The Colour of Rubies by Toni Mount
Murder lurks at the heart of the royal court in the rabbit warren of the Palace of Westminster.
The year is 1480. Treason is afoot amongst the squalid grandeur and opulent filth of this
medieval world of contrasts. Even the Office of the King’s Secretary hides a dangerous
Meeting with lords and lackeys, clerks, courtiers and the mighty King Edward himself, can
Seb Foxley decipher the encoded messages and name the spy?
Will Seb be able to prevent the murder of the most important heir in England?
All will be revealed as we join Seb Foxley and his abrasive brother Jude in the latest
intriguing adventure amid the sordid shadows of fifteenth-century London.
King Edward himself processed up the aisle, Queen Elizabeth at his side and a gaggle
of befeathered, beribboned courtiers trailed behind the royal couple.
Seb craned his neck to get a better view. He had never been this close to the king
before. Edward, though, was hard to miss, tall as Zeus and broader than a warhorse.
He wore a glittering diadem about his brow – as if he needed it to mark him out a king –
and a wide grin that verged upon outright laughter. Someone must have told him a fine
jest. Quite the opposite, when Seb caught a glimpse of the queen, was her expression
akin to that of someone who had a mouth full of lemons or had swallowed vinegar. This
was his first ever look at Elizabeth Woodville. She was a rare beauty in her youth, so it
was said, but he thought she was become a gaunt, sour matron and could see little to
attract any man now. Her pale hair, alabaster skin and robes of cloth-of-silver, trimmed
with white fox, made her seem a creature carved from ice and did but add to the chill of
Edward wore an ermine-lined gown of purple velvet over a doublet of green cloth-of-
gold. The bejewelled belt at his waist would encircle Seb three times with length to
spare. Behind the king, Seb caught sight of Lord Hastings’s hat over the heads of the
congregation. It was of pearl-studded black velvet adorned with a golden ostrich plume.
Once the royal couple were seated, the plume was easily visible, bobbing each time
Hastings moved in his position, standing by the king’s chair.
Then the High Mass began with the lighting of a thousand candles or it seemed at least
that many to Seb. But their light was of little significance compared to the sun streaming
through the stained glass, turning the chapel into a living illuminated miniature of the
most marvellous colours. How joyously it lifted Seb’s spirit!
But later, after so bright an interlude, the scriptorium was as dour as ever. Its windows
faced north and were of plain glass. No hint of colour cheered this place and Seb’s joy
abated all too swiftly. Secretary Oliver was disgruntled and caustic as usual as his
clerks settled at their desks. Fortunately, Barnabas had done his duty before mass,
kindling the brazier and setting the ink to thaw so work could commence without delay.
Jude arrived in the nick of time to avoid a reprimand and took his place next to Seb.
‘God give you good day, brother,’ Seb whispered. ‘I needs must speak with you later,
concerning the attack upon Chesca. I trust she has suffered no after effects?’
‘She’s well. Better than she deserves, being so bloody careless. She’d spent fourteen
pence of my hard-earned money – a damned fortune – on wine and food and then
leaves it lying in the bloody gutter. Stupid mare. I told her …’
‘Silence, Foxley!’ Oliver bellowed, rapping his knuckles on the arm of his cushioned
chair. ‘Get on with your work or I’ll dock you sixpence.’
‘How much! You can’t do that. Nobody gets stopped a full day’s pay just for speaking
a few bloody words.’ Jude came to his feet, blustering and outraged, overturning his
stool with a crash.
‘I’ll stop you a whole shilling for insolence, if you don’t get on with it.’
‘You wouldn’t dare.’
‘Jude,’ Seb said, righting the stool and pulling his brother back down onto it. ‘Have a
care. Say naught more, I beg of you.’
Jude tugged his gown from Seb’s grasp.
‘Keep out of this, you. You started it by talking to me.’
‘I gave you good day …’
‘I should’ve bloody ignored you,’ Jude shouted.
‘Silence!’ Oliver roared, leaving his chair. ‘Outside, both of you. Now!’ He waved his
staff of office in threatening wise. ‘I’ll not have my scriptorium turned into a bear-pit nor
my clerks yelling at each other like drunken fishwives.’
They followed the secretary out into the passageway. Seb left the door ajar. The excited
babble of the other clerks could be heard at their departure, like schoolboys eagerly
anticipating their fellows’ punishment at the hands of the master. But Oliver went back
and closed the door. There would be no eavesdropping by the others – and no
witnesses to whatever was said or befell.
Jude stood tall, defiant as ever. His eyes were dark with the fires of rage. He had the
advantage of being half a head above the secretary. Seb less so, but even he could
look Oliverin the eye, if he dared. However, the King’s Secretary had the advantage of
royal authority which made it less than a fair match.
‘You!’ Oliver poked Seb in the chest with a fat finger. ‘I’ll be speaking with Lord
Hastings about you. I will have you removed from this office. You’re a disruptive
influence: all ran smoothly until you came.’
He turned to his attention to Jude.
‘As for you, you tardy, idle, good-for-nothing trouble-maker …’ He stabbed at Jude with
Jude grabbed the man’s finger, twisted it and bent it backwards. The audible snap of
bone was sickening.
Oliver went white as bleached parchment. It was a long moment before he was able to
cry out. Then he crumpled in a swoon, falling on the cold flagstones.
Toni Mount is the author of several successful non-fiction books including How to Survive in Medieval England and the number one best-seller, Everyday Life in Medieval England. Her speciality is the lives of ordinary people in the Middle Ages and her enthusiastic understanding of the period allows her to create accurate, atmospheric settings and realistic characters for her medieval mysteries. Her main character, Sebastian Foxley is a humble but talented medieval artist and was created as a project as part of her university diploma in creative writing. Toni earned her history BA from The Open University and her Master’s Degree from the University of Kent by completing original research into a unique 15 th century medical manuscript.
Toni writes regularly for both The Richard III Society and The Tudor Society and is a major contributor to MedievalCourses.com. As well as writing, Toni teaches history to adults, and is a popular speaker to groups and societies.
Link to Purchase: The Colour of Rubies
Link to Author Website: www.tonimount.com