When the village of Jarrow came into view, Annoure slowed the horse. Wattle-and-daub houses with thatched roofs perched along the shoreline of the River Don. Twisted stick fences enclosed gardens and farm animals. A rooster crowed, setting off a chorus of roosters. No one appeared to be up yet, so she urged the horse on and galloped toward the farthest edge of the village where St. Paul’s church was located.
She crouched low on Bertran’s back, clinging frantically as the wind blew her wimple onto her shoulders and whipped her hair out of its fastenings. The horse’s hooves thundered along the ground and houses flew by in a blur. The horse galloped faster and faster, its muscular body heaving and sweating beneath her.
Soon the hundred-year-old stone church appeared, with its twin monasteries and the guesthouse, which had colored glass windows. She sailed through the herb and vegetable gardens on the south slope facing the Don. A few monks working in the terraced gardens glanced up with astonishment as she hurtled past, her horse’s hooves kicking up dust. She rode straight to the Jarrow monastery and reined in Bertran. Sliding off, she rushed inside.
“Father Eian!” she called, bursting into the scriptorium, panting for breath.
Startled, Father Eian splashed ink on the elaborate page he laboriously worked on. He scowled in disapproval. “Look what you caused me to do, child!” he said in Frankish, the language of the nobility.
“Father, there are—”
“Calm down, Annoure. You’re fifteen—a woman now—too old to be rushing around like a peasant child and why—”
She interrupted him. “Five dragon ships are rowing down the Don toward the village and church!”
His wrinkled face paled. “Have they come to trade?”
“No. One of the men shot an arrow at me. They could be the same men who ransacked Lindisfarne last winter. We need to ring the bell and warn the villagers.”
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