From time to time I’ve mentioned that I’m a pantser. I begin a story with a character in mind, and write scenes with that character, letting him or her take me where he/she will. Scary huh? But some scenes later wind up on the cutting room floor as the novel takes shape in revision.
Have I made you curious enough to want to read an excerpt? If so, the following is the start of a prologue for a novel I thought was YA, but might be MG. Writing it was an experiment I made awhile ago. Since I wound up with four different prologues for the same novel, this one wound up on the cutting room floor. Perhaps I’ll find a home for it elsewhere. Read on if you dare. Mwwwwwhahahahaha! Okay, here goes:
She was always in his thoughts, especially now that he headed home. The rose of a dawning blush on her cheeks as she smiled. The velvety softness of her skin seared into the memory of his fingertips. The delicate chestnut hairs that always escaped from the tightest braid or crown. Eyes the fresh blue of forget-me-nots. Need drove him home. To her.
But something besides Madelyn drove him to urge Rex faster. It was there like a splinter, a nameless fear, waiting to be teased out.
He’d hated how he’d left Madelyn on the hill outside the palace gates. Hair a pennant in the wind. Thin fingers like bent stems slightly raised in farewell. No hint of reproach on her face.
The flapping pennant of chestnut hair slowly faded into the standard flapping from the saddle of his standard bearer on the gray just ahead. Night shadows faded in the coming dawn. And still they were many miles from home.
Snapdragon glanced behind him at the long line of soldiers cantering two abreast, voices lifted in song even after thirty leagues. His garden of soldiers, Madelyn had called them. He’d handpicked every one of them. Still eager and battle ready after the last sortie. Still singing about the wine of war.
Although victorious of late, he was tired of war—the one he faced back home especially. Weariness threaded through his bones. He listed slightly to the left while his destrier Rex plodded on, the clop of his hooves on the road almost hypnotic. Da-da-dum, da-da-dum. Da-da-dum. Almost sleep inducing. . . .
He caught himself suddenly, on the blue edge of a dream, on the edge of falling out of the saddle.
Rex snorted and tossed his cream mane as if to say, “Wake up!”
Wake up indeed. They would have to stop soon. He had to get out of the saddle at least.
Even with the teasing spring breeze, surely he was cooked to a fine turn in the mail beneath his surcoat. His hair felt sewn to his forehead and neck. Sweat gave birth to more sweat on the cliffs of his shoulder blades, adding to the waterfall down his back. He half imagined his titian hair leaving rivulets of rust on his neck.
Only his twenty-third summer, and he felt like an old man of twice that number of years. His ribs hurt, thanks to a blow he couldn’t blame on the war. Humiliating really. As he raced to mount his horse just before the last skirmish, he’d tripped over his own sword like a clumsy, unblooded squire and fallen against a stone. Knocked the wind out of him briefly. A blow to his pride.
A king didn’t trip before his men.
“Make way!” Felix, his standard bearer, called to a man heading east in a laden cart pulled by a skittish pony.
A troop of fifty heading west always took precedence over a cart of one. The man barely got the pony under control and to the side, before Felix approached. As they thundered past the bewildered man, Snapdragon tossed a silver coin his way—the only coin in his possession. He didn’t stop to see if the man caught it or not.
His corns hurt. He just wanted to go home. Home to Madelyn where he was just plain Phil when they were alone in their chambers and could forget the name he’d taken at his coronation.
He should never have left her. And he wouldn’t have this time, had she better news on the day the summons came to aid his blood brother in battle.
No child, she’d said. After three years, still no heir. He had allowed his disappointment to drive him from home. It all seemed so foolish now.
Snapdragon glanced at the steadily lightening sky. Perhaps they should have stopped for the night in Thistle instead of taking the road outside the city gate. But even after riding through the night, they wouldn’t arrive back home before nightfall. They would have to camp another night.
But the urgency that niggled—one that wasn’t Madelyn shaped—suddenly redoubled. They had to get to the Bog. Tonight.
No time to analyze why now. Get there, they must.
That’s all for now! Thanks for reading! I’ll post the rest next time, so please stay tuned. After that, maybe I’ll tell you why I cut it. 🙂
Pants from easleys.com; forget-me-nots from fanpop.com.