With proportions that would make Xena weep, Jaqueline Frazier despairs of ever finding a lover she won't squash like a bug. Everything changes the day she ignores an itty-bitty warning regarding the use of a family heirloom and finds herself swept off her feet by a knight in not so shining armor, back to the twelfth century. Eeek! No toilet paper, no cell phones and no junk food! Embroiled in the adventure of a lifetime yet forced to accept the protection of the overbearing beast of a man, Rufus of Rathburn, Jacq struggles to find her place in the past while searching for a way back to the future. In the meantime, she aids Rufus' war cause with a little 21st-century ingenuity. Nothing like shaking up the warlord with lessons in bomb-making, guerilla tactics and the joys of sex.
At first unwilling and downright ungrateful, Rufus begins to see merit in Jacq's odd ways. Perhaps because of her eccentricities, Rufus learns of a love and lust that break the barriers of time. But will their love be strong enough for Jacq to plot a different future in the past?
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Jacq's Warlord by Delilah Devlin
Jacq waited nervously beside The Bard's the stage, composing her thoughts for the story she wanted to tell. She'd come early to run through her speech and get familiar with the small stage. But she'd stumbled over the words and forgotten half of the priest's poem. Now she wished she'd written crib notes on her arm.
The arrival of the town crier marked the end to her wait. He was in his teens and dressed as a page in brown tights and a brown and red tunic. A narrow cap perched at an angle on his head with a feather stuck in the side.
"Are you ready, Jacq? Just give me the word and I'll gather the crowd."
"I'm as ready as I'll ever be," she grumbled.
"You'll be great," he said. "Did I tell you that you look smashing?"
Smashing? That's what she'd like to be doing--smashing a few heads. Lord, just let me get through the next few minutes without being laughed off the stage!
Turning her back to him and the front of the stage, she waited as he unrolled the scroll.
"Hear ye! Hear ye!" His voice boomed above the noise of the crowd moving among the stalls and tents. Those closest stopped and listened curiously.
Jacq watched the people coming from the opposite direction from beneath her lashes, but kept her head down to keep from drawing attention to herself. The town crier was all part of the flavor of the act and would get the crowd assembled and quieted before she began.
"Come ye hither, for 'tis time for the bard to weave her tale."
Jacq winced at the overly done language of the announcement. A few snickers from bystanders told her others agreed.
"Gather 'round, oh ye of noble or lowly birth. The bard will tell her story to those who will hold their tongues and listen."
Jacq heard the crowd gathering around the raised platform. As their numbers increased, their voices blurred into a low rumble except for the excited cries of the children jockeying for the best spot to watch the performance. When the noise died down, Jacq knew the crier had their complete attention, and he continued.
"I present to thee, Lady Jacqueline."
She paused, allowing the crier time to exit and to build the anticipation in the crowd. Then, lifting her long skirts, she spun, swirling them around her in a dramatic flourish, earning delighted squeals from the children dotting the front row. Jacq struggled to keep from smiling, as this was intended to be a serious story.
Wiping all humor from her face, she assumed a haughty expression and stared down her nose at the crowd. "I am the Lady Jacqueline of Rathburn Castle," she began in a stern voice. "Listen as I speak, for I will not condone insolence. If you cannot hold your silence, I will have yon sheriff..." she pointed with a flourish behind the crowd, "...lock you in the stocks."
The crowd turned as one to see the actor dressed in green leggings and surcoat standing behind them next to a wooden contraption. There were three holes cut into it to fit the head and the hands of the transgressor.
The small faces in the front row turned back to her, wide-eyed and subdued.
"In the normal course of things, my life as a woman, even a noblewoman, is a great struggle and filled with hard work. While my husband sees to the castle's defense, I see to its upkeep and to the welfare of the people who serve us."
She narrowed her eyes at the little upturned faces, staring rapturously. "Do you have any idea how difficult it is to keep a castle clean?" They shook their heads in unison, and she dared a quick wink to their smiling parents. "Well, I can tell you it takes dozens of servants. Why, it takes two boys, just about your size," she said, pointing to two wide-eyed boys in the front row, "to scrub the hearth clean each day before the cook prepares our meals. And it's nigh on impossible to keep the rats and mice out of the larder..." she said, shuddering, "...without fine fat cats to do the job."
She clasped her hands in front of her and lowered her face for a moment, raising it to allow the crowd to see a glimpse of the inner anguish "Lady Jacqueline" felt as she continued her story.
"But now is not the normal course. And things are harder than ever before. For 'tis the year of our lord, eleven fifty three, and Duke Henry of Normandy has landed on England's shores to challenge our King Stephen. The lord of the castle, my husband Rufus, has joined the battle to wrest the rule of England from a villainous leader.
"I have just received word from my lord husband that his forces are outnumbered and he is in dire need of reinforcements.
"I fear for my lord's life," she said, wringing anguish from her expression as she paced the stage, a frown of concentration on her face.
"But I am helpless to lend him aid. I am but a woman. I cannot wield a heavy sword in battle. I haven't the strength to cut down a man. Instead, I do my duty to my lord by caring for his people and defending his keep in his absence. If my lord is struck down, what will become of us?
"It is only my love, my loyalty and this prayer I have to offer my husband in his time of need."
Sinking to her knees with head bowed, she clasped her hands tightly together. Then, recalling the prayer from the book, she recited it word for word.
"Almighty lord, hear my prayer
for I fear all hope is lost.
Please arm Lord Rufus with your might
to spare the heavy cost
of wounded, scarred and dying men
upon the battlefield.
Spare his life, provision him
with courage as his shield;
help him know what he must do
to free this land from hate.
This I do beseech thee, Lord,
Before it is too late."
Keeping her head bowed, Jacq paused for effect, unaware the silence of the crowd was due to the odd mist descending and swirling about her, thickening until her kneeling figure was all but obscured in a heavy fog.