April Chatterbox: Where the Wild Wind Blows

16 April 2014

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery's child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.
john keats

For April's Chatterbox I'm trying a new venture. The topic — resurrection — did not fit well where I am in Rifles, so I took my writing time to scribble up a key interchange from a book two novels down the line. I've long wanted to write a novel based in Scotland, and this particular story finds its setting on the wild and beautiful Isle of Skye. I'm also experimenting once more with first person, which I haven't used since Violets Are Blue. Enjoy this excerpt!

where the wild wind blows
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“Let’s go down to the loch this morn.” Blair’s voice blended comfortably with the lowing of the cattle and the swish of the wind through the long grass.
“Finish the milking first,” I replied without looking up, “or else Da will be after ye.”
“Aww, do ye have to put a damper on everything?” I knew he was looking at me now because the sound of milk streaming into his bucket had slowed to a soft drip.
“Damper or no, ye’re not going anywhere until ye finish yer chores and finish them well.” I emphasized the last word for good measure; Blair was always looking for loopholes.
“Ye’re as poky as a lass!”
“Ye’re as flighty as a child!”
The shaggy cows lowed as if to compete with our hurled insults, a deep, mournful sound like the dirge of a funeral. I raised my hand before Blair could speak again and glanced toward the western sky.
“Clouds building up. Thick ones. Going to be a heavy storm hereabouts.”
“That’s why I say we make haste for the loch straightaway.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time we were caught in a storm,” I chuckled ruefully.
“A Scotsman’s got to know how to bear the rain and the English,” he remarked as he squeezed the last drops from the old bovine. “Else how would we live?”
“If ye’re finished, we can make it before the rain sets in.”
“Aye, let’s.”
The wind was picking up as we trudged briskly down the slope, filling our nostrils and lungs with the late summer scents of heather and pearlwort. I felt the whirl of it through every long green blade on the hill I knew better than my own hand. Wild geese flapped anxiously overhead, eager to find a safe spot to land and tuck away before the weather turned foul. If I were still a bairn, I would have thought the whispering grasses were filled with all manner of fae folk slipping away to their own small homes. Even as a grown man, I could almost catch miniature voices echoing beneath the building breeze.
I could hear the lapping loch-waves before I saw the foam. The sound of moving water was familiar, ritualistic, the comforting pulse behind every day and a soft echo of the crashing waves we heard at nearly every other hilltop. Island life was never certain, but there was one thing we understood and that was the sea and its many children.
Just now, something had happened to break that current and churn it, something stronger and more frantic than the storm clouds brewing overhead. Something—someone—was struggling for his life.
“Blair—”
I said no more; my brother followed my gaze and his feet quickened. From this distance, we could see only frothing water and the occasional flash of a head or hand. My heart pulsed heavily in my chest as I ran through the damp grass. No one ought to be on the water at a time like this. Some accident must have happened.
When we reached the shore, Blair plunged in ahead of me. By now we could clearly see the person floundering helplessly in the surf, but he grew weaker, and his head did not lift regularly. I caught my breath and had to remind myself to keep moving.
“Foolishness,” my brother was hissing under his breath. “Only a simpleton would venture into unfamiliar water, especially if he can’t—” He choked before ending his sentence.
“Blair?”
He looked over his shoulder and shouted the words. “Giles, it’s a lass.”
“What difference does it make?” Of all hours for him to be making transparent statements! “Lift her head and give her a chance to breathe.”
He grasped the strange girl’s throat awkwardly and a little roughly, but no deep, shuddering breath came. By now I was at his side and together we hoisted her sodden body between us. Waves snatched and dragged at us, and it was all we could do to keep our heads and hers above the water.
“Shore,” I shouted, though it came out more like a gasp. “Move to shore.”
“Her garments. Full of water. Pulled her down.” Blair’s sentences were short under the weight of his exertion and all but swallowed in the roar of loch-water in my ears.
Despite the tugging waters that tried to hold us back like so many clawing fingers, we made it back to the shore. I leaped out first and together Blair and I got the lass onto dry land. She sputtered and a stream of water poured from her mouth onto the dirt. Then she lay still, as if it required all her energy just to breathe. Rain began to fall slowly from the burgeoning clouds above us.
I hadn't had the chance to look closely at this young woman until now. Her face was deathly pale, and whether or not that was brought on by fear, I could not say. The hair that fanned in a sodden mass around her was too wet for its color to be identified. She had a tartan wrapped around her waist like a sash, and I noticed the strong red threads that dominated every other shade in its weave.
“What are we to do with her?” Blair wondered. Now that the girl was breathing, she’d become a nuisance to him.
“Mither’ll know.”
“And what’ll we call her?”
“She has a name, I expect. Water doesn’t strip one of memory.”
“It’s taken this one’s voice.” He indicated the unknown lass, whose eyes were closed as if she did not hear our discourse. “We should think of something—”
“Rowan.” It was the first time we’d heard her speak, seated between us though she was, and her voice came surprisingly low and husky. “I am called Rowan.”

4 epistles:

  1. That's a great scene, Elizabeth. You did an awesome job with the description of the wind, the geese, and the churning loch-waves by the island - I love it very much, especially this bit:

    I could hear the lapping loch-waves before I saw the foam. The sound of moving water was familiar, ritualistic, the comforting pulse behind every day and a soft echo of the crashing waves we heard at nearly every other hilltop. Island life was never certain, but there was one thing we understood and that was the sea and its many children.
    Just now, something had happened to break that current and churn it, something stronger and more frantic than the storm clouds brewing overhead. Something—someone—was struggling for his life.


    It is a delightful line of premonition, a foreboding of something unpleasant and unexpected and it had the desired affect. Wonderful job! A story set in Scotland sounds very special to my mind ;). Do you currently have a working title for that story?

    Many blessings!

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  2. If this is the story I think it is, I'm convinced you must hurry up and finish RIFLES and start writing this. ^.^

    This was beautiful, darling.

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  3. Oh, I like this. You've really captured the setting and the atmosphere, and I like the back-and-forth between the brothers. Makes me curious to learn more!

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  4. Absolutely beautiful. Excellent handling of the the Scottish inflection.

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