Welcome back to Medieval Monday. This week our theme is betrayal. Of course, Book 2 of Time Enough to Love is titled Betrayal, but as I can’t paste in the whole book, I’ve given you one of the key moments of betrayal. I actually remember having to steel myself to write this scene, it hurt so much. The excerpt is a bit longer than usual, but you need the whole thing.
“Thomas.” Alyse curtsied quickly then blurted out the fear she had fought almost since Geoffrey had left. “Is my lord well? Have you news for me?” Thanks to Anne and Margaret’s thoughtless comments, she had become convinced Geoffrey had fallen ill with Sir Robert’s ailment and now himself hovered between life and death.
Avoiding her eyes, he answered briefly. “Aye, my lady. When I left him, Geoffrey was well enough.”
While his words relieved her, a shadow still lay on her heart. If Geoffrey was not ill, why had Thomas’s manner changed? What had summoned this aloof stranger? He was withholding something from her.
“And Sir Roland?”
He hesitated, searching her eyes then looking away. He fisted his hands. “Sir Roland is…has…”
Alyse could stand it no longer. She crossed to stand directly before him, laid a cold hand upon his arm, and gripped it. “Tell me.”
That there was something he could not bring himself to tell her filled her with terror. He said Geoffrey was well enough when he left. What about now?
Before she could question him further, he drew out a folded piece of parchment, sealed with blue wax and stamped with a signet ring bearing Geoffrey’s family crest. She stared at it, a cold dread creeping through her.
“Geoffrey bade me place this in your hand and no other, my lady.” Thomas thrust the missive toward her.
Alyse compelled herself to hold her hand out.
He sighed. “He also bade me be at your service, lady, had you need of anything.” He gave the parchment into her hand. As he did so, she looked into his eyes and recognized the same pity she had seen in Princess Joanna’s.
Panic made her arms weak and her fingers numb. She forced her shaking hands to break the seal. Alyse unfolded the letter and slowly read the scratched and blurry words.
* * * *
In her bedchamber, Princess Joanna waited with Maurya, Anne, and Margaret. The women’s faces had changed from puzzlement to fear. Joanna looked from one maid to another, trying to hide her despondency. So many prayers had not been answered today.
Anne finally summoned the courage to ask, “Your Highness, what has happened?” She choked back tears. “I meant no harm, earlier. Indeed,” she crossed herself, “I wish Sir Roland and Sir Geoffrey long life.” She turned stricken eyes toward Joanna and whispered, “Is Sir Geoffrey—”
A wrenching wail of anguish shattered the hushed room, as though the very walls echoed the sound. The four women stood rooted to the floor at the almost-inhuman shriek of grief.
The sound cut off abruptly, and in the eerie silence that followed, they heard the soft thud of a body hitting the floor.
Joanna threw open the door and the three of them rushed in to find Alyse crumpled on the floor, Lord Braeton bent over her, chaffing her hands. As the princess entered, he looked up, his face set in harsh lines. “She swooned, Highness.” He scooped Alyse into his arms, gazed around the room then looked beseechingly at the princess.
She understood well the depth of feeling between her waiting woman and Geoffrey Longford. Alyse would need many days to recover from this blow. “Take her to her bed chamber, Lord Braeton. When she wakes, she will likely desire the comfort of her own room.”
The courtier nodded and strode out of the antechamber, not waiting for direction.
The princess sped behind him, almost running to keep up with his hurried pace. The other women followed in her wake. The limp, insensible form cradled in Lord Braeton’s arms did not stir. Perhaps this respite from sorrow would prove a blessing for Alyse.
Lady Anne wrung her hands, perhaps even more remorseful for her earlier comments, and ventured her question once more. “Highness, pray God tell us what has happened. Is Sir Geoffrey…dead?” The girl barely whispered the word.
Joanna turned to the women as Thomas paused, uncertain which hallway led to Alyse’s chamber. “Sir Geoffrey,” she said slowly, “married my cousin, Lady Mary Percy, early this morning.”
Hope you enjoyed this excerpt! See you next week!