tried not to think at all about what might be lurking in the dark beyond the beech tree.

He found it hard to understand how so perfect a day could so suddenly sour. The morning had dawned with infinite promise, and when Joan yielded to his coaxing and agreed to take him riding along the wooded trails around Whitcliffe, his spirits had soared skyward. His excitement proved contagious and his pony had responded with unaccustomed elan to his urgings, breaking into a gallop even before they'd passed through the gateway that led from the outer castle bailey.
With Joan trailing him like an indulgent, sedate shadow, he raced the little animal through the village at an exhilarating pace. Circling the market cross twice, he jumped the pony neatly over the ancient dog dozing in the street by Broad Gate and then drew rein just before the small chapel of St Catherine, which stood on Ludford Bridge. As Joan was not yet in sight, he leaned recklessly over the stone arch and tossed a groat down into the currents swirling below. One of the village youths had once assured him that he would gain great good fortune by so doing, and the superstition now became engraved in Richard's faith as Scripture even before the coin sank from sight.
Riders were coming up the road that led south, toward Leominster. The lead stallion was white, marked with a queer dark star, the favorite mount of Richard's favorite brother. Richard sent his pony toward them at a breakneck run.
Ned wore no armor and the wind was whipping his sunstreaked tawny hair abo.ut like straw. He towered above his companions, as always; Richard had seen few men as tall as Ned, who stood three full fingers above six feet. Earl of March, Lord of Wigmore and Clare, eldest of the four sons of the Duke of York. At seventeen, Ned was, in Richard's eyes, a man grown. On this summerlike September morning, there was no one he would rather have encountered. Had Ned permitted it, Richard would happily have trailed after him from dawn till dusk.
Richard thought Joan was pleased to see Ned, too. Her face was suddenly the color of rose petals and she was looking at Ned sideways, filtering laughter through her lashes in the way Richard had seen other girls do with Ned. Richard was glad; he wanted Joan to like his brother. What Joan thought mattered a great deal to him. The nurses he'd had in the past, before he'd come this spring to live at Ludlow Castle, had not been at all like Joan; they'd been dour, thin-lipped, without laps or humor. Joan smelled of sunflowers and had burnished bright hair, as soft and red as fox fur. She laughed at his riddles and had enthralling tales to tell of unicorns and knights and crusades into the Holy Land.
Seeing now how she was smiling at Ned, Richard felt first a warm contentment and then incredulous delight, unable to believe Ned was truly going to come with them. But Ned was dismissing their escort, waving his own companions on, and with the prospect dawning of an

Entire day in the company of these two people he loved, Richard wondered why he had never thought to throw a coin over the bridge before.
The day seemed likely to surpass all his expectations. Ned was in high spirits; he laughed a great deal and told Richard stories of his own boyhood at Ludlow with their brother Edmund. He offered to show
Richard how he had fished for eels in the swift-running waters of the Teme, and he promised to take
Richard to the faire to be held in Ludlow just four days hence. He coaxed Joan into putting aside the headdress that covered her hair, and with nimble fingers, he adroitly loosened the upswept braids that gleamed like red-gold rope.
Richard was caught up in wonder, captivated by this sudden cascade of bright hot color; he knew, of course, that red hair was said to be unlucky, but he found it difficult to understand why. Joan had smiled and borrowed Ned's dagger to cut a lock, wrapping it in her own handkerchief and tucking it inside
Richard's tunic. Ned claimed a lock, too, but Joan seemed strangely reluctant to give it to him. Richard rooted about in Joan's basket while Ned and Joan debated his demand, a murmured exchange that soon gave way to whispers and laughter. When he turned back to them, Richard saw that Ned had a lock of her hair and Joan was the color of rose petals again.
When the sun was directly overhead, they unpacked the food in Joan's basket, using Ned's dagger to slice the manchet loaf and cut thick pieces of cheese. Ned ate most of the food, and then shared an apple with Joan, passing the fruit back and forth between them and trading bites until only the core remained.
After that, they lay on Joan's blanket and searched the grass about them for lucky clovers. Richard won and was awarded the last of the sugared comfits as his prize. The sun was warm, the air fragrant with the last flowering of September. Richard rolled over onto his stomach to escape Ned, who was bent upon tickling his nose with a strand of Joan's hair. After a while, he fell asleep. When he awoke, the blanket had been tucked around him and he was alone. Sitting up abruptly, he saw his pony and Joan's mare still hitched across the clearing. Ned's white stallion, however, was gone.
Richard was more hurt than alarmed. He didn't think it was quite fair for them to go off and leave him while he slept, but adults were often less than fair with children and there was little to be done about it.
He settled down on the blanket to wait for them to come back for him; it never for a moment occurred to him that they wouldn't. He rummaged in the basket, finished what was left of the manchet bread, and lying on his back, watched clouds forming over his head.
Soon, however, he grew bored and decided it was permissible to explore the clearing while he awaited their return. Much to his delight, he

discovered a shallow stream, a narrow ribbon of water that wound its way through the grass and off into the surrounding trees. Lying flat on his stomach by the bank, he thought he could detect silvery shadows darting about in the icy ripples, but try as he might, he was unable to capture even one of the ghostly little fish.
It was as he was lying there that he saw the fox. On the other side of the stream, watching him with unblinking black eyes, so still it might have been a carven image of a fox rather than one of flesh and blood. Richard froze, too. Less than a fortnight ago, he'd found a young fox cub abandoned in the meadows around the village. For more than a week, he'd tried to gentle the wild creature, with limited success, and when he'd carelessly let his mother see the teeth marks in the palm of his hand, she'd given him the choice of freeing it or drowning it. Now he felt a throb of excitement, an absolute certainty that this was his former pet. With infinite care he sat up, searched for stepping-stones to cross the stream.
The fox faded back into the woods, but without apparent alarm. Encouraged, Richard followed after it.
An hour later, he was forced to concede that he'd lost both fox and his way. He'd wandered far from the clearing where the horses were hitched. When he shouted for Ned, he heard only the startled rustling of woodland creatures responding to a human voice. As the afternoon ebbed away, the clouds continued to gather; at last, all blue was smothered in grey and soon after, a light warming rain began to fall. Richard had been attempting to chart his path by the sun, knowing that Ludlow lay to the east. Now he was completely at a loss, and felt the first stirrings of fear, until with the coming of dark, he gave way to panic.
He wasn't sure how long he huddled under the beech. Time seemed to have lost its familiar properties, minutes to have lengthened into unrecognizable proportions. He tried counting backwards from one hundred, but there were queer gaps in his memory, and he found himself fumbling for numbers he should have known without hesitation.
"Dickon! Shout if you can hear me!"
Relief rose in Richard's throat with the intensity of pain. "Here, Edmund, I'm here!" he cried and within moments, he was being lifted up onto his brother's horse.
With one arm holding Richard securely in the saddle, Edmund skillfully turned his mount, gave the animal its head to find its way through the thick tangle of underbrush. Once they emerged into a splash of moonlight, he subjected Richard to a critical appraisal.
"Well, you're bedraggled enough, in truth! But be you hurt, Dickon?"
"No, just hungry." Richard smiled, somewhat shyly. Edmund, who was sixteen, was not as approachable as Ned, was much more apt to react

with impatience or, when provoked, with a quick cuff around the ears.
"You owe me for this, Little Brother. I assure you I've more pleasant ways to pass my nights than prowling the woods for you! The next time you take it into your head to run away, I rather think I'll wait and let the wolves find you first."
Richard could not always tell when Edmund was serious. This time, however, he caught a telltale glint, knew Edmund was teasing, and laughed.
"There are no wolves . . ." he began, and then the import of Edmund's words struck him.
"I didn't run away, Edmund. I got lost following my fox. . . . You remember, the one I tamed. . . . While I
was waiting for Ned to come back ..." His words trailed off; he looked sharply at Edmund, chewing his lip.
"I should have guessed," Edmund said softly, and then, "That damned fool. When he knows how our father does feel about taking our pleasures with the women of the household!" He broke off, looked down at Richard with a fleeting smile.
"You haven't any idea what I'm talking about, do you? Just as well, I daresay."
He shook his head. Richard heard him repeating, "The damned fool," under his breath and after a while, Edmund laughed aloud.
They rode in silence for a time. Richard had understood more than Edmund realized, knew that Ned had somehow done something that would much displease their father.
"Where is he, Edmund?" he asked, sounding so forlorn that Edmund ruffled his hair in a careless gesture of consolation.
"Looking for you, where else? He sent your Joan back to the castle for help when dark came and they still couldn't find you. We've had half the household scouring the woods for you since dusk."
Silence fell between them again. When Richard was beginning to recognize landmarks, knew they would soon be in sight of Ludford Bridge, he heard Edmund say thoughtfully, "No one knows yet what happened this afternoon, Dickon. No one has talked to Ned yet, and the girl was so distraught it was hard to get anything sensible from her. We just assumed you took off on a lark of your own." He hesitated and then continued, still in the unfamiliar yet intriguing confidential tones of one adult to another.
"You know, Dickon, if our lord father were to think that Ned had left you alone in the meadows, he'd be none too happy about it. He'd be most wroth with Ned, of course. But he'd blame your Joan, too, I fear.
He might even send her away."
"No!" Richard twisted in the saddle to look up at his brother. "Ned

BOOK: The Sunne in Splendour: A Novel of Richard III
6.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Don't Forget to Dream by Kathryn Ling
The Obsession by Nora Roberts
Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready
Mistress of Redemption by Joey W. Hill
Rise Of Empire by Sullivan, Michael J
The Technologists by Matthew Pearl
Legacy by Jeanette Baker