Here we go – today’s excerpt
This is from a VERY old novel – so old, in fact, I believe it was written right about the time I really started writing seriously, so at least 20+ years. It’s good – in fact, I’d forgotten how good, and has a paranormal/mystic element to it. Here’s the set up:
Sir Holden Garr was a Hospitaller, a powerful and pious knight within their ranks until a freak occurrence at the Holy Sepulcher gave him the ability to heal with a touch. Was he chose …by God? By Satan? His order, frightened and intimidated by his sudden magical gift, decides it is unholy and send bountymen after him. Holden escapes back to England and lives as a recluse until one day, he is forced to emerge from his solitude.
The Lady Kerielle de Soulant is a beautiful young woman with a serious medical condition – she is slowly losing her sight. A corrupt priest associated with the Hospitaller order knows this and uses her as bait to lure Holden into the open where he can be captured. He holds her father hostage until she is able to lure Holden out of hiding. She also happens to be an heiress, much pursued.
This novel has a lot of twists and turns in it, and somewhere in it, Holden and Kerielle fall in love. Do the bountymen get him? Is he able to use his healing gift to heal Kerielle’s eyes? Am I considering it for 2014? Maybe. See how you like it first –
Welcome to LORD OF LIGHT.
He sat back, feeling the warmth of the dying fire through his worn soles as he gazed up at the crystal blue sky. “Let me see if I understand, then,” he said. Samson wandered out of the open abbey doors, a fat hairy thing, and he eyed the dog fondly before continuing. “You come seeking a man named Sir Holden Garr on personal business, traveling alone in a land of bandits and murders to reach him, yet you do not know him.”
“Aye, my lord.”
“Is it news you come bearing that would affect him somehow?”
“No, my lord.”
“Are you an assassin?”
She looked indignant. “No!”
He had slipped that question in simply to gauge her reaction and he was not disappointed. Her denial, in his opinion, was sincere. As a man who had stayed alive the past three years depending on his suspicions, he trusted his senses.
He lazed back on one arm, studying her without a hint of warmth. “Where are you from, Lady Kerielle?”
“That is a considerable distance,” he said. “All by yourself, you say?”
“Aye, my lord.”
“Then your business must be very important to risk your life in such a manner.”
Her brilliant green eyes grew intense. “It ‘tis a matter of my life.”
He lifted an eyebrow and sat forward, stirring the last of the fire. “It is a matter of your life, yet you risk it just the same traveling many miles to have it saved?” he shook his head. “That does not make sense.”
Kerielle had had enough. She was exhausted and sick, and quite frankly she was irritated by the man’s evasiveness. If he wasn’t Sir Holden, then he should have told her a long time ago and not have wasted both their time. True enough, it would not have been difficult to sit and stare at his handsome face day and night until she grew old and died, but time was of the essence at the moment and she could not waste it playing games.
“It makes sense when you consider what is at stake,” she countered. “I will ask you again and I will politely ask for a simple answer. Are you Sir Holden Garr, yea or nay?”
Her tone was sharp, but he didn’t flinch. He found he rather enjoyed her fire. “Who told you he was here?”
She gazed at him, her delicate jaw ticking with the force of her frustration. “I was told I could find Sir Holden Garr in the town of Church Stretton, at the abandoned abbey on the hill. I traveled a great while and risked my life asking many people where I mind find this town. This is the only abbey for miles as far as I have been told. Am I incorrect, then, that you must logically be Sir Holden?”
Her voice was quaking with emotion and there wasn’t any reason not to tell her what she already knew.
“No,” he said slowly.
Kerielle almost collapsed with the surprise of his answer. She had expected more bartering, more evasive answers, not a simple word of acknowledgement. She suddenly didn’t know what to say and much to her chagrin, her eyes welled with fat tears that treacherously splashed onto her cheeks. She wiped them away quickly, but Holden could not help but see them.
“What’s the matter now? Don’t you believe me?”
She shook her head and looked away, trying to recover her composure. Holden watched her struggle. “Lady Kerielle,” he said. “Tell me why you weep.”
She swiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I… I’m not sure,” she whispered. “I suppose it is simply relief. Now that I’ve found you, I’m not even sure where to begin.”
As much as he found himself softening to her, still, he did not trust her and tears somehow made his skepticism return, as if she was trying to lull him somehow and play on his sympathies. He wasn’t sure what to think.
“You can start by telling me who sent you here.”
Kerielle opened her mouth to reply when the heavy pounding of hooves echoed up the narrow path that led to the abbey. She and Holden turned in time to see a great silver charger roar up the muddy trail, resplendent in full armor and draped with banners in yellow and green. The man was armed to the teeth with weapons, a shocking sight in the peace of the ruined abbey.
“Ah ha!” the knight aboard the charger bellowed. “There you are!”
Kerielle was so startled that she toppled back onto her arse before she ever gained her footing. Holden, however, was much more agile. Even as he moved past her, his eyes glared daggers into her.
“Liar!” he roared.
Kerielle had no idea what she was talking about. “Sir Holden, I don’t…!”
He paused long enough to shove his flushed face into hers, his angry breath hot on her face. “He was lurking here all the time, wasn’t he? Christ, and I almost believed you!”
He dashed past her so quickly that she could not argue with him. But the other knight, in his clanking, arrogant armor, was nearly on top of her and she struggled to get away from him.
“You’ll not escape me so easily, wench!” he cried. But his shields and weaponry were so bulky that he was having trouble getting an arm out to her. “I’ve followed you from Hereford to Shropshire and I intend to have you!”
Kerielle shrieked, dodging an outstretched gauntlet. “Stay away from me!”
He reined his changer around the fire, chasing her. “You belong to me, you little chicken. How dare you run from me!”
Kerielle dashed through a crumbling outbuilding, hoping to lose him in the clutter of stone and wood. “I don’t belong to you! Go away from here!”
The knight boldly plowed his charger through the stone. “I’ve come a very long way, Kerielle, and I’m in no mood for games. You are mine as surely as the sun rises and I demand you cease this foolishness at once.”
“Stop running, you silly wench!”
Kerielle slid down the slope near the trail that led up the mountain to the abbey. She knew it was too steep for the destrier to follow. She came to a stop several feet down, turning to see where the knight was. “My father never consented to you, Dodge,” she said, struggling to catch her breath. “He has never given you any indication that he would pledge me to you.”
Dodge stood at the top of the trail, gazing angrily down at her. “He has no choice,” he snarled. “My lands surround yours. He is a weak old man, feeble and dying, and it is only logical that you and I should wed.” He pounded his thigh dramatically. “Why must you be so difficult about this?”
Kerielle’s pretty face was dark. “Because I don’t want to marry you, Dodge de Vere. You’re an arrogant buffoon and I despise you.”
He raised his visor, revealing a less than attractive face, rather bland in appearance. “That is of no concern to me,” he said crisply. “It is only reasonable that you and I marry, Kerielle. I want your land and you, in turn, need to be taken care of. A rather fair arrangement, wouldn’t you say?”
“I don’t need your care. I don’t want it. How many times must I tell you this? Go away and leave me alone.”
Dodge leaned forward to rest on his saddle. “You were always stubborn, Kerielle. If you make me chase you down this hill, then I can guarantee I’ll beat every stubborn bone out of your body. Do you comprehend me?”
She stood firm. “I’ll not marry you, Dodge, and you cannot force me.”
“Is that a challenge?”
“And I say that I can indeed marry you. All I have to do is take you to the church in the village and pay the priest. ‘Twill be over and done with before you can utter a word of protest and your foolish behavior, lady, will have been for naught.”
“I am protesting. And I say leave before…”
He sneered. “Before what?”
“Before I run you through.”
Holden reappeared in the center of the ward, near the fire where the rabbit had cooked. He wore no armor, only a heavy linen tunic with a leather vest and thick, worn hose, but he was the most intimidating man Kerielle had ever seen, for in his hand lodged a sword of such massive proportions that she swore it was nearly as long as her entire body. Holden handled the sword as if it was a featherweight, left handed he was, as his sea green eyes fixed on Dodge as a cat beholds a mouse.
“This is my property,” he growled. “You will remove yourself immediately.”
Dodge gazed at the massive man with the equally massive sword. He was more irritated than alarmed. “Who are you?”
Holden assessed the knight; in truth, he had been doing precisely that for the past several minutes. He had heard the majority of the warrior’s conversation with Kerielle and it was blatantly obvious, even to a suspicious man like himself, that the knight was not interested in hermit named Holden Garr, but in a young lady named Kerielle du Soulant.
“Who I am is of no concern to you,” Holden said. “You will do as I say and leave immediately.”
Dodge looked at Kerielle. “Did you hire a protector?’ he asked mockingly. “You should have found someone a little more worthy, my dear. Why, he doesn’t even have any armor.”
“He is not my protector,” Kerielle said, though she was both surprised and pleased Holden was taking it upon himself to defend her. “But you should do as he says and leave. I do not want your death on my conscience, as much as it would relieve me.”
Dodge couldn’t decide whether to laugh or become angry. But the immediate need was to rid himself of the intrusive protector and he unsheathed his sword.
“You have invited more trouble than you can handle, little man,” he said to Holden.
Holden cocked an eyebrow; he had been called many things before, but never a little man. As Dodge charged at him, he didn’t flinch nor did he lift his sword until the very last possible moment. Fending off a crushing blow, he spun around and used the flat side of his weapon to whack Dodge across the back and unbalance him. The knight wobbled dangerously before righting himself. Turning his horse about, he glared angrily at Holden.
“Don’t use your childish tactics on me,” he snorted. “Fighting like a man and I will be merciful.”
Holden couldn’t help it; he smiled with genuine humor, probably for the first time in months. He shrugged his big shoulders as if the thought of clean fighting had actually just occurred to him. “As you wish.”
Dodge charged at him again. This time, Holden reached out and neatly yanked the knight from his horse, unseating him so quickly that Dodge had no time to react. Face down in the mud and seeing bright bits of stars dance across his vision, Dodge grunted as he struggled to roll over.
“Bastard!” he roared. “Now I shall kill you as painfully as possible, wheedling away your innards so that not even the buzzards will find a good meal!”
Holden stood over him. Suddenly, the tip of the massive weapon was pointed at Dodge’s throat and the armored knight saw the need to perhaps amend his hasty insults. Gazing up into the sea green eyes of his opponent, he could read the cold resolve in the depths and a chill of fear ran through him.
“If you kill me, you will bring the House of de Vere down upon you,” he said, his pompous nature deflated. “I warn you to consider what you are about to do.”
Holden appeared thoughtful. “You were about to kill me. Have I not the right to defend myself?”
“I am no threat at the moment.”
“You never were.”
Dodge’s face reddened. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Kerielle, watching the battle with wide-eyes, and his humiliation deepened.
“Why would you defend this woman?” he demanded. “She cannot pay you. I know she has no money.”
“I do not defend her. I simply want you off my land.”
“And suppose I leave. Then what will you do with her?”
“That is my affair.”
Dodge grew furious as he realized the knight’s true motive. “Her purity belongs to me.”
“From what I heard, nothing belongs to you. Be gone before I change my mind and string you up amongst the oaks.”
He moved away from the mud-covered knight. Dodge pushed himself up heavily, grunting and growling like an old bear. He stumbled to where his horse stood nibbling on wet grass and roughly grabbed the animal’s reins. He was too heavy and too slovenly to mount the horse without a good deal of help, so he had to walk from this place in humiliation. Kerielle watched him go, making sure to stay well clear of him. She avoided his gaze, but Dodge stared her down harshly.
“I will wait for you at the bottom of the hill, Kerielle,” he grumbled. “You cannot stay up here forever.”
She didn’t answer. The soft, wet noises of his footfalls faded and Kerielle dared to turn to watch him as he trailed off down the slope. She almost couldn’t bring herself to look at Holden, unsure of how he was feeling at the moment. Just when she had established some sort of rapport, Dodge appeared and ruined everything. It was a horrible coincidence and she was positive that Holden’s wrath would turn on her next.
But she forced herself to look at him. In spite of everything, he had just done her a great service and she needed to acknowledge him. “Thank you,” she said softly. “I don’t know how I would have gotten rid of him.”
Holden gazed at her, so lovely and sweet in the morning light. But she was also infinitely terrifying for reasons he couldn’t even begin to understand and his sense of self-preservation was overwhelming.
“You are trouble I do not need,” he said quietly and turned back for the abbey. “I would suggest taking the lesser used trail over to the right, between those trees. If he’s waiting for you at the base of the main trail, he’ll miss you if you exit off the southern side.”
He was helping her and vanquishing her at the same time. Kerielle felt a terrible sense of desperation. “But, Sir Holden, I still need your help!”
He walked away from her, shaking his head. “I have given you all the help I intend to.”
The abbey door closed behind him with the loud reverberation of finality.