Roger Ascham and the King's Lost Girl is a short prequel to Matthew Reilly's novel, The Tournament.
Seven months before the events of The Tournament, King Henry VIII arrives in Cambridge, where his daughter Elizabeth I is being educated by Roger Ascham. As he and Elizabeth are waiting to be summoned before the King, Ascham meets Timothy Higginbotham, the Earl of Cumberland's bastard son. Higginbotham has been restoring the ruined castle nearby, and mentions that he wishes to study medicene.
King Henry greets his daughter and Ascham, and when Elizabeth is sent away, Ascham is scolded for taking Elizabeth to a slaughterhouse, to which Ascham defends himself by noting that a potential Queen of England needs to know where her meat comes from. As the rest of the Court leave, King Henry asks Ascham to remain behind. A prostitue named Isabella, whom the King enjoys being intimate with, has gone missing and he wants Ascham to find her. Aascham is flattered, but wonders why the King does not choose an expert tracker, to which King Henry reveals that he hired a professional hunter, Sir Roderick, to locate her, but he has turned up dead. With that, Ascham decides to accept the investigation.
As the local doctor examines Sir Roderick's body, he notes to Ascham that the hunter's feet are covered in sulphurous dirt, and that Roderick drowned before he froze, meaning that someone moved his body. Ascham then goes to the brothel where Isabella worked, and upon speaking with the brothel owner Napier, learns that Napier's father, who previously owned the establishment, was searching for Isabella too before he turned up dead, having been beheaded. Seeing that a piece of clothing that was on Napier's father when he died also has sulphurous dirt on it, Ascham realises that both he and Roderick were killed in the same place. Before he leaves, one of the working girls informs Ascham that several lewd women have disappeared in neighbouring townships as well.
Ascham believes that the killer/kidnapper left the bodies of Roderick and Napier's father as far away from where they died as possible, and after examining a map of locations near cambridge containing sulpur deposits, determines that most likely place is Cambridge Castle. When he goes there, he sets off a trap but manages to avoid being beheaded by a scythe, as Napier's father was. Knowing that he has found the right place, he resets the trap to keep the killer from realising anyone was there and prepares to leave to get help when he hears screaming from with the castle's dungeon. Heading inside, Ascham finds several young prostitues being held within torture devices, some of whom are already dead and have been gutted. Ascham sets about freeing the women, among them Isabella.
Before they can leave the castle though, they are confronted by the murderer/kidnapper - Higginbotham. He reveals that he committed these attrocities as his own method of study so that he could become a surgeon. Higginbotham, feiging surrender, attempts to drop Ascham through a trapdoor into the freezing pond below, however Ascham figured out that is how Roderick died, and so avoids the trap. Higginbotham starts fleeing before turning and facing Ascham with the intention of killing him too. Left with no other option, Ascham sets off the scythe trap he reset earlier, beheading Higginbotham.
After taking the women to a nearby covent to rest and recover from their ordeal, Ascham heads back to report the results of the investigation to King Henry, only to learn that the King has already gone back to London. The next day he resumes teaching Elizabeth, and during a game of chess she inquires as to what he was doing the previous day. Ascham tells her that he will tell her some other time.
- Roger Ascham
- Princess Elizabeth I
- King Henry VIII
- Timothy Higginbotham
- Sir Harold Rigsby
- Dr. John Blyth
- Sir Roderick
- Primrose Ponsonby (mentioned only)
- Gilbert Giles (mentioned only)
- This is the first prequel to a novel that Matthew Reilly has written.