Got more done on POS and another element has surfaced. I'm beginning to see that my recent writer's block was my brain sorting through the info and determining this is the way to go to best illustrate the meaning behind the book. I'm back to wondering how it will all turn out.
This is the end of "David Martin" -- which at 57 pages and 11,500 words falls into an area publishers don't like. Problem is, the story does, and when I try to add to it or trim it, it fights back. So...I'm at a loss as to what to do with it short of adding lots and lots of illustrations to pad out the length. Ideas are welcome.
The stout knight led him from the room into a wide corridor. Four soldiers stepped into place behind him and they strode down a winding staircase. David took note of odd little things as they walked – the wetness of the granite walls, shadows cast between sets of torches, a face carved into a door they passed – and this added to his confusion.
“Is this how a condemned man acts as he walks to his execution?” he wondered. Then he reminded himself he was dining with the king, not going on his final journey. However, he did not feel like a guest...of anyone’s. And something deep within him still did not truly believe it would happen.
The stairs straightened and lead down to the entryway to another room...and David froze at their base. Before him was a cavernous foyer built of granite and polished wood. Its ceiling appeared to reach up to heaven, with bright banners and flags hanging from its many arches. Magnificent tapestries and blazing candelabras highlighted the walls, and a burgundy carpet with gold and silver thread woven into it led from the stairs to a huge engraved door that was flanked by two guards. The youth was certain his entire village could fit into this one chamber.
But that was not the worst of it. People were everywhere – beautifully dressed lords and ladies of the court, powerful barons from across the land, more of Sir Richard’s knights, wealthy merchants and ministers – all of whom had been noisily chatting with each other, but who, the instant they saw David, had grown silent and now watched him with a terrifying fascination.
David was unable to move. All he could do was watch the stout knight stride directly up to the door. Once he reached it, the man turned back to him.
“Is there a problem, Master Martin?” he called.
Words froze in David’s throat. He focused on the huge door and forced himself to slowly walk down the carpet. Before he was even halfway there, the door seemed to loom over him. Each panel in it was intricately carved and together they depicted a battle that must have been fought, with Sir Richard at its center, adding to its stature. He had to shift his gaze to its massive, beautifully-polished handles to keep from being overwhelmed.
When David was almost to the door, the stout knight stepped to one side. Neither of the guards moved.
“You must open it yourself, lad,” said the stout knight. “I do not have an audience with the king.”
David stopped. He was only a few feet from the door and the sheer height of it was breathtaking. Was threatening. Was absolutely terrifying. He stepped back.
“I can’t,” he told himself. “Sir Richard does not exist. He’s just a myth built on lies and I cannot face knowing this! I can’t!”
The boy stumbled farther away from the door. The knight watched him, frowning. The lords and ladies of the court almost sneered in condescension and self-satisfaction. Their silence seemed only to grow in depth and meaning.
David began to shake and was about to turn and run from the room when through the deafening silence he heard a sparrow chirp. He jumped and looked up to find a bunch of twigs and straw nestled at the base of a pair of flags. As he watched, a sparrow popped its head over the side of the nest, hopped off and flew out a window. An instant later, it returned with more straw in its beak and set it in with the twigs that were already in place.
A sparrow was nesting in Sir Richard’s castle. Not an eagle. Not a hawk. Not even a proud and glorious robin. Just a sparrow.
David looked at the stout knight. The man still watched him with a startling intensity. It seemed everyone in the room was holding their breath. Finally, David smiled...grasped the door’s handle...took a deep breath and pulled. The door swung open with no trouble whatsoever, and David entered the room.
As the door closed, the stout knight smiled.
David stood inside another great chamber, stunned. Gathered before him were the inn keeper and the farmer, where David had spent his first two nights, as well as the married couple who’d been attacked, the town master and his grandmother. And best of all, seated at a long table placed before a roaring fire was the knight who had come for him. And finally he knew.
“Sir Richard,” he said.
The knight rose and bowed, slightly. “Master Martin,” he replied.
Relief swept over David. “You are everything I dreamed,” he said, “and nothing like I feared.”
Sir Richard smiled. “As are you, David. As are you.”
Over dinner, Sir Richard explained that since he had no heir to the throne, he would have to anoint a successor in hopes of avoiding civil war. Barons in the north of his kingdom wanted one man to be chosen; lords to the south wanted another; and neither was satisfactory to those who ruled the east lands. So to quell the political fighting, he had determined it best to find a boy from among his people to learn how to govern the kingdom...and inherit the throne.
But not just any boy would be acceptable to one and all. He had to be not onlyt intelligent and kind, but also brave and resourceful with a proper concept of what was right and wrong and the quick wits needed to handle the intrigues of the court so that they did not explode into battles. But in the pact to accept this, the barons and lords had demanded some form of proof that the boy selected would have all of these traits.
So they had decided to test the mettle of each youth during a long journey of silence, during which he would find his beliefs scorned and his world turned on its head. There would also be trouble along the way, to see how each boy handled himself...though in David’s case, there had been more than was planned for. Sir Richard would lead each journey, under the guise of being a knight, to observe the one chosen, then he would find some pretext to leave the boy on his own to approach the castle on the final day.
After quietly searching the land for years, Sir Richard found three youths with what he believed would be the proper qualities to be king. The first two had not even made it to the castle walls. David had succeeded, admirably.
“But what made you think I could do this?” asked David.
“The quick-witted manner in which you saved your friend from drowning,” said the king, “even though you cannot swim. And your willingness to help your grandmother without being asked to. And the way you protected your town from a hungry fox while also protecting that same fox from those who would happily have killed her. And the fact that you did all of this without concern for what the townspeople might say or think. These actions showed you are willing to face not only the terrors of the world, but also the terrors within your own society...and yourself. Only a strong man can do this, and a king must be a strong man in order to protect what he has sworn to protect.”
“But I’m not a king,” whispered the boy, overwhelmed. “I’m just David.”
The king tousled David’s hair, smiling. “I know,” he said. “But never forget – I was once ‘just Richard’.”
So David’s grandmother joined him to live in the castle, and David learned the ways of Sir Richard’s benevolent rule. And word spread throughout the land of how Sir David single-handedly saved a Spanish princess from abduction. And how he fought a ravenous bear to the death. And how he prevented the assassination of a baron and his wife. And finally, how Sir David had chosen the most beautiful girl in the kingdom to be his queen, a girl whose eyes gently sparkled like sapphires dancing in the firelight.