Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 23, Part 2

A short post for now, but I will have more this afternoon...

The loss of blood had left him weak and drifting in and out of his senses, but he was aware of the blade being put to the fire. Biting down on the stick of wood that his father placed in his mouth, he closed his eyes and braced himself, praying for the treatment to be quick.

A muffled cry escaped him as the hot iron was put to his wound, cauterizing it. He could feel his body shaking as he tried to absorb the pain, knowing in his mind that he had to endure it. What right had he to complain, when Simon was suffering so, and could possibly die before they could get back to the palace?

While his shoulder was bandaged, he looked over and saw his father, Lucien, Rene, and Simon’s father preparing to care for Simon’s wounds, which were ghastly. They would have to hold him down as they put the fire to his injuries, and Owen found he could not watch.

What a strange twist of fate that had befallen Simon. His father had brought Rene into the war effort, and the choice had proven to be an auspicious one. Simon’s enemy had become his ally by saving his life, and Owen listened as Basil and Guy talked.

“He must be taken back to the Palais de la Cite.”

“Then you will accompany him,” Basil replied. “The army must push north, and I must follow.”

“We will see him cared for. You have my word.”

The two men clasped arms. Then, Basil turned to Rene.

“I owe you a great debt. You have proven your worth, and I will see you rewarded for it.”

Rene nodded. “I have merely done my duty, your grace. For the first time in my life, it seems.”

“I hope it will not be the last.”

A wave of pain drew Owen’s attention back to his own situation, and to the fellow soldier who was bandaging his wound. When the deed was done, Owen was handed him a vile and urged to drink. He tried to refuse it, but was encouraged to partake.

“Sir Guy has ordered you to have it. It will ease your pain.”

Too weary and hurt to refuse again, he put the vile to his lips and drank. The liquid was warm and sweet. One of his mother’s concoctions, most likely, and he gave a silent prayer of thanks for it. His mind soon began to drift, his pain easing as the medication did its work.  

They seemed to arrive quickly at the palace, and soon he heard Evie crying out and sobbing at the sight of her husband in such grave condition.

“Simon!” she screamed. “Oh, God!”

Guy held her back as Cassia looked at Simon, then back at Guy, her eyes shining with fear.

 “Is he dead?”

Lucien, holding Thea in his arms, answered grimly.  “He yet clings to life, but by only by the barest of threads. We must get him inside, quickly.”

Cassia called for a litter, and then she saw Owen’s state of being, and as he climbed down from the cart, she touched his cheek and fussed over him.

 “Oh my darling! What happened?”

“It was an arrow, Mama. But I will be well. Simon is in greater need.”

“But you are wounded,” she insisted. “You must be in great pain.”

From within the castle, Owen heard the sound of a familiar voice. A voice that stunned him with its suddenness.

“Mama, we will aid him. Evelyn and Simon are in need of you.”

It was William who spoke. Owen shook his head, his mind clouded with drowsiness. Surely it could not be his brother. But looking up, he saw that it was indeed him.

“What are you doing here?” he asked. “And what about…”

Isabella, he wanted to say. But William would not allow further questions. Drawing Owen’s arm around his shoulder, supporting him, he helped him inside.

“Do not speak,” he said. “Conserve your energy. Explanations will do for another time.”

Owen soon found himself resting in a corner on the floor. Exhausted and hurt, he wanted nothing more than to sleep. But the sound of another voice – a woman’s voice, soft and gentle – made him raise his head.

I am delirious, he thought.

It could not be Isabella. She was far away in Spain, with her family. But from the shadows she seemed to appear, kneeling by his side. He felt her small, soft fingers stroking his forehead. William left them alone for a few moments, and Isabella spoke to him in a low, gentle tone of love.

“Dearest Owen. I am happy to be so near you again.”

Shaking his head, he tried to wake from what he felt was surely a dream. “My mind is playing tricks on me. You are a fantasy - an illusion.”

“I am no illusion,” she insisted.

“You cannot be real.” He studied her, his eyes searching her lovely face, taking in the sight of her beautiful brown eyes and golden locks of hair. Then he felt her hands gently touching his cheeks. Her lips pressed to his, warm and soft.

“Does this feel like a dream?”

His heart swelled with joy as he realized she was indeed real. She was at his side, caring for him. The pain he felt seemed to fade away for a moment, eclipsed by the thrill of her presence.

“If I am dreaming,” he said, “Never let me wake.”

She smiled at him. “It is I, Owen Gisborne. I have returned to you…”


Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 23, Part 1

Another post will be up either late tonight or tomorrow. For now, enjoy...

The call to war had been made. But a battle of a different nature was raging in the Gisborne household.

Preparations for travel were being made with great haste. All able bodied men were to meet at the Palais de la Cite, in Paris, which would be the headquarters for the war effort. Lady Evelyn, a bride for hardly a month, had just returned with her husband. Simon had insisted on bringing her back to the estate, to give her the comfort of being with her family while he was gone to war. But none of the men were prepared for the plans laid by the lady of the manor.

“You will not stop me, Guy of Gisborne.”

With servants bustling around her, Cassia was preparing to travel to war with her husband. Guy watched with helpless fury, knowing what an impossible task it was to change her mind on anything. But he vowed he would not go down without a fight. Snatching a bundle of cloth from her hands, he tossed it aside. A useless gesture, he knew. But he knew of no other way to express his rage, expect to shout and threaten her in the hopes of penetrating her thick skull.

“You will not go to Paris! And if I must bind you with rope and place you under lock and key to prevent it, I will!”

Much like an opponent who refused to submit, she would not back down, challenging him instead.

“Do it, then, if you dare. But the moment you are away, I will escape my bonds. Do not doubt my ability!”

“By God, woman. You are impossible! There are times when I think a sound whipping would serve you well!”

“Beat me, then!” she shouted. “Lock me away in a tower if you will. But while I draw breath, I will not endure the torture of ignorance – of not knowing whether my husband lives, or if I am made a widow! I will not suffer such torment again!”

He fell into silence. It was easy to forget that a long time ago, as a young girl, she had been the wife of another. That man had been lost to her in a war. Behind the light of fury in her eyes, he could see the cause for her fear - the terrifying prospect of losing what she loved most in the world. As she had always done, she seemed to read his thoughts instantly.

“You cannot reassure me with a warm embrace or soft words this time. War brings death, and untold suffering. But the cruelty of not knowing is a thousand times more painful. I will not endure it.”

He had lost the fight. The knowledge of the loss had already been heavy on his mind the moment she had made her announcement. And yet he had tried, though it was in vain. His pride had insisted on such a battle. And it was his pride that commanded him to march from the room. But his ear caught the words she spat just before the door slammed.

“You are an obstinate brute, Guy of Gisborne. Just as you have always been!”

Moving along the corridor, he passed by Owen, who looked at him with questioning eyes.

“Did you speak to her? Did she change her mind?”

Guy gave a loud snort, stunned at his son’s foolish question. “Do you not yet know your own mother? A more unconquerable beast was never born than she!”


The Palais de la Cite was astonishing in its size, and breathtaking in its design and appointments. But for Owen, it felt cold and empty, despite its being filled with so many people.

The night was quiet. The air thick with tension, for tomorrow, the men would all depart for battle. He sat among the many soldiers that were gathered, each of them occupied with the task of preparing for the day ahead. The most common task seemed to be the sharpening of swords and daggers, which he did, but with only partial focus. His eye drifted across the expanse of the Great Hall, where in a corner, the tiny band of women were gathered together. His mother, his sisters, and their ladies. All were busy with the shared chore of preparing bandages and salves. Watching them, he could not help longing for the one face that was not among them.

The journey to Paris had been long and difficult, hampered several times by bad weather and the horrible conditions of the road. But worse was the underlying current of displeasure that had flowed from the men. Guy, Simon, and Lucien were not at all pleased with the rebellion of their women, who had formed an unbreakable pact and would not be turned from their mission. Adding to the darkness of mood was the revelation that Rene – the very same scoundrel that had ruined Isabella – had been forced into service by Simon’s father. He would be among their ranks, and he would have to be contended with, despite the opposition to his presence.

Aside from the burden of Rene, Owen found himself uncertain what to make of the female presence in the castle. A part of him agreed that it was madness to bring women along on such a quest, one that was intended only for the hearty souls of men. And yet, he admired his mother’s tenacity. She had set herself to a purpose, and there was no stopping her. And it turned out – as it always did where she was concerned – that she had made a wise decision. The king, who had always admired her as a dutiful and valuable subject, was happy to assign her and her ladies the task of caring for the sick and wounded when they came. Watching them now, he thought of Isabella, and how he wished she were part of that little group.

His father and brothers had grumbled over the matter of their women following them to war. But it was becoming clear now that, despite the initial opposition to the idea, they were happy to have their mates so near.

If only I could say the same, Owen thought.

His heart was heavy as he resumed his work, which continued until late in the night. When at last the time had come for sleep, he retired to his makeshift bed next to Lucien and Thea, on the floor in the hall. There were no concessions to comfort in such crowded conditions. Only Simon and Evelyn had a measure of privacy, thanks to Simon’s high rank, and his close association with the king. They were allotted a small room of their own, while all other shared space in the hall. But Owen found that he did not care, for he could not sleep as it was.

Among his belongings, he found implements for writing. Isabella had promised to write to him, but he was growing mad with impatience.

Damn the slowness of the written word, he thought. Why can there not be a source of instantaneous connection for two lovers?

He knew his letter to her would not reach her hand for many weeks, but he needed to write it all the same. By expressing his feelings on paper, perhaps he would find some measure of peace.

Looking about, he saw that everyone had settled in for the night. Beside him, Thea and Lucien appeared to be sleeping comfortably. A good thing, he thought, for he was certain that his sister would berate and tease him for what he was doing, and that he was not in the mood for. He had enough on his mind as it was. Taking his quill in hand, dipping it into the inkwell, he began to write. Until the sound of Lucien’s voice broke the still of the night.

“You write to your lady by candle-fire, on the eve of a battle. An interesting sight to see.”

Absorbed with what he intended to express in his letter, Owen gave his brother-in-law only a glance of interest and a short reply as he wrote.

“Why interesting, brother?”

“When first we met, you did not strike me as the kind to partake of such romantic notions.”

“Nor did I think so of you. And yet, my sister managed to cast a spell upon you. It seems love has taken us both as prisoners.”

“A fate I willingly resign myself to.”

Owen could not help but smile. “As do I,” he replied.

From nearby, Guy’s words interjected, kind but firm in their usual way.

“You had best set your minds to the task that dawn brings. If you wish to return to your ladies fair, think only of victory in battle, and prepare yourself for it with sleep.”

He was right, of course. They would depart at dawn, leaving all that was certain behind. But there was one certainty he held in his heart and mind. He uttered it silently to himself.

We shall see it done. And Isabella will be my cause. My raison d'être.


The stench of death permeated the air. It was all around. And it came at him from every angle.

His body seemed to react without thought, swinging his shield up to cover his head from the blow of a mace. With his sword he jabbed his opponent from belly to backbone, sending him to the ground in agony, but another mad warrior followed instantly. Owen swung his blade across his enemy’s neck, severing an artery that spewed blood into the air. The victory was in sight. He could feel it in his blood as men fell to his sword and his fellow soldiers surged forward to take the Château Gaillard.

A shattering pain suddenly took his breath. He felt his sword fall from his grip as every ounce of his physical ability seemed to be sapped from his body. Unable to keep himself from falling, he collapsed to the ground as his brain seemed to register the point of impact. An arrow, lodged through his shoulder, was sending violent waves of agony through his entire being. His mind was screaming, demanding removal of the sharp object that was causing his blood to pour out, soaking his shirt through. He could feel himself weakening, and he began uttering a prayer of deliverance to God, even as he felt his eyes closing of their own volition.

When he heard a deep voice calling him, he stirred slightly.

Have I passed into the life to come? He wondered for a moment.

But the blinding pain returned to remind him that he was indeed, still alive. Through blurry eyes, he saw that the fighting had ceased. But the action remained, changed from engagement of combat to occupation of the enemy. And the voice that called him was not a heavenly one. It was his father, searching for him. Gathering what strength he still possessed, he tried to shout.

“Papa! I am here!”

It seemed like an eternity of waiting, but at last Guy appeared. He and Lucien were there, and Guy uttered a sigh of relief as he examined the horrific wound.

“Thank God you have been spared. We must get you away from here, and quickly.”

Owen groaned in misery as his father and Lucien lifted him up. He tried to walk, but it seemed that his legs would not support enough for it. His mind was clear one moment, foggy the next, and as he was lifted into a cart that would carry him back to the castle, he saw the body of his brother-in-law, lying bloodied and still.

“Good God. Is he dead?”

Lucien answered grimly. “He lives, but death hovers over him, waiting.”

 “We must get him to the palace,” Guy said. “Your mother will be able to care for him.”

The cloudiness of his mind seemed to grow heavier. He felt the jolt of the cart as it was set into motion, but everything after, he would not recall as he fell into a dark haze of pain and delirium.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 22, Part 2

The next installment will be up in a day or two. Thanks as always for reading! :)
They walked hand in hand, among the heady perfume of the flowers in the garden. She smiled at him, and he at her. It was only the two of them, in all the world, and he took her to a circular bench under an oak tree, where he placed her gently on his knee. His arms wound around her waist. Her slender arms came up to slide around his neck. They pressed their foreheads together, looking into each other’s eyes, and whispers of love fell from both their lips, and their mouths came together in the sweetest of kisses.

The dream began to fade, and he struggled to remain in it. He wanted to be with Isabella, to feel the warmth of her body against his - the velvet softness of her kisses, the gentle thrill of her fingertips caressing the back of his neck as he held her in his arms.

But he did wake.

It was nearly dawn. He could see the light outside, soft and purple with the coming day. His valet would be arriving at any moment, expecting to see to the morning routine. Down in the barracks, Lucien would waiting for him, as he was every morning –with the expectation of preparing for the day’s drilling.

Expectations, expectations, he muttered silently to himself. For a moment, he thought to defy those expectations – to fling off all responsibilities and lose himself in memories and imaginings of Isabella. But his father’s warning had made a deep impression. He made himself rise from his bed, moved by a new sense of purpose. His duty to the king would be fulfilled in the looming battle. But by God, he vowed he would not give up his life as part of the bargain. He would prepare for the fight by driving himself to perfection as a warrior. On the battlefield, the enemy would flee from his fierce presence, and death itself would fear to challenge him. His determination rose, energizing him. He wanted to keep that angry energy flowing, to let it carry him.

But his sorrow could not be quelled entirely. He had tried to grasp at his feelings of bitterness and anger - feelings that were so very easy to express, and which served him well in his drilling. But sadness, though the quieter of the two feelings, was certainly the stronger emotion.

Two days had passed since Isabella had gone, and yet it seemed like so very much longer. He was heartsick with missing her.

Was she well? Was her journey going smoothly? If only he could be the one to watch over her, rather than William. Having a priest as an escort was by no means a guarantee of absolute safety, but it was better for her to have someone rather than no one, and a man of the cloth was a respectable man for her escort.

He paced the floor as he dressed himself, wishing he could be there to do battle for her. But he suddenly thought of all she had gone through – all that she had endured. My Isabella, he thought, You are so strong and brave. So unafraid of anything, or anyone. If you only knew how it makes me love you more than ever.

She would survive and endure, and so too would he. A war would not keep him from her, even if time delayed their reunion. He sighed, thinking of what little time they had been allowed.

One day soon, he vowed, She will be mine, and I will be hers.

He would never be satisfied until they were together, united as man and wife. He wanted her with him, always - and he promised himself that it would not be long until his deepest desire was fulfilled.


In the field, Owen and Lucien came together in a clash of sword and armor. As they battled, Owen’s expression was dark with concentration and fury, his mouth turned down at the corners. But Lucien wore a slight smile.

“You are full of rage, brother. It befits a knight on the eve of war.”

Owen refused to answer, preferring to reply with the hammering of his weapon against Lucien’s shield. Still, his brother-in-law pressed the matter.

“Is it your woman that puts you in such a mood?”

Driven to a greater height of anger, Owen found his voice. “That is not your concern! Think of the business at hand and not of my personal affairs.”

“So it is your woman, then?”

Taking a step back, Owen thrust his sword into the ground and tossed his shield aside, stalking away towards the nearby water bucket. As he drank greedily, Lucien came to stand beside him. Owen was stunned when Lucien spoke in a quiet, gentle way – but it wasn’t the tone of his voice that surprised. It was his words.

“I know of your love for the baroness.”

Owen was shocked for only a moment longer, as angry realization came over him. “My sister would do well to keep her foolish mouth closed.”

“I have suspected it for some time, brother. Thea only confirmed what I have long thought to be true.”

Turning back towards the purpose of his weapons, he held his sword in hand, ready to continue. But Lucien stood by with his sword lowered, intent on conversing rather than drilling.

“This angry temperament will serve you well in the days to come.”

“That is exactly what I intend. Death will not find me on the battlefield.”

Lucien’s smile grew. “I believe you. And I wish you well in your endeavor to have your lady at all costs. She will be fortunate to have you.”

They took up arms again. Invigorated by thoughts of Isabella, he replied to Lucien’s comment with sense of proud possessiveness.

“No woman shall have a more loyal husband than I. And I will eradicate memories of anyone who had come before me.”

Their practice went on for quite some time. It was stopped only by the sight of a stranger, on horseback, riding fast across the fields. It was a page, hurrying in the direction of the house. Owen and Lucien stared at another, neither saying a word. The air around them changed suddenly, becoming charged with a mighty energy. It took on a tangibility that could not be denied.

The war had come.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 22, Part 1

I'll be working on the story all day, so hopefully the next part should be up very soon. For now, here's the latest bit...


Guy hesitated at Owen’s door, knowing that if he were in such a mood, he would desire solitude. It had always been his way of easing his mind. But the moment of pause was brief. Lifting the door latch, he quietly stepped into the room, finding it dimly illuminated. Only a single candle burned at the bedside, and from Owen’s seat near the window, there came the expected grumble of displeasure.

“I want no company.”

Guy closed the door behind him. Knowing something of the turmoil Owen surely felt, he was not bothered by the use of such discourteous language. Still, he felt compelled to assert his position with a mild reminder.

“When you become the lord of the manor, you may issue such commands and see them followed. But for the moment, that is my right and privilege.” Folding his arms as he approached, he leaned a shoulder against the bedpost, and looking at Owen, he came instantly to his point. “What happened?”

Silence followed his question. Not an unexpected response, considering it was Owen. They shared a closeness as father and son, but it was a bond forged by constant struggle. Even as a boy, he had always fought against the expression of what he considered “Soft feelings,” and it was easy to see that same reluctance now. As Owen moved from his seat, seeking a goblet and a flagon of wine, Guy allowed him a few moments to drink, to perhaps collect himself and speak with ease.

“I was on my way to the chateau, fully intending to do as I had planned. But as I drew closer to my destination, I was suddenly besieged by thoughts of what I intended.”

“Your conscience made you give pause?”

Owen’s reply was a surprising one. “I thought of Sebastian.”

Such a thought had never crossed Guy’s mind. But hearing Sebastian’s name mentioned, it reminded him that Isabella’s son played a part of great significance in the entire matter. He let out a sigh, his eyes cast down for a moment as he weighed his own measure of guilt in not thinking of the boy.

“I must confess, I had entirely forgotten about him. He is an unfortunate youth, and I pity him.”

“As do I,” Owen replied. “He hardly knows his mother. He has no brothers and sisters. Now he is without a father.”

“Your intent was to be the instrument of that demise. Do you now lament his death?”

Tossing back a swallow of wine, Owen’s reply was firm. “No. I am glad he is dead. But I lament Sebastian’s loss. Devil though he may have been, Gilbert LaCroix was still his father and he did his part to provide for him. Sebastian is young yet, and unaware of his father’s true nature.”

“It was the thought of him that stayed your hand?”

“How could I look in his eyes, knowing it was I who saw his father’s life taken? I know now that had I acted on my first impulses, I would have come to regret it forever.”

Guy could feel a slight lessening of the worry pressing on him. For once, Owen was acting with some sense of reason. And yet, there were many questions to be asked. Judging from Owen’s manner, his decision to forgo the committing of a crime had done little to bring him to heel.  A sense of foreboding came over him as he came to a realization. Owen’s mind was set upon some action, and Guy feared the revelation of it, for he knew it could only be some irrational act guided by dark passion and anger. With calm words and quietly spoken questions, he attempted to converse, hoping that it would gradually soothe him.

“A strange twist of fate, it seems. Your hands are clean of blood, and yet the baron is still dead. How came you to learn of his murder?”

Owen put down his goblet, and turning back, he folded his arms and began a slow walk as he answered. “I sought solace at a tavern. While there, I heard talk of his murder. According to gossip, his mistress desired better company and intended to leave. A fight ensued, and it ended with Gilbert’s death.”

“So now, you are free of your enemy and your mad intentions. Your mind should be at peace.”

“But I am without the woman I love.” Turning back towards Guy, Owen looked at him with a serious expression. “A problem I intend to rectify as soon as possible.”

That look, Guy thought. It struck him cold with fear, for that stern expression was as much his own as it was Owen’s. In those eyes, he saw a fierce determination that he knew too well.

“I will go to Spain,” Owen declared.

Guy’s stance instantly righted. His fears were being realized, right before his eyes. He was seeing himself all those years ago, set to the purpose of finding the woman he loved and vowing that neither heaven nor earth would keep him from it. But his own ambitions had not come with consequences.  There had been no one who mattered – no one who would have been affected by his wild and reckless pursuit.

The time for reason and kindness was done. It was a decision he emphasized with a firm step forward and a hard set of his features.

“You will not go.”

The defiance in Owen’s eyes, the rebellion in his manner, was maddening. He would not be turned from his decision.

“You think to keep me from Isabella?”

Guy’s voice rose, his fear and fury mingling in a rush of fierce words.

“I will not allow you to embark on a quest that may end in your death. We will soon be at war, and you are expected to do your duty.”

“My duty is to my woman.”

The stubbornness in Owen’s words pushed Guy’s temper to greater heights. “Defiant, ignorant wretch! Your duty is to your king and your family!”

“I will do as I wish and you will not have a say in it!”

With the back of his hand, Guy struck a blow to Owen’s cheek, sending him back a step. It was enough to make Owen turn away and seek the chair, where Guy had first encountered him. Taking a slow step towards him, Guy was struck by a pang of guilt. But just as quickly as it came, the regret faded away – changing to a rising of paternal anger. Cassia was the one who was capable of kindness and understanding. He had done his best to follow her example, but he could go on with it no longer. His voice was a low rumble.

“I am your father, and so help me God I will get through to you.”

The tension in the room was thick, the silence sharp.

“I will not stand by and see you hunted down for high treason. I will not let your mother suffer the sight of her son hanging from a noose, or kneeling at the ax-man’s block.”

Owen was silent. Hoping his influence had somehow settled in, Guy spoke again, his voice softer – and yet, still firm.

“If you care only for Isabella, give thought to how she will endure without her only protector. You say you love her so. And yet you will risk abandoning her altogether. What will you say to your conscience then?”

Slowly turning away, he left Owen alone. Alone with his thoughts, just as he wished to be. Perhaps that was exactly what he needed, after all.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 21, Part 3

Another short one. I'm posting as I write, so I hope you don't mind. Also, I've used Google translate for the parts in French, so if you see a mistake, feel free to kindly let me know.


The sun had long since descended, and the end of day saw the slight hint of a storm develop into a steady downpour. Cassia stood watching it from the arched vestibule of the house, her arms folded in a self-embrace. Sighing, her eyes fixed on the darkened road ahead, she spoke to her ever-present companion.

“Pourquoi pluie toujours semble accompagner cette tension?“

“Why does rain always seem to accompany such tension?”

Celeste, placing a hand on her lady’s shoulder, replied soothingly.

“Ne crains pas, ma dame. Sa seigneurie et Owen maître retournera bientôt.”

“Do not fear, my lady. His lordship and master Owen will soon return.”

She had only just declared it when a dark horse and rider appear from the blackness. But no second horse and rider followed. As Guy entered, Cassia questioned him nervously.

“Where is Owen? Did you not find him?”

He seemed hesitant, but answered. “No, I did not.”

“It grows late. Where in heaven’s name could he be at this hour?”

Guy’s manservant was waiting, quickly seeing his master removed of his wet cloak and offering him a towel to dry his face and head. All the while, Cassia watched him intently. After so many years of being married to him, she knew his mannerisms better than anyone, and at that moment, it was clear that he was withholding information from her. She could tell by the way his eyes moved, as though searching for something to focus on. Any old thing to look at. So long as he did not have to meet her eye.

“You know something, husband,” she said. “Something of significance. Tell me what it is.”

He would not look at her, but she knew he had heard her request. It became clear to her that he was waiting for the best moment to reveal what he knew – a moment when they were alone, away from the listening ears of servants. Dismissing Celeste, she waited for Guy to do the same with his valet, but he seemed to purposely delay the process, ordering wine to be brought to the bedchamber and giving voice to other orders. With impatience she followed him to their room, and when at last he took to his chair in front of the fire, she pulled another chair up close and demanded disclosure of his secret.

“Speak, Guy. I will know what you are keeping from me.”

At last he looked at her, and gave his answer.

“I fear Owen may have done the unthinkable.”

“The unthinkable?” She felt a terrible fear closing in on her. “What do you mean?”

“He left Toulon in such a rage. He swore that he would have his revenge.”

“Guy, you cannot mean…”

“He intended to kill Gilbert LaCroix.”

Cassia’s hands came to cover her mouth as she gasped. “My God!”

“He confided his intentions to me, and I swore I would help him.”

Her voice burst out in anger and shock. “How could you think to assist our son in such a heinous deed?”

“It was not my true intent!” he shouted back.

He turned his eyes to the fire. His voice softened, his fear and regret evident. “For a moment I considered it, but in the next moment it was my intention to somehow turn him from the act. Now I fear it is too late.”

He was afraid. And she shared in his fear, her first thought being a memory of not so long ago. Of her desire to help someone who was in need. Now, it seemed, her generosity had returned to haunt her. She took to walking slowly back and forth, wringing her hands as frightening thoughts haunted her mind. Guy said nothing, his mind certainly just as fraught with concern. The crackling of the fire, the only real noise in the room, somehow made the tension unbearable. What she longed to hear was the sound of her son’s voice, speaking in his bold and confident way. She longed for the sound of his footsteps as he passed by on his way to bed. She wanted him home, now. Coming to stand in front of the fire, she gave a deep and shuddering sigh.

“All of this is my fault.”

Guy lifted his head from where it rested in his hands. “Your fault?”

“I should never have allowed Isabella to stay.  If I had sent her away the night she was brought to us, none of this would have come to pass.”

“You are speaking while a veil of motherly concern clouds your eyes and judgment. You could never have turned her out.”

“What will become of our son if he has acted out his revenge?” Her voice cracked slightly, the sound of her fear growing. “It is one matter to kill a man in the defense of one’s self and the honor of a woman. It is another matter entirely to commit such a crime in cold blood. Oh, Guy, he might be arrested. Even executed or tortured!”

Rising from his chair, he grasped her hands and held her close against himself, looking down at her with eyes full of fire.

“We do not know for certain where he has gone or what he has done. We must wait and see.”

There was great power in his voice and his manner. Her heart felt as though it would burst, it was beating so. But the warmth of Guy’s hands holding hers, and his commanding presence, gave her hope. He often spoke of how everyone relied on her for wisdom and courage, but little did they know how often she doubted herself. Guy’s faith in her, his love and encouragement, were a source of strength that kept her going in times such as these.

A knock at this door broke the silence. The housekeeper entered a moment later, a relieved expression on her face.

“My lord, my lady. Master Owen has returned.”

Cassia gave a sigh of relief. “Praise God.” As Guy took her hand, taking her with him towards the door, she silently prayed that their son had not done a wrong he would forever regret.

Out in the gallery, they saw Owen as he came up the stairs. He was drenched, and they watched as he refused the attention of his valet. Misery was written in his every feature. Cassia wanted to rush to him, to shower him with motherly attention, but his surly demeanor held her back. And yet, she could not remain entirely passive.

“Owen, thank God you are home,” she said.

Without looking up, he attempted to pass by them. “I must be alone, Mama.”

“Owen, you will tell us where you have been,” Guy demanded. “We must know if you have…”

“Gilbert LaCroix is dead.”

Cassia felt her heart go cold with dread. She reached her hand out towards him.

“No, Owen. No.”

His reply was quick and abrupt. “It was not done by my hand.”

She felt Guy’s arm going around her waist, drawing her against his side. She could sense his relief, which she shared. But his curiosity was just as strong, as hers was. They gave Owen a moment, allowing him to reply in his own time. His answer stunned them both.

“The baron was found in his bedchamber, stabbed to death at the hands of his mistress. So you may both set your minds at ease. I have not done murder a second time.”

The burden was lifted. Cassia could feel the lightening of her soul, and of Guy’s. She could hear it in his voice.

“My son, you cannot know what a burden you have just removed from our hearts.”

Owen’s response was soft but harsh, his tone grim.

“I wish to be alone, Papa. I beg of you, please leave me be.”

Guy and Cassia watched as he made his way towards his room, leaving them relieved and troubled, both in equal measure.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 21, Part 2

A short bit for today, but I will have more this weekend. Doing my best to get this story across the finish line. :)


Holding her hand in his, Owen kissed Isabella’s fingers. He had no care for those who might be watching. His mother and father were observing from a distance. For a moment he thought of the tears that were in her eyes as she watched in helpless despair. There would be no miraculous solution this time, no sudden fount of wisdom from her that would make everything right with the world. Isabella was leaving, and all he could do was stand with her for the last time, knowing that the ship would depart at any moment.

Do not go, he wanted to plead. Stay with me.

All he wanted to do was wind his arms around her and never let go. The impulse to kiss her, to express every ounce of love and passion, was so strong that he nearly succumbed to it. But to do so was to put her on public display. And that, he refused to do. But he could not help the sound of a plea in his voice. Desperately, he tried to think of something that would sway her decision.

“What will Sebastian do without his mother?”

In an instant, he regretted using the subject of her son to persuade her. But just as quickly he convinced himself that it was a perfectly honest inquiry. How could she leave him this way? Looking into her eyes, he saw a great sadness shining there – but just as deep was the light of resolve. Her decision had been made, and she would not be swayed from it.

“He has grown accustomed to my absence from his life. If I could have him with me always, I would be more grateful than words can say. But he is happy at this moment. He is in a stable home, with people who can love and care for him. To uproot him from a life he is just growing accustomed to – to take him on a long and uncertain journey. I cannot subject him to that.”

“Will you write me?”

She nodded. “I promise. And I will think of you every day.”

“As will I,” he said, his voice soft and low.

William was to escort her home, but that was too small a comfort. He wanted to be her only protector. What right did any other have, when he was the one person in the world who truly loved and cared for her?

A shout from onboard, the sound of the captain’s voice, told them that the time had come. His last hope was that she would refuse to go.

Tell me that leaving me is impossible, he thought. Tell me you love me so deeply that you will defy every rule and custom.

But she was pulling away from his arms, and he could only watch helplessly as William escorted her across the gangway. His eyes remained fixed on her face as she stood at the side of the boat, looking back at him. All too soon, the ship was drifting away from the dock, and he could not watch it any longer. Turning away, passing by his mother and father, he found it difficult to look at them. Their expressions, particularly his mother’s eyes shining with pity, were nothing but a cruel reminder. His father had vowed to help him justify the wrongs that had been done, but that was still a task that remained in the future. What was it to him at this moment?

A purpose, he silently answered himself, his mind turning instantly towards the one thing that would bring him gratification. Reaching his horse, lifting himself into the saddle, he sat tall and determined. A dark look crossed his features.

“Let us depart for home,” he said. “There is much to be done.”

It was wrong, he knew, to leave without waiting for his mother and father. But at that moment, he could think of no one but himself. Urging his horse into a run, he wished nothing more than to be away from Toulon altogether. The feeling of the air stinging his face, the pulsing of his blood as he sped along, served to soothe him – if only in a small way. For several miles he and his horse flew on, until he came halfway to his senses and set a slower pace. His horse was loyal and strong, and Samson did not deserve to be winded because of his master’s wild emotions. Alone on the road, free to think and express himself as he pleased, he turned his thoughts to the hours and days ahead.

Days without Isabella.

He could already feel the weight of sorrow pressing heavily on him, but more so, he could feel darkness flooding his soul. A burning desire swelled within him, like a fever growing. A fever that would only be cured with blood.


Inside the carriage, Guy let out a deep sigh as he stretched his legs. He gave special attention to his ankle, testing it, turning it carefully to try its ability. Before the journey to Toulon, it had given him such pain that he had taken to the carriage for the trip, rather than riding horseback. Turning to look at Cassia, he now felt strangely glad to have made such a decision, for he saw that her eyes were shining with moisture. It pained him to see her so, fighting back tears, and he placed a hand on her knee, speaking gently to her.

“Beloved, do not cry.”

Her hand came to cover his. Her voice was sad as she replied. “I feel as though I have failed him, Guy. I have failed our son.”

Putting his arm around her, he drew her close to his side and pressed a soft kiss to the top of her head. In times such as this, he felt he held certain superiority over other men – a stronger sense of courage, in that he was not above offering her comfort, and found pleasure in doing so.

“There is no fault to be found in you,” he said. “What might you have done?”

Her voice rose slightly, a note of anger in her tone that expressed her self-frustration.

“I should have imagined something. Some way to bring them together.”

It was a pity to see her robbed of her hopes – something he could not recall having seen before, at least not to such a degree. She had always been the buoyant, vibrant force that bound the lot of them together. Everyone turned to her for wisdom and courage, and he so loved and admired her for it. Now she felt that her greatest strength was lost. Holding her more firmly in his arms, he let her spill her tears against his shoulder as he tried to ease her suffering with gentle words.

“My love, your romantic notions are admirable. But I am afraid even you, witch that you are, cannot conjure a spell that will alter fate. Isabella was wise to depart for her homeland. It is better for her sake, and for Owen’s. He will find another.”

“But he will suffer cruelly now. You know what it is to be without the one you love. And knowing his nature, will punish himself and those around him.”

He did not say so, but he knew the truth of her declaration, and he felt a pang of sadness at its realization. Owen was so like himself. So headstrong, so prone to anger and displays of rage. It was sad to imagine the path he would soon take. But for Cassia’s sake, he tried to downplay the grimness of the matter.

“Then we must do our best to support and care for him. We will see him through, my love. I swear it.”

He hoped to give her courage with his words. If only he could believe it himself.


The late afternoon was gloomy, the wind rising as the carriage made its way along the road. Cassia was asleep against his shoulder, but Guy’s thoughts were far away. One thought repeated constantly in his mind.

Owen will not act without my aid. He will not.

As the miles went by, he continued to say it to himself. But the closer to home they ventured, the more uncertain he became. Closing his eyes, he uttered a brief prayer of aid, hoping that Owen’s good sense would remain.

The carriage neared the house, and he prodded Cassia gently to wake her. As she yawned and stretched, his eye began a search outwards, towards the grounds. Owen’s horse was not in sight, and for a moment, he felt a sudden trouble nagging him. But he tried to brush it aside.

His horse is in the stable, of course, he told himself. Calm yourself, Guy of Gisborne.

But there was a feeling of dread that he could not shake. As he helped Cassia from the carriage, walking with her towards the front of the house, they were met in the usual way by the steward and housekeeper.

“Where is Owen?”

Emile looked at him with a blank expression. “Beg pardon, my lord?”

“Where is my son?”

The look of confusion remained. “Was he not with you, my lord?”

“He rode ahead of the carriage,” Cassia said. “Is he not at home?”

“No one has seen him, my lady.”

Guy felt his stomach drop, knowing with certainty where Owen had gone. Cassia, looking at him, seemed to read his expression of great concern. She tried to console him.

“Do not be concerned, Guy. I am certain he will return soon.”

He shook his head, turning away. “You do not understand.”

“What do I not understand?”

“He is intent on doing …” The word murder was just at his lips. But for her sake, he held it back. “I fear he has foolish intent. I must find him at once.”

Summoning a stable hand, he was soon in the saddle and on the road, on his way towards the Chateau LaCroix. Hoping he was not too late.