The Colour of Rubies

Murder Lurks in the Palace of Westminster

Toni Mount

BLURB for THE COLOUR OF RUBIES

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 secret.
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.

Praise for Toni Mount's The Colour of Rubies
Tony Riches, author of The Tudor Trilogy “An evocative masterclass in storytelling.”
Carol McGrath, author of the She-wolves trilogy “I was utterly transported - It’s superb”. “What a plot. What characters. Perfect pitch”.
“I loved the relationship between Seb and Jude”.
“The Colour of Rubies is a totally immersive experience as richly stitched as one of King Edward IV’s gorgeous tapestries. This cleverly plotted novel with its twists and turns will keep a reader page turning late into the night until the book’s final scenes. Sebastian and Jude are wonderfully realised personalities with similar emotions, concerns, fears and hopes we have have today. Their medieval London felt real and intriguing to me with unexpected dangers lurking in alleyways. I felt as if I was walking in Sebastian’s footsteps. With this thrilling novel Toni Mount has shown herself a master of medieval suspense. More please”.


PRAISE FOR TONI MOUNT'S SEBASTIAN FOXLEY MEDIEVAL MURDER SERIES

Tracy Borman, historian and broadcaster “An atmospheric and compelling thriller that takes the reader to the dark heart of medieval London.”
Matthew Lewis author of Richard III Loyalty Binds Me “Toni Mount continues to delight with the superbly crafted Seb Foxley mysteries. Impeccable research and sculpted characters combine with an engaging narrative to create another irresistible story. This series goes from strength to strength, and I’m already looking forward to the next instalment”
J.P. Reedman, author of the I, RICHARD PLANTAGENET series: “Sebastian Foxley is the Cadfael of the 15th century”.
“The Sebastian Foxley Medieval Mystery Series by Toni Mount is not only filled by dastardly murders and gripping intrigue but contains many well-researched historical facts from the Wars of the Roses era”
Samantha Willcoxson, author & historian “Toni Mount is simply brilliant”.
“If you love CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake (and I do) you will love Toni’s Sebastian Foxley”.
“From learning how a 15th century scrivener created illuminated manuscripts to venturing within the dank tunnels beneath the Tower of London, Toni is an artist who completely immerses the reader in another time and place and always leaves one eager for the next book.”
Stephanie Churchill, author of historical fiction and epic fantasy “Leave it to Seb to unravel another international spiderweb of intrigue, betrayal, murder, and deceit. Our flawed, loveable hero has done it again. And at the end of it all, his future is looking brighter than ever. I cannot wait to find out what happens to him next!”
Sharon Bennet Connoly, author and medieval historian “A beautifully crafted mystery that brings the dark, dangerous streets of medieval London to life. Toni Mount is a magician with words, weaving a captivating story in wonderful prose. The Colour of Evil is, to put it simply, a pleasure to read.”
Rosalie Gilbert, medieval historian and author “The author's knowledge of medieval history shines through the narrative in the small details which enhance the story woven into it. The details about the inside workings of medieval trade practices lent themselves perfectly for a background to murder and deceit”.
“Recommended for lovers of historic fiction.”
Joanne R Larner author of Richard Liveth Yet trilogy: “I always look forward to a new 'Colour of...' book. I can't wait to see what escapades Seb Foxley and his brother, Jude, get up to next. They, and all the characters, are endearing and colourful. The books are always well written, conjuring 15th century London into the reader's mind and the plots are excellent!'
Mel Starr bestselling author of the Hugh de Singleton chronicles: “If I believed in reincarnation I would be willing to think that Toni Mount lived a previous life in 15th century London. The scents, the sights, the tastes of the late Middle Ages are superbly rendered.”

Book Excerpt

When Master Curran had departed, Seb was alone in the dormitory. The others were all at their work, leaving him to lie against the pillow and consider his situation. Head wounds being notorious for the amount of gore they produced, his clothes were blood-soaked and whosoever had attacked him had nigh torn them from his back. Filthy mud and horse dung caked everything. Ripped and stained, he had no garments sufficiently clean, undamaged and respectable to wear. The clerk's gown was a heap of evil-smelling rags kicked under his bed.

He had not the least idea how he had made the journey from Thieving Lane to the dormitory, whether he managed it by himself or by the aid of another. He seemed to have been the victim of a vicious robbery and yet he still had his boots and gloves – both worth stealing. Was it not fortunate his purse was left here? No thief could have resisted that.

With utmost care, Seb eased off the bed. The walls spun somewhat but settled. He removed the vial from the coffer top and crouched to open the lid. The few items of clothing within should all have gone for laundering but at least they were of a piece. He pulled on nether-clouts and a pair of hose, a grubby shirt, ink-splotched at the sleeve-ends, but it would have toserve. He had brought but one doublet from home and was wearing it last eve. Now all the eyelets were torn through and it could be laced no longer, in addition to blood stains, dried black as ink, marring its once-woad-blue wool. The worst damage had befallen his thick woollen and leather jerkin, cut through with a blade, by the look of it, and gore-drenched. How easily that blade might have gone deeper and sliced flesh – his flesh. It did not bear thinking upon. But what to do? He possessed but one jerkin and it was the warmest thing he had to wear. Now it looked to be beyond repair.

Seb fished the clerk's gown from under the bed. It had ever been a sorry piece, its thin cloth faded and the seams failing. He shook it out and held it up, wrinkling his nose at the stink. He must have lain in a pile of dung. Now stained and rent, the gown was hardly fit to wipe the floor, never mind wear. His hands came away bloodied where it had not yet dried completely.

Looking over at the serving table, hoping there was a little ale left from last eve to slake his thirst and to take the remedy for his headache, the board was bare – not so much as a crumb remained to break his fast. Not that he had any desire for food, feeling somewhat queasy, but he was thirsty indeed. He wondered at the hour. No sign of the sun beyond the dirty window, the sky grey and featureless as a blank page of poor-quality paper. Disconsolate, he returned to his bed and wrapped the meagre blanket around himself. Without clothing, he could not goto the scriptorium to work nor to the hall for dinner. What was expected of him?

Seb's query was answered when one of the servitors who slept in the bed in the farthest
corner, by the window, came in bearing a tray and some clothing draped over his arm James Penny by name, if he recalled aright.

'Hal Sowbury bade me look in on you, if I had the chance,' James said, setting the
tray on the end of the bed. 'And he said to find you something to wear. No idea if these'll fit but they're better than naught. And you can borrow his spare gown to go down to dinner, if you're able? It's in his coffer.'

'I be grateful indeed to both you and Master Sowbury for taking the trouble.'

James laughed.

''Tis no act of charity. The scriptorium is short of two clerks now. He wants you back
at your desk before the paperwork buries them all.'

'I shall do so as soon as I be decent,' Seb said. 'What be the hour?'

'The bell for Terce rang in the abbey just a while since. Dinner isn't for nigh on two
hours. If I were you, I'd make the most of this unexpected leisure. Enjoy your breakfast.'

When James Penny left, closing the door, Seb straightway reached for the cup of ale on the tray. He unstoppered the vial and added just two drops of the remedy into it and stirred it with his finger. It did not taste too bad but gave the ale a bitter edge. He would rather have taken the meadowsweet cure Rose made at home to treat pains of all sorts, especially headaches, but this would have to do. Hopefully, by dinnertime, the throbbing would have eased enough for his thoughts to be better ordered. At present, thinking was a difficult process, he discovered.

He was unsure about eating the fresh bread and cheese James had brought but a few tentative bites settled his queasiness and he ate most of the food before turning his attention to the items of clothing. A clean shirt – a mercy for sure. A pair of brown hose, darned and repaired but, likewise, clean though they might be too wide for him. No matter. A brown doublet of well-worn wool, darned and not of recent fashion, being unpadded at the shoulders and untailored at the waist. Not that Seb cared for courtly fashion anyway. It must once have beena splendid garment for the braiding was of silver thread, now tarnished black. At least the cloth was yet thick enough to give some warmth. But there was no jerkin nor any additional layers. Seb decided to keep his own dirty shirt on and put the clean one atop it. As he feared, the hose hung in wrinkles at thigh and knee but were of a good length for him, otherwise. The doublet also had room to spare but, mayhap, the styles had been looser in the past. Pulling on his own boots – still muddied and, he suspected, bloodied – he felt warm at last.

The only problem now was headwear. The clerks were expected to wear a coif 'neath the hood of their gown. Seb's coif had been lost last eve and even had it been found, like everything else, it was probably bloodstained. Anyhow, a coif was never going to fit over his bandages. He touched his hair with tentative fingers. It was stiff and set hard on the left side, below the bindings. Should he attempt to comb it? Finding his comb in the bottom of the coffer, he made an effort to tease out his hair, to no avail. Wetting the comb in the laver bowl produced some results but the water was swiftly turned to rust-colour by a mix of old blood and mud. He did his best but had no mirror to assess whether there was any noticeable improvement. His hair still felt stiff and spiky as a faggot of kindling and his efforts made him wince as the stitches pulled. He conceded defeat, fearing to tear the wound open. However dishevelled his appearance, his fellow clerks would not care, so long as he could hold a pen.

Wearing Hal Sowbury's third-best gown – though patched, it was of far better quality than the one he had been wearing – Seb went down the stair when the bell rang to announce dinnerin the Great Hall. He trod carefully, keeping one hand against the wall forwhy he felt a little light-headed and feared to fall. Mayhap, he was not so well recovered as he thought. Mayhap,it was the surgeon's potion. No doubt but some hot food would help.

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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 15th 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.

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