Monday, January 25, 2010

Angharad isn't to be messed with.

Another Teaser from the WIP which passed the 25k mark this weekend.

Fin has gone and Angharad gets a visit from the odious Althelwulf. Berthulf is her late husband and he gets a mention here. The usual caveat, first draft roughness.


“Ah, there you are. Hilde said I might find you here.”

Angharad spun around, scattering chickens. “Sir, you should not creep up on me like that. It’s rude.” The last place she wanted to be with Athelwulf was in the hen house, especially when he stood between her and the door. “What do you want?” Angharad was tired of being polite to him.

“I was just passing and I thought I’d see how you were getting on with that horse.”

“Well enough.” She glanced towards the door and wondered if she could make it past him to the door

He edged towards her. “Have you changed your mind yet, Angharad? It’ll soon be autumn and the nights will be drawing in and getting cold.” Athelwulf licked his lips.

“Changed my mind about what?” she asked.

“Marrying me.”

“No.” Angharad took a step back.

Athelwulf shook his head. “A shame, really, a beautiful woman like you, going to waste.”

“I think you should leave.” She hid her shaking hands in her skirt. Angharad recognized that look. She had seen it on Berthulf’s face too many times – a hot stare, wet lips parted in anticipation of a kiss. “Please, just go. I’m busy..”

“If you married me, you would never have to lift a finger.”

No, because you wouldn’t let me leave the bedchamber. “I like being busy.”

“A well-bred woman like you shouldn’t have to get her hands dirty.” Athelwulf took another step towards her.

“Please go.” Before she could move, Athelwulf lunged at her and pinned her against the wall. His breath reeked of sour beer.

“A woman like you shouldn’t have to leave the bedchamber. It would a shame to let such beauty remain untouched.”

“Get off me.” Angharad took a deep breath. He was close enough that his erection pressed against her stomach.

His breathing was hoarse and ragged. “Say you’ll marry me.”

“Never.” She spat in his face and kneed him in the groin.

“Bitch!.” He dropped to the floor clutching his balls.

“Get out.” She drew her knife and knelt, holding the blade to his throat. “Get out and never come back here again. Berthulf is long dead. You have no claim on me.”

He groaned and rolled over onto his hands and knees. “He told me to look after you,” he gasped.

“He told you to maul me, take me, rape me, just like he did to me.” Angharad kicked his large backside. “Isn’t that what he promised you?”

“You’re insane.” Athelwulf scrabbled to his feet with a speed that defied his bulk. “No wonder he beat you. You bloody need a thrashing.”

Angharad advanced towards him, holding the knife in front of her. “The only one who’s going to get thrashed around here is you if you don’t leave.” She fought to keep the rage from her voice. Her hand cramped around the hilt of the knife. “Get out.”

“All right, all right.” He backed towards the door. “I’m going.” Angry red blotches mottled his cheeks. “You’ll regret this. You’ll wish you’d said yes when the Danes return in the spring and burn this god-forsaken place to the ground.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

He almost fell out into the yard. “Don’t come crying to me when it happens, lady.”

“I’d rather cut my own throat than seek aid from you. Get out.” Angharad wanted to run at him with the knife. Instead, she leaned in the doorway of the hen house and watched Althelred hurry towards his horse. He scrambled into the saddle, hauled on the reins and kicked the horse into a trot. It squealed with anger and earned a smack around the ears for its pains before it sprang through the gate.

Angharad slumped against the door frame and let the knife drop to the ground. It was a long time before she could bring herself to move.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Some more Viking stuff - Teaser Tuesday

Today I passed 20k on the WIP. It's getting a little late, I'm getting tired and it's back to work tomorrow, so progress will slow. Life was rough back then so I'm finding it easy to torment my characters.

This is from early on in the story. Fin, the 'dane' Angharad found in the reeds, is recovering in her house. The man whose farmstead was allegedly raided by the Danes, is paying Angharad a visit. It seems a little long but there's a fair bit of dialogue.

Usual caveat - it's a first draft.


The hounds sprang to their feet in a sudden frenzy of barking. Athelwulf, tugging on the mouth of a grey pony, trotted into the yard. Angharad bit back a curse and set her spinning down. At the very least, tradition dictated that she had to offer hospitality.

“Good afternoon, Mistress.” He hauled the sweating pony to a halt and slid from the saddle. One of the house carls led the pony away. “I was just out for a ride and thought I’d stop by and see how you are.”

“I was enjoying the peace.” Angharad fought to keep the annoyance from her voice.

“I’m sorry to have disturbed it.”

Liar. “Would you care for something to drink?”

“Is there any of Hilde’s delicious beer?”

“Yes, she just opened a new barrel. Why don’t you sit here and enjoy the sunshine and I’ll fetch you some.” She nudged her way through the milling hounds before Althelwulf had a chance to say he’d rather sit in the hall.

When she returned, he was sitting on the bench, rubbing the ear of one of the hounds. He smiled when she handed him the beer. Reluctantly, she sat on the bench beside him, knowing that standing with her arms folded across her chest was not the most welcoming of attitudes. She hoped that Fin was still asleep.

“How are you, mistress?”

“I’m fine. I have a lot of spinning to do, it keeps me busy.”

“If you married me, I could think of many more pleasurable ways of keeping you busy.” His pale green gaze was avid.

Angharad smiled to hide her revulsion. “I am happy with my lot, sir.”

“You are very stubborn.” Athelwulf sipped his beer.

“I admit to being set in my ways. I’ve been a widow for three years now and I like my peace.” Angharad looked at his sweaty red face and the straggling yellowing mustache. She wanted to tell him that she would rather die by her own hand than marry him. The thought of his pudgy, damp hands on her skin made her want to scream.

“Then you are determined to remain unwed?”

“For the moment, yes.” It seemed prudent not to anger him by closing off all hope. As long as she kept him dangling he was less likely to cause trouble.

“I suppose I’ll have to be patient.” Athelwulf sighed into his beer.

Angharad sought another subject. “Have you recovered from the raid?”

He shrugged. “Yes. Luckily, they didn’t take anything. Hopefully, they won’t return.”

“I hope not.” She shuddered, wishing the raiders had been more successful.

“Given the thrashing I gave them, I doubt they’ll be back.”

Angharad looked down at her hands and was relieved when Hilde appeared in the doorway. “Mistress, can I have a moment please?”

“Certainly.” She scrambled to her feet. “Will you excuse me a moment?” The housekeeper’s anxious eyes made her uneasy.

“Of course. I’ll just sit here and enjoy this excellent beer.”

Angharad followed Hilde across the hall. “What is it?”

“Your guest, mistress. He’s woke in a right state. He’s heard Athelwulf’s voice and wants his sword.”

“Go and fetch Athelwulf some more beer. I’ll see to him.” She curled her hands into cramped knots and took a deep breath. The last thing she needed was a man insane with fever running amok in the hall.

When she entered her chamber, the Dane had struggled to his feet. He leaned against the wall, breathing quickly.

“What on earth are you doing?” Angharad hissed. “Are you mad?”

“He’s out there, isn’t he?”

She grabbed his arm and helped him back to bed. “Never you mind. I’ll not have any bloodshed in my house.”

“Where’s my sword?” He tried to sit up.

Angharad pushed him back down. “It’s broken.”

“Get me a sword.”

“Listen.” She sat on the bed and gripped his shoulders. “I will not get you a sword. You are in no fit state to kill anyone. Athelwulf may be old and fat but, at the moment, he’s stronger than you. He will kill you first and then he will kill me for harboring you. Is that what you want?”

His eyes were the deep, angry blue of a winter sea. He glared at her, all traces of fever gone.

Angharad glared back. “Answer me. Is that what you want?”

His chest rose and muscles twitched beneath her grip. “No,” he sighed. “How can you offer him hospitality?”

“I have no choice.” She withdrew her hands. “Can I trust you to stay here?”

He nodded.

“Good.” Angharad took a deep breath. “No, calm yourself. I’ll ask Hilde to fetch you something to eat, if you think you’re up to it.”

“Fine.” His eyes remained stormy.

Angharad swept from the room.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pesky Vikings - Teaser Tuesday

All right, so there I was, just having a weird dream. Nothing new in that. We'd had taco casserole for dinner and highly spiced food seems to trigger very vivid dreams. I didn't remember much of it when I woke up, apart from one tiny bit. A sad, wounded man being tended by a woman. There was more to it than that and it stuck with me when I woke up. By the time I emerged from the shower, I had the germ of a story. After a few hours of research, I had more of a story. So much more of a story that it had teeth and it wouldn't leave me the hell alone, even though I have three completed novels in various stages of revision, not to mention three, count 'em, three unfinished. But, no, this pesky viking won't leave me alone, even though there's no spam, egg, sausage and spam in this house.

So, here it is. Rough as a viking's beard. The opening bit of the latest idea.


Angharad thought the man in the reeds was dead. She bit her knuckles and stared at his bloodstained tunic and at his right foot. It trailed in the cold, peaty water of the beck, glowing dead white while it bobbed in the rain-swelled current. Angharad’s heart pounded when she spotted the broken Danish sword in the crushed and bloodied grass beside him.

“Elfled?” She called to her shepherd, fighting to keep her voice even. “Can you come here please?”

The raid had been on a homestead to the east three days before. The Danes had come with weapons and threats and been sent packing by Athelwulf’s men. The old man claimed they’d all been accounted for. The dead man beside the stream gave lie to that claim. Angharad looked at him, surprised that he didn’t look like a demon. The man’s pale cheeks were clouded by a few days’ growth of beard and the cool breeze moved through his brown hair. She decided that he had not been ill-favored in life.

“Poor man,” she whispered.

His stillness made her bold. It wasn’t the first time Angharad had seen death, but it was the first time she had seen the result of a violent one. She knelt on the grass beside him and wondered what he’d been like when he was alive.

“Mistress?” Elfled, a stray lamb tucked under his arm, blundered through the reeds. “What is it?”

“A dead Dane,” Angharad told him. “I suppose we’d better bury him.” She sat back on her heels. The dead man’s pale cheeks were scattered with very fine freckles. A bluebottle wandered across his parted lips.

Angharad waved the fly away. He couldn’t have been dead that long or there would be more flies.

“I don’t think he’s dead, mistress.” Elfled, still holding the lamb, knelt beside her. “His eyelids moved just then.”

Monday, January 4, 2010

First Teaser of 2010

Ah, here we are again. I've been swatting dodgy dialogue tags and other nasties in 'Christopher's Medal'. Anything to avoid diving back into the WIP and putting my MCs through anguish and hell. So, I'm going back on my word and posting another snippet from the NaNo. That's another thing on the 'to do' list, find another 20k words for the bugger.

Duncan and Ellie's idyll is about to come to an end. That Enos chap is a nasty piece of work, oh yes he is.


Duncan held Ellie’s hand when they followed the strange little fair-haired girl along the shadowy hall. Ellie was pale and silent beside him, her eyes red-rimmed and huge. He felt her fear, it lurked, like darkness inside him. The man they were about to see was clearly insane and Duncan was fairly certain that this was not going to be a polite, post-nuptial social call. He knocked on the door and squeezed Ellie’s cold hand. Something inside him flipped slowly when she gave him an uncertain smile. He kissed her forehead, inhaling the scent of her hair.

“Come in.” The Prophet’s voice was muffled by the door.

Duncan opened the door and led Ellie behind him. She hovered at his side when their host rose from his usual chair. His eyes were pale and sharp in the brilliant morning light. There was no goodwill in his expression.

“I trust you both enjoyed your honeymoon?” His voice was even, toneless.

“Yes, sir.” Duncan slid his arm defiantly around Ellie’s waist. She trembled against him.

“Ah…good, glad to hear it.” He did not offer them a seat. “I hate to cut it short, but I have a little task for you, Mr. Harris.”


Enos pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. “It’s a statement to the press. I want you to deliver it. I’m told that Show Low is crawling with press and that the FBI have moved in.”

As if to confirm that, the heavy silence was shattered by the whomp-whomp-whomp of a helicopter as it skimmed across the treetops. Ellie pressed against him.

“I want you to go back to the guest house, get your things, put them in your car and get out of here.”

“What about Ellie?”

“Ah, sadly, she’ll have to stay with us. I’m so sorry.” Enos didn’t sound the least bit apologetic. He looked past them and nodded. Two young men, with long beards, lunged at Ellie and wrenched her away from him.

“Let me go, for fucks sake.” Her voice shook and she tried to stamp on her captors’ feet.

Duncan, reeling from the suddenness of it all, struggled to get free when his arms were pinned behind his back. “Let her go.”

“No. The honeymoon is over. There will be no peace for anyone now, not until this is all over.” Enos’ voice wavered. “If you do your job properly, it will be, soon.”

Ellie’s eyes were wide. She squirmed and tried to pull herself free.

Duncan’s heart slammed against his ribs. “I want to stay here, with Ellie.”

“You can’t. That’s not how it goes, Mr. Harris.”

He wanted to hit him. Smash that smug, pale face to pulp. Instead he had to watch, helplessly while the two young goons dragged Ellie through the door. “I’ll get you out, Ellie. I promise.”

“Just go, Duncan. I’ll be all right. Get out of here while you can.”

The bleakness in her eyes broke his heart. He would’ve died for her at that moment, he would’ve killed for her. “I’m sorry, Ellie. I’m sorry I let you down.”

“Don’t be.” Her voice was sad but she smiled at him. “I don’t regret a minute. It was worth it.” Her eyes were bright with tears.

Duncan wanted to cry himself. He swallowed at the lump in his throat and struggled to speak. By the time he found the words, the door slammed shut and the room was, suddenly, a lot darker.