Lady Erica had tried to bring peace to her people, so that they could join forces against the Normans. Instead she became captive to the Saxon warrior, Saewulf Brader! Wulf was, in truth, a Norman captain spying on the enemy. Chaste yet fearless Lady Erica wasn't part of his plan. Her beauty was as disarming as it was captivating, but Wulf knew that once she discovered his deception, their fragile bond of trust would be destroyed....
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June 30, 2008
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Excerpt from His Captive Lady by Carol Townend
Captain Wulf FitzRobert sat waiting on a stool by the fire in the middle of King William's cavernous new barrack-hall. Waiting, waiting. It was an exercise in patience, he told himself, but even so, he was unable to keep his keen blue eyes from straying to the top table where the great lords were in conference. He was hungry for his next commission.
The freshly whitewashed walls around him displayed a formidable array of shields and lances, which winked in the fitful candlelight. Thick beams arched above Wulf's head, beams that had been cut so recently that he could smell sawn timbers, could see the marks of the adze. While Wulf kicked his heels and mastered his impatience, a troop of foot soldiers tramped in and headed for the wine jugs.
Glancing down at the worn brown tunic that stretched across his broad chest, at the shabby and barely serviceable grey hose that barely covered his long legs, Wulf noticed a rip in the weave and grimaced. His clothing needed to be replaced and he could ill afford it. Advancement, that was what he craved, more advancement.
Under the high table two wolfhounds--a grey and a brindle--were snarling over possession of a bone. Wulf's mouth twisted. So it was with those lower in the ranks, he thought, lifting his gaze once again to the noblemen and commanders clustered around the board; that is what we are reduced to, fighting over scraps dropped by those above.
Parchments were scattered across the tabletop--maps, most likely. Wulf knew what the lords were about: they were busy slicing up lands won in the recent conflict. Estates that had once belonged to Saxon noblemen were being parcelled out among King William's most loyal supporters. Campaigns for suppressing rebellion were being planned; offers were being made for the most wealthy of the Saxon widows and heiresses.
Just then, the brindle hound lunged amid a flurry of growling and snapping. The grey yelped and dropped the bone and in a moment it was all over. The brindle darted into the shadows with the bone fast in its jaws, while the loser slunk away, tail between its legs.
Was time running out for him? Wulf thought. England had only so much land; there were only so many titles. If he did not get a decent commission, there might be nothing left to win, neither land nor title nor heiress. Not that Wulf had ambitions for an heiress--no, the shadow over his birth meant he could not look so high. He was illegitimate. But lands and a knighthood, yes, he certainly had ambitions for those. And with no noble family to sponsor him, Wulf must shift for himself.
The lords had wine cups at their elbows. Of delicate imported glass, they were a world away from the clay goblet Wulf had warming by the fire. As well as the maps, there were several jugs of sweet red wine on the high table; wine that Wulf knew had only that morning been shipped in from Normandy. Briefly, Wulf spared a thought for the merchant willing to risk his ship to a winter crossing, but then this was King William's hall, so doubtless the man and his crew would have been well rewarded. Wulf propped his chin on his hand. Rewarded as he hoped to be, when he was given a good chance to prove himself...
One lord in particular held Wulf's gaze: William De Warenne, his liege lord. As one of the King's most trusted commanders, De Warenne had recently been granted estates on the coast south of London, near a place called Lewes. Wulf had heard that his lord was also in the running for more land, land in the remote east of England, somewhere in the fens. Wulf had never set foot in the fens, nor did he want to. If what he had heard was true, the fen country was marshy and waterlogged even in high summer. And at this time of year, in midwinter, the fens would be frozen solid.
Wulf wound lean fingers round the clay cup and lifted it to his lips. He took no more than a sip; he wanted a sober head on him when his lord called him over.
Perhaps, if he were lucky, he would be granted a commission in those southern lands so recently acquired. Two days, Wulf thought, for two interminable days he had been whiling away the time here, kicking his heels while the commanders discussed tactics and jostled for power and position.
A lock of dark hair fell over Wulf's eyes; impatiently, he shoved it back. He must get his hair trimmed, it had grown so much he looked more Saxon than Norman, and the last thing he wanted was for the lord of Lewes to think he was favouring the Saxon half of his heritage.
Wulf's blue eyes narrowed and his fingers tightened on his wine cup. His heart thudded--De Warenne was looking directly at him. At last!
'My lord?' Setting his cup down, Wulf rose and approached the high table.
'FitzRobert, isn't it?'
'Yes, my lord.' Wulf stood, feet planted squarely apart, and waited.
'FitzRobert.' De Warenne unrolled one of the maps and weighed it down with a jug and a candlestick.