More dragons and a chilly morning in Guildford

I did most of my Christmas shopping on Friday morning. Inevitably, I got bored of the crowds after a while and took half an hour off to sit down somewhere quiet with a late breakfast croissant. I’d made the trip into Guildford, which is our nearest big town, and my first choice for a few quiet minutes in Guildford is pretty inevitable (although it’s rare to have the place completely to myself as I did on Friday). Guildford, you see, has a castle.

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Looking up from the south side of the keep. The remains of the castle and its grounds have now been turned into a public garden.

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The keep from the other side. Guildford was a royal castle. The original motte and bailey castle was built not long after the Norman Conquest, and the keep was converted to stone in the 1130s.

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Looking over the town from the base of the keep, towards the modern cathedral on the other side of the valley.

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Looking south from roughly the same location. When the sun isn’t in your eyes, you can see right down the valley from here. Guildford was on the trade route from London to the south coast, and the castle would have offered good views of any threat to the ford over the River Wey.

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The gardens in the sides of the defensive ditch are a little dull at this time of year. They’re at their best in late spring, when they’re full of tulips.

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For some reason, there is a large commemorative sundial on the back of a shopping centre opposite the castle. I have no idea why Guildford is commemorating Edward I and his wife. He certainly visited the place a few times, but he wasn’t hugely important to the town’s history, as far as I can find out.

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Guildford is full of little sidestreets and passages, some narrow enough that you have to turn to let people past and some wide enough to be proper roads. This is quiet Quarry Street, just below the castle. It supposedly owes its width to George IV, who was so infuriated when his carriage got stuck here on the way to Brighton that he ordered that the road be widened by knocking down the protruding chancel of St Mary’s Church.

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St Mary’s Church, on Quarry Street. The tower dates from 1050, making it the oldest building in Guildford, and the rest of the church was built in the late 13th century.

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And here’s Guildford High Street, complete with the clock on the town hall. For those who have read The Ghost of Mistletoe Lock, this was the road I placed Ryan’s shop in 🙂

And finally, another dragon wars drabble. This follows on from the last one, and introduces one of Tarn’s sisters.

The market hall they had turned into their council chamber was packed with anxious people. Tarnamell looked out across the throng, wondering who to keep inside.

“Four pages,” Isara said quietly at his shoulder. “Us, and one more voice from each hoard. Breadth, but not chaos.”

“Reading my mind again?” Tarnamell asked.

She raised an eyebrow. “As if I need to, brother. There’s Hal.”

The crowd parted for Halsarr, Tarnamell noticed, though their brother didn’t seem aware of it. He simply strode through, straight to the dais. “Sharnyn’s sedated. He’ll sleep for days.”

“How did you manage that?” Isara asked, with too much interest for Tarnamell’s liking. “Horse tranquiliser?”

“I’ll hardly tell you,” Hal said. “You steal things when we’re sleeping.”

“Out of love,” she protested. “I only see the rest of you when you come to retrieve your treasures.”

“To council?” Tarnamell suggested before they started that fight again.

When the room was clear, it felt easier. He had more kin than this, but these five, and poor Sharnyn, were always the first to answer his call. He trusted them: Arden, Halsarr, Markell, Quarllian, even Isara.

“We must decide,” he said to them now, “how to fight this war.”

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