The countess, Mirabelle de Burgh wants nothing more than to give her husband, Earl Blackpool an heir.
In desperation she turns to seeking out an old blind hag of a superstition. It is said to buy a jeweled dagger from her would ensure one to conceive.
Mirabelle wants more than one child for her husband, and all boys. But things don’t go as planned when greed gets in her way.
Excerpt of Prequel – Daughters of the Dagger:
Mirabelle de Burgh slipped four gold coins from the pouch at her waist and slid them quickly across the table toward the old hag with the clouded eyes. She hoped this was the old blind woman she’d been searching for, and that the cordwainer’s wife in the high part of town had been telling the truth and it wasn’t just idle gossip. If this was only the product of wagging tongues and not superstition as she hoped, then she’d just seen the last of her coins. Being on Grope Lane, she was already surprised that she hadn’t been accosted.
She pulled the hood of her cloak higher and glanced nervously down the dark, narrow street that wasn’t really more than an alley. She shouldn’t be in this questionable part of town, and especially not unescorted. This is where the beggars, the thieves and the tarts all saw to make their livings.
Grope Lane was scattered with litter and rotten fruit as well as discarded bones from rancid meat and old fish. Pots filled with urine were being dumped out of overhead windows constantly, and she had to walk a crooked path on her way here just to keep from being splashed.
Pigs roamed freely amongst the crowd as well as stray, mangy dogs. Women in gowns that exposed most of their breasts as well as their legs, leaned lazily in front of the tavern as well as in every shadowed doorway. And though she was hidden beneath her cloak and covered from head to foot, Mirabelle knew every filthy, despicable man in that alleyway had his eyes fastened on her at that moment.
A shiver coursed through her. As she put the coins on the table, she couldn’t help but notice her own hand shaking. Mirabelle risked everything by sneaking away from her husband and coming here to begin with, but she did it out of naught more than desperation.
The odor clinging to the heavy air filled her nostrils and twisted her stomach, making her want to retch. She felt lightheaded and needed to get away from here quickly before she swooned. Her husband, Talbot, Earl of Blackpool, wouldn’t be happy that she’d stolen his coins to begin with, let alone spent them on something he would consider blasphemy – the work of the devil. But that’s not the way she saw it. This was merely acting on a superstition, nothing else.
She had to hurry. Talbot would be finished at the blacksmith’s soon and realize she was no longer waiting for her shoes to be repaired at the cordwainer’s. Looking back at the old blind woman sitting behind the table, Mirabelle only hoped she truly had the daggers even though her tabletop was empty.
Mirabelle believed the superstition that if a woman bought a dagger from a blind hag, she was sure to conceive a child anon. Ever since her marriage to the earl two years ago, she had not been able to bear him an heir. He wanted a son desperately and she was determined to give him one, no matter what she had to do to achieve it.
“Hurry,” she said the to the woman, glancing back toward the main street. “I’ll take as many daggers as my money will buy.”
The old woman reached out her bony fingers, patting the table, feeling around the surface. She picked up a coin in her hand and ran her thumb over it to test the weight in her palm to make sure ’twas gold. Bringing it to her face, she sniffed it. Then her tongue lashed out and she tasted it as well. When the woman was satisfied that it was, indeed, gold, she reached under the table and pulled out a tray with five of the most beautiful and expensive looking daggers Mirabelle had ever seen in her life.
Each was an etched metal with an intricate design that ran over the two-toned hilt and down the blade. The top had a knobbed grip that reminded her of a crown. And in the center of each hilt was mounted a large oval gemstone, each being of a different type and of various colors. Her heart beat wildly. She needed them all. Mirabelle wanted a child for each of the daggers.
“I’ll take them all,” she said, scooping them into a pile.
The old woman’s hand shot out and covered hers. Mirabelle felt as if she’d been struck with a hot iron rod as the woman’s bony finger tapped the top of her hand. She pulled her hand back and held it against her chest, not liking the way it felt.
“You only have enough gold for four,” the woman told her. “So choose carefully. And remember, if you name each of your children after the stone in the hilt, they will be sure to find true love in this lifetime.”
“True love? Really?” Mirabelle looked back down the alley, searching for her husband. Thankfully, he was not in sight. She’d once been married to a cruel man who had beaten her, and was lucky when the earl killed him and claimed her as his bride. The moment he’d saved her from the wretched man, she’d known he was her true love. She was so happy now, and she wanted her children to be happy as well. And most of all, she wanted to let the earl know she was a good wife by giving him the sons he wanted and deserved.
Mirabelle had no choice. She had to buy these daggers and assure herself of not only conceiving a child but sealing her children’s fate of true love as well. She was so excited that she could barely stand it.
“I want all boys,” she announced. “I haven’t been able to conceive a baby for my husband and I don’t want his eye wandering. He wants sons more than anything. When we married, I promised him I would give him many.”
The old woman nodded slightly. “The purchase of each dagger ensures you will get what you want.”
“All right then,” she said, opening the large bag attached to her waistbelt. “I will choose now.” She ran her hand over the beautiful daggers and surveyed the precious stones twinkling in a stray beam of sunlight that happened to shine down through the tall, two-story, top-heavy buildings around her. “But please, can you tell me the name of each stone so I will know what to name my children in order for them to attain their true loves?”