The King’s Knight Book 1
By J. A. Ironside
England seethes with discontent over unfair and arbitrary taxation.
The country is on the cusp of an uprising - a peasant's revolt. All it will take is a spark.
Gregory Maudesley, second son of a minor noble and disillusioned knight for hire, returns home after nearly a decade abroad. Maudesley intends to claim his deceased father's lands but the knight is plagued by misfortune.
Gregory journeys to London to secure an audience with the boy king, Richard II. But the England he travels through is very different from that of his youth. The road is treacherous and the greatest dangers of all await him in the capital.
The city is ablaze. Even the Tower of London has fallen to Wat Tyler's forces.
But Richard, enlisting Gregory’s help, will ride out to meet the rebellion head on.
A king and kingdom must stand, or fall.
Revolt is the first book is The King's Knight series of novellas, chronicling the life of Gregory Maudesley and the dramatic reign of Richard II.
Gregory listened to the list of his new beloved’s virtues wearing a stony expression. He remembered Baron de Gilbert from his boyhood and thought he’d never seen the old patrician look so sheepish. The baron clearly knew he was offering shoddy goods.
Whatever was wrong with this Alienor of the Marches, it had been enough to prevent any other matrimonial nibbles. Perhaps no one else was quite desperate enough to marry a Scot.
In the face of Gregory’s noticeable lack of enthusiasm, Baron de Gilbert trailed off.
“If the lady is half as attractive and accomplished as you say, I wonder that you’ve not suggested one of your own sons should marry her,” Gregory said. “Giles is still without a wife, is he not?”
The baron’s pleasant expression stiffened. “Alienor is my sister’s daughter, Sir Maudesley. Far too close a relation for the laws of consanguinity to permit.”
“Still, it does seem strange that the lady has not met with a suitable match, neither here nor in her father’s lands.”
The baron gave Gregory a sour look. “You’ve already heard of my niece’s indiscretion.”
Gregory allowed the silence to stretch out taut and uncomfortable. He knew damn well he had to marry the girl but he wanted the truth first. And there was no reason for de Gilbert to think him eager, or more accurately, desperate.
“My brother-in-law allowed Alienor to run somewhat wild, I think. And then…recently…she was found…with a man…”
“Not one she could marry, then.” Gregory’s tone was business-like but the words tasted sour.
“We don’t know who the devil was,” the baron said, with a flash of temper. “The wretched girl won’t tell us.”
“As long as he’s not likely to turn up in a few months’ time demanding his wife,” Gregory said morosely. He supposed from a practical point of view it didn’t matter. Or it wouldn’t matter if everyone in the surrounding area didn’t already know.
“No, of course not,” De Gilbert said hastily.
Gregory imagined being mocked by villein and lord alike for taking a soiled petticoat to wife. A new thought struck him like a crossbow quarrel.
“This haste to see the lady wed is from fear of retribution from your powerful brother-in-law?” Gregory’s jaw clenched. “Or that her indiscretion will be compounded by an addition to the family in the near future?”
Baron de Gilbert met his gaze squarely. “Does is matter, Maudesley?”
Gregory started at hearing his father’s friend address him as if he were speaking to the old baronet.
De Gilbert’s eyes grew hard. “As I understand matters, it has been several years of poor harvest for your estate. With inheritance duty, I imagine you are in want of coin.”
Gregory glowered at the older man.
The baron sat back and poured more ale into his mug. “My niece has a considerable dowry, for the right suitor. One of good family with the right name. I am prepared to be generous.”
“How generous?” Gregory grated the words out past his locked teeth.
“Quite generous,” De Gilbert said. “It would seem we might solve each other’s problems admirably.”
Gregory was glad the baron could not know of his brother’s debts or doubtless ‘quite generous’ would have become ‘slightly generous’. “We have an agreement then, providing your niece agrees.”
A troubled expression crossed de Gilbert’s face before he schooled it to politeness once more. “She will see what a fine opportunity it is.” He rose from his chair. Gregory stood likewise but the baron waved him back into his seat. “No, no. I’ll just…see what’s keeping her.”
He shut the door so firmly that it bounced partway open again, leaving Gregory to wonder why a man with a perfectly functioning household should feel compelled to fetch his wayward niece himself.
Some minutes later, the hasty patter of footsteps accompanied by a heavier tread came from the corridor.
“I see I have no choice but to meet him,” a young woman’s voice said bitterly. “But I will promise no more than that.”
Gregory knew it was ill-done to eavesdrop but the woman’s voice caught his attention. It softened words, rolling ‘R’s, lengthening ‘L’s and broadening vowels as it lilted. It took him a moment to understand the words. His ear was not trained for a March accent, which was more than halfway to lowland Scottish.
“Alienor, in the name of God, you must see reason. Eligible suitors do not simply drop out of the sky,” Baron de Gilbert said, in exasperation.
“This one has. Perhaps if you call on the Almighty again, He’ll send a few more.” There was disdain in every syllable. “Much good it may do you if He does, for I’ll not agree to marry any of them.”
“It’s bad enough you’ll not credit me with telling the truth, but you’d have me take as my husband any man who can bear arms!” There was a rhythmic pattern of steps and a faint swishing noise. To and fro. Back and forth. Lady Alienor was pacing in the corridor. “William Maudesley was a brute and I’ve heard nothing to say the brother is any better!”
Gregory stopped pretending that he wasn’t listening with great interest.
“You’ve heard nothing of him at all.” De Gilbert sounded as if he had run to the end of his patience. “He’s been away these ten years. There cannot be a score of people left alive who even remember him. See sense, Niece, I pray you.”
There was a moment’s unbroken silence.
“You cannot stay here forever,” de Gilbert went on. “Your father expects you to marry from here or to return home and find a husband there. Your indiscretion−”
“It’s as much to your advantage as to mine that Laird Douglas hears nothing of my indiscretion, as you call it.”
“That’s as maybe, but how long do you suppose it will be before word does reach his ears? You may dislike my methods, Niece, but how do they compare to your father’s?”
A pause as the lady considered the implication of these words. “Very well. I suppose you’d better present me to this ‘suitable candidate’.”
Gregory turned to see a tall, dark haired young woman stride through the door. He rose and bowed, straightening to see chagrin pink her cheeks as she dipped a bow in return. She wasn’t completely immune to propriety then, for all that she was from the Marches and had besmirched her virtue.
Gregory supposed she was pleasant enough to look upon. Rather lovely, in fact. He found himself the subject of her cool, assessing gaze and heat climbed the back of his neck, knowing what she saw. Or rather what she didn’t see, since he conspicuously lacked any sign of great wealth, refinement or personal attraction. If the lady hoped for a true hearted knight from a ballad, she was likely to be disappointed. Not that it should matter. She should be grateful he was making an offer. From the still, cold expression she wore, he didn’t think that gratitude would be forthcoming anytime soon.
Fletcher had cautioned him on how to address a delicately reared young maiden, but he couldn’t imagine honeyed words winning the day here. If the girl was beautiful, it was the sort of beauty a kestrel might possess – one not easily tamed or caged, and always entirely predatory.
“My niece, Alienor,” de Gilbert said to Gregory, somewhat redundantly. “Alienor, my dear, this is Sir Gregory Maudesley…Baronet Maudesley now, I should say.”
“Lady,” Gregory dipped his head slightly, not seeing the point in bowing again when he’d just done so.
“My lord,” Alienor said. “I would like to say it is a pleasure but you’ll find me distressingly honest in all things.” She shot a glance at her guardian, who shut his eyes and supressed a groan. Her gaze returned to Gregory’s, full of undeclared challenge.
“Alienor,” de Gilbert hissed through his teeth.
“All’s well, my lord.” Gregory was completely freed from his previous embarrassment, at liberty to speak his mind now that the lady had been so thoroughly rude. “I don’t especially require sweet words from a wife. If I want a woman to talk in such a manner, I’ll pay a professional.”
“Maudesley!” de Gilbert snapped.
Gregory watched Alienor’s expression. She didn’t blush or pale. The only change was that the little frown scribbled between her fine, dark brows eased as they rose in surprise. The corner of her mouth twitched and for a moment Gregory could have sworn she wanted to laugh. If he had expected to embarrass her or shame her into silence, it hadn’t worked.
“What do you require from a wife, then, if I may be so bold?” Alienor said.
Once again, Gregory was caught by the lilting quality of her voice which concealed the sharp edges of her words like hidden blades. “What any man requires of a wife.” Seeing that answer did not satisfy her, he expanded on the subject. “A well run household, children if God wills it.”
Alienor smiled, the expression so sweet and deadly, Gregory fought not to step back. “And does it trouble you that you would not be marrying a virtuous, young maiden but one who has stained her reputation? That’s a thorn to the pride, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Gregory said, thinking there was no point dissembling. “But not enough to deter me.”
Alienor’s eyebrows lifted again.
“It need not be an insurmountable barrier,” he went on, fumbling for words that were true even if he did find it distasteful.
Alienor’s expression was equal parts scorn and curiosity. “I believe you mean that.”
“I’ll not have any lovers turning up on my lands, mind. Past or future.”
“Oh you’ve made your position very clear,” Alienor’s tone dripped more of that deadly sweetness.
Gregory wondered if this might not be a huge mistake. She was strongly giving him the impression that she might cut his throat while he slept. In fact, he thought eyeing her surreptitiously, she might well wait as long as it took for my guard to go down. Years if need be, and then stick a dagger under my ear.
“Humour me and answer a question,” Alienor said.
“Very well.” Gregory tried to ignore the way de Gilbert was violently shaking his head.
“Are you wanting to marry me or is it my dowry you’re marrying?” Alienor said.
A small voice at the back of Gregory’s head, which sounded disturbingly like Fletcher, begged him to say something flattering and meaningless. But Gregory found he couldn’t do it. Well aware that he was ruining his chance to marry his way out of disaster, he answered truthfully.
“The dowry is the greater attraction, Lady.” He thought about adding a few words to say that any man would be glad to have such an intelligent, beautiful, witty… No, he could not do it. “But you would be accorded every respect and honour due to you as my wife, regardless of how or why, or...or anything which came before.”
Baron de Gilbert threw his hands up as if to say he was done with the whole business.
Alienor cast a measuring glance over Gregory, leaving him in no doubt that she was not especially pleased by what she saw. “He’ll do. Arrange the wedding as you see fit, Uncle.”
Gregory couldn’t make sense of her words for a moment. He’d been thinking about how to exit with some dignity intact. But she had agreed to marry him. He could raise the inheritance fee. “Lady?”
Alienor gave him a look that said all too plainly that she hoped he wasn’t this stupid all the time. “We’ll be wed. That is what you want, is it not?”
“Er...yes... That is...”
“Very well then. I’ll see you at the wedding, Sir Maudesley.” She exited the room as briskly as she’d entered it, leaving her confused suitor and stunned guardian behind her.
Pick up your copy of
Add Revolt to your ‘to-read’ list on
J. A. Ironside
J. A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in a house full of books in rural Dorset. Which probably explains why she starts to climb the walls if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week.
She writes historical fiction – with a strong leaning towards the medieval era, as well as sci-fi and fantasy. Her preference is for genres that allow her to put her characters in impossible situations so she can then watch them try to wriggle their way out.
Jules is a keen martial artist who has studied and taught for over twenty-five years. She has a particular fondness for medieval weaponry. She now lives in Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswold way.
Connect with Jules: