Authors: Prue Batten
BOOK OF PAWNS
Copyright © 2012
All rights reserved.
Kindle Edition 2012
Sir Guy of Gisborne is in essence a legendary character, possibly first mentioned in
Child Ballad #118
but potentially in an even older story. Traditionally he is associated with the legend of Robin Hood but I have chosen to move far from the familiar canon and imagine what might have happened in altered circumstances.
Because Gisborne is familiarly linked to the reign of Richard Lionheart, the story I have written takes place at the cusp of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and I have tried where possible to be faithful to the times. Sources are listed in the bibliography at the end of the novel but much commentary and research of the period is contradictory so I have taken whichever fact fitted my narrative most comfortably.
There are other liberties throughout the story – the most obvious being Ysabel of Moncrieff’s marital status. With her background, wealth and accomplishments, it is highly unlikely she would be unmarried at the age we find her in the novel. At the very least, she would have an arranged marriage to a wealthy nobleman of some standing. I have chosen to take Ysabel out of the mould for the purposes of the story.
And finally, I have used Julian of Norwich’s quote out of its later time frame. It is a beautiful saying and fits the theme of the story.
‘I dwell by dale and downe,’ quoth Guye,
and I have done many a curst turne;
and he that calles me by my right name
Calles me Guye of good Gysborne.’
Child Ballad #118
‘And all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.’
Julian of Norwich
The parchment crackled as it opened and I angled it to the light at the window
‘To Lady Ysabel Moncrieff, my
It is with
sadness that I inform you of the death of your loved and adore
mother, Alaïs de
The letter was dated two months previous and was signed with my father’s name, his seal buried in uncompromising oak gall ink. I glanced at the packet again in the hope there would be more words … something, anything. But m
sent no message of comfort or orders for my future
and I was bereft.
As the writing blurred and I held hard to the stone windowsill, I thought that in eight weeks my mother had died, been buried and had a mass said for her soul every day whilst I sang, danced, hunted and gamed with my Cazenay cousins and friends in Aquitaine. My heart ached with the poignancy of it all and I wept, the tears blotting the green of my gown.
I drifted around the
domain in a dark and distant mood and my cousins could barely touch me in my grief because
I adored my mother and had lost my way with
no one to show me the path back … my mother, a beauty and
usin twice removed from the great Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine
to be lauded by the troubadours across the land because Eleanor had thought her a jewel beyond measure and had not been pleased to give the hand of one of her favourite ladies to my father.
was Joffrey of Moncrieff, an English baron of greater ranking and the man who appeared to have forgotten his duty to his child.
I saddled my mare, Khazia,
the next day
and the groom helped me mount
, the gown folds hitched into the girdle that hung at my hips.
I wanted to gallop and cry far from the meaningless
prattle of the castle confines.
I wanted to grie
ve, rent my clothes if I desired
and as soon as I was over the drawbridge, the mare
over stones and round jutting boulders with me
hing for her safety or my own. My heart hurt.
I had not been able to see my mother for two years nor tell her what she
meant to me in her last days.
It seemed to me that I had
deserted her when she needed her daughter beyond measure
Khazia snorted and started sideways and through my tears I noticed another mount gaining on my flank,
saw a hand reach out
my reins. P
ressure was brought
to bear on the bit and Khazia
shaking her head in protest, the horse alongside matching
tually we stopped and both animals
stood heaving whilst I swallowed on my pain and turned to stare
at the man who had halted me. He still held my rein but
bowed his head sl
ightly and spoke. T
resonant tone of his voice burrowed
through my hurt
and the blood thumped through my limbs in consequence
sabel, I am sorry for your loss
but breaking an innocent animal’s legs does neither you nor your mother
I went to slap his face, a face with strong pl
anes and shadows of tiredness, b
ut he grabbed my wrist, tugged hard so that I had
to lean toward him, and then
calmly placed my
fingers back across the reins. His eyes met mine
glance for glance, the air solid and tempestuous, but something in his exp
ression touched my grief and my anger stilled for a moment.
I was sure h
e felt compassion for me, not pity like the rest of
tanding of loss and confusion. The mare blew loudly down her nose
and shook herself and
I realized this man was right;
I had been thoughtless and cruel.
I slid down
, my gown still hitched
, and he dismounted beside me. He towered above
with height and broad shoulders, reminding me how effeminate
were the men I had known.
I guessed he was older than myself
by a year or two, perhaps a little more,
and he had a manner that
implied he had seen life far more than I
‘I am Guy of Gisborne, Lady, and I am charged
to return you
to Moncrieff forthwith.’
ed as I held out a sweaty hand that he took but did not kiss, holding his dark hair back with the other hand. I was to go home, and my heart so lately broken
began to warm and I almost thought I might bea
r my mother’s death after all. Gisborne’s palm was
dry and cool and something about the way our fingers touch
ed slowed the world around me. A blush warmed my cheeks and I glanced at him from under my lashes, noticing he was intent upon me.
‘When, sir? When do we go? I am desperate to return.
‘Tomorrow at cockcrow. T
pack your immediate needs now.
Your chests will follow.’
I stood looki
ng out over the view of the
ey with the fierce lapis
and the river trailing away between ivory cliff walls and brushed
falling hair back from my forehead.
He followed my gaze.
‘It’s not the cool green of England’s shores, is it?’
His voice held
a degree of sarcasm
and as he wiped at his brow, a faint sheen of sweat peeled away under his palm
and laced leather boots that creased across his ankles and the southern winds blew a
n chemise back hard against his chest. F
first time in recent days I smiled.
‘But they write excellent poetry, have dele
ctable food and play at courtly manners
like none other.’
His mouth barely curled and
yet I could see he was amused.
and I write and yet I believe th
ere’s a time and place for it.
Things here seem out of balance.
Too much sweetness and not enough savoury.
‘Is Moncrieff any better
?’ I asked.
so long since I have seen it. Eight years, Sir Guy
‘I am not yet a kni
ght, merely your father’s steward
‘You are a knight because you rescue me from this pla
ce and return me to my father. How does he?
I miss him.’
‘I have only been in your father’s servic
e for six months, Lady Ysabel.
But in truth I would say he is much aged and your presence may sooth him in his troubles.’
My heart jumped and I grabbed
‘What troubles? Is he ill?’
d see he
chose his wor
ds carefully but I could decipher nothing beneath what he said.
‘He grieves,’ he replied.
Tears threatened again. Of course my father would grieve; Alaïs was his light.
‘Tomorrow you say?
How long will it take us?’
‘A month to reach the n
ortherly coast, perhaps a few days
to sail to the English coast depending on the seas and then two weeks to ride to Moncrieff.’
As he spoke, he helped me mount,
and I brushed
away the tears th
at finally trickled down my cheeks. I was to go home at last. So many times I had craved it, losing my temper with the heat, the affectations of my friends, wanting nothing but the quiet, calm cool of Moncrieff.
Momentarily I wondered why I should want to go home so badly with my mother gone. But then I recalled the dour walls of Moncrieff and the way the building stood proud in the middle of its little lake. The way the water that underlined fens life trickled, rushed and sometimes just stood as reflective as a burnished piece of steel. But more than anything, I realized my mother’s heart and soul were still there and I wanted to be close to her.
It was my family’s habit from when I was born
to make the arduous journey to Aquitaine once yearly so that Alaïs could enjoy the southern climes
meet with our cousins.
My father Joffrey
loved Aquitaine and would sink
himself deep into his wife’s familial society. I sometimes wondered if he preferred it to Moncrieff which is northeast of London, as
as a trencher
and surrounded by the blurred
edges of fens and marshes.
I loved my family home and Cazenay equally but if I had a choice, Moncrieff was where I belonged because they say often enough that home is where the heart is. On less damp ground, Moncrieff had valuable fields
and its forests were sough
t after for reputable hunting and I had reveled in the riding, even as a child.