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The Girl of Many Crowns, Historical Fiction, D.H. Morris


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Logline: One young princess stood at the crossroads of the founding of three nations: France, England, and Belgium.  Her story, and the story of the knight she loved, has never been told – until now.

The true story of a rebellious princess and a brave knight who defy the king and overcome treachery, murder, and Vikings, to build a life--and a new country--together.

Opening Scene - This scene introduces the male protagonist, Baldwin, and sets him on his journey to serve the king - the father of the protagonist princess, Judith.  This first scene also provides historical background necessary to understand the political climate in the ninth-century Carolingian Kingdom of Francia - all motivating factors in the antagonists' schemes.

If this were a movie, this scene would take place during the opening credits.

           

MARCH 856 - Kingdom of Francia

CHAPTER 1 – BALDWIN  ”IRON ARM”

After the icy darkness of dreary winter, all nature echoed Baldwin's native restlessness and passion for new challenges. The swelling of buds on the trees and pushing forth of shoots emerging from the still frosty ground, whispered of endless possibilities. As he lifted his saddle pack onto the back of his palfrey, Baldwin’s heart beat faster - like the resurging sap in the long-dormant oak in the courtyard outside his window. A new life . . . his new life . . . one full of adventure called.  He was ready to embrace it.

Through long winter nights before the enormous stone hearth in their great hall, Baldwin’s plans had taken shape as he and his widowed mother spoke of cherished, and often humorous, memories of Baldwin’s childhood exploits. Never content with losing, Baldwin had challenged himself to master horsemanship, the lance, the halberd, the staff, and the sword. Tall and broad shouldered, by age fourteen Baldwin’s feats of strength and daring earned him the nickname “Iron Arm.”  Now, at age sixteen he was ready to pledge loyalty to King Charles of Francia.

His mother came into the yard to see him on his way. “You will do well, Baldwin. Learn all you can from the royal household,” she advised. “Be loyal to the king, for that is the essence of nobility. But be kind to all both high and low born, for that is the essence of goodness.”

“I will, Mother,” Baldwin kissed her cheek, climbed into his saddle, and nodded at Marius who was already mounted and waiting.    

Marius had served his family for as long as Baldwin could remember. Belying his calm manner, Marius was a fierce fighter when necessary – essential on this journey to King Charles’ palace at Senlis. Wearing the chainmail he had inherited from his father, Baldwin appeared every inch the knight. However, thieves and rogues were well versed in the convenience of the Roman road. Two strong, well-armed men on horseback were not as tempting a target as Baldwin would have been travelling alone.

Baldwin and Marius guided their palfreys through the forest north of Baldwin’s manor house toward the road they would join several miles further on at the tiny, largely abandoned trading settlement of Bruges. Following the Roman road was longer than heading directly south across country, but it had advantages. Roman engineers had designed their roads to follow the natural curve of the rivers, providing for the needs of their massive armies. Now those roads served the very people they had once conquered and offered shelter for the wayfarer by way of  well-spaced monasteries or inns.

Most of the Belgae, Baldwin’s people, supported King Charles over his half-brothers, Lothar I and Louis the German. The three royal brothers had been at odds with each other when the death of their father, Louis the Pious, permanently fractured the kingdom into three parts. Kings Lothar and Louis the German did not succeed in taking over Charles’ territory. Yet, with the recent death of King Lothar, Louis the German still remained a threat to King Charles’ kingdom.

Increasing attacks from the north added to King Charles’ woes. Vicious raiders from Denmark made use of Francia’s extensive riverways, drawn by unprotected gold and silver furnishing Francia’s churches and monasteries. Fighting the Danes provided a perfect opportunity for a young knight to prove himself.

At mid-day Baldwin and Marius gleaned bits of news and gossip from a group of knights resting by the side of the road.

“Francia is quiet for now, but that will not last,” the leader of the group assured Baldwin. “Between Brittany, Louis the German, the Danes, and the rebel lords of Aquitaine, you and the other young nobles wishing to serve the king will see plenty of action before long.”

“Then, we are at peace,” Baldwin concluded.

“Only for now.” Laughing, the leader mounted his horse.  “This kingdom has too many ambitious leaders for peace to last.”

Baldwin and Marius pushed ahead, finding accommodations before nightfall in a poorly kept inn. They knew they might have to share their room, tiny as it was, with other guests, but Baldwin and Marius were glad of rest for their horses, shelter for themselves and hot stew to warm their bellies.

Two other travelers joined them late in the evening. Only floor space remained, Baldwin and Marius having claimed the lone, dusty straw mattress. However, as soon as the new guests curled up - each in his own corner of the room - they began to snore. The cacophony of snort, gasp and wheeze and the sour smell of unwashed bodies, made Baldwin lie awake longer than usual. All part of the adventure, he reminded himself wryly as he too nodded off. 

 

(End of First Scene)

 

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