Bishop Lamberton grasped his squire by a shoulder, pushing him toward the open doors at the end of the long, high-arched hall. James twisted out of Lamberton's grasp and whirled to face him. A youth of sixteen, dark-eyed and slender as a knife, James flushed with anger.
“I won’t swear fealty to him."
Lamberton sighed. For an obedient lad, James was being amazingly difficult. "James, do you want your lands back? Your father's title?"
James drew himself up. "You know I do. I must have them.” He shoved shaking fingers through the black tumble of his hair. "My people need me, and it's where I belong. I've sworn to get back what was stolen from my father--a sacred oath."
"Then you must bend a knee to King Edward."
James reluctantly advanced. He knelt not on the crimson carpet directly in front of the King - as a mere squire he didn’t dare presume such an honor - but on the black stone floor slightly to the side. Even as his knee touched the cold granite, it occurred to him that from this position he could strike the King down with one thrust.
To the side of the hall stood silently Sir Crispin, an ally of James’s late father and like James, clad in the black livery of James’s house. If only James were already a knight like Sir Crispin, he would fight for his birthright rather than serving as a pawn in the struggles of the powerful.
The King rose from his throne, advanced to where James knelt, and raised his sword. But instead of accepting James’s oath, he lopped the young squire’s head off with a deft stroke. Sir Crispin, livid with outrage, moved two steps to the right and one ahead, his sword menacing the King and cutting off all escape.
Thus did Myron Finkbiner, for the third year in a row, retain his title as the Association of Historical Fiction Writers’ chess champion.
Opening: J.R. Tomlin.....Continuation: John