Festivities for the launch of THE RED KNIGHT kicked off in Toronto over the weekend at Bakka-Phoenix Books. Cake was served and readers got the chance to to check out some incredible armor that would have been worn by the Red Knight himself! But for all of you that couldn’t attend, we saved a special treat for you too. Below is a deleted scene from THE RED KNIGHT – a fantastic epic some fans are already saying would be perfect for the big screen.
This piece was written to introduce the company that the Red Knight commands, and represents the moments before the Captain enters the house where the nun has been killed–and the whole adventure begins. I wanted to try my hand at a sort of ‘cinematic present’ in writing. Later, in the editing process, we decided that it would be better to open the book with Ser John Crayford’s POV on the Red Knight and the company. Let me just note that the sounds of a troop of heavy cavalry moving in deep fog are both as melodic and chilling as any monster.
The silence of a misty spring morn.
The silence that follows the scream.
The desperate silence after the hopeless sound of utter loss.
Two men clad in green, on ponies, gallop up the road. They appear frightened, and their heads turn, their eyes are everywhere. Left and right. Up, and down.
They stop short of a farm enclosure, with stone walls as tall as a man’s shoulder, and a steeply peaked roof in dark–gray slate. On the other side of the road, a river, as broad as a good field, flowing fast, swollen with recent rain, as gray as the slate.
Something about the farm makes them hesitate, and both ponies rear and back, heads tossing.
The shorter man snaps his fingers, makes a half circle motion with his right hand, and points back down the road. His lanky partner turns his mount and gallops back down the road. His pony’s hooves throw up muddy spray.
The man left behind loosens his falchion in its sheath. Twice. He licks his lips, and his horse backs again, like a cat backing from a dog, because something – perhaps a smell – is spooking her. The man on her back looks to the left and right, up and down. He is alone, in dense mist, and no birds are singing. The rising sun is cold and distant. Night still holds sway.
For him, time is mutable. Because for him, the silence goes on for a long, long time.
The sound of approaching hooves begins to fill the dense air. At first, the sound is indistinct—a hum of summer thunder. But it grows steadily–the distant rattle and tinkle of tack which builds and builds, and the closer it comes, the more easily the man in green breathes, until his hunched shoulders come up, his neck stretches, and even his restless pony calms.
The head of the column bursts around the last corner. The men wear matching scarlet coats over bright steel, and in the mist, they appear like lit lamps. They are in armour, and the armour has its own noise, and now that they are in sight, the noise of the armour and the sound of the horses and the tack all combine into a roar like a river in spate.
There’s a single man at the head of the column. He appears very young, despite a pointed black beard in the latest fashion, and the scarlet coat perfectly fitted over his steel breastplate. His armour is bright; edged in bronze polished like gold. He’s wearing a black fur cap and riding a tall black war-horse worth more than every one of the sheep dotting the spring-green fields that stretch away to the north. There’s a younger man behind him on an equally fine horse, carrying his raven-faced bascinet with a high, sharp peak. Beside the squire is another man, carrying a great black banner, carefully furled and held against his boot.
The lone man raises one hand.
As if attached by chains of adamant to his hand, the column halts. The roar of war is reduced, in three beats of a nervous man’s heart, to the low whickers of horses and the whispered comments of the more daring archers at the back of the column.
‘Something in the house, captain,’ says the man in green. He’s a trifle green, himself.
The captain nods. He looks at the house for a few more heartbeats. Then he turns in the saddle and points at an enormous man-at-arms – a giant of a man, in the same scarlet and steel.
‘Ser Thomas, secure the house,’ he says. He sounds calm, easy, and unconcerned.
The giant snaps his fingers and points carefully to three other knights – emphatic, silent points. One. Two, Three. Pause. Four. Then he dismounts, handing his horse to his valet.
His archer – Cully, by name – almost as well armoured, dismounts and passes his reins to the young valet. Then he unrolls a six-foot war bow from a wool blanket he’d had across his saddle bow and strings it. He puts an arrow on the string, tests the edge on the broad head with his thumb, and nods at his man-at-arms.
Another archer leaned over to peer at his arrow. ‘I’ll use a bodkin, then,’ he whispers.
Cully winks at him.
Ser Thomas pulls his enormous bascinet over his head. The chain aventail rattles faintly against his shoulder harness as his squire, John, eases it over his head. It is virtually the only noise. Despite a trio of tall, ancient oaks towering above the farmstead, there are no squirrels. None of the cattle are lowing. The sheep are silent on the hillsides.
The squire pushes steel gauntlets as big as loaves of bread over Ser Thomas’s great hands. He flexes the fingers, and John hands him a war hammer with a five-foot haft. The head appears incongruously small.
The big man taps another of the men-at-arms he’s chosen on the helmet and motions to the north. The second man-at-arms nods. Together, they close their faceplates. The other two men-at-arms look at each other, and close theirs. There is resignation – even fatality – in the brief meeting of their eyes.
Thus split, the two groups move off into the mist, two knights and two archers to each group.
The men move easily, despite sixty pounds of plate and fifteen more of chain, despite layers of linen and wool and leather. The giant hops the shoulder high stone wall like a boy over a fence, and the other men follow him.
The young captain looks back at his officers. ‘There’s no one there,’ he says after a moment, and smiles. ‘Alive, that is.’