Count Karlstein – extract

Peter crouched over the fire, stirring the embers so that the sparks swarmed up like imps on the rocky walls of hell. Behind him, his shadow shook and flared across the wall and half the ceiling of our little bedroom, and the cracks between the floorboards shone like golden rivers in the darkness.

‘Listen,’ he said. ‘Zamiel!’

And with a delicious shiver I pulled my eiderdown over me and lay on the rug with my face pressed to the floor to hear the voices from the parlour below…

We lived in the tavern in Karlstein village, with our ma, who was the landlady. A quiet enough place, though there was usually a stranger or two passing through, and the company in the tavern parlour was as good as any in the mountains especially on a winter’s night, when their pipes were going and their glasses full and there was a good story to be told.