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Authors: Christina Dodd

Outrageous

BOOK: Outrageous
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Outrageous

A STORY OF THE WAR
OF THE ROSES

C
HRISTINA
D
ODD

This book is dedicated to my critique group
with thanks and good wishes.

To this author’s distress, the English have always had the regrettable tendency to name their monarchs the same thing, over and over again. For instance, there were six King Georges, seven Edwards, four Williams, and, most important for our purposes, eight King Henrys and five Elizabeths—two queens in their own right and three consorts to the king.

This story concerns Henry VII and his consort Elizabeth of York—the parents of the infamous Henry VIII, the grandparents of the awe-inspiring Elizabeth I. Together they founded the Tudor dynasty which provided stability to England, but they came from turbulent upbringings, filled with war, murder, adultery, and treachery of the blackest sort. The adultery and treachery shape the background for this tale of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

Contents

Prologue

Death whistled past Griffith ap Powel as he dodged the…

1
   The clash of swords echoed through the long gallery of…

2
   “Smacked ye a good one, she did.” Art pressed a…

3
   Someone was in the room. Someone besides Art, who slept…

4
   How odd, Griffith thought. He lay in the countess of…

5
   Marian stood poised on tiptoe, ready to run, not knowing…

6
   The cacophonous sounds attacked Marian’s ears as soon as she…

7
   Lionel wiggled on Griffith’s shoulders, and Griffith adjusted him without…

8
   She tried to stifle her shriek, but it was too late.

9
   “My arse is tired of sitting on this horse. We’ve…

10
  “Marian lass is in there?” Art eyed the wretched hut…

11
  Harbottle groaned as the key grated in the lock.

12
  As the door shut softly behind Rhys, Angharad, and Lionel,…

13
  Art squawked like a hen when a wolf has come…

14
  “The battle proceeds as we had hoped. My dear Lord…

15
  The crack of a twig in the woods beside the…

16
  The horse found Marian as she stood over Art like…

17
  They woke Marian much too early in the morning for…

18
  Touched by moonlight, the spidery writing blared at Griffith like…

19
  Griffith panted as he pushed Harbottle’s body off of his…

20
  The jeers of the mercenaries never gave way to arrows…

21
  “Lower th’ portcullis!”

22
  Stupefied, Marian could only gape at him. “What predicaments?”

August 22, 1485
Bosworth Field

Death whistled past
Griffith ap Powel as he dodged the knight’s bloody sword. Shrieking his war cry, Griffith wheeled his stallion and swung his battle-ax.

The knight fell, but Griffith had no time to watch. Another knight took that one’s place, and another, and another. None of these feeble Englishmen could match a Welshman’s skill, but the warriors of Richard’s royal army still tried, and tried mightily. Griffith spurred his horse. The marshland sank beneath the exhausted animal’s feet, and the fetid smell of death and decay rose all around. Then the stallion gained firm ground, and with a clash of steel, Griffith met the main body of Richard’s army.

Using mace and ax, Griffith cut a swath through the endless succession of knights. Moans and screams assaulted his ears. Sweat trickled in his mouth, tasting of salt and steel. He took a blow to his
hip but dispatched his assailant impatiently. Blood seeped from a thousand tiny cuts, saturating the quilting beneath his armor, but he didn’t care.

He had to get to Henry.

The morning mists drifted around Griffith. The slots of his helmet cut his vision, but on the hill above him he caught sight of the banner bearing the bloodred rose of the Lancasters. There he would find Henry Tudor, last hope of the Lancaster family.

There he would find the man who would be king of England.

He fought on the fringes of the battle, inflicting damage where he could but never losing sight of his goal. Closer and closer he moved, until, scattering Henry’s bodyguards with the force of his charge, he roared in Welsh, “Henry! My lord, they must come
now
!”

In the tongue of his youth, Henry shouted back, “Do you think I don’t know that?” He pointed first to one side of the battlefield, where an army waited, then to the other, where another waited. “I’ve sent word to each of the commanders, demanding they attack as promised. They haven’t moved.”

“Whoresons!” Griffith pulled off his helmet and greedily drank the water offered him by Henry’s squire. “They swore they’d help us.”

“They swore the same thing to Richard, I trow.” Henry looked out over the battlefield. “They’ll wait until they see which way the tide turns.”

Griffith grinned in savage pleasure. “Richard’s army outnumbered us and outmaneuvered us, but we’ve done them damage. We’ve killed his best commander, and his troops are disheartened. But look, my lord, and see what I see.” He pointed across Bosworth Field. “Richard of York is coming for you.”

Henry sucked in his breath in dismay as he stared at the charge headed his way. It was a large party, almost twice as large as the guard around him.
Richard himself led it, knowing full well that if Henry were killed, the Lancaster cause would lose its heart. An accomplished tactician, a hardened warrior, Richard might have been a good king, too, but he’d taken the throne from his own nephews. He’d had the two lads murdered, God knew how, and their bodies dumped in an unmarked grave. Even in England, home of royal treachery, that was the one sin neither commoner nor nobleman could accept.

Richard III had worn the crown for two dark years, and the rumors of his perfidy had grown. It was said that he’d had his good queen poisoned, that he’d wooed Elizabeth, his own niece. The sister of the dead princes, she would have given Richard the legitimacy he sought if she had wed him.

When, in fact, she was promised to Henry.

It was the perfect union—the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York. Griffith was determined it should come about.

Henry wasn’t a warrior. Griffith hadn’t chosen to follow him for his battle skills, but because Henry Tudor had the right to the throne. Son of the Lancasters through his mother’s line, Henry was the Welshman promised by the ancient legends, the descendant of Arthur, who would unite England and Wales—and give Wales the autonomy it deserved. Griffith fought for Wales, for his home, for the promise of a better time.

As calmly as if he were the lord and Henry the minion, Griffith instructed, “Take your helmet from your squire and put it on. Loosen your sword in its scabbard. Sit relaxed in the saddle, and take good care to keep your shield ever before you. Keep a clear head, and remember”—he touched Henry’s armorclad shoulder with his mace—“I haven’t followed you all the way from Wales to lose.”

“It gives me comfort to hear you say so,” Henry answered.

Giving orders in precise, accented English, Griffith ordered Henry’s bodyguard into a line, told them to charge on his command, placed the standard bearer toward the back, then replaced his helmet. Returning to Henry, he said, “Don’t worry, my liege. I will protect you with my life.”

In wry appreciation of his danger, Henry replied, “You may have to.”

Taking his place at the lip of the hill, slightly in front of the other knights, Griffith waited. Richard’s party fought through the thick of battle. Griffith waited. The stallion beneath him trembled, anxious for strife. Griffith waited. Richard’s party reached the hill. Griffith waited. The knights around him begged for release. Richard’s party slowed as they started up the grade. Griffith lifted his hand. His companions clutched their weapons. Dropping his hand, he shouted, “
À Henry Roi
!”

The bodyguards leaped off the hill like avenging angels, taking advantage of the speed of the downward slope, the wind, and their opponents’ battle weariness.

But Richard had picked his knights well, and these knights were as dedicated to Richard as Griffith was to Henry. They fought for Richard III, fought that he might retain the throne. Griffith whirled like a madman, thrusting, parrying, dealing death with each blow, and risking it with each defense. Each combat brought the end to another enemy; each combat brought another. Grinding Henry’s men down with countless strikes, Richard’s men moved them back up the hill, back toward Henry. Griffith tried to stop it, slow it, but Richard’s men kept pressing in, more and more, overwhelming them with sheer strength of numbers.

Griffith had stared death in the face before, so he recognized it now. But he didn’t give up. He couldn’t. The dream was too strong, his need too dire. “
À
Henry Roi
!” he roared again, but the scream sounding close by his ear drowned the defiant cry.

Henry’s standard bearer was down. Richard’s men had circled behind Griffith, and nothing stood between Richard and Henry. For a fleeting moment, Griffith hoped Henry remembered his instructions. Then he heard the sound of thunder. The ground shook, and he turned, prepared to fight another charge, to lose the last battle of his life.

It looked as though an army had crashed into them. New knights, knights with unbloodied swords and pristine armor, charged into the midst of the crucial conflict. The waiting armies waited no more. They’d seen who struggled and who vanquished, and they rode to rally the strong and destroy the weak. Griffith sagged in the saddle, and his tired gaze sought Henry. He couldn’t reach him in time; couldn’t help him now. Only God could help him, and God seemed very far away.

Wearily he lifted his battle-ax and shield, not because he thought he could come out alive, but because it wasn’t in his nature to surrender. But the attacking knights ignored him, and within a heartbeat he understood.

These troops fought for Henry. For whatever reason—the good of the country, the right of Henry’s cause—they attacked Richard and his warriors. And they slaughtered them.

The fresh knights took pleasure in their work. They laughed as they killed Richard’s men. They laughed as they killed the horses, too.

Sickened, Griffith thought,
Not the good of the country. Not the right of Henry’s cause. But vengeance most horrible on Richard
.

Taking care to stay out of their way, he led his stallion back to Henry.

“They’ve got him,” Henry shouted, but the triumph
was absent from his voice. “Look, they’re killing Richard.”

Of all his men, Richard alone remained upright. Knights surrounded the Yorkist king in a circle, and they hacked at him. He landed great and furious blows, and Griffith found himself cheering when he decapitated an enemy. But Richard’s achievement only made the others more savage, and they drove him from one to the other, sticking him with their swords, chopping him with their battle-axes, smashing him with their maces.

In a final attempt to free himself—or perhaps just to die honorably—Richard brought his horse up. It whinnied as it reared, hooves thrashing, and knocked two knights from the saddle. One of them brought his sword up and the noble animal crumpled, a crimson slash in its milky-white breast.

Richard went down in a crash of armor, and the knights moved in. His breastplate and his helmet were flung out of the crowd, then blood flew in the air like rain.

The good English ground sucked up the rivulets of blood. The blood of foot soldiers. The blood of knights. And the royal blood of Richard III.

Henry Tudor watched the carnage, horror etched on his thin face. Turning to Griffith, he swore the oath by which he would govern England. “If that is how Englishmen treat their deposed kings, then I swear on the nails of the Holy Cross, nothing—no one will ever take my throne from me.”

BOOK: Outrageous
6.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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