A powerful knight who has served two kings becomes a tournament champion, but will a meddlesome woman and a wicked opponent bring him the greatest defeat of his life?
Will the lady he loves with his entire being slip through his fingers?
Ridge de Reyne (from The Red Fury) served both Henry III and Alexander, King of Scotland, but royal appointments were ultimately not the life he wanted. Determined to make his fortune and become a powerful warlord in his own right, Ridge has followed the tournament circuit for the past few years, accumulating wealth and making a name for himself as the unbeatable warrior known as The Black Storm.
Enter Lady Catherine de Tuberville.
Coming to the prestigious Durham tournament with her brothers and mother, Catherine is overwhelmed by the pageantry and spectacle of one of the largest tournaments in the north. In a chance meeting with Ridge, she discovers a handsome, kind, and somewhat shy man she’s quite interested in. But her mother has other ideas.
When Catherine’s mother insists her daughter find favor with a brutal, immoral knight who is the son of a French count, her underhanded actions could bring about the destruction of everything Ridge and Catherine hold dear. It’s mother against daughter in a battle of good versus evil, with the prize being Ridge’s very life.
With neither lady willing to surrender, it’s an epic battle in this stunning Medieval Romance.
Release date: August 10, 2021
Publisher: Dragonblade Publishing, Inc.
Print pages: 227
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The Black Storme
Kathryn Le Veque
“Look at the glorious colors!”
A young woman with a delightfully heavy lisp in her speech was trying not to make a spectacle of herself, but the visions before her were so exciting that she could hardly contain herself. The party from the House of de Tuberville had arrived at the tournament fields south of the city of Durham for the famous Durham tournaments. These were tournaments that went on annually, except for the previous year. Those games had been postponed because of a terrible accident the year before, but that meant this year’s games had been meticulously planned and greatly anticipated.
There were more sights to see then she could possibly take in.
Catherine de Tuberville was trying to make a conscious effort not to look like a fool. Everything around her had her attention, from the Durham guards at the entry to the grounds to the acrobats that were already entertaining the attendees. The food vendors were already feeding the crowds that were wandering in under sunny skies and fair winds. There was so much to see and do already that Catherine was close to leaping from her carriage and leaving everyone behind.
In truth, she had anticipated this day probably more than her brothers had. All three of her brothers were seasoned knights and the Durham tournament was something to be greatly looked forward to because they could show off their skills. There wasn't often an opportunity to do that where they lived, so when the occasion arose, they were ready to display their prowess alongside some of the very best knights in England, Scotland, and Wales.
The various houses were being checked in by field marshals, who were waiting on the edge of the encampment area as the great houses arrived. When it came to an event of this size, it was always important to have enough marshals to tend to the guests because, inevitably, there would be houses that did not get along.
No one wanted a battle in the midst of the festivities.
Catherine's family was an old and a prestigious one, but it wasn’t one that could be considered at the top of the social ladder. De Tuberville had a decent reputation, a quiet Cumbria family whose fortress was out of the way in the green and rolling dales. It didn’t guard any great roads, nor did it see great action or have terrible neighbors. Keswick Castle, their seat, was off the beaten path, in a quiet little village so that all Keswick really did was watch over its own lands. No wars, no conflict.
It was a bucolic life.
That meant moments like this, seeing the excitement in Durham, was something unusual. Catherine had been looking forward to it ever since her brothers decided to compete in the tournament, and she was fairly certain they were doing that simply to stave off the mind-numbing boredom that hovered over Keswick like a fog. Charles, Geoffrey, and George de Tuberville were excellent knights and had been properly trained and educated, but they lived the life of farmers out in the wilds of Cumbria. This tournament was their opportunity to prove to themselves, and others, that they were still sharp.
But their mother’s reasons for attending were quite different.
In fact… the de Tubervilles had a dark little secret.
Still, no one could tell and that was the beauty of it. No one could tell that things within the de Tuberville family weren’t quite right. On this bright and sunny day, everything looked completely normal. They looked like just another competing household arriving for the games. Catherine was enthralled with everything, not giving any thought to the life she normally led back at home or her mother’s reason for bringing her to the games. She looked among the many houses that arrived, seeing other young women dressed in their finest, either riding their palfreys or sitting in painted carriages as they awaited admittance and, for a moment, she was just like the rest of them. She was loved and cherished just like they were.
But that wasn’t the truth.
It was all part of the dark little secret.
“Charles!” she called.
When her brother heard his name and looked over his shoulder at her, Catherine motioned the man to her. Heir to the House of de Tuberville, Charles de Tuberville was a tall, blond-haired knight with a brilliant intellect. He was shy and quiet, speaking only when spoken to mostly, but the reality was that he was quite focused and ambitious, something that the shy exterior masked.
“What is it, Moppet?” he asked, wrestling with his muscular Belgian charger.
Catherine was trying to be discreet about pointing to the group about twenty feet to her left. “Do you know who that is?” she asked.
Charles glanced in the direction she was pointing. “Nay,” he said. “Unfortunately, I am not as well-versed in many of these houses as I should be. One of the disadvantages of living where we do. Out in the wilds where we languish as the world around us goes on.”
There was a tinge of bitterness to his tone and Catherine looked at him, feeling his disappointment. Charles was the heir to a house that had no power in England. It was true that it was old and prestigious, but it was also true that there was little money and a big army, something that was purely for show.
And it caused great contention between Edmund de Tuberville and his sons.
The sentimental, gentle, and sometimes foolish head of the House of de Tuberville was a man who shouldn’t have been the heir to such an empire. He was perfectly content with his bucolic country life, but his sons weren’t. Because of them, every bit of money the family had went into the army because they felt it was important. Important in an area that had seen no action for years. But Charles and his brothers had always dreamed of a big army like Kenilworth or Northwood or Alnwick Castles, some of the biggest fortresses in England. They had big dreams, whereas their father didn’t. He hadn’t even come to Durham because he didn’t like the violence of the tournaments.
It was a rather sad situation.
“I think some people might like the peace that Keswick brings,” Catherine said after a moment. “It is a lovely place to live.”
Charles snorted. “Lovely and lifeless,” he said, looking around at the crowds. He drew in a deep breath through his nose. “This is what I crave, Moppet. The smell of civilization, the activity of men. I have missed it.”
She looked out over the same crowd. “It is exciting,” she admitted. “Do you recognize any of the standards?”
They were nearing the edge of the great encampment where the tents of various houses were pitched. Because there was a line to enter, their party was forced to come to a halt and wait their turn, giving Charles more time to inspect the colors that were flying above every individual group. The problem was that living in the rural area as they did, he wasn’t completely current on all of the houses and banners. He knew those in Cumbria and most of Northumberland, but he was a little fuzzy when it came to the lordships further south.
He scratched his head.
“I see de Lara,” he said. “The Lords of the Trilaterals. You’ve heard me mention them.”
Catherine was trying to look over his shoulder from her place in the wagon. “Aye,” she said, nodding eagerly. “You’ve spoken of them.”
“I see Wrexham and Northumberland.”
The reply came from Catherine’s brother, Geoffrey, as he rode up with their youngest brother, George. Geoffrey de Tuberville was a big lad with a messy crown of dark blond hair while George, though strong and agile, still had that wiry look of youth. At only two years older than Catherine, he’d only been recently knighted and returned from fostering at Lancaster Castle.
“De Longley is here!” George hissed excitedly, jabbing a gloved finger towards the encampment. “The knights of Northwood are here, but that’s not all. The Black Storm is also here. De Reyne in the flesh!”
Both Charles and Catherine looked at him, his young face flushed with excitement.
“The Black Storm?” Charles repeated. “You mean de Reyne?”
George nodded quickly. “I saw his blue and black standard,” he said, pointing off to the north. “I’m surprised they let him return given what he did to Pocklington two years ago.”
“What did he do?” Catherine asked.
Charles glanced at her. “It wasn’t his fault,” he said. “The Earl of Pocklington was at the Durham tournament two years ago, a soft man who should not have been competing against professionals, but he insisted and he paid the price.”
“He was killed.” Charles turned to look at her fully. “The old fool fell from his horse in a pass with de Reyne and was trampled to death. That is why there was no tournament last year. The rules have been changed and now pompous lords who do not normally fight or joust are only allowed to compete against one another. They are no longer allowed to go against younger, more skilled knights.”
Catherine thought on the foolish old earl who lost his life to a knight who competed as his profession. “How terrible,” she said. “But this de Reyne – surely he must feel terrible for what happened.”
Charles shrugged, returning his attention to the encampment. “It is part of the games,” he said. “And I cannot imagine de Reyne feeling badly about anything.”
“Because he is not that sort of man,” George spoke up again. “He’s the fiercest competitor on the circuit with no heart, no feeling. I’d like nothing more than to topple the man.”
Both Charles and Geoffrey snorted to that arrogant declaration. “He would more than likely make animal fodder out of you,” Geoffrey said. “Your goals are too lofty, lad. No one challenges The Black Storm and lives to tell the tale.”
George frowned. “He’s a man like any other.”
Charles looked at his foolish younger brother. “He is a man, but he is not like any other,” he said. “You know as well as I do that he was a knight for King Henry when he was gifted to the King of Scotland as part of a treaty years ago. The man was a royal knight, for Christ’s sake. Being gifted from one king to another does not make him like any other man. It makes him more elite than most.”
George was still in a disparaging mood, as if he didn’t like hearing about a knight who was greater than he was. He shook his head and scowled. But Catherine had a pensive expression on her face.
“I wonder why he left the King of Scotland?” she murmured softly.
The brothers turned to her to varying degrees. “I heard he left because the king made him kill his own countrymen,” George said before anyone else could speak. “He made him kill Englishmen, so he left.”
“Shut your lips, Mouse,” Charles said, referring to George’s childhood nickname, something he hated with all his being. “You do not know if that is the truth.”
George was defiant in the face of a conversation that was going increasingly against him. “And you do not know that it isn’t.”
Charles cocked an eyebrow. “Keep spewing gossip like that and de Reyne will come for you,” he said pointedly. “I will not protect you if he does, so you would do well to still your foolish tongue.”
The threat of Ridge de Reyne having a vendetta against him for malicious gossip quieted George somewhat, but he was still defiant. “From what I’ve heard, the man only talks to the men who serve him,” he said. “No one knows much about him. If he has nothing to hide, why is he not social?”
Both Charles and Geoffrey shook their heads at their ridiculous younger brother but were prevented from commenting further when the group in front of them began to move forward.
“Quickly, now,” Charles said, waving his arm at the men-at-arms in front of his sister’s carriage. “Get moving so we can settle in the encampment before the sun sets.”
Catherine sat back in her cab as the horses pulling it lurched forward, following the men forward. The marshals waiting at the encampment entry took down some information from Charles before waving the party through. More officials were inside the encampment, showing them where to set up their tents, which was at the very edge of the encampment overlooking the River Wear.
Once they reached their designated space, Catherine’s carriage was pulled over to the side while the soldiers set up their tents. Her cab was a smaller one, only seating two people with the entire wooden structure fortified by iron. It was heavy and uncomfortable at times, but it was perfect for her and her two little dogs.
Animals that went everywhere with her.
Listening to the men shouting and grunting as the tents were raised, Catherine sat on the bench of the cab, her legs curled underneath her and her dogs sleeping on their bed on the floor. But it wasn’t actually a dog bed as much as it was a plush pillow of silk and linen that the dogs had dragged off the bench seat to sleep on. Catherine gazed down at the pair, tiny white puppies that had grown into tiny white dogs with monstrous dispositions. At least, to everyone else they were devils in disguise, but to Catherine, they were her babies and she loved them dearly.
But she still wasn’t brave enough to take the pillow away from them.
Bando was the male, a pale dog with big, brown eyes, and Iris was his sister who had one blue eye and one brown eye. Bando woke up when the carriage came to a halt and jumped up on the bench seats for what Catherine called “petties”. It was simply a childish term for lavishing affection on the dog, who tried to climb up on her and lick her face. Bando wanted his petties and she kissed him and stroked his back, looking from the small window to the activity going on outside. It all would have been quite exciting had her mother’s carriage not come into the picture.
She could see that big, wooden monstrosity from where she sat.
Not strangely, the women of the House of de Tuberville didn’t travel together. Catherine had the little iron carriage while her mother had a massive one, so large that it had a bed built into it. Blythe didn’t like to share her comfort with anyone, least of all the daughter she never wanted, so they had traveled separately all the way from Keswick.
It truthfully didn’t bother Catherine in the least.
It was simply the way of things.
Things she’d long learned to live with. Oh, she knew why her mother had brought her to this tournament, but she didn’t care. She was thrilled to witness the excitement of it while her mother would be on the hunt for a husband to relieve her of her girl-child. There weren’t many opportunities for suitors in Keswick, so Blythe viewed the Durham games as a prime opportunity to seek husbandly material for what she considered a defective daughter.
And that, quite simply, was the dark little secret the House of de Tuberville harbored.
A mother who couldn’t wait to be rid of her daughter.
It was the lisp that Blythe considered a flaw, that sweetheart little lisp that Catherine had. It didn’t matter that her daughter was stunningly beautiful and accomplished in a great many things. All that mattered was that when she spoke, and she spoke quite intelligently, that lisping speech and soft tone gave the impression of a simpleton. A sweetheart, pretty simpleton.
Catherine knew that but it did not trouble her like it had when she’d been young. The men she knew these days didn’t think such things about her, things that her mother had beat into her since she’d first learn to speak. It had stopped bothering her years ago, something she’d forced herself to harden to before it sucked her soul dry. A mother’s love had never been part of her life and she’d learned to live without it. Therefore, the sight of her mother’s carriage did nothing to her.
She had better things to look at.
Opening the carriage door, Catherine scooped up Bando and Iris, carrying them off towards the grassy patches near the river so they could relieve themselves after the long journey. When she was quite sure the dogs were away from the bustle of the men and horses, she carefully set them down, following them as they sniffed around. They were both nosy creatures, interested in their surroundings, and Catherine trailed the pair as they wandered along the grass, further and further from the de Tuberville campsite.
In fact, when she wasn’t watching the dogs, Catherine was inspecting the dozens and dozens of tents as they filled up the encampment. She could see them through the trees, spread out nearly as far as she could see. The colors were so bright and gay, standards snapping in the breeze. There were red and white tents, yellow and red tents, black and green tents, and everything in between. There were men everywhere, working around the tents or polishing weapons.
It was a busy, bustling city unto itself.
As she continued to walk, she could see some men practicing with swords against each other, practicing for the coming games. Clusters of horses stood lazily in makeshift corrals, munching on the green grass at their feed that was quickly depleting. And somewhere, she could hear music playing. Living such a rural life, it was rare when Catherine was around so many people at one time.
It was all quite exciting.
Abruptly, Bando and Iris took off, barking furiously. Startled, Catherine looked over to see her dogs heading towards an enormous Irish wolfhound who was simply sitting at the edge of a cluster of tents near the river. The poor dog wasn’t doing a thing, but Bando and Iris clearly thought he was enough of a threat to charge.
Catherine began to run.
All she could see were her dogs being eaten by the giant beast who was calmly sitting. Surely a dog like that would make mincemeat out of her little pets and she began to call after her dogs, calling their names and whistling to gain their attention.
But it was all to no avail.
Bando and Iris were singularly focused.
The dogs came off the grass, charging across a mashed area that was being used as a road. Their prey was on the other side of the mashed area. The big dog finally turned to see the two white devils coming after him. The dog laid his ears back, stood up, and turned tail, running into the camp with the blue and black tents.
Bando and Iris went in pursuit.
So did Catherine.
Before she could reach the blue and black tents, however, a massive silver body appeared. It took her a moment to realize that there was now a horse between her and her dogs, but she was running with such momentum that she couldn’t prevent herself from crashing into the beast.
As Catherine bounced backwards and stumbled onto her bum, the horse let out something that sounded like a yell and reared up. All Catherine could see were hooves as big as her head, so she scrambled backwards across the mashed grass, trying to get away. She managed to put distance between her and the horse, and as she climbed to her feet, hands were reaching out to steady her.
“My lady?” came the deep, concerned voice. “Did you hurt yourself?”
Catherine was back on her feet now, pushing her hair from her eyes and seeing the most enormous man she’d ever seen, clad in armor and mail and a great helm.
It was the most terrifying vision she’d ever beheld.
“Nay,” she said, moving away from him and away from the horse in his grasp that was still snorting and dancing. “I am uninjured.”
She ran around him before he could say another word, hearing her dogs barking somewhere in the distance, feeling increasingly fearful because she didn’t see them.
“Bando?” she cried. “Iris?”
There were men milling about in this encampment, but the ones she came across seemed rather confused. They seemed to be looking at something near the river.
“My dogs,” she said to them, her voice trembling. “Forgive me, my lords, but have you seen my dogs?”
The men looked at her while one of them pointed. “Little white dogs?” he said. “Over there.”
She followed his finger to see that Bando and Iris had chased the wolfhound onto a tree stump. The big dog was perched on top of it, terrified, as her little dogs prowled around the bottom, barking menacingly. Catherine ran up and grabbed them both.
“You naughty little creatures,” she scolded. “Just wait until I get you back to the carriage. I’ll tie you up and you’ll never run free again!”
Bando and Iris ignored her, still barking at the poor wolfhound. Since her own dogs were safe, Catherine felt rather sorry for the big dog, turning to see that the men from the blue and black encampment had followed her. Someone whistled and the wolfhound came off of the stump, gratefully running back to men who would protect him. Catherine turned to see men standing a few feet away, including the enormous man in the armor and great helm. When the wolfhound ran up to him and whined, he petted the beast on his head affectionately.
It didn’t take a great intellect to realize the dog belonged to him.
Her heart sank.
“My apologies, my lord,” she said. “I am very sorry that my dogs harassed your wolfhound. I promise it will not happen again. You see, they’ve been cooped up all day in the carriage with me and I fear that has made them a little wild.”
She could see that the men standing around were grinning at the giant dog terrified of tiny little dogs. The man in the armor removed his helm, revealing a handsome face with dark eyes and a head of cropped, black hair.
Those dark eyes were fixed on her.
“No harm done, my lady,” he said. “I think he will survive. I may have to get him drunk, though.”
As the men around him snorted, Catherine cocked her head. “You would give a dog drink?”
He flashed a lopsided smile, still patting the dog’s head. “It was a jest,” he said. “Odin might look like a fearsome beast, but the truth is that he is afraid of his own shadow. You, however, have a pair of fierce fighters on your hands. I envy you.”
Catherine smiled reluctantly, looking at the silly mutts in her arms. “It is unfortunate but true, my lord,” she said. “They will chase anything. The bigger, the better. I fear that someday they will come to harm because of it.”
“Nay,” the man said, looking at the white dogs. “Fortune favors the foolish. I am certain they will live long and healthy lives while the rest of us live in fear of them.”
Catherine broke down into soft giggles. “I have brought them to compete in the games, you know.”
The man smiled broadly, a devilishly handsome smile of big, white teeth. “Is that so?” he said. “Then I am forewarned, my lady. Under what house will they fight?”
“De Tuberville, my lord.”
“Then I shall know them and be prepared,” he said. A slightly awkward silence followed before he spoke again. “Although I realize you already have your bodyguards with you, may I escort you back to your encampment, my lady?”
Catherine shook her head, nodding off towards the south. “It would be too much trouble, my lord,” she said. “Our encampment is only over there, on the other side of those trees. I am quite able to make it back safely.”
The man handed his helm off to one of the other men, who grasped the wolfhound by the collar and pulled him away. Meanwhile, the enormous man began walking towards the trees, motioning to Catherine as he went.
“I would not dream of letting you return unattended,” he said. “Will you give me that honor?”
Catherine wasn’t sure she had a choice, so she simply nodded. “Of course,” she said. “If you are certain I am not keeping you from something more important.”
“You are not.” They began to walk and he eyed her, perhaps trying not to stare at her. “I fear there is no one to make the proper introductions, so may I be bold and ask your name?”
Catherine didn’t see any harm in it. “I am Catherine de Tuberville,” she said. “My brothers have come to compete in the games.”
“I see,” he said, walking a proper distance away from her as they crossed into the trees. “How many brothers do you have?”
“So three brothers and the two dogs will compete?”
She laughed softly. “I may have exaggerated about the dogs,” she said. “But my brothers are very excited to compete. We do not have much chance to attend such exciting happenings where we are from.”
“Where are you from?”
“Keswick Castle, in Cumbria.”
He nodded in understanding. “I do not think I have heard of Keswick,” he said. “Where in Cumbria?”
“It is a few miles west of Penrith,” she said. “We are in the dales of Cumbria.”
They had come out of the trees with the de Tuberville tents directly ahead, but his gaze was on her. “That is beautiful land.”
She shrugged. “It is boring land,” she said. “It is so rare that we have the opportunity for something exciting like this. Do you attend these tournaments often?”
They were nearing the tents but she paused, finding the conversation interesting and perhaps not wanting it to end so quickly. “My brothers have not attended in quite some time, but I probably should not tell you that,” she said. “If you happen to face them, you will know that they’ve not had much practice recently.”
He chuckled. “Nay, you should not have told me that,” he said. “You have just given them away and now I shall beat them down if given the chance.”
Her eyes widened and her smile vanished. “Truly?”
His dark eyes glimmered with mirth. “Nay,” he said. “I am jesting. For you, I will go easy on them.”
Catherine fought off a smile. “You do not have to do that,” she said. “They could take a little beating now and again. Especially George. He has visions of grandeur.”
“He does, does he?”
She nodded. “In fact, he was just speaking of someone named de Reyne,” she said. “Only just now. He said he would like nothing better than to topple the man. God’s Bones, there I go again. I should not have said that. You do not know de Reyne, do you?”
The man shrugged vaguely. “A little,” he said. “But your secret is safe with me.”
Her smile returned. “Thank you,” she said. A brief but not entirely uneasy silence followed as Catherine glanced at the yellow and white de Tuberville tents. “I am returned now, my lord. Thank you for taking the time to return me home and I am terribly sorry that my dogs frightened your dog. I do hope he recovers.”
The man smiled, dimples carving into each cheek. “He will, I assure you,” he said. “And thank you very much for allowing me to escort you home, Lady Catherine. It has been the most pleasurable part of my day.”
Catherine grinned bashfully in gratitude, watching him as he gave her a lingering look before turning around and heading back the way he’d come. Catherine simply stood there, watching him go, as Charles came up beside her.
“What was that all about?” he asked suspiciously. “What happened?”
Catherine nodded. “The dogs ran off,” she said. “He simply escorted me back to our encampment so no harm would befall me. Was that not chivalrous of him?”
Charles sighed sharply. “It was calculated,” he muttered. “Do you know who that is?”
She looked at him blankly. “Nay,” she said. “I forgot to ask his name.”
Charles looked at her then. “That was Ridge de Reyne,” he said. “The very same knight we were speaking of. He did not introduce himself?”
Catherine looked at him, stricken, immediately thinking of all of those things she’d told de Reyne about her brothers and their rusty joust skills. “N-Nay,” she stammered. “Oh, Charles… that is really de Reyne?”
“The Black Storm in the flesh.”
He turned away, back to undoubtedly tell his brothers about de Reyne’s appearance, as Catherine returned her attention to the knight she could barely see through the trees now. In the distance, she could see his blue and black tents. She could hardly believe how foolish she had been, spouting off about her brothers to the very man they would soon be competing against. She supposed time would tell if he took her silly conversation seriously.
Whether or not her brothers survived the tournament would tell the tale.
With a heavy sigh, she took her naughty dogs and headed back to her carriage.
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