Saint Alexis Day, the eighth year of the reign of King Richard
Treason. How I despise the word. The very notion. Under the old King Edward, such whispers would have found the sharp end of my blade. I would have defended the crown with my last breath.
My lord of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, was mentor and father to me both. I learned what it was to be a knight at his knee. And he made me a knight in body and in truth, using his own sword to do so. It was my proudest moment. I was not much older than the king is now. But I wore that mantle with pride and held my honor dear. Treason was the farthest thing from my mind. Even as I write these words I scarce believe I was capable.
Alas. I was more than capable.
Was I blinded by the duke's magnificence? Did his shining example of chivalry and might dazzle me beyond my ability to reason? Or is it a mere excuse I weave to wisk the blame away from my own shoulders? But no. It wasme and me alone who listened to the whispers; listened and tucked away the notion of "treason" in a secure hiding place, one where I could not look it full in the face. Richard, the duke' s ten-year-old nephew, was to take the crown, while my duke, my lord, would stand behind him in the shadows. The Parliament trusted him not and wanted that role even more diminished. Was this just? Was this wise for the kingdom? Richard, an untried youth and my lord, warrior, prince, king of Castille in his own right? Was he to step aside?
I did not broach my complaints. But others did. Others in high places whispered of setting the duke on the throne as was his rightful place. And when I heard these whispers, I knew that it was treason. I should have, at the very least, shunned these men. I should have talked with Lancaster. But the notion had bored a hole in my head. It took hold like a sickness and I could not shake its hold of me.
Lancaster was my lord. I saw the wisdom of it. If he was to hold the crown of England in his own safekeeping, I had to join my name to the men who would make it happen.
I should have died with the others. They were captured one by one. I knew not how they were given up, if they were forced by the hand of the torturers to list the names or if another hissed their identities into the shadows. But when my time came, I did not resist. I knew it was treason from the first. Treason. And I was shamed. Not when they stripped my colors or my sword. No. I was shamed far earlier than that. For I had nailed my name to the gibbot of traitors and dishonored my leige lord and my name. I deserved my fate. How could I know it was by his plea that I was to be spared?
Spared. I would not suffer the fate of a traitor. I would not be marched naked to my gibbot and emasculated, ripped apart, and flung away like so much offal. No. I was spared. And yet, as it turned out, I was not entirely set free. Stripped naked of my life and my honor. Emasculated from my knighthood. And flung away into the dungheaps of London. Never to be heard from again. Or so King Richard thought. It was not my intention to become known again. I was already infamous, and for four years for all anyone knew, I had disappeared off the face of the earth. To be reborn as the Tracker was certainly never my objective. Had God forgiven me and set me on this path? I do not know. But here I am. And here I must stay.