Tuesday Critique: Donnchad and Liosa

Here’s what I’ve been working on: a sneak peak of Sons of Alba, the sequel to Daughters of Alba.  


In this scene, young Donnchad has recently arrived at Sgain, the royal capital of Alba, to be fostered at the court of the Ard Righ.  


Donnchad stood politely still as the two older men conversed, but the bundle wrapped in his brat began to heave and move.
“What’ve you got in there?” the Stiubhard asked, his brows lifted in surprise as he stared at Donnchad’s midsection.  
In answer, Donnchad grinned and pulled out Baltair, who’d wakened with an obvious need to move about – and likely make water.  
“A fine wee pup,” Tomag appraised, scratching Baltair behind the ear as the dog wagged and squirmed eagerly.  “But he looks like he might need a patch of grass.  Why don’t you take him outside while I speak with your father?”
Donnchad looked at him in blank panic.  Where was outside from here?
Athair came to his rescue.  “Through that door, down the steps, and to your left.  You’ll see the courtyard from there.”  
Donnchad smiled in thanks and went.  Baltair’s wriggling was at a fever pitch now, and it was only a matter of time before the puppy ruined his clean leine.  The doorway was in sight, with gleaming green beyond it, when Donnchad plowed, bull-like, into something small, sending it sprawling.  
In dismay, he saw a tumble of pale blue silks and small slippered feet on the stone floor at his feet.  The girl struggled to sit up, putting a delicate hand to her brow and smoothing back a lock of brown hair.  
“Oh!” Donnchad cried, putting Baltair down and reaching out for the girl.  “I’m so sorry! Are you hurt?”
“I don’t think so,” she said, letting out a whoosh of air and shaking her head.  “Just dazed a bit.  Where are you going in such a hurry?”
Donnchad ducked his head, ashamed to admit the trivial thing that had seemed important enough to bowl over a maiden.  “My puppy … he …” Donnchad glimpsed Baltair’s sleek grey shape trotting around in the grass, then lifting his leg beside a tree.  “Oh, good lad, Baltair!”
The girl, now righted on her feet, laughed.  Her slightly slanted blue eyes flicked up and down the height of him but registered nothing.  Something lurched in Donnchad’s wame then.  He was used to the open, admiring stares of all the girls who met him.  They were usually quite overt about their interest in him, sometimes to the point of the ridiculous or embarrassing.  This was something new, refreshing almost, and oddly a little disappointing.  It might be nice if this pretty maid, who looked close to his own age, showed some small interest in him at least.  
“Oh, I’m Donnchad mac Dhomhnaill,” he said belatedly.  “From Allt na Cathrach.  I just arrived.”
“I see.  Liosa ingen Sigurd Hlodvisson.  From Archaibh.  I’ve been at court since I was six.  My mother wanted me to grow up civilized, she says.”
“Ah.”  Donnchad had no idea what to say that wouldn’t either insult Liosa’s people or contradict her mother’s wisdom.  Silence fell between them like a curtain, and Donnchad stole a quick glance at the girl while she busied herself adjusting the lay of her gown and smoothing her hair.  She was definitely close to his age, with a burgeoning figure and milk-smooth skin, long silky brown hair to the waist, and dark lashes that veiled her blue eyes.  
Then her lashes swept upward and the eyes pierced him, and he was undone.  For a long moment he stood transfixed, unsure what to say, but her mouth quirked in amusement and he recovered his wits.  “Are you certain you’re all right?” he asked.
“Quite all right,” she said with amusement.  “Just be sure to keep your eyes open in the future.  You’ll find Sgain a bit more crowded than your wee Allt na Cathrach.”
“Ah, yes,” he stammered, unsure whether he was being mocked or not – she spoke so sweetly it was hard to tell.  
“You might want to catch your puppy.”  Liosa pointed out the door where Baltair was happily wandering up the slope of the Tom a’ Mhoidh.  “Before he desecrates the Lia Fail, of course.”
“Oh!” Donnchad took a step toward the door, then turned back toward Liosa.  “Oh, it was good to meet you, though I wish it was under less painful circumstances.”
She laughed and nodded her head before turning and gliding along on her way.  Donnchad raced out to the hill to scoop up Baltair.  The puppy wagged his tail and licked his master’s face, but Donnchad’s attention was far away, fixed on the doorway to the palace.  Was it his imagination, or did she still lurk there?  No.  She’d gone on her way, forgetting about him as surely as he wouldn’t forget her.
Was this what his mother meant then?  Was this the way he would know?  Whatever it was, Donnchad planned on knowing Liosa much better.  


As always, please share your criticism/comments/etc. below, and feel free to direct us to your own excerpts for critique.  🙂

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