Today wraps up the 12 magical weeks of Medieval Mondays. I’ve met some wonderful fellow authors through this exchange, and I hope I’ve introduced you to some new books from the medieval era.
This last blog features Book 3 of the Elinor’s Stronghold series, Restoring Garnet’s Heart.
Tragically widowed, Garnet is loved by two men. If a noble lady can have two men, why can’t a mere sewing woman? Garnet decides she’ll marry them both! Then she adopts two orphaned, starving little girls.
Garnet, Byram, and Carlysle are sent to repair the demesne. Can they achieve this huge task before the harvest is gathered in? First a high stone wall needs to be built to protect them from attackers. The buildings must be cleaned and repaired, the crops sown, weeded, cared for, and hopefully reaped. Is it possible to complete such a huge undertaking before the next vicious winter arrives? Will the peasants help them?
Meanwhile Lady Elinor gives birth to the heir of the stronghold, and Lord Rhys and Lady Rhyannon, with Alistair and Lord Devon, go to court to sort out her inheritance. And what about Garnet’s threesome relationship? Will that be successful?
Lady Elinor stared at the two children in front of her. One, a girl, looked to be about six years old and dragged a cooking pot with a few possessions inside it. Her arms and legs were stick-thin, her hair was falling out in clumps, and her belly was swollen.
The child had been eating bark and leaves to try to stem her hunger, and her belly was full of air, assumed Garnet, who was standing beside Lady Elinor among the other sewing women of the castle.
The younger child, which could be either a girl or boy, and was maybe three years old, clutched the older one’s tunic in one hand, and sucked hard on its other thumb. It, too, was painfully thin, though less bloated by starvation.
“You wish to become my slave?” Lady Elinor’s voice was even and mild, but Garnet knew she was shocked. Peasant men from the smallest of uncaring Lord Jeffrey’s hamlets had begged to become slaves of the castle in return for food during this terrible winter, but few females, and no one as young as this little child.
“Yes, Lady Elinor. I can scare birds from the crops when they’re planted, and clean for you. Ysabel will stay with me. I’ve always looked after her since Ma died, and she won’t touch the seedlings. She’s a good girl, and no trouble at all. And I will grow big, and learn to fight for you and Lord Rhys, and then I’ll kill the men who murdered our Pa and took all our hamlet’s food,” the child finished fiercely, almost in a shout.
Garnet felt her eyebrows rise and forced her face not to break into a grin. It was plain this tiny, starved child had the heart of a warrior indeed.
Lady Elinor rested her hand on her huge belly. It was almost time for the heir to the stronghold to be born.
“Well then, Nerida is already learning warrior skills, and if the heir to the stronghold is a girl, she will be a warrior, too. I see no reason why you can’t also be a warrior, if that is your desire. What is your name, and where are the other people from your hamlet?”
“I’m Ava, lady, and I promise to serve you forever. Most of the people left after the soldiers came raiding. Some have tried to help Ysabel and me, but I’d rather work for my food.”
Garnet watched Ava’s thin, little shoulders straighten as she spoke. At her age, Garnet would never have dared to approach the Lady of the Castle, and Garnet had never been a shy child. But this girl was truly a warrior born. She was that rare being who combined the ability to think of a solution to a problem with the courage to step outside any rules of society and do it, no matter what the consequences may turn out to be.
Without stopping to think, Garnet moved to stand where Lady Elinor could see her. “The two girls may share my room, lady, and I will supervise their activities.”
“It is decided then, Ava. You and Ysabel may join the stronghold. We will feed you, and you will work. You will obey Garnet in all things. Do you understand?”
“Yes, lady, thank you.”
Ava dropped to her knees and pressed her face to Lady Elinor’s feet. Ysabel copied her.
Garnet’s eyes flooded with tears. Peasants always died when there was trouble in the land, especially the very old and the very young. They weren’t strong enough to fight back or fast enough to run away. But this child deserved to live.
Garnet’s husband, Roldan, had been one of Lord Rhys’s soldiers, and was killed in the battle that took the lives of Lady Elinor’s father and brothers and caused Lord Rhys to lose his demesne to Lord Jeffrey. They had been married only six months, not long enough for her to worry about not getting pregnant, but now he was dead, the parents of these children were dead, and Ava was a daughter any woman would be proud to call her own.