Madeleine, her maid and companion since childhood, interrupted her reverie. “Can you believe it? You’re to be married into such a grand house. I’d be nervous.”
“I am, a bit,” Gwendolyn admitted and stretched her hand out to clasp Madeleine’s. “I wonder,
though, why Father made Richard stay behind. It seemed a sudden decision, and I wanted both my brothers to attend my wedding.”
“Your father has his reasons, I’m sure.” The maid’s smile did not reach her eyes.
“Of course. I’m most grateful my father allowed you to accompany me.”
“He knows better than to separate us.”
Gwendolyn squeezed her hand once and sat back. Madeleine returned the squeeze, but they both knew where the line had been drawn. Everything Gwendolyn learned, Madeleine did as well. She knew how to run a great house, how to dress and conduct herself as a lady, and how to use house politics to her advantage. But she would never need those things. She was, after all, a companion, a maid—not highborn.
A scream stopped their conversation. Another scream of pain followed. The litter shuddered to a stop. Yells and curses washed over the women in a cacophony. Swallowing hard, Gwendolyn raised her hand halfway and paused. In a burst of courage, she jerked the curtains open, daring to look. Arrows whistled through the air, puncturing men and animals alike. Ill-clad ruffians leapt from behind the bracken, brandishing arms and giving offense, attacking anyone within reach. Lord Hampton fell, mortally wounded, his shield splintered. Not far from him lay her brother, Phillip, pierced by arrows. She understood instantly as she ducked back in. Her father and younger brother were dead. Now only her oldest brother, Richard, and she carried the Hampton line.
“They’re slain!” Her eyes, wide and alarmed, fixed on Madeleine while her mind whirled. “Richard must be warned!”