Monday, April 9, 2007

Excerpt From 'Brotherhood of Blood'

Since I've been editing my WIP this long weekend, I decided to go for it and post an excerpt.

This story takes place in Wales in 577AD. My hero Peredur has been made into a specialized vampire. In this scene he's being put through one of a series of trials to get him accustomed to his new state of being. The 'cousins' referred to are traditional vampires.

Excerpt -

The next lesson was very straightforward. Peredur was led into the sunlight the following day until he passed out.

He came back to his senses under Wladyslaw’s watchful eye. Peredur fought the urge to sit up as would be expected in the presence of a commander in his old life.

Equal brethren. He closed his eyes, inhaling deeply.

“Don’t hurry it,” the szlachcic said. [note:a dark age Polish prince]

The water sickness had been very different from the sun sickness. He lay back on the cavern floor, safe within its cool earthiness. He could actually feel the presence of the minerals in the ground beneath him, and knew somehow that the earth already acted as a tonic for him.

Where the water had worked upon his muscles and skin, making any movement impossible, the sun had worked upon his head and the blood within his veins, heating them both. He could not get any thoughts to settle in his mind, and his blood had pumped too fast until he lost consciousness. All in a much swifter manner than the water sickness.

Even now he felt the bleary haze of fever. He opened his eyes and fought to focus them.

Wladyslaw regarded Peredur with wary hope. This former szlachcic was Peredur’s fourth test. His body felt runny like the upturned contents of someone’s stomach. Peredur forced himself to focus on the szlachcic’s face.

He thought of the blood that would revive him out of the stupor. Reading his thought, Wladyslaw explained, “I cannot offer you sustenance, brother.”

He placed a hand on Peredur’s shoulder. “This feeling is what you must experience. You will learn to cope with it in time.”

Peredur closed his eyes against this unwelcome news.

“I have the unhappy task of guiding you through this transition, Peredur.”

He opened his eyes again, urging himself to see this brother closely.

“Unhappy?” he managed to ask.

Wladyslaw looked off into the distance. “Our cousins know this sickness for themselves and will use it against you. Men will too, if they hunt us.”

Peredur fought against a wave of illness, keeping his attention on the szlachcic. “How long was I in the sun?”

“A few moments only, no more.”

“Longer would be the end,” he noted, not wanting to imagine it.

“And not very much longer,” Wladyslaw verified. “If you find yourself in the light, you must act quickly or perish.”

Peredur nodded.

“Sit up,” Wladyslaw said, his voice less gentle than it had been.

Peredur looked hard into the szlachcic’s face. Unhappy task. But sitting was impossible.

“Up,” Wladyslaw commanded.

Peredur responded as he had always done on the battlefield. He gathered strength where there had been none and rose halfway.

He collapsed. If he could have done, he would have vomited, but that too seemed to be a relic of his former life. It didn’t stop the debilitating queasiness from holding him in its grasp.

“If our cousins mean to finish you, they will succeed with such feeble effort.” Peredur heard the same tone in his princely brother’s voice as his swordmaster had once used. Was this something the other brethren had gone through? They would not show him up.

Peredur pushed himself up on his elbows with enormous effort. Panting, he rolled onto his side and pushed all the way up to a sitting position. He trembled with it, the detestable weakness, the queasiness. But he looked Wladyslaw in the eye.

The szlachcic’s arm shot forward and his hand cuffed Peredur in the head. He swayed forward, then fell sideways.

Peredur rolled to keep his eye on Wladyslaw in case more blows should follow. His head swam and he felt the hideous weakness swirl in his veins.

Wladyslaw rose to his feet. Peredur pushed back, trying to keep a distance between himself and the szlachcic. The sickness not only weakened him, it disoriented. Try as he might to rise and meet his brother the cavern seemed to tilt.

“Still yourself,” Wladyslaw said, giving Peredur a stout kick that rolled him some distance.

Peredur scrambled to make his arms and legs move, noting with shock how little that kick had actually hurt. The force of it had punted him like a child’s kicking bladder. Still yourself. He’d best make a move and soon.

Too late - Wladyslaw scooped him up and slammed him up against the cavern wall. The vampire pressed his face close to Peredur’s.

“If I had so desired, you would have died the true death, my brother.”

Panting, Peredur sagged in Wladyslaw’s grasp, unable to stop the swirling inside him. At this point, a part of him didn’t care whether one of these cousins came at him. If only the swaying cavern would stop.

“Still yourself,” Wladyslaw whispered near Peredur’s ear. He was so close, it seemed he held up Peredur by his mere presence.

What did he mean by ‘still yourself?’ Wladyslaw seemed so solid while his own insides spun. He focused on that solidness until it seemed he could feel the other vampire’s heart beat. Peredur blinked. His vision cleared.

He could feel the szlachcic’s steady heart.

Just as he sought his brother’s gaze, to thank him for lending him this stillness, Wladyslaw backed away a pace. Immediately the swirling resumed. Peredur went limp. Only Wladyslaw’s grasp of Peredur’s arms kept him from sliding to the cavern floor.

“Listen to your own stillness,” Wladyslaw prompted.

Peredur closed his eyes and listened for his own heart beat. He heard its erratic drumming and felt the floor tip.

But he felt Wladyslaw’s hands pinning him securely. He forced himself to locate the other vampire’s heart beat through those hands. There it was.

So much slower than a man’s heartbeat. But rhythmic just the same. Beneath Wladyslaw’s strong beat was his own that skipped or disappeared entirely.

The szlachcic left off clipping him in the head. Peredur took advantage of this lull and focused as clearly as he could on his heart beat. He listened until his flitting beats caught up to Wladyslaw’s. As his pulse settled down, the cavern seemed less likely to rock as though they were at sea.

Opening his eyes, he saw the szlachcic staring at him curiously. Peredur knew that Wladyslaw could feel his own steadily growing stillness, just as he could feel the other’s heart beat.

As if transfixed by Peredur, the szlachcic stayed as he was, holding his brother against the cave even when they both knew he was no longer in danger of falling. Peredur felt excitement radiating toward him from his brother.

At last, Wladyslaw released him and backed away. Peredur kept his feet.

An idea came to him, but he suspected that he was abnormally connected to the szlachcic just now. Even as he saw recognition dawn in his brother’s eyes, Peredur’s fist flew out and knocked Wladyslaw nearly flat.

The szlachcic righted himself and stood before Peredur with a disarming grin.

“Outstanding,” he said simply.


Dara Edmondson said...

Wow! Good stuff!

Cole said...

Hi Julia! That is really great! :) You definitely allow us to 'feel' with him!


julia said...

Thanks, Dara and Cole for having a look at my scene. And welcome, Cole!