Lord of Midnight

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Book: Lord of Midnight Read Online Free PDF
Author: Jo Beverley
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical
cloaked man led the horse up to the hall, to within a foot of where Claire stood.
    “This be the remains of Clarence of Summerbourne,” said the foot soldier, stolidly reciting his piece. “Lord Renald of Summerbourne has conveyed him here with all speed, and grants his family till vespers to mourn before he will enter.”
    With a bow, he turned and slogged back out of the manor.
    Claire watched him go, able to do nothing but stand frozen. She didn’t want to touch the bundle. She didn’t want to cut ropes and unwrap it. She didn’t want to see the final brutal truth.
    Then her mother wailed and embraced the bundle, calling for servants to come help take care of Lord Clarence. The servants wept, too, as they eased the leather bundle off the horse and carried it gently into the hall.
    The world wept.
    Claire trailed after numbly, and watched as they laid the bundle on the table and began to cut the ropes that bound it.
    She turned away, not ready to face the truth, then started when she heard a mighty thud.
    What was happening?
    What were they destroying?
    Then she realized it was only the bar settling back to seal the closed gates. Ah, yes. The invader would stay outside until vespers, but then he would enter to seize her home.
    Because her father was dead.
    Claire made herself turn back.
    The servants were gently peeling back the sodden, hooded cloak. She’d seen death. She’d helped to lay out the dead, including her grandfather, an uncle, an aunt, and a baby brother and sister.
    She didn’t want to lay out her father.
    As the last part of the wrapping was peeled back, she stared. This wasn’t her father! This mailed man wasn’t Clarence of Summerbourne.
    But it was, though she could scare believe the picture before her eyes. After all, he’d ridden out in ordinary clothes. She’d never actually seen her father in armor before.
    Now a mail coif covered his soft, pale hair, and he’d shaved off the mustache and beard he’d always worn in the old English manner. A sword and battered shield lay neatly on top of him, his hands clasped around the hilt.
    No, she wanted to say. No. This is all wrong. He should be in his favorite blue wool gown with his rabbit-fur blanket over his legs to keep them warm. Instead of a sword, one of his books should lie open under his gentle hands as if he had just paused in reading it.
    She stepped forward over the hounds that lay slumped down now, sad heads on paws. Looking at her father’s pale face, she could almost believe he was sleeping.
    No. That wasn’t true either.
    He looked dead, and rather older. Only thirty-five years old, with roundish cheeks often rounder with smiles, he’d been her friend as well as father. Now his cheeks had sunk, and gray death had stolen the merry man. She fell to her knees.
    People spoke in hushed voices, moving around her. She knew she should be doing something—caring for her brother, or supporting her mother. For now she could do nothing but kneel here, wet cheek to hard, cold iron, saying farewell. How wrong this harsh, violent stuff must have felt against his skin. If only he had never felt called to put it on.
    In the end people moved her and lifted him to a long board so as to carry him to the chapel. She watched the cortege leave, knowing she should go too, with her mother and brother.
    But she couldn’t. Not yet.
    She needed to know
    She needed to know
    She needed to know who to blame.
    According to Lord Lambert, her father had survived the fighting. So why was he sent home in his mail, his bloody mail?
    According to the tinker, he’d been imprisoned in the Tower. How could he have died in chain mail in the Tower?
    And where was the God who was supposed to fight on the side of justice?
Chapter 3
    Claire turned to where her aunts sat huddled near the fire. Amice wept steadily as the rain. Felice had an arm around her but stared forward, beautiful face cold with resentment. “Clarence was such a fool.”
    Amice sniffed.
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