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Dedication
This novel is dedicated to Raghda. I have been corresponding with
Raghda for some time. She is a student in Baghdad, Iraq. I haven’t heard
from her in nearly a year. The last I heard she tried desperately to attend
college and get her degree in computer programming. She told me of
watching teachers, students, and guards being gunned down in front of her. I
haven’t heard from her. I try to believe she is alive and living in Syria with
her family.
Raghda loved “Conquer My Heart” and asked me to write another
Medieval Novel. Raghda, I dedicate to you, “Stone Heart.”

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Stone Heart
All Rights Reserved © 2007 by Payton Lee

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or


by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system, without the
permission in writing from the author.

Contact Payton Lee at


http://www.paytonlee.com
Email: pyoung8@cfl.rr.com

Ebook authorized for free download only by Payton Lee.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents


either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictiously. Any
resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead
is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
Once again the author had has added a character who is a friend. She
is Kris Tulloch. The character Christofre reflects the personality of Kris.
Christofre is also the master of her kitchen and is a superior caterer displaying
the medieval talents of a modern day Kris. Here is to you, Kris.

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Chapter One
The three knights were weary from the journey. They left London a
week ago. The baggage wagons slowed the progress of the cavalcade when
they became stuck in the muddy ruts of the road paths. It seemed the rain
never stopped since they left London.
“Your sire picked a horrid time of year to command your presence at
Keyes,” Sir Lewis grumbled pulling his hood down further to cover his face.
William shrugged. He was not in a pleasant mood. The rain was
running down his face like small rivulets. He was soaked through to the skin
and his woolen tunic was emitting a very unpleasant odor from the soaking.
The wagons had stopped them three times this morning. They were still at
least four days from Keyes Castle. If this rain continued it could very well
take another week to get to the castle. He was starting to chill with the cold
rain. Dusk would soon be approaching.
Sir Gaston was returning, he had ridden ahead looking for shelter. A
town was nearby, but they weren’t certain how close they were. “Wills, there
is a town ahead only a short distance. It has a hostel. I’ve arranged for
shelter.”
“Blessings upon you,” Lewis shouted. He spurred his Destrier into a
run passing William and Gaston. “At last a warm dry bed, dry clothes, warm
hearth, hot food, and warm Ale. Lord be praised.”
William and Gaston watched the knight disappear down the path as he
galloped around the curve. A copse of trees shielded the path from
observation.
“I have to admit I intend to enjoy those same comforts,” Gaston
laughed. “I nearly did not return to you. The hearth was most inviting.”
“Then let us enjoy such comforts post haste,” William grinned. His
thoughts were of a good meal, ale, warmth, a dry bed and of course a wench
to warm him. William spurred his horse into a gallop. Gaston was behind
him. The squires, pages, wagons, and camp followers also picked up their
pace.
***

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“At last, there it is,” Reimond stated raising his bowed head to look at
Keye’s Castle with relief. Ahead there were warm hearths. There would be
food and ale. Keye’s Castle would offer comfort and respite from his sodden
journey. He was also worried about his eldest daughter, Sarra. She was
soaked to the bone. She had been sneezing the last furlong. He was worried
she might catch the ague. If anything happened to her he didn’t know if he
could go on. His youngest daughter, Sabina was already happily married and
expecting his first grandchild. He was thrilled, but Sarra was always his
favorite. It was Sarra that continued making his cold castle of Mondel a warm
and inviting home. Reimond remembered his beloved Joy. Reimond
considered his great fortune to have Joy as his good wife. She was perfect for
him. Sarra was trained well by her mother. Sarra not only continued her
mother’s work, she looked like his beloved wife.
Sarra looked to her father. She was soaked from the rain down to her
skin. The cold rain was giving her chills. Her teeth were beginning to chatter.
“No..oo..tt.. tt a mo..mo..ment anon,” Sarra chattered with her teeth. “I am
co…old to my...my...bo...ones.”
“We will have warm shelter and warm drink soon,” Reimond
promised. This was a poor time of year to travel. He could not understand
why his liege lord would summon, not only him, but his daughter also.
Reimond had always known Edmond to be considerate of his Stewards.
Edmond had been a fierce and powerful knight, but he followed the rules of
chivalry. It was a bit unreasonable to travel in the early fall. The roads were
almost impassable during this season. It was difficult at best for a knight,
even an old knight, but expecting a young woman to endure the journey was
unreasonable to say the least. It certainly did not fit Reimond’s respect for his
liege lord, Edmond. There must be something important for Edmond to call
him and Sarra.
Sarra was cursing the Earl of Sussex under her breath. This weather
was most foul indeed. She felt she weighed another fifty pounds under the
wet woolen cape, tunic, and gown. She was also worried for her father riding
in this weather. He was no longer a young man to endure such a journey with
these weather conditions. The men at arms were not used to such travel
either. Sarra worried most about her maidservant, Roese. Her maid was two
score and four. Roese was maidservant to her mother and was like her second
mother. Even today Roese would worry over her care like a mother hen. This
was not the weather to expose a delicate older woman like her Roese. As
soon as they entered Keye’s keep, she would ask for hot cider to warm them
and then a good meat broth.
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A few minutes later, although it seemed like another hour, the travelers
crossed the drawbridge into the bailey. Reimond had identified whom they
were and the drawbridge was lowered immediately. The guard had been told
to expect Lord Albyn.
Sarra’s spirits were beginning to improve with the warmth of hearth so
near. She thought it strange that there was no greeting for them.
The Marshal had been called and approached the small caravan to
care for the unloading of the wagons and the care of the horses. But there
were no knights or men at arms to give proper greeting. Sarra’s father was the
Steward of Mondel Castle. It was a large manor and he was given the
dukedom of Mondel. Chivalry demanded a proper and respectful greeting.
There was no greeting.
The Marshal assisted Sarra from her palfrey. “Welcome, my lady.”
“Thank you, kind sir. Why is there no one about?” Sarra queried.
“We were summoned to Keye’s Castle by his lordship. Yet, we are not
greeted. Surely it is not the weather. You must have known we approached.
The gate keeper was told to expect us.”
“Lord Edmond told us to expect Lord Albyn and his daughter, but we
did not know when to expect you. We were heralded when told a caravan
approached, but we did not know it was you. The rain obscured our vision
and your pennants,” Marshal Bouvier apologized. He realized the lady might
be insulted. “We did not know who you were until you hailed our guard.
Until then we assumed you might be merely travelers seeking shelter from the
weather.”
“I understand the confusion,” Sarra replied quietly. “We are truly
sodden and in need of a warm fire and hot drink.”
“Lord Edmond is in residence and in the keep,” Marshal Bouvier
informed. He motioned for his helpers to assist the Lord Albyn and ladies
maid. He personally walked Sarra to the keep and led her to the great hall.
Sarra was shocked at the interior of the keep. The rushes were in need
of changing. The hearth was not warm and welcoming for such inclement
weather. She also noticed there simply was not a single lady present. There
were women servants, but not a single lady to be found, not even at the ill kept
hearth where the women usually worked on embroidery. Sarra was also
surprised to see that there were only a few knights sitting near the hearth. The
inclement weather should have brought most of them near the fires and warm
drink. Where were they? This was a very large castle and would have an
equally large retinue of knights, men at arms, squire, and pages. She couldn’t
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think about that right now. She attempted to remove her soaked and heavy
woolen mantel. She could barely walk for its weight. Her hands were so cold
she could barely move her fingers.
Marshal Bouvier noticed Sarra struggling with her mantel. He came to
her assistance and unpinned the heavy brooch holding the mantel in place. In
a smooth hand movement, he removed it and placed it on an iron hook near
the fireplace to dry.
“My gratitude,” Sarra appreciated. “Would you help my Pere’,
please?” Sarra looked to Roese. The older woman could barely walk. Sarra
was still soaked through to her skin, but removing the weight of the mantel
had helped. Although her hands were still stiff from the cold she managed to
undo Roese’s brooch holding her mantel. The two women let it fall and left it.
Sarra ushered Roese and her father to the two empty chairs nearest the
fireplace.
Marshal Bouvier was already stoking the fire after adding another
large log to the hearth. The fire was beginning to emit a welcoming heat.
Sarra warmed her hands near the hearth. “Where are the ladies of the
castle? I would like a solar for us to change into dry clothes. We are in need
of a warm drink, hot broth, and bread.”
Marshal Bouvier looked sheepishly. “This castle has no lady.”
“What?” Sarra gasped. “The baron has no lady to tend his manor?
Surely he has wards?”
“Lord Edmond has a granddaughter, she is but a maiden child. Oriel is
a mere four years in the King’s reign,” Bouvier explained. He continued on
with the story of why there were no ladies present. “His daughter in law
passed shortly after birthing Oriel. His good wife passed many reigns back.
She died soon after the birth of her fourth son. The lord did not want to marry
again, for reasons of his own. We have had many wards, but they do not like
the strain of keeping such a large manor. They quickly marry, or King John
takes them off to his court in London.”
Sarra was exasperated. “Is there any person here to see to our needs?”
“Aye, we have Christofre,” Bouvier stated. “She has been with the
castle before the eldest son was born to Lord Edmond. She served the Lady
Laurette as cook until she took over the care as nurse to William. When
William, Henry, Andrew, and Edward were grown, she returned to managing
the kitchens. Tis her greatest love and interest.”
“Then Christofre is the Lady of Keyes,” Sarra deduced.

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“No, she is the closest the keep has to a fine lady, but she is not of
noble blood,” Marshal explained. “We are all fond of her. She is like mother
to us all.”
“This is strange indeed,” Sarra commented. At least there was
someone to turn to for the running of the castle. “Where is Christofre?
Should she not be here to greet us?”
“Our Christofre is quite devout. She is attending mass,” Bouvier
clarified. “Christofre attends twice a day and never misses a mass.”
“Then I will have need of a female servant,” Sarra requested. She
looked around and found an older women coming from a door holding fresh
tablecloths to spread upon the tables for the evening meal. She looked over
her shoulder and spotted an older female servant coming through the archway
looking about for someone or something. Sarra called to her. “Come hither!”
The women obeyed immediately seeing the dress of a lady. The lady
was also speaking to Marshal Bouvier. “Milady?”
“Would you kindly take me to the kitchens? I need a hot stew for my
Pere’ and companion. We are chilled to bone. I would also ask you to find
room for us. We need to change from these sodden clothes,” Sarra requested
gently. “Are there other servants about to assist us?”
“This way milady,” Jacoba responded walking briskly toward the
kitchens. “We will find other servants there to care for your needs.”
Sarra was baffled by the lack of care for the castle and the lack of
staffing. “Where are all the servants, knights, men at arms, pages, squires,
and where is the lord of Keyes?”
Jacoba responded quickly and honestly, “When Christofre is at mass
and the Lord Edmond takes his rest, especially during weather so bad as this,
the knights and men at arms warm their pallets with willing ladies. The
squires and pages take refuge in the walls to play their games. The rest of the
servants such as myself see to the keep, aide in cooking the meal, and prepare
for supper.”
Sarra entered the kitchen when Jacoba had finished with her
explanations for the lack of staff. Sarra was furious. She would never allow a
keep to be run so slovenly. The kitchen was completely different; it was
clean, organized, and well staffed. Everyone here knew what he or she was
about and what was to be done. The aroma was heavenly and it felt warm
with friendliness about it. The pots, pans, and working tables were clean. The
cooks and bakers worked in the same area without interfering or disrupting
another.

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Jacoba started ordering the younger cooks. Several trays were ready
with hot stew, warm bread, and hot cider. The young servant girls each took a
tray into the hall. Jacoba offered Sarra a cup of hot broth. “The gels will take
care of your Da and companion. Drink this and I’ll take you to a fine
woman’s solar. It used to belong to the Lady Edith.”
Sarra took the cup and supped slowly. The broth was very deliciously
spiced and tasted wonderful. It was also a hot broth that she savored greedily.
She was indeed cold through to her bones. “The Lady Edith?”
“Aye, the pretty young wife of the Lord’s Heir, Sir William de
Warre,” Jacoba answered. “She were a fine lady, but so delicate. Tis a
tragedy for the little moppet to grow without the loving guidance of her Mama
and care of her Da.”
“The Lady Edith passed?” Sarra queried simply for conversation as
she enjoyed her cup of hot brew.
“Aye, the little moppet not more than two score den since birth,”
Jacoba sighed. “Lady Edith were delicate. She be too delicate for childbirth.
The poor lass never recovered from the child lay in.”
“Was her husband with her?” Sarra questioned. Why that question
popped into her mind she didn’t know, but the words were out of her mouth
before she knew it.
“No, tis makes the tale I tell even more sorrowful,” Jacoba related
enjoying the telling of it to the lady visitor. “Sir Wills was here for the birth
but left after the maiden child was presented to him. He looked at the child
and coldly told me to take it back to its mother for care. He had no interest in
a maiden child.”
Sarra arched her brow. It was an affectation everyone noticed. It was
a signal she was upset at some news. “How cruel!”
“Oh, his lordship isn’t cruel. He has a cold stone heart. He inherited it
from his Mamma, he did. She was a cold woman. The Earl suffered greatly
wed to the Lady Laurette.”
Sarra felt a concern for the innocent child. “What of the maiden child.
How old is she? What is her name? Does she still live at Keyes, or did her
mother’s family foster her?”
“Our little Lady Oriel lives here with us,” Jacoba smiled. “She is
strong like her Da, but sweet like her Mamma. The Earl dotes upon her and is
his delight. She is nearly six years in the king’s reign. Such a beautiful
adorable moppet she is.” Jacoba loved talking about the little Oriel.
Everyone in the castle keep adored her. She was also a spitfire who loved to
play pranks. Jacoba didn’t feel that was necessary to inform the visiting lady.
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“Come with me,” Jacoba invited. “I will take you to the solar. Marshal
Bouvier is sending your baggage there. Your Da will be sleeping in the solar
next to the great hall. Duns Bouvier will take him there after his hot meal.
Duns will see to it that servants are sent to light the hearth, warm the bed,
provide a hot bath, and help him to dress.”
“And my companion?”
“She will be brought to the solar after her meal,” Jacoba promised.
Sarra was led to the solar on the third floor of the castle keep. She was
pleased to see several servants bringing in hot water to a large tub for her bath.
Chambermaids were already unpacking her clothes and storing them properly.
Other maids were lighting a fire and putting fresh linens on the canopied bed.
The room appeared to recently have been cleaned and aired.
Several minutes later the servants left the room. Sarra eyed the tub
with the steaming water longingly. She began to disrobe when Jacoba insisted
upon assisting her.
Jacoba took Sarra’s fine linen braes folding them perfectly and placing
them upon the bed. “Would you have me wash your hair, milady?”
“Aye, that would be appreciated,” Sarra sighed slipping into the hot
water tub. The water was a perfect temperature. It was not to hot, but not
warm. Sarra noticed the soap offered for her bath and wrinkled her nose. She
was pleased she brought her lavender soap bars with her. “Jacoba, in my
small chest, the one with the rose carving, are bars of my soap. Would you
bring it to me?”
Jacoba cocked her head and thought for a moment about he lady’s
request. She had put soap out for her bath. She spotted the chest. Jacoba
moved swiftly to open it. She thought, why not retrieve the soap? It would
also give her an opportunity to placate her curiosity. What servant didn’t
enjoy looking at the belongings of a lady? It often revealed what the lady was
all about. Opening the chest she found wimples of the softest sheer fabrics,
several soft linen and silken braes, and there were the bars of soap. An aroma
of fragrant lavender rose from the chest and the surrounding fabrics. Jacoba
was astounded. The bars of soap smelled of fragrant lavender. The soap in
this castle was made with caustic lye and fat. It was a terrible aroma just to
get clean. “Milady, this soap is so fine. Your demesne must be wealthy
indeed to afford these luxuries from the merchants.”
Sarra choked back a chuckle. She was surprised that Jacoba was so
impressed with the soap. She was more surprised that Jacoba thought this
soap could only be purchased. Then she looked at the simple lye and fat soap
Jacoba had laid out for her bath. Perhaps this keep did not know the recipe for
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making fragrant soap. “Our demesne isn’t wealthy, Jacoba. We make the
fragranced soap?”
“Oh, such a treasure,” Jacoba sighed bringing Sarra the soap. “I truly
wish you could share this recipe with our soap maker.”
“If there is time,” Sarra promised. “I will show your soap maker.”
Jacoba rolled up her sleeves and dipped the soap in the tub. She took a
cup to fill with water and gently dipped Sarra’s head backward to wash her
hair.
Sarra was enjoying her hair washing when she sensed another presence
in the room.
Roese moved silently to Sarra’s chests and checked on the servants’
work of storing her ladies garments.
Sarra recognized the flash from the corner of her eye. “Roese, when I
am finished would you like to bathe?”
“Aye, that I would,” Roese answered instantly. Her clothes were dry,
but still had the unpleasant aroma of wet wool. She itched, felt filthy from the
road grime, and dearly wanted a bath.
Jacoba was rinsing Sarra’s hair when the new voice was heard.
“You’ve done well, Jacoba. I am so pleased with your hospitality in my
absence.”

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Chapter Two
William was grateful for the small, but clean hostelry. Walking to the
blazing fire he held out his hands to warm them. Lewis was already sitting at
a table drinking a large tankard of hot cider. “Keeper, bring me one of those.”
The keeper was thrilled to have the sodden knights as his guests. Few
people traveled during this time of year since it was just past Michaelmas and
the heavy rain didn’t help matters. To the innkeepers delight, his guests were
nobility. Berold rushed to do the knights bidding. In the kitchen he took the
cauldron with the warming cider and poured it into two tankards. “Mirabel,
how long until the trenchers are ready?”
“Not long, good husband,” Mirabel smiled sharing her husband’s
excitement at the travelers’ arrival. Not only were three royal knights here for
shelter, but also a small cavalcade would soon arrive. There was money to be
made on this day.
“Good man,” William complimented the innkeeper when Berold
handed him a tankard of hot cider. “Our cavalcade will arrive soon. I will be
responsible for their care. Is it possible to get a hot bath?”
Berold nodded his head up and down. The knight would pay for food
and drinks of an entire cavalcade. How fortunate. “Mirabel will heat water
and I will prepare your bath after your trencher.”
“Good man,” William appreciated. “A woman named Elena will be
arriving with my cavalcade. Feed her and send her to my room when the bath
is prepared. She is...ah… my personal servant.”
Berold again nodded his head with excitement. He knew what the
knight was inferring. It was not for him to say yea or nay. He would be
getting a great deal of money.
Mirabel brought in the trenchers, served William, Lewis, and Gaston.
She quickly returned to the kitchen to prepare more trenchers for men at arms,
squires, and camp followers. She expected at least a dozen more guests.
They had plenty of food and now they would have a substantial income to last
over the winter months.
The cavalcade arrived. The hostel was too small for an additional
twelve people. Berold put the squires and men at arms in the stables and
served them trenchers. The two women and a young boy they put in the
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hostel with the knights. Berold asked which one was Elena. When she
identified herself, he gave her a trencher before the other two and the boy. He
whispered to her that the tallest and handsomest of the knights would be
waiting for her after his meal. He explained to Elena that he was to bring up
hot water for a bath. She was to assist the great knight with his bath.
Elena smiled. She accepted the trencher and ate slowly. She had
plenty of time until the bath water would be ready. She had become
William’s favorite light skirt. She was grateful. William was a generous
lover and she could actually save some coin. She wanted a better life for her
young son. It wasn’t his fault his father was killed in the king’s service as a
man at arms. Her Gilbert had nothing except his pay in the army. He knew
they shouldn’t wed, but they loved each other. She really had no one except a
sister and brother in law that made her feel like a burden. When Gilbert was
killed she had nothing except the babe he left growing within her. She loved
her son, but living with her sister became impossible. There wasn’t a day that
went by that didn’t have her brother in law complaining about not only the
burden of a useless sister, but now a child. The decision to leave occurred
when her brother in law trapped her in the field and tried to rape her as
payment for her living with them. If she were to become a prostitute she
would be paid for it. It wasn’t too bad a life. She pleased the knights and they
paid well. Her son, Paulin was a good boy. He was quiet and stayed with
Beata or Gunora when she was working. The three women found each other
at the same camp not too long ago. They became friends and stayed with each
other finding only the most noble of knights to offer their services. Beata was
the favorite of Hubard, a man of arms in attendance to William de Warre and
was returning to Keyes Castle. Hubard wanted to remain at the castle keep.
Beata was hinting that she and Hubard would wed and both would remain
there. Elena was happy for Beata. It meant she would work at her plan to
remain at Keyes Castle. How fortunate this weather brought her to William’s
bed before they arrived at Keyes Castle.
***

Elena used the soap and rag to wash William thoroughly. Currently
she was massaging his back with soapy hot water.
William enjoyed Elena’s machinations completely. Elena was one of
the best light skirts he had relations with. She rarely spoke and more
importantly took a tea of pennyroyal every morning. William did not want
any bastards from his dalliance. He already had a maiden child from his wife.
What was the child’s name? He had forgotten. He hadn’t been back to Keyes
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Castle since the death of his wife, Edith. Prince John needed every knight
possible for his foray into battle with the French. William was willing and
eager to get away from the responsibility of Keyes Castle. Besides, what was
he going to do with a maiden babe? His brother, Henry left with him leaving
his younger brothers, Andrew and Edward at Keyes. Andrew left a year later
for his last year of training before becoming a knight, and Edward left as
Squire to Sir Leofric near Wales.
William rose from the tub. Elena brought his cloth and assisted in
drying. Soon William took Elena’s hands and kissed them. In a moment his
lips were upon hers as his hands deftly removed her gown, tunic, chemise, and
braes. His hands were soon fondling Elena’s ample breasts as he moved her
nearer to the pallet. He laid her gently upon the pallet and commanded,
“Open for me.”
Elena was obedient. She sighed as William slid his sword into her wet
and warm sheath. Elena palmed William’s broad shoulders in synchrony to
William’s physical movements as he eased his sword in and out to the need of
his release. Soon he would have his ease. She was enjoying the sexual tryst.
How fortunate for her that William was not only a generous lover, but also a
handsome one and a pleasure giver.
William roared with his pleasure and release. He enjoyed Elena’s
body for his physical need, but he always felt there was something missing.
He could never figure out what it was. She was certainly more pleasurable
than his wife had been. Edith had been completely unresponsive to his need.
She even cried whenever he entered her. She bemoaned how painful it was.
Could that have been true? She was never wet and ready for him. How they
created a child he would never understand. What was the babe’s name? He
should remember? Shouldn’t he? He refocused his attention to Elena. She
had moved to the side allowing room for his massive body on the pallet. Of
course she would sleep with him this evening. He was still cold to his bones
from their travel. The exercise had warmed him, yet he wanted to be warm all
night in this skimpy pallet.
“Ah, Elena,” William sighed. “You are a good Leman.” He rolled to
his side extending his arm to fondle her breasts. He waited for her to
compliment him as a lover. She usually did. He waited. He waited for
sometime. She gave no response. “Elena?”
“Wot?” Elena questioned distractedly.
“Something is weighing heavily on your mind?” Again there was no
response. “You are worried for Paulin? Is he ailing?”
Elena shrugged. “No, Paulin is well.”
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Again came the silence. This was beginning to unnerve William.
Elena was usually happy, gay, and talkative. William turned her to face him.
“Is something ailing you? You are not with,” William hesitated. He could
barely say the words. “You are not breeding?” It would be his bastard if she
were breeding. He really did not want any bastards.
Finally he saw a smile cross Elena’s lips. He took a breath in relief.
“No, I am not breeding. I do not want a bastard child either,” Elena
responded. “I was just thinking.”
“Share with me your thoughts,” William offered cheerfully. He was
relieved what ever was bothering Elena was not his bastard. To his dismay
Elena’s countenance once again turned serious.
“I have been thinking of my future and of Paulin’s future.”
“Surely the coin I give you is better than most,” William suggested in
confusion. Why would she worry about a future now?
“Aye, you are generous,” Elena agreed. “Still, this is not the future for
the rest of my life and I want to give Paulin a more secure home.”
“You are still young and attractive,” William complimented. “Why
worry now? When you are older, Paulin will be a man and off on his own.”
“Then wot will I have? Wot will I have given him?” Elena sighed
sadly. “I want and need a place to stay. I do not like wandering about. Wot
of you? Will you not be staying at Keyes Castle? Your men at arms seem to
think this will be the future.”
“My father is ailing. That does not mean I will be taking over Keyes
Castle. I have finished my obligations to King John. What my future will be
is still uncertain. I do not wish to return to London Court. I do not wish to
take over the responsibility of the Earldom. What started this thinking?”
“Beata will be staying at Keyes Castle. She is to wed one of your men
at arms. It is my dream to live in one place with my son,” Elena replied
quietly. Her emotions were barely in control. It was something she really
wanted. She held her breath and hoped Sir William would allow her to
continue.
“You desire to wed?” William questioned. He was curious about this
new side of Elena.
“No. My lost good man was my true love. Unlike Beata I have not
yet met another to make my heart sing. What I want is an honorable place in a
nobleman’s keep. I desire a way to make a simple but happy living. I need
just enough to provide my son with a quiet warm place to sleep every night
and food in his belly every day. This is wot I desire.”

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William stroked Elena’s long brown hair. “If you really desire this life
I will see to it that you obtain a position in Keyes Castle.”
Elena brightened. Her face glowed with a warm smile. “You will do
this for me?”
“You truly want this? You are a talented leman,” William chuckled
twirling a lock of her hair.
“Aye, m’lord. I truly want this.” Elena was elated. If anyone could
procure her a position in the castle, it would be the old lord’s heir, Sir
William.
“Then you shall have your dream,” William promised. It was a simple
task that he could easily take care of. With Elena in the castle, he could still
use her services when needed. It was not unusual for a lord to use the servants
in such a manner. Especially use a comely wench such as Elena Foster. He
felt Elena’s warmth near his body. Once again he placed his arm across her
and began fondling her breasts. He was extremely tired. In moments he was
sound asleep.
***

“I refuse to leave until the rain stops,” Casse snapped angrily stomping
her foot. Her father and mother had stopped at a nearby fief manor when the
heavy rains began. After several days of heavy raining the downpour turned
into a light mist.
“The rain has eased,” Crispin cajoled. It had taken him the better half
of the morning to convince his wife they must leave the manor. He promised
her more jewelry and fine cloths. He knew Olive would still not cooperate
unless his daughter Casse agreed. Casse would be more difficult. It was his
fault. Casse was so beautiful, that even as a child she merely had to look
softly at any man and he would give her anything she asked. He certainly had
given her everything he could. He nearly bankrupt his own demesne to
provide Casse her wants. He was putty in her hands as was any man. Yet, he
feared his liege lord. Edmond had commanded his family to Keyes Castle
posthaste. It was a long journey from Tomes Castle. They were still three
days from Keyes Castle. The weather had made Crispin long for the shelter
and comforts of such a large castle as Keyes. He also had little money to
spare for hostels and food for his caravan, since most of his money he had left
would be used to buy more pretty things for his wife and daughter. He was
worried about the return trip home. He doubted he would have any money
left for food and shelter. He would have to borrow from Sir Edmond. That
wouldn’t be very good either since his demesne had little money. A very sad
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state of affairs since this Michaelmas was only a few weeks ago. The older
his daughter became, the deeper in debt was his demesne. He would cut more
corners. There was nothing else to be done. “Our Liege Lord has
commanded us to Keyes Castle. We must continue.”
Casse’s eyes turned cold. “You care more for Lord Edmond? I
thought you cared more for me. How can you expose me to this horrid trip?
Why did Lord Edmond even call you to his castle? Why bring me? What
does he want? Of what purpose is this misery to me?”
Crispin was immediately contrite. “There are no answers to these
questions. I have asked myself over and over again. No one is more troubled
than I to bring you and your Mere on this journey. I can tell you nothing other
than I suffer in my heart for answering my Lord’s missive. I must however
answer to my lord.”
Casse rolled her eyes. There was only her world and her comfort. She
could never comprehend her father’s cowing to this Baron. Who was he
compared to her? “Then you continue on, alone.”
Crispin finally had a counter to use for accomplishing Edmond’s
command. “Daughter, what will you do here alone? There are no merchants
or fairs. This hostel is nothing compared to a fine castle such as Keyes. There
you will have merchants with fine silks, damasks, and velvets. There will be
jewelers. All of them will be vying to offer their wares to a beautiful woman,
my daughter.”
Casse smiled. Of course merchants! Her vanity had been touched.
She had heard of Keyes Castle. It was wealthy and large. Many merchants
and tradesmen lived in the keep or bailey. There would be many more
choices to be made. Perhaps they would go to London. How she wanted to
go to London. Keyes Castle wasn’t that far away from Westminster. It was
only three or four days. “Of course, Pere. You must obey your Lord de
Warre.”
Olive and Casse huddled in the covered cart. They were covered with
warm fur robes. Crispin rode on his horse in the misting rain.
At least it was not pouring rain. The servants walked along side the
horse pulled cart. Two knights rode in the front of the cart and four men of
arms walked behind the cart.
“Have you been to Keyes Castle, Mere? Is it truly as large a keep as I
have heard it to be?”
“Aye, I have been there once. It was before you were born. I was
coming from London. I had been a lady in waiting for the queen. King Henry
betrothed me to your father and sent me with escort. We passed through
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Keyes Castle. The keep is large and wealthy,” Olive sighed. “It is beautiful
to remember.”
“Are there many merchants and tradesman in the keep and nearby?”
Casse inquired.
“It has been nearly a score since I visited the castle keep, but even then
there were plenty,” Olive smiled. “We will have many choices to shop.”
Casse was pleased, but curiosity still plagued her. “Do you know why
Pere was called to Lord de Warre’s castle?”
Olive shook her head. “I even read the missive. It commanded your
father to bring us to Keyes Castle with post haste. That is what the missive
stated and nothing more. It did truly confound your Pere. Lord Edmond has
never called us before. This time of year calling for an audience is also rare
for the problems with weather and traveling.” Olive trembled slightly. “Our
keep has not been prosperous of late. I hope we are not called to count. Our
castle and keep are relatively small in comparison to Keyes, but we are
comfortable.”
“I still would like to see all that is not available to me,” Casse
remarked. She was thinking of all the luxury and wealth she would enjoy.
She smirked a little. She should have thought of all this wealth when her Pere
first told her they would have to leave their little world.

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Chapter Three
A tall woman stood in the solar. She offered Sarra a warm friendly
face. “I regret not meeting you upon your arriving at Keyes Castle and seeing
to your needs. Unfortunately the servants find numerous places to hide and
play when I am attending mass and the Lord takes his rest.”
Sarra felt comfortable in the woman’s presence. She was dressed well,
but not the jewels, materials, and wimple of a lady. Instead she wore
comfortable linen clothing of muted earth colors and a linen wimple. Sarra
had never recalled seeing a woman of such height. This woman was taller
than most villeins. Sarra returned a warm smile, “You must be Christofre.”
“Aye, that would be myself,” Christofre answered walking into the
solar.
“I was told you are the ruling lady of Keyes Castle,” Sarra remarked
relaxing back in the tub and running her fragrant soap down her arm.
“That would not be a truth,” Christofre denied. “Tis true I rule the
kitchens, but have had little training in the running of a demesne or castle.
Truly it has been only time and again when this castle did not have a lady
ruling it. None I liked overly much, and none that would take time to instruct
me in such lessons.”
“I heard the Lord de Warre has a petite fille. I heard the enfant lives
here and is not being fostered. Does this mean the enfant is not receiving
training from a lady?” Sarra questioned. Her curiosity always had been more
powerful than common sense and courtesy. “Is there no one to train the
servants in courtesy, serving, responsibility, and accounting?” That was
incredible to Sarra. She had been trained for running a castle since she could
walk. Sarra and her sister Sabina had the king’s best instructor, their mother.
Christofre offered Sarra a bright smile. She had been taken into Lord
Edmond’s confidence. Christofre knew that Lord Edmond had sent for two
ladies, one to be chosen as his eldest son’s wife.
Oriel had been in a particularly dangerous situation. They found her
walking the parapets at night. Lord Edmond could not discipline his beloved
granddaughter, even when she placed her life in danger. He realized Oriel
needed a lady’s hand. She needed to be trained in the fine arts of being a
woman. That was something he simply could not do. Oriel needed a mother,

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and he determined Wills needed a wife. It was about time Wills learned his
duties as Baron of Sussex.
Lord Edmond had hoped Wills marriage to Lady Edith would produce
offspring and an heir. He had forced William to marry Lady Edith believing
her quiet gentle nature would suit him. His nature was cold, removed, and
strong. Instead he watched Edith cower in his son’s presence. The lady
feared her husband. It was said Lady Edith died from fear after delivering
William a daughter instead of a son. His son did not even visit his wife after
birthing Oriel. When William was told it was a female enfant, he told the
servant to return it to its mother. He had no interest in it. He remained only a
few days after Lady Edith died. He saw to her burial and left for a battle
somewhere in France. Wills often wrote missives to his father. Lord Edmond
usually knew where his son could be located if needed. William was needed,
now! Oriel needed her father and a mother. Keyes Castle needed heirs, and
most definitely Keyes Castle needed a lady to run the castle. Even the
servants were now complaining about the state of Keyes Castle. The women
previously running the castle were not well liked, but there definitely had been
a more organized management. Christofre was capable of learning under
proper tutelage, but she really wasn’t interested. At the time, Lord Edmond
had no desire to take another wife. The one chosen for him had been his
nightmare long enough to last a lifetime. It was also the reason he selected a
simple and gentle woman like Edith for William. This time he brought two
women for William to choose. The women were chosen for their ages and
inheritance. He wanted to see them with his son before he made a decision, or
allowed his son to make a decision. He had heard of Edith’s quiet gentle
nature. He was wrong to pair his son with her. He didn’t know how timid
Edith was. This time he wanted to watch interaction with not only his son, but
also his beloved Oriel.
Christofre was pleased Sarra had inquired about Oriel’s training. That
was the first plus for Sarra in Christofre’s mind. Education was important to
Sarra. The little girl she had not yet met, was important to Sarra.
“There is no lady available for training our precious, Oriel,” Christofre
replied. “One is needed. Oriel has reached the age to begin training.”
“You could foster her,” Sarra suggested rising from the tub. She
reached for the towels to dry her body. Jacoba was there to assist her. Roese
brought a clean soft chemise tunic and gown for her lady. Soon it would be
time for the dinner meal.
Christofre drew in her breath. “No, milady. We adore her. I can’t
imagine life in Keyes Castle without her. She is such a happy child and so
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energetic. She is so much like her Pere when he was a boy. The Lord
Edmond surely would not give up the light of his life.”
A paradox, Sarra thought. He won’t foster the child but he is having
problems with her already. “Why did not Lord Edmond take another wife?”
That remark made Christofre laugh heartily. “Lord Edmond swore an
oath that one wife in his life had been more than enough. Never again would
he allow a pretty face and young body muddle his brain.”
“Then he should find an ugly old wife with a good spirit,” Sarra
suggested in wit.
“He swore no wife ever again,” Christofre countered, “but he should
have thought of those possibilities. Perhaps it is not too late. I think I shall
suggest it, or perhaps you might when you meet his lordship this evening at
the table.” Christofre assisted Sarra with her gown and tunic. It was a lovely
dark blue velvet tunic covering the lighter blue bliaut with tight fitting sleeves.
The tunic was decorated on the neck and trumpet sleeves with intricate silver
embroidery of leaves and flowers. She left her hair unbound, but Roese
covered it with a sheer wimple held in place with a simple circlet of silver.
Sarra was not a raving beauty. Her simplicity radiated an inner beauty
that enhanced her average appearance.
Christofre had been immediately impressed that Sarra showed concern
for the child, Oriel. Christofre was extremely talented in sizing up character
and this Sarra was approved as a potential mother. Christofre liked Sarra right
off. “I must return to the kitchens and prepare for the meal to be served. I
will see you anon.”
“I hope you will avail yourself tomorrow to show me the castle
operations and servants?” Sarra asked hopefully. She felt comfortable with
Christofre and Jacoba just meeting them. How strange that the Lord of a
Castle like Keyes would not take a lady wife and still no lady to handle the
castle when he had talented people like Jacoba and Christofre to assist.
***
A short while later Roese and Sarra descended the main staircase to
the hall for dinner. The great hall was filled with knights, men at arms,
squires and pages. It was a surprise from when it was so empty upon their
arrival. There were women about the hall, but they were servants and most of
them were attempting to serve the food while dodging the groping hands of
the men. The squires were going to and fro looking for the butler’s wines and
ales.
Sarra determined that if she were lady of the house she would have the
tankards filled before the pantry opened with the hot breads and creamy
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butter. The butler should have his men running before the meal started with
casks of wine and ale to fill the urns of the squires. She pushed the thoughts
out of her mind. That is the way she ran Mondel Castle. This was none of her
business. She spotted her father at the high table sitting next to an extremely
tall and handsome older man. That had to be Lord Edmond by her father’s
description of him. Lord Edmond was tall muscular and a handsome man. At
his age it would still be easy for him to turn a woman’s heart. He had strong
Roman features with a chiseled brow, classic nose, strong cheekbones, and
square chin. His hair was still blond with only the sides turning gray.
Reimond motioned for his daughter to sit next to him. Roese left her ladies
side to sit at a table with Jacoba.
“This is my daughter, Sarra,” Reimond introduced proudly. His
daughter was his delight and pride. She reminded him of his beloved wife,
Joy in looks and action. She ran his castle manor not only efficiently, but also
prosperously. Mondel Castle never lacked for food, necessities, or assistance.
Lord Edmond rose to his full height and offered his arm to Sarra. He
must be over six feet tall and quite muscular. “Come sit next to me. I should
like to talk with you.”
It was then Sarra noted a little Cherubic face sitting next to Lord
Edmond peering at her with curiosity. The Cherub’s face was creamy white
and without blemish. Her hair was long and golden the color of fresh straw.
Her eyes were brilliant blue almost sparkling like the gem sapphire. Her
cheeks were a rosy and healthy pink.
“I should be honored, my lord,” Sarra returned gracefully taking Lord
Edmond’s extended arm and then addressed the adorable little face. “May I
take a place next to you? Milady?”
The little cherub looked puzzled and then pointed to her chest. “You
are addressing me? A lady?”
“Of course,” Sarra replied. “May I take a seat near you?”
The little golden brows furrowed. “I am no lady and Grandpere invited
you. Sit!”
Sarra raised a brow but held back her chuckle. “Thank you, you are
most gracious.”
The little cherub looked at her grandfather. “What is gray shush? Is
that bad? Have I been bad again?”
Sarra bit her lip to stop a smile and laugh.
Lord Edmond lifted his granddaughter onto his lap. “No my little
moppet. Gracious means you are nice.”

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The little girl bent her head and put a finger to her mouth. “I try to be
nice.”
“Of course you do,” Sarra cooed. “I am Lady Sarra. What is your
name little moppet?”
The cherub looked up and gave Sarra a wide smile. “I am Oriel. This
is my Grandpere. We live here in Keyes Castle. My Grandpere is a great
lord.”
“Aye, your Grandpere is a great lord. I am delighted to make your
acquaintance, Lady Oriel,” Sarra stated extending her hand in greeting.
Oriel took Sarra’s hand. She looked up again at her grandfather.
“Lady Sarra called me Lady Oriel.”
Before Edmond could respond, Sarra said, “Indeed you are the Lady of
Keyes Castle. Tis time you know it and take your responsibility quite
seriously.”
This time Oriel looked at Sarra with question in her eyes, but she did
not speak. She was thinking about what Sarra had said. Her thoughts quickly
changed when a trencher was brought to the table. Being a child was difficult
work and she was hungry.
Lord Edmond engaged Sarra in conversation as he cut pieces of meat,
vegetable, and potato for Oriel. “Your Pere sings your praises on running
Mondel Castle. I was wondering if you might work with our servants during
your sojourn here. Our castle runs, but not well. It could do with a Lady’s
hand of experience. Would you help?”
“Mon Pere is of course prejudiced of course, but I would be happy to
offer my assistance. I do hope you will aide me, Oriel. I must learn all the
servants names and places in the castle,” Sarra offered.
Oriel stopped eating and answered with a mouth full of meat pie, “I
will on the morrow. Grandpere usually sees me to my pallet after dinner. He
says I am too young to stay up for the frolic after the meal.”
Again Sarra bit back her laughter. This child was adorable and quite
precocious. “I find I am quite weary myself. I should find my pallet early this
evening.” Sarra’s mind was already working on things that needed righting in
Keyes Castle. The food was delicious but would have been better if served
hot. Her meal was warm when she received it and nearly cold by the time she
finished it. The cider wasn’t warm and she imagined the ale was barely warm
as well. Her first change in Keyes Castle would be the serving of the meal.
Sarra watched the servants clean the tables to prepare for entertainment and
knew that would be the second change. The table cloths were unnecessarily
soiled even more than usual and the waste of food was disturbing. Sarra also
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never allowed any animals in Mondel’s Great Hall. Dogs especially left
unhealthy messes not counting fleas. If there was a hound man she would see
to it he built a kennel for the dogs until needed for a hunt. If Keyes Castle did
not have a hound man, they would have in the morning. Lord Edmond
disturbed her thoughts.
“Lady Sarra,” Edmond hailed motioning her with one hand. His other
hand held tightly to Oriel’s little hand. “Would you join us? We are taking
our Oriel to her Solar.”
Sarra looked to her father. She had barely spoken to him during the
meal.
“Go,” Reimond ordered. He was proud of his daughter. Lord Edmond
had shared his plans with Reimond earlier. He was certain his daughter, Sarra
would be the new Lady of Keyes. No one was as perfect for such a high
position as his Sarra.
Oriel ignored Sarra’s offered hand. After all, she didn’t know this lady
and her life had been wrapped around her grandfather. There was no one else
in her world. The only exception had been Christofre. She adored her.
Mainly it was a special game every day to see how far she could push
Christofre, or what impish prank she could play on Christofre or some
scullery maid. Sometimes she would pull pranks on the servants and rarely
she could manage to pull a prank on one of the knights or men at arms. She
was also rarely caught playing a prank on a knight. She was extraordinarily
careful about getting caught with knight pranks. At such a young age she had
already made it clear in her mind her reasons for plaguing Christofre. The
straight-faced strict woman actually had a great sense of humor and put limits
down for her to follow. Christofre was the only one that put limits down.
Oriel appreciated that. No one else dare tried to contain her in any way. Her
grandfather loved her too much to restrict her.
Sarra wasn’t upset that Oriel didn’t take her hand. She understood she
was the stranger in the house and Oriel didn’t know her that well. They
walked the staircase to a solar on the second floor. Sarra’s solar was on the
third floor. Climbing the stairs Sarra was pondering the invitation by Lord
Edmond to assist him in bidding Oriel goodnight. Why would he ask her? He
wanted a Lady’s influence? What good would her influence accomplish in a
short stay. Of course men thought little of futures. Men seemed only to focus
on the present and current needs. The exception to such short sightedness was
that of fortifying the castle and keep.
Arriving at the solar Edmond stood silently. He waited for a man at
arms standing next to a larger door on the opposite side of the hall.
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The man at arms walked briskly forward to open the oak door.
Lord Edmond led Oriel inside. Sarra followed.
Sarra’s eyes rounded in surprise. She had never seen a solar such as
this. The windows were made of Venetian glass letting in the beauty of a full
moon’s light. The moon illuminated an embrasure with a thick goose
feathered velvet blue pillow. The bed was gigantic with blue velvet bed
curtains, a huge down filled mattress covered with fine white linens and deep
blue velvet covers lined with rabbit fur. There were finely woven tapestries of
mystical unicorns and champion knights. In the corner were ornate armoires,
chests, and chairs. The chairs had blue silk cushions. A wooden horse on
wheels stood proud in one corner. Sarra noticed rabbit furs on the floor
sharing space with assorted toys. Her room at Mondel Castle was
comfortable, but nothing compared to this decadent and luxurious solar. To
the right Sarra noticed a closed off area used for a latrine. A large brass tin
tub was offset in another corner. A carved wooden screen separated the tin
tub from the open room offering a modicum of privacy.

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Chapter Four
Two male servants appeared carrying four buckets of hot water. They
walked to the tin tub and poured. Two female servants appeared with two
buckets of cold water that they added to the tub.
“Your bath is prepared,” Lord Edmond said to Oriel lovingly. “I’ll
take Lady Sarra on a short tour of our family floor while you bathe and
prepare for bed. We’ll be back to hear your prayers and tuck you into bed.”
“Aye, Grandpere,” Oriel returned with the same tone of love and
devotion. She obediently walked to the female servants setting down her
nightclothes and cloths for washing and drying.
Edmond turned to Sarra and offered his arm for her hand. “Come and
see our family level. Tell me what you think.”
Again Sarra pondered the oddity of Lord Edmond’s words. Why show
the family level to her? What would it matter to Lord Edmond?
Lord Edmond led her to a larger door across the hall from Oriel’s
chambers. “This belongs to my eldest son. It faces the northern winds. You
might find it a bit chilly for it.”
The man at arms opened the door.
Sarra was indeed blasted with a chilly draft entering the room. The
chilly draft was quickly traced to the ill fitted window. The window could
quickly be repaired be a skilled carpenter. The shutters also looked as if they
needed repair. At Mondel castle she had also been faced with the problem of
a chilly northern solar. She had velvet draperies with silk linings placed over
the window. It was held in place by a large rod over the window casement.
During the winter months the shutters were closed and the draperies pulled
across the shutters providing two barriers for chilly winds. The bed was also
misplaced. The footboard faced the window. She would have that bed moved
closer to the hearth and the length would face the window casement and be
further away. She noted there was no bed warming pots or stones. Perhaps
the Lord’s eldest son preferred the cold. She hoped he didn’t make his first
wife sleep there. The room was sparsely furnished. It was completely
opposite of Oriel’s room. The bed had linen bed curtains, linen bed sheets,
and a fur coverlet. The walls had decorations of swords, battle-axes, and
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shields. It was a cold room even without the drafts. She shivered at the
thought of any woman sleeping in this room.
“Shall I get you a mantle?” Lord Edmond quizzed in concern. He
noted Sarra’s shiver.
“No, we shan’t be here long,” Sarra excused rubbing her arms.
“Of course,” Lord Edmond agreed. He walked to the door but
hesitated. “If this were your solar, what would you do with it?”
What an odd question. Sarra saw no reason not to respond. “I would
send for a carpenter to repair the window casement and shutters. I would
curtain the window embrasure. The bed should be moved lengthwise to the
northern wall and closer to the hearth. A warming pot and stones would be
nice. The room could do with some furniture such as a table and comfortable
chairs by the hearth. Perhaps it might use an armoire or two and a few chests.
The bed curtains, linens, and coverlet might improve a mood with different
materials. I would prefer gold velvet with white silk lining on the curtains. A
velvet gold coverlet lined with furs and filled with down would be very nice
indeed. I of course would allot the swords, axes, and shields to the main hall.
The walls would be covered with finely woven tapestries.”
Lord Edmond smiled broadly. “Good! I expect it completed in a day
or two.”
“What?” Sarra gasped.
“This old castle needs some finer touches. While you are here with
your father, would you find it so difficult?” Lord Edmond asked.
Sarra knew one did not gainsay a Baron. The Baron expected her to
do this. She would happily. Sarra liked keeping busy. As long as she was
here why shouldn’t she keep busy doing things she enjoyed doing. “Of course
it would not be difficult. I would be delighted to accept this task.”
“Wonderful!” Lord Edmond exclaimed. “We will next visit my solar.
You must tell me what you think of it.”
Sarra could find no fault with Lord Edmond’s chamber. It was quite
cozy and comfortable. The bed was set high on three levels above the floor.
The curtains were dark purple velvet. The bed was near the hearth. There
was a large ornately carved armoire; several large chests, a carved wooden
table, several comfortable chairs, and the walls did have tapestries depicting
flower gardens, woods, and the Castle Keyes in a landscape. The room was
well suited and warm for the Lord of the castle.
“Your solar is lovely,” Sarra commented. “And quite comfortable.
How long has it been since your good wife had passed on?” The change in

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Lord Edmond’s demeanor changed quickly. His body stiffened. A look came
upon him. Sarra could only describe it as grim.
“The Lady Laurette has been gone nearly a score years,” Lord Edmond
said quietly.
Sarra studied Lord Edmond. He showed no emotion. His face was
inscrutable. She wondered if the ladies memory brought sorrow. How would
she know unless she asked? Fortunately she did not ask. She remembered
Christofre saying she didn’t care for any of the ladies of Castle Keyes. How
many ladies had there been? There had been Lord Edmond’s wife, Lady
Laurette. There was also Oriel’s mother. Were there any others? It didn’t
really matter she supposed. Still the solar was comfortable. It was neither too
masculine nor too feminine. Had the solar remained this comfortable after
score years? His son’s room was stark and overly masculine. His wife had
only passed on four or five years ago. Sarra stopped her thinking. None of
this mattered to her. Her curiosity was a troubling side of her she simply
could not control at times. She followed Lord Edmond down the hall and
showed her the other rooms used by his other three sons when they returned to
Castle Keyes from their adventures or training.
Sarra listened intently to Lord Edmond speak with great pride of his
younger sons, Henry, Andrew, and Edward. Again her mind queried why he
spoke so little of his eldest son, Wills. Lord Edmond identified him but didn’t
speak about Wills like he was talking about his other sons.
“I have perhaps worn you out with all my stories,” Lord Edmond
chuckled. He noted Sarra’s attention was wandering beyond his tales of
Henry, Andrew, and Edward. Reimond had told him she was observant, and
she seemed to be observing. “Our Oriel must be ready for her prayers. Let us
tuck my angel into bed.”
Although it was bold, the question slipped from Sarra’s lips before she
thought about it. “You love Oriel very much, don’t you?”
Edmond smiled broadly. “Oriel is my life. She keeps me young and
fulfilled. She reminds me so much of my eldest son at the same age. He too
was a bright and happy child.” The memories of Laurette shrouded Edmond’s
thoughts once again. His wife had been so jealous of his love for Wills she
took him over completely. Wills changed from that happy child to a cold self-
contained hollow shell of humanity. He walked rather briskly to Oriel’s solar.
He needed to see his darling granddaughter immediately. Her warm and
loving smile always dissolved those sad memories of his life with Laurette.
Oriel was waiting in the bed for her grandfather. Her skin was still
pink from her bath. Her hair was tucked neatly under a silk bed cap. Her
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nightdress was white silk. Her eyes blue eyes sparkled a warm loving
greeting to her grandfather when he entered her solar.
Edmond sat on the side of her bed and took her hand. “Blessings my
Oriel. Let us say our prayers together. He took her hand and brushed her
knuckles across his lips offering a sweet kiss.
Sarra was deeply moved by the affection these two obviously had for
each other. She watched as the two quietly spoke soft words of prayer. Lord
Edmond’s great masculinity and power showed the little girl only gentleness
Sarra would have believed impossible for such a great Baron, lord, and knight.
Edmond rose to his full height by Oriel’s bedside. “Now you must
close your eyes and sleep for Grandpere.”
Oriel obediently shut her eyes. “I have sweet dreams because my
Grandpere tells me so.”
Sarra smiled at the little girl’s words. She was touched deeply.
Should she have a daughter she hoped she would be as sweet and beautiful as
the little angel before her. It was impossible to believe this cherub was a trial
as hinted by Christofre.
Lord Edmond once again placed Sarra’s hand upon his arm and led her
out of the solar, down the stairs, and returned to the Great Hall. “We have
some entertainments planned in honor of you and your father.”
The hall was filled in stark contrast compared to her arrival. Currently
musicians were playing for entertainment. It turned into a long night. She
wanted to speak with Christofre, but could not find her the entire evening until
she left the great hall and walked toward the staircase leading to her solar on
the third floor. She watched Christofre and Lord Edmond walking up those
stairs engaged in deep conversation. What was that about?

***
Sarra awoke with a start. The light of the sun was already shining
through her window. How could she have slept so late? The entertainment
last night had been fun. She had danced with her father and Lord Edmond.
The difference between her arrival to a nearly empty hall and this filled and
lively party was as different as day and night. She was very tired when she
finally went to her guest solar. There was so much work to be done today.
Last night she had met the castle carpenter and gave him specific instructions
for the repair of the windows and shutter. She had told him about the rod she
wanted made to hang over the window embrasure. The carpenter promised he
would begin the work at first light.

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Sarra pulled off the bedcover and swung her feet over the side of the
bed. Her heart nearly stopped when a face suddenly appeared from the side of
her bed.
“Good Morn,” Oriel bubbled. “Did you sleep well? We are about to
break the fast. Grandpere sent me to your solar to wake you. I don’t
understand why Grandpere likes you. He doesn’t like any femme, except
maybe Christofre. All of this is strange. Why are you here?”
Sarra held back her laughter. What a precocious child. So many
questions in one breath. “I slept quite well, thank you. It is all very strange to
me as well. I am here with my father, Lord Reimond Albyn.”
“What is your Pere doing here?” Oriel questioned pursing lips as she
asked her immediate thought.
“Your Grandpere, Lord Edmond, commanded him here and requested
I accompany him,” Sarra answered rising and selecting a warm woolen blue
bliaut to wear over her white linen chemise.
“Why?”
“I have no answer for that,” Sarra replied tying the laces on the sides
of her bliaut. “Perhaps you might ask such of your Grandpere or Lord
Reimond.”
“Perhaps I shall,” Oriel said thoughtfully placing her forefinger upon
her lips. “It is most unusual you see, to have ladies invited to Castle Keyes.”
“Really?”
“Oh my Aye,” Oriel stated in confidence. “Grandpere distrusts ladies.
All know this.”
Sarra finished pulling on her stockings and put soft slippers on her
feet. “I would learn much about Castle Keyes from you. First thing to do
though is eat a good meal. Shall we go?”
Entering the great hall Oriel headed toward her grandfather. Lord
Edmond saw her arriving and opened his arms wide for her. Oriel leaped into
his open arms. He placed her on his lap. He began offering Oriel a collection
of potatoes, vegetables, and fowl.
Sarra took a seat next to her father. “Did you sleep well?”
“My quarters are quite comfortable. I slept very well. Castle Keyes is
most impressive for guests,” Reimond responded. “Surely you cannot tell me
you are uncomfortable here?”
“Only our welcome,” Sarra reminded. “Yet, I have a feeling that our
presence here has not been revealed.”
“It has,” Reimond stated simply. He returned to his trencher and ale.

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Sarra’s curiosity was aroused. “You know why we were sent for?
Tell me? There is no war, no battle, no siege, and no summons or argument
from King John.”
Reimond looked directly into Sarra’s eyes when he answered. “The
summons is for a personal matter.” He turned and returned to his trencher.
That raised Sarra’s brow. Her father was never one to speak
enigmatically. The father she knew was open and at times embarrassingly
blunt. “Indeed!”
There was only one thing to do this morning. She would concentrate
on matters at hand. Her first objective was to discuss the serving of the meal
with Christofre. She was tired of warm and cold meals. She spotted
Christofre in the kitchen when she passed by the butlery.
Sarra rose quickly. In moments she was in Christofre’s efficient
kitchen. The room was clean, filled with delicious aromas. Scullery maids,
wafer makers, bakers, and cooks. All were about working together
congruously. Christofre was offering instructions on occasion, but everyone
seemed to know what she expected of them.
Christofre watched Sarra entering her kitchen and wondered what it
was about. She greeted Lady Sarra. “Have you need of something?”
Sarra returned Christofre’s warm smile. “Aye, I need your assistance.
I can’t help but notice how efficient your kitchens are. Yet, the serving is
lacking. I was wondering if I might offer you a suggestion at serving we use
at Mondel Castle.”
“If you desire to change the serving, do so. You are a lady. I am not.
I choose to stay in my kitchens and not stretch too far out.”
Sarra thought she might have offended Christofre. “I only meant to
offer a suggestion.”
Christofre smiled. “My Lady Sarra, I choose to run my kitchens. I see
to other things, but truly if I spent trying to correct all things, the one thing I
enjoy, my kitchens, would suffer for it. In the stead, I concentrate completely
on my kitchens and merely dabble in the other affairs of running the castle.
So, do you wish to change the serving of food? Do so!”
Sarra did just that. After the meal and the hall emptied, the servants
began cleaning the tables. Sarra stood in the center of the hall and called the
servants to a stop. She addressed them. The women, the butler, the pantry
servants, and the pages and squires still about, were given instructions. After
they understood their instructions, Sarra ordered a run through. It took several
times until the pattern was practiced and understood. Only then were the

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tables cleared. Sarra had also given instructions to the servants as to
organization of the leftover foods.
The uneaten food was placed on large trays. The servants were
instructed to place one of the extra large trestle tables outside in the bailey.
The pages were sent to the bailey to inform the keep that henceforth, after
meals a table will be spread for the orphans. A tent pavilion was set up to
protect the trestle table temporarily. A permanent structure would be built
later. Sarra once again stood in watch. Guards were pressed to allow young
orphaned children, widows and their children, and the elderly admittance to
take the food. Her orders were to be followed every day henceforth. Anyone
capable of working, but seeking the free food would be put to work in serving
and cleaning before they were allowed to eat.
Before the evening meal Sarra had the old rushes removed and fresh
rushes spread on the floors of the entire keep. A fresh scent of lavender added
to the clean smell of the rushes. It was one day the guards, servants, pages,
and squires didn’t disappear to places unknown for fun, recreation, or naps.
Sarra put them through solid work and long hours. Next, Sarra ordered the
dogs be put out and barred from the hall. Many of the guards took exception
to that request. They were fond of their pets. Sarra insisted and Lord Edmond
commanded her order followed. “In the morrow a proper kennel will be made
for the dogs. There they will be kept when not working with their masters or
used for hunting. They will be bathed regularly with lavender oils. This will
inhibit their fleas. A regular feeding and exercise program will be initiated
and master of the kennels will be chosen,” Sarra announced to the guards as
they individually led their dogs outside.
Edmond looked to Reimond when he took his seat at the dais table.
“Is this how things are at your keep?”
“Oh, Aye,” Reimond bragged. “The meals are orderly and animals are
well kept in kennels.”
“No,” Edmond laughed. “Is your daughter always in command like
this? Is she always in control?”
Reimond smiled with pride and answered, “Aye, she is a strong and
intelligent woman just like her mother. Sarra was trained well by her mother.
I was and am a contented man. These controls are for our comfort and
benefit, my lord.”
“I like the smell, Grandpere,’ Oriel bubbled. “It’s nice.”
Edmond looked lovingly at his darling granddaughter. “It is nice, isn’t
it? Even my food is still hot.”
“And good,” Oriel agreed eating a slice of partridge.
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That evening Sarra put Oriel to bed.
“I think I like you,” Oriel said while Sarra tucked the bed covers.
“I like you too!” Sarra offered with a smile.
“Can I help you make the keep all pretty?”
“You certainly may,” Sarra replied. “There is so much to do. The
walls must be scrubbed and whitewashed. Why I saw cobwebs so thick on the
candle torches the spiders seem to have built another wall.”
“We will clean them,” Oriel yawned. She had only known Sarra a
short time, but Christofre trusted her. She now had a younger and pretty Lady
to instruct her. Oriel had overheard her Grandpere and Christofre talking
about teaching her how to be a lady. Christofre told her Grandpere she should
receive proper instruction. Christofre often scolded Grandpere about spoiling
her and letting her have her way too often. Christofre told her Grandpere she
needed a loving but firm hand, and she needed proper training as a lady. She
wasn’t supposed to be listening to them. She didn’t mean to eavesdrop. She
really didn’t mean to listen, buy she couldn’t help herself. She left her bed
and went to look for Christofre. She watched as Christofre opened a back
wall and walked up the stairs lighting torches along the way. It had been very
late. Oriel knew she was supposed to be in bed sleeping. She followed
Christofre thinking it was great adventure. The stairwell led to an opening
behind a large tapestry. Through the crack of the door Oriel watched her
Grandpere greet Christofre with an embrace.
Oriel had put a toad in the water urn that day and Christofre had
scolded her for scaring poor old Nettie. Oriel tried to explain that Nettie
wasn’t supposed to pick up the urn. It was supposed to be her mean son,
Arnold. She was getting even with Arnold for teasing her. Christofre had
really been upset with her. It took Christofre nearly the entire day to calm
Nettie. Oriel didn’t understand why Christofre would go to her Grandpere so
late at night, but she knew she shouldn’t be listening anymore. She returned
down the stairwell to the kitchen and returned to her bed.
“We will clean them,” Sarra repeated. “But you must go to sleep and
get your rest. We have a busy day tomorrow.”

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Chapter Five
A warm tender feeling surrounded Sarra after she tucked Oriel in her
bed. Sarra told Oriel a story about a magic dragon and a daring knight who
fought a wicked ogre. Oriel fell asleep within the first minutes of Sarra’s
story. Sarra watched the sleeping cherub and decided she loved the little girl
as if she were her own. The thought of fostering Oriel crossed her mind. She
would discuss that idea with her father when she had the opportunity.
Thinking of her father brought a frown. He simply had been ignoring
or avoiding her these past days. When she broached the reason for coming
here and the daylong discussions with Lord Edmond, he changed subjects
instantly. It was simply not like her father to be evasive with her. Sarra was
straining at the bit and wanted to know when they could return home. She
was also beyond simply curious to find out exactly why their liege lord had
summoned them to Keyes Castle. It was also strange that Lord Edmond not
only did not interfere with her righting the running of the castle, he
encouraged her to do so.
Sarra also liked Christofre, but thought it strange that she also
encouraged Sarra to change the running of the household. Christofre also
helped and encouraged Sara in making her changes. A woman of Christofre’s
knowledge, capability, and experience should resent a younger woman
coming along and making change. Christofre didn’t. This entire journey was
strange indeed.
***
Sarra awoke before dawn. She dressed in her woolen gown and put on
an older worn brown bliaut. She was going to do a lot of work today and the
work would be dirty work. She was determined to clean the torch light iron
holders on the hall’s wall. Sarra planned to break her fast, check on the
changes made to Lord Edmond son’s chamber, supervise the making of
scented soaps for the castle, check on her changes in candle making, clean the
iron works in the hall, and speak to the carpenter to build a permanent
pavilion for the trestle table outside to be used to feed the poor. She would
also speak to the vassals and choose a kennel keeper to train, groom, and care
for the dogs in the dog kennel that was to be built. She would speak to the

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carpenter about that project as well. For the time being she had just barred the
dogs from the keep’s hall. This was to be accomplished before the nooning
meal.
Although the behaviors of people were odd, at least Sarra kept herself
quite busy and was enjoying the challenge of righting the large and powerful
Keyes Castle. If she were to admit the truth, it was a fact Mondel Castle was
far too easy to run. Under the training of Sarra’s mother and her following her
mother’s tutelage, Mondel Castle was so efficient it could run itself. There
was little challenge anymore.
Fortunately the carpenter was still in the chamber adding final touches
to the new Venetian glass window installed. The change in the chamber was
tremendous. The sunlight added more warmth. The new framework held
back the blowing cold winds. The chamber was indeed warmer and with the
two padded chairs in front of the hearth, table, closet, chests, and tapestries on
the wall it was certainly cozier. The women had finished the new gold
brocade bed curtains. The curtains were pinned leaving only the hemming to
be finished today. A new gold brocade quilted coverlet lined with furs
covered the feather stuffed mattress. Sturdy bed slats were added to the bed
frame to hold the mattress. This bed had never been disassembled to take
with the lord’s son, so it would harm nothing to make the bed more
comfortable and permanent.
Sarra was captivated with the light reflecting on the gold curtains and
bed covers. The room radiated warmth and comfort. The austere cold
chamber was completely gone. The carpenter had already put up the rod to
hold the draperies to cover the window at night. The needlework of the castle
seamstresses was incredible. The draperies fit perfectly. The rings to move
the drapes across the rod were fit perfectly. The hem of the drapes hung a
mere inch from the floor. The drapes were stitched as Sarra had requested.
They were gold brocade with a white silk lining. The draperies matched the
bed curtains. Sarra could hardly wait to show Lord Edmond.
Sarra spent an hour talking with the carpenter to give her instructions
on the outbuilding and kennels. The carpenter promised to bring her drawings
before the evening meal.
Sarra thanked the carpenter and turned to leave the solar. She stopped
suddenly and nearly catapulted over a small body that seemed to appear from
nowhere. Catching her balance on a quick stop Sarra greeted the little girl.
“Oriel, good morn.”

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Oriel grinned up at Sarra with an expectant glimmer of joy. “Good
Morn, Lady Sarra. I have already broken my fast. You promised to spend the
day with me and we will make the keep pretty. Remember?”
“Aye, I remember and we shall begin with checking on the making of
soap,” Sarra replied with a light and happy feeling. Oriel’s exuberance and
her own new understanding in the delight of the challenge of righting Keyes
Castle gave energy to a happy Sarra. Everything was right with the world.
Sarra and Oriel were developing a close bond. Sarra and Oriel walked to the
lower area of the keep.
“Phew, it stinks,” Oriel commented pinching her nose.
The soap making was in the first stages. The tallow and lye process
was a pungent part of soap making.
“Aye, it does. This is the worst of it,” Sarra concurred.
“Are you certain?” Oriel questioned warily still holding her nose. “My
soap bars don’t smell much better.”
“Do you doubt me?” Sarra teased with enjoyment. “I have a fine
smelling soap.”
Oriel’s eyes widened. “Your soap smells nice?”
“It does,” Sarra replied seriously. “I shall prove it to you when you
take your bath tonight.”
“I don’t need a bath,” Oriel scowled.
“Not yet, my little moppet,” Sarra laughed taking her small hand.
“When we have finished our work today, we will indeed need to bathe. You
will see. I will give you one of my soap bars.”
“The soap is ready now, milady, we’ve cooled it to prepare for the
molds” Beatrice informed Sarra.
“Add the goat milk and the rosemary leaves,” Sarra instructed taking a
wooden spatula to stir the mixture in the large iron pot.
Beatrice was a middle aged woman who had been making the castle
soaps since was a child. She learned the art from her mother and her mother
learned the art from her mother. Beatrice was a pleasant heavyset woman.
She was married to a castle guardsman. Beatrice and Marcus had four
children. They had three boys and one girl. Their little girl was just a baby of
a few months. Beatrice was proud that she produced a daughter. Her
daughter would continue the proud profession. The soap making was difficult
and pungent, but it was an art. Beatrice was excited when Jacoba told her the
new lady would be showing her to make fragrant soft soap. Jacoba had even
brought a slice of the soap to show Beatrice. It was fragrant. It smelled of
Roses. The texture was smooth. Each of Beatrice’s generations had improved
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the soap making process. Now, Beatrice would make the finest of soaps. The
luxurious soap sold by Merchants. She could barely contain herself as she
watched the lady add to the soap bar process.
“Pay attention, Oriel,” Sarra ordered concentrating on the pouring of
the goat’s milk. “It has to be the right consistency. See, now it is just smooth
enough, but not to watery. We add the rosemary leaves now.”
Oriel was captivated. No one had brought her here before. She was
being treated like an older child, not a baby. Her eyes were wide with
observation. She nodded eagerly and was watching intensely.
“For this size pot, I would add no less than one full bowl of rosemary
leaves,” Sarra instructed stirring the leaves in slowly as she poured the leaves
in the pot.
Oriel could see clearly. Sarra had pulled a large wooden crate near the
large pot so the little girl could watch. Oriel usually chattered constantly.
Oriel was so captivated she didn’t say a word.
Beatrice also served as a laundress and was well aware of the
exuberant child Oriel was normally. She was amazed at the child, but pleased
the child took such an interest in her profession. Beatrice remembered when
she was a child. She was certain her daughter would also be such an apt
student.
The soap mixture was beginning to cool. “We will place it in the
molds,” Sarra stated.
“Aye the soap will begin to harden now,” Beatrice agreed. “I have the
soap molds ready, milady.” She brought the molds forward. The two women
ladled the soap mixture into the molds. “This should last milady and the
castle at least a season.”
“Will you make more?” Sarra asked. She had promised Jacoba and
Christofre to show the soap maker. She didn’t know if Beatrice would want
to make more.
“Aye milady,” Beatrice replied excitedly. “Tis so fine to have such
fragrant soft soap to bathe. Many of us will love this new soap. I have
already made all the laundry soap bars for the season. I thank you, milady, for
showing me how to make this fine soap.”
Sarra smiled wiping her hands on the linen apron she had wrapped
around her gown and bliaut for protection if the lye and tallow had spilled on
her. “It was my pleasure to share with you, Beatrice.”
“I have to ask milady,” Beatrice quizzed putting the molds in the dry
corner to harden. “Where did you learn this wonderful recipe?”

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“My mother taught me,” Sarra replied proudly. She assisted Beatrice
by lifting the molds and placing them in the dry temperature corner. “My
mother purchased her first scented bar at a market fair. She loved it so much
she returned and begged the merchant to give her the secret of the scented
silky soap. The merchant didn’t give in at first, but my father convinced him
to share the secret with a large purse of coins. The merchant’s servant was an
infidel from the holy lands. She was ordered to our castle where she made the
soap and showed my mother and our soap maker.”
“Tis so fine,” Beatrice admired holding the small sliver of soap Jacoba
shared with her.
“You must make another batch as I showed you, but use the lavender
leaves. I must use some of those for the dogs,” Sarra instructed.
“The dogs will smell nice,” Oriel chirped laughing.
“Aye, they will smell nice indeed,” Beatrice laughed. “They will smell
better than some of their masters.”
Sarra laughed with them but remarked, “Tis true they might smell
better than their masters, but will give them relief from the fleas that afflict
them.”
“Then their masters will need to bathe with such a soap to rid them of
their fleas,” Beatrice giggled. “I will need to double the batch.”
Sarra and Oriel left Beatrice still laughing at the thought of the
guardsmen and villains smelling like lavender.
“What are we going to do next?” Oriel questioned holding tightly to
her new friend’s hand.
“We will check on the making of candles next,” Sarra answered
leading her into another chamber in the lower part of the castle.
“Will it smell like the soap?” Oriel queried.
“You mean smell nice?”
“No will it phew?” Oriel asked again running ahead and
spinning in a circle holding her nose. “Does everything that’s made
down here phew?
Sarra stopped she looked around and thought a moment. It was
true. Nearly everything made or done in this part of the lower
chamber of the castle did have horrendous odors. It’s strange she had
never thought of that. Even the laundry vats were near the soap
making chambers. The hot steam filled with the smell of lye soap was
powerful. Sarra thought of the servants that worked these labors.
They didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps the servants became accustomed

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to the odor. Why, even she knew what to expect and wasn’t too
assaulted by the smells.
“What is it milady,” Oriel questioned in concern. She was a bit
worried when a frown of worry suddenly crossed the lovely face of
Lady Sarra.
“I was contemplating an answer to your question, moppet,”
Sarra replied. “Aye, the things made down here do smell. You are
absolutely correct. I’ve never thought of that before. Think of those
poor vassals living with that smell all day long.”
Oriel frowned offering a pensive look. “We should make their
life a little better. Do you think so? We must work on this. Perhaps
Christofre can help. She could make them special sweet cakes. She’s
good at that.” Oriel was feeling pleased with herself. First, the Lady
Sarra had told her one of her thoughts was correct, not foolish or silly
like most of the adults she knew. Second, it always made Oriel feel
good inside when she did nice things for others. She also loved
playing pranks, but never hurtful ones. She liked playing pranks that
would make her laugh or giggle.
“Aye, I think we should do something special now and then for
these people who work so hard and diligently.” Sarra stated
thoughtfully. “We shall ask Christofre to make her special tarts or
some other ideas to brighten their days.”
“You like making people feel good,” Oriel remarked
recognizing the same trait in her new friend. “So do I.”
Sarra smiled at the child. Oriel reminded her of her own
childhood. Yes, she liked this little moppet. “Come, let us see to
candle making.”
Sarra went through each step of the candle making. She
stopped at the wax-melting vat and questioned Otis stirring the
beeswax in a blend with tallow. “Have you added the oils as
instructed?”
“Aye, mistress,” Otis replied. He nodded to the other vats
being stirred by his assistants. “We followed your instructions to the
letter. Each of the five candle vats has the five different oils. It has
made a pretty smell in here.”
The other assistants had begun the wick dipping to make the
candles, others were pouring wax into molds that wicks were already
held in place. The larger candles in these molds would be used for the
candelabras on the walls and ironworks in the great hall. These molds
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had a scent of lavender. Smaller candles whose wicks were now
dipped held aromas of heather, sandalwood, violets, and roses. The
rose scents were made specifically for Sarra’s chambers. The violet
scents would be made for Oriel’s chamber. The heather would be for
Christofre and other women of the castle. The sandalwood would be
used for Lord Edmond, Lord Reimond, and the chambers for Lord
Edmond’s sons should they visit.
Sarra had already spoken to the castle healer and was given
promise of the essential oils needed for the candles. Sarra smiled at
the thought of surprising all the people of Castle Keyes at how really
nice the castle would begin to smell. It would be just like her Castle
Mondel. “We are finished here. We will proceed to the laundry.”
“The laundry?” Oriel asked in surprise. “I thought we were
going to clean the webs in the great hall.” Oriel was already thinking
about gathering spiders to put by Sir Hugh’s sword sheath. He hated
spiders

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Chapter Six
“We’re off to the laundry to obtain a bucket we will fill with
used laundry soap,” Sarra replied moving briskly towards the laundry.
“We will also acquire some rags to use for the wiping.”
Oriel nearly ran to keep up with the Lady Sarra. She was
delighted that Sarra always answered her questions and gave her adult
answers. Everyone usually treated her like a baby. Oriel was truly
happy to be sharing her day with the Lady Sarra. She was looking
forward to cleaning. Imagine, actually playing in dirty water with a
purpose. How much fun is that?
Lady Sarra had two male servants tote the two buckets of warm
laundry water to the great hall. Two more male servants followed
carrying a wooden ladder. She and Oriel carried the rags into the great
hall.
“My lady,” the man at arms addressed Sarra before she entered
the great hall. “We see knights approaching.”
Sarra sighed. She had only been in Keyes castle for two days, but
already the servants, man at arms, pages, squires, and freemen were looking to
her for direction. Sarra could not stay idle and could not keep her mind away
from reorganizing the castle. It was natural to expect her to give them
instructions for everything. “How far off is the caravan?”
“They will arrive before the noon meal.”
That didn’t give the castle much time to prepare. “How many will be
arriving? Do we recognize the banners?” Sarra asked pointing the two
servants a location to place the ladder. “Over there.”
“Aye, they are the banners of the Lord’s son, Sir William. He has a
troupe of 100 or more. His brother, Sir Henry, is also traveling with him.
There would be added at least forty more,” Haggard replied hurriedly. He
was nervously twisting his hands in his tunic. All the castle servants knew of
Sir William’s cold heart and short temper. William was always complaining
about the dark cold castle and its inefficiencies compared to the royal court.
“And of all of these, how many are mounted knights?” Sarra queried.
She was already contemplating how to shelter and feed such a large number
about to enter Keyes Castle in a few hours.
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“There would be nearly thirty, milady.”
Mounted Knights required a higher standard of sheltering. There was
also the problem of such a large contingency entering the castle. Her first
orders came for shelter. “Notify the marshal of the impending arrival of the
mounted knights. He will need time to prepare for the number of horses to be
groomed and quartered. You will see to it that several large pavilions are
raised in the outer bailey to shelter the entourage. Ask the villeins to assist
you with feeding the foot soldiers warm trenchers. Ask the Steward for some
coin to pay the villeins for their services. Roese, Christofre is at her mass.
You will notify the cook of increasing the noon meal for an additional 150
trenchers. It is a dreary cold day, will you also see to it that tankards of hot
cider will be served upon their arrival.” She suddenly remembered that Sir
William was Oriel’s father. She looked down at the little girl dressed in drab
woolen tunic. Oriel’s blue eyes shone with delight. Her golden hair in a mass
of flowing curls bouncing on her back. Her cheeks were bright pink in a
natural beauty. Her bowed lips perfectly formed and smiling at her. Oriel’s
father shouldn’t see her dressed as a servant. “Perhaps you would like to go to
your chambers and change into pretty dress, Oriel?”
Oriel’s cheerful face disappeared. Her brows furrowed together. Her
lips pursed dejectedly. “You don’t want me to help you?”
“Of course I do,” Sarra responded quickly. She didn’t mean to infer
she didn’t enjoy Oriel’s company. “I merely had the thought you might like
to dress up for your Pere. He is almost here.”
“My Pere?” Oriel questioned in a minute of confusion. “Oh, yes. I’ve
never met him. At least I don’t think so. I don’t think he even knows he has
me.” There was a bit of sadness in her voice.
Oriel’s response tore into Sarra’s heart. What a beast the man must be.
Not know or care about his daughter? She was so fortunate to be loved by her
mother and her father. This darling little imp had neither. She had the love of
a grandfather and Christofre, but not that special love of a mother and father.
“Well then, we will finish our task. We will change to greet everyone before
the noon meal.”
It took Sarra and Oriel longer than anticipated to clean the large iron
wall candelabras. Sarra climbed up and down the ladder. She showed the
servants how to clean the large iron wrought works. First she used a large dry
rag to swipe away the cobwebs. Then she came down the ladder to get a
damp cloth from Oriel that was dampened with the laundry water. Every so
often Sarra would ask Oriel is she was paying attention to what Sarra was
doing.
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Oriel would nod to Sarra eagerly, but in fact was more concerned
about collecting the spiders and their webs in a dry cloth. She was ever so
careful not to let anyone catch on to what she was doing. The servants were
paying close attention to Sarra and her instructions. No one appeared to be
concerned about Oriel.
Sarra did not have a timepiece, but knew the noon meal would soon be
served. So would the guests. She wanted to change and appear as a lady for
the welcoming. She was on the last candelabra, the one nearest the entrance
to the great hall. The servants were making a clamor moving the large tables
into position, including the added tables needed to serve the forthcoming
mounted knights. Other servants were taking fresh bedding and pallets into
the inner walls for the knight’s sleeping arrangements. Sarra was cleaning
rapidly and concentrating on her task. She didn’t have much time left to
change and see to it that Oriel was cleaned up and dressed properly.
Christofre would soon be out of mass, and Lord Edmond would be waking
from his nap. She didn’t want to greet them and the guests in a servant’s
woolen tunic. She heard boisterous male voices in a distance, but continued
to finish cleaning the ironworks. Suddenly the ladder was jolted away from
her feet. She felt her body falling and grabbed hastily for the ironwork. The
sudden grabbing of the iron set her feet into a forward swing. Her feet
slammed into something hard and the pain radiated up her legs and continued
through her spine to the back of her head.
“Christ’s Toes!” Wills cursed shouting when he turned into the hall
and his shoulder slammed into a wooden ladder. He hit the ladder so hard it
flew three feet across the floor and landed on the floor in a clatter. Before he
realized what he hit, two solid objects rammed his face. Suddenly bright
blood spurted from his nose. He was hit with such a force he stumbled back
and strained to regain his balance.
Harry saw the flying feet and followed them up to notice shapely legs
and ankles. The tunic was one that belonged to a servant. Harry was in love.
He would bed this wench, he thought. Harry put his massive arms around the
flailing legs and held on. “It’s alright, love. You can release yourself.”
Sarra didn’t know if she could continue to hang on to the candelabra.
The pain jolted her and she lost some of her grip. It was in a breath when she
felt powerful arms holding your legs. She looked down to see a truly
handsome face attached to a tall muscular knight. His eyes were the brightest
blue. The same color eyes as Oriel and Lord Edmond. She released her hold
on the ironworks and felt the strength holding her legs support her. Slowly
she slid down over the massive rock that was solid masculine muscle. She
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placed her hands upon the knight’s shoulders. His shoulders felt like hard
rock. Sarra once again looked into those beautiful sapphire eyes. They had
changed to what? Oh yes, she recognized that look. It was bestial lust. Of
course those looks were never cast to her before. That look was saved for
attractive female servants. Sweet Jesu, she was dressed like a servant. As she
slid slowly down the frame of his body she felt his arousal. Her automatic
response was to turn rigid. After all, she was not a leman or servant. She was
a Lady. She was a virginal Lady.
Harry felt her tense in his arms as she slid down his body. Safely on
the floor he continued to hold her. “You’re safe with me, wench.”
Sarra felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment and rage. She certainly
was no wench. How dare he address her with such an insulting term? She
was about to rail at him for his audacity when a rough hand squeezed her
shoulder.
“This wench may not be that safe,” Wills roared angrily. His other
hand was covering his nose. “There is a price to pay for inflicting damage to
the lord of this castle!”
“Hold brother,” Harry said quietly. “Cannot you see the wench meant
no harm to you? Twas an accident, simple and pure.”
“Her feet slammed my nose,” Wills retorted angrily. “Tis not you in
pain, brother. Hold your rutting instincts at bay for a change.”
Sarra’s simmering temper went into a full boil with the knight’s
baseborn language in the presence of a lady. She would be angrier if she
knew Oriel was still standing near and hearing the conversation.
Sarra turned to face the man’s chest. She looked up to see the
identical version of the man who had rescued her from a fall. The difference
was first the hair color. The knight holding her had carrot red hair. The
knight with a bloody nose facing her had golden blond hair. Their eyes were
both sapphire blue. The knight facing her did not relate lust. Those eyes shot
pure anger toward her. She was really angry herself. “Sirrah, my feet would
have never met your bloody nose if you had not knocked the ladder out from
under me.”
The eyebrow raised in an arch. “Sirrah? You are bold with your
tongue, wench.”
“No more than you,” Sarra snarled in return.
“You might find yourself making soap or candles instead of cleaning
the great hall wench,” Wills threatened.
Oriel stepped forward informing the huge knight. “We’ve already
seen to the soap and candle making.”
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Again that eyebrow arched looking down to the little girl. “Then
perhaps next is the Garderobe? This is your Mere?”
Even Oriel knew what a Garderobe was. She had spoken to defend
Lady Sarra. Now, this knight made her angry. “I wish it could be so. My
Mere died after I was born.”
Harry recognized the face and the eyes of the little girl. He knew
instantly just who the little imp was, even through the woolen tunic, dirtied
apron, and smudged face. “Wills…” Harry warned softly.
William ignored his brother. He had little sympathy for the child with
such an audacious mouth. “How lucky for her.” He turned once again to
Sarra.
“Wills…” Harry warned more urgently. He was holding Sarra tighter.
She was attempting to pull away.
Sarra heard the knight address her antagonist. “You are Lord William
de Warre, son of Lord Edmond de Warre?”
“I am,” William replied haughtily. “Your Lord! Ashamed of your
impertinence yet?”
“Nay,” Sarra replied silkily and deceptively calm. “I would have
forgiven a baseborn knight his rude insolence, but the son of Lord Edmond? I
would have preferred to break your teeth and swell your tongue.”
Oriel understood this man was supposed to be her father. She also
understood he had insulted her and her mother. Tears welled in her big blue
eyes. She began to choke back her upset.
William was about to release a diatribe when Harry interrupted,
“Wills, hold your tongue!”
Harry’s warning shocked William to hold his flow of rage. He looked
at Harry with question and anger. His brother had never spoke to him like that
before.
“Wills,” Harry stated calmly. “Listen to the Lady’s speech, and that
little smudged moppet is your child!”
“What?” William screeched in denial. He leered at Sarra. “Look at
her dress.” He looped his pointed finger in circles at the filthy woolen tunic
Sarra was wearing. He looked at Oriel’s dirty face and filthy clothes. “My
offspring? I doubt such highly.”
It was enough to fan Sarra’s temper more and her acid tongue spewed
out with venom, “I will send someone to tend your wound. Such a fearsome
wound I am certain a knight of the realm would never have withstood ere
now. Come, moppet.” Sarra took Oriel’s hand and tugged her to follow.

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Oriel stood fast and glared at the blonde stranger. “I wouldn’t want
you as a Pere! You are mean, and cruel, and…and…and…” She really
couldn’t think of any other words that she shouldn’t even know and get in
trouble for saying. “You’re as ugly as an ogre!” She stuck out her tongue and
marched toward the kitchen with Sarra. Her eyes filled with tears. She knew
instinctively that man was her father. She had heard enough about him. The
rejection burned like a fire in her mind, it hurt deeply. The sobs began when
she and Sarra entered the kitchen.
Sarra sat on a bench near a trestle table and pulled Oriel to sit on her
lap. She hugged Oriel and let the child cry on her shoulder. “Hush, little
moppet. Don’t let words that mean nothing make you cry.”
“He’d like me if I was a boy,” Oriel sobbed hysterically. “He always
wanted a boy. He’s never wanted me. Never! Ever! If only I were a boy.”
“I’d much rather be a girl,” Sarra reassured. She noticed Jacoba
staring at them with deep concern. “Jacoba, would you take clean cloths,
healing salves, and tend to some minor cuts on Sir Williams face. Take
Genoa with you. She should please him.”
Jacoba stared in confusion. Sir William was wounded and he was to
be tended by the loveliest light skirt in the castle? She shrugged her shoulders
and left to follow her orders even though she was deeply concerned over the
crying Oriel.
“Why would you say you’d rather be a girl?” Oriel questioned looking
up at Sarra. Her eyes were swollen and red. Her cheeks wet with tears
running down through the dirt smudges. “You’ve never been a boy. Boys are
more important and get to do more things.”
“Oh, but I have been a boy,” Sarra replied framing Oriel’s face with
her hands. Her fingers began rubbing the tears gently away. “Well, I dressed
and acted as a boy. Everyone thought I was a boy.”
“You did?” Oriel asked enthusiastically. “You dressed like a boy, and
people believed you were a boy?”
“Yes,” Sarra replied simply. “It is not such a great thing to be a boy. I
did not like it one bit.”
“Tell me,” Oriel ordered. Her hands balled into fists wiping the tears
away from her eyes.
Sarra took a deep breath. “I was just a little older than you. Like you I
watched boys and noticed they were treated differently than me. Their parents
seemed to pay more attention to them than their daughters. I noticed the
priests and teachers favored boys. I thought I would like to be a boy.”
“You see it is true,” Oriel choked.
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“In a way,” Sarra agreed. “But there are drawbacks as well.”

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Chapter Seven
Oriel cocked her head. “What drawbacks? How do you know?”
“I’ve always been talented with cloth, thread, and needle. I made
myself a fine boys outfit. I sewed a lovely hat that hid my hair. I set out that
day to enjoy myself at the fair. I hadn’t gotten very far into the fair when I ran
into two much larger boys. They taunted me and bruised me. Then they stole
some coin I had brought with me. A priest spotted us and came immediately.
The bigger boys ran away leaving me to face the priest. The priest pulled my
ears and asked why I was alone in the fair. When I couldn’t answer him
properly he gave me penance. Because I didn’t know the prayers and penance
given to boys, the priest pulled my ears harder and led me to a small cottage.
There I was forced to groom his horse. When finished I was led to the small
parish where I spent two hours on my knees in prayer.”
“That was just one happening,” Oriel countered. “Surely it isn’t like
that all the time. You were just unlucky that day.”
“I thought the same,” Sarra agreed. “So I put on the boy clothes
several times. Once I was forced into servitude as a page, another I was put in
the practice field and was made to do mock battle. It took me a week to
recover from all the bruises. Then another time I ended up cleaning the stalls.
Shoveling horse dung is worse than making soap, I can assure you. After all
these experiences and several more, I can tell you truthfully, it is much better
to be a girl.”
Oriel seemed to ignore the stories. “Would you help me to be a boy?”
“Did you understand the stories I told you?” Sarra questioned. “Surely
you don’t want to try after all my bad experiences.”
Oriel raised her brow. It was an affectation similar to her father’s. “If
they were so bad, why did you keep trying?” Oriel interrogated.
Sarra grinned. This was a child with an adult brain in reasoning.
“Actually,” Sarra hesitated a moment. “Some of it wasn’t so bad. I did have
some fun.”
“Will you help me become a boy,” Oriel pleaded. “Oh please say you
will. It’s only fair for me to try.”
“I was older than you,” Sarra hedged.
“How much older?” Oriel pushed.
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“I was nearly ten,” Sarra replied. “That’s nearly twice your age.”
Those red swollen eyes opened wide pleading in silence. “Please, oh
please, Lady Sarra. Let me try.”
“We’ll do it together. I’m much older now, and perhaps it would be a
bit of fun,” Sarra answered thoughtfully. Her fingers were tapping her lips
lightly. It might be fun. “You must give me a few days to make us some
clothes. Will you wait the time?”
Oriel bounced from her lap onto the floor and twirled around on her
tiptoes. “Yes. Yes, I will wait. We’ll have so much fun.”
“You must also listen to everything I say,” Sarra chided. “Do you
swear?”
Oriel nodded her head rapidly in agreement.
“Say it,” Sarra insisted.
“I swear to listen to you.”
“And not to wander off from me.”
“And not to wander off from you.”
“Good,” Sarra smiled to the little girl. “Come, we must wash and
change for the noon meal.” Sarra took Oriel’s hand and started walking
toward the staircase leading to the Solars. Sarra called two female servants to
bring a bucket of warm water and clean clothes for them to wash. She also
called another servant to take Oriel to her solar and assist her in washing and
dressing. Sarra instructed the maid to select one of Oriel’s finest silk tunics
and gown. She wanted Oriel’s father to take note of his beautiful offspring.
Those jeweled sapphire eyes matched her father’s eyes to a tee. The golden
locks were also the same color of spun gold.

***
Genoa couldn’t believe her good fortune. She was asked to administer
healing salves to the handsome heir of Keyes Castle. Every maid,
chambermaid, scullery maid, every young female in the castle would envy her
duty. Genoa left Sir William no doubt as to her offerings. Genoa was simply
tired of waiting and hoping for Henry. She flirted with the lord, touched him
sensually as she applied the salve as Jacoba instructed and even stood for
several minutes stretching her arm upright to hold the cool cloth on Sir
Williams blackened eye and bloody nose. When William was given a chair,
she sat upon his lap still holding the cool cloth. Normally, a knight would
pleasure her by feeling her breasts and playing with her hardened nubs.
William was apparently too angry to be seduced. Her plan to make Henry

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jealous did not work. Instead she did not hear words of seduction, she heard
curses and words of anger.
“I want that wench brought back here right now,” William demanded.
Harry accepted the offered cup of wine. He was noting Genoa’s
actions and found himself becoming a bit jealous. He took a slow drink and
repeated, “That is not a wench, brother. The fearsome woman you complain
of is a true lady. To my sorrow.”
“Your sorrow?” William growled. “I am the one in pain. I have cuts,
bruises, and a bloody nose.”
Harry spewed his wine in laughter, “Aye, fearsome battle wounds,
brother. I must go to mass and praise God for your deliverance.”
“Your humor is dumb witted,” William snapped angrily. “The wench
will be punished for this insult. I shall have her working in the Garderobe.
See if I do not.”
“Brother,” Harry sighed patiently. “I saw her fine boots and held onto
her soft skin. Her speech is pure Norman. She is a Lady!”
William raised his brow. He never liked being challenged. He was
right always simply because he was William, the firstborn and heir. He
addressed Genoa. “Tell me, who ordered you to tend to me?”
“I was summoned by Jacoba,” Genoa replied sweetly.
“Who is this Jacoba?” William demanded of Genoa.
Genoa was shaken by William’s intensity. She hesitated with her
answer. Jacoba had always been kind to her.
“You are frightening her,” Harry warned being a bit protective of
Genoa. They did have a history together. “Calm down a little, Wills.”
William was determined to find and punish the wench that knocked
him almost on his arse. No one had ever blackened his eye or bloodied his
nose, even in battle. He had scars from wounds, but never on his fair face.
He was vain about his striking good looks. Since a child he was told of his
handsome face from his mother, servants, friends, and strangers. He spoke in
a more even tone, “Who is this Jacoba?”
“I am Jacoba,” she answered stepping forward with the tin of salve in
her hands.
“You?” Wills asked with astonishment. “Haven’t you been here for
years?”
“Aye, for nearly two score years,” Jacoba replied. “I was born in
Keyes Castle.”
“Then who sent you to tend me” Wills queried taking his goblet of
wine. He was surprised to find his wine warmed and tasty. It was a fine wine
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most likely from Normandy. Usually he was given tepid ale when he arrived
at Keyes Castle. He found he was calming down. He noted a different aroma
in the Great Hall. It was pleasant and even soothing. Was he imagining this
due to his injuries?
“Lady Sarra,” Jacoba stated simply. “The Lady was busy comforting
your daughter. Your child was quite distraught, my lord. Did you scold the
darling moppet?” She realized what she said to the Lord of the manor, but it
was too late. She bowed her head in submission quickly. She expected to be
disciplined for speaking so boldly. Instead she heard laughter.
Harry snickered, “I told you so! That smudged urchin was your
daughter.”
“Jacoba!” William roared.
Jacoba trembled uncontrollably. She knew of William’s hot temper
and cold heart.
“You’re terrifying the woman, Wills!” Harry barked sharply.
Williams could see his younger brother was right. He didn’t mean to
frighten anyone except enemies on the battlefield, yet he always seemed to. It
was his anger and his voice. He took a deep breath. It was difficult for him to
accept that filthy and poorly dressed child was his child. “Jacoba?” William
asked softly. “If that urchin is my blood, what type of care is she receiving?
Who is her caregiver? What training is this child receiving? Such
incompetence is incomprehensible. I shall talk to Pere about this neglect and
set things aright here.”
Jacoba took offense to Sir William’s tirade. She no longer cared if she
would be punished for insolence. “It appears to me that her Pere has never
taken any interest in the moppet. Your child is loved and cared for by none
other than Lord Edmond. There is no one caregiver, but receives the finest
tutors in science, languages, mathematics, and spiritual training Lord Edmond
can buy. The moppet just started her lessons in running a Castle from Lady
Sarra.”
Jacoba’s intended barb for William hit its mark. First he was hit in the
face by flying feet, tended to by a wench intending to lead him to her bed, and
now an elder servant calling him to task for being a bad parent. “Where is
Christofre?” At least he could count on her to straighten these things out. She
was always there for him when he was a child. Christofre fixed everything.
Soon this Castle would feel normal again.
“Here I am,” a familiar voice came from behind his chair. “What
happened to you?”

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William turned on the chair and peered around his chair. He saw
Christofre and his father walking toward them. He rose from the chair to
greet Lord Edmond.
The smile on Lord Edmond’s face grew broader when he saw his two
oldest sons sitting in front of the hearth. He was proud of his offspring. The
four boys were handsome men, strong, and well favored by the court of King
John. This alone was a feat most noble men envied. His marriage to Laurette
had been horrible and what he considered his hell on earth, but his sons were
his joy. “Wills, Henry,” Lord Edmond greeted. “Have Andrew and Edward
arrived as well?”
“You’ve sent for all of us?” Harry asked in concern. “Is something
amiss, Pere? Are you ill? Has something happened?”
“There are some things afoot. I felt it necessary to call a family
meeting,” Lord Edmond answered enfolding Harry in his embrace. “And it
has been far too long since I have dined with my sons. Only Edward sees to
visiting me regularly.” He stepped back after patting Harry on his back.
Edmond turned to greet his eldest son. “Christ’s Toes, what happened to you?
I’ve heard of no recent battles.”
Harry began laughing heartily. “It seems Pere, that you have a
termagant living in these walls. She’s as deadly as a Norseman, disguised as a
wench, and as lovely as flower.”
Edmond furrowed his brows in confusion. “Does this deadly foe have
a Christian name?”
“Aye,” Wills grumbled. “I am told she is called Lady Sarra. Do you
know of her?”
Lord Edmond began laughing uproariously. Several minutes later he
wiped tears from his eyes.
Wills was gritting his teeth and trying to contain his anger with calm.
“Would you care to share with us your humor, Pere?”
Lord Edmond wiped away the tears with the end of his tunic. He
calmed to the best of his ability. He cleared his throat, “Well, ahem, Lady
Sarra is the daughter of my good friend and vassal, Lord Reimond. They are
visiting.” He tried desperately to smother his chuckles, but the grin covered
his mouth. ”Lady Sarra is hardly a vicious Norseman or Norsewoman. She is
a Norman bred lady pure. You will have to explain to me what happened to
your face.”
“Your highly bred Norman Lady kicked me?” Wills growled angrily.
“And she was dressed as a common serving wench.”

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Lord Edmond tried not to laugh. “She kicked you, did she? I hadn’t
noticed she was that long legged.”
“Let me tell it,” Harry butted in. “Wills and I were discussing John’s
court when we turned into the great hall. Wills slammed into the ladder the
Lady was balancing upon. She appeared to be cleaning the iron candelabras.
The lady grabbed onto the ironworks. Her legs swung out and connected with
Will’s face. I rescued the lady and she went scurrying off to the kitchens.”
Lord Edmond was slightly more serious when he asked, “Why did you
knock Lady Sarra off the ladder?”
Will’s groaned. He was getting nowhere with his father. “The ladder
was in my way.”
“You should have moved around it,” Edmond chided. “No need to
knock Lady Sarra off her perch.”
“I didn’t see it,” Wills defended.
“The ladder?” Edmond queried in astonishment. “What fully spurred
noble knight can miss a ladder in front of them?
“Enough,” Wills conceded. He always had difficulty understanding
and dealing with his father. He would deal with this Lady Sarra later.
“Good,” Edmond crowed. He relished his all too little triumphs over
his son. The boy was everything a father would be proud of, but William had
a little too much arrogance and pride. Those weaknesses could only take him
down a dark and lonely path. They were also weaknesses they could be his
undoing in a battle or match of wits in the treacherous courts of King John.
Christofre stepped from behind Lord Edmond and gave Harry a warm
embrace. She turned to Wills and embraced him.
“Ah, my dearest Christofre,” Wills greeted bestowing her forehead
with a warm kiss. “You are truly one person I do miss on my leaves of Keyes
Castle. Are you doing well?”
“Things have never been better, waif,” Christofre cooed softly. She
knew she was the only one that would dare give him and call him by an
affectionate name. Waif was his special name. In his mind he never seemed
to please his father or mother and as a young child would complain to
Christofre. “I see Genoa and Jacoba took care of your injury. Lady Sarra sent
her special salve of horse hound. I recognize it. You will heal quickly.”
“Just who is this Lady Sarra?” Wills asked testily.
“Your Pere told you, waif. She is the daughter of Lord Reimond.
They are our guests,” Christofre answered. With a large doting smile she
continued, “I must be off to the kitchens. You take your seats at the high
table, the meal will be served any moment.”
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Lord Edmond led the way to the high table and indicated to Wills and
Harry the two seats on his left side. He of course sat at the highest backed
cushioned chair. His chair was brilliant red velvet with a golden rose having
five petals embroidered in the center. The adjoining chairs were also of red
velvet each with matching roses, but smaller in size. On Lord Edmond’s right
hand side there remained four empty chairs. The one nearest Edmond had a
very large cushion resting upon the seat of the chair.
Wills watched as a middle-aged man obviously acquainted with his
father took the second chair adjacent to his father. Squires began filling the
goblets with ale when he noticed an attractive lady accompanied by a young
girl enter the hall. They walked directly to the high table. Edmond rose from
his chair and opened his arms wide. The little girl ran to him.

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Chapter Eight
Wills had no idea Harry was as interested in the woman as he until he
heard, “the wench cleans up well, don’t she?” Harry smirked luridly. “I hope
to make her acquaintance.”
That remark infuriated him. That wench was his. He was going to
seek revenge and train that wench. It became his current challenge. “The
termagant is probably wed to a simpleton.”
“I believe Pere would have indicated that when he commented on his
friend’s daughter.”
“Would he?”
“Perhaps I shall find out for myself,” Harry chuckled. “More fun that
way.”
Wills felt like clouting his impetuous and notorious younger brother.
How many women had he known? Harry was the well-known rake of the
family. He said nothing. Even he didn’t understand his feelings of primal
territory towards this wench. He was only aware of this odd sensation that
over came him when he looked at her. He was already getting hard and
wanting to bed her. This never happened to him before. He watched as the
little girl ran to his father. He watched as Edmond picked her up, embraced
her, kissed her forehead, and then gently placed her upon the high cushioned
chair next to him. The little imp laughed gaily. Her eyes sparkled with love
and admiration for his father. What had happened these years he had been
gone? The beautiful child, now that she was cleaned up and dressed properly
child was surely his daughter.
“She looks just like you,” Harry whispered into his brother’s ear.
Wills turned suddenly towards Harry. His brother sat back quickly to
avoid Wills hitting him on his face. There were enough bruises on Wills face.
“Who?” Wills barked. He had no idea Harry was watching him peruse
the little girl. “Who looks like me?”
“Your child of course,” Harry laughed quietly. “I remember us as
children. You are only a year my senior, after all. I always envied your
golden locks, cherubic face, pink cheeks, sapphire eyes, and long golden
lashes. You were beautiful,” Harry sighed.

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“You’ve made up for it since,” Wills retorted. “I don’t believe there is
a woman in Christendom you haven’t bewitched with your handsome looks.”
“Only those that haven’t seen you first,” Harry grouched. “Even with
your stone heart. Who is that?”
An older woman dressed richly with violet satin gown, deep purple
velvet tunic, and lavender sheer wimple took the place next to Sarra.

***
The pages began bringing the trenchers and trays filled with delights to
the tables.
Roese addressed Sarra. “I’ve heard you’ve met the Lord’s sons.” She
giggled. “I heard you ran into the eldest.”
“Your information, as always is flawless, Roese.” Sarra replied
sampling a seasoned piece of partridge. Sarra often relied on Roese’s talent of
gathering information from other servants. They worked together to use all
information in creating a smooth running castle. In these few days alone,
Roese and Sarra spent several nights putting to good use Roese’s information.
An example of how they worked together was when Roese learned a spinner
named Elaine hated spinning and much preferred sewing with thread and
needle. It turned out she was quite talented in the art of mending and creating
tunics, gowns, and braes. Elaine had a natural talent for selecting the perfect
fabrics for certain cuts of fashion or clothes. Sarra immediately had her
exchange places with Miriam who hated sewing and was quite bad at it. A
steward that had no inclination of talents for positions placed the two in these
positions. He merely placed them where he needed them at the time of their
application.
Roese was proud of her talents. It seemed any one could talk to her at
any time, and she could talk to them comfortably. Since most people ended
up much happier in other places, Roese’s reputation as a friend, confident, and
helper of the down trodden was almost spiritual. Roese also learned every bit
of gossip in the castle. She didn’t necessarily share everything she learned
with her lady. Every now and then a small bit of gossip helped her lady.
Roese had shared that Genoa was not only the most beautiful and sought after
light skirt in the castle; she was also interested in healing herbs. That little bit
of knowledge helped Sarra select Genoa to attend William the cold heart with
hot temper. Poor Sarra didn’t know that Genoa got absolutely nowhere with
William and barely cooled his temper at all. Roese did learn William brought
a camp follower with him. The woman’s name was Elena and Jacoba had
been instructed to find a position for her. Jacoba immediately came to Roese
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looking for the Lady Sarra to decide on a position. Roese took it upon herself
knowing Sarra would give her blessings to question the light skirt. Roese was
impressed with Elena. She was a woman come to a hard time upon the death
of her soldier husband. Elena was merely trying to support her son the best
way she knew how, and wanted a permanent place for her son to grow. Elena
would work anywhere she was asked. It turned out Elena loved animals and
almost seemed to charm them. Roese decided to make her a milkmaid. Her
duties would be to milk the goats and cows and tend to them. Elena was
delighted. Roese supposed William would make her his leman also, but that
would be his choice. With Roese’s choice, Elena would have a little house
near the barns she could call her own. Roese planned on telling Sarra after the
meal.
During the meal there were other more interesting observations Roese
noted. It appeared William and Sarra would glare at each other on and off
throughout the meal. When the other noticed or felt the icy glares and stares,
they would bow their heads or begin a conversation with the person nearest
them. Roese felt the sparks flying across the table. She laughed inwardly.
Roese would soon tell Sarra the love story of her mother and father. She
would relate to Sarra the courtship of her parents as never was told before.
Reimond was also paying attention to his daughter and Edmond’s
eldest son. He chuckled silently. Ah the memories he had. He was certain
his daughter would be the chosen heiress to Castle Keyes, that is if history
repeated itself and they didn’t do bodily damage to each other first. He was
looking forward to the conversation with Edmond this afternoon during their
chess game.
Finally the meal was finished. Oriel turned her attention from her
grandfather and returned to her favorite new friend, Lady Sarra. This
afternoon they were going to sort through clothes and select materials for their
boy’s clothes. Lady Sarra would start teaching her how to measure, cut, and
sew. Every day with Lady Sarra provided a new and wonderful experience.
The lower tables were being cleared when Roese hurried off to the
pavilion outside where the leftover food would be dispersed. It was her duty
to announce the delivery of foodstuffs and organize the comers by category
and need. The soldiers would be there to assist her in anyway. It had only
been a few days since the practice began, but it was already run like a well-
oiled drawbridge gate.
Lady Sarra spoke to her father briefly and then looked for Oriel.
Oriel had given her grandfather a kiss on his cheek and turned to find
Lady Sarra standing nearby waiting for her. How she loved the Lady. Oriel
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knew Sarra would always be her friend and someone to trust and love, almost
like a mother she thought happily. Oriel took Lady Sarra’s hand and was
about to turn and leave the great hall when a deep threatening voice was
heard.
“Hold!”
Oriel looked up to the hard face of the man she was told was her
father. His disapproval was etched onto his face like a carved statue. Oriel
was of no mind to pay that man any attention. She ignored him as any
stubborn five years old would. She turned and began to tug on Sarra’s hand.
Sarra couldn’t believe Lord Edmond’s son would dare to speak to a
child in such a manner. She was about to give him a royal piece of
information when he reached for Oriel’s hand and pulled her back.
“I said, hold!” William growled. “You will obey my command!” He
pulled tighter on Oriel’s hand forcing her to turn to him.
Sarra was furious. She was about to raise her booted foot and give the
hulk a good kick in his shins when Oriel surprised her with a soft cooing
answer to the beast.
“Why would I obey your command, sire?” Oriel said softly. “Who are
you to speak to me in such a manner? I see only a stranger in my presence.”
She smiled broadly. Her grandfather had taught her well. He once told her
that soft words would take the strength out of any bully.
Those words from an impudent urchin that William was told was his
daughter flattened him with shock. He remained disoriented for a moment.
William regained his thoughts when Oriel once again turned her back on him
walking with Lady Sarra out of the great hall.
This time William walked furiously ahead of them and stood before
them with his hands balled into fists resting on his hips. “Listen to me. I will
speak to you privately. I am almost ready to warm your backside with my
hand for your impudence,” he threatened Oriel.
Oriel steeled her sapphire eyes and returned her father’s angry stare.
“Again sire, I say, who are you to order me about and threaten my person.
You are a stranger to me!”
“I am no stranger. I am your Pere!” William announced haughtily.
“It seems to me I should know my Pere, yet I do not. How are you to
prove this? Do you even know my name? A Pere certainly would know his
child’s name.” Oriel demanded. This was a pain she long held. He never
wanted anything to do with her. She was a girl and unimportant. The pain in
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her name and never bothered to learn it. She wouldn’t give in to the hurt. She
held her stare.
William was caught and he knew it. He tried to think of the child’s
name. He was told it once or twice. He didn’t remember. “I am your blood.
I am your Pere. I state it!”
“You don’t know my name. You aren’t my Pere. Go away and find
some boy to order about! You only care about boys. You only want sons.”
William was shocked. Of course she was right. He had so stated his
disinterest on the day she was born. A girl would be like her mother. Edith
was weak, a simple mind, frigid in bed, shallow in thought, and too terrified of
him as if he were a monster. He believed a girl would be just like her. Of
course he had no interest. Yet, before him now was a child of strong will, like
him. She was brave like him. She looked like him. He was pleased with his
seed. Indeed he was proud of his offspring. This child was nothing like her
mother and everything like him. What was her name? He should know her
name. He really should. The little imp had tongue tied him. She was as
deadly as the woman she favored, the Lady Sarra. Ah, he remembered her
name well enough. Again his strange reaction to the Lady dumbfounded him.
He had no control and his sword came to attention. He hadn’t lost control of
his manliness since he was a page, well maybe a squire, but not since then.
He watched as the two turned their backs on him and walked toward the
hallway that led to the door opening to the inner bailey. He heard his voice
muted and soft, so unlike him. “Where do you go?”
“To the pavilion feeding the needy,” Lady Sarra replied sweetly to
match the soft tone. It was insolence, but she didn’t care. She looked down to
meet Oriel’s eyes. She bestowed to the child a look of pride and love. She
was proud of the child. They swung their arms gaily as they marched out of
sight.
William felt humiliated and didn’t like the feeling at all. He glared at
the servants filling large trays with the left over food. The servants quickly
averted the lord’s glare and busied themselves with their tasks. Soon the
women followed lifting the tablecloths and folding them to be taken to the
laundry. He recognized Genoa and pulled her to the side. Pages and squires
were moving swiftly to and fro carrying large trays of leftover food outside
and empty ones inside to be refilled. Other maids were lifting the cloths for
washing after the food was removed.
Genoa was thrilled she couldn’t help but notice the bulge under his
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and perhaps a bauble or two if she really pleased him. She was surprised
when he stopped at the hearth.
“What goes on here? Where are they taking that food?”
Genoa tried to hide her disappointment. If she responded incorrectly
she might never have the opportunity to sleep with the stonehearted knight.
“My Lord, there is a pavilion in the inner bailey near the great hall.”
“Yes, I’ve seen it when I arrived. I wondered what purpose it holds,”
William stated sounding like an inquiry.
“Eventually it will be permanent. The leftover foods from meals are
distributed to the poor there. First are the ill and aged, then orphaned, and
then the widows and widowers. Lady Sarra does this at Mondel Castle and
established the practice here. Several trays are also taken to the kennels for
the hunting dogs,” Genoa explained quietly. She watched anger flash across
William’s sapphire eyes. Just as quickly a cold calm took over his eyes.
“I decree this to be a good practice,” William declared as if sitting on a
throne to his vassals. “We hereby decree this system as fact of Keyes Castle”
Genoa looked up in confusion. Why did he decree this practice that
was commonplace? She said nothing because she had seen that rage in his
eyes only a moment ago. She was not about to make him angry with her.
That might spoil everything.
“Isn’t that a bit like putting the cart before the horse?” Harry
questioned innocently. Since childhood he enjoyed teasing William,
especially when in Harry’s mind his brother was being a bit turgid. That
jealousy was coming at him again. He and Genoa had been lovers. He didn’t
want her with someone else, especially his elder brother.
William ignored Harry’s remark, still he was aware of the meaning.
Of course Harry was right. He couldn’t allow a woman to make decisions of
such castle practice. Women needed to be instructed in all things. It was
without question that men were superior. William saw Lady Sarra in his
mind’s eye and immediately developed an uncontrollable urge to mate once
more. He needed to find Elena. Once again he queried Genoa. “A woman
was sent here to seek employment in the kitchens. Her name is Elena. Have
you seen her?”
Genoa couldn’t hide her disappointment. The gossip quickly made the
castle rounds. Nearly every woman already knew that Elena was William’s
light skirt. She had been his camp follower for nearly three years. Paulin was
only five years old and some of the servants were already considering the
possibility Paulin might be William’s bastard, even though Paulin seemed to
bear no resemblance to William. Genoa wanted dearly to become William’s
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leman. She loved Harry, but she believed he would wed only a noble woman.
In the chambermaid world, it was an elevation in status and possibly financial
gains. She had tried earlier to attract him. It hadn’t worked then. Genoa
knew she was younger and prettier than Elena. She didn’t understand why
William wasn’t attracted to her.
Harry of course was paying attention. He had watched Genoa flirt
with William and read her disappointment correctly. Harry was jealous. He
cared for Genoa and felt she was his.
“Lady Sarra directed Elena to take over duties as milkmaid. The
current one was elderly and wanted to retire in the village with her widowed
brother,” Genoa said quickly covering her anger and disappointment. “She
took over the duties and the little cottage near the pens.”
William nodded and left the great hall heading for the kitchens. He
knew the cottage was located just off the back kitchen door.
Genoa’s lips pouted as William walked away.
Harry came behind Genoa with his own comfort in mind. He bent his
head and whispered in her ear. “You are most desirous. Pay Wills little mind.
He finds change troubling. Come with me, my little sweet.”

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Chapter Nine
William walked directly to the cottage. Paulin was outside talking
with an old man whose job was to keep the pens clean and feed the animals.
William snapped at him, “Stay with the boy. I’ll have a word with his
mother.”
Elena was preparing a stew for the supper meal and humming happily
to herself. She was going to like it at Keyes Castle and at last had a hope for a
normal life. She had already met the man who was a guard and it was an
instant attraction. She dreamed of a happy contented marriage. Her dreams
shattered when William came through her door, slammed it shut, and bolted it.
He was already untying his braes. “Elena, I have need of you.”
To Elena’s shock, William merely pushed her onto the pallet in the
corner, raised her skirts, untied and pulled down her braes. He was on top of
her instantly. He drove into her like an animal. He did not prepare her. The
joining was painful until her body finally responded. Just as her body
prepared for the assault, she felt William stiffen. Elena felt William’s seed
pour into her. He collapsed upon her and was breathing heavily. Something
was very wrong. She could sense it. Elena gently stroked William’s head as
she would stroke her son’s head to relax him when he was upset.
“It was bad, wasn’t it?” William said softly breathing heavily. He still
hadn’t moved.
“It was not usual,” Elena replied quietly. She owed William a lot, but
she still wanted a normal life. It couldn’t happen as long as she remained
William’s leman in the castle and he demanded her to fill his needs whenever
he had need. This episode also made her feel uneasy. William had only
called for her at night when she was part of the camp followers. William had
always been a lover. This had felt like animals rutting. She thought it best to
let William talk. Elena did not want to offend him. He had been a generous
and kind lover.
Upon her words William rose from the pallet, retied his braes, and
straightened his tunic. “No, it was not usual. I do not what possessed me. I
assure you it will not happen again.” He hoped he wasn’t lying. He really
didn’t know what had possessed him to lose control. William left the cottage
after he tossed a small bag of coin on the table. He took a few coins from the
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lining in his tunic. Once outside he tossed the coins to the old man. He strode
past Paulin and patted his head. Paulin looked up and smiled at William.
Paulin recognized the knight. The man had always been kind to him
and he knew the man spent time with his mother. He was to young to
understand what was happening between them, but his mother treated the man
with respect, so would he.
***
Sarra and Oriel went to the spinning, weaving, and spinning rooms
after spending a few moments with Roese and Jacoba. The pavilion
distribution of leftover foods was working well. The villeins were becoming
healthy and happier in a short time. The bailey of Keyes Castle was coming
to life. An aura of happiness seemed to surround the castle.
William needed sometime to think. Everything was not usual. He
didn’t like that at all. He was a man who required rigid routine. He did not
like or respond well to change. He walked back to the kitchens. There he
found Christofre bending over a simmering pot. She was adding spices to a
stew.
“Christofre,” William heard himself say. He suddenly felt exhausted.
Christofre turned to William’s voice. “Is something wrong, Waif?”
William sat on a bench near the trestle preparation table. “Nothing is
right,” he answered tiredly. “Even Keyes seems different. Everything here
feels different.”
Christofre sat next to William. Her fondness for the boy was near to
being his mother. She put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently.
“Yes, our guests have made many good changes. The changes needed to be
made,” Christofre whispered kindly. She placed her palm against William’s
cheeks. “You are tired from your journey. You should go to your solar and
rest before the evening meal. I have prepared a new recipe for venison stew.
You love my stew remember? That remains the same.”
William felt better, but still tired. Christofre was a solid sameness.
His comfort in her presence was all so usual. He nodded wearily. Slowly he
rose, placed a tender kiss on Christofre’s forehead and walked up the kitchen
stairs to the solars where his room was located. His squire was waiting in the
anteroom to the chamber and was grinning broadly. “Wait til you see, sire.”
‘Now what?’ William thought to himself. He indicated to Geoffery to
open the door. He walked in inhaled deeply. This was no longer his room. It
was absolutely luxurious, warm, aromatic, and comfortable. It had a homey
quality to it. William headed to the large cushioned chair in front of the
fireplace. He was feeling a bit dizzy. He never expected his room to look
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like this. What had happened while he was gone? The cushions matched the
head table dining chairs but were in velvet gold. A red embroidered heart
with brown lions embroidered on each side was centered on the back cushion
of the chair. Before him was a cushioned stool to rest his slipper feet. The
last time he used this room it was austere, cold, and definitely not homey.
William looked to the window that usually blasted the room with cold. There
was a new window fitted perfectly with Venetian glass. He could see shutters
on the sides and long heavy velvet drapes on a rod. His bed was now close to
the hearth. It too had a magical transformation. It looked comfortable. He
felt really tired now. He didn’t like change and this change was drastic, but it
didn’t make him angry at all. He liked the warmth and comfort the room
offered. “Geoffrey, help me prepare for bed.”
Geoffrey was at his lord’s side instantly. He assisted William disrobe
to his braes. A clean linen nightshirt was ready on the top of the bedspread.
After William was under the silken covers and the warm heavy woolen
blanket was laid upon him, he was sound asleep.
Geoffrey closed the shutters over the new windows that allowed a
bright light into the solar. He stared at the heavy drapes considering their
purpose when Christofre appeared in the room.
“Pull them together,” Christofre ordered. She looked at William
asleep under the covers and smiled. He hadn’t looked that angelic asleep
since he was a child. She nodded her head in approval to Lady Sarra’s
handiwork. There was no doubt in her mind that Sarra should be the new lady
of Keye’s Castle. Somehow she would slant the balance in Sarra’s favor.
***
Sarra was enjoying Oriel’s company tremendously. For a child she
was observant, eager, and good student. In a few short hours Oriel had
selected fabric for her new boy clothes. It seemed she had a natural talent for
observation and knew what fabrics and colors a boy would wear and select if
he were a merchant son. She also had not only mastered threading a needle,
but was already applying even stitches on a sample fabric.
“You are a natural talent,” Sarra praised.
Oriel’s eyes beamed with delight. Everyone had always been good to
her, but no one had ever really praised her. She was happy. Her grandfather
was wonderful, but she had never really felt this happy before. She was
actually accomplishing something. She was talented in her studies, but her
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“We may be off to our adventure sooner than I thought,” Sarra beamed
proudly. “Tomorrow in the morn, after breaking fast, we will return here. I
will help you measure and cut your tunic.”
Oriel was about to bubble over with happiness when a stern looking
monk appeared in the room. “Mistress, you are late for your geographic
study, and then we will begin your French language lesson.”
Oriel’s face dropped. “Aye, Brother Mark.” Sadly she placed her
needle and cloth in Sarra’s hand. She left the room with her smile turned into
a frown.
Sarra chuckled. Oriel felt about her lessons the same way Sarra used
to dread them as a child. As an adult, she realized how important they were.
She promised herself she would surprise Oriel with something special to help
her through the studies. It was something her mother had done for her. Sarra
finished her stitches, walked to her solar, put on her hooded woolen cape, left
the castle and walked briskly to a merchant located within the bailey walls.
Oriel wasn’t a very good student for Brother Mark this afternoon. Her
mind didn’t follow his lessons at all. She was thinking about her boy togs, the
making of them and the wearing of them.
“Mistress!” Brother Mark exclaimed in exasperation. “Where is your
head this day?”
“Attached,” Oriel replied sweetly knowing it was quite a sarcastic
thing to say. She enjoyed needling the devout and always serious monk. She
could never imagine becoming that religious. If religion took away fun in life,
she wanted nothing to do with it. Still she recited all the prayers, knew the
mass, and listened to all the teachings of the Church. The one subject she
loved was mathematics. There was something wonderful about playing with
numbers on the abacus and doing sums. The steward taught her practical
math, the dealing of foodstuffs, coins, and costs of running a household.
Normally a castle steward did not spend time in such instructions to a young
child, much less a girl, but he was ordered to do so by Lord Edmond. After
these boring classes she would meet with Baldwyn for the instruction. It was
as much fun as being with Sarra.
Sarra had barely left the castle for the merchant when Marshal
Bouvier was seeking her for instruction. Two other parties had been spotted
approaching Castle Keyes. One entourage appeared to have only two
mounted knights, several baggage carts, a retinue of servants, a small carriage
cart, a mounted lord, and five or six foot soldiers. Another group had at least
ten mounted knights and two had the shield of de Warre. It must be the
younger two brothers, Andrew and Edward.
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Roese handled Marshal Bouvier’s problems and gave orders to take
care of the next onslaught of guests. “It’s a good thing this is such a large
keep,” Roese clucked. Christofre told her shortly after their arrival that Lord
Edmond was expecting another lady and her parents as a guest. She was told
it was Lord Crispin of Tomes Castle, his good wife, Olive, and their only
child a daughter, Casse. Their daughter, Casse, was near the same age as
Sarra.
As the two groups merged to enter the bailey, Roese left the great hall
to greet them. It was a sunny day, but chilled. The fires had been lit for
warmth to greet them. Ale was brought up from the casks to be warmed and
served. The sleeping arrangements had all been made and information sent to
the kitchens for the increased service for the evening meal. Watching them
near was a shock. The group appeared to be surrounded by men who seemed
to be in a daze. The men were staring at the enclosed cart. She knew what
was going on when the cart stopped in front of the entrance to Keyes Castle.
Roese greeted her guests, saw to their comfort and left them in the hall of
tongue dragging imbeciles. She prepared one of the open solars for the
women and gave instructions to prepare Lord Edmond’s sons solars for their
needs. It appeared Sarra’s decorating of the solars would have to wait.
***
The evening meal was ready to be served when Christofre, Lord
Edmond, Lord Reimond, Andrew, and Edward walked together into the hall
and took their places. Sarra arrived a few moments later holding Oriel’s hand.
Both were beaming happily. When Oriel saw Edward she ran toward him to
greet him. She didn’t really know her other uncle, but Andrew and Edward
visited often and treated her with affection.
Sarra was startled at the men sitting next to Lord Edmond. They
looked like younger versions of Sir William. It was like William had been
stopped in time at various ages of his life. Harry walked into the hall and
greeted the boys heartily with hugs and back slaps. He was another older
version of Sir William, well nearly a twin. Quietly she took her place to find
it a seat down from her father. A short rotund man was sitting next to her
father. Sarra heard him addressed as Lord Crispin. So they had finally
arrived. She looked forward to meeting Lady Casse. Christofre had told her
and Roese that Casse was near the same age as Sarra. It would be fun to talk
with a maid about her same age.
The meal had just been served. There were courses of partridge, fish,
venison, and pork. The trenchers were filled with vegetables and trays were
brought with sweet apples, tarts, and candied berries.
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Christofre had gone all out to welcome her four boys. The castle was
filled with people, laughter, and with Sarra’s touches, a bit of comforting
home and hearth.
Suddenly the room became silent. It was a deafening silence. Sarra
looked up and turned her head to where every male in the room stared in
amazement.
At the base of the stairs from the solar stood the most beautiful woman
Sarra had ever seen. She was dressed in a deep purple velvet tunic.
Underneath was a lavender velvet tunic with tight fitting sleeves. The purple
tunic was covered in a gold embroidered pattern of vines with flowers. The
flower petals were made of precious gems. The lady wore a wimple of sheer
cloth as fine as Sarra had ever seen. It was the same color lavender as the
gown she wore. Upon her head was a crown of gold covered with jewels that
radiated the light of the candles into a multitude of rainbows everywhere.
Locks of golden hair peeked out from her wimple to frame a perfect oval face.
The Lady’s lips were cherry red. Her cheeks pink against an ivory flawless
skin. Brilliant violet eyes added to the perfection of her femininity.
Sarra’s good mood dropped. She felt inadequate. No room had ever
turned for her. She was attractive, but not beautiful. She had a solid boned
figure. The Lady Casse’s figure was slight and delicate. She was a toad in
comparison to a queen. Why that mattered she didn’t understand. Every male
in the room was dumbfounded. She looked at Sir William who had entered
just before the meal was served. His mouth had dropped open. Sarra quickly
noticed the lust in the eyes of the young men. Only her father and Lord
Edmond seemed completely unaffected. The two men had looked up at Casse
and Olive’s entrance. Edmond spoke to Reimond and the two continued their
meal.
Sarra watched Casse cross the hall like a wisp floating upon the air.
There was something sensual about every move she made. The silence was
still there, but a few older men were talking once more. Some of the women
gained attention of the men to help them regain their senses.
After Casse sat next to her, Sarra attempted to engage in conversation.
It was impossible. William, Harry, Andrew, and Edward rose from their seats
and attempted to speak with her. At least another half dozen young handsome
knights surrounded Casse. Several knights including Lord Edmond’s sons
nearly cut each other trying to serve Casse from her trencher. Sarra lost her
appetite. The flirtatious Lady Casse thrived in the attention.
“Enough!” Lord Edmond roared. “Return to your seats and let the
damsel eat in peace.
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The order sent the knights scattering. Harry and William ignored their
father.
Sarra had enough. She washed her hands in the finger bowl and left
the meal. She went immediately to her room where she sat and moped.
Oriel noticed Sarra leave early and whispered to her grandfather. He
nodded and Oriel scurried to go to Sarra’s chamber.
When Oriel had left the great hall, Lord Edmond rose from his chair
and angrily shouted at William and Harry to return to their proper places.
“Aye,” William grunted. “No need to shout.”
Harry took Casse’s hand and brushed his lips lightly over her
fingertips. “Until later, milady.”
Genoa watched from a lower table and glowered at Harry. The next
time he needed a little entertainment he would have a large price to pay.

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Chapter Nine
Sarra paced her solar back and forth. She was muttering about the
idiocy and carnal mentality of the male specie. “No intelligence, no logic, no
communication, just lust, pure lust” Sarra grumbled. “I mean why care about
a woman that can mend your clothes, run your house, have intelligent
conversations. Oh no! Just look at the pretty adornment at my side.”
“Where?” Oriel asked looking at Sarra’s side.
Sarra spun around to find Oriel looking at her quizzically. “What?”
“Where is the pretty adornment at your side?” Oriel asked.
“I don’t have one,” Sarra laughed at her own previous words. “I really
don’t. Unless you come here next to me, then I will.”
Oriel ran to Sarra’s side and hugged her thigh. “You think I’m a pretty
adornment?”
Sarra’s fingers combed through Oriel’s golden locks. “No.”
Oriel looked up a little disappointed.
“I believe you are a beautiful adornment, my little moppet.”
Oriel beamed. “I think you’re beautiful. You are the most beautiful
lady I have ever met.”
“The most beautiful lady is downstairs in the great hall,” Sarra sighed.
She knew she shouldn’t show her little jealousy in front of Oriel, but it simply
flowed from her mouth before she could stop it.”
“The purple lady? How we would we know if she’s beautiful? We
haven’t talked to her, seen her with others, or gauged her warmth.”
Sarra was astounded. Where did Oriel come up with these wisdoms?
She was only a child. “How do you know all these things, moppet?”
“Grandpere,” Oriel replied proudly puffing out her chest. She led
Sarra to the bed, sat down, and pulled Sarra down next to her. Her face was
quite serious. “Grandpere explained to me many many times that beauty is to
be judged by the complete person. He told me that a rose is the loveliest and
most fragrant of flowers, but that it is nothing more than a green leaved bush
covered with thorns until the rose emerges.”
Sarra’s eye’s rounded contemplating the allegory. She felt a sudden
rush of admiration for Lord Edmond. Immediately she pondered where such
wisdom derived in a man. Her mind floated back to the meal. Lord Edmond
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had shown little to no interest in the beautiful Casse. What witchcraft kept
Lord Edmond immune to the male lusts for a beautiful female?
“Do you understand?” Oriel questioned pushing Sarra away from her
thoughts.
“I believe I do,” Sarra answered. “A person with a kind spirit can be a
beautiful creature.”
“Grandpere told me about my little dog, Plato. Plato was a scruffy
ugly dog. No one liked him. His hair was long and knotted. He had to be
bathed daily if he wanted to be near me. Plato allowed the baths, because
somehow he knew he could stay with me then. Plato was gentle with me. He
hovered over me, used his nose to play ball with me and was a warm and
gentle friend. To everyone else he was ugly and ferocious. He would bare his
teeth and threaten any stranger near me. To me he was beautiful. To
everyone else he was ugly,” Oriel narrated. “Grandpere told me Plato was
beautiful, especially to me. The others didn’t try to see his beauty. His beauty
was made by his fierce love and loyalty. I loved him, so Plato was beautiful.”
“I understand my little moppet,” Sarra said taking Oriel in her arms
and hugging her fiercely. “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.”
“Grandpere also told me that sometimes something plain and ordinary,
like a green leafy bush will produce a beautiful rose,” Oriel continued.
“Sometimes you have to hurt and bleed a little to get that beautiful rose.”
Sarra couldn’t believe Oriel brought up this conversation on her own.
“Did you talk to Grandpere before you came to my solar?” Sarra asked
suspiciously.
“Of course,” Oriel answered strongly. “I saw you leave and you were
upset. I whispered to Grandpere and asked if he knew what was the matter.
He told me to tell you the stories about the rose and Plato. He was right
wasn’t he? You were upset about the purple lady?”
“Oh moppet,” Sarra stated. She was fighting tears in her eyes. She
didn’t want to cry. Instead she released Oriel, put her hands on Oriel’s
cheeks, and kissed her forehead. “Grandpere was extremely right. I’m glad
he told you to tell me the stories. I feel much better and realize how foolish I
have been. Thank you.”
Sarra took Oriel to her solar and assisted in her bathing and
preparations for bed.
***
Directly after the meal William leaned toward his father and requested
a moment for private conversation.
Edmond agreed and led his son to a small alcove near the great hall.
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“Pere, there is something that is troubling me,” William began. “It
concerns my child.”
Edmond said nothing in the silence. He waited to find out exactly
what was on his eldest sons mind before he would speak a word.
William looked at his father in the ensuing silence. It was always
difficult for him to talk to his father. He wasn’t certain how he would even
put the question. “My child, she is strong willed.”
Edmond contained his chuckles and replied quietly “Much like you, is
she not?”
William cocked a brow. “Like me? I am not strong willed. I am
restrained and contemplative.”
Edmond choked on his laughter. “As you say. What troubles you
about your strong willed child? And why converse with me about this
trouble?”
William recognized his father’s rebuke was a mild one. He sensed no
anger in his father’s tone, but he could swear by Christ’s toes, his father was
smiling. “This child rebuked me as her Pere. She tells me I am not her Pere.
She is impertinent. She shows no respect, honor, or obedience.”
“I see.”
“Well then, you must see that I should take her into hand. I should see
to her proper training,” William suggested arrogantly. He felt of course he
could raise a child properly in discipline.
“I have never seen my moppet behave so poorly as you suggest,”
Edmond countered quickly and with authority. I have lived with moppet since
her birth and this is not the same child you speak of. My moppet is soft
spoken, loving, obedient, and respectful.”
“Perhaps you are blinded by your fondness for the child,” William
answered pompously. “You love the child so much you do not see her faults.”
“And it would be good to turn her over to you?” Edmond growled
losing his good humor. His son was still arrogant to a fault. William’s stone
heart still as solid as rock. “I should allow a Pere without love or sensitivity
give lessons in respect? What would you do? Would you beat her? Would
you train her as a page?”
Edmond’s anger was something William could deal with. He and his
father seemed always to be at odds. This was the usual and he felt
comfortable with the event. He feared and admired his father, and that made
the challenge of battle with him exhilarating. “I believe the child needs a little
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Edmond flushed red with anger. “You will not touch my moppet!”
He watched his son grin. It was a smug grin. Once again his son had taken
him to anger. He fell into Williams trap time and time again. Didn’t
Christofre warn him constantly? William felt he had won when he caused his
father to lose his temper. It was William’s game to provoke his father. Then
and only then did William feel he had the upper hand and was superior to his
parent. Christofre had explained it so simply. It was the young male testing
and trying the old male to dominate the territory. It was an admirable trait for
the child who would be his heir, but it was an irritating one. Edmond regained
his composure. In a quiet tone he added. “After all these years you have
suddenly taken an interest in your offspring. Why is that?”
William’s win was short lived. His father had rallied with a blow he
had to answer first within himself. Why had he suddenly taken an interest in a
girl child, his girl child? His conscience answered swiftly. She was so like
him. She wasn’t a weak timid little thing like her mother. His child was
strong in his blood. She looked like him. She acted like him. Her strength
was obviously something she inherited from him. He was proud of her and
wanted to be a part of her life. He certainly couldn’t admit that to his father.
He wouldn’t admit it to anyone, not even Christofre. “I realize upon seeing
her that I have been remiss in my duty. The child’s disrespect and
impertinences, not withstanding the rags I saw her dressed in upon our
meeting the other day, has reminded me of this neglect of my duty.”
“Moppet has never once been disrespectful to me or anyone in this
castle,” Edmond related calmly. He was in control again. “Why do you feel
she disrespects you?”
“Mayhap the female termagant currently instructing her is partially to
blame,” William answered switching the guilt he was feeling to blame
another.
“Lady Sarra is a strong willed woman much like your child is, but
Sarra is a true lady. I have never known her to be disrespectful.”
“She dressed the child in rags! She bloodied my face!” William
roared. Now he had lost his temper. This woman was driving him mad.
“It seems these behaviors only are bestowed upon you, my son,”
Edmond enlightened. “Mayhap your behavior is boorish. Mayhap their
behaviors are in defense of your misconduct.” Edmond was interested in the
fact William brought Lady Sarra into the discussion. There was an attraction
there he was certain. Had the Lady Sarra managed to chisel a small chip off
his son’s cold heart? It had been difficult for him to watch his firstborn son
and heir inherit the cold heart of his wife. He accepted his blame for allowing
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this development. He had been too busy arguing with Laurette to take the
time he should have with his sons. At least he saw the error of his ways in
time to be a father to Andrew and Edward.
William boiled. Again his father was reprimanding him and defending
the actions of his guest and his own child. It took several minutes of silence
for William to hold back his anger. He regained his calm by concentrating on
biblical verses he was forced to memorize by Brother Paul. It was his
penance each time he lost his temper or lost his concentration.
“The child openly defied me. She stated I was not her Pere. She told
me I was a stranger to her,” William attempted in explanation.
“Is this not so? Your seed created her, but not once have I seen or
heard you conduct yourself in a paternal way? Have you comforted her when
she was ill? Have you seen to her education? Have you cherished her? Tell
me when you have even once guided as a Pere would?” Edmond reprimanded.
There was no answer. Silence loomed heavily between the father and
son.
The truth caused anger and pain to William. He had felt his father had
not been an example of a good parent since he was a young child. His father
always seemed to be at war with his mother, his beautiful mother. There was
no time for him or Henry. There was only time for arguments between his
mother and father. Later after Andrew was born and later Edward, the parents
barely spoke to each other and his younger brothers received some attention
from his father. He was a page during that time. He was fostered far from his
parents. He had received letters from his father during that time. His father’s
letters were encouraging and supportive, but brief. He admitted to himself he
had been envious when he saw the child and his father sharing a close and
loving relationship. He had reminded himself it was because the child was a
female. He would not release his long buried hurt to reveal what he
considered weakness. William decided to play the guilty. He needed to find
out his daughter’s name. His father would be the only one who would know
he did not know his own child’s name. His father had been right. He had
never been a father. Until he saw how much the child was like him he found
he was envious of his father and wanted to be a part of her life. “You call her
moppet, why is it you do not use her Christian name?”
“I wondered why you do not,” Edmond quickly countered.
“You know,” William uttered angrily.
“You do not know her name. You did not attend the baptism. You
ignored the babe from the moment she was born. You had no interest in a

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female offspring.” Edmond chided. “You chose to avoid all parenting duties.
Suddenly you seek respect and obedience from the child you rejected.”
William felt his anger rise. He quelled it. His father was right. He
had rejected his child and did now suddenly want respect and obedience. He
asked himself why that was true. He would have to sort that out later. He
answered his father with a half-truth. “What did you expect of me? What
could I do with a newly born babe? Could I nurse the babe? No! I had to do
the work of the king and protect our holdings. As heir I chose my duty. You
have sent for me and for what purpose I still do not know. I find the child
nearly grown and she has no love, respect, or duty toward me. I intend to
correct that.” The tenure of his voice was controlled, but the anger and
resentment was obvious.
Edmond raised his brow to his son’s tone. He knew his son was
raging inside. He hoped it was a rage concerned with his own failings.
Edmond did not pursue the anger. Instead he decided to give the answer his
son sought. “Oriel is the child’s name. She is most precious to me. I would
not allow her to suffer in any way,” Edmond warned quietly, but firmly. “Do
not frighten my Oriel, or harm her in any way.”
William returned his father’s affectation. “Think you I would harm
my flesh and blood?” His anger was simmering and ready for a battle.
Edmond would not raise the challenge. His son needed to battle with
himself, and not his father. “Mayhap not a purpose, yet I would be deeply
offended if the child came to me in tears.”
“Place your trepidation aside, Pere.” William dismissed his father
with a bow and left for the solar room he knew his daughter was in preparing
for bed.
***
Sarra had finished Oriel with her bath and was combing Oriel’s long
golden hair. They were talking about their upcoming adventure. The boy
togs would soon be finished. They chose the fair day to begin their first
excursion as young boys. Sarra was excited about once again taking on the
façade of a young man. She wondered what it would be like this time. Her
last foray into the young boy world had ended in misadventures. She would
certainly have to protect Oriel on these outings. It was one of those self-
imposed challenges Sarra enjoyed. This time they had already planned out
their day and the time allowed. They would not venture far and be back to the
castle within a short period of time.
William approached the solar and heard the feminine laughter. He
entered by stood at the door watching the domestic scene. There was the
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woman, Sarra, again. She was combing his daughter’s long blond hair. How
typical of a mother that was. He felt his heart soften just a little. How he
would have loved the tender touch of his mother. How much he had wanted
that as a child.
The chambermaid, Gwen, had been preparing the bed when she looked
up and noticed the dreaded and feared Stone Heart standing in doorway.
When he motioned for her to leave, she fled in a fright.
Sarra and Oriel had shared another laugh when a voice boomed from
the doorway.
“Lady Sarra, leave us!”

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Chapter Nine

Sarra jumped hearing the deep baritone voice give an order to her. Not
only had she been startled with the intrusion of her surrounding tranquility,
but also as the lady of the keep she had never been ordered about. At Mondel
Castle, she usually issued the orders.
Oriel was frightened. Never had any male except her grandfather ever
entered her solar. The solar was her private area and simply never intruded.
Before her was the dreaded man she knew to be her blood father. He ordered
her lovely Lady Sarra out. What was going to happen to her? She whispered,
“I’m frightened, Sarra.”
Sarra’s temper soared. She turned her head to look at Oriel. The
child’s eyes revealed fear. Sarra draped her arm around Oriel’s shoulder.
“Show him no fear, moppet. I’m here.” As a guardian angel protective of her
charge she glared at the intruder with challenge.
The fire in Sarra’s eyes ignited his passion. He was reacting swiftly.
What was it about this woman? “I ordered you to take your leave, my lady. I
do not often repeat my commands.”
“How dare you enter this child’s solar? This is a private area!” Sarra
spat in rage. She couldn’t stand little Oriel looking scared.
William stepped forward. He needed to get this woman out of here
before he lost control and bedded her in front of his child. He had to focus on
the purpose of his coming to Oriel’s solar. “The area is not so private to a
Pere. I wish to speak with my child.”
“Suddenly she is your child? You offer years of neglect and now you
are interested enough to burst into her solar and frighten her!”
“I am not interested in your judgments, woman. Leave us now or I
shall remove you physically.” Dear Jesu, make her leave or if I touch her she
would end up on her back. I would make her eat her words of insolence. To
gain his control he focused on his daughter. “Oriel, there is nothing to fear. It
is time you and I engage in conversation. I wish only to speak with you.”
Oriel’s head jerked upward. Had she heard correctly? Her father said
her name. For as long as she could remember she had heard about this man
who was her father. Her favorite uncle, Edward often told her about him. She
dreamed of having such a conversation with him and ridding her anger
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verbally. So she wasn’t a boy, she was still his child! “I wish Lady Sarra to
stay with me.”
“Your wishes are of little concern to me at this moment, Oriel.”
That answer caused Oriel to pull her anger through, losing fear. Her
eyes narrowed and glared at the man. Her chin jutted out in defiance.
“You will leave, Lady Sarra,” William growled menacingly. “I will
deal with your insolence at a later time.” He walked to her reaching for her
arm to remove her physically.
Sarra jerked her arm violently away. “I shall leave, Sirrah!” she
snapped accenting the insult. “I shall leave of my own free will, but if one
tear drops from my moppet’s eyes, you shall pay dearly.” Sarra gave Oriel a
hug, winked at her with a smile and laid the brush on the chest. “You are
strong enough to take the Stone Heart down, my moppet.”
William said nothing as Sarra walked to the door and left the room.
He found her reference to Oriel as her moppet had irritated him. His daughter
loved a stranger and showed him dishonor and disrespect.
Oriel sat stiffly waiting for her father to take a seat. He surprised her
by walking to her bed and sitting upon it.
“Come to me, Oriel,” William said in softer tone. “I only wish to
speak with you.”
Oriel did not show her fear and was certain her wobbly legs did not
reveal her dread. Slowly she walked to her father and gasped when his strong
arms picked her up and placed her gently on her bed.
“See now little one. I intend you no harm. I only wish to speak with
you.”
Oriel wasn’t about to forget her hurt and anger. “What do you desire
to speak about? Did you come to inspect my solar? Perhaps to see if I am
properly prepared as a femme for the night?”
“The impudence of Lady Sarra is rubbing off on you,” William
grumbled. His daughter’s defiant look reminded him of his own childhood. It
was his defense against his neglectful parents. The truth struck him like a
Norse hammer. He had been a neglectful parent. His own childhood came to
haunt him. How he longed to hear approval, praise, and affection from his
arguing parents.
Oriel jutted out her chin a little further. “It is my impudence. I need
no assistance.”
Oriel’s response brought a smile to William. His daughter was very
much like him. She was strong and willful. He was proud of his seed.

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The smile softened William’s face and surprised Oriel. What was he
smiling about? Such an answer was cause for rebuff or punishment.
“You are much like me,” William chuckled. Now was the time to
offer his child what he wanted so desperately as a child. “I am proud of you,
Oriel.”
Oriel narrowed her eyes and stared at the Stone Heart. She couldn’t
believe what she had heard. He was proud of her. She was a girl. He wanted
a boy child. He had ignored her these six years since her birth. He was proud
of her? He was proud of her defiance?
“Your Grandpere shows you affection. As a child he showed little to
me. I often responded with anger and defiance to gain attention. I remember
all I needed was for your Grandpere to say he was proud of me,” William
shared. His own eyes misted in the memory. “I thought perhaps you would
like to hear me say those words for you. I am proud of you.”
Those words were the ones Oriel had wanted to hear. As young as she
was, she still couldn’t believe she heard them. In a small shy voice she asked,
“You are proud of me?”
“Oh yes,” William offered quietly. “You are beautiful, strong, and
intelligent. You are everything a Pere could hope for.” To William’s surprise
Oriel leaped off the bed like a projectile fired from a crossbow. She propelled
herself to her father. Her arms encircled his neck and he felt a wet kiss
plastered on his cheek. William found his arms wrap around Oriel and
hugged her tightly. It was a warm wonderful feeling he found he liked. A
small chip of stone melted from his heart.
Tears were streaking Oriel’s cheeks when she finally pulled away from
her father and looked up at William.
“What causes these tears, little one?” William asked wiping Oriel’s
cheek with his thumbs.
Oriel sat on the bed and folded her hands upon her lap. “I did need
you to tell me you were proud. I have heard whispers many times of your
distaste for me at birth,” Oriel sobbed a little. “Since, I was not a male.”
William considered his answer. His reply would be the truth. There
would be no denying or taking back of his words after her birth. He knew that
would breed distrust on the relationship he had just forged. Such denial would
strike against his noble Knightly vows. “Little one, a son and heir is required
for such manors as Keyes Castle. Later your mother, quite sickly, passes on.
What could a Knight do with such a young babe? I had obligations as the heir
of Keyes Castle and the King’s Realm. I went to fulfill my duties. We all
have duties. Your Grandpere had passed on the responsibility to me and only
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had to run Keye’s Castle. He took your care and had the time to guide you
with love and concern. As a child Grandpere had no time for me. You can
see the responsibility left me no time for you. Do you understand?”
“I think I do,” Oriel replied furrowing her brow. “Yet, Andrew and
Edward were here lots of times and played with me. They had time for me.”
“Andrew and Edward do not have the heavy responsibility as heir to
Keyes Castle. Henry is nearly as responsible as I. Have you seen much of
him?”
Oriel shook her head. Her Uncle Henry came only once or twice a
year and spent most of the time with Grandpere and she blushed a little
thinking of the fact Uncle Henry spent time with female servants in the castle.
“The question now becomes, do you accept the truth that I am your
Pere and will offer me respect?”
Oriel nodded. She gave her father a beaming smile. “I offer respect,
yet I am not always good at that.”
William chuckled. “I hope not. I would like to believe I could yet
guide you on the path to adulthood. It is time for prayers and your rest.” He
knelt by the bed.
Oriel left her bed to kneel next to her father. Together they said the
memorized prayers and giving blessings to special people.
William lifted Oriel into his arms and placed a small kiss on her cheek.
He placed her on the bed and covered her with the satin coverlets. He then
lifted the heavy fur pelt blanket to lie over the satin coverlets. Her room was
warm, but during the night the fire might dwindle and the room could be
chilled. He had no concept that Oriel’s fire was kept high by three servants
each taking a watch during the night to tend to the fire. It was their duty to
keep the fire blazing and check on the sleeping Oriel.
William stood for a while in Oriel’s solar. He watched the blazing fire
and watched Oriel until he noticed she was sleeping. His thoughts had turned
to the Lady Sarra. He felt his lust rising. What was it about this woman that
all he had to do was think of her, and he wanted to insert his manhood
between the soft pubic hairs of her womanhood. He shook his head. He had
to deal with her insolence first. She was a stubborn and willful woman that
needed to understand the superiority of man. Lady Sara especially needed to
learn the superiority of noble Knight and heir to the vast manor estates of
Keyes.
William left Oriel’s solar to meet the object of his carnal thoughts
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Sarra had remained outside the solar listening for any cries from Oriel.
She was already knowledgeable of the household layout and services. She
knew she could reach Andrew, Edward, or even Sir Edmond’s solar in
moments. If they were not present, she knew their staff would be preparing
for them. She would have squires and servants in moments. The beast would
not be allowed to hurt her precious Oriel.
William emerging from the solar startled Sarra. She had not heard
anything but soft tones and murmuring. She was beside herself in worry. She
had to check on little Oriel. William approached her. She attempted to dart
around him. She was determined to check on Oriel’s welfare. Her purpose
was deterred when a strong hand grabbed her arm.
“Where are you headed?” William’s voice boomed angrily. He pulled
her back to face him. His hold on her arm tightened.
“Let me go, cur! You are hurting my arm. I shall be bruised. Is this a
new knightly war practice? Hurting women?” Sarra snarled pulling away to
gain her freedom.”
“I asked where you are headed,” William returned angrily. His
manhood was now at full alert. He blamed his discomfort on Sarra.
“I wish to see Oriel,” Sarra scowled in disgust. She saw no reason to
discuss anything with this stonehearted beast. He was not her idea of knightly
honor at all.
“The child sleeps!” William barked impatiently. “Leave her be.”
“I choose to see that for my own!” Sarra snapped irately still trying to
pull away from his grasp. Surely she would have a huge bruise on the
morrow.
William had enough. In one swift movement he lifted Sarra over his
shoulder and tossed her over his broad shoulder. She landed with an ‘oomph’.
Sarra’s breath was taken away when she landed belly first on
William’s shoulder. Immediately she started pounding her fists on his back
and kicking violently. She felt an arm hold down her legs. She couldn’t
move them. Her next assault was to pound harder with her fists on his back
and shout angry expletives. Even she couldn’t believe the curses emitting
from her mouth. Then she felt it and was shocked into silent. A large hand
slammed her buttocks. And again it slapped. She fell into absolute shamed
silence. The clod plate was spanking her. It was a stinging pain, but it was
more humiliation.
William walked directly into his solar and kicked the door shut. He
actually felt good to physically spar with this woman. She deserved the
spanking he was giving her. At last he could make this woman pay for her
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insolence. Perhaps at last he could get this woman out of his mind, and
hopefully his body. He sat on his bed. Quickly he removed Sarra from his
back and placed her body across his knees. Once firmly placed he continued
his hand spanking of those cute little globes of her derriere.
He stopped when he heard Sarra’s strangled sobs. William lifted her
to the bed, held her hands with one of his, and laid his body across hers to
firmly keep her in place. He immediately regretted his punishment when he
saw her tear filled eyes and tear-streaked cheeks.
“I see you regret your insolences at last,” William stated angrily
attempting to cover his regret.
“Beast! Cur! Swine!” Sarra wept. Her backside was still warm and
stinging. She glared with rage at the heir to Keyes. Her embarrassment was
insurmountable.
William’s manhood swelled. Her punishment had only increased his
lust.
Sarra was innocent to male organs and mating ritual. She literally
knew nothing of lust or carnal relationships. Even as a child her studies were
only mathematics, accounting, management, literacy, and languages. She
loved knowledge and truly knew nothing else. The hard hot bulge she felt on
her abdomen meant nothing other that part of the heavy weight lying upon
her.
William looked at the women beneath him. He wanted her. Dear Jesu
he wanted to enter her secret warmth and bury his manhood in her. He
wanted to derive all the pleasure he could get from her. His lips were
suddenly upon hers. His tongue teased her lips and between one of her sobs
his tongue delved into the sweetness of her mouth. He tasted mint. She was
sweet in every way.
Sarra had no idea what was happening. William’s tongue was in her
mouth. Was this another punishment? But it began to feel pleasant. Her sobs
ceased. She responded to his tongue’s intrusion with challenges of her own.
She felt a hand squeezing her breast. He found the hardened nub and was
toying with it. Swells of warmth entered her body and began to flow toward
her private woman’s area. She heard moaning. Was it her? Was it William?
The hand left her breast. She felt the hand raise her tunic, her gown, her
chemise, and open her braes. Fingers began probing her private area. Instead
of disgust or shock, she felt fluid warmth respond to his fingertips. The
warmth had turned into a heated need. All anger had disappeared. She had
lost all reason as well. Sarra was responding to primeval animal needs and
enjoying it.
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William was receiving ultimate carnal pleasure. This was different
from Elena or any other sexual experience he had in his lifetime. The woman
was obviously an innocent. Her instinctive responses were testament to that.
He savored her innocent response to his kiss. William thrilled at the instant
hardening of her breast nubs to his touch. When he fingered her private area,
his hand was flooded with welcoming moist warmth. All he needed to do was
lift his tunic and undo his braes. He needed this coupling and knew it would
be the best erotic experience he had ever had.

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Chapter Ten

“What is this, brother?” Harry shouted walking into William’s solar.


“You forget yourself! This is a Lady, noble borne.”
Startled, William broke away and sat up.
Embarrassed beyond any human acceptability, Sarra bolted from
William’s bed and ran toward the door. She was merely a blur to William and
Henry’s eyes.
“A pox upon you, Harry!” William growled. He called for his squire
and ordered a bath, a cold bath.
Harry sat down in one of the cushioned chairs in front of the fire.
“You should be thanking me for saving your soul. Sarra is a noble woman,
not a light skirt.”
“I was carried away in the moment,” William excused only slightly
embarrassed. He was in a needful pain at the moment.
“The cold stone heart carried away?” Harry teased. “It’s more than
that. There was fire there. I think you have finally met your perfect match.”
William spun in defense. The verbal attack was too close to the truth
for his comfort. There was fire and passion. It was something he had never
felt. He had never lost control and that frightened him if the truth were
known. “That plain looking noble woman? When in residence is the most
radiant beautiful jewel on earth?”
Harry was picking at his nails. “You mean, Casse the beautiful. Who
is the daughter of our steward Crispin?”
“Aye, the same one you have been tripping over to make
acquaintance.”
“I have made acquaintance. You have been too busy fighting the fire
burning in you with the maiden, Lady Sarra. As for desire, that is well in
check with the Lady Casse. You know very well I do not play with noble
born ladies. I am far too sated by other safer delights.”
“Ah, yes. I have seen you sneak into the corners with the lovely
Genoa,” William accused.
Harry did not take the bait. He grinned wickedly. “Genoa is quite
delightful. I never leave in want. You might try her. I notice you have not

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visited Elena since that first day. It is rumored she is trying to change her life.
Your own little wench has sent her to a finer position, milkmaid, I believe.”
“Your Genoa is really quite informative,” William said in irritation.
Where was his cold bath?
As if reading his thoughts, his squire and servants carried in the large
bathing tub, stool and buckets of water.
William began removing his clothes. His mind totally focused on the
cold bath to relieve his aching groin. Just as he stepped into the tub he heard
Harry laughing. He turned his head as he sat on the stool in the tub and his
squire began soaping his body as the servants poured in the tepid water into
the tub. “Is there a reason for your humor, brother?”
Harry could barely speak for his laughing. “I truly feel sympathy for
you. You must be in dire agony. Your sword is obviously in dire need of
sheathing. I almost feel guilty. Almost!” He continued laughing.
William glanced at his manhood. It was still aching and it was still
fully erect. He glanced toward his squire and noticed a small smirk on the
boy’s face. “Wipe the smirk from your mouth or you shall face several days
of Garderobe duty!” William growled menacingly. He reached for one of the
buckets of cold water near the tub. Picking up the bucket he poured the cold
water over his head. The cold water worked its wonder. He shivered
violently and felt the immediate ease in his groin.
Harry watched his brother intently between his laughter. When Wills
shouted at the poor squire and dumped the water over his head it was too
much. Harry rolled off the chair onto the floor in hilarity. He laughed so hard
his ribs were causing great pain. Tears of laughter rolled down his cheeks.
Never in his life had he thought he would see his stern, controlled, and elder
brother in such a state. He would be certain to thank his father for the
invitation to Keyes Castle.
Harry’s laughter was grating on Wills nerves. Even his squire was
having a difficult time keeping the laughter from erupting. “Christ’s Toes!”
William shouted. “Enough! Both of you leave me anon!”
Harry and the squire left immediately upon the order. Harry took the
squire’s shoulder as both left the solar laughing heartily.

***
Sarra fled to her solar. She was shaking violently. She was brilliant
red in embarrassment, but feeling wanting in her body. She didn’t understand
what was happening to her. She enjoyed the warmth of William’s body upon
hers. She enjoyed his touch. She enjoyed his kiss. Was she going insane?
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He was a stonehearted insensitive beast! No woman should let any man touch
her the way he did. She had decided many years ago never to marry and
become subservient to a man. She hated the control certain men held over
women. If she were to every marry it would be a man like her father. Marry?
What brought that thought into mind? Surely she was losing her sanity. Sarra
bolted her door and paced across the wooden floors. She concentrated on
being angry. How dare William de Warre treat her like a common wench,
some servant maid to use for his animal need? She willed her anger to the
forefront and fanned it until it was blazing. Of course, everything was
William’s fault. He was a beast. He was an animal. She would be on her
guard. She was a noblewoman, not some common light skirt. Sarra vowed
she would not give William an opportunity to treat her in that manner again.
It would not happen. She paced faster. Her fists balled at her sides. If he
were near at this moment she would pounce him. No she wouldn’t. After all
he was stronger and she would again be humiliated. In her fury she had
forgotten how he had spanked her. She rubbed her sore bottom. The memory
fueled her anger.
A knock on the oak door startled Sarra. She had been so deep in
anger.
“Sarra,” Roese called from outside the solar. “Your door is bolted,
dearest.”
There was no way Sarra wanted Roese to see her in this condition.
She would know something was very wrong.
“I’m fine, Roese,” Sarra replied toward the door. “I find I am
extremely tired. I have already prepared for bed.”
“Without my assistance?” Roese queried. She heard a slight
difference in Sarra’s voice. She was worried, but knew there was nothing she
could do on the other side of a bolted door. “Pray let me in. Something is
amiss.”
“I am simply tired. I’m going to bed now.” Sarra replied as calmly as
she could.
“I do not feel right about this,” Roese called once again through the
door.
“Good night, Roese. I shall meet with you on the morrow,” Sarra
sighed wearily. Her bruised arm was beginning to hurt. She was tired. Sarra
walked away from the door and began to disrobe. After she had removed her
gown she saw the huge bruise on her arm where William had grabbed her and
pulled. Her anger once again rose. How could she hide this bruise from
Roese? Her friend and servant would want to know how she came by it and
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there was not a way she could ever tell her of her humiliation. Sarra noticed
her bottom was also warm. Her cheeks flamed in embarrassment. Sarra put
on her softest linen nightgown and returned to pacing. She was in a rage and
it was centered on that beast of a man. Then the horrible thought struck her.
If that beast could do this to her, what must he have done to his innocent little
child? Dread covered the anger and worry took control. She couldn’t leave
her solar. She needed to soothe the bruise with her medicinal balms first.
Even then Roese might come across her. “A pox on you Sir William de
Warre!” Sarra cursed wringing her hands.
Sarra pulled her sack containing the medicinal herbs. Preparing a
paste for swelling and bruising she applied the mixture on her arm. Carefully
she wrapped the arm in clean white linen. Roese would not be dissuaded from
attending to her two nights in succession. She would tell Roese she woke up
in the night and fell upon the chair hurting her arm. Sarra rarely fabricated
and had always found it difficult to do so. She hoped it would suffice for
Roese.
Sarra pulled the bed curtains closed and climbed into the large bed
with a feather mattress. The sheets were clean white linen and smelling sweet
from the drying in the sunshine. Her thoughts were of little Oriel. She prayed
the little girl was safe. Sarra’s imagination saw Oriel curled in a ball, sobbing
in the middle of her bed, and calling for her friend, Sarra. “You beast!” Sarra
exclaimed slamming her fist into the pillow. Sarra knew the first thing she
would do in the morning was check on Oriel. As for the stone heart, well she
would give him a wide berth. Even now she felt his warm hands making her
feel things a maiden woman should not. Sarra tossed and turned in the bed
willing the memories to stop. At long last, well into the darkness of the night
she finally fell asleep.
William dried his body with the linen cloths left for him. He sat in
front of the fire relishing the cool air on his naked body. He poured tankard
after tankard of wine until he was well into his cups. William stumbled to his
bed and fell into it. The linen sheets were cool and fragranced with clean air
and sunshine. He fell into sleep still feeling the power of lust for the Lady
Sarra.

Sarra woke to Roese pounding on the door and shouting her name.
Roese was frantic. Sarra rarely slept past the hour of dawn. Last night Roese
was forbidden entrance and this morning, her Sarra did not wake to prepare
for breaking the fast.

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Sarra was still groggy when she walked to the door bolt to open it.
She hadn’t slept well and was still half asleep.
Roese was less frantic, but still worried when Sarra opened the door.
Roese saw her mistress’s hair was uncombed and knotted. Her linen gown
was more wrinkled than usual. Sarra’s arm was bandaged. Roese did not ask
any questions at first. Instead, Roese took Sarra’s hand and led her to the
chair so she could comb Sarra’s hair. Jacoba and Genoa followed Roese into
the chamber. Roese had anticipated extra assistance this morning. “Genoa,
get the man servants to bring in hot water and tub for my lady’s bath,” Roese
commanded taking the brush to care for Sarra’s hair. “Jacoba, find one of my
lady’s finest tunics this morn.”
Sarra grasped Roese’s hand in mid brush stroke. “I must see to my
little moppet. I must see that Oriel is well.”
The worry in Sarra’s voice fueled concern in Roese. “Is there
something amiss, my lady?”
“That beast threw me from Oriel’s room. He went in there, alone with
my little moppet. If he hurt her I shall see he is punished!” Sarra vowed now
she was fully awake.
“Is that how your arm was hurt? Sir William brutalized you? I shall
see he is punished for that,” Roese promised angrily.
“I did not say it was Sir William,” Sarra excused startled by Roese’s
assumption. She could not take the chance of Roese or her father finding out
what a wanton she truly was.
Roese stopped brushing and smiled knowingly. How much she and
her mother were alike, and how similar Sir William and Lord Reimond had
been. It was the marriage that changed Sarra’s parents by bringing out the
best in each and how the driving forces merged into the finest loving pair
Roese had ever known. Something happened between those two. Roese
knew it instinctively. It was the something the two would fight fiercely until
they surrendered to its wonderment and happiness. “Your bath is waiting.
You will dress and then we shall see to your little moppet.”
Oriel was already dressed and a bundle of energy ready to spring into
action. She was happy beyond words and wanted to share the news with her
Grandpere’. She wanted to run to her father and hug him fiercely. He was
proud of her. He told her that he cared for her. They were wrong. All her
thoughts about her father were wrong. He was just too busy. The hurt
disappeared. Her father was here. She finished her dressing and ran out the
door to the solar she knew was her father’s. She went to the door and found it
opened. Her little eyes rounded in surprise. Her father was snoring loudly on
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his bed. Her father was nearly naked to the sight save for a small sheet
covering his male parts. Oriel knew she shouldn’t be there. She ran to her
Sarra’s solar.
Sarra had finished dressing. She turned toward the door as Oriel ran in
the room. “Moppet! You are safe!”
Oriel clamped her arms around Sarra’s legs. “Everything is
wonderful!”
Sarra knelt to look Oriel in her eyes. “Wonderful? Your Pere did not
hurt you?”
“Oh no, Lady Sarra. He told me he was proud of me! He is glad I am
his child.”
Sarra was breathless in shock. The man hadn’t hurt Oriel at all. She
had worried for nothing. Yet, the beast had bruised her arm and warmed her
behind like she was some insignificant chambermaid. She had been used and
abused. A fiery rage took control. She hid it from Oriel. She would avoid
that animal completely. She tried to be happy for Oriel, but knowing how
beastly Sir William was, she would not trust him ever! “Have you told your
Grandpere?” Certainly Lord Edmond would caution the little girl about
having such faith in the beast he knew as his son.

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Chapter Eleven

Olive and Casse had finished preparing to break the fast. Casse was in
a foul mood because her mother had the servants wake her so early. Usually
she slept until near mid day and her repast was served to her upon her will.
Olive ordered the servants out of the guest solar.
Casse noticed her mother’s excited nervousness. “Do tell us mother,
there is something upon your mind.”
“Of course,” Olive agreed readily bolting the door behind the last
servant leaving the solar. “Sit down, daughter. I have something important to
share with you before we break fast.”
“This had better profit me. You know I am not happy of being woken
so early in the morn,” Casse snapped irritably.
“It is most profitable for you, precious,” Olive assured taking the chair
next to her daughter’s. “Last night I learned why we were summoned here.”
This news did interest Casse. She had wondered why they were taken
away from the warm castle and the comforts she enjoyed. “Last night? From
whence did this news arrive to your ears?”
“I was resting in an alcove when several servants walked by. It was a
woman chambermaid to Lord Edmond. She had overheard this servant
Christofre talking quietly to Lord Edmond. Of course the chambermaid was
thrilled to share the gossip with the other maids. I was fortunate to hear the
gossip.”
Olive was clearly excited. “Lord Edmond had decided it was time his
eldest son and heir to Keyes Castle remarry. You my daughter are one of the
chosen.”
Casse frowned. “One of the chosen? That is nonsense. Surely, I am
the chosen.”
“Lord Edmond also brought Reimond’s daughter. He wants his son to
choose between the two of you,” Olive shared eagerly.
Casse laughed. “There is no contest. Lord Edmond pits me as a
contestant against that plain and dull wench? I don’t believe Sir William even
noticed that little plain no one. He certainly has paid attention to me.”
“I noticed he has made your acquaintance. This is such wonderful
tidings,” Olive gloated.
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“Mother, men always pay attention to me. I agree Sir William is an
attractive man; there are other sons just as handsome and not as old. What
makes Sir William so special to you?”
“Because, my daughter, for years I have heard tales of the great wealth
of the de Warre family. It is rumored the de Warre’s have a hundred fold
more wealth than King John.”
Casse was truly interested now. “Greater wealth than King John?”
“I have heard for many years that King John is completely dependent
upon the lords of realms coffers. He spent the entire kingdom’s coffers on his
merchant army and wars. The De Warre’s wealth keep his kingdom financed.
That is why King John favors Sir William and leaves this lord and manor
alone.”
Casse was slightly skeptical. “King John would simply take his
merchant army and take the wealth from de Warre if this were true.”
“Not if he didn’t know where the wealth is hidden,” Olive protested.
“Hidden?” Casse queried. Where would this Lord keep his hidden
treasure?
“Aye, the de Warre’s have been in league with the Knight’s Templar
for decades. They have exchanged great wealth with the Templar consistently
throughout the crusades. They helped finance King Richard with the Templar
to fight the Saracens. This financial arrangement has increased their wealth
without any king knowing where it is kept. It is told the Templar have vaults
across Christendom. There could be a vault in this very castle, or in a cave
nearby. The de Warre wealth is also distributed in many vaults in many
Templar places including Scotland, France, Spain, and the Holy Land.”
Casse was shocked but intrigued. “Where did you learn all this, mon
Mere?”
“I learned it from many years listening to the tales from your Pere and
his friends upon their visits. Their lord has always been a topic of
conversation with your Pere.”
“And William is the heir to all of this,” Casse crowed knowing she had
little competition and no competition if she put her mind to it. Her mind was
already thinking of a thousand ways to spend the de Warre wealth on her
luxury. “Do you think William knows of the total de Warre wealth?”
Olive snorted in a most unladylike manner. “Of course he knows. He
is Edmond’s heir. Why do you think William spends so much time with King
John? He gives the King bread crumbs hiding the loaves of bread. The King
is grateful and leaves the de Warre family fortune alone. Your Pere has
always said King John the Lackland is an idiot.”
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“As William’s wife and lady of Keyes Castle I would have a fortune to
spend!” Casse said softly considering her new thoughts of satins, silks, jewels,
and golden jewelry. Her clothes would be the finest in all of Christendom.
“You understand my joy, Casse!” Olive concurred thinking of the
luxury she would live in due to her daughter’s marriage. Of course she would
stay in this grand Keyes Castle. She would have the best gowns, the most
servants, and the finest food. Her own thoughts filled with her future luxury.
“You will of course take heed of Sir William’s interest?”
“I shall lead him to me as a moth to a flame,” Casse cooed. “Come
Mere, we shall break the fast with my future husband.”
“There is one other thing you should be aware, daughter,” Olive
informed in a whisper. “It appears Sir William has a favored light skirt. Her
name is Elena. He brought her into the castle as a milkmaid. She is here to
pleasure him.”
Casse did not like that at all. She felt nothing toward Sir William, and
that was a shame, but he dare never look at another when she the most
beautiful gem he should treasure. Once they were married, the Elena woman
would be cast out of the castle back to the camps.
Casse floated into the Great Hall. She wore a deep blue velvet tunic
over a light blue silk gown. The gown’s sleeves were long trumpet bell
design accented by detailed dark blue embroidery. The embroidery was filled
with semi precious stones that sparkled in the candlelight. Her slippers
matched the gown. She noticed every man, old or young, turned his head to
look at her. It was common, but filled her with happiness every time. She
was the most beautiful of the realm. Of course she heard King John had
married a woman rumored to be incredibly beautiful. It didn’t matter, King
John had not met her ever, or he would have never married anyone but her.
Her eyes scanned the great hall. Sir William was not present. Lord Edmond
was arriving and his three other sons were present. Perhaps she would tease
one of the sons to find out more about the eldest. She watched with a smile as
Sir Henry rose to greet her. She frowned when a serving maid appeared to
bump into Sir Henry and dump a trencher onto his tunic. The maid then spoke
to Sir Henry. He suddenly looked sheepish and left the great hall in a rush.
The second son was gone. The next boy, Andrew approached. She graciously
took his hand and allowed him to take her to high table near him.
Olive took a seat at a lower table to watch her daughter. She was
irritated that Sir William was not present.
Lord Edmond took his seat at the high table and perused for all that
were present and those arriving.
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Olive noted a smile on Lord Edmond’s face when he turned and
spotted the Lady Sarra. Or, was it because she held his granddaughter’s hand?
Of course, the little snipe was building a friendship with Sir William’s
daughter to catch the heir’s eye. She would speak to Casse about that. Casse
needed to pay attention to the heir’s daughter.
Oriel led Sarra to her grandfather. Lord Edmond offered Sarra a seat
near him so she could stay near Oriel.
Edmond was pleased Sarra had developed a close friendship with
Oriel. He had planned all along that Sarra would be his son’s heir, but he
wanted his son the choice of physical beauty and cold heart, or attractiveness
with pure spiritual beauty and passionate heart. He had studied the two
women for one year. He had sent secret emissaries to find out all they could
about both the women. The results were exactly what he hoped for. Casse
was beautiful, used her beauty to get whatever she wanted. Casse was
egotistical and selfish. Sarra was simple and caring. She helped her father to
operate an efficient and profitable manor. He only hoped his son would make
the right choice. From his meetings after dinner with Reimond, he was
convinced his son was on the right path.
***
William finally woke well after the great hall had been cleared. His
head was pounding from the excessive drink he imbibed the night before.
Carefully he moved to the chest that held a bowl of water and a towel of fine
linen laid out the night before. With every movement his head throbbed. He
splashed the cool water on his face and found a little comfort. He was thirsty
and drank some of the water from the urn sitting near the washbowl. William
returned to the bed. He sat upon the mattress dueling with the need to eat and
the need to seek more sleep.
Geoffrey, William’s squire made up William’s mind by entering the
solar carrying a trencher and a cask of ale. Geoffrey placed the trencher and
cask on the stool between the chairs in front of the fireplace. He avoided
looking at his knight lord for he was still thinking of last night. He could tell
by William’s countenance his knight lord was not only in a surly mood, but
looked to be in pain.
William did appreciate his squire’s sense not to bring up last night. It
was in the squire’s best interest to remain demure and silent. One word and
the squire would be tending the Garderobe. He needed peace and quiet at the
moment. He would not get it. He looked up to see his brother, Harry
watching him move to his trencher. “You determined to wear your trencher

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this morn instead of consuming it?” William chided noting his brother’s soiled
tunic.
Harry had the good sense to look a bit sheepish. “It seems Genoa had
an accident this morning. I determined it was greater valor to fast this morn.
Since you seemed to be of the same mind, I thought we might have a go at the
practice field.”
William rubbed his aching head. “Not this morn, brother.”
“Are you ailing?” Harry chuckled recognizing a hangover. He had
also endured such an ailment many a morning when over imbibing the night
before.
William was not in a mood to deal with the dry wit of his brother. “I
do not approve of your habit of entering a chamber without invitation.”
Unfortunately that set Harry off in laughter once again. “I concur my
intrusions can be most untimely.”
“I’ve changed my mind,” William growled. He was feeling a little
better after the food and ale. “I’ll meet you in the practice field anon.”
“I’ve changed mine,” Harry laughed uproariously. He turned to leave
the solar. “You certainly are in a sour mood. No one to spar with this day.”
Geoffrey was still afraid of being assigned to the Garderobe and
assisted William in dressing silently.
***
William felt better after eating and dressing. He chose a long velvet
deep blue tunic with matching slippers. He looked and felt quite regal. He
was after all, the heir to Keyes Castle. He felt in control once again. He
would not allow his lust to carry him away again. William had planned to
spend time with his daughter on this day, but first wanted to discuss some
things with his father. He was on the way to the great hall to find his father
when the beautiful Casse approached him. He was surprised to see the
beautiful Casse gracefully bestow him with a bow. He gulped when Casse
addressed him in a very sultry voice.
“Good morn, my lord. There was news about that you were ailing. I
came to see if there was aid I could give. I have a servant that is talented with
certain herbs.”
The demeanor of this beautiful woman pleased William. His ego rose
proportionately. He was the heir to one of the largest portion of King John’s
realm. The de Warre’s were also one of the wealthiest families in all of
England. No woman had ever showed him such reverence. Of course it was
his due. “Lady Casse, I am well. The concern you show is appreciated, but
where did you hear such rumor?”
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“I confess my lord, that when you did not appear to break the fast I
grew concerned. I asked of your where about. Later, your squire appeared
seeking a trencher for you. My concern was so great I inquired of the lad. He
informed me that you were not well this morn. After the meal ended and a
few duties required of me were finished, I intended to seek you out.”
William’s ego swelled. The beautiful Casse had noticed him and
sought him out. He straightened his back in pride. He took Casse’s offered
hand. “No need to worry. As you can see I am in good health.” It never
occurred to him that a woman like Casse was interested in his money and
future inheritance. He knew he was a tall and handsome knight of the realm.
At Westminster and King John’s court all the women fell over him. As a
child everyone remarked on what a handsome boy he was.
Casse beamed when William took her hand and placed it upon his
forearm. She looked up at his face giving him a flirtatious smile. She had
him. She would soon be the mistress of Keyes Castle.

***
Sarra thought her day would be wonderful when she did not find
William at the high table. Her father had beckoned her to sit next to him at
the high table. Oriel had accompanied Sarra to the high table and took her
seat next to her grandfather. Little Oriel was speaking to Lord Edmond with
great animation. It was obvious the child was quite happy and sharing all the
information about her meeting with her father. Sarra noticed Lord Edmond
listened patiently. She also noticed Lord Edmond would look at her
occasionally and smile at her. Her day changed immediately after the
morning meal. The candle maker called her. There were problems with the
bee keepers providing the beeswax. Then the soap maker complained about
interference with the soaps and fragrances by Casse and her mother, Olive. It
became known to Sarra that Olive had noticed the fragrant soaps offered to
them to bathe and ordered that stores of special oils kept in Keyes Castle that
came from the Holy Land be used just for her and her daughter.
Sarra was surprised to learn of myrrh oils. She wondered how Olive
learned of it. The soap maker told her she had no idea how any one learned of
the precious oils, but she did know of them. A long time ago, Lord Edmond’s
great grandfather had started working financial investments and banking with
the Templar Knights. The Templars often brought myrrh with them as gifts
for the Lord’s wife and continued to this date. It was a special treat for the
wife of the lord to bathe in the oil. The Templar Knights and Keyes Castle
Lords had a long lucrative financial arrangement. Lord Edmond was currently
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enjoying the fruits of this long-standing friendship. The gossip Olive shared
with her daughter just happened to be fact. Lord Edmond’s wealth was indeed
greater than King John and his realm. The wealth was secure in hundreds of
Templar vaults across England, France, Spain, Portugal, and other numerous
countries of the world.
The soap maker had tried making some soap bars with the myrrh. The
soap would not harden. Beatrice did not want to waste another drop of the
precious oil. She wasn’t even certain she should be using the myrrh Olive
handed her. The gossip among the servants had been that Olive brow beat the
steward to give it to her. It was a small vial and Beatrice knew it was precious
oil.
Sarra had used other oils in soaps and explained to Beatrice how the
recipe needed to be altered slightly. Sarra also explained how the other mushy
soap bars could be altered to make the hardened soap bars. Once finished,
Sarra requested that Beatrice give Lady Olive only two bars at a time. She
should conserve the rest for later requests so she did not have to go through
the extra trouble for a time. Beatrice shared the story of Lord Edmond
coming down to the castle cellar to offer her congratulations. It seemed Lord
Edmond approved and enjoyed the rosemary and sandalwood scented soap he
was now using for his bath. Beatrice was proud of her new learned skills and
shared with Lord Edmond that it was Lady Sarra that had taught her. Beatrice
shared with Lady Sarra that Lord Edmond said he was well pleased.
The compliment did lift Sarra’s spirits temporarily. The laundress
now approached her. One of the vats iron bandings had rusted open and she
needed the smithy but could not find him. Lady Sarra was needed to order the
guards to locate him and bring him back to repair the vat. She joined the
search. She had just left the courtyard when she spotted Lady Casse and Sir
William walking the grounds. Casse kept looking up at Wills with adoration
as he spoke of his knightly deeds. They found a carved bench and sat upon it
engaging in flirtatious conversations.
Sarra was disgusted. She was working herself to the bone righting this
castle and Lord’s heir was flirting with a useless lazy ornament. Why was it
that men only cared about having a beautiful woman on their arm? Wouldn’t
it be much better to woo a capable caring woman? Sarra pushed the thoughts
out of her mind. Why should she care? They would return to Mondel Castle.
Whatever the lord’s son did was no concern of hers.

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Chapter Twelve
Sarra was concentrating more on Wills and on Casse than she believed
because a male voice startled her from behind.
“Disgusting isn’t it? Poor Wills does not understand a thing. That
vixen is after his inheritance. Wills has always been addled by women and
made poor choices in the matter.”
Sarra turned to see the younger image of Sir William. It was Edward.
This son of Lord Edmond was rumored to be the scholar of the family.
Edward preferred books and sums to armor and swords. Yet, he dutifully
fulfilled the squire requirement to become a knight. It was gossiped that at
Edward’s rate of training, he would be a score and ten before he acquired his
spurs. This gossip immediately endeared Edward to her heart. “They seem
happy enough.”
“Wills seems happy. The vixen is weaving a web around my brother’s
ego that will be the end of him,” Edward remarked. He started laughing and
added, “and my brother will smile until his death.”
Sarra understood what Edward meant but she countered, “I doubt Lady
Casse will murder your brother.”
“Physical death? Perhaps she will, when she tires of him and seeks
another fortune, but most certainly my brother will die a slow painful death
after falling into her snare,” Edward chuckled.
Sarra couldn’t help herself. “And you are so old and wise with such
vixen experience?”
Edward liked Lady Sarra at once. He had noticed the changes in the
castle. He asked many questions of the household staff and learned quickly
these wonderful castle changes were directly the result of Lady Sarra’s hand.
Now that he met Sarra he was enjoying her wit. One thing Edward admired it
was wit. “One need only be near the heat of the fire to know you will be
burned.”
Sarra couldn’t help herself. She laughed heartily. “You have
observed your brother for some time then?”
Edward smiled broadly. “I have observed my elder brothers, all three
of them! It is almost as good as enjoying a good story, book, or minstrel

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watching them. The three are extremely susceptible to the charms of the fairer
sex.”
Sarra focused on Edward’s face. His face was still boyish, but his
eye’s had a certain mischievous twinkle that captivated her instantly. “I hope
at sometime to hear your observations, but right now I am seeking the
smithy.”
“I was sent to inform you the smithy has been found and taken to the
laundry,” Edward informed taking Sarra’s hand. He placed her hand upon his
forearm. “It is near the noon day meal and I would be honored to escort you
to the table.”
Sarra was enjoying this young man’s chivalry and thought that if spurs
were given for such honorable actions Edward was far ahead of his older
brothers as a knight. Alas, spurs were given for sword wielding and
arrogance. Sarra was delighted as Edward talked of everything in the
courtyard as if it were the finest prose written by a master poet.
William rose to escort Casse to the noon meal. When he placed her
hand on his forearm he noticed his youngest brother walking in like manner
with the Lady Sarra. For no explainable reason he felt anger rise in him. He
was furious with Lady Sarra. His brother was a babe in arms. What was that
woman doing with Edward? The reality was that Edward and Sarra were
nearly the same age. Edward was actually two years older than Sarra. Those
facts did not matter. Sarra was robbing the cradle. She was a woman. He
would have a talk with his younger brother as soon as possible. He would
remind him that he needed to concentrate on obtaining his spurs and keep his
mind on that alone.
***
Edward entered the hall with Sarra on his arm. Oriel sitting by her
grandfather clapped gleefully watching her favorite uncle walk in with her
dear friend. Oriel scowled when she watched her father prance in with the
Lady Casse. Oriel had not told anyone, but for some strange reason she did
not like the Lady Casse.
Remembering her mother’s advice, Casse stopped by Oriel and smiled
at the child. “I give you greetings little Oriel. Would you like to sit near your
Pere and I this meal?” The voice was smooth and silky.
To Oriel the voice was deceiving. “No, I always sit with my
Grandpere and near the Lady Sarra.” Oriel pointed to Sarra taking a seat to
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William noticed Edward’s choice in seating. He wanted to pull his
brother up by his tunic and give him a lecture right then and there. To fuel his
anger, he noted Edward and Sarra were enjoying their conversation.
Casse was furious. She noticed William was no longer paying
absolute attention to her. “Wills,” Casse addressed irritably. She used an
endearment only the family had used. It was forward of her, but even that did
not return his attentions to her. Her only recourse was to tug on his tunic
forcefully. Finally William returned to Casse, but it was obvious he was
distracted. She couldn’t imagine what it could be. It certainly was not the
little scrawny plain Sarra. Perhaps it was his youngest brother. That must be
it, a macho knight thing. “My lord, perhaps you are hungered?” Casse oozed
sympathetically. “Let us take a chair and indulge in the wonders your
Christofre has created for us this meal.” Casse did enjoy the meals at Keyes
Castle. There was never any scrimping at this table. Their own castle
suffered the scrimping of foods since she and her mother cut back on food
portions to purchase more jewels, gems, and cloths for their wardrobe.

***
The meal was pleasant for Sarra. She enjoyed conversation with
Edward. He offered to show her his portion of the library. He loved books,
parchments, and papyrus he collected. Many of his friends were also
Templars and they copied several ancient scripts for him. Sarra was truly
excited when they left the table. Oriel had watched her father during the meal.
He had only looked toward her once or twice. Casse kept drawing his
attention. That upset little Oriel. She looked to Sarra and her Uncle Edward.
They were happy and laughing. When she saw them leave she ran to her
Uncle. Edward stopped at once and lifted his niece into the air giving her
several spins. He kissed her forehead and tucked her safely in his arms.
Sarra was delighted with the warm affection shared between the uncle
and niece. She watched the two and readily agreed when Oriel asked if she
could accompany them to the library.
The scene before him was an edge of a cliff that he was about to fall
over. He concentrated to keep control. He found Casse’s incessant chatter
irritating and not conducive to keeping his anger in control. Yet his logic
could give him no reason for his anger. William would never admit to such an
emotion as jealousy. That of course was beneath his demeanor. He allowed
Casse to lead him away. He wasn’t even certain where he agreed to go with
her. He found himself being led out of the keep to the bailey where a fair was
beginning to assemble. Before he realized what had happened, he agreed to
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purchase a piece of velvet cloth. It was an unusual color of plum. The
expensive cloth seemed to change from a deep plum to a purple plum as the
cloth moved in her hands. He couldn’t imagine what possessed him. Perhaps
he was possessed. He shook his head to clear it. “I need to return to the
castle. I have forgotten an important appointment,” William lied. He was not
about to succumb to every whim of the woman. He was not an open bank.
“Who?” Casse asked innocently batting her eyes.
William had to think quickly. “Harry. I had promised to share with
him some battle methods on the practice field.”
It seemed logical enough to Casse for a knight to consider a training
session more important than a woman. It didn’t matter at the moment. Casse
had him purchase her precious velvet, fabrics, ribbons, and some precious
stones.
***
Upon returning to the hall, Casse left for her solar. Christofre was at
mass and his father taking his daily nap. William knew they would not be
able to help him locate his brother. He saw Harry on the practice field that
had given him the idea to rid himself to Casse. Harry would not know where
Edward was. That left Andrew, but he couldn’t find that brother either. He
didn’t want to wander room to room. Where would his brother be? Then he
remembered how much time Edward spent in the library.
William was proud of his deduction. The two were in the library
reading a parchment together and engaged in an animated conversation. Oriel
was on Edward’s lap apparently a part of the fun. “Edward!”
The thundering voice shattered the aura of fun.
When Sarra saw it was William she gritted her teeth. Why was it he
always seemed to appear to intimidate her and destroy the pleasures she found
at Keyes Castle.
Edward appeared to be bored at his brother’s bellow. He was used to
the bully his big brother could be, but somehow never did he suffer from the
bully. He instinctively knew William’s bark was far worse than his bite.
Oriel straightened. Should she be frightened? Her Pere told he was
proud of her last night.
Edward felt his niece stiffen. He whispered in her ear, “It is fine little
one. Your Pere only sounds gruff. Perhaps you and Sarra might run along
now.”
Oriel didn’t need a second suggestion. She leapt from Edward’s lap
and scurried over to Sarra. “I want to go and check on our clothes for our
adventure tomorrow.”
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Sarra certainly did not want to be in the same room as Sir William de
Warre. She took Oriel’s hand and walked out of the library completely
avoiding a look at William.
Edward slowly rolled up the parchment and put it back in the library
cubbyhole. “What do you want of me, brother?”
“I only sought you to perhaps share with you some military
techniques,” William replied hoping Edward would believe the lie he came up
with. “I am concerned for you. You are a score and still have not obtained
your spurs.” To William’s surprise Edward laughed.
“Oh brother,” Edward replied wiping the tears of laughter from his
eyes. “You expect me to believe your stone heart has suddenly warmed?
Come now brother, you have not taken an interest in me or my spurs ever
before.”
“I am home now and not in the realm of the English Court. I have
time to consider my family,” Wills excused.
Edward laughed harder. Edward wiped the tears from his eyes and the
realty of the situation struck him. His brother was jealous. He did not take
well to Edward enjoying the Lady Sarra’s company. He probably was not too
happy about his daughter liking her Uncle so much. Still, Oriel’s affection
never seemed to worry him before. Of course he hadn’t seen the child since
she was a babe in arms. He liked Sarra and her company. He didn’t want to
give her up to his stonehearted brother. Didn’t he prefer the beauty by his side
than the intelligent capable woman Edward admired? After all he knew
exactly who had made the wonderful changes to Keyes Castle. His favorite
change was the sandalwood scented candles in his room. They burned
brighter and longer. They also provided a soothing aroma Edward found great
pleasure. “Where is your pretty arm ornament? Has she lost interest in you so
soon?”
“Christ toes, what are you babbling about?” William stormed at his
brother. Why did his younger brother always attempt to trick him by
changing subjects? He wanted to continue on his purpose. Then he became
angrier when he realized he really had no purpose. He just wanted to separate
his brother from Sarra. That he had accomplished. His temper eased.
“Your beautiful Casse. Where is she? The last I saw she was hanging
onto you like ivy upon a wall.”
William did not care for the metaphor. He stood silently glaring at
Edward who was too accurate for comfort. Finally regaining his calm he
replied. “She is off doing her woman things. You do not seem interested in
my assistance for your training.”
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“Ah, brother. You do pay little attention to me at other times. I am to
receive my spurs this spring. I am to holiday at Keyes Castle for the winter.
You need not concern yourself any further.”
William sat on a bench. “Good news. You can ride with me.”
“In truth, Wills, I will stay at Keyes Castle,” Edward had no desire to
war. He obtained his spurs for his father’s sake alone. A wicked thought
crossed his mind. He had found Sarra to be wonderful and enjoyed her
company, but he saw how William stole angry glances toward him while in
her presence. He needed to find out what his brother’s true feelings were
about her. “It is my hope to stay here at Keyes and live happily. I wish to
wed and raise a family. I wish to share my life, love, and knowledge in this
way.”
William became rooted to the spot in shock. “Wed? You’re a child!
You need to live before you tie yourself to a wife and the responsibility of a
home and family.”
“You have missed me some time. I am a man. My choices are far
different than yours. If I am not a man it is only by your judgment.”
“All these plans,” William growled. He and his brother were different.
His brother’s wishes shocked him. Life was about war and battle. There was
no need to think of wife and family. What was Edward thinking? “Have you
selected your wedded wife as yet?” William queried sarcastically.
This was Edward’s opportunity. He grabbed it. “I find I enjoy the
company of Lady Sarra. She is all that I hope for. She is intelligent, quick,
well schooled, and quite capable in running a household. Yes, I think I have
selected my future wife.”
William stood straight. He clenched his fists. “Are you mad? That
wench would eat you alive! She nearly beheaded me!”
“I heard you knocked her off her ladder. Her feet ran into you as
accident as she swung holding the candelabra to save her from falling. Your
face merely got in the way,” Edward chuckled. At least he knew that Lady
Sarra could not be his good wife. Whatever William wanted he would have,
and he would have the Lady Sarra if he knew it or not.
His brother defending the Lady Sarra was too much for him to bear.
Since he had arrived everything was about the Lady Sarra. Even his daughter
preferred her company to his. He stomped from the room. His next stop
would be the practice field. There he would vent his fury on every knight in
his path.
***

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Early next morning after breaking the fast, Sarra was in Oriel’s room.
The chambermaids had been ordered out. Sarra and Oriel were trying on their
new clothes. It was their boy clothes. The two giggled and laughed in
enjoyment. Sarra bound her hair and placed the cap upon her head. Carefully
Sarra bound Oriel’s hair and placed the velvet cap upon her head. They
looked at each other in approval. Both of them looked like wealthy boys.
They had succeeded in looking like children of wealthy tradesmen, but not of
the nobility. Sarra knew the nobility were always treated with deference. She
did not want to risk looking poor. Looking poor would cause far too many
problems or dangers.
Sarra suggested they leave through the storerooms beyond the
kitchens. Their only problem would be getting down the stairs and past the
great hall without being recognized.
It was then Oriel remembered the passage behind the tapestry in her
room. “I know a way without ever being seen,” she bubbled running toward
the large heavy tapestry. Oriel crawled under the tapestry. She struggled to
stand lifting part of the tapestry with her body.
It was then Sarra saw the large door.

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Chapter Thirteen
The sun was rising. Oriel and Sarra quickly made their way to the
bailey. The fair was opening after setting up the day before. The fair just
before the long winter months was the last frolic until the spring. This fair
was a big event. The wind was nippy. Sarra and Oriel grasped their cloaks
tighter about them. They had taken a pouch of coins with them. They
intended to enjoy the fair fully buying any small desire, tasty pastries, other
foods, and drink. Oriel stopped at one of the first tables. She spied a
slingshot. It had been many times that Oriel had watched the younger boys
playing with them. She bought it immediately. Oriel was careful counting
out the money and hiding the purse carefully as instructed by Sarra.
When they left Oriel bounced cheerfully along Sarra’s side. “I will
learn to use this. I have always wanted to do so. It will be so much fun.”
“I also wanted to learn and did,” Sarra shared. “You must remember
that the slingshot can also be dangerous. Never sling in the household and
make certain all area around you is clear when you are first practicing.”
Oriel took Sarra’s hand. “You are older and wiser. Of course I shall
listen to you.”
***
Casse was sleeping in late this morning. She believed William was
successfully wound about her finger. She told her mother the betrothal would
be announced soon. She was certain of it.
Olive was delighted at the news. They could stay at Keyes Castle and
enjoy all the comforts and wealth.
William was awake early this day. He was present at the table for
breaking fast. He ignored his two brothers and did not even seem to notice
that Casse was not present. Instead he watched his daughter and Sarra laugh
and whisper with enthusiasm.
William made the decision to spend the morning with Oriel. He would
learn a little more about his daughter. Perhaps he would take her on a hunt.
He would share his skill at Falconry and impress the little one. After the last
trencher was cleared he watched Oriel and Sarra return to the solar. He went
to the huntsmen. He then went to the Falconry to give orders to prepare his
bird. The next place he visited was Duns Bouvier. He instructed the Marshal

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to prepare his great Destrier. When everything was in order William returned
to the castle and went to Oriel’s solar. No one was there. He went to Sarra’s
solar. No one was there either. He questioned servant after servant only to
find out that no one had seen either since breaking the fast.
Something was amiss. His instincts told him there was no foul play,
but he was furious that the two disappeared. The plans were all made and he
did need a diversion. He returned to the Marshal. Everything was prepared
for the hunt. He left with his Falcon for an early morning hunt informing the
Marshal to watch for his daughter. Bouvier was ordered to command his
daughter to her solar to wait for him. He would be back before the Noon
meal.
Oriel and Sarra were thoroughly enjoying themselves. They played
the part of wealthy young boys well. Oriel had kept her promise to follow all
of Sarra’s instructions. She had practiced boy things every day faithfully.
Even Sarra had to control her mirth when Oriel snorted loudly at a jester,
wiped her nose with her sleeve, and gave a huge belch after drinking some
mead.
No one seemed to take unusual notice. They visited nearly every
table, but refrained from buying many things they normally would have since
a boy would have little interest in fine cloth or fancy ribbons. They were able
to enjoy perusing and purchasing some books. After all, boys were allowed
books to read.
Sarra had to admit being a boy was sort of wonderful. When a woman
went to fairs they would not be able to look at purchasing personal items since
it would be embarrassing for them. A man would always hold the purse and
limit their purchases. They could stay as long as they wanted at any table and
enjoy everything.
Sarra purchased a beautifully carved oak treasure box she cradled in
her arms lovingly. Inside the box was a silver medallion she purchased for
her father for his birthday. As a woman, a male escort would have berated her
expensive purchase and grudgingly pulled out the purse. As a boy, she was
free to do with her money as she wished. It was turning out to be a fabulous
day.
Sarra decided that she and Oriel would do this again at the Spring Fair.
It was ever so much fun.
The day had been eventful, but pleasurable until Sarra spotted Edward
heading for the book trade where they were looking over books.
“Oriel, quickly pull down your hat. Your Uncle Edward is walking
toward us,” Sarra warned in a whisper bending her lips near Oriel’s ear.
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Obediently, Oriel pulled her hat down to cover her brow and eyes.
She dipped her head forward to chin. Oriel did not want to be discovered.
This day was truly a fun adventure. She wanted to do it again and again like
Sarra had. If she were caught, she would be prevented and would have to
promise to her Grandpere never to do it again.
Sarra pulled her cloak hood over her hat and bowed her head. Either
Sarra or Oriel wished to leave the wagon just yet. These were newly penned
books filled with prose, books of copied wisdoms of seers, and copied works
of ancients. Oriel wanted one of the prose books. Sarra wanted the book of
ancient stories.
Edward always attended every fair and found the books. He walked to
the cart. He paid no attention to the two young boys standing by the book
wagon. Edward ignored the rolls of parchment and spied the book of ancient
stories. He reached for it to purchase.
Sarra reached for ancient stories. Edward’s arrival was something she
didn’t anticipate and wished to leave immediately.
Both their hands reached the book at the same time.
Edward inhaled quickly when his hand touched the boy’s hand, except
it was not a boy. He recognized that hand. It was the hand of Lady Sarra. He
didn’t even have to recognize the signet ring of the Albyn family. What on
earth was the Lady Sarra doing disguised as a boy at the fair? If she had
wanted to attend the fair he would have happily escorted her. Whatever her
reason he would find out, but he would not reveal her now. “It seems we have
the same taste in reading.”
“Aye,” Sarra replied breathlessly. She caught herself and restated the
word in a deeper tone to sound like a boy.
“Your voice appears to be changing,” Edward teased knowing whom
he was addressing. “These are difficult times for a young boy. First you
sound like a young girl and then you sound like a man. You never know what
you are going to sound like or when your voice will change.”
Sarra was stunned by the comment. She was nearly caught. She
decided not to respond, but tugged on the book.
Edward found it difficult not to chuckle. “You were here first. The
book is yours. I shall find others for purchase. Strange that such a young boy
would find such reading of interest.”
Sarra was caught. The best defense was an offense. She knew that
much about the male warfare. In her deepest voice she replied, “Strange that a
grown nobleman would find such reading of interest.”
Edward tipped his head back and laughed heartily. “Touché!”
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After Sarra paid for her book and Oriel’s book, they started to leave. It
was nearly noon. The two had agreed to return to Keyes Castle before the
midday meal. They would be missed if not at the meal. This day had been so
much fun, Sarra and Oriel certainly wanted to do it again.
Edward pretended to peruse the book collection and absently picked
up one of the books. He had no idea what he purchased. He watched the two
walk toward the castle keep. With enough distance between them he
followed. He was surprised when they changed their course and veered
toward the woods on the other side of the keep.
Sarra and Oriel were nearing the secret entrance to the castle when a
large Destrier emerged from the woods. It was Sir William holding his
falcon. His companions and fellow knights, Sir Lewis and Sir Gaston rode
behind with their falcons. Two guards and a huntsman were behind them
holding several partridge.
Sarra groaned. Why was it that the stonehearted Sir William de Warre
always appeared to ruin their fun? Perhaps she would be lucky this time. He
didn’t know it was her or his daughter.
William didn’t pay attention to the two young boys walking toward the
woods until he had a strange feeling that the two figures were strangely
familiar. He reined his horse toward the boys. “You there!”
“Oh no,” Sarra sighed stopping on the grassy meadow. She held
Oriel’s hand tightly even though it was difficult while holding her box, book,
and other small purchases they made in the morning.
Oriel whispered in a fearful voice, “Do you think Pere will know us?
We will be in trouble.”
“Be brave moppet, we will be safe. He will not know us,” Sarra
answered bravely hoping she was right.
The huge Destrier came to stand by the two figures. “Where are you
off?” William queried trying to put his mind at ease wondering where he felt
he knew the two.
Sarra was about to answer in a deep voice she practiced to hide her
femininity. As she opened her mouth a deep voice spoke behind her and a
strong hand gripped her shoulder. The hand gave a tight squeeze as if a
warning to remain silent.
“Wills, these are children of merchants at the fair. He gave them on
loan to bring my purchases back to the castle,” Edward explained.
William looked at the many sacks in their hands. “You have
purchased quite a bit little brother.”

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“As did you yester eve,” Edward grinned mischievously. He loved
bedeviling his oldest brother. He had accidentally ran into the servant
carrying bolts and bolts of fabrics, ribbons, and some precious stones on his
way to delivering the wares to Casse’s solar. He was surprised when he
learned these packages were purchased at the fair by William for Lady Casse.
His brother enjoyed beautiful noble women at King John’s Court, but his
eldest brother was usually quite stingy.
William looked at Edward quizzically. He truly did not know what
Edward was talking about. He had taken Casse to the fair as they were setting
up. He remembered agreeing to Casse’s purchase, but did not remember what
she had purchased. His mind was elsewhere the entire time he had been with
her. His mind had been on the Lady Sarra and her enjoyment in the company
of his youngest brother, Edward. He did not want to think about this any
further. “Hurry to the keep, Edward. On the horizon the cold clouds are
forming. We will have a strong wind come. There will be storms, perhaps ice
following.”
***
William had been an excellent weather forecaster. Edward, Sarra, and
Oriel just entered into the keep when a strong wind howled outside. The wind
brought icy sleet.
Sarra realized she would be needed within the castle as the ice storm
began. She also knew their disguise had not fooled Edward. He was
continuing as their escort through the great hall up to the solars. William
fortunately was not in the great hall when they entered. He had gone to his
solar upon his return.
“To Oriel’s room, quickly!” Edward encouraged.
Sarra couldn’t help herself. She turned to Edward removing her hood.
“How did you know?”
“Your ring,” Edward laughed picking up her hand and kissing the
golden-jeweled band. “Your family signet. I noticed it that first night in the
library. Your hands are too slender, delicate, and small even for a boy. You
fingers are beautifully formed, and quite feminine.”
Sarra giggled. “I had no idea you were so observant. Thank you for
saving us from possible trouble with Sir William.”
“My pleasure,” Edward replied bowing low. “Now, hurry. I’m sure
the staff will need your instructions soon, and the mid day meal is about to be
served.”
The first winter storm of the season raged outside the Great Hall walls
during the mid day meal. Sarra’s experiences had been needed as the castle
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staff battled the storm’s onslaught. Sarra had ordered that all the western wall
fireplaces have roaring fires. The extra heat was a bulwark against the icy
rage outside. The Great Hall remained warm and comfortable.

***
“Your daughter is a blessing to this castle,” Lord Edmond shared with
Reimond after the meal. “She has secrets she now shares to keep us warm,
comfortable, and a cleanliness to keep our health.
Reimond agreed with a father’s pride. “My Sarra will make her
husband a happy man.”
Edmond laughed. He whispered to his good friend. “You need not
remind me of our course. Things are going as planned. There is fire between
them. Surely you feel it?”
“Exactly like the courtship of my dear Joy. We took far too long
fighting our strong desire for each other. I hope your son and my daughter do
not follow in the same path.”
“I cannot wait much longer. We will pass this winter season. If they
have not realized their need for each other by then, I will push the desired
result,” Edmond promised.
“The Lady Casse is upon Wills like a bee upon nectar,” Christofre
remarked quietly so only Edmond and Reimond would hear. She was walking
near the two men as they left the Great Hall to sit together in Lord Edmond’s
private sitting area.
In the privacy of the quiet room Lord Edmond shut the door behind
Reimond and Christofre. He bolted the door. “I will share the next steps with
you Lord Reimond. Christofre and I have been watching and listening.”
“Before you begin, I must advise you. Sarra has bothered me for the
past two weeks as to the date of our return to Mondel Castle. It is my good
fortune this early storm has come. My excuses are no longer needed through
this winter. I can only pray the two find each other,” Reimond informed his
liege lord.
Edmond sat upon his favorite cushioned chair. He remained silent in
thoughtfulness. “It is a concern to me that they desire so much they fight to
stay away. I see the Lady Casse flitting about my son to catch his interest
constantly. It makes me uneasy, but I trust Christofre.”
Reimond took a chair after Lord Edmond was seated comfortably.
Christofre brought a skin filled with fine wine and poured it into three goblets.

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Christofre gave each man a goblet. She sat upon a bench between the
two men. “You noticed Casse has taken a dogged interest in Wills?”
Christofre asked Reimond.
Before Reimond could remark to the question Lord Edmond
interrupted, “It was Christofre’s plan to allow the servants overhear us
discussing the real reason Sarra and Casse were brought to our court.”

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Chapter Fourteen
“Aye, the Lady Olive is a gossip monger. I’ve watched her listen, then
run to the solar to share all news with her daughter. I wanted Casse to
understand her reason for being brought here, and watch her work.”
“My Christofre is not disappointed,” Edmond chuckled. “The Lady
Casse is presenting quite a theater.”
Reimond was a bit concerned. He had watched Casse’s flirtations with
the man he hoped would be his son in law. “Casse could lead William to be
wed.”
“If that were to come close,” Edmond assured confidently. “I will
interfere completely. I shall not allow Wills to end up as I.”
Reimond had the good sense not to question Edmond’s odd reply. His
face unfortunately revealed his question.
“William’s first marriage was arranged by me. I wanted a sweet quiet
girl for him. I wanted William to have a wife totally and completely different
from my wife and his mother. Edith was a complete opposite. I feel I was at
fault that she died. She could not live with William. The poor girl was
terrified of him,” Edmond confessed. “My wife was a harridan. I fell into her
web of beauty. I paid no attention to who she was. I suffered in that
marriage. Our children suffered with us. Every day was a heated argument.
We learned to hate each other. Finally, when our boys were fostered we
simply stopped talking with each other. It was then I achieved some measure
of peace.” Edmond stopped with that explanation. He seemed to withdraw
into himself. There was a small uncomfortable silence that lasted a few
seconds.
Christofre’s face paled and she appeared to sadden. It looked as if she
felt the pain for Edmond. Edmond recovered.
“All of that is history. I’ve achieved a measure of happiness now. I
want my son to have that measure without the years of agony.”
“I would like to inform Sarra as to our reason for being here. Surely
she will hear the gossip,” Reimond suggested.
Edmond looked to Christofre. “We have discussed this. Is it time?”
“It is time,” Christofre concurred. “Tell Sarra in your own way, as any
father trying to make a match.”

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The next morning Reimond called for his daughter. He led her to a
quiet alcove outside the Great Hall before they would enter to break the fast.
“My daughter, I had hoped you and William would meet and find each other
acceptable. In the stead, I see the two of you avoid each other. You seem to
favor the company of Edward.”
“William is too captivated by Casse’s beauty to be aware of anyone,
much less me,” Sarra responded not truly understanding her father’s point. “I
like Edward. He’s interesting. We share the same interests, especially
journals, scrolls, parchments. It is a world of knowledge we enjoy.”
“Lord Edmond called us to Keyes Castle to pursue a betrothal between
you and William,” Reimond stated bluntly.
Sarra was stunned. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes rounded in
shock. “Never! He is a boor, a clod plate, a Stone Heart!” she hissed quietly
so others could not hear. “I could never, I would never, accept that man as a
husband. If I was brought here for that purpose, then so was Casse. Let her
have him! She is just as cold as he. Let us return to our home. I miss my
home.”
Reimond was not surprised by Sarra’s denial of feelings toward the
man. How could she admit her true emotions when she hadn’t recognized
them? It was just like those many years ago when he and Joy were matched
for betrothal. “We cannot go home. Look at the weather. I feared for our
health when we were called in the foul weather of autumn. I will not risk our
health to try and return to Mondel in the horrid winter season.”
Sarra sighed heavily. “I will try to make the best of it. I do enjoy
Oriel’s company, and this cold drafty misdirected castle is a challenge of
sorts. I do like Edward. I enjoy our conversations. Do not tell me I cannot
enjoy his company, father. I would be distressed and unhappy.”
“You know I can deny you very little. I would only interfere if your
life were at risk,” Reimond reassured. “Couldn’t you try to smile for Sir
William, just a little, for me?”
Sarra rose from the bench in the alcove. She placed her hand upon her
father’s arm. “It shall be a total failure. He cannot tolerate me. Yet, I will
try. Come, we will break the fast.”
“Let me sit here in my disappointment for a moment,” Reimond
protested.
Sarra felt somewhat guilty. She adored her father and never meant to
disappoint him. “Not too long?”

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Reimond reached for his daughter’s hand. He squeezed it gently.
“Not too long.” He wondered if history could be repeated. He was deep in
memories when a voice startled him. It was Edward.
“Are you well, Sir Reimond?” Edward queried in concern.
“I have no problem. I am in good health,” Reimond replied. He
turned his head and looked up at the handsome young man. “Do you have
feelings for my daughter? I see you in her company a lot these past days.”
“I truly like your daughter. I enjoy our conversations. I enjoy her
company. In time I could hope we could love each other and make a match,
but alas,” Edward sighed. “I fear she and my eldest brother will end up as a
match.”
Reimond looked quizzically at Edward. How could everyone see the
fire between Sarra and William?
“Try not to think so hard on it,” Edward laughed cheerfully. “Come,
let us break the fast.”
Sarra had already taken a seat near her father. Oriel was busily
conversing with her before she took her seat next to her Grandfather.
Reimond took his chair at the high table near Edmond. Sarra was next
to her father and Edward sat next to her. He was like a royal courtier in a
suite for his true love. He focused on every word. They laughed and smiled
over little jokes. Edward cut the finest portions of meat and offered them to
Sarra.
Casse took her chair next to William. She flirted consistently. She did
everything to keep William’s attention. She cajoled him in every way. Casse
asked him about his knightly duty to the King, jousts, battles, anything she
could think of to keep his attentions.
William was Casse’s lute string. He thought he gave everyone the
impression she was his only focus. He only offered side-glances to his brother
Edward and Sarra’s obvious enjoyable conversations. He gritted his teeth on
more than one occasion.
Andrew caught his brother’s glances toward the Lady Sarra. Andrew
was the brother of the land. He loved all of nature and preferred the forests
and hills to the cold stone castles. He too had learned of all the changes he
enjoyed at Keyes were the result of Sarra’s handiwork. Most of all he enjoyed
the lavender scent of the rushes and candles burning for the evening meals. In
his rooms he enjoyed the pine aroma of rosemary in his soap and candles. It
helped him to sleep comfortably in the closeness of stonewalls. Andrew was
also noticing the attention his younger brother Edward was paying to the
Lady. At the same time Andrew was contemplating his older brother, Harry.
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Harry was well known as the lover of the family. He loved women. Harry
loved beautiful women, yet Harry was paying little to no attention of the
beautiful Casse. Andrew knew William to be self confident and sure of his
own beauty. Andrew wondered why William was paying attention to a
beautiful woman that would only conflict with William’s self-importance. He
ran the questions of these odd behaviors back and forth in his mind throughout
the meal. Andrew couldn’t understand any of it. He couldn’t understand the
consistent glancing with a look of anger, passionate anger toward the Lady
Sarra and Edward. What was going on?
There was no answer for it. After the meal he would discuss this
question with his father. Then he would get the answers. Lord Edmond knew
and understood everything.
Andrew waited until his father was alone by the hearth. He spoke in a
whisper as he asked all the questions that came to him this morning.
Lord Edmond listened to his son, patiently. Once all the questions
were posed he responded.
“My son of the woods and land,” Edmond began. “What causes the
male wolf to select his mate in a pack of ten other females? What makes this
one female so special?”
Of course Andrew knew the answer. The she wolf is selected for her
strength, wiles, and scent. The male wolf knows which she wolf would
produce the strongest offspring. The male wolf knows which she wolf would
build the safest and secure nest den for her pups. The male wolf knows the
she wolf would be the best mother for their pups.”
“Exactly,” Edmond answered simply. “The lead male wolf may look at
prettier females. He may even court them, but in the end he chooses the
female that will provide the strongest bloodline and safest home.”
Andrew understood immediately when his father explained Will’s odd
behavior. “My eldest brother is courting the pretty young thing, but is
keeping his eye on the best choice. Tell me, Pere, what of Edward. Will his
heart be broken? He surely seems to be a young wolf seeking the prime
mate.”
Edmond could not help but laugh uproariously upon that description.
When he gained control and wiped his eyes of laughter tears he spoke quietly.
“Your youngest brother, Edward is a very intelligent young man of reason.
He has already spoken to me of his enjoyment of the Lady Sarra. He is also
wise enough to realize his eldest brother will have her. For this wisdom, I
have agreed to let him keep her company.”

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“Yet, that is a danger for the young pup. The lead wolf will eventually
challenge him for the prime mate,” Andrew evaluated.
“Your great intelligence is in the understanding of nature my son,”
Edmond endowed placing his large hand upon Andrew’s shoulder. “For this
you must protect the young pup’s person. I count on you to do this.”
Andrew nodded. He took his father’s word quite seriously. “I vow to
protect the young pup. And what of Harry? Of all our brothers, I would have
expected him of all to be besotted of the beautiful wench.”
“Your brother Harry has found his mistress. She is a woman of great
control over him. He needs that you see. Although this woman is not of
noble birth, I will agree to the match. She is formidable and will keep the
erring boy in control to his benefit. I feel she will provide the boy with
guidance and fine healthy children.”
“Who is this woman?”
“Look for yourself. The proud Harry is her puppet on a string.”
“Genoa? The light skirt?” Andrew said incredulously as he watched
Harry take Genoa’s hand and lead her to the gardens.
“Genoa, the chambermaid. She reminds me a lot of Christofre. Don’t
you agree? Do you not feel a love and respect for Christofre, though she is a
servant to the Castle of Keyes?” His father questioned. “At one time,
Christofre was thought to be a light skirt. In fact she was not. She merely
loved a man. A man that was a fool not to recognize it and left her for a
beautiful noble woman.”
“You know I feel our Christofre is our surrogate mother. She may be
servant, but my adoration of her is that of noble born,” Andrew replied.
“So Genoa is thought to be a light skirt, but has only given her favor to
one man. She has tried to live up to her reputation and failed. She loves that
one man too much,” Edmond elucidated walking now to sit at his chair before
the fire and near to his dear friend Reimond. He was surprised to see Crispin
sitting on a bench next to Reimond. Crispin appeared to be waiting for his
lord. “I wonder what this is about. Crispin is usually involved in tally in his
head for our wealth and show envy. He jumps to his daughter’s demands as if
he were the king’s own jester.”
“Shall I stay with you?” Andrew offered to show his support of his
father. He had always been a defender of his father’s happiness.
“Aye, come by my side,” Edmond answered lovingly. “Let the other
sons be about their course. I would like your support at my side.”
Edmond took his chair and Andrew stood behind his father. His hands
braced upon the chair back.
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“Crispin, this is a surprise to see you at the fire this morn,” Edmond
commented. “Is there something you desire to communicate to me?”
Crispin was a shy man, but his wife had nagged him continually since
last evening. He was more afraid of Olive than his liege lord. He had to live
with Olive and she could drive a man mad if she desired. “My Lord,” Crispin
began humbly. “If you noticed, your son, William has developed an interest
in my daughter, Casse. William is marriageable as is my Casse. I thought we
might consider a match. We could discuss a betrothal.”
Edmond remained silent. He wanted to choose his words carefully.
Before he could form the words, Andrew responded.
“I do not recall my brother requesting a betrothal. Perhaps this
attraction you speak of has not yet reached such proportions.”
“Putting the cart before the horse, so to speak,” Edmond chided.
Crispin became very nervous. He was uncomfortable being so
forward without having William approach him, but his wife was insistent.
What was he to do? He remembered Olive’s haranguing. “My lord, it is
obvious of your son’s interest in my beautiful Casse. He spends most of the
day with her. Why just yesterday he purchased lovely cloths, expensive
fabrics and ribbons as gifts for her. He is besotted my lord.”
Edmond had just lifted a cup of mead to his lips. He nearly choked at
the besotted description and spat the mead across to the hearth. “Besotted?”
Crispin was surprised at his liege lord’s reaction. “My daughter is the
most beautiful lady in all Christendom. What man would not be besotted?”
“I for one,” Andrew stated calmly as he twirled his cup of mead.
“Your daughter is beautiful, but not attractive to me.”
Crispin inhaled sharply. He couldn’t believe his ears. What man
wouldn’t fall passionately in love with his beautiful Casse?
“I noticed my elder brother Harry shows little interest, and then there
is Edward my youngest brother. I see he shows no interest in your Casse,”
Andrew gave for examples.
Edmond was enjoying his son’s statements, but raised his hand for
Andrew to stop. He wished to respond. “My dear Crispin, my son, William,
has not come to me for any discussion involving your Casse. I sincerely
doubt he has come to you for such discussion either. Until the time arrives
William does address me, I will not discuss any betrothal. I appreciate your
family’s enthusiasm for uniting with mine. I will ask you to bear patience
with me.”
Crispin knew his proposal had been defeated and his liege lord would
not discuss the possibility until it became factual. He dreaded returning to his
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wife Olive. What was worse that Casse would be told she would have to work
harder to make William fall in love with her and ask for her hand. Casse
never had to work for anything. Whatever she wanted was given her. He had
no idea how his wife and daughter would understand the need to work for
something.
Quietly Crispin rose from the bench. He bowed slightly to Lord
Edmond and left the great hall with shoulders rounded and his face downcast.
He was defeated.

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Chapter Fifteen

While Lord Edmond was dealing with Crispin, William was dealing
with his own drama. He watched his daughter run to Edward and Sarra when
his father left the high table. It ripped into his stone heart when he saw his
own child smile and laugh, when Edward picked her up and kissed her
sweetly on the cheek. It was obvious to William that the two were sharing a
special secret, or should he say three? Casse was attached to him when he
strode quickly to his brother, Edward.
His address was to his daughter, “Oriel. I wish you to spend the day
with me. I had planned yesterday to take you hunting with falcon. I could not
find you the day. Today is a good day for sledding. Would you like to do
so?”
Casse usually concealed her emotions well, but this surprising
invitation to a five year old from a score and eight aged knight was
incredulous. She hated the cold. She hated the outside. She hated snow. She
hated ice. She did not like children or children games. What was she to do?
Edward noticed Casse’s face change. He saw the panic in her face.
All other eyes were on little Oriel waiting for her reply. Then he saw the face
turn again to the ice queen emotionless countenance. The change made him
shudder.
Oriel looked to Lady Sarra. “Sarra, I have not sledded ere now. Have
you? What is it?
Sarra had been taken away to her memories of the fun she and her
sister had from childhood to present. They had taken sled at Mondel Castle at
every first storm and throughout winter. “My moppet! It is ever so much
frolic. My sister, Sabina and I sled every winter. You fly on the ice. You
will enjoy it very much!”
“Wills, a smashing idea!” Edward regaled happily. “It has been years
since we sled. My Lady Sarra, would you be my companion for this frolic?”
“Please Lady Sarra,” Oriel pleaded. “We shall have fun!”
Edward glanced at Casse and noted a sneer quickly covered again.
“I shall gladly come with you to sled,” Sarra bubbled. She would keep
her vow to her father. She would make the best of it. Indeed this was the best
of it. Sarra felt a bit giddy. She was looking forward to the sledding.
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“We’ll meet at the great hall one hour past the mid day meal. Then we
shall go to the northern side of the castle,” Edward beamed. He watched
Casse’s eyes round in horror.
“The northern side of the castle?” Casse squeaked hiding her normally
sensually sultry voice. “It is the coldest part of the bailey! The northern
winds are quite icy!” She struggled to gain control. “After all, consider the
little child. It would be too severe.”
“The best hills are on the northern side. Oriel is her father’s daughter.
We boys sled those hills every winter. It is healthy exercise,” Edward
responded quickly. He didn’t want his brother to change his mind. This was
an idea he never expected of his cold brother. Perhaps there still was a bit of
fun loving child left in that stone heart. For some strange reason he wanted to
sour the beautiful Casse. He was also looking forward to the playtime with
Oriel and with Sarra. He would like her as a wife, but he would still enjoy her
company as a sister in law. In addition to watching Casse, he had been
watching Wills. His brother scowled when he invited Sarra. He had been
trying to avoid her, but his eyes lit with passion whenever she spoke. Lord,
William was a lucky man. Edward would do his part to make the two collide
into an explosion of passion this castle would not forget too soon.
William smiled at his daughter, she seemed to bubble with the same
anticipation of joy he used to feel as child when he and his brothers had their
adventures. Those happy days flooded his mind. How long had it been since
he had fun. He had pleasure, but he had not had fun in far too many years.
The court had hardened him. In the court enemies surrounded you. People
would slice at you if they spotted any weakness. It was all about power in the
court of King John. The work of court was exhausting. There was no fun at
court.
“I shall take you upon my sled and teach you the ride,” William said to
Oriel. “You will be master of the sled by twilight.”
Oriel’s eyes lit up with delight. Her father was taking time to play
with her. If only Casse would not be coming. Oriel knew instinctively that
woman would spoil the fun.
“I don’t think the child should go out in such foul weather,” Casse
insisted. Jesu, she did not want to go outside, much less sled? She never rode
a sled. It wasn’t noble!
“I’ll see to it she is properly clothed,” Sarra offered. She was looking
forward to the sledding. “She will be protected from the weather.”
“The weather is not foul,” Edward declared. “The sun is shining now.
The winds are low, the ice beneath a pack of snow. The weather is perfect!”
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“Aye,” William agreed readily. “The weather is perfect for sled rides.
You do not have to sled with us, my lady, if you feel the weather is too foul
for you.” He was watching Oriel and Sarra walk briskly away laughing with
secret giggles in happy conspiracy. He felt warm and good. When he turned
to Casse that warmth faded quickly. He was reminded of the coldness of
John’s court. He hoped Casse would not accompany them.
“William,” Casse returned with her sultry voice. “My concern is only
for the child. Of course we shall sled.” She placed her hand upon his
forearm. “Let us go to the hearth. We shall enjoy a mug of mead and
conversation. I will call for my hoop and I will show the stitchery I am well
known for.”
The last thing William wanted to see was fancy stitches in a tapestry.
He never liked the feigned interest of young swains at John’s court and he
liked it even less here at his home. “I’ll walk you to the hearth, but excuse me
my lady. I will be going to the stables where our sleds are stored. I shall have
to see to their appropriation, cleaning, and waxing. Then I will prepare my
clothes for the outing.” He seated Casse on the bench his father had been
occupying and walked briskly away before she could call for some other
thing.
Reimond, Andrew, and Edmond were preparing for a game of chess
when William seated Casse at the hearth.
Andrew was curious about William’s odd behavior. He seated the
lady and walked away fast. It was as if the castle were under siege. “William
seems in a great hurry.”
Casse responded quickly. There was only a hint of irritation to her
sultry voice. “He is off to the stables. It appears the sleds need tending.”
“Sleds?” Andrew asked excitedly
“Sleds.” Casse replied coolly. “We are to have a sledding party after
mid day meal. He intends to teach Oriel to sled. Of course, I warned him for
the child’s health.” Casse was going to say more hoping to sway Lord
Edmond to prohibit the outing, but she was interrupted as she opened her
mouth.
“Smashing idea,” Edmond decreed. “The outing will be good for
Oriel. For my health she has not had the physical outings she should. Was it
Oriel’s idea?”
Casse held her irritation in check. No man had ever cut her words
short. “It was Sir William’s plan. Surely the child is too young.”

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“Nonsense! The outing will be good for her,” Edmond disputed. “The
sun is shining. The air is fresh and sweet. The wind is docile. Tis a perfect
day for sledding. The snow has packed wet against the ice.”
“I shall aide William,” Andrew laughed. If there was one thing he was
the master of, it was sledding. Even as a younger brother he bested Wills and
Harry. How long had it been since he sledded? It had to be at least four or
five years while he served as squire before his knighthood. He bounded out of
the great hall.
Casse was peaked. Were these men mad? Since there were no men at
the hearth to serve as adoring courtiers, she determined to excuse herself
immediately. “Forgive me my lords, but I believe I should prepare my
wardrobe for the sledding.”
Reimond and Edmond nodded their assent. They were both relieved to
see her go. The chess set was set for the men. The two were soon embroiled
in the game.
Andrew hastened to help Wills with the sleds. He accidentally
bumped Harry in his hurry to the stables.
Harry grabbed Andrew’s tunic. “What is this, Andrew? First Wills
charges out of here like we are under siege and now you? Is there a siege I am
not aware?”
“Only on the sledding hill where I shall once again conquer the title of
master sled!” Andrew laughed heartily. “We shall have a sledding frolic this
mid day after meal. I’m on my way to assist William with the sleds. We are
going to instruct our Oriel in the art of sledding.”
Harry’s grin was wide with delight. “You will excuse me, Genoa. I
am off to the stable to care for the sleds. What fun! Of course you will join
us?”
Genoa was thrilled. She loved sledding. When she had opportunity in
the winter, she would sled with other maidens and children of the keep. “I
shall love it!”
Harry gave her a chaste peck on the cheek. “Good! Be sure to inform
Christofre. I should love to have her hot ale and warm meat pies waiting after
I win the title of master sled. Then you must dress warm, my love. You will
see me crowned Master of the Sled.”
Genoa waved happily to her love as he ran to reach Andrew. She
heard the two arguing and boasting while running to the stables. This would
be the most wonderful winter at Castle Keyes she could remember. Genoa
finally had her man, her love, and he called her love. Genoa nearly floated
across the Great Hall to the kitchens to find Christofre.
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Christofre took the news with great cheer. It was as if time reverted to
when the sons were her boys. She sang while she saw to the making of the
meat pies in between the preparation of the mid day meal. Ale was brought
from the lower dungeons and readied. This is one day she would not walk to
the chapel after the mid day meal. Today she would stand watch over her
children while they frolicked in the snow. A sigh of happiness emerged from
her lips. The servants had not seen Christofre like this for as long as they
worked there. The older servants remembered that happiness in their mistress
and were happy. The joy spread across the castle like a pebble swell across a
lake.
Everyone was in happy mood. All but three did not feel the joy.
“They are mad! No, I am mad to even consider this,” Casse ranted
angrily. “This William wishes to sled! Sled in the cold and foul weather of
winter! I hate the outdoors. I hate it I tell you! Still, I return to my rooms to
find out from Mere that you, Pere, have failed to procure my betrothal. I am
told to try harder to get William! I have never had to try to gain a man’s
attention! This is insane! How dare you expect this of me? I must go out in
that cold and pretend to enjoy myself?”
Olive had always submitted to Casse’s temper and offered her
anything to calm her, but Olive wanted to live in this castle. She wanted her
daughter to be the mistress of these wealthy lands. She wanted the wealth and
comfort this match would bring. “You are to do exactly that. If you want the
wealth William, as your husband, will provide. You will do everything
necessary to achieve that goal. You will dote over his child. You will be her
best friend. The child is too close to that Sarra. You tell me William wishes
to win his child’s love. It was he that thought of this sledding. You will do
everything to play with that child and become her friend.”
Casse plopped upon a chair. “You ask too much of me. I do not even
like the child.”
“She is William’s blood,” Crispin said tentatively. “When you wed
you still must deal with the child.”
“I shall not!” Casse nearly shouted. “The child shall be fostered.”
“First you must become the mistress of this castle,” Olive snapped
sharply. “Come, we will select your warmest clothes for this outing. You
will have a wonderful frolic this day!”
Casse rose angrily. Her face showed all the petulance and pouting of a
spoiled child forced to do something she did not want to do.
***

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Sarra laughed heartily most of the day. She and Oriel were wearing
their boy togs under a simple woolen tunic lined with fur. They wore fur-
lined cloaks and warm knitted woolen gloves covered by fur line hunting
gloves. They also wore woolen caps tied under their chins. After donning
their cloaks, Roese tied long woolen muffler scarves around their necks.
Casse’s servants had never dressed their lady for outdoor activities.
Casse was more concerned for her finest velvets and silks than her comfort.
Sarra was certain Casse would not last outside longer than an hour before all
her body froze.
The large troupe walked outside the north gate toward the hilly
landscape of the northern sled trails.
Sarra clapped in delight when she saw at least ten children of the castle
servants sledding with rough timbers and large old serving trays that were to
be cast aside. There were at least six trails already made ready by the
children’s slides.
The children upon seeing the noble troupe started to scatter. To
everyone’s surprise, William called to the children and bade them to stay and
play.
Andrew ran ahead pulling his special sled behind him. He was
sledding down the hill passing one child after another. His laughter could be
heard all the way to the castle gates.
Edward pulled Sarra into a run with him. He too was pulling his sled
behind. Reaching the crest of the slide. Edward placed his slide, put Sarra on
his lap between his legs and took slide down the hill skillfully avoiding the
children sledding and climbing the hill. He also had to watch for trees,
stumps, and rocks. The children had made the slides to challenge the most
skillful of sled drivers.
Oriel clapped in glee watching her two uncles. “Hurry Pere, hurry.
Look at my uncles.”
Harry was sledding down the hill with Genoa upon his lap.
William was literally dragging Casse. He did not even ask her to
participate. He was listening to her complain how cold it was. He thought
angrily of how foolishly she was dressed. Of course she would be cold. He
wondered why most men thought she was so beautiful. Her whining,
complaining, and clinging to him made her appear uglier every day. “Madam,
your servants will tend to you. I will take my child to sled. I cannot let my
brothers best me.” He lifted her hand from his arm. In the next movement he
lifted Oriel in his arm and took the leather drive straps on the sled from his

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squire. He took off in a run. In two minutes he was sailing down the hill with
his daughter on his lap.
Oriel screamed in absolute delight on the ride down the hill secure in
her father’s arm. In the short ride he pulled the straps one-way and then the
other as he explained how pulling the straps moved the sled from one side to
another. He passed one happy child after another also avoiding trees, stumps,
and rocks.
Returning to the crest, Genoa and Sarra took possession of the sleds
they had selected for their rides. Both women were expert riders and had
chosen their sleds with a discerning eye. They took their first rides surprising
the noble knights with their swift and expert descents.
“I cannot have a woman besting me,” Andrew declared teasingly. He
pounced on his sled and took his second ride.
Two hours were spent laughing, boasting, racing, and earnest
competition about the sled rides.
Edward became concerned when Sarra stayed at the end of the sled
ride kneeling in the snow. “What is it, Lady Sarra? Are you injured?”

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Chapter Sixteen
Sarra turned her head toward Edward. He recognized a mischievous
look in her eye. Suddenly he was pelted with a ball of snow.
“This snow is perfect for rolling balls into weapons,” Sarra laughed.
“Indeed!” Edward concurred taking a handful snow. He created a ball
and threw it at Sarra running away in glee. His snowball hit Harry as he rose
from his sled ride.
“What the?” Harry grumbled in laughter.
In moments everyone was pelting everyone with balls of snow. Even
Oriel learned how to make a snowball and was pelting her uncles and father.
Genoa and Sarra were holding their own in the snowball fight with the noble
knights.
William was the first to see the servants’ children rolling a large ball
of snow. “Cease!” he shouted. “The children wish to build a man of snow.
Come brothers, let us help them.”
William, Harry, Andrew, and Edward rolled the ball to a large height
and perfect roundness. Genoa, Sarra, and Oriel rolled a smaller ball. The
children rolled the smaller of the balls.
The brothers with the male servants and attending squires lifted the
medium ball onto the large one, and then the smaller of the balls onto the
middle ball.
A child offered William the end of an eaten carrot to be the
snowman’s nose. William put it into the center of the top ball.
“What is this? Our man of snow can smell, but he cannot see,”
William chuckled. The children picked stones from under the snow near the
bank of the frozen lake. Soon the man of snow had eyes and mouth shaped
into a large smile. The younger of the servant children brought two twigs to
be his arms.
“I think the man is grand, but surely he must be cold,” Andrew said
seriously. He removed his woolen knitted muffler and placed it around the
snowman’s neck. “There he shall not be chilled.”
“He can judge the Master of Sleds contest,” Edward suggested. “The
children can watch with him and give him their counsel.”
The servant’s children agreed bobbing their heads up and down.

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Sarra and Genoa were mounting the hill for the crest. “I shall select my
run,” Sarra shouted already half way up the hill.
“And I,” Genoa agreed right behind Sarra.
The de Warre men came up from behind in hot pursuit. Oriel stayed
behind to judge the race.
William’s squire was commanded to give the shout to start the run.
“Proceed!”
The six sleds were skimming down the slide runs gracefully. Genoa
and Sarra were expert sled drivers and had selected their runs carefully. The
men were surprised they took the steeper more perilous runs. Surely they
would beat them. They did not realize their heavier weight on the easier
slides would actually slow them down. The deeper sloped runs would be
much faster for the lighter weight women on their sleds. The runs required
more expertise in driving the sleds, but a lot faster.
Genoa won the race with Sarra close behind. Coming in well behind
the two women humbled the De Warre men. Andrew was the first de Warre,
William the second, Harry the third, and Edward came in last.
No one was upset, but good-natured teasing took place for several
minutes. Oriel pretended to discuss the race with the man of snow and then
announced, “Genoa, chambermaid of Keyes Castle is hereby declared Master
of the Sleds this tenth year of our King John.” The children cheered and
brought the woven ivy crown they had fashioned. William placed the crown
upon Genoa’s head.
Harry knelt on one knee before Genoa. “Your servant!”
“Rise sir knight,” Genoa laughed. “This Master of the Sled accepts
your homage.”
William, Harry, and Edward also knelt for honor from the Master of
Sled. Everything was in good humor.
Sarra was so involved in the fun she had not noticed she had moved to
the end of the icy sled run. She slipped landing on her buttocks with a
whoosh of air from her lungs. She was paralyzed for a moment.
William was closest to her, near his Oriel and watched her fall. She
was motionless and he thought her badly injured. He ran to her and slipped on
the same icy patch. He knew he was going to fall upon her so he braced his
arms to prevent his full weight from falling on her. His arms did break his
fall, but his body slammed into her putting her directly under him. He felt the
softness of her body. Her body fit perfectly, so perfectly under him. He was
reminded of the time in his room when he meant to punish her and it was he
who suffered. In an instant his man sword erected itself as if seeking the
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warm sheath of the woman’s sacred protection in this cold. Sarra was the
warmest and most comfortable mattress he had ever laid upon.
Sarra was laughing and looked into William’s eyes. It was then she
saw the passion reflected there. She was also reminded of the heated passion
her body felt in his room that night. Her eyes returned that look.
The world faded away and the two were wound into their own world.
William allowed his arms to bend to the elbow. His head bowed to
kiss the lips of this sensuous woman.
Edward broke through the fog. “Sweet Jesu! Wills, are you hurt? Is
Sarra injured?”
Reluctantly William rose from his comfortable and inviting mattress.
He offered Sarra his hand to assist her.
“I’m fine. My derrière may be bruised, but my pride is definitely
injured,” Sarra joked. “Do not look so worried, Sir Edward. I merely slipped
on an ice patch.”
From her perch on the crest of the hill, Casse had watched the play for
hours. She ordered her servants to build a fire to keep her warm before she
froze to death. No one had bothered with her or cajoled her to join the fun.
She was furious. Why didn’t William take her for a sled ride as Edward had
taken Sarra, and Harry taken Genoa? No, William had only taken that brat of
his. He didn’t care at all that she sat up on the hill freezing. Even the little
fire her servants had built for her did not take the chill from her body.
Still, Casse remained watching everyone for hours. How they ever
thought such childish antics were considered fun was beyond her. It was
when she saw William fall upon Sarra and the hesitation there she could stand
no more. She rose abruptly and grabbed the sled. She had been watching
them all day. Surely driving this thing took little talent. She would not allow
William to even touch any woman but her. Casse plopped her body on the
sled and started down the hill. To her terror she found she could not control
the sled. Instead of guiding the sled by pulling on the right or left strap, she
held both tightly. By good luck she barely missed trees and stumps. Her
scream of terrors brought the attention of the group below.
“Sweet Jesu!” William cursed. “The woman is mad!”
“More incompetent than mad,” Andrew observed. “I can only hope
she does not kill herself.” He winced as she missed another tree by pure good
fortune.
Just at the end of the slide the sled tipped over dumping Casse in a
bank of snow.

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Andrew was the first to pull Casse from the snow bank. William was
the one to face her and receive her angry blows and vicious tongue. He
listened patiently as she regaled him!
Sarra and Genoa stayed behind with Edward and Harry. The four of
them turned their backs to the scene unable to withhold their laughter.
“For such a ride, perhaps Lady Casse should be made Master of the
Sled,” Genoa teased. “I should give her my crown. Do you think so?”
Again the four laughed hysterically until the tears began to freeze on
their cheeks.
Oriel had run behind her father. She was not pleased with the lady
railing at her father. “You should not have taken the slide if you did not know
how to guide the sled,” Oriel chided Casse.
That was too much for Casse. She spat out her venom at the little girl.
“If your father had taken time to spend with me, you little brat, perhaps I
could have learned. No, you kept your father from me for spite!”
William did not like his daughter accused when innocent of charge.
He had thoroughly enjoyed this outing with a zeal he forgotten he had. He
had simply forgotten about the complaining wench. “Enough!” William
roared. “Are you injured?”
This was Casse’s chance and she grabbed for it. Her face contorted in
pain as she moved. She also realized her tongue had gone farther than it
should have. “I think I may have twisted or broken my ankle. It hurts so. I
am sorry for my anger, but the pain is great. I am sorry, Oriel. It was the
shock and pain you see.”
Oriel was not moved. She knew what true venom and feelings about
her the words were.
William and Andrew were not fooled either. Casse’s voice and
countenance had changed to quickly. Both were well experienced in the
artificial faces of courtiers. Andrew more observant of false faces than even
William, but of course his older brother had many more years experience.
Sighing heavily William said, “I shall return the Lady Casse to the
Castle. Andrew, I had promised Oriel I would let her have her own sled and
ride down the lower hill. Will you keep my word?” He lifted Casse. She was
heavier than she looked. He believed there was weight under the slender top
hidden by the flowing skirts. Still, he lifted Casse and carried her in his arms.
He turned back to Andrew and shouted at him. “Take Oriel’s care. She is
smart but reckless.”
“Like her Pere,” Andrew shouted back.
That comment brought a smile to William.
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Casse had wrapped her arms around William’s neck. She was whining
pitifully as if in great pain. Again she took her opportunity at William’s
warning. “You must take care and bring the child back to the castle. You see
sledding is dangerous. Look how I have been injured.”
“Oriel is in safe hands,” William replied grudgingly. He wanted to say
that if she was injured at all it was because of her own ignorant folly. The
walk toward the castle gate gave him the opportunity to ask the question that
had bothered him. “Why did you leave your safe warm fire and take that
break neck ride down the hill?”
Casse felt caught for a moment. She could never tell William the
truth. She had been envious of Sarra. She was angry with him for leaving her
for the frolic. She felt she was the center of the world and all should see to
every one of her whims. She of course did recover quickly with a silky lie. “I
saw the Lady Sarra fall and was concerned for her health. Little did I know I
would risk my person for my concerns.”
Another lie? William couldn’t help but sense it was another lie, but
the words were reasonable. The words were reasonable from Genoa’s mouth,
or Christofre’s mouth, or Sarra’s mouth. This Casse was a lying courtier
vixen and William was becoming more and more aware of it.
Christofre, Edmond, and Reimond had been watching the frolic from a
window on the third floor tower room. They were drinking hot ale and
laughing with every antic.
“It has been so long since I have seen the boys have such fun,”
Christofre stated wistfully.
“Manhood takes away too many of those fun times,” Reimond offered.
“And responsibility takes away even more,” Edmond added. “Tis
good the boy thought of this for his child. The entire castle is glowing in the
happiness.”
“With the comforts Lady Sarra has brought to this castle, the ignited
happiness of Oriel, and the boys return, this is going to be a very happy
winter,” Christofre commented.
“Aye,” Edmond returned with a smile. “At last there is true joy once
again in this keep.” He put his arm around Christofre’s waist. “At last.
Mayhap it will be the time for us,” he whispered in her ear.
Of course Reimond heard them, but pretended he did not. He had
soon realized on his visit here there was something special between the two.
He had recognized it quickly as love. He never commented on it. It was not
his place. Still he did not understand why they tried to conceal the love they
had for each other. It was true Christofre was not of noble birth, but Lord
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Edmond had done his duty for that. He had married noble and produced not
one, but four heirs. His lands and property were secure. Edmond had the
protection of the Templars and a portion of the great wealth in those
agreements. He could marry her without comment from anyone. What was
he waiting for?
Christofre blushed to her toes. She dreamed of being Lord Edmond’s
wife before he had even married Laurette. Would it ever be possible? Would
she dare hope?
It was then the three saw Casse take the slide run. They watched when
her sled turned over in the snow bank. The concern all shared at first turned
into tumultuous laughter. It had been a funny scene.
Edmond watched William lift Casse and start walking toward the
northern gate. “Christofre, send for your herb woman and see to any injury
should she have if any. You may want to prepare the servants to ready those
warm meat pies and hot ale. I fear the Lady Casse may have thrown the
festivities a hot iron.”
“No doubt,” Christofre agreed. “I shall see her needs are taken care of
away from the happiness less her hot iron extends into the great hall. I do not
want this happiness to end thus.”
Once again Edmond boldly placed a kiss on Christofre’s cheek.
“Blessings to you, and be on your way.”
***
Once inside the castle Casse moaned louder to draw attention to her
person. The knights now back from the quarters and waiting the coming of
the dinner meal turned quickly.
William was surrounded by the awe struck knights. He wished he
could turn the complaining harridan over to them, but he could not. He was a
knight and heir to Keyes Castle. He would take the responsibility whether he
liked it or not. It struck him hard. He didn’t even like this woman that was so
beautiful every man would have been proud to have her as his wife. Yet,
having the beautiful ornament on his arm did not move him. He would never
choose such a woman to wife. He was forced to take Edith. Even she was not
as horrible as this woman would be as a wife. Whatever put him into these
thoughts? His thoughts should be elsewhere. He should be thinking about a
new game to teach his Oriel, or new chess move. He should be thinking about
his responsibility to his father and Keyes Castle. Oddly, this castle had begun
to feel like home. He no longer wanted the challenges of the dangerous
games of power in London and John’s Court. He was changing and finding
he liked the changes.
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“Take me to my solar, dear William,” Casse moaned pitifully. “I shall
need care and comfort.”
Grudgingly William started up the hall steps to the next floor where
her solar would be. He was a bit concerned that she might entrap him in a
snare if alone in her solar. There was a strong relief from those thoughts when
Christofre and the old healing woman met him in the corridor.
“Put her upon the bed,” Christofre ordered. “Then take your leave.
We shall care for her.”
“What do you know of my care?” Casse demanded angrily. She had
hoped to seduce William when they were alone. Everything was going
wrong.
“The lords and I were watching the frolic from the tower. We saw
your spill.”

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Chapter Seventeen
The great hall shuddered with the moans, groans, and complaints
shouted by the Lady Casse.
William was determined to return to the slides, but found all had
returned to the Great Hall and were being served hot ale and meat pies. At
last, there was silence from the solar above. Christofre descended the stairs
wiping her hands on her apron and looking about to see that all were safe,
warm, and eating her pies.
Edmond rose from his chair to meet her.
William followed his father. The silence was wonderful. He hoped
she was not injured, but hoped Christofre’s healing woman had given her a
strong sleeping potion.
Christofre chuckled at the two men greeting her. She knew what was
on their mind. “Lady Casse is uninjured. Of course she is nearly frozen. I
gave her hot ale and the healing woman gave her a sleeping potion with it.
We buried her under numerous coverlets.”
“Blessings upon you,” William blurted out. He didn’t mean that Casse
was unhurt. He blessed the potion to put her to sleep. He wouldn’t be dealing
with the clinging vine during supper.
“Tis her own fault,” Edmond scowled. “Imagine dressing like that to
sled. The woman asked to be near frozen!”
“Be kind, my lord,” Christofre admonished covering her mouth with
her hand to cover her smile.
“Come with me,” Lord Edmond requested placing Christofre’s hand
upon his forearm as if she were his noble lady. The servants looked in
astonishment.
“What are you doing,” Christofre whispered in embarrassment.
“Everyone is looking!”
“Tis time I put you in your proper place!” Edmond responded leading
her to his study. “I wish to discuss our future and happiness.”
Christofre blushed. “I have to get back to direct the dinner.”
“You’ll have plenty of time for that,” Edmond promised with a grin.

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William returned to his brother Harry. Edward and Harry were
concentrating on a game of chess. Andrew was sitting with Oriel playing cat
in the cradle. Sarra had brought her hoop. She was sitting next to Roese
working on her tapestry. Sarra was retelling the day to Roese. The two were
laughing and giggling. He felt warm inside. It was a homey and comfortable
scene. He suddenly longed for that. He wanted just that kind of contentment.
He sat down upon his father’s chair taking in the scene. Was he falling love?
Was this love he felt? Those two times Sarra was beneath him she felt as if
she belonged there. What was he to do? Lady Sarra hated him. She tried to
avoid him. She was far more interested in Edward. What would he do about
Edward? Fortunately Edward won the chess game.
“Who shall challenge me?” Edward boasted announcing his win.
“Let Harry challenge Andrew,” William shouted. “The two need the
practice to bring you down little brother.
Harry rose to the challenge. Genoa smiled for her man and went back
to her stitchery.
After Harry and Andrew were engaged in the game and Oriel took her
stool to be near Sarra and participate in the stitching, William called over to
Edward. “Brother, we must speak privately.”
Edward sensed this was the time the conversation would center on
Sarra. Watching his brother lay upon Sarra he knew instinctively William had
finally realized he was in love with the Lady Sarra.
William led Edward to his room. There he closed the door and bolted
it shut. It was habit from John’s court to bar the door so no one would come
in or try to listen through a cracked door.
Edward sat upon his brother’s bed. He revealed a broad knowing
smile waiting for his eldest brother to begin.
William began pacing his room. He locked his hands behind his back
as he paced to and fro. Several minutes later he found his lost courage.
“Edward, I must ask you what are your intentions for the Lady Sarra?”
“I intend to be her friend and enjoy her company,” Edward replied
calmly. He was enjoying his brother’s discomfort.
“What I mean is, do you intend to seek her hand?”
“No.”
William was completely surprised. “You follow her like a lap dog.”
“I enjoy her company. Lady Sarra has a quick wit, intelligent and
inquisitive mind, and she knows how to run a demesne. Of course I follow
her as a lap dog.”

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“Is Lady Sarra aware that you have no intention of making a betrothal
to wed?”
Edward nearly laughed. “Lady Sarra is fond of me. She does not love
me. She is in love with another.”
That news nearly drove William mad. “Who is this vermin that does
not stand by his lady? What fool will allow his lady to be escorted by you
without a care?”
This statement caused to Edward to laugh. He could no longer hold it
in. “My lady does not know she loves this man any more than the man is
aware he loves her until now?”
“You did not answer my question. Who is this man?” William
demanded.
Edward was rolling on the bed holding his ribs and wiping his tearing
eyes at his brother’s rage.
“Answer me you clod plate!” William roared in anger at his brother’s
strange antics.
Edward caught his breath. He sat up on the bed, still wiping his eyes,
responded. “I shall answer you anon. It is you, William. You are the man she
loves but has not yet recognized it. I am hoping our conversation is indicative
of the fact you have just realized you are in love with the Lady Sarra?”
Edward’s response stunned William. William took a chair by the
hearth and caught his breath. After a few moments of silence William
responded, “Aye! I realized this afternoon. It is the truth you speak. I am in
love with the Lady Sarra. How can this be? She despises me. I have treated
her poorly. What am I to do?”
“What of the Lady Casse?” Edward queried.
“What of her? She is a harridan beneath that beautiful body. She is a
harpy and bore.”
“Harry told me you called Sarra a termagant and harridan soon after
you met her. Are you so fickle?” Edward teased.
“A deserved barb brother,” William sighed heavily. “I did indeed. Our
first meeting was tragic for me.”
“I saw your blackened eye. Harry told of us your meeting our Lady
Sarra. We laughed for days,” Edward answered bursting with mirth.
“Is it possible to contain you humor, brother,” William said irritably.
“Tis hard to contain brother. Harry also told me he found you lying
upon the Lady Sarra attempting wedded bliss.”
“Does Harry tell you everything on a constant basis?” William
growled.
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“Aye. It must be at your expense of course,” Edward continued in
tease. Then he became serious. “Yet, this afternoon Andrew told Harry and I
that Lord Crispin is already petitioning Pere for a match between you and the
Lady Casse. Although we notice she is hanging upon you, the Lord Crispin
sees your togetherness as the perfect betrothal behavior.”
“Sweet Jesu, I would rather have another Edith. The Lady Casse
complains constantly. She is totally involved with her own being and
selfishness. She is also greedy and would bankrupt this castle’s coffers in a
fortnight.”
“I understand she and her mother are the primary reason for the poor
coffers of Tomes Castle and demesne,” Edward shared.
“Where did you come by this knowledge?”
“Genoa shared this knowledge with Harry upon their first arrival to
our home. It seems Genoa hears much gossip from the family’s unhappy, ill
fed, and poorly treated servants,” Edward shared readily.
“I believe this gossip,” William conceded.
“As did I,” Edward agreed. “The Lady Casse is a spoiled child with
no hope of saving. She would have been a bad match for you. Which is why
Pere must have chosen her so you could compare her to Lady Sarra.”
William’s brow arched. It was a warning sign to those who knew
them. Edward knew him and realized what he had revealed in his simple
conversation.
“Pere brought these women here for my choice to wed?”
There was no hope to get out of his slip. Edward decided to face his
come up pence. “Tis true. Andrew shared with me his conversation with
Pere. Our Lord Edmond wants you to marry again, but marry into happiness
this time. Pere believes that if you could see through the shallowness of
physical beauty to the true beauty of honor, intelligence, caring, and talents
you would marry his choice, Lady Sarra. He admitted he chose badly for you
with Lady Edith and it was bad for the both of you. He still feels guilt for
Edith’s death. He told me that not long after Edith passed on. Pere believes
Edith was so delicate your powerful personality scared her to death.
Christofre has tried to comfort him with facts that Edith’s death was the result
of childbed fever.”
“Pere is quite devious,” William moaned placing his head in his hands
while leaning on his knees.
“He loves us. I understand you did not receive much of that love
during the arguing years of our Mere and Pere, but he does love us. He
wanted you to make the correct choice. You have,” Edward explained hoping
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his hotheaded brother would not explode in a rage. To his surprise, William
sat back against the chair.
“Pere did make a poor match with Edith. He was right about Casse
and Sarra. Unfortunately I find myself lusting for the Lady Sarra. She excites
me as no other ever has. What am I to do?” William confessed. “Lady Sarra
despises me.”
“Fortunately you have a strong ally to assist you in wooing the Lady
Sarra,” Edward announced cheerfully.
“You?”
“Not I!” Edward chirped gleefully. “Tis your own, Oriel. You gave
Oriel of yourself today. She is completely happy like I have never seen the
child. Harry told me Oriel wasn’t fond of you at your meeting not long ago.
You have won Oriel over. Surely you can win Lady Sarra. Our little moppet
adores Sarra. Do you not believe she would do anything to help the two of
you come together. She is also a child that would love the fun of secrets.”
“You truly are a most intelligent brother,” William chuckled. “Assist
me with a plan of action.”
“You have many supporters including our Harry, Andrew, Pere, and
Christofre.”
“Christofre is a part of this conspiracy as well?”
Edward nodded his assent. “As is Lady Sarra’s own servant, Roese.”
“I am the last to know of my fate,” William groaned dejectedly.
“No, Lady Casse and her family are the last to know.”
“That does not speak too well of me,” William snapped.
“Your hardened stone heart forged by the contemptuous court of King
John blinded you. You have excuse.”
“Your words are treasonous should you be in that court,” William
warned.
“The same reason I have little intention of going to our King’s court,”
Edward replied. “I saw you change slowly from a brother to a stone heart
becoming a part of that place. You had to do what you did, I know. Yet, I
would not do the same and fortunately I do not have to. You have the
opportunity to have a strong and loving partner to keep your soul from those
blood sucking bats.”
Even William roared in humor with those descriptive words. “Come
Edward, help me with my battle plans.”
“After dinner,” Edward protested. “The outing was wonderful, but
even the meat pies and hot ale have not filled my belly.”

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Christofre left Lord Edmond’s private sitting room. She had a small
grin on her face as she rushed away to the kitchens. Edmond followed with a
scowl. “You are a stubborn woman, Christofre. You are stubborn indeed, but
I shall win this battle. You will see!”
“What is that about?” Andrew muttered sidestepping his father.

***
The dinner was quiet. The entire Crispin family did not appear. No
one was surprised. Crispin would be in deep discussion with his wife while
their daughter slept. Olive’s plan for her daughter to flick her finger and
obtain William as a husband simply was not working.
Sarra enjoyed the company of her father, Oriel, and Edward. He was
once more her dutiful servant at her side. The three regaled Lord Edmond and
Sir Reimond with all the activities and fun of the day.
William sat with Andrew. He was finding it difficult to control his lust
and jealousy of the Lady Sarra. What was it about Edward she felt so
comfortable with? Why could she laugh and joke with Edward, yet scowl at
him. He couldn’t stop watching her now that Casse was not interfering and
harping for his attention. He noted Sarra would look to him knowing he was
watching her, return a glance, and then continue her conversation with
Edward.
“Edward,” Sarra started in question. “Your brother, Sir William keeps
staring at us. Mayhap he is angry with you for sitting with the enemy?”
Edward glanced toward William and noticed the attention. Edward
smiled at his brother and returned to Sarra. “Sitting with the enemy?
Whatever do you mean by that?”
“You heard of our first meeting?”
Edward nodded and chuckled, “There is not one in the keep that has
not heard of your meeting my brother’s head with your dainty feet.”
“The clod plate thinks I did it a purpose,” Sarra confessed sadly. “Of
course I did not. He knocked the ladder from under my feet. I was hanging
on to the ironworks for my safety. I kicked him most accidentally. Actually
he walked into my feet.”
“Aye, I heard the tale. Why do you think he considers you his
enemy?”
Sarra would not tell him of his hard hand on her bottom. “He was
angry with me for Oriel. He thought I kept her from him. He also hates the
changes Lord Edmond directed me to make upon his rooms.”

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“Gentle Sarra, I can understand William would try to find a reason
other than his fault for the initial feelings of Oriel toward him. It is most
difficult for William to admit to any fault,” Edward agreed finishing his fruit
dessert. “As for his rooms, I envy the comforts he has and hope you will
change my room to be so warm and comfortable. You will believe me if I tell
you our brother is enjoying your handiwork?”
“He enjoys it? He hated it!”
“Do not let the bellowing roar of the lion cause you to tremble. He is a
pussycat once you make him comfortable,” William advised.
That remark caused Sarra to laugh uproariously. “That is a large tale
of great purport.”
“Tis true,” Edward encouraged.
William could not stand another moment. Edward’s ability to make
Sarra laugh was too much. He rose from the table knocking down the
trencher and mug of ale. William pulled Andrew with him. Andrew held on
to his mug of ale. William motioned to Harry while he walked directly to
Edward.
The storming visage on William’s face frightened Sarra when she
watched him march toward them.
“Do not fear,” Edward tried to assure.
It did not work with Sarra. She bolted from the table with excuse of
tending to an important matter.

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Chapter Eighteen

“I say you did well endearing Sarra with that move,” Edward chided
taking a small bench by the fire in William’s solar. “The poor wench is
terrified of you and you help that view with every move you make. She thinks
you consider her an enemy.”
“And that is as I shall see her,” William concurred. “Sarra is my siege.
We are here to plan that battle.”
“Do you want women to fear you?” Harry asked in astonishment.
“You must have faith when I tell you kindness and tenderness bring you great
and comfortable rewards from the fairer sex.”
“She is not afraid of me,” William protested. “She should be, but she
is not. She looks upon me with contempt and scorn.”
“Edward says she is afraid of you,” Andrew reminded. “I have faith in
Edward’s words. He understands more things of subtle natures than we.”
“I believe she is more than that,” Edward added. “She is fighting her
attraction to you.”
“I will attest to that,” Harry concurred. “ Me thinks she was a willing
partner on your bed that night.”
Andrew and Edward’s heads snapped to attention and stared at Harry.
In unison they turned and stared at William.
William had the good sense to look sheepish.
“You bedded the Lady Sarra?” Edward asked in shock.
“Nay, I did not!” William defended.
“You would have if I had not innocently entered,” Harry reprimanded.
“I would be pleased if you said no more,” William stuttered in guilt.
“It takes away from our subject at hand. I would remind you, Harry, you are
not up for sainthood. How many bastards have you? Are you not creating
another with Genoa?”
“Watch your tongue!” Harry shouted rising with fists to slam into
William’s face.
Andrew was larger that Harry and managed to pull him back to the
chair. “There is no purpose in fighting amongst ourselves. We are brothers
first and last. We are none of us pure.”

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Edward was too stunned to agree or disagree. He sat on the bench pale
faced and speechless as Andrew calmed Harry.
William took the chair next to Edward. “Are you well? You are pale!”
The brothers for their life will not forget what happened next. Edward
turned his face to William. He balled his fist and slammed it into William’s
cheek below his eye.
“Scoundrel,” Edward snarled. “You seduced an innocent and have
taken a virgin’s maiden head without responsibility or care!”
William toppled over with the chair. It was what Harry needed to
calm down. “Hear! Hear! Little brother,” Harry cheered. “Who would guess
you had such fire in your intellectually weak blood.” Harry hooted in laughter
at William. “Would have done it myself if not stopped by the peacemaker.”
William rubbed his cheek. It was already swelling and bruising. “I
deserved such. Tis true I was carried away with lust, but I assure you,
Edward, I would not have taken her maiden head and not made it right.”
“Why?” Edward asked simply with innocence.
“I do not know. From the first moment we met she raises a lust in my
person I cannot control,” William admitted. “It is as if I am a man possessed.
I cannot control my manhood.”
“She was responding,” Harry added in observance. “Mayhap there is a
passion arisen with the two that neither can control. It is like such between
Genoa and I.”
Andrew was the reason in thought. “We speak of fear and passions.
These are all strong emotion. Mayhap it would be wise to find out what the
lady truly thinks of William and not try to surmise.”
“It cannot be William to ask,” Edward offered quickly. “He cannot
control his lust when near.”
“It cannot be you, Edward,” William grumped with opposition. “She
likes you overly much.”
“It should not be any of us,” Andrew stated firmly.
“In that I agree,” Harry agreed. “A lady speaks more honestly and
openly with a lady. I shall ask Genoa for her assistance.”
“She is not a lady,” Edward hesitated. “No offense, Harry. I know you
find comfort with her, but she is not a lady.”
“Genoa is a woman,” Andrew interrupted. “Sarra is a woman. I think
it a good plan. Roese is too close to Sarra and we do not know her. I would
be too shy to share this with Christofre. Genoa is close enough to us with
Harry, and still about the same age as the Lady Sarra. Yes, I feel Genoa is a
good ally.”
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“What should a say to her,” Harry questioned.
“The truth is always the wisest path to take,” Edward advised. “Tell
her of William’s interest in the Lady Sarra. It is important to him to know
what her feelings are toward him. It might be wise for Genoa to begin a
conversation of what she thinks of the Lord’s heir.”
“It shall be done,” Harry agreed. He was anxious to return to Genoa.
The lady soothed him and kept him comfortable at all times, especially during
the night. They did enjoy each other’s company.

***
Sarra was busy in the kitchen checking on the delivery of the food to
the tents for the poor. This cold weather made it even more important to
provide a warm place to feed the hungry and impoverished. Under her
direction the tent pavilion was nearly removed. In the pavilion’s place a
nearly completed building was built. She had wisely directed that the first
wall to be built would be the northern wall. The western wall followed it.
The Eastern wall was nearly built so only the southern wall and roof
remained. Even in the cold, the workers continued to build the distribution
hall. At last it was time for her bath. She looked forward to the hot water of
the tub. She was still a bundle of energy when she arrived at her solar. Roese
was waiting for her. The hot tub was ready for her bath.
“You were quite merry this day,” Roese commented helping Sarra
remove her tunic and gown. “It seems Sir William is closing the break with
his child.”
Sarra removed her chemise and braes. She slipped into the soothing
and calming hot water of the tub before she answered. “Aye,” Sarra
concurred. “My moppet was well treated by her Pere. He was most attentive.
It made Oriel quite happy. She rode the slide in his arms the day long.”
Roese took a cloth and rubbed the rose scented soap into it before she
used it on Sarra’s back. “It seems the cruel man is not so cruel. The rumors
of his rejection of the child are not true. Mayhap he is not such a beast as
some would think of him.”
Sarra shuddered at the memory of the beast’s attack on her person, and
worst of all, how she responded to him with such wanton behavior. “Even
beasts are good to their young.”
Roese would have laughed but at the moment she was too serious
about her match making. “Sir William reminds me of your father.”

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Sarra jerked her head back at those words. Her movements were so
sudden she received a soapy cloth in her eye since Roese was in the motion to
apply the cloth to her neck.
The next few moments were spent trying to clear Sarra’s eyes. The
pain was burning. It took several rinses and dry cloths to clear them again.
Roese was beside herself with guilt.
“My regrets dearest,” Roese apologized.
‘Twas my error, Roese. It was simply your words that shocked me.
How can you say Sir William reminds me of my Pere? There are no
similarities at all. Pere is kind, soft spoken, gentle, loving, wise, and peaceful.
Sir William is brusque, cold, rude, unkind, self involved, boorish, and bestial.”
“That doesn’t sound like a man, but a demon,” Roese snapped in
exasperation. She took a deep breath to bring calm and proceeded. “Yet, one
would have described your Pere that way until he and your mother realized
that although their passions were different they fulfilled each other’s passions.
They complimented each other so well. Your Mere and Pere once wed
brought out the best of each other.”
“I cannot believe my Mere would have ever married such a boorish
man. No, I won’t have it. My Pere is too wonderful of a man to be compared
to Sir William,” Sarra defended fiercely. “What is the reason for this topic of
conversation?”
“You may not believe my words, although they are true,” Roese
responded with her own temper rising. She did not appreciate being doubted.
“I introduced the topic because Sir William does remind me of your Pere as a
young man.”
Roese provided stone silence as she continued her administrations.
The silence was about to drive Sarra mad. “What have I done?”
“Proven you are simply as stubborn as your Mere once was. You are
as maddening as your Mere once was. I made a statement, that is all it is and
all it was.”
“I apologize if I offended you. It is difficult for me to imagine Mere
and Pere other than what I have known them to be.”
“You did offend me. I have known your Mere and Pere much longer
than you. I like it not being doubted,” Roese replied grumpily. She sat Sarra
down on the bench to comb her hair. ‘People change, Sarra. We always
change by our experience. The Sir William that arrived is already different
today through experience with his Oriel. Think on it, Sarra. Are you the same
person you were as a child, or even since you arrived at Keyes Castle. You
have changed.”
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“How have I changed?” Sarra demanded.
“You never locked me from your rooms ere this visit. You have never
hidden your person from me for days at a time,” Roese answered quickly
crossing her arms across her abdomen. With her glare she dared Sarra to deny
her words. “You have suddenly and strangely become secretive.”
Sarra blushed. She could not deny Roese’s statements. She never had
a need to be secretive until now. Even she was surprised how easy it was for
her. She had strange and unnatural emotions and physical feelings she
couldn’t share them with anyone. She was struggling to understand them.
Those encounters with Sir William had changed her. Her happy times with
Oriel had changed her. She felt longings to have her own child. The
conversations with Edward had changed her. She no longer felt all men other
than her father were short of being idiots. “I concede, dearest Roese. You
have made your point. Even I have changed a little.”
“Now you will listen to what I have learned of the Lord of this castle
and his sons?”
“Indeed, I am interested in a good tale,” Sarra encouraged walking to
her bed and sitting upon it. She patted the spot near her side for Roese to sit.
Roese took her advantage. She sat next to Sarra and smoothed her
gown. “Our Lord Edmond was one of the finest and bravest knights of the
realm. He was even more successful in arrangements with the Templar than
his father before him. He was and is still a handsome man. Lord Edmond
believed he was worthy of only the finest. It was then he met Laurette. She
was the most beautiful woman in the realm. Like Lord Edmond, she believed
she was worthy of only the wealthiest and handsomest man of the realm. She
charmed Lord Edmond and he soon begged his Pere and her Pere for her
hand. A betrothal was quickly signed. They were wed soon after. Lord
Edmond began managing Keyes Castle, its lands, finances, and manors. Two
sons were born quickly, but each of the pair demanded too much of the other.
Soon arguments were common. Laurette took little interest in the children she
bore. It was only Sir William she paid any attention. She spoiled him and
told him how handsome he was. The arguments continued to the point that
after Edward was born it had gotten so horrid they stopped talking. For the
castle it was a time of peace. The castle was icy and cold, but the peace was
desirable. Lord Edmond’s Pere passed on. Lord Edmond threw himself into
the management of Sussex. He had little or no time for his sons. Laurette
kept such animosity within her and became ill and passed on a few years
before the reign of King Richard. It is said after her death Lord Edmond
regretted those lost years with his son but nothing could be done for it. He did
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not want William to follow his path of folly. He selected a simple woman that
was meek, Lady Edith. Unfortunately Lady Edith was not a sturdy woman.
She weakened for the breeding. The birth was difficult and the poor woman
had no strength. She died of childbed fever.”
“I heard Sir William frightened her to death,” Sarra interrupted still
intent on discrediting the knight. She was still interested in the story.
“Aye, I’ve heard the same. Jacoba has told me, as have the other
women who worked in this castle during those times that the lady did indeed
die of childbed fever. Even knowing this truth, Lord Edmond blames his folly
for her death. Jacoba told me the lord holds this guilt. It was one of the
reasons he took charge for the care of Oriel. His responsibility turned into
deep love for the child. Tis the reason they are so close today. He sees the
child as his and enjoys the joy of the child he missed when his sons were
growing.”
“Lord Edmond is a true father of love for Oriel. I know the child
adores her Grandpere,” Sarra concurred. “Tis difficult to believe Lord
Edmond had ever ignored his sons.”
“It proves that we all change in time, does it not?” Roese asked
knowing she was succeeding in proving her point.
Sarra began to thumb her temples. She often soothed her thoughts
with this motion. “What is the point of all these tales? You want me to
believe Sir William can turn into my Pere? You want me to seek his favor?
Are you forgetting that he spends most time with Casse? Are you forgetting
Casse is the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes upon? She moves
and every man casts his eyes upon her. She flicks her finger and tens of men
fall to her service. She is everything a man wants attached to his arm. It gives
men a triumph of their superiority as a man to have such a prize. You and
Pere wish me to seek Sir William’s favor. You tell this to me showing he is a
good match. Roese, I have not a prayer to even gain Sir William’s notice. Tis
folly to think he would have a slight interest in me.”
“And why not? You are beautiful. What is more, you have talents,
knowledge, and intelligence to accompany your beauty. Casse’s beauty is a
shallow empty hull,” Roese stated quickly in passion.
“Enough! If Sir William would show a favor to me, I would have
doubts to the truth of it. He would be making jolly of me. It would be a trick
to humiliate me,” Sarra countered with emotion. She knew she was fighting
back her own hopes he could be interested in her. He made her feel so
different, so wonderful when he kissed her.

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“You are beautiful and strong. You have never backed down for a
thing or anyone since you were a child. Your mother taught you never to
succumb, and you father gave you his courage.”
“Tis done! No more will I listen. I accept the challenge, but do not be
of heavy heart when you see his interest lies with Casse. Do not be faint when
you see he has no interest in me!”
Sarra slipped into her warm comfortable bed. In moments she was
asleep. The fresh cold country air and exercise, along with the soothing hot
bath made it possible for her to sleep deeply without thought or bother.

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Chapter Nineteen
Although Sarra had given her word, she wished to avoid the
confrontation and the truth that would crumble her pride. The storms came
nearly every day. She kept busy with winter projects. She spent two weeks
on the finishing of the pavilion to feed the poor. Sarra was in and out of the
spinning and weaving rooms. She kept several weeks in the sewing rooms.
Sarra could be seen darting about the castle from room to room. She
completely decorated Edward’s room to his delight. She spent days with the
accountants and Keyes Castle Steward. She saw to more soap and candle
making. Oriel would spend some time with her, but spent more time with her
father.
Genoa was frustrated. She promised Harry to engage Lady Sarra in
conversation about her feelings about Sir William. Genoa had even rehearsed
the conversation in her mind for weeks, but could not find or keep Sarra in
one place for a private conversation in all these weeks.
It was becoming more difficult for William to avoid Casse. He
groaned inwardly whenever Casse trapped him. It always seemed to be the
time Sarra was in the same room. Surely, Sarra must think Casse was his
chosen and there was nothing he could do to shake Casse from his arm.
Casse was Sarra’s excuse for weeks, but when it turned into months,
Roese began nagging incessantly.
***
It was one of those evenings as Sarra prepared for bed she when gave
her vow to Roese to at least speak to Sir William. The reality of it was she
often had times to speak to him. Oriel divided her time between her father
and Sarra’s company as equally as she could. In the afternoon after the mid
day meal Oriel and Sarra would sit by the smaller hearth and work on
embroidery or tapestries. Sir William would often come to the smaller hearth
and check on Oriel’s talents. He would stay for some time praising her work
and talking with her about any new adventure they might be planning.
William and Oriel had managed to sled several more times. Sarra had
participated, but Casse was also present. Casse would interfere as often as
possible to prohibit any conversation between William and Sarra. It was no

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longer as much fun for Sarra. Edward stopped participating and Sarra was left
alone in the sledding party.
***
“This plan is failing!” William grouched. “It is now two months and
still the Lady Sarra has not spoken to me. What is worse? The Lady Casse is
pushing more and more for me to speak to her Pere of betrothal. I am at the
end of my patience.”
“Genoa has tried,” Harry attempted in excuse. “The Lady Sarra is
avoiding all. It is said she is slipping into depression. She longs for her
home.”
“How can she be depressed when she darts about the castle doing one
chore after another?” Andrew questioned.
“Edward, you spend the most time with her,” William stated with
worry. What would he do if Sarra returned home? “Is the wench depressed?”
“I do not believe that is the case,” Edward assured sensing his
brother’s distress at the thought. “There is something troubling her. I noticed
this difference with her. In truth, I believe it is the constant presence of Casse
near you consistently. She looks at the two of you together more often than
not. There is a sadness in those eyes at this time.”
“Are you saying Lady Sarra is jealous?” Harry asked incredulously.
“No, Lady Sarra is too fine a woman for such low emotion. I would
call it more a longing to be Casse. A longing to be near William,” Edward
replied.
William guffawed. “How I wish that were to be true. In the stead, she
ignores me and runs away if I enter the room.”
“We are here to share our thoughts. We are in agreement the original
plan of battle has not worked. We should listen to all thoughts and come up
with a new plan of battle,” Andrew reprimanded his brothers. “I personally
wish to see my eldest brother happily wed, and this castle comfortable and
warm. I do not wish to lose the lovely lady that makes this home so nice. I
would wed the lady myself to keep her here.”
Andrew received a glare from William for his remark.
“Wills, I am here to help you achieve this fortune. If you are too
stubborn or dense to obtain the fortune, I will seek it,” Andrew responded in
rebuke.
“If it were possible, I would do the same,” Edward said soothingly.
William was beginning to seethe. “I think the only person to win the maiden
fair is our Wills. I have a suggestion.”

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William sat down on his chair. He leaned over to warm his hands near
the hearth. “What is your suggestion?”
“A frontal siege. Ask her directly to walk with you,” Edward replied
simply.
“How will I shake the shadow Casse?” William complained.
“Casse rarely rises for the breaking of fast,” Edward offered quickly.
“This is the time to take Lady Sarra off to the side for a walk and talk.”
“There is Oriel,” William added. “She now expects me to walk her to
her classes in the morn. I dare not disappoint her during this fragile time. We
have grown close. I enjoy this time with my cheerful offspring.”

***
The morning began. William agreed to the new battle plan. Sarra had
vowed to speak to the man she was attracted.
Edward spoke to Oriel after she had finished her meal. He picked her
up and put her on his shoulders. The two left the great hall and mounted the
stairs for Oriel’s lessons.
William rose from his seat immediately following Edward’s planned
diversion. In a moment he was next to Sarra. His huge frame shadowed her
petite form. “Will you accompany me on a walk?”
Fortunately for William, the sun was shining. It was cold, but the
weather was pleasant for a walk.
Sarra was shocked at the invitation. Her first thoughts were that the
beast had decided she must stop fostering Oriel. She did not think she could
bear not enjoying Oriel’s bright and cheerful company. Yet, she had vowed to
Roese to take an opportunity to speak with the man. She should not be
judgmental without truly knowing Oriel’s father. William was Oriel’s father.
She could not forget that. Her voice caught in her throat. “Of course, my
lord. I should need my cloak.”
William spotted Sarra’s maid, Roese. “Mistress Roese, would you be
so kind and retrieve Lady Sarra’s cloak?”
Roese smiled broadly, gave a curtsy and ran up the stairs to retrieve
Sarra’s warmest fur lined woolen cloak.
William nodded to his squire and he was covered with his cloak
instantly. When Roese returned with Sarra’s cloak, William took hold and put
it upon Sarra. He took his time fastening the brooch to close it. He looked
directly into Sarra’s eyes. He saw what Edward described. She was reacting
to him as he was with her. William took Sarra’s gloves from the cloak pocket
and put them on her hands, slowly, carefully, and sensually.
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Sarra stood unable to move or assist. She was agitated being close to
William. Those strange feelings took hold. Her body longed for the man.
What was wrong with her?
William donned his gloves and took Sarra’s hand. He placed her hand
on his forearm.
Harry and Andrew took positions at door to the bailey. They had
promised William to keep Casse away at all cost.
Lord Edmond and Reimond raised brows at the unusual behavior of
the boys, but smiled to each other when William and Sarra walked out of the
great hall toward the bailey.
William directed Sarra toward the completed pavilion for the poor.
“This is your project I am told.”
Sarra was still trembling being so near to William. Thank sweet Jesu
he picked a topic she was fond of. She didn’t have to pull up too much
courage to respond. “It is the same at Mondel Castle. My Mere thought of it.
There was much hunger and sickness surrounding us in the bailey and
demesne. Mere had a wonderful mind. She managed the castle accounts well.
Our demesne flowered under her care. There was abundance, but the
orphaned, sick, and widowed could not share. She built a pavilion to bring the
uneaten trenchers for distribution to those poor. It was soon after everyone
noted the demesne became healthier. There were far less illness for my Mere
to tend. The orphans began to blossom. They grew to be healthy workers that
provided more abundance to the castle stores. The widows grew healthier.
Some remarried providing a solid home for widowers and their children. It
did not cure all ailments or make everything right, but the abundance
continued to increase.”
“It appears to be working the same here. In this short time it has been
noted there is less illness this winter season,” William offered with
compliment. His gloved hand covered her hand on his arm. He sensed the
lady would bolt if he did not continue to hold her to him.
“The principle is simple,” Sarra replied humbly.
“Your Mere taught you all these things? Including the management of
a demesne, keep, and castle?” William queried hoping to engage her more in
conversation.
Sarra’s eyes glowed with pride. “My Mere did. She taught my sister
and I everything. We were blessed to have such a Mere.”
William flinched upon those words. He would have loved a mother
such as Sarra’s. His mother was cold with indifference. Her only talent was

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to look beautiful. There was never a thought in his mother’s head to think or
care for the populace and castle.
Sarra felt William’s unease she attempted to remove her hand.
William held fast and did not release her. “You carry your mother’s
inheritance well. Have I told you how well pleased all of Keyes Castle are
with the changes you have made. My brothers Andrew and Edward are
especially pleased. They sing your praises to me daily.”
“My lord, there is no praise to be given to me. My Mere trained me. I
do not seek such words. I am not worthy,” Sarra protested struggling to
remove her hand. Did William think she sought to be a braggart? Did he
think she did the changes to impress? Those were not her goals at all. She
pulled free to turn and face him. “I did not…”
William took his opportunity taking both her hands and pulling her
body into his. He bent his head taking her lips to his. He kissed gently at
first. Releasing her hands he pulled her into the warmth of his body enfolding
her in his arms. One hand pressed her back into his body and the other
cupped her bottom squeezing lightly. His mouth covered hers slowly opening
her lips with his warm tongue. Soon he was invading the warmth of her sweet
mouth with his tongue. He penetrated and withdrew continually repeating
until he was bursting in need for her.
Breathless, Sara succumbed to his assault. Her head was swirling.
Her body was heating. The cold no longer surrounded her. Sarra’s body felt
weak and her knees began to fail her. Sweet Jesu be praised the man was
holding her or her jelly legs would have fallen to the ground. An unexplained
heat began in her private area. It grew until her body was flushed. Sarra felt
wetness between her legs. When William’s tongue withdrew she felt
incomplete and sought his tongue with hers. When his tongue returned she
met it hard with her own. What was happening? Sarra did not know and did
not care. The sensations were feeling too good. She felt him pull her tighter
into his body. Sarra felt the hardness of his manhood press against her belly.
It grew and felt harder with every minute he held her in his arms and kissed
her with an abandoned passion. Yes, this must be the passion all talk about.
This is wonderment.
William was bursting in need. He wanted to lay Sarra down on the icy
snow and drive his manhood into her warmth. He needed her so badly he was
near screaming. He pulled away to look into her eyes. He saw in those lovely
gray eyes the dreamy passion he was feeling. At that moment he was
thunderstruck. She was truly his match. He knew it instantly. This match

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was more than lust. He would not take her as a leman. He would take her to
wife. “Sarra…” William uttered in wonder.
Sarra was still in a threshold of ecstasy. “My lord?”
“Wills,” he commanded.
“Wills,” she whispered.
“Love me,” William responded breathlessly. “Love me forever as my
good wife.”
The proposal shocked Sarra into reality. “My lord, do you know what
you have just proposed.”
William’s gloved hand stroked Sarra’s cheek. “I have known for
months, mayhap the first week I met your feet, I needed you as wife. I will
speak to your Pere and mine upon our return. I should like to wed as soon as
possible.”
“What of Casse? You have spent all this time with her. She is
beautiful!” Sarra demanded with unbelief of what she thought she was
hearing.
“Casse spent her time with me. She wished to ensnare me as a
husband,” William chuckled softly. “I made every effort to avoid her, but
could not. It is not chivalrous to be rude. Nor would you speak to me, seek
my companionship, or even bear to be in the same room with me.”
Sarra would not admit she was afraid to be in the same room with him
lest her passions take control of her head and body.
“Were you jealous?” William asked hopefully. He wished she could
care for him enough to have that emotion.
“No. It is not meant for a lady to interfere with another woman’s
affair of the heart,” Sarra excused coming up with the thought quickly. She
was proud of her response. “As a chivalrous knight would be conscious of a
women’s tender feelings.”
“Tis not for a man,” William stated fervently. “I was jealous for every
moment you enjoyed Edward’s companionship.”
Sarra’s head snapped up to look at William. His eyes were twinkling
in merriment. “You tease me, my lord.”
William pulled Sarra back into his arms and held her tightly. He
kissed the hood of her cloak and rocked her gently. “My dearest Sarra. I do
not tease you. If you sought the companionship of any other man than my
beloved brother, Edward, I would have felled him on the jousting field. Since
I have met you I have been mad with longing for all those wonderful things
you manage and do. I have been mad with want and need for you.” He bent
down and kissed her lips once more. He loved the warm feeling and
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belonging. If only she could give him what he needed most. “Love me,”
William whispered again between kisses.
All Sarra could do is reply sweetly, “Yes, my lord.”
“I must stop,” William croaked with a dry throat. “Let us walk into
the bailey. It will give me time to cool my ardor.”
Sarra obeyed without thought. She was still in a world of happiness
and dizziness. William’s words of love aroused to a joy she could not
describe.
There were many serfs and freemen about in the bailey. Most were
enjoying the nice weather and were socializing or playing with their children.
They stopped short and stood as statues to watch the couple. The people
knew immediately it was Stone Heart and the blessed lady of kindness. They
looked happy together. Could they hope the lady would stay and become the
Lady of the Castle?

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Chapter Twenty
Back at the Castle, Casse made her appearance. Her mother and father
followed her entrance.
“Looks like the lady brought reinforcements. I think she intends to
make battle and demand the surrender of our Wills,” Harry observed walking
toward Edward and Andrew.
“Aye,” Andrew agreed.
“Did it work?” Harry asked. His brothers would know what he meant
without saying a word more.
“Smoothly,” Edward replied. “The two have been gone for some
time.”
“The wench is looking about for Wills,” Andrew warned. “She has
spotted us. Be ready.”
Casse walked briskly toward the brothers. Her smile was forced.
“Good day, m’lords. Have you seen Sir William this morn?”
“No,” Andrew answered bluntly.
Casse was irritated by his shortness. She turned to Harry. “Perhaps
you might know where he is about?”
“Sorry, I have missed breaking the fast as well,” Harry chortled
reminding her of her late arrival. “I have not seen Wills. I have first found
Andrew and Edward. We planned on meeting to check on some of the
accounts with the steward.”
“Mayhap, Sir William might already be with the steward?” Casse
asked with disdain. He should be waiting and anticipating her arrival. She
should not be chasing a man down like a common light skirt.
“Mayhap,” Edward answered. “We have not seen Wills since
breaking our fast this morn. We have been waiting for Harry.”
Casse furrowed her brows with anger. “The three sons without the
fourth? That is a bit odd.”
The three lifted their arms in resignation.
“Sir Henry,” Casse addressed as if a queen. “Lead me to the office of
steward. I should like to see if your wayward brother is there. It might be a
right time for me to see the steward and his office.”
“Since that is our way to go, we shall all accompany you, milady,”
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Casse held out her hand.
The brothers ignored it and proceeded her walking out of the great hall
toward the staircase leading to the steward’s office.
Crispin quickly took his daughter’s hand and followed the de Warre
brothers. He was anxious to see the steward’s office and look upon what
chests and parchments were sheltered there. Olive followed behind as anxious
to see the office as her husband. She was already counting the wealth of
Keyes Castle in her imagination.
Last night the Crispins also had a family meeting. Casse was in foul
temper and tired of trying to gain Williams attentions. She had tried
everything save giving her maidenhead to him. It was now up to her father to
insist and demand of Lord Edmond to prepare the betrothal announcements.
Edmond had after all brought the two women for that event. William had
spent the majority of time with her. He was hardly ever in the company of
Sarra unless it was for reasons of being with Oriel. Edmond must agree to the
betrothal. Casse and Olive bullied Crispin into forcing the issue with the lord.
Casse had little patience left. She could be enjoying the attentions of many
courtiers instead wasting her time engaging in a frustrating chase for a
stonehearted knight. The only reason for pursing the man this long was the
wealth and title it would provide.
***
A child had come up to Sarra and curtsied. “Milady? Will you be
staying on?”
Before Sarra could utter a sound William answered. “Milady will be
staying on. She is going to be Lady of Castle Keyes.”
Sarra’s mouth dropped. This wasn’t a pleasant dream. It was
happening and it was real. The beast wanted her as his wife.
The little cherub clapped for joy and ran to tell her parents. Soon all
the people in the bailey were bowing and curtsying before Sarra and William
wishing them well.
***
“Wills is not here,” Edward stated with false concern.
“Nor would he be,” Baldwyn thundered. He was a short man with
balding head and round about his waist. He dressed elegantly with velvet
tunic, silk shirt, and soft leather shoes. “Sir William and I finished the weekly
accounts two den past.”
Casse was simmering her anger. “Would you know where Sir William
might be?”

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Fortunately Baldwyn had also missed breaking the fast. “I have not an
idea where he might be. Isn’t he usually with Oriel seeing to her classes in the
morn?”
“Of course,” Casse growled. “I should have thought of it.” She turned
and strode to the staircase leading to the upper family rooms.
Casse had never been to the upper floors before and did not know
which solar was Oriel’s. She knew Lady Sarra was housed here, but that was
only because she had arrived first. Casse also required a larger room with a
sitting area. She opened the first door on the left. It was magnificent and
empty. She noticed Geoffrey sitting on a bench polishing William’s sword.
This was William’s room. “Squire, pray tell, where is Sir William?”
Geoffrey started at the interruption. “I do not know milady.”
“Sir William told you nothing?” Casse snapped irritably. She was near
the end of her tether.
“He told me to polish his sword,” Geoffrey replied innocently.
“Clod Plate!” Casse growled leaving the room in a fit. She opened the
next door across the hall. She saw Roese seeing to the making of the bed.
This was Sarra’s room. She was across the hall from Sir William’s room.
What would she make of that? The next room next to William’s was
Andrew’s and next to it was Edward’s. They were well decorated smelled
sweetly and looked comfortable. The largest door must be Sir Edmond’s but
she opened it any way. There were two chambermaids tending to the bed,
hearth, and room. Oriel was studying her parchment with her Latin teacher
watching carefully.
Casse forced control of her anger. She smiled sweetly. “Oriel dear,
have you see your Pere about?”
The Latin Teacher glared angrily at Casse for interrupting his student’s
concentration.
Casse was tiring of this castle. Before she came here courtiers were
constantly writing her love poems and singing ballads of true love. Men fell
over her all the time. At Keyes Castle the only ones paying her attention were
men of little substance. There certainly were no titled men paying court to
her. Once she became lady of the castle she would convince William to return
to the king’s court. In London she would be around men of title and wealth.
She would once again be the center of courtiers’ attentions. “Have you a
thought on where your Pere might be?”
Andrew followed Casse. He was concerned about Casse asking Oriel
where Wills might be. Andrew head shook his head vigorously for a no
answer as signal to Oriel.
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Oriel being a bright child knew immediately Andrew wanted her to
reply, no. Of course she did not know where her father was. “I know not. I
last saw Pere breaking the fast this morn. Uncle Edward took me to class this
morn.”
“Speaking of class, you are interrupting mine!” The priest snarled
angrily. “Out! Out all of you!”
The priest slammed the door behind Casse.
“Where is he, Sir Andrew?” Casse snapped. “You and your brothers
are keeping me from him. What purpose do you have?”
Andrew only smiled and walked away.
Crispin and Olive arrived at that moment. They received the solid
brunt of Casse’s fury. Half the castle heard the ranting and ravings of an
angry woman for several hours. It was a blessing when Casse finally lost her
voice.
***
At Casse’s intrusion, Roese felt a concern for Sarra. She had watched
William and Sarra depart together. Her special baby had finally kept her vow
and was talking to her beast. Roese had high hopes for Sarra’s future
happiness. She took her cloak and decided to search for Sarra.
Reaching the end of the staircase and looking past the great hall, Roese
watched William and Sarra enter. William was beaming with happiness.
Sarra looked a bit mystified. Roese saw William place a tender kiss on
Sarra’s brow, bow and turn toward his father’s private sitting room. She
rushed to Sarra’s side. “An occurrence?”
Sarra nodded her head.
Roese quickly pulled Sarra to her solar. She expected good news.
Sarra obviously had made an inroad with the beast. Roese was anxious to
hear all the details.
William walked directly to the sitting area. He knocked on the door
and his father bid him enter.
“Pere, I would have a word with you,” William requested tamping
down his happiness.
Reimond rose to leave.
“No, my Lord Reimond. You must stay. This will concern you as
well,” William announced.
Edmond sat back on his chair and folded his hands on his lap. Was that
a smile on his son’s lips? What could he expect?

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“Lord, Pere, I desire you to make contract with Lord Reimond for his
daughter. I seek to wed the Lady Sarra Albyn. Let us discuss the betrothal
contract,” William stated in determination.
The news shocked Lord Edmond and Reimond was heard to draw a
large gasp. The news was a surprise. Since Edmond had brought the women
to Keyes Castle it had appeared Casse monopolized William’s time. It also
appeared Sarra and William avoided each other. Both fathers had nearly
given up hope for the match they desired. Suddenly, without a visible change
William stood before them now asking for the marriage contract. What had
happened and when?
Reimond was the first to gain equilibrium and pursued the questions.
“This is quite sudden, Sir William. It has not escaped my notice that you and
my child have avoided each presence since you have met. Now you ask for
contract? Forgive me, but I worry for Lady Sarra’s future and happiness.
What has happened to change this?”
William poured wine into a goblet and sipped before he answered.
Her revealed a wide smile. “Actually your Sarra attracted me the moment we
met. I fell for her literally and feet first,” William chuckled at his own joke.
He was feeling good about this. He would get what he wanted. “The time
problem was understanding my attraction. It took me time to work it out.”
“And what of Casse? You spent a lot of time with her. I thought she
would be your preferred match. She is quite beautiful,” Edmond interjected to
quell his own curiosity.
“Casse is beautiful on a physical level, but a wise man does not marry
for that one virtue alone. It would be a happy man whose wife had many
virtues as beauty, wit, intelligence, and happiness. Casse is beautiful but can
claim no other virtue. Underneath that physical beauty is a hollow shell with
nothing more to offer,” William answered sincerely. “Lady Sarra holds beauty
physically, but holds more beauty with her wit, intelligence, caring, happiness,
and capability. Mayhap the time spent with Casse enlightened me to the true
facts of what a man should seek in a lady wife.”
The depth of William’s words shook Edmond to his soul. If only he
had reasoned that out before he married Laurette. If only he had the courage
to defy his father and marry the woman he loved. He shook his head to clear
it. What was past was unchangeable. It was folly to regret decisions made,
for they forged what you become. He was however proud of his son for
making what he considered the correct decision.
“What of my child, the Lady Sarra? Has she agreed to this betrothal?”

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“Aye, I have presented my desire to wed and Lady Sarra has agreed,”
William replied stoically.
“Then we will call Baldwyn and the priests. We will scribe the
betrothal contract,” Edmond announced. His plan had worked. His son
would have a suitable wife and Keyes Castle would now have a capable lady
able to manage the keep and bailey. He could rest. He would make his
announcement to retire the inheritance to William. He would at last find his
heart’s contentment.
***
Roese pulled a numb Sarra into her solar. She spun Sarra around to
look at her. Roese saw the swollen lips that had been well kissed. “Do tell
all!”
“I don’t know. I am not sure myself,” Sarra responded still in shock
from the splendid occurrence
“He kissed you! That is obvious. You are besotted. That is obvious.
What did he say?” Roese nearly screamed in frustration trying to bring Sarra
to reality and find out what happened.
“He proposed, I think. He would speak to Pere about the contract,”
Sarra answered softly.
“Betrothal?” Roese nearly shrieked.
“William asked me to love him,” Sarra whispered looking up to Roese.
Her eyes showed confusion in the words. “Oh, Roese. I am feeling so
strange. When he is near and when he kissed me, I felt like I did not have a
mind or body.”
“That is love.” Roese bubbled in glee hugging herself.
“That is frightening!” Sarra exclaimed with panic. “I do not wish to be
a rag puppet on strings. I am a woman of character and strengths.” Sarra
threw herself on her bed face forward and pounded her fists upon the mattress.
“I do not wish to marry! I cannot marry that man. He will destroy my will!”
Roese stood watching the temper tantrum. She remembered Joy doing
much the same thing when her betrothal to Reimond was announced. Roese
would allow Sarra to exhaust herself and then would be able to calm her.
After Roese left the room she heard the denial and anger turn into sobs. She
smiled. Soon her charge would fall into a deep sleep that would calm her.

***
Wills announcement in the bailey spread quickly from one to another.
In a short time nearly every servant in Keyes Castle was whispering the news

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that William had chosen a lady and would soon wed. Unfortunately the news
spread too quickly and the name of the lady was lost.
Genoa was one of the first of the chambermaids to hear the news. She
was afraid William had chosen Casse. Genoa did not want that woman as
Lady of the Keep. She would leave first and that made her sad. She wanted
Harry and would lose him if she returned to her family in the village. She
must find Harry. She must speak with him.

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Chapter Twenty-One
The contract was finished and sand was poured upon the signatures. It
was final. William de Warre would wed Lady Sarra Albyn. The three men
were celebrating when Christofre entered the study.
“There is news wandering about the castle,” Christofre announced.
“The whispers of gossip mongers say our William has chosen a lady and he is
to wed. May I ask of this rumor?”
Edmond rose from his chair quickly. He pulled Christofre into his
arms. “Aye, tis true. To my happiness, William is to wed the Lady Sarra.”
He then whispered in her ear, “You have little time left, my stubborn wench.
You gave me your vow and I shall hold you to it.”
Christofre pulled free and gave Edmond a crooked grin. “Tell me,
Wills, how do you accomplish this matter? I have only seen you in the
company of the Lady Casse, if you were to call her a lady.”
Wills raised a brow. “It appears you are not fond of the Lady Casse.
That is odd for my special Christofre. You were always chiding me to be
understanding and fair.”
“Selfishness and pride have always turned me away,” Christofre
answered with intensity. “The Lady Casse is both. Frankly, she is dangerous
to the coffers and running of a demesne. Have you seen the jewels she wears,
the cloth of her gowns, and even the stitchery and gems sewn upon her
gowns?”
“I have noticed,” Edmond said quietly. It has caused me to investigate
Crispin’s ledgers with scrutiny. Baldwyn and I have been studying his ledgers
since their arrival. It shows tampering and adjusting. Nothing is as it should
be in household accounts. I am surprised their servants have not all starved to
death. In spring I am sending Harry to manage the estates. I will send a new
steward that is strictly my man.”
“You note also that since their servants have arrived a Keyes Castle
they are healthier,” Christofre noted. “The servants are filling out. They are
robust. Upon their arrival they looked ill and starved.”
Reimond and Edmond nodded in agreement.
“Strange I did not notice this,” William pondered.

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“Exactly the reason it must be time for you to run this demesne,”
Edmond explained. “It is also the reason you must have a fine lady wife, like
Sarra Albyn to be a help mate to you.”
“It was Sarra that first noticed the state of Casse’s servants. She and
her lady maid, Roese made certain they received extra portion. Sarra saw to it
that they received light duty until healthier. Until that time, Sarra ordered our
strong young men servants to do the heavy work when demanded of Crispin’s
family,” Christofre interjected.
“Mayhap this Lady Sarra should be made a saint,” William joked.
“No man or woman achieves such holiness quickly,” Reimond
warned. “My daughter has her faults just as you have, Sir William. Example
you have not learned to feel fully. Sarra has a quick temper. She fights for
her beliefs as you do. It will require patience for the both of you to enhance
each other.”
“I have seen her temper,” William confessed. “I did not like it.”
“Then you must work to avoid it,” Reimond stated. “Sarra is strong
willed and stubborn.”
“As you are,” Lord Edmond added. “The two of you must learn to
listen to each other and come to an even answer found in the middle. I made a
great error with Edith. I still feel guilt for her death. I believe this Lady Sarra
is your match. I am happy you selected her. I was greatly concerned you
might have chosen Casse. Initially, I had brought women for you to make a
choice.”
“That is what this family gathering was all about?” William asked.
“Aye,” Edmond confessed.
“If I had chosen Casse, would you have interfered?”
“When I saw the state of Crispin’s family, his ledgers, and the Lady’s
behaviors and gowns, I believe I would have interfered,” Edmond replied
stoically. I did not plan to interfere when I first sent for them.”
“Tell me,” William question curiously. “Did Reimond and Crispin
know of your plans? Did Lady Casse or Lady Sarra?”
“Not at first,” Lord Edmond replied. “Reimond knew of course, but
he told no one. Eventually we allowed them to learn. I wanted to see
behaviors after they learned of the purpose of their visit. I was not surprised
at the behaviors. Casse became more aggressive. Sarra seemed sensitive to
your choice.”
“Lady Sarra avoided me,” William grouched. “It nearly drove me mad
when I believed she preferred Edward’s company.”

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“I’ve wondered about that,” Reimond confessed. “I wonder if she
loves him.”
“Edward told me she does not,” William shared. “He tells me they are
wonderful friends who enjoy written words, knowledge, and poetry. I don’t
believe I could learn poetic words.”
“Poetic words are shared by friends. The two of you need the
challenges each other would provide,” Christofre said wisely. “This is a time
for celebration. I will return to the kitchens anon and prepare a fine meal.”
“You always prepare a fine meal,” Lord Edmond praised.
Christofre smiled and curtsied. “Thank you milord, but this will be a
meal of celebration.”
“William, my steward will be arriving soon. We plan on looking over
this month’s ledgers and accounts. I want you to stay with us,” Lord Edmond
ordered.
“I will take my leave and see to my Sarra,” Reimond stated happily. “I
wish to congratulate her on the betrothal.”
***
Reimond was surprised to find his daughter sound asleep in the middle
of the day when he went to her solar. He covered her with a satin coverlet.
After Reimond watched his daughter for several moments, he decided to take
a chair by the hearth and wait for her to wake. Something inside nudged him
to stay. He knew his daughter would need him.
The sun was casting a pink glow when Sarra woke from her sleep. At
first she was disoriented. What happened this morning? It must have been all
a dream. Of course it was. Why had she slept? Was she ill? Yes, she must
be ailing. Wiping her eyes she heard the soft snoring of her father. She must
be very ill for her father to sit with her. Slowly she rose from her bed
removing the satin coverlet. Her father must have placed it on her. She
walked over to the hearth. Gently she touched her father. “Pere?”
Reimond woke slowly. His daughter stood before him. With a small
smile he opened his arms. “Mon Cherie.”
That movement and greeting was Sarra’s special sign to climb upon
his lap and enjoy a quiet loving moment with her parent. She hadn’t had this
moment since she became a woman at age twelve. Happily she sat upon her
father’s lap. Her father surrounded her with his arms and pressed her head
onto his shoulder. Sarra felt her father’s lips give her light kisses on her
forehead. She sighed heavily.
“What are you feeling, my child?” Reimond asked quietly.

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“A bit of confusion,” Sarra replied softly. “It seems I had a real dream.
Do not laugh if I tell you, but I must share it with someone. The dream was
most distressing.”
“Go on, tell me,” Reimond encouraged. He was a bit worried. Sarra
did seem a bit melancholy.
“I dreamt after breaking the fast, Sir William asked me to walk with
him. We did walk and talked of many things. He took me in his arms and
kissed me. Oh, Pere, I confess I did enjoy the kissing. It happened in my
dream he asked to be wed. For a strange weak moment, I agreed. We kissed
again. It was very nice. I seemed to float next to him and we returned to the
keep. Why would I dream of such a thing? Do you think though Sir William
despises my person, I would desire him? How could I desire such a man? He
frightens me.”
Reimond rubbed his hand up and down Sarra’s arm in a soothing
motion. “Why does Sir William frighten you? Why would you be afraid to
be wed to him?”
“He would dominate me. I would resist and I would be beaten. He
would beat me. I should be wounded and bruised for my entire life. He has a
cold heart that would freeze me. I need warmth and caring like you give to
me,” Sarra elucidated. “I could not be a submissive wife. I enjoy
independence. I enjoy doing things, as I believe they should be done without
constant consent of a man that does not know or understand the running of a
household. I would not be a good wife. Yet, I dream of it?”
“Sarra, you of all women in the kingdom would be the best wife,”
Reimond whispered. “You are much like your Mere. I am reminded every
day I live of her, through you. Your Mere was the best wife there could ever
be. For that you have no fear.”
“What of Sir William as husband? I am stubborn and strong willed.
Would he beat me? I could not bear it to live as wife to a cold heart when I
crave warmth.”
“I do not believe Sir William would raise a hand to you. He is a
knight and trained in chivalry. I do not believe his heart is that cold. I see
him with his child, Oriel. He has changed greatly upon sharing his heart with
the little moppet. I have seen his heart melt and long for the love and pride of
family that he was denied as a child. You are helping to melt that cold stone
heart.”
“He wants Casse. She is beautiful. How could any man resist her?”
Reimond chuckled. “Many men could easily resist her. They need be
in her presence for a short time to know how shallow her beauty is. A man
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needs loving as a woman does. It is a different life for a man and woman, but
it is the same in caring one for another. Sir William does not want Casse. I
know this as fact.”
“How can you know this?” Sarra countered in exasperation.
“This is not a dream, Sarra. William has signed contract to wed with
you. Lord Edmond and I scripted the contract this day. Baldwyn is copying
the betrothal to present to the priest and another copy to send to King John for
his approval. It is done, Sarra. William desires you to wife,” Reimond stated
lovingly. He continued to rub Sarra’s arms.
“I did not dream this?” Sarra asked in alarm.
Reimond shook his head. “Tis real. I came to tell you all is
accomplished. I found you sleeping soundly in the stead.”
“I am afraid,” Sarra whimpered trembling in her father’s arms. “I am
very afraid.”
“Nonsense, there is nothing you fear!” Reimond consoled. “Love
conquers all. Your Mere accomplished this with me. You are your Mere’s
child. You will conquer William with the loving heart beating within you.”
“Mere accomplished love with love returning. You are a loving man
twas not to hard,” Sarra countered enjoying the warm embrace of her father’s
arms.
“Tis time you heard the tale of two knights a long time ago. Twas not
an accident or not done without thought that you and Casse were chosen to
come here for Sir William to chose a wife.”
Sarra sat up straight. “Casse and I were chosen?”
“Aye, I will tell you the reason you were chosen and then I will tell the
tale,” Reimond murmured. “Lord Edmond and I were close as brothers. We
were fostered in the same castle. We served as pages. Then we served as
squires. We were parted for some time until we joined once again as Knights.
We received our spurs together. It may be difficult to imagine, but once your
Pere and Lord Edmond were handsome young men. Our appearances at court
had many a maid try to gain our intention. We were young knights
completely full of ourselves. We had our choice of any beautiful maiden. I
wander into the story without explaining your selection, my pet.”
“You are here because your mother was, Joy. Casse is here because
her aunt was Laurette.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Precious child, you inherited all that was the best of your Mere and
Casse inherited all that was the worst of Laurette. It is why Lord Edmond

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called all of us here at this time. He wanted Sir William to wed, and this time
he wished the boy to see the differences together and choose you.”
“Is he mad? Casse is beautiful beyond words. Sir William would
have chosen her over a simple woman such as I,” Sarra chortled snuggling
into her father’s arms a little more to get comfortable.
“Lord Edmond’s wife was Lady Laurette. She was even more
beautiful that Lady Casse. Laurette was a vision, and when she walked it was
if she glided on air. There were no so fair as Lady Laurette.”
“Mere was beautiful,” Sarra countered in defense at her father’s
description of Lord Edmond’s wife.
“Aye, Joy was beautiful. Her beauty transcended all that is good,
loving and wonderful. Laurette had only the physical beauty, the fair of face,
and nothing else.”
“You knew Lady Laurette?” Sarra queried. Her curiosity was piqued.
“Aye. Lord Edmond and I both sought her favors. We looked at her
and were mesmerized. We lost all reason. We only saw and wanted the most
beautiful woman we had every met. There was nothing we did not do to
impress the Lady Laurette.”
“We know Lord Edmond won the Lady Laurette,” Sarra said simply.
“When did you meet Mere?”
“Your Mere was there at the court. She watched us make fools of
ourselves. You see, your Mere was sent to court by Lord Edmond’s father to
be his betrothed. Edmond would hear nothing of it. He had to have Lady
Laurette. It turned out that Lady Laurette had wanted Edmond. He had all the
wealth and power she wanted. Like the Lady Casse she was concerned with
the finest gowns, jewels, and servants to wait upon her.”
“Mere was at court with you and Lord Edmond?”
“Aye, and she loathed us for our foolishness.”

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Chapter Twenty-Two
“Mere was there, loathed you, but still became your wife?”
“Thank Sweet Jesu for that. I was very fortunate. One day I saw her
working in the garden pulling herbs and flowers for medicines. I stopped to
talk to her. She was pleasing to the eye, although not the beauty Laurette was,
and I had noted that wherever she would go, there would many servants
flocking around her. They respected your Mere. She was so kind and good
that all tried to stay in her favor. All servants avoided the Lady Laurette as if
she bore the plague.
“I asked her what she was doing and she replied that she was getting
herbs to take care of love madness. She needed to be prepared to help the
afflicted males when they learned Laurette wanted the most money and the
most power. She told me Laurette desired Sir Edmond and would have no
other. To her surprise I agreed with her. She told me quite disdainfully that
mayhap I may not be too mad and there might be hope for a cure. I laughed
and laughed so hard it hurt. I never had laughed like that. It was contagious
and your Mere found she was laughing as well. It was a good start. We met
again and our discussions increased to sometimes argumentative states. Still
we found we enjoyed the company even when we were at odds. Your Mere
humbled me with her wisdom, knowledge, and understandings. There were
times when I quite resented it. There were times when she became so upset
with me she lost her calm. I found I admired her, although in my eyes she
was still a child.
“ Laurette did wed Lord Edmond. Your Mere’s parents were furious.
They had wanted the king to agree to the contract with Lord Edmond. I went
to Mondel. There I stayed as knight. My Pere began to train me as lord of the
demesne. I heard Joy’s Pere had wed her to another. Rumor was the marriage
was not a happy one. I was told there was a child, a son. The child became ill
and passed on. The husband was killed in a joust. Your Mere was breeding at
the time and she lost that child. I heard later your Mere had become a recluse
allowing no one to enter her dead husband’s demesne. Her servant’s were
devoted and would die to serve her. They were happy, content, and fruitful
under her guidance. The dead lord had been hard and selfish. In that

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marriage contract it had been agreed that Joy would inherit all the lands, the
keep, and maintain stewardship to Lord Gifford, Lord Edmond’s Pere.”
Sarra was caught up in her father’s tale. She eagerly listened to every
word. This tale was somehow soothing for the turmoil she was feeling.
Reimond continued, “Your Mere was so wound into my soul I sought
to hear news of her. Fortunately her demesne was a part of Mondel’s
holdings. I sent our steward to attend to those accounts. He kept me informed
of all the rumors, facts, and accounts. The demesne showed higher and higher
profits under your Mere’s guidance. It grew in wealth after the lord husband
had died. Your Mere was now a woman of a score and one. I was a man of a
score and ten. I went with the steward on his next trip. Your Mere
remembered me well. I stayed there the winter and in spring we petitioned
my Pere to arrange our marriage contract. My Pere was a wise man and
agreed readily. In that spring, your Mere and I wed. I was the happiest man
for all those wonderful years we had together. We both cried in elation when
you were born. Our wonderful child, and then blessed again with Sabina. I
believe that our separation for all those years and the unhappy first marriage
allowed us to grow and appreciate each other.”
Sarra noticed her father’s eyes tear in memory. The love for her
parents was a reflection of their love for each other and the love for their
children. She began to feel her tears and throat tighten in emotion. Sarra also
realized why her father had told her this part of the story. Perhaps William
might change with time after his disastrous first marriage. She didn’t want to
think of that possibility at the moment. Sarra wanted to know more about
William’s parents and deceased wife. “What of Lord Edmond and Lady
Laurette?’
“Their life was that of argument and anger. The castle was unhappy.
Laurette gave Edmond sons, but at a high cost. Each bedding was a cost of a
new gown, a new jewel, or a visit to the court in England. Each breeding was
a time of argument and anger. Edmond remained true, but often came to visit
me at Mondel. He rued the day he chose Laurette over Joy at every visit. He
saw the happiness of our lives. He enjoyed the comforts and pleasures of our
hospitality. It is true he envied our happiness, but he was always kind. He
came to visit to escape. He came to us when you were born. He is your
godparent. I think even when he watched you growing from a babe to a
toddler he hoped you and his oldest son would be a match. Edmond knew
how Joy was training her two daughters and he wished he could have such
comfort in his keep. Soon after Edmond’s last visit, Laurette passed on. We
knew Edmond then realized his own contentment and he married William to a
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woman he hoped would be suitable. As you know, that did not work well.
Yet, Edmond was given a second chance to raise a child and he has done well
with Oriel, don’t you agree?”
“Oriel is a magnificent child. She is smart and loving,” Sarra readily
agreed. “It is obvious Lord Edmond has raised her well.”
“Edmond was filled with guilt after Edith’s passing. Her death was
not his responsibility, but he took it. He knew you were of marriageable age
when we petitioned for your sister’s betrothal. It was then Lord Edmond
determined to bring contentment for William. He had enough faith in his
eldest son to choose you over the shallow beauty of Casse. My friend was
correct. We are thrilled at William’s choice.”
“Pere, I feel trepidation. Should I not be thrilled? I am not certain of
what my emotions are,” Sarra said with a hint of uncertainty.
“If you put down your guard and let yourself feel what is between you,
it will work out for your great happiness,” Reimond assured.
“Between us? I don’t understand.”
“Dearest, the powerful attraction between you and William has been
obvious to all with the exception of you and William,” Reimond chuckled
softly. The two didn’t know what was happening between them for a long
time. To his happy surprise, William did figure it out even before his
intelligent daughter. “William has realized it. It is your part to realize it
now.”
Sarra sighed and laid her head upon her father’s shoulder. If she were
truthful, those were wonderful feelings being near William. She enjoyed the
kissing and that moment on his bed actually felt right. William made her
body do things inside she had never felt before.
The silence hung in the air for sometime. Reimond broke it. “Simply
try it sweet child. Let it happen. Make the effort. I want you to know the
contentment and peace your Mere and I had together. I truly want only for
you to be happy.”
“I vow to make the effort. I shall,” Sarra promised.
The two spent the next few minutes as they were when a blur of
energy burst into the room.
“Lady Sarra,” Oriel squealed rushing into the room. “Grandpere told
me you are to be my Mere. Oh how wonderful.” Oriel spun around in the
room clasping her hands and giggling in delight. “I hoped for a Mere. I
wished for her to be like you and then you came. Please be my Mere.”
Sarra’s heart opened wide. At that moment her mothering and
nurturing instincts conquered all else. She had forgotten that marrying
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William would make her Oriel’s mother. The thought thrilled her. She
already loved the child. Rising from her father’s lap she stood and opened her
arms to Oriel.
Oriel ran into those welcoming arms and relished the thrill of the
loving embrace that she had always wished for. Oriel had liked Sarra
immediately. Everything had worked out wonderfully for her dreams and
hopes.
Sarra hugged Oriel tightly. Her hand lovingly stroked Oriel’s hair.
This lovely moppet would be her precious child. She would do everything she
could to make this child hers in heart.
Reimond watched the scene and once again tears formed in his eyes.
If only Joy could share this moment. His dear wife would have smiled that
great smile. The simple memory of his wife was sufficient in his mind that he
was sharing this happy moment with Sarra’s mother.

***
In other parts of the castle, Olive was listening to servant’s gossip
when certain words perked her interests. Listening carefully she heard the
rumor that William had indeed planned to wed. He would be speaking to his
father. Naturally Olive assumed the contract would be made with her
daughter, Casse. She was so excited to tell Casse and Crispin she failed to
hear the rest of the gossip. William had been seen together with the lady in
the bailey earlier today. Olive had been looking for Sir William for Casse
since he had disappeared and the brothers had led her daughter Casse on a
merry chase.
Casse was sulking in her solar. She had wrapped her throat and was
drinking warm mead to soothe the hoarseness. Never before had she needed
to work for a man’s attention. She was determined to make William pay for
his insolence. When they were wed she would make him beg for her. When
she would give in, he would pay a high price for her favors. The thought of
the gowns and jewels he would be forced to buy her calmed her. She was
considering her future wealth when her mother entered the room. It was
obvious Olive was excited.
“Darling, such news I bring,” Olive stated nearly bubbling over with
excitement. “I heard just now that William has decided to wed. He is to
speak to Lord Edmond about the contract. How exciting. We thought ill
when we could not find him this morn. In the stead we find out he was
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It never occurred to either Olive or Casse that William could have
chosen someone else. Casse had campaigned for William and placed herself
at her side continuously for these past months. She even went outdoors in the
winter! She truly hated the outdoors especially in the cold of winter. At last
this would be settled.
Crispin entered the solar upon the summons sent to him by Olive. The
servant Margaret had given him the message to go at once to Casse’s solar.
He had also received a summons from Lord Edmond. The written summons
had indicated he was to meet with the lord in the private study right after the
evening meal. He still held the parchment in his hand. He couldn’t help but
notice the cheerful faces.
“At last, Crispin. At long last it has happened. William had discussed
the marriage contract with Lord Edmond,” Olive bubbled over with joy. Our
Casse is to wed with Sir William.”
Crispin smiled in relief. “That is why I have been sent for.” He held
up the parchment. “I am to meet with Lord Edmond after the evening meal.”
This had been a trial for him. He never let anyone know but he secretly had
wanted this contract as much as his wife and child. His demesne was nearly
bankrupt. He was looking forward to living comfortably in Keyes Castle.
“Let us look at the fabulous silks William bought for me at the market.
I should choose one and began my wedding gown. I shall plan a large
wedding. I shall have the grandest foods prepared. We shall feast for at least
three days. I want drink and entertainment,” Casse rattled off quickly.
Olive nodded her head in agreement. “We shall demand the finest of
wedding feasts and clothes. You will inherit the de Warre family jewels and
should wear them. I think we should send invitation to the King, don’t you
Crispin?”
Crispin nodded in agreement. He was caught up in the financial
security and success of this contract. His troubles would soon be over.

***
Casse, Olive, and Crispin were among the first to arrive for the
evening meal. Casse wore one of her favorite gowns. It was a lilac color satin
gown with a deep purple velvet tunic. The gown enhanced her fair
complexion and violet eyes. The tunic had tiny pearls and gemstones of
amethyst embroidered onto the fabric. She wore ropes of pearls around her
neck. Her wimple was a deep purple to match the tunic. A small golden
circlet of pearls held the wimple upon her head. Olive wore one of her
favorite gowns. It was deep red satin with a matching apple red velvet tunic.
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The trumpet sleeves and neckline were edged with fox fur. Even Crispin
dressed up for the occasion. He wore a deep blue velvet tunic edged with
ermine. His shoes were made of the finest doeskin leather and fur lined.
To the Crispin family’s surprise William did not appear. Lord
Edmond took his chair. Harry, Andrew, and Edward followed Edmond. They
their seats and Lord Edmond signaled for the meal to begin. Reimond arrived
soon thereafter and took his seat. Sir William, Sarra, and Oriel were evidently
absent from the meal.
Once again Casse held her temper. She had taken the chair next to
William’s and had anticipated his proposal and conversation regarding their
contract. Instead she found herself sitting next to Andrew. She smiled
gritting her teeth in irritation, but politely asked Andrew, “I had expected Sir
William to dine with me. I have not seen him all den. Has Sir William a
malady?”
Andrew nearly laughed with delight at the question. He understood
her true meaning. She wanted to dig her claws into his brother. He had no
idea how she would take the news of William’s betrothal to Sarra. He had no
intention of being closer than a league to Casse when she found out. He
certainly was not about to tell her. “William is taking his meal with Oriel this
eve. He has many things to discuss with her.”
Casse felt immediately placated. Of course he had to tell his daughter
about the marriage contract. After all, Oriel was about to receive a new
mother. Casse held her laughter. She couldn’t imagine herself as a mother.
She would be expected to birth an heir, but nursemaids could care for the brat.
The child Oriel would be sent off to some demesne for fostering. A doting
grandfather already spoiled the child.
Casse enjoyed the rest of the meal. She flirted openly with many
knights throughout the course of the meal.
Olive and Crispin felt their tension leave when Casse relaxed.
Obviously there had been a valid reason for William’s absence. They both
enjoyed the meal and ate nearly every offering of food and wine.
Edmond was not enjoying the meal. He barely ate. First he missed his
Oriel laughing and teasing him at the table. Second, he wanted William and
Sarra to take over his head position, but he understood William’s request to
have a quiet meal in Oriel’s solar with her future mother. The third reason he
did not enjoy the meal was what had to be done and said in his meeting with
Crispin. It was rare he ever had to have words with his stewards. He had
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Edmond focused on his sons. He was content knowing all his sons
were with him. With the thoughts of his peace he sampled some of the food
and forced himself to eat.
The meal completed, Lord Edmond rose and walked to Crispin.
“It is time, Crispin,” Edmond spoke quietly with authority. “We will
retire to my private room. Baldwyn is meet us there.”
Crispin was smiling broadly. He had been anticipating this meeting.
Soon his daughter would be Lady of Keyes Castle. He would have access to
the de Warre wealth and lands. The Lord had also spoken to him directly. He
did not send a servant. The Lord had given him the command in front of
Olive. This would be a wonderful evening. Crispin rose to follow Lord
Edmond who was already walking toward the private room.

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Chapter Twenty-Three
William spent some time with his brothers in discussion of his
betrothal to Sarra Albyn. He had walked with Oriel to Sarra’s solar knowing
his precious daughter wanted to talk to her about the wonderful news of Sarra
becoming her new mother. He still marveled at how happy the child was
when he told the news. His cheek still felt her warm lips upon them. She
kissed him many times telling him consistently how happy she was about his
marriage to Sarra.
He felt his father’s disappointment early when he announced he
wanted to spend a quiet meal with Oriel and Sarra instead of the loud and
bothersome meal at the large table in the Great Hall. His father did assure him
he understood, but wanted William to know that as soon as the wedding was
consummated he expected William to take the place at the head of the table,
with Sarra on his right side and Oriel on his left side. William agreed. He
assured his father it would be a difficult wait until the nuptial ceremony.
William was anticipating the bedding. In his mind he still remembered
how perfect Sarra felt beneath him. He realized since Sarra came into his life
he no longer desired Elena or any winsome willing light skirt. He only
wanted Sarra. This wait would be an eternity. He was pleased his father
agreed to the nuptial in a fortnight.
Sarra found she was enjoying the quiet meal in Oriel’s solar. A cloth
had been laid upon the floor as a table. To her amazement, William dictated
an imaginary campfire. The food would be camp food prepared over the open
fire in the center. Sarra and Oriel were his primary captains. They were
conferring a battle plan to siege the stronghold of King Harold the fierce. At
one point William who on all fours, played the Destrier for Oriel when she
planned a frontal charge to Harold’s stronghold. Sarra played the stronghold
with great dramatics.
William lost his balance during Oriel’s charge. When he and Oriel fell
to the floor the laughter was boisterous.
Sarra could hardly believe the man playing with his child was the cold
stone heart she met only a few months before. The change was incredible.
She began to believe she could be happy within this marriage of convenience,
power, and design. When Sarra looked into William’s eyes she saw a sparkle
that simply was not there when her feet met his face. Those eyes were cold,

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hard, and lifeless. Of course she had to allow for the swelling and bruise her
feet did cause. Now, those eyes were filled with life. To Sarra it was amazing
how his precious child, Oriel had brought warmth back into his life. She
couldn’t credit that great change to her doing in any way.
Sarra could not know how much her touches of small changes in this
castle had made Keyes Castle feel more like a home. It was the home William
had always longed for, but never hoped for. The passion he felt for Sarra
when near her filled him with a lust he had never felt. His seed, Oriel, was so
much like him. William found an urge to be a type of parent he had needed so
desperately as a child. Sarra could not know how this combination had
worked to melt the cold stone heart almost completely.
“Come little, Oriel,” William commanded scooping a giggling girl into
his arms. “Your chambermaid is waiting patiently to give your bath and
prepare you for night. I must attend to matters with your Grandpere. I bid
you goodnight, sweet maiden.”
William waited patiently as Oriel placed her arms around his neck and
gave him a wet kiss on his cheek. He then turned his charge over to her
chambermaid.
He did not hesitate to take Sarra’s arm and pull her to him. “I am
readily pleased with this evening, great King Harold and conqueror of this
poor knight’s heart. Thank you sweet Sarra for agreeing to wed. I need you.
Until I met you, I did not know how much I needed this pure love.”
Sarra was speechless. Her mouth attempted to move but sound choked
in her throat. What could she say to such a declaration? Her heart soared in
joyous emotion. Sarra lifted her arms until her hands touched his face. She
pulled him lower and touched her lips to his.
All doubt and uncertainty of the rightness of this marriage contract
was erased for Sarra in the next moment. This kiss was special. The other
kisses she shared prior with William were passionate and enjoyable, but this
kiss was wonderment. At first the kiss was sweet. They touched each other’s
lips lightly. Soon, William had drawn Sarra into his body. She felt his hard
muscular chest against her breasts. She heard his beating heart. Their lips
slowly parted finding a want to be closer in exchange. William pulled her
closer. She felt his lips press down upon hers. His tongue intruded seeking
warmth and solace. It was a need to be as close as he could without benefit of
church blessing.
Sarra felt as if a glow of warmth surrounded her and invaded her. She
wanted to climb into him and stay there. She had known love all her life, but
she had not imagined this kind of love. A sense of security increased
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exponentially. Her father had been right. Even the strangest of couples can
be attracted to each other. A love match of untold proportions could truly
happen between people without them realizing how or when it happened.
Oriel watched in delight. To a child of vivid imagination and
childhood hope, the picture before her was a dream come true. She would
have a loving mother and father. Still her little mind could not comprehend
one small thing. “Pere, can you or Sarra breathe? Surely the two of you must
breathe.”
The kiss ended immediately. Both Sarra and William tried not to
laugh at the innocent question.
William took Sarra’s hand and brushed his lips over her knuckles. “I
must leave to attend to matters with my Pere. I count the days until you are
my wife. Until that moment we are betrothed. I shall be available for your
whim or command.” He bowed and left the solar.
Sarra assisted Oriel with her bath and toilette. She thought of having
pleasant dreams this evening.
***
Baldwyn was waiting in Lord Edmond’s private study. With him were
all the documents, accountings, and parchments from Tomes Castle. The
Tomes Castle steward was also there awaiting his fate. Wilbert had been
summoned to Keyes Castle within a few days of Lord Crispin, his family, and
retinue of servants’ arrival. Wilbert had spent these past months secreted with
Baldwyn going over every line of accounts. Baldwyn had also demanded a
verbal accounting of all transactions made within Tomes Castle. The past
month this information was shared with Lord Edmond. Last week a decision
had been made. Lord Edmond had hesitated until he was certain of William’s
decision. Fortunately, William had come to the correct decision and Edmond
could progress as planned.
Edmond preceded Crispin into the private room. He greeted Baldwyn
with a nod and took his large upholstered chair behind the large carved
wooden table. Edmond signaled Baldwyn and Wilber to take the seats on
either side of him.
Crispin entered the room with a light gait. He wasn’t even surprised to
see Wilbert at the table. He noticed his accounts set before them on the table
and didn’t even think about that as a warning to what would happen next. He
had assumed this was all about setting the marriage contract.
“Crispin take a seat,” Edmond commanded somberly. “Do you have
an idea to what this meeting is about?” He nodded to the parchments spread
before them.
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William was about to enter the room when he heard Crispin’s response
to his father’s question.
“Of course, my Liege Lord,” Crispin expounded gaily. “We are here
to set the marriage contract of your heir, Sir William, and my child, Casse.”
Edmond’s mouth dropped. The shock of Crispin’s answer shook him.
He had never considered Crispin to be so thick.
“How did you come to this conclusion?”
Crispin grinned widely. “Tis the talk of everyone. Tis told Sir
William spent the day cloistered with you to conclude the courtship of Casse
and scribe the betrothal contract.” Crispin took a short breath and continued
in excitement. “Of course there are a few requests I have to make regarding
this betrothal.”
William succeeded but found it difficult to hold his mirth. He knew
the talk of everyone was about the people of the bailey seeing him kissing
Sarra and telling them she would be mistress of Keyes Castle. How Crispin
had believed it was Casse he could not comprehend.
Edmond could not help himself. He led Crispin into further
conversation. “These requests are?”
Crispin sat against the chair folding his hands upon his lap as if he had
complete control of the contract. “Our family is quite close. I would see to it
that my good wife, Olive, and I remain here at Keyes Castle. We would
require a living income of course and I do expect a large dower for my child’s
hand. Casse is so completely beautiful that the highest lords of the land would
seek her.”
Edmond felt his teeth grind in anger. “Which lords are greater in
wealth and land than the Earl of Sussex?”
Crispin had the sense to blush. “Excuse me, Lord Edmond. Of course
you are the greatest lord of King John’s realm. Still you must see how
valuable a commodity is the beautiful Casse.”
Edmond could not resist, “Actually, no I do not!”
Crispin cocked his head. He couldn’t believe what he heard.
Edmond brought down the axe. “The truth be known, my heir did
spend time with me to arrange a betrothal and marriage contract. The petition
has already been sent to King John. However, my heir pleaded not for the
hand of Casse in matrimony, but the hand of Sarra Albyn.”
It was Crispin’s turn for his mouth to drop.
William entered the room. “Your Casse is beautiful of face and
pleasing to the eye. She is difficult to the ear and heart. I chose a beautiful
heart, a comfort for the body, a pleasant grace to the ear, and someone capable
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of the simplicity of love. I seek a hearth and home, not an ornament. Tis true
for the longest time I did enjoy the sparkle of an ornament, but my life felt
cold and vacant. After all these years I find my castle changed into a home of
life and comfort. It was then I understood exactly what I longed for. I found
it here. My cold hollow heart warmed and glowed in the contentment. Yes,
all I ever needed I found in the Lady Sarra Albyn. Your Casse is beautiful
and she will achieve her goals, but it shall not be at my cost.”
Crispin’s mouth moved but incoherent sounds were heard.
Edmond lost patience. “We are here to balance accounts of Tomes
Castle, Crispin. Your demesne is in bankruptcy. I have testimony from your
steward that foods were sold to merchants for purchase of cloths, perfumes,
cosmetics, shoes, and jewelry. The fore mentioned were in such quantity your
treasury was emptied for foodstuffs. Your servants, serfs, and freemen are
near starvation. This is unacceptable for a demesne as wealthy as Tomes.
You have rich agricultural land that brings large harvests. You have sheep
and cattle. You have woods full of fowl and venison. Tomes’ has streams
filled with fish. All is taken for baubles? I cannot have such a steward under
my lands. You are hereby removed as Lord of Tomes. You and your wife
will be sent to Brothshire Manor. Your child will be sent to the court of King
John. The king will find a suitable match for your Casse.”
Crispin was trembling. He had lost his demesne. He had lost the
wealth of Tomes and its luxury to live in a small manor house. The
humiliation was devastating. He had lost all for satisfying the unending greed
of his wife and daughter. “My lord,” Crispin began to plead. “Give me
another chance.”
“That I will not,” Edmond stated emphatically. “Baldwyn had sent a
man he trained to Tomes. We have had reports that the servants, serfs, and
freemen health is improving. Most of the thousands of yards of cloth have
been sold and used for foodstuff and care of Tomes Castle. Your bulwarks
are in need of repair and I have sent finance to cover those costs. Your men at
arms and knights have also received recompense. They are now, my men. I
will be sending Harry as the new liege lord. I suggest you begin your packing
for your journey. Another of Baldwyn’s men will accompany you. He will
keep strict accounting of your manor. Any difficulty with finances will be
brought to my attention. Inform Casse that she will be going to King John’s
court in early spring. You may take your leave!”
Crispin rose in dejection. His shoulders were rounded as he walked.
He kept his head bowed. He would not go to his solar, or to Casse’s solar. He
needed time to think. He needed to comprehend what had just occurred. He
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was angry and ashamed. Crispin’s mind was flashing in different emotions
and directions at the same time. He returned to the hearth. He sat upon a
chair and stared into the fire. It took several hours and late into the night
before he left for his solar.
***
Sarra heard Oriel’s prayers, gave her kiss goodnight, and nearly
floated into her solar. Roese was waiting with her bath.
“You seem content this eve,” Roese commented casually washing
Sarra’s back with a soaped cloth. “You remind me of your Mere when you
are at peace.”
Sarra was not really thinking about peace. She was quiet only because
she was remembering this last kiss and the maelstrom in her body it caused.
She truly did not understand these feelings boiling and churning inside. It felt
wonderful, but it was frightening. Would she lose her identity? Some men
believed they owned their wives, body and soul. Her body was lost, but could
she bear losing her soul?
“Roese, did mon Mere and Pere stop arguing when they were wed?”
Roese arched her brow at the question.
“Do not look at me so,” Sarra protested looking directly into Roese’s
eyes. “This is important to me. I must know.”
Roese took a seat on the bench. She took Sarra’s hand. “There were
more love words than arguments, but they argued. In the beginning of their
marriage it was more oft than not. Your Mere and Pere would find many
points to quarrel. Your Pere believing that simply being a male made him
right infuriated your Mere. Your Mere was stubborn with her logic and
intelligence, which infuriated your Pere. The making up of the quarrel was
most delightful for the both. The making up was so delightful; your Mere
logically determined the making up was far more valuable than the effort of
the quarrel. I shall not forget the day she ended the quarrels.
“I was combing her hair preparing her for bed when Lord Reimond
entered. Quite sweetly she invited him to sit by her. In a sensual voice your
Mere said to him that since he was so well trained in the art of war, chivalry,
battle, and knighthood she would concur with all decisions of his. After all,
she could not offer advice on those things she knew little of. Your Pere
beamed with pride. Then your Mere stated quietly ‘Of course you understand
this since you were not trained in running a kitchen, making soap, or
preparing wool for weaving and would not be able to make such decisions.’ I
watched your father’s face and knew immediately your Mere had won the
war. Your Pere readily agreed to her logic of his superiority in the masculine
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arts. He graciously replied that of course his Joy would make the decisions in
all of the feminine responsibility. Your Mere had placed him exactly where
she wanted and with the sweetest voice won her war of identity and power.
You dear child are much like your Mere.”
“She was so strong and wise. I wish I could be exactly like her,” Sarra
said wistfully.
“Joy had her faults. You must not strive to be exactly like her. She
was a different time. She was a different woman. Be yourself, that is all you
ever need to do,” Roese counseled. “Never regret, only consider wisdoms
learned with trial and error. Go to bed. You have a new day to begin as a
betrothed.”

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Chapter Twenty-Four
Geoffrey was helping William finish dressing when Andrew, Harry,
and Edward entered his solar. All brothers were smiling.
“Is there a special event?” William questioned addressing his brothers.
I do not recall even as a child all of you suddenly appearing in my chamber.”
Harry stepped forward. “We have never had the opportunity to
celebrate a betrothal together. All of us agree that this time, brother, you have
made an excellent choice.”
“I didn’t make the choice ere this,” William countered. Edith had been
his father’s choice and command. He followed the decree of the Lord
Edmond. At the time in his life, a marriage really didn’t matter to him. A
wife was simply a vessel to bear an heir. His marriage was hardly amiable.
Edith was so frightened of him she stuttered when they were together. He
couldn’t recall when they ever had a conversation. Edith was subservient at
bedtime and for mating. There was no feeling, emotion, or fulfillment. He
was surprised when Edith announced she was breeding. At that time she
separated from him and remained separated until her death. He wondered
what this marriage would bring. He was certain it wouldn’t be the same.
Sarra made him burn with desire. She certainly responded to him. One of the
things he was looking forward to with this marriage was the bedding.
“Tis true you did not choose Edith, but this one is your choice,” Harry
agreed.
“And a good choice it is,” Edward interrupted. “This castle will
become a true home. I look forward to living here for a time.”
“Pere wishes I should remain and take charge of Keyes Castle. I
intend to fulfill my duty,” William stated. “I may send you, Edward, to the
Court London. My betrothed likes you too much. I do not deal well with
jealousy.”
Edward’s face drained. He had served his as squire in London Court
and hated it. He hated the politics, the debauchery, the subterfuge, and
rigidity of the nobility. He found few scholars to share his interests. Most
discussions were of the French and invasion to reclaim land. “Sweet Jesu give
us mercy.”

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“Spend too much time with my good wife and see what may happen,”
William teased.
Harry and Andrew laughed heartily. None of the brothers with the
exception of William could tolerate London Court.
William’s personality found the intrigue a personal challenge. He
enjoyed playing the mind games. He was usually the winner of the games.
“Since we are such gay moods this day, I will share Pere’s meeting with
Crispin and the results.”
“Will it take long?” Andrew chuckled. “I am quite hungry.”
“You are an empty keg,” Harry chided. “I wish to know what
occurred with our guest. Pere and Baldwyn have been studying the accounts
of Tomes for months. Genoa discussed the how the health of their servants
has improved since their arrival. Genoa indicated the Crispin servants were
half starved.”
“Your Genoa is an excellent information source,” William remarked
seriously. “All she has told you is fact. Crispin had run the demesne nearly to
bankruptcy. All but the Crispins are near starvation. Even the knights and
men at arms are weak from hunger. The castle keep is in need of numerous
repairs.”
“The Crispin wenches seem to be dressed in expensive finery. They
don’t show such poverty,” Edward observed. “The jewels alone could be sold
and purchase bread for the demesne for a year.”
“Precisely what Pere is planning. Baldwyn has dispatched one of his
finest apprentices to Tomes Castle. There all Crispin personal assets were
taken over and sold for silver. The money was used for foodstuff and
repairs.”
“I’m certain Crispin didn’t take that well,” Harry commented relaxing
into the chair by the hearth.
“He was in a sad stupor when he left the meeting. Crispin is to be sent
to a small manor in the Tomes demesne. Pere has decreed a new steward of
Tomes.”
“Interesting,” Andrew stated. He was curious about who would be the
new steward. It would need a strong knight and noble birth to run the castle in
its current state of affairs. “Who did Pere select? It is a powerful
responsibility that lies ahead.”
“Aye. It requires a man of Noble birthright, skills,” William replied
with a grin. “Exactly the reason Pere and I concurred that it will be Henry to
be new Lord of Tomes.”

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Harry sank deep into his chair. “This is a prank, isn’t it? You will not
pull my chausses. I will not fall into your trap.”
William’s demeanor turned serious. “This is not a prank. Pere expects
you to leave for Tomes immediately after Lady Sarra and I exchange our
vows.”
“I can not!” Harry protested with terror. “I have never been trained.”
“You have been trained for battle, you know battlements, and the
running of accounts will be learned from Baldwyn’s apprentice,” William
insisted calmly. “Come, let us greet my betrothed for breaking our fast.”

***
Sarra had finished her toilette when a knock was heard on her solar
door. Roese had already left for the Great Hall. Oriel never knocked. She
ran into the room in full energy. “Enter.”
To her surprise William and all three brothers entered her solar.
“Good day, my lady,” William greeted. He offered his arm to accept
her hand. Today felt like the first day he truly was alive. There was magic
between them. He didn’t understand it. Only the good emotions mattered.
“We will greet our guests this morn in breaking our fast.”
That moment rendered Sarra speechless and breathless. She felt the
full impact of his words. She was to be the Lady of Keyes Castle. The
awesome responsibility of this marriage was frightening. She had never
surrendered to fear and would not begin. Sarra squared her shoulders, held
her head high, smiled, and took William’s offered arm.
William realized how fortunate of a man he would be with Sarra as his
wife. She was a true lady. She would be his partner and equal to his need.
He smiled remembering his first meeting with her. Even then he knew the
power was between them. He fought it. Now he was happy he gave into it.
Proudly he took her hand upon his arm and together they walked to the Great
Hall.
Harry, Andrew, and Edward walked behind. They nodded with smiles
to each other. This castle would be a home at last.
Genoa appeared from an alcove and motioned to Harry. In a whisper
she said, “I must speak with you my lord.”
Harry left his brothers and went to Genoa. There was something about
the furrow in her brow that concerned him. He had always known her to
smile or show anger with him, but never worry. Had she already heard he was
to be sent to Tomes Castle?
***
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Crispin slept on a pallet in the Great Hall and was woken when the
servants began preparing for breaking the fast. He walked slowly to his
chamber. He would face Olive. Most of his restless night he had come to
terms with his fate. Crispin had realized this revocation of title had been his
fault. A true manager of a demesne is concerned for all and his lord, not just
the whim of a beautiful wife and child. He had been such a fool. Crispin
accepted his fate. He knew Olive would not, but she had no other option.
Perhaps for the first time in their marriage he might have to beat her. He
laughed at that. Olive had beaten him everyday with her beauty.

***
“You did not come last night,” Olive remarked casually upon hearing
her husband enter the chamber. “Did your talk with Lord Edmond take all
night?” She turned to look at him and noticed his grim face. “What is this?
You look so sour. Mayhap you were too afraid to get all we deserve upon the
betrothal of our beautiful Casse to Sir William? No need to regret it. What
news do you bring? Tell all, I wish to attend breaking fast. Soon we will
enjoy all the comforts of Keyes Castle.”
“We have done that since our arrival,” Crispin retorted bitterly. “This
castle is wealthy, well run. The serfs, freeman, and servants are content and
well fed. Our servants are healthier. The keep is clean, organized and
wealthy. Our keep is crumbling, bankrupt, and little food. Why is that?”
“Tomes is a poor demesne,” Olive replied. “That is the reason for us
to stay and enjoy this wealthy demesne our Casse will marry into.”
“Tomes was once powerful and wealthy,” Crispin responded angrily.
“Then I married you. I wed the most beautiful woman in Sussex, save her
sister that was wed to Lord Edmond. I gave her everything she wanted. This
beautiful woman gave me four children. Three sons died, but a beautiful
daughter survived. The child was even more beautiful than her mother. I was
the envy of every Knight at Court along with my Lord. The beautiful woman
wanted more and more. The daughter took more and more until nothing was
left. There is never enough, is that true?”
“What are you babbling about?” Olive snapped impatiently. She knew
exactly what her husband was referring. The jewels, the cloth, and the
comforts for both she and her daughter were too costly for Tomes finances.
She bullied the steward to sell food to merchants. Repairs were logged as
financed, but the money went to her and Casse for luxuries, jewels, and the
finest cloth in the realm. If the peasants went hungry it was their problem.
She was envious of her sister Laurette who had married the wealthiest lord in
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Britain. She had to have more than Laurette. Her sister had given her
husband four sons. Olive’s sons had died in infancy. She let her enmity carry
her to the best of all material luxury she could get.
“It does not matter any longer,” Crispin sighed. He sat upon a bench.
His legs were still weak from the reality shock of last evening’s meeting with
his lord.
“There is no betrothal between Sir William and Casse. That was not
why I was summoned to the meeting.” Olive was about to shriek in anger.
Crispin held his hand up flat to silence her outburst. “The sorry state of our
affairs was presented to Lord Edmond upon our arrival. Our Liege Lord sent
for our accounts and our steward immediately. These past months Lord
Edmond and Baldwyn have scrutinized our records. It is the end.”
“Explain your meaning!” Olive demanded with rage attempting to
cover the fear that suddenly gripped her. Instinctively she knew this was
going to be bad.
“Tome’s lands have been revoked. We are to be sent to a small manor
in Brothshire,” Crispin said quickly. He had to get it out. Olive must be told.
It had to be done. “Lord Edmond has been gracious enough to promise us a
small income. It will be enough to live comfortably. There will be no more
luxuries.”
Olive inhaled quickly. She nearly choked. “Sent to Brothshire?”
What of Casse? What of her betrothal?”
“William de Warre is betrothed to the Lady Sarra Albyn.”
“No! That is impossible!” Olive screamed.
“I heard it from Sir William’s lips,” Crispin stated firmly.
Olive raised her hand to her mouth and bit on it. “What is to happen to
our Casse? We had planned on this marriage. Who will our precious jewel
marry?”
“Lord Edmond is sending Casse to the King John’s court. He is
putting her betrothal into his hands,” Crispin informed.
The rage returned to Olive’s blood. “You are telling me we shall have
no say in our Casse’s betrothal?”
“Aye, that is what I am saying,” Crispin replied. He knew the torrent
was arriving.
“That is insane. Is our liege lord mad? I am the mother. I have
protected her beauty for these years. For What? I am to be cast aside. How
can you let this happen? What kind of man are you? I shall speak to Lord
Edmond. This is impossible. I will not tolerate it!” Olive raged pacing back
and forth in fury.
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Crispin watched his wife with great interest. How ugly the beautiful
woman now looked. Why hadn’t he seen this before? He was brought to this
humiliation for the love of his illusion of beauty. Quietly shaking his head he
left the room to wake his daughter. He would tell Casse before Olive stormed
into the chamber with her selfish anger.
***
Casse was still sleeping when her father walked into her chamber.
Gently he shook her arm to wake his child. “Casse, I must speak to you.”
Casse was not ready to wake and her irritation was heard in her
response. “What is it Pere? Why do you disturb my rest and wake me? It
had better be of extreme importance.” Slowly she raised her body to a sitting
position. “Well, go on!”
“There was a meeting last night with Lord Edmond.”
“This I already know,” Casse retorted. “It was about my betrothal
with the lord’s son. It is about time. I am quite bored with this game. I don’t
think I could have continued on with it. William de Warre is quite a bore.
The only thing worth this marriage is the castle keep and the wealth he
brings.”
“It was not about your betrothal,” Crispin stated emphasizing the word
your.
“Do not tell me it is not final!” Casse growled. “I am quite tired of
this game. I do not like to play the pursuer. I prefer to be the pursued. This
William is far to self-involved for my taste. He needs to be more involved in
me. I do not like it!”
“William de Warre’s betrothal is final, but it is with Sarra Albyn.”
“What?” Casse screeched. “He chose that mousy do gooder? He
chose a woman that would spend his wealth on the lowly serfs instead of
spending it on the beauty that surrounds him? What a fool! They deserve
each other!”
“Tis good you feel this way,” Crispin responded. His family truly was
shallow. If only his sons had lived. He would have had a small life of his
own.
The sudden loss of wealth suddenly struck Casse. “When do we return
to our home?”
“We shall not return to Tomes. Lord Edmond has revoked my
stewardship. I have been given a manor in Brothshire. Your Mere and I will
return there after the marriage ceremony of William de Warre.”

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“Brothshire? That is a sty for boars! What is to happen to me? Surely
I will never marry to my station! How could you do this to me?” Casse
shrieked.
“Do not worry. It is your Mere and I that will go to our proper exile,
not you!”
“Proper exile, indeed! You are a fool as a Pere to let this happen to
your wife and child!” Casse pontificated. “Pray tell, what is to happen to me?
Am I to be scullery maid?”
Crispin could not tolerate his daughter’s insults any longer. In the next
moment he would raise his hand and give her the beating she richly deserved.
“Lord Edmond is sending you the King John’s court. There, the king will
arrange for your proper marriage.”
Casse’s mood changed suddenly. She would be sent to court. Since a
child she wished to go to London Court. At last, she would receive the
adoration she craved. Surely the king would give her the best of the lot. She
smiled. “And King John will appoint a fine match. You agree, Pere?”
The poor girl had no idea what the English court was truly about. She
would learn soon enough. “Of course,” Crispin stated rising to leave the
chamber. He was surprised that he felt no regret at his daughter’s departure.
What he loved was an illusion. He could not expect an illusion to return his
love.

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Chapter Twenty-Five

Sarra entered the hall with her betrothed. To her surprise, and
obviously not William’s, the guests in the great hall rose and applauded.
William knew his father had entered the hall early and made the
announcement of his betrothal. He also knew Lord Edmond announced he
was resigning as Lord of Sussex and giving the title to his son and heir. It
would be from this day forward Lord William would be Earl of Sussex. He
and Lady Sarra would be the lord and lady of the land.
“See how you are loved,” William whispered into Sarra’s ear. “All
have been told of our betrothal. You are now the lady of Keyes Castle.”
A small knot twisted in Sarra’s stomach. She forced her body to
ignore her weak knees and trembling hands. She had nothing to fear. Since
her mother’s passing she had been running Mondel Castle. This was simply a
larger version. She also had Christofre to help her with this large castle. The
running of the kitchens was never a problem since her arrival. She knew she
had been running Keyes Castle since her arrival. It was to make life more
bearable for all, and certainly kept her from boredom.
William led Sarra to the lord’s place at the table. He sat her next to
him on the lord’s right. Oriel was already sitting on his left. William nodded
and the food was served. It was the beginning of the age of contentment at
Keyes Castle that would continue for several generations. Reimond sat on his
daughter’s right. He was beaming proudly. Edmond sat next to his
granddaughter and to everyone’s surprise; Christofre was sitting on Edmond’s
left. Andrew and Edward took places next to Christofre. Harry took his place
next to Reimond. Genoa sat next to Harry.
William raised a brow when Harry and Genoa took seats at the High
table. He had wondered about Christofre for many years. She had been like
his loving mother and noted his father’s deference to her on many occasions.
There certainly was no secret of the affair between Genoa and Harry. The two
of them had been lovers for years. They truly seemed happy when they were
with each other. Yet, to display this honor upon a chambermaid was unusual.
He would speak to Harry of it after the meal.
Crispin had returned to the great hall for his meal. He did not take a
seat at the high table, but took a table near the stair well. He was humiliated
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and soon others would learn of it. He couldn’t bear it if Edmond told him
publicly to sit at a lower table. He chose to do it without command. He did
not know or care where is wife and daughter was.
Sarra found she enjoyed this first meal as lady of Keyes Castle. She
cast a glance at Christofre. When Christofre looked back, Sarra smiled.
Christofre had seen to it that all her favorite foods had been prepared. What a
sweet and kind woman Christofre was to her. Sarra had been surprised when
Christofre took a seat next to Lord Edmond, but had always suspected
something was there. She didn’t blink when Genoa sat next to Harry. She
had known for a long time how much Genoa loved the Lord’s second son.
Genoa had loved him as a child and although she foolishly lost her
maidenhead to him some time ago, it was just Harry and only Harry.
“This is truly a feast,” Sarra remarked to her betrothed.
“Indeed, for there is much to celebrate. I feel I should learn even
more,” William replied looking first to his father and then his brother, Harry.
“I believe you are correct,” Sarra concurred. “It is truly a happy
feeling this day.”
“The beginning of responsibility for me,” William moaned
pathetically.
“The marriage?” Sarra questioned defensively. She choked on her
response. What was wrong with her? This was not the way to start a
betrothal. Surely a true lady like her mother would have weaved her way with
soft and kind words.
William stared at Sarra with a look of shock. “Why would you ask
that? I look forward to the marriage, dear Sarra. I especially anticipate the
bedding.”
William’s bawdry comment should have repelled her. Instead it was
stated as a compliment. Sarra flushed. She never imagined a man would find
her attractive in that way.
“I meant, what troubles you?” Sarra stuttered in an attempt to correct
her error.
William looked upon Sarra’s beet red face. Without trying, he had
inflicted upon her embarrassment. When he first met her, he had wanted to
achieve that. Now, he was sorry for it. “Today I am Earl of Sussex with all
the burdens. I have served and learned for many years to be able to
accomplish the matter. It is here and I can only hope to do as well as my
Pere.”
Sarra felt an immediate empathy for her future husband. The
responsibility was overwhelming. She felt it. A soothing word would be
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right. “Your Pere came into this post with the same amount of training. He
has succeeded perfectly. You will do the same.”
“Mayhap better,” William grinned. How nice it was to hear soft and
reassuring words. He needed that. He needed someone to support him. “I
will have the hand of a capable woman to hold me when I fall.”
Sarra couldn’t believe her ears. This man who at first meeting was
obtrusive and arrogant had complimented her again. She felt almost giddy. “I
of course will do my best.”
William squeezed her hand in response. It was love. This was truly
love. He was content.
“The meal is nearly over,” Sarra choked with emotion. “I must see to
all my duties if I am to be a good Lady of Keyes Castle.”
“Of course,” William agreed giving her a broad smile. “First you will
see to it that the feast is not wasted. You will give the food and alms to our
widows and orphans. Then you will see to the laundry, the candles, the soap,
the weaving, and of course the sewing.”
“How do you know all this?” Sarra asked. This was very strange. “A
male, much less a lord, knows of womanly duty.”
“I have watched you carefully over these months. More importantly I
have enjoyed the changes you made to this cold stone castle. Think you I
have not noted the softness of my bed?” This was the wrong thing to say. His
sword sprang to attention at the thought of sharing that magnificent bed with
Sarra. He changed the subject quickly. “I have noted the clean and sweet
scents in the Great Hall and chambers. Know it well, my lady. I am aware of
you and your duty. You are like a true knight in loyalty to your honor and
duty. I am pleased.”
Sarra wasn’t certain if she should kiss or kick him. It was a
compliment to her she believed, but to be compared to honor of a knight.
Hardly! She was a woman through and true. She had no intention of being
treated like one of his men at arms. “You are kind, sir. If I could but be
capable of wearing armor I might be of greater pride for you.”
William reacted with swift reprove. “My lady, if you were to wear
any armor, I should have to warm your behind once again.”
Sarra turned bright red. She looked around to see if anyone had heard
William. Fortunately most had left the table and were involved in other
conversations. Her temper flared. “You will do well never to repeat that
again.”
“What?” William teased innocently. “Repeat the words or the
action?”
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“Neither!” Sarra stormed speaking through her smile lest anyone
might see her shame.
“Ah, but my dear love,” William chortled. “That will be completely
up to you. Run along and be off to your duties. Henry approaches. I know
my duties are about to begin.”
Sarra wanted to slap her betrothed. It was with great restraint she
closed her hands and gave William a low curtsy. “My lord.”
“You are dismissed.”
William enjoyed the angry passion he created in Sarra’s eyes. He was
once again hard in need for her. He would from now on consider twice before
he grated her anger. In the end, he would suffer for it.
Sarra stormed toward the food pavilion. Her steps were strong and
determined. “Dismissed indeed!” she muttered hotly.
“My Liege Lord,” Harry addressed with an exaggerated noble bow.
“Enough!” William replied with a cutting gesture. “My mood does not
portend a jest this morn.”
“Then let us have at it,” Harry growled. He was hoping his brother
would be in a better mood. “I would have a private word with you.”
“Come to my solar with me.” William began walking in a quick
stride. The walk cooled his ardor. He opened the door for his younger
brother. “What preys on your mind this morn?”
“I am here not as your brother, but to entreaty you as the Earl of
Sussex and my Liege Lord,” Harry answered in a subdued tone.
“Take a seat and be comfortable,” William invited showing his brother
one of the large chairs near the hearth. “You must forgive me, Harry. I am
not yet used to be the Lord William. I more comfortable as your elder
brother.”
“I don’t know which I would prefer at this moment,” Harry sighed
heavily.
“This is a troublesome matter. Speak to me,” William ordered taking
the chair next to Harry.
“It is about taking on Tomes Castle and lands. It is about Genoa,”
Harry confessed.
“Genoa will miss you, but she misses you with every leave.”
“This is different. I am to become Duke of Tomes. My duty will keep
me from Keyes,” Harry answered almost sadly. He took a deep breath.
“Genoa is breeding. It is my seed. I do not want a by-blow. Not with Genoa.
I want my child.”
“That would only leave…” William started.
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“Marriage,” Harry completed. “I ask for your blessing and leave to
marry Genoa.”
William was stunned. He was not surprised that Genoa was breeding.
He was shocked that his brother wished to marry the chambermaid. He sat
thoughtfully for several minutes. He had no problem with Harry marrying
Genoa, but he had doubts to her capability of becoming Lady of the demesne.
“Give me one day before I answer this,” William requested. He knew
someone that could help him determine that answer. He would discuss this
marriage with his Sarra.
William’s thoughts were interrupted with a knock on the door. He was
relieved when Baldwyn came in and suggested they begin the accounts for the
day. There were several pressing matters.
“I will speak with you on the morrow,” William promised his younger
brother. He left with Baldwyn.
***
The noon meal was served. This time Casse appeared and took her
place beside her father. Olive was still absent. Sarra had already been seated
at the high table and was speaking to Oriel when William arrived. At his
presence and nod the meal began.
Sarra noted that William was most attentive. He offered her the best
portions and when a selection was brought before him, he slid the dish to her
so she could make the first selection. He was a tease and he was chivalrous.
He was interesting.
At the end of the meal he took her hand. “My lady, it is important that
I speak with you privately this evening. There is a matter I need to share with
you. Your wisdom is needed to make an important decision. Meet with me
after the dinner meal in the private study.”
This was serious. There was no doubt in the tone of William’s
request. He was asking for her opinion? Curiosity won over any other
thought. “I shall be there my lord.”
William nodded and once again left the table. He was scheduled to
tour the battlements and the men at arms.
Both crossed over the Great Hall to the entrance hall. Casse stopped
Sarra. Casse stared at Sarra coldly. She spoke loudly so everyone near could
hear. “Why our William has chosen you over me can only be answered by
logic. Are you breeding? Those little nightly visits across the hall, mayhap?”
Sarra couldn’t believe what she heard. She felt William tense under
hand.

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William’s anger flared instantly. He was about to order Casse out of
the castle immediately. How dare she not only affront the chivalry of a
knight, but also the purity of a virgin? He opened his mouth to utter the
command when he felt Sarra squeeze his arm. He looked to her. Sarra looked
up to him and her eyes spoke volumes. Her eyes told him it was beneath his
dignity to respond to such lowly accusations.
Once Sarra knew she had stopped William’s anger she turned to Casse.
“My lady, you are welcome in our midst as long as you act as is expected. It
grieves me to think for even a moment that you are less of a lady than your
upbringing.” With that barb, Sarra again returned her attention to William.
“By your leave, my lord. I have my duties to attend.”
“As must I,” William answered. He removed her hand from his arm
and brushed his lips across her knuckles. He felt ten feet tall. This woman
was a true lady born to nobility. He had chosen wisely. That said something
for his intelligence.
***
Sarra left to check the fishpond. The early spring had renewed the life
in the pond and she wanted to make certain the water was stocked with
healthy fish in a healthy pond. The weeds needed to be controlled. Then the
gardens would need to be started in a month. She was going to speak with
Elena about saving the manure to spread upon the garden. The gardeners
would then till the soil so the planting could begin.
Upon her arrival at the barn Sarra was disheartened that Elena was
nowhere to be found. It was not that Sarra expected Elena to be here at this
time of day. She found her son sitting on the doorstep to the barn.
“Greetings, Paulin. Do you know where your Mere is this den?”
The little boy nodded.
“Can you tell me where she is?”
Paulin nodded. “Mon Mere was called to Mistress Judith’s cottage.
She is ailing.” Paulin was quiet for a moment. “Mon Mere is good with
ailment,” Paulin said proudly. “Would you send me to fetch her?”
“No,” Sarra responded quietly. Elena was a good person. She hoped
Elena and her new love, Man at Arms, Hubert Tillman, would be happy. “I
will speak with your Mere on the morrow. Are you alone?”
“Nay, the weaver is about to take my care.” Paulin returned to his spot
and began his quiet game of cat in the cradle.
Sarra walked to the barn and inspected the large pile of cow dung
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as requested. Sarra was about to turn when a pain ran through her skull. The
world twirled and another pain was felt. Her world turned black.
In a heavy thud, Sarra toppled to the barn floor.
Paulin had heard the strangled cry and then the thud. He went into the
barn. Then he saw the happenings. He hid in one of the empty cow stalls.
Terrified, he held his breath.
***
William arrived for the evening meal. He looked for his lady, but did
not see Sarra. It was not that unusual for Sarra to miss sitting at a meal in the
Great Hall. There were days that William learned she would become involved
in a new process that kept her interest to the point she forgot to eat.
Something deep down sent a warning through him. He trusted his instincts.
William caught Roese’s attention and waved for her to come to him.
“Mistress Roese. Please find Lady Sarra and request she join us for the meal.
I would be most pleased to have her company.”
Roese nodded and went to find her charge. Sarra held a fairly
repetitive schedule for Roese to be able to locate her. Unfortunately, no one
had seen Sarra. Roese was worried and went to Sarra’s solar. Roese thought
Sarra might have suddenly become ill. Roese screamed in horror at her entry
to Sarra’s room.

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Chapter Twenty-Six
William watched Roese race down the stairs. His throat tightened
when he saw her paled face. She emanated panic. William rose from the
table and met Roese.
“Sweet Jesu, my lord. I fear for my lady. Her solar is destroyed. Her
gowns and tunics are destroyed. It looks like a demon spent its rage.” Roese
could barely control her trembling.
“Show me,” William ordered leading her up the stairs.
Roese stood at the door too horrified to open the door again.
William opened the door. His knightly instinct soared to ready for
battle. Sarra’s gowns had been cut to shreds and thrown about. The bed and
its covers had been shredded in like manner. Everything had been cast as if
thrown in a rage. William knew the destruction of Sarra’s clothes and bed did
mean her life was in danger. Without a word William turned on his heels. He
returned to the great hall marching directly to his brothers.
“Harry, Andrew, Edward! We must conduct a search for Sarra
immediately!” William bellowed.
The brothers did not need an explanation. William’s face told them
everything. Sarra was in great danger. The brothers broke apart to search the
castle, the keep, and the bailey. Soon the men at arms and the other knights
were combing the grounds. No one had seen Sarra since the mid day meal.
Genoa and Harry were walking toward the cow barns. Genoa had
been told Sarra intended to inspect the cow barns this afternoon. The two
entered the barns calling for Sarra.
Harry wondered why Elena did not respond. A small figure appeared
from the barn and ran to Genoa.
Paulin recognized Genoa’s voice. She had always been kind to him
and his mother talked comfortably with her many times. “My lady, my lady,”
he uttered nervously. “The lady. She is hurt.” He pulled Genoa toward the
stables.
Harry saw a body in the center of the manure move. He heard a groan
of pain and recognized Sarra Albyn. “Christ’s toes!”
Genoa was already at Sarra’s side. “Sweet Jesu, my poor lady! Harry
bring me that blanket,” she ordered.

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Harry jumped at the command. He noted Sarra’s face when he handed
the blanket to Genoa. He cringed. When William saw what had been done to
his betrothed the response would be unchecked rage.
Harry had seen many battles. He had seen dead men and wounded
men, but this made him ill and he wanted to wretch. He helped lift as Genoa
wrapped the blanket around Sarra.
“No one must see her like this,” Genoa warned. “No one! We will
take her into the back door of the kitchens. I will get Christofre and Jacoba to
help me take her care. You will get Edward and Andrew to help you keep
Lord William away. He must not see his betrothed like this.” Genoa took
Paulin’s hand. “You will come with us,” she said quietly to the little boy. His
hand was still shaking and his little eyes were filled with fear.
Harry lifted Sarra into his arms. He nearly cried when he heard her
moan of pain as he lifted her. They walked to the door when Harry inhaled
deeply. “Christ toes, do you think Elena did this? She was William’s light
skirt. Mayhap jealousy drove her to do this?”
It was near dusk when Genoa reached for the door to open it. “Never!
I have come to know Elena. She is a sweet kind woman. There is not any
way she would bring such pain or hurt to any living creature. This is the work
of a deranged mind.”
Alma, one of the scullery maids was sent to bring Roese, Jacoba, and
Christofre to the lower kitchen. Another maid was sent to have some servants
bring the large tub, soaps, with buckets of hot and cold water.
Genoa released Paulin’s hand in an attempt to assist Harry putting
Sarra on the long bench.
Paulin grabbed Genoa’s leg making it nearly impossible for her to
walk.
Genoa looked down at the little boy’s face. He was still terrified and
his cheeks were covered with tears. “Paulin, you need not cry anymore. The
lady is safe now. You have been a help to us. I’m certain the lord will reward
you.”
Paulin started shaking his head and sobbing. “No. No. No. She’ll be
back. She’ll hurt me.”
Genoa had no idea what the boy was mumbling. Her motherly
instincts wanted to soothe him, but there was no time. Sarra required all her
attention at the moment. Genoa spotted Leone, a woman of elder years that
was everyone’s mother in the kitchens. Leone was too old to do heavy work,
but Christofre kept her on since her family still needed the income and left
over food. “Paulin, you have met Leone. She will take care of you until your
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Mere returns. I must help Lady Sarra. Be a good boy and stay with Leone.
Mayhap she might have a special treat for you.” Genoa motioned for Leone
to come to her.
Leone walked slowly toward Genoa. Her body was old and weak, but
her mind was sharp. She knew something terrible had happened to the Lady
Sarra and the boy was terrified. As a great grandmother, the old lady didn’t
have to be told to care for the boy. Leone took the boy’s hand and led him to
the upper kitchen. There she would give him a candied apple and calm him.
Sarra was in a delirium. She was sick with the stench of manure, but
she was in great pain. Everything seemed to hurt and burn. She didn’t seem
to know where she was. She heard voices, but they were hushed and seemed
to be far away. Then the agony began again when she was placed on a bench
and the binding around her was removed. She went back into the painless
blackness of oblivion.
Genoa held Sarra in her arms as she waited for assistance. “Harry, you
must find your brothers. Tell them how we found Lady Sarra. Then you must
tell Lord William. Do not tell him of your suspicion. It is wrong. It could
bring harm to a good and kind person. All of this will be sorted out later.
First we must take care of Lady Sarra.”
Harry rose to obey. “You are a fine lady, Genoa. Take care of the
Lady Sarra, but protect my seed.” He leaned over to kiss Genoa on the
forehead.
***
Christofre was the first to arrive. She had brought with her many
servants carrying the tub and water. Jacoba arrived before Roese, who had
stopped to get her medicinal bag when she learned Sarra had been found but
was badly injured.
Christofre waited until the male servants had filled the tub and left.
She brought a dirk and began cutting away the ties on Sarra’s clothes. Genoa
assisted in removing the clothing. Roese was already preparing a strong
concoction to relieve pain. Jacoba added soothing salts and herbs to the tub
water. Christofre and Genoa carefully lifted Sarra to place her in the tub. It
was then all saw her injuries.
Sarra’s face showed a large bruise that swelled to nearly shut one eye.
Her lip was swollen to three times its normal size and covered with dried
blood. Sarra’s upper body was covered with swelling bruises and cuts.
“She has been beaten,” Christofre decreed recognizing the types of
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“My poor baby,” Roese wept solemnly. “Who could do such a thing?
Sarra only tried to do good, never evil. My baby did not deserve this. What
this demon did to her room, her clothes, and her body is the devil’s work.”
Roese took Sarra’s favorite lavender scented soap to begin washing the
manure from Sarra’s blood soaked and manure caked hair.
Jacoba and Christofre carefully washed Sarra’s body. Genoa, because
she was breeding, started feeling ill from the sight of blood and smell of the
manure sat down near the hearth. The enormity of this attack affected them
all.
Christofre, Jacoba, and Roese had completed cleaning Sarra when she
once again began to waken. Sarra felt soothing warm water surrounding her.
Somehow it eased the intense pain she felt when she first woke in the horrible
smell. She remembered hearing Genoa and Harry. Where was she? What
was happening? In the distance she heard Roese speaking to her. What was
she asking? Something about raising her hand if she could hear her. Yes, she
could hear Roese. She attempted to lift her arm, but it felt like a lead weight
and it hurt. She raised her hand as far as she could.
Roese noticed the slight movement of Sarra’s left hand. She put her
concoction to Sarra’s lips and ordered her to drink it.
Sarra obeyed as best she could. Her lip felt peculiar as she sipped.
Soon the pain eased and she felt sleepy. It was then she heard a powerful
voice. The voice was angry. The voice belonged to her betrothed.
“By God in Heaven you will move out of my way,” William stormed
entering the lower kitchen. He was pulling his three brothers along with him.
Harry was pulling one arm. Andrew was pulling the other arm. Edward was
pulling William’s tunic. All three brothers were trying to hold William back.
The struggle to restrain William was useless. Once Harry had told William
his Sarra had been found, she had been hurt, and she was in the lower kitchen,
William was raging. He only heard Sarra had been injured.
Jacoba’s attempt to stop William from entering was useless.
Christofre was the only formidable force to prevent him.
“You cannot enter,” Christofre commanded standing tall and firm in
William’s path to the tub. “Lady Sarra is naked. We are bathing her.”
Christofre’s words were reputed instantly.
“We are betrothed. She is my wife in name. We lack only the
blessing of the Church,” William stated gently moving Christofre out of the
way. “Lady Sarra is under my protection. If she is hurt, someone has
affronted me. I would know her injuries.” William moved quickly past
Christofre. When he saw Sarra he nearly lost his balance. He fell to his
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knees. William had witnessed death and wounds from battle, but the injuries
to this delicate lady sickened him. He recovered quickly with anger. “Dearest
Lady, I vow to punish the person that did this.”
Harry remained at the door with his brothers when he saw Genoa
sitting on a bench looking pale and ill. He went to Genoa and held her in his
arms.
Genoa collapsed into Harry’s arms and started to weep. The enormity
of Sarra’s injuries had been revealed when placed in her bath. The horror was
too much to bear. The odor of the manure had also attacked her senses for her
breeding condition.
“You should not see my lady like this,” Roese scolded the Lord of
Keyes Castle. “She would not have it.”
“She is mine,” William growled. “Sarra is under my protection. I
have failed her. I will not fail her again. Dry her body, wrap her in a soft
linen, and I will carry her to my solar.”
“No!” Roese gasped. “It is unseemly to take Lady Sarra to your bed
without marriage vows blessed by the church.”
“Silence!” William roared. “Do as you are told. Rest your mind,
woman. If you believe I would concern myself with lust when my lady is so
badly wounded and bruised, you do not know me.”
Christofre tried to calm the situation. “Wills, we must salve her
wounds.”
“Do so when my lady is safe in my bed,” William ordered. He turned
to his two brothers, who had stayed discreetly in the back of the room by the
door. “Andrew, seek out Lewis and Gaston. Inform them they will provide
two men at arms as guards in a three hour rotation for a day.” He turned back
to Christofre and Roese who were attempting to lift Sarra from the tub.
William lifted Sarra easily and held her on the bench as she was dried.
William looked at the filthy manure and bloodied material of Sarra’s
tunic, gown, and chemise. “Burn them!”
“My lord, if you remember, I showed you Lady Sarra’s room. That is
the only garment she has,” Roese contested somberly. “We must wash and
repair it for her to wear.”
“Never!” William snarled. He noticed Harry comforting Genoa in the
corner. He felt sympathy for his brother and his love. Harry had told him that
Genoa and he had found Sarra. The delicate breeding lady had been strong
for Harry. Genoa had taken care of his Sarra. “Harry!” he ordered. “Have
Genoa take you to the markets and purchase the finest cloths for tunics and

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gowns. Take them to the seamstresses and have them make all new clothes
for my Lady!”
“We still do not have a night dress for my lady,” Roese grumped.
“Making gowns will take days.”
“Sarra will wear my shirt until the new gowns will be readied. My
lady will not be going anywhere for a long time as she heals. There is no need
to worry for the time,” William replied testily. His only concern at the
moment was to place Sarra in his bed and be assured to her safety there.
Roese completed drying Sarra and then wrapped her in a soft linen
sheet.
William lifted Sarra gently in his arms. He placed her head against his
chest with great care. Slowly he walked out of the lower kitchen.
Sarra was in the middle of dreams and awareness. She felt her body
being lifted lovingly. She felt her head pressed against a strong chest. She
heard a reassuring strong heartbeat. Her dreams took her back to her
childhood. She and her father were riding together inspecting the small
villages near Mondel Castle. She was near Oriel’s age and was riding her
pony. Something frightened her pony. The pony bolted and after a
frightening ride, Sarra was thrown off. She tumbled down a gravel hill. She
remembered it now. She had been cut and bruised. It was hurting. Her father
came, picked her up and gently carried her. She felt safe and secure. She
remembered hearing his heartbeat. That sound calmed her. She felt calm,
secure and safe once again. Sarra fell into a restful slumber.
William carried Sarra in his arms as if she were Venetian glass. He
walked carefully afraid to bump her. Her breathing was slow and even as if
she was sleeping. He hoped that was true. William did not want her to be in
pain. He felt responsible for her injuries. It was the responsibility of a man to
protect his wife, home, lands, and goods. It was his first day as Lord of Keyes
Castle and he had failed miserably. William was laden with guilt. He had just
left the upper kitchen to enter the hall when his daughter, Oriel, came running
toward him.
“Tis true!” Oriel sobbed. “My Lady is injured.” She ran to her father
with her eyes filled with tears and fright. “Is she deceased?”
William knew his daughter needed his reassurance, but now was not
the time. He must attend to Sarra first. He turned his head to see Edward
behind him. “No, little beloved,” he first addressed Oriel. “Our lady is hurt,
but she will heal. Do not worry.” William then commanded his youngest
brother. “Edward, take Oriel’s care. I will be with you anon. I must see to
Sarra first.”
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Edward lifted Oriel into his arms. “Do not worry little moppet. Come
with me to the kitchen. Mayhap we will find a sweet for our taste to make us
feel happier.”
Oriel went willingly, but curled her head into her uncle’s chest. She
quieted her sobs in the strength of her uncle’s love.
At last William arrived at his room. His squire Geoffrey jumped at the
sight of his master. Without an order he opened the door to William’s solar
and followed his master, ready to serve. Roese and Christofre followed
Geoffrey.

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Chapter Twenty-Seven
William waited a moment while Roese pulled down the coverlet on his
bed. Gently and with great care he placed Sarra on the pallet. He smiled
when he watched her snuggle into the bed. “She is comfortable. Apply your
healing salves. I must attend to Oriel and then confer with my Pere to find the
perpetrator of this foul dead.” He took Sarra’s hand, brushed his lips across
her knuckles. “I will correct my great error and return to you. You shall be
safe.” William turned and left his solar allowing Roese and Christofre to
finish their work. At the door, Andrew, Lewis, and Gaston greeted him with
two men at arms. “Keep your guard and protect my lady. No one save the
lady’s Roese and Christofre will be allowed to enter without my person. You
will stay anyone, and I do mean anyone that dare attempt to enter this solar on
peril of your lives.”
The guards nodded in understanding.
“Will she live?” Andrew asked for all.
“Aye, she will live and heal, but she is injured severely. My lady must
have secure and safe rest. I failed in my duty. I will correct that failure.”
Andrew knew exactly what his brother meant. He placed his hand on
William’s shoulder. “Brother, it was not a failure. No one could know about
this unwarranted attack against an innocent lady. This was not a battle or
even defense. This was a vile unwarranted attack. No one could have
prevented it. You did not fail.”
William greatly appreciated his brother’s words. It eased his guilt.
“Still I must find the perpetrator and punish him. I will not rest until this is
brought to an end. Find Pere and bring him to me. I must console my child.
Edward has taken her to the kitchen.”
Before William could go to Oriel, his father called him. “Wills, how
fairs the Lady Sarra?” Next to Edmond was Reimond walking briskly with a
worried frown.
Reimond walked to the solar door and attempted to enter. William
blocked his way. “No my lord. The women are tending to her wounds. You
cannot enter. In the stead, come with me. Let us investigate this crime.”

***

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Edward carried Oriel into the kitchen and put her down. He spoke to a
cook requesting a treat for the child.
While Edward was busy with food preparation, Oriel spotted Paulin at
a table in the corner with old Leone. Oriel had always like Leone and she had
met Paulin on a few occasions. He was nice, but a timid little boy. Oriel
hoped to become friends with him. Oriel thought she would try now.
“Greetings Leone and Paulin.”
“Moppet,” Leone returned. The old woman motioned for her to come
sit beside her.
Oriel took the seat and noticed Paulin was trembling with fear. “What
is it, Paulin? You look frightened.”
“The lady. She will come back. It was bad. She will hurt me,” Paulin
babbled.
“I am with you. The lady will not hurt you,” Oriel soothed.
Paulin frowned. “You are little like me. The lady will hurt you just
like me. She hurt the other lady.”
“You saw it? You saw who hurt Lady Sarra?”
Paulin nodded his head. Then he looked from side to side as if a
monster was about to suddenly appear and eat him.
“You must tell me,” Oriel commanded in the same tone as her father
gave orders. She was her father’s daughter without a doubt.
“Nay,” Paulin replied stubbornly. “The lady will hurt me and hurt
you. I must leave here. This place is too close.”
“The cow shed is where your lady attacked. Think you this is less
safe?” Oriel reprimanded. “In this castle there are many men, knights, and
guards. If you think I am too small or weak, what of my Grandpere, Pere, or
uncles. Think you your bad lady would defeat them?”
Paulin looked wide-eyed at Oriel. Of course he could not contradict
that logic. No lady could ever defeat Sir William de Warre. He knew him as
the greatest knight of the realm.
“There you have it,” Oriel crowed knowing she had conquered the
point. “If you will not tell me who the bad lady is, you must tell my Pere.”
“Aye,” Paulin agreed quietly. “Sir William de Warre is strong and
powerful. He will protect us.”
“We will eat our treats and wait until we can speak to Pere,” Oriel
ordered assertively. She pulled a piece of bread from the loaf and sliced some
cheese. Oriel put both on the plate, pushed the plate to Paulin, and watched
him eat with enthusiasm.

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Edward stood watch over the children with Leone. The old woman
repeated the boys babbling to him. He was concerned the boy was still so
frightened. He wondered what exactly the boy had seen. Of course just
seeing the bruised and cut Lady Sarra had even upset him.

***
It was night under the full moon light as William, his father, and
Sarra’s father walked toward the cowshed where he was told Sarra was found.
It was then he remembered his leman Elena was now the milkmaid. Sarra had
promoted her to this position. Could she have learned of his betrothal and
violently attacked Sarra in a fit of jealousy? He couldn’t believe it of the
gentle Elena, but he did not understand women. When he approached her
hovel he saw Elena questioning the weaver. She looked worried. Next to
Elena was Huber Tillman, one of his men at arms. He also showed a look of
concern. “Elena!” William shouted. “A moment please.”
Elena’s heart sank at the sight of the new Lord of Keyes Castle.
Surely he did not want her to service him. Oh surely not. He was with his
father and another Lord. Something else was a foot. This was a horrible
portend. First she arrived home from nursing an ill friend to find her son was
missing. Now, the Lord of the Castle was calling her. She was frightened
until she felt Huber Tillman take her hand and squeeze it in assurance. She
stood straight and watched William walk purposely toward her.
There was no time for pleasantries or delicacy in William’s mind. He
was set for answers in this affront to his lordship.
“Elena, tell me where you have been since mid day,” William ordered
tactlessly.
“My lord,” Elena curtsied. She wondered why her former lover was so
curt. She also wondered why he asked such a question. “I have been with the
Mistress Judith, the cobbler’s wife since this morn. She is ill and needed
care.” A thought raced across her mind. It must be Paulin. She had left him
in the care of the bailey weaver. The weaver was called into his shop to settle
a dispute. Paulin preferred to remain in his home playing his little string
game. When the weaver returned, the boy was gone. The weaver had spent a
good amount of time looking for him when Elena had returned to her cottage.
Paulin must be hurt or injured. Mayhap William was calling her to task for
not caring for her son or mayhap Paulin had gotten into mischief. “My lord,
has something happened to Paulin?”
Elena’s innocent question relieved William’s mind instantly. A
woman that had brutally beaten Sarra would not have asked a question
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concerning the whereabouts of her son. He could not take any chance on
foolery. “Pere, would you and Reimond visit the cobbler’s cottage. I wish to
verify Elena had been there attending Mistress Judith.”
Elena watched the two men walk toward the cobbler’s cottage. It was
strange to her that William would wish to verify her story. “My lord, is
something amiss?”
“The Lady Sarra was attacked and found in the cowshed,” William
replied simply.
Elena gasped. She put her fist in her mouth to prevent her cry of
horror. “Paulin! My dear son! I must find him. He was near the shed. If the
Lady Sarra was attacked he could have been attacked. Sweet Jesu, I must find
my son!” Elena ran toward the shed only to be stopped by William’s strong
hand on her arm.
“I am told Paulin is safe. Sir Henry told me it was Paulin that led him
to Lady Sarra. He took Paulin with him to the kitchens of Keyes Castle. You
will find him there,” William revealed in a softer tone. “Come with me. It
would be best if you were with him when I question the boy.”
Elena responded immediately. She nearly ran down the path leading
to the lower kitchen. Hubert Tillman was behind her. William brought up the
rear.
Elena entered the lower kitchen scanning the room. She did not see
her son. The other servants recognized her and indicated to her that her son
was in the upper kitchen. Elena entered the hallway and mounted the small
flight of stairs to the upper kitchen. She found her son sitting at a table with
William’s daughter, Oriel. They were talking quite seriously.
Paulin looked up at the commotion in the doorway. He recognized his
mother. Paulin nearly leapt from the table and ran to the security of his
mother’s arms.
Elena wrapped her arms around her son. She kissed his head and held
him tightly. She sensed his fear as only a mother could sense her child’s
emotions without words.
Oriel rose from her bench and faced her father. She waited calmly
while her father approached.
William lifted his daughter into his arms. Quietly he spoke in
assurance, “Our Lady is injured, but will live. We will make it our duty to see
to her recovery. At this moment I cannot tell you who or why injured our
lady, but I will find the answers to our questions.”
Oriel leaned her little head on her father’s cheeks. “I know how my
Lady Sarra was hurt. We will find out who injured her and why.”
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William was stunned at the clarity of his daughter’s thoughts. She was
his true blood. “Little Moppet, how do you know of the cause of Sarra’s
injury?”
“Paulin told me he saw a bad lady hit my Sarra with a heavy log,”
Oriel informed anxious to share what she had learned. “The bad lady dragged
my Sarra into the cow dung. In the dung pile the bad lady covered my Sarra
with the dung and then kept hitting her with a log, about her face, body, and
arms. Little Paulin was terrified. He told me he thought the bad lady mad!”
William realized that was how Paulin brought Harry to Sarra. The
poor little boy had witnessed the act. “Does he know who the bad lady is?”
Oriel shook her head. “Paulin told me he only knows she is a lady of
noble birth because of her fine clothes.”
Again William was shocked. How could a woman of noble birth do
something so brutal?
Elena was rocking her son to calm him when William approached
holding Oriel in his arms.
“Elena, I must find out who did this to Lady Sarra,” William stated
firmly. “I would speak to Paulin.”
“He doesn’t know,” Oriel insisted heatedly to her father.
William put his daughter down. He lowered his large frame to one
knee and spoke to her. “Paulin might know something to find out who this
lady is. He can tell me what happened. I must know.”
“My son is frightened,” Elena pleaded in a whisper. “To interrogate
the boy would frighten him more.”
Oriel took charge. Boldly she walked to Paulin. She took his small
tear stained face in her soft hands. “Paulin, I know you are frightened of the
bad lady. You know your Mere cannot protect from her. You understand
your Mere’s friend, Hubert, cannot protect you. I cannot protect you. My
Pere can protect you. He is Lord of Keyes Castle. He is protector of all in his
demesne. You must assist him to find this bad lady and arrest her.”
Paulin knew Oriel was right. He knew Lord William from the camp
he and his mother followed. The children, women, squires, pages, men at
arms, and other knights respected Lord William. The lord of the demesne was
well known to be a brave and fierce knight. Paulin pulled all the courage from
his mind he could manage. He pulled away from his mother’s arms. Paulin
walked hesitantly to stand next to Oriel. He allowed her to take his hand. He
needed that little extra courage his friend would provide.
William swelled with pride for his daughter. She never ceased to
amaze him with her nobility. He remained on one knee to be eye level with
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the children. William did not want his immense size to intimidate the boy
further. With the softest voice he could manage to hide his irritability at not
knowing what had happened to his lady, he praised. “Paulin, I am in your
debt. When the Lady Sarra was missing at midday, it was you that led Sir
Henry to her. You saved Lady Sarra’s life. You are a hero.”
Paulin felt proud. His terror eased.
“Can you tell me what happened the first time you saw the Lady Sarra
this den?” William asked gently.
Paulin nodded. “The nice Lady Sarra came to the cottage at midday.
She asked me where Mere was. I told her she was taking care of Mistress
Judith, who was ill. She asked if I was alone and I told her the weaver was
about if I needed him. She went to the cowshed when I heard a thud and a
moan. I thought it strange and ran to look. It was then I saw the noble lady
use a log to hit the Lady Sarra again and again. The bad lady pulled Lady
Sarra into the pile of dung and used the log to smear it all over Lady Sarra.
Then the bad lady hit Sarra again and again on her body. She said bad words.
The lady was so angry and cruel I thought her mad. I was frightened she
might see me, so I ran to hide. I stayed hidden for so long until at last I hear
Sir Henry and Genoa call for Lady Sarra. I ran out from my hiding place and
ran to get them.”
“You are a brave boy,” William complimented. “How did you know
the bad lady was a noble lady?”
“It were her clothes, my lord,” Paulin replied quickly feeling a bit
braver. “She were dressed so fine. Her gown was blue velvet with ermine
lining. She had a silken wimple held with a golden circlet.”
“Would you be able to show me which lady if you saw her?” William
queried.
With a small hesitation, Paulin nodded his head in the affirmative.
“Then tomorrow when we break the fast, you shall sit at my table next
to me. You will whisper to me if you see this lady,” William ordered rising to
his full height. “Tonight Elena, you will sleep in the tower room of the castle.
I shall have Hubert and men at arms stand guard at your chamber this day. In
the morn, you will sit at the high table with your son.” He gave orders to
several servants to prepare pallets and make Elena and her son comfortable.
Then he gave instructions to Edward to find more guards to protect Elena and
her son.
William lifted Oriel into his arms. “I am proud of you moppet. You
are a treasure to me.” He kissed her on the cheek. He walked toward the
stairs to the buttery and then the great hall. “It is late. You should be in your
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bed. I am certain Joan is waiting for you to put you to bed. This has been a
long and trying day. Even I am exhausted.”
Oriel was happy with her father’s praise, but still concerned about
Lady Sarra. “Would you let me see Lady Sarra before I am put abed?”
“You will see Lady Sarra on the morrow. All of us need our sleep this
eve,” William replied quietly. He squeezed his daughter gently in
reassurance. “The Lady Sarra will be fine. I promise you.”

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Chapter Twenty-Eight

William was exhausted when he walked into his solar that night. He
had spent time with Oriel before Joan prepared her for bed. His father and
Lord Reimond met him outside Oriel’s chamber to inform him that everything
Elena had told them was verified. Reimond asked once more to see his
daughter, but William refused. He assured Reimond Sarra would recover.
William did not want to distress Lord Reimond with the sight of his battered
daughter. It would upset any man, especially Sarra’s father. Lord Edmond
affirmed William’s order and walked Reimond to his chamber. He spent
more time with the guards outside his solar. He questioned them to learn if
anyone had tried to enter the solar and learned only Roese and Christofre had
left and entered.
Christofre had left for the evening shortly before William’s arrival.
Roese remained vigilant at her lady’s bedside.
Without being asked Roese commented, “My lady woke for a short
time. We were able to get her to drink broth. Her hunger is a good sign. We
have given her more medicines to ease her pain. She told us her lip feels
funny. She wanted to see her mirror. We would not get it for her.”
“Thank you,” William said gratefully. “You did not tell her of her
gowns?”
“We thought it best if she knows nothing,” Roese replied.
“Did my lady remember anything?”
“Nay, my lady only knows she is in pain and feels the swelling. She
understands or knows nothing,” Roese repeated.
“Leave us,” William commanded wearily. He was tired. The strain of
Sarra’s attack and his pursuit of the perpetrator had tired him.
“My lord, it is unseemly,” Roese protested. “Your marriage is not yet
blessed by the church. Bedding is most irregular without the blessing. It
lessens my lady.”
“What would be more unseemly is for you to remain in here as
Geoffrey prepares me for bed. Would you like to stare upon my nakedness?”
William snapped. He realized what he said was obnoxious, but he was
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Roese turned pink in embarrassment. She put her hand to her mouth to
cover her gasp of humiliation.
“I thought not,” William laughed to ease her fright. “Fear not for your
lady’s virtue. I am here as her protector betrothed. She is my wife save the
church’s blessing, but I am too tired to do naught but sleep and be by her side
to keep her safe. Run along now and send Geoffrey in to attend to me.”
William’s laughter had set Roese’s ire. She stiffened her back and
walked out of the chamber disdainfully and full of pride. She barked at
Geoffrey to attend his master.
***
The pink tint of dawn painted the castle wall when Sarra began to stir
from her sleep. It had been a restful sleep. She had felt no pain and floated in
a dream of warmth. She remembered the dream as she began to wake from
that sleep. In her dream she was a small child. Her mother was holding her
with a blanket of love. Her father stood by and wrapped her mother and her in
a large cape made of soft ermine. It was a pleasant dream that made her feel
warm, safe, and loved.
Sarra moved slightly and felt something rock hard next to her body.
Slowly her long eyelashes fluttered and her eyes focused on a huge masculine
body that was well muscled. In a start she attempted to leap from the bed. A
strong arm flashed out and held her firm against the mattress. Then Sarra
heard the voice she recognized immediately.
“Lie still woman. I am not ready to wake!”
Sarra remained motionless for a second or two. Then her temper took
control. “How could I move at all, my lord? Your arm is like a tortuous steel
band!” His reaction was not what she expected. He removed his arm as
instantly as he had placed it there. He rose up on one arm and looked at her
seriously.
“Am I hurting you, my lady?”
Sarra was more than surprised and didn’t know how to answer him. If
she said no, he would lock her in place again. If she said yes, it would be a
lie. She felt stiff, but nothing was really hurting except the back of her head.
She determined this would be the time for attack, not retreat. “My lord, what
are you doing in my bed?”
William chuckled before he answered. “You are in my bed, not I in
yours.”
Sarra focused on the room. “Sweet Jesu! How did I get here?”
“I carried you!”

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Sarra wiggled to a sitting position. “Obviously I have missed
something”. Then she felt a horrible ache, almost pain. She looked at her arm
and saw a large blue bruise. It was then she felt the swelling of her lower lip.
“I have truly missed something!”
William answered with heavy concern. “Are you in great pain? I shall
send for Roese.”
The thought of Roese finding her in William’s bed was more
horrifying than any ache or pain she currently felt. “No!” Sarra nearly
shouted. Gaining control she said quietly, “First I must know what happened
and why did you bring me to your bed. Are we wed? Did I miss this in some
type of stupor? Am I…” she hesitated and blushed to a bright red. “Am I
bedded?” Her anger flared again when the look on William’s face turned
from concern to humor. “Is this so humorous a question?”
“My lady, had I bedded you I will assure that you would have
remembered it,” William replied testily. He did not like his honor or his
manhood challenged by his betrothed.
Frustrated, Sarra crossed her arms over her chest. She noted that it
was painful, but didn’t give an inch. “Mayhap you would explain why I am in
your bed and not mine?”
“It is my duty to see to your protection. Since you were attacked, there
is no safer place at night than my bed,” William explained dryly.
Sarra arched her brow. “A virginal maiden protected by her betrothed
in his bed? Mayhap a priest might argue the fine point of that treatise. I
would appreciate an explanation of my attack. Who was it that attacked me?
Where was I attacked? I should like a reflective glass. My mouth feels
strange.”
“We do not know who attacked you. Do you have any memory of
what happened in the cowshed?”
“Cowshed?” Sarra asked trying to remember. It hurt to think. She
pressed her fingers to her head and felt a large painful bump. What had
happened to her? She felt her lip. It was swollen. “Was I in the cowshed?”
“Genoa and Harry found you in the cowshed. You were unconscious
and badly beaten,” William responded gently reaching toward her face. His
fingers traced a soft line down her cheek. “I had hoped you would remember
something. We are trying to find the person that did this to you. He will pay
dearly for the harm brought to you.”
“Where is the looking glass?” Sarra requested anxiously. “I must
look horrendous.”

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“Not as bad as that. I have seen others bruised much worse,” William
chortled. “Of course they were men after battle.”
“I think I could have lived awhile without learning that,” Sarra barked
defensively. In a moment she would cry. The tears were already forming.
She looked down and realized she was not wearing her chemise. She was
wearing William’s shirt. To stop her tears she flared her anger in defense.
“Where are my clothes? I want to go to my solar.”
“You will remain abed until Roese and Christofre allow you to leave
it. It will be here in my bed you are to stay,” William answered allowing no
quarter of discussion. “Your clothes are removed until you are healed. From
then on you will be wearing the new clothes appropriate for the Lady of Keyes
Castle.” He did not want Sarra to find out about her clothes and bedding
being shredded until her new clothes were made and the solar was set right.
William was truly concerned for his woman’s well being. He understood at
that moment what it meant to love someone. He loved Sarra. Even with her
bruises and swollen lips, she still looked beautiful to him. More importantly
he did want to protect her from all harm.
Sarra couldn’t hold back her tears. They began to stream down her
cheeks. She released a sob.
William took her in his arms. Careful not to hurt any bruise, he gently
rubbed her back. He kissed the top of her head. He didn’t know any soothing
words. He felt helpless.
After several moments of a cleansing cry, Sarra removed herself from
William’s arms. “Why would someone hurt me? What have I done?”
William kissed Sarra’s forehead before he responded. “There is no
reason any would have to hurt you. All I know believe you to be kind and
good. I can only think some evil possessed someone. Whoever it was will be
punished. I promise you.”
Sarra did believe his promise. He was kind and gentle. It did make
sense that the safest place was with him. She looked at him and realized she
could love this man. It was then she noted William did not have any clothes
on. “My lord, I need to do my toilette. I would call Roese if you please, but
please my lord, would you cover your nakedness first?”
William laughed. “For Roese I would not show this nakedness. Soon
my dear lady, you will be my wife. You will accustom yourself to my
nakedness. Soon.” He laughed again as he rose from the bed.
Sarra turned her head quickly. It made her light headed. She groaned
and fell back onto the bed with her eyes shut to stop the spinning room.
William called Geoffrey to see to his dressing.
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Sarra remained quietly on the bed during William’s bath.
Later when William was readied, he sent Geoffrey to bring Roese. He
sat down on the edge of the bed. “You may open your eyes,” he teased. “I
am fully dressed.”
“I would like to bathe and dress,” Sarra growled.
“I’ve sent for your Roese. You shall bathe, but you shall not dress.
You will remain in bed for several days until you are healed.” William
retorted with authority.”
“There is work to be done. It is not right for me to stay abed!” Sarra
protested.
“The work will always be there. You fill your duty well, and always
will, but until you heal your body remains in this bed.” With that command
William left the room.
The order left Sarra in a huff. She was not yet wed to the lord of this
castle. She was still her own woman. She wanted her own clothes. Sarra
wanted to return to her solar. She wanted to break her fast. She was hungry.
Then she wanted to get about her duties. Sarra also wanted her looking glass.
She saw the bruises on her body, but she could not see what her face looked
like. It felt a bit swollen. She had felt two very tender hard bumps on the
back of her head. There was no doubt in her mind she must have been
attacked. Sarra couldn’t remember anything other than the strange noon meal
and how William had wanted to speak to her about a matter after the evening
meal she never had. More importantly, Sarra wanted to learn who had
attacked her and why.
Sarra took a silken sheet from the bed and wrapped it around her body
carefully. She knew Geoffrey had followed his lord down to the Great Hall.
It would be her moment for escape. Sarra walked through the anteroom where
Geoffrey kept his pallet for sleeping. She opened the door slowly. She
choked back a start of surprise when a guard’s face greeted her.
“Good Morn my lady,” Arthur greeted cheerfully. “Shall I send a boy
to fetch your lady maid? Is there something you need I may send for?”
“I merely wanted to walk to my room,” Sarra replied sheepishly. She
blushed at the thought of these guards thinking the lord had bedded her
without blessings of the church.
“I am sorry my lady,” Arthur apologized. “Lord William instructed us
to allow no one to enter or leave his solar without his presence, or Christofre,
Jacoba, or your lady maid Roese.”
“I am a prisoner!” Sarra exclaimed incredulously.

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“Nay my lady,” Arthur corrected gently. “You are under my lord’s
protection.”
“Tis the same,” Sarra countered. She was really upset when she
returned to William’s solar. She sat on the bed with a sulk. Sarra’s stomach
growled in distress. “Wonderful,” Sarra groaned. “For your temper you
forgot to request food. You will starve if you do not learn to control your
temper.”
“You will suffer for your stubborn will,” Roese chided entering the
room with a large trencher of food. “You will not starve for it.”

***
Oriel was waiting in the corridor for her father. Oriel was still quite
anxious about Sarra. She pulled away from her chambermaid’s hand and ran
to her father. To her joy, William lifted her in his arms and brushed a fatherly
kiss on her cheek. “Lady Sarra, is she well? May I see her now?”
“Lady Sarra is well. She is not ready for visitors as yet,” William told
his daughter. He smiled for his little girl. Already she was a young woman.
What a bright child he had fostered. His smile grew when he thought of the
feisty woman who would be his wife. Sarra and he would produce strong-
minded healthy children. “We will give her time this morn to settle before we
visit. There are still more important things you and I must focus upon. You
are to assist me find the brigand that hurt our Lady Sarra. The boy, Paulin, he
is comfortable with you. I expect you to care for him as the representing lady
of our castle. It is Paulin who will identify the bad lady.”
Oriel’s back straightened with pride in the confidence and
responsibility her father gave her. She would be a strong lady of Keyes Castle
just as her stepmother would be. She would make Sarra proud of her. “I shall
see to Paulin.”
William kissed his daughter’s cheek once again and put her down.
“Walk with the dignity becoming the lady of our castle.”
Oriel walked in faster steps to keep up with father’s long ones, but
kept her aura of lady.
Entering the hall, all the guests rose in respect when Lord William and
his daughter entered. Conspicuously, Lord Edmond did not attend breaking
the fast. To the utter surprised of the guests, William did not walk to the high
dais, he instead walked to Elena and Paulin. Both were standing near the
kitchen entry waiting for instructions. William lifted Paulin in his arm and
offered his right arm for Elena’s hand to lead her to the high table. William
guided Elena to the high table and seated her two seats to the left of his. He
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called for cushions and seated Paulin next to his chair. He turned to Oriel and
lifted her to the seat next to his on the right.
The murmuring in the hall increased at the unusual seating. Olive and
Crispin were seated in a far corner of the hall.
“This is a shocker,” Olive sneered. “The Lord of Keyes elevating his
leman to the high dais? Mayhap the boy is his. You think he will
acknowledge the boy? What an insult to his future lady? Ah, he may be
changing his mind on his betrothal.”
Crispin nearly choked listening to his wife. He wondered if the
woman was going mad. His wife never approached life beyond her own
selfish view. She of course had not been there when Lord Edmond had
revoked his title and lands. Crispin knew there was no hope for his family in
Keyes Castle.
Olive continued her unheeded conversation. She smirked believing
that her beating of Lady Sarra had caused Lord William to be repulsed. He
was now showing the upstart who truly held his heart. This would be a
perfect time for Casse to re enter the contest.

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Chapter Twenty-Nine

Even with the unusual seating the meal continued on as normal.


Paulin ate with gusto. He never had so many foods placed before him. Elena
cut his meat and vegetables to smaller size. She doted over him and greatly
appreciated William’s kind attentions to her son. Paulin delighted in
William’s conversations. He was kind to the boy and praised him for his
heroism. Upon the completion of the meal, William rose to address the guests
of the hall.
“Beside me is a brave young lad, Paulin. He brought my brother to the
badly beaten body of our Lady Sarra. The boy is by my side in gratitude for
rescuing my betrothed. I would have all of you honor the boy for fulfilling his
duty to the Lord of Keyes Castle,” William announced. “There is more to this
praise which will come later. For now, I would have all the men stand from
the table. The men will then walk to the north wall and remain there. I ask all
women to remain seated.” No one noticed several men at arms taking stations
in all corners of the hall.
The murmuring of the women rose in volume when the men complied
with the command.
William turned to Paulin and led him to the outside of the high table.
He bent over and whispered to the boy. “I need you to look at all the women
here and tell me if you see the bad lady.”
It was at that moment Casse descended the stairs to enter the great hall.
She was holding the arm of Lewis, William’s friend and favored knight.
Olive ignored the lord’s command for the women to remain seated.
She spotted her daughter and ran to her. She wanted to share the lord’s
unusual behavior and her hope that Lady Sarra was out of the picture.
The motion caught Paulin’s eye and he gasped. He began to tremble
with fright. William noticed the boy’s trepidation and went down to one knee
to speak to Paulin eye to eye.
“Have you identified the bad lady?”
“It’s her!” Paulin pointed his finger at the two women standing by the
entry stairs of the great hall. “There’s the bad lady.” Paulin was terrified.
“Have no fear,” William said soothingly. He pointed to Casse and
Olive since he didn’t know which lady Paulin was pointing. “Hold them!”
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William ordered the men at arms. He returned his attention to Paulin. “I will
protect you from any harm. Come with me and tell me which woman is the
bad lady.”
Oriel came to Paulin’s side. “Mon Pere has promised you protection.
Nothing bad will happen to you. You can be certain you are protected.” Oriel
took Paulin’s hand in hers and walked toward the Ladies Casse and Olive.
“What is the meaning of this?” Olive screeched struggling to remove
her arms from the guards restraining hands.
Casse remained motionless. She was too surprised to move. Lewis
drew his sword but sheathed it upon his Lord’s command.
William walked to stand before the women. He took Paulin’s small
hand in his after Oriel presented it to him. His daughter stood straight at his
side showing no fear. “Paulin, tell us which lady you watched hurt Lady
Sarra.”
Paulin raised his trembling finger and pointed directly at Olive. “It is
she, the bad lady.”
Olive stilled at the accusation. “What nonsense is this?”
“The boy saw the beating of Lady Sarra,” William explained coolly.
His stone heart came to the fore. He would show only strength. He would not
allow his rage for Sarra’s beating to surface. “He was brought to the honored
table for the purpose of showing us the bad lady. He has identified you, Lady
Olive.”
Olive became immediately emotional and defensive. “Tis nonsensical
babbling of a boy. He needs only to import himself to your graces. I do not
appreciate his accusation. Tis a lie he made up.”
“I believe the boy,” William responded serenely.
“You may believe him, but that proves naught!” Olive spat out angrily.
“The boy is truthful, but I shall see to evidence,” William stated icily.
He spotted Olive’s lady maid hiding in the alcove near the stairs. “You, come
here.”
The maid slowly walked forward.
“Is this the same gown your Lady Olive wore yester den?” William
questioned the maid.
The woman shook her head in the negative.
“Do you know which gown she wore yester den?” William pursued.
“Aye,” the maid squeaked.
“Which gown was it?”
“The blue velvet in the morn. Then my lady changed to her deep
green velvet for the evening,” the maid replied hesitantly.
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“Have these gowns been sent to the wash?” William asked.
Again the maid shook her head in the negative.
“Fetch them and bring her boots worn these past two days,” William
commanded. He turned to Casse. “You may release her. Lewis, take Lady
Casse to the table and take a place along the north wall with the men.”
Lewis obeyed his lord. He took a position near Casse’s father,
Crispin.
Crispin stood fast although he knees were shaking. He had no idea
what was occurring. The north wall was farthest from the entry stairs. He
could hear nothing, but saw two guards were restraining his wife and standing
before the Lord of Keyes Castle. He started sweating profusely. What had his
wife done?
Several minutes later the maid presented Lord William with the
bundled clothes and boots.
William looked at them. The blue velvet had ermine lining just as
Paulin described. He took them and gave them to Jacoba and Christofre.
“Tell me if there are any unusual stains upon the gown, its hem, or upon the
boots.”
Christofre took the green gown and boots. Jacoba took the blue gown
and matching boots. Upon careful examination Jacoba held the gown and
showed dung stains on the gown and hem. She showed the caked cow dung
and matted straw on the boots.
“It appears you had a visit to the cow stables yester morn,” William
accused coldly. “Tis then you visited your mayhem upon the person of Lady
Sarra.”
“This proves nothing,” Olive snarled. “It proves I walked in the bailey
yester den.”
“This is the evidence,” William countered. “We have the boy as
witness and your clothes with boots condemn you. I have no concept of your
reason to harm my betrothed, but the evidence is here.”
“It proves nothing!” Olive screamed in panic. She could not admit to
her perfidy. It would mean her life if she admitted what she had done even
though in her mind she was righteous in her action.
“Take her to the tower. Lock her in the solar there and see to it she is
guarded well,” William commanded the two guards. “I shall determine her
punishment at a later time.” This was a difficult order for William. If it had
been a man, the punishment would have been death. He did not know what
punishment could be given to a noble woman. A lashing? The thought
disgusted him. It would be difficult for him to order that as a punishment for
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a woman. He would think on it and discuss it with his father. He might
discuss it with Sarra. After all, it was she who Olive attacked. He looked for
Crispin. He found the old lord looking at him quizzically. William was
certain Crispin did not know what his wife had done.
The guards led Olive away. Casse and Crispin did nothing. They
remained where they had been told to stay. Crispin stared at William in
confusion. He stiffened when he watched the new Lord of Keyes Castle walk
toward him. Crispin bowed to William as he approached. “My lord?”
“Crispin, you are wondering why I have ordered your wife taken
away,” William stated coldly. He used all his will power not to use Crispin as
a vehicle for his anger.
“I am concerned,” Crispin replied sheepishly.
“Have you heard the Lady Sarra was attacked yester den?”
Crispin shook his head in the negative. “I had not heard of this.”
“It was your wife that brutally attacked the Lady Sarra. My betrothed
suffered severely, but will recover,” William informed icily. “Do you know
the punishment for attack on a noble born? Especially the wife of an Earl?”
Crispin shuddered. “It is death, my lord. Is my wife to be executed?”
“What say you?” William prodded.
“I beg mercy,” Crispin cried. “My good wife is frivolous and selfish,
but she has been my wife for a score and seven years. We grieved together
for our sons. I am used to her and her ways.”
“Yet, you did not see her way for the attack on my betrothed,” William
snapped.
“No my lord,” Crispin replied humbly. “I could not believe Olive was
capable of such evil work. My lord. I beg mercy.”
“I have not yet determined her punishment. You will learn this
evening what I decide. Until then, start your packing for the manor. You will
leave the den after the morrow,” William stated with absolute authority. He
turned to leave Crispin and return to Elena and Paulin who were still waiting
near the stair entry with Oriel.
William knelt down in front of Paulin. “You have been a very brave
lad. This entire den you will eat with me at the high table. I would have you
and your mother rewarded with this pouch of silver.” William handed the
leather pouch to Paulin. He rose to address Huber Tillman. “Tillman, it is my
decree that you wed dame Elena. Take her as your wife this den. You will be
rewarded with promotion as Captain of Guards. Take care of Elena and her
son, or you will answer to me.”

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Huber beamed with happiness. He took Elena’s hand. “Most happily
my lord.” His other hand took Paulin’s and together the three left the great
hall. Huber was heard saying, “We find a priest anon. We wed this den.”
William took Oriel’s hand. “I am proud of you. You acted as a true
de Warre this den. Now it is time to keep my promise. We visit Lady Sarra.
I warn you not to let on your concern to her facial bruises. We do not wish to
upset her in any way.”
“I understand,” Oriel replied stoically. “I would not want to upset my
lady. She is to be my Mere. I love her dearly.”
“As do I,” William admitted. He led his daughter to his solar. When
they entered Oriel ran into the room. They found Roese standing watch at
Sarra’s bedside. Sarra was sound asleep.
“My lady will heal faster if she sleeps. I drugged her wine,” Roese
stated without being asked.
Oriel stood by the bedside looking up at Sarra sleeping. “My poor
Mere. How that beating must have hurt her so. Is there a way I can help my
lady?”
Roese smiled tenderly. “Give no cause for your lady to worry for you.
Attend your classes as if nothing has occurred. This morn my lady asked for
you. She wished to see you to your classes. She was concerned that she did
not greet you this morn.”
“I missed my lady,” Oriel sighed stroking Sarra’s hand.
Sarra’s eyes fluttered after Oriel’s touch. She fought the sleep potion
and woke. She focused on Oriel and smiled. “Moppet, I missed you this
morn. What is the time? Are you late for classes?”
“I am taking her this moment,” William answered from the foot of the
bed.
Oriel climbed on the bed and kissed Sarra’s cheek. She was careful to
avoid the large bruise and swollen lip. “I will visit with later. I will bring one
of my parchments to read to you. You would like that, wouldn’t you?”
“I would like that,” Sarra answered. Her eyes were heavy and she felt
herself drifting back to sleep.
“Has a gown been sewn for my betrothed yet?” William queried Roese
before he left the solar with Oriel.
Roese was surprised by the question. “It will be ready by the noon
meal. We have had two seamstresses working day and night for a gown.”
She didn’t want to tell him that two other seamstresses had already finished
braes, chemise, and nightdress. They had just brought them to her before
William and Oriel had walked in.
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“See to it my betrothed is dressed by the end of the noon meal,”
William ordered as he left his room. He walked to his father’s room and
entered.
Lord Edmond was busy straightening an old tapestry when his eldest
son walked in. He turned suddenly and snapped at William. “Do you enter
my solar without a knock?”
“I apologize, Pere,” William answered curtly. “I will not neglect to
knock anon. Is something amiss with your wall?”
Edmond recovered quickly. “What is your need? It has been many
years since you have sought my counsel.”
“I come to inform you I am to wed Lady Sarra this den,” William
stated.
“Are you mad?” Edmond gasped. “We have only sent the banns to
England and John. Would you defy this precarious king?”
“Pere,” William replied softly. “I have spent five years with King
John. No one has played his games more than I. I know how he thinks, his
fears, and his petulant tantrums. I also know he fears the Earl of Sussex
whether it is you or I. John knows of our strength, power, alliances, and vast
wealth. He is jealous of us, but fears our family. He has proven to me time
and time again he desires only to keep us beside his throne. He will have only
blessings sent to this merger.”
“Of course you are right,” Edmond conceded easily. He trusted his
sons. He was especially proud of William and the knight he became. “What
can I do to assist?”
“I need you to bring the priest anon,” William requested. “I will begin
the categorizing of dowry and the contract with Lord Reimond.”
“What is the cause of this sudden urgency to wed? Is it the attack on
your betrothed? I assume you have found the perpetrator or you would not be
with me this moment.”
“The attack has shaken me. Moreover it was a noble woman that
attacked my betrothed. I will not be comfortable until Lady Sarra is my wife
and solely in my protection by marriage contract. When I saw what the mad
woman had done to Sarra’s room and gowns I was distraught. I will not sleep
at night unless I know she is in my bed and no one dare enter on pain of death.
Unfortunately my lady and her maid are upset at sharing my bed without
blessing of the church,” William shared
Edmond embraced his son. “I agree. I will bring the priest. Go to
Baldwyn and bring Lord Reimond. You will be wed this den.”

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“You planned this,” William chuckled. “I and the Lady Sarra fell into
your trap.”
Edmond released his son and smiled. “It was our plan. We are most
pleased with your actions, although it took you long enough.”
“I am pleased with your plan. I feel a sense of contentment never
known to me ere now.”

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Chapter Thirty
“This gown is wondrous!” Sarra exclaimed in delight holding the
gown and tunic made of the softest silk imported from the east. The gown
was silver in color and reflected rainbows when catching sun rays. The tunic
was made of the same delicate fabric. The gown’s belled sleeves, neck, and
bodice were lined with soft white ermine. A cobbler had also stayed awake
the night and prepared a set of matching slippers. Her new chemise and braes
were of the softest linen she had ever worn. Once she was dressed she spun
around in delight. “It is sinful this feeling. I should be in my linen gown
seeing to my duties.”
“You are the Earl’s betrothed,” Roese scolded lovingly. “It is your
duty to be his lady.” She choked back her emotional tears. Her charge looked
radiant even though her face was marred with a large bruise and fat lip.
Thank the heavens the lip was near normal in size once more. Roese
concentrated on the wimple. She positioned it just right to cover nearly the
entire dark bruise. Roese was also careful of the lumps on Sarra’s head when
she placed the silver jeweled circlet to hold the wimple in place.
“I must see myself,” Sarra insisted. Before she could say another word
a knock at the door stopped her request.
A priest entered the solar. “I am here to bring the Lady Sarra Albyn to
the chapel.”
“The chapel?” Sarra questioned with surprise.
“You are to come to wed Lord William de Warre. Your vows will be
blessed by the church,” the priest responded.
“Wed this den?” Sarra squeaked finding she had lost her voice. “Our
marriage was to be at least a fortnight from now.”
“Our Lord William wants you under his protection and name this den,”
the priest answered offering his arm for Sarra’s hand. “Your Pere, Lord
Reimond has already signed the contracts. I am told the kitchens are already
preparing a great feast.”
“I was told to remain here,” Sarra responded stubbornly. “I will not
wed with this notice.”
“You already wear the gown of a bride,” The priest countered serenely
still keeping his arm extended. “You are betrothed, the marriage contract is

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signed. You are wed. You only need the church to bless it. Would you defy
God and be wed without the church blessing?”
There was no point to an argument. Sarra was well aware she was
betrothed and now learned her father has signed the contracts. She would not
bed de Warre without church blessings. Sarra knew he had been in bed with
her last night. He made no bones of telling her she would be sleeping with
him from now on. Of course she needed the church blessing for propriety
sake. Sarra laid her hand upon the priest’s arm and walked to the chapel.
In the chapel archway her father greeted Sarra. Lord Edmond stood by
the ornate altar with a person she had believed would be there with William’s
father. It was Christofre beaming with joy. Sarra was now convinced her
initial feelings that Christofre was involved with Lord Edmond were a fact.
Sarra offered Christofre a smile. Sarra walked into the chapel. She turned
suddenly to watch William walk in the chapel with his brothers behind him.
All of the de Warre men were smiling. William walked directly to her. He
took her hand, brushed his lips over her knuckles and whispered to her.
“You are magnificently beautiful my lady.”
His words were genuine. Sarra could believe him. He truly meant
what he said. It made her feel warm inside and erased some of her doubt. She
still had not seen what she really looked like with her wounds.
The ceremony of blessing the marriage contracts was brief and simple.
They repeated their vows before the priest and left the chapel as husband and
wife.
“Would you care to rest? This did not tire you overly much?” William
asked his new bride with concern.
William’s concern touched Sarra. He did care about her. Of course he
did. She was not a raving beauty like Casse. He was of the highest nobility.
He was rich and needed no lands or coin. Yet, he wanted her as his wife and
mother to his child. William de Warre had chosen her to be his bride. Even
with her swollen face he wished to wed her. He was there to protect her. The
attack on her had truly upset him. She should learn to please him. She found
she was beginning to care deeply for him. Little by little he was burrowing
into her heart. She chuckled. Perhaps she was the one with a stone heart. “I
have spent far too much time abed. I feel better being about.”
William gave her a tender smile. “Then come with me to my private
study. There are things I would like to discuss with you privately. I would
share with you two pressing matters that I would like your insight.”

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William led her to the private study used by the Lord of Keyes Castle
to study accounts, hold interviews with stewards, or other important matters.
He closed the door behind them and bolted it.
Sarra jumped at the slamming of the door and thud of the bolt being
dropped. She really didn’t know the man she wed. Should she be frightened
of this husband? He had been so kind, gentle, and attentive these past days.
William pulled a chair from the wall and put it next to the large chair
behind the large carved table in the center of the room. He bent down under
the table and pulled a cushioned footstool out. It was the footstool his father
used for his aching feet. Lord Edmond would spend hours walking the bailey
and battlements of Keyes Castle. Then Edmond would come to his study. He
would spend hours developing lists for his steward. The lists would include
instructions on repairs. Baldwyn would bring back the lists with costs. After
the costs were discussed the masons, carpenters, or any craftsman needed
would discuss and refine the repairs. This was only one part of the many
demanding duties of the Lord of Keyes Castle. William kept the stool there
knowing it would be a comfort to him in the future.
William placed the stool in front of Sarra’s chair. He carefully lifted
her feet and placed them upon the stool. “Are you comfortable? You are not
in pain or too tired?”
“I am quite comfortable, thank you,” Sarra replied quietly. “You are
kind to give me your foot rest.”
“I prefer to keep your feet where I can see them,” William teased.
“The last time I did not see them until I was wounded.” Sarra laughed openly.
This man had surprised her again. He had a wonderful sense of humor.
Would she ever know the man? Would the surprises ever stop? The thought
made her smile. She hoped he would always surprise her. “Is there some
meaning for the closed locked door?
“You ask many questions. I had hoped to converse with you. Shall
you allot me some time? William sat in the large chair. He reached across the
chair arms and took Sarra’s hand in his. “Over these months I have learned
much about you. I have learned you make your decisions wisely after great
thought. You are now my wife and Lady of Keyes Castle. I am asking you to
share my great responsibility. There are two important items presented to me
on my first day as Lord. I wish to discuss them with you. The two are most
troubling to me. I would share these two items and request your advice.”
Sarra felt William’s hand close around hers. This man was everything
she had ever hoped for in a husband. In this moment of time Sarra realized
she loved William de Warre with her life. She vowed to be his most perfect
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wife and hoped he could love her as she now loved him. “I am your servant.
What are these troubles to share?”
William released her hand and leaned his form into the great chair.
“The first is my younger brother, Harry. Crispin has been removed as steward
of Tomes Castle lands. I have given the lands to Henry. It is Pere’s and my
desire he should be lord.”
Sarra remained silent. She sensed there was more. The elevation of
Henry de Warre to status of Tomes Lord was a typical thing, not unusual.
Surely it was something William would not need advice. Of course, she
wondered why Crispin was removed. “Crispin was removed? This is a strong
decree. Why was Crispin removed?”
William appreciated his wife’s question. It showed he was right. She
would need all the pieces to make a decision. He needed her advice. He
simply was not certain how to answer Harry’s request.
“Tomes Castle and lands are in a deplorable state. The keep is nearly
bankrupt. The serfs, freeman, and servants are close to starvation while the
castle and its former noblemen lived in debauchery and luxury. My first
directives were to send part of our stores to the castle. I gave instructions to
follow your pattern of feeding the poor from the castle banquet remains. It
will help the people of Tomes,” William said proudly. “I am also grateful to
you for your frugality and care of our harvest stores. We have much to share
with Tomes for it.”
“I understand the need for a new lord,” Sarra replied blushing slightly
for the high compliments she had been paid. “Your decisions are sound. I
have nothing to add.”
“Those acts were simple and commonplace. What I need your advice
for, is that of Harry’s request. It seems my brother is in love with a serving
maid. He has planted his seed and the woman is breeding. He wishes to make
her his lady. What think you of this?”
“Genoa,” Sarra stated as fact. She did not need to be told whom Henry
had impregnated. She knew.
“Aye,” William concurred. “A noble woman is born and trained for
the duty of Lady. I am not certain a serving maid can be a proper mate for
Henry.”
“Do you think serving a noble man is different than serving a castle?”
Sarra quipped. “Service to the castle is not much different than serving a
husband.”
“I look forward to proof of that belief,” William retorted. He leaned a
bit forward. “What I mean is, you as a noble woman are trained to run a
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castle. You have authority to run a castle and give orders. You are trained in
accounts and stores. You know what I mean. You handle all the household
things.”
“I do know what you mean,” Sarra commented. “I see to the cleaning
of ironworks, making of soaps and candles, read and sum the kitchen
accounts, as well as laundry, mending, and sewing.”
“Aye.”
Sarra sat back in her chair. “I learned all those things from Mere. She
taught me. Genoa has also learned all these things from serving in the castle.
Tis true Genoa cannot order these things done because of her status, but she
knows all these things. She has been a part of all of them. It would be
Henry’s responsibility to stand behind her when she at last gives those
orders.”
“What does Harry have to do with Genoa being a lady?”
“I learned the skills. Genoa has learned the skills. It is up to the Lord
of the Castle to see to it the Lady has the authority,” Sarra explained patiently.
“That is not to say there will not be mistakes. Personally I have made many.
I learned from them. Mon Pere never chided me publicly for any error. Only
if the error were troublesome would Pere override me. If Henry can support
Genoa in this, I believe Genoa will make a fine Lady of Tomes.”
“I still hesitate. A serving maid is not a noble woman,” William
insisted.
“At some point in the past there were no noble women. The women
grew and learned as their roles changed,” Sarra remarked. “Genoa has still
much to learn, but I have conversed with her many times. She is an intelligent
woman. More importantly, she loves Henry. She would leap through fire for
him.”
“That is another point,” William stated. “Genoa, at one time had her
sights on me. Would she be true to Henry? There were rumors of Genoa
being a light skirt.”
“Those rumors are false,” Sarra reputed. “I learned Genoa has always
loved Henry. She showered favor upon you because you are Henry’s brother.
When she learned of the gossips, she stopped attempting to please you or any
brother. Those rumors about her being a light skirt were malicious. I am
certain jealous women perpetrated the rumors when Genoa did give herself to
Henry. It was a foolish move on her part, but the passion between them was
powerful.”
William blushed. He certainly understood uncontrollable passion. He
had experienced it himself several times when he was near Sarra. “You are
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saying I should give my approval and blessing for Henry and Genoa to wed.
You believe Genoa could be a Lady for Henry and Tomes.”
“Aye,” Sarra replied. “I am not saying Genoa will not make errors. I
will discuss many things with her and more importantly advise her on certain
matters. I would also send with her some of the best servants of Keyes Castle.
She should have from here an expert candle and soap maker. She should also
take an expert weaver and seamstress. Genoa must dress and be presented as
a lady or all would be lost before it began. You must speak to Henry about
opening his purse strings to purchase some of the finest materials to dress his
lady.”
“I understand your points,” William said thoughtfully. “I will instruct
Henry with your wisdoms. I expect you to instruct Genoa.”
“You will give them your approval?” Sarra asked hesitantly.
“And blessings,” William added. “I would not have asked for your
opinion if I would not consider it.”
Sarra choked. Never in her wildest imagination could she believe she
could have found a more perfect husband.
“Are you tired?” William questioned with concern. He heard her
choke.
She shook her head in denial. “You said there were two things?”
“Aye. The latter is the most distasteful to me.”
Sarra folded her hands and waited patiently. She couldn’t imagine
what would be coming next.
“It is about your attack,” William stated after thinking carefully about
how to put this to Sarra. He decided it was better to merely state it bluntly.
“Your attacker was a noble woman. I do not know how to deal with it.”
Sarra gasped. She hadn’t thought too much about her attacker. She
had been trying to convince herself it was an accident or a case of mistaken
identity. She couldn’t believe she heard it right. A noble woman was the
attacker?
“It is most troublesome,” William agreed after hearing Sarra’s gasp.
“If it were a man, noble or serf, the penalty is death. The crime of attacking a
noble man or woman is most severe. I find I cannot command the death of a
noble woman. She must be punished, but I cannot think of a proper
punishment deserving of such a crime that I can order upon a noble woman.”
Sarra took a small gulp and in a small voice asked, “Who attacked me
and how do you know for certain who it was. Has she confessed?”
William rose from his chair and began to pace with his locked hands
folded on his back. “She continues to deny her guilt, but the evidence is
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strong. Young Paulin, Elena’s son, saw her attack upon you in the cow shed.
The gown and boots she wore that day were stained with straw and cow dung.
There is no doubt it was she that attacked you.”
The only person Sarra could think of was Casse, but she asked. “Who
was it?”
“Lady Olive. Crispin’s wife and Casse’s Mere was your attacker.”

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Chapter Thirty-One
Sarra placed her hand over her breast, she was stunned. She would not
have thought a noble woman of Olive’s stature could be capable of her attack.
Casse was spoiled and jealous. It would have been incredible, but more
believable, that Casse was her attacker if it was a woman. “Sweet Jesu!”
“And there is more,” William added. It was the time to tell Sarra
about her room and gowns.
Sarra gave her attention to William. She met his eyes directly and
without waiver asked, “More?”
“I could not allow you to return to your solar for recovery. There were
two things that prohibited it,” William shared somberly.
Sarra raised a brow. “Two?”
“Aye. The first was I could not protect you to my satisfaction unless
you were in my room. There is only one way in. That would be through two
guards and Geoffrey, then me. The window overlooks a direct drop to rocks
below. This was the reason Pere gave me the room. It was extra protection
for his first-born and heir. Your solar has two doors. One of the doors is
accessible to a hallway with many alcoves. The solar is too accessible for my
mind.”
William’s explanation seemed logical. “And the other reason?”
“The day you were attacked Roese had found your solar destroyed and
your gowns destroyed. The bed, curtains, sheets, draperies, and all your
garments were shredded to rags. I cannot prove that Lady Olive had done
this, but there is no doubt in my mind that she did it,” William told Sarra.
“You could not recover in your solar because your solar had not yet been
restored.”
Sarra wondered if anything about this attack would ever make sense.
All her garments were destroyed? No wonder she had been dressed in
William’s shirt. This wedding gown was the first one the seamstresses had
sewn for her. The new undergarments now made sense. “You ordered this
wedding gown made first?”
A sheepish grin appeared on William’s face. He nodded. “I knew you
were uncomfortable having me share your bed without blessing of the church
as your husband. I doubted I could continue to sleep with you without
wanting you. It seemed the right thing to do.”

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Sarra’s heart filled with love. This cold-hearted knight was not a stone
heart at all. He was a kind loving man that only needed the return in kind of
his loving generous person. Her arm reached over the table until her hand
rested on his. “I do believe I am a fortunate woman indeed to have you as
husband.”
“And I to have you as wife,” William replied taking Sarra’s hand and
lifting it to his lips. “You are wise and I feel I shall be in need of your advice
on many future occasions. Tell me, what shall I do with the Lady Olive?”
“She has confessed to nothing? We still do not know her motives or
her madness?” Sarra asked quietly. She could make no sense of this attack on
her person or her clothes. She sighed and realized there was no purpose in
pursuing the cause of the attack or Olive’s motives. The problem would be
the proper punishment for an attack on a noble person. Sarra knew the
penalty was death. She was also more than pleased her new husband did not
want to give the death order to a noble woman. She had to come up with a
punishment quickly. Then her thoughts raced like lightening in her mind.
Crispin had been removed as Lord of Tomes. Olive had lost her prestige,
wealth, and title. The destruction of Sarra’s clothes was an act of revengeful
jealousy. Sarra was receiving everything Olive had wanted for herself and her
daughter. Olive only understands greed and self-gratification. That was the
answer. “My Lord,” Sarra began slowly. “I believe there is a nunnery near
Keyes Castle. It is a closed cloister.”
William understood immediately Sarra’s suggestion. “Of course! It is
the answer. Olive shall be taken to the cloister. There she will be kept behind
the gates. The nuns will teach her humility and prayer. Crispin could even
visit his wife once a year if the nuns allow it. That is brilliant! It shall be
taken care of this day. I shall have Baldwyn write the decree with all
information to be given to the Prioress. We will send Lady Olive to the
nunnery on the morrow with armed guard,” William stated triumphantly.
“You are a most wise and gracious good wife.” William pulled Sarra onto his
lap. His head bent and captured Sarra’s lips. His tongue opened her lips and
his kiss was passionate.
Sarra felt William’s thumb and finger begin to play with ther breast.
Under the gown she felt her nub harden. Her head began to swirl in sensual
pleasure. William’s tongue continued to challenge hers in a duel of passion.
Sarra’s tummy began to twist and knot with tension and growing desire. She
felt a need and want in her nether area as William’s hand played with her
breast. She felt wet warmth in her most private of area.

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William groaned. “This is not the time or place. I must hold back my
need for you. There is much to be done now. How unfortunate for me that I
am now Lord of Keyes Castle, for I must see to my duty although my body is
only yearning for my wife. Tonight, you will be well bedded my lady. You
will also learn that this poor knight has talents to please you as well as you
please me.”
Sarra was trying to catch her breath and gain control of her sanity. She
was floating in a cloud of wonderful sensations created by William’s magical
mouth and hands. “I look forward to it,” she managed to breathe out. She
looked up at William’s eyes and saw hot passion there. She was sorry he was
lord of this land. She felt a hot need and wanted to achieve respite for it.
Sarra’s dry wit was exactly what William needed to bring him back to
the reality of his responsibility. “Come with me. We will speak to Henry.”
William placed Sarra upright on the floor. He felt her hold on to his tunic. He
didn’t know her legs felt like jelly and she was trying to stand upright. He
rose from the chair keeping her body upright.
Fortunately Sarra regained the movement of her legs just as William
offered her his arm. Together, the new Lord and Lady of Keyes Castle
walked to the Great Hall where the celebration was waiting for them.
Upon their entrance they noted both Christofre and Lord Edmond were
sitting at the high table. They were sitting to the left of the high chair and
William’s three brothers were sitting next to them. Genoa was nowhere to be
seen. Sarra noted the change in Christofre’s clothing. Normally Christofre
wore a simple linen tunic and gown with an apron covering. At the table she
was wearing a fine plum color velvet gown and matching tunic. Her head was
covered with a silky gray wimple and a silver circlet holding it in place.
Christofre looked every inch the lady of the castle. The brothers were in deep
discussion with their father and Christofre.
William led Sarra to the table. While walking toward the high chair
the people of the great hall stopped talking. The Great Hall was silent. They
all stared at Lady Sarra. Her father rose from the high table. He had been
sitting next to Oriel. Reimond greeted his daughter with a hug and kiss.
William seated Sarra to his right and next to Oriel.
Oriel was bubbling with excitement. She began to talk to Sarra as
soon as her father had seated Sarra next to her.
“You are well. I was so scared. I love you very much, Mere,” Oriel
said exuberantly. “I have a new Mere and a new Grandmere.”
Sarra looked at Oriel in astonishment. “A new Grandmere?”
Oriel bobbed her head up and down excitedly.
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At the same moment Lord Edmond rose from the table. He lifted his
goblet of wine in the air to give a toast. “A blessed day for Keyes Castle.
Today my eldest son has taken control of Keyes Castle as its new lord. He
has also has taken a wife. Keyes will have after many long years a Lord and
Lady of the castle. I introduce to all, Lady Sarra de Warre.” He lifted his
goblet to Sarra. “A long and happy life blessed with many children.”
William grinned and winked at Sarra after listening to his father’s
toast. Soon he would be satisfying his insatiable lust for this woman. He
couldn’t explain his physical need for her. He simply accepted it.
Sarra blushed.
Edmond turned to Christofre. “And a toast to my new wife. After
many long and lonely years I finally convinced my Christofre to be wife. She
became my lady this den after the wedding of my eldest son.”
William’s mouth dropped.
Sarra was surprised, not at the marriage because she had always sensed
there was something between the two. She was surprised at the timing and
swiftness without word to anyone.
“Tis time,” Oriel grumbled merrily. “As long as I can remember they
would sneak to be together.”
“Sneak?” Sarra questioned curiously.
“The secret chamber we used as escape to spend our day as boys,
remember?” Oriel asked. “I found that place because I always heard footsteps
and my dog would sniff at the same nook when he heard the foot sounds. I
found out it was Christofre going to Grandpere’s room. You don’t think
Grandpere slept everyday and Christofre went to mass at the exact time?
They were always together at those times. I thought it quite romantic. I
couldn’t tell anyone. I knew it was a secret because they never told anyone.”
“You kept the secret well,” Sarra praised Oriel. They spent the rest of
the meal and the evening festivities sharing little secret conversations. Some
of the communication was about Oriel’s newly found and loved father. Other
talk was about another time they would pretend to be boys.
Oriel stayed up quite late that evening and finally fell asleep in her
Uncle Edward’s arms. He took her up to her solar and placed her in her bed.
Her chambermaid was waiting there to take her care.
Near the end of the festivity Harry approached William. “Have you an
answer for me regarding Genoa?” He had already decided that regardless of
William’s answer he would marry Genoa. He would give up title and family
for her. He truly loved her as she loved him. Genoa was carrying his child.

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“Aye,” William replied quickly. “It is agreed that Genoa will become
your bride. There are some pieces of advice I will offer to you and Sarra
plans to advise Genoa before the two of you leave for Tomes Castle. Sarra
also plans to send several experienced servants with you. The most important
thing Sarra wanted me to emphasize is that Genoa is still in training to be a
noble woman. She will make some errors. You are to support her in
everyway. You must never counter command her unless it would be an
injustice. Even then you would do it quietly.”
Harry was smiling. It was wonderful to have a kind and thoughtful
brother as well as liege lord. He blessed the day William had discovered
Sarra. She was a good influence on him. He knew Genoa would influence
him the same way. He would certainly listen to his brother’s advice and knew
Genoa would listen to Sarra. After a sad and lonely childhood the both of
them would bloom in the arms of loving women. “I am listening to every
word, my lord.”
“On the morrow,” William chuckled. “This night is getting old and I
am ready to bed my wife.” William left Harry’s side and joined Sarra in the
dance. When it was over he took her quietly to an alcove and kissed her
passionately. When she was soft and pliable he lifted her in his arms and took
her to his solar. The door slammed shut on any that attempted to follow.

***

The couple was not seen again until after the breaking of fast. Both of
them had broad smiles upon their faces.
Roese went directly to Sarra. “How was your evening my lady?”
“Wonderful,” Sarra sighed dreamily. “My husband told me he was a
talented lover. He was true to his words.”
Roese laughed. These two were in the same type of wonderful
marriage Joy and Reimond shared. Her lady would be very happy indeed and
she was certain she would have many of their children to care for.
“We have much to accomplish this den,” Roese stated leading the way
toward the kitchen. “Christofre is already in the kitchens ordering a fine meal
prepared for the noon meal.”
“First I must see to Genoa. Roese, I need you to bring Marta the
weaver, Joyce the seamstress, Margaret the candle assistant, Jolene the soap
assistant, Christofre’s Adel in the kitchen, and Louisa the second
chambermaid to the Great Hall. They will be assigned to Lady Genoa at

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Tomes Castle. I will be speaking to Genoa in the Great Hall,” Sarra ordered.
She found Genoa walking toward the Great Hall and called her.

***

After that day Keyes Castle was a warm welcoming thriving castle of
happiness. Everyone lived happily ever after.

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Epilogue
Keyes Castle – 10 years later

Oriel was grasping the large draperies as she looked at the practice
field below. “Sweet Jesu. He will kill him!”
Sarra still holding her three-month-old daughter, Avery, in her arms,
walked briskly to the window. “Who? Is Sir Guy hurting your Pere?”
“No! Pere is striking Guy without mercy. This is a practice. Why is
Pere being so brutal?” Oriels questioned. She tensed more when William
slammed another hard blow of his sword on Sir Guy’s shield. “I hate this!”
Oriel exclaimed gritting her teeth. “Why do men enjoy such brutality? To
them this is sport!”
“I’m afraid so,” Sarra concurred. Avery fussed a little. She started
rocking her child and humming. “Roese, take Avery to the nursery. Jacoba,
take my sweet angel, Elizabeth with Roese. She is already yawning and needs
her nap.”
Roese took the infant and Jacoba lifted three-year-old Elizabeth up
from her scattered toys. The two women took the youngest de Warre children
to the nursery for their afternoon naps.
“Do not fret,” Sarra soothed her stepdaughter. “Your Pere would
never harm your betrothed. He is merely forging the iron.”
“Forging the iron?” Oriel scoffed. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means your Pere is only trying to make certain your young man is
strong enough to protect his precious daughter,” Sarra shared hugging her
fully-grown daughter. “He is having a hard time surrendering you to another
man.”
“But he agreed to the betrothal,” Oriel insisted. “The contract is most
generous. It will add even more lands to the de Warre holding.”
“I don’t believe there is enough land or wealth in all of England to
dissuade your Pere from being certain you will be well cared for,” Sarra
teased. Then she saw the four boys running to the practice field. “Your
brothers are running to the field. Where on earth is their guardian, Hubert?
He promised to care for them.”
“Charles, George, Phillip, and Richard are a handful for only one
Captain of the Guard,” Oriel chided. “My brothers are too much like Pere.

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They are tall, muscular, strong, and foolhardy. Look, there is Uncle Andrew
and Edward.”
Sarra breathed a sigh of relief when Hubert, Andrew, and Edward
grabbed the tunics of the three younger boys. Charles made an escape with
his sword and managed to give a hard blow to Sir Guy.
It was too much for Guy. The wooden sword of nine-year-old Charles
de Warre and the heavy blows of Charles’s father were too much. He lowered
his sword and shield. He knelt before his Liege Lord and surrendered.
“Too much,” Guy laughed aloud. “My lord the sneak attack was too
much. I surrender.”
“You surrender too easily,” William crowed. “How can I give my
daughter to you in wedded contract if you cannot defend her?”
“Because I love her,” Guy replied simply. “I would give my life for
her, My Lord. This is just a practice.” He tousled Charles’s head of hair.
“That was a good broadside on my flank.”
Charles beamed and held his wooden sword high.
William laid his hand on his eldest son’s shoulder. “It was a good
attack on the flank. You are learning.”
Hearing Charles receive praises from their father inspired, seven year
old George, six-year-old Phillip, and five year old Richard pull away from
their captors. They brandished their wooden swords and charged toward their
father.
William was soon holding Phillip and Richard in his arms. The two
older boys walked alongside their father toward the great hall. Guy walked
with Edward and Andrew. Hubert returned to his duty.

***
Sarra and Oriel were waiting in the Great Hall for their men when they
arrived. The noon meal was prepared and ready to serve.
Guy held out his arm for Oriel and escorted her to the high table.
William held out his arm for Sarra. He whispered in her ear when she
placed her hand on his forearm. “Where are my baby daughters?”
“They are put down for their naps,” Sarra responded. “Oriel loves
him.”
William sighed, “I am aware. If it was not for understanding this
wonderful emotion I could not give her to any man. She is a woman now.
You have trained her well. She is ready to become lady of her own castle.
Guy is a most fortunate man.”
“I love you,” Sarra whispered sensually.
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“I know,” William chuckled. “For this love of ours we have four sons
and three daughters. And I am most content. My heart is warm with pleasure.
You have made this castle a happy place for all of us. I am a most fortunate
man.”
“And I a most fortunate woman.”

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