The stories featured here could have happened during the same decades as the Albin and the Jouster series. Many ar outtakes from the books. I am adding road signs (or is that rhodes signs?) showing where each book begins. That will not only help you navigate but provide spoiler alerts as needed.
1459 Near Ludlow
Anthony Woodville lay awake in the mid-October darkness, holding his hand over his cold nose. He prayed King Henry's army would win. He prayed that he would prove brave in battle. This would be a step toward becoming a knight. He had dreamed of that for most of his nineteen years. It was growing light outside his tent. He wondered why no horns had sounded. Wrapping up in his great cloak and taking his sword, Anthony ventured out into the frosty light.
At first he saw no one. A few steps around a tent revealed the light of a cooking fire. Anthony smiled to himself, This is an odd way to begin a day of battle.
By the fire, he found an old man heating a kettle of water. 'Is this not late to be rising for battle?' Anthony asked him.
The fellow gave him a toothless laugh and explained. 'There will be no battle today. Captain Trollope came to us in the night with his men from Calais. They had agreed to help the Duke of York but refused to fight against King Henry. When they saw the royal banner, they knew York meant to fight against the king's troops. They came to us seeking forgiveness and offering aid.'
Anthony looked around with a strange, hollow feeling. 'No battle?' he repeated. He thought, Why did I sharpen my sword and pray so long?
There was no battle. The Duke of York and his kinsmen fled from England. His nephew, the Earl of Warwick could not even return to Sandwich for the fleet he had gathered by piracy.
The rebel earls have come from Calais and captured Henry VI. Claiming to be his faithful subjects, they have no excuse to hold the Duchess of Bedford's second husband and their son.
Puffy clouds frolicked on deep blue sky. Their shadows lay almost directly below them when Lady Bedford and the younger children arrived. Lionel, nine, came at full gallop on his gray with Martha close behind on her brown horse. Soon little Jacquetta, Mary, and Catherine came trotting along. Their governess watched them carefully. Anne and Joan rode behind their nurses. Edward, who was only two, rode before her mother, the duchess of Bedford. Behind them pikemen, servants, and carts clogged the road.
Anthony and Margaret hurried out to meet them in the courtyard. Soon Anthony was swarmed by a brother and five little sisters asking questions all at once. 'Were they mean to you?' 'Did they hurt you?' 'Is Father here?'
With a smile that lit up her face, Duchess Jacquetta dismounted. The way opened for her through the press. ''Tis the answer to many prayers to see you here.'
'Including mine.' Anthony knelt to receive her blessing.
'May Our Lord grant you your heart's desires.' She hugged him as he rose.
'Most of them, I have here,' he said enjoying the warmth.
Jacquetta brushed the hair back from his forehead and gazed at him with sparkling eyes. Her lavender veil rippled back over her shoulders. "Is your father here?'
'Yes, Mother. We came straight from Greenwich.'
She looked around for Lord Rivers, her beloved husband. "'Where is your father?"
"He is dressing up to meet a duchess."
Duchess Jacquetta laughed. "He was not so formal, in Sandwich, when he was stolen from my bed."
book #1 Stealthy Waters
Middleton, November 1460
Because of the flood, the chickens had started roosting in the rafters above the Haywards' heads.
Is our cottage still standing? Albin wondered. Through sprinkling rain, Albin and Garvin, his father, walked back to their cottage.
Garvin asked, "What can we do for the chickens?"
Albin rubbed his earlobe. "Can they care for themselves?" Do chickens have a patron saint? "'Tis sad they will not come if we call them."
They found the cottage standing in nearly a foot of water. The wattle showed in more places than before. They stepped over the threshold. Albin looked up into the dimness. He saw movement. As his eyes adjusted he counted. "I see the rooster and six hens," he reported.
His father frowned. "We cannot go up after them. What can we do?"
Albin rubbed his earlobe vigorously. "The cottage will come down soon. We need to make a hole in the roof so the chickens can escape."
"We need a billhook."
Garvin frowned. "My Uncle Sedgley has one from the war in France."
The old man couldn't hear them very well. Albin picked up the rusty billhook and tried to demonstrate the plan.
Uncle Sedgley suddenly had energy enough to grab the billhook. "You could break my roof!"
Albin nodded and bellowed, "We need to break our roof." Then he grabbed the weapon and whisked out the door with it.
The old man tottered after them, shouting something.
Albin stabbed at the roof. He managed to frighten the chickens. By breaking a stick, he pulled down a wad of thatch.
With a frightened cackle, one hen swooped down and out the door. I wish they would all do that.
"Here," Garvin took the billhook and pulled down a little more thatch.
Uncle Sedgley waded in and shook his head. "This cottage is about to come down," he shouted.
After Albin and Garvin each took another turn, the hole was bigger than any of the chickens. "I think we should leave them now to get used to their new door," Garvin said.
Garvin returned the billhook. "Thank you, Uncle Sedgley." Using it for a walking stick, the old man started shuffling home, muttering.
Albin looked back at the cottage roof and saw the rooster standing on it. The cottage shuddered. I hope the chickens find a roost that will not fall.
book #2 Battle in Spring Sleet
Breaking a Bridge
River Aire, March 1461
[I took this fiction out of the book because I feel sure that Lord Scales's men were not the ones who broke the bridge. They probably used it to get to what became the battlefield.]
Lord Scales bellowed to his army, “We can keep the Duke of Norfolk and his army from crossing the river here.” The baron held aloft the small keg. “We will destroy the bridge.”
That solid, stone bridge! Albin felt like laughing. He had admired how the rockwork held without mortar tighter than a leg joint.
The baron pointed at the bridge. “We will lower strong men over the sides of the bridge to open spaces between the stones and fill them with this black powder.”
Albin shaded his eyes and gazed at the swift-flowing river.
Six volunteers stepped forward. Albin made a face. George would be one of them.
They helped George and the others over the edge of the bridge and gave them large iron picks and hammers.
“Men!” The baron’s voice was tiring. “We also need six fast runners to light the fuses.”
This I can do. Albin stepped forward. George would be too slow for this job.
Lord Scales chose other young men and then looked at Albin.
Albin nodded. “I am fast, my lord.”
Lord Scales pressed his lips together thinking, and then nodded.
Albin, the baron, and the other runners climbed up the arching bridge. The picks rang a rhythm on the keystones of the bridge. Albin and the other runners watched Lord Scales pour black powder from the keg onto six rags. The baron tied each rag full of powder into a bundle and added a long fuse. “These are your wicks. At my signal, light them and run to join us on the bank.”
When the holes were ready, the baron gave the bundles to the men below to shove into the gaps they had made. Others helped the workers back onto the bridge. Albin grinned as George and the others walked away. The baron gave the runners each a burning rush light and left.
Albin sheltering his flame behind the bridge side. He reached over the side of the bridge and grasped the fuse.
Lord Scales called, “Now!” Albin lighted the fuse and stepped back. It went out. He tried again. Men were hollering, “Run! Run!” The others were running. Did mine go out again? The other runners were off the bridge. Albin started to take another look.
It must be burning. He ran to the others. Seeing men with their hands over their ears, he turned and covered his ears too. Suddenly there was a roar. Bridge stones and dust flew into the air. Then, like beads slipping off a string, stones splashed into the river to both ends. The waves slid downstream. Only the supports showed where the bridge had been.
[to be continued]
A Hollow Vow
Kitchen for News
The news I learn from Mistress Hays always seem to be right. Albin headed for her kitchen.
There, a bright-eyed, birdlike woman looked around from watching a man pound dough. Although she was well over sixty, she was in charge. She wore a big, leather apron and had a wreath of gray hair wrapped around her head. “You are late for dinner, Albin,” she said in a cracking voice. Two men looked up from their work.
Mistress Hays pointed to Albin’s useless arm. “Are you better than when we served dinner to the king?”
Albin smiled. “My arm is still like an overcooked bean. But my job is better. I just carried a message from Middleton."
The queen of the kitchen smiled between her wrinkles. "You like being a messenger."
"Indeed I do. 'Tis such a free feeling to ride mile after mile. And I seem to get along well with the horses." He swallowed some of the beer she handed him and wiped foam off his lip. "What news here?"
She gave him a teasing look. "The dead are making the news."
Albin started. "Ghosts?"
Grinning, she shook her head. "King Edward and his cousin of Warwick have been reburying their fathers and the king's brother."
"Then his grace must not be expecting an invasion from Scotland after all."
Mistress Hays laughed. "Who would lead it. Somerset is with the king."
1463 Birdface sees London
The next day Birdface got to go with Albin on an errand to London. Birdface’s beard seemed like a fringe on his grin as he tried to see everything in the city. He saw a duke on horseback followed by a score of armed men. Birdface watched children throwing filth at a man locked in the stocks. “I wonder what he did to them.”
Albin shrugged his good shoulder. “Maybe nothing. Some people just like to throw filth.”
They turned a corner and entered yet another dim street overhung with upper floors. “Can you really find your way through these streets?” Birdface asked.
Albin nodded. “Use buildings as landmarks, Birdface. A street vender may not be in his place.”
Birdface's jaw dropped when he saw a dwarf dancing for pennies. What fun it is to watch Birdface gawk at everything!
The cousins hurried on past a woman with pies to sell. Suddenly Albin turned around.
“What?” Birdface asked.
“Do you see those men down by the knife shop?”
Birdface looked and nodded. “Two big men. Oh! Are those the men who are after you?!”
Albin nodded. “Have they moved on?”
“They are coming this way.”
Albin walking through the nearest door.
“A bath, gentlemen?” a broad man greeted them with a broad smile.
“How much?” Albin asked. “Is the water hot?”
Birdface turned from watching out the door. “Okay, they have passed.” The cousins continued walked on down the street. “I think we need archers. We can hardly take them alive.”
“Did you see their clothes?” Albin asked. “Were they wearing a badge?”
Birdface wore a puzzled frown. "What?"
"The picture that their lord puts on everything. I am proud to wear Lord Scales's scallop shell."
Birdface frowned. "Except when it makes you target of huge men."
As they walked on, Albin kept trying to help Birdface remember. “The cloth was blue. Was there a picture, an animal maybe?”
They were back at the Scales home when Albin asked, "Did the picture have chains on it?"
Suddenly, Birdface grinned. "Yes! It had chains on each side of a square things with bars."
"Yes!" Albin slapped him on the back. "'Tis the Beaufort portcullis!” He took Birdface by the shoulders and whispered. “They are Somerset’s men. When they captured me, one of them called Margaret a queen. Somerset is a traitor to King Edward!”
Leicester, England, March 5, 1463
“What?” Albin roused from sleep and looked at the shadow that was Baldwin.
“Plato,” Baldwin repeated. “The Wydevilles talked about Plato over their books.”
Albin tried to clear the fog of sleep. “A food?”
“A person.” Baldwin chuckled. “I think he was a wise man who told how governments work.”
“He would have been wise enough not to wake his bunkmate.” Albin frowned and turned on his other side. Traveling with Baldwin, who was still in his teens, could be fun—in the daytime.
“Oh, sorry. But I do think we could use his name to sound more like students.”
“I think I would like a good snore about now.” But now he was awake. “Yes” he thought. “We can name some wise men and say we like or dislike their ideas. Just as long as we meet no real students.”
[In A Hollow Vow, Albin must ride across the site of the Battle of Towton by himself.]
A Hollow Vow
The Killing Field
In York, Albin shivered. I expect to be able to sleep so near the killing field? He frowned. Of course, I did before the battle. But then, I expected our army to win.
At a monastery, he did sleep and then eat a hearty breakfast. As he rode on, he talked to his horse. "Smokey, I know we are crossing the battlefield, but—in less than two years—nothing looks the way I remember." He gazed across the waves of fields stretching into the distance. He told Smokey, "Our great army stretched for a mile across one of these. Another huge army came up the hill attacking us. The wind carried their arrows into our ranks before we could get one near theirs. Then it started to snow." He patted Smokey's neck. "You are glad you were not here. I barely dodged a crazed horse with an arrow in its neck."
When they reached the River Aire, Albin drew rein. "They have done a good job of rebuilding the bridge. It was frightening to cross it half destroyed." He looked at the patches of mushy old ice along the bank. The water looks calm now. England looks calm too, but there are unseen currents.
The Fate of Grafton
This story, seen from Albin's point of view, continues in The Enemy's Embrace.
Agatha found Hannah cleaning a stained-glass window in Grafton's great hall. Hannah was muttering to herself. Agatha raised one minimal eyebrow. I think I can learn her latest complaint. "How are you this sunny, spring morning?" Agatha asked.
"Stuck doing this stupid job." Hannah turned and waved the little stick she was using. "What is the point of all this scrubbing ? The manor will be seized by that …"
"Don't say it, Hannah. If you mean the Duke of York, be careful. He is huge—over six feet tall—and not far away. Besides, our duchess needs to negotiate with him." She blinked back tears. Oh that her first son could come back!
Hannah made a face. "But I shall not proclaim that giant …"
Agatha raised her hand in warning. "He became king by winning a huge battle."
Agatha looked at the window. It pictured Jesus calling fishermen to be his disciples. The June sun shone through much blue glass representing water and sky. Agatha looked at Jesus's face with sunshine streaming through it. Just so I saw the joys of life through Anthony's face. Now he has gone to heaven and we are without any joys. I am sure he went straight to heaven. I cannot imagine a finer knight.
Then she realized Hannah was speaking. "Whatever he is, that duke will drive us out of our home."
Agatha sighed. "Have you any idea where you will go? Might you stay and serve the new owner?"
"No! I will not serve a friend of that –"
"I might be expected go to Burgundy with our duchess." Agatha's minimal eyebrows drew together. I may have to choose between my own parents, brothers, and sisters and this big, kindly Woodville family.
Hannah snorted. "How would you fare in Burgundy?"
"Not well outside of the household. I have never worked on learning French." And I am not likely to learn much now. My mind barely works at all. She sighed and rubbed her forehead.
Servants in black hurried quietly around the hall, clearing away breakfast. At least my hero died honorably in battle.
The steward came into the room and Hannah returned to work. "It seems stupid to clean a house we are going to lose."
Agatha took a step closer. "Have you not heard? That duke you like so little—our duchess has invited him to dinner."
"What!" Hannah spoke too loudly and whirled around to face Agatha. "That –is coming here!"
Agatha motioned for quiet. The Steward walked over. "What is the trouble here?" he demanded.
Hannah hung her head. "I seem to remember our enemies too well."
"This is a difficult time," he agreed. "We must bury our feelings and remember peaceful times when the lords were friends." He raised an instructive finger. "Let us remember that King Edward IV is no foreign invader. He is descended from King Edward III through both his father and his mother."
"Will he be coming here?" Agatha asked.
"Yes, in only three days." He gestured across the room. "We must make this place shine and serve the best food his grace ever tasted. Flavor may help the duchess's negotiations for her husband. The duchess and her daughters can charm him with kind words, sweet music, and playful glances. 'They might even save Grafton for us all."
Both women gasped. "Does he hold Lord Rivers?" Agatha asked. No wonder the workers have sped up.
The Steward nodded. "Yes, our baron was captured in the battle and brought down to London. Our duchess needs to convince King Edward that the baron will serve him well."
"Is that possible?" Agatha asked.
The steward smiled hopefully. "She is the king's godmother." He moved on.
As Hannah returned to her scrubbing, she muttered, "That is worth scrubbing for."
That afternoon Agatha was ironing elegant gowns. All of them were black. In spite of her best efforts, she sprinkled them with some tears. Tears seem frivolous. The loss of Lord Anthony does not call for drops of water but for rolling boulders.
Katherine Woodville, age eleven, came bounding in. "Is my gown ready? I need to try it on."
"Which one is it, my lady?" Agatha returned the iron to the stove. "Would it serve your ladyship to try it on as it is and then bring it back to be pressed?"
"I suppose." The girl looked through the stack of satin gowns and sighed. "'Tis as hard to find as a certain raven." They spread the gowns out so she could recognize one with a narrow ruffle across where her breasts were beginning to swell.
Katherine started to leave and turned back. From pouting lips, she said. "We might not be going to Burgundy at all."
Agatha's eyes widened. "Surely you desire to keep your home."
"I suppose, but I do not want to be stuck here all my life."
Agatha smiled at the pretty girl. "You shall marry a great lord and live in half a dozen castles."
Katherine shrugged. "I suppose. But I would hate to wait here seven years."
Agatha watched her storm out of the room with her arms full of black satin. She can have little idea of the world, living here in a family of fifteen who love one another. No, only fourteen. The finest of them all is gone. But his father may return. 'Tis no surprise that the Duchess of Bedford eloped with Sir Richard. Few love with such grandeur and grace. I shall not. Perhaps I belong in a convent. My heart died in the Palm Sunday snow. Agatha labored on.
The next day, she found herself hanging white table cloths out to dry. A youth with the use of only one arm helped her. It was good to tell about the Woodvilles to someone who knew very few of the stories.
She glanced at is dangling arm. "You have suffered a loss too."
"Yes, indeed. Middleton Manor has lost a fine baron. We can never do so well again."
"His widow is here, you know," she said.
The youth nodded. "Might your duchess marry again?"
Agatha was shocked. "How could she—ever. " How could I marry either.
Much later, she fell exhausted on her pallet and wept for an hour and more.
While the Woodvilles entertained the king and the kitchen staff ran steadily turning out excellent food, the clothing makers had very little to do.
"Are you still at that window!" an older woman asked Agatha.
She shrugged. "I have seen a cat, a dog, and four squirrels."
The woman chuckled. "Has it come to this?" She and Agatha sat down on the window seats. "Would you like to go to Burgundy?" she asked.
"It matter little to me. It would be sad to leave this family—or my family."
"Then you are over half way to accepting whichever comes."
My feelings are so near dead—. She mended her own best dress. Other women were talking about the Woodvilles. "Lord Rivers would be able to teach jousting."
Another nodded. "He certainly has done well with his sons."
At least I saw Anthony practicing his jousting. I am even more thankful I saw him at prayer. Surely he is in heaven even now.
Late in the evening, Agatha heard cheerful sounds. She made her way to the solar and found the duchess, three daughters, and Lady Scales. "Come with me to the chapel," the duchess was saying. "Let us return thanks for this joy."
The ladies trooped out leaving Hannah and another worker behind. "What is it?" Agatha asked.
"Edward is holding both barons. They are in the Tower of London."
"Both—?" Agatha rubbed her forehead. I am making no sense of this.
Hannah gave her a humiliating look. "Lord Scales."
Agatha's world tilted and everything looked strange. "Lord Scales lives?" She could hear others chattering and laughing. What a frivolous way to greet the return of life.
A place to discover medieval stories and outakes from
The Albin and the Jouster Series.