Marilyn Holdsworth

Broken Pieces - Rachel Thompson

Friday, August 22, 2014

Young Knights of the Round Table: The King's Ransom by Cheryl Carpinello #AmReading #Tween


The air inside the blacksmith shop lay dense and heavy, making it difficult to breathe for any who ventured inside. The fire from the forge still burned red hot, even though the bellows hadn’t fanned the embers in some time. Sixteen-year-old Bryan submersed the newly formed sword into a cold bucket of water. Steam enveloped him, adding to the sweat already streaming down his face. With his free arm, he wiped his forehead and pushed back his soaked red hair.

The blacksmith, James, watched intently as Bryan Balyard lifted the sword out of the water, its blade cooler but still hot to the touch. Holding the sword in front of him, Bryan sighted down the blade’s edge as he’d been taught. Straight and flat, just as it should be. He made a few short cuts to check its balance. It responded well to his moves. Bryan handed the sword to James for approval. After checking its weight and doing a closer inspection of the craftsmanship, James nodded.

“You’re getting better. This weapon is good enough for a knight of the Round Table.”

Bryan beamed, his eyes reddened and watering from the smoke.

“I haven’t an order from any of Arthur’s knights, so make this your own.”

Bryan’s lower jaw dropped.

“Mine?” he forced out.

“Yes. I know you practice with the older, heavier swords. A good blacksmith must know how the perfect weapon feels when wielded.”

“Thank you, Master James.”

“Don’t thank me,” James answered gruffly. “I don’t approve of your desire to be a knight. Men should know where they belong...” James paused. “...and you are destined to be a worker of metal.”

Bryan started to protest, but James continued.

“Bank down the fire. Make sure the metal is ready for tomorrow. Then go and try out your sword with young Prince Gavin and that Wild Man.” James left Bryan to straighten the shop.

In the five years he’d been James’s apprentice, Bryan had learned a lot. He made a sturdy sword, so James said. Two years still remained in his apprenticeship. Two long years.

Like most sons of tradesmen or farmers, his family had secured this apprenticeship early on. At eleven, he and his father had made the three-day journey south to the Pembroke Castle blacksmith. At first, the prospect of being away from home, on his own, and learning a respectable trade, was exciting. More importantly, it allowed him to see and talk with real knights.

He spent every day learning how to forge stronger swords, tougher armour, how to shoe horses, and even make pots and pans. It was a satisfying trade and one that would ensure him a livelihood. But Bryan didn’t want just a livelihood. Even now, only two years away from completing his apprenticeship, he still couldn’t see himself working with metal for the rest of his life. As long as he could remember, he had wanted only one thing: to be a knight like Sir Lancelot.

*****

“Bryan. Are you still there?”

“Yes. Come in, Gavin,” he called to the young prince as he scrambled around to finish cleaning.

Gavin and Philip entered the shop, gasping at the heat.

“Just about done,” Bryan said. “I have to bank the fire for tomorrow.”

“We need to talk to you. Something’s happened,” Gavin said.

“We’ll wait outside,” Philip said, “where we can breathe.”

Curious, Bryan hurried to join them, forgetting his sword in his rush. “What is it?”

“Let’s go behind the shop. We need to talk privately.” Gavin led them away from prying eyes and ears.

“Well?”

Philip looked at Gavin. “You saw it.”

Gavin nodded and told Bryan about the murder and theft.

“James told me. He saw the king and his knights head out this morning.”

“They caught the man late this afternoon.”

“So quick? James figured the man was long gone.”

Something in the eyes and manners of his friends told Bryan there was more. “What’s going on?”

“They brought in the Wild Man, tied to his horse. I saw him when they arrived back at the castle,” Gavin said.

Bryan’s heart pounded. “Why?”

“They think he killed Aldred and stole the King’s Ransom,” Philip added.

“Bu-Bu-But...”

“They had a knife with dried blood still on it. It looked like the one the Wild Man always carries,” Gavin finished.

Bryan said nothing, stunned at the idea that the Wild Man could be a murderer and a thief. But what did he know about the Wild Man? What did any of them know about the Wild Man? He just showed up one day asking for work in exchange for a place to stay. James had turned him away, but not before directing the wanderer to the church.

“Do you think he could have done it?” Bryan whispered.

“What?” Gavin said.

“He’s been here nearly two years.”

“How could...?”

“What do we know about him before he came here? Nothing,” Bryan said. “We need to think about the possibility, especially since Gavin said it looked like the Wild Man’s knife.”

Gavin started to speak and then stopped. Even Philip was silent.

“I’m sure he didn’t do it,” Gavin finally said.

“Me too,” Philip echoed.

“I don’t think he did either,” Bryan said.

“Now we just have to figure out how to prove it,” Philip said.


The late afternoon sun still held the day’s heat. Philip set the ax down and wiped his brow before getting a drink of water. Across the valley, the walls of Pembroke Castle rose. Its gates stood open, although they were heavily guarded. Come dusk, those gates would be closed, and more than the usual number of knights would be on the parapets. Rumors had spread of the murder and theft this morning.

Since then, the village had been on edge. Farmers didn’t stray far from their fields and kept their children close to home. Additional knights patrolled Pembroke village and the surrounding lands.

Philip had watched the king and his knights ride out this morning. Gavin hadn’t been among them. They had returned just a short while ago. If the shouts from the castle were any indication, the murderer had been caught. The villagers would rest easy tonight, but the guard wouldn’t be dropped. Until it was known for sure that the culprit had acted on his own, King Wallace would keep extra knights on duty.

Philip had never spoken to the king, but he admired him. The people of Pembroke had not turned him away that cold winter day a year ago. Instead, they offered him shelter and protection. With the consent of the king, the friar gave him a home in the church. In return, Philip helped the friar in the fields and with other chores, grateful for a safe place to stay.

Looking at the stack of chopped wood, he smiled sadly. Two years ago he would never have dreamed he’d be here, chopping wood for food and a dry place to sleep. He shook his head at his thoughts, his shaggy, ill-cut black hair falling unevenly across his forehead. Two years. It seemed like forever.

Two years earlier, he had lived with his parents and baby brother on their small farm up north. His parents worked hard to put food on the table and to pay off the farm. Philip’s main job was to watch baby Benjamin while his mother helped his father in their small field. When Benjamin fell sick, Philip helped his father clear the old stalks and rocks from the soil while his mother nursed the baby. He helped his father carefully plant the winter wheat and barley for harvest in the spring.

As autumn slipped into winter, Benjamin hadn’t gotten better. His tiny body burned with fever. Those last few days when Philip held him, the heat coming from Benjamin threatened to slowly engulf him like the embers of a dying fire.

Then one day, the heat drained from Benjamin’s body, and cold took its place. Philip didn’t understand at first why his mother and father cried. For days they’d waited for the fever to leave, and finally it had. Then he noticed the stillness of Benjamin’s body. His small chest didn’t rise and fall; he wasn’t breathing. Along with the heat, life had also left the tiny body.

They buried Benjamin under a layer of straw in the small ditch next to the cottage, dressed in his little clothes, his body wrapped tightly in a blanket. Philip wept openly beside his parents, not ashamed to show his grief. Unknown to him then, it was just the beginning.

*****

Philip struggled against the hurt and the memories. He stared out past the abbey, knowing that if the Wild Man had shown up, he would have helped keep his memories at bay. His absence fueled those memories, allowed them to surface. Philip had become attached to the man’s gentle voice, so like his father’s, at once.

With the Wild Man, he forgot, even for a short time, the guilt that engulfed him, that threatened to drown him like the cold murky waters of the northern marshes. His father had told him of men who dared to tread through those marshes. If they missed a step, they plunged down into the darkness, no saving breath possible, just a brief struggle before life left their bodies.

Philip felt like that when the grief overtook him, unsure if he would or even if he wanted to survive the next minute, hour, day.

He should have refused the Wild Man’s help and his company when he’d arrived in Pembroke. It had been a relief, though, to find a friend and a place to call home, even if it never would be.

The Wild Man had introduced him to young Prince Gavin, as alone as he, but in a different way. Gavin feared disappointing his family, failing them by showing cowardice in battle. Philip had formed a bond with Gavin those first weeks that helped them deal with their fears and doubts.

In time, Gavin introduced him to Bryan, the blacksmith’s apprentice. Bryan, sent away by his family to learn a trade, longed to be a knight, but he lacked the money and stature that would make it possible. And so Bryan dreamed of a life he would never have, could never have. He labored in sadness and silence.

Indeed, they all had their demons.

And Philip? While he had found a new family in his friends, he had chosen not to confide in them, yet. He was afraid of again losing those he had come to care about.

Young Knights

Action Adventure Kindle Book

Three Friends. Three Quests. Three Mysterious Predictions.

At Pembroke Castle in medieval Wales,11-year-old Prince Gavin, 13-year-old orphan Philip, and 15-year-old blacksmith's apprentice Bryan, brought together in friendship by the one they call The Wild Man, embark upon a quest to save The Wild Man's life when he is accused of murder and robbery. If they have any hope of succeeding, the three will have to confront their fears and insecurities, and one of them will have to disclose the biggest secret of all. But it is the arrival of King Arthur and what he reveals that surprises characters and readers.

Buy Now @ Amazon & Smashwords
Genre - Tween Adventure
Rating – G
More details about the author
Connect with Cheryl Carpinello through Facebook


1 comments:

ccarpinello on August 23, 2014 at 3:54 PM said...

Thanks for hosting me!

 

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