This is the prologue to my current work in progress, The Lady of the Dead, which is a follow-up to The Golden Virginian. It’s short and not very sweet.
Gad’s Hill – October 15th 1661
The Prince’s eyes reflected the stars. Then black mud. Then stars, then mud, then stars again as his severed head tumbled through the air, before making a solid splash in a ditch. The water in the gulley was high enough to cover his head, save for his long, hooked nose which poked out of the puddle, as if to allow for breathing. Which of course he could not do as his lungs were still inside his mutilated body, lying eight feet away on the side of the road. The blood from his many wounds bloomed through his silk shirt onto the delicate gold lacings. The lacerations on his legs were not so obvious due to the rich scarlet cloth of his breeches. Had his head remained attached to his body, the sword protruding from his torso would have been the most obvious cause of death, but now…
A gruff voice shouted, in a Romanian country dialect that to the ears of an outsider would have sounded devoid of any vowels. To young Casimirus, the message was clear.
‘Get this fucking body off the road before we get arrested!’
The boy did as he was told, for the second time that night. He bent down, took hold of the Prince’s soft leather boots and dragged his corpse to the edge of the deeply rutted coach track. The curved blade of the Prince’s cutlass kept sticking in the mud, hampering his progress, so young Casimirus put one foot on the Prince’s shoulder and with both hands pulled the sword from the body. As the blade came free, blood gushed from the wound and for a split-second the boy expected a pale hand to grab his ankle. He stood poised with the sword, but no hand came.
‘Get a move on, or I’ll leave you here with him.’
The boy looked up to see the silhouette of his master now sat atop the coach, whip in hand and ready to flee. The horses snorted, puffing nervous clouds into the crisp night air. Casimirus hurriedly rolled the Prince to the trench. Placing the cutlass on the ground, the boy removed the Prince’s boots, before pushing him into the muddy ditch to be reunited with his head. He was about to throw the sword in after the body, but its gilt silver handle glinted in the moonlight, making him feel safe and powerful. The boy ran to the coach, sword and boots in hand, not looking back. Did he hear gurgling from the water as he leapt up onto the buggy? He stared at his companion in terror, but neither said another word as they sped away from the Prince and towards the sun.