Marsha Canham's Blog

September 5, 2011

Readalong Monday…Chapter Eight

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 5:26 am

It’s Monday again, so another stirring, rousing, exciting chapter of Through A Dark Mist.  I hope everyone is enjoying the adventure so far.

I must apologize again for the goofy way this chapter has copied and pasted. I still can’t figure out how to fix the settings on my farking Office Word to get rid of the little square dufus things that mark the corners of each page, and if anyone out there DOES know how to fix it or even what it’s called, please email me.  The text looks fine in the original file, but when I copy and paste it here, the formatting is all screwy. I’ve tried clearing the formatting, setting the margins to zero.  AUGH just AUGH.  Why is it cutting sentences in half?????  Why is it chopping the first line of each paragraph off after three words????  Any ideas?

Through A Dark Mist  Copyright © Marsha Canham

Chapter Eight

Servanne slept
twelve hours without so much as rolling from one hip to the other. She would
have slept even longer if not for the loud blowing of a ram’s horn from
somewhere beyond the refectory walls, calling the outlaws to their evening
meal. She awoke with a groggy, thick sensation stalling her eyelids, and would
have gladly lowered her head to the furs again had she not caught a fleeting
glimpse of the nerve-shattering glare Biddy launched at her from across the
room.

“Biddy? What is
the time? How long have I been sleeping?”

“I am not
familiar with the hours these wolverines keep,” Biddy replied archly, her back
as stiff as a swaddling board. “There are no bells to toll Vespers; thus I have
been praying quite fervently on my own for some time now.”

“Praying? For
what?” Servanne yawned.

“For salvation,”
Biddy declared. “For redemption in the eyes of God and man—assuming it is not
too late to plead for forgiveness before either!”

“Oh Biddy—”
Servanne frowned and stretched cozily within the warm cocoon of furs. “What are
you talking about? What has happened now that requires forgiveness?”

“What has
happened?” she demanded shrilly. “You can lie there and ask me what has
happened? Better it is I who should be asking you—as if mine own eyes have not
already given me the answers. Sweet Mary Mother in Heaven, I should have known
it would come to this. I should have known it was his intent from the outset.
And you! I blame only myself for what has become of you. Too innocent, you
were. Too much talk, too great the temptation. Oh yes, I could see the
temptation; who could not? Who could not?”

The older woman
blew her nose savagely into a sodden scrap of linen and cursed as she was
forced to wipe her fingers on the hem of her tunic. In the next wailing breath,
she resumed her self-condemnation before an utterly confused and bewildered
Servanne de Briscourt.

“In all of my
eighteen years as your nurse and companion, I never dreamed I would bear
witness to such wanton behaviour. From other women—plain women, common women,
trulls and whores, oh yes, I should have expected it and known how to deal with
their urges. For women such as those, taking a lusty man to their beds is as
commonplace as lifting a leg to piss.”

“Biddy!”
Servanne gasped, jolted wide awake.

“But you! I
thank the Lord your sweet, saintly mother did not live to see such a thing. And
with such a one as him! Sweet Jesu, had I but suspected such a need in you, I
would rather have seen you serviced by one of the guardsmen along the way—”

“Biddy!”

“—than by that
great, lustful brute! At least it could have been arranged with some
discretion! Not like this! Not … not brazenly walking through the hall, with
him naked as a bull and you”—Biddy waved a hand in unfathomable distress—“you
hanging off his neck, looking as if you could scarce wait to have a bed beneath
you!”

Servanne made a
strangled sound in her throat and sat bolt upright. “Biddy! What are you
saying? What are you accusing me of doing?”

“Do you deny you
were hanging off his neck when he carried you in here?” Biddy demanded with
narrowed eyes.

“I was not
hanging off his neck!. I was in a faint!”

“So would any
normal woman be to see the size of him,” came the scandalized retort. “Curse me
if I did not think he had grown a third arm to support you!”

Servanne
flushed. “Biddy! He was naked because he was bathing in the pond. I fainted
because I was … I was exhausted—you, of all people should know why! And he must
have carried me back here because I could not walk the distance on my own.”

Biddy stopped
fussing with the bit of linen long enough to arch a brow sardonically. “And I
suppose he helped you out of your clothing because he was concerned they might
choke you in your sleep? I suppose he remained with you in here for nigh unto
an hour because he was worried you might not be able to fall asleep on your
own?”

Servanne
clutched the layer of furs to her naked breasts. “He … unclothed me?”

“He did indeed.
And he enjoyed the view for considerably longer than it should have taken to
fold the garments and lay them neatly aside—had he troubled himself to do so,
that is.”

Servanne
followed an accusing finger and felt her mouth go dry at the sight of her gown
and under-garments strewn across the earthen floor. She swallowed hard and
pressed a trembling hand to her temple.

“I do not
remember,” she whispered. “I do not remember anything after I fainted.”

Yet that was not
exactly the truth either and she did not have to hear Biddy’s snort of disdain
to feel the heat creeping upward in her cheeks. She did remember something—a
feeling, or a sensation of intense warmth and pleasure. But … it was not
possible for him to have lain with her and not left something of his presence
behind.

Servanne flung
the pelts aside and examined herself critically, searching for bruises or faded
blotches that would either condemn or vindicate her in Biddy’s eyes. There was
nothing, however. No marks on the ivory smoothness of her body, no scent of
human contact, no telltale tenderness between her thighs. Surely a man of his
size, his weight, his temperament would have left a mark of some kind, either
branded onto her body or seared into her mind.

Lacking proof
one way or the other, she drew upon her anger. “Where were you all this time?
How do you know he was alone with me for an hour? Why were you not here by my
side to defend and protect me?”

A new flood of
tears sprang from the matron’s hazel eyes. “I tried, my lady! Oh how I tried to
run to your side! It was that wretched Woodcock who held me back. Firstly, he
led me on a merry chase around the forest. Then, when he finally returned to
the abbey—just in time to see the outlaw leader bringing you in here—the rogue
drew his knife and bade me sit in company with several other ruffian misfits
while his lord ‘attended his private affairs privately.’ To have moved or cried
out would have earned a blade thrust into my breast, and I did not see how I,
dead upon the ground of a pierced breast, could have been of any further use to
you.”

“What use are
you to me now,” Servanne snapped, trembling with anger, “when you refuse to
believe me when I say I have no memory of what happened, and no cause to feel
shame or guilt over my behaviour!”

A second
anguished wail from Biddy’s throat sent Servanne’s eyes rolling skyward and her
hands crushing against her temples. A further distraction—the swirl of her
uncombed, unfettered hair around her shoulders—sent her anger boiling in
another direction.

“Where is he?
Where is the rogue: I shall have the truth from him myself!”

“Oh! Oh, my
lady, no. No!”

“My clothes,”
Servanne commanded. “My combs, my wimple—where are they?”

“Not within my
grasp, my lady,” Biddy replied, sniffling wetly. “What trunks were fetched with
us in the ambuscade have not appeared since. Where they are or what has become
of the contents, I cannot say.”

“Never mind,
then. Just help me dress.”

Biddy hastened
to collect up the scattered garments. The gown was slightly more crumpled and
stained from its stay on the floor, as were the knee garters and short silken
hose. The samite surcoat was nowhere to be seen, but Biddy removed her own
plain gray mantle and wrapped it securely about her charge’s shoulders for
warmth. She was about to part and plait the tousled skeins of hair into more
modest and manageable braids, but Servanne pushed the fussing hands away and
swept out into the corridor.

After a moment’s
pause to gain her bearings, she followed the dank stone hall to the right. It
emerged at the top of a shallow flight of steps overlooking the pilgrims’ hall
at a point midway between two of the roofless stone arches. The scene before
her appeared much as it had the previous evening, with fires crackling in the
roasting pit, and torches burning smokily from their wall sconces. Cauldrons
bubbled steamy clouds of aromatic mist into the cooler air, adding to the dull
sheen of moisture that clung to the charred walls and broken ribs of the abbey.

Trestle tables
had once again been set in an open-sided square under the sheltered portion of
the roof. He was sitting there on the dais, the vest of black wolf pelts
reflecting glints of fire and torchlight. He was engrossed in a conversation
with Gil Golden, but when the latter’s eyes flicked to the far wall, the Black
Wolf stopped and followed his stare.

Servanne had no
notion of the image she presented, nor would she have cared a potter’s damn if
she had. The dark woolen cloak she wore completely encased her slender body
from shoulders to toes, leaving only the wild, voluminous cascade of
silver-blonde hair to outline an ethereal image against the shadows. The
ghostlike apparition startled several of the outlaws, even those who were open
in their scorn for the legends and superstitions surrounding Thornfeld Abbey.
Many went so far as to reach instinctively for their weapons before recognizing
the figure as being of this mortal earth.

The Wolf rose
and walked slowly around the end of the table and down the hall. If not for the
fickle light that kept his features veiled in shadow, she might have noticed
the strange gleam that mellowed the gray of his eyes, softened them, even, to a
shade verging on pale blue.

“I trust you are
feeling better for your rest?” he asked.

Servanne said
nothing until he had come to a full halt before her. When she did speak, it was
in a voice so low he almost had to bend forward to hear.

“I trust you
enjoyed the liberties you took while I was resting?”

“Liberties, my
lady?”

“How dare you
touch me,” she snapped, “let alone remove so much as a slipper from my foot!”

“Ahh,” he said,
and straightened. “Those liberties. You would have preferred to sleep in cold,
wet clothes?”

“My clothing was
not wet,” she objected. “I was no nearer the edge of the water than I am to you
now.”

His grin
broadened. “You were very nearly headfirst into the mud and weeds had I not
caught you in time. Furthermore …” His gaze raked appreciatively down the
shapeless form of the cloak and left no doubt as to what he recalled seeing
beneath. “I did what any chivalrous fellow would do to save his lady the
possible discomfort of fever or flux.”

Servanne
clenched her small hands into fists. “I am not your lady. And if you were so
concerned over my health, why did you not call my waiting-woman to attend me?”

“I could have,”
he agreed blithely, “but I thought it a convenient opportunity to assess the
precise value of the goods I am holding to ransom. Had I done so earlier, I
heartily believe I would have put a much higher price on returning them
undamaged.”

“Then … you did
not—” Servanne bit her lip, resenting the flow of ruddy colour that made his
smile widen further.

“I am crushed,
indeed, my lady, that you should have to ask.”

“Biddy believes
you did more than see to my comfort. She does not believe I have no
recollection of what happened after I fainted beside the pool.”

“My reputation
as a lecher will be in shreds,” he murmured.

“Did you or did
you not take ill advantage, sirrah?” she demanded, giving her foot a little stamp
of annoyance.

“If I did?”

“If you did”—she
searched his face in vain for a trace of humanity—“then you are a lower, viler
creature than ever I could have imagined.”

The Wolf
laughed. “I was under the impression your estimation of my character could sink
no lower than it was already.”

“I have erred
before in crediting a man with too much character,” she retorted. “For that
matter, most men in general tend to show a glaring lack of consistency when
their true faces come into the light.”

“Spoken like a
woman who is tired of being sold into marriages with one stranger after
another.”

“Nay, wolf’s
head. I am simply tired of men who continually deign to know what is best for
me and who then proceed to rearrange my life to suit their needs.”

“And what needs,
might I inquire, would you prefer to have tended?”

Servanne flushed
again. “Mon Dieu, but you are an exasperating cur! Will you or will you not
answer my question truthfully?”

“Truthfully—” He
said the word in such a way as to raise a spray of gooseflesh along her arms.
“Had I seen to my own comforts as well as yours, you would not now have the
shield of a blank memory to hide behind. Nor would there be a need to ask what
manner of liberties I had taken, for your body would still be singing their
effects loudly and clearly.”

Servanne’s jaw
dropped inelegantly. She took a small, stumbling step back, and then another,
but before she could turn and run from the mocking gray glint of his eyes, a
sharp fff-bungg! split the air and left an ashwood arrow quivering in the
wooden arch beside her. A shriek sent her jumping forward and the Wolf suddenly
found himself standing with an armful of trembling, soft femininity.

“Runner coming
in, my lord!” someone called.

“Who?” the Wolf
asked, not troubling himself to turn around.

“Sigurd’s
handiwork,” said Gil Golden, noting the arrow’s fletching with a wry grimace.
“No one else wastes so much quill.”

None of the
other outlaws contributed comments. None even appeared to have heard Gil’s, or
so it seemed to Servanne. Everyone—the men at the tables, the men not yet in
their seats, even the two women who bent over the cooking fires—all of them
stood frozen in place, like statues turned to stone. Apart from the hiss and
crackle of the fires, there was only silence. A silence so acute that when a
second arrow streaked through the darkness to strike the same archway, one
could almost swear to have heard the resonant twang of the bowstring.

Like magic, the
tableau dissolved. The men and women resumed their conversations and their
tasks at hand. Servanne, having once again buried her face in the protective
thickness of the wolf pelts, felt a pair of gentle hands pry her loose.

“We use the
double signal to ensure the men coming in are our own,” the Wolf explained.
“Even those who possess limitless courage have been known to give away the
deepest of secrets under expert torture, and, since it is not inconceivable to
assume the sheriff has sent his pack of hounds out after us, we have arranged
different signals for each day.”

“Bah! Old Noddypeak
should have chased his tail into a fine tangle by now,” Sparrow chuckled,
materializing out of nowhere. “Especially since he was sent chasing it in ten
different directions.”

“I should think
Sigurd will be bringing news of a new hound in the forest,” the Wolf mused
thoughtfully. “One whose nose is tuned to a sweeter scent.”

Wardieu,
Servanne realized, the excitement flaring within her like a sudden flame. Lord
Lucien Wardieu was in the forest, come to rescue her from this … this …

With a start,
she became aware of how close she was standing to her tormentor. Her fingers
were curled around shanks of gleaming black fur; his hands were still resting
on her shoulders, the intimacy of the contact hidden from view by the flowing
mass of her hair, but one that was felt most disconcertingly throughout every
inch of her trembling flesh.

His potent
maleness was unsettling; more so when a vivid picture of him flashed into her
mind and remained there—a picture of him standing naked in the knee-deep water
of the Silent Pool, his flesh steaming, his muscles rippling beneath the sheath
of taut skin.

Conscious of the
fact that he seemed to have little difficulty in reading her thoughts, Servanne
quickly lowered her lashes and extricated herself from his embrace. As before,
she missed the flicker of colour that came and went in his eyes, nor did she
see the way his fingers curled and hoarded the distinct, tingling memory of her
warmth.

“I would like to
return to my chamber now,” she said.

“Whereas I would
enjoy your company beside me at the table again.”

“I am not
hungry.”

“I am. And
unless you would care to see my appetite roused for more than food, you would
be wise not to attempt to defy me in this.”

Servanne looked
up. The promise was there for a blind man to see, as was the disturbing
realization it had only been by the slenderest thread of chance she had
awakened alone in her bed.

“I … should at
least like to make myself more presentable,” she said tremulously, reaching up
with an unsteady hand to smooth the flown wisps of her hair.

“You are more
than presentable just the way you are,” he insisted, extending an arm in a
mockingly gallant gesture.

Servanne doubted
she could touch him again and come away unscathed. She gathered the folds of
her skirt and cloak in her hands to lift them clear of the fouled rushes on the
floor, and, with as much indifference as she could put into the tilt of her
chin, preceded him to the raised dais.

The meal
progressed as it had the previous evening, the exception being that Servanne
shared her settings with the outlaw leader rather than with Sparrow. The
latter, happily taking on a joint of mutton almost as large as he was, kept the
conversation light and easy, but though he tried his valiant best, failed to
win a smile from their silvery-haired hostage. He assumed it was because she
had overheard Sigurd’s report, delivered halfway through the meal, that there
was indeed a new player in the game of hide and seek. While he was not far
wrong in his guess, he was not exactly right, either. For every one thought
Servanne had concerning the whereabouts of the Baron de Gournay, she had three
for the man who sat on her right-hand side—the man who met her gaze each time
without a hint of shame, or guilt, or regret; just the infuriatingly smug
self-assurance of someone who believes his way is the only way.

“Who are you?”
she asked quietly. “Why have you come toLincoln?”

“I have already
told you who I am.”

“You have not
told me why I should believe you.”

He seemed to
want to smile at that. “Have I ever lied to you?”

He was looking
at her, into her, through her, and Servanne felt the flesh across her breasts
and belly tighten, as if left on a tanner’s rack too long. “As far as I know,
you have lied to me about everything.”

“Everything?” he
asked, his thigh brushing not-so-accidentally against hers.

Servanne shifted
on her stool and laced her fingers tightly together on her lap. “You have lied
about who you are, and what you are,” she insisted softly. “You hide behind the
lincoln-green badge of an outlaw, yet your motives for being here in these
woods have nothing to do with bettering the conditions of the poor, or righting
injustices committed in the king’s name, or fighting against oppression—real or
imagined. You have gathered about you a few local villagers to give some
credence to the charade, but you are not from these parts. I doubt you have
been in England as long as it took to grow the hair past your collar—or long
enough to know there have been no black wolves in Britain since King Henry laid
a high bounty on their pelts. Certainly not enough to fashion so fine a mantle,
or be willing to throw so casually on a bed.”

The Wolf was
mildly taken aback; moderately impressed. After some consideration for the
surprised silence that had fallen over the other outlaws seated on the dais, he
carefully wiped the blade of his eating knife clean, sheathed it, and stood up,
indicating the door with a tilt of his head. “Come. Walk with me. There is but
a half moon tonight, perhaps enough to hint at what the gardens may once have
held.”

“Absolutely
not!” she gasped, horrified at the suggestion.

The Wolf gave
her a moment to reconsider of her own accord, then leaned over close enough
that his words went no further than her pink-tipped ears. “You can either walk
with me now, or lie with me later; the choice is yours where we take a few
words of private conversation.”

The mist was
more pervasive out-of-doors. Thick, opalescent sheets of it swirled at knee
level over the slick cobbles, masking the weed and rot, the neglect, and the
decay. There were no torches lit outside the hall, but as Servanne’s eyes
adjusted to the faint light of the crescent moon, she could see the vague
outlines of the other ruined buildings, the stone cistern in the centre of the
court, the vine-covered arches that formed a narrow walkway leading toward the
chapel. She was thankful for Biddy’s warm woolen cloak, and drew it close about
her shoulders. Tiny droplets of mist clung to her face and throat, and coated
her hair like a fine-spun silver web.

“The gardens are
this way,” said the Black Wolf, walking toward the arches. “If you look closely
enough, you can still find the odd wild rosebush growing amongst the bracken.”

How vitally
important to know, Servanne thought angrily, stepping around a jagged gap in
the stone cobbles. She stretched her arm out for balance, startled slightly
when she felt his huge, warm hand take hold of hers. Rather than jerk it away
and appear twice the fool, she permitted the infringement until the footing was
once again solid beneath her. A short distance into the steeped silence of the
ancient gardens, she balked completely, refusing to go another step in the
company of a man whom she had every reason to believe would kill her without
hesitation if the situation arose.

“Who are you?”
she asked again. “And why have you come toLincoln?”

He stopped on
the path just ahead of her and slowly turned around. “My name is Lucien
Wardieu,” he said quietly. “And I have come home.”

“You say you are
Lucien Wardieu, but if you are, why do you hide here in the forest like a
common outlaw? Who is the man who is now residing in Bloodmoor Keep? Why has he
taken your name if it does not belong to him? And how has he managed to keep it
all these years without anyone challenging his identity before now?”

The Wolf crossed
his arms over his massive chest and leaned back against one of the arches.

“A great many
questions, my lady. Are you sincere in wanting to know the answers?”

“I want to know
the truth,” she said evenly.

“The truth
should not require proof, and a man should not have to prove who he is if he
swears to that truth upon his honour. I know who I am. So does the impostor
residing at Bloodmoor Keep.”

“That …
impostor, as you call him … has ridden to war with Richard the Lionheart.”

“I do not doubt
he has.”

“Prince John
trusts and confides in him.”

“You would use
such a recommendation to vouchsafe a man’s character?” he scoffed.

“It has even
been whispered that if John ascends to the throne, he will be sufficiently
indebted to the Baron de Gournay to appoint him chancellor, or marshal!”

“John Lackland
does not bear up well under debts; he prefers to hire assassins to repay them.
As for his ascending the throne—how do these whisperers of yours say he will
overcome the annoying matter of Prince Arthur ofBrittany?”

Servanne bit her
lips, sensing yet another verbal trap looming before her like a snake pit. Of
King Henry’s five sons, only Richard—the eldest—and John, the youngest, were
still alive. Geoffrey, next to youngest, had died several years ago, but had
left as his heirs, a son and a daughter. Since he would have been in line to
the throne after Richard, the right of succession would naturally pass to his
son Arthur upon the king’s death, and after him, his sister, Princess Eleanor.

The snakes in
the pit writhed a little closer as Servanne offered lamely, “But Arthur is only
a child. Prince John would never—” She stopped again, catching the treasonous
thought before it took on substance.

The Wolf held no
such reservations.

“John would
never kill his own nephew? My dear deluded lady: Prince John of the Soft Sword
would kill his mother, his wife, his own children if he thought their removal
would win him the crown of England.
How long do you suppose Richard would have survived poison in his cup if he
were not already hell-bent on killing himself on the end of some infidel’s
sword?”

“I do not
believe you,” she said without much conviction. “Not about Prince Arthur, at
any rate. And besides, he is quite safe with his grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine,
in Brittany. She would never allow any harm to befall him, most decidedly not
at the hand of her own son!”

The Wolf looked
away, looked up at the slivered moon for a long moment, then looked back at
Servanne. “What if I were to tell you an attempt has already been made on the
prince’s life? What if I told you he and his sister were kidnapped from the
dowager queen’s castle at Mirebeau four months ago?”

“Kidnapped?”

“Stolen away in
the middle of the night under the eyes and ears of a thousand of Eleanor’s most
trusted guards. It took a full week just to discover how the kidnapping was
done—a rather cleverly executed gambit, I might add. Two men shinnied up the
small tower that carries the castle wastes down into the moat. Someone should
have smelled the pair about their task if nothing else, but alas, no one did,
and the children were smuggled out the same way.

“Luckily,” he
continued with a sigh, “their escape from Brittany was not
so well planned or executed, and Arthur was safely retrieved before he could be
put on board a ship for England. One of the men involved in the kidnapping was taken alive and
revealed quite an interesting tale to his, ah, inquisitor. The more questions
that were asked, the more answers were received, and in the end, most of the
pieces of the puzzle made sense once they were fit into place.”

“No! It makes no
sense at all!” she cried. “Why would anyone want to kidnap the prince? He is
but a child.”

“A child first
in line to the throne,” the Wolf reminded her. “Keeping him prisoner, or better
yet, bending his mind enough to eventually have him judged insane, or
incompetent to rule … John would be the natural choice to assume the throne in
his stead.”

“You are
forgetting the Princess Eleanor.”

“The sister of a
mad prince? Hardly a likely candidate.”

“So you think
John was behind it?”

“No one else
would have half so much to gain.”

Thrust and
counterthrust. Talking to him was like taking a lesson in swordplay.

“Has the queen
challenged John with the accusation?” she asked.

“Challenge a
ferret to explain the feathers stuck to his mouth? What good would come of it,
especially when the chick came to no harm?”

Servanne’s brows
drew together in a frown. “You speak with a great deal of liberty and
familiarity. I hope … I trust you are not daring to imply that you hold the
queen’s confidence?”

“Me, my lady? By
your own words a rogue and wolf’s head?”

“A rogue most
certainly,” she said carefully. “But as I said before, no more born to the
forest than I was. I may not know who you are, sirrah, but I do know what you
are, and have known from the instant you stood your challenge to us on the
road.”

“Have you now,”
he mused, his eyes catching an eerie reflection from the moon. “Suppose you
tell me what you know … or think you know.”

“Will you tell
me if I am right?”

“That depends on
how right you are.”

Parry, and
thrust. Servanne accepted the challenge, however, knowing this was as close as
she was likely to come to a confession, or an admission.

Mimicking his
arrogant stance, she crossed her arms over her chest and slowly walked a
half-circle around him, inspecting the powerful body with a detachment better
suited to choosing livestock at a fair.

“Throughout most
of my life I have watched knights training and fighting,” she began. “I know
the musculature of a well-practiced sword arm, and the look of limbs that are
more accustomed to feeling horseflesh between them than soft deerhide. Your
arms and shoulders have been thickened against the constant chafing of heavy
chain-mail armour, and the scars I saw on your body this morning were not
earned in a forest or on a farm, but on a battlefield, and in the tournament
lists.”

He said nothing
to either confirm or deny her observations, and Servanne continued even more
boldly.

“You carry your
years well,” she said, glancing speculatively up at the shadowed face. “But
there are more behind you, methinks, than ahead. Five and thirty, I should
guess.”

“Too close by
three to the grave,” he chided dryly, “But commendable.”

“Take away at
least twenty of those years for the time it took you to earn your spurs, and
that leaves … mmm … twelve full of mysteries to solve. Too many, I think, for
one quick judgment, but shall I pick one or two for consideration?”

“I confess, I am
intrigued, madam. Pray go on.”

“Will you acknowledge
your knighthood?”

“Will it change
your opinion of me if I do?”

“Not one wit.”

“Then I
acknowledge it,” he grinned, bowing to her cleverness.

“And yet,” she
murmured, almost to herself, “You are well schooled in the use of a bow—not a
common weapon for a knight. In fact, I rather thought nobles disdained any
knowledge of archery beyond the value of entertainment.”

“The result of a
physic’s wisdom,” he conceded, shrugging his broad shoulders. “He had some idea
the drawing of a bowstring would quicker restore the strength to my arms while
I recovered from my wounds.”

Servanne spared
a thought for the incredible corded tautness of his muscles and applauded the
physician’s judgment.

“And your men?
Were they all recovering from wounds as well?”

“Wounded vanity,
perhaps. They are a competitive lot and would not see their captain with a
skill better than they possessed.”

“Captain?” she
asked, pouncing on the slip. “Past rank, or present?”

The Wolf took
too long to answer, which was all the answer Servanne required to feel a surge
of triumph.

“That you have
been on Crusade is scarcely worth the breath to debate, but I would hesitate to
put forth the suggestion that any infidel could have wrought such damage as in
the scars I saw today.”

“You question
their skill as worthy opponents?”

“Oh, I have no
doubt they are most worthy; both savage and dangerous, as well as fearsomely
skilled fighters, else King Richard would have laid their army to dust years
ago. But to fight you, my lord wolf’s head, they would have to have the added
skill and knowledge of how to attack a man who favours the left hand. Most
soldiers never encounter a left-handed opponent in a lifetime of battle and
thus are rarely able to defend an attack, let alone overcome an enemy with your
skill and strength. No. Whoever left his mark upon you knew exactly what he was
doing. He knew where your weakest, most vulnerable points lay, and he struck at
them with relentless accuracy. Moreover, he would have had to have been almost
your equal in size and skill to have done as much damage as he did and live to
walk away.”

The Wolf frowned
with genuine curiosity. “What the devil leads you to suppose he lived?”

“When you were
bathing, you were very meticulous about touching upon each scar—a ritual of
some sort, I imagine. Men do not continually refresh the memory of wounds
delivered by dead men, only those delivered by enemies upon whom they might
still seek revenge.”

The Wolf fell
silent. And waited.

“Therefore,” she
concluded, “we now have a man who was—or is—of the order; a man who makes vague
claims to be engaged in the honourable service of Eleanor of Aquitaine, yet who
definitely took a dishonourable foray into kidnapping so that he might … what?
Revenge himself upon an old enemy? An enemy he claims has stolen his name and
birthright?” Servanne stopped and glanced up in the darkness. “You call this
supposed usurper by the none-too-amiable appelation of Dragon. What was he once
called … friend?”

The Wolf shook
his head slowly, too far into the battle to sound a retreat.

“Worse than
that, my lady,” he said with frightening intensity. “He was once called
brother.”

**************

If you’re enjoying Through A Dark Mist, I might remind you there are two other books in the trilogy: In The Shadow of Midnight  and The Last Arrow.  And if you want all three volumes in one book, check out The Robin Hood Trilogy

And while you’re out and about, check out my website at www.marshacanham.com  Thanks to Nancy Davis over at www.RomanceReaderatHeart.com I was finally able to take down the out of date pages and put up the new ones.  I never said I was a techie *sigh*

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6 Comments »

  1. OK, so somewhere in your Word file, you have included hard returns in the formatting. This means that at some point when you (or someone) typed it, you pressed “enter” at the end of every line instead of letting it wrap. This happens sometimes when you move chunks of text from one type of file to another.

    I’m not sure what version of Word you have, but in 2003, you go to Tools > Options > View. There is a section titled “Formatting Marks.” Check “All.”

    Then you will probably see one of these at the end of each line: ¶
    You’ll need to strip all those out. But if you do a universal delete, you’ll lose your paragraphing, so be careful.

    Sorry I don’t know an easier way to help!

    Comment by Nicola O. — September 5, 2011 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

    • Thank you Nicola. After my SIL saw it and put his aluminum foil thinking cap on, he figured out it wasn’t my file at all that was doing goofy things…it was the browser. Apparently IE is up to its old tricks again.

      At least I still have SOME hair left *snort*

      Comment by marshacanham — September 7, 2011 @ 4:08 am | Reply

  2. PS, Through a Dark Mist is one of my all time favorite romances!

    Comment by Nicola O. — September 5, 2011 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

  3. Hey, Plonk. Just copy and paste the Word doc into Notepad first, then copy the text from Notepad into the blog. Notepad strips out all extra word characters, like those pesky little squares; I have to do that any time I’m working on files that need to be in basic text or ASCII. (Don’t try this using Word Pad–it will retain those goofy characters.)

    And thanks for the shout out. Mucho obliged. 🙂

    Comment by JavaQueen — September 5, 2011 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

    • Half of that was in Greek, but thank you anyway JavaQ. LOL. Seems it was the dufus browser causing the trouble.

      Comment by marshacanham — September 7, 2011 @ 4:10 am | Reply


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