Excerpt comes from chapter four: Summoned
To read the entire first chapter click here.
When Asaph arrived, he was astonished to see three large, muscular horses tied up outside the hut’s door, all three so pitch-black they would have blended into the night if not for the light of the torches outside the hut. He patted each in turn. Their coats were well groomed, though short and rough, and they seemed healthy to Asaph. They didn’t seem to mind his presence but kept their heads lowered to munch the hay that had been placed in a heap in front of them. Noticing they were not tethered, Asaph surmised they must be well trained. As he stroked one horse’s mane, he examined the saddle. It was black, with a gold crest on the side, the same crest as the one he had seen this morning. He stiffened, his eyes locked on the symbol, frightened to think what its appearance here might mean. Do they know I was there? That I’ve seen one of their own horses dead? Or are they here because of what we did at Skara? The Stewardess said she wanted my head. She was going to send me to the Royal Dungeons. Are they here to escort me to my fate? Thoughts of being taken away and imprisoned filled his mind. He was still staring at the saddle when his father burst out from behind the gession-fur opening of the hut. “Asaph, get in here,” he said sternly, motioning him inside. His father’s weathered face made him look older than his actual age. His beard was a frazzled, unkempt mess of wiry brown peppered with grey. He normally had sad, introspective eyes, but at this moment they were full of anger. Here it goes, Asaph thought as he followed his father inside without any hesitation. Asaph had learned through many lessons not to delay when his father had that look in his eyes. I’m going to get it this time. If it wasn’t going to be by the Stewardess, it’s going to be by my dad. Should have known. Asaph ducked under the thick, bristly hide in shades of tan, black, and white that covered the entrance to the hut, then stood up straight to find that every set of eyes in the dimly torch-lit hut was now staring directly at him. His father stood next to his mother in the middle of the hut. Asaph’s younger sisters, Margaret and Adelaide, and his little brother, Yonyo, were sitting on the floor behind their parents. In the dim light, it looked like his sisters had been crying. His brother’s face, though, was cold and emotionless. Yonyo stood slightly turned away, as though wishing he could get free from whatever was transpiring around him. He was like his older brother, always running away. Closer to the entrance, standing off to the side between Asaph’s family and himself, were three hooded figures, two in pure white cloaks and the other in a cloak of white with golden trim, with a long, black braid streaed with light yellow spilling out of the hood. The one in the middle was the shortest of the three and the same height as Asaph; the figure on the left was the tallest and very bulky. The figure was only a few finger-widths from hitting his head on the ceiling. Asaph couldn’t make out any of the faces under their hoods in the hut’s dim lighting, which made the presence of these visitors in the hut even more intimidating. They smelled of a sweet and citrusy perfume, which clashed with the more earthy smells of ragged cloth, used pans, and vegetables that filled the hut. No one talked nor moved. Asaph grew more anxious as he waited, his hand lightly tapping against his leg. “What is going on?” he asked, breaking the tense silence. If punishment was coming, they should just get on with it. He had already been through one trial and didn’t care to go through another. “Well, this is Lucilla, in the middle,” his mother blurted out, gesturing towards the hooded figure as she took a step forward. “And I didn’t quite get your—” Asaph’s youngest sister, Adelaide, cut her off. “They are here to take you away!” she yelled, as tears again streamed down her face. “To cart you off to the Castle!” “For what?” Asaph straightened up, and his eyes widened as they trained on his mother. His thoughts went immediately to Skara, the Stewardess, and then to the decapitated horse. His hands tapped even more aggressively against his leg. His mother approached him with arms outstretched. “It’s not exactly how she made it sound.” But her face didn’t give him any reason to hope. She stepped closer and grabbed his jittering hands. In a softer voice than before, she continued, “Son, you have been summoned.”