Vaulting Ambition - Chapter 1


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Life moves on and our founder grows up and finds that life is not always kind.

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Vaulting Ambition - Chapter 1

  1. 1.
  2. 2. Welcome back to Vaulting Ambitions, I was most honored by the response I received for the prologue. I only hope this continues to live up to expectations and quality.<br />When we had left off, the King Richard and his Queen, Alais had announced that they were taking the Tudor twins Rhodri and Owen with them when they departed. Additionally, their older brother Ioan had just lost his wife who died giving birth to their three daughters. <br />Let’s get started shall we? <br />
  3. 3. “Dear Mother, <br />I hope this missive finds you well. Rhodri and I miss you dearly and pray that the Creator looks over you and keeps you from Father’s wrath. <br />
  4. 4. “I was very pleased to see your last message. It sounds as if Branwen, Janet, and Mari are growing up well. I am happy that you were able to find midwives for them since otherwise… Well, I do not wish to think of it. <br />
  5. 5. “I was unsurprised to hear that Ioan had remarried although Rhodri and I had expected to attend the wedding. But considering the circumstances, I can understand. Haste was definitely necessary.<br />
  6. 6. “How fares my new nephew? Is father pleased or is he harping on about needing a spare for the miserable bit of land he possesses? No, you do not need to tell me. I am most certain that he is.<br />
  7. 7. “I pray that Ioan has more sense than that. He has lost one wife in childbirth, it would be most tragic to lose a second. But it is out of my hands. I just hope that he sees sense. It is not fair to you that you raise his children. <br />
  8. 8. “But enough about that. Rhodri and I are doing well. Being in the king’s service is quite the honor.<br />
  9. 9. “Rhodri received his spurs and is now Sir Rhodri Tudor. <br />
  10. 10. “He still has no lands yet, but he has his eye on a squire’s daughter. The girl is an only child to a widowed father so at his death she inherits all. The land is not overlarge, but it is land and the girl is wealthy.<br />
  11. 11. “I do not have any marriage prospects so far. The few women who have pursued me are clearly after my title and money. I know it is quite unreasonable of me but I would like there to be some measure of affection and not some mercenary transaction. I fear I am a romantic at heart. <br />
  12. 12. “However, my lack of marital prospects does not mean that I have not been busy. Most mornings I hone my skills on the practice field.<br />
  13. 13. “While in the afternoon, I attend the King and Queen. May I confide in you that I find being a courtier much more taxing than a knight? I do. Still, one must do one’s duty in service to their sovereign. <br />
  14. 14. “You have most likely heard the announcements but the Crown Prince Henry is growing up quite well. He takes after both of his parents in looks however time will tell on temperament.<br />
  15. 15. “The queen has also recently given birth to a second child, Stephen, Duke of Strange. However the labor was most difficult and the midwives cautioned that she should not conceive again. Happily the King seems to have taken this advice to heart. <br />
  16. 16. “He has taken a mistress to soothe his male needs so as not to burden the Queen with them.<br />
  17. 17. “However it is very clear that he still holds Queen Alais in high regard and affection. Even though they can no longer consummate their marriage, they still act as newly married lovers. It is what I wish for myself. <br />
  18. 18. “However, I must go. The King beckons. I will keep you in my thoughts, dearest Mother. Pray, keep my in yours.<br />Your most faithful and loving son,<br />Owen”<br />~*~<br />
  19. 19. A band of knights picked their way carefully through the Butterscotch moors near the border of Yorkcaster. They were escorting the youngest Butterscotch princess back to Londonderry for the betrothal ceremony to Crown Prince Henry. They had just left their Clan escort at the border and were to meet up with their next escort in about a league. Still the knights were wary. <br />
  20. 20. “Sir Rhodri, tell me again why you have come for me,” Princess Madeleine asked from where she was riding pillory.<br />“We have gone over this, Your Highness,” Rhodri responded, his eyes scanning the rugged countryside.<br />“I know. I wish to hear it again.”<br />“As you wish.”<br />
  21. 21. “King Richard summoned me from my estate. I will admit that I was reluctant to go since my young wife, Gwyneth, was pregnant and nearing her time. But I could not refuse the king’s summons.<br />
  22. 22. “The king then informed me that he had negociated a marriage between you, Highness, and his son, Henry. A marriage that he hoped would end the hostilities between our two realms. <br />
  23. 23. “My task was to take a small band of knights and retrieve you from a convent near the border. And since we would be travelling through three clans territories we would have different escorts through each clan’s lands. We collected you and now we are returning to Yorkcaster to celebrate your betrothal.”<br />
  24. 24. “You are correct, Sir Rhodri, I do know all of this.”<br />“Then why did you ask?”<br />“I suppose I had hoped to glean moreinformation about my betrothed.”<br />“Then why did you not ask that?”<br />
  25. 25. The princess turned to face Rhodri. “Then what is my betrothed like?”<br />“I am not the best man to ask, the most time I spent in his presence was before he was breeked.”<br />“Please. It is not easy to leave your land to marry someone you have never met.”<br />“I will do my best, Highness.” <br />
  26. 26. “From what my brother tells me, our country’s future monarch has quite the artist. He spends much of his time practicing with his paints. He is not much of a warrior, but Owen thinks he will outgrow this childish pastime as he ages.”<br />“Oh I do hope so! How embarrassing to be king and a poor knight. No one would respect you. Do you know more? Is he...”<br />
  27. 27. Rhodri laughed. “Not inclined toward the ladies? Creator, no! He takes after his father and is quite virile and lusty. There will be no troubles in your marriage bed to be certain.”<br />
  28. 28. “A knight would not mention such a vulgar thing in front of a lady!”<br />Stifling a snort of derision, Rhodri hazarded a glance over his shoulder. “You did ask, Highness. I am not some courtier to spout pretty poems and phrases to you. I am a knight, a warrior, my duty is to keep your person safe. Not your sensibilities.”<br />“I shall endeavor to remember that.”<br />
  29. 29. Just then two spears embedded themselves into two the leading escorts horses. Both animals collapsed throwing their riders forcibly to the ground.<br />
  30. 30. Rhodri drew his horse to a halt and signaled the rest of the group to do the same.<br />“What is it? What’s wrong?” Madeleine asked frantically. <br />“Ambush,” Rhodri replied shortly. “Be prepared for anything and keep your eyes open.”<br />
  31. 31. “Good advice, Yorkcastrian Scum!” A blonde Butterscotch man called out amidst a throng of heavily armed infantry. “Perhaps ye shoulda taken it yerself? If ye ken we’ll allow one of our royals to marry one of yer mongrel bastard princes ye’ll be sore mistaken. We’ll be taking the princess from yer foul clutches now.”<br />
  32. 32. “Oh sweet creator, save me from fanatics.”<br />“Sir, what should we do?” Sir Ronald Humble hissed.<br />“Our duty is clear,” Rhodri said speaking quietly. “The princess must get to Londonderry and her betrothal these ruffians cannot stop us from completing our task.”<br />“Sir Rhodri, perhaps you should yield to these men they clearly out number you.”<br />“Highness, you may be correct but as a knight I cannot let ruffians sway me from my duty.”<br />
  33. 33. “Have ye made a decision, intruder? Me men are just itching for a good fight.”<br />
  34. 34. “Humble, it’s time. Take the princess and ride for the border. Ride hard and fast and do not trust any,” Rhodri said in a low voice. “The rest of us will endeavor to cover your escape.”<br />
  35. 35. “Well! I’m waiting!” the Butterscotch leader called. “What is your answer?”<br />
  36. 36. “Traitorous dog! I shall see you in The Shred before I shall give in to your demands!” Rhodri shouted. “Ride Humble! Ride for king and country!”<br />
  37. 37. “So be it. Attack!”<br />
  38. 38. “Stand fast, men. We must give Humble time to make good his escape even if that time costs us our lives.”<br />“Do you think we shall die today?” One of the knights asked.<br />
  39. 39. “Aye, ‘tis likely. But if I am to fall this day then I shall send as many of these cursed Butterscotch to The Shred to pave our way. Stand with me and we shall enter glory!”<br />
  40. 40. “Fool. All he shall get is an ignoble death, still I am happy to send him there.”<br />
  41. 41. …<br />
  42. 42. …<br />
  43. 43. …<br />
  44. 44. …<br />
  45. 45. …<br />
  46. 46. …<br />
  47. 47. …<br />
  48. 48. …<br />
  49. 49. …<br />
  50. 50. …<br />
  51. 51. “I’m sorry, Morgan. I’ll not be coming home like I promised,” Rhodri whispered, thinking back to his farewell with his family. “Gwyneth, please forgive me and take care of our children.<br />
  52. 52. “It is done.”<br />~*~<br />
  53. 53. “I am done.”<br />
  54. 54. “What do you mean you are done?” King Richard asked. <br />“Just that, Your Majesty. I am done. This part of my life is over it is time I focus on the next part.”<br />“Explain.”<br />
  55. 55. Owen sighed and looked down at his fallen twin. “Rhodri was my twin, my other half. And now he is gone and so young.”<br />“I know. His loss is unfortunate, but he died serving his country. And he succeeded. The betrothal to Princess Madeleine has taken place and wedding will take place within the year. Already tensions between the Butterscotch and Yorkcastrians have lessened. It is due to your brother’s quick thinking and sacrifice and we will not forget that.”<br />“Will you not?”<br />
  56. 56. The king’s eyes narrowed. “Owen, you know I do not like to be questioned. Pray, speak your mind so that things are clear between us.”<br />“By your command. I think it is time for me to leave your direct service. For the last eight years, I have served you faithfully and fully with no thought to the future. But with the loss of my twin, I find that the old yearning for a family of my own resurfacing.”<br />“But having a family does not mean that you need to leave my service. I know of several women of the court who would be overjoyed to be your lady.”<br />
  57. 57. “Aye, you speak the truth, Majesty. But I do not wish their companionship. They want me for only what your Majesty has provided me and for my proximity to your royal person. They are like dogs at dinner, begging for meat but snapping the hand that offers it to them.” Owen paused and looked back over his shoulder at Richard. “I am quite fond of my fingers that I am not wont to lose them.”<br />The king barked out a short laugh. “You are right! They are quite mercenary are they not? Perhaps I could arrange a marriage for you, some plump, ripe heiress to enrich your lands and name.”<br />
  58. 58. Owen shook his head. “While I am honored by your offer. I find that after the years in your and your queen’s presence I have come to covet what you have. And I pray that in some small way I could find that for myself.”<br />“You are a romantic,” Richard stated with some sympathy. <br />
  59. 59. “Aye, I suppose that I am. ‘Tis not a fatal malady, I hope.”<br />“No, it is rarely fatal. But it is inconvenient,” the king said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. <br />“I am sorry, Majesty, but I have given this much thought. I feel that this is the best choice.”<br />“Come, explain it to me. But not here, somewhere quieter.”<br />
  60. 60. The two men walked down the aisle of the church toward the door, casting glances at the weeping widow and the confused children as they passed. <br />
  61. 61. Outside, the sun was shining brightly and they squinted their eyes as they exited the dark chapel. <br />“Bright, isn’t it,” Richard commented.<br />“Aye, seems a bit unseemly. It should rain for funerals and shine for weddings. It would be more correct. However it seems that the Creator has a sense of humor.”<br />
  62. 62. “That she probably does,” The King agreed amiably. Then he shifted into a more somber tone. “So tell me, why is it you wish to leave our service, to leave me. I have come to rely on you these past years and your announcement vexes me greatly.” <br />Owen looked over at the king, noting the sad-sullen expression on his face. He sighed, knowing that he would have to use every ounce of courtier charm in him at this moment. Thinking carefully about each word, he began, “It is not that I wish to leave you, Majesty. That desire is furthest from my heart. It is just that I am forcibly reminded that I have not been a good landlord to the lands Your Majesty has given me and that one of the greatest duties I could serve would be to beget and raise loyal servants to serve you and your sons.”<br />
  63. 63. “Go on,” the king prompted, his voice thoughtful.<br />“I have served you faithfully and well. And I feel that in some small way that you value my words. Let me strongly remind you that in order to have peace and prosperity in your lands you must have vigilent and dillegent caretakers. Why how many times have you sent me out to investigate a delinquent landowner and I’ve found chaos and mismanagement.”<br />“Many times,” Richard agreed. “Still, why must I lose you?”<br />
  64. 64. “You are not losing me, Majesty. I am merely shifting my role. From being your everyday courtier and confidante to Your Majesty’s most diligent of landowners and confidante. I will always answer your call if need be, but I have been sorely neglectful of all of my duties to you. And that includes raising up a new generation of your realms most loyal subjects. It is something I wish to rectify. When I said I was done, it is because I am saddened by the thought of leaving your direct service. But it must be done, for the good of Yorkcaster.”<br />The king sighed and placed his hands on the stone wall of the church and looked out over the empty expanse of land before him. “Ah, Owen. You have indeed thought this over. And what’s more a pity, you make sense. Damn your eyes.”<br />
  65. 65. “I have always endeavored to be truthful with Your Majesty, even when it has not been the most politic,” Owen pointed out. “Merely speak the truth. I have been neglecting my duties as your knight and Rhodri’s death has forcibly pointed these faults out to me. He has done his duty by providing you with two fine children and has another on the way. If handled correctly, these children could be most loyal to your son and his wife. Despite their humble origins.”<br />The king regarded Owen sadly. “Again you speak the truth and offer sound advice. And though it pains me greatly, I must agree.”<br />
  66. 66. “Yes, Your Majesty,” Owen agreed with a nod of his head.<br />“When we return to Londonderry, I shall release you to go to your lands. However, I have a condition for this release.”<br />“Your Majesty?”<br />“Your romantic notion of love in a marriage is all well and good and worth pursuing, but as you so aptly pointed out you need children. Therefore if you are not married ten years time, I shall arrange a marriage for you. Is this not fair?”<br />
  67. 67. Owen grimaced internally but he was forced to admit that the King had used his own logic against him. “As Your Majesty’s most faithful servant, I agree to these terms. I just request that if this does come to pass that you select a lady much like your own.”<br />
  68. 68. The king threw back his head and laughed. “There is no one quite like my Alais. But I shall try,” Richard promised. “Ah Owen, what shall I do without you?”<br />“You shall not be without me. Merely call and I shall be there.”<br />“I will remember that.”<br />~*~<br />
  69. 69. Owen stood overlooking the bit of cleared land that his new home was to be built on. It was a good place, near enough to the town to be accessible in times of crisis but situated on a more defensible bit of land. <br />
  70. 70. In his absence, he’d instructed that a small chapel be built nearby as well as the establishment of the garden and orchards that would support the manor directly and he was pleased to see that his orders were carried out. <br />
  71. 71. However, the building of those necessities in addition to the taxes and living expenses for the last eight years had sorely depleted the rents from his two estates and town so that he had little for the construction of his castle.<br />But it was of no matter, he would survive and thrive. There was no other option. <br />
  72. 72. He pitched his tent and walked over to meet with the lead stonemason, a gruff fellow with a prickly disposition, to discuss the plans for his keep.<br />
  73. 73. “Greetings, your lordship.”<br />“Greetings to you too, Ham. I am pleased that you could meet with me today.”<br />The old stonemason gave a nod. “Ecks gave me the message that you be wanting to see me and since you be the one paying me I figured I’d best do so. ‘Always meet with the man with the pursestrings,’ is me motto.”<br />“And a good one it is too.”<br />
  74. 74. “So what you be wanting with old Ham Mason?” he asked getting right to the point.<br />“I’ve come to live here, Ham and I’ve chosen this spot for my keep. But the bare ground is no place to be starting a family.”<br />
  75. 75. “And so you’ll be wanting Old Ham to be building you a keep, I suppose.”<br />Owen nodded. “You would be correct.”<br />“What kind of keep would you be wanting?”<br />“I hadn’t really given it much thought to be honest. It is one of the reasons I wished to speak with you.”<br />
  76. 76. “Hadn’t given it much thought?” Ham exploded. “What kind of knight are you? Don’t tell me you are one of them worthless flowers who got his spurs doing battle with the sword between your legs rather than the one on your hip.”<br />Owen was taken aback at the crude words as well as their implication. “Dear Creator! No! I earned my knighthood in battle. Not… not… well, certainly not in the way you are suggesting!”<br />
  77. 77. “A thousand apologies, your lordship. I didn’t mean no disrespect.”<br />“Didn’t you?” Owen asked drily.<br />The man paused for a beat. “Aye, well I did, I suppose. But seeing as you are a proper lord not some popinjay I can look past that.”<br />Seeing that he would gain nothing more from this topic of conversation, Owen remained silent although inwardly he was still smarting from man’s words.<br />
  78. 78. “So you do not know what kind of keep you’ll be wanting, perhaps if you tell me what you want I can try to come up with something. What’s most important to you? Comfort or defensibility?”<br />“Why can we not do both?” Owen asked. “The tower keep I grew up in was frightfully drafty in the winter. The cold was nigh unbearable. Yet, I do not want some estate that is easily taken. I must be able to protect my people.”<br />“You be asking a lot, lord. I can build you a tower that is nigh impregnable with ease or a manor that has all of the comforts of your mam’s teat. But both, that will take some doing.”<br />
  79. 79. “But it is possible,” Owen persisted.<br />“Aye, it is. But it will take time.”<br />“Time we have. For now, build me something I can defend my lands in. Then, we shall see.”<br />The old mason nodded. “A good plan. I shall get my workers on it straight away.”<br />“Thank you, Old Ham.”<br />~*~<br />
  80. 80. “Son,<br />I was saddened to hear of Rhodri’s death. I wish I could have been there to kiss him goodbye one last time and to meet the girl he married. But it was not to be. My days have been filled with the care of the keep as well as rearing Ioan’s motherless daughters. Because for all that he has remarried again, that woman has not shown a mote of interest in them.<br />
  81. 81. “Branwen, Mari, and Janet have grown into fine girls and are as lovely as their mother, Creator keep her close. They have started to learn the skills they will need later in life. <br />
  82. 82. “And I am pleased to report that Rhodri’s father-in-law, Andrew Turner has proposed a match between Rhodri’seldest,Morgan, and Branwen. He brought the lad with him when he came to negotiate with Ioan. The boy seems sweet and though a few years younger than Branwen seems to get along with her quite well. I hope that their marriage is a happy one.<br />
  83. 83. “Speaking of Ioan, his wife Nerys fell pregnant again. Ioan seemed delighted. This marriage was much more of a love match than his first with poor Mari. <br />
  84. 84. “However, I feel that Ioan and Nerys were far to entranced with each other. They completely neglected poor Ianto. Would you believe that I found the little one outside playing in a mud puddle one morning? And when I questioned Nerys about this she just shrugged and stated that a little mud didn’t hurt anyone. I admit, I had some very unkind thoughts about her just then.<br />
  85. 85. “Still, Nerys has my pity. The poor dear was pregnant with twins. She managed to give birth to a son, Iago. But was unable to birth his twin, the midwife says it was positioned wrong and would not turn. <br />
  86. 86. “Ioan was inconsolable. He truly cared for Nerys. For days he just stared out the window in a daze. He refused food and sleep and seemed half crazed. <br />
  87. 87. “Your father even grew concerned. He tried in his way to offer Ioan comfort, but Ioan would have none of it. He blames himself I fear. He has told me that he will not remarry and I feel as if it is for the best. He has been unlucky in marriage and they say what happens twice happens thrice. <br />But that is all of the news from me. I pray life is being kind to you and that the Creator looks out for you.<br />With love,<br />Mother<br />~*~<br />
  88. 88. Life had indeed been going well for Owen, progress was being made on the construction of his keep.<br />
  89. 89. And he had contracted with local artisans to build some much needed necessities although that too was slow going. But that was not the aspect of his life that was moving the slowest, he still hadn’t managed to meet any suitable woman to marry. To his sorrow, overseeing the construction and outfitting of his keep had required much of his focus and had leeched away any time for romantic pursuits. <br />
  90. 90. So it was one day seven years after the initial construction of his keep that the structure was finished. With a heavy, yet hopeful heart Owen set off for the nearby town of Wright with one thought in mind. <br />
  91. 91. “I need to find a wife.”<br />
  92. 92. His first stop was the small church he’d ordered built so long ago. The place was nearly abandoned with no priest or lay minister to be found. Displeased, he walked around the grounds and finally spotted two of his vassals lounging against one of the walls. <br />“Where is everyone?” he asked, in annoyance.<br />“What do you mean?” the red-head countered.<br />“Where is the priest, the lay minister, where are the people? Is not the church the center of this community?”<br />
  93. 93. The man burst out laughing? “Here? The center of the community? You’re having fun with me, right?”<br />“No, I am not,” Owen responded his voice hardening. “Why would you think I would be?”<br />“Because there is no community. The town of Wrighton was near wiped out in a pestilence a few years back and the priest was among the first of the poor blighters to go.”<br />
  94. 94. “Why was I not informed?”<br />“And who would you be again?”<br />“I am your lord! Owen Tudor! These lands are mine! The people who live on them are mine!”<br />The red-head swallowed nervously and then quickly sketched a crude bow. “Begging your pardon, lordship. But noone knew you’d returned.”<br />“I find that hard to believe. Did you not notice the keep being constructed nearby?”<br />
  95. 95. “If I may,” the blonde guard interjected. “It was assumed that you had ordered the keep be constructed just like you ordered the church’s construction. That you were still away serving the king. Had we known…” he trailed off leaving the implication hanging in the air.<br />“I see. Well now you know I am here. How many of the town survived?”<br />The red-head shrugged. “I’m not so good with numbers, but maybe a little over a double handful.”<br />“A little more than ten,” Owen said and then sighed. “I see there is much that needs yet to be done.”<br />
  96. 96. “Dear Mother,<br />Things have been most hectic this past year. Once I discovered that my town’s population had been severely decimated by an as yet unknown pestilence I did my best to try to encourage people to come. Because I have so few people, I have changed from wheat and other crops to orchards and fields. Sheep and horses do not need as many people to care for their needs and I have found a woman in the village who brews the most exquisite cider. I shall have to send you a barrel of her next batch. <br />
  97. 97. “I was most upset to hear that you had been ill. I pray that the Creator has smiled upon you and that you are once again up and about. Although you must take care not to overtax yourself, Mother. You are not as young as you used to be and there is still a great need for you.<br />
  98. 98. “I was pleased to hear that Ianto has grown into a healthy young boy. Has he shown any aptitude with sums and letters? Or is he more interested in battle and training? Your letter to me did not say.<br />
  99. 99. “Also how fares his brother, Iago? He should be toddling about now. I hope he is unlike his brother and does not wander out into the mud to play. <br />
  100. 100. “And as for Owen’s eldest. The sisters three. I am pleased that Branwen is looking forward to her marriage. She sounds like she is a lovely and gentle girl like her mother. I have not heard from Gwyneth or Master Turner about Morgan in some time so I cannot tell you how he has matured. But knowing that he is Rhodri’s son, I would think well.<br />
  101. 101. “Mari sounds like she is a handful always wanting what she cannot have. In truth, she reminds me of myself and now I know the strain I must have been to you. Still, you mention she does not have any marriage prospects nor is she interested in the church. I may have a solution for you. I might be able to persuade Queen Alais or Princess Madeleine to find a place for her. She would need to be a hardworker and most circumspect with her reputation but there are many opportunities at court for a woman to find a husband. <br />
  102. 102. “Finally it seems as if Janet has the vocation to serve the creator as I never did. You mention she is set to go to the sister abbey of St. Eaxis, St. Bella’s in the spring to start her novitiate. I am sure that she will be missed but having one less charge must also be a weight lifted from your shoulders. <br />
  103. 103. Still, I wish you all of the best. You do not know how much these letters from you hearten me and keep me going in these lonely days.<br />Always your devoted son,<br />Owen<br />~*~<br />
  104. 104. The next morning, while Owen was pacing off the area needed to enclose his keep a man approached him.<br />“Sir Owen Tudor?”<br />“Yes?” he answered looking up from the ground. “And you are?”<br />“William, messenger for the king.”<br />“And what message does the king send?”<br />
  105. 105. “He bids you welcome and reminds you of the promise you made in the churchyard all those years ago.”<br />“That I would have ten years to find a wife?” he asked.<br />“Aye, that’s the one. The king has decided that despite it only being nine years, that you will not be able to find an acceptable woman in the remaining time so has contracted a marriage for you.”<br />
  106. 106. “Wait? What? Why did the king do this? Who did he contract with? How did he contract with anyone without my signature, presence or seal?”<br />The squire shrugged his shoulders. “Sire, why are you asking me? I am but a messenger, do you really think the king chooses to confide in me?”<br />
  107. 107. “You make a good point,” he said grudgingly, mentally composing a message in his head to send off to the king.<br />“Ah, so you’ve chosen to see reason. I hear that the lady is quite rich. You should be well pleased.”<br />“If I had only wanted a rich wife, I would have married fifteen years ago. I want more than that.”<br />
  108. 108. William’s eyes sparkled with sympathy and dawning knowledge. “Ah, so you’re one of those. Poor thing. Me? I’ll take a fat purse over true love any day.”<br />“So is there any more that I need to know?”<br />“Just this. The lady will arrive at the end of the week. Good luck, Sir Owen,” the messenger said and then slipped on his horse to ride back to Londonderry.<br />
  109. 109. As he left, Owen stared after him his thoughts whirling. “A week. Just one week and my contracted bride will be here. Dear creator, there is much that needs be done.”<br />
  110. 110. The week flew by with Owen frantically calling upon the artisans making his furniture. He could not allow his affianced bride to sleep in his tent as he had been doing. She needed a solar, and one that was worthy of the wealth she brought. So borrowing heavily on the future, Owen managed to scrape together the necessities for a modest solar. Although it was still quite lacking, it would do for now.<br />
  111. 111. All too soon it was time for Owen to meet the woman who would become the mother of his children.<br />
  112. 112. The woman hopped down from the seat while the groom and driver attended to her baggage. She scanned the mostly empty keep with it’s lone tower with a slight squint and nodded to herself. Then she looked over to Owen. “Sir Owen?”<br />“I am he,” he confirmed.<br />“I am Lady Aurora DavinaFitzRoy Mortimer. Richard contracted you to be my husband.”<br />
  113. 113. Owen noticed her informal reference to the king along with one of her names. “Forgive me, lady. But the messenger did not tell me aught about you.”<br />The woman sighed. “Typical Richard. He probably didn’t even think that such information was important. What do you wish to know?” she asked.<br />Owen froze unable to speak or think for a moment. Finally, he asked the first thing that popped into his head. “Why do you refer to the king so casually?”<br />
  114. 114. Aurora threw back her head and laughed, a gesture that felt very familiar to Owen. “Because he is my brother,” she replied.<br />“Your brother? But I thought the king was an only child!” he protested, his mind casting back through all of the conversations and confidences the king had shared with him. There had been no mention of a sister in any. <br />
  115. 115. “My brother is the only child of his mother. But not of his father. I am a bastard, Sir Owen. Richard and I share the same father.”<br />“But how?” Owen asked, stunned.<br />“The usual way I imagine,” she replied drily. <br />“Please, Lady, take pity on this poor man. Pray, speak with more clarity and cohesion.”<br />
  116. 116. “There really isn’t that much more to it than that. After the Queen died when Richard was in his teens, the king took a mistress from one of her maids. That maid was my mother. When I asked her about her submission to the king she replied that the only the Creator says no to a king. I am just lucky that his Majesty recognized me as his bastard get and that Richard confirmed it. Otherwise I would be a pauper and a pariah because of the circumstances of my birth.”<br />Owen stared at her and at her frank acceptance of her situation. He also noted how the sunlight reflected in her hair most fetchingly, but ignored that feeling in lieu of another – curiosity. “So why are you called Lady Mortimer?”<br />
  117. 117. “Because I am also a widow, Sir Owen. Richard married me off to one of his old border lords as a way to tie our families together.”<br />“So what happened?”<br />Aurora shrugged. “He died. I’d tell you how but I do not wish to shock you further.”<br />Owen’s eyes widened but he wisely kept silent.<br />“So, my lord. What say you?”<br />
  118. 118. “I think, my lady, that I am honored that the King sent me so rare a prize as yourself.”<br />Aurora laughed again. “Richard told me of your glib tongue. I am pleased to state that he was correct.”<br />Owen again noticed her loveliness and unknowingly found himself becoming smitten with this beautiful and frank woman in spite of himself. “I but speak the truth, my fair lady. If my words seem glib it is because I am become an idiot in light of your loveliness. Please be assured they are most sincere.”<br />
  119. 119. “So do you feel that we might be able to make this arranged marriage into one of companionship and not convenience?” she asked shyly, her voice a barely above a whisper.<br />
  120. 120. “It is my dearest hope, lady.”<br />~*~<br />
  121. 121. META TIME!<br />Alais really did get sick while she was pregnant and since I am being as true to the times as I can, I am not going out of my way to cure the sims. That means no science career rewards, no grandma’s soup, and I am not going to baby sit them into relaxing and taking baths. And if they get others sick, well, that was life back then. <br />
  122. 122. I totally did not plan on killing Nerys. But I do have a system set up that randomizes the chance. The way it works is that I roll a die and then roll again. If the numbers match, then the mother dies. And I need to do this for each baby. Which is why Nerys died while still pregnant, she failed her survivability roll after the first baby. She made the one to even give birth successfully. As for the extra babies – well they are going into the adoption pool so we may see them again.<br />
  123. 123. I also am not really taking care of my sims as much as I normally do. Much of my play time when not staging is letting the sims act on autonomy much like an asylum. And if it leads to stupid old Eurig pissing himself in front of his granddaughter because he can’t be arsed to go to one of the 3 bathrooms in the tower because he wants to watch waves, then I can laugh about it and share pictures.<br />
  124. 124. “My son’s wife-to-be is hot!”<br />“Ew! The Queen is not!”<br />Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. Still, it kind of emphasizes the differences between Richard and Owen. Richard is definitely a monarch who enjoys asserting his kingly rights while Owen is a bit of a prude. <br />
  125. 125. As for Owen’s family. Ioan is really not doing well, he’s had four aspiration failures. Once when he got married, once for each baby born of Nerys, and once when Nerys died. So my writing him as becoming withdrawn and silent is a product of the fact that I think that he very much thinks of himself as cursed. And he wouldn’t be far off.<br />
  126. 126. I admit that I have my favorites and Rhodri was definitely it for me. He was a great sim and rolled the wants to both marry Gwyneth and to have a baby when he is a pure pleasure sim. Gwyn isn’t bad herself, she’s rolling the want for a baby and rolled the want to fall in love with Rhodri. As for the two eldest children, they are definitely Rhodri’s but they are not Gwyn’s. I am not saying whose kids they are since it doesn’t come up in story but rest assured it is full of awesome. <br />I am going to miss Rhodri a lot!<br />
  127. 127. Oh arranged marriages. <br />I will be getting more into Aurora next chapter but her backstory is based on Joan Beaufort although I chose not to have her have children with her first husband as the real Joan did. Joan was the grandmother of both Edward IV and Richard III as well as one of the ancestors of Catherine Parr. <br />The sim herself is a simself and she has three bolts with Owen. I was quite surprised by that when She and Owen finally met. The arrangement was also random – I rolled for hair color (1-4 based on maxis flags) and then counted up the sims in the hood with that color then numbered them and fed the number (in this case 16) into a random number generator. Aurora was lucky number 13.<br />
  128. 128. I admit it, I do like randomness. So that kind of means I don’t always know exactly what is happening each generation. <br />I also know that the clothes that my Butterscotch wore were not period accurate. But there isn’t any CC that is. <br />Thank you again to Orikes for making the cover and to Dicreasy for proofreading this.<br />I think this is where I will leave you. Happy simming!<br />