Turning the page

Another excerpt to go with Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.

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The night watch steps back and lets Aoife pass through the narrow door. Through the snow the figure of the messenger appears unreal, no more solid than cloud.

“You have a message for me from my brother?”

The blurred outline approaches, leading his horse.

“The message is from myself.”

The words, though muffled by the snow, fall on her ears like hail stones. A hand reaches and grabs her arm. She resists the temptation to call out. A single word and the night watch would sound the alarm.

“What is it this time, Art Ó Conor? What new promises?” She keeps her voice low but shakes his hand from her arm and takes a step backwards.

“No promises,” he says. “A reminder that you are mine, and I will have you. Come with me now and end this pretence of a marriage.”

He moves towards her, confidently. In his head he is already galloping away from the snow-shrouded caiseal. In his head he is back on his own lands, pulling her down from the horse, pulling her into his arms, clasping her hard, hard enough to leave bruises on her arms, making her understand how wrong she has been. In his head she is passive; her defiance is empty words not actions, and the sudden movement, the dull glint of steel in the dim light makes him start.

“No further, Art. I would not hurt you, but I will if you force me.”

He almost laughs, but the laughter sticks in his throat. It is rage that comes out on his tongue, that she should oppose him.

“I would whip you for this, Aoife Rua, but there is no time. Put that toy away and—”

Her arm jabs, slashes, and the blade rips through the thick wool of his inar.

“No further, I said.” Her voice is raised, high enough for the watch to hear. She sees the way Art’s eyes flick over her shoulder and his half-step backwards, grabbing at the horse’s reins. There is a clatter from the lios, raised voices, and Art is up on his horse’s back.

“Come with me.”

There is a pleading in his voice, but she hardens her heart. She knows him too well. What he cannot get by force he will try to get by cajolery. He bends over the horse’s withers, reaches out, his hand open, fingers ready to grip, sure of himself. She steps back and lets the night watch pass on either side, chasing a horseman already swallowed up by the swirling flakes. She wipes a hand across her face to brush them away and finds that her cheeks are wet with tears.

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Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

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