"Le Château du Feu Ardent — I picked the name because of you, Dorothée. It is your wedding gift,” said André-Benoit. The jarring carriage ride made his voice tremble.
He had a broad smile with a slight gap between his front teeth. Short, grey-brown bangs spread across his wide forehead like delicate fringe and deep lines framed the mouth of the man who was over twice his bride’s age.
Dorothée peeked from behind the curtain. “Can we get off by the stables? I want to see the grounds before dusk!”
The carriage turned from the main road, and through the trees she glimpsed the pointed peaks of the castle. The horses’ hooves pattered to a halt, and André-Benoit took her hand as she stepped down from the carriage. Her crimson hair spilled onto her shoulders. She reached up to control it.
“It came loose during the ride,” she said.
“No, keep it down. Your beautiful red hair inspired the name of the Château…” He bent close to whisper, “And so did our fiery passion.”
Dorothée flushed and glanced at Patricia, her lady-in-waiting, and the driver who were busy gathering her things. “André-Benoit, you should not say such things in front of the servants!”
They walked to the main road. She caught a sweet fragrance and looked to her right to see a grove of budding trees. “Apple blossoms?” she asked.
“Yes.” He pointed. “There’s our orchard and beyond it, the vineyard. We have a barn with livestock and horses, and a garden that is just waiting for you to plant flowers. The clergy who once lived here made the Château entirely self-sufficient. Everything you could possibly want is right here, my dear.”
As they strolled under the canopy of trees, Dorothée saw the splendor of Le Château du Feu Ardent. Sublime towers reached for the clouds, two of which were a full three stories in height. A third, somewhat thicker one, reminded her of a fat, little friar with a pointed hood. Ivy climbed the walls, which were grey and green and seemed alive. Far back, behind the other towers, was a thin, solitary turret, black and anomalous. Even from a distance, she could see that it was constructed in a long-gone era — primitive — with crude bricks that didn’t match the rest of the architecture.
“It is breathtaking! And it once belonged to the Church?”
“They abandoned it after the pestilence. It sat vacant for a long time. The Diocese and the King granted it to me with my lordship.”
“Does that mean you owe them?”
He levelly contended, “No. I owe no debt. The castle is a reward for my service and loyalty.”
“How queer for them to grant such valuable property so liberally. The Church is known for hoarding wealth. They give up nothing unless they have an agenda,” she said with a huff of contempt.
He stopped and spun his bride to face him. “Dorothée, you speak like a Huguenot!”
She assumed the demeanor of a proper wife. Smiling cordially, she nodded into a quick, cute curtsy. “I tease, dear husband! The Church is most gracious, and the King generous to reward you so handsomely.” She playfully tugged his arm and added, “Don’t fret over my guile. After all, it is a bad omen for a husband to be cross with his bride during honeymoon.”
He relaxed and wrestled her gently into his arms. She beamed up at the castle while he stood behind her. “André-Benoit, it looks magnificent against the setting sun! Perhaps the name Château du Feu Ardent has dual meaning?”
He followed her gaze. The solitary, crude turret behind the three towers gleamed, causing its ancient stones to glow fiery red.
“You mean the keep’s turret?” he asked.
“Yes, it is positively perfervid.”
“It does look red in the waning sunlight. See, Le Château du Feu Ardent is the perfect name.”
In the depths of the keep she meets a prisoner, a Protestant activist, with a delicious mystery that Dorothée soon fervently craves.
She also discovers something dark and ancient. It dwells in the tower room, waiting for a chance to attack, however no one believes her.
Will she betray her new husband to learn the prisoner's secrets? What fate waits for them both in the oubliette?
This is a tale of betrayal. This is Dorothée’s Story.
Dorothée wears a red velvet gown that feeds her fiery spirit. A curious young bride who is often fearless when she should be cautious, Dorothée brazenly explores forbidden parts of her new castle home while her husband is away.
Read the first chapter from Dorothée’s Story...
Oubliette — A Forgotten Little Place copyright © 2016 by Vanta M. Black.
Website, art, cover, and jacket design copyright © 2016 by Black Château Enterprises.
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