eBook Details

Winter Song

Series: Royal Dynasty , Book 2.0
By: Roberta Gellis | Other books by Roberta Gellis
Published By: Ellora's Cave Publishing Inc.
Published: Oct 22, 2009
ISBN # 9781419921537
Word Count: 152,264
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Categories: Romance>Historical Other Fiction Historical Fiction

Description
Blush: This is a sensual romance (may have explicit love scenes, but not erotic level).
Second in the Royal Dynasty series.
Alys of Marlow was a simple knight’s daughter, Raymond d’Aix was of the high nobility. But Alys and Raymond had fallen deep in love when Raymond was in England, and Alys’ dowry was large enough to make Alys acceptable to Raymond’s father. But in taking hold of that dowry, Alys makes a deadly enemy.
Worse, Raymond’s mother is not pacified by the rich dowry. Lady Jeannette resolves to make Raymond hate Alys and control him herself. She causes a violent quarrel between Raymond and Alys just at the time Raymond must go off to deal with his father’s vassals.
At that critical moment comes the news that Raymond’s grandfather is dead. Raymond’s father must hurry to the court of Louis of France to save Aix from a harsh overlord and Alys must somehow get her hysterical mother-by-marriage and sisters-by-marriage to the capital of Provence to attend Raymond-Berenger’s funeral. Alys gets caught up in an attempt to abduct the heiress of Provence, and Raymond must rescue Alys from an unassailable fortress.
 
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Excerpt:

An Excerpt From: WINTER SONG

Copyright © ROBERTA GELLIS, 1982, 2009

All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

Chapter One

 

"You do not seem to understand what I am saying, Father." Raymond d´Aix´s voice was quiet, but his pale eyes were like glittering ice in his thin, dark face. "You cannot have me without accepting Alys of Marlowe as my wife."

"Marriages made in haste by silly boys can be annulled," Alphonse d´Aix replied sharply.

"I am not married to Alys. Her father is a most upright and honorable man. He would not even permit a betrothal between us until your permission could be obtained," Raymond said.

Alphonse stared at his son. Raymond had always been long and lean, and now he was painfully thin. Despite what should have been a good night´s sleep, bruised-looking patches showed beneath his eyes. It was clear that he had traveled far and hard with insufficient rest. He had arrived on the preceding evening with ten guardsmen and a master-at-arms, all of them haggard from hard riding. Little information could be gleaned from any of them beyond the fact that they had come all the way from England in about eighteen days, which Alphonse did not doubt. The good horses they rode were hardly more than scarecrows, and the men were glazed and gray with fatigue.

Raymond had wolfed down the food provided for him, patted his hysterical mother and sisters kindly, and told his father he had important matters to discuss with him but would leave them to the next day, as he was half-dead for need of sleep. Alphonse had made no objections. First, it was obvious that Raymond was exhausted, but more than that kept Alphonse quiet. There was something different about Raymond, something in the assurance of his voice when he said tomorrow, and something in the way he treated his mother and sisters. He was kind-that had not changed-but there was also contempt in the looks he bent on them.

This morning both the assurance and the contempt had shown again, but they were veiled under consideration as Raymond bade his mother-in a voice she responded to automatically-to go and rest, after she had begun to weep over the six months he had been gone without a word or a sign that he was alive. Then he had calmly announced that he wanted his father´s permission to take in marriage Lady Alys of Marlowe, England. Alphonse had looked at him and said Do not be ridiculous-which had called forth Raymond´s coldly forceful reply.

Naturally, Alphonse assumed that some wealth- and status-seeking "gentleman" with a pretty daughter had trapped Raymond into marriage. Alphonse himself was an honorable man and was glad that his son wished to honor the commitment. However, he did not consider himself committed, and after all, Raymond´s marriage was his business. He had pointed out the obvious solution-annulment-and had been stunned by Raymond´s reply. There was no commitment even on Raymond´s part. And, if there had been, Alphonse wondered what was the cause of the haste.

"If you have got this silly girl with child-" Alphonse began, combining the talk of marriage and the need for haste, and coming up with the usual conclusion.

"How dare you!" Raymond snarled, losing the calm that he had maintained and reaching instinctively for his sword.

He was not wearing it, but Alphonse´s eyes opened wide with surprise. Barely had he time to absorb the idea that his son was so set on defending the woman´s honor that he would threaten his own father than another surprise was added. Raymond lifted his hand from his hip and began to laugh.

"Earl Richard and Lady Elizabeth both specially bade me not to do just what I am doing. Please, Father, let us sit down and do you listen to the whole. When you hear, you will find that it is not so unreasonable. I have gone the wrong way about it."

"Which Earl Richard?" Alphonse asked, moving toward a chair and gesturing to Raymond to take another.

"Richard of Cornwall. Sir William is marshal of his lands and closer than a brother. Alys calls the earl `uncle´ and-"

"Richard of Cornwall approved this?" Alphonse asked, amazed.

"He approved sufficiently to ask King Henry to write you a letter. I have not read it, of course, but I understand the king says that the union would in no way displease him."

"Why should it?" Alphonse asked angrily. He realized now that the forces arrayed against him were more considerable than he had first thought. But England was far away, and the king could not really care whether or not the marriage took place. Suddenly another question rose to Alphonse´s mind. "Does Eleanor know of this?"

"Oh, yes," Raymond replied at once, his eyes glinting wickedly with humor now. "Both Queen Eleanor and Countess Sancia have written letters in Alys´s favor-addressed to Mother, of course." He laughed. "So you see that both your half sisters have turned against you, too."

"This is ridiculous," Alphonse said. "It has been said that the climate in England is so terrible that it drives men mad. I see that it has driven my sisters mad, at least. Raymond, my son, you are in love...I see that. Your heart is full. No doubt the lady is perfectly beautiful and probably one of those blondes so attractive to us, who see that coloring rarely, but-"

"It is quite true, but I am not marrying Alys for her beauty of person."

"Yes, yes," Alphonse agreed quickly. "I have no doubt her soul is as gentle and delicate as a flower-"

Raymond suddenly roared with laughter, shocking his father into silence. When Raymond could speak again, he said, "Alys is marvelous, completely, but neither gentle nor," he choked slightly, remembering some of his conversations with Alys, "nor delicate."

"Well," Alphonse hurried on, although his voice now held an uncertain note, "we will accept her character and person as perfect. But Raymond, you know one does not marry for qualities of person."

"I intend to do so, however," Raymond remarked calmly.

"You are in love," Alphonse repeated kindly. "I understand. I am sure the lady is well dowered, but-"

"No, she is not," Raymond interrupted once more, grinning. "Her dower is one small keep and its lands. Its yield is good for its size. It commands a heavily traveled road, and there are tolls, but even so-"

"Raymond, have you been having a jest at my expense?" Alphonse bellowed. He had no time, really, to feel relief, because Raymond was shaking his head.

"No, Father. I am in dead earnest. I intend to marry Alys, though I know the match is unequal in material matters. That is not significant. Earl Richard-"

"You are mad!" Alphonse exclaimed.

Raymond nodded, grinning again. "The climate in England is very bad. That is true."

"This makes it even worse," Alphonse snapped, ignoring his son´s levity. "But even if she had been rich as Croesus, the match would not be possible. A dower in England is of no value here. We do not need money. You must marry in France or Gascony so that-"

"I thank God, Father, that I am not your only child. There are Alphonse and Jeanine and Margot. You may make alliances as you like with them. Through me, you will have made a strong bond with England-"

"Stronger than my sister´s marriage to the king?" Alphonse asked caustically.

Raymond bit his lip, then shrugged. "I supposed I wished to wrap the thing up in clean linen, but there is no need. I know as well as you that there can be no political advantage to the family in my marriage to Alys. The matter of dower can be arranged. Earl Richard will lend Sir William a suitable sum of money to make up a respectable dower, but I know you do not desire money. I am sorry for it, Father, however, I will not marry elsewhere, nor will I live with those who deny me the one thing of import for which I have ever asked."

"Are you threatening me?" Alphonse asked harshly.

"I do not know," Raymond replied quietly. "I am not asking for a new destrier or a new maidservant to warm my bed. My desire for Alys does not come from an ache in my loins. I am fighting for my whole life..."

On the words, the eyes of father and son locked. Both remembered the last time Raymond had said those words. When his father told him he could not lead the army being sent to curb a vassal in Gascony because his mother feared for his safety, Raymond had pleaded and demanded that his mother not be allowed to make a popinjay of him. Alphonse had laughed, pointing out that it was only a little action of no importance, but Raymond countered, quite truthfully, that if a man did not learn by leading small actions, he would be of little use in major conflicts. Finally, Raymond had cried, "Can you not see that I am being toyed with as if I were a doll? Let me go and do this, Father. I am a man, not a plaything for Mother. I am fighting for my life."

That time Alphonse had made some soothing replies, but because of the near-hysterical note in his son´s voice, he had been misled into thinking that Raymond would forget the matter in a few days. Alphonse had equated Raymond´s behavior with his daughter´s eventual calm after she had exclaimed hysterically that she would die if a suitor were disapproved. He had not even been disturbed when he learned that his son had flung out of Tour Dur in a rage, thinking Raymond would ride off his passion or work it off in hunting or rape. Even when Raymond had not returned that night, Alphonse had not worried. He believed this son was behaving like a naughty little boy, cutting off his nose to spite his face, sleeping out in a field to frighten his parents. However, a letter had come the next day to say Raymond would not return, and indeed he had not, not for six months.

"You can kill me," Raymond now continued, just as quietly, "or you can lock me up. If you do not, I will go. And this time I will not return at all, unless I bring Alys of Marlowe with me as my wife."

For a moment longer Alphonse d´Aix stared into his son´s eyes, then dropped his own. He had seen his own father looking out at him from his son´s face. There was no threat to him in Raymond´s expression, only a determination that could not be broken by pleas or reason or time.

"Do you realize what your mother will say to this?" Alphonse asked, shifting his ground.

Imperceptibly, Raymond relaxed, hardly believing his ears. His father had yielded-so quickly, so easily. Alphonse had not yet said the formal words, but this mention of Raymond´s mother was a move Raymond recognized. It was a sidestep to a new path. In the past, Raymond had often found that path a dead end and his father´s yielding becoming meaningless in the face of his mother´s tears and pleading. However, Raymond was now armored against those explosions of emotionalism.

Alys had laughed at him when he described the dreadful scenes his mother had always made. Her eyes had twinkled up at him through the abnormally long, thick lashes she had inherited from her father. "It is a woman´s favorite weapon with `soft´ men," Alys had confessed merrily, after wondering aloud whether she should betray her fellow females and deprive herself of the device. "Do not pay any attention, and it will stop, or use a light slap on the cheek if you cannot wait for her to realize it is not working. That is what another woman would do. I suppose you cannot slap your mother, but you can certainly so correct your sisters´ transports."

"And you, should I correct you so?" Raymond had asked, drawing Alys into his arms and kissing her.

"You will not need to," she replied so meekly after he freed her lips that Raymond looked at her suspiciously. "Papa cured me of such tricks long ago," she confessed then giggled mischievously. "You do not think I would expose the tricks I use. I may not know how to direct an army, but I am not so poor a tactician as that."

But it did not seem possible to Raymond that Alys used any tricks. She appeared transparently honest to him. A more serious discussion had followed between them in which Alys assured him that his mother did not actually feel such agony as she displayed by her shrieks and gasps. Physical fear might make a woman scream and fling herself about, Alys allowed doubtfully, but real grief or sorrow did not.

Raymond had reason to believe her. He had watched Lady Elizabeth, who had married Alys´s father after years of waiting, during the days when her lover, now her husband, hung between life and death. There had been tears, slow, quiet tears, and sometimes she held her arms across her breast as if to still an unbearable pain, rocking back and forth with the agony. However, there had been no shrieks, no breast-beating, no cries calling God to witness the unnatural cruelty of her children, which was destroying her life.

Thus Raymond now saw his way clear of his mother´s attempts to control him, and he smiled tightly at his father. "Mother will not like it at all, I know, but you may leave her to me."

Alphonse gaped. Never had Raymond said such a thing, nor had such a flash of amused and loving contempt crossed his face when he spoke of his mother. In the past, anxiety and desperation had been evident in Raymond´s expression when he spoke of her. Now Alphonse remembered the voice in which Raymond had forcefully directed Lady Jeannette to "go and rest" while he had his discussion, and how he had turned his back on her while his sister Jeanine supported her faltering footsteps to the door. In earlier times Raymond would have watched, perhaps even followed his mother asking if he had made her unwell.

"You mean you will tell her of this idiocy of yours, that you intend to destroy all her hopes of a Gascon alliance to extend her-our-lands there?"

"I will certainly tell her I intend to marry Alys and no other woman. As to the Gascon lands, that might be managed. Earl Richard has lands there which he ceded to his brother, the king, when he married Sancia. It might be possible to arrange for a dower for Alys in Gascony. Sir William, Alys´s father, would pay King Henry out of Alys´s revenues from Bix, and Alys would receive instead the revenue from the Gascon lands."

The animosity faded from Alphonse´s face, and he pursed his lips. Raymond hmmmd with sudden thought. A very satisfactory arrangement might be made, both of them realized. King Henry could get little good out of the Gascon lands, because when the holders of the property were not corrupt, they were warring. Revenues were small and sporadic. Thus, the properties were of little value except as a base for the war against France.

If, then, Henry could be assured of a stable equivalent revenue, and not lose his right to draw on the property in times of war, he might very willingly name Raymond as vassal in his wife´s right. He might, in fact, be tempted to part with a valuable stronghold because he knew and trusted Raymond and because Raymond was his wife´s nephew. Moreover, Raymond had never been a vassal of Louis of France. He was, through his father, vassal to his grandfather, the Count of Provence, Raymond-Berenger. This could do Henry no harm politically, since he was already bound to Provence by marriage. In addition, Raymond already held a minor property in Gascony and, through his mother, might inherit more, although it was more likely those lands would go to his younger brother, Alphonse, who was currently living at King Louis´s court. Thus, King Henry would gain a powerful and trustworthy ally in Gascony-a rare and precious thing.

From Raymond´s and Alphonse´s point of view, the Gascon lands would not be any burden to manage. Raymond could do it himself as long as his father was alive. After that his younger brother could spend most of his time there. As it was, Raymond often was in Gascony to oversee his mother´s lands. It would be little more trouble to oversee his wife´s.

"You know," Alphonse said suddenly, "I begin to like this marriage of yours much better. It will be most excellent to hold the lands directly from the king of England. If you marry a daughter of one of the Gascon houses, I would be bound to the policy of that house. This way, we will be able to make our own alliances freely as we like." He paused and bit his lip. "If this could be done, I would have no objections to the marriage...no...I would not. But can it be done?"

"I think so-that is, if I return quickly enough. The situation between the brothers, King Henry and Earl Richard, is very good, or was when I left England. That means that Henry will do whatever Richard asks, and Richard will do what Alys asks. No, that is unfair. Richard will see the value of having me as Henry´s vassal. What is more, Eleanor will exert her full powers of persuasion for this. She will see the advantages therein, and the king loves her dearly."

"The advantages should be plain enough for Henry to see for himself," Alphonse remarked, surprised.

"Yes, but the king is not always governed by reason. If he should be put out of temper by a quarrel with his brother, he will seek to spite his brother´s friend, Sir William, by denying what Sir William´s daughter desires. I will need to be careful how I approach the subject, but yes, I think I can arrange a Gascon dower for Alys."

"Of what value?" Alphonse asked.

Raymond beckoned a manservant over. "Go ask for Arnald in the masters-at-arms´ quarters, and tell him to bring me the parchment boxes he carried. Speak slowly. His French is of the north, but I warn you that if you use a saucy tone he will knock you endwise." Then Raymond turned to his father. "Alys has written out the whole thing, what is hers and what more her father could give her. I think we may depend on something very handsome from Cornwall, also. He dotes on her. Call one of the scribes, Father, and let us see where it would be best for the lands to lie."

 

Lady Jeannette had obeyed her son both times before she realized he had twice sent her away. The first time she had told herself he was tired and did not realize that his tone of voice was unkind and disrespectful. She would scold him for it lovingly, and he would say he was sorry. The second time she had also responded instinctively, taking three or four steps before she understood she had been sent from the room like a wayward child. Her gasp and clutch at her heart had gained no more response than a smile and a nod. Alphonse had been staring at Raymond and paid her no attention either, and when she had tottered feebly from the hall, clinging to Jeanine´s arm, Raymond had turned his back.

In the solar, Lady Jeannette now had time to collect her thoughts and consider how she had been hurt and slighted. Her firstborn son, the light of her eyes, had driven her away. He was cruel and unnatural. All his life she had striven to smooth the path before his feet, to spare him the smallest hurt or unhappiness, but he had always been ungrateful, rejecting the toys she ordered for him, the musical instruments and fine garments, in favor of swords and hunting bows, horses, and armor.

Raymond had always seemed to prefer his tutor´s company, even when that horrid man had knocked him down and bruised him in practice combat, and when his father had sent him away to the household of the king of Navarre, he had not complained but had gone willingly. She, on the contrary, had begged and pleaded that he be sent to his grandfather, Raymond-Berenger, where she knew he would be given special privileges and looked after tenderly. Although Alphonse had agreed after a while, Raymond had not, insisting he was happy in the court of Navarre.

Ungrateful, she thought. Raymond had never cared that she might grieve or worry about him. And this last escapade, disappearing for six months without a word and sending that cruel letter to say it was her fault-that was monstrous! Why should he go and fight in Gascony? Crude creatures could be hired to do ugly, dangerous things like that. Why could Raymond not see that it was better to stay at home and speak of poetry and philosophy, to dance, sing, and gather flowers?

Lady Jeannette wept loudly over her son´s cruelty, and her daughters wept with her. They bewailed Raymond´s hardness of heart, each reminding the others of incidents that had displayed his lack of consideration for their tender feelings. At last they heard his voice in the large chamber outside the solar. All of them stiffened before emitting even louder wails as he entered, but the sound of his words came no nearer.

Their indignation grew as they heard the thin, high voices of two little girls mingling with Raymond´s. He had stopped to speak with his baseborn daughters. Disgusting! Surely his mother and sisters should have precedence over the daughters of a common serf-woman elevated to a weaving woman.

Actually their indignation was wasted. Raymond did not give much thought to his bastard daughters and would not have stopped to seek them had they not run out to him. He was kindhearted, however, and had taken them in his arms to kiss and fondle, remembering with a faint pang of guilt that it had been his custom to bring them little toys and geegaws when he had been away for some time. He was apologizing for neglecting this and promising them that he would have something for them later in the day when their mother came hurriedly forward to draw them away.

"I beg your pardon, my lord," she said softly. "I was busy and did not see them run to you."

"They did no hurt," Raymond responded, but he felt somewhat awkward. He had realized as he spoke that he must get rid of Lucie before he brought Alys home. "You are looking well, Lucie," he added uneasily, wanting to say something pleasant.

Her expression changed infinitesimally. Raymond would not have noticed if he had not been wondering how to avoid hurting her more than necessary. He had never before thought about what Lucie felt, although she had been his bedmate at Tour Dur whenever he felt the need for a woman. He had first seen her when he was eighteen, some seven years before, in her father´s hut on the demesne farm, and had bought her for a few copper pieces with the old man´s blessing. It had not occurred to Raymond to wonder what Lucie had felt about it. He had assumed she would be grateful and overjoyed.

The assumption was quite correct. Lucie would have kissed Raymond´s feet in gratitude even if he had used her harshly for the lot of a serf-woman who has lost her man is not pleasant. To be elevated to service in the castle, even if that service included rough usage, was a miracle of good fortune. But Raymond was not cruel in his love play. He was gentle and good-humored, if somewhat indifferent.

At first that did not bother Lucie. She was so happy with the new clothing he gave her, with the fact that her stomach was full all the time, and with dry and warm lodging, compared to her previous lodging, even when she was not called to her master´s bed. All she feared was that when Raymond´s term of leave from his duties in the court of Navarre was over, she would be sent back to the horrors of life as a field serf. Pregnancy saved her from that fate. Raymond freely acknowledged that the child was his and directed that Lucie be taught skills that would make her useful in the castle so that his child could be fittingly raised.

The next time Raymond came home he called Lucie to his bed again, and she came gladly. However, she was more accustomed to her better condition, and she began to realize that Raymond did not "notice" her. When he needed a woman, he would seek her out and remark that she was pretty and give her a length of fabric to make an overdress or a tunic, or some trinket with which to adorn herself. At other times he could pass right by her and not even nod his head in recognition.

Naturally Lucie did not resent this, she was no one and nothing. She knew Raymond could casually order her killed instead of casually flinging her a trinket. Nonetheless, she found that she no longer dreamed about him or particularly desired that he summon her to his bed. She began to notice the men around the keep, and it warmed her heart that they obviously noticed her.

Lucie was with child again before Raymond left, and glad of it because the second babe would secure her position. The first had been only a girl, perhaps the second would be a boy. Or, if one died, the other would still bind her to the keep. However, with her belly full, it was safe to look around. Gregoire, one of the huntsmen, looked back with such longing in his eyes that Lucie was moved to comfort him.

She found in the end as much comfort as she gave. Gregoire understood her condition. He, too, had come out of the fields by an accident of fate. He could no more be jealous of a lord than of God, nor would he have thought for a moment of refusing or expecting Lucie to refuse any demand a lord made. What was more wonderful to Lucie was that Gregoire was as happy to be with her, to talk to her and listen to her, when she was unable to satisfy his lust as when she had first yielded to him.

When Raymond came home again, there was only another daughter to offer him. He did not mind, but he was not much interested. He was not much interested in Lucie, either, however, his mother objected to his playing about among the maidservants, so he used Lucie when the mood moved him. There were plenty of women of the better sort in the court of Navarre who were drawn to his pale, brilliant eyes and dark skin. For all her lush beauty-and Lucie was lush now, being well fed and ten years older than Raymond-she bored him.

Raymond was so uninterested in Lucie that he had never realized that she did her best to avoid him. Both her daughters had survived-a great surprise, which she attributed to the healthier situation of the castle-and she had become a skillful weaver. Thus, she was reasonably sure she would not be cast out, even if Raymond no longer desired her. Of course, she had never dared deny him. All she dared was to keep out of his way as much as possible.

Had she been less fearful, Lucie would have achieved her heart´s desire years earlier, but she had not been bred in the castle. She still saw the lords as creatures apart, superhuman, and as incomprehensible as God. So when Raymond summoned her, she came. She had conceived once more, but as soon as she missed her flux she had gone to an herb-woman who cleaned out her womb. Gregoire´s get had gone the same way, but she had wept over those. Even so, she prayed Raymond would stay away. She found it harder and harder to seem willing.

This time when he said how well she looked, Lucie could not quite keep all expression from her face. She cursed herself for coming forward, but she had been afraid Raymond would be angered by the importunities of his daughters and punish them. Hastily she looked down at the little girls and sent them away, struggling to bring some welcome into her expression.

When she raised her eyes, fear almost stopped her heart. Raymond was staring at her with raised brows.

"Why did you not tell me you did not find my attentions pleasing, Lucie?" he asked.

"No," she whispered. "No, please! I-"

"Do not be frightened," Raymond hastened to assure her, much surprised by her reaction. "I am not angry. To speak the truth, I am glad. I am about to be married, and that means you must be married, also."

"I? Married?" Lucie breathed. "To whom, my lord?´

"I had not thought about it," Raymond admitted easily.

In fact, if his daughters and Lucie had not accosted him, he probably would not have remembered their existence. This notion made him rather grateful to little Fenice and Enid and to Lucie, also. He smiled at her.

"Is there someone you would like to marry, Lucie?" Raymond asked. "You have been obedient to me and have never asked for anything. I would be happy to dower you and know that you are content."

She stared at him, lips parted, desperately trying to read from his face whether this was some kind of cruel trap. But Raymond had never been cruel to her. Daring greatly, Lucie whispered, "Gregoire. The huntsman, Gregoire. He is a good man-kind."

"Gregoire..." Raymond shook his head, then put out his hand to catch Lucie as she grew pale as milk. "What ails you woman? I am only trying to think whether I know the man. Well, it does not matter. I suppose you can point him out." He let go of her and pulled his purse open as her color returned. "There." He put five gold pieces into her hand. "That is for you. Keep it safe. You shall have your Gregoire, although when I will have time to attend to it, I cannot guess."

Lucie watched fearfully, but there was no discontent in his face, only a look of consideration. She began to hope. If Raymond were bringing home a bride, of course he would not want his bedmate anymore. There was one problem.

"Fenice and Enid?" she asked timidly.

"They must stay here," Raymond replied. "They are my daughters. But you may see them when you like, Lucie. I will see about getting a house for you near Tour Dur so you may continue your work here during the day. But I do not know what may be available, and I must go away again almost immediately. You may have to wait a little time. Go back to your work now. I promise I will not trouble you again."

She dropped a curtsy and fled back to her loom, almost in love with Raymond again for his enormous kindness to her. It was a great relief to know she would not have to take her daughters with her. Although the most generous of men, Gregoire was uncomfortable in the presence of the little girls. They were the lord´s get, and he was somewhat in awe of them. Also, indubitably, he would have resented needing to find dowers for another man´s daughters if Raymond repudiated them. Then, too, Lucie loved her girls enough to be willing to part with them if that parting would be to their advantage. Great lord´s daughters, even if left-handed so to speak, might be married into the lesser nobility or to one of the rich merchants´ houses. Lucie sat and thought and dreamed of Raymond, like a distant god, presiding over her fate.

 

Winter Song

By: Roberta Gellis
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