Prologue from THE FALLEN ONE
I have a special treat in store for you today. In honor of the release of THE FALLEN ONE, I am posting the Prologue so you can get the full impact of what this novel is about. I just know you’re going to love it.
Enjoy the opening chapter in THE FALLEN ONE.
Tower of London… January, 1331 A.D.
“Bear arms as a knight again and I will be forced to kill you. These are the terms in exchange for your lives.”
The words rang in his head, hollowed by the grief the meaning provoked. Perhaps they should kill him after all; surely the pain would not be as great as that which he felt at this moment. Swords, arrows, clubs; he could handle the agony of their handy work. In his eighteen years as a knight, he had been fed more than his share of injury and prided himself on his resilience. But dishonor was another matter altogether. This, he could not stomach. By his side, his brother and fellow knight spoke.
“Kill us now and be done with it,” he hissed.
The man accepting their fate shushed him. “Enough.”
“’Tis not nearly enough. Do you not understand, brother? They seek to.…”
“Quiet.” His words were low and deliberate. “The power goes to those who are victorious in war, Sebastian. As those who have suffered defeat at their hands, we must trust in their mercy. We do not dictate provisions.”
Sebastian the Red fell silent. Standing beside his older, wiser brother and their father, he swallowed the remainder of his argument because the audience chamber of kings since William the Bastard was not the place to enter into any manner of family squabble. Most especially when their visit to this place was not under the best of circumstances. They were, for the moment, among the ranks of the conquered.
Yet biting his tongue did not come easy to him. Sebastian was called ‘The Red’ for good reason; the mass of red hair upon his head gave clue to the fire within. His temper was quick to ignite and burned white hot. His demeanor was as red as his brother’s was cool. But it was time to bank the fire within. He had no support to his argument. It was an old and not unfamiliar story among the ranks of warriors throughout history.
Sebastian, his father, and his brother had been at the head of Roger Mortimer’s forces when young King Edward had rebelled against Mortimer’s rule. As knights, the three of them had followed orders. Those orders had led them from the Marches to London where Mortimer had ruled with Queen Isabella for three glorious years.
During that time, his elder brother had been commander not only of the Earl of Marches’ troops, but of Isabella’s as well. He had commanded nearly twenty thousand men with a fair and powerful hand, and it wasn’t long before he had built himself a solid reputation. He had taught the men that strength could only be truly achieved with respect, and that honor was the most important weapon a knight would wield. Those words had spread. There wasn’t a fighting man in the country who did not respect the name of Mathias de Reyne, enemy or ally. Mathias had taught them all that some things transcend loyalties.
Yet the mighty had fallen. Such were the winds of war. Sebastian glanced at his brother as Edward the Third, King of England, relayed the conditions upon which he was sparing Mathias’ life. The king was so very young, still trying to grasp what his role had now become. He had a horde of advisors behind him, some of them great men, feeding him carefully scripted advice. But young Edward was no fool; he was already a fine warrior and had seen much strife in his young years. He was far more of a fighting man than his father had ever been. Sebastian felt a hint of respect for the young king, but it did not ease the ache of disgrace.
As Sebastian struggled with his misery, Mathias’ strong face was unreadable. Even in defeat he remained composed. He accepted Edward’s sentence as easily as one might accept a favor. In truth, it was a favor – the de Reyne knights were related to the House of Mortimer. There was never any question of their loyalties. By all rights, they should follow Mortimer to the block. But they weren’t.
“You are a great knight, Mathias.” Edward was rising from his throne now, coming down off the dais. It was almost as if he was begging forgiveness as he spoke. “I have known of you since I was old enough to understand this great war machine that pulses through England as blood would pulse through a living body. It seems that this country cannot survive without some measure of violence; it keeps it alive for some feverishly odd reason. I was advised to execute you along with the earl because to leave you alive is to leave a threat to my rule. But… but I cannot execute you for fulfilling your oath. You were only doing as you were ordered and you are a man of supreme honor. And I should not like my rule to be known for its heartlessness. I should like it to be known for its mercy.”
Mathias gazed down at the young monarch. For such a young man, his words were old and wise. But Mathias had nothing to say by way of reply; to thank the lad seemed foolish at this point. It seemed trite. Edward sensed this; fighting against the disapproving stares that clawed against his back, he knew that most of his military advisors thought that he was making the wrong decision. Only a select few supported exile to execution; Tate de Lara, Earl of Carlisle and his greatest mentor, was one of them. Most felt that Mathias de Reyne must be eliminated for the safety of the kingdom. But Edward could not so easily erase so great a warrior.
“You, your father and your brother are henceforth stripped of your nobility and knighthoods,” the young man said. “Should you ever resume arms again, you will be captured and summarily executed. Such is my decision, de Reyne; my mercy is given only once. Violate my wishes and you shall feel my wrath. Is this understood?”
Mathias nodded, once. “Aye, my lord.”
“Good.” Edward’s gaze traveled from Mathias to Justus, the broad old man with the long gray hair, then to Sebastian. All three men were nearly legendary in the warring community. He wished they were sworn to him. But he could not trust those who had been so close to the man who had stolen his throne. It was a regret he had.
He turned back for his chair. “You will be escorted to the city gates where you shall be released. You will never set foot in London again. You will be killed on sight.”
Mathias turned away from the King. Composed for all outward appearances, the truth was that he couldn’t stand to be in that place any longer, watching his knighthood vaporize into the wind. He hardly remembered exiting the hall out into the cool January sunshine and being escorted to the city limits by men who would have rather seen him dead. They even took his beloved charger and the sword of his ancestors, and all of the implements that made him who he was. Now he was no longer that which had defined him as a man.
He was no longer a knight