Tales of Old Russia, Book 2
Copyright 2010, Peter Morwood
Ebook Edition Note:
This book is a newly revised version of the 1992/1993 Legend Books edition originally published by Random House UK in hardcover and paperback Punctuation and spellings in this version have been revised to US usage.
To Terry Pratchett,
For singing horses and other matters
The window was three times as tall as a man, and all there would have been to see beyond it was the forest of the Polish-Prussian border, shading from dark green down to black as the autumn evening shadows slid across it. But no man, not even the man standing right in front of it, could see through its glass, for each small piece was stained and patterned so that the whole huge window formed – from a distance – the picture of St Mary the Virgin, blue-robed and gently benevolent as any image in a great cathedral. Beyond that serene figure was a deep, chill moat, and open ground where the forest had been cleared for a distance of two bowshots so that no attacker could creep in without being seen by the sentries who constantly walked the ramparts. This was no cathedral, despite the presence of crucifixes, holy relics and the image of the Blessed Virgin. No cathedral ever built had walls twelve feet thick and pierced with arrow-loops, nor iron shutters that could be closed across its stained-glass windows. Nor, whatever their thickness, were the walls of cathedrals usually equipped with racks of spears and javelins alongside their fonts of holy water, with cocked and loaded crossbows forming other and more sinister cruciforms than even the many repeated images of carven Roman gallows and their tormented, spear-pierced, thorn-crowned burdens.