Young Merle dreamed and prayed that one day he would rise miraculously from his sick bed like a phoenix and play with the other children, run through the wheat fields, ride horses, train falcons, and skewer pells with wooden swords. That never happened. Disease robbed him of his childhood, all of it… But somehow, by the mercies of Christ, his illnesses always went away and resourceful Merle kept surviving. The tall tales his uncle Geoff recounted to him inspired him to live, to dream. ‘Hope is my medicine,’ he told himself over and over. ‘Hope is my medicine.’
Betrayal – Chapter 20

Merle Gilmore was born in Warwick, England to Roland and Gwen Gilmore.

Gwen’s brother is Geoffrey Clayton Wolfe, a wealthy Templar who was in good favor with King Henry II. The Wolfe likes his nephew and spent a great deal of time with him, educating him, telling him stories of his most loyal knight, the Griffin, Francis Whitehall.

Merle grows up idolizing the legend of the Griffin.

Lord Wolfe’s prospects take a turn for the worst and he had difficulty managing his affairs, having to dismiss the knights who don’t recant and leave him first. Francis Whitehall swore to stand by the Wolfe no matter what but it’s financially unsustainable. The Griffin, with his meager resources, must take to the road and earn a living fighting in tournaments across the continent.

At the age of nineteen, intelligent and healthy but untrained, Merle decides he wants to try to live his dream and squire for the poor Whitehall knight.

Merle is weak, lanky and a klutz, but he is willing and he works hard. He grows and matures under the Griffin’s tutelage. Francis’ infant daughter, Anne, becomes the little sister he never had.

“He was always patient with me,” Merle stated… sipping hot cider from a cup Lady Anne had just laid before him, reflecting… “There were some lean days… terrifying times. And I watched how other lords mistreated their valets… kicking and abusing their pages… Your father never did such things to me even when I gave him cause… He’d have had every right.”
Cold Knight – Chapter 3

No longer frail and clumsy as a man, Merle returns to Warwick when the Wolfe’s fortune turns with the aide of investments from Pero de Alava. Merle, being knighted, trusted impeccably by his uncle, becomes a Lord and Steward of Warwick. And after a duel to the death with another ambitious knight which left Merle scarred beneath his left eye, Merle is anointed the Rose, a white one becoming his sigil. (They fought in a rose garden. He received his cut from a rose bush)

At the beginning of The Crystal Crux book series, Anne Whitehall has just returned to Capua from England where she was visiting her grandmother. Merle, with a hundred knights, guided an impressive ship, the War Queen, through dangerous waters to get her home in time for her birthday.

Merle would have been long gone by the time the keep at Capua was attacked but the tide was not cooperative. He was stuck in the port city of Mondragone when word came of the siege.

Seizing the fortuitous opportunity, such close proximity to the Rose, the stranger quickly reached beneath his cloak and searched a deep pocket. He produced a small wooden object which he pressed into the palm of Merle’s right hand. He whispered… “Trust me, My Lord. I am a friend. The Griffin awaits you outside. I do not lie.” And with that the stranger raised his hood back over his head and squirmed like an eel through the crowded mass, disappearing in all the confusion.
Cold Knight – Chapter 4

Merle knew he didn’t have enough men to lead an assault on Capua if the keep had indeed been taken and the Whitehall’s taken. He bided his time in Mondragone, sending word back to Warwick as well as Spain where Pero’s people were. From out of nowhere, this Italian man appeared and said these things and left. The wooden figure was a griffin.

Fate had been kind. Francis Whitehall had survived. He has escaped Capua. At an inn, he heard about the War Queen still being at dock in Mondragone. He came to the city at once, hoping to find Merle still here.

After a scuffle in the streets with mercenaries bent on arresting the English, Merle finally reunites with his Lord, the Griffin.

Merle got close enough to stop his advance. The tall ranger lowered his hood. His hair was long, blond and angelic. His jaw was strong, the chin noble, the eyes deep and brown. He was familiar, all of him.
My Lord,” Merle wept, his voice cracking, choking.
Francis Whitehall nodded. “Yes, it is me, boy.”
Still a head taller than the Griffin, Merle Gilmore, Lord of Warwick, Baron of the Midlands, a knight in the service to the British crown and his majesty King Richard, fell on his knees… “Praise the Lord. I thought you were dead. Praise the Lord. You are alive.”
Francis lost it as well. He could no longer abide his composure or continue standing… He got down on his knees, grabbing and hugging the boy who had become a man, a man who had become a knight… “You are a merciful sight, my Son. A merciful sight. God be praised. You are a merciful sight.
Cold Knight – Chapter 5

Despite the odds, Merle now plans to help the Griffin ride forward and take back the keep at Capua.

Allen M Werner is the author of the epic fantasy The Crystal Crux

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