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The Queens Oranges Sample

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Posts: 90
Joined: December 2010
Location: Antipodes

The Queens Oranges Sample

Post by Greg » Sat June 4th, 2011, 11:18 am

To all my friends at HF and fellow HF devotees as promised here is the prologue of the second instalment of Red Ned Bedwell apprentice lawyer and rogues’ mis-adventures. The Queen’s Oranges.
Regards Greg

The Liberites of London
Blogging on the Tudors at http://rednedtudormysteries.blogspot.com/

Tudor business is often risky, but when mixed with politics and religious dispute it can be deadly.
Councillor Cromwell’s unwilling pursuivant, Ned Bedwell, is given another thankless task in The Queens Oranges. Summer 1530 is a boom season for London as lords and gentry pour into the city for the signing of the Great Petition to the Pope, King Henry VIII’s latest effort to secure a divorce. The unnatural murder of a pair of Meg Black’s business associates has pulled in the circling pursuivants of the Lord Chancellor hot for heretical books. While a missing official from the Tower has made Rob Black’s life a misery. To help out his friends and protect his investment Ned has to beg a favour from Councillor Cromwell, who in return has just a small task, investigate Queen Katherine’s household. Grasping venial officials, an over abundance of oranges, treasonous plots, heretical smuggling and the politics of the annulment, as well as hundreds of friars preaching hell fire and doom create complications Ned doesn’t need. Worst of all he has seven days to sort it out and present the finds to a very unsympathetic Sir Thomas More Lord Chancellor, that’s if Ned lives that long.

The Goat’s Head Tavern London
Petty Wales
4th–5th June 1530

The summer nights in the city were long warm affairs, rich in the soft twilight that was the gift of the season. Where one could, the labour continued taking advantage of the lingering light—farmers, tradesmen and even the punks that strolled the riverside flashing their loose ribboned hair along with other open bodice enticements. The wherries that plied the river in their thousands also had cause to thank the weather. It meant good trade for the bear and bull pits across the river in Southwark.
The merchants, as well, had reason for good cheer. It was the week that His Majesty, King Henry VIII, had summoned the country’s lords to the city to deal with the petition to His Holiness, Pope Clement, in Rome, for the annulment of his current marriage. While the tangled politics of the situation did not concern them, they still eagerly prepared for the anticipated bounty as the crowded city filled out with the families and retinues of the lords of the land. The holy orders also were not slow to see the potential and used the gathering crowds to advantage. Hundreds of mendicant friars had joined the jostling throngs of London to preach, threaten and cajole. Or as some parish reeves complained ‘make much mischief by their disputes, alarums, beggings and affrays.’
This was a sample of life in the great city of London, the wonder of the world in the year of Our Lord, Fifteen Hundred and Thirty.
The shrouding dark of the summer night brought forth its own custom—thieves lurked in the concealing wells of shadow, cozeners played their gambits to wide eyed farmers too beer befuddled to notice the twitched slip of the dice, while outside the taverns, whores and trulls plied their trade in the alleys of the Liberties. In all this new evening the sounds of life and death echoed amongst the thatched roofed lanes—grunts, groans and curses along with the sudden scream. If you were lucky, the Common Watch trundling along may come to your aid, if not too drunk or compliantly deaf.
Other cries, abruptly terminated by the sharp blade or choking flow of blood that washed out from a slashed throat went unnoticed in the nightly hubbub that was the riverside. Hands clenched, such victims died without the grace of confession, their spirits caught up in the torment of the moment, locked on the mortal plane, frantic for the release that vengeance brings.
Two men had a seat at the dockside tavern, still some hours to go before the yellow wash of dawn. They were raucous and loud as they downed a second firkin of ale. The shorter one gazed at a blonde punk a couple of tables across. She had that sort of eye catching beauty that gave a man a case of cramp in the codpiece with only a single smile.
Shorty wiped an encrusted sleeve across his face, leaving a wide dark smear that lent his face a savage look like those of the barbarous Indies across the great waters. He wasn’t watching her smile. “I wants ‘er!”
“Don’t be a clod pate. Yer cods a’ just got the itches! After what’s we did afore we ain’t got the time!”
“I say I wants ‘er. Always gets the raging ‘orn affer a bit o’ work like that.”
“Yer a’ daft a’ a Bedlamite. We still got to finds it! Yer killed ‘em too quick afore they squealed.”
Rather than a serious complaint, this was more in the form of a professional judgement. The taller one lent out from their cubby and squinted towards the door, the iridescent feathers in his cap sparkling in the rush light. He was used to night work, preferred it to his daytime labour. For one thing, it was eminently more profitable.
“We’s got a couple o’ hours. ‘ow in God’s teeth are we goin’ to do it?”
“Naw got days ‘ow’s I rigged it. Any’ow stop yer yammerin’. We got friends who’ll see us right if’n they wants a share o’ the gilt.”
The shorter man gave a braying, evil–sounding laugh that startled the table of dockmen to their left. One of the younger men made to get up and complain but his grizzled haired companion put out a restraining hand and shook his head. The reputation of the two grimy drinkers was known along the river.
The one with the peacock’s feather in his cap grumbled a few more curses then slumped back into the cubby. This was the best cozener’s game they’d ever tried and all manner of men were keen to hand over their gold. He took another couple of hefty swallows and shrugged. Who was going to care about a pair of dead foreigners anyway?
Most deaths were given no more than a cursory glance in the daily mortuary bill of the city. But some deaths it was just too imprudent to encompass or ignore, for one never knew who could be drawn in by the trial of blood and heretical sin.

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