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Book Three of the Troy Game
By Sara Douglass, Claire Eddy
Tom Doherty Associates Copyright © 2005 Sara Douglass Enterprises Pty Ltd.
All rights reserved.
Gog Magog Hills, Cambridgeshire, and Oatlands Palace, Weybridge, England
SIMON GAUTIER, MARQUIS DE LONQUEFORT, gripped the armrests of the wildly rocking carriage and grinned lasciviously at his current mistress, Mademoiselle Helene Gardien, sitting across from him. She was sixteen, with the face of an angel and the body of a whore, and she was shrieking with feigned terror, although whether at the wild movement of the carriage or at the wanton expression on his face, Lonquefort didn't particularly know — nor did he particularly care. Outside the driver had whipped the team of horses into a frenzy, and they plunged recklessly down the forest track, their hooves and the abused wheels of the carriage marking each dip, each hole, and each rock that pitted their way.
Lonquefort was a man who disdained sedateness, in every aspect of his life.
His uncle, and his guardian since the death of his father, had sent Lonquefort for a season to the austere colleges of Cambridge in an effort to wean him from the fleshly delights of his native Paris. But Lonquefort was a man not to be outwitted, and in July of this year of our Lord 1629 he arranged for the passage of Helene across to England. She was young, pliable, tender and fresh, and she shrieked delightfully whenever Lonquefort buried himself within her pleasures.
Which explained why Lonquefort had hired carriage and driver for this day expedition to the Gog Magog Hills four miles south of the university city: the Cambridge dons were starting to complain about the noise. What better to calm their shattered nerves and to indulge his own wanton desires than to take Helene in the center of some stubbled field, or the incline of some gentle hillside slope, where she could scream to her heart's content and he could ...
Oh, God, he was going to have to stop the carriage soon!
As Helene pursed her sweet lips for yet another shriek, Lonquefort glanced outside. He'd been told the Gog Magog Hills were gentle rolling hills, cleared by years of grazing, yet the view which met his eyes contradicted all reports he'd heard.
Forests crowded about, thick and dark.
Lonquefort looked at her.
She gave another cry, and jumped slightly in her seat, her breasts jiggling just enough that her nipples slipped briefly, tantalizingly, into view above the frothy lace of her bodice.
Lonquefort forgot the strangeness of the forests.
"Stop!" he cried, his voice so thick with desire he could barely manage the word. "Stop, I command you!" He lifted his cane, banging its golden head against the roof of the carriage.
Outside the driver swore as he hauled on the reins in an effort to stop the violent, plunging motion of the horses.
Lonquefort couldn't tear his mind away from the violent, plunging efforts he would soon be engaged in. As the horses finally came to a halt, he leaned forward, grabbed Helene by the hand, flung open the carriage door, and hauled her outside.
"Wait here," he said to the driver.
Lonquefort managed to get Helene twenty or thirty paces inside the tree line before his lust overcame him. He pulled her to him and tore her bodice apart. He grabbed at her breasts, bruising them, then pushed her first against the broad trunk of a tree, then down so that she lay beneath him amid the leaf litter of the forest. He bit at her neck, and her breasts, and his hands grabbed at her skirts, fumbling in his haste.
Oh, God, oh, God, he'd never wanted her this badly. Never! Never!
Helene cried out, but he took no notice, and did not realize that the tone of her voice had changed from the provocative to the terrified.
She beat at his back and his shoulders, trying to push him away.
He took no notice.
Helene grabbed at his hair, intending to pull it until he pulled away from her, but instead her fingers encountered not fine, powdered brown hair, but the soft velvet of antlers.
Lonquefort thrust deep, and Helene, gasping with horror, felt not her lover, but the heat and strangeness of a wild beast. No, no, of a beast so untamed she felt as if she would die from the force and horror of it.
Lonquefort's movements became frenzied, and Helene lay quiescent beneath him, shocked beyond resistance. Her face was devoid of its usual rosy color, her eyes wide and staring, her injured breasts heaved, her breath whistled in her throat, her hands now clutched behind her at the bark of the tree, preferring to find comfort there before the pelt of the creature that was mating her.
Then, suddenly, wondrously, she was at peace, and she sighed and closed her eyes. While the beast above and inside her still felt wild, he no longer seemed strange, or frightening, and she lifted down her hands from the bark of the tree, and buried them within his pelt, and she whispered, "Anything for you. Anything."
And she felt then, within the pit of her belly, the beginning of something incredible, and Helene knew that her life as a girl was done for.
She sighed once more, and was replete.
Henrietta Maria, queen of England, looked up from her embroideries, and put a practiced smile on her face.
"My good lord," she said, rising, then sinking in a deep curtsy, "I had not expected you."
Charles I looked at his wife, repressed a sigh, then instantly hated himself for his impatience. Other men managed with wives they found difficult to love, and so must he. Besides, she had been ill, had miscarried of a child, and doubtless some of her coolness could be ascribed to her aches both of body and of spirit.
At this thought Charles looked a little more closely at his wife. Sweet Lord Christ, she was only sixteen, and yet her face was drawn and lined almost as if she had lived through twice those many years. There were shadows under her dark eyes, her cheeks were pallid, and her hair had lost the luminosity that he remembered from their awkward, fraught wedding night.
What kind of man were he, then, to have brought a girl to this extreme of weariness? What kind of husband, to look in irritation on a woman, and judge her unkindly, when she had just lost a precious child? What kind of king, if he could not care for this most important of his subjects? What kind of lover, if he could not make her smile?
Now Charles smiled himself, and the expression was unexpectedly kind and warm, wiping away much of the aloofness which Henrietta Maria found so intimidating.
"You and I have made a poor start to our marriage," he said, "and I am sorry for it."
The false smile froze on Henrietta Maria's face, and Charles could see the confusion in her eyes. They had spoken nothing but banalities to each other in the entire first year of their marriage. This degree of forthrightness, and spoken so winsomely from a man prone to the most frightful bouts of stuttering, patently had caught her off guard.
Charles suddenly felt a most unexpected wave of mischievousness wash through him. She was but a girl, after all. Why had he not remembered that? His smile warmed, his entire face relaxed, and he was rewarded with the slightest of thaws in his wife's own expression.
Charles glanced behind him. "We would be alone," he said, and with those words, and a wave of his hand, he dismissed from the royal presence the entire bevy of ladies-in-waiting, valets, diplomats, secretaries, and courtiers who normally attended every waking moment of king and queen.
Henrietta Maria's face grew uncertain.
"Am I so unkind a husband," he asked, holding out his arm for her, "that you must look so suspiciously upon me when I seek a moment or two alone with you?"
"You are not unkind," she said, slipping her arm through his as he led her for a gentle stroll down the splendid gallery of Oatlands palace.
"Then, if I am not unkind then I have most certainly been —" He paused awkwardly, his speech struggling to master the word. "— ungracious."
She did not reply.
He stopped, and turned to her, cupping her small face between his hands.
Her muscles tensed beneath his fingers.
He lowered his face until it was but a finger's distance above hers. "I have no doubt that as I speak, our courtiers and ladies, indeed, half the realm, stand huddled against the other side of the far door, ears pressed against its hardness, wondering what we do alone in here. What do you think they imagine?"
His voice was light and teasing, and as its reward, he felt her face relax slightly.
"Perhaps that we discuss great matters of state," she said, her voice low.
"Perhaps, but, no. I think not. What else might they consider?"
"Perhaps that you rebuke me for some childish wrong."
"I hope not," he said, his voice and face now sober, "for that would be a stain on my soul, and I am most sorry I should ever have given them the fodder to imagine such a thing.
"I think" — he lowered his face that final distance between them and planted a soft kiss on her mouth — "that they imagine we sit in silence on our cold thrones, and stare out the windows at the stiff, formal gardens, and wish to ourselves that we were anywhere else but in each other's presence."
"I sincerely hope not," she said, "for that is not what I wish right now."
"Then perhaps they imagine that I have been so overcome by my desire for you —"
Her cheeks stained even rosier.
"— that I have begged for solitude so that I might enjoy my wife's love."
"My lord —"
"Perhaps even now they think I have borne you to that bench by the window —"
"— and there avail myself," his voice grew deeper, a little hoarser, and she could hear real admiration within it, "of your sweet, wondrous white flesh. What say you, wife? Shall I?"
"My lord! It lacks but an hour until noon. We cannot —"
"Parliament may plot to make my life a misery," he said, "but it has not yet passed that act which forbids the nation's monarch from making love to his much-admired wife during the daylight hours."
"You admire me?"
"Most particularly during this beautiful hour before noon. What say you, wife. Shall we? That bench looks right inviting."
"But ... But they'll know!"
His only answer was to kiss her neck, and lay his hand on her bosom.
"Charles ..." she said, and he heard the weakness in her voice, and it encouraged him to turn tease into reality.
And so, atop a beautiful brocaded bench set into one of the great windows of the gallery at Oatlands, Charles I of England made love to his young wife while their courtiers crowded the door outside and a shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds and clothed the couple's soft movements in gold.
Although this was not Charles and Henrietta Maria's marriage night, it was the day on which they made their marriage, and it was also the day during which they conceived one of the greatest kings that England would ever know.
FAR AWAY IN LONDON A FAIR-HAIRED, HAZEL-EYED boy in his midteens raised his face to the sky. He was tall for his age, and too thin for his height, but he held himself gracefully nonetheless, and his face already held hints of the handsomeness it would assume in maturity. He stood in one of London's innumerable back alleys, hidden in shadow. At his side stood a solemn-faced toddling girl of some eighteen months. She was a pretty little thing, with soft brown eyes and silvery hair, but her prettiness was marred by a blank look of terror in those dark eyes, and she stood tense and fearful, as if expecting a blow at any moment.
The boy held her by the hand, and, as he lowered his face, he gave her flesh a squeeze, painful enough that the girl gave a low gasp, her eyes filling with tears.
"Do you feel it, Jane?" said the boy. "Do you know what has happened?"
She made no reply save for two great fat tears that rolled down her cheeks.
The boy squatted so he could look directly into her eyes. "You do feel it, don't you? Brutus is back, your lover when you were Genvissa. He's reborn, and growing contentedly in a queen's womb. Not a bastard, this life. Tell me, pretty Jane, do you think he'll want you? Do you think he'll ever stoop to love you, dirty street urchin, Asterion's whore?"
More tears flowed, and the boy nodded slowly. "Aye. You know he's back, and you know he'll never touch you. So sad, pretty Jane."
She spoke, this tiny girl, with the voice of a child much, much older. "Let me go, Weyland."
"Never," Weyland whispered. "You're mine, now. You and all your talents."CHAPTER 2
Paris, France, and st. James's Palace, London
ON THE TWENTY-NINTH OF MAY IN 1630 HElene Gardien went into labor at daybreak, delivering her child six hours later. Her lover, Simon Gautier, the marquis de Lonquefort, was in residence at the Parisian townhouse where he'd installed his mistress and visited Helene two hours after he'd been informed of her safe delivery.
This was his first child, and he was curious, if somewhat apprehensive and more than a little annoyed. All he'd wanted from Helene was sex, not responsibility.
"Well?" he said as he inched up to the bed.
"A boy," Helene said, not looking up from the child's face. "See, he has neither your eyes, nor mine, but those of a poet."
Neither your eyes nor mine. Lonquefort instantly seized on her words. Could he claim the child wasn't his? Not his responsibility?
Then he looked at the baby, and was lost. The baby's eyes were different, for while both Lonquefort and Helene had blue eyes, this infant had the deepest-black eyes Lonquefort thought he'd ever seen in a face. But it wasn't their color that immediately captivated Lonquefort. The boy's eyes were those of a poet, Lonquefort decided, for they seemed to contain knowledge and suffering that stretched back aeons, rather than the two hours this boy had lived in this painful world.
"He will be a great man," Lonquefort pronounced, and Helene smiled.
"I will call him Louis," she said, then hesitated. Poet or not, the boy was a bastard, and Helene was not sure whether she should name him for his father.
But who was his father, she wondered as the awkward silence stretched out between them. Lonquefort, or that strange beast she'd envisioned riding her in the forest?
"Louis," Lonquefort said, then he grinned. "Louis de Silva, for the forest where we made him."
Helene laughed, her doubts gone. The forest had made him, indeed, and so he should be named.
"I shall settle a pension on him, and you," said Lonquefort. "You shall not want."
"Thank you," Helene said softly, and bent her head back to her poet- son.
AS HELENE RELAXED IN RELIEF, ANOTHER WOMAN, far distant, arched her back and cried out in the extremities of her own labor.
Henrietta Maria, queen of England, lay writhing in the great bed draped with forest-green silk within her lying-in chamber off the Color Court of St. James's Palace. About her hovered midwives and physicians, privy councillors and lords, all there either to ensure a safe delivery or to witness the birth of an heir.
Elsewhere within the palace Charles I paced up and down, praying silently. He was riven with anxiety, more for Henrietta Maria than for concern over the arrival of a healthy heir. Over the course of the past nine months, as his wife's body had swelled, so also had waxed Charles's regard and love for her. Now he could not bear the thought that she might suffer in childbed.
As the palace clocks chimed noon, one of the privy councillors hurried toward Charles.
"Well?" demanded Charles.
"You have a healthy son," the man said. "An heir!"
"And my wife?"
"She is well," said the councillor, and Charles finally allowed himself to relax, and smile.
"A son," he said. "He shall be named Charles."
"Of course," said the councillor.
Charles went to his wife, assured for himself that she was indeed well, then turned to look at the child one of the midwives held.
He studied the baby curiously, then folded back his wrappings.
"By Jesus!" Charles exclaimed, and looked back at Henrietta Maria. "Are you sure you are well, my love?"
She grinned wanly. "He was an effort, my lord. But, yes, I am well. He did not injure me."
Charles looked back to the baby. By God, look at the size of him! He was a giant, surely, with great strong limbs and a head of long, tight black curls. Charles reached down a hand and, as he did so, the baby reached up his own right hand and snatched at a golden crown embroidered on Charles's sleeve.
"Observe!" said the midwife. "He was born a king, truly! See how he grasps for what shall be his!"
Then both the midwife, and Charles cried out, for the baby's hand tightened about the crown, and tugged at it, tearing it away from his father's sleeve.
"I shall have to watch my back, surely," Charles said with a forced laugh, "in case this son of mine decides to snatch my crown before his time."
The midwife prised the torn piece of material out of the infant's fist, and he began to wail.
"You shall surely die abed, an aged and beloved king," murmured one of the physicians. "This is no omen to be feared."
"Of course not," said Charles, but at that moment the room darkened as a cloud covered the sun, and the only one in the chamber who did not shiver in dread was the baby.
WEYLAND ORR BROUGHT HIS LITTLE SISTER JANE to stand outside the octagonal-towered gatehouse of St James's Palace among the other crowds awaiting news of the queen's delivery. Most of the crowd prayed for a prince; Weyland and Jane knew the child would be a prince. A king reborn.
Excerpted from Darkwitch Rising by Sara Douglass, Claire Eddy. Copyright © 2005 Sara Douglass Enterprises Pty Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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