Genre: Historical Romance, Medieval.
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Number of pages: 222
Word Count: 74,414words
England has been brought to its knees by the invasion of William the Conqueror and his Norman troops.
Lady Catheryn, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman, is taken against her will to Normandy after the invasion.
She arrives, a prisoner, at the castle of Lord Geffrei, a ruthless invader who hopes to gain a ransom for her.
Her husband Selwyn is dead, slain in the Conquest, and her daughter Annis has been left behind in England at the mercy of the invaders.
Catheryn is treated like an animal, and left in a cell until she begins to despair.
When Queen Matilda, William the Conqueror’s wife, sees her plight, she takes pity on her.
Catheryn is sent to the castle of the noble FitzOsberns – but will her new captivity be any better than the cruelty she faced at Geffrei’s hands?
She finds her hostess cold and embittered, but when her husband William FitzOsbern returns from the Conquest, Catheryn’s heart is torn by unwanted emotions.
She becomes entangled in the quarrels and heartbreaks of her jailers even as she tries to remember her place among them.
Is she falling in love with the man who helped to destroy her homeland?
Can Catheryn betray her Anglo-Saxon roots, and her late husband?
Or will she break free, and find her way back to Annis?
‘Captives’ is a moving historical story of love and loss, and the strength of one woman even in the most dangerous of times. It is the sequel to ‘Conquests’.
'An enthralling saga.' - Robert Foster, best-selling author of 'The Lunar Code'.
Her eyes were shut, and her face was warm. The sunshine was beating down on her aching old bones, and she was enjoying the last of the sunshine of the day. The skirts of her red dress were spread around her, and every muscle within her body was desperate to relax. The summer was truly upon them, and just like every summer before it, Catheryn was worshipping it. She would soon be brown, much to the disgust of her family – but then, her family were nowhere close to her now. She would have the disapproval of others to contend with this summer.
Catheryn sighed, and opened her eyes. It was no good: whatever she attempted to do, she could never completely forget her loneliness, and her longing to be home. As much as Catheryn was acclimatising to her new life, it was as if a flower had been planted in the shade when it loved the sun: it would live, but it would be but a half-life, and that life was worth very little.
The clouds that were moving across the sky did so lazily. There was barely a breeze in the air.
Catheryn raised a hand up, reaching for the white fluffy cloud that was currently wandering across the sky. Her hand moved higher than the grass that was surrounding her, and she chuckled slightly, imagining what a passer-by must think – an arm growing amongst the crops, grasping to catch the sky!
No matter how far she stretched, Catheryn could not quite reach the clouds that looked like they were just beyond her fingertips. Hand still in the air, Catheryn closed her eyes once more, and began to hum one of her favourite lullabies. She had sung it to quieten both of her children when they had been small, and the tune came to her easily.
Images passed before her eyes quickly, as if they were really open, and she had found some way of returning to that favourite country – the past. Her husband, Selwyn, smiled at her, and Annis ran about her, still a toddler, shrieking with delight at the world. Whether memories or imaginings, they brought a smile to Catheryn’s face.
“By God, woman, what are you doing?”
Catheryn jumped up, eyes wide open in shock. Not far away stood one of the largest horses that she had ever seen – black, and huge, and panting wildly. It had obviously been on the move for a very long time; but Catheryn’s expert eye guessed that it had not been moving fast. She had been so wrapped up in her own thoughts that she had not heard its approach. There was a man atop the horse, disbelief and anger in his eyes. He had spoken Norman, a Norman that was harsh and clipped in tone.
Catheryn bristled. “I am…at least, I was lying down on the ground,” she said defiantly, with as much elegance as she could muster at such short notice. “Not that it is any concern of yours,” she added.
“Everything here is my concern,” he said curtly, casting a quick eye over the fields in all directions. “You are a fool, lying there with a hand in the air like an infant. What if I had ridden over you?”
“Then you would have been the fool, not I!” Catheryn said angrily. “I am quite obvious in this green field.” She gestured to the red dress that she was wearing, and then turned a frustrated eye at the man who had so rudely addressed her. “If you cannot see me, then the fool is not the one in a dress.”
The man snorted. “And what do you think you are doing here? I know everyone in this area, and you are not known to me. What right do you have to lounge in this field?”
Catheryn almost spluttered with irritation. “This field is not a holy site, and I may lie in it if I choose! I am the lady Catheryn of the South, a lady of England, and…and a prisoner of the FitzOsbern family.”
The man stared at her. The eyes that Catheryn had taken to be black and brooding seemed clear, like an evening sky. She could now see some blue in them where before had been all darkness.
“The FitzOsbern family?”
Catheryn nodded slowly. She had acted rashly – the same hot temper that she had tried to curb in her daughter had just been unleashed on this poor unsuspecting man, who probably had never spoken to a woman of her birth before. She cast a delicate eye over him, but could discern nothing except that he had travelled a long way. His dark beard covering his face was flecked with grey.
He, in turn, was looking back. His eyes took in the ruffled hair, swept vaguely underneath a veil; an English custom. The dress that she wore was of a fine colour, but seemed slightly torn and unkempt at the edges. She was nearing the peak of womanhood, but there was something hovering around the surface of her eyes.
“You are a ward of the FitzOsbern family?”
Catheryn rolled her eyes. “How many times must I repeat myself? Yes, I am with the FitzOsbern family – although I am more prisoner than ward, more inconvenience than guest.”
The man looked at her for a moment, and then with a heavy sigh that his horse echoed, he dismounted. Turning to face her, he did something that Catheryn could never have expected: he bowed.
“My apologies, my lady Catheryn. I must blame the long ride that I have had on my incivility, but that is no reason to treat a lady in such a disgraceful manner. I trust that I have your forgiveness?”
Catheryn was so confused by this very sudden change in demeanour that she did not reply audibly, but nodded. This man was strange indeed.
“I am William,” the man continued.
Catheryn smiled wanly. “Greetings, William. Have you a longer name?”
The man returned her smile, but it was a lot warmer than her own. “William FitzOsbern. Fitz, to my friends, which I hope to count you as soon, my lady Catheryn.”
“William – FitzOsbern? But then you – ” Catheryn said quickly, “you must be Adeliza’s husband…you are the lord here.”
“And consequently, your jailor,” Fitz smiled. “Although I must admit that I do not like the title at all, despite the fact that it is an incredibly new honour.”
Emily Murdoch is a medieval historian and writer. Throughout her career so far she has examined a codex and transcribed medieval sermons at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, designed part of an exhibition for the Yorkshire Museum, worked as a researcher for a BBC documentary presented by Ian Hislop, and worked at Polesden Lacey with the National Trust. She has a degree in History and English, and a Masters in Medieval Studies, both from the University of York.
Emily is currently working on a new six part book series, as well as writing freelance.
You can learn more at www.emilyekmurdoch.com
5 ebook copies Captives (pdf format)