Awhile ago it came to my attention that if I’m to convince others that I’m a fiction writer, then it would be best to give samples of my…well fiction.
Yes, one might presume this to be common sense. But honestly, I’ve spent so many years learning about and honing my craft, that it never occurred to me to demonstrate it to anyone except my most trusted friends and family.
Along the way, though, some writers, who are far wiser than me, pointed out the fact that in order to build your audience, you have to build your platform as a writer. In order to build your platform, you have to get your work out there for others to see.
Nothing accomplishes this better than a little freebie. And who doesn’t like freebies?
So to assure you, my faithful supporters, that I am earnestly plugging away, I decided to post a little excerpt from Book II: Lord of Vengeance.
Why not an excerpt from book one?
Well, I’m planning on that. In fact, as I edit, I’m considering the perfect scene (or two) to tease for that book. But I haven’t decided which one yet. Until then, you’ll just have to deal with the suspense.
So without further ado, I give you Chapter 1, scene 1 from Tale of the Clans: Lord of Vengeance:
Luimnech, Ireland, 967 AD
Smoke filled the sky billowing in plumes above the great Shannon. King Ivar’s great port city, called Luimnech by the foreign Irish, stood encompassed in a lurid haze. The once great longphort of their ancestors now reduced to ash and rubble.
Erik Halldorsson stood amidst the carnage along Luimnech’s ravaged streets, his mind hovering between numbness and mourning. Bodies smoldering on the roadside mingled the sickening essence of burnt flesh and charred oak.
“A roast worth tending!” the Irishmen jeered.
They forced Erik into the growing throng of able bodied men who survived the sacking of their fortress. Many like himself pulled through the defeat at Sulcoit Wood only to run an entire day and night and find themselves cornered like dogs in their own homes. The Munstermen rounded them together as they would cattle to slaughter. The sheer irony of it would have amused Erik if there were any strength left to him.
Now he found he cared little. King Ivar brought them to this defeat. His foreign allies failed them in battle, yet Ivar was ever quick to flee with the kings of Desmond and the Ui Cairbre, abandoning his city and his people to be culled out like so many before. The foreign Irish were renowned for the gathering of hostages in their petty feuds.
Erik spotted the familiar form of his comrade, Svein, among their battered countrymen. Svein’s face, barely recognizable at first glance, for a bloodied gouge tore through the place where his right eye once set. Like all those among him, he too seemed beaten beyond concern.
A strange release overcame Erik as he walked to Svein’s side. At least strength could be found in knowing that he was no longer alone at the end of all things. He gripped Svein’s shoulders as he stumbled toward him.
“Well, old friend,” Svein laughed with a rasp, his voice choked from smoke, “how goes it with you?”
“Not half so bad as you. I see you’ve lost what little sense is left you. Can it be that I find you jovial, when all is lost?”
Svein gazed about them, his head bounced against his shoulder with a wild grin chiseled on his face. “Jovial? No! Can’t let these Irish dogs see us die with defeat on our faces now can we? No! The curs may have their victory, but I’ll not pat them on the head for it.”
Suddenly the Irishmen who rode on horseback moved on their ravaged group. Several on foot battered a few of the unfortunate fools who lingered along the outer edge of the congregation. Erik could hear their foreign tongue plainly as the Irish bellowed out orders for them to move. The fact a few of the Danes and Norsemen among them failed to understand the Munstermen’s words seemed to amuse their captors. The Irish warriors only laughed and ridiculed the stragglers as they drove Luimnech’s men out her blackened gates.
Erik knew Svein understood them as well as he. Though a native Icelander like himself, Svein’s father traded with the Dublin Irish long before settling in this isle. “Where are they taking us?”
Animosity welled in Svein’s remaining eye. “Valhalla. It seems Odin has found his blood, one way or another.”
Death was meant to come to the troublesome Irish. Yet Odin saw fit to betray his own in their stead. All of the gods saw fit to betray them. Perhaps the White Christ was truly stronger than their gods. He provided victory to these lesser creatures.
“I do not believe in Odin any longer.”
“Either way, we shall be his sacrifice this day.” Svein gazed ahead. “And there is his alter.”
Erik looked to the little cluster of hillocks where the Dalcassians lead them. Saingel, the Irish called them.
As they made the hill, Erik noticed the growing line of hostages herded east to Cashel. Women, children, the elderly and the lame alike trudged onward, their captors pressing them to the road. Anxiously Erik scanned the throngs for his wife. The ravaged band was paraded almost mockingly past the hillocks of Saingel, the Irish allowing them time enough to witness the execution of all able-bodied men among their people. Suddenly Erik caught glimpse of her along the throng’s edge.
“Svava!” he breathed. Her frail, slender form was tattered and covered in ash from her long reddish blond locks, to her thong-clad feet.
Grief-stricken, Erik could only watch his young bride as she walked, hugging herself against the chill of the early morning air. Her youthful face bore the grim appearance of utter hopelessness. Did she think him dead? How he wished he could cry out to her! She was not so far away that she could not hear him. Svava! I’m here! Look at me!
But what use was it? Already the Irish warriors lined his countrymen in a row. One swarthier fellow came along behind Erik and gripped his shoulder, shoving him to his knees. It mattered little. His only thought now was for his wife. What would become of her? Would the Munstermen make a slave of her like the rest? No, she was too young and beautiful, too frail. She would undoubtedly end up in the bed of some Pig-Irish nobleman, succumbing to his whims while he committed lewdness upon her. Erik seethed inside, his breath coming hard at the visage. “White Christ, if you are indeed as powerful a god as they say, then you will keep her from such fate. I beseech you! I know I’ve never served you…but you must hear my plea. There is no one else.”
The Irish warrior who forced him to the ground returned in timely fashion to deliver his foot in Erik’s ribcage. The searing pain pierced deep within, throwing him to the ground with as much force as the blow.
He hit the dirt hard, striving to fill his lungs with air. It would not come.Rough fingers dug into his scalp, gripping a fistful of his hair. His neck snapped back sharply and he cried out as the man drug him bodily back in line.
A guttural noise growled at his side and increased in strength until the intensity of the yell reverberated his ear drums. Suddenly Erik’s captor flew from him. Erik turned to find Svein on top of the man. Svein disarmed the Irishman and thrust the man’s own blade deep within his chest.
Blood flowed readily as Svein ripped the blade from the man’s chest cavity and charged another guard. “I’ll see you in Valhalla you Irish bastards!”
“Svein, no!” Erik jumped to his feet. The ground swayed beneath him. His legs gave way and his knees hit the earth.
Just as Svein engaged another guard a spear hurtled through the air, slamming into his side. Svein lurched forward. The sword fell from his hand. Another spear plunged into his back. Still Svein stood wavering on Saingel’s hill. A second Irishman picked up his fallen comrade’s sword, murder writ across his face. Without hesitation he thrust the vile blade deep into Svein’s abdomen and kept thrusting until the sword penetrated his back.
“No!” Erik struggled to his feet again.
Svein’s lifeless body fell to the ground propped up by the spears in his back and side. Erik could only stand in shock. Rough hands gripped his arms and drove him back to the ground. It was then that he heard someone crying out his name.
The pounding of his own heart pulsed in his ears. So much so that he could barely discern anything beyond it. But he knew that voice. He looked up. Svava emerged from the crowd of hostages. She ran to him. Several among the Irish moved to intercept her.
“No, Svava! Go! I don’t want you harmed.”
“Erik!” she wailed. Two Irishmen seized her by the arms and began dragging her away. She fought them. “No! I won’t leave! I won’t lose you!”
“Goodbye Svava. I love you.” he called out.
A heel drove deeply in his back, forcing him face down in the grass. He felt the edge of a blade rest at the nape of his neck. This was the end. He closed his eyes. “Remember her, White Christ. Remember her.”
White hot pain followed. Then darkness.