Read The Black Lyon Online

Authors: Jude Deveraux

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Love Stories, #Historical Fiction, #Adult, #Europe, #History, #Romantic Suspense Novels, #Ireland, #Ireland - History - 1172-1603

The Black Lyon

BOOK: The Black Lyon
2.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
The Black Lyon

Jude Daveraux

Chapter One
.............................................................................. 1

Chapter Two
........................................................................... 16

Chapter Three
.......................................................................... 31

Chapter Four
........................................................................... 49

Chapter Five
............................................................................ 55

Chapter Six
.............................................................................. 64

Chapter Seven
.......................................................................... 79

Chapter Eight
........................................................................... 89

Chapter Nine
......................................................................... 107

Chapter Ten
........................................................................... 116

Chapter Eleven
...................................................................... 146

Chapter Twelve
..................................................................... 164

Chapter Thirteen
................................................................... 184

Chapter Fourteen
................................................................... 207

Chapter Fifteen
...................................................................... 226

Chapter Sixteen
...................................................................... 244

Chapter Seventeen
................................................................. 260

Chapter One

Lyonene could hear Lucy's heavy step on the stone stairs and snuggled deeper beneath the thick coverlet. The January winds whistled outside the old donjon, threads of cold air cutting under the wooden shutters, but her bed was warm and she planned to put off leaving it as long as possible.

"Lady Lyonene." Lucy pulled the bed-curtains back. She was an old woman now and far too fat. She'd been with Lyonene since the girl's birth and was much like a mother to her. "The lady your mother bids you dress in your gold tunic with the green surcoat and mantle."

Lyonene, who had turned toward the light only reluctantly, now looked with interest at Lucy. "The green mantle and surcoat?"

"There is a guest, an important guest, and you are to wear your finest clothes for the introductions."

Lyonene threw back the bedclothes and put a small foot on the rush-covered oak floor. The shutters were closed tightly against the cold winter, and the only light came from the small fireplace and the tallow candle on the tall iron stand by the bed. The soft glow highlighted the full curves of her slim young body. Lucy helped her mistress into the thin linen shift and then the woolen tunic, the tightness of which emphasized her womanly body. The sideless surcoat hid nothing.

"Know you this guest? He is friend to my father?"

"Oh no, my lady." Lucy fastened the thin leather belt about Lyonene's slim waist. "He is an earl, a man your father has not met, and he is a young man."

Lyonene stopped and stared at her maid. "He is handsome? He is a handsome young earl, fair, and rides a white stallion?"

Lyonene teased the old woman.

1

"You shall see soon enough. Now get your comb so I may remove some of the tangles from your hair."

Lyonene obeyed and then asked, "Tell me more of him. What color are his eyes? His hair?"

"Black. As black as the Devil's eyes."

Both women looked up to see Gressy and M eg entering the small chamber with armfuls of clean linen for the bed. Gressy, the older girl, spoke. "It is an earl come, and not just any of the king's earls, but the great Black Lion himself."

"And black he is, too," M eg added.

"His eyes and hair are black as Satan's. Even his horse is all black."

Lyonene looked at them in horror. She had heard stories of the Black Lion since she was but a girl—stories of strength and courage. But each story was misted with a sense of evil, that mayhaps his strength was ill-gotten. "You are sure it is the Black Lion and no other?" Her voice was quiet.

"No other man could have such a look. I vow he gave me gooseflesh just to be near him." Gressy gave her mistress an intense look.

Lucy stepped forward. "Cease your foolish prattle! You'll scare the poor girl. Now get on with your work. I must go below to the Lady M elite." She gave Lyonene's hair a final combing and settled the transparent circle of silk in place with a thin gold fillet.

"Now be still and do not muss yourself." She paused at the door, pointing a warning finger at M eg and Gressy. "And no more of this gossip. If black hair made us part of the Devil, there'd be a lot of us dreading the Day of Glory." She sniffed and patted the little bit of gray hair that showed at her temple between the barbette, a piece of linen that totally concealed her neck and chin, and the cascading veil that extended to her shoulders. Lucy imagined that her own locks were still the soot-black of her youth.

When the door was closed, Lyonene sank to the stone windowseat. "Tell me of him," she whispered. "He is a large man ..."

"Strong . . ." M eg interrupted, but then, at Gressy's quelling look, she went obediently to her side of Lyonene's bed to catch the billowing sheet. "Aye," Gressy continued, looking back at Lyonene and feeling confident in her audience. Lyonene would be the mistress of her own castle someday, but for now there was one area where Gressy was superior, and that was in her knowledge of men. "He's the Black Lion and named for his Devil's blackness and for having the fierceness of a lion. It is said he can unseat twenty men at a tourney and that in Wales, in the wars there, he could hack a man or his horse in half with one blow."

Lyonene felt her face drain of color, and this encouraged Gressy to elaborate on half-heard tales.

"It is said his first wife tried to kill herself to escape him."

Lyonene gasped and involuntarily crossed herself. Suicide was a mortal sin.

"And the seven men—seven devils—he has near him . . ." M eg inserted, too excited to fear Gressy.

"Aye," Gressy said, her voice conspiratorial. "He travels with seven men, great huge men, black-haired all, but none so black as the Lion on his black horse."

"He has come here and I am to meet him?" Lyonene could not keep the fear from her voice.

"Aye. Your father and mother are below now with him. No one denies the Black Lion a request, however small." She straightened. "Come, M eg, we must go to prepare a room for this Devil's knight." She left the room, the wide-eyed M eg trailing behind with the dirty laundry. Gressy was smugly pleased that she had caught the undivided attention of the two girls, for she considered them both girls, although neither was more than two years younger than she.

Outside the heavy door, M eg found her voice. "Is it true, Gressy, that this man is a spawn of the Devil?"

The older woman put her face close to M eg's. "They say he never smiles, has never laughed. It is also said that the woman who makes him laugh will become his bride."

M eg leaned against the damp stone wall. Gressy's face was dim in the dark hallway. She felt her heart thud with a sinister terror.

The Devil's bridel That was a horrible thought.

* * *

Lady M elite, Lyonene's mother, had also heard stories of the Black Lion, and she dressed carefully, scolding herself for her trembling fingers. She already wished he had

3

not come. There had been too much turmoil lately, and now a troublesome earl to care forl She fastened the un-decorated belt around the voluminous surcoat, so different from her daughter's. She pulled the top fabric out and over the belt, completely hiding it. She fastened a dark green mantle about her shoulders with two intricately wrought gold brooches, connected across her collarbone with a short chain.

"What with Sir Tompkin coming on the morrow, and the house servants to organize . . ." She stopped her mumbling and then laughed. I am getting to be too much like William, dreading an event before it happens, she thought. He is a man, no more. We will offer what we have, and he must be content. She straightened the long linen veil that covered the back of her head and hair and fell past her shoulders. She prided herself on having a still-beautiful throat and did not wear the covering barbette. Leveling her shoulders, she went below to greet her guest.

William, Lyonene's father, was fascinated by the Earl of M alvoisin. The tales he had heard about this man were also exaggerated, but with a man's point of view in mind. He looked now at Ranulf's right arm, the muscles outlined clearly by the perfectly tailored chain mail. It was said that the Black Lion could, while riding at full gallop on that black horse of his, cut a four-inch oak post in twain. William hoped he could persuade the earl to demonstrate this impossible feat. The baron could not help staring at the earl's chain mail. It was silvered. William thought with amusement how difficult it was for him to provide each of his twelve knights with even a mediocre grade of chain mail, and here this man had a hauberk just for tournaments. Even his men were splendidly dressed in mail that had been painted either green or black— M alvoisin's colors.

"Ah, here is my wife, the Lady M elite. This is Ranulf de Warbrooke, Third Earl of M alvoisin."

Ranulf lifted his eyebrows slightly in surprise at William's introduction. "It is an honor, my lady, and I hope my uninvited presence will cause you no more hardship than is necessary." He bowed to her.

William often accused M elite of making judgments too quickly, and so she had stopped volunteering her opinion to him, often waiting weeks or months for him to reach the same conclusions that she had drawn in but moments. Now that quick judgment did not fail her—instantly, she knew this man Ranulf de Warbrooke.

"You are most welcome, sir, and it is we who are honored ... no ... pleased by your presence here, and all will see to your comfort." Her voice had changed in midsentence from formality to genuine warmth, for she liked this young man.

Ranulf was startled by her warmth. Usually mothers with daughters were greedy for him, for his money and title, or else afraid of him on account of his reputation. He sensed neither of these in this elegant little woman.

"Come, sit by me by the fire and tell me of the news. We so seldom get visitors here at Lorancourt." She held up her arm and Ranulf took it and led her to two chairs by the roaring fire.

"But I understood that you have had many visitors lately."

She waved her free hand in dismissal. "They come to see Lyonene, to appraise our property and eat our food. They come to show their pretty forms to one another on the lists. No one has time to talk to an old woman hungry for news. But sit for a while and let me hear all."

William stood behind them feeling as if a bird's breath could fell him. M elite, usually the most sensible of women, had taken the arm of the most fierce knight in England and had led him to a comer as if he were a gossiping old woman. And whatever had she said about their coming to see Lyonene and to appraise our property? This was too intimate a statement to make to a stranger. He must speak to her.

"Describe this new thing, a button, to me," M elite was saying.

"It is a little ornament on a shaft sewn to the clothing, and lately the women have cut a hole on one side of the garment and inserted the button through it, making a fastening."

"I see. Then we would not have to sew on the sleeves of the tunic any longer."

William sank on a bench by the fire. The Black Lion, the greatest warrior in all of England, perhaps in all of Christendom, and his wife talked to hirn of women's fashions!

M elite tamed to her husband and smiled sweetly. "Would you send Lucy to fetch Lyonene? I desire our guest to meet with our daughter."

* * *

"Oh, 'tis a handsome man, this Black Lion!" Lucy gushed to Lyonene. "His hair curls about his neck just as my boy's did once."

Lucy, though proud of her son, who was now a monk in the Benedictine Order, was sad at times about him, too. "He is tall and strong, and your mother has him eating from out her hand. Great warrior he may be, but I would take an oath he is a gentle man."

"What of his black hair and eyes? Were you not frightened?"

"For truth, I was, but your mother knew his character from the first moment, and it is she I trust." She tilted her head and looked questioningly at Lyonene. "You would do well to choose such a man for a husband."

"Husband! Lucy, you have heard the stories of his character!"

"Aye, stories. I know not one whiff of truth in them."

BOOK: The Black Lyon
2.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Ice-cream Man by Jenny Mounfield
Code 13 by Don Brown
The UnTied Kingdom by Kate Johnson
Hollywood Ass. by Eriksson, Jonas
Utopía by Lincoln Child
The Bride Who Wouldn't by Carol Marinelli
Ghosts of Coronado Bay by J. G. Faherty
Elders and Betters by Ivy Compton-Burnett