Title: For King and Country (Battle Scars II)
Current word count: 141,122 words
Revisions: I am at the 116,444 word mark in my 2nd round of editing the manuscript. A few weeks ago, I teased 3 readers with chapters 1-2 and received some positive feedback. Two beta readers have the first 71,000 words in their hands, and with luck, I hope to ship the 2nd half of the novel to them within the next 3-4 weeks. Then I sit back and twiddle my thumbs. (Don’t I wish!)
Snippet from the WIP
To set the scene: Robin (not yet the man of legend Hood) has recently befriended Much the miller’s son. Working undercover for Queen Eleanor (remember, King Richard is in captivity in Germany), Robin must infiltrate Nottingham Castle.
St. Peter’s bell pealed Terce welcoming sunlight streaking through the clouds. The miller’s wagon appeared as it struck, just as Much had promised. It lumbered up Castle Road amidst Nottingham’s mid-morning bustle. Robin hopped onto the bench. The younger man wore a sheen of sweat. That, and the grain filling the bed, was ample evidence he’d had a busy morning.
“I’d have helped load the sacks,” Robin said, “but there’s no need to have your father asking questions.”
“You’re certain no one will recognize you at the castle? Might be a knight returned from the Holy Land knows you. And I’ve heard many a man from the garrison speak of serving the old king in Normandy. You might have fought them.”
“Do you expect any of those men will be in the kitchens?”
Much looked around warily to see if anyone was watching. “Well no, I suppose not.”
Robin smiled to himself. “All you’ll need do is show me the path to the tunnels.”
Much kept his voice low. “We shall not have much time.”
“Just get me inside and you may go on your way.” Robin felt for the hilt of his sword. He felt naked without it, but grain deliveries from town were not guarded, and peasants weren’t permitted to carry swords. He carried two daggers, one on his belt, the other in his boot. “If I am caught—”
“You’ll tell them the miller’s son led the way.”
“I would not,” Robin protested.
“If they torture you?”
“I will say I was lost. I was seeking a job in the kitchens and started to wander. My da’ always said I was too too curious for my own good. Dark stairways deserve exploration like a woman’s body. I was feeling my way along every crevice…” Robin paused to let Much’s mind fill in the details. “And suddenly, there I was, stumbling into a tunnel.”
Much pulled up on the reins. “A woman’s body?” He looked incredulous, yet mortified at the same time.
“I spin stories well, my friend. Look at this face.” He pointed to himself, twisting his head from side to side. “Have you ever seen such an honest face?”
Much rolled his eyes. “You could get lost down there.”
“One main tunnel with small alcoves, the third of which leads to a passageway. On the north wall, a door. Through that, the stairwell leads to a large underground chamber.” Robin scrubbed his hands.
“Of course!” Robin laughed. “Now all you must do is forget you ever saw me.”
Photo of Nottingham Castle taken by me (2010). CC BY-SA 4.0