Excerpt: Good Reason Does Not Always Comfort

Another excerpt from my novel as I plow through my 4th draft.  You know they say that you are starting to get to the point where your manuscript is polished enough when you are sick of going over it.  Well, I’m almost there.  I want to publish, but it’s not quite there.  Some minor structural fixes, a buffet of grammatical errors and word choices to go, then yep… I can send it to a professional editor for the final line editor.

I can tell you this much, the NEXT book is going to be a much more streamlined process.

Everyone was startled awake by a sharp series of whistle blasts. Many of the adults sprung to action. Even Bergamot scrambled to the ready with a wheezy groan.

“Greithr, children. We can step down at the station as the train takes on more water and peat. I will go get us some food for the second half of the trip. You may get off the train, but do not get off the station platform. There is no stockade here, and there might be things hiding in the dark,” warned Brother Finn.

Ahead, they could see the warm light of many torches and a large water tower. Most of them were in a desperate need to climb down and see what was happening if nothing more than to move their legs or use the outhouse.

“If you hear the steamwhistle again, get on top at whatever carriage is nearest. Do not wait. The train will leave without you and then you are on your own. I will not be coming back for you, and no one will take you home.” The seriousness of his words cut into their minds and put a cold needle of fear there. None of them had ever considered being abandoned before. The realized possibility showed with frightened glances. A few jerks and bounces distracted them as the brakemen set the brakes, running and jumping between car tops and spinning the cranks as they went.

As they glided to a squealing stop next to the station platform, the squat stone building blazed with life. Large pitchpots smoked around the building, filling the air with acrid smoke and sparks lighting the area with greasy yellow light. The Huskarls took position at their large springbows at the front and back of the train. Two more of them walked the platform with axes at the ready. Their colors were unfamiliar to Reimar. He reasoned that they belonged to another Aettir in the area. The carriage rocked as people surged off to find food. Only three children got down off the top and stood on the stone platform. Brother Finn rushed quickly into the station with the rest of the passengers to get food and drink. Reimar and Mats slowly walked on the platform, legs shaky from the rocking of the trip. Liesl made a bee line for the outhouse. Hand whistles blew and men shouted. They could hear the groans of llamas and a pair of oxen being taken off a car at their stop then being replaced with a different farmer’s cattle. Occasionally a foul word would color the air as a loader would throw a heavy package on the train.

Off in the dark, just beyond the pitch pots Reimar had the feeling that someone watching. He could not see anything beyond fireflies bobbing up and down among the grasses and weeds. It was beautiful and mesmerizing as he looked into the deep heart of the pinery. He walked away from the snorting engine trying to hear what could be out in the dark and maybe see something as well.

His family was so far away, and in that moment his frailty became known to him. He was just a young boy with only a strange man and his dog keeping evil at bay. Reimar continued to stare away from the noise and the chatter. He did not know what he expected to see out there, but looked anyway.

Then the apparition appeared. Was it a trick of the shadows dancing, or was it something in the trees faintly glowing? Pinpricks of yellow and green flashed like eyes and then vanished like the fireflies. The gurgling and gushing of the water tower filling the tender overwhelmed all other sounds nearby. The shadow returned. It was human in shape, resting a hand on a tree trunk. Reimar’s focus was intense and wanted to see more, but could not move.

The steam whistle blew. The shock of which jolted the boy around and he looked frantically at what was happening. His eyes fixed on Brother Finn, who had just come out with a large parcel of food wrapped in thick paper nodded to the carriages. His expression frightened Reimar with its severity of purpose. As Reimar started to move toward him and the train, he looked back over his shoulder one final time. The apparition was gone.

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Excerpt: The Long Ride Through the Night

You will be getting occasional excerpts from the book till I finish editing, just to wet your whistle.  Enjoy!

Reimar wondered how much of this trip he would remember in the following years. Two carts were readied to go to the Chuffing Pony. They would spend the night on the train while their fathers would stay at the inn, returning in the morning rather than risk being caught out at night. Reimar’s father could not take the journey for their cart had been damaged and there was work to be done. The waste of a single day could be dangerous even with aid on the way.

The ride was enjoyable as the weather had turned into a pleasant early fall day. Brightly dappled sun cut through the trees’ shadows, which were so tall, their branches played with the clouds, or so it seemed to young eyes. Llamas bleated and groaned in their usual cranky way. Sun warmed wood and dry leaves scented the air. It felt like it should be a play day for the children Brother Finn observed, but their hearts were so heavy from leaving, the good nature of the ride had become a cruel taunt.

Two bright, shining ribbons of iron straps on wood beams appeared and the road turned sharply to it towards the station. You could hear and smell it quite a distance away. The smell of oils mixed with burning peat and wood. Many of the trees here had started losing their leaves in the deepening Autumn. A copse of nearby Tamarack Spruce sighed with the breeze, needles turning orange with the season. Before them, the stone and log walls of the Chuffing Pony waited. Two large gates were closed to the ribbons, with men at the ready to open them once a train was seen. They capped the ends of the long stockade around the siding, warehouse, water-tower and the inn. Huskarls walked across catwalks with either a bardiche or slung battle axe and bow in hand. They were Herse Olin Halgarsson’s huskarls or so their crests proclaimed. The scarlet and yellow tabards were signs of their allegiance to the Asbjornaettir who ruled Neezhodayland.

Hissing steam was punctuated with the clinking and popping of valves as the carts of goggle-eyed children entered the station’s stockade gates. Once through, the front of a great iron beast greeted them. It squatted low on eight wheels, looking all at once like a lion, cricket and dragon. Its body made up of a huge cylindrical boiler and tall funnel which spewed smoke and sparks up into the sky. An angled grate at the front looked like long thin teeth, while its angled pistons were its legs set rampant to claw at anything that dared come in front of it. A tail of ten short carriages trailed behind. They were twenty foot long, double decked carriages. Their top deck was covered by a tarpaulin roof and had sets of forward and back facing bench seats for people to sit. The interiors were more plush, but had less room, with button-down flaps for when it rained or snowed while those who rode up top had to contend with much of the elements. The carriages themselves could hold maybe a dozen or more people comfortably on their pair of four wheeled trucks.

Next to the tender, a flat car loaded with squat boxes separated the carriages followed by a pair of cargo wagons, providing distance and protection from the noisy, dirty engine. The engineer was wandering around the wheels and valves dripping oil on them. The two firemen threw another slab of peat through a large open maw into the rear of the beast. The conductor helped the ladies up into the carriages while the train guards stood post on the top with large springbows at the ready. Their holstered axes gleaming on their back, emblazoned with the crest of the ribbonroad company.

“Wait on the platform for me. I will settle our passage,” Brother Finn ordered the men. With a dancer’s grace, he hopped off the cart and Bergamot followed a short way with a sloppy jump.

Once the carts were empty, everyone stood on the platform keeping close by. The station was busier than expected, as the train was delayed, waiting for the eastbound schedule to come by. The children who’s fathers were not there stayed close to Bergamot, following her like ducklings with their mother. For now, she seemed content to sit lopsided on the platform, panting in the warm day with a bored look on her face. Occasionally, she looked expectantly to the door where Brother Finn had gone, and licking her chops, sloppily at peace but alert. Her shifting ears and droopy eyes the only tell of where her interests lay.

Many people had come from other small farmholds and nearby Thiggardborg which was on the river and had a real sawmill. Some talked about a spur being driven towards Thiggardborg in the coming year to help pull out fresh lumber and shingles. Women in beautiful tapestry-like dresses complained about the ash and smoke from the engine’s crown like stack as it burned small holes in their parasols, and the mud caked their slippers.

“Third Nonae! Damer and herrar, please board the train! Third Nonae! The eastbound is due in a few minutes! Finish your arrangements now!” a station agent called out the time loudly and rang a bell. A man climbed up on top of the front of the lion like face of the engine, changing the banners from green to red and lighting a bright trio of lanterns on the front end.

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More to come!

 

SURPRISE EXERPT!

You guys have been so good to me, so congrats, have a surprise excerpt from Chapter 2.  She’s still rough but getting better (There will probably be more polish in the final version but hey, a treat for you guys).  If you need a reminder, you can find the pre-beta first chapter sample here.

Enjoy and comment away.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

from: Brother Finn Arrives

“Mum, Why is Brother Finn here?” Reimar asked once inside their longhouse.

“Do not worry about that, Honeycomb,” she said. “The sun is gone to bed, and that means it is time for you to sleep as well.” Reimar heard something in his mother’s voice. It was almost… yes, something was wrong. Why would that be with a monk? They were going to have Mass, and then back to hunting and scavenging. That meant more apple picking he supposed. Reimar took off his kyrtill, tunic and trousers and put on his nightshirt from his clothes basket. He then climbed up to the low loft where his sister and one of his older brothers slept. His eldest brother Bjorn slept on the other end of the longhouse with his mother and father, farthest from the hearth.

Below, his father came in and dragged his fingers against the loft, tapping the wood in his usual good-night ritual. Reimar, Katrin and Erik scooted to the edge of the little loft and stuck their heads over.

“Ha hah!” Anton said playfully and stood up on his tip toes to give each of them a kiss goodnight, saving the noisiest one for Katrin. She giggled the unique sound of little girls amused by their father.

“Da?” Erik began to ask.

“No,”  Anton said in a voice that brooked no compromise.  “This is not for you,”

“But how-?” His face surprised that he knew what he was going to ask.

“Because I am your father, and I know the minds of curious boys. I promise you, tomorrow you will know more. Be patient till then. For now, you just have to sleep. That should not be so hard.”

“Jah, but I am thirteen! I am old enough to be a man and part of these things,” he protested weakly.

“You are not yet enough of a man to be part of this, Erik. Do not vex me.”

“Yes, Da,” he obeyed.

Reimar and the rest rolled over onto their clover tick mattresses. A few minutes later, Bjorn came in.

“Anton, come. They are waiting,” Anette said after taking the cauldron off the fire, and banked the coals for night.

“Bjorn, stay here,” Anton ordered, hooking a thumb up to the loft where the three younger children pretended to sleep.

“Jah, Father!” Bjorn said with a disappointed sigh.

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