She was known as the woman in scarlet, a whore that could be had for a coin or two. Only a handful of people knew her as Wilma. None but she knew that she was the daughter of Robert FitzOdo de Loxley and a scullery maid. Wilma had been peddled into prostitution when she was nine to aid in funding FitzOdo’s campaign to win back land and title. He sold her maidenhead to a fat lord in Lincoln that ran a brothel where she was put to work. The fat Lord knew the truth of her heritage, but he was dead. The woman in scarlet had blood on her hands, but not that of the fat lord.
“I don’t know why we have to leave Skelbrooke,” said the big boned girl with straw yellow hair traveling with Wilma.
“The village is no longer safe Joan,” said the woman in scarlet.
Wilma looked to Joan as a mother would a daughter, but the girl was not her daughter. A monk had rescued the girl from being tossed into the oubliette in Lincoln when she was a babe. The monk had explained the girl was the product of a union between John de Lacy 2nd Earl of Lincoln and Alice, daughter of Gilbert, Lord of L’Aigle. When Alice died in 1216, John de Lacy wanted to erase the painful memory of his wife’s passing and so ordered the child be thrown into the oubliette. Others say the babe’s death was ordered to clear the way for de Lacy to take a new wife, which he did. The holy man entrusted the women in scarlet to raise the child and keep her safe. Wilma was eighteen at the time and ever since she did what she could to do just that. As the seasons passed, the girl matured quickly in body. The woman in scarlet’s commitment to the girl’s safety was complicated by the girl sprouting up and blossoming prematurely. With the exception of her chubby cheeks, Joan looked more women that child. She stood a whole head taller and her bosom already larger than Wilma’s.
The girl did not understand. She was still too tender in years despite a body that said otherwise to the eyes of lustful men. The woman in scarlet knew well from experience that a girl of nine was not ready for the attentions of men, no matter how developed her body.
“Richard was nice,” said Joan.
“Too nice,” Wilma snarled.