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The Kings Man

by scribbler121 

Posted: 29 June 2003
Word Count: 4694
Summary: Olivier de Malancourt, son of Guy de Malancourt, friend of Prince Richard, soon to become Richard the Lionheart, sets out on an urgent mission with his father, on behalf of the King. Set around the time of the third crusade, the tale takes into account actual places and events.

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The Kings Man


The summer sun beat its way down and into every nook and cranny. There seemed to be nowhere to escape its relentless gaze. The heat was almost touchable and the very air throbbed with a pulsating beat. The earth sighed from its core, and all around held its breath. Stillness reigned, not a birds call, no breeze, not a sound. Anticipation was in the air.
In the year of Our Lord 1188, Philip Augustus sat on the throne of France, and in England, Henry 11 ruled. It was well known that the two kings had no great love for each other, and bitter conflict was never far distant. Since the end of the hard winter frosts, an uneasy truce had enabled crops to be planted, and some semblage of normal life return to the land. Both Royal Houses had patched up their quarrel, and at the request of the Church took crusaders vows to rid the Holy Land of the Muslim invaders. For years the land had known no peace, and strife reigned. Enmity between factions caused bitter disputes between families, and father was set against son. So it was in the Royal House of Angevin. In a fit of temper Richard of Poitou took arms against his Father King Henry, and sided with the French. Old alliances crumbled and the great families of Europe plotted for advantage.
Such was summer in the country that bordered the sea. In the fields of the large domain, men and women toiled, heads shielded against the glare of the midday sun. The grain was almost ripened, and the vineyards were heavy with the promise of a rich bounty of bursting red fruits. In the olive groves cicadas gave voice to the earth, and their sound was a heartbeat giving life to the land.
Olivier had left the confines of the castle early that morning, with Falco, the son of Hugh, captain of the guard. Olivier and Falco had been friends, from the time when they crawled around the castle like two eager kittens. Guy had encouraged his son to develop the friendship, knowing that such bonds became valuable through the years. The two boys were of a similar age, with Olivier being the elder by almost a year, and they were inseparable. Guy had permitted Falco to join Olivier in his studies with Brother Anselm, and both boys spent each morning about their learning. Today, in honour of the return of Olivier’s father, Anselm had released the boys from their studies, and bade them prepare for the imminent arrival. This unlooked for freedom made the boys whoop for joy as they fled, before Anselm could change his mind. “Smarten yourselves up” Anselm called, aware that he was speaking to nothing more than thin air, for the boys had made good their escape. Anslem shook his head and laughed. In many respects he resembled a mother hen, clucking after her chicks. For in truth, he loved the boys dearly, and thanked God for them. Although he ruled with a firm hand, and both Olivier and Falco had felt the lick of the rod he kept in the chamber that served as classroom, he was fiercely protective of his young charges, and over the years the three of them had formed an unbreakable bond. Learning had become all the easier because of the mutual devotion and respect, and both boys were skilled in reading, Latin, Greek, Mathematics, and the study of poetry. So good had the boys become at language that they had invented a code known only to them from a combination of Greek and Latin. Many were the plots and schemes hatched by the miscreants, and around the castle, guards and servants alike became used to finding the odd frog in a sewing basket, or pails of water hung precariously above the guardroom door. Most of the time such high jinks were taken in good part, but neither Olivier or Falco could resist the tirade of strong language, that was the warning that cook was sallying forth from the kitchen, large wooden spoon in hand, to wreak revenge on the two young malcontents who, had placed a large sack of flour above the larder entrance. The site of the ample woman, red faced, and covered in creamy white flour from head to foot, made her seem like a very demon from hell. So it was yesterday, and since then both Olivier and Falco, had given the kitchens a wide birth, preferring the sanctuary of their secret place in the hayloft above the stables.
From his position on the cliffs Olivier De Malancourt, could see the distant speck on the horizon that he knew to be the ship of his returning father.” See Falco” he cried pointing to the tiny black shape, “Father’s ship”, Falco strained to see, he knew that Olivier had keen eyes, and could spot approaching horsemen many minutes before the castle watch. After a short while, he too saw the ship, and ran to clasp Olivier in his arms. The two boys performed an impromptu jig, before crashing to the floor in mock battle. Eventually they fell apart gasping for air, exhausted by their exertions in the heat. Word had reached them three weeks ago that the Duke would be returning, and all preparations were to be made For seven long years Duke Guy De Malancourt aid and friend of the Kings had not set foot on his beloved soil serving the interests of his master King Henry and for seven long years Olivier had had no word from his father. These were perilous times Now fourteen, Olivier was almost a man, and with the coming of each new day seemed to arrive more responsibility, and advice from Odo, his fathers Seneschal. The last seven years had been long and somewhat arduous. His mother the Lady Aline had been ill with a lingering malaise. Her skin was the colour of parchment, and her voice, already soft, was reduced to a mere whisper. This meant that much of the day to day running of the estate with all of its vassal manors fell to Odo, and Olivier, as his father’s eldest son.
Now all that would change, for today saw the return of their Lord and master. All would be well. Messages had arrived at the castle many weeks ago foretelling of the arrival of the Baron and his entourage. Now the great day had arrived, and with the sun, had come a bustling of activity, to make all the final preparations to receive Guy, and his army.
The distant speck had become a ship, and the sail could be seen silhouetted against the azure sky. This was indeed a good day, and even the sun welcomed the homecoming with a heavenly and exalted splendour. The hour was late and noon approached. A clanging bell from the castle warned Olivier that His fathers ship would soon be pulling into the harbour. The two boys turned on their heels and ran along the cliff path that led to the postern gate nestled deep below the fortress walls. Bursting through the door, making for the kitchens hoping to pick up food on the way. The castle was alive, everywhere people were running and chattering, and in one corner sheets fluttered on lines and washer girls went about their tasks with a renewed vigour. In another soldiers polished their weapons and tidied their liveries, Captains of the castle guard barked their orders, and squires ran to and fro about their masters business. In the huge subterranean kitchens pandemonium reigned under the watchful gaze of Chantelle the castle cook, as foods of all kinds gradually filled the shelves and trestles ranges around the walls. Tonight would be a special feast for the homecoming of the master, and no expense would be spared. Chantelle gazed proudly at her efforts, and knew that she had given of her very best, and that this would truly be a meal to remember.
Olivier viewed all of this from his place near the door. He spied a pile of freshly roasted chickens, and with stealth took one placing it beneath his jerkin before he could be noticed. With a casual whistle and a flick of his head he ran up the stairs that led to the great hall with Falco, and the two boys secreted themselves in one of the nooks that periodically led off from the spiral stairs. Here they sat to devour the prize, hungrily tearing chunks off the still warm roasted bird
Standing with his back to the fireplace was Odo giving last minute instructions to several of the castle staff. Even Odo seemed ill at ease, for he would shortly be required to give a full account of his actions for the last few years, and he knew that Guy would require the fullest of reports.
As Olivier watched there arose a murmur in the hall and the throng of people parted to reveal the slight figure of the Lady Anne crossing the room with the aid of her ladies. Olivier caught his breath; this was the first time that he had seen his mother outside of her apartments for many months. She made slow progress, and it was plain for all to see that she was in pain. She stopped, and with a gesture beckoned her ladies away, she drew herself up to her full height, and with an effort climbed the dais to her chair. Odo quickly crossed the hall and bowed low before her.
“My Lady, this is indeed a surprise”
With an effort she smiled
“Odo, Let it not be said that My Lord’s lady could not rise to greet her husband, and bid him thrice welcome, be at peace master Seneschal, I shall not whither before my time”
“ Lady” he replied, and bowed again. “It is joy to see you here in your rightful place. It gladdens my heart.
“Tarry no more, and be at peace, make sure that all is ready for the Duke, for now my Lord returns, and I would that he finds all as it should be.
Odo bowed again and turning clapped to signal that the assembled company should be about its business.
Olivier smiled at this happy turn of events, and ran to his mother throwing himself to her lap,
“Have a care Olivier, for I am in discomfort,” she said as she smiled and cradled his head, “Hello Falco” she said seeing the boy standing close to Odo, “ and what havoc have we wreaked to day” Falco smiled and approached Olivier’s mother, a broad smile creasing his sun tanned face. “ Why my lady” he said lifting his hands in a broad gesture of mock horror, “how could you think such a thing. Aline laughed, she loved the boy almost as much as her own, and could not remember a time when to seek one of the lads, had not been to find the other, for where there was one, there was sure to be the other.
“You are quite the young Lord now, and almost full grown.” She said turning to her son,” Is all ready for your father, for I would have him come home to a right royal welcome.”
“ All is as it should be mother, you need not fear. The castle is well prepared and provisioned.”
Aline winced and a cry of pain echoed around the great hall. With an effort she controlled herself, and brushed a tear from her eye.
“Would that he could have a better welcome from me, but my strength fails me”, she motioned to one of the attending girls, who held out a small cup that held a numbing draught of poppy juice. She took the cup from the girl and drank deeply.
“Anne go and prepare my finest gown, for I will greet my Lord as is fitting”
With that she arose with an effort, and leaning on Olivier made her way back to her chambers. Odo looked after her as she went, and recalled the great beauty that she once had been. Her long flowing hair, the colour of flax was now thinning, and cut short. Her beauty was a distant memory. How would the Duke find his wife after all these years? Dismissing the dismal thoughts he set about his business.
Remembering his father Olivier with Falco in close pursuit ran to the battlements, and as he arrived he saw that the ship now entered the harbour. On the quayside there swarmed an army of men. The hour was at hand. The boys ran to the courtyard and finding Odo, walked at the head of the castle guard as they passed through the gates and made their way to the waterfront. As they arrived, the captain of the guard shouted an order and the men at arms formed two ranks. The scarlet and gold of their tunics shone in the afternoon sun, and although air was still dry and hot, a breeze rose from the sea, and cooled the sweat on their brows.
Trumpets sounded and the great ship drew alongside. Within minutes the gangplank came down and the figure of Guy De Malancourt, Duke, confidant and friend of the King stepped down. As he reached the quayside, he stopped and planted his feet. Guy scanned the scene before him. As his eyes alighted on his son his face broke into a huge grin,
“Olivier my boy come to me” Olivier bounded across the quay, and swept into his father’s arms, Guy pulled his son to him with a resounding laugh.
“You have grown, look at you, you are a man”
Guy bowed to his son in mock deference, and smiling said,
“Well my young Lord I have returned, and I ask your leave to enter within.”
Olivier blushed deeply,
“Father you are thrice welcome come and see, all is prepared. Mother is within, an waits upon you.”
At the mention of His wife, a shadow passed over his eyes,
“How is your mother lad does she still ail?”
Olivier had long learned to deal with his mother’s illness with a stoic air, and had grown used playing the man.
“Father she is gravely ill, the malaise saps her strength, and none of her physicians can find the cause. I think you may be the cure, for today she has rallied and waits within in the great hall with her ladies in attendance.”
“Such news greaves me sorely, let me go into her, for I would that my absence pains her no more.
With that Duke Guy broke away from the crowd of followers that accompanied him, and strode off to the great hall. As he went, he called after him,
“Odo attend me within the hour for I would have all the reckoning since my parting.”
Odo bowed low,
“As you please Lord.”


Inside the coolness of the Great Hall Lady Aline sat on her chair on the dais, Her eyes darted around the room anxious not to miss the arrival of her husband. Around her, voices rose in excited chatter, and she knew that the moment so long awaited, could now not be far away. A hush descended amidst the throng and silence fell, all that could be heard was the fluttering of the Ducal banners that spanned the beams high in the rafters.
The mass of bodies parted and there standing before the dais stood Duke Guy De Malancourt. He held out his hands,
“My Lady, How good it does my heart to see you”
Aline smiled, colour rising to her pale cheeks,
“Welcome Lord forgive me for waiting upon the quay for you arrival, I have not the strength now that once I had.”
“No matter, no matter. My welcome is no less warm, nor my heart less full for having to wait moments longer to see your face.”
When finished he turned to the room,
“My Lords I pray you depart, for I would greet my wife in proper manner, go now, for you shall have a full account of my travels over our revels tonight.”
As he finished speaking one and all bowed and the assembled company left the great hall.
Guy turned and took his place next to his wife. A shadow of concern passed over his eyes, as he gazed upon her.
“Aline, how it does my heart good to see you again. The years have been kind to you”
Aline laughed,
“My lord, I know full well that I am but a shadow of the wife that you left behind, I am weary, and it saddens me that I have not the strength to give you fulsome greeting as a dutiful wife should”
“Hush wife. And worry no more; you are all the greeting that a husband could need. And now that I am returned, we must see that you are restored.”
Guy took his wife by the hand and led her gently to her apartments. On reaching the door he turned and said
“By your leave madam I will attend to my affairs, for there is much that I would no as to the direction of my estates over the last years.
“Your Son and Odo have been good stewards, you need have no fear. Olivier is almost full grown, and he wears his duty with pride, and determination”
Guy smiled,
“I know I look at him and see in his face the mirror of my past years.”
Guy kissed his wife on the hand and bowing turned and left her.
Olivier and Odo were waiting for him in the great hall, and as Guy entered Odo motioned him over to a large table spread with piles of parchments. The three sat down and Odo made a full accounting of the years of his stewardship. Guy smiled for the years had been good, and several manors had been added. Altogether Guy had returned a richer man than when he had left. He was a good Lord, and under his eye, his people prospered. After some time, servants entered to light the rushes, for the day grew long and already shadows had crept into the hall. Guy signalled for the meeting to close, and the three took their leave. Servants began to emerge from all corners, and within a short space of time, the hall was transformed with gaily painted banners, tables ladened with flowers and fruits of all kinds, and above in the gallery minstrels began to play. Guy and the Lady Aline took their places at the high table, with Odo and Olivier taking places of honour. As guy sat down, the room erupted with a clamour, as great trenchers of foods were carried into the hall. Whole pigs roasted to perfection, plates of wild fowl. Dates and fruits from the east, brought back by Guy, and delicacies of all kinds were laid before the guests. Olivier looked around him and marvelled at the brightly coloured splendour of the assembled Lords and Ladies. Suddenly the door opened and in strode four knights wearing the colours of the King. A hush fell as the men crossed the room and approached the dais.
“My Lord we are bidden here with all speed at the command of the King, His Majesty King Richard”. A gasp went up from the assembled guests “You are commanded to accompany us to Galliard with all speed and wait upon the new King, For His most Royal Majesty King Henry is dead, and his son, Richard of Poitou now rules in His stead. I am to accompany you with all speed to court. From his seat next to his father Olivier watched carefully as the scene unfolded. Many faces turned to Guy waiting to see how he would react. Guy looked hard at the knights standing before him.
“ I know you well Ralph de Bretagne. But as for these others I cannot vouch”
“Pardon Lord” said Ralph stepping forward and bowing low,
“Forgive my ill manners, the urgency of the hour has driven courtesy from me. Here is Sir Paul Givroch, Aid to King Richard, and Sir Boniface, a worthy knight in the Kings service, and one in whom the King places much high favour. I trust that the assemblage persuades you of the earnestness of my Lord, and that with all speed you will return with us.”
Guy smiled,
“Faith, I know as well as the next man the desires of Richard, be at peace, I bear you no ill will. His majesty must know that I have only today returned from the Holy Land, about His Fathers business”
“ My Lord His Majesty knows full well of your deeds in King Henry’s name, and it is for that reason that time will not tarry but an hour. In two days hence He commands that you present yourself at Galliard. I have with me a letter from His own hand, commanded to be given to none other than yourself.” As he spoke Sir Boniface stepped forward and handed a sealed scroll to Guy. Guy inspected the seal, which was indeed the seal of Angevin, now Richards seal, and breaking it open scanned the contents within.
“See boy”, he smiled as he turned to Olivier,
“How you should attend to your lessons, you never know when you will receive a summons from you King”. Scanning the hall, he stood up,
“Be at peace good people, and return to your revels Odo, make spaces for our guests, I doubt that Richard himself would deny the comforts of a good meal and rest, to his servants.”

At a word from Guy the throng returned to their meal, and the musicians started their playing. Guy broke the seal on the parchment, and took long minutes reading the contents. After a while he looked up and speaking to his wife said,
“Lady I must leave and attend the King, He has issued urgent summons for myself and certain other Lords to wait upon His pleasure at Chateau Galliard. I am to take such retinue as may be urgently prepared. Ralph de Bretagne, Sir Paul, and Sir Boniface, are to accompany me, and give me such aid as I may require. I know not the portents of this summons, save to say that what is not spoken disquiets my heart”
“My Lord I have long known that you are wedded not solely to me, but also to the Kingdom, be about your Lord’s business and go with God and all good grace. I have kept hearth and home these past seven years, a few more weeks will not spoil all.”
Guy gazed at his wife, and with a tenderness that belied his size and demeanour kissed her gently on the brow.
“Odo, make preparations for us to go forth at sunrise. Take such comforts as may be required for our journey. Alert my guard, for they shall accompany me on the road, and…..” here he paused and turning to his son said,
“Make preparations for master Olivier to join us for he shall go with me.”
Olivier looked at his father, his eyes shone, and his heart almost burst with pride and pleasure. For not only was he to be at his father’s side, but he was to meet the King. Once before, many years ago, Olivier had glimpsed the splendid figure of Richard arrayed in red and gold, and with his knights riding behind him, their red cloaks billowing in the wind. Upon their breast the three Lions of the King emblazoned in red gold and Royal Blue. This was a site that no small boy would ever forget, and now he was to join his father, and certainly meet the King, and be presented to Him.
Seeing the crestfallen look on Falco’s face, Guy Turned to his son and said, “well my young Lord, you shall have need to a squire, I wonder who would fit the task “ Olivier took one glance at Falco, “ with your leave father, I should like Falco to ride with me.” Guy smiled, he knew already that bidden or not Falco would find the way to join the party. “Very well son so shall it be” There was much to do, and Olivier begged his father to be allowed to take his leave and make the necessary preparations for the journey. Guy readily agreed and Olivier kissed his mother and along with Falco went to his apartment.
“Guy you will mind him, the boy is not yet grown to be a man, and for all his size and bearing is still young.”
“Have no care for his place is by my side. One day he will be Duke in my stead, and it is time for him to learn his place, at my side, and the side of the King. Come walk with me, He stood up and taking Aline’s hand led her to the stairs, and out of the great Hall. They made their way up to the battlements, and stood looking over the lands that formed their domain. To the south lay the harbour, where Guy’s ship lay alongside the quay, and to the north lay the country that had been in the hands of the Malancourt family for many years, from the time of Duke William, and the great conquest. Guy placed his arm around Aline’s shoulders,
“My love it grieves me to leave you again so soon, I would that it was not so. It seems to me that too many years have passed, and our time has been all to brief.”
Aline looked at her husband and placed her fingers on his lips,
“Hush my love, I have always known that this would be so. A great man attends to great matters, and your life has many calls upon it. Go with all grace, and Godspeed, all will be as it should be upon your return. After seven years, another few weeks will not seem too great.”
Guy held his wife close. In his heart he knew how gravely ill she was, and how bravely she bore it.
“Aline, I shall word to the Abbey of St Jerome, Brother Anselm has much healing skill, and will aid you in your distress. It is said that the power of the risen Lord works in his hands, and God willing he shall bring about a cure.”
“Lord you are kind, I fear that what ails me is beyond hope. But if it were in His will to give me succour, then so be it. I have no great hope of ever finding my strength, but I do take joy from the deeds of my heroic husband. Go with my blessing, and that of your house, and bring fame to your name.”


The morning dawned fair, and by first light the courtyard was again full
of the Hurley burly of castle life. Guy, Olivier and the household had broken their fast. And the final boxes had been added to the wagons.
In the private apartments, Guy and Olivier were making their final farewells to Aline. All that needed to be said, had been said on the previous evening. And all that remained now was the men to take their leave. Guy placed his hands tenderly around Aline’s face, framing her beauty; the contrast of her lily-white skin, to his browned and scarred hands gave her an other worldliness. He kissed her on the forehead, and looked her deeply in the eyes, “farewell my love, be of good heart, for I shall return as soon as I may.” As he turned to leave Olivier hugged his mother, and kissed her on both cheeks.
“Take care my Son and God speed. Play the man, and heed your father, remember to speak well when asked, and mind yourself before the King. He has a gimlet eye, and will brook no rejoinder.”
“ I will mother, do not fear, I shall return to you a captain of the Kings guard. I shall wear the Lion on my surcoat.”

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Comments by other Members

scribbler121 at 11:41 on 02 July 2003  Report this post
Hi I have posted up the re-write, does this now read any better, does Olivier create an empathy with the reader, and does the increased background help.

Naomi at 21:35 on 03 July 2003  Report this post
This is very thorough and an interesting subject. There is also some good writing and ideas here. But I think more can be done to really grip readers’ attention and hold it. This is especially important for young readers. Yes, you are right to add background, but I suspect readers may lose interest in the background unless you have first created a situation that is going to really excite them and ignite their imaginations. This needs to be something that a 21st century kid can relate to and identify with, even though in a 12th century context. Also, to show that the story is going to be very much from the boys’ perspective, it may be nice to bring some dialogue between them in much earlier and for it to really show their personalities and the relationship between them. With a little bit of attention, the text could benefit from having a lighter and more accessible feel to it. Sorry, I haven't seen the previous version, so I hope these comments don't contradict what has already been suggested!

bluesky3d at 22:37 on 03 July 2003  Report this post
Peter hi,

The previous version did not have Falco, and I think that having two boys certainly works better than when Olivier was alone, and allows chance for the promise interplay between the two later.

You have certainly enhanced the background! As Naomi says, perhaps now you need to introduce some dialogue early to sustain interest and to redress the balance.
Could there be some dialogue between Olivier and Falco even before any description at all?

There is now also a more valid a reason for being summoned by the King as he is new on the throne, I do not recall that before.

Question? Do young boys play like kittens or perhaps young pups?

You have uploaded it twice and I have no record of what comments were made on the two previous occasions (other than from memory), as they were deleted. You could, if you wished, substitute new for old as an amended version? Or load up a new version as version 2. As I am relatively new on the site too, I do not know the preferred procedure. But I get the feeling that people enjoy seeing the comments on work, and watching its development.

How do you write, do you know the story before hand, or do you decide upon the plot as you go?

Enjoyed it anyway, as the two previous times.


old friend at 07:20 on 02 October 2003  Report this post
I enjoyed this very much.

I have not read many historical novels so I cannot comment on the style which seemed to me to be'right' but it can make such work appear to be a little ponderous.

If your target audience is the young reader then perhaps more dialogue, in some cases shorter sentences and even your having a look at the paragraphing.

The strong image I received while reading was of a Hollywood film and the language that their scriptwriters attribute to characters 'of that era'.

If, as I suspect, your target audience is to be 'general' then I would have liked more of the 'wider' aspects of the characters to be hinted at, described or uttered from their own lips

Perhaps that will come later on?

Let's have more, please. A nice piece of work... I envy your research abilities.



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