Dear readers, tonight with us is a fun-loving, flirtatious young lady, recently widowed and keen to avoid the nunnery. She volunteers to go to Castle Malwarden as a hostage, hoping to make a second marriage afterwards. She is here to tell about a world full of dragons, plots and treachery.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I grew up the world on the other side of the void. You have your smartphones, democracies and airplanes. We have dragons, noble houses, and our own religion. Someone who came over through a portal called us pagans and said our religion reminded her of mediaeval Catholicism. I’m not sure how she would know that. I mean, it is 2015 in both worlds, and she could not time travel.
Still, I wasn’t offended, and I understood what she meant. Our worlds are completely different. You have cybercrime and climate change. We have ongoing wars between different kingdoms and houses, even if we all follow the same religion.
The wars dominated my life as a child. Being high-born only partially shielded me. By the time I was ten, I had lost all of my family, and so I went to stay with my guardians as their ward. It was there that I met Bessy, another noble girl orphaned by war, and we soon became as close as sisters. She is my rock.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
Being brought up as a noble child meant I had plenty of material possessions, despite the wars. I confess I have always loved the finer things in life.
I’d rather not talk about my childhood. There are too many painful memories there. I’ve lost too many people, and it’s never been my way to dwell on anything painful longer than I need to.
What do you do now?
Well, I’m widowed without children, and I want to marry again. It’s just unfortunate that my behavior has given me a reputation for being overly light-hearted and fickle. Fun to flirt with, good to lie with and agreeable to spend time with but not the right sort of woman to settle down with. No sensible man will propose to me, and few people take me seriously.
However, I have a plan to make people take me more seriously, which will increase my chances of marrying again in time.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
My latest adventure is a direct consequence of my plan. My house, the House of Lothwold in the Woldsheart, needed to exchange three hostages with our enemy, the House of Malwarden in the Westlands, in order to ensure that a recently-declared truce is kept.
It is customary for children to be exchanged, but the only actual rule is that they have to be of noble blood. By offering myself as a hostage, people will appreciate me more, thus raising my chance of making another marriage. (My absence will also give them time to forget my past behavior).
What did you first think when you arrived at Castle Malwarden?
I had never left the Kingdom of the Woldsheart before, so travelling to the Westlands was a new experience, let alone travelling to my enemy’s land! I was absolutely terrified because I and the child hostages would be at their mercy for at least several months. However, I had to at least look calm in order to keep the children calm.
Having said that, the Lord and Lady of the castle were very welcoming. I think I can charm them both, and Lady Cerys is a motherly sort of person who will be kind to the children. I just need to stay on my guard and to remember I am always being watched.
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
The fear of the unknown. I mean, living in Lothwold lands within the Woldsheart is all I’ve ever known. Despite losing my family, I never left my house. Now I’m living far from anywhere I might call home and in enemy territory. I have no control over the situation. If our warriors break the truce, it is likely that I and the child hostages will pay. If the hostages from the House of Malwarden are mistreated, it is likely their kin will take their revenge on me and the children.
I don’t want to think about it because it’s scary and I can do nothing about it.
What is the worst thing about being a hostage?
The fears I have already explained and the knowledge that someone is always discreetly watching me. My behavior must be impeccable at all times. But I don’t like taking life too seriously. I like to flirt, drink and dance. I like to enjoy myself, and I know I must win the hearts of my captors, but it’s such a fine line to tread. And if I make a mistake or my intentions are misunderstood, the consequences could be lethal.
What is the best thing about it?
The only good things are that my being in Castle Malwarden keeps another child safe in Lothwold lands, and I can keep an eye on the two little hostages who came over with me. The other positive is that I know people look at me differently because I have made this sacrifice. People back home saw a more mature, more serious Hawise. When I return, which surely will not be more than a year from now, I will enjoy a new-found respect and be able to marry again.
It’s either that or enter a convent, and I am not the material from which nuns are made!
Tell us a little about your friends.
Bessy is my oldest and dearest friend. We are completely different in many ways, but she is like a sister to me. She’s a few months younger than me, but sometimes it feels like she’s my wise big sister. She’s the sensible one. The one I can always rely on.
I’m getting quite tearful, but after we both lost our families, we sort of became sisters in spirit. I miss her so much.
Any romantic involvement?
Goddess, I wish it were so! No, never mind the stories you hear about my past. I swear that here in the Westlands I will behave myself. There are some handsome men in the castle, but I will be good!
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
I wouldn’t say I hate her, but I cannot take to Lady Margery who lives at the castle. She’s much cooler towards me than anyone else is, and I get the impression that she disapproves of me.
However, there is a mystery around her. She has three children, a boy and two younger twin girls, but I don’t think she has ever been married, and only the boy has a title. A servant also mentioned the girls being half-sisters, which makes no sense because they look the same age.
What are your favourite things?
My favourite things are the reasons why I can never be a nun, even though convents are notoriously lax. I like bad men, good food, too much wine, jewels, fine clothes and dancing. I must be careful how much I drink here, there’s no bigger gossip than a drunk, and men are strictly forbidden for the time being.
What does the future hold for you?
My immediate future lies in the hands of the Lord and Lady of Castle Malwarden. I must keep on their good side.
I hope that in a twelvemonth I will be engaged to be married. However, they say that you should be careful what you wish for, and when the gods wish to punish you, they answer your prayers…
Ruth Danes has enjoyed both history and fiction since her childhood, and she has lived in four different countries. These interests and experiences inspired her to write the Life on Another Island series, which is set in a world where many characters unexpectedly start new lives in foreign, sometimes seemingly hostile, lands. Ruth Danes lives in the heart of England. When she is not busy with her imaginary friends, she likes to dance, travel and walk in the countryside with good companions.
You can meet Lady Hawise on the pages of The Deadly Favour, first in the Woldsheart Chronicles.
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