Tuesday, October 27, 2009

He's not a bad lad, really. - Teaser Tuesday

Another bit from the Western/Mongrel. I'll be setting this aside for a few weeks while I dive into the annual madness of NaNoWriMo...my first time. The story I have in mind for NaNo is completely different from anything I've written before. I think it will be nice to have a 'break' from my usual stuff.

In the meantime, here's Kristian showing that he isn't such a bad lad after all. Tessie has been bitten by a rattlesnake. This is towards the end of the chapter.


The Priest’s visit marked the last moment of peace that Tessie was to know for some time. In spite of his assurances that she would be fine, the effects of the bite refused to leave her. Sleep was next to impossible because, no sooner would she lapse into unconsciousness than the pain would snatch her back to a place where every, slight, movement caused an unspeakable torment that had her screaming. Her hand swelled to an unrecognizable mass of bruised and torn tissue that throbbed with every beat of her heart. She was aware of Kristian’s presence, his touch gentle as he dabbed at the wounds with a whiskey-soaked cloth. She watched him through half-closed eyes as he bent to his ministrations, dark circles under his eyes, his face all planes and shadows in the restless firelight. She wished that she could speak, but she was reduced to a helpless bundle of hurt and drifting consciousness, while he fought for her. The day brought no relief, in the light, Tessie could see that the swelling had crept towards her wrist. The sun hurt her eyes and she was sick again. She wept, weary of her uselessness and weakly tried to wave Kristian away as he wiped her face and whispered words of comfort that she could scarcely hear. She let him hold her and his words were lost in the haze of restless agony that she could not escape until exhaustion claimed her and she was allowed to rest for a while. Then, time slipped and lost all meaning or sense as fever claimed her and infection raged through her body like a wild, summer storm.

Kristian didn’t know how much time had passed or how tired he really was. Now and again, Salim offered to take over but he waved him away, “No, this is my fault. I need to do this,”

“It is nobody’s fault,” Salim replied, “It was an unfortunate accident, now let me help. You are exhausted.”

“I’ll be fine, once I know she’s getting better, then I’ll rest.”

“You cannot help her if you’re half dead yourself.”

Kristian looked him. “Just let me do this, Salim.”

Salim shrugged, “As you wish, “

After what seemed like an eternity, Tess appeared to fall quiet, and her skin, over the course of a few hours finally began to cool. Exhaustion crept into Kristian, leaving him limp and drained, but satisfied. He gingerly touched her wounded hand and saw that the swelling was beginning to recede along with the fever. The battle was won. He rose, stiff and aching and looked at Salim, “Now you can take over, it’s finished. She’ll live now.” He went to his saddle bag, rummaged through until he found his axe, “There’s just one thing left to do.”

He found the snake, coiled in sleep, beneath the jutting lip of a boulder on the river bank. It slept on in the heat of the day and hardly had time to raise its rattle, before he raised the axe and relieved it of its head. He picked up the bleeding remains and carried the snake to the fire, reckoning, as it uncoiled in death, that it was at least five feet long, “Killed the bastard,” he told Salim as he dropped the carcass into the whispering, pale daylight flames of the fire, “So, I guess we’re even.” With that, he dropped the axe, took a long draw of water, lay down on his blanket and slept.


  1. Aw, that IS sweet. In a slightly creepy sort of way. :-)

    Ugh, rattler bites. This is one of the many reasons I could never live in your neck of the woods.

  2. I like "...whispering, pale daylight flames of the fire..." very nice. I know he's insistent on staying to help her, but is it more out of inconvenience if she dies or is he really concerned for her life? There may have been more to it before the opening paragraph, but I can't grasp his personal emotion on the matter. But I do like his actions, and icky, snakes, bleck! Eeep! *shudders* Glad he killed it lol :P

  3. What do you mean he's not bad? He killed a defenseless snake?


    *shudders* Rattlesnakes make me glad I'm in NH. I liked "relieved it of its head" - so understated.

  4. Good point, CC.
    I've added the bit before, so you can get Tessie's side of things. It may bring Kristian's emotions more to the fore, from how Tessie sees them.

  5. I like! Your descriptions and details are great! as always. :D

    We have rattlesnakes, but our major pains are copperheads... which are worse, since they give NO warnings. (did I forget to mention I hate snakes?? ;) )

    Anywhos... it shows a great side of Kristian and makes me wonder if Tessie's going to remember any of it and if Salim is going to mention it later, if she doesn't...

  6. Nice job on describing both POV's I enjoyed it.

  7. Sue,

    The last paragraph is great! Poor sleeping snake! What a way to go! I'm not in NaNo, but I am intrigued about your new, mysterious writing!!!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  8. Sue - this is fantastic. You really have such a smooth way with description and dialog. Seriously, this is great and yay for killing the damn snake.

  9. This, and the whispering fire, are my favorite things: "...his face all planes and shadows in the restless firelight."

    I actually didn't feel I missed emotion. He strikes me as an actor, not a thinker, and there's a quiet determination and that flash of humor as he kills the snake and goes to sleep that's brilliant characterization.

    Good luck with NaNo! I do hope you keep on with this one too. I really like it.