Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Excerpt: Cathal and Gairea at Dun Add

I think I remember threatening at one point to put up a snippet from my NiP, so... here it is. I had to rummage around for a decent scene, because the point of the book I'm currently writing involves much of kings calling councils, generals poring over maps and centurions hitting people with sticks. This snippet takes place more than a year and a half into the book. It's still very rough, so any and all constructive criticism is not only appreciated, but craved.

(Yep, it's mine, hands off. No, seriously, don't steal. Not that you'd want to, but still...)

This excerpt takes place in the winter, AD 82/83. Tensions are running high at the Epidii seat of Dun Add. King Nechtain of the Horse Throne is in council with King Calgach of the Caledones, and there is an unmasked traitor somewhere in the upper circle of the dun. Gairea, seer and apprentice to the Chief Druidess, Sargaid, has just intervened in an unequal duel between Cathal, Nechtain's champion, and the Roman legionary Marcus, with whom she has formed a tentative friendship. Unfortunately, while well-intentioned, her actions have inadvertently affronted Cathal. And he's already a man with a score to settle...


She took a breath to steady herself, but before she could do anything, a hand suddenly seized her wrist and before she could so much as cry out, she was pulled into the shadows beneath the streaming eaves of a nearby house. A shadow moved in front of her, trapping her and blocking what dim light there was. Blinking stupidly, she looked up.

“What in ManannĂ¡n’s name do you think you’re doing?” Cathal’s hiss was just audible over that of the rain.

Her back went rigid against the wall and she snatched her wrist from his grasp, feigning disdain to mask her panic. “I am not fond of being backed into corners. Especially not by you, Cathal.”

He ignored this, and his hands went out to grip her shoulders, hard. She felt a flare of pain, but pressed her lips shut in defiance.

“Answer me!” he demanded. “What - by all that’s sacred - did you think you were playing at? Was it your intent to make me look a fool before Nechtain, before the Royal Clan - gods! - before Calgach of the Caledones! Why did the Druidess bring you here, if not to support me?”

Dear Epona, what arrogance! Somewhere beneath her anxiety, she felt a spark of indignation.

“You’ve already lost my support,” she snapped. “Sargaid brought me here so I could be tested by the Chief Druid.”

“I see. And does that involve turning on me before the tribe? Shielding enemy soldiers?”

“Does the champion of the King need to beat a defenceless man to validate his position?”

His lip curled in a snarl, baring his teeth, and his fingers tightened on her skin, jerking her slightly as if he dearly wanted to shake her, but did not quite dare. The movement parted a fold of her cloak, revealing the triple-spiralled amulet that marked her as one of the Brethren. Only then did Cathal remember himself, that simply by touching her he was transgressing.

Abruptly, he pulled back. He glanced down at the amulet with a look that was half caution, half rage.

When he leaned in again, he was careful not to touch her, but his fury was palpable nonetheless.

“My position needs no more validation, Gairea. You would do well to remember that.”

Emboldened by her own anger, she shot back, “Have I a choice? You never let anyone forget.”

She saw his right hand twitch, then flex itself into a tight fist at his side. Her hand closed pointedly around her pendant. His face resolved itself into a sneer.

“Clutch at whatever authority you can, lady seer, but remember that two years of training do not make you a Druidess. You are still nothing. I have a position; you do not.”

“I am the apprentice of the Chief Druidess.” Her tone was steady enough, but her mouth was dry and her heart was pounding and she knew what he said was true. “I am the apprentice of the Chief Druidess,” she repeated, “and my only action was to prevent an unfair duel.”

“Unfair! Tell me, how was it unfair? We were both able, and we were both armed.”

Epona, give me strength.

“I’ve no wish to argue with you any more than I have to, Cathal. The duel was unequal and you know it. You willed it.”

“Did you not notice how everyone was cheering? It did them good to see their champion - their protector - defeat one of the Roman dogs who threatens their freedom. I would have thought even you would have been able to see that before you insulted me.”

She shook her head. “Marcus is here as Sargaid’s guest. If anyone has done any insult today, it is you.”

He strode towards her. She recoiled, involuntarily, and instantly regretted it. “Take some responsibility, girl! You slighted me before the tribe! Before your tribe, need I remind you, the tribe that gave you birth. And for what?”

“Marcus is my friend,” she said simply.

He made a noise of disgust. “The Romans do not have friends, Gairea. They have only slaves, and those they would make slaves. And when you affronted me, you affronted the tribe. Simply by showing that Roman anything less than contempt makes you a traitor to your blood. You and he were not even out of sight before I heard two men debating whether or not you had found yourself a sweetheart.”

The blood drained from her face. “That is ridiculous!”

“Is it, though?” Cathal’s eyes narrowed, searching her face with that penetrating gaze she had once found flattering, now intrusive and insulting. It was entirely the wrong moment to think about the veiled sadness in Marcus’ dark eyes. The sadness, and the pleasure she felt when she could replace it with a smile.

Her back stiffened, and she matched Cathal’s look with a glare of her own.

“I wonder...” He drew back, his scrutiny of her lingering just a moment before he lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “I suppose it matters little to me whom you choose to lift your skirts for. But, when you do, do spare a thought for your Sisters on Mona, the ones who did not choose to be taken in the dirt by Roman legionaries.”

In response to Cathal’s words, her consciousness suddenly stirred, lifting the veil and opening to the shadows. Flames leaping against the oaks. Blood dark on the sand. War-chants turning to terror. The scream of a woman as she was seized by rough hands and pushed down, her pleas mocked, her robe ripped aside, her her body breached - ruined...

Gasping, she shook herself free of the vision. Her body had gone icy, her vision spotted. The shame of a long-dead woman still coursed through her, so violent her head spun and she thought she would faint. She could not hear the sound of the sleet over the blood surging in her ears. Dazed, sickened, she raised her head to look at Cathal. Somehow he looked impossibly far away, but there was no mistaking his expression of triumph. Her horror must have shown in her face.

All fear of retribution gone, Cathal caught her arm and crowded her back against the wall. His touch recalled the hands that had grasped at the woman, and a new wave of terror rolled through her, but she could not find the strength to lash out at him.

“It is time for you to decide where your loyalties lie, Gairea. There is treachery enough at Dun Add, and I will exterminate it.” The menace in his words was hidden by a voice as soft as a lover’s, a knife edge wrapped in otterskin. When she dared to meet his eyes, she saw its glint in the depths of his.

“If I so much as suspect your friendship with the Roman has become too fast, I will kill both of you.”


Crystal said...

All I can say is OMG!!!! I am no writer to comment on your writing but DAMN! I WANT MORE WOMAN!!LOL!

After reading just that much I can tell you have TALENT! I may not be able to publish you but I damned well sure I will buy it when it IS published!:)

I wish I did know more about the workings of the writing process so I could help out but as a reader of GOOD books, it held my attention! Good job!

So when do we get another scene??Hhmmmm?

Kirsten Campbell said...

Thank you, thank you very much! Scanning over it again, I can see a million things to spruce up, but I'm still glad you liked it!

You don't need to be a professional to dole out criticism. Just - what did you like about it, what didn't you? What flowed, what didn't? Etc. I grovel for concrit!

Anyway, thanks again!

Crystal said...

Well, okay! But I DID warn you!LOL!

The scene you posted is the kind of scene I thoroughly enjoy in reading books. This scene to me, and me only, gives out intense emotion. The push and pull thing between men and women when going through a situation really holds me to the story and leaves me wanting more.
You've got the pride of the man and the independent type woman together and it always explodes with intensity when you get these two type of personalites together!

As far as the wording is concerned, well, I try to broaden my vocabulary every chance I get but having 2 you kids I find myself regressing back to basic commands. NO! STOP! YES! You follow?!LOL!

Are you planning on Cathal and Gairea being love interests? They seem to have the chemistry for it!!

Kirsten Campbell said...

Thanks for the insight. I always find it dead interesting to hear what other people look for in a book. Makes me look more at my own writing.

Cathal and Gairea are love interests for the first part of the book, but by the time this scene swings around, things have gone sour between them and they've actually become enemies. Enemies with that lingering frisson of sexual tension, but enemies nonetheless. This is actually one of their less venomous exchanges!

Good to know you enjoyed this scene. It's very taut and emotional in my head, but getting that down on computer is the tricky part. I'll see what other ones I can find lurking about to post another time...

Thanks again!

Crystal said...

This is getting INTERESTING!

I imagine by now, if you've kept up with the recent posts on my blog, that you know I absolutely LOVE the series by Lilith Saintcrow. Yes, it's about demons, necromancers, vampires and everything magic but the story between the main character, Dante and her "Fallen" demon love interest always twists and turns.

It's almost a love/hate relationship that you never quite can figure out until the very end and even then it's nail-biting good. She also threw in an old love interest in one of the books so it leaves you trying to pull your hair out because they are both THAT "alpha" and you can't make up your OWN mind on who you want her to be with. And to make things worse, the love interest thing is like a secondary story. It's not even what the book is about but the author throws certain situations in to give it a some what "romantic" flare. But, again, it's a minor one.

If this is one of their less venomous exchanges, girl, your KILLIN' ME! Can't wait for the next scene!

Jack Dixon said...

Excellent, Kirsten!

It is copyrighted, by the way, the moment you put it to paper and/or (especially) post it to your blog. No harm reminding everyone of that, though, once in a while.

You have very successfully conveyed the passionate tension, and the various complex emotions. I knew from reading this that Cathal and Gairea HAD been lovers, but were no more. I can also tell that he's still stung by that and would make it so again if he could, and if he had the humility to try. Your Point of View is very good, sticking with the scene from Gairea's eyes.

Some grammar (of course, as always with every writer) to be sorted out along the way, but the EFFECTIVENESS of the writing is impressive.

Very, very nicely done. Talent, indeed, as Crystal said.

Kirsten Campbell said...

Crystal - Lol! Cathal, as I'm sure is obvious from this, is a bit of an alpha male himself. The bad kind. Too many of those negative alpha qualities, and not enough of the good ones.

The Ancestor Crown isn't actually a romance either, but there are a good few romantic entanglements I have to deal with. Damn characters just won't give me a break!

Jack - Thank you very much! Yeah, the grammar needs a bit of sorting, and I'll get to that in time. First drafts are for getting the story out there, no matter how inelegantly. I've already tweaked a couple of phrases here and there on my computer. But I'm glad you still managed to find some emotion under the train-wreck prose, lol!

Yes, Cathal is very much kicking himself over their relationship (or lack of), but he's got some ulterior motives... it will not end well for one of them... (mwaha)

Anyway, thank you both for providing me with some insight and encouragement! One is just as important as t'other. I think I'll try to find another decent-sized snippet to post up for Christmas. Call it a present. ;)

(Btw, I forgot to say, while writing the scene, I had the chorus to this song going through my head. What do you think?)

Donna said...

I like the song! Starts out slow with emotion and builds up to give off power and intensity! LOVE the piano at the beginning! With songs like this, you can't go wrong!

Look forward to reading your next scene! I'm at home today, Sam's come down with a cold and not liking it at all.

Have a good day;)

Crystal said...

Sorry Kirsten, I forgot to switch the sign in info...i'm on my moms computer today since i'm at home with Sam. Donna's post is really ME!!