A Dishonorable Knight - By Morrison, Michelle Page 0,1
Princess Elizabeth, who was visiting Middleham.
"Now she might be enough to keep a man loyal to Satan himself," Brackley murmured.
Richard quickly calculated the benefits of offering Elena to Brackley. She was one of his favorite court ladies and he had been prepared this very night to betroth her to Lord Edgeford, a handsome young fop who would inherit a fortune as soon as his sickly father passed away. Richard knew that the girl had been eyeing the young nobleman for months, carefully enticing him. Richard was amused and slightly impressed with the determination and shrewdness with which she pursued the insipid lordling.
With a flick of his nervous fingers, the king batted away the young woman’s wishes. Clever favorite or no, the safety of his crown was of greater importance than the marital whims of one young woman. Richard turned back to Brackley with a careful smile, his fingers alternately ruffling and smoothing the fur at his cuffs.
"Yes, but would she keep you loyal to the King of England?" he asked in a low, harsh voice.
The earl glanced sharply at Richard and then slowly leaned back to consider Richard's hasty offer, his bulk causing the dried wood of the chair to creak in protest.
"She's got ties to the Lancasters, but she has a tidy dowry set aside which I would be willing to pad." Richard warned himself not to appear too desperate, but he was not a man to underestimate his enemies and he wanted to guarantee that the Earl of Richmond had a force to reckon with should he have the nerve to invade England.
Richmond was a distant relative of the Lancasters, the rival branch of Edward III's descendants who had been battling with the York household for England’s throne for generations. Richard stood confident in his claim to the throne, but Henry Tudor's popularity continued to grow, especially in that troublesome region of Wales. For the earl was Welsh and that infernal tribe clung to its own. No, he would not underestimate his enemy. Richard glanced to the young woman on the landing and then looked back to the earl.
Brackley watched the girl descend the staircase, and the king knew what he was thinking as if the earl had spoken the words aloud. What a rash fool you are, Richard, the king read. The earl no doubt realized that the girl had family who would be more than happy to have connections to an earl—he didn't need Richard's permission to wed her, not really. Richard bit the inside of his lip and prayed Brackley would overlook that fact. Richmond's claims were ludicrous and his chances of actually winning the crown from Richard were next to nil. The earl really had nothing to lose.
"I accept, Your Grace."
Richard ran his hand along his forehead, grimacing when he discovered the cold sweat there, but as he watched Brackley, relief filled him and his confidence returned. He would be victorious, regardless of the cost! Rising to seek out the other men whose loyalty—and troops—he would need to keep the throne should Richmond invade, Richard scanned the room. Spotting a man he had not expected to attend the hunting and feasting activities, he stepped off the dais and made his way to the fireplace.
Across the huge room, a man Richard did not count among the important and powerful, Sir Gareth ap Morgan, stared moodily into his mug. His grey eyes cloudy, he ignored the drunken laughter of his childhood friends, Cynan and Bryant. A scowl marred his forehead, but was partially covered by the dark brown hair that fell in an unruly wave across his brow. His full mouth pursed in a grimace and his strong, square jaw was hidden behind the hand in which it dejectedly sat.
What was he doing with his life? he thought disgustedly. Since he had become a knight nearly a year before, he had milled about Richard's court, hoping for a noble assignment which would put his courage and skill to the test. But the most important task he had as yet received was to deliver a missive to the dead Queen's cousin. Gareth rode to Bedford, carefully protecting the document thinking it to be a matter of state only to discover it contained an invitation to join the King here at Middleham to enjoy the hunting. Taking a deep pull from the strong ale, he did not pay attention to the jest Cynan made regarding his dark visage.
"He keeps scowling as such and 'twill soon be me fetching