Emily Randolph-Epstein: ‘The Great Kitchen Raid’
The following is an excerpt from my novel Starforged, about a young knight named Collin Brick who has had a prophetic dream predicting his own death. In the midst of court intrigue, political upheaval and war, Collin must find a way to prevent his own death. And also in the midst of his own troubles, Collin still finds time to play with his little brother, Crispin.
The Great Kitchen Raid
Collin slept until noon or rather, he didn't sleep but lay in his bed staring at the curtains above him, reliving the events of the night before in his head over and over. He gave up on ever falling asleep when the bells of the city declared the midday hour. He climbed out of bed and dressed informally, foregoing shoes. He went in search of food and nearly tripped over Crispin, who sat on the floor outside his bedroom door, playing with the wooden horses that Pine had carved when Collin was a little boy, and that Collin had passed on to Jon who had gifted them to Crispin only months earlier when Jon had turned 13 and declared himself too old for toy horses. Crispin loved the horse and was rarely seen without them.
"Good morning, Crispin," Collin yawned, sitting down on the floor beside his brother. His head ached and he felt cold, not having slept.
Crispin barely looked up from his game, but handed Collin one of the wooden horses. It had been painted pure black with a star of white on its forehead, though now some of the paint had chipped around the hooves and one of the ears had been chewed off by a dog. Collin tried to remember the name he'd given the horse when it had been his. Star, maybe, he thought. Was it as simple as that?
"Where are we riding?" Collin asked, sinking down to lie on his stomach, propped up on his elbows.
"There are monsters in the forest," Crispin said. "I'm scaring them away."
They rooted all the monsters out of the forest and then they went in search of a nest of immortals who had stolen a fair princess. Once they had killed all the immortals and rescued the princess, Crispin declared that the horses needed a nap. Then Collin's stomach growled so loudly that Crispin laughed. "Shh," said Collin. "You'll wake the horses."
Crispin collapsed into giggles.
Collin hopped to his feet. "Let's go steal cakes from the kitchen," he said. "Go get your sword."
Crispin jumped up with glee and ran to retrieve his wooden play sword from his room. He left the horses sleeping on the floor. Collin gathered them up and followed after Crispin.
Cora emerged from her bedroom still dressed in her night gown, hair a tumbled mess, face paint smudged from her pillow.
"What's going on?" she asked, spying Collin coming out of Crispin's room.
"We're planning a raid on the kitchens," said Collin.
"I've got it." Crispin ran back into the hallway, brandishing his little practice sword.
"What a little bandit you are!" Cora laughed.
"I'm not little." Crispin frowned. "I'm tall for my age."
Cora suppressed a smile and ruffled Crispin's red-brown hair.
"You're absolutely right, Crispin." Collin squatted down to make eye contact with his baby brother. "You're a great, terrible warrior, feared throughout the land: Crispin the Crippler."
"Ooh, I want a nickname too," said Cora.
"Cora the Incorrigible."
"What's incorrigible mean?" Crispin asked.
"It means difficult," said Collin.
"I am not difficult," Cora crossed her arms over her chest.
Collin laughed. "Now," he said. "Any good raid needs a plan."
They crept through the house to the kitchen, ducking into rooms to avoid being seen by the servants. Once, Collin poked his head around a corner only to find a maid trying not to laugh. He put a finger to his lips, his face gravely serious. The maid bit her fist to keep her burst of laughter contained.
They lined up outside the door that led into the servant's hall, Collin in the lead, Crispin at the center and Cora bringing up the rear.
"On the count of three, I'll open the door and then Crispin what do you do?" Collin asked.
"Run down the stairs and ask for cake," said Crispin, grinning a little pirate's grin.
"Don't just ask, demand," said Cora.
"What's that mean?"
"It's like when father tells you to do something you have to do it or else you'll be in serious trouble," said Cora. "Do you think you can demand cake?"
Crispin nodded gravely.
"Alright, ready? One. Two. Three." Collin opened the door and Crispin shot past him emitting a war cry.
Cora burst out laughing.
"Shh. Come on," said Collin, following his little brother.
Crispin ran straight into the kitchen screaming at the top of his lungs. "Give me cake or I'll give you death," the little boy demanded.
"He's a natural bandit," Cora whispered.
The scullery maids screamed and then fell into giggles when they saw Crispin.
"Cake or death!" Crispin brandished his sword in as menacing a way as a 7-year-old with a wooden sword could manage, even if he was tall for his age.
Cook came forward, wiping her hands on her pinafore.
"Now, now, little lord, I think we can manage without the death," she said. "Why don't you put away your sword and I'll carve you up a piece of cake. Now sit down at the table and you girls get back to your work." This last was to the scullery maids. "And you might as well come join the little lord, my lord, my lady."
Collin and Cora came into the kitchen, unable to keep from looking sheepish. They sat at the scarred and worn kitchen table next to Crispin.
"You'll be wanting your breakfasts, then?"
"If it's not too much trouble," said Collin.
"It's no trouble," said Cook. "I've been keeping some meat pies warm for you."
Emily Randolph-Epstein is a Rockport-based writer and musician. She is in the midst of revising and editing her first novel, Starforged, a political fantasy. She plays the upright bass and sings in Miners Creek Bluegrass Band. In addition to writing a novel, Emily spends her time writing song lyrics and poetry, and keeps a blog at emilyrandolphepstein.com. You can find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @emrandep.
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