Usurper’s Curse


Usurper’s Curse opens when a seriously ill gentleman is found collapsed at the cottage door of the Lady of the Manor’s forester, Alwan.  Not knowing how to care for this well-dressed, courtly man, the forester takes him to the manor house where the Lady Apollonia’s staff nurse him back to health. As he improves, he asks that a dear friend be brought to him, the Knight, Sir Julian Thurstan.  The young gentleman Mark Marimon is court physician to King Henry IV who is rumored to be suffering from serious illness, and his well-trained physician is anxious to return to court but with the protection of his friend, Sir Julian.

A malevolent Sicilian Count Dravini had wormed his way into the court of King Henry and managed to insert his own healer into the care of the king.  Dravini is furiously insulted when he and his healer are both thrown out of the court and refused contact with the king by an act of parliament against any foreigners serving the monarch.

Lady Apollonia’s brother Ferdinand, the Earl of Marshfield, is invited by the Archbishop Arundel to spend time with the king at his bedside to encourage him to remember his days as a famous knight, a renowned chivalric hero, and not focus upon his present sickness.  A rumor continues to spread through the kingdom that the king has leprosy, but the king’s physician Marimon knows that is not true and assures Ferdinand that he will not be exposed to the disease when spending time in the king’s presence.

Lady Apollonia is convinced that Count Dravini and his villainous henchman are hired by some in the English nobility who have rebelled against King Henry.  When one of Dravini’s knights is murdered with his prostitute, the teenage lad who served the knight is accused of the murders when he is found asleep on the same bed as the corpses in the murder chamber.  The teenager Waldef is shaken awake by the sheriff and told that he will hang.  Continually insisting upon his innocence, Waldef claims the protection of the Lady of Aust.

To usurp means to take a position of power by force, and “usurper” was charged against King Henry IV because he was the leader of a group of nobles who dethroned Richard II but then seized the throne for himself.  After coming to the throne, King Henry was afflicted with continuous illnesses that he grew to be convinced were Divine Retribution against him for the usurpation and the death of King Richard.

The Lady Apollonia and her brother, the Earl Ferdinand, are known supporters of King Henry, and because of their loyalty, they are made to face a series of attacks against them.  She and her brother, as Sheriff of Gloucestershire, work together to find ways to protect themselves and their households.  Apollonia becomes determined to prove Waldef’s innocence, to expose the villainous Sicilian Count Dravini, and finally discover who among the English nobility are using the count’s villainy against the king.  Wycliffe and Lollardy, traveling minstrels, clandestine plots against King Henry, all add to the compulsion of the narrative.

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