Sunday, March 27, 2011

#SampleSunday - The Crown in the Heather, Ch. 10

I realize I haven't done #SampleSunday for a month! Where have I been? Finishing up courses in Anatomy, Plant Biology and Field Geology, that's where. As much as I love learning new things (or re-learning old things, in this case), I am sooo glad to be back, for tomorrow I shall sit at the keyboard, freshly brewed Chocolate Raspberry coffee steaming up from my special The Black Prince mug, and let my imagination run rampant in 14th century Scotland. Life is good.

The paperback version of Worth Dying For has finally gone to print - woo hoo! It should appear on within the week. Enormous apologies to those who have been more than patiently waiting for it.

Meanwhile, here is an excerpt from Chapter 10 of The Crown in the Heather. The year is 1300 and Prince Edward has been summoned to Windsor by his father, King Edward I of England (a.k.a. Longshanks). He's in trouble for having hunted on lands owned by a bishop without permission while in the company of his beloved, Piers Gaveston - a man his father considers a very poor influence.

I'm sure some readers wonder at first why the future Edward II is suddenly appearing in a book about Robert the Bruce. That's a valid question. For one, I wanted to show more of his father, Longshanks. Also, you should get a solid sense of what this dysfunctional father-son relationship was about. I can easily imagine Prince Edward on the Dr. Phil show, baring his soul and bemoaning the fact that his father neither understands nor accepts him as he is. Second, who could resist getting under the skin of a character as complex and misunderstood as Edward? Last, Edward's tragic life and how it intertwines with the Bruce becomes even more abundantly clear in the second and third Bruce books.


I ENTERED THE ROOM where my father, King of all England and more, was taking his supper at a small round table. Bishop Langton sat across from him. I cringed inwardly, but kept a level chin and square shoulders. I knew, without being told, why I had been summoned to Windsor. Behind them, the chill air of a dimming sunset poured in through an open window, so they were but dark silhouettes before it. Black-robed judges ready to levy their sentence on me, with or without a trial.

Ignoring me as one would a menial servant, the king finished off his meal to the very last pea and chased it down with half a cup of wine from a jeweled goblet. The bishop’s stern eyes never left me. He leered at me like a nagging mother who stares down a disobedient boy before she can get across the room to tweak him by the ear and drag him outside for a beating. I so wanted to prance over to him, knock the bloody miter right off his fat, bald head and then strike him senseless with the gold crucifix that swung from his short, little neck. By Babylon, it must have been heavy enough to anchor a ship. I glared back at him, rolled my eyes and sighed with annoyance.

When your time comes, your grace, God will judge you, too, by your legion of vices. I hear your steward’s niece birthed your bastard not a year ago and her belly is already swelling again.

“What is it,” my father began, as he dabbed at his hands on a square of white linen, “about the word ‘property’ that you fail to understand?” With a flip of his slim fingers, he tossed a chicken bone to the floor. His lazing brindle greyhound snatched it up, growled as it passed me with its tail tight between its legs and then lay down across the doorway, as if to block my escape.

“Mea culpa,” I muttered, bowing low in Langton’s direction. “It will not happen again.”

“Indeed, it will not.” My sire dipped his fingers in a bowl of rose water and then wiped them dry on his lap. “You behave infra dignitatem, perhaps because of those you surround yourself with. You are confined to Windsor for six months. Your ‘friends’ may not come within sight of you during that time. That should provide you with ample time for reflection.” Beneath cold, gray eyes, he smiled smugly.

My heart froze in its rhythm. Six months? Six months? “But, sire . . . Brother Perrot? You placed him in my household at King’s Langley. You cannot send him away because of one little escapade. What harm was done that cannot be undone?”

“Much. You both suffer from poor judgment. You knew you were on Bishop Langton’s lands and yet you failed to seek his permission. You killed more deer than you could bring back and left a dozen carcasses in the forest to rot, spread disease, breed flies and stink whenever the wind blows. You have been a nuisance, a wastrel and a common thief. The bishop here urged me to be more lenient with you, but I think I have been far too lax until now. Punishment is overdue. It is time to alter your ways. You are a man now and should begin to act like one.”

With a sweep of his hand he dismissed me from his royal presence. I lowered my eyes and backed away, turning sharply about as I reached the door. The greyhound let out a yelp, jumped up and snapped at my shins. I had stepped on its tail—not by accident.

Happy reading,

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