This week we have so much fab content for you it’s not true! Check in every morning for amazing Halloween spookiness, and then come back every afternoon for an extract of this year’s Gollancz debut: THE RED KNIGHT, by Miles Cameron. It’s already had reviews prising the historical accuracy, the pace and the sheer bloody scope of the action – this week we’re giving you the chance to read and decide for yourselves!
We’re kicking off today with an introduction to the Company from Ser John Crayford . . . drop back again tomorrow to see the trouble they find waiting for them!
Albinkirk – Ser John Crayford
The Captain of Albinkirk forced himself to stop staring out his narrow, glazed window and do some work.He was jealous. Jealous of a boy a third of his age, commanding a pretty company of lances. Riding about. While he sat in a town so safe it was dull, growing old.
Don’t be a fool, he told himself. All those deeds of arms make wonderful stories, but the doing is cold, wet and terrifying. Remember?
He sighed. His hands remembered everything – the blows, the nights on the ground, the freezing cold, the gauntlets that didn’t quite fit. His hands pained him all the time, awake or asleep.
The Captain of Albinkirk, Ser John Crayford, had not started his life as a gentleman. It was a rank he’d achieved through pure talent.
And as a reward, he sat in this rich town with a garrison a third the size that it was supposed to be on paper. A garrison of hirelings who bossed the weak, abused the women, and took money from the tradesmen. A garrison that had too much cash, because the posting came with the right to invest in fur caravans from the north. Albinkirk furs were the marvel of ten countries. All you had to do to get them was ride north or west into the Wild. And then come back alive.
The captain had a window that looked north-west.
He tore his eyes away from it. Again.
And put pen to paper. Carefully, laboriously, he wrote:
A Company of Adventure – well ordered, and bearing a pass signed by the constable – passed the bridge yesterday morning; near to forty lances, each lance composed of a knight, a squire, a valet and an archer. They were very well armed and armoured in the latest Eastern manner – steel everywhere. Their captain was polite but reserved; very young, refused to give his name; styled himself The Red Knight. His banner displayed three lacs d’amour in gold on a field sable. He declared that they were, for the most part, your Grace’s subjects, lately come from the wars in Galle. As his pass was good, I saw no reason to keep him.
Ser John snorted, remembering the scene. No one had thought to warn him that a small army was coming his way from the east. He’d been summoned to the gate early in the morning. Dressed in a stained cote of fustian and old hose, he’d tried to face down the cocky young pup in his glorious scarlet and gold, mounted on a war horse the size of a barn. He hadn’t enough real soldiers to arrest any of them. The damned boy had Great Noble written all over him, and the Captain of Albinkirk thanked God that the whelp had paid the toll with good grace and had good paper, as any incident between them would have gone badly. For him.
He realised he was looking at the mountains. He tore his eyes away. Again.
He also had a letter from the Abbess at Lissen Carak. She had sent to me last autumn for fifty good men, and I had to refuse her – your Grace knows I am short enough of men as it is. I suppose she has offered her contract to sell-swords in the absence of local men.
I am, as your Grace is aware, almost one hundred men under strength; I have but four proper men-at-arms, and many of my archers are not all they should be. I respectfully request that your Grace either replace me, or provide the necessary funds to increase the garrison to its proper place.
I am your Grace’s humblest and most respectful servant,
The Master of the Guild of Furriers had invited him to dinner. Ser John leaned back and decided to call it a day, leaving the letter lying on his desk.