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Joshua Reynolds’s sixth novel: The Cniht of the Hillocks

Excerpt from Chapter 1:

          Sunlight filtered dimly into the room from high set windows above. The windows did not have glass in them, for they were merely narrow cutouts from the smooth stone wall of the burh. From the sunlight could be seen old parchments and scrolls – the golden beams alighting on them and showing that a thin layer of dust covered their surfaces. Many rows of wooden shelves held stacks and stacks of scrolls, some of them tied up with satin ribbon or leather. A large wooden table in the center of the room also had a few stacks of paper on it, though these parchments looked newer and without a speck of dust on them. It was a quiet and lonely sort of room – one that begged for solitude and privacy.

          A single girl, young enough to look around ten or eleven years old, was the only living soul in the room. She looked cautious and timid – as though she had stepped into the place uninvited. As a matter of fact, this is exactly what she had done. Her name was Rosina of Godfrey, and her green eyes were looking everywhere around her at the grandeur of the place. She strode over to the table and looked at some of the parchments. Most of the papers had numbers, figures, or names of places she had never heard of before. Most girls her age – in fact, most adults who had her position during this Anglo Saxon time, would not have been able to read the papers at all. Rosina of Godfrey was knowledgeable, though, for her older brother had been teaching her how to read. He had learned because they had a clever father who had taught him.

          Rosina would have left the room quickly. Her heart was beating fast, and she kept turning her eyes to the doorway, afraid that someone would find her in high places that were above her status. Just before she turned to go, her eyes caught sight of a parchment that drew her attention. She read the following:

          To Seth of Godfrey,

          I, Thegn Samuel of the Hillocks, have news concerning thy father that thou deservest to know. Be it known that I have a dozen times made up my mind to tell thee with mine own mouth, but thy youthful years coupled with thy mother’s illness have held my tongue. Howe’er, thou shouldst know what happened afore thy father’s passing, when he served in my fyrd for the last time. Thy father’s valiant and noble deeds worked to preserve the whole of the Hillocks. . . .  

         Footsteps echoed down the hallway adjoining the room, and Rosina’s head snapped toward the doorway.