Friday, May 1, 2015

Shall We Go A-Maying? Traditions of May Day

by Barbara Bettis

Queen Guinevere's Maying by John Collier
May Day. Gathering and bestowing of flowers, dancing around May Poles. What a delightful and innocent way to welcome Summer.                         
Or so we might think in the 21st Century. In fact, like so many of our holiday traditions, May Day has its origins in ancient times and through several cultures. As so many of those current holidays, the Church also has a religious observance slotted for that day, as well.
The feast of Sts. Phillip and James is held on May 1, honoring the dedication of a church now known at the Church of the Twelve Apostles, located in Rome. It originally was dedicated to Phillip and James.
Also from Rome—at least, from early Romans—comes the festival of Floralia, celebrating Flora goddess of flowers.
May 1 falls on an important date in other early non-Christian cultures. It coincides with the Gaelic Beltane festivities, marking the return of Summer. While Spring was observed earlier, Summer was especially important, because the first crops were beginning to peek above the ground and the fertility was to be celebrated. Green was a color especially tied to the day, most evident in the later Middle Ages.
Beltane began the evening of April 30 and continued the following day. Huge bonfires were lit to much rejoicing, celebrating fertility.
"Mayflowers" Hawthorne blossoms
Early in the morning, young men and women would go into the fields and forests to pick flowers and greenery. The phrase “gone-a-Maying” stems from that (Cosman.) The day of feasting often was capped by entertainment such as that from Morris Dancers, a group of men who would perform for the villagers.
Often, villages would erect May Poles. The original purpose of the May Pole isn’t clear, but it has been suggested they may have been phallic symbols to represent fertility. Young girls danced around the poles in early such festivities. Eventually the tradition evolved, and the poles were decorated with flowers and ribbons. Some sources say any of the villagers could dance around them, although the activity was often the purview of the young. Some such poles were so tall, they had to be embedded in the earth. They were left standing year-round.
Just in case we think all this might only be myth, the London church St. Andrew Undershaft reportedly took its name from the May Pole that was erected across from it each year. (The May Pole there met its end at the hands of a mob in 1547, who declared it a “pagan idol.”)

Sweet surprise for neighbors
Much later in the 20th Century, the May Pole our elementary class danced around weaving crepe paper streamers into colorful patterns wasn’t pagan, however. That dance had taken on the tradition of a folk activity and was treated as fun and games.
In addition, I recall my friends and I making May baskets to hang on doorknobs on May Day. It was a sweet activity and I hate to see it—or the May Pole— slip into oblivion.
Cosman, Madeleine Pelner. Medieval Holidays and Festivals New York: Scribners, 1981

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Medieval Valentines?

by Barbara Bettis

Valentine’s Day is here. Time for flowers, candy, send cards to celebrate the day traditionally set aside for love. But was Valentine's Day celebrated in the Middle Ages? Sort of.

When did that tradition start?

St. Valentine of Terni and his disciples
I wish I could give you a summarized, sanitized, glamourized answer, but I love accuracy too much to do so. The answer is—unclear. 
Tradition says the day was named for Valentine, an early Christian priest martyred (this is true) for his part in—and that’s where the story become murky. The church records three Valentines, all living around the third century during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. One priest Valentine was martyred in Africa. He’s not so much connected with our tale. That leaves Valentine, a priest in Rome, and Valentine, Bishop of Terni.
One story says a priest named Valentine helped Christians escape Roman persecution. Still  a another story says a priest named Valentine secretly married Roman couples to escape Claudius’s edict banning marriage for soldiers (they were better military men if they didn’t worry about wives and children, the emperor thought. However, one historian says this edict never existed.)
One of these two Valentines, while imprisoned, is said to have 1.) cured his jailer’s daughter of blindness and/or 2.) fallen in love with her. Whatever the reason, he is said to have written her a letter on the eve on his execution, signing it “your valentine.”
Both Valentines are said to have been martyred on Feb. 14 (different years). Since the church usually celebrated a saint’s birth or death, that date became common.
Some reports link Valentine’s Day to a Roman festival of Lupercalia—held Feb. 13-15. At that time, pagan priests would soak skins in the blood of a sacrificed goat (symbol of fertility) and with it slap women (and fields) to encourage fertility. Then men would draw women’s names from a bowl for their mate during the following year.
Did an early pope, hoping to link Christian holidays to pagan ones thus encouraging the spread of Christian belief, declare celebration of St. Valentine’s Day coincide with that pagan festival? Some sources say so. Ironically, other sources are vehement that it Wasn’t So. J (It does make a good story, though.)
This post is on Medieval Valentines, and this all happened in the 4th Century, the early days of the Church. How, then, did Valentine’s Day become commonly accepted ? Was it also linked to early spring mating of birds, a belief popular in many rural areas?

Jack B. Oruch says the links of romantic love and Valentine’s Day was first recorded in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules (1382). The poem celebrated Richard II and Anne of Bohemia’s engagement contract in 1381. (They were married at 15.)

Geoffrey Chaucer by Thomas Hoccleve (1412)
“It says: For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

(Trans:"For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.")”

The first actual recorded ‘Valentine’ (that has been found, at least) is attributed to Charles, Duke of Orleans, who wrote it to his wife about 1416 while he was imprisoned in the Tower of England after his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. Here is the first couple of verses of it:

French (Original)
Je suis déjà d’amour tanné,    Ma très douce Valentinée, Car pour moi fûtes trop tard née,                                    Et moi pour vous fus trop tôt né.                             Dieu lui pardonne qui estrené                             M’a de vous, pour toute l’année                              
Je suis déjà, etc.               Ma très douce, etc.          Bien m’étais suspeçonné, Qu’aurais telle destinée,     Ainsi que passât ceste journée,                    Combien qu’Amours l’eût ordonné.                            
Je suis déjà, etc.
I am already sick of love,        My very gentle Valentine, Since for me you were born too soon,                                    And I for you was born too late.                                       God forgives he who has estranged                                Me from you for the whole year.
I am already, etc.                    My very gentle, etc.             Well might I have suspected, Having such a destiny, cousin Thus would have happened this day,                                      How much that Love would have commanded.
I am already, etc           (“French Poems”)

As for valentines in English, the earliest discovered (so far) can be found in Margaret Brewes letters to her future husband, John Paston, “my right well-beloved valentine.” They are part of the Paston Letters collection. A link to the entire letter is below.

Well, there you have it. We can’t really be sure exactly for which Valentine the day was named, or even how the romantic element of it persisted and grew over a thousand years, from the time of the Sts. Valentine martyrdoms, to Chaucer’s mention of the day in a romantic context in 1382, to the Duc d’Orleans’ Valentine to his wife and a 15th Century lady to her betrothed.

Perhaps it just goes to show the enduring need to celebrate the feeling that binds us romantically to another.

But you know, the idea of romantic love goes even further back—to Greek mythology—to that arrow-wielding god Cupid and his mortal lady, Psyche, and a love that transcended time. But that’s another story J

Happy Valentine’s Day. And may we continue to celebrate this timeless tradition of love in our writings.

Sources:          for full text of the Brewes letter.                                                 (I know. I’m sorry. But it has good sourcing.)

The photos are from Wikipedia. The card is from free Valentine's cards.
And if you'd like to read some later Medieval love poems, go here:
(The above was adapted from a previous post.)


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Loft At 22nd Street - First Chapter

[This is a rough draft, subject to some edits, and changes as the story progresses]

Late September  1906
The Bookshop At The Loft - 22nd Street - Uptown

"Merciful heavens!"
Ainsley Birral jarred to a frozen halt, heart pounding beneath the palm she pressed against her chest.  The reaction was quite understandable. Even in the city, it wasn't every day one found a dead body cluttering up one's shop floor. At least, she thought the man was dead. He certainly looked as if he'd left this world, and without doubt, his departure had not been of his own volition. She gaped at the tableau, hovering at the threshold of the open door—which should have been locked—to the bookshop she and her sister, Rona, owned.
The Loft, as Ainsley affectionately referred to it, was a spacious, well-stocked-and-patronized store occupying the upper floor of a three-story structure owned by her uncle, Clyde Findlay. Ainsley lived in an apartment on the building's second floor with Rona and their elderly cousin Fiona Monro.
She closed her mouth and angled her head to listen, but discerned nothing to indicate the perpetrator of this horrendous crime might still be within. Her nose informed her oil from a lamp had been spilled. She squelched the urge to hurry inside to cleanse the potential fire hazard. She swallowed and tried to work up courage to enter, but wasn't at all certain she wanted to take the chance. When several more moments elapsed and the silence persisted, she forced stiff limbs to take a single step forward, all her senses alert for…anything. Nothing moved in the stillness. She gusted a relieved sigh, only then becoming aware she had been holding her breath.
Outrage! Nothing like this had ever happened in her life. She fought to clear jangling thoughts. What did one do when confronted with a murder? More importantly, how could such an awful thing have happened without any of them hearing a sound? Granted, Fiona was of an age where she might sleep through a parade, but to Ainsley's mind, it was deeply disquieting neither Rona nor herself had been disturbed in the night by the violent activity that had occurred only one story above their beds.
Footsteps and the scent of roses heralded the arrival of Rona on the landing behind her. Her sister gasped and grabbed for the doorframe as she caught sight of the old man lying in the middle of the customer reading area. "A-A-Ainsley!"
"Indeed." Ainsley took another short, hesitant step.
Rona grabbed her arm. "What are you doing?" Her hushed voice rose on the last word. "Never say you're actually going in there!"
"Why not? I can already see no one's here but this unfortunate soul. I need to learn if he's truly dead, and if we've been robbed."
"Robbed? Save us!" Rona tugged at Ainsley's elbow. "Sister please, come away. It isn't seemly to become involved with this. We should leave immediately."
Despite the trembling of her hands, Ainsley rolled her eyes. "Don't become hysterical, Rona, I beg you. The danger is past, and like it or not, we are already involved. Besides, if the poor man is still alive we need to get help for him immediately."
She scanned the scene. Blood—a dreadfully copious amount—beneath the man's head, along with the afore-smelled oil that had leaked from a reading lamp knocked off a table, had soaked the large oval rug defining the reading area. Further signs of a scuffle abounded. An overturned chair lay amid small, scattered knickknacks, and a celery green drapery panel had been pulled from its place beneath the pelmet, allowing a modicum of light into the shadowed room.
She uttered a pained exclamation at sight of her favorite floor vase in the corner, broken into colorful pieces like an abandoned mosaic. It had held a mass of peacock feathers, some of which now lay snapped and bent amid the fragments. What appeared to be the brass fireplace poker glinted amid the plumes.
Books—some of them expensive—were tossed everywhere, yanked by undiscerning hands from their places on the shelves. The chaos indicated evidence of either simple vandalism or a hasty search, but if the latter, for what? She kept nothing of a secretive nature here. Odd that none of the periodicals, children's books or lady's romance novels had been disturbed. She moved closer to the body. The movement brought into view a book clutched like an ineffectual lifeline in the dead man's fingers. It looked like one of the treasured research publications for which the shop was noted, and was open to an ancient illumination over which words, upside down to her position, had been scrawled in what appeared to be a dark, rust-colored paint.
Oh, it was horrible enough this hapless elder had died by violence in her beloved store. Why had the killer felt it necessary to add the destruction of an antique work of art to that abomination? Volumes such as this were often impossible to replace.  She bent to take a closer look and gasped, withdrawing with a shudder. The sense of having stepped unwitting into a nightmare increased. The old man had been bludgeoned. Her eyes flickered to the poker in the corner and she grimaced. The back of his head showed a caved-in spot, undetectable from the door, that the end of the poker would certainly fit.
But it wasn't the sight of the fractured skull that drew from her an almost irresistible desire to flee. Though she could now see the book clenched in his hand was, thankfully, merely a reproduction of medieval illuminations, the words 'AINSLEY IS NEXT' were untidily blocked across one page. Both the message and the inscription medium appalled her. The warning was penned in blood.
She stepped away, hand plastered against her stomach. Swallowing repeatedly, she turned to Rona. "Don't come over here."
Her sister shuddered. "I have no desire to come closer." Rona sounded the way Ainsley felt. "In fact, I say again, we should leave. What if the killer returns to murder us, too? What if he decides to slit our throats? Oh, Ainsley, whatever shall we do?"
Rona's complexion was more alabaster than usual. Shock darkened her rounded blue eyes.
Pity tempered Ainsley's usual blunt response to her sister's dramatics. Rona was truly frightened. To be perfectly honest, so was she. "Well, we certainly are not going to panic."
"Do you say that because you're truly not upset, or because you're trying not to panic and you don't want me to, either?"
"It's not working! Ainsley, we are alone up here. What if the person who did this is close by?"
Ainsley collected herself and squared her shoulders. It would do no one any good to think on that possibility.
"I think we may be sure whoever did this has removed himself far away." Her lips tightened. Rona was overwrought. She needed something to do, needed to get away from the scene but bless her, did want to leave Ainsley alone. "Run downstairs to the pharmacy and wake Mr. Schmidt. Ask him to come up. Tell him what happened and have him call the police and send his assistant to bring Uncle Clyde. Oh, and wake up Fiona. She'll need to get dressed."
Rona's face paled even further. She caught Ainsley's hand. "The police! Oh, Ainsley, must we? Bart won't like that. It will reflect badly on his family, placing them in the middle of an untenable social situation."
"Your fiancé will have to understand. We cannot ignore this is a crime scene. The police must be informed. Go, now!"
"You should close the door and come with me." Her sister actually wrung her hands. "Oh dear, what an awful scrape."
"Rona, go!"

Rona obeyed. It was an indication of the depth of her agitation she made no effort to be lady-like as she clattered down the stairs. Ainsley sighed. Bartholomew Osbourne—and his family—were wealthy and influential. Bart's mother was a favorite among the city's highest echelons of society. His father hated publicity. Both already balked at their son's engagement to a woman not quite of their status. For her sister to become involved, however innocently, in something so distasteful and scandalous as murder might be the edge they needed to force Bart to break the betrothal. Rona was right. This could become a problem, in more ways than the obvious.

Monday, August 4, 2014

What You May Not Know About Vikings!


In an earlier release, Rose of Hope, set in post-Conquest England, I feature a scene set in a fictional Viking village on the Essex coast that I called "Ljotness", founded two centuries earlier by a Viking jarl.

In my newest release, Viking Sword: A Fall of Yellow Fire - The Stranded One, the hero and his family live in Ljotness (his father is the one who took the town from its Anglo-Saxon thegn).

Even though Rose of Hope came first, it seemed a natural progression back to Viking Sword, because the Normans (the heroes of Rose of Hope) were direct descendants of Viking ancestors (the great Rollo was William the Conqueror's many times great-grandfather). 

I'm having a lot of fun learning about Vikings and thought I'd share some of more interesting tidbits I've come across.

"Official" Beginning of the Viking era in England
Historically, the Viking age in England began with the famous raid on the "Holy Isle" of Lindisfarne in 793. The account, with the accompanying prophesy a few days previous, was recorded in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle:
In present day English:
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Year 793.
"Here were dreadful forewarnings come over the land of Northumbria, and woefully terrified the people: these were amazing sheets of lightning and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky. A great famine soon followed these signs, and shortly after in the same year, on the sixth day before the ides of January, the woeful inroads of heathen men destroyed god’s church in Lindisfarne island by fierce robbery and slaughter."

"Forbidden" love songs
The Viking goddess of love, Freya, adored poems and songs about love, but oddly enough, in many parts of the Viking world, certain love stories, called "maidensongs" were forbidden. Why? Because love was considered the most powerful force in Midgard (the earth), and that made the songs too powerful to tell. It was feared a maiden might be seduced and ensnared by a love song and be tempted beyond enduring to yield her innocence or elope with the wrong man.

We today find the concept of slavery horrifying, but it was a common, accepted part of the Viking world. Slaves were often people stolen during raids, and most were taken to trade centers and sold. They were called "thralls' and occupied the lowest rung on the ladder of Viking society. The average Viking family had only one or two slaves. These people had few rights, and could legally be mistreated or killed, including being used for human sacrifice. When a slave could no longer work - for whatever reason - and was therefore 'useless', they were killed. Slaves were allowed to marry, and one interesting 'right' a male slave held was the right to kill a man, even a freeman, who "messed around" with his wife against her will. Under Norse law, freemen could not kill another man for that reason.

Have you ever wondered what you'd do if someone gave you a húdfat as a gift? Chances are, you've already used one while on vacation. A húdfat was, essentially, a sleeping bag. When rolled up, personal items were rolled into it for safekeeping. The interior layer was wool, the outer layer a durable, moisture-resistant material such as oiled leather (they were also called "leather-bags"). They had ties to hold them on the body while rowing and also to keep the rolled-up húdfat in a closed bundle when not in use. They could be worn for warmth or protection from the weather while an oarsman rowed. Some were single-man size, others were two-man size, for extra warmth.

Runic Language
The Viking language consisted of runes, symbols that stood for a specific letter of the runic alphabet. While the runes were not considered 'magical' in and of themselves, they were sometimes used in the casting of spells or the telling of fortunes. The runes were carved into pieces of wood or stones and might be used for anything from writing letters and offering prayers ,to necklaces spelling a person's name. They might also be worn as a pendant or amulet, by both men and women, as a charm for protection or good luck. Runes were carved into stones (runestones) as memorials to those who had died. 

The Norse had no system of coinage before the late 9th century. Instead, they practiced a "bullion economy". A few coins (usu. silver or gold, and to a lesser extent, copper and bronze) found their way to the Scandinavian trade centers, but to the Vikings they were simply chunks of metal and often ended up being melted down or turned into jewelry. Vikings bartered using what they called "hack-silver" - pieces of silver and gold such as links in a silver chain or sliced up coins. Bars (ingots) of precious metals were also used. To preserve accuracy, traders and merchants carried their own precisely calibrated scales.

I hope you've enjoyed this quick jaunt into the world of the "Northmen" (and maybe even find inspiration for a Viking tale of your own). I'd love to hear your 'favorite facts' about these fascinating people.  

Màiri Norris

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Our Newest Releases!

There's just something wonderful about getting a new book published that leaves one feeling a little bit stunned, amazed and gratified, in equal parts. So before we settle down and move on to the next projects, we want to share tidbits from our newly released works (and, in Lane's case, a teaser from her Work-In-Progress).

We hope you enjoy these excerpts!

Beppie Harrison - The Divided Heart
Ireland. Summer, 1810
A man stood about halfway down the portrait gallery. Someone Anne had never seen before.
She stopped walking abruptly and stared at him, with more curiosity than alarm. After all, she was Lady Anne Hawthorne, taking her morning exercise in the long gallery. Her father was the Earl of Kendall, and she stood within the safety of the considerable bulk of Kendall House. Twenty or thirty servants were readily available to rush to her assistance should she call out….
She was not quite ready to call out.
Still, the presence of a lone stranger right in the house was, to the best of her knowledge, unprecedented. She had certainly not expected to encounter one when she’d peered out between the curtains in her bedchamber and discovered it was raining for the fifth day, which meant she would have to walk inside again. In Ireland some rain was to be expected. But she was very tired of walking in the gallery, even if some exercise was better than none.
Anything as bizarre as encountering an unknown man she had not anticipated.
Strangers in the house were not unknown, of course. She often saw her father’s friends, visiting aristocrats, and estate workers who had some business in the house. They were never alone. Not only was the man in the gallery alone, but he was plainly no aristocrat and showed no sign of the nervous awe of an estate worker. He stood at ease, his chin at a jaunty angle as if he had every right to be where he was.
Anne took a cautious step toward him. “Who are you?” she asked. Pity her voice was a woman’s voice and did not ring with authority.
Incredibly, the man’s mouth quirked into something like a smile. He was tall, not quite so tall as her father and far thinner. He wore a black cloak, but no hat, and his full head of hair was so red that it looked almost orange.
Was he Irish then?  Anne’s interest quickened. He had the ruddy complexion of a man out in all weathers and his lithe body suggested a quick strength, thin as he was. She had seen many Irish people in the district with that distinctive red hair. If he needed help, she would offer it, but he looked more amused than needy.
How could an Irishman make his way deep into her father’s house past all the servants?
She opened her mouth to demand his business when lightning cracked, brightening the dim gallery to brilliance. The morning steady rain was now a full-fledged storm, thunder rolling ominously even as the lightning faded. Anne whipped around to look out the narrow leaded windows lining the outside wall just as another great flash illuminated the sky. A second roll of thunder boomed so loudly it seemed even the stone walls of Kendall House shook. Heavy rain lashed against the roof, rattled the windows.
Could the Irishman have taken shelter from the storm and somehow found his way to the gallery?  Anne turned back to ask him.
He was gone.
 She straightened her back, mystified. She blinked, once, twice. This had become uncomfortably mysterious. She looked away and then—quickly—back again. He was not there.
If there had been a chair close by to sit on, Anne would have sat. She knew well that in modern times people do not appear or disappear in front of you. True, this was Ireland, and in her eighteen years of life she had heard many strange tales of unaccountable happenings, but they all had happened long ago or somewhere a great distance away.
To have something like this happen in Kendall House was peculiar.
Màiri Norris - Rose of Hope
Wulfsinraed Burh - Essex, England - 1078
Fallard swept his arms around the Lady of Wulfsinraed and drew close her slight, quivering form. His jaw tightened.
Saint's teeth! That was too close. But a moment longer and I would have lost her to the river.
He cradled her to his chest, startled at the intense heat that radiated from beneath her tattered cyrtel. He raked her features with his eyes. Dusted beneath a gaze unnaturally bright were dark smudges. A large bruise marred the left side of her face, and more ringed her slender throat. Her face was drawn and flushed.
She is afire, aye, blazing with fever. Will she understand my words?
"My lady, surrender. I have won you fairly, and with honor."
He awaited her response. She blinked, a languid movement of the lids over eyes the color of the emerald moss that grew beneath the forest canopy. She inhaled, slowly, deeply, the cool air of the freshening morn.
His voice was deep as the realms of the sea-gods. In that moment, in the feverish imagining that ruled her thoughts, he seemed a fantasy emerging from a vision of mists, destined to rescue her from death. Handsome as the gods, he was a lover who held her with an embrace both powerful and gentle. He appeared the epitome of all of her youthful, maidenly reveries, so ruthlessly crushed by her husband.
He was but a fancy, naught more than imagination. Could she not say what she would to a dream-warrior, and 'twould make no difference? She burned as her look met his, and whispered her answer. "My lord, I surrender in truth. Do with me as you will."
His smile was triumphant and altogether male. "Aye, lady," he said. "That is how it will be."
Lane McFarland - Lindsey
The soldier stopped in front of a thick worn door with a small grated square open at eye level. He rattled the key into the padlock. The hinges creaked as the door swung and banged against the wall. As he touched the flame of his torch to one secured in a wall bracket, Lindsey stepped into the cell. Fire blazed and sputtered, lighting the dark chamber.
More than a dozen men huddled on the floor. They squinted, their hands raised to block the light. Bloodied and torn clothes hung on their haggard frames. Dirt and muck blackened their skin, while festering cuts and discolored bruises lined their arms and legs.
The beefy guard waved his torch toward the back of the room. “Them’s the beggars goin’ to trial.”
Twisted shapes of four men, their wrists shackled to the wall and their feet barely touching the floor, came into sight. Her chest tightened as if bands squeezed the life from her, but she caught herself before giving a reaction. “Ye’ve gotta cut ‘em down, sweets. They cannae eat or git fixed up hanging on the wall.”
The man swung his head toward her. His lip curled.
Her pulse pounded in her ears and she trembled with rage. She wanted to pounce on him, grab his blade and sink it into his gut. Straining to gain composure, she turned her back on the men and set her basket on the floor. Her hand trembled as she inhaled the putrid air and struggled to calm her nerves. She must maintain her heartless pretense, appear untouched by the savagery. Rummaging through the jars, she bit the side of her lip and extracted the healing salves.
Chains rattled behind her. Thumps of dead weight and groans indicated the guard freed the men. As he marched from the cell, he cast a look at Lindsey and slammed the door. The lock clunked, and his booted footsteps grew quieter as he strode away.
Several men rushed from the huddled group to aid their fallen companions. Lindsey hurried to the first man and knelt beside him. She pushed his hair to the side and grimaced.
Cora’s little bandits were correct.
His face was bloated and blackened, and blood caked the back of his head. “Logan, can ye hear me? It’s Lindsey.”
His eyes fluttered. Moans of the injured men wafted around her. She jerked the basket to her side and brought out a flask of water, a soft cloth and jar of salve. “Look in my basket for more water skins,” she called over her shoulder to the other prisoners.
Logan’s friends, Adam, Thom and Colyne lay unmoving. Blood and dirt smeared the men’s swollen, beaten faces. Their listless bodies spoke of abuse and neglect.
“The commander takes delight in torturing them.”
Lindsey’s head snapped to the man who stooped beside her.
“Seems to hold a real interest in them.” He grabbed her basket and passed out containers to several others. They crowded around, snatching the bandages, salves and potions she’d brought.
“Why?” she whispered. “What’s so special about them?”
The man squinted and indicated Logan with his head. “Collins couldn’t break him. I think that about drove the commander over the brink. He wanted to deliver information on the rebels’ stronghold to the king. Infuriated him that he failed to do so.”
The man bent over Adam and helped him sit.
While supporting Logan’s head, Lindsey held a flask to his parched, cracked lips and dribbled the liquid into his mouth. He sputtered, gulping at the water.