©June 2017 – Allen M Werner – All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction.
All characters, organizations and events portrayed in this book are either products of the authors imagination or are used factiously.
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Warwick, England – 1175
Geoffrey Clayton Wolfe knew his sickly nephew dreamed the impossible. It was probably his fault, coming here like this twice a week, filling his innocent young head with fanciful stories, regaling him with tall tales concerning his most noble servant, Sir Francis Whitehall.
‘Sleep,’ Geoffrey thought with a forlorn smile, his big hand gently stroking the ten-year-old’s mangy crop. ‘Sleep Merle and dream. Who knows what tomorrow brings?’
Geoffrey hated seeing his nephew laid up like this. The boy was nearly always ill. Today he suffered another devastating spell, shivers and fever, vomiting and diarrhea. And despite it all, there was still a twinkle that developed in those determined blue eyes when he heard the name, Francis Whitehall.
Merle sat up, refusing to sleep at the first. ‘Tell me about the Griffin, Uncle. What has he done now?’
Today Geoffrey recounted an old story, a hotly contested scrimmage with Hospitallers on Mount Ophel, one of the seven hills surrounding Jerusalem. Francis was magnificent that day, riding his determined destrier, Molly, up and down the hillside, his banneret pennon waving proudly on the tall tip of a lengthy spear, the orange griffin insignia of his resurrected house snarling and roaring across his chest like the brilliant white teeth in his mouth, steel shimmering and flashing. The knight led his small contingent in defense of a stockade of valuable tin. Despite the threat of Saracens in the Outremer, there was plenty of infighting amongst the knights of various Orders. It should not have been so.
“Templars protect their own,” Geoff whispered to Merle as the boy breathed heavy. “Perhaps one day you will be one of us.”
Gwen walked into the room. She was three years younger than her brother and thankful for his routine visits and unwavering support.
“You put him to sleep again, Geoff. Your tales always do the trick.”
Geoffrey sighed. “I am the teller of another man’s glory. He only wishes to hear about the Griffin.”
Gwen came to her brother’s side and placed a caring hand on his shoulder. “You miss it, don’t you?”
“Aye, I do, Gwen, I do. But it is a game for young men.” He reached out and placed the back of his hand against Merle’s flushed cheek. “He still has a fever. I worry for his safety. He can’t keep going like this.”
“He is in the Lord’s hands,” his mother bravely stated.
“Yes, but he’s miserable. He wants to be out there with the other boys, squiring and training, roughhousing and riding.”
Gwen glanced at the desk near the window. “He has his books. He never stops reading. When he is healthy, his nose is in those books.” She let out an unexpected guffaw. “Did you know he ordered a book on Gaelic from the monastery the other day?”
“No. What on God’s earth for?
“Because of you and your stories.”
Geoffrey threw Gwen a puzzled look.
“Mac tire diabhal i éadaí caorach,” she exclaimed as if she were Irish herself.
Geoffrey shook his head. “Those were Francis’ words when confronting Sir Devin Quinlan beneath Sugar Loaf.”
They sniggered and stated the translation together, “Damn wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Geoffrey rose from his seat as Gwen placed another blanket on her son, her only son, pulling the cloth up near to his chin. He moved towards the little desk near the window. “I pray Merle is as ambitious about his studies as he is about these stories I tell.” He shuffled some of the papers, unsure what he was looking at. “If he remains healthy enough to become an older man, he can be an educator. There will always be a place for him at the university. I will see to it, I promise.”
“I know you will. You are a man of your word.”
“I’ve a meeting with the mason’s guild in an hour. Warwick Castle needs some shoring up, a few chinks in the armor.” Geoff came back to the bedside and placed both hands on the back of his sister’s narrow shoulders.
“I didn’t mention it to the boy yet, wanted to surprise him, but Francis is due back tomorrow. I’ll make sure he makes an appearance before leaving out again.”
Gwen smiled. “It’s been nearly a year. Has he changed?”
“Francis? No. He’s a man of flawless character and virtue. Stubborn sod if you ask me. Sometimes I wish he’d loosen up a bit. He’s going to end up all alone, I tell you. He needs a wife.”
“You didn’t wed.”
“I swore a vow of chastity, he has not.”
The wheels in Gwen’s mind started turning. “How old is the Griffin now?”
“Must be twenty, twenty-one, I reckon.”
“I know a family in Brighton,” she said, grinning like a fox. “They’ve a daughter, a bit on the shrewish side I’d say but requiring a husband.”
Geoffrey laughed. “And what need does Francis have of a shrew?”
“Haven’t you ever listened to him speak on the subject of women?”
Geoffrey nodded, oblivious and most uncaring on the subject.
“Well, last I spoke with him concerning marriage, he hinted at finding a woman who would challenge him, bring out the humility in him. A woman that required a great deal of give and take. He had no interest in the mindless ladies at court. They are all too gossipy. They giggle far too much. Not serious enough.”
“Well, let it be known now, Sister, I’ll not be party to your matchmaking schemes. You do what seems fit.”
“I always do.”
“I know. Roland has confided in me.”
“Oh, has he now. I shall have to have words with my husband.”
Geoffrey kissed Gwen on the head. “I’m sure you will.”
“Will you come for supper?”
Geoffrey recovered his surcoat from a chair in the corner. It was a silky red garment with a golden wolf embroidered on the back. “I have work at the almshouse. I’m going to try to convince the masons to help me refurbish that old building as well. So much work to do.”
“You know they will not assist you. Their charity only goes so far. You’ll be the one paying the price. You’ll be paying all alone.”
“It cannot be helped.”
Gwen lowered her head and surrendered. She knew her brother too well. “I pray every night for you, Sir Geoffrey Clayton Wolfe. You overextend yourself and exceed what you should give.”
“Exceed? Pray tell, I believe it is not enough. I look at the streets and see the countless desperate women, the dirty children barely clothed, all starved by deprivation, bleeding hope before me. By God, I cannot accept it. Too many in Warwick still hunger despite my best efforts.”
“And how many more will go hungry if you lose everything and become destitute?”
“That is not my concern, sister. I have faith and have sworn an oath…”
Gwen raised a hand to cut him off. “I know, Geoff, you have sworn oath. Everyone in Warwick knows you have sworn an oath. And they take advantage of you for it.” She turned to her son again and paused, wondering if she should say more. “My son, feeble and weak as he is, has sworn an oath as well.” She looked to her brother. “And all because of you.”
Geoffrey seemed pleased to hear this and righted himself at the doorway. “You don’t say. And what honorable oath did my nephew speak?”
Gwen fought back a tear. “Merle swore, if ever given his health and his legs, he would become a knight of Warwick like the Griffin, fighting injustice and ridding the world of evil men; a rose in a garden of weeds.”
Proud, grinning from ear-to-ear, Geoffrey fitted his surcoat over his broad shoulders, tying the knot beneath his chin. “Aye, a fine oath it is. I pray God hears it and answers. A rose in a garden of weeds. We need more of those. God knows we need more. The weeds are legion.”
Be sure to check out Supplement One: Raid on Chamonix
If these supplements interest you, be sure to check out the first two books in The Crystal Crux series – Betrayal and Blue Grotto
The Crystal Crux series is an exciting ten-day fantasy adventure in August 1198 AD. It is filled with knights, magic, sorcery and a dragon.
There is also a YA version combing the first two books together called THE FIRST THREE DAYS.
More books in The Crystal Crux series are forthcoming.
Allen M Werner is also the author of Little Chamber Shorts and The Grand Transition.
Supplement Two in The Crystal Crux series. Sir Geoffrey Clayton Wolfe visits his ten-year-old nephew, Merle Gilmore, filling the boy's young head with fantastic tales of his most loyal and talented knight, the Griffin.