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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Sneak Peak at my NEW NOVEL: GODDESS OF WAR

Hilly and Vinny in a dream. Hilly and Vinny in the magic land, walk through the enchanted woods looking for Robin Hood. Robin and Marian had hid in Sherwood, and this was Ireland, but the legend and the dream still stood. Hilly and Vinnie stumbling blind are found - or find – terror.

In the green clearing are two men. Two men from a village or a farm; rough men, wearing home-spun, with rough hands and blurred smiles.

There is something on the ground at their feet. Something soft and supine, brindled fur ruffled by the breeze. They are thin, these men; bone-hard, with caved in cheeks. Something about them alerts Hilly. They smell desperate, dirty, sour. She hangs back a pace, calls out: “Vin!” But Lavinia steps into danger with careless levity.

“Who are you? What are you doing here, on my father's land?”

The men stare, drink in her frail form, the delicate lace-trimmed lawn pinafore; the soft face, the golden curls, the absolute unspoilt gleaming youth of her.

“Yer father's land, is it now, lassie? And who might he be?”

“Lord Lucan.”

“Lucan...Aye...That is the man owns this land. And he fathered ye, did he, now?”

“Yes, I am Lady Lavinia Bingham, and I demand to know what you are doing on my land.” Her gaze dropped, saw the soft pile of death at their feet. “Poachers! My father will have the skin off your backs for that!”

“Will he now, My Lady? Mayhaps, if he gets to be in the know.”

Hilly stepped forward, tugging at Vinny's elbow. “Let's go, Vin, NOW!”

Lavinia shakes her off, raises her chin, stares up at the man with hauteur in her blue eyes.

“I will tell him, of course.”

The second man has edged in behind them, cutting them off. “Lucan's daughter, Sean, and pretty she is. Pretty as my own would be, if she had enough to eat.”

“Aye, all our daughters would be as pretty as she, weren't her father raping this land.”

“Aye...Maybe he needs to know how it feels. How it feels to be a man watchin a daughter weep, an knowin nothing you can do or say will ease their sleep.”

Hilly speaks in her loudest voice “Leave her, leave us. We won't speak of this. Take your meat and go.”

The man turns his head to look at her, noticing her for the first time. At twelve she is as tall as he, taller than most men; coltish and awkward. “By the Virgin! Who might you be?”

“No one, we are no one. You are no one. You are not here, and we haven't seen you.”

“This is a smart one, Sean! Not much of a looker, but clever. A clever lass.”

Vinny has finally sensed the dense hatred, the hot scent of lust rising from the men's flesh. She smells,but does not recognise the nature of the threat. She backs towards Hilly, towards a familiar shelter; presses herself to her side.

"I want me a taste of My Lady, I do...How about you Sean?"

"Could be sweet..."

"Come here now, My Lady, come to Brian O'Shaughnessy."

He reaches and grabs Vinnie, tears her away, and Hilly screams in rage: "Leave her! Leave her!"

The other man grabs Hilly around the waist and she kicks out at him, fills her mouth with his flesh, hears him scream. He tastes of red roast beef, only hotter and sticky-wet. She spits and backs away from him. He fills her vision, moving towards her, arms opened wide. There is a piece of his cheek bit out, and blood pours down his neck, soaking into his dirty collar.

She sees all these things in a flash: each bright, present, all important. He has a short knife in his left hand. A knife. Hilly hears Vinny scream, distant and weak, and shuts her out.

Here there is space for only him: the man with a knife with a piece bit out of him. He is sweating and bleeding, and moving, moving forward. "I'll do you little bitch...I'll do you..."

She can stand and wait, see what he does, react to it; or she can move, anticipate. She charges him, slams into him low and hard, ramming her head into his chest, tumbling him back onto the wet matted ground. She falls on him, gouging at his eyes, and he is screaming, twisting to be free of her, twisting to buck her off. In his desperation, he drops the knife. It is the last mistake of his life.

It is easy, after that, as easy as drowning the kitten. She thrusts the knife into his open screaming mouth, up through his palate, and he just dies.

She wrenches out the blade, totters to her feet. The other man is on Vinny, and she is weeping, He has her pinafore pulled up, her thin legs wide apart, and he is pushing his body at her, and every time he pushes he cries out:" My Lady! My Lady! My Lady!" At every move Vinnie screams, and he pants "My Lady!"

Hilly jumps on him, on to his back. She tears at him trying to get him off Vinny; but he won't stop. He won't stop, and Vinnie is screaming in agony and fear, and so Hilly pulls back his head and cuts the taut muscles of his throat. The blood gushes out like a fountain; his dirty blood falling on her Vinny.

She pulls him away, pushes and kicks at him, slamming her neat button-boots into his face, his head; desperate to erase him, the sight and sound of him pounding at Vinny and moaning "My Lady, My Lady, My Lady."

She draws Vinny to her feet, half carries her through the endless tangle of the trees, until a life-time later – or so it seems – they are on the velvet green lawns, the house looming before them. Sanctuary.

She drags them up the servant's staircase, invisible, she hopes. Hilly opens the door to Vinny's room, and finds Mrs Meadows there. Meadows with her grim smile that shatters into horror at the sight of them, covered in blood and grime.

“What- What has happened?” Hilly shoves her aside, eases Vinny onto the bed, and Meadows sees the torn pinafore, the blood smeared on the inside of the slim thighs.

“My God! Who has done this? My God! She is ruined, ruined!”

“Shut up! Shut up and help her!”

“Yes...Yes! I will call his Lordship...the Doctor...”

“You will call no-one.”

“You don't understand, Hilary, what was done to her...”

“My father has a stud. I understand, but Vinny doesn't. She doesn't know, and we won't tell her.”

“But her father! He must know!”

Hilly rises from where she is kneeling on the bed next to Vinny. “We tell no-one, no-one, do you hear me, Meadows?” She walks round the bed, stands close to the woman, so the woman can feel the heat of her flesh, smell a dead man's blood on her breath. “Nothing happened, it was a bad dream. That is what we tell Vin. A bad dream.”

“But the blood...”

“She is twelve. It is her woman's blood. That is all it is.”

“But she will marry...”

“Nothing happened...Unless, it was your neglect. Your neglect, Meadows, and Lord Lucan's precious girl is raped in the woods. Your neglect.” Hilly smiles, her eyes gleam shallow-grey in the room's dim light. “Who will hire you, Meadows? How will you live? A governess whose charges are raped in the woods...If she is ruined, so are you. Nothing happened.”

Meadows shivers and lowers her gaze, “Yes, My Lady. Nothing happened...”

Hilly's open hand slaps her down into a huddle at the foot of Vinny's bed.

“Don't you call me that, don't you ever call me that again.”

“My La-” Hilly kicks out, hard, catching the woman on a meaty thigh.

“I killed two men today. Two men died, and I liked it. So listen, Meadows, and listen well. I will not repeat myself again. You will be wise, you will be quiet, and you will never address me in that manner again.”

Meadows looks up. “You are not a child, you are not a woman. I don't know what you are.”

Hilary Rutherford cast aside the mask of a child.
“I am a survivor. That is what I am. I am alive.”

from
"Goddess of War"

Manuela Cardiga

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