An exclusive excerpt of The Scribe by Antonio Garrido, a historical mystery featuring a head-strong fugitive heroine, a medieval mystery, and secret societies (available December 17, 2013).
The year is 799, and King Charlemagne awaits coronation as the Holy Roman emperor. But in the town of Würzburg, the young, willful Theresa dreams only of following in the footsteps of her scholarly father — a quiet man who taught her the forbidden pleasures of reading and writing. Though it was unthinkable for a medieval woman to pursue a career as a craftsperson, headstrong Theresa convinces the parchment-makers’ guild to test her. If she passes, it means access to her beloved manuscripts and nothing less than true independence. But as she treats the skins before an audience of jeering workmen, unimaginable tragedy strikes — tearing apart Theresa’s family and setting in motion a cascade of mysteries that Theresa must solve if she hopes to stay alive and save her family.
A fugitive in the wilderness, Theresa is forced to rely on her bravery, her uncommon education, and the compassion of strangers. When she encounters Alcuin of York, a wise and influential monk with close ties to Charlemagne, she believes her luck might have finally changed. But the biggest secret lies between Charlemagne and her father. Theresa moves ever closer to the truth, bent on reuniting with her beloved father, only to discover that her family’s troubles are inextricably entwined with nothing less than the fate of an empire.
When Gorgias arrived at the scriptorium, he realized with horror that he had left his bag in the parchment-maker’s workshop. He cursed his stupidity, but he was comforted by the fact that he had hid the parchment that he was working on in a secret compartment inside the bag. He was certain that the man who had attacked him knew the incalculable value of the parchment and had been after it. If he had not taken this extra precaution, his assailant would now have his hands on a document more valuable than even he probably knew. However, the assailant had stolen a draft from out of his bag that contained some of the most delicate passages, and it would cause Gorgias a significant delay.
He looked at his arm and saw blood had soaked through the bandage that Zeno had made. Using his healthy hand he undid the dressing and rested his wounded limb on a table. He tried to move his fingers, but they would hardly bend. The wound was still bleeding, so he tightened the stitches that kept the cut from opening, but the pain made him give up. He could feel his raw flesh palpitating in time with his racing heart. Worried, he asked a servant to call the physician again. While he waited he lay back in his chair and reflected on all that had happened.
The creaking of the door roused Gorgias from his thoughts. The same servant reappeared and asked for permission to enter. With him was the surgeon, visibly annoyed.
“Save me, lord, from scholars,” he grumbled. “They think themselves so learned, yet at the slightest discomfort they moan like old women at a wake.” the physician brought a lamp over to Gorgias’s wounded arm.
“I can hardly move my fingers and it won’t stop bleeding,” Gorgias said, showing him the cut.
The surgeon examined the limb with the same scrutiny a butcher might examine a chicken he was about to dismember. Its stitching had nearly come completely undone. “Dear God! What have you been doing? Writing out the bible in Greek? You should be grateful if I don’t have to amputate.”