Friday, August 11, 2006

By St. Cuthbert's Well


This is one of the scenes I was working on yesterday - between clicking on the Greater Toronto Airport Authority webpage every few minutes.

By another of those temporal gastric refluxes, Damie has been dumped into another time, roughly the era of Henry IV, which I choose arbitrarily to be the period when the Luck of Eden Hall came into the possession of the family Musgrave.

Damie stared around the small clearing, irresolute.
She shook open her shawl and wrapped herself in its green folds while she searched for a spot to watch and wait and consider her options.
There wasn't a lot of cover. Not for someone in a blazing white dress that stood out like a flag of surrender. The shawl came just below her hips.
A horn blared from somewhere down the track behind her.
She scrabbled for the bushes, dodged saplings too young to hide behind.
There. That yew.
And ran full tilt against the outstretched arms of a man who stepped from behind it.
"Hasty wench," he said and grinned. He was missing a few teeth.
"Ned," he called and then whistled. He smelled like an old boot. It might have been his leather jerkin, but Damie wouldn't count on it.
Another man angled through the undergrowth. He stopped and fiddled with his breeches.
"Was taking a piss," he said, "should have left it out."
Damie registered archaic inflections. Not that there was any difficulty understanding them without any words at all.
"Naw," said her captor, adjusting the quiver on his baldric strap and shoving his knife back in its sheath.
"Her's from here. You'd nor like having it cut off, small though it be."
Damie heard bridles jingling and the soft thud of restive horses. Were these forward scouts for a party? A party of what?
The second armsman sniggered and came closer, eying her up and down suggestively.
Damie had a hideous vision of being bunted back and forth between the pair of them.
Better the devil she didn't know.
"Strange hair," said the second man and reached out a rough brown hand. "See if it be the same below."
She stiffened her forearm and smashed at his face. He swore and grabbed and came up with a fistfull of shawl. Twisting inward, she tore out of the other's loosened grasp and elbowed him hard in the gut.
And ran like a startled deer.
Towards the track, towards the sounds of waiting horses and better men.
She hoped.

Please Note: S.W. 's (Sonya) book Soul Haven has been accepted by
Wild Child Publishing.

32 comments:

Scott said...

I like that the heroine is tough, not some simpering victim-in-waiting. I like your choice of the word "bunt."

One sentence I think has a typo?

"Her's from here. You'd nor like having it cut off, small though it be."

I think the first word is intentional to indicate low breeding, but nor... I think you meant not.

Sela Carsen said...

I think "nor" works as a dialectical pointer.

Great excerpt, Bernita! So when is this going to be published so I can read the whole thing at once?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Scott.
She is mentally tough and not particularly flappable.

No,not a typo,"nor" is deliberate. Whether it is a good choice is, of course, open to debate.

Thank you, Sela.
Don't hold your breath, am in "waiting" mode about the first in this series.

MissWrite said...

I LOVED it. I did have the same trouble with the passage that Scott had trouble with. It wasn't the 'nor', it was the 'hers from here.' part. The rest was simply wonderful!

Congratulations S.W., too! How awesome.

Bernita, I really think you are a fantastic writer.

S. W. Vaughn said...

a blazing white dress that stood out like a flag of surrender

Wonderful! Your writing really shines, Bernita. I'm enamoured of your style!

(And thank you so much for the mention! :-)

Bernita said...

Tami, Tami, you shouldn't exaggerate like that...but thank you.
~sucking it up~
I have noticed, still, in this small town where I now live, a basic designation:
people are from "here" or they are "from away."
I think this tribal psychology ( if that's the right word) would have been even more strongly felt in the period of the piece. An automatic calculation, considering the dangers of messing with ( or the liberty to do so)of people segreagated in power groups in a still feudal society.

EA Monroe said...

Thanks for sharing, Bernita! Leave 'em hangin' and beggin' for more!

Maybe, you can leave out the "her's from here" part?

"Naw," said her captor, adjusting the quiver on his baldric strap and shoving his knife back in its sheath. "You'd nor like having it cut off, small though it be."

The two villains sound like they have too much rapin' and pillagin' on the brain to give much thought to where the wench's from (the reader knows). Shoving his knife back in its sheath -- good imagery for what he intends to do with his "knife." ;-)

So, what happens next?! I gotta know!

jason evans said...

I enjoyed the selection. Especially this line: Better the devil she didn't know! The pacing seems very natural.

On a technical note, I'm not sure how you feel about dangling participles, but I did see two: "undergrowth, fiddling with his breeches" and "bushes, dodging saplings too young...."

EA Monroe said...

Tribal psychology of a small town. I like that. Ignore what I said!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Sonya. You know you are welcome.

Not really rapin' and pillagin', EA, they have a job to do - more just considering the opportunity to cop a feel.

Thank you, Jason, for catching those.
Arugh.
Dislike them in my own stuff and missed them completely, though I'm fairly tolerant of them in other people's work.

Bernita said...

There, think I've snipped the prose dangles.

kmfrontain said...

It was great Bernita. Nothing wrong with the dialect.

Carla said...

The dialect was fine for me. Maybe you could consider changing nor to no', e.g. 'you'd no' like having it cut off' if the scene is set somewhere in the north of England? I did wonder why the man thought Damie was from hereabouts, though. She would obviously be a stranger to him so he couldn't have recognised her. Is she wearing some costume or token that belongs to the area?

Since one of the men has a quiver, are they archers? If so, are they professional archers? The Great War Bow was in use by the time of Henry IV and archers consequently had hugely developed arm and upper body muscles to cope with the massive draw weights. Damie would probably have noted this while assessing whether she could fight them off or run, since she doesn't panic easily, even if she didn't know why they had that physique. Or are they just casual hunters shooting occasionally for the pot?

Bernita said...

Wondered about "no'", Carla. Since the original home ground of the speaker is unknown, I went with "nor."
The scout is the one who is from "away."
She is wearing a long dress. ( note to self,- have her pick up her skirts when she hares for the bushes)
I thought a hunting bow, since he is on point, through woodland, for a travelling party.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Karen.

Rick said...

A horn blared from somewhere down the track behind her.

The dangers of time travel! My eyes lit on that line before actually reading, and I thought a train was coming. But I don't think the railroad reached that far north in Henry IV's time. :)

Her's from here.

I had no problem with the dialect, but it confused me a bit for another reason. What does it matter to the ruffians where she's from?

For that matter, she must look pretty outlandish to them - her long white dress isn't grossly improper or outlandish, the way a miniskirt or pants would be, but a 21st c. dress must still look distinctly strange, even to the utterly non-fashion-conscious.

Also, one moment she's thinking these guys are forward scouts for the approaching horsemen, but a moment later she's running toward the unknown riders.

(To be sure, she's had previous medieval experience, and might expect better treatment from gentlemen of rank than from their lower-class retainers.)

Now that I've grumped, the rest of it reads just fine, and I love her vigorous response - my gals would do the same thing.

Gabriele C. said...

He smelled like an old boot.

Thank you, that's all I need to know about his personal hygiene. :)

The dialogue between the two ruffians made me giggle, despite them being baddies.

Bernita said...

Hoho, Rick...all this time I thought phrases like "the trackless forest" meant no pathways, not an absense of railways, but then I'm from the boonies.

Think I explained the underlying logic of "Her's from here" in the comments above.

Rick, they are guys - not women. She has a long skirt and a shawl, d'ya really think they would notice much else?

To be sure is exactly it. Though she does wonder later if it's a case of frying pan/fire.
Now that you've gutted it, I'm glad it reads just fine.Thank you.

Thank you, Gabriele. Thought you would catch that natural anatomical disparagement.
They are not "baddies" exactly, just a little uncouth.

Carla said...

Ah, the perils of commenting on a snippet without the context. So the two men aren't on their own patch, and therefore wouldn't want to risk annoying the locals by attacking a woman who might turn out to be important, is that it?
If they'd said something like "Her's not for us" I wouldn't have been confused by wondering how they knew where she was from or why it mattered to them. Is that any help?
I'm guessing that her dress has been described earlier so the reader has some idea what it looks like. If she's not re-enacting and wearing authentic costume I think I'd agree with Rick that even a couple of thickos might recognise it as out of the ordinary, which might also reinforce the second man's view that she's best left well alone.

Flood said...

"Strange hair," said the second man and reached out a rough brown hand. "See if it be the same below."

!!

Bernita said...

Reactions to snippits are most valuable, Carla, because they force the writer to re-examine everything, especially the underlying logic for the items that stick out in isolation.
That's it, and her dress is describe earlier. Have looked at enough period illustration to be reasonably secure about it being sufficiently unremarkable in general style for her to be accepted.
Further, they have a job to do, they aren't free to dally in the bushes, regardless of her apparent status, so the question of "not for us" doesn't really apply.
The senior and first armsman reacts on that premise first and foremost, quite apart from the fact that her garb may indicate she is not a serf or a servant.

Thought I was very delicate there, Flood.

Rick said...

Bernita - It was "horn" and "track" in combination that made me flash on a train. It wouldn't be an issue in the book unless you'd slipped (e.g., by mentioning a railroad a few pages earlier, when she was still in the present).

I'm still unpersuaded, though, that the men would assume she's a local. There is obviously something unusual about her hair (a contemporary hairstyle?) - enough for them to wonder if, umm, the carpet matches the drapes.

I suspect that her whole affect - dress, hair, etc. - would set her apart from local countrywomen. Not necessarily strange or mysterious, but still different. If nothing else, a nice dress and coiffed hair would connote gentry, not to be trifled with.

Having said that, it is dwelling on one passage in a way I probably wouldn't do in normal reading. Certainly not in this situation - I'd be off with Damie to her encounter with the horsemen!

Bernita said...

Rick, I am delighted to get these comments. They are of immeasureable help.

Here, trains "whistle".
Only subways have horns.

Since they are from "away" and she is in situ , think it's logical they would assume she's from there - where else?
Yis only the second one who has trifling ideas, but then he's not too bright. The first just wants to do his job, checking the advance to a strange keep, even though they are expected.

Her hair is streaked silver and gold.

MissWrite said...

"Her hair is streaked silver and gold."

and that doesn't strike these dudes as strange?

As always said, I am not a real historical buff, so perhaps I'm way off track, but I think seeing a chick with silver, and gold streaked hair would send them flying, screaming 'ALIEN!' along their path.

Bernita said...

Why would it?

They note it's unusual, one uses the word "strange," but she's flesh and blood in front of them.
People has no problems with Harold Bluetooth, and somebody(Erik?) the Boneless in earlier times.

My own hair streaks that way, that's partly why I used it - wanted something a little different than flowing raven, fiery, blonde tresses- and because I know parti- coloured hair happens.Naturally.
In a different context, they might possibly regard her as "fey," similar to the "seal women" of the Western Isles, but not here I don't think.
Running off from a woman in the middle of an afternoon would be a good way to lose their employment.

MissWrite said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MissWrite said...

Removed that last one because, well it was stupid. (on my part) I am really getting tired. :)

Good point on the running from a woman not being good for their job position.

Bernita said...

Pooh!
Wasn't stupid.
Made me stop and think if it might be over the top.
Decided not, but these reactions work like a fail-safe.

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