Recently, the nice people at Abaddon posted some deleted scenes for my novel The Red Hand (see links on these blogs). Today, for World Book Day I’m posting another that is exclusive to my own blog. It’s short, it’s sweet (I think so, anyway) and it is comedy gold. OK, maybe bronze… (Pragmatic note: as with the previous deleted scenes, if you have the novel and wish to know where this bit fits, the date will tell you exactly where to stick it.) Enjoy.
The road to Berughby – 15 May, 1193
Gisburne felt guilty. He hated feeling guilty. Maybe he should’ve let Galfrid in on the plan from the start. It had been a simple omission at first; then it became a joke. His squire always knew everything – it amused Gisburne to make him guess. But now, it had stopped being funny.
Gisburne decided it might be a good thing to at least try to make conversation. He turned and looked Galfrid’s palfrey up and down – a fine chestnut mare with a white flash upon her head. She could amble as smoothly as any horse he had ever seen.
“So,” he said, “how’s this new nag of yours working out?”
“Good,” said Galfrid, matter-of-factly.
“Good,” Gisburne nodded. “And her temperament?”
“Fine,” said Galfrid.
Gisburne nodded slowly. Clearly Galfrid was not going to make it easy for him. Gisburne wasn’t exactly an adept at small talk, either – usually, they travelled hard, and conversation was sparse, except when it was urgent, and to the point. Or when Galfrid was honing his sarcasm. “Well then…” continued Gisburne. “Given her a name yet?”
Gisburne waited patiently for the rest of the answer. It never came. He sighed. “And may we know what it is?” A note of irritation was entering his voice now. They had been travelling less than half an hour, and already the road to London looked to be getting longer. “Fauvel?” he ventured. Galfrid shook his head. “Sorel? Star, perhaps?”
Galfrid cocked his head and raised his eyebrows as if to say: Good guess – but no…
“Something more elaborate then?” Gisburne tried to think of the least appropriate name for this docile plodder. “Thunder?” He would provoke Galfrid into an answer, one way or another. “No, I know – Warlord! I beg your pardon – Warlady…”
“Mare,” said Galfrid, bringing the speculation to an end.
Gisburne turned and looked him squarely in the eye. The squire stared straight ahead with an impenetrably inscrutable expression. “Mare?” said Gisburne.
“So, she’s a mare, and you’ve called her ‘Mare’…”
“Yes,” said Galfrid.
Gisburne sighed. “Well, it’s accurate. And a fine temperament, you say?”
“Very fine,” said Galfrid. “Steady.”
“Steady.” Gisburne turned and looked ahead. “Hm. Fine if you like that sort of thing, I suppose.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Gisburne shrugged. “You know. Steady. A bit dull…”
“Dull?” There was a note of outrage in Galfrid’s voice. He had taken the bait.
“You know my preference. A decent stallion.” He slapped Nyght affectionately on his sleek, black neck. “Bolder. Braver…”
“Dafter?” It was Gisburne’s turn to sound outraged now. Nobody insulted Nyght. Nobody.
“More impulsive. More bloody-minded…”
“Nyght is perfectly even-tempered,” insisted Gisburne.
“Was he being even-tempered when he kicked the Earl of Norfolk?” said Galfrid.
Gisburne cursed inwardly. Trust him to have heard about that. It had happened last time Gisburne was in York – but the plain fact was the Earl had deserved it. “If Nyght hadn’t taken the initiative,” Gisburne said, “I’d have done it myself.”
Galfrid thought about that for a moment. Then he nodded, and said: “A mount should always be sensitive to its master’s needs.” Gisburne grunted in agreement at Galfrid’s wise words.
And so, having reached an accord, they rode on in contented silence.