TITLE: Winter's Discord
GENRE: YA Epic Fantasy
The morning started wet and dark as Ben Grange checked his father’s saddle and weapons one last time before checking his own equipment. It was still dark when his father, Duke Thomas strode into the courtyard of the manor dressed for that morning’s hunt. Several of his vassal lords, in their own hunting finery followed him along with Ben’s brother James. Scowling, Ben turned, trying not to make eye contact with him and moved to his father’s horse. The Duke smiled and said, “Good morning Ben.”
“Morning father,” Ben said. “Strider’s ready.”
The Duke nodded as he mounted and looked back to the others, “Are we ready?”
“I believe so,” Sir William Fields, the castle master-at-arms, said as he mounted his own horse. Ben mounted his own horse and moved it to his father’s side, trying his best to ignore James’s sneer from the other side.
“Then let’s go,” the Duke said, spurring his horse towards the gates, sending the party of nearly a hundred through the manor town and out into the countryside. The smell of winter filled Ben’s nostrils as a sharp, cold rain began to fall, stinging his face. Cursing his luck, Ben focused on the promise of mystery and excitement of the Yule Hunt. Only this time he was the Duke’s squire and a participant. It almost made him forget about the growing numbness in his cheeks.
It was closer to midday when they entered the hills of the western woods. The road narrowed so they could only ride two or three abreast.