Bold in Honor

By: Alexa Aston

Knights Of Honor Book Six



Prologue





Kinwick Castle—June, 1376

Ancel de Montfort made Old Davy’s cottage his last stop of the day. The oldest tenant on Kinwick lands had died the previous week. At the end of his life, Davy had gone blind and usually doffed his clothes when the weather turned warm, complaining that they irritated his skin. Ancel remembered how he and his twin sister, Alys, had been frightened of Davy when they were young children but as Ancel grew older, he had learned to respect the irascible serf. Davy grew mellow during his last years and Ancel enjoyed visiting with him each time he returned home to Kinwick on summer break from fostering at Winterbourne.

He checked the inside of the cottage and found it in good condition. The sparse furnishings included a table and two chairs that the next tenant could use. Davy’s bed had been a pallet on the floor near the fire. The threadbare blanket could be tossed away with the old straw. Ancel went outside and examined the walls and roof of the structure and found it needed some new thatching in one spot. That could wait until early autumn, after the harvesting had been completed. He wondered who his mother had in mind to receive the vacant cottage. Merryn de Montfort was always matchmaking among their workers and soldiers and he had no doubt the cottage would soon have new occupants.

Ancel remounted his horse and wound his way through the forest until he reached the main road which led to the keep. He’d enjoyed his day, visiting with various farmers as he helped work the hay harvest. Tomorrow, he’d spend time with other serfs involved with the June shearing. His father had emphasized that Ancel must get out on the estate frequently and learn everyone’s name, as well as what tasks occurred throughout the year on Kinwick lands. One day, he would become the new earl upon his father’s death and Ancel wanted to be every bit the man his father was. Geoffrey de Montfort not only had a reputation as one of England’s greatest warriors but he was a fair liege lord, involved with every aspect of his estate.

As Ancel approached the castle, he saw in the center of the lane a bedraggled young man. The stranger had almost reached the closed gates. Ancel spurred Storm on, curious as to who this visitor was.

“I demand to see Lord Geoffrey de Montfort at once,” the man said, shielding his eyes from the bright sunlight as he looked up.

“And what might your business with Lord Geoffrey be?” called down the gatekeeper.

The filthy stranger hollered back, “I have a very important missive from the king for the baron. ‘Tis something Lord Geoffrey must read at once and act upon.”

“And where is this missive?” Ancel asked as he drew up his horse beside the man. “I am Ancel de Montfort, Lord Geoffrey’s eldest son.”

The messenger looked at him warily before he pulled a small, rolled up parchment partly from his shirt. “I’m to put this in Lord Geoffrey’s hands. No others,” he insisted.

“Usually, a messenger sent from the king is riding a horse,” Ancel noted, his eyes skimming their visitor’s shabby appearance. “And he has the king’s banner so that all may recognize where he comes from. You have neither.” He didn’t add that the king’s man would have been dressed in a much better quality of clothing. This stranger, who looked close to Ancel’s age, wore attire that was more suitable for a servant in the royal kitchens.

The young man’s mouth set stubbornly but his eyes darted about nervously. Finally, he said, “Please, my lord. I swore to the king I would see that Lord Geoffrey read this. The king needs him. If your father reads it, he’ll understand why.”

Ancel studied the stranger before him. Despite the unusual circumstances, for some reason he found this messenger to be credible. He wondered why the king might have sent such an unusual courier but the answer could lie within the missive itself.

“Open the gates,” Ancel called up. “I’ll escort our visitor to his destination.”

“Oh, thank you, my lord,” the man said with relief.

As the gates swung open, Ancel told him, “Go directly to the keep and wait at the foot of the steps. I’ll drop my horse at the stables and meet you. We’ll go together to see my father.”