#83- After the Attack

“Pattering footsteps approached … a group of clergy entered the corridor, carrying candles close to their hooded faces. It was the Brotherhood on their way to the candlelit midnight Mass. This unsettling rite was feared: the service was also called the Dark Choir.” —excerpted from Eclipsed by Shadow (Book #1 of ‘The Legend of the Great Horse’ trilogy

After an attack by the hordes of Genghis Khan…

The Castle SobrezyDinner in the castle that night was somber, and afterwards men retired to their beds in exhaustion. Meagan had seen Henryk only once. He had been in a company of guards, engrossed in the battle. She was not worried, for few in the castle were injured. Thousands of arrows had rained over the fortress without finding a mark. In contrast, horse and nomad corpses littered the rampart, and the village was a silent, smoking ruin.

Meagan’s thoughts returned to the Great Horse. Sleepless, she wandered the castle corridors. There must be a way to summon Promise, she told herself. Some way to go home. The Great Hall was silent and few torches were lit. Dogs slunk along walls beneath dark gargoyles. Only the rats were emboldened, scurrying on tables, climbing tapestries and running across wooden rafter beams.

“I see one infidel survives.” The dark form of Janek stepped out of a shadow and stood before her.

Meagan jumped at the voice. “You frightened me, Janek! I didn’t see you there.”

“Really, Maid Meagan, you must be more observant.” He stepped closer. “For your own sake.”

“Thank you, Janek. I will remember that.”

Pattering footsteps approached. A group of clergy entered the corridor, carrying candles close to their hooded faces. It was the Brotherhood on their way to the candlelit midnight Mass. This unsettling rite was feared: the service was also called the Dark Choir.

“Hi Lorenzo, how are you?” Meagan called, for once glad to see him. “Is Brother Bartholomew with you?”

“This is not so high a place. My Teacher is at counsel.” The face of the apprentice was barely visible in the flickering light. “You are found in strange places, Daughter of Eve. You are ever a seeker in darkness.”
“I suppose you might think so. Well, I think I will call it a night.” Meagan said it nervously, backing away from Janek. “Sleep well. God bless.”

She walked quickly to her room, stepping carefully over the sleeping forms of her roommates. The single window glowed with moonlight. Meagan lay on her straw mat and stared into the darkness, trying to calm herself and not listen to the castle’s noises…

Copyright © 2008 John Royce

« Previous excerpt: “The Reason for Castles
The above excerpt is from “See all Excerpts,” the medieval-era section of Eclipsed by Shadow, and is set in 1240AD. (p. 246 Hbk)

The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy is an adventure through history … each section is about a different time period.

Eclipsed by Shadow (Book #1 of the trilogy) won national awards including the Eric Hoffer Award for best Young Adult Fiction, and the Mom’s Choice Award for best family-friendly Young Adult Fantasy.

__________

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#82- The Reason for Castles

“The ground was black with horsemen. Galloping shadows swirled through the flaming village below. Black lines streaked across the green rampart. Mist rose in places to give glimpses of the nomads pausing to devour the village.”—excerpted from Eclipsed by Shadow (Book #1 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy

Under attack by the hordes of Genghis Khan…

Castle Sobrezy under attackMeagan heard the bells in her dreams long before she opened her eyes. The white glow of the room’s opaque window showed dawn was approaching. Meagan heard shouts from the Great Hall below.

Her first thought was that breakfast was even louder than dinner. Then she heard something else, or rather felt it. A tremor was coming through the stone floor, the rumbling of a hundred thousand hooves.

Shouting was in the hallways now. Meagan pulled her gown from a clothes pole and dressed in the half-light. She followed a stream of people into the hallway and through winding corridors. Bells rang from the towers as she crowded with others onto the battlements. Meagan strained to see, but all that was visible was a placid dawn sky. She pushed her way to the edge and looked across the fields.

The ground was black with horsemen. Galloping shadows swirled through the flaming village below. Black lines streaked across the green rampart. Mist rose in places to give glimpses of the nomads pausing to devour the village.

Men ran through the courtyards and lined the battlements, but they were pitifully few against the onslaught. A shrill scream drifted on the wind, a sound Meagan remembered with a knot of terror. The massed horde surged up, spreading as it came and circling the castle like a rising tide.

Thin flames streaked through the air as galloping riders shot burning darts over the stone walls. Castle archers returned waves of arrows. On the balcony, tonsured men began sacraments against the attackers as others backed away, ashen.

Copyright © 2008 John Royce

« Previous excerpt: “Mealtime at the Castle Sobrezy
The above excerpt is from “See all Excerpts,” the medieval-era section of Eclipsed by Shadow, and is set in 1240AD. (p. 245 Hbk)

The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy is an adventure through history … each section is about a different time period.

Eclipsed by Shadow (Book #1 of the trilogy) won national awards including the Eric Hoffer Award for best Young Adult Fiction, and the Mom’s Choice Award for best family-friendly Young Adult Fantasy.

__________

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#81- Mealtime at the Castle Sobrezy

In which Meagan enjoys the hospitality of the Middle Ages …

EVERY NICE THING Meagan had ever thought about castles was wrong. Standing inside her quarters (which she shared with four others), she could hear things crawling in the sweet-smelling rushes laid over the floor. Her newly-corrected wardrobe, a light gown, left her shivering in drafts or roasting beside fires. The best thing about a castle was probably its view, Meagan decided, if only you could see it. The heavy glass over the room’s single window had the transparency of milk.

“Madame?” came a maid’s voice from the doorway. “The meal begins.”

Meagan smiled politely and followed the servant into the smoky hallways. Rush torches made shadows dance along the stone walls, bringing the rich tapestry to life. Woven scenes of Demons and the Heavenly Host seemed to watch them pass in the flickering light. Suddenly all was brightness and sound. A large bonfire burned on a ledge above a great hall. Racks of candles hung over the room. One long banquet table was set upon a wide stage, with gaily clad occupants lining the wall to face the crowd below. Perhaps two hundred people milled about the floor, eating, drinking, shouting, singing, and throwing bones to dogs. Odors of spices tangled with those of spoil and sweat.

“Meagan!” The voice was nearby, but it took two more calls before she saw Knight Henryk standing on a bench waving, obviously inebriated. A mild-looking man sat beside him. She made her way across the room.

“Sitting, Meagan,” Henryk slurred, pointing to the table’s community bench.

Almost faint with hunger, Meagan wiped off a used spoon. This is how people manage to eat with this smell, she told herself—they are starving. There were no place settings, but there were piles of trenchers made of brown bread lying on wood platters. She scooped thick stew into one from a central basin and tried not to slurp, not that it mattered to the gobbling crowd. Roving servants traveled the tables with large pitchers, sloshing wine into outstretched goblets. Others carried trays of cut fruit. People began grabbing pieces before the tray was set down and Meagan, too slow, went without.

Copyright © 2008 John Royce

« Previous excerpt: “On the Run in the Middle Ages
The above excerpt is from “See all Excerpts,” the medieval-era section of Eclipsed by Shadow, and is set in 1240AD. (p. 242 Hbk)

The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy is an adventure through history … each section is about a different time period.

Eclipsed by Shadow (Book #1 of the trilogy) won national awards including the Eric Hoffer Award for best Young Adult Fiction, and the Mom’s Choice Award for best family-friendly Young Adult Fantasy.

__________

Quick Links:

Check out the trilogy’s page on Facebook!