Sunday, March 22, 2015
First 5 Pages March Workshop - Carpinello Revision 2
Name: Cheryl Carpinello
Genre: Middle Grade XXX
Title: Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend—Cedwyn’s Story
Cedwyn shifted the reins of the horses to his left hand and then back again. Though nearly eleven, age had not made him more patience. Nor had it made his best friend, Guinevere, any quicker. He turned around as the slender sorrel nudged his back.
“I know, but she’s gotten slower. If she’d moved this slow the time that wild boar was chasing us, she wouldn’t have made it up that tree.” He scratched below the sorrel’s ear. At fifteen hands each, they made the perfect duo.
A low nicker from Guinevere’s black war horse reminded Cedwyn that it also had ears. The black even ducked its head knowing somehow that Cedwyn wouldn’t be able to reach its ears at over seventeen hands.
“Guin’ver! Hurry up!” He hollered up at the window in the keep, his newly deepened voice cracking.
He shivered as a strong gust of wind blew through the bailey, and he pulled his hide jerkin tighter. Cedwyn breathed in the crisp, sharp air of an early winter, then coughed as his nose and mouth filled up with smoke and ashes. For the last month the wind also carried the remains of the fires from the North, as renegades burnt whole villages to the ground rather than surrender to King Arthur. 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.
Today, he and Guin’ver were going an adventure just like they had so many other times. Except this time, they’d be sure not to get in trouble. Nothing like the rabbit hunt the day King Arthur came to ask for Guinevere’s hand.
Cedwyn’s ma Brynwyn, who really ran the castle in the king’s absence, had given the approval for their ride and overnight stay at the Abbey. With the fighting contained to the northern lands, the castle was safe from danger.
“Here I am,” Guinevere said, her breath coming in small gasps. “I had to run back upstairs for my cloak.” She held out a slender arm blanketed in deep green.
“If we don’t leave soon, my Ma will find another chore for me to do. And for you, too.”
“She wouldn’t do that, would she?” Guinevere spun around looking for Brynwyn.
“She raised you like the daughter she never had, and you doubt me?
Guinevere straightened her body and stretched her neck until she stood half a head above Cedwyn. “Well, I’m going to be Arthur’s queen when the battles up north are over. And, at fifteen, I’m considered a woman now, not a child.”
Cedwyn laughed. “You know Ma. Doesn’t matter if I’m supposed to be the head of the family, or if you’re a princess soon to be a queen.”
“You’re right,” Guinevere said, laughing with him.
Their laughter echoed through the bailey causing several people and children to look up. Laughter came seldom these last few months, just ashes and smoke. They didn’t know if Arthur and his men—Cedwyn’s father and Guinevere’s father King Leodegrance among them—had gained or lost ground. The lack of information increased the tension within the castle walls: the daily scolding of children punctuated at times by the swish of willow stick and the cry of a child replaced the women’s gossip. And, among the men left—those essential to castle life and those too old or unfit for battle—quarrels had broken out.
But, today? Today would be fun, no trouble.
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.
“Want to stop by that glen and pick raspberries?” Guinevere asked.
“As long as we don’t try to hunt rabbits or run into wild boars,” Cedwyn said, a wide grin on his face.
“We sure did get in a lot of trouble, didn’t we?”
“Especially when you let that rabbit loose in the kitchen! I’m not sure Cook has ever forgotten that,” Cedwyn said.
“I don’t think he has. He still gives me that stare of his whenever anyone asks for rabbit for dinner.”
“You remember the time I ran away with you?”
“How could I forget? You’re ma yelled at me and then I had to face my father.”
“You got yelled at. I had to clean the stable and pig sties for a week after that,” Cedwyn said, his grin fading a bit at that thought.
Guinevere pulled up and turned to him. “You were my rock that day, Cedwyn. Without you, I’m not sure I would have consented to marry Arthur, and then my father might have disowned me.”
“You sometimes think that things aren’t going to turn out like they’re supposed to?” Cedwyn asked.
“You mean, do I wonder if I’ll really marry Arthur?”
“And whether you’ll ever be a knight?”
He nodded again, embarrassed.
“Cedwyn, we’ve been best friends forever. If something happens and…and I don’t become a queen, you will be a knight. My father and yours will make sure of that.”
“I know, but sometimes it seems so far away…”
“Well, it’s not,” Guinevere said. “Com’on. Race you to the glen!” Her war horse took its cue and raced away.
Cedwyn hesitated a second, then gave the sorrel its head.
The two horses munched on tufts of green within reach of their bridled heads while their riders sat on the ground eating the raspberries they’d picked.
“Those berries were almost as good as Cook’s circlette,” Cedwyn said, after finishing off his stack.
Guinevere nodded, her mouth too full to answer. She took a drink of water from an animal skin pouch, drank some, and passed it to Cedwyn.
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, ears flattened. The sorrel imitated it with teeth bared. Guinevere and Cedwyn jumped up and grabbed their reins. Cedwyn’s arms struggled to hold the sorrel. The war horse planted its front legs wide, braced for battle, and tossed its head, nearly ripping the reins out of Guinevere’s hands.
They looked at each other thinking the same thought: If they had stay too long…
Keeping their horses in check, they struggled to mount as the animals spun round trying to find the danger. Once mounted, Guinevere and Cedwyn, their eyes wide with fear, continued to battle for control of the horses.
A scream filled with pain broke through the din of the horses and riders.
“What was that?” Cedwyn asked.
“It didn’t sound like any animal I’ve ever heard.”
“Ar...ar.” The hideous noise interrupted him. The skittish horses moved closer together.
It came again. “Nooooo!” And abruptly ended.
“That was a man,” Guinevere said, her voice shaking.
The horses pawed frantically, turning into each other, almost bolting. Both Guinevere and Cedwyn’s arms ached trying to hold them back.
Guinevere tightened her reins and finally turned the war horse around. Digging her heels in, head down, horse and rider raced down the narrow path.
Cedwyn followed, but continuously looked back under his arm. He feared this side trip had just turned into trouble.