Murder lurks at the heart of the royal court in the rabbit warren of the Palace of Westminster. The year is 1480. Treason is afoot amongst the squalid grandeur and opulent filth of this medieval world of contrasts. Even the Office of the King’s Secretary hides a dangerous secret.
Meeting with lords and lackeys, clerks, courtiers and the mighty King Edward himself, can Seb Foxley decipher the encoded messages and name the spy?
Will Seb be able to prevent the murder of the most important heir in England?
All will be revealed as we join Seb Foxley and his abrasive brother Jude in the latest intriguing adventure amid the sordid shadows of fifteenth-century London.
At the board, Seb sat with Jude as they dined. The coney stew with dumplings was hot and filling, just what was needed. But Jude was in need of something else also.
‘Your cheek looks to be somewhat inflamed,’ Seb said. ‘Did you bathe it with wine and put honey on those gashes?’
‘Don’t bloody nag me. You’re worse than an old woman,’ Jude said betwixt mouthfuls, reaching across to spoon another herb dumpling onto his platter before someone else took it. ‘Where would I come by honey?’
‘You need some salve upon it, at least. I have some in my scrip, upstairs in the dormitory. Come. Cease stuffing your face with food and I shall tend to it for you. If we be fortunate, there may yet be a little wine remaining from last eve to wash those cuts.’
‘Wine? Wine’s for drinking, not for wasting on a little nick.’
‘You did not bathe it at all, did you? What if it should fester?’
‘I told you not to nag me but let’s go to the dorm now. I’ll have that wine – to drink, not to wash with.’
Seb and Jude climbed the stair to the dormitory but their hopes of a little wine left from last night to cleanse Jude’s cheek were dashed.
‘I fear the servants have cleared all away,’ Seb said when they saw the side board was bare of any remnants of yesterday’s payday feast.
‘Drunk it, more like,’ Jude said. ‘No matter. It doesn’t need bathing. Where’s that salve you said you have?’
‘In my scrip. I put it in the coffer by my bed.’ Seb lifted the coffer lid and stared, dismayed, at what lay within. ‘Oh, Jude. Look. My belongings … See what has come to pass.’
‘I warned you not to leave anything of worth in this bloody place. Why did you bring your damned scrip? You should’ve left it at home, as I told you, but do you ever listen to me?’
Seb knelt to take his things from the coffer. His scrip was there but emptied of all its contents. His box of chalks and charcoal had been opened, the lid thrown aside and the contents tipped out, colours mingling. Charcoal dust and crumbs besmirched everything. His one clean shirt and nether clouts were filthy with black dust and smears of red chalk.
‘What has been stolen?’ Jude asked, sitting on the bed, feeling the wooden frame through the thin mattress and covers.
‘Naught at all,’ Seb answered, frowning. ‘My decent gloves be here; my shirt, grubby now, but undamaged otherwise; my drawing stuff, though the charcoal be but useless bits … and the pot of salve we require. Naught has been taken. I do not understand.’
‘Well, last eve, we were all paid, weren’t we – except you,’ Jude said. ‘No doubt, the bloody thief didn’t know that and hoped you’d put your money in the coffer. Probably, every other coffer has been ransacked as well.’
Without a by-your-leave, Jude opened the coffer beside the bed opposite.
‘They didn’t bother with this one; it seems undisturbed.’
He did the same with the next coffer.
‘This one could’ve been looted.’
Seb joined him, peering into a mare’s nest of clothing and odd items of gaming paraphernalia.
‘Nay. ‘Tis Robin’s coffer. He being so untidy, it always looks thus. But see here.’ Seb found a purse, weighty with coin. ‘Robin’s winnings at dice last eve be safe and untouched.’
Jude went to the next coffer beside Lawrence Duffield’s bed.
‘Shit! Damn it,’ Jude cursed, sucking his finger. ‘Why does any man need so many bloody pins?’ He slammed the lid down.
Hal Sowbury’s coffer was undisturbed; his precious lute lay atop his neatly-folded spare garments. It became apparent, as they examined the other bedside chests, that Seb’s was the only coffer to have been raked over.
‘Mayhap, some bugger wants to make sure you know your place as the newcomer,’ Jude suggested, sitting on his brother’s bed whilst Seb smeared salve onto the gouges on his cheek as gently as possible.
‘That may be so,’ Seb said. ‘These scratches look sore. How did you come by them?’
‘Ow! Have a care, damn it.’ Jude shoved Seb aside. ‘How do you think?’
‘Men be inclined to use their fists in a fight. Therefore, I would suppose they were made by a woman’s hand, using her fingernails.’
‘Bloody Chesca. She’s due a sound beating when I get home.’
‘Chesca did this to you?’
‘Who bloody else would it be? That little bitch …’
‘Were you arguing? It must have been a matter of considerable concern.’
‘Keep your bloody long nose out of my business,’ Jude said, jumping to his feet and elbowing past Seb.
‘Keep the salve,’ Seb said, closing the lid on the little pot. ‘You may need it, if the inflammation is no better.’
About the Author
Toni Mount is the author of several successful non-fiction books including How to Survive in Medieval England and the number one best-seller, Everyday Life in Medieval England. Her speciality is the lives of ordinary people in the Middle Ages and her enthusiastic understanding of the period allows her to create accurate, atmospheric settings and realistic characters for her medieval mysteries. Her main character, Sebastian Foxley is a humble but talented medieval artist and was created as a project as part of her university diploma in creative writing. Toni earned her history BA from The Open University and her Master’s Degree from the University of Kent by completing original research into a unique 15th century medical manuscript.
Toni writes regularly for both The Richard III Society and The Tudor Society and is a major contributor to MedievalCourses.com. As well as writing, Toni teaches history to adults, and is a popular speaker to groups and societies.
Amazon Author Page: author.to/ToniM Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7481351
Fantastic Fiction: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/toni-mount/