Lion and the Lamb; Easter – Elizabeth Rose

The church bells of St. Alban’s could be heard clearly from the open windows of the kitchens of Bainard Castle in Torquay. They rang out loudly, announcing to all that Shrovetide was in progress, and the start of Lent was about to begin. Lady Rachael Bainard stood in the doorway watching while the cooks busily prepared every type of food imaginable for the elaborate feast that would happen today. The servants worked diligently cooking and serving more food than could possibly be consumed in one sitting. They tried to use up all the meat, butter, milk and eggs since, starting tomorrow, none of this would be allowed for six weeks during the Lenten fast. Albert, the head cook, flipped a small, flat cake in the air, catching it again in his cast iron pan. He’d put the first three cakes aside, marked with crosses and sprinkled with salt. They would assure no evil would come to the castle during Lent. A group of children eagerly waited at his side with wide eyes. Hidden inside some of the palm-sized cakes were items for the children to find. A coin found inside the pancake meant that child would marry a rich man or woman. If they found straw, they’d marry a stablemaster, or a nail inside meant a carpenter would someday be their spouse. “Would ye like to try a cake, my lady?” asked a servant girl holding up a very full tray of rich food. The last thing Rachael needed was to find anything inside a pancake telling her who she’d marry.

Unfortunately, that was something she already knew. “No, thank you,” she replied. “Perhaps some venison in dill gravy, or a plate of assorted cheeses or some blood puddin’ would interest ye more?” asked the girl. “Nay, nothing for me,” said Rachael, spying her uncle walking past the kitchen, looking for her. She stepped back into the shadows and then snuck out the servants’ door, quickly making her way to the courtyard. Each morning for the past two days, the nobles of Bainard Castle, as well as the serfs and servants, made a visit to the village church as was required of them. It was customary to be cleansed of the past year’s sins before the fasting began for the six weeks leading up to Easter. Lady Rachael lurked in the shadows of the courtyard, hiding from her uncle and aunt. For days now, she had been procrastinating about going to confession. After all, no priest would absolve her from the horrible thoughts flooding her brain lately.

She was sure that contemplating murdering a man had to be a mortal sin! Rachael was so angry right now that she felt like killing her uncle for betrothing her against her will to their enemy’s son. “Lady Rachael, the wagons are packed and waiting to go. Your uncle has been looking for you. Where have you been?” called out her handmaid, Agnes, rushing over to join her. Agnes was an older woman in her late forties. Widowed and childless, the woman had watched over Rachael her entire life since the day Rachael was born. Agnes had even once been handmaid to Rachael’s late mother, Lady Grace. “Lord Stewart sent me to fetch you. Please, my lady, I suggest you stop avoiding him and just accept his decision.” “Nay,” said Rachael with a shake of her head.

“Agnes, you know as well as I that as soon as I confess my sins and leave the church, I will be rushed out of here and headed . straight to hell.” “Oh!” gasped Agnes, holding her hand to her mouth. “Please don’t say such things, my lady.” Her dark eyes darted back and forth, scanning the grounds and she now spoke in a whisper. “Someone might hear you.” “I hope they do,” remarked Rachael boldly. “I don’t really care. I won’t marry the Lion of the South, and that’s all there is to it.” “But you must, Lady Rachael! It is an alliance made by your uncle, for the good of all.

” “It is not for my good, I assure you. I refuse to marry the son of our family’s enemy. My father would agree with me, I’m sure, if he were here. After all, he’s already promised that someday I will marry my brother Simon’s friend, Sir Clifford DuPont.” “Your uncle is your guardian now that your father and brothers are away in France campaigning for the king, if I must remind you,” said Agnes. “Your father told you to listen to Lord Stewart, and you should not defy either of them.” “Nay Agnes, I’m not defying anyone. I’m going to do what my father wants.” Rachael’s eyes scanned the area again, as she watched for her uncle. “I’ll marry Sir Clifford as soon as they return from France.

” Sir Clifford, as well as Rachael’s father and her two older brothers, had been stationed in France for the past five years. Rachael missed her family dearly. “We both know that the only reason you say that is because you think they are never coming back,” said Agnes, boldly speaking her piece. “Besides, you aren’t really betrothed to Sir Clifford, but you are betrothed to Lord Lionel Hatchet of Cornwall now.” “The betrothal to Sir Clifford might not be in writing, but it was a verbal agreement set up by my father,” Rachael explained. “Uh huh,” said Agnes, crossing her arms over her chest, giving Rachael a look that said she didn’t believe it would ever transpire. “Well . it’s true,” exclaimed Rachael. Still, she knew Agnes was right. Rachael was under her uncle’s guardianship now, and needed to listen to him even if she didn’t like it.

She let out a deep, frustrated sigh. “Oh, Agnes, I don’t want to be married again.” She fussed with her hair, tucking it back under her headpiece and looked the other way. “Marriage is just not for me.” “Your husband’s been dead for six years now and your son needs a father,” said Agnes in a scolding tone. “You should have married long ago, and you know it.” “I don’t agree with that. Now, please stop trying to convince me I’m wrong, because I will do all I can to delay this trip.” The church bells continued to ring in the distance, intensifying Rachael’s uneasiness. These past years being a single mother had been hard for her.

Then again, her marriage to the late Sir Gregory Hornsby had been so horrible that she went back to being called by her maiden name of Bainard afterwards, not wanting to be associated with the man at all. Gregory had been an old man, more than twice her age. He’d also been a drunk and very mean. He’d treated her and their son, Andrew, terribly. Rachael didn’t want to go through an experience like that ever again. “I’m afraid you have no choice in the matter,” continued Agnes. “The wedding is scheduled for today, and you were supposed to have left two days ago. Now, stop stalling. As it is, if you leave now, you’ll be lucky to get there before midnight.” True, they were supposed to have left on their journey two days prior, but Rachael kept finding excuses to stay here.

Her last hope now was that she could put off going to confession long enough that by the time they actually left, it would be too late to make it to Porth Enys in time to marry the man before Lent began. “Agnes, if I can stall long enough, it will be tomorrow, the Day of Ashes. Then it will be the beginning of Lent.” A smile pursed the corners of her mouth, as she mulled over her sly plan in her head. “My lady, no weddings can take place during Lent,” Agnes reminded her. “That is why you need to hurry.” “Nay, Agnes. That is why I need to slow down. No weddings and no coupling during Lent,” she reported proudly to her handmaid. “With any luck, my father will return by Easter.

Then I’ll beg him to release me from this ridiculous alliance my uncle has made. Hopefully, I will never have to marry the vile Lord Hatchet at all.” A group of children ran by kicking a ball and pushing each other, playing roughly. Rachael’s head snapped up and she called out to her eight-year-old son who was part of the group. “Drew, be careful! You might fall and hurt yourself.” Her son ignored her as usual, and continued to follow the boys, wanting to be accepted. He was the smallest of the group and often the others teased him relentlessly. “Lady Rachael, you are too protective of the boy, and need to let him grow up.” Agnes put her hand on Rachael’s back and ushered her over to the well to talk in private. “He is no longer a baby.

” “Aye, but Drew is my only child and all I have.” Rachael’s eyes remained on her son. Sadly, he was the runt of the litter, and different from all the other boys. His hair was blond like hers, so light that it was almost white. The other boys called him toad head instead of towhead because they thought it was funny. It wasn’t funny; it was harsh and mean, and only made her son cry. Andrew was skinny and small, and she could only hope that he’d grow to be a strong man someday. “Enough about the boy. We need to talk about your wedding,” said Agnes. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting a little where Lord Hatchet is concerned? After all, we don’t really know that he is vile at all.

” “His name is Hatchet, Agnes,” said Rachael with wide eyes. Just the name to her sounded dangerous and bloody. “Remember, his family killed many of our people through the years in battles.” “That is an exaggeration.” Agnes raised her chin. “True, your father and his father had a feud going for years, but your side killed some of his as well.” “What started the feud, Agnes?” Rachael wondered, never really knowing the details. “I hate to admit it, but it was over a simple thing – a missing shipment of wool I believe.” “Wool?” asked Rachael, thinking it was something more important than that. “Aye.

Your father paid for fine wool, but never received it. Lord Hatchet runs a shipping company and said he sent it, but your father claims he never did.” “Then that is proof enough that the Hatchets cannot be trusted,” said Rachael. “That is another reason why I don’t want to marry Sir Lionel. I’ve already had a bad marriage, and don’t need another that might end up being worse.” “This alliance is important because it’ll finally end the feud,” Agnes tried to tell her. “It is a good thing, my lady. You have to carry through with it.” “My father wouldn’t agree. I know he wouldn’t.

” Rachael stubbornly clung to her beliefs. “It’ll be fine. I’ll bet you and Lord Lionel will be very happy together. I actually heard from the castle’s strumpet that he is a very handsome man.” “Agnes!” Rachael glared at her handmaid. “I don’t want to hear about strumpets and my betrothed in the same breath. That doesn’t make me feel any better.” “I’m sorry,” she apologized, her gaze dropping to the ground. “I suppose I shouldn’t have told you where that information came from.” “My uncle won’t tell me a thing about the man I am to marry.

All I know is that his family owns a small castle and shipping firm that overlooks a fishing village. I’ve heard his holdings are so tiny that the nobles refer to the place as Mousehole.” Rachael sat on the edge of the well and stared down into the water, letting out a deep sigh. “I’ve managed to find that out from the alewives who always have loose tongues.” “What else did you hear?” Agnes peered at her with narrowed eyes. “Nothing good, unfortunately.” Rachael played with the handle to the wheel that lowered the bucket into the well. “They said Lord Lionel’s sickly wife died over five years ago, and that he went mad.” She looked up at Agnes with wide eyes. “It’s said he kills anyone who rubs him the wrong way.

He has a horrid temper and all he wants to do is fight. That’s probably why he hasn’t married again.” “Mayhap it was by his choice to remain single,” said Agnes, trying to make Rachael feel better, but only making things worse. “He could still be in mourning over his wife.” Rachael’s eyes met with the older woman’s gaze and she shook her head. “Still in mourning? For five years? That is absurd.” “Well, you haven’t remarried either, and it’s been nearly six years for you,” Agnes told her, making her point clear. “That’s different.” Rachael got off the well and brushed off her skirt. “I was pregnant at a very young age, and my marriage wasn’t a good experience at all.

Besides, face it, no man wants to marry a woman five and twenty years of age who already has a son. They all want virgins who will bear only their own heirs. I don’t understand why Lord Hatchet even agreed to marry me in the first place.” “Well, it seems to me that your betrothed doesn’t mind your age or that you have a son.” “Probably only because he can’t get anyone else to marry him,” Rachael mumbled under her breath, thinking it was odd that the man should agree to this alliance at all. “I don’t want to sound harsh, Lady Rachael, but this might be your last chance to ever have a husband. As you said, you’re no longer a young girl.” “Mayhap I’ll just stay a single mother forever then,” answered Rachael with a shrug of her shoulders. She really couldn’t care less. “And you think that is best for the boy?” Agnes gave her that all-knowing eye, saying without words that Rachael was acting addled again.

Rachael’s gaze went back to her son who was playing with the other children. He went to kick the ball and missed it completely, falling on his bottom end. All the other boys laughed. Sadly, Drew was not coordinated and had no skills whatsoever with weapons or fighting like the rest of the boys his age. If her father had been here, he would have seen to raising the boy properly and even making him a page by now. But Rachael’s uncle took no interest in children, and didn’t even have any of his own. If he hadn’t hurt his leg in battle years ago, perhaps he’d be the one fighting overseas right now, and her father would be at home instead. She watched in sorrow as the other children made fun of Andrew and even kicked dirt in his face. “Nay!” Rachael started to go after them to reprimand them, but Agnes grabbed her by the arm. “You’ll only make it worse for the lad if you run to his rescue,” she said in a low voice.

“You need to let him fend for himself.”

.

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