Castle and Country

An excerpt from The Shandor Cycle.

Rows of slender columns reached upward to the vaulted ceiling, dim and distant even with the midday sun streaming through the high stained-glass windows. Dust-flecked rays of purple, blue, green and red drifted down to settle on the flagstones. A slight breeze moved within the Hall like a soft breath; the feel of the air spoke of high, open spaces, emptiness and silence above and around. David’s footsteps echoed to the ceiling as he slowly walked the length of the Hall. At the furthest end, in the golden light of the Star window, he paused and held his hands out so that they shone gold. He had showed this to Corin a very long time ago, the changing colors of the light, blue fingers, gold face, red feet.

“What am I doing here?” he asked his hands. He remembered standing in this spot with his grandfather, during one of the festivals when Grandfather had worn his crown, shining in the light, and his blue King’s robe. David had been allowed to hold the bowl of water Grandfather used for blessing, poured out to the four directions, and on the Bloodstone. He had been very small, and careful not to spill it. “Should I have ignored the dreams? Mother would have been happier.”

He looked up, through the window into the sun, and let the light dazzle his eyes. Some things never changed. The expanse of the Great Hall still made him feel small. No difference, here, between thirteen and twenty-two; he would never grow tall enough to touch this ceiling. He lay on his back, on the sun-warmed stone, and watched motes of dust dancing in the golden light. When he stirred the air with his hand they danced faster, swirling like wind-driven rain. Rain never fell, here. That was why water had to be brought, on the high days, and poured on the stones for cleansing. David wondered how long the hall had gone without that blessing.

Written by Jessica van Oort. Originally published here.

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