Between Earth and Sky: the Haggard

I began this morning's session of writing with a brand new chapter for Between Earth and Sky. At first I was a trifle at a loss, for starting new chapters is always a little difficult. By midmorning I was aching in my back and broke off to give it a soak in the bath. I find it very difficult to read in the bath, because the threat of dropping my book in the water is ever-present. So I plugged in my CD player and popped in a CD that I had neglected to listen to - "Our Daily Bread: Celtic Hymns." I was very pleased with the music, and I found it fitting for my story. Crawling out of the bath, I plunked myself back down at the computer, set the CD to play again, and opened a new document.

I decided to come at the chapter from a different angle. Oh, the chapter itself that will wind up in the novel will be with Rede. But I needed more than Rede. I needed to look at the opening scenes from another character's point of view entirely to get the feel just right, otherwise I knew I was going to be floundering. So with the jaunty tones of "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" filling my little spare room/cubby-hole/hideaway, I scribbled the following little piece for the background of Between Earth and Sky: Chapter, The Haggard.

* * * * *

Autumn was in the air that morning. Swathed in a blanket of early morning fog, the August turf smelled of an autumn which had not yet quite come. Far up beyond the clouds the eagle-sun still flew, switching his eye back and forth across the clouds, looking for a crack through which to plunge his merciless gaze. But in the valley where the great tuan walked, stately by the burn, there was no sun, no summer’s heat, only the freshness of an autumn morning and the cool rush of water.

Dew beaded on his great velvet nose as he snuffled among the long grasses. There was a scent of hare here, and in the bole of a wet alder tree there was the unnerving scent of mouse-blood where an owl had made its kill the night before. The tuan stepped carefully among the red fern, his massive hooves lifted and placed like a dancer’s, his enormous rack of horns twisted delicately from side to side to avoid the tangled alder boughs. Branches of alder, high-growing fern, clusters of red currant scraped along his seal-brown hide as he descended the bank and stood with his forefeet in the cold rocky bed of the stream, his grey and black reflection staring back at him.

For a long while he drank, a lone figure on the river, his coat steaming softly as the fog turned to mizzle and his reflection broke up as the winds drove the water off the trees into the river below. There was a scent of fox on that wind, which disturbed him none, and a scent of clean upland grass, which would interest him presently. For now he drank, and lowered his lids over his great languid eyes as he revelled quietly in the coolness of the high stream.

At last the long drink was over. Heavy with water, encumbered by his horns, the tuan turned about, churning up the murky river bed, and heaved himself with a crash back up through the bank-scrub, shaking red currant out of his rack and coat. The little berries flew wild, scattering on the grass like drops of blood. Snorting, stamping, gouging up the turf, the giant stepped away, emerging from the fog-laden riverbank into a little clearing of steely grey. He moved his ears about, their soft white insides dampened by the rain; he distended his nostrils, pulling in with a great rushing noise the scents of the dale. He could no longer smell the fox, but he could hear an angry grouse calling from the hilltop. He took a delicate step forward, rocking with the chanticleer stride; one last sniff, forehoof raised as if to hold the world still for one last moment, and he was sure that all was right with his kingdom.

His hoof returned to earth and he turned about, ready to follow the scent of grass up the cool aisles of fog and rain and sunshot mist to where the world was high and lifted up, where there was nothing but grass and wind and sky and the whole world was under his feet. But of a sudden his vision clouded and he stumbled, uncertain. Ears up, tail up, poised in midstride, the tuan swung his head around, rack etched menacingly against the clouded sky. The creaminess of his breast was brushed up, like the hackles of a wolf.

Far down the burn, faint but certain, came the telltale sound of a dog on the trail.

The great beast lowered his hoof to earth once more and stood with limbs stiffened, nostrils straining for the scent. But in his ears the grouse’s call had dropped to a consoling warbling, the wind still carried the scent of clean grass, and there was no fear in the downward inclination of his eyelids and the sleepy spark that woke and burned beneath them. He stood on the alert, his body tensed, his nerves relaxed, attended by the animal’s knowledge that today was his last day, and this fight his greatest fight of all.

Autumn was in the air that morning.

4 ripostes:

  1. I just got chills, and it had nothing to do with the rain. Truly, you have the poet's gift to understand the beauty in mortality.

  2. Wonderful, as always, Jenny! Your prose is like poetry, and you have an uncanny ability to find unusual, yet perfect words for what you have to say. Bravo!

  3. Aw, but I don't want it to be killed!

    ...The difference between me and Tim. Sad, isn't it? But this is lovely, even if it isn't going in the actual story. It's sorrowfully majestic, and I like it. ^.^

  4. I'm glad you all liked it. Judging from your reactions, I managed to capture what I meant to. I've begun writing the chapter, and I think this little section really helped.