Two children escape the carnage. They carry a leather satchel filled with mementos from their parents: mother’s silk scarf, father’s flask of brandywine, and several esoteric objects that the Temple Knights hold sacred — items the Inquisitors must never find.

 

Who can they trust as they flee across the countryside? Will they escape the evil that pursues them or will the legacy they carry condemn them forever?

 

This is a race to escape. This is The Children’s Story.

 

 

Read the first chapter from The Children's Story...

C

The Children’s Story

 

On Friday the 13th, 1307, members of the Temple Knights are systematically seized, rounded up, and exterminated under  orders of the Church. This is a time of Inquisition — a bloody period in history fueled by ignorance and greed.

Isabelle held Louis’ hand as they sprinted across the rain-drenched courtyard. The boy whimpered, stopped short, and glowered at her with soggy, brown eyes.

 

“I can’t run that fast!” His chubby white fists protectively clutched a leather satchel to his chest as his bottom lip juddered.

 

Isabelle cupped her hand under his chin, just like mama used to do when she needed the children to listen, and said, “Little Louis, don’t start crying. Trust me, we have to get out of here. We have to do it fast and we have to do it tonight.” She draped an arm around his shoulder and pulled him lower to the ground. “There is a crevice under the castle wall only twenty feet away. It’s small, like an animal dug its way through. Come, let’s go. I’ll count the steps and we’ll be there before you know it.”

 

Louis nodded and followed obediently. As she counted each step, a song crept forward in her mind. It was the voice of mama singing: A basket of apples, how many inside? Let’s look and see and then make a pie! One apple, two apples, three, and then four. Five apples, six apples, soon seven more. Now eight apples, and nine, the last one makes ten. Let’s put them back and count them again.

 

Isabelle felt peaceful for a moment with the song and the memory swimming in her head. She and her mother both had the same wavy, light brown hair, like the color of wheat grass at harvest. Mama was tall and wispy thin. Isabelle recently noticed that her own body was beginning to take the shape of her mother’s –– lean and spry, with a long torso, and just the suggestion of a bosom.

 

She held an image of her mother in her mind’s eye. The tall woman picked apples from the high branches of the tree while Isabelle held the basket. They were making pastries for her father and his men. The song started again: A basket of apples, how many inside? Let’s look and see and then make a pie…

 

Louis slipped and she lost her grip on his hand. He let out a shrill cry.

 

“Shh!” she warned. “The guard will hear!”

 

Louis blubbered, “But I tripped.”

 

She put her hand by his foot and felt a puddle washed out by rain. “Come on. We’re almost there.”

 

He started to stand but lost his balance and fell on his rump. “Dumb puddle!” he hissed with the defiance of a six year old. Louis clumsily tried again but his ankle gave way, and he fell a second time. “I’m hurt! Izzy, my foot hur-ssst! We have to tell Uncle Pierre.”

 

Prickly cold embraced the back of her neck. “No, your foot is fine. Just a bit farther and we’ll be on the other side of the wall.”

 

She knew they couldn’t go back. If Uncle Pierre discovered they were outside at this time of the night, he would become suspicious…and that would not be good.

 

She squatted and picked up her little brother. He buried his face in her mane of hair and sobbed while she clumsily carried him.

 

Isabelle was strong for a skinny girl. Her father told her so. She would cling to his broad back as he jumped around and brayed like a donkey. “My how strong you are, Izzy! You never let go!” She would howl with sheer joy and hold on tighter.

 

Isabelle would not let go now.

 

Thunder rumbled over the mountains as she navigated the muddy courtyard with her brother in her arms. She wore her riding dress because it allowed her the most freedom of movement, but the rain moistened the material, causing it to cling to her legs. She squinted warily at the tower. Her bonnet slid down her forehead and she had to tilt her head back to see.

 

She knew the guard wasn’t watching this way. His job was to make sure no one was breaking into the castle, but when they got on the other side of the wall…

 

Louis wiggled restlessly in her arms.

 

“We’re almost there,” she wheezed. Her eyes widened in the darkness, but she couldn’t see the crevice in the wall.

 

“I have to put you down now.”

 

Louis made a soft sound as he plopped onto the moist earth.

 

Isabelle searched up and down the craggy, moss-covered wall and at one point, her hand brushed across a stone’s sharp edge, slicing the meaty part of her palm. She didn’t feel the pain though, because it didn’t really matter. Nothing mattered except their escape.

 

 

Oubliette — A Forgotten Little Place copyright © 2016 by Vanta M. Black.

Website, art, cover, and jacket design copyright  © 2016 by Black Château Enterprises.