Prologue

My name is Marian.

My name is Marian, but I was born Marianne, daughter of Arnaud de Quesnel, a Norman lord with lands and titles in England. I claim no loyalty with the Norman court, though I was raised there, with the other Norman nobility, waiting on the king in Poitiers. Like Richard the Lionheart, I was an English noble who had never lived in England, who claimed nothing in England but that which gave me the power I had. My name was Marianne, and this is the story of how I became English.

Richard was deeply entrenched in the Crusades, heavily neglectful of his kingdom, and heartily disliked by his subjects. The Crusades were a popular idea, to reclaim the Christian Holy Land, but they brought tax after tax onto the people. John, his younger brother, was, if possible, even worse than Richard, power-hungry and bitter. He had amassed a group of nobles and knights loyal to him, poised as ever to overthrow his brother and his brother's justiciar. Nothing was certain anymore, and nothing seemed safe.

And I was riding into it.

I had no idea, as I was slumped over my horse's neck in the pouring rain, what was in store for me. I had no idea that soon I would come face to face with adventure, and intrigue, and injustice. I was blissfully unaware of what damage I would do.

This is not a ballad. This is not a fairytale, in which the lines between hero and villain are firmly drawn. There is no bold outlaw, there is no loving damsel, there is no foolish adversary. Things, I fear, are more brutal than that. Harder than that. More complex than can be explained in verse.

I wish to tell you my story, my real story, and if you do not believe me you will not be the first. But believe me, and I will show you a history which to me is more wonderful than anything that has been written, more magical than anything that has been sung or woven, and more honest than anything performed, because it is true.

My name is Marian, and this is the story of my death.