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Bertrice Small

The Captive Heart

The third book in the Border Chronicles series, 2008

This book is dedicated with love and great respect to the two women who unknowingly started me on my career. The late Ivy Bolton, aka Sister Mercedes from the Anglican community of Saint Mark's, a wonderful author of children's historical novels, who encouraged my passion for history; and the late Miss Frances Anderson, the best English teacher any girl ever had. God bless you both and thank you!

Prologue

MARCH 29, 1461

The screams of the dying men could hardly be heard the howling wind. Foe was indistinguishable from friend amid the heavily falling snow that swirled about the combatants. It was bitterly cold as only an early spring in Northumbria could be. The king and his few remaining advisers huddled on the edge of the battlefield until one, braver than the others, reached out to take the bridle of the king's horse and lead it away. Then those who were with them followed. It was the end of an era. The end of a reign.

The wiser among them knew it. Understood it. They considered now how best to retain their heads as well as their fortunes with a new king in a Yorkist regime. They thought of the enemies and the friends that they had among the now favored. Which of those men would have influence enough to save or destroy them? The loyalists, however, were painfully aware that they now faced exile. They silently prayed for the safety of their own families, whom they might never see again in this life.

'Is it over?' the king asked softly. His eyes were beginning to lose their focus. It was a sure indication that one of his attacks of madness was approaching.

'Yes, my liege, it is over' came the quiet reply.

'Have we won?' the king inquired hesitantly.

'I think not, my liege, but until the snow stops we cannot really tell,' the man said candidly as they rode away.

'Where is the queen? The queen will know if we have won. The queen always knows what is happening,' the king said anxiously. He was still with great effort managing to cling to his sanity.

'I am taking you to her now, my liege,' the man responded, 'but we must hurry lest the Yorkists catch us.' And before one of us decides to turn you over to them to save his own skin, the king's companion thought to himself. He noticed three or four of their party had already disappeared. Well, good riddance to them, the traitors!

'They will kill me,' the king said fatalistically. 'They have to in order to justify what they have done. And they must kill my son though he be just a lad, for he is the true heir to England's throne after me. But if I know my wife, Margaret, will fight like a tigress to protect our child.' Henry VI had not yet released his hold on his sanity. But the few men left to accompany him knew it was but a matter of time before he was once more hurled into his private hell. His mind was simply not strong enough to manage this terrible change in his fortunes.

They hurried through the fierce storm to reach Queen Margaret and the little prince, who were sheltering in a nearby farmhouse. They would have to get deep into the borderlands before the storm ceased. Only then would their king and his family be truly safe, and then only temporarily. Sir Udolf Watteson, who now rode with them, would give them all shelter. At least for the few days it would take for the outcome of the battle to be known down in London, where the new king resided. Until the order was given, and came north for the arrest of Henry Plantagenet, his wife, and his son. The Lancasters were done. At least for now. Perhaps forever.

Chapter One

The queen knew all was lost. At least for now. Perhaps forever, but no! Not while there was breath in their bodies and their son remained healthy and strong.

They would not steal Edward Plantagenet's inheritance from him. Not while she lived. No! It was unthinkable that Edward of York would supplant them.

'Madame, we must go now,' Sir Udolf Watteson said to the queen.

Margaret of Anjou nodded. 'Oui' was all she said. She did not look about her. The others would be ready because it was their duty to anticipate what was to come. It would not do to be caught now, and besides, if they were, what was to become of their few remaining retainers? Their loyalty to her deserved better than to be caught and murdered by a pack of Yorkist traitors. The queen drew her heavy fur-lined cloak about her and pulled up its hood. 'Allez!' she said as she stepped through the farmhouse door.

It was still snowing steadily. Fifteen-year-old Alix Givet followed her mistress, her arm about her physician father. 'Are you certain you are warm enough, Papa?' she asked him softly, her hazel eyes concerned.

'I am fine, mignon,' he told her. 'You worry too much.'

'You are all I have left, Papa,' Alix said as a man-at-arms helped first her father to mount his horse and then boosted her into her saddle. The girl rode astride, for it was easier for her in their flight.

'We will have at least several days of rest before we must move on again,' Alexander Givet replied. 'I just need a little time to be dry and warm to recover, ma petite. This ride will be the worst of it, I promise.'

'Where will we go then, Papa?' Alix asked him as she gathered her reins into her gloved hands. 'We are being driven from England.'

'The queen will ask sanctuary from her distant relation Marie of Gueldres, who is Scotland's queen. It will be granted, and then we shall probably take flight for France. You will finally see Anjou, ma petite' he told her. 'We still have family there, and I shall make a good match for you, Alix, so you will be safe after I am gone.'

'I do not want to marry, Papa. I want to remain with you,' the girl told him.

The physician chuckled as they began to move north into the storm. 'It is your duty to marry, mignon, so your papa may have a warm place by the hearth in his old age,' he teased her. 'Unless, of course, you wish to enter a convent.'

'Nay, Papa, I am not meant for the church,' Alix assured him.

'Then we must find you a good and generous husband who will take us both in,' Alexander Givet said. 'Or perhaps I could find a nice wealthy widow who would have us. But two women in a household is rarely a good thing. And besides, I could never marry again after all my years with your mama.'

'Oh, Papa,' the girl responded, 'why did Mama have to die?'

'Her heart was not strong in these last years,' the physician told his daughter. 'The strain and the tension surrounding the royal couple over the past months were finally too much for her, Alix. I would have taken her home

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