POS has taken an interesting turn in direction that sort of took me by surprise -- and includes the appearance of a new character -- so I'm following it just to see what happens. I'm now at nearly 82000 words.
This is the next to the last section of "David Martin." No comments, so far. I wonder if anyone's reading it?
The next morning, David slowly bridled the pony. His hands trembled as he tied the strap. His eyes constantly glanced down the road, searching for the knight but finding nothing. Finally, he led the pony onto the road...and just stood there and gazed at the castle. A dozen people were already waiting for the drawbridge to lower.
“Please come, Sir Knight,” he whispered.
But then with a loud groan, the drawbridge slowly, slowly descended, seeming to beckon him closer. And the gate-keeper grumpily waved the people forward. David took a deep breath, forced himself to mount the pony and quietly rode up to wait his turn in line.
The gatekeeper was obviously a man impressed with his own sense of importance. Each person wanting entry to the castle had to explain who he was and why he was here, in complete detail. Every now and then, a pair of knights would gallop past without so much as a nod. But they were the only ones allowed to do this, and that they did it seemed only to increase the man’s anger. By the time he got to David, he was all but snarling.
“You, boy,” he growled. “What’s your business?”
“I...I’m David Martin,” he replied, his voice barely under control. “I’ve come to see Sir Richard.”
“Who’re you with?”
“I’m alone, sir.”
The man looked at David as if he were insane. “Say again?!”
“Sir Richard has sent for me.”
The gatekeeper laughed. “Where’s your escort? The king would never have you come alone!”
David shook at the scorn in the man’s voice. He was barely able to reply, “He...he was with me, but...he’s been detained.”
The gatekeeper shoved the pony away from the bridge, sneering, “Go home, you lying little urchin!”
David’s eyes flashed with pride and anger! Never had he been called a liar before! Never! He spun the pony back to face the drawbridge and cried, “I do not lie! I am David Martin, and I have an audience with the king!”
The gatekeeper raised his fist to strike David! Before he could, a stout genial knight rode up and shoved the man aside without a thought. “Master Martin!?” the knight said. “Good heavens, we expected you yesterday. Where is your escort?”
“He’s been detained,” replied David, trying to shake the anger from his voice. He exhaled, drew himself taller in his saddle, took a deep breath and asked the stout Knight in a splendidly even voice, “May I now enter?”
“Indeed you may, lad,” the man replied. “With me.”
He led David past the astonished gatekeeper and inside the castle’s walls.
The courtyard was huge and bordered by the stables, a blacksmith, a pen for animals and a barracks. The open area was strewn with straw amidst the mud, and foot soldiers practiced their drills while knights playfully battered each other with their broadswords. Women cooked in one corner and children raced about, laughing and squealing and being chased by yapping dogs.
David noticed all of this in a glance. He also noticed that people everywhere stopped and stared at the vision of a knight leading the pony of a scraggly-looking youth. He paid them no mind.
“We were about to come look for you,” said the stout knight. “There’s been word of trouble on the west road.”
“A few thieves, here and there,” said David.
“I thought as much. You’re from the far west, am I not correct?”
David nodded. “Whitlock.”
“I was there, once, to collect the king’s duty. A very pleasant village.”
They reached a side entrance to the castle keep and dismounted. A page took the pony’s reins. The stout knight opened the door and said, “I’ll show you to your chambers, now.” Without another word, he led the youth inside.
They climbed a dark narrow staircase that circled higher and higher and higher and just when it almost seemed to be endless, they reached a door barely wide enough for David to enter. The stout knight motioned him through, so in he went.
David found himself in a fair-sized room with another larger door and long narrow windows that looked out over the west and south. Its furnishings were elegant in their simplicity – a carved-wood bed with hand-sewn coverlets, an intricately woven tapestry on the wall, a long table with two chairs in the center of the room – but everything seemed rather...impersonal. He turned back to the stout knight.
“May I have a bath, please?” he asked.
The stout knight smiled at him from the other side of the door. “Of course, lad. And something to eat?”
“So be it. I’ll call for you when Sir Richard is ready. Rest until then.”
With that, he closed the door and David heard him walk back down the stairs. Then David sank to his knees, unable to move or even to think.
Within an hour, David had bathed, dressed in fresh clothing and eaten part of a sumptuous meal, all without a single coherent thought in his head. Then he stood beside one of the windows and watched people pass along the road he had just traveled. His eyes followed it as far as they could, and he tried to imagine he could see Whitlock in the far distance, but he knew he could not. Then he lay back on the bed and tried to sleep, but he knew he could not. Then he tried to figure out if he had done something horrible enough to warrant punishment by the king, but his mind was too busy whirling.
Here he was, ready, waiting to meet the great and glorious master of this kingdom, but which one was he about to see? The Sir Richard who had slain a dragon and sent an entire army into flight? The Sir Richard who saved damsels and lead his men into battle against overwhelming odds? The Sir Richard who could kill a mad wolf bare-handed, be it sorcerer or not? Or was it to be a frail unsteady old man built of nothing more than half-truths and exaggeration – or even worse, a myth that did not exist? He had no idea, whatsoever.
The more he thought about it, the more certain David was that he would merely be taken into a room and met by the Lord Chamberlain or Master of the Guard and told, “We’re sorry, but the king is too busy; I’ll deal with you, lad.”
Oh, what fun the town master and so many others in the village would have with him, should this visit turn out that way. “Thought yourself good enough to meet the king, did you? Stupid child. Head always in the clouds and filled with the thoughts of an idiot.” His life would become a mockery and not even Nana could protect him from it. But it would serve him right for thinking himself worthy of anything more.
He looked around the room, but it told him nothing. He returned to the window, but found he could not hear the birds or squirrels over the clamor in the courtyard. He wanted to cry, but he knew he could not let himself. “The knight would never do such a thing,” he told himself. So he just stood there and watched the sun dip lower and lower into the horizon. As it was about to vanish into a sky of brilliant pink and gold and violet, the stout knight knocked on the larger door.
“May I enter?” he asked.
It took David a moment to reply, “Please do.”
The man stepped into the room. He was now dressed in a more formal uniform, and his eyes were bright with pride. “The King requests you join him for dinner, Master Martin,” he said.
“The king requests.” So he was to meet Sir Richard. So he was about to know the truth.