Sunrise Surprise: 2nd Place – Katherine Heil, Home Schooled

I probably should not be complaining. The skies were clear, and people walked past and waved cheerfully enough, going about their daily business. All I had to do today was sit around in the warm sun and do absolutely nothing.

Actually, I might have been more cheerful on a slow kind of day like this one if the sun was not shining at all. I moved as far as I could into the shade of a nearby hovel, but it was no use. I could not escape the hot sun. It felt like fire on my skin if I exposed myself. In fact, I was scared my back would start bubbling like stew if I stood around too long. The other children of the peasant village could be seen dashing around from shadow to shadow. Even the pack animals, walking up the street with their owners, looked uncomfortably hot and sweaty. The other adults of the village did not seem to be bothered as much by the blinding sun. They even managed to look almost cheerful as they worked. Most of them were out harvesting the wheat fields, the most brutally hot place in the whole peasant village. I felt bad for my mother and father, who were near the center of the nearest field. But of course, the work had to be done.

I carefully moved along the sides of a row of huts, flattening myself against one whenever a cart rumbled by. Maybe I could find one of my siblings and we could play a game of something fun. My older sister Krea was the best at hide and seek, when she was not doing chores. I began to look around for her. She is usually near home, at the far end of the village. I was right. A few minutes later I found her stepping out of our hovel. I ran up to her, letting my feet thump on the dry, cracked road so she would know I was coming.

“Krea,”I panted, “can you come up with me to the meadow?” I knew it was a long shot, but I added,” We could play hide and seek. I bet you’ll win!”

Krea hardly glanced at me, which I was used to. “Why don’t you bother someone else, Isolde? I’ve got work to do.” She turned away.

I knew she would have work to do. I probably should not have asked her; it was the same answer every time. Sadly, I watched her hurry toward the center of the village. Maybe she could play with me later…

I sat down behind a hut that provided a decent amount of shade. No, I suppose it was a little warm for hide and seek. I picked up a stick and absentmindedly started to doodle in the dirt. I could draw a picture and show Krea, maybe, when she was finished with her work. But what should I draw? I scanned the village and its surrounding fields and woods, searching for something pretty. There was nothing but huts, peasants, and animals, so I turned my attention to the small river and the huge stone castle on the other side. The enormous gray towers jutted into the sky and I could almost make out the tiny little figures of the guards moving on the walkways of the high castle walls. It would make a pretty picture.

As I drew the outline of the castle, I began wondering if the noble children inside ever drew our village. They probably did not draw in the dirt. Maybe they did not draw because they had learning to do. Mother says the noble child learns reading and math and countless other pointless sounding things. Maybe I was wrong to think it was boring; I didn’t know everything.

Carefully, I drew the shingles of a stone tower. The prince in the castle was most likely learning the proper way to rule a kingdom. It must be great, I thought, to have the rich life of a king to look forward to every day.

Later, my little sister Winifred came and interrupted my drawing to ask me to play in the pond. I agreed with her. Going to the pond to cool off in the heat sounded wonderful. We spent the rest of the afternoon splashing and having a wonderful time until nightfall. Winifred tumbled into bed with me, still chuckling about the silly games we had played.

The next morning when I woke up, the sun was barely starting to rise. Mother and Father had gone outside early. Winifred was breathing softly beside me on the lumpy family straw bed. Krea was sitting in a stool nearby.

I realized that a very peculiar noise was filtering in from the doorway. It was a sort of clopping noise, kind of like a running cow. I lifted my head. What was that odd noise?

Then, I suddenly realized, sitting up very fast. Those were the hoof beats of a galloping horse! I leaped off the bed and tore across the hovel to look outside. The village horses rarely galloped…

When I stepped outside I could see the large shape slowing to a steady trot, then a walk. I dashed down the road to look…when I saw, I caught my breath.

It was a real, live knight. His shiny silver armor caught the faint sunlight. His shield, tunic, and horse blanket were a deep blood red. Fascinated, I peered at his intricate chainmail sleeves. Alongside, the long sword hung in its leather sheath. I tried to cram every detail into my mind so I could remember it forever. The knight was amazing! He was not sticking around. The horse picked up a trot again, then a swift canter. Everyone in the village watched as he disappeared into the woods and out of sight…forever.

Later, I added the knight to my drawing. I tried to write my name next to it the best I could along with the date: July 1328.


  • Hart, Avery and Mantell, Paul. Knights & Castles: 50 Hands-On Activities to Experience the Middle Ages. Charlotte, VT: Williamson Publishing Co., 1998. Print.
  • Macdonald, Fiona and Bergin, Mark. A Medieval Castle. New York, NY: Peter Bedrick Books, 1990. Print.
  • Millard, Anne and Vanags, Patricia. The Usborne Book of World History. London, England: Usborne Publishing Ltd, 1985. Print.
Visit the Museum Shop
Combo Pass