Home > The Dark Spawn (Battle Lords of de Velt #4)

The Dark Spawn (Battle Lords of de Velt #4)
Author: Kathryn Le Veque





The Month of May

Year of Our Lord 1210 A.D.

Farringdon House, London

Property of William Marshal

“What is happening?” A battle-scarred knight with a heavy Irish accent spoke softly. “Does anyone know why we’ve been summoned?”

He was speaking to a group of men, hovering in the same room, standing silently as they waited in the darkness, with only a flickering fire to light the surprisingly ornate solar of one of the greatest knights in England. It was William Marshal’s domain, the lair of England’s greatest agents.

Spies… killers… gentlemen knights.

They had been summoned.

It smelled like death.

The first floor solar of Farringdon House was a meeting place, one that William Marshal used to summon the great and powerful of England. It covered nearly half of the floor. There was easily room for fifty or more men in the solar with its great stone hearth, exposed beams overhead, and painted walls. The floor was made from thick slats of wood, but pocked from men who had walked upon it with their spurs and heavy boots. It was a spectacular room, meant for men of greatness.

Tonight was no exception.

The knight’s question was met with silence, for truthfully, no one had an answer for him. In fact, they all had the very same question.

Why had they been summoned?

Perhaps only one man really had an answer.

“Sit, lads.” Christopher de Lohr, Earl of Hereford and Worcester, took his own advice and planted himself in a cushioned chair next to the hearth. The chair groaned under his bulk. “We shall all know soon enough.”

Words of wisdom from the great earl. The group of knights began to settle down, waiting for William Marshal to make an appearance.

And what a group it was.

The big Irish knight who had asked the question was a legacy knight from the House of de Winter. Sir Bric MacRohan was the biggest, meanest knight this side of Eire and The Marshal found him a particularly effective intimidation tool. Next to him, and related to him by marriage, was Sir Dashiell du Reims, captain of the army for the Duke of Savernake. They didn’t come any more talented than Dash.

Standing over near the enormous and elaborate table that contained wine and refreshments were a few more knights who had decided that drinking their liege’s fine wine and eating the sweets provided were a good enough diversion to pass the time. David de Lohr, Earl of Canterbury and Christopher’s younger brother, was one of them. In a chamber full of talented warriors, David was the crème de la crème. There was no one faster with a blade in all of England. Next to him stood Kress de Rhydian and Achilles de Dere, men who were known throughout England as the original Executioner Knights.

If there was a dirty job, they would do it.

Their leader, Maxton of Loxbeare, was standing near the window, looking out over the London streets as they quieted down for the night. Maxton was a noble knight with a dark streak in him and he owed a debt to The Marshal, which is why he and Kress and Achilles served the man. At least, it had been a debt in the beginning when The Marshal had secured their release from a French prison, but these days, they served him out of loyalty.

They might have been assassins, but they were also men of honor.

But there were more men, still. Kevin de Lara, a young knight of great skill, came from a fine Marcher family, while next to him stood Alexander de Sherrington, another Executioner Knight. He would do anything, to anyone, with no regrets. And leaning against the wall near him was Caius d’Avignon, an enormously tall and formidable knight known as The Britannia Viper.

His name said it all.

Rounding out the group were two of the youngest members in Peter de Lohr, son of Christopher, and Cullen de Nerra, son of the Itinerant Justice of Hampshire. They were great knights from great families, and much was expected of them. As agents for William Marshal, that meant that they were the most elite of warriors.

The final member of the collection was perhaps the most intimidating and frightening, even more than MacRohan and The Britannia Viper. His name was Gart Forbes, a monster in battle, and a knight who had served the de Lohrs for years before he married the Dowager Baroness of Buckland. Now, he had his own empire in the wilds of Devon, but he was never far from The Marshal should the man have need of him.

All of these great men, waiting for William Marshal to make an appearance.

Fortunately, the wait wasn’t an excessive one.

The time and day had already been pre-destined, so they knew that they were expected, but William Marshal was late. Then they heard a door slam down on the floor below, something that had heads lifting, senses attuned. There were footfalls on the great stone staircase that led to the solar, and as the footfalls drew closer, the knights grew more focused. There was more than one set of footsteps. More than one man was approaching.

Something was afoot.

The great double doors to the solar burst open.

“Excellent,” William Marshal said, pulling off his cloak. “Is everyone here?”

Christopher stood up from his chair next to the hearth. “Aye,” he said, noting that William was quite rushed. “Everyone is here. How may we be of service?”

William heard him but didn’t acknowledge him, at least not right away. He was clearly preoccupied. He tossed the cloak aside and moved for the table where the wine was kept, pouring himself a measure without even offering any to anyone else, including the man who had entered the chamber behind him and was now quietly closing the doors.

Sir Sean de Lara, bodyguard to King John and a secret agent for William Marshal, was the last man into the chamber.

Enormous and terrifying, the man known throughout royal and military circles as Lord of the Shadows found Christopher in a chamber full of men, his expression suggesting that something quite serious was about to take place. It put Christopher on edge, and also David, who came to stand next to his brother. Between them, they controlled a massive army and huge swathes of England, so anything that had both de Lohr brothers involved had to be big, indeed. They just didn’t know what it was.


As the room full of seasoned men waited expectantly, William downed a full cup of wine and poured himself another.

“I sent for all of you weeks ago, so I will not delay my reasons,” he said, smacking his lips as he turned to the room. “I have just come from a meeting with the king. It seems that William, the illustrious King of Scotland, is preparing a large and secretive alliance, so secretive that I have had three agents involved in the quest to get to the bottom of what is happening. It has taken time and money and connections to discover what we need to know, but you should be aware at the outset that this is so serious, Ajax de Velt’s army is marching into Scotland as we speak. I have turned the man loose and he has orders to massacre. You know what that means.”

One could have heard a pin drop in the silence that followed, silence so tense and shocking that it was nearly palpable. Ajax de Velt was legendary in the annals of England’s history, a man who, in his prime, had the most brutal and barbaric mercenary army in the known world. Jax had conquered a portion of the Welsh Marches by not only defeating armies, but putting all living men who had surrendered or had been captured on stakes for all to see.

A forest of macabre bodies, the legends said. Jax took no prisoners – every man, woman, and even child captured alive had not been spared. Jax’s zenith had been five straight years of terror, five straight years of showing no mercy to those he conquered, and all of England, Scotland, and Wales lived in fear of the man.

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