Sunday, June 14, 2009

Snippet Saturday - Going It Alone

Today is not an "official" snippet Saturday - and I see by my clock that it is actually now Sunday - but since I missed the first one and I'm actively revising I thought I'd put another one up for fun.  I meant to spend tonight finishing up the first chapter (AGAIN), but ended up in Glencoe.  Here we see Alec's actions in the previous week's snip coming back to bite him:

From ONE HIGHLAND NIGHT (copyright 2008, Jennifer R. Clark)

Alec passed the Signal Rock and through the slantwise gusts of snow he saw the fire lit upon it.  Shots rang out, like the crack of branches bowed and broken, and in his heart he knew they were too late.

Yet he could not turn back.  His fate was now bound up with the MacDonalds of Glencoe, and having come so far he would do what he could to save them.  If for no other reason than Highland honor--insulted by the prospect of murder under trust--demanded it.  And Elspeth wished it.

At length he reached the chief's house at Carnoch, where all was madness.

Soldiers ranged through the house, flushing out servants and driving them into the night to be shot.  Two bodies lay already by the door.  He slipped round back, and by great good fortune avoided them all, and came into the laird's bedroom.  The sight that awaited curdled in his wame.

Alasdair MacDonald of Glencoe, the MacIain, lay sprawled facedown on his bed, still in his nightshirt, a bullet hole in the back his head and his trews around his ankles.  In truth, "facedown" was only an expression, for the MacIain's face was missing, blown away by the force of the exiting bullet.

"Ah, Christ, MacIain..."

Sounds of footsteps outside the door drove him into the wardrobe, and he hastily pulled the doors closed behind himself, leaving only a tiny crack through which he could see.

Two soldiers entered, followed by their lieutenant, who instructed them to drag MacIain's body from the house.  Before they had moved more than two paces, he heard a fourth man enter the room.

"My Lord Breadalbane!" the lieutenant exclaimed.  "We had not thought to see you here this night."
Breadalbane!  Och, aye, this scheme reeked of him. 

"I was at Ballachulish with Duncanson," the earl replied.  "I set out early, before the snow began, to meet Glenlyon here and see his orders carried out.  His strength of character is not enough to see this through, so I have come to ensure the old fox is dead."

"He is, my lord.  He lies just here, on this side of the bed."

Through the slit Alec saw the form of Breadalbane pass--dressed as a clansman for winter and without his wig--and heard the sound of the earl's laughter.

"Well done, Lindsey.  You have meted out the king's justice, and I shall see you are duly recompensed."

It was too much to bear.

He burst from his hiding spot, driven by fury.  "You pawkie bastard, I should have kent you would be in this up to your moth-eaten eyebrows, even if the lass had not said as much!  Your very presence here damns you to the deepest pit of hell!"

He felt more than heard the click of pistols cocked and trained on him by the lieutenant and his men.  Breadalbane rounded on him, eyes narrow and cold.
My presence?" the earl asked.  "I think you shall find that hard to prove.  None ken my presence save Lieutenant Lindsey, these two fine soldiers, and MacIain there--" he indicated the body on the floor, "--who shan't be telling tales."

"And me!" Alec lashed out.  His breath came in ragged gasps, anger fueled white-hot.  "I will tell the chiefs who is truly to blame for this abomination, this slaughter of innocents under trust--I, a MacGregor, who knows firsthand the greed and perfidy of the Campbells!"

The room was quiet for a handful of heartbeats.  The earl spoke.  "MacGregor, did you say?"

"Aye, and proudly I claim it.  We may be a broken clan, but we have our honor yet.  I take leave to doubt you had any to start with, and soon all will know it!"

Breadalbane grinned maliciously.  "Oh, I think not...

Too late, Alec realized his mistake, made in the heat of his anger. 

"You of all people should know: the name MacGregor is proscripted, and all men who claim it are to be put to death.  Especially those who do so whilst obstructing the king's justice."  Breadalbane turned to the red-coated soldiers.  "You there, take him."

He drew his dirk--no room for the sword--and cursed the lack of time to reload his pistols, discharged at Leacantuim against another band of soldiers.  But one of Lindsey's men still held a loaded musket, with which he backed Alec against the wall.  The other relieved him of his weapons. 

"I could kill you now, MacGregor, and it would go unremarked," Breadalbane said.  "But I wish to make a lesson of you, to remind your broken clan who holds power.  I can still wield the weapons of fire and sword against them.  How better to prove it than to execute a favored son?"  The earl sneered.

"But to make my statement it must be done in the legal way, with a proper death warrant.  Not difficult to get, considering your activities against the Watch and in my own hold.  Oh aye, I ken your actions against my daft son, when he thought to capture the prize I so ardently sought.  You stole from me, and injured soldiers of the crown in the process.  I have witnessess that will testify as much.  It will not take so long to make the case against you."  Breadalbane waved a dismissive hand.  "But speaking of my lost prize, tell me: where is the lass?  Was it her Sight that brought you here?"

At that Alec set his jaw hard, and his gaze harder.  Breadalbane would learn nothing of Elspeth from him.  He would protect her if it was his last act on earth.

He felt a sharp pain as the nearest soldier clouted him in the head with the stock of his own pistol, and then he knew no more.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Snippet Saturday

Fellow KYRW member Anya Bast has started "Snippet Saturday" and today's theme is Fight Scenes. Since I'm (finally!) back on the blog circuit, I'm diving in:

From ONE HIGHLAND NIGHT (copyright 2008, Jennifer R. Clark):

Elspeth lay in her cell, staring up at the dark ceiling, and waited.

She thought of Alec, wondered if he even noticed her absence. They had talked of her need to return to Kilchurn; it would be so easy for him to leave her here to find her own way, alone as always. No MacGregor involvement meant no threat to his clan. It made sense, really. Her only regret was not having the chance to say goodbye.

Paradoxically, she looked forward to the morning, and the earl's return. Somehow she felt he wasn't after her body—only her knowledge, and the power it could bring him. His son, however...

Her eyes snapped open and every muscle tightened in fear when at last she heard the door scrape open. Futilely, she pulled against the ropes binding her wrists. They rubbed the raw patches left by multiple previous attempts, and she subsided.

A dim shape moved toward her through the pitch black room. Ormelie. She curled into as tight a ball as she could manage with her arms tied above her head, and squeezed her eyes shut in imitation of sleep.


A hand touched her arm. She exploded from her coiled position, driving both feet like pistons into the man's midsection. The air left him in an audible rush, and he stumbled back, clutching his abdomen.

"Christ, mo phiseag!" Alec wheezed. "If ye dislike me so, tell me plain. Dinna take it out on me just because I get near!"

Relief flooded her at the sound of the familiar voice. "Oh, God, Alec! I thought you were Ormelie coming back." He had not left her alone, after all. Then she remembered where here was. "What are you doing here?"

Breathing more normally, he returned to her side. "Rescuing you, I suppose. Though it might go faster if ye helped instead of hindered…" His dirk cut through her bonds and she pulled her hands free, rubbing her wrists and sitting up.

Alec knelt on the floor at her feet. He searched her face, concerned. "Lass, did anyone…harm ye? Can ye come wi' me now?"

"Yes. I mean—no, he didn't hurt me. Yes, I can move."

"Good. We dinna have much time. 'Tis dark yet, and best to leave before dawn."

They emerged from her cell and passed an unconscious guard slumped by the door to the bailey. The work of Alec's dirk-pommel, if she had to guess, or the scrolled butt of one of his prized Doune pistols. It was still night, as he had said, but she could see the faint rose glow of dawn beginning to lighten the sky over the East wall.

A shout sounded behind them: the alarm was raised. Here and there around the courtyard, torches flared and soldiers appeared in various states of dress and equipage. Hugh and Ewan emerged from the shadows of the wall and engaged them, drawing attention.

Alec's breath whispered warm in her ear as he gave her hurried instructions to make for the rear retaining wall, then he drew sword and dirk and ran ahead to join the fray. She slipped along the wall of the bailey, keeping to the shadows. At first she ignored the warm spot against her leg as a figment of her imagination. But then the warmth was supplemented by a faint vibration. She stopped and withdrew the meteorite from her pocket by its string, already knowing what she would see. Sure enough, it glowed faintly and emitted a low chiming sound.

One more step, and the crystal brightened. Another wormhole must be forming nearby. If she just walked forward, the portal might open. She could leave certain danger behind, and the heartache that would surely result from her growing feelings for Alec. She could go home.

Home. Home meant safety, the comfort of the familiar. This place, this time were not her own. But home meant loneliness, too. The pain of abandonment.

If the wormhole even returned her there—and that was a very big "if". It might take her to another place and time altogether. Or…nowhere.

She looked to Alec, torn. He fought two soldiers, plaid swinging and sword flashing. Sparks flew as his blade met those of his opponents, clash after clash. It startled her; she'd thought that a special effects gimmick in the movies.

This was no gimmick. The gentleness and humor she loved about him were gone from his face, replaced by a fierce scowl of concentration. He was every inch the Highland warrior. He'd risked himself, his friends, and retribution against his clan to rescue her. In Glasgow, he'd taken her to see Isaac Newton. And before that he'd taken her in when she was lost and alone, found a place for her within his clan. Above all, by coming for her, he'd earned her trust...something she thought to never give another man.

Go or stay? The men fought, the sun rose, and every second wasted brought them closer to certain capture, but still she hesitated.

And then she saw him. Half in shadow, one of Campbell's men slunk toward Alec from behind. His knife gleamed dully in the pale light. Alec remained occupied with the soldiers at his front, new ones come to replace their fallen colleagues.

Going unnoticed was no longer an option. She stepped away from the wall and shouted.

"Alec! Behind you!"

But he did not seem to hear her. The Campbell crept closer.

Choice made, she sprinted into the open, even as the man raised the knife high. Throwing up a blocking arm, she inserted herself between Alec and the blade. But she timed it poorly. Instead of meeting forearm-to-forearm as expected, she felt the knife bite deep into her flesh, a lightning-strike of searing pain. It scraped bone before the attacker yanked away.

She had no time to focus on the pain. A quick left jab to the solar plexus took the attacker's breath. She aimed a vicious kick at his groin, skirts be damned. While he was thus distracted, she reached around and withdrew the small sgian ockle from its sheath beneath a startled Alec's arm.

But her first blows had been effective enough. The Campbell remained doubled over on the ground where she'd kicked out at him, and the direction of Alec's struggle led them farther away by the second.

They fought their way across the courtyard, back-to-back. Alec did most of the work, and she guarded the rear. A rope and grappling hook dangled from the top of the north wall. She watched as Ewan clambered up and dropped out of sight. Before she really knew what was happening, Alec boosted her to the top of the wall and began to climb the rope himself. She closed her eyes and dropped to the ground below.

Hugh, the last of the group, landed with a thud even as she and Alec picked themselves up and headed for one of the two small boats drawn up on the rocks. As he rowed, she saw glowing balls of torchlight gather on the shore, heard the retort of muskets. A ball splashed into the water off the starboard side. Garrons nickered from the trees on the shore.

When they reached the mainland, Alec swung into a saddle in a flair of plaid, then reached down and pulled her up before him. The party rode north along Loch Awe. Toward Glenstrae, and safety.

Toward home.

I'm baaa-aack!!!


1275–1325; ME condicioun < AF; OF < L condiciōn- (s. of condiciō) agreement, equiv. to con- con- + dic- say (see dictate ) + -iōn- -ion; sp. with t by influence of LL or ML forms; cf. F condition

con⋅di⋅tion⋅a⋅ble, adjective

1. See state. 8. requirement, proviso.


What does "condition" mean for me? It means I passed 4 of 5 sections on my board exam, and I have to return next year to take the fifth again. Which is actually a good thing, considering these exams only have a 50% first-time pass rate, and had I missed more than one section, I would have to redo the ENTIRE THING.

It also means that the burden of studying and stressing about the exams has been lifted for an entire year, and I have the summer yawning wide open and full of possibilities ahead of me. Oh, there is work to do. And stuff around the house that I've been neglecting in favor of studying.

But Alec and Elspeth are getting impatient with me, and I've brought them this far so I'm not going to leave them hanging. Time to get back on this train, finish up another (hopefully short) round of revisions, and get this MS out there to agents and editors.

Side note: in an amusing (and exciting) proof that my internet presence/marketing is working, a girl I went to high school with and knew (but not well) but haven't really had much contact with in 10 years messaged me through Facebook asking how to make a kilt for her friend. Srsly. *g*