St George's Hall was aglow with torches and lamps, creating a firmament of stars in the glazed windows lining the far wall. The voices of the King's courtiers rang in counterpoint to the music, their silks rustled as their feet caught the rhythm. There was an exuberance of aromas - roasted boar, exotic spices, delicately scented hair and clothing, melting beeswax, smoke, sweat, and now and then icy air as revellers slipped out to relieve their wine-bloated bladders in the privies. A latecomer impatiently pushed aside a stumbling lord, then paused as his senses, having adjusted to the dark silence of the snowfall outside in the upper ward, were now ambushed by the noise, the heat, and the smoky glare of the torches that made him cough and blink. As he shook the snow from his brown hair, Ned Townley searched the faces at the long tables near the door, where the pages and lesser officials huddled over their food. He was looking for a young face that had become all too familiar of late. A face seen too often bent towards Mary, Ned's betrothed.
Classic Crime Fiction
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