If readers do need a to identify a narrator to handle Third Party Omniscient POV then this alternative opening provides one. The technique used is to have a narrator who has heard the story from one of those closely involved; Pipa(Phillipa) de Roet(who knows everything).
Power and influence.
Andrew Danbry, recently appointed Master of the Kings Horse, squeezed his way back into the room through the barely opened doorway. He then shut the door forcibly behind him. He was not quick enough to prevent a draught of air swirling through the room. The fire blazed and a small tornado of smoke escaped from the fireplace adding to the dark stain which covered the central third of the mantlepiece.
The two lithe hunting dogs hurriedly left the fireplace and sprinted twice round the central table, squabbling half-heartedly before settling in the far corner of the room.
Andrew shuddered, then he too crossed the room and obsessively tightened the closure of the shutters of each window before pulling the heavy curtains together and carefully adjusted them so that the edges of the each pair of curtains were coiled together making a seal. Finally he adjusted the embroidered bags of sand which pinned the bottom of the curtains to the floor. as he did so there was a flash of lightening.
‘One, two three four’
The clap of thunder was deafening.
He turned to face the table.
‘Four miles away at the moment, but getting closer. It’s going to be a foul night,’ he informed his companions, ‘now, have you all got a drink?”
Most of them nodded assent but some looked askance.It was a question of seniority.
Andrew sensed that the more junior members of the group needed encouragement
“ Just help yourself, there is plenty in the jugs and there is far more where that came from”
The table was littered with the remains of a meal and Andrew cleared a space in front of one of the empty chairs and poured himself a mug of beer before collapsing into the chair with a resounding thud.
‘I thought it better to take the ladies through to the retreat before continuing the conversation.” Again most of his listeners nodded assent.
‘Henry you were speaking, I think’
‘Yes, I was.’ Henry groaned gently and combed his fingers through a shock of curly hair.
‘Look, if I must, I will apologise, I really didn’t think I was saying anything controversial.
Andrew took a lengthy drink from the mug in front of him. he gulped several times before putting the jug down and wiping his lips.
‘I was protecting you Henry, your wife Agnes is often seen in the company of the Countess and we must be careful not to upset her.’
Henry’s eyes narrowed.
‘You are scared of her?’
‘No not scared, but cautious’
‘You think the Countess could, would, damage me, us? Because of a chance comment at a dinner? In any case someone would have to tell her.” His eyes narrowed even further. “ That’s ridiculous, you think my own wife might betray my inner thoughts?’
Andrew pursed his lips. ‘She has the most unbelievable power’ he said quietly. ‘She controls the size of the army, and decides when and who they will fight.’
Another voice broke in from the far side of the room
‘Are we talking about the Countess or Alice Perrers?’
‘Alice Perrers is only the instrument. It’s is the Countess who decides policy’
“Good God, Andrew you make it sound like an alternative government”
“It is an alternative government. Think about what is happening in Parliament. Parliament is supposed to be giving us all a voice in government.” He paused, breathing deeply accessing what he could and could not say. “Now we have the Duke of Lancaster telling us what to do and Alice Perrers is clever enough. She is creating new common law with every case she pleads before us”. Andrew’s passion raised him to his feet.’Don’t you see what is happening, she advances only those cases which set precedent on policy, which tie our hands and Lancaster then tells the Northerners who are almost all in his pocket how to vote. She is only able to assume these rights because she is the Kings mistress, but what she does she does well’
‘So we are talking about Alice Perrers now’
‘Yes or at least her duet with Lancaster, but who do you think is co-ordinating all this.’ He paused just long enough for effect, ‘I will tell you, it is the Countess’
Another voice, from outside of the pools of light created by the candles.
‘Can you give us specific examples’
‘Yes the extension of the treaty with the Franks was the Countess’ initiative, we should have ground them into the dust whilst they were on their knees, but she wanted peace.’
Andrew thought for several seconds casting his eyes up to the ceiling.
‘They say that when King John of the Franks was imprisoned at Clarendon palace, she became his lover.’
Henry responded instantly.
‘But I thought she was supposed to prefer women’.
‘Who said King John was much of a man? Even the Franks tell stories about him’
His chuckle echoed round the table.
‘And another example.’
‘John Wycliffe. It is difficult to call Wycliffe a heretic, not least because he has the support of the ubiquitous Lancaster, but he was instrumental in refusing to pay the Pope a yearly tribute and if you listen to him talk as opposed to read what he writes, it is clear he does not regard the Pope as the true successor of Christ and he believes that the Church and its clerics should give away all its wealth.’
‘And what has that to do with the Countess’
‘She talks exactly the same as Wycliffe. The development of his more extreme views coincided with him taking over the rectory of Ludgershall, where the Countess has property.’
“She wants to reform the church not just govern the state’
A ripple of consternation now flowed across the table.
‘Well who is she then?’
‘Where did she come from?’
‘Where did all these women come from?’
‘What is the source of her wealth?’
‘ Its incredible, there were or perhaps still are, five women in her household. Three of them are associated with Lancaster , one as his wife, the other two as his mistresses and after the death of the Black Prince he is third in line for the throne. Another one is married to Edmund who is fourth in line to the throne, and the fifth one, Alice Perrers is the Kings Mistress.’
‘And she has some hold over all of them, no wonder she is so influential, so powerful‘
‘Its not just one army, it is many armies.The lords are building private armies.’
‘ Sooner or later they will fight against each other.’
‘ Does anybody know who these women really are?’
Andrew took a deep breath and waited for the hubbub to subside. He spoke slowly and carefully.
‘It might help to understand her story and the story of these other women. I can only tell you what Geoffrey Chaucer told me. As you know he tells a good story and he is married to one of those women, Philllpa de Roet. He says Philippa makes it her business to know everything and of course she was or still is Lancasters mistress! In addition Philippa is closer to the Countess than any of them so the story it probably has some validity.
Geoffrey was going to publish the story himself but someone got to him, almost certainly Lancaster but we mustn’t forget that the King has granted Geoffrey a barrel of claret a day for life! For services rendered! Well anyway I can tell the story at least if I keep it within these four walls. But I can’t finish it tonight. If we meet once every month it might take five or six months to tell the whole tale.’
There was a mutter of agreement.
‘Good then let’s start. Imagine you are in the Northern Pyrenees in 1321.’