Word spread about the incident with Raymond, and it wasn’t long before Anne’s chamber flooded with visitors. Baldwin sent most away but dared not deny entrance to the Queen or Countess Marie. Anne sat on her bed as her lady, Marguerite, attended her. Eleanor swept past them all and straight to Anne.
“Anne, My Dear, oh, come here. Are you alright?” She extended her arms to Anne.
Just then Richard burst through the door, and Andrew followed. “Is it true? Did he make to strike you? Did he threaten you?” Richard boomed.
“I saw it with my own eyes, My Lord,” Baldwin answered for Anne.
“This is an outrage! He must be banished from the court.” Countess Marie stamped her foot.
Richard barked, “He should be horse whipped!”
“Castile and his entourage are preparing to leave as we speak.” Andrew informed them.
“No one insults a lady in my court and is allowed to get away with it. This slander will not go unanswered,” he snarled.
“No, Richard, no please! You will only provoke him more,” Anne begged.
Richard shook his head. “I will not stand idly by while he insults you.”
“Honestly, my reputation will heal. He has done damage to himself, to his honor.”
Richard clenched his jaw. “Yes, well, my honor will not let him get away with this!”
Before Anne could say anything else, Richard stalked out of the room.
Baldwin and Andrew followed in close pursuit.
In the courtyard Raymond and his men prepared to leave. Richard burst into the courtyard. “Castile!”
Upon hearing his name, Raymond spun around stirring the dust at his feet. He didn’t hesitate, but drew his sword. In reaction, Richard quickly drew his. Richard lashed out at Raymond first, but Raymond skillfully deflected the blows.
By now, Andrew and Baldwin along with the Queen, Countess Marie, Master Blondel and Anne, all stood on the steps watching the brawl.
Despite Raymond’s skill, Richard proved a challenging opponent for him. The two locked swords. “Such an effort is wasted on a good for nothing whore.” Raymond narrowed his eyes and tilted his head.
“If she is so good for nothing, why do you pursue her?” Richard pushed hard against the swords causing Raymond to stumble backwards. “You will not have Marseilles!”
With an unsteady slash, Raymond knocked Richard’s sword from his hand but lost his own in the process. Richard swung his fist at Raymond and made contact. As Raymond wiped the blood and sweat from his lip, he sneered. “I understand now. Aquitaine isn’t enough for you. Your brother, Young Henry, is next in line for the throne, so you want as much land as can satisfy your greed.”
Richard charged Raymond, knocking him to the ground. Raymond threw a handful of dirt in Richard’s face. Frantically Richard tried to clear his eyes, but Raymond stamped hard on Richard’s foot and used his shoulder to push against Richard’s chest, causing him to fall to the ground. Before Richard could react, Raymond pointed his sword at Richard’s chest.
“All your talk of honor... “ Raymond leered. “Look here, good people of this court, at your lord and master.” He yelled to the onlookers. “Yet, here lies your duke in the dirt, bested by a knight he considers lowly even though we are both princes by natural right. Where is the honor in that?” He paused. “Where is it?” Raymond screeched. “There is none!”
Baldwin and Andrew stepped between Richard and Raymond.
“I am willing to defend my most honorable lord to the death if necessary.”
Andrew drew his sword.
Baldwin seconded, “As will I.”
Other knights of the court began to step forward.
Raymond glared at Richard. “Honor will not win you this prize.”
Castile withdrew but not before turning to spit at Richard. Raymond and his entourage mounted their horses and flew out of the courtyard, almost trampling several people and animals on their way.
Baldwin helped Richard to his feet. Humiliated, Richard dared not look in the direction of Anne and the others. Anne fled inside, taking refuge.
Anne stayed in her chambers, refusing to see anyone the rest of the day and into the evening. The night air brought with it a chill, so Anne sat on the hearth warming herself by the fire. The day started off so pleasantly, but turned into a nightmare. She vacillated between worrying about Richard blaming her for his humiliation and sheer anger toward Raymond. Both lines of thought made her stomach churn.
She heard a soft knock at the door, and someone entered. Assuming it was her lady Marguerite who she sent for some wine, Anne didn’t bother to look up but stared into the fire.
“Anne.” Richard’s voice startled her.
Richard handed her a cup of wine. “I met your lady in the hall and took the liberty of bringing you the wine myself.”
Anne took the wine from him. “Thank you, Your Grace.”
“I take it you are not going to banquet either.” Richard took a seat beside her on the hearth.
Anne shook her head. “After today’s commotion I am really in no mood.”
“I must confess, neither am I. Countess Marie can take over my responsibilities, though I doubt it will be much of a merry one.”
Anne set the glass of wine out of the way and took a deep breath. “I apologize for causing such an uproar today. Truly, I am sorry that you were forced into such a situation, and I would completely understand if you sent me packing.”
“It is certainly not your fault that Raymond is such an ass. Your honor had to be defended.” Richard shrugged.
“Well, I thank you for that.” Anne fiddeled with the hem of her sleeve. “How are you feeling?” slipped out.
Richard sat up taller. “I have just a few scratches, nothing that won’t heal. My pride, however, may take a bit longer to recover.”
“Yes, bruised dignity is a rather nasty wound from which to heal.” Anne flashed her playful smile.
“How are you?” Richard questioned.
“I am fine.” She paused. “Again, thank you for your kindness, My Lord.”
“Thank you for yours.”
“But I have not done anything,” Anne protested.
“Yes, you have,” he answered.
Richard gently brushed some hair away from Anne’s cheek. She jumped.
“Oh, I am sorry. Did I hurt you?”
“No just, you just, I just... “
Anne didn’t finish because he kissed her with surprising gentleness.
Richard still held her face in his hand, studying her eyes to look for some sort of encouragement. She looked nervous, but he read nothing that told him to stop, so he tenderly kissed her again. At first she was reluctant, but then he felt her relax, seeming to melt against him.
“Richard,” she whispered.
“Sh.” With his forefinger he traced her jaw line from left to right, and then down her neck, brushing along the top of her collarbone studying the feel of her skin. She quivered against him, and he wanted to explore more. He had known other beautiful women before, made love to them, but Anne was different. When he kissed her again, he found that he was shaking. After reminding himself to breathe, he inhaled deeply taking in her spicy scent that seemed to be working a spell on him. Running his right hand up the back of her neck, his fingers wound around soft locks of her hair, and he drew her to him again, kissing her more forcefully. Again, she relented. Now he knew what he wanted, but as he began to loosen the laces on her gown, she became rigid.
Anne stood up and gave him a low curtsey. “I thank you very much for your attention this evening and the service that you rendered me earlier today. I must take my leave now.”
Richard stammared. “I…I…I am a bit confused, Anne. For one thing this is your room.”
“There is no confusion, Your Grace. I respectfully declined your offer.”
“My offer? But Anne, I am in love with you.”
“You hardly know me.” Anne shook her head.
“Since when does that matter to love?” Richard stood up now ready to block the door if she intended to bolt on him. “I know enough to know that I want you.”
“It cannot be.”
“Why not?” He could still smell her, taste her on his lips.
Anne whispered, “It is wrong in the eyes of God.”
“I thought you didn’t necessarily agree with all the teachings of the church,” Richard argued.
“I believe in God and heaven and hell. I will not burn in hell just to satisfy your lusty desire!” Anne held her head high.
“Anne, this is how it is done. A man and a woman are attracted to one another, and they make love. People do it all the time. It is a natural desire.”
“People may do it all the time, but it is a sin.”
Frustrated, Richard moaned. “What would you have me do, marry you? You know full well that I cannot!”
“Exactly! That is why we cannot be together.” Anne’s tone remained composed.
Richard slumped back on the hearth. Her calmness helped him regain some control. “Anne,” he shrugged, “your meaning has escaped me.”
“Think of it. Just as you have a duty and will marry Alice, I too have a duty to marry and produce an heir. What if I were to become pregnant?” Anne contended.
Richard placed his reeling head in his hands. “That is not a certainty,” he mumbled.
“Can you assure me it will not happen? Sex is generally how babies come into being.” She raised her tone of voice now. “Any child I have with you would naturally be illegitimate. It would hurt the child’s claim to any inheritance. Who would marry me then? Granted my father’s wealth would still be a bright asset, but I could never hope for a suitable match.”
Richard pulled at his hair in frustration. “If you were any other woman, I would have taken you by now.” He spoke through gritted teeth.
Anne shouted, “That would make you no better than Castile! Well, go on then! Do it and be quick about it!”
His head shot up. “Anne, you know I would never do that to you!”
Anne exclaimed, “No, I do not know that!”
Richard remained calm now. “You mistook my meaning.” He spoke clearly and rationally. “What I am trying to say is that no one else would have stopped me or dared to say no. Few people question me.”
“I apologize for my disrespect.” Anne took a seat beside him.
“Look at me, Anne.” He turned to her. “I am being completely honest when I say that I have never known anyone to captivate me so. From the moment I saw you, you were all I could think about. Ever since I met you, I have not had a decent night’s sleep. All I can do is lie awake at night and think about you, and how I shall be able to see you in the morning, hear your laugh, smell your fragrance, just be with you.” He whispered, “You haunt me, Anne.”
“Richard, please. I am not for you.”
“Look into my eyes and tell me that you care nothing for me. If you can honestly tell me that, then I will never bother you again. You have my word.”
Anne took his hand. “Oh, Richard, sex is so powerful. With sex, an empire can be built and crushed. Sex is a driving force behind history and legend, but sex outside the dictated confines of marriage can lead to nothing but disaster and misery. Look at Helen and Paris, or Cleopatra and Antony, even Guinevere, Lancelot and Arthur. All those men were brilliant leaders, but they lost everything because of sex.
“Richard, you are just as talented as any of those men. You have the ability to become one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. I will not have you throw it away for a moment or two of pleasure. I will not be the cause of your downfall. Let me help you, not hinder you.”
“Nothing you could do would hurt me except denying me your affection.” Sincerity resonated in his voice.
“I will not deny you affection, but I will not make love to you. I do care for you.” She paused again. “However, if you want nothing more to do with me, then I would understand.”
“I cannot just change the way I feel.” Richard shook his head.
Anne shrugged. “Neither can I.”
“Then what is to be done?”
“I do not know. I do not know.”
“You are a stubborn one, Anne.”
“Would you have it any other way?”
Richard tried to smile at her joke. “I think I shall take my leave.”
He stood up and started for the door. Opening the door he stopped and turned back. “Despite everything you said, my feelings for you have not changed Anne.”
Richard did not wait for a reply. He simply left her there and closed the door softly behind him.
As Richard slowly made his way down the stairs, he could hear the music and laughter floating out from the Great Hall, but he had no wish to be a part of it. Feeling as though something heavy had been placed upon his chest, he wanted to get outside where he thought it would be easier to breathe.
He stumbled out into the garden and worked his way along its paths until he came to the bench, that bench where he first spoke to her. He couldn’t decide if it was a cursed place or a holy one. Sitting down upon the bench, he stared out into the night.