Saturday, December 04, 2010

First Lord of Thieves Excerpt...Chapter One

Now that we're in to December...I thought I'd share with you, the FIRST ever excerpt of Lord of Thieves from Chapter One...


Chapter One

1209, Nottinghamshire

I’m going to die this day.

Merrion squeezed her eyes shut as she stumbled from the darkened bowels of Laxton Castle into the bright, piercing sunlight. She stood on quaking limbs, her body weak and trembling as she waited for the harsh light to recede. Hands as hard as iron manacles gripped her arms, holding her upright. She gasped as they half dragged, half walked her into the welcoming morn. She had to bite her bottom lip to keep from crying out— her shoulders ached with each jarring movement.

How long was she chained in the dungeon, her arms stretched above her until she feared they would rip from the sockets? It could have been weeks or months in that place of eternal night.

Merrion was jerked to a halt, her knees giving way. She would have crumpled to the ground in a ragged heap, but the guards yanked her to her feet. She groaned, her body aching from head to toe. By dint of sheer will, she slowly straightened. She pried her eyes open and stared at her surroundings, and wished she hadn’t.

The massive wall of the inner bailey rose before her, twenty five feet high, and of solid stone. The gate tower, looming above the wall, glared down at her with its dark windows. Gripped by desperation, her gaze darted to the portcullis, but something tall and foreboding blocked her view.

Merrion’s eyes widened, her breath quickened, as a chill slithered down her spine.

Constructed in the centre of the bailey was a gibbet. The buttercolored wood looked freshly hewn in the golden dawn. And hanging from the elevated beam, was a thick coiled rope swinging gently in the spring breeze.

Merrion could not have been more horrified had a hooded executioner hefting a mighty axe been awaiting her. Her pulse raced as terror squeezed her heart. Tears rose to sting her eyes.

I am going to die this day.

There could be no denying the truth.

She wanted to scream, to rage at the heavens, but she would not give her brother-in-law the satisfaction of knowing her fright. Gathering the tattered shreds of her courage, she swallowed the cry threatening to erupt from her throat. She pushed back her panic and straightened her spine. If she was going to die this day, she would do so with honor and dignity— just as her father had taught her.

A strange noise reached her, like the roar of the waves battering the White Cliffs of Dover. She gazed past the gibbet and gasped.

A solid wall of humanity filled the bailey, from the gate tower to the gibbet. Men, women, and children had gathered for the grand spectacle of a high-born lady swinging from the noose. Merrion watched in disbelief as vendors moved through the throng with ale carts, roasted meats and baked bread. They peddled their wares in their loud sing-song voices.

Gisbourne must have invited the serfs and villagers from the surrounding Hundreds to watch her die.

Dread crept past her courage, freezing her blood. I cannot die like this. I cannot! Terrified, she shrank back against her captors. She’d rather starve to death in the dungeons than to suffer this.

“All will be well soon, milady,” a voice whispered soothingly in her ear.

Aye, she would be dead!

Merrion closed her eyes and inhaled a deep breath, calming the frantic patter of her heart. So she would suffer a few moments of humiliation and pain. At least she would no longer know torment at the hands of her brother-in-law. Nor would she be a pawn of the King.

Composed, she opened her eyes and gazed above the forbidding wall to the blue horizon. Despite her imminent demise, Merrion acknowledged it was one of loveliest sunrises she’d ever seen. The sweeping gold and red was slowly giving way to the deeper blue of day as clouds of white fluff lazily meandered across the great expanse. A gentle spring breeze wafted over her like a tender caress, teasing the tendrils at her temple. A wistful smile touched her lips when she spotted a hawk gliding across the sky. If only she could fly as the bird, then she too could escape her earthly bonds. She inhaled deeply of the fresh air, savoring it. It was the first she’d had in a long time. A strange peace of acceptance washed over her.

At least it was a nice day to die...

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