The Curse of Anne Boleyn: A Novel

The Curse of Anne Boleyn: A Novel

by C.C. Humphreys

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Overview

The Curse of Anne Boleyn: A Novel by C.C. Humphreys

"If you like Bernard Conwell's Grail Quest series, you'll love The French Executioner and The Curse of Anne Boleyn. To my mind Cornwell is good, but Humphreys is better."—Sally Zigmund, Historical Novels Review (UK)

From the masterful C.C. Humphreys comes the captivating sequel to The French Executioner

Nearly twenty years have passed since Anne Boleyn died at the hands of her slayer and savior, Jean Rombaud. All he wants is to forget his sword-wielding days and live happily with his family. Yet her distinctive six-fingered hand, stolen at her death—and all the dark power it represents—still compels evil men to seek it out.

When Jean's son, Gianni, joins the Inquisition in Rome and betrays all his father worked for, Jean discovers that time alone cannot take him—or his son—far from his past. But he never expected his whole family, especially his beloved daughter Anne, to become caught up once more in the tragic queen's terrible legacy.

From the savagery of way in Italy to the streets of London and Paris and the wilds of North America, The Curse of Anne Boleyn sweeps readers into a thrilling story that puts love, loyalty, and family to the ultimate test.

"With The French Executioner, Humphreys established himself as a quality purveyor of historical detail and vigorous action...This unusual story line is dispatched with consummate skill."—Good Books Guide (UK)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402282300
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 05/05/2015
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Chris (C.C.) Humphreys is an actor, playwright, fight choreographer and novelist. He has written nine historical fiction novels including The French Executioner, runner up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers; Vlad — The Last Confession, the epic novel of the real Dracula; and A Place Called Armageddon. His latest YA novel is The Hunt of the Unicorn. His work has been translated into thirteen languages. Find out more about him on his website: http://cchumphreys.com

Read an Excerpt

The Curse of Anne Boleyn

A Novel


By C.C. Humphreys

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 C.C. Humphreys
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4022-8231-7



CHAPTER 1

Siena


"Fugger? Are you there?"

Jean Rombaud had barely spoken, yet the words bounced loudly off the earth walls, echoing down the narrow, twisting passages. He had lost his way at the last crossroads, blind as a worm, his yew stick thrust out before, fingers scraping on damp mud one of his only functioning senses. That, and the way the air got staler to his tongue as he moved deeper into the labyrinth. This was not his world, and he cursed again the necessity for time spent within it. Cursed silently, for any words, he now understood, were dangerous.

He walked into flesh and cried out, but a hand from the darkness pressed over his mouth. No, not a hand, for no fingers splayed across his face. A stump. He had found the man he sought.

The stump moved away, and a moment later, a faint trace of light peeped from a gated lantern. In the depth of that blackness, it was like looking suddenly into the sun.

Squinting, he mouthed a word: "Fugger."

The Fugger planted his lips next to Jean's ear. "Rombaud. What brings you to my realm?"

The head turned away, and Jean placed his own mouth to the other's ear. "You know, Fugger. You sent word. Is it time?"

Instead of replying, the Fugger gestured with the lamp, raising it to a narrow earth shelf beside him. On it sat a drum, a child's toy. Scattered on its surface were pebbles. As Jean watched, they vibrated across the tight skin. Something was making them move. He pressed his ear to the earth wall, heard the faintest of scratchings, like mice scrabbling behind wood panels.

Jean turned back to the Fugger, lifted his eyebrows at the wall, mouthed, "How long?"

The man's one hand opened and closed three times

Jean leaned in. "Let us go back. I'll send them down."

"I stay."

"Fugger —"

"I stay. I know what's best for my beauty." He patted the walls, smiling.

Jean shook his head. He had known the Fugger for nearly two decades, most of it aboveground. And sometimes he forgot that when they first met, the German had lived in a cave beneath a gibbet for seven years. The man was right; no one knew a subterranean world better.

Giving him a warning look that clearly said "get out when your work is done," Jean groped his way back, eventually emerging into the shocking brightness of a torch before a door. He rapped upon it with his knuckles, a staccato beat of three, two, three more. Bolts slid back, the door opened on an earth chamber. The next door admitted him to a chamber of stone, steps rising before him. He was out of the Fugger's dark realm, under the bastion itself. Back within the walls of Siena.

He passed through the entrance to the countermine gallery and through the archway before him. There, gathered in the lower casemate of the Porta San Viene, leaning on its guns, spread out around its curving walls, were twenty men and one woman.

It was his wife's eyes he sought. He nodded. Beck held the look for a moment, then looked away. She always looked away first, these days.

Haakon was next, as usual. His oldest comrade straddled a gun carriage, his huge legs resting either side on its wheels. Like Jean, Haakon had lost everything when the forces of Florence, backed by the emperor's armies, invaded the territory of their old rivals, the Republic of Siena. Their farms and vineyards and the Comet Inn, their home, were among the first to be pillaged and nearly destroyed. Only if Siena won this war would they get their land back.

Yet, unlike Jean, who had seen enough bloodshed for three lifetimes, Haakon did not fight only for a cause. The Norse ex-mercenary fought mainly, as always, for the pure pleasure of it.

"Well?" As he rose eagerly from the gun, a shadow rose behind him, leaner, a little taller, with as thick a beard and eyes just as blue. Erik, Haakon's son, clutched the first of his twin scimitars in one hand, the whetstone in his other. Before a fight, he would go through the same ritual, sharpening each of them in turn, alternating, long beyond the perfect edge was obtained. Only when the actual moment of battle came would they be sheathed in the double harness on his back. Jean remembered well the young man's inspiration, the janissary Januc and his pure mastery of the weapon. Though he had died before the lad was born, the tales of Januc's valor had inspired Erik. Jean had never been able to decide who was the more deft with the curving blade.

"It is time. The Fugger says fifteen minutes, at most."

Eric swept his shining scimitars into their sheaths, while Haakon raised his short ax and rested it in his shoulders. It was better for close work than the giant battle-ax that stood in the corner of the room. Haakon, despite his size, had become the master of fighting in close spaces.

As the men around him strapped on weapons, donned helm and breastplate, Haakon strode over to the Frenchman. "Ah, Rombaud, what I would give to have you fighting beside me now."

Jean put a false smile on his face into accustomed grooves. "And I, my friend. It's been too long."

"The wound? It still pains you?"

The look of pure concern on his friend's face almost made Jean look down in shame. His expression held, however, fingers rubbing where the sniper's bullet had passed through his side.

"It does. Jesus willing, it will not be much longer."

"Ask Thor." The pagan Norseman was smiling again. "He's more likely to grant such a warrior request."

He moved away among his men, cajoling, encouraging. Jean dropped his hand away from the scar under the doublet, from the wound only he knew had fully healed.

It was not completely true. His daughter, his darling, named for a queen, his Anne, she knew, because she had healed him. And Beck suspected. But his wife would put her suspicions down to the other anger she felt toward him.

She crossed to him, and they stood side by side, watching the preparations. Glancing at her, he wondered at the years that had gone. Nineteen since he'd first seen her, disguised as a boy, fought her on that hillside outside Toulon. There was no trace of boy now, only a woman of middle years, gray throughout her thinning hair, lines on her face.

And he knew how he must look to her. No longer a warrior in his prime. No longer a hero. Far from it.

"Do you go with them, Jean?" Her voice, when it came, was flat, neutral.

"I do not."

"Then I will see you above."

She moved away, collecting her Spanish musket before heading up the stairs. She had long since put away her preferred weapon, the slingshot, the power no longer in the arm. But she was as accurate with lead as she ever had been with stone and had a greater range, her thirst for a target undiminished.

He wanted to say something, anything, but no words came. Then Haakon was before him, his men assembled, Erik at his right side, adjusting the sheaths of his scimitars. Jean leaned in, his words for the Norseman alone.

"It's simple, Hawk. Get in among the Florentines, drive them back, place these" — he gestured at the five kegs of gunpowder, which were being rolled out from the sealed magazine — "where the Fugger tells you to. Then get out."

"But, Rombaud, can you not smell?" Haakon raised his nose into the air, sniffed extravagantly. "They are roasting chickens in the trenches over there. We could all do with a late supper."

Jean made his voice harsh. "No risks, do your job, get out. You've heard my command, Norseman. Obey it!"

Haakon smiled, unoffended. "You've become old, my friend. I remember a time with you and me and some chickens ..."

"Obey me." Jean had not meant to be so abrupt, but the memory his friend would share was connected to others. None from that time gave him pleasure now.

He turned, taking the stairs to follow Beck. Behind him, Haakon was organizing his troop, commands interspersed with encouragement. Jean knew he should have made a speech, sent his men out to die this night for the glory of Siena, for liberty, for honor. Words that would turn to dirt in his mouth.

He climbed to the top casemate, where men with musket and harquebus crowded the embrasures. He did not pick one up. Being in command he didn't have to. No one would see him fumble powder to the floor.

In the corner, Beck did not even look for him, though he could tell by the angle of her head that she knew he was there. Positioning himself where he could barely see, sheltered by the thick buttresses of the bastion, he tried to calm his breathing while he waited for the attack to begin.

* * *

It was Erik who remembered Haakon's latest carving, just as they were about to descend the stair that would lead them underground and outside the walls of Siena.

"Father? Are you not taking this?"

The boy handed him a log. It was the length of one of Haakon's arms, twice as thick, bound in coils of thick rope. It had been reamed out from one end protruded a ball of hay, while at the other, a piece of cloth poked from a hole.

"Ah!" Haakon put his ax into its sheath and hefted his new toy with delight. "A thing of beauty, do you not think, my son? Even the name delights: tromba di fuoco!"

"A temporary beauty. It only fires the once, doesn't it?"

"It is born, lives brightly for an instant, then dies? The best kind of beauty, to my mind." Haakon squinted down the rough barrel, wondering if he could cram in any more loose metal. Then he thought about the effect of his words. "But you are not a gun, boy. Remember to take no chances down there."

The reply was all innocence. "But, of course not, Father. I will cower with you in the rear, as always."

Cuffing his son across the head to hide his smile, Haakon pushed him down the stair. Before he followed he glanced up, through the open back of the upper casemate. Beck was on one side of the emplacement, Jean on the other, both turned away.

"Ah, Rombaud." There was something between them, something wrong with his friends, some hurt Jean could never discuss and Haakon could never ask about. He'd tried, and it was like a jail door slammed shut behind the Frenchman's eyes. The door had been in place for a while now, from before the siege. At first Haakon thought it dated from when the Florentines had come, the destruction of their homes. Later, he realized he could barely remember a time when the hurt was not there. Certainly not since Gianni, their son, had disappeared.

"Rombaud." Shaking his head Haakon started down the stairs. He missed having his comrade by his side, missed seeing the Frenchman's square-headed executioner's sword swinging death to their enemies. Even if Jean was a general now, Haakon would have given anything to see that blade descend once again.

His men waited for him in the narrow chamber by the well shaft. They were the usual mix, half of them Sienese patriots, half mercenaries. The latter were mainly French, for France, as always, sided with those who fought the emperor. The rest were Scots. The patriots had the spirit, the trained warriors the skill. It was a good balance on the whole.

With Erik a shadow on his shoulder, he descended into the pit, feeling the familiar surge of battle joy. Too much of this siege had been spent watching from walls, dodging snipers' bullets, building and reinforcing walls dented by cannon. Not enough sorties, too much idle time thinking about empty stomachs. Happy now, Haakon made the sign of Thor's hammer and led his troop down into the darkness.

Haakon smelled the Fugger before he touched him, the German's life underground, digging, listening for the enemy's stealthy approach, giving him the distinctive tang of some earth-burrowing creature. The gated lantern's fragile light revealed more of the mole, a dirt-encrusted face, a shaved head plastered with mud, cobweb, and timber dust.

The light passed over the drum, the pebbles on its surface bouncing hard. The Fugger whispered, "Five, at the most!" Haakon nodded, then moved three paces back. Squatting, he placed a forked stick into the ground before him and rested the open end of the tromba onto it, embedding the other end in a rapidly scraped-up pile of earth. Blowing on the cord that hung from his belt produced the desired glow. With a sigh, he lowered himself onto the ground to wait.

The Fugger stopped by Erik, squeezing him on the arm. "And how fares my daughter?"

He sensed, rather than saw, the young man's blush, smiled that this fiercest of warriors could so easily be embarrassed with thoughts of love. The Fugger was happy, for Erik was a good boy, if wild, and his love was clear and true. Spending his life as he did in these dark places, it was a comfort to know that his jewel, his Maria, the last light in his life, was so loved and looked after.

"She is well. She hopes to see you soon and safe."

"After this night's work, I think." Moving past, seeking the gunpowder, he whispered back, "She hopes to see you safe all the more, young man. Remember that."

Quiet came again, along with the impenetrable dark. Breathing was shallow, the air close, and if a man had to move, to unstiffen a joint or limb, he did so carefully, causing his harness to barely shift. The only regular sound was the faintest pat pat pat of the pebbles on the drum's taut skin. At first it was like the tapping of bees trapped behind leaded glass, then slowly it built, multiplied, until the packed earth beneath them, the rough walls, the shoring timbers, all began to vibrate with the rhythmic blows being struck barely a hand's span away. Twenty pairs of ears strained for the moment that sound would change, when a tip of metal would poke through and two pockets of fetid air would rush to meet and mingle. For at that moment, the tapping would end and men would begin to die.

It changed. A pickax point hit one of the stones the Fugger had embedded in the wall's surface. The ping, a harsh cry in a world of near silence, was lost in the roar that followed. The Fugger had gouged fault lines over his earthen barrier and along them the wall imploded.

Hush, then a harsh whisper, a single Spanish phrase, terror, prayer.

"Mother of God!"

On his knees, Haakon's fingers circled the hole bored in the top of the tromba, the other hand bringing the glowing cord down. The searing of the gunpowder in its rough pan lit his face, illuminated, for the briefest of instances, the separate tunnels now made one. Naked to the waist, two men held pickaxes, the one buried before him where his blow and the collapse of the wall had taken it, the other man's raised high to strike. Behind them, the flash fell on faces lined with shock, glinted on the weapons slowly rising as if to ward off some invisible blow. Only these swords, these short spears and shovels moved, as if they alone had life, the humans holding them frozen in some fresco of fear.

That was the instant the powder took to reach the chamber in the tromba, and then the subterranean world exploded in sound and flame and searing metal. There were torches on the enemy side of the gap, thrust into embrasures in the walls, and they showed men who were there and then were not, and the roar of it deafened those on both sides, those who were not already dead or dying. Thus their cries sounded faint to those who lived — though the bellow from directly behind Haakon was strong enough to reach his consciousness:

"A Haakonsson! A Haakonsson!"

Leaping over his father, lying prone where the exploding tromba had thrown him, Erik's cry preceded him down the tunnel, just ahead of his one drawn scimitar.

"Erik!" Haakon struggled onto his knees, then up. Shaking his head, still ringing from the explosion, he pulled his battle-ax from its sheath and bellowed, "For Siena! Hoch! Hoch!"

Then he chased after his son.

The Fugger, buffeted aside by the rush of men, called out, "Haakon! Not too far. I will blow it soon."

But the backs disappeared down the tunnel, the sound of battle joined farther down his only reply. Pointing at the men with the powder kegs, he gestured for them to follow and moved up into the enemy mine.

Erik had cleared the fallen bodies like a horse going over hedges, and it was a good twenty paces before he found someone to oppose his sword. A muzzle flashed before him; a lead ball zinged past his ear. Imagining where there was one there would be more, Erik crouched and ran crabwise along one wall. Two more bullets testified to his caution before he was among the three shooters, their weapons raised to block, vainly, the scimitar's slicing arcs.

The torches were farther spaced here, and Erik barely saw the shovel. There was not room for a full swing, but the blow caught him flat across the head with enough force to send him crashing into the wall, white spots whirling before his eyes. Through them he sensed rather than saw the shovel pulled back, the edge of it now turned toward his face. His scimitar was pinned under him, and he could only throw up a fragile hand to defend himself.

Oh well, he thought. The Fugger manages well enoughwith only one!

The shovel hovered, then there was a crash, and it fell straight down, as its shaft splintered under the impact of an ax. A body sailed backward into the shadows.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Curse of Anne Boleyn by C.C. Humphreys. Copyright © 2015 C.C. Humphreys. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Front Cover,
Title Page,
Copyright,
Part One: Old World,
Prologue: The Exhumation,
Chapter One: Siena,
Chapter Two: Inquisition,
Chapter Three: Hands of the Healer,
Chapter Four: Flight,
Chapter Five: Royal Prisoner,
Chapter Six: Brother Silence,
Chapter Seven: The Ruin of All Hope,
Chapter Eight: Rune Cast,
Chapter Nine: Crossroads,
Chapter Ten: London,
Chapter Eleven: Reunions,
Chapter Twelve: Into the Belly of the Beast,
Chapter Thirteen: Tartarus,
Chapter Fourteen: Sins of the Father,
Chapter Fifteen: Endgame,
Chapter Sixteen: The Hostage,
Chapter Seventeen: The Gray Wolf and the Bear,
Chapter Eighteen: Death on the Shore,
Part Two: New World,
Chapter Nineteen: Homecoming,
Chapter Twenty: Fire Stick,
Chapter Twenty-One: White Cedar,
Chapter Twenty-Two: Deer Hunt,
Chapter Twenty-Three: Witch Hunt,
Chapter Twenty-Four: Trials,
Chapter Twenty-Five: Sacrifice at Sunrise,
Chapter Twenty-Six: Andac-Wanda,
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Ghosts,
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Death Song,
Epilogue,
Historical Note,
Author's Note,
About the Author,
Back Cover,

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The Curse of Anne Boleyn 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
C.C. Humphreys stays true to his adventurous style and flair and treats his audience to yet another great read in his latest book: The Curse of Anne Boleyn. Almost twenty years have passed since Anne Boleyn died. Jean Rombaud’s sole desire is to put his sword to rest, the slaying behind him and live the balance of his days with his family. It is 1555 and the Tower of London is the place. Sadly, Rombaud will not get his wish, nor will the bones of Anne Boleyn remain in what was intended to be her final resting place. Siena is about to fall and the grasp of holy grace upon the community will change forevermore. The quest for the hand of Anne Boleyn has different meanings for those who seek to recover it—one to resurrect the necessary Catholic shroud of religious bliss and governance over a society of people who bow to their Lord and Maker—the other to rid evil and rest the constant wars among peoples. The common link between the opposing forces, however, is the goal to be the first to acquire the mysterious, six-fingered hand of Anne Boleyn. Continents will be traveled, a mass ocean crossed to the new land and along the formidable journey, blood will be spilled. In the end, fate will be delivered to the one worthy of the coveted hand of Anne Boleyn. C.C. Humphreys has done it again as he enlists his swashbuckler’s flair with pen and medieval tone of word choice. Having read a previous title by Humphreys (Jack Absolute), I had an instant connection with his “off to the races style” from the onset of the story. He is masterful in securing the necessary real estate within the first handful of pages to lay sound and solid plot. There is a steady and methodical introduction of key characters who easily carry the reader along a fantastical journey of adventurous storytelling. There are few authors I have read over the years who are able to consistently fold one new character after the next into the plot with confident writing that portrays the vital importance of each character to the story. Humphreys does this to the ‘inth’ of perfection. It is clear his passion and flair for writing in the Renaissance period is where he is most comfortable. Not only are the scenes leading to the action credible, but the dialogue is spot on to the period of time. What a treat to read yet another engaging adventure penned by the likes of Mr. Humphreys. As stated before, I am a fan and do welcome the future opportunity to critique yet another of his delightful adventures. Quill says: Mix religion, history, adventure and intrigue in a large bowl and bake at 325 degrees for 414 pages. The finished product is one, delicious read: The Curse of Anne Boleyn.
MsDollie More than 1 year ago
The Curse of Ann Boleyn is another good read by CC Humphreys. It continues the story first told in The French Executioner with a second generation of characters. It was imaginative, full of interesting plot twists and a delightful read.
Mirella More than 1 year ago
The Curse of Anne Boleyn continues the story that began with the novel, The Executioner. Jean Rombaud is obliged to honor the promise he made to Anne before he took her head to hide and protect her six fingered hand. This sequel is very much an adventure story, filled with suspense, intrigue, and evil villains. Well imagined, with plenty of exciting plot twists, C.C. Humphreys takes readers on a jaunt from England, to France, to Italy, and even the new world across the vast ocean. A great intricate plot brings to life the 16th century. Memorable characters and vivid descriptions make this a memorable read. I strongly recommend you read the first book before this sequel. If you've never read a novel by C.C. Humphreys then this is a good duology to begin with. Definitely recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waste of money
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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