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Saturday, December 3, 2011

A lady's favour

Another extract from 'Song at Dawn'.

Read blurb on amazon



1150
Dragonetz is Commander of the Guard and Troubadour to Aliénor (Eleanor) of Aquitaine, Queen of France, and Estela is the mystery girl Aliénor has required him to tutor. In this part of the story he is showing her his secret building project, a paper mill. At this time in Europe, only the Moors had the skills to make paper. 


That, my sweet Estela, is the beauty of it! I shall sell paper to the Church for enormous profit and I shall be fantastically rich! As shall my workers.’
Estela chewed the side of a finger, a bad habit she had kept from childhood. ‘The Church won’t like it,’ she stated.
‘No, they won’t.’
‘That makes a dangerous enemy.’ Estela stated the fact.
‘We’ve told him,’ Raoulf was gloomy. ‘But you can see what he’s like. The future pff!’ and he spat, coarsely. ‘The future will be my Lord’s body with a bolt through it!’
‘Ever the optimist!’ Dragonetz clapped Raoulf on the back. ‘That’s what you’re here for, you and your men, to watch my mill and watch my back. Speaking of which, this should make things even.’ With which enigmatic statement, he tore off his doublet and underthings so that he too was bare to the waist, then he grabbed Arnaut’s hand and dragged his unwilling man into a run. Shouting, ‘I said I owed him a ducking,’ Dragonetz ran the two of them straight off the edge of the bank into the river.
‘You mad whore-son,’ burst from Raoulf as he rushed after them to the bank, anxiously scanning the murky water for signs of life. Estela counted to thirty before two heads burst up above the surface, gasping, spouting and followed by thrashing arms. Arnaut twisted underwater, avoiding Dragonetz’ attempt to duck him again and came up at a safe distance, both men treading water and spluttering. ‘Come and join us, Estela,’  Dragonetz called to her.
‘Can’t swim,’ she yelled back.
‘What are you thinking of, bringing a Lady here!’ Raoulf shouted, purple with annoyance.
‘A Lady! I’d forgotten!’
‘Oh my God, no,’ groaned Raoulf.
‘Estela, my sweet, Arnaut wants to do combat and regain his pride – throw us a token.’

Without thinking, Estela pulled the bangle off her arm and threw it in a high arc to land equidistant from the two men. Neither wasted words but dived underneath, rippling the surface as they carved the water underneath. Another count, thirty, forty, Estela thought that Raoulf would explode, holding his own breath to see how long it was possible, then Arnaut broke surface, gasping, followed quickly by a triumphant Dragonetz whooping and waving the bangle in the air.

‘She’s not an ordinary Lady,’ he yelled, ‘she’s a Troubairitz! Ask her!’ And then he struck out for the bank, Arnaut following at a safe distance and after some horseplay with Dragonetz trying to prevent Arnaut getting out the water, both men stood dripping and laughing, pushing each other. Dragonetz waved the bangle, taunting and Arnaut stood, bent double, getting the words out with difficulty. ‘You always have to win, don’t you, even when you don’t want the prize!’

Dragonetz’ eyes glittered. ‘Always, Arnaut, always,’ and then he knelt in front of Estela, offering her the bangle back. She looked down on the black curly hair, bent in mock homage, the broad wet shoulders, the long tapered fingers reaching out to her, returning her token. She felt Arnaut’s stillness, the sunshine, the moment to which this day had been leading all along. She shut her eyes and felt for the lyric. If this were a song, how would it go? And then she knew what to do.


some of Jean Gill's books on Goodreads

Snake on SaturdaysSnake on Saturdays
reviews: 3
ratings: 51 (avg rating 4.75)


Song at DawnSong at Dawn
reviews: 1
ratings: 276 (avg rating 4.50)


Someone to Look Up toSomeone to Look Up to
reviews: 2
ratings: 185 (avg rating 4.50)


On the Other HandOn the Other Hand
ratings: 114 (avg rating 3.00)


A Small Cheese in ProvenceA Small Cheese in Provence
ratings: 3 (avg rating 0.0)

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