Thursday Sampler: Captives by Emily Murdoch
April 21, 2016
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Thursday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Captives, a medieval romance by Emily Murdoch.
As one reviewer said: The descriptions are great in this book, and you can definitely picture everything that you are reading. Also, the author has a great writing style.
England has been brought to its knees by the invasion of William the Conqueror and his Norman troops.
Lady Catheryn, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman, is taken against her will to Normandy after the invasion. She arrives, a prisoner, at the castle of Lord Geffrei, a ruthless invader who hopes to gain a ransom for her. Her husband Selwyn is dead, slain in the Conquest, and her daughter Annis has been left behind in England at the mercy of the invaders. Catheryn is treated like an animal, and left in a cell until she begins to despair.
When Queen Matilda, William the Conqueror’s wife, sees her plight, she takes pity on her. Catheryn is sent to the castle of the noble FitzOsberns – but will her new captivity be any better than the cruelty she faced at Geffrei’s hands? She finds her hostess cold and embittered, but when her husband William FitzOsbern returns from the Conquest, Catheryn’s heart is torn by unwanted emotions. She becomes entangled in the quarrels and heartbreaks of her jailers even as she tries to remember her place among them.
Is she falling in love with the man who helped to destroy her homeland? Can Catheryn betray her Anglo-Saxon roots, and her late husband? Or will she break free, and find her way back to Annis?
The prisoner had not spoken for weeks.
None had expected it to last this long. The journey over the wide sea, back to Normandy, had been a troubled crossing. Of the five ships that had left England’s shore, only three had arrived safely, and even those had lost men to fear and sickness. Those that had not died or fled muttered underneath their breath.
The prisoner had not complained.
Dressed in clothes that had seen better days, the prisoner had been forced upon a horse, despite its protestations that it was not strong enough to ride. The cloak had become torn and stained over the fortnight-long ride to the castle of Geffrei, and the hood was pulled across the prisoner’s face, obscuring the night. Despite the cold, the prisoner was not offered a warmer cloak, or a kind word.
The prisoner had barely noticed.
As the sound of the horses’ hooves slowed, the prisoner looked up. Through bleary eyes, only a vague impression of the place at which the company had arrived could be seen, but it was imposing even in its vagueness. A stone building with several floors, and no light emitting from the few windows to pierce the darkness of the evening. No flags hung from the walls, and the door outside which they stood was bare, save for one small handle.
The prisoner closed both eyes.
The prisoner was dragged down from the horse, and made to stand, although every bone cried out for rest. The brim of the hood fell down over its eyes. The murmur that the prisoner attempted made no sense.
“Walk, if you know what’s good for you!”
There were almost a dozen knights that had ridden with the prisoner, but one was more splendidly dressed than the others. His cloak was lined, offering warmth against the bitter autumnal breeze, and it was only he who had been fed thoroughly during the journey.
“My lord Geffrei!”
The man with the lined cloak turned to face one of his men. The others were lowering themselves from their horses, and pulling up their belts over their empty stomachs.
“Yes?” he replied bluntly.
“Food is required,” said the man, pointing at the prisoner. “If you do not want it to die.”
The prisoner fell.
“Up!” shouted Geffrei, pacing towards the prisoner lying on the ground. “You’ll walk, not crawl, into my home, you dirty animal!”
A hand reached up, cracked and sore, from the figure lying on the ground, but no hand went down to meet it. Eventually, the prisoner raised itself up from the ground, and hung its head.
“Now,” breathed Geffrei with malice in every tone, “on you go. You’re the guest of honour.”
Cruel laughs rang out as the prisoner stumbled forwards against the door, clutching at the handle. It turned. The prisoner leaned, exhausted, against the door.
The room that the prisoner fell into was the Great Hall. A small brazier glinted at the far side of the room, and a medley of dogs unravelled themselves to meet their guests. Feet sounded around the prisoner as the men strode in, desperate for warmth.
Geffrei threw himself by the fire into the only chair in the room. He turned his eyes to the prisoner, who had pulled itself up to stare into his face.
“Well,” he said with a smirk. “Here we are. We have finally arrived. What do you think of your new home?”
The prisoner stood up, and with a great effort, spat onto the rushes on the floor.
Geffrei shook his head with a smile on his face. “Now, that’s no way to treat your new home,” he chastised. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
The prisoner pulled back the hood from her face, and shook her long hair and veil out from under the mud-splattered cloak.
“Where is my daughter Annis?”