Monday 24 December 2012

The Angels Dancing in the Sun

Happy Christmas, happy holidays to all of you.   May the next year bring you all good things.  To celebrate the season, here's an extract from my medieval fantasy 'Dark Angels', in which the young hero Wolf fulfills a promise to meet his friend Nest, daughter of a Norman lord and a Welsh princess, at the top of the watch tower of the castle La Motte Rouge at daybreak on Christmas morning, in the hope of seeing angels dancing in the sunrise.  Wolf has bad news for Nest, and danger is all about them - but - it's still Christmas...

FAR across the snow-filled valley the sky was changing from blue to the palest apricot.  Wolf hurried, slipping and stumbling.  When he reached the door at the bottom of the tower, it was ajar, and clods of snow had been stamped off on the dark floor just inside.  The ladder ran up into the gloom.  He climbed steadily, rung after rung, till his head and shoulders emerged into the chilly little room at the top of the tower.  Snow had gusted through the open windows and doorway, and coated the boards with white powder.

"Look out," said Nest quietly.  "It's slippery."
"You remembered!"
"So did you!"
They beamed at each other.
 "I wasn't sure you would, " said Nest, "but I came in case."
 ... She picked up a cloth bundle tied with knots. "Here - this is for you. Take it!"

Mystified, Wolf untied the knots.  Out fell a long-sleeved tunic.  A linen shirt.  Warm, tight-fitting hose for his legs.  And a fine woollen cloak lined with rabbit-fur.  They were new.  Nest must have been making them for weeks.  He looked up at her, speechless.

"Merry Christmas," she said gruffly.
"I can't believe you did this," he said in a hoarse voice.  "Thank you."  He looked at the clothes again, fingering the cloth.  "Nest - I came to tell you -"

A gleam of pink light touched her face. "No!" she pleaded.  "Don't tell me yet.  Remember why we came? Look, the sun's nearly up!"

Wolf swept snow from the rail.  They leaned on it, looking east.  Every moment, the colour in the sky grew stronger.  A vast cloud stood high over Crow Moor.  It flushed rose and peach and gold and began to brighten beyond colour, into pure light.  Out of nowhere a small wind ruffled their faces.

Christus natus est!  Christ is born! Far below their feet a cock crowed, wild and shrill.  A goblet of fire too bright to look at rose over the rim of the world. Fields and woods leaped to life. Rays of light struck across the valley, and the snow-crusted edge of the rail where they leaned turned all to diamonds.

A lump came into Wolf's throat.  Poised here on the tower, high above the world, his hard decisions and troubles seemed tiny and unimportant.

Nest grabbed his hand.  "Oh Wolf," she breathed.  "Look."

Above the joyful blazing disc of the sun, the sky was hammered silver.  White sparks appeared in it, like morning stars.  Wolf squinted between the bars of his fingers.  Far, far away, leaving streaks and curls of fire, the angels danced like a flock of birds before the sun, their immeasurably distant wings flashing.

Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish, HarperCollins

US edition: The Shadow Hunt, HarperCollins

Happy Christmas to you all!

Picture credits:  

Sunrise over Boldron fields  by Andy Waddington, Wikimedia Commons
Angels dancing in the sun by Giovanni di Paolo (Musee Conde), Wikimedia Commons

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely beautiful! Will look forward to it. Thank you so much for the preview.