Today I’m continuing with Christmas snippets from my medieval romance novella Seduction at the Christmas Court.
So far the snippets began with a boar hunt some days before Christmas in 1349. Geoffrey, Lord Longford and his wife Alyse have been summoned to the King’s Christmas court and this is the King’s favorite sport.
Today I’m switching to the Christmas Day feast, replete with the hunt’s bounty. A feast fit for a king, as it were.
Alyse and Geoffrey, Lord and Lady Longford, have journeyed to the glittering Christmas Court of King Edward III in the year 1349 to wait upon the king and take part in some Yuletide merriment. However, when Geoffrey is suddenly called into the king’s service again, Alyse must remain at court, attending the queen and persuading her rebellious sister to accept an unwanted betrothal. When rumors of Geoffrey’s death arise, Alyse fends off an old suitor who wants to renew their friendship. But how long will he take “No” for an answer?
The Great Hall was alive with bustling servants, finely dressed men and even finer ladies, a troupe of merry minstrels plying their trade with harps, fiddles, and flutes to entertain the company as they ate. The royal family looked on benevolently from the dais. Despite the cold outside, the warmth of many bodies, mingled with the roaring fires at either end of the hall and all the flickering torches and candles, transformed the empty space into a cozy place.
Geoffrey led them to their places while Alyse craned her neck, eagerly peering about. Even though she’d lived at court for many months, she’d never been to such a glittering feast—fragrant candles, strings of green garland glinting with red and gold, platters of gold and silver, bejeweled courtiers dressed as sumptuously as possible. Even the most important banquet she’d attended last year paled in comparison to the display in front of her.
A steady stream of servants brought in platter after platter of food, extravagant dishes she’d never seen before: roasted crabs nestled on a bed of smoked eels, a capon studded with cloves—the beak still attached with a sugared cherry in it—a huge fish on a sea of salad greens, three different birds suspended in a towering aspic, a full peacock looking alive with all of its feathers sitting on a log of burnt sugar. Behind this parade of fantastic food came the boars, four huge pigs, roasted whole with apples stuffed in their mouths, carried in by four servants each. The spectacle took Alyse’s breath away.
The procession of dishes made its way around the tables and Alyse helped herself first to a stewed rabbit pie, the crust so flaky it melted on her tongue.
Geoffrey carved a leg from a pheasant baked with cinnamon and saffron, the tender meat slipping from the bones as he transferred it to his trencher. “I will say I wish for such birds on our estate, Alyse. They would grace our table often if so.”
“Are there no pheasants at Longford?” She spooned up the tender rabbit meat, savory and hot.
“Nay, those birds have never roosted on our lands. ‘Tis a pity.” He bit into the leg with relish.
“Think you the king might allow us to take a dozen or so to Longford to breed for meat?” Alyse scooped up several whitish balls from a passing platter. When she popped one into her mouth the flavor of onion and thyme burst in her mouth. “Mmmm…what are these tasty morsels?”
Geoffrey gave them a glance. “Calves testicles, I believe.”
“They are very good.” Alyse scooped up another one, savoring the delicate flavors.
Servants bearing one of the platters replete with boar stopped before them and Geoffrey
carved slices for both him and Alyse. He lay pieces of meat on their trenchers so large they hung over the sides.
“I think you took too much, my lord.” Alyse surveyed the vast slab of pork and sighed. She could never eat all of it.
“’Twas my boar. We will eat our fill of it.” Geoffrey laughed as he cut a hunk of meat, speared it with his knife, and popped it into his mouth.
“How could you tell ‘twas your boar? There were four killed it seems.” Alyse carefully cut the meat into more manageable pieces, then bit into one good sized chunk and chewed. The rich, juicy pork melted in her mouth. Truly a festive dish.
“I just claimed that one.” Geoffrey washed his mouthful down with a gulp of wine.
Laughing, Alyse savored the rest of her bite, wondering how she could eat two more of the pieces that lay on her plate.
The noisy chatter of well-satisfied guests swirled around them as the meal continued. A second course of succulent meats arrived, followed finally by a stream of towering confections made completely of sugar.
Alyse’s mouth dropped open as the servants carried in an entire nativity scene, complete with Baby Jesus, shepherds, cows, and the three kings riding on camels carved from blocks of sugar.
Geoffrey took one look at her and laughed. He put his finger beneath her chin and closed her mouth. “An ‘twere summer, you’d catch flies, my lady.”
“How wonderful, Geoffrey.” Alyse couldn’t take her eyes off the beautiful creation. “And to think ‘tis made entirely of sugar.”
“A sweet scene indeed.” He rubbed her back and warmth radiated down her body. “A happy mother and Child.” His wistful tone smote her heart.
“Fear not, my love. Soon I will hold your son as does the Blessed Mother yonder.”
Be sure to return for next week’s installment of Seduction at the Christmas Court or grab a copy on Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes & Noble now!
Time Enough to Love Series
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