Molly was speaking earnestly. Brother Wulfstan looked appalled. Presently they returned to the road. Brother Wulfstan signaled to the trio by the great stones, and each swung up his staff to his shoulder with a smooth practiced motion. They trotted forth from the gateway, spreading to this side and that to encircle the tiny caravan, sheepdogs taking station around a flock.
Molly clambered up to her seat and kicked loose the brake. Brother Wulfstan loped up to the head of the caravan; as he passed Hob, he gave him an encouraging double slap on the shoulder blades, as though to say, Let's go, let's go. It was like being struck lightly with a blackthorn root. Hob surged forward, dragging the lead rope. In a moment he had passed between the tall sentinel stones, and they were away on the climbing approach to the monastery.
He looked around as he stumbled upward: the harsh vigilant shapes at avant-garde, flank, and rearguard, Jack Brown's shambling strength, Molly turning her keen watchful face to either side of the trail, abruptly relieved him of a burden or constriction. His thin chest expanded, he drew a deep sweet breath, and his steps pattered almost blithely on the frost-hardened soil of the upward way.
From this point on, the road was flanked by a parapet of fitted stones, waist-high, on the downslope side. After a short time walking uphill, Hob's legs beginning to ache again, the caravan was passed by a squad of monks jogging down to the gate, the men leaning back against the decline. Hob realized that they must have these small groups going back and forth constantly, to monitor the roads between, and to relieve those who had left the portals at either end to escort parties of travelers.
At their left hand the flank of the mountain climbed sheer to Heaven. Presently the wall of rock receded somewhat from the trail, and soon afterward, they came to a cleft in the stone. The road ran on past this point, but a spur curved into the notch, and it was here that Brother Wulfstan turned in. They had come to sanctuary, near the end of the day, in the Monastery of St. Germaine de la Roche.
Excerpted from Something Red by Douglas Nicholas. Copyright © 2012 by Douglas Nicholas. Excerpted by permission of Atria Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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