Just under a month passed, and Anne remained at Poitiers with Richard. Strangely, they did not hear anything from or about Henry. One morning Anne rose early and found Richard sitting alone in his solar chamber, letters strewn on the table before him. “Good morning.” She kissed his cheek.
“And a good morning to you, my sweet Annie.” He pulled another chair near for her.
Unsure she liked the new nickname, she wrinkled her nose. “Master Blondel told me you have been up half the night.”
“Oh, I could not sleep.”
“Is something the matter? Are you ill?”
He picked up the letter. “I have received word that a vassal, the Count of Bordeaux, is in rebellion against me. Part of me wonders if Henry is not behind this.
Anyway, I will be heading south to remind Bordeaux exactly who his overlord is. Here,” he handed her a letter as well. “The messengers came very late last night, and I did not want to wake you. This one is for you.”
Anne took the letter, opened it, and began to read it. “It is a letter from my father and Cousin Etienne.”
She read the rest of the letter. When she finished, she placed the letter on the table. “Richard, after the matter in Bordeaux is settled, how would you feel about a journey to Marseilles?”
“You’ve gone pale. Has something happened?”
“It would seem that my father’s condition has worsened. It is very serious.”
“Then I think it best that you not wait. You must leave for Marseilles as soon as possible. I could join you after I settle the matter in Bordeaux.”
She nodded. “Yes, that would be best. I will miss you though.”
“That goes without saying.” Richard attempted to make her smile. “I am not looking forward to any time apart, but it will not be long until I see you in Marseilles.”
“When do you leave for Bordeaux?” She questioned.
“The preparations are underway. I expect to leave by this afternoon.” He sighed.
Anne hesitated. “Promise me that you will keep Baldwin and
Andrew close. They are your best men.”
“Maybe one should accompany you,” he offered.
“No.” She shook her head. “They should be with you.”
“Anne, what is it?”
“It is silly, really.”
“I do not know why, but I have an uneasy feeling about all of this.” She shook as if trying to rid herself of the notion. “Please, just keep Baldwin and Andrew with you.”
He consented. “If it will put you at ease, I will, however, send for Mercadier to keep you safe.”
“Mercadier, the mercenary?” Anne wrinkled her nose.
“Yes. I trust him. He serves me well, and I always pay him handsomely for it. He will get you to Marseilles safely.” Richard flashed her a reassuring smile.
Anne kissed his cheek again. “If you trust him, then I shall trust him.” She rose from her chair. “In the meantime, I better inform Marguerite of our plans.”
She left the room with Richard still in the chair where she found him.
By early afternoon, Richard and his men were prepared to leave. The knights gathered in the hectic courtyard, some exchanging farewell kisses and goodbyes with loved ones. Anne accompanied Richard into the courtyard. Though still early in the spring, the warmer weather coaxed the hardiest of trees to bud.
“Mercadier should be here within a week,” Richard informed her.
“Richard, do promise that you will be cautious. Please do not take any extraordinary risks,” Anne urged him.
“Oh, come now, since when have I been known to do any such thing.” He batted his eyelashes at her.
“I am serious, Richard.” She turned to Baldwin and Andrew nearby.
“Baldwin, Andrew, promise me to look after him.”
Baldwin replied for the both. “We will, My Lady.”
Richard rolled his eyes. “Heaven and hell preserve us, woman! I will be just fine.
Now give your departing warrior a kiss.”
Anne kissed him softly, and Richard mounted his horse. He bent down to her. “I shall see you in Marseilles.”
Richard and his knights cantered out of the courtyard and galloped down the road toward the village. Without warning, Richard stopped his horse. Swiftly, he turned around and bounded back for the castle courtyard. Baldwin and Andrew exchanged entertained looks then followed.
Richard burst into the courtyard shouting, “Anne! Anne!”
Anne, hearing him call her name, emerged onto the steps. “Richard? What is it- what is the matter?”
Richard halted his horse next to the staircase. They were even with each other now, she at the top of the stairs, and he on his horse. Richard grabbed her and kissed her with intensity.
“Hang Bordeaux. I am not going. I’ll not leave you!” He breathed.
He tried to kiss her again, but she stopped him by placing a finger on his lips.
“Richard, you must go. Besides, you promised we would be together again soon. Take faith in that, and go perform your duty.”
Richard removed his glove and took a ring from his pinky. “Take this as a remembrance of me.”
He kissed the ring and placed it in her hand, folding her fingers around it.
“You gave me a token all those years ago, and it is about time I returned the favor.”
“Have you got it?” Her hazel eyes shone.
“Here it is,” Richard pulled the scarf out.
Anne took it from him and tied it securely on his arm.
Andrew called out to Richard, “What’s it to be Richard, love or war?”
Richard looked at Andrew and Baldwin, sitting on their horses laughing to themselves. Then he glanced back at Anne. “Both!” He called out.
“Well, come on then, let us go tear something down.” Baldwin motioned to leave.
Anne quickly gave Richard one last kiss. “I will see you in Marseilles.”
He spurred his horse and called back over his shoulder, “I love you.”
“You just cannot help yourself.” She waved goodbye.
In just under a week, Mercadier and his men arrived. Their horses better kempt than they, the group appeared coarse. Mercadier reminded Anne of a wild boar, small and round, bristly, and mean. An unusual scar that ran across the bottom of his nose looked like horns. Mercadier made Anne feel nervous, but she kept reminding herself that Richard trusted him.
Anne and Marguerite stayed up late packing the night before they were to leave for Marseilles. “Are you excited to be going home tomorrow?” Marguerite placed another dress in the bursting trunk.
“Yes, I am. It has been so long.” Anne watched Marguerite struggle to close the lid. “I am not looking forward to the journey, however. Mercadier and his men are a rather rough lot.”
Marguerite pushed against the top, trying to latch the trunk. “They may be rough, but I do believe they will get us to Marseilles safely.”
“Let us hope they sober up from their night’s revels.” Anne sat on the top of the trunk.
Marguerite finally closed the lid. She gave a long low whistle and shook her head at it. She turned to Anne to help her prepare for bed. “Has m’lady heard from the duke?”
Anne slipped out of her dress and into a shift and dressing gown with Marguerite’s help. “Mercadier brought news that Richard arrived in Bordeaux and has laid siege to the Count’s stronghold. Knowing Richard, it will not be long before he takes his target and is on his way to Marseilles.”
“What if he were to arrive there before we do? Wouldn’t that be a great joke?”
“Then I better get some rest so that we may proceed to Marseilles as fast as possible.” Anne climbed into her bed and snuggled under the covers.
“Goodnight, M’lady,” Marguerite took the candle with her.
Anne called out to her, “Thank you, Marguerite, and good night to you. I will see you early in the morning.”
Marguerite closed the door behind her and the room fell dark. With a new moon outside, there was no moonlight to give the room a glow.
Anne fell asleep fast. For a while, she slept comfortably and soundly. She dreamed of Marseilles and Richard. In her dream, Richard was in Marseilles waiting with her father. They walked along the coast when an owl landed on her father’s shoulder. It confused her, an owl on the beach in the middle of the day. The sky around them turned black, and wind rushed in from the ocean. She had the sinking notion that someone was attacking Marseilles. Anne tried to tell herself it was a dream, and time to wake up. She struggled with this for a brief moment and then managed to roll over.
As she lay in the dark trying to shake off the lingering uneasiness, the door to her chamber flew open. Anne bolted straight up in bed. Several persons entered the room, and by their heavy footsteps Anne could tell they were men. One of the men yanked her out of bed and threw her to the floor. As she grappled to get up, the tallest man grabbed her by the arm with such force that she again stood upright. Then another man entered the room carrying a torch, the light slowly revealed his face, Raymond of Castile. “Hello again, Lady Anne.”
The sound of his cold voice made her sick, but she quickly found her courage.
“Just what do you think you are doing, Castile?”
A grotesque grin smeared his face. “Carrying out orders from the king.”
Anne fought against the tall man’s grip, but he simply restrained her further.
“Your brother has no power here,” she snapped at Raymond.
Raymond gave a sardonic sigh. “No, sadly he does not. However, good King
Henry does. It would seem that you are to be in my custody. Fortunately, for me, your precious Richard went too far.”
“I do not believe you!”
He came very close to her and whispered, “Oh, believe it, My Dear.” He backed away and ordered, “Now come with me.”
“No! I’ll not go anywhere with you! Mercadier! Mercadier!”
Raymond let out an odd laugh,, almost a cackle. “It will do you no good. We are acting on orders from the king. Even Mercadier dares not disobey.”
“You are a wretch! I’ll not go with you!”
Raymond yanked her forward. “Oh yes, you will. If I must drag you by your hair, you are coming with me!”
Before she could respond, the tall man, along with others, bound and dragged her outside to the courtyard in just her shift and bare feet. She struggled in vain. The men tossed Anne into a cart. She tried to wriggle out and almost made it, but the men lashed her to it. Raymond headed toward his horse. The castle in chaos, Marguerite, Master Blondel, and Mercadier pleaded with the men to release her. “My Lord Castile, I beg of you, do not do this. Please, do not take Lady Anne. Surely something can be arranged with the duke.” Blondel knelt before Castile.
Raymond turned on him. “Look here, you little gudgeon. I know that as soon as I leave here someone is gong to tell your master what happened. In fact, I’m counting on it. Give this to him.”
He handed Blondel a letter. Then Raymond went to Anne and yanked the green silk ribbon from her neck that held Richard’s ring. “Oh, yes, and give this to him too.” He tossed it to Blondel. “Tell your master that even if he were to come after Lady Anne, it will be too late; she is to be my wife.”