Sunday, March 15, 2015
First 5 Pages March Workshop - Carpinello Revision 1
Name: Cheryl Carpinello
Genre: Middle Grade XXX
Title: Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend—Cedwyn’s Story
Cedwyn skipped out of the wood shed. Finally, he’d finished the chores his ma had given him. Even though he considered himself the man of the house with his father gone, he didn’t dare make his ma angry. Almost eleven, he’d already cleaned the stables and pig stiesNorth a hundred times more than any other kid in the castle. At least, she hadn’t made him rake up leaves or clean up the chicken droppings. Even at fifteen, Guin’ver, who would be King Arthur’s queen, didn’t escape his ma’s wrath. She just got sent to the kitchen.
He shivered as a strong gust of wind blew through the bailey and breathed in the crisp and sharp air of an early winter. Then he coughed as his nose and mouth filled up with smoke and ashes. For the last month, the North winds also dusted the castle parapets and roofs with ashes turning all a grayish-white. These days ashes covered every level surface and every nook, inside and outside. On days like today when the wind raced through, he forgot to breathe shallow and ended up choking. The early snows would be welcomed this year to get rid of the smoke and ash.
At the keep entrance he hollered up for Guinevere, his newly deepened voice still cracking. “Guin’ver. Guin’ver. You up there?”
From behind him came the answer. “Here I am.”
Turning around he saw her running down the battlement steps, blond hair streaming out behind her.
His mother, who really ran the castle in the king’s absence, had given the approval their ride and overnight stay at the Abbey. With the fighting contained to the north country, the castle was safe from danger. And today, he and Guin’ver were going an adventure just like they had so many other times. Except that this time, they’d be sure not to get in trouble. Nothing like the rabbit hunt the day King Arthur came to ask for Guin’ver’s hand.
He chuckled remembering how much trouble they’d been in with everyone: the King, Merlyn, Brynwyn, and Cook. And to top that adventure off, he later ran away with Guin’ver who wanted to remain a princess. No, today would be fun, no trouble.
“I’m finished, you?” Cedwyn asked when Guinevere reached him. The lingering wind blew his brown hair, not quite shoulder length, into his face and teased the castle by scattering more yellowed leaves and ash.
“Yes, just thought I would look around one more time.”
“Nothing?” His question more of a statement.
She shook her head.
There hadn’t been anything for months. At first, messengers came down with updates. But for the past three months, no messenger arrived at the castle gates, no word, just ashes and smoke. They didn’t know if Arthur and his men, his father and Guin’ver’s, King Leodegrance, among them, had gained or lost ground, and the lack of information was evident in the increased tension within the castle walls.
Getting away for even a day promised a respite for him from keeping the kids out of trouble and for Guin’ver from mediating squabbles between old friends. It promised to be like old times, just him and Guin’ver enjoying their time together. No thoughts about the overdue knight’s training for him, nor the overdue marriage of Guin’ver to Arthur.
He grabbed Guin’ver’s hand. “Com’on. The horses are ready, and if we don’t go soon, Ma’ll find for keeping us here.”
“She wouldn’t do that, would she?” Guinevere spun around looking for Brynwyn.
“You know my Ma. Doesn’t matter that I’m supposed to be the head of the family, or that you’re a princess.”
Guinevere laughed sounding just like her old self.
“You’re right. Let’s go.” She led the way to the stable, and Cedwyn followed just as he always did.
The horses were ready and once mounted, Cedwyn hollered out to his mother. She waved them off from a window in the keep having already given them instructions on keeping out of trouble at least ten times.
Outside the castle gates, they let the horses break into a canter and were soon hidden in the trees.
Inside the forest, the smoke thinned; the branches acted as a filter, and after an hour’s ride, the air smelled fresher and held a hint of pine. Only when a strong gust rifled through the tree tops did a shower of ash flutter down.
The two horses stood in a small glen munching on tufts of green within reach of their bridled heads. Reins tied to sturdy branches kept them from wandering. Like their riders, the horses couldn’t have been more different. The bigger horse’s black coat—at over seventeen hands—looked almost grey with the ash and sweat mixed on it. Huge legs with thick white stockings stomped the padded ground more out of habit than a need to keep the flies away The black coarse tail twitched from one side to another for the same reason. Occasionally it tossed its head causing the black and white mane to rustle in the air and to keep the forelock out of its eyes. Unlike the smaller sorrel horse beside it, this was a retired battle mount whose job was to carry a princess and keep her out of harm’s way.
The slender sorrel stood at only fifteen hands, just tall enough to avoid the label of pony, a label it would have reacted to with a snort and a baring of teeth. Patches of white hair over its shoulders and rump spoke of years in a harness, and its muscled legs told of a life pulling the war wagon loaded with supplies from camp to camp. Like its friend beside it, this mount was also retired. Both were left behind on this current campaign, it having been decided that their duty had been done. The sorrel now was responsible for the boy, the princess’ best friend and loyal follower.
Both horses raised their heads and turned at the thrashing sounds coming from the bushes across the glen. Before seeing the cause, they quickly lowered their heads and hurriedly grabbed at the remaining tufts of grass, stuffing their mouths. Break time was over.
Guinevere and Cedwyn pushed aside bushes with one hand and entered the clearing. Their other hands doing as the horses had—stuffing the last of the wild raspberries into their mouth and wiping at the escaping juice. Cedwyn spoke first.
“Those berries were almost as good as Cook’s circlette.”
Guinevere nodded, her mouth too full to answer. She took an animal skin filled with water off her horse, drank some, and passed it to Cedwyn. While he drank his fill, she mounted her horse thankful for the split skirt Brywyn made her so she could ride astride. It was clumsy riding sidesaddle.
Cedwyn looped the water skin on his saddle and mounted the sorrel.
A rush of wind found the glen and swirled fallen leaves caught in its grasp round and round like a dervish, a devil’s whirlwind. The war horse’s head jerked up and with ears flattened, it stared back the way they had come. The sorrel imitated it, but with teeth bared. Both horses pranced nervously and shook their heads. The sorrel backed up and prepared to bolt. Cedwyn’s arms struggled to hold him in place. The war horse planted its front legs wide as if braced for a battle.
“I don’t know. Something or someone’s coming. The horses sense danger.” She gripped the reins tighter.