Thwarted Queen
out, my maid frightened out of her life—”
    “That’s nothing to what you did. You broke your marriage vows. You sinned against your husband.”
    I slapped her across the cheek. “You will say no more. Do you understand?”
    Lisette faced me, holding her hand to her cheek. Her eyes flashed. “Why should I help you? You always get what you want.”
    Margaret interrupted. “If you don’t promise,” she replied, her gentle grey eyes turned to steel, “I could go to George and hint that his wife’s behavior was not what he would have wished.”
    Lisette jutted out her chin.
    “You threw yourself at him every opportunity you got,” said Bess.
    “He didn’t want you ,” said Lisette, rounding on her.
    The room fell silent.
    Lisette looked from one to the other, her face flushed, her under lip jutting out. At last, she turned to me and made the sign of the Horned King.
    “I curse you, Cecylee! May you have a long and unhappy life!”
    I fell into a chair. “You couldn’t mean that.”
    But Lisette had gone.
     
     

Chapter 10
    Saint Bartholomew’s Eve
    August 23, 1441
     
    It was a bright hot morning. I sat on the dais in the great hall of the castle of Rouen, struggling to listen carefully to a stream of petitioners. The steward from Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire wanted to pursue a land dispute. There were several merchants from Rouen wanting to show off their wares. There were people from Normandy seeking redress from the governor’s wife over land, marriage settlements gone awry, and taxes.
    I shifted in my seat. I should have sent a message to Blaybourne, telling him not to come. But I had somehow forgotten to do so. I drew a handkerchief from my sleeve and dried my moist palms.
    A fanfare of trumpets sounded, and a page appeared, a boy of around nine or so, attired in a white satin tunic and hose. He wore white shoes and had a white hat on his head. He approached the dais bearing a ring on a white velvet cushion.
    “My master wishes, madam, to present you with this ring.”
    As he knelt, I moved forward to accept the present. The ring was magnificent. It was a deep blue sapphire, cut into a strange shape, set into silver. It radiated a deep color in the warm sunshine, matching my pearl dress perfectly.
    “Shall I ask my lord to approach?”
    “Indeed. I should like to thank him for his gift.”
    I had entertained many diplomats and visitors from other countries arriving with costly gifts. Vague questions entered my head about this particular diplomat, but they left just as quickly. Another fanfare sounded, and this time a procession appeared. They looked like soldiers, men-at-arms, menservants and pages—the sort of people an aristocrat would have traveling with him.
    The unknown personage was the last to appear. Like his entourage, he was attired in white. But his tunic came down to his ankles, the long sleeves adorned with fashionable jagged edges. He wore a stylish hat with a piece of material hanging down from it, protecting him from the dust of his journey. Altogether, he looked exotic and foreign, perhaps Italian. Perhaps from a place further to the east. I could not place him as he came closer. He exuded a scent of nutmeg and almonds, with a hint of exotic spices.
    As I inhaled deeply, I remembered where I had encountered it before.
    But now, the herald was announcing the aristocrat’s name:
    Philippe de Savoy, Count of Geneva .
    He bowed and smiled as he held out his hand to take mine.
    Then our eyes met.
    Of course. His ruse was perfect, for no one would dare challenge a lord of such obvious means.
    I swallowed.
    The sounds in that bustling hall faded away as he straightened and we faced each other.
    “Madam, I have a long journey to make, and I wondered if you would be good enough to give me some advice. I understand that stormy weather may blow in from Pontoise, and I wanted to know whether Rouen would provide a goodly place of shelter.”
    “No,” I replied.
    His eyebrows shot

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