A Mediaeval tale of pride and strife, of coming of age in a world where chivalry is a luxury seldom afforded, especially by men of power. An awkward misfit, loathed by his powerful and autocratic grandmother, nine-year-old Fulke FitzWarin leaves his family to be fostered in the household of Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Here Fulke will learn knightly arts, but before he can succeed, he must overcome the deep-seated doubts that hold him back. Hawise FitzWarin is Joscelin's youngest daughter and she befriends Fulke. As they grow up, an implacable enemy threatens Ludlow and as the pressure mounts, their friendship changes until one fateful day they find themselves staring at each other across a divide. Not only does Fulke have to overcome the shadows of his childhood, he faces a Welsh threat to his family's lands, and the way he feels about Hawise endangers all his hard won confidence. As the menace to Ludlow intensifies, he must either confront the future head on, or fail on all counts, not knowing if Hawise stands with or against him.
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Elizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband, two sons and assorted animals including cats, dog and guinea pigs. She is the author of 14 historical novels, four of which have been shortlisted for awards. She is very involvedd in historical enactments.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
St. Peter's Fair, Shrewsbury, August 1148
On the day that Brunin FitzWarin encountered the men who were to change and shape his life, he was ten years old and wandering the booths of St. Peter's Fair unchaperoned.
Mark, his father's serjeant, who should have been keeping an eye on him, had allowed his attention to be diverted by a brimming pitcher and an alewife's buxom daughter at one of the refreshment stalls. Growing bored with the adult dalliance, Brunin had meandered off to explore the booths on his own. He was a lanky child with an olive complexion and eyes of so deep a brown that they were almost black, hence his nickname, his true appellation being Fulke, the same as his father. His five brothers were fair like their parents. Brunin, it was said by the charitable, was a throwback to his grandsire, a Lorraine mercenary of doubtful origins. Those less generous muttered that he was a changeling child, a cuckoo laid in the nest by the faery folk of the Welsh hills.
He passed a cookstall where soft oatcakes were being smartly turned on a griddle and sold to passersby. A woman had bought several and was dividing them among her swarming offspring. She reprimanded one child with exasperation, but a moment later ruffled his hair. Catching Brunin's wistful gaze, she smiled, tore a side from a remaining oatcake, and offered it to him as if coaxing a wild thing. Brunin shook his head and moved quickly away. It was not the oatcake that had caused his yearning look.
"Jugs and pitchers!" a trader shouted in his ear. "Pottles and pots! Finest wares of Stamford and Nottingham!" The man waved aloft a green-glazed jug with the design of a grinning face carved in the spout. A pugnacious housewife was haggling vigorously with his assistant over the price of a cooking jar.
For three days every summer, traders came to Shrewsbury and arrayed their wares in the shadow of the great Benedictine abbey of Saints Peter and Paul. Even the unrest of the civil war between the supporters of King Stephen and the Empress Matilda could not dampen people's enthusiasm for bargains and rarities. Brunin's father said that, if anything, the unrest made the fair even more popular because men could meet allies and discuss common ground while seen to be engaged in legitimate pursuits.
That's where his father was now, talking to old friends, and that was why Brunin had been put in Mark's charge. They were supposed to meet FitzWarin at the horse market when the abbey bell rang the hour of sext. Brunin was to have a new pony since he was rapidly outgrowing the small Welsh bay that had served him since he was six years old. Spider legs his grandmother had called him last week, as if his sudden growth spurt was a sin.
The language of trade assaulted his ears from all quarters. The Latin and French of wealthier stall-holders were familiar to him. Here and there, a Welsh voice soared above a babbling undercurrent of English. Brunin spoke a smattering of the two latter tongues-but never in his grandmother's hearing unless he deliberately wanted to annoy her.
The cloth stalls were heaving with women who eyed and fingered, discussed, longed for, and occasionally bought. Brunin's mother had a silk dress of the same shimmering red-gold as one of the bolts draped over a booth counter. He had seen it in her clothing coffer, but she rarely wore it. She had told him once with blank eyes that it was her wedding gown.
Brunin paused at a trader's cart to fondle a litter of brindle hound pups. The trader also had a pair of tiny dogs with long, silky fur and colorful ribbons tied around their necks. The sound of their yapping hurt Brunin's ears. He tried to imagine his father entertaining such lap rats in his household and grinned at the image. FitzWarin was strictly a hound man, the larger the better.
Ambling toward the horse market, Brunin wondered if he could steer his father's eye in the direction of a pied or jet-black pony this time-something that would stand out from common chestnut and brown. Of course, unusual colors cost more and if the price was not reasonable, his father would refuse to buy.
To reach the horse fair, Brunin had to cut down the thoroughfare where the weapon smiths had set out their stalls. The sight of the shining sword blades, the axes, daggers, hauberks, helms, and sundry accoutrements of the warrior's craft seized both his sight and his imagination. Here was a knife in a tooled leather sheath just like the one Mark wore at his hip, here a sword with a grip of red braid and an inscription scrolled in Latin down the blade. Brunin's mouth watered. Sometimes he would draw his father's sword from its scabbard and pretend that he was the great warrior Roland, defending the pass at Roncesvalles against the Infidel. His grandmother had caught him once and thrashed him for leaving sticky fingerprints on the polished iron. He had been more circumspect since-and, mindful of her words, he always cleaned the sword on his tunic before putting it away.
A nobleman and his entourage arrived at the booth where Brunin was eyeing up the weaponry and began inspecting the swords. Brunin watched the lord heft the blade that the craftsman handed to him.
"Good balance," the lord nodded. "Grip's a little short. I don't want to lose my finger ends in battle." He swiped the sword through the air, testing the feel, following through with a deft backswing before handing the weapon around for an opinion.
"That can be changed if you like the blade, my lord," said the trader. "Or there's this one." He presented another sword, this one scabbarded in tactile, rose-colored leather.
Captivated, Brunin moved closer and was immediately pushed aside by a fair-haired squire attending the noble. "Out of the way, brat," he sneered. "Get back to your nursemaid."
Brunin flushed. The youth was wearing a tunic of blood-red wool and had a knife at his belt not much smaller than Mark's. One hand hovered close to the hilt as if he were thinking of drawing it. Eyeing the implied threat, Brunin began to feel queasy.
"He's lost his tongue," grinned a younger, stocky youth in blue. "Unless he's Welsh and doesn't understand us. He looks Welsh, doesn't he?"
Brunin lifted his chin. Every muscle was stiff with the effort of holding his ground. "I'm not W-Welsh," he said.
The lord ceased examining his second sword and glanced around. "Ernalt, Gerald, leave the boy alone. Let him look if he desires." His tone was tolerant. "What's your name, boy?"
Brunin delved for his manners. "Fulke, sir," he said, using his formal birth name. "Fulke F-FitzWarin..."
The humor faded from the man's eyes. "Of Whittington?"
"And what might you be doing strolling the booths on your own?"
"Waiting for my father," Brunin answered.
The noble raised his head and gazed around as if expecting to see Brunin's father among the crowd. "Then perhaps you would do better not to wait in my vicinity," he said. His voice had lost its warmth. "If your sire is as careless with his lands as he is with his son, he may well end up losing both." Turning his back on Brunin with a deliberate air of dismissal, he handed the sword to the craftsman and set about discussing terms.
Brunin was bewildered. He did not understand the sudden change, but knew enough to realize that his presence was unwelcome and that it must have something to do with his father. He started to walk away and received a hefty shove in the middle of his back. Stumbling, surprised, he turned to find himself facing the blond squire and his companion.
"Know what happens to a cub when it wanders too far from the den?" the blond one asked in a voice straining in the space between boy and man. He drew his knife.
Brunin swallowed and his queasiness increased.
"You think he's afraid?" The stocky boy gave Brunin another shove, a predatory glint in his eyes.
"Of course he is."
"I'm n-not!" Brunin contradicted. Something strange was happening to his bladder, as if the blond squire's blade was sawing through his ability to control it.
The youth thumbed the tip of the weapon and then ran his finger lightly across the edge. "You should be, whelp," he said. "Perhaps I'll cut off your little tail and send you home to your pack with a stump, eh?" He sliced the steel descriptively under Brunin's nose.
Brunin flinched. He knew it wasn't manly but couldn't help himself. He wished he were back at the guest house with his mother and brothers and even his grandmother. He wished he were still with Mark and bored stiff.
The squire in blue grabbed Brunin's arm. "Shall I hold him down?"
"If you like."
Terror shot through Brunin like a molten wire. Drawing back his foot he kicked his captor in the shin and, twisting, bit the hand that was gripping his elbow. The youth yelled and let go. Brunin took to his heels. Winding among the booths, he was as swift and pliable as an eel between rocks, but his pursuers were fast too and there were two of them. Brunin darted toward the stall where he had left Mark supping ale and cozening the girl but, to his horror, the young serjeant was no longer there.
The girl scowled over the counter at the wild-eyed, panting boy. "He's gone looking for you." Her tone indicated that she was furious at having her flirtation curtailed. "You're in trouble, you are."
He didn't need to be told. "Please..." he croaked, but it was too late. The squires grabbed him one either side and held him fast. When the girl looked askance, the fair-haired one winked at her. "Young rascal," he said. Reassured, she turned away, abandoning Brunin to his fate.
He fought the youths with every shred of strength in his narrow body, but he was no match for their adolescent brawn. Their fingers bruised his flesh as they dragged him across the fairground. A hard hand cupped his mouth to stifle his yells, and when he tried again to bite, he felt the cold burn of the knife at his throat. A sudden, shameful heat flooded his braies and stai...
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Descripción Jul 01, 2004. Estado de conservación: New. clubsize hardcover. Nº de ref. de la librería KH-NALF-T56Q