First Chapter 2017-03-30T20:21:49+00:00

Purchase
For Love and Loyalty

For Love and Loyalty

CHAPTER ONE

Wensleydale, the Yorkshire Dales, August, 2012

SÉANCE headed the first email in Julianna’s in box. Hello, Julianna, just firming up our date & time; tomorrow at eight, Middleham Castle again, correct? Maybe King Richard will stick around a bit longer this time. Cheers, Trev.

She tapped out a reply: “Confirmed. Don’s hauling the firewood. Remember, no loud clothes: Hawaiian print shirts, neon orange socks, you know the deal. We don’t want to scare him away. I’ll wear my Wensleydale Ring again. Let’s hope it still carries some energy to attract him. JLH.” Before logging off, she visited the Richard III Society’s website, to see if any more reviews got posted.

She clicked on the Library section and there it was.

Red Blood, White Rose, by Julianna Hammond, gives a unique perspective on the Wars of the Roses from the viewpoint of a double agent … three weeks on the bestseller list, and quite deservedly. We look forward to many more tomes by Miss Hammond, a member of the Richard III Society’s Board of Directors.

“Yes!” She punched a fist in the air. “From the Times, woo-hoo!” She logged off, put the kettle on, and got back to work on her next book, a collection of medieval home remedies.

****

Westminster Palace, August, 1476

King Edward IV threw back his bedcovers in the morning sunshine. “Rise and shine, sweetcrupper.” He gave his blonde bedmate a playful slap on the rump. “Wakey wakey.”

He glanced round his bedchamber. Ah, privacy! No grooms, gentlemen of the chamber or throng of lesser servers. They cleared out at midnight, not to return til sunrise. To Edward, a king’s biggest perk was privacy—a precious commodity at court. Droves of nobles, advisors, and servers observed his every act, from using the close-stool to creating the laws of the land. But midnight to morn was his time alone—or as alone as he wanted to be—this morn with Jane Shore, his favorite ‘turn’ as he affectionately called her.

“Janey, you must rise…” Pulling on his nether stockings, he turned towards the rumpled four-poster bed, but she’d already slipped out without a sound. A smile played upon his lips. Ah, the dream mistress—fell on her back when he wanted her, and vanished when he didn’t. Pity she wasn’t fit to be queen consort.

A familiar rap on the door brought him to his feet and across the plush Oriental rug. He opened his door to his youngest brother Richard, current heir to his throne.

“Are we alone, Ned?” Richard peered in, his blue eyes darting about, purposely avoiding the disheveled bed.

“Of course, Dickon. Enter, take a swig of wine.” Edward quaffed from the pitcher, ignoring his personal tankard. “What gripes you this morn?”

“Sorry to trespass on your, er . . . morning activities so early, but I need some brotherly advice before the world descends upon you.” Richard stood erect, bedecked in velvet chausses and velvet doublet displaying his White Boar emblem. Beringed fingers held a sapphire-studded hat.

“Come sit by me and tell me all about it.” Ned perched at the edge of the bed and patted a space next to him.

“Could we go to the window seat instead?” Richard gave the rumpled royal bed wide berth as he headed for the oriel window.

Ned chuckled, shook his head, and joined his brother. “Now, tell me what ills you, but remember, I’m only the king, not the royal treasurer.” That was a running joke when any of his siblings came scrounging for a handout.

“Anne and I had a terrible row last eve. She said she’s finished with me. ’Twas all my fault,” Richard poured forth his sorrow, as if reciting confession. “I tried to keep it from her, but—”

“Tried to keep what from her?”

“She knows about Kate Haute, the other lass I’ve been… .” His voice trailed off, he lowered his head and shuffled his feet.

“So she knows you fancy Kate.” He guffawed. “I wrote no laws that preclude fancying two wenches. Anne’ll learn to live with it.”

“There’s more to it than that, Ned. There may be a third person involved.”

“Another wench?” He slapped Richard’s thigh. “I knew you had it in you somewhere, Dickon. Keep it up, lad!”

“Nay, ‘tis not another wench. Kate believes she may be carrying my child.”

He shook his head and wagged a finger at his little brother. “For God’s sake, Dickon, Kate Haute is the daughter of a fishmonger. I said she was fit to give you a snog, not a whelp.”

Richard scowled at Edward’s ribald quip, as always. “Nevertheless, Ned, if there is a child, I want to give that child my surname, as he’ll never be legitimized. And a title when he’s older. But meanwhile, Anne feels I betrayed her. She’s been saving herself for our wedding and…” He turned his gaze outward. “Ned? Did you ever bungle so badly you wish you could go back and do it all over again?”

“What mortal hasn’t?” He gave his brother’s nose a tweak. “But we’re just that, Dickon, mortal. We can’t undo what’s been done. If Kate really is breeding and Anne can’t accept that your attention need be divided from now on, she’s too selfish for you anyway. You don’t need her.”

Richard twisted his rings. “Mayhap I should go to that wizard George always goes to. He cooks up grand love potions.”

“Bah.” Edward gave a dismissive wave. “George couldn’t live a decent love life if Julius Caesar were running it for him. Alas, our pater didn’t pass on his common sense to all his sons. You don’t need any supernatural help, Dickon. Love holds enough logic-defying properties that potions only undermine. Naught can change what’s in Anne’s heart. Except time. Time mends wounds better than any codswallop cooked up by that wizard prat, to whom I wouldn’t give a groat to shovel a dungheap.”

Richard looked into his brother’s eyes. “Ah, but that is you, Ned. You rule over your love affairs as you rule over the realm—expertly and majestically.”

Edward shook his head. “Bosh. I’ve a breakable heart just as any other man—and mine, as theirs, is mendable. But love— love is magic. Mayhap that’s why I’m so intrigued by it. It never fails to surprise me.” He gave Richard a wink and a reassuring nod. “When you’re sure Kate is breeding, make sure she is well provided for. My possible future nephew shan’t want for anything just for being whelped on the wrong side of the sheets.”

“Your heart is bottomless, Ned.” Richard stood and gave his brother a small but respectful bow.

“And think before you act in future,” Edward added as he headed for his shaving bowl. “That’ll eliminate the futile yen to go back and do it all over.”

“Of course, you’re right, Ned. But as men, there are times when not all the blood is in our brains.” Richard departed with a wry smile and left Edward to attend to his toilette.

****

George Plantagenet, the middle brother, pranced round the realm with every expectation of sitting on England’s throne someday. He wanted that throne so badly. It teased him like a wanton splayed atop his bed—but just beyond his reach. Ah, the throne… every time Ned vacated that carved, cushioned, dilapidated old heap of bark after a state event, George sneaked up and placed himself upon it, wriggling in nice and comfy, to fancy all of England cowering, bowing, and groveling before him.

Ned hadn’t coveted the throne. It had been thrust upon him after their father died in battle. His followers begged him to reign, lest the feeble Henry VI and his snaggletoothed wife return. Ned accepted the crown with his usual aplomb, merely duty-bound. Never had Ned displayed a lust for power, or thrilled in giving orders. He had no desire to manipulate markets or unite lands. Being the realm’s almighty ruler didn’t faze him. To Ned, it was simply a job to attend to, a business to run. The profundity of it, the glory, the magnificence, eluded him. Instead, he capitalized on the position to further enjoy life’s sensual delights. He reveled in luxury and in sharing it. “’Tis a big game to me,” Ned once said, for certes a gracious winner.

But to George, kingship stood a rung below sainthood—that one stab at immortality he was willing to kill for.

If only it weren’t Ned.

George, as did Richard and their sisters, idolized his eldest sibling. After their father perished, Ned became the family patriarch, their healer, protector, and provider.

George blotted out the memory of his slain father, the Protector of the Realm, his head hoisted atop Micklegate Bar to rot in a paper crown. But the Plantagenets were now legally royal, George’s only consolation.

Immediately following Ned’s lavish coronation, he’d made George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester. As respected Knights of the Bath and the highest ranking, they became the most eligible bachelors in the kingdom.

Richard was smitten with Anne Neville, their frail little cousin. George fancied her sister Isabel, heiress to a sizable fortune. But still he prowled the bawdy houses like a common whoremonger, in disguise if too near court, affecting a Cockney accent that never betrayed his royal station.

But on this chilly morning, his problems loomed much graver than how many years stood between him and the throne. It was so cold, his codlings shriveled like walnuts. At least he hoped it was the cold. Muttering every Anglo-Saxon curse he knew, he pulled his cloak tighter and tied his mount to the post outside the Grand Wizbar’s wattle-and-daub cottage. Shivering in the dampness of the English spring, he sprinted up the path.

He was impotent, constipated, hung over, and he’d soon burst if he didn’t get help. He pounded on the door. “Come on, you bugger, wakey wakey!”

Still uttering his mutterings, he found himself pounding on the Grand Wizbar’s head.

“Sakes, George, can’t you do anything quietly?” Ulch rubbed his head and swung the door open for the Duke of Clarence to enter.

He twirled round to entreat his most trusted soothsayer. “Ulch, you must administer something—an antidote—I don’t give a toss if I have to pour it down my gullet. I’m desperate!”

“What is amiss, George?” Ulch sounded genuinely concerned.

George took a deep breath and winced as a stomach cramp doubled him over. “It concerns Mary, the witch’s daughter.”

Ulch helped him to a 3-legged stool. “Which witch? Not Horse Face Hortense?”

“Nay, her sister, the name escapes me, pity her face doesn’t. She’s so ugly, they haven’t come up with a name for her yet. Don’t want to insult any reptiles, I reckon.”

“So what of you and Mary?” Ulch folded his hands across his chest. “She’s guarding her maidenhead, and you want a love spell to make her want to marry you?”

“I don’t need a love spell to make her marry me.” George let out a whoosh of relief as his stomach relaxed. “My bald-headed hermit’s already promised her that.”

“Nay, you didn’t breed her… aw, George!” Ulch shook his head and took a swig of ale from a horn.

“Well, I ain’t here because I enjoy your company, mate.” George stood and paced the creaky floorboards. “The old warthog put spells on every part of me except my little toes, and I trust she’ll get them with the gout. I need help, Ulch.” He pressed his hands together in entreaty. “She’ll have my head for certes—one of ‘em, anyhow.”

“Let her have the one on your shoulders. You don’t use that much.” Ulch took another quaff of ale.

George cocked his head. “I didn’t come here to play sillybuggers, mate. I need something to ward her malodorous hocus-pocus off me. And if I throw in a few guineas extra, make the whelp come out looking like Henry Tudor, or—anybody but me.” He threw his hands up and they fell to his sides with a smack.

“Follow me.” Ulch led George through his workshop area to a dark alcove dripping in gemstone pendants. Suspended on various-length cords from the ceiling beams, the stones sparkled in divers sizes and shapes: hearts, pyramids, teardrops, eggs. Some even resembled dripping icicles. The charms dazzled George as they shot multicolored rainbows across the walls.

“Crikey, Ulch, these gems are brilliant. I’ve always fancied sparkle, shimmer, and glitter.” He wiggled his fingers, adorned with rings to rival these hanging jewels. “I wear more baubles than the king. Ned reckons tis gaudy and vain for a ruler. But now that I’ve become royalty, I want the entire realm and all who visit to know it.” He polished his thumb ring, a bright citrine, on his doublet.

“Aye, I noticed… and who with sight hasn’t?” Ulch rolled his eyes.

“Looks like the sultan’s tent in here, Ulch.” George palmed an oval blue stone, gazing at multiple reflections of his eye staring back at him. “These whatnots work magic or just twirl round looking pretty? This one would look grand with my apple-green doublet.” Gazing into its depths calmed his stomach.

“Of course they work magic. They’re charged with positive energy.” Ulch rubbed an amethyst twixt his fingers. “These purples are amethyst.” He strummed a row of stones like lute strings. “They guard against drunkenness.” He cocked a brow. “May want to invest in one sometime.” He strode over to the wall. “However.” Sweeping his hand left to right, he indicated a row of polished gems in an array of vibrant shades. “Adventurine for luck, red jasper for inner strength, sapphires for the sweat. These—” He pointed to the row hanging twixt them, “are toad-stone, to be hung at the girdle for dropsy.” He pointed to each group of stones as he spoke. “Rhyolite, petrolite, and coprolite. Each with its own unique properties.”

George’s eyes bugged out. “Hey, this coprolite looks grand. Matches my coloring perfectly. What’s it for?”

“I’ll tell you when you’re in better form.” Ulch turned towards the other wall and pointed to a row of glittery golden chunks. “Here’s the one for you.”

George’s jaw dropped with wonder. Ulch plucked one off its strap and handed it to George. Turning it over and over, he marveled, “’Tis for me, Ulch. This leapt up and smacked me in the very face!”

“If only it could. ‘Tis pyrite. It offers protection, just the kind you need. My spell shall increase its power to perform as an antidote. Taking care of your slattern and offspring is your problem. I have a deep-seated belief in paternal obligation, being an orphan meself.” He pointed at the stone. “But one of these will ward off the old gash’s malevolent spells. ’Twill protect you from any kind of harm. Not only will you be immune to her spells, you’ll be protected from life’s everyday maladies and obstacles. Pain will elude you. Illness will dribble off you like water off your greasy body.”

George enclosed the chunk in his fist. “How about the ones she’s already heaped on me? She’s got me so bunged up, I can’t get anything up or out.”

Ulch bit his tongue to keep from grinning. “This charm will annul all she’s inflicted on you, present and future. But ‘twon’t take effect till you’ve had it forty-eight hours, so at that moment, make damn sure your arse is seated firmly on the garderobe, for all hell will break loose. And I don’t mean that lightly.”

“Another forty-eight hours of this?” George groaned. “Make it twenty-four, Ulch, I beseech you. We’ve a banquet tonight, one of Ned’s twenty-course feasts, and it’ll be squirting out me ears.”

Ulch shook his head, his lips compressed into a thin line. “Forty-eight’s the best I can do, George. These antidotes take longer than the average spell. I’m negating someone else’s power, you know. But once it takes effect, you’ll be protected. It’s a powerful charm. Like any great effort, it can’t start working immediately. It demands patience. Just like waiting for the finest mead to ferment. Fret not.” His voice lightened. “It’ll pass in the blink of an eye. And your—” he cleared his throat, “—other nether parts should spring back into life about that time, too.”

George rolled the charm twixt his palms. “Grand. I’ll use the garderobe by the scullery maids’ chamber then.”

“So that is the amulet you want?”

“Hmm, I’m not sure yet. Tis such a hard decision. But I must learn to be more decisive for when I’m on the throne… ” George swept his eyes over the row of pyrite baubles and chose the biggest, chunkiest, gaudiest one. It also turned out to be the most expensive. Coin changed hands, then Ulch went back into the shadows and slipped the amulet into a pouch. “Remember, forty-eight hours. And it’s got to be in your possession always, in order to protect you. So don’t let anyone borrow it or it’ll be guarding them instead, and you’ll stay clogged as ever.”

“Aye, Ulch, thanks indeed.” George opened the door and breathed deeply as the invigorating wind rustled his red-gold hair. A stirring warmed his loins already. “Forty-eight more hours, Percy.” He cupped his crotch, mounted and waved to Ulch. “Cheers, mate. Next time you see me I’ll be a lot emptier.”

“Whoa, George! I won’t be here for a while. I’m attending the annual vernal equinox ceremony up at Wyndehenge. I return Tuesday fortnight.”

“Jolly good. Cheerio then.” George galloped away, as eager to let loose on the garderobe as he was to let loose on the next heedless wench.

Court currently resided at Westminster Palace, and when George approached the gates under that eve’s full moon, the sounds of clinking glasses and tankards grew louder. Raucous laughter rang out above the minstrels’ playful music. Dismounting, he tossed the reins to a stable boy and hurried to his apartments to change into proper raiment. Shucking off his cloak, he felt in the pocket for his new amulet. There it was, nestled in its pouch. He slid it out, wanting to hold it up to the candlelight and watch the colors whip round the chamber. But his jaw dropped as he stared at the object in his hand. It was not his ornate, glittery charm. It was an elegant polished stone of pink, a perfect circle, with a tiny hole in the middle. But to him, it was useless, utterly useless, down to the hole.

“That pribbling puttock, he gave me the wrong one!” George spat out a string of Flemish curses and flung the stone across the chamber. It rolled in a circle, wobbled and keeled over like a drunken sailor. “Dainty little pink—looks like something Richard would go for.”

Richard, his youngest sibling, slight of build, of swarthy complexion, and nut brown hair, the royal fop—never a hanging thread from his expertly tailored doublets, or a trace of stubble on his chin. He bathed and shaved twice a day, color-coded his shoes and hose in neat rows, and lined up his coins in columns like soldiers. His every appointment, down to those with the privy, recorded in meticulous detail in a leather-bound, gold-inscripted journal. Richard drove everyone loopy with his fastidious manner, his pared nails, and especially his aversion to the vulgar. Whenever a ribald joke drifted his way, he made his cabbage face—akin to sniffing overcooked cabbage—verbalized his disgust with a, “How uncouth,” and glided off, leaving the earthy Ned and the lusty George shaking their heads.

“Dick needs his wick dipped,” George always said, getting a one-shoulder shrug from Edward, juggling more important matters than whetting Richard’s carnal appetite.

Yet George loved the lad fiercely, and part of him didn’t want to see Richard conducting himself like him and Ned. Richard’s lady love was Anne, who was keeping Richard at bay till the wedding bells clanged. He didn’t think Richard minded waiting. He was too busy wielding his swords and practicing at the quintain, the effort culminating in a brilliant military career. George and Ned could be raking wenches with the French army at the foot of their beds, and Richard would be there to defend them.

George walked across the chamber and retrieved the amulet. As hard as he’d flung it, he hadn’t made the slightest chip in the smooth, shiny stone. Mayhap it was a rare and valuable gem, and that beetle-headed wizbar had sold it for a song. No doubt in his cups—Ulch did look rather onion-eyed when he answered the door.

George then decided to give the charm to Ned as a peace offering. They were currently on uneasy terms since he caught George indulging his most forbidden fantasy: shagging one of the royal dog-walkers in his favorite trysting place—the throne of England. Besides, Ned could use protection from harm that he never bothered about, like enemy factions, and the ever-returning pox.

George decided to make the sacrifice for his beloved brother and seek relief from his ills the conventional way.

Exiting his chambers, decked in court finery, he went to summon the royal physician. He was beyond desperate; he’d try anything, even the brews cooked up by Dr. Rotgut, as they affectionately called him.

****

Julianna locked up her three-hundred-year-old cottage and headed for her annual pilgrimage amidst the ruins of Middleham Castle. Middleham had been one of Richard III’s boyhood homes and a favorite residence as king. Nestled among the Yorkshire moors, its remains lay at peace.

She tried to forget that another year had slipped by and it was now the five-hundred-twenty-ninth anniversary of King Richard III’s death in the Battle of Bosworth. Every August 22, several Richard III Society members held a séance to summon the slain king’s spirit. Lady Dorothy Warburton, a leading psychic, acted as medium. Richard’s spirit appeared every time, splendidly attired in kingly raiment, a glittering crown atop his head. He would visit with them briefly, then return to the great beyond, leaving them speechless with wonder.

Julianna was the first to arrive at dusk. The others usually didn’t arrive till after dark.

She spread her blanket on the ground, among the ruins of what had once been Middleham’s great hall. She sat cross-legged, closed her eyes and imagined life in this magnificent castle five centuries ago. Marble floors gleamed, torches blazed, minstrels played merry tunes in the gallery, courtiers feasted on rich foods and flowing wine. But with the castle’s inhabitants long dead, all lay still.

A car engine’s hum broke the silence. Doors slammed. She rose to greet her fellow pilgrims, three men and two women, carrying blankets and fire logs.

“Where’s Dorothy?” she asked.

“She couldn’t make it.” Susan, the Society’s librarian, spread a blanket on the ground.

“Then who’s going to summon the spirit of Richard the Third?” Julianna helped carry the logs.

“We were hoping you would.” Trevor, the research officer, arranged the wood for a small bonfire.

“Me?” Threads of doubt crept through her. “But I’ve never done this before. I’m no psychic medium.”

“You’re the closest to King Richard spiritually,” Trevor said. “You’re the longest-standing member among us; you’ve written books about him. If anyone can summon him, it’s you. Just give it a try, and really concentrate. We’ll all concentrate, like we always do. Just say what Dorothy says. You know, ‘we hereby summon your spirit,’ so on and so forth.”

Shaking with apprehension, she forced a smile. “I’m flattered you’re so confident in me, but I don’t want to let you down. I’ve seen ghosts before—you know about Galahad, the playful poltergeist in my house, and others I didn’t get around to naming. But I’ve never summoned any of them. They show up when they feel like it.”

“You can do it,” Dorothy assured her, leading her towards the forming circle.

“All right.” She gave a resolute nod. “I’ll have a go at it. But don’t be surprised if nothing happens. Dorothy’s the one with the magic touch.”

“Oh, don’t be so doubtful, Julianna,” Don, the Society’s treasurer, assured her. “The king’s spirit comes back every year. Maybe we don’t even need Dorothy; he’ll just come on his own.”

“Well, don’t get your hopes up,” Julianna muttered. As she did every year for this special séance, she removed her Wensleydale Ring, a medieval gold band she’d found with a metal detector on a bridle path near the castle. She placed it on a satin cushion and sat across from it. The group joined her around the bonfire, clasped hands, and closed their eyes.

“Here on the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth, the day England lost its honorable, brave, and noble king, uh—-” she faltered, clenching her fists. “Uh—brave and noble king… ”

“What’s wrong, Julianna?” Trevor whispered.

“I forgot the rest of it.”

“Now we summon his spirit…” He helped her out.

“Right! Now we summon his spirit, so that he may know he is still revered and respected. Come forth, King Richard! Come forth and make yourself known.”

Since she’d botched it, maybe he wouldn’t appear. He was known to offend easily.

She peeked with one eye. The breeze didn’t pick up as it usually did when he appeared. The fire didn’t blaze any brighter. The others sat still, deep in concentration. No spirits yet. She heaved a sigh of disappointment. “Please appear before us, please come to us, King Richard,” she whispered.