Castle of Bones: A Medieval Romance
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A castle layered with secrets…
A family living a curse…
Will a knight in shining armor be enough to save them?
Castle Draygon is a castle with more than one mystery. When Hermes de Norville rides into the village at the base of the castle, little does he know how his life is going to change. A chance meeting with a woman the villagers call the Angel of Death changes his stars.
And so begins a complex and dark tale.
Castle Draygon is rife with curses and legends, so Hermes discovers. But above the whispers and rumors hovers an evil over the castle that controls its occupants. Hermes can’t help his attraction Catrine de la Pare, the woman known to the villagers as the Angel of Death, but Catrine’s story is as complex as the legends behind Castle Draygon itself. Reeling from the loss of his wife and riddled with grief, Hermes finds purpose when it comes to Catrine. She doesn’t deserve the reputation she’s been given by superstitious villagers and it’s up to Hermes to save Catrine and her brother, a man known as The Dragon, from the evil that hangs over Castle Draygon.
Can Hermes break the curse? Or will the evil in the tower overtake him, too?
Join Hermes and Catrine in a romantic Gothic Medieval tale.
Read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
(Note: The hero's brother is the star of NEVERMORE, a companion novella.)
Release date: September 22, 2022
Publisher: Kathryn Le Veque Novels, Inc.
Print pages: 167
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Castle of Bones: A Medieval Romance
Kathryn Le Veque
Year of Our Lord 1295
“Help me! Oh, God, help me!”
A woman hung helplessly on a ledge, her bloodied fingers slipping away bit by bit as the waves far below her crashed against the rocks with violent intensity. He tried to reach her, but the winds were too strong, pushing against him. In desperation, he fell to his belly, hoping that it would be easier if he crawled. But the ground was soft, sucking at him, and making it almost impossible to gain headway.
He felt as if he was sinking.
“Hermes!” she screamed again. “Help me!”
There was such pain in her plea. It turned his stomach, forcing strength through his struggling limbs. He inched forward, wrestling against the violent storm that watered his eyes and deafened his ears.
“I’m coming!” he shouted in return. “Hold tight, do you hear? Hold tight!”
The woman gasped softly as her grip slipped again. “I cannot,” she moaned. “If you do not hurry, all will be for naught!”
He knew that. God, he knew that. He forced himself to move, gaining leverage on the ground that was trying to swallow him. He had heard of quicksand but had never actually experienced it. He didn’t know that any existed in England. Maybe all of it was concentrated on this one cliff, high above the furious sea. He wondered how he had gotten here. He couldn’t even remember.
“Hermes!” The woman’s voice was filled with panic now, no longer the simple terror she had earlier expressed. “Hurry, Hermes. I’m slipping!”
He struggled across the unstable ground. He was within a mere foot of her, but it might as well have been a mile. The wind was stronger now, the storm howling about his head. It was obvious that he was being prevented from reaching her in a timely manner. Either the storm wanted her to die, or they wanted him to fail. Or both.
One of her hands slipped off the ledge, and she screeched. In a burst of strength and anxiety, he propelled himself forward and managed to grab a couple of her fingers. But it was not enough. With the wind screaming and the storm lashing, her fingers slowly pulled from her grasp.
“No,” she cried. “No!”
“I’m…trying,” he grunted, and strained against the unimaginable forces opposing him. “Give me your other hand!”
She was beginning to hang limply now, her long hair tossed about by the powerful winds. Her fingers were itching from his hands as he squeezed, white-knuckled, trying to hold them tight.
“You promised,” she said. “Why would you lie?”
He was desperate, angry now that she was accusing him of falsehood. He was endeavoring to save her, and she was turning on him.
“I have given you no falsehood,” he growled, giving her a yank to try to shore up his grip. Instead, she slipped further, and he clamped down on her with his other hand, gaining a weak hold of her wrist. “You see? I’ve got you now. Give me your other hand and I’ll pull you up.”
She was sapped of her strength from the struggle to save her life. Her head lolled back as she dangled from the cliff, held in place only by his strong grip. She was like a body with no bones, spent and resigned, and when she looked up at him, her face was unclear and murky, like the churning depths of the sea. He couldn’t even make out her eyes.
“Save me, Hermes,” she murmured. “I need you.”
He gazed at her, trying to make out her features and wondering, bleakly, why they all seemed to spill together like melting wax. He wasn’t afraid, but she was puzzled. The wind seemed to die down as he continued to stare at her, his sky-blue eyes full of uncertainty.
“Who…?” he murmured. “Who are you?”
He thought she was gazing back at him, though he could not be sure. Her beautiful chestnut-colored hair whipped about wildly, striking them both. Then she brought her other hand up, the one he had begged so hard for, and she touched his fingers so tenderly that bolts of excitement shot through him until he could hardly breathe. Her eyes, for a brief moment, came into focus; they were an amazing shade of green, as dark leaves on a vine, but nearly translucent. Very clearly, he could see pieces of gold set deep in the field of green. They were mesmerizing.
“You don’t know me,” she whispered.
“If I knew you, I wouldn’t have to ask your name,” he replied. “Again, I ask who you are.”
“One who needs you most of all.”
“Does this One have a name?”
“What is it?”
“When you find me, you’ll know.”
As he stared into her incredible eyes, her undefined, swirling mouth smiled. He thought it a beautiful smile. Suddenly, she came alive in his grip and braced her feet against the side of the cliff. Giving a violent pull, she wrenched herself from his grip.
“No!” he shouted.
Helplessly, she fell into the vortex of waves and rocks below. He reached out for her, clawing at the air in a vain attempt to save her. Quite clearly, he heard her voice before she hit the darkness and violence below, and the words sang to him like the voice of angels.
Year of Our Lord 1295
Somewhere in Northumberland
He awoke with a start.
His heart was pounding in his ears and his body was covered with perspiration. The room was dark, and he blinked unsteadily, struggling to orient himself. Realizing that he was no longer on the cliff, no longer restrained by the sinking sand, and no longer a failure at saving a woman in distress, he let out a sigh and shakily scratched his head.
God, it was always the same damn dream.
For as long as he could recall, he had been having this nightmare, and it always ended the same. He woke up feeling as if he had just lost a battle.
The chamber around him was dark save the embers in the hearth that were smoking heavily. The air of the room was filled with a thick, dirty smell. But the smoke wasn’t the only stench he could identify; on the bed beside him, a body stirred, and he glanced over, remembering the whore he had taken into his bed the previous night after too much wine and too much depression. She stank like a privy. He hadn’t noticed it last night in the midst of his lust; now, he was surprised he could smell anything at all over the rank scent of alcohol on his own breath. Ripping the covers off the woman, he exposed her naked flesh.
“Get out,” he growled.
A dark, curly head lifted, and sleepy eyes gazed at him. “But it’s not yet dawn,” she protested softly. “Come back to bed, lover. I’ll make the night pass more pleasantly.”
She reached for him, but he rose, his powerful nude body exposed in the dim light. The whore rolled onto her stomach, her eyes licking him hungrily.
“Aye, my love,” she purred. “A gift from the gods, your body is. I’ve never seen such powerful legs, nor so slender a waist, nor a chest that seems hewn from pure marble. You’re as perfect as a Grecian statue.”
He ignored her as he put on his hose. The whore groaned. “Nay, my beauteous lad. Why must you cover your magnificent manroot? Your potency has filled me like nothing else, and believe me when I say that I’ve sampled enough to know.”
He pulled on a boot. “I told you to get out.”
Her words of praise were going unheeded, and a seed of desperation sprouted in her breast. “You have nothing to fear from me, my powerful lord. Even if I were to bear your son from our night of passion, know that I would not demand marriage or…”
He looked her in the eye. “You’ll not demand anything from me. I’ll not ask you again to leave. The next time, I’ll simply throw you out on your arse.”
Her smile fled. “So, the mighty Sir Hermes makes threats,” she said in a low voice. “Last night it was wine and song. This morn, it’s venom and fangs.”
He put on his other boot and gazed at her; he held no expression, but the malice in the sky-blue eyes was obvious. He meant every word he said. The whore climbed from the bed and went in search of her clothing, her big bottom swinging saucily. Finding her own meager clothing, she bent over slowly, offering him a full view of the dark, overused thatch between her legs.
“I must say, I was not surprised by the power of your lovemaking,” she said, her dark eyes glimmering. “Although you’re not as tall as other knights I have known, you’re several times more powerful. And your lower arms are the size of a mutton leg!”
Hermes cocked an eyebrow at her words, intended to be flattery. But they almost made him laugh. True, his lower arms were enormous, and so were his upper arms for that matter, but he’d never heard his limbs described as a piece of meat before. One woman had told him that the golden fuzz covering his arms reminded her of gold dust; another said it reminded her of the downy fluff on an infant’s head.
As the whore chattered on about the size of his arms, Hermes actually found himself looking down at them, noting the blue veins that pulsed beneath the skin. He spread his hands open as if to examine them; he thought his hands rather small for the size of his arms, but they worked well enough. His wife had told him once that they were magical hands. He closed his hands and looked away. God, how he missed her.
“…and your shoulders are as broad as a full-grown tree. All of the power in your wide, wide shoulders make me giddy!”
The woman was prattling on and on. Hermes scratched his scalp, his golden-blond hair shorn close to his skull. He had the de Norville hair, fair and thick. When it grew long, it stuck straight up like straw, so he kept it cropped close for ease and comfort. He happened to glance at himself in the polished bronze mirror nailed to the wall of the chamber; a strong, stubbled jaw met his inspecting gaze. He was looking older than his thirty-something years; his eyes were circled from too much drink and not enough sleep. He rubbed his chin pensively. Living the lifestyle he had chosen over the past two years, he was amazed that he was still alive.
“…and your legs are as big around as posts. I have never seen so many muscles in a man’s leg, and I’ve seen many a leg.” The whore was pulling on her shoes, great brown leather things that were too big for her small foot. She was oblivious to the fact that he wasn’t listening to her, or at least she pretended to be. “But your face, I must say, is the most handsome I’ve ever seen. Where do men come by such beauty?”
Hermes finished studying his face. He didn’t see any beauty in it. He went in search of his tunic. “Close the door behind you.”
He wasn’t interested in her praise, that much was obvious. Dejected, the whore pulled her shawl about her shoulders, gazing at the blond, powerful man as he tossed his tunic over his magnificent torso. Her words to describe it had not been false; never had she seen finer. But now that the drink had worn off, he was cold and hard again, as he had been when he first entered the inn. But for those few hours while the ale settled deep in his veins, she had come to discover a few things about Sir Hermes de Norville, son of the House of de Norville.
He was a bitter, damaged man.
“Do you return to London now to see your children?” she asked, making one last attempt at pleasant conversation, hoping to stay in his good graces. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been to London. Mayhap I could…”
He pulled a great leather surcoat over his tunic in preparation for donning his armor. Hermes knew, when he drank, that he talked too much, and it was apparent he had told the whore something of himself. Silently, he cursed his loose and foolish tongue.
“I am not going to London,” he said coldly. “I am moving on.”
“Moving on? Where?”
He cast her a long, hard stare. “On.”
She would not let his surly answer deter her. “To the north is Worchester, Hereford, and Cumbria,” she said. “I believe you told me your father resides in the north. Will you see him?”
“I told you that I would not tell you again to leave. Must I make good on my promise?”
“I am leaving, m’lord,” she insisted. “I was simply making conversation of things we have already spoke of whilst donning my clothing.”
“You’re dressed now.”
The whore had seen enough harsh, bitter men to know that he would never let her in to his harsh, bitter world. All of the kind words in the world would not open his hardened heart, and she knew their association was at an end.
Disappointed, she turned for the door.
“I hope you find what you are looking for, Sir Hermes,” she said softly. “’Tis a terrible thing to be so angry and bitter at the world.”
His jaw twitched. “I am not looking for anything. And I am who I am.”
She opened the door, pausing in the darkness. The orange glow from the hearth barely lit her face as she gazed at the man who cried tearlessly and didn’t even know it.
“Aye, you’re looking for something. We all are.” She began to close the door, very softly. “When you find it, you’ll know.”
The door closed. Her words echoed in his head. He paused in dressing, his head coming up, very slowly, as if he was just coming to realize what she had said.
When you find it, you’ll know…
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