Listen to the Wind
The Orphans of Tolosa, #1
by Susanne Dunlap
Publication Date: April 22nd 2019
eBook & Paperback; 388 Pages
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© Susanne Dunlap
At last some sort of order prevailed as everyone found a place to position him or herself to await the attack. Azalaïs clambered back up to the ramparts so she could see. No one said a word.
As the army approached, Azalaïs could make out the faces of the archers in the foreground, and see the well-armored knights in the rear, waiting to ride in once the walls had been breached. How dare they! she thought. No doubt they knew the baron was not there and chose to attack a castel full of women and servants.
Anger sharpened her resolve.
One of the knights rode through the foot soldiers and took up a position at the front. He removed his helmet with a flourish and called out, “Castel de Belascon! I bring you greetings, and beg you would lower your drawbridge that we may refresh ourselves at your hearth.”
The sentry nearest the portcullis looked over at Azalaïs with a question in his eyes. Azalaïs sought Milos among those gathered near the portcullis, and called to him, “Milos, what do we say?”
Milos instructed the sentry, “Say that the household is still asleep, and we have not accommodation for so many.”
The sentry did as he was told.
Even from that distance, Azalaïs could see the look of mock surprise on the leader’s face. “I beg you spare the castel and its inhabitants and allow us to enter peacefully,” he said.
Azalaïs’s blood rose into her face. “Tell them,” she said to the sentry without asking Milos first, “That your mistress does not give you leave to open the drawbridge.”
No sooner had the sentry uttered the words than an arrow sang through the air, sailing over the sentry’s head and landing in the middle of the yard. Fortunately no one was hurt, but it acted as a clarion call, and a great roar rose up from the massed battalion below.
Heat coursed through Azalaïs’s veins and into her arms and hands, now gripping the hilt of the broadsword. Her eyes darted over the scene. Everyone looked to Milos for guidance, and he showed himself to be quite adept at marshalling their meager forces. His sharp eyes and ears followed the movements of the foot soldiers and knights outside.
“I am hit!” screamed a sentry, who stumbled down a ladder into the yard, clutching at the arrow that stuck out of his shoulder.
Azalaïs threw down her broadsword and rushed to him. Let Milos manage the battle, she thought. I shall tend to the wounded.
There were three now, and Azalaïs tore linen strips off her tunic to stanch the bleeding. Arrows clattered to the ground around her.
“I beg you, Ma Domna! Retire!” Milos shouted.
Azalaïs was too focused on her task to hear him.
The strong, well-fortified castel was their best ally against the attackers’ superior forces. Yet arrows continued to rain down injury and death upon the servants, and Azalaïs could not attend to them all.
“Ma Domna! I cannot hold them back!”
The cry came from a lad of no more than thirteen years who stood alone on a side wall, hurling rocks down on the heads of archers who were trying to scale it.
Azalaïs climbed back up to the ramparts, ran around the perimeter, and joined him. Soon her hands bled from lifting the rocks and pitching them over the side wall. She could not look as she did it, saying a silent prayer every time that her missiles would only push the soldiers back, not actually harm them.
Her broadsword lay on the ground at her feet as the pile grew smaller and smaller. At one point she felt the wind of an arrow whistle past her ear. One thumbnail closer and it would have gone through her eye.
When there were only half a dozen boulders left, Azalaïs lifted the broadsword and stood with it as Milos had showed her. A knight’s helm rose above the ramparts, and the poor boy whose hands were rubbed raw from lifting rocks shrank back in alarm, coming perilously close to falling into the yard fifteen feet below.
The sight of the chain-mail-covered knight with his hammered iron helm and nose guard transfixed Azalaïs. She stood immobile with the broadsword thrust out before her and watched him climb slowly over the wall to stand in front of her. To her amazement, rather than rush at her, the knight lifted off his helm.
Susanne Dunlap is the author of six works of historical fiction. Two are for adults (Emilie's Voice and Liszt's Kiss, both published by Touchstone books of Simon & Schuster). Four are for young adults (The Musician's Daughter, Anastasia's Secret, In the Shadow of the Lamp, and The Academie, published by Bloomsbury). A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, Brooklyn and Northampton, MA. She now lives in Northampton with her long-time partner, Charles, has two grown daughters, three granddaughters, a grandson, a stepson and a stepdaughter, four step-grandsons and one step-granddaughter—that's a total of four children and nine grandchildren! In her spare time she cycles in the beautiful Pioneer Valley. For more information, please visit The Orphans of Tolosa website. You can follow author Susanne Dunlap on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, and BookBub.
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Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, May 13 Review at Bibliophile Reviews
uesday, May 14 Review at Pursuing Stacie
Wednesday, May 15 Interview at Passages to the Past
Thursday, May 16 Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Monday, May 20 Review & Guest Post at Clarissa Reads it All Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads Tuesday, May 21 Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots
Wednesday, May 22 Feature at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, May 23 Interview at Donna's Book Blog
Friday, May 24 Review at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, May 28 Review at Coffee and Ink Feature at CelticLady's Reviews Review & Guest Post at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals