Today’s Deadly Destination is from E. C. Ambrose‘s Elisha Barber on Smithfield, London, 1345 from ELISHA BARBER, the first book in The Dark Apostle series (published on July 2, 2013 by DAW Books). Want to win a copy? Enter via the widget below.
E. C. Ambrose’s Elisha Barber on Smithfield, London, 1345 from Elisha Barber
It’s your first visit to London, is it? Pity it’s under such circumstances. It’s a sad thing when a child is sick like this, but the nuns will take good care of her. The physicians. . .that’s another matter, but I needn’t worry you over that. She’s resting now—no need for you to stay every moment, and there’s a miasma over this place that can take the health from a well man. Best you cover your mouth with the lavender cloth—there you go.
Do you know the history of Saint Bart’s? Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital, that is. It was founded by a fool—no jest! About two hundred years ago, back in the day of King Henry I, God rest him. Henry had a boon companion in both war and peace, a jester by the name of Rahere. In later years, seeking pardon for his sins, Rahere went on pilgrimage and fell ill. He prayed during his illness, promising that, if he recovered, he would return to London to found a hospital and church. Nice when a prayer gets answered, eh?
This is the result—the priory over there prays the hours at the church, and staffs the hospital alongside. Rahere the fool was the first prior, and now he’s buried inside the nave. Don’t take me for a blasphemer, but there’s days I think only a fool would trust either doctors or prayers. I’m a barber myself, and I perform all manner of operations and bleedings, but these physicians, well, for all their learning, sometimes they don’t even look at the patient before giving their orders. It’s a good thing the girl’s already on the mend.
The priory runs its annual fair at the end of summer; if you stay ’til then, you’ll see goods you’ve only dreamed of, cloth from as far as Cathay and spices from the East.
That great muddy tract? That’ll be Smithfield. Of a market day, it’s packed with all manner of livestock, mostly horses, and the great lords come from miles about to buy them. It’s something to see, to be sure, but the stench! The butchers set up yonder, by the banks of the Fleet, and they pitch the offal right into the river after a slaughter. The Lord Mayor passes one law after another to try to get them to stop, but they go right on.
Slaughter. . . that’s the other thing that happens in Smithfield. They took down a gallows to build the church, but the executions still take place. Some prisoners, they hang right there at the Tower, or over in Newgate for the petty criminals. It’s only the most important ones they bring out to Smithfield for the full treatment. Hanged, drawn and quartered for the worst of traitors, sometimes just a beheading. At least once, a witch burning. That was my first trip to the city, when I was just a lad myself. I can see you’ve heard the talk, that she turned to the very devil at the end, but I was there, and that’s not what I saw. Nowadays, if they find a witch, they handle it more quietly.
If you do get over to see the Tower, you’ll have to pass by the city bridge—that’s where they set up the heads of the traitors on spikes over the gate, a reminder to visitors to be on best behavior. But the Tower, now, that’s called the White Tower, and for good reason. Saint Bart’s has these two colors of stone, the dark and the light, laid in bands, but the Tower’s made of a very pale stone so it gleams by day. King Edward put in a couple of mills, right on the moat, so the Tower can grind its own flour. I’ve heard tell he’s got men down in one of the fortifications making a black powder that bursts up like Hellfire at the slightest spark. But you can’t believe every rumor you hear, especially in London. There’s always somebody talking.
E. C. Ambrose is the author of “The Dark Apostle” series of historical fantasy novels, beginning with Elisha Barber from DAW Books. Published works include “Spoiler Alert” and “The Romance of Ruins” in Clarkesworld Magazine and “Custom of the Sea,” winner of the Tenebris Press Flash Fiction Contest 2012. Additional stories are forthcoming in Fireside and through the Penguin Specials e-book program. The author is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing workshop, a participant in the Codex on-line neo-pro writers’ workshop, and a member of the Cambridge Science Fiction Writers Workshop.
In addition to writing, E. C. works as an adventure guide. Past occupations include founding a wholesale business, selecting stamps for a philatelic company, selling equestrian equipment, and portraying the Easter Bunny on weekends. The author spends too much time in a tiny office in New Hampshire with a mournful black lab lurking under the desk.
2 copies of ELISHA BARBER (The Dark Apostle #1) by E.C. Ambrose
Available on July 2, 2013 by DAW Books
England in the fourteenth century: a land of poverty and opulence, prayer and plague… witchcraft and necromancy.
As a child, Elisha witnessed the burning of a witch outside of London, and saw her transformed into an angel at the moment of her death, though all around him denied this vision. He swore that the next time he might have the chance to bind an angel’s wounds, he would be ready. And so he became a barber surgeon, at the lowest ranks of the medical profession, following the only healer’s path available to a peasant’s son.
Elisha Barber is good at his work, but skill alone cannot protect him. In a single catastrophic day, Elisha’s attempt to deliver his brother’s child leaves his family ruined, and Elisha himself accused of murder. Then a haughty physician offers him a way out: come serve as a battle surgeon in an unjust war.
Between tending to the wounded soldiers and protecting them from the physicians’ experiments, Elisha works night and day. Even so, he soon discovers that he has an affinity for magic, drawn into the world of sorcery by Brigit, a beautiful young witch… who reminds him uncannily of the angel he saw burn.
In the crucible of combat, utterly at the mercy of his capricious superiors, Elisha must attempt to unravel conspiracies both magical and mundane, as well as come to terms with his own disturbing new abilities. But the only things more dangerous than the questions he’s asking are the answers he may reveal.
E. C. Ambrose writes with a razor’s ruthless precision, and draws new blood from the medieval world you thought you knew.
Read an excerpt
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