Tuesday Critique:

Here’s a scene I wrote yesterday about Liosa being frightened in the woods and Donnchad comforting her.  Tell me what you think.  Please be honest!  🙂


Mathair and Thorfinn fell asleep quickly, exhausted as they were.  But Liosa couldn’t sleep beneath the clawing canopy of the trees, huddled in her cloak against the cold, paralyzed by fear of the Danskmen who lurked somewhere across the river.  The only thing that kept her from utter hysteria was the solid, safe figure of Donnchad Mor silhouetted slightly darker against the dark forest.  
After agonizing hours of wakeful fright, Donnchad’s soft whisper cut through the forest’s night noises.  “Can’t you sleep, a Bhan-Prionsa?”
“How did you know?” she whispered back.
“I’ve hunted many a night in the woods with my father.  I know when a sound is out of place.  What is troubling you?”
“I’m cold.”  It was partly true, at least.
“Come here, then, a Bhan-Prionsa, and sit by me.  I’ll warm you, and you can keep me wakeful.”
With only a brief hesitation, she joined him, perched on a rocky ledge that gave a good vantage down the slope toward the river, which was a faint pale gleam through the trees.  She could see the pale silver of his sword lying unsheathed across his lap. 
“Come here,” he said again, guiding her by the hand into the place under his arm.  She’d been held before, by her father or mother or elder brothers or grandfather, but this was different.  She was altogether aware of him, of his closeness.  But she was warm.  And safe.  That was a consideration she hoped would outbalance any boldness on either of their parts.  
“Were you never afraid, hunting in the woods at night?” she asked.
She could almost feel him smile.  “No.  My father was always there, of course.  But I grew to know the woods very young.  I hardly hear the sounds anymore.  It’s much the same to me as the crackle of a fire in the hearth or the distant noises of people all around.”
Liosa could hardly imagine a time when the forest would be so familiar to her.  But she was glad to be with someone who knew it so well.  She told him so.
He chuckled softly.  “I could tell you about the forest, if you’d like.  That noise there – the one that made you jump just now – that’s an owl.”
“Oh.”  She was glad of the darkness to cover her burning cheeks.  
“And that creaking – that’s just the trees swaying in the wind.”
“They won’t fall down?”
“No.  They’ve stood since before Coinneach mac Alpein, and will for many years more.  A tree at risk of falling would make a far different sound.  More of a cracking.”
An unearthly keening came from the distance.  She knew that one.
“Wolves.”  She shivered.
Donnchad’s arm tightened around her.  “They’re far away, and not likely to trouble us.”
“And if they do?”
“I’ll keep you safe.”  There was no hint of idle boast in his words.  He made his promise soberly and truthfully.  
But there was one more shade haunting the woods in her mind, and if ever there was a night they might walk, it would be this.  
“Donnchad, do you … do you believe in the old things – like the Sidhe and the like?”
To his credit, he didn’t laugh at the question.  “I can’t say for certain.  I know things happen that can’t be explained.  I believe there were things that once walked the earth no one living has seen, and yet the memory of them has been passed down.  But I believe the power of God is greater than any of those things.  He will protect us from the unseen and unexplained, even as I will protect you from the wolves.”
Liosa fell silent.  God.  She knew of him, of course.  Her mother was raised Christian at the feet of the monks of Sgain.  Her father had converted to Christianity before they married, along with the whole of Orkneyjar.  There was a kirk there, and priests, but her father himself had little to do with such things.  And so in her raged a war begun before her birth – not only between Orkneyjar and Alba in her heart, but between the old ways of the North and the new ways of the Criosd.  
She could act a good Christian, even as she could act a proper Alban lady.  But the way Donnchad spoke of God as though he knew him … it awakened a yearning in her heart that she’d never known before.
For most of her life she’d imagined God as stern and vengeful and frightening as the old gods of the North.  For the first time tonight, wrapped in Donnchad’s comfort and protection, she could picture him as something of a strong and loving father with his arms around her in benediction and guard.  That night in his embrace, with Donnchad’s arm around her, she finally slept.


So really, be honest!  And feel free to post a link to your own work so I can return the favour.  🙂

6 thoughts on “Tuesday Critique:”

  1. I want a Donnchad! Could you conjure one up for me, too, please? Seriously, though, I do love your writing, Erin. And this scene soothed me today. I’m not sure if that’s the reaction you were hoping for, but I could picture the forest in its brooding darkness, the two figures tight against each other, the quiet dignity of the ancient woodland. Love it! Sorry not to be more constructively critical. 🙂

  2. Nice. One thing I’ve learned through my critique group: don’t employ filters. For example: She could see the pale silver of his sword lying … Without the filter (because everything is through her senses) The pale silver gleamed in the moonlight. Take awy all filters: She could see, hear smell etc.

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