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Authors: Lord of the Dragon

Suzanne Robinson

Dear Readers
,

This is my first book set in the medieval period, a time in which women had special charge of family health. In these times of sudden violence, when disease ran rampant through whole populations, herbs were the first and best line of defense. The fabled demoiselles of tournaments, ivory towers, and flowing robes often found themselves using herbs to treat every ill from sword wounds to agues, as does my heroine, Juliana. The herbs mentioned in
Lord of the Dragon
are but a few the use of which was widely known. Troubadours may have written their finest poetry about delicate noble ladies, but as you will see in this story, these women shared a life of risk and danger with their men, and used their skills with herbs and healing to protect the ones they loved
.

Please share with me now the world of Arthur and Guinevere, of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard Lion Heart
.

Suzanne Robinson

ALSO BY SUZANNE ROBINSON

The Engagement
Lord of Enchantment
Heart of the Falcon
Just Before Midnight
The Ledged
The Rescue
The Treasure
Lady Dangerous
Lady Valiant
Lady Hellfire
Lady Gallant
Lady Defiant

Lord of the Dragon
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Grateful acknowledgment to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for permission to reprint an excerpt from
Herbs for the Medieval Household
copyright 1943 by Margaret B. Freeman.

Copyright © 1995 by Lynda S. Robinson

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

B
ANTAM
B
OOKS
and the rooster colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Originally published in mass market in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., in 1995.

eISBN: 978-0-307-80505-8

www.bantamdell.com

v3.1

Katherine Ann Harrod, you were my first and best friend. It didn’t matter how long we were separated or how far away you lived. We shared a world of imagination, adventure, and dreams, and I believe we’ll always have that world in our hearts. My dear cousin, I dedicate this book to you with love and thanks.

Contents
Lily of the Valley

For apoplexy one soaked the flowers in wine for four weeks and distilled to make a liquor. This liquor mixed with peppercorns and lavender water and smeared on the forehead and back of the neck made one have good common sense
.

• Chapter 1 •

STEALING OUT OF A CASTLE WASN’T EASY. JULIANA Welles shoved open her chamber door in the Maiden’s Tower of the old square keep and found the landing deserted. Then she motioned for her maid, Alice, to follow. She clutched a sack in one hand and lifted the skirt of her overrobe in the other as she glided down the circular stair. Alice came after her holding a basket that clattered with each step. The basket slipped, and pottery jars shifted, causing a loud clink.

Juliana halted on the stairs. “Shhhh! Thunder of heaven, you’ll wake my sisters and then we’re undone.”

Alice nodded vigorously, then gave Juliana a horrified stare. Her nose twitched; her head tilted back. She sneezed. Jars clacked as the noise resounded off the stone walls.

Juliana started, then glared at Alice. The woman was widowed, had borne seven children, and sometimes lacked the sense of a day-old lamb. Setting down her sack, Juliana held out her arms. Alice gave her the basket and picked up the sack while casting apologetic glances at her mistress. With their burdens redistributed, Juliana resumed her progress down the tower stair and soon led the way to an arcade that stretched the length of the great hall.

Light was streaming through the high, arched windows, giving the cavernous room an early morning glow of silver. As she entered the arcade, Juliana stopped
abruptly and took shelter behind one of a line of thick columns decorated with spiral designs and carved garlands. Alice stumbled into her, then skittered into a shadow.

In the middle of the hall, near the great central fireplace, stood her parents, cousin Richard, her father’s chaplain, steward, and several squires and clerks. The group was silent, which was unusual for any group that included her father. Juliana followed the direction of their stares and saw a herald’s retreating figure. He passed near her on his way out, and she glimpsed armorial bearings—a rearing animal, the dragon rampant fashioned in gold on a field of green.

Juliana muttered the heraldic description to herself. “
Vert
, a dragon rampant
or
. Now who owns those bearings?” She couldn’t remember. Dismissing the mystery from her thoughts, she was tiptoeing down the arcade when her father’s bellow made her gasp and shrink against the wall.

Hugo Welles broke from the group at the fireplace and swept up and down in front of them, his thumbs stuck in his belt.
“Him!”

Her heart had stopped bouncing against the walls of her chest, so Juliana gave her father an irritated look and resumed her tiptoeing. Alice hugged the wall and came after her.

“Did you hear what that smirking catamite said?” Hugo roared. “Gray de Valence in my tournament, for God’s pity. He’s come for vengeance, that’s what. To make mischief and evil, that’s what.”

Cousin Richard’s voice broke the tirade. “Forbid him.”

Hugo’s wide girth swung in his nephew’s direction.

“Forbid him? How? Who would have thought that he’d come back after all these years, and as the de Valence
heir? He had four older brothers, four. And they’re all dead of disease, battle, or accidents.”

Juliana paused upon hearing the name of this new visitor. Gray de Valence. An infamous name. She remembered her mother’s whispered stories. Nine years ago, when she’d been but eleven, de Valence had been a new-made knight of eighteen years in the same household as Richard. Both had been sent to be fostered with a relative of Hugo Welles. A penniless youngest son, de Valence had achieved knighthood early by his skill and the favor of his liege, only to betray him. He’d seduced his lord’s wife.

The liege lord raged and nearly killed his wife, but for de Valence he reserved a special penalty. Biding his time, he denounced the youth before a tournament crowd and took him prisoner. This measure ruined de Valence before the entire kingdom. Then, realizing that condemning the youth to live in shame was his greatest revenge, the lord ordered de Valence taken from England by his fellow knights. Richard had been their leader.

They returned a few months later with harrowing news of an attack at sea by pirates. De Valence had been taken prisoner, and vanished. Years passed during which rumors drifted from the Holy Land and beyond of a tall green-eyed slave of a heathen general in Egypt, a slave with the same hair of silken silver as the vanished Gray de Valence. Then, without warning, de Valence reappeared out of nowhere with a French title, a riding household of over two hundred, and a desire to destroy the knights who had turned against him.

That was only a few years ago. In that short time de Valence had befriended the powerful William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. After the battle of Lincoln in which the invading French dauphin was driven from England, rumors again flew like black bats across England. The
Sieur de Valence had fought with a skill that rivaled both Richard Coeur de Lion and Saladin. The great barons of the kingdom stirred uneasily and muttered among themselves, sensing a rival who threatened to surpass them in skill and ruthlessness. No wonder Father was disturbed.

Juliana had reached the end of the arcade. “Gray de Valence,” she whispered to Alice as she waited for her father to look in another direction so that she could leave unseen. “A phoenix risen from ashes. This miserable tournament may afford some amusement after all.”

“Aye, mistress. He be heir to Stratfield now. Imagine that evil one inheriting the Stratfield castles and riches.”

“Quiet,” Juliana whispered, staring at her father. “Now, he’s looked away. Hurry.”

Clutching her basket, Juliana hurried for the doors that could be seen through an archway.

“Juliana!”

She jumped at the bellow that echoed from the roof beams. Jars clinked inside the basket, and Alice squeaked and scurried behind her, as she turned to face the striding figure of Hugo Welles. Lord Welles was a man whose body could have been made of stacked tree trunks—thick, gnarled, and dense of muscle. His ruddy face had grown even more red at the sight of his daughter. Havisia, his wife, trailed after him like a midge fluttering after a dragonfly.

Hugo halted his charge in front of Juliana, who set her jaw and squared her shoulders. Hugo’s thick black brows lowered until they nearly hid his gray eyes. He almost shouted.

“Where are you going, daughter?”

“To Vyne Hill, Father.”

Hugo threw up his arms and turned to Havisia. “We’re to give a tournament tomorrow, and she’s off to that ruined manor of hers.”

“You said I could go, Father.”

“When?”

“Last night.” She’d asked him then because he’d had two flagons of ale.

“Last night? Last night? I don’t remember.”

“You did, my lord,” said Havisia.

Hugo waved his hand impatiently. “No matter. I mistook myself. There’s too much to do. What of the food, the linens, the—Now don’t you try to dazzle me with your glares and glowers, Juliana Welles.”

“Mother has Laudine and Bertrade to help her.” She began to stomp back and forth. With each step her heels snapped against the floorboards, calling attention to the men’s boots she wore beneath her rough woolen robe.

Her voice rose as she spoke. “Thunder of God! I’ve Vyne Hill to look after and no time for another tournament. The castle fills up with strutting rooster knights and simpering women. I’ve much work to do if I’m ever to get the manor in condition for me to occupy it.”

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