By The Sword’s Edge, Volume 1 of Stonehearted
Published: 16th March 2013
Words: c. 17,000
Pages: 74 (print)
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By The Sword’s Edge is the first volume of Stonehearted, a serialized novel.
“Saddle her up yourself … Dick!” shouted Simon, Richard Stone’s obnoxious younger brother. The lad was all but thirteen, twelve years Richard’s junior, but acted as if he were his senior.
Richard exhaled slowly through his nostrils. He felt like one of the farm’s bulls ready to charge. He imagined pinning scrawny little Simon against the wall of the stables and crushing him until the air burst out of his lungs for the last time.
But he restrained himself and swished the air instead with the riding crop he held. “You’ll obey me Simon Stone if you want to go shooting.” Although why he would want to take this boy out with a crossbow to shoot coneys was beyond his ken.
“Well … you know what … Dick,” the boy sniggered as he stood there hands on hips, enjoying his new found joke, “I actually do not want to go out shooting with you. I’d much rather stay here. There’s a lot more going. Father’s got the clerks looking through all his deeds, the plates being polished, the halls being swept and the kitchen is a furnace of cooking, and then all the women of the household fixing their looks. Why you should see the wife of the steward. With all that plaster she’s putting on she’ll look like she’s sixteen again by the time our guests arrive.”
Richard slapped the riding crop against his boot. “You will not talk about Mistress Margaret like that.”
“You’ll hear worse about her, if you spend as much time as I do bored out of my life, hanging around here. At least you get to go off and have some fun.”
Richard shook his head. He must be bored, the poor little sod. And he knew the boy missed their mother. She had died four years ago, but the gap it had left in their lives had been huge. But at least in a couple of years he’d be shipped off to Cambridge for more study and the enticements of college would distract him. His father had marked Simon out early on as the clever one of the family. Too clever, thought Richard.
Richard walked up to Simon and before the boy could move he had his arm round his neck and his knee in the back of Simon’s and the boy was squirming on the ground. “See what my time at Sir John’s has taught me? How to deal with little shrimp like you.”
Richard could feel the boy’s heart beating fast against the arm that gripped him. That was power, Richard realized. To cause fear in someone else. To have the decision over their life or death.
Richard released his grip and grinned at the shaking Simon. “Come on I’ll show you how to saddle your pony as if it was a warhorse!”