A gripping story of heartache and intrigue
1559. A girl arrives in London to search for her brother.
Aalia, an awkward, arrogant teenager plans to bring William to his senses, until she discovers that both their lives are based on a lie.
Aalia must unravels a web of secrets but has the weight of her past to contend with.
Courageous and undisciplined, Aalia gradually comes to terms with the truth that William, her brother, has royal blood.
Deciding to undermine the men who want to use him as a pawn, Aalia must negotiate a world where secrecy arms the powerful. But unwilling to ask for anyone’s help she is forced into making a fateful decision.
Who can she trust when everyone around her is plotting? Is the truth really something worth dying for?
This epic story of secrets and betrayal paints a vivid picture of Elizabethan England and asks questions that span beyond the test of time.
Torches flared as stragglers hiding from curfew joined them in the alley. Aalia kicked at a stumped pile of rags and a furry bag of bones jumped to its feet, wagging what was left of its tail. Beneath its filthy paws the rags shifted to exhume a human face, crusted with age and scowling.
‘You could have brought me supper.’ The beggar reached out a filthy hand.
‘All we’ve left is olives and you never suffered such delicacies.’
Aalia bent to stroke his dog.
‘Last time we met you owned two legs?’
‘A matter of expedience and besides...’ The man shuffled awkwardly, tossing aside the rags. ‘Able men don’t beg.’
‘And there was I hoping we could walk through the city together. I’m tired of boats and water and you promised to show me your home Tom.’
The beggar stretched, leaning his buckled frame hard against the wall.
‘London’s changed beyond my knowing. Everyone’s afraid, wondering what this next queen will bring. Nobody dares speak their mind… and I’d forgotten what it’s like to be cold.’
Georgiou helped sift through the rags until they found a scrap large enough to make a rough cape. He’d known Tom almost as long as he’d known Aalia. Being William’s devoted servant he never left his side, happy to serve in whatever role was needed, whipping boy to guardian angel.
Georgiou held his old friend’s arm.
‘It’s good to see you my friend.’
Tom’s walnut face was deeper incised and his soft brown eyes doused of their usual fire.
‘And it warms my heart to welcome you both. William’s biding his time, quietly gaining support. You’d hardly recognise him… dressed like an Englishman.’
‘Perhaps he’s changed his mind?’ Georgiou spoke gently. ‘Now England has a new queen?’
Aalia laughed. ‘William isn’t dallying with a new hobby but truly believes he’s fulfilling his rightful destiny! The Jesuit, did he know it, woke a dragon not a lion.’
Tom rattled his begging bowl as a passing stranger spat and then pulled Aalia into the shadows and swore.
‘Better whisper such things in Urdu. William’s stirring sedition.’
‘The streets are not safe?’ Aalia bowed her head meekly.
‘We are not safe. Understand this… William pursues a highly contentious path and unless we tread carefully we risk being condemned by association. Give them cause and an English court will bay for hanging… if we’re lucky. Remember they like a good burning because beheading’s reserved for the rich, not nameless bastards like you and me.’
‘Or William?’ Aalia took Tom’s filthy hands and laced them in her supple fingers.
‘Especially William.’ He whispered, levelling her stare.
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