Sovereign Silk

By: Elizabeth Gilligan

Preface


WHAT has gone before . . .

Alessandra, the Araunya di Cayesmengro, a Romani merchant princess, comes to court to find a husband and is persuaded by the White Queen, who is desperate to have more children, to help her cast a spell in secret for that purpose. The queen, however, limited by laws against spells being cast upon the royal family, extends the reaches of her spell to all Tyrrhia. In the ensuing court intrigues, Alessandra is murdered by Princess Bianca and those in league with her.

Luciana, elder sister of Alessandra, Duchessa di Drago and Araunya di Cayesmengri arrives at court to perform the funeral rites practiced by their Romani people. She discovers Alessandra’s body gone, stolen by Cardinal delle Torre and Brother Tomasi who took the body and released her Romani spirit known as a mulló—half-ghost, half-demon—to use her in their magic. Luciana uncovers Princess Bianca’s treachery in killing her sister and takes her revenge.

Alessandra’s affianced, Maggiore Mandero di Montago, and his men of the Queen’s Escalade and the priest, Gabera, go in search of Alessandra’s stolen body, having only the young woman’s shroud to tie her spirit to them. They uncover the magic used by Cardinal delle Torre who took Alessandra’s body, releasing her Romani spirit to use her in their magic.

Ultimately, Mandero frees Alessandra’s spirit and body and performs the funeral rites, himself disappearing into her burning vardo wagon. The maggiore’s men arrest Brother Tomasi who has worked in league with the cardinal, but find Cardinal delle Torre dead, killed by the spirits he had enslaved to work his magic. They return to the palazzo, without their maggiore, but with Brother Tomasi as their prisoner.





I



“Men in great places are thrice servants: servants of the sovereign or State, servants of fame, and servants of business.”

—Francis Bacon

10 d’Novembre, 1684

WITH the skill of an accomplished swordsman, the White King dodged the crystal decanter hurled at his head. The missile shattered against the wall. Shards of glass and red wine flew everywhere, the ruinous results of the princess’ ill-temper. Even now King Alban saw her looking for something else to fling at him.

Fighting the urge to lay hands on his long-estranged cousin, the king turned instead to her husband, the whippet-like man seated, insouciant, in one of the cane chairs. “Pierro! Control your wife!”

“I’m not subject to the laws of the harem anymore!” Princess Ortensia hissed, seizing the paperweight.

With a beleaguered sigh, Prince Pierro rose and caught his wife’s sleeve. “Perhaps His Majesty will be more receptive to a less lethal argument, mia bella. Another time, we can only hope that he will be more sensitive to our cause.”

Just outside the door, Strozzini, Alban’s bodyguard, cleared his throat loudly. “Majesty, is all well?”

Alban looked at Ortensia who still seethed, but it was to her right hand that his attention was drawn. She held herself in that instinctively protective fashion of a woman bearing seed. Was it possible that she could be bearing the deMedici’s child so soon? They’d married in Agosto, four months ago. Until this time, the princess’ gowns had hidden her swelling middle, but now it was visible.

Did Pierro’s fortune really run so well, or had the Turkish Sultan who held Ortensia for the past seventeen years returned her already pregnant with a sixth child by him?

In either case, clearly, this coming year was to be prime for Tyrrhia’s population, which swelled portentously with the uncanny number of expectant mothers among the nobility. Alban’s sources indicated that the swell included all that was Tyrrhian. Everywhere and in everything, Tyrrhia ripened and bore fruit well beyond normal expectations.

With his own beloved Idala in the very condition the princess now displayed, Alban compelled his own irritation to fade. As he knew from his wife’s many pregnancies, women’s emotions were at the mercy of their condition.

Ortensia shot the White King a venomous glare and pushed away from the desk. Alban knew this discussion would not be over until she had her way. She meant the trono, Tyrrhia’s throne, to be hers.

Alban met the princess and her prince at the door, gracious as a steward, ushering them from his private offices. Strozzini stood to one side, allowing them access to the stairs. Alban watched Ortensia and Pierro descend, the bastarde deMedici prince overly solicitous of his stolen bride. The prince’s pretty demonstrations sickened Alban. Pierro pretended at emotions other men, those Alban respected, genuinely felt for their wives.