A Taste of Copper by Elin Gregory
Your master has the field for today, but his name, whatever it might be, is without honour.
Olivier the squire worships the Black Knight and takes a fierce joy in his prowess as he defends a bridge against all comers. Olivier only wishes that his master loved him as much in return instead of treating him as a servant and occasional plaything.
Then word comes that the King desires to cross the bridge. With an army approaching, a bright eyed archer enticing Olivier to desert and the first cracks beginning to show in the Black Knight’s gruff demeanour, Olivier is left wondering if his honour is worth more than a chance for happiness.
Word count: 25,900
Cover Art: Meredith Russell
Editor: Erika Orrick
Copyright: Elin Gregory
Laden with a steaming bucket in one hand and a platter bearing bread, sausage and a jug of wine in the other, Olivier shouldered aside the entrance flap to enter the pavilion. Sir Maheris was still armoured but had removed his helmet and pushed back his coif. His short cap of black hair had spiked up with sweat, and deep lines bracketed his full lips. Maheris had fierce black eyes beneath frowning brows, but Olivier had seen his scowl ease into a gentle smile when he slept. Olivier wondered what dream could put that soft vulnerability on Maheris’s face and prayed one day to see such a smile turned towards him.
But now Sir Maheris was glowering. “You were delayed? Perhaps the horses ran off? Undo these buckles.”
“Sir?” Olivier put his burdens down and hurried to his side. “Did I fasten them too tightly? Your pardon, sir, I…”
Maheris grunted and raised his left hand, ungauntleted now, to show it bright with blood. “A lucky stroke,” he said. “Reihershof’s point caught a chink in my brassard.”
Olivier’s heart thumped fast as he assisted Maheris. Blood was still dripping, the sharp scent of it mingling with the stench of iron and old sweat from the padded doublet. He set the pieces of armour aside to clean later and eased the doublet over Maheris’s head. The left sleeve of it weighed heavy with blood, and the shirt beneath was sodden. Olivier bit his lip as he eased the clotted fabric away and saw the bright trickle that followed.
“That will do,” Maheris said once he was bare to the waist. His heavy shoulders and chest gleamed with sweat, his skin goosefleshing in the chill air, but he waved Olivier away when he brought Maheris a towel. “Time for that when the wound is sealed,” he said as he took a seat. “You know what to do.”
The wound in his bicep gaped like a hot, wet mouth.
“Is it clean?” Maheris demanded. “Get on with it, boy.”
Read the whole of the first chapter here.