As you know, I’ve been quiet on here because I’ve been up to my elbows in NaNoWriMo. It’s going well, I’m (very) slightly ahead of where I need to be, so at the moment I feel quite relaxed about it. Of course, when it all starts spiralling around the plughole in about a week I will be on here crying and gnashing my teeth…
I’ve also reached 50k on “The Summer Goddess”, which I’m hoping means I’m about halfway through. Big changes are in store for Asta, whatever direction the story takes, so I thought I’d post a pivotal extract from the end of Chapter 12. Usual first draft disclaimers apply – all unique spelling model’s own, etc etc. Enjoy!
Olafur stood, chewing his lower lip, looking up and down the road. His fingers drummed on Asta’s wrist as he came to a decision. “If you think it’s safe,” he said at length. “You have the head of the column, soldier. Lead the way.”
Harald nodded smartly, and hurried back to the head of the line. Asta watched the soldiers around the litter press back the crowds that surged against them. There was no anger in their eagerness, no malice in their desire to be near her, but if that thin black line broke she would be swarmed and trampled before she could draw breath.
She shuddered as the litter lurched onwards, Harald leading the way down a narrow side alley between two buildings, so tight that she only had to lean over a little to touch the cold stone walls towering on either side of her, and Olafur was forced to relinquish his grip and fall a couple of paces behind. Asta could see the sunlight gleaming of the surface of the sea in front of her, hear the rattle of anchor chains and the flap of sails against the stiff breeze over the tramp of boots in front of her. She wondered how far she could swim, how fast, if she could make a break that way.
The column swung out on to the harbour side, boots splashing though the puddles thrown up on to the dock. Asta felt the cold water splash against the litter, marring the silks and brocade. There were less people here, and those that roamed the street were more intent on going about their business than watching a parade, loading and unloading the ships, Inyestan and Scattering, that moored in the harbour. Smaller boats scuttled between them like darting minnows, tiny in the shadows of the great, full-bellied cargo vessels. She passed a line of slaves, shuffling linked ankle-to-ankle by a long, looped chain, and she winced and had to look away from the whip-scores across their shoulders. A nudge in her mind, a voice that was hers, not Finn’s.
Your blood could free them too.
It wouldn’t. Olafur’s deluded belief in his blood-hungry land would lead to nothing but her death. Inyesta would keep her fist closed, and everything would go on as it had before. She wished she could make him understand that.
“Olafur? Do you really believe –”
It happened so quickly the question was snatched from her lips and scattered to the wind.
A group of dock workers were manhandling barrels from shore to ship across the width of the road ahead, lifting them on to their backs with sturdy harnesses. She looked up at the sudden curse to see that one of the barrels had come free and shattered in the street, spraying wine and splinters of wood across the street in a bloody and tangled tide. Harald yelled a quick halt and the column came to a stumbling halt, throwing her hard forward. Olafur’s hand was ripped from her arm, and the street was full of running feet, men pouring from the harbour, from a nearby alley, Harald’s barked commands cut off with a squeal like a pig being slaughtered.
“Olafur!” Asta twisted to grab him as the litter tumbled to the ground. He clutched for her, hands opening and closing as if in spasm. His eyes were wide, his mouth open, and the sharp hooked point of a soldier’s spear emerged from his throat.
He dropped to his knees, nails raking at her skin, and Asta recoiled as arms closed around her shoulders, her waist. She kicked out, dizzy, the world a whirl of sky and sea and stone, and her foot crunched against a knee that gave way before her. She felt rough cloth against her face as a bag came down, cutting off her vision, throwing her into darkness. She lashed out as she felt herself lifted, and carried, heard the clash of steel all around her. Her skull made shattering contact with hard stone, embers exploding behind her eyes. There was an instant of blinding pain, and then she felt nothing more.