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       The Lioness and Her Knight, p.1

           Gerald Morris
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The Lioness and Her Knight

  The Lioness & Her Knight

  Gerald Morris

  * * *

  Houghton Mifflin Company

  Boston 2005

  * * *

  With gratitude to Rebecca,

  And also to the wonderful Georgette Heyer

  * * *

  Copyright © 2005 by Gerald Morris

  All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce

  selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company,

  215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.

  The text of this book is set in 12.5-point Horley Old Style.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Morris, Gerald, 1963-

  The lioness and her knight / written by Gerald Morris.

  p. cm.

  Summary: Headstrong sixteen-year-old Lady Luneta and her distant cousin, Sir Ywain,

  travel to Camelot and beyond finding more adventure than they hoped for until, with the

  help of a fool, Luneta discovers what she really wants from life.

  ISBN 0-618-50772-8

  [1. Knights and knighthood—Fiction. 2. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction.

  3. Self-actualization (Psychology)—Fiction. 4. Middle Ages—Fiction.

  5. Great Britain—History—To 1066—Fiction. 6. Humorous stories.] I. Title.

  PZ7.M82785Kn 2005 [Fic]—dc22 2004015782

  ISBN-13: 978-0-618-50772-6

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  MP 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

  * * *















  I. Luneta

  As soon as Luneta heard her father come in the side door from the fields, she hurried to the upstairs sitting room. She had discovered just recently that if she closed her eyes and listened very intently at the chimney in this room, she could hear everything that was said in her mother's parlor, which was directly below. Today not having gone well, she suspected that her mother would have some things to say.

  Sure enough, seconds after directing her ears toward the fireplace, Luneta heard her mother say sharply, "It's going to be either her or me, Gary. I don't know if I can take it any longer. You're going to come back some evening and find yourself childless."

  "Wait a moment," Luneta's father drawled in his calm voice. "I'm sensing something. An aura of some sort. I see ... I see ... wait, it's coming ... you and Luneta have been having a row."

  "Shut up, Gary," Luneta's mother replied, but her voice was less strident. Luneta grinned to herself. It was hard for anyone, even her mother, to maintain a snit in the face of her father's unruffled good humor. "Your daughter is willful, stubborn, disrespectful of her elders, and rebellious."

  "Very disturbing," Luneta's father replied placidly. "I can't imagine where children pick these things up."

  "Gary," Luneta's mother said in a silken voice, "if you're implying something about your beloved wife—"

  "Oh, no, not that one. I was thinking of you."

  There was a brief pause. Then Luneta's mother sighed loudly and said, "You are very annoying and not at all funny, but thank you anyway. I'm over the worst of it now. But I still don't know what I'm going to do with her. I know that I never spoke to my mother as she speaks to me."

  "My dear Lynet, the cases are hardly the same. Luneta's sixteen years old. Your mother died when you were tiny and never had the pleasure of encountering you at that age."

  "Perhaps, but I wouldn't have—"

  "Less of it, my love! Remember that I met you when you were exactly Luneta's age, and I remember nothing demure about you. As I recall, you took my sword away from me and stole my supper."

  "It was burned anyway, and at least I never called you names. Gary, what does porcella mean?"

  There was a slight pause. Luneta hunched her shoulders slightly, waiting for her father's response. "Did Luneta call you porcella?"


  "How ... how gratifying that she's keeping up her Latin studies. I thought that she had abandoned them."

  "Don't change the subject. What does porcella mean?"

  "I believe it means 'woman with shining eyes.'"

  "Gary, you are the worst liar I have ever heard."

  "Well, it's better than being a good liar, isn't it?" Luneta's father continued, a bit hurriedly. "Look, Lynet, I don't know a whole lot about mothers and their nearly grown-up daughters. My only sister died when she was thirteen, and my own mother wasn't all that typical anyway—"

  "You might say that," Luneta's mother interjected dryly. "And while you're at it, you might include your grandmother and your aunt. You don't have a normal female in your family."

  "Yes, I've often thought that," Luneta's father agreed. "But as I was about to say, I have sometimes noticed in other families that a certain amount of friction is to be expected between mothers and daughters."

  "I might expect it, but that doesn't mean I have to accept it," she said sharply. "And I won't. Gary, if you could hear the way she speaks to me..." She trailed off with an angry sigh.

  "I believe you, Lynet. And I even agree that it's unacceptable. I'll go talk to her, but I can't imagine that it will help for me just to tell her that she ought to be a good girl. We need to have a plan."

  "What do you mean?"

  "It's your own idea, actually. Your very first words to me this evening were 'It's her or me.' By the way, that wasn't strictly correct. What you should have said was 'It is she or I,' since one uses the nominative case following the verb of existence."


  "You learn these things when you study Latin."

  Luneta's mother's voice was dangerously calm. "What plan, Gary?"

  "Send Luneta away."

  There was a long pause from downstairs, and upstairs Luneta sank slowly to her knees before the fireplace. She could hardly believe her father's words. Neither could her mother.

  "You can't mean that, Gary. She may be the most irritating little wench alive, but—"

  "I don't mean drop her off at the foundling hospital, Lynet. I just wonder if she needs to get away from you, ah, from her parents for a while. Go for a visit. I've already been wondering about sending her to visit family, but I couldn't think of any suitable family members. All of my brothers live bachelors' lives, except for Gareth, who's married to your sister—"

  "And my sister's an idiot."

  "Yes. There's Morgan, but I can't really think she's suitable."

  "She isn't."

  "And that's as far as I've gotten. I believe it would do our lovely daughter good to get away and see the rest of the world a bit, but I can't think where. Do you have any friends who might be interested in having a young houseguest? Not someone too old, but someone we could trust?"

  Luneta was hardly able to believe what she was hearing, as her initial feelings of dismay changed to a growing excitement. For more than a year she had been yearning to get away from her family's estate, which—as noble and honorable as it was—was at the far northern edge of civilized society. Actually, her dream had been to go to King Arthur's court at Camelot, but any court where there were ladies-in-waiting and courtiers and balls an
d banquets would be better than Orkney Hall, where her father rode over the estate wearing a plain leather jerkin just like the field hands and where her mother drove out nearly every day in a shabby cart pulled by a fat pony to visit one or another of their tenants. You would never guess, looking at the simple life that her parents led, that they were both of noble blood. Indeed, her father was himself a knight of King Arthur's Round Table—Sir Gaheris of Orkney—and brother to the famous Sir Gawain, but neither her father or mother had ever shown the slightest interest in court life. They had visited Camelot rarely and never stayed long. Luneta held her breath, waiting for her mother's reply.

  "Maybe," Luneta's mother said at last. Her voice was not encouraging, though. "Don't think I'm convinced. She's very young to be off on her own, yet..." There was a brief pause. "Don't say it."

  "I didn't say anything," Luneta's father replied mildly.

  "You were about to say that I left my home at the same age, but that was different. And, anyway, it's just because I've done it myself that I know how dangerous it is."

  "My love, I wasn't suggesting that she go off alone. We would escort her with all due decorum, of course."

  Luneta wasn't sure she liked the sound of that. The thought of being escorted by her parents "with all due decorum" seemed very tame and stifling, but she felt that she could put up with anything that would get her away from Orkney Hall. She fell into deep thought, imagining life at a real castle, and ceased listening to her parents' conversation, with the result that she didn't notice when their voices stopped, and barely had time to leap up from the fireplace to a chair when her father rapped twice on the door and entered.

  "Oh, hello, Father," Luneta said, smiling innocently.

  Her father's lips twitched. "Good evening, Luneta. How very guilty you look, to be sure."

  "Guilty?" Luneta repeated, smiling even more brightly.

  Her father lowered himself into a chair opposite Luneta and said, "I hope you haven't been trying to listen to our conversation downstairs."

  "What do you mean, Father?"

  "Because it won't work. Remember that I grew up in this castle, too. My brothers and I used to listen at that fireplace, trying to hear what my parents were fighting about, but we could never hear more than a few choice phrases. So you're wasting your time. By the way, you should dust the soot from your knees."

  Luneta had heard her parents' every word as clearly as if she were in the room with them, but she decided not to mention that. She brushed off her dress.

  Her father plunged in at once. "How would you like to go away?"

  "Away?" Luneta asked, feigning surprise. Luneta's father nodded, and Luneta said, "I'd like it. I want to see the rest of the world. Do you think I could go to King Arthur's court? The last time you took me, I was only twelve."

  "Has it really been that long?" her father asked ruefully.

  Luneta nodded. "I was too young to go to the ball, but I sneaked into the minstrel's gallery and watched."

  "You did what?"

  "Sir Dinadan helped me. Then, when you and Mother started to leave the ball, he stopped you at the door and held you up long enough for me to get back to bed and pretend to be asleep."

  "He did, did he? And, may I ask, was this my friend Dinadan's idea?"

  "Oh no, it was my own plan."

  "And how did you compel poor Dinadan to follow your instructions, I wonder." Luneta only smiled, and her father's eyes grew slightly wary. "I begin to think that in sending you away, we may be letting a lioness loose among the cattle."

  "So can I go to Camelot?"

  "Not for the whole visit, but we can certainly stop there on the way. Your mother is writing a letter to a friend of hers, a lady only a few years older than you who has recently married the lord of a great castle in Salisbury. She thinks that Lady Laudine might like to have a noble young guest."

  "Then Mother has agreed to this?" Luneta hadn't heard that part.

  "She has agreed to write to Lady Laudine, anyway."

  "But that's wonderful! I didn't think she would ever let me go off on my own! Oh, I have so many plans to make!"

  Her father raised one eyebrow. "It is when you make plans that I fear you the most, my child."

  Luneta smiled again. "When do we leave?"

  "Ah," he replied. "There's the sticking point, I'm afraid. It's just about time for the planting, and Murdock and I are trying some new crops this year. I won't be free for at least six weeks, maybe two months."

  "Two months!" Luneta's heart sank. "Can't Murdock do this himself? He's your steward, after all."

  "Normally, yes, but this year I need to be here. I'm afraid you'll have to wait."

  "I hate waiting!"

  Her father's good humor disappeared. "Then I suggest you learn to hate it quietly, and learn quickly, too. I perhaps should have mentioned at the start that this visit we have planned depends entirely on whether you can get along with your mother between now and then."

  Luneta looked at her feet. "Yes, Father."

  Her father sighed. "You also frighten me when you're demure." The smile was back in his voice. He rose to his feet and walked back to the door. At the threshold, though, he stopped and looked over his shoulder. "But I'm quite serious. This means, my dear, that for the next few weeks you will oblige me very much if you will refrain from calling your mother 'little piggy,' even in Latin."

  Luneta dimpled. "Can I tell her that she's a woman with shining eyes?"

  Her father raised one eyebrow and gazed at her for a moment. Then he said, "Certainly not," and left.

  Luneta had no intention of waiting longer in Orkney than she had to, and she immediately began making plans to speed her departure. She had found that when she put her mind to it, she could almost always get people to do what she wanted, and she began at once to work on Murdock, her father's steward, to convince him that he could manage the spring planting without her father this year. The dour highlander was unusually resistant to persuasion, though, and while she didn't doubt she could sway him, it looked as though it would take a long time. Weaving plans kept her mind busy, however, and Luneta managed to brush through three whole weeks without having a row with her mother. Luneta's mother even commented on the change in her daughter's attitude. "If you keep this up," she said, her eyes wrinkling at the corners with wry humor, "I'll almost be sorry to see you go."

  Luneta's mother got a reply from her friend, the Lady Laudine, inviting Luneta to come for a visit as soon as she was able and to stay as long as she wished, so all was set, but still Luneta was stuck at Orkney Hall. At the end of the third week, though, something happened that changed their plans. Her father returned from the fields early one day, and with him rode a young knight. Luneta, who had been crossing the castle courtyard when they arrived, could only stop and stare, because this knight was unquestionably the most handsome young man she had ever seen. He had long reddish-blond hair tied behind his head, and a firm, smooth chin. His eyes were a piercing blue, and he wore his armor with assurance and grace. He was smiling at something that Luneta's father had said as they approached, and his smile only improved his looks. Luneta's mouth opened, but she caught herself and closed it again before the two men looked at her.

  "Ah, Luneta," her father said. "Allow me to present to you your cousin."

  "My cousin?" Luneta said, with surprise and a trace of disappointment.

  "Isn't that a bit vague, Cousin Gaheris?" the young knight said, still smiling. "I mean, shouldn't we specify second or third cousin, twice removed, or something?"

  Luneta's father grinned. "Maybe, but I've forgotten how to do it. Let's see now, your grandfather Uriens was my father's first cousin, which makes you my..."

  They looked at each other for a moment, frowning. Then the young knight said, "Cousin. Good enough." He turned to Luneta and said, "My name is Ywain."

  "Oh, I've heard of you!" Luneta exclaimed. Then she frowned. "But I thought you were older."

  "Older than what?" Luneta's f
ather asked, dismounting.

  "Older than he is," Luneta said.

  Luneta's father said, "But you see he isn't. In fact, he is exactly as old as he is."

  "You know what I mean. Wasn't Sir Ywain one of King Arthur's earliest knights?"

  "That was my father," Ywain said, lowering himself from his horse. "I have the same name, which is no fun at all, let me tell you."

  "I know just what you mean," Luneta said. "It's a sad trial to be named for a parent."

  "How would you know?" Luneta's father said. "Why don't you run inside and tell your mother that we have a guest for the evening?"

  "I do too know," Luneta snapped. "You named me for my mother, even if you did change a few letters." Luneta looked at Ywain and explained, "My mother is named Lynet, and I'm Luneta."

  "Don't be ridiculous, child," Luneta's father said, a lofty expression on his face. "The similarity of your names is a mere coincidence. In fact, I named you for a dog I had when I was a child." He smiled reminiscently. "Sweetest little brachet I ever owned."

  "You named me for a dog?" Luneta gasped.

  "Yes, but it didn't work," her father replied with a sigh. "The dog used to do what I told her to."

  Luneta caught the slight tremor in his voice and knew that he was teasing her, and she scowled at him. She didn't mind teasing—much—but not in front of strangers. With a toss of her head, she stalked inside to tell her mother about their guest.

  Ywain, Luneta discovered at dinner that night, had only dropped by for a short visit before leaving for Camelot. His father had retired from court life some years before and taken up residence at the family estate in Scotland. Young Ywain had grown up there, nearly as far away from the center of civilization as Luneta herself, and his feelings about his childhood in exile were exactly like Luneta's. "I couldn't take it anymore," he admitted. "Trotting around the fields on great chargers that ought to be leading the way in battle, polishing armor that never gets used."

  "Don't you have any tournaments in Scotland now?" Luneta's father asked.

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