Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Bloody-minded Woman

Rewinding to Book One and the keep at Sockburn, circa 1127.


Damie snapped awake.
She knew on the instant what it was.
The sound prickled every primal hair on her head. It blared the ancient warning. The ancestral alarm. The tribal memory. Oh God, she thought, the Danes are coming.

AROOM! AROOM! The horn wound again and again.

Horses were screaming. People were screaming. Dogs howled and gave tongue. Shouts. Clatter. Tumult. Affright.
The candle gave a feeble whimper of light in a melted pool on the table and died as she looked toward it. The brazier glowed dim and passive against the north wall.
Beside it through the north window, a deeper, redder light leaped and flared, flinging outward the harsh, hard odor of a thousand burning villages, a thousand flaming cities. The smell of swords.


Damie slid silently from the bed and cat-footed to the solar door.
She eased the bar from its iron supports. Outside she heard a confusion of sounds, a collision of bodies, a curse, a cry, cut-short.
She plucked the dagger from her sleeve. It slid down into her hand like silk.
She flung open the door.
One lightning glance showed the hall door wide to the night, outlining a hellish glow. Through it, thick smoke and mist flowed, where huge shapes moved and struggled. The torches on either side were sullen ruby eyes.

This is very Geatish, she thought, and leaped through with the leaping shadows.

Margaret, squeaking and gasping, cowered against the wall, pinned there by a dark blot of a man.
He held an arm across her throat, a knife tensed to drive home under her breastbone.
The blade gleamed and gloated in the light of the swinging night lamps. Blood flowed on a frantic female hand.
Damie snarled and leaped again, ramming her stiletto into the small of his dark back.


Sandra Ruttan said...

I didn't know you were writing historical murder mysteries!

Seriously, damn those Danes. My husband's viking ancestry. One thing that really comes through for me reading it is the fear, the terror. I think it can be just as important (if not more so) to connect with the emotions as it is to connect visually. Nicely done.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Sandra!
Not really.
It's just the usual politics of the period and place.Seems someone (or someones) doesn't want young Conyers to be formally invested in the Conyers lands.

Anonymous said...

I'll come back to read the passage, but I just wanted to say thanks for the link! I know how much you were dreading that html code.

Erik Ivan James said...

You put me right there lady. Thank goodness I wasn't the one with the hold on Margaret. Otherwise, I'd be on the floor twitching my life's last spasm.

Bernita said...

One of my darling children did it for me, Jason.I remain in dread of program kabbala.

Flopping like a dying crow, Erik, flopping like a dying crow. Very glad it conveyed a certain sense of in situ to you.
But we have to talk about your identification with the dark clad assassin...

Rick said...

Not the Danes this time round, not in 1127 if I recall correctly, but obviously not anyone good!

A very nice hand with a stiletto is Damie, though the baddie's reflex alone might write Margaret out of the rest of the book.

Did she know she was making the trip? Or is Damie the sort of girl who keeps a stiletto handy just in case? In know that in her shoes I would - among other things - be cursing those strict British gun control laws just about now.

Because this is one of those social situations where I, personally, would very much like the warm comfy feeling of a 9mm in my hand and a 12-gauge in easy reach, with plenty of extra shells.

Hell, in 'Murrica assault rifles are legal again, and with a little care and digging you can get hold of the kits for fully-auto fire. Even if the Danes are no longer a pressing order, given the state of law 'n' order in 1127, there's just nothing like an AR-15 with a trunkload of ammo to urge people toward working out their differences through dialogue, in a spirit of mutual understanding. :)

Bernita said...

"The Danes are coming" is meant as just the automatic, ancient slogan,ie. attack, attack, ware raiders,etc. yanno(TM), like the Campbell's(Sorry, Gabriele).
I'm trusting the reader here to assume that it is not literal.
In assessing the incident later, Damie concludes that the man hesitated because he heard her behind him.
Margaret survives to wail and fuss.
No, Damie does not expect to be twitched into the 12c.
The stiletto, along with its arm sheath, is given to her that afternoon, because of the uncertainty of the times.It figures as a plot device here and there in the story later.
Never thought of having her carry a .32 in her underwear, had enough trouble later getting the poniard through British customs.
They make do with stuff like boar spears, falchons and such.
Happy the passage seems to have triggered your survival reflexes.

Bernita said...

Oh Lord..."falchion."

Rick said...

Definitely it triggered my survival reflexes! And you've said just enough about Margaret for me to think that maybe Damie should have let the guy finish her off before shanking him.

I take it that Damie has been out-of-time long enough to have picked up some local habits of thought? Because "the Danes are coming" is certainly not the first thing that would come to my mind, half-awake, even if I knew that I was a house guest of Anglo-Saxons.

Bernita said...

You're right, Rick. Margaret is a pill.
Damie is familiar with history and legends.
Oddly enough, the phrase has currency in my household. A certain summer has sometimes been referred to as "the summer of the Danes,"- though all the invasions were very welcome.

Anonymous said...

I'd snip a bit here and there (mainly adjectives), but nevertheless, a pounding, tense moment. A great sense of the coming battle!

Oh, and thank my brother or sister for the coding. :)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Stiletto...LOL...for a moment I was wondering how Miss Snark got to the 12c....LOL

Cool....I could feel the scene, smell the smoke, hear the running and screaming....good job!

But if I may ask of your most estimable presence:

Dogs...gave tongue???

And Geating...what's geating??

Bernita said...

I'm afraid adjectives are part of my regrettable style, Jason.

Bonnie, "gave tongue" for howling and baying is an old usage. I chose it because of that. Indirect atmosphere.
"Geatish" is just another such reference/comparison.
Beowulf and the monster's raid on the Great Hall of Heriot ( which may have been located not so far away at Hartlepool, according to some scholars) in the realm of a tribe called the Geats.
Thought it fitted better than the usual Dante type of comparison. A little more obscure but more appropriate to the scene and subject.
So happy you can visualize the scene.

Ric said...

I'm intrigued.

Thanks for the link. Glad your children finally showed up. My Mom's computer went kaput and we are trying to find something for her to use - she only emails with it. But it helps her keep in touch.

M. G. Tarquini said...

This is very Geatish, she thought, and leaped through with the leaping shadows

I don't even know what that line means and it has me laughing.

Bernita said...

You're welcome, Ric, sorry it took so long - not the child's fault.

Damie suffers from a certain laconic attitude at times, Mindy.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Ohhh, Geats were people!!

The more I understand, the more interesting it becomes! Don't ever expect me to roll off a dissertation like Rick, but at least I won't be clueless! LOL

Gabriele C. said...

That's a very lively scene, one can feel the danger and the urgency. But I'm with Bonnie on the dogs giving tongue, it threw me.

Damie is so my girl. I've got a knife with me most of the time as well, and for time travelling I take my sword. :-)

Bernita said...

Bonnie, you are never clueless.I am so glad you come and comment.
Thank you, Gabriele.I always carried one as a kid - but not a naked blade like this one.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I carry a 9inch Tanto in the side pocket of my car can never tell when some idiot will stick their head in your open window! (insert maniacal laughter here)

nessili said...

Bonnie--For an instant your comment about Miss Snark (all bow in reverence) put this picture of Damie running down the hallway with a bright red stilleto shoe in one upraised hand. Not quite what Bernita had in mind, methinks.

Bernita--where??? did you learn all this Anglo-Saxon/Medieval "stuff" (for lack of a better word--I'm suffering from a severe case of diaper brain). I'm continually awed by (and so jealous of) the history you pull out so casually.

And in your defense, I like adjectives too. I especially like yours :)

(hey, if I keep complimenting you enough, will you let us, your faithful followers, read the whole book? Pretty Please?)

Bernita said...

I feel stroked, Nessili.Thank you.
Result simply of years of interest and research, I suppose, though I feel my "knowledge" is general and fairly superficial.