Aristide

By: Barbara Devlin

DEDICATION


This book is dedicated to the disabled, of which I am one. We may be flawed, but no one is perfect. Some are just better at hiding their scars. Remember, we are not defined by our wounds but by our ability to move beyond them.





AUTHOR'S NOTE


Gentle Reader,

Much has been made of the Middle English I use in my medieval stories, and my intent was never to confound you. Rather, my hope was to offer you a different reading experience that immersed you in the period-appropriate culture, which includes language. But some have complained about the use of the Middle English pronoun ‘thou.‘ The contemporary ‘you’ didn’t become commonplace until the 16th century, so I omitted it in the first two Brethren Origins books. After listening to my readership, I decided to tone down the Middle English hybrid just a tad, by reinserting a little contemporary English to improve the reading experience.



Another point of contention has been the relative lack of sexual experience my knights possess. Often readers tend to place 21st century ideals on 14th century men. They believed that spicy food encouraged sexual appetites and masturbation could result in insanity, blindness, and all manner of plagues on the next generation. As such, my characters are drawn to convey such nonsense, in keeping with my unique vision for my work, and I hope you enjoy my tale.



Thank you,

Barb Devlin





ARISTIDE



PROLOGUE



London

The Year of Our Lord, 1312



Marriage manifested a lethal trap for the unsuspecting soul. Forever bound to a woman, when the Templar Code demanded chastity, an honorable Nautionnier Knight dangled on the precipice of damnation until he passed into the not-so-glorious hereafter, given his disobedience of the tenets that defined his existence. It was for that reason Aristide de Laurentiis studied his brother with inexpressible sympathy, on Arucard’s wedding day, and focused his attention on something important.

His empty belly.

In the massive great hall at Westminster Palace, beneath the most opulent hammerbeam roof Aristide had ever seen, he lingered near the food table, perused the vast array of tempting items, and filled his plate with savory selections, including an impressive helping of lampreys with hot sauce. At one corner of the sweetmeats collection, he snared a puffed pastry in the shape of a lion.

“I believe that is intended as a decoration, great knight.” A soft, melodic voice offered wise counsel, amid the elegantly garbed nobles, and he quickly restored the item to its place and searched for the benevolent soul. In a dark corner, he narrowed his stare and spied a veiled creature. “Hello.”

“My lady.” In deference, he dipped his chin. “Thank you, for sparing me a measure of embarrassment, and I am in your debt. It has been a long time since I mingled with such estimable company.” Then he snickered. “Wherefore do you shelter alone in darkness, when the other ladies vie for husbands?”

“Because I am a woman, it must follow that I am in want of a spouse?” She snorted. “By your logic, I have chosen the most opportune position, near the food, if your portions offer an indication of your inclinations. Or am I to conclude that brawn does not equate brains, my lord, and you are a wasteful sort?” A hint of amusement colored her tone, thus he took no offense. “As you evidence plenty of the former but little of the latter, in our brief discussion.”

“Indeed?” When he rounded the display, she shrank further into the shadows. “You should be careful how you speak, as thither are those who might take insult to your assertions and seek retribution, in the form of a sound beating of your bottom.”

“Would you visit violence upon a woman half your size?” A subtle tremor in her reply indicated he frightened her. “I apologize, as I meant no affront, my lord. But you seemed so enamored of the fare that I could not resist teasing you. Pray, forgive me.”

“Come hither, into the light.” Intrigued by the fascinating creature, Aristide grasped her wrist and pulled her into the soft glow of a wall sconce. “What is your name?”

“I am Lady Dionysia, daughter of Lord Goncourt.” Possessed of the clearest blue eyes, and thick black lashes, she hid the rest of her face behind a veil, and he just resisted removing the scrap of cloth. “Prithee, I beg you, kind sir. Do not hold my family responsible for my breach of decorum.”