Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday's Opening Scene - Britain from All Our Yesterdays by Janet Lane Walters


The sun had barely risen above the horizon when Starr slipped from the house. She slid along the hedge enclosing the compound. Her tunic caught on a branch. She pulled free and crept through the opening. With care, she ran to the meadow. From several nearby homesteads, smoke rose and she prayed none of the other villagers would see the thegn's daughter make her escape from the day's chores.

She mounted her pony. A packet of food for her morning meal and a sack for her gleanings were tied to her belt. As the pony trotted toward the forest, she bent low.
Starr laughed. Though a skillful weaver, she preferred to be outdoors, free to explore the forest. Especially when the cloth she'd been ordered to weave was for her marriage clothes. Though no man had been named, she feared her father would name Kendel as her spouse. She didn't like or trust the man who owed half his blood to the invaders from the sea, the dreaded men who sailed the dragon ships.

If she'd been a boy, she could have spent her days hunting or tending the sheep, the way her older brother had. She chewed a kernel of grief. Ralf had been killed during a hunt and only she believed his death had been planned. She clenched her fists. She had no proof of her suspicions and without this, she couldn't make an accusation.

When she reached the forest, she tied the pony in a small clearing. The brook would provide water and the grass was lush. She checked her traps and found she'd snared several hares to add to the family's food supplies. She cleaned and skinned them. Then she ate her food and left her kill in a tree while she explored.

As she reached the edge of the forest where the land dropped toward the sea, she moved with caution. Several years before her birth, a raid by the dragon ships had left the fishing village deserted. She'd heard tales of what had occurred. A number of the people had sought refuge with her people, one being Kendel's mother. Starr's father had given the boy a home after his mother had cast herself into the sea.

Starr dropped to her knees behind a screen of briars and crawled to where the stream plunged over rocks to form a river to the sea. She muffled a gasp with her hand. The dragon ships had come again. Should she hurry home with a warning or watch to see what these men planned?

She stared at the four houses on the far side of the river. The men were building a palisade and covering the roofs. What did it mean? She saw several women, horses, cattle and dogs. Did they plan to settle?

From the lone hut near the falls, a woman emerged. A sound startled Starr. She looked down and her eyes widened. A tall man strode from beneath the cascading water. His shoulders and back were broad and rippled with muscles. His buttocks were firm and his legs long.

He turned and stared at Starr's hiding place. When he squeezed water from his long hair, she saw his male organ and held in a startled cry. The woman ran to him. He pushed her away.

Starr began a slow retreat. To be captured by one of these strangers could endanger the homestead. But she felt a deep yearning to be with the stranger and touch his sun-bronzed skin.
* * * *