Arabesque Rill

Arabesque Rill

P. J. Shay

Price: $4.99


A Passionate Historical Romance! Poena and Evangeline, twin daughters of the evil Baron LaTrovin, have spent the last fourteen of their twenty-one years secluded from all Niobrean society in a convent. Now they have been taken prisoner by the brawny, good-hearted Seigneur Alaric DeCastille, a clan leader of the warrior class forced to the unprecedented act of marching on the higher-ranking Baron to revenge the cold-blooded murder of DeCastille's people. But, the cowardly Baron LaTrovin has fled, leaving Poena and Evangeline to the mercy of the invading war horde. Fortunately, Poena soon discovers they are safe in the hands of the chivalrous DeCastille. But she learns he may not be as safe with her and her sister in his hands. He dare not turn them loose, for fear of what the Baron's other enemies might do. And, to take them back to his clan's fortress, the Rill, would shake the very foundation of Niobrean society as noble women never set foot on clan land. After a few hours with DeCastille, Poena knows which option she wants him to choose. But she little realizes the arabesque of danger, love, and intrigue she will enter once inside the walls of Rill castle. It is an experience that will change her from a naïve young girl to a passionate, full-blooded woman. One willing to brave whatever dangers it takes to win the man she loves. Adult situations and language. You must be over 18 to purchase this book.

PUBLISHED BY: Renaissance E Books
WORD COUNT: 100000
CATEGORIES: Romantic Fiction, Erotica, Historical

EBOOKS BY Renaissance E Books


COPYRIGHT P. J. Shay/2007

Poena hated riding in wagons.

Although the warrior named Rook had ordered she and her sister to remain out of sight, Poena decided to disobey that particular command. It was hot, stuffy, and cramped. Eva could sleep on the back of a charging bull, but, in sleep, as in everything else, Poena was more restless in nature than her sister.

Pushing her way to the front of the covered cart, she peeked out and climbed through an opening in the canvas. The old soldier who drove the wagon's pair of oxen jolted in surprise and shook his head sternly. "You are to ride in the back, Milady."

"It's too hot," Poena began to argue, only to have the words freeze upon her tongue. Her wide eyes took in the sight around her in amazement. She'd never seen so many men in all her life. For every mile, as far as she could see, there were Clansmen. Some rode horses, some drove wagons, still others marched on foot. All wore the same pattern on their cassocks, with the same crest, upon the breasts of their tunics. Wavy lines to indicate a river, beside it a bold spire of a tower, and a mighty sword driven into the shore between them. It had to be the trossen of the DeCastille Clan: Alaric's Clan. They all wore the brand proudly on their chests. At least, that seemed the case for the ones still wearing their tunics.

Clan cassocks were versatile costumes. Essentially a single garment, their patterns of folds allowed each warrior to fashion it according to his own needs. Looped generously about the middle to form a kilt-like bottom, the generous lengths of cloth were then fastened securely about the waist. The remainder of the fabric was most commonly drawn over the chest, displaying proudly the particular Clan's trossen. When the weather was too hot, however, as the evening seemed to be now, the top of a cassock could be tied behind the man's back, leaving him bare-chested.

Most of the marching warriors had selected to bare their muscled torsos. The sight made Poena gape openly. Their cassocks only reached to the knees, and without a stitch covering their masculine chests, there was an indecent ocean of naked flesh surrounding her. She was relieved that the driver of her wagon still wore his garment more modestly. Otherwise, she would scamper back into that stifling wagon.

"Lady LaTrovin!" Rook's voice thundered, and Poena glanced quickly toward its source. She had been so distracted by the skimpily clad men she hadn't even noticed the Don approach. "I ordered you and your sister to remain unseen."

Poena hissed in frustration. She hoped this was the last time she'd have to explain herself. She wasn't as patient and sweet-tempered as Eva. "Don DeVrist, it's stifling in there. If my appearance is so displeasing to you, I suggest you avert your gaze from my direction. It will soon be full dark soon and you won't be able to see me at all."

The blonde man's jaw set in controlled fury. She guessed he wasn't often spoken to so defiantly. No matter. She wasn't going to swelter merely to accommodate his stubbornness.

"Lady LaTrovin, we are barely two hours from your home. There is a very grueling march ahead, and you're a distraction to my men."

Turning to the wagon driver, Poena sighed. "Am I distracting you, Sir?"

"Yes, Milady," the old man answered earnestly.

Poena bristled. "Well, then I suggest you hand me the reins. I'm not so easily turned from my tasks."

"Lady," Rook growled wearily, "the men are not accustomed to women."

"There are dozens of women among the servants and vassals that your Seigneur is bringing back to your fortress," Poena searched in vain to see if she could spot them, but in the yawning twilight, they were either too far ahead, or too far back. It was no matter. She knew they were there. "I'm certainly no more a distraction than those women."

Gritting his teeth, Rook forced himself to control his temper. She was, after all, a Lady of Aristoi; she deserved proper respect and accommodation. And, for all her bluster, the woman was clearly an innocent. She truly seemed to not understand the effect of her own beauty. How was it possible for her to be so oblivious, and yet so bold?

"Lady LaTrovin, promise me that you will remain with the wagon. You will not distract your escort, and neither you nor your sister will cause any more trouble," he demanded.

Poena yawned indifferently giving a cat-like stretch that created a girlish contrast to her bold words. "I wasn't aware that getting fresh air was an act of defiance. But I shall do my best to abide by your wishes, Don DeVrist."

"Thank you, Milady." Without another word, the powerful man rode forward. Unlike his Seigneur, Poena noted, Rook wore his long blonde mane tied back with a leather strap. It should have made him appear tidier than his master, but he seemed just as wild as DeCastille. Both men were giants, even compared to the brawny army all around her. She'd never seen such men. They fascinated her.

Fourteen years spent locked away in a cloister had impaired Poena's view of the world. She had tried to maintain a worldly knowledge by reading and studying incessantly, but books were no comparison to real life. She had read of the Clan structure, for example, understood their traditions; but could never have envisioned their brute strength and muscular vigor.

Idle, she struggled to recall the lessons from her history books, and the musings from her late mother's diaries.

The Kingdom of Niobrea had been moderately peaceful for centuries, mostly because of the Clans. The main city of Prynne was where the current King, His Majesty Leander JaBayard, resided. At the center of the city was the great citadel, Kistvaen, renowned as the most imperial and fortified structure in all of Niobrea.

Kistvaen had been the birthplace of her own mother. Poena knew that from the journals and letters her mother had left behind. Gizella JaBez had been a Baroness, and the only daughter of the King's second cousin. According to her mother's journals, King JaBayard and Baroness JaBez had played together as children. Her mother seemed to recall him fondly, but distantly in her writings.

But, for whatever reason, Gizella had left Kistvaen and been given in marriage to Duke Mortimer LaTrovin, who became a titled Baron after the match. They had been wed for a mere three years when Gizella became pregnant with the twins. She'd died not long after the difficult labor.

The LaTrovin family was part of Niobrea's Aristoi. Their society was composed of the Lords, Ladies, and other titled aristocracy who attended the duties of Court, and who, through some ancestor or another, had a trace of royal blood in their family lines. The Aristoi lived in alcazars, large castles like Niord had been. Each alcazar served as the focal point of a village. Servants, vassals, and serfs lived either in separate quarters of the castle, or in huts and hostels somewhere upon their master's property. Aristoi lands were close to Prynne, and, as such, well protected from possible Inconnu attack.

Clan life was very different, according to Poena's readings. The Clans had evolved from soldiers who had been stationed on the very outskirts of Niobrean territory. Mighty fortresses had evolved from the once primitive forts, and high-ranking officers had taken to forming their own Clans, assuming the titles of Seigneur, Don, and Chieftain to separate themselves from their Aristoi titles. Ages upon centuries ago, these Clans had formed to defend the boundaries of the Niobrea, and each had their own heritage and tradition.

As such, the Clans were generally respected by the King, and by the Aristoi they protected. Without this mighty first line of defense, all Aristoi lands – even the great city of Prynne itself – would be at the mercy of the nomadic and brutal Inconnu. Still, Poena was certain that it was rare for a Seigneur to exact such a violent revenge upon an Aristoi Baron. Alaric DeCastille must have been greatly ill-used by her father.

Of course, she could only assume that was true. Poena regretted that she had no comparison of experience with either social structure. Clans or Aristoi, they were all foreign to her. She had been educated from the vast tomes of the convent, learning the proper names and designations, but never a true understanding of her subjects. For all she knew, this was a common happening between Barons and Seigneurs.

"You seem vexed, Milady," the wagon driver observed, hesitantly. "Are you uncomfortable?"

"I'm curious," Poena confessed, puckering her face in thoughtful repose. "Would you mind answering a few questions for me?"

"I'll answer what I can, gentle Miss," the soldier agreed with a nod.

"First, may I have your name, please, Sir?"

The well-tanned, older man chuckled softly. "You needn't address me as 'Sir,' Milady. I'm Sentry Willem DeVonn."

"A Sentry. That means you were wounded in battle, does it not, Willem?" she inquired, searching her memory.

"Yes, Miss. It does," he answered with surprised pleasure. He was obviously proud of the title. "I was skewered by an Inconnu Shadow five summers back. He ran a halberd through my gullet. It should have been a deadly blow, but I'm a stubborn sort."

Poena's eyes grew round. Giving the man a thorough inspection, she suspected he exaggerated his tale, but knew it would be rude to speak her suspicion. "Are you sure my questions will not distract you, Willem? Don DeVrist seemed to think I would pester you."

"It wasn't questions that the Don thought would distract me, Lady. It was your loveliness," he corrected.

It was all she could do not to fall off of the wooden bench seat. "My what?" she exclaimed, in an irritated tone.

"Begging your pardon, Lady LaTrovin, but certainly you and your sister realize..."

"Please," Poena interrupted, waving her hand. "No more of such nonsense," she had no patience with false flattery. The sisters at the cloister had often made clear their displeasure with her appearance. Her bronze curls were unruly and difficult to tame beneath a bonnet or into a plait. The color itself was bawdy and coarse. As for her eyes, well, they altered on occasion, and were altogether inconstant and strange. The rest of her was a tangle of limbs she could never quite figure out what to do with. Decorum demanded she possess an air of meek grace, but Poena had never owned such charms. Years of weaponry lessons and hand-to-hand combat skills had given her a lean musculature, which was utterly unacceptable, and, given her small frame, entirely unflattering. Eva was the gentle, lovely one between them. That had always been clear.

Willem merely nodded and deferred to her wishes. He would never understand the female mind. Some refused to admit their allure, others would fume if you didn't compliment them to their satisfaction. Willem was glad Lady LaTrovin was one who detested such talk, for he was not good with such things.

"This is the DeCastille Clan, am I right?" The name was ancient, and had even been in one of her history books. "I think I remember the trossen you all wear. It's something to do with a river, isn't it?"

"Yes, Milady. Our home is The Rill, and our Seigneur is Alaric DeCastille, the Iron Bastion." Willem's tone overflowed with pride.

"The Iron Bastion?" Poena repeated. That certainly hadn't been in any of her volumes.

"Aye. He was given the name years back when he was still a young warrior," Willem explained. "He fought a mighty battle with his father against an Inconnu horde. Employing a great feat of strategy, our Seigneur brought our troops in from two flanks, trapping the Inconnu and assuring our bloody victory. At the head of the line, young DeCastille stood, striking down hundreds of Inconnu by his own sword. They say he never broke stance, and could have been molded from iron he held so fast, dispatching enemy after enemy."

"I think you like telling tales, Willem," Poena chided dubiously.

He grinned at her, and she noted that several of his teeth were missing. "Yes, Milady, I do confess to enjoying the tales, but they are still true."

"Of course they are." What good was it to debate a yarn spinner? She would simply have to glean the important information from his ramblings. "So, Seigneur Alaric leads the Clan DeCastille?"

"Aye," Willem confirmed.

"And what of his property and his family?" she queried.

Puffing out his chest, Willem grinned again. "Well, seeing as the DeCastille Clan is more powerful than any other..."

"Willem, you must stop exaggerating. I'm having enough trouble understanding without all the extra details you add to your answers," Poena didn't want to be rude, but the man didn't seem able to summarize, and she feared Rook would ride up at any moment and scold her for being distracting.

"But, Milady. I give my word. DeCastille is the most powerful and vast of..."

"What Clan is the second most powerful, Willem?" she interrupted curtly.

"I would say the KilBreen Clan, Milady," he answered after a moment's reflection.

Smiling, Poena crossed her arms over her chest. "And if I were to ask a KilBreen Clansman, which Clan would he tell me is the most powerful?"

A sheepish expression made Willem blush. "I would wager a KilBreen warrior would answer that the Clan KilBreen is the most powerful, Milady."

"I believe I've made my meaning clear," she nodded to emphasize her point.

"They'd be wrong, of course. DeCastille is the most powerful, Lass."

Tossing up her arms in exasperation, Poena couldn't help but sigh. "Honestly, Willem. Can you please just tell me of the place where I am to be kept prisoner and the people who will be my keepers?"

Willem looked absolutely stricken. "Kept prisoner, Milady?"

"Really, Willem. You must strive to keep yourself more informed. You cannot rely upon your leaders with closed eyes," shaking her head, she frowned at him. "My sister and I are the prisoners of Seigneur Alaric DeCastille. I'm sure he's taken us to ransom my father, or for some other purpose that eludes me..."

"The Seigneur would never ransom you, Milady," Willem interrupted abruptly.

"Well, then perhaps me means to be severe upon me for raising my sword against him. I read briefly about prisoners of war in one of my history books. Perhaps we shall only be detained until Alaric ends his war with my father," knitting her brow in thought, she mused aloud. "There was a rather unpleasant chapter regarding torture and dungeons. I do hope our imprisonment isn't to include anything like that. I don't think I should ever get accustomed to shackles."

Again, the Sentry looked utterly offended. "The Seigneur would not keep you two gentle creatures in a dungeon! And, I'm certain he has no intention of shackling you!"

"You needn't raise your voice," she chided him stiffly. "I've never been a prisoner before. I'm only trying to find out about the DeCastille Clan so I'll know what to expect.

"Shackles on a gentlewoman," he muttered in disgust. "I'm sure I've never heard of such a thing."

"Please, Willem," she coaxed, fighting a note of desperation in her voice.

"Alright," Willem relented. "Let me see, now. I suppose I can start by telling you that we're taking you home to The Rill."

"The Rill is the DeCastille fortress?" she remembered the Clans called their castles fortresses and not alcazars. "And that's the tower which is represented by your Clan trossen?"

Willem nodded. "Yes. Properly, the fortress is Arabesque Rill, which means 'the patchwork river' but mostly we call it The Rill."

"Why is it called 'the patchwork river'? Or is that another tall tale?"

Chuckling, Willem shook his head. "Nay. That answer is easy. When you get to the vast river that runs alongside our battlements, you'll see that it has many different patches of color. Some blue, some green, some clear as a spring morn."

"It sounds lovely," Poena enthused. "I had thought that because it would be on the boundaries of the kingdom that it might be a barren land."

"'Tis the most beautiful land in all creation, sweet Miss. And that's no exaggeration," he winked at her, and Poena warmed to the humor of his eyes.

"And Sir Alaric presides there alone?" she questioned. "He doesn't have a Rayne? A Rayne is what they call the Seigneur's wife, isn't it?"

"Aye, Lass. 'Tis what the woman would be called, but our Seigneur hasn't yet taken a bride. That is a sore spot of the Clan, Milady. Alaric was the only son of his father, and does not yet have an heir."

Patting his arm sympathetically, Poena sighed. "I shouldn't worry. He seems a good strong man. Besides, should anything happen, his Don would simply take on the DeCastille name and rule on."

Willem turned to face her fully for a moment, his weathered face betraying admiration. "You know a great deal about Clan ways, Milady."

Poena shrugged. "Anything that could be put in a book, I know," there was no pride in her tone. Quite the opposite, in fact; her confession seemed to be something that chagrined her. "But no book could tell me of your Clan's character, or how lovely The Rill would be, Willem," she paused before pressing further questions. "Does Seigneur Alaric have no family, then? No parents or cousins?"

"Nay," Willem said again, a trace of sadness to his tone. "The numbers of the DeCastille family have dwindled since the Seigneurs and Raynes stopped keeping consorts."

"As well they should!" Poena exclaimed. "You needn't sound as though you mourn the end of that sinful practice," he offered her no answer but a shrug, and she decided to leave the topic alone. "So, then who resides at The Rill?"

"Oh, a great many, Lass," Willem gave a soft whistle below his breath. "There is the Seigneur, and his Don, and his many Chieftains and advisors. Their families, of course, reside there also. The servants are there, and a large number of guards and warriors."

Poena nodded approvingly. "And, is it so that the Clan fortresses are twice as large as Aristoi alcazars?"

"Yes, Miss. A great deal larger."

Nodding, Poena appeared sated for the moment. "Thank you, Willem. You've been a great help to me."

"Milady?" the older man asked hesitantly. He seemed to debate whether or not to ask what was on his mind.

"Yes, Willem?"

"And now, may I ask you a question?"

"Certainly," she smiled. "I've asked you enough of them."

"Did you grow up at court, Miss? I've never met an Aristoi Lady before, but you're somewhat different from what I expected."

She shook her head sadly. Even a Clansman could tell how unrefined she was. "My sister and I grew up in a cloister, Willem. Our mother died upon our birth, and our father knew nothing about raising children. When we were seven we were sent to the Priory of Divine Tacity. The Abbesses and monks raised us until little over a month ago. Our father sent for us to return to him upon our twenty-first birthday."

Willem's mouth hung open. "Fourteen years, Milady? In a cloister?"

"Yes," Poena nodded absently. "It was very peaceful there. I must say no one ever threatened to burn down our abbey or take us prisoner."

"I would think not," Willem agreed, swallowing hard to contain his disbelief.

Stretching her arms out, Poena yawned boldly and rubbed her eyes. "Willem, as much as I hate to climb back into that stuffy old wagon, I'm going to have to rest. It's been a very long, very unsettling day."

"Aye, Lass. I wager it has."

"Goodnight, then, Willem. You will be here when I get up from my nap?"

"I'm certain I will, Miss."

Pleased with his answer, Poena nodded and climbed back through the canvas to the back of the wagon. The night air was a little cooler than the early evening, and Poena was able to breathe without inhaling the musty humidity that had bothered her earlier.

Eva was curled upon her side, in an almost fetal position, sighing softly in contented slumber. Unable to help but smile, Poena lay down beside her sister and coiled protectively around Eva. Humming gently, Poena took her sister's hands into her own, closed her eyes, and drifted into her habit of light, vigilant repose.

It had been a very long day, indeed.


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