Fiction Excerpt

This is from the story I’m working on which takes place during the Third Crusade. It’s been put on hold a little, because of school, but like all the stories I’m working on, I like to share some of them in progress. I think it’s important to look at more than just the final product of any story. I welcome comments and questions.

INTO THE DESERT

Luke’s throat felt cracked and dry so that each breath sounded more like a death rattle than anything else. Yet, he kept marching forward. He was surrounded on all sides by a sea of blinding white tunics, marked with crimson crosses, which muffled the otherwise tinny clang of armor bouncing on chain mail with each step. He glanced sidelong at the man on the horse three rows away. Lord Wesley was a man who distinguished himself in service to the King at a young age. Luke began working for Lord Wesley two years prior, and though he had no interest in this war, here he was, marching through the desert to fight an enemy he’d never seen.

When a bead of perspiration leaked out from beneath his chain mail, he wondered if he could catch it on the tip of his tongue as it rolled down his face. Would that satisfy his thirst? The droplet was salty and soothed his throat for a moment before the all too familiar scratchiness returned. He tried to swallow, but felt as though he was swallowing glass shards. Luke glanced again at Lord Wesley, who uncapped a water skein and raised it to cracked, parched lips, drinking until all he could do was shake the last drops from the spout.

Luke’s own skein had been emptied, its life-giving contents consumed by his liege lord two days prior. One need not be a veteran to know we will not live another two days without fresh water, he thought desperately, stumbling a little in the sand.

The mountain of a man marching before him barked, “Watch where you walk.” He turned halfway, fixing Luke with a narrow glare beneath a matted mess of blond hair that poked out from his chain mail hood like straw out of a moth-eaten bed, and turned away again, adjusting his bow on his shoulder.

By contrast, Luke was short and rather thin; he’d always been slight of frame which convinced his father that Luke would make a poor farmer. He would never be able to work the plow or haul in the harvest, and it was only because of his uncle’s position in the Church that he had been taken on by Lord Wesley.

Offering up a mumbled apology, he stared at the man’s back in an effort to lose himself and forget about his current trials. Two years ago or so—Luke couldn’t be certain as he’d lost track of the days in the last few weeks—his father sent him off to the south to become one of Lord Wesley’s squires. He had never met the man in his life. The mild pastures of Lord Wesley’s lands were a different world compared to the north, and Luke didn’t care for the stark difference between home life and his work. His older brothers got to stay home with the family while he was carted off–the runt of the litter.

He might have become a squire for Lord MacAvery, who was known for leading his soldiers into hopelessly deadly campaigns. Had Luke known that Pope Gregory would insist that all the Kings of Europe and the British Isles try to reclaim the Holy Land for Christianity, he might have wanted to stay with Lord MacAvery because at least then his suffering would have been short-lived.

“Halt!” The order stopped the ranks short. When had Lord Wesley ridden to the head of the column? Luke wondered instantly—hoped, really—that they were stopping for water. He tried to stand on his toes to peer over the shoulders and heads before him, but he couldn’t see around the immense man who glared at him earlier, and Luke wasn’t about to speak to him if he could help it. Instead, he echoed the question that hovered around him. “Water? Did they find water?”

Though it was unconfirmed, cries of, “We’re saved!” and “God has blessed our journey!” bombarded Luke’s ears, along with the clamor of metal on metal as a stampede pressed forward. He was carried with it, having no means to escape from the midst of the rank and file. He struggled uselessly and more than once felt both of his feet lift off of the ground, his body and armor caught amongst the jostling crowd of increasingly disorganized soldiers and knights. His boots touched down once and again, occasionally snagging on some poor soul who crumpled to the ground and succumbed to the clamoring feet washing over him.

As the men spilled to each side, Luke drew closer to the front line. He was already reaching for his empty water skein when he caught a glimpse of what caused the order to halt. It wasn’t an oasis, river, or even a puddle of rain water. Before them stretched a field of slain men, their blood drying in the sand.

Term Papers Terminated

Or submitted, at the very least. My whole weekend was devoted to finishing drafts, editing, writing abstracts…I’m glad it’s done. I’m loving grad school so far, but these two classes were very demanding. Six papers between the two of them (in the last 10 weeks) and a weekly average of nine forum posts that I spent an average of 45 minutes writing…each.

But I feel pretty good about my grades and, even more important, about what I’ve learned so far. Next term I’ll be taking a writing class and a literature class–the former is going to require that I write some short fiction. I’m really looking forward to that. I try to write it when I have time, but like my blog posts, the fun writing had to take backseat to the course requirements.

In this last week, there’s not much that I need to do in the way of school work. I’m going to take it easy a bit, because the next term starts in a week.