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May 27th, 1067
It seems, my good knight, i require your services once again in that troublesome land of mine across the channel," William said none too happily to Wulfson de Trevelyn, the captain of his elite guard les morts.
Wulfson bowed deeply to his king, who waved him up with an impatient gesture. The Duke of normandy and recently crowned King of england paced the thick wool carpet of his antechamber. William was dressed in the regal garb of one of his station. Yet his mail was nearby, a constant reminder that nothing had come easy to him, and at heart, he was a true warrior. Wulfson's king had fought since he was a lad to hold onto one legacy left to him by his father, and had brought an entire country to her knees to claim another promised to him by a dead king.
"I am, as always, my liege, at your service," Wulfson said.
"it seems conquering an entire nation is not enough to bring down that insufferable Godwinson dynasty."
Wulfson's interest had been piqued when he was privately summoned to his sovereign's antechamber. Now his complete interest was engaged. "Sire?"
William, nearing forty, but still a hearty man, had the strength and agility of a man half his age. His cagey eyes smiled despite his rancor. "Aye, lad, it seems the granddaughter of that blackguard Godwine by his eldest son, the outlaw Sweyn, has managed to not only wed with Malcor the Earl of Dunloc, a most strategic ally to the west, but the bloodthirsty bitch has proceeded to slit the poor fool's throat whilst in their marriage bed!"
Wulfson whistled in surprise and, he had to admit, awe. He'd heard tales of the Wessex women. Saxon and Viking blood ran hot and deep in their veins. Some, he'd heard, had fought beside their men at Stamford B ridge. They were a lusty, warlike bunch. A nd he could well relate. His own lust for battle was his life's blood.
William poured a hearty draught of wine into a golden goblet. He handed it to Wulfson, then poured himself one.
Wulfson accepted the offering and quietly contemplated why he had been called to his liege. William eyed him sharply. Wulfson considered his king's position in the matter, and mused out loud. "Should the House of Wessex raise its greedy head, who is to say a blood niece to the Usurper with ties to several thrones could not rally an army to claim for her son what is rightly yours?"
William drained his cup and slammed it down on the side table. "She has an army! 'Tis how she brought the earl first to his knees and then to marriage."
Wulfson chortled. "Hah! N ow that is a twist, a lady forcing a man to marriage!"
William began to pace anew and mumbled, "Would that I had a few more such as she here to guard my borders, I would have no reason to toss and turn at night."
Wulfson bowed to his troubled king. "What would you have me do, sire?"
William turned and faced his captain. "You are among the few in whom I place my complete trust. You and your Blood Swords are also the best at what you do." William scowled again. "I have received three missives in a week's time regarding what brews in Mercia. One from the lady herself asking that her claim to Dunloc be validated. The second is from the captain of her guard alerting me to her capture by her uncle by marriage, Rangor of Lerwick. And the third from Lerwick himself, informing me the lady is a witch who cast a spell upon his nephew and then slit his throat, only to lay claim to Dunloc's holdings. R angor, of course, now claims the holdings by right of blood, and begs me punish her for murdering his nephew."
"The lady is a murderess, and a widow without issue. What claim does she have?"
"There is no valid claim by her if what Lerwick says is true, but she claims to have a valid will." William stopped his agitated pacing and speared Wulfson with a steely glare. "The lady is a thorn in my side that will fester if left untended. Her dastardly deeds aside, any living Godwinson is a threat to E ngland, and so a threat to me. In your capable hands, sir knight, I put her life. See to it she no longer poses a threat to any man."
Wulfson was about to take another draught of his wine, his arm halted, poised in the air at his king's words. "But, sire, she is a royal."
"A royal who murdered an earl!"
Wulfson stood silent, giving his king time to think his request through.
William slammed his fist into his hand. "I know of no other way."
Wulfson scowled. He had no issue with seeing to his king's order but he was not convinced the means would justify the end. Their eyes met, and Wulfson saw only determination in the king's gray eyes. William rarely changed his mind once it was set. Wulfson clicked his heels together; his spurs jangled.
"Consider the deed done, sire."
William's lips drew into a tight line before he spoke. "The fewer who know of your reason for returning to that insufferable isle the better. I will not have it said King William murders noblewomen, even though the law would support her execution."
Wulfson nodded. "I will send word ahead, then, to Rohan, for more men."
William turned, poured himself another cup, and took a long draught. " 'Tis a wise move. But there is one more thing. A small hindrance, to be sure."
Wulfson waited, already anxious to turn his horse's hooves back onto solid English soil.
"Rangor has arrogantly laid claim to the holding despite his request for my intervention, and he refuses to release the Lady Tarian. Understandably, the lady's army has laid siege to the manor, refusing any person near it."
"I shall see them both removed."
"I do not doubt it, Sir Wulfson. But tread lightly," William cautioned. "While I care naught what happens to the lady's army, I want no enemy of Rangor. He has longstanding alliances with the Welsh, who are already causing problems along the border. See the deed done, discreetly, and in proper time, so that I may find a suitable Norman bride for the new master of Dunloc."
Wulfson bowed to his king, then quickly exited the chamber, his blood quickening in anticipation.
England awaited. Copyright © 2008 by Karin Tabke