The number of Historical entries is making our editors happy! Here’s Charlotte’s opening…
“There’s nothing else to be done.” The healer stepped out of Alf’s room into the main living quarters, her head bowed respectfully.
Frea’s heart leapt into her mouth and her hands tightened on the wool she was spinning. What do you mean? she wanted to yell. You can’t let him die! She shifted in her seat but didn’t speak, pursing her lips to keep the words from spilling out.
To her right, the council of elders rose to their feet, their graze jumping to Gerd’s face. Another slave hurried forward with a cup of mead, but the elderly woman pushed her away. “My son asks that we remain calm. He— ” Her voice halted. “He’ll not be in this world for much longer.”
The spinning whorl slipping from Frea’s fingers, skidding along the floor.
“Frea.” Gerd’s voice snapped across the room and everyones’ eyes turned to her.
She rose and bobbed at the knees. Her hands began to shake and she clutched them behind her back. “Mistress?”
Gerd jerked her head towards the door. Her short, greying hair fluttered a little and she ran hand impatiently over her head. “Hurry up, girl.”
Frowning, Frea crossed the room.
Gerd grabbed her upper arm, pulling her past the curtain covering the door. “He’s asking for you,” she hissed, keeping her voice low so nobody else could hear.
Frea leapt across the room, pulling her arm from Gerd’s grasp. She knelt by Alf’s bed, touching his hand. The sweetness of burnt flesh filled her senses and she clenched her jaw. Tears threatened to cascade down her cheeks but she was determinate not to cry. She didn’t want his last few moments to be one of tears and regret.
“Alf,” she whispered. “It’s Frea, I’m here.”
His eyes fluttered open, slowly focusing on her face. “Are we alone?” he asked, rasps marring his beautiful voice.
She glanced over her shoulder—his mother still stood by the door, her eyes narrowed on Frea.
“Not quite. Gerd’s here.”
“Ar,” he breathed, as if saying ‘I should have guessed. “Mother, leave us.”
“I don’t think—”
“Now,” he ordered, his voice barely more than a croak.
“All right, but only for a moment. You need rest.” And she left.
Alf gripped the front of Frea’s tunic with frail hands and pulled her closer. “You know what I want. You have to promise me!”
“Alf,” She moaned. Even when he was dying, he was thinking of her. She lent further over his deathbed, her forehead almost touching his.
“Promise me,” he repeated, his voice hoarse.
She shook her head and the baby-fine hairs along Alf’s hairline tickled her forehead. How could she promise what he asked when it meant they’d be separated for the rest of eternity? She loved Alf and never wanted to be parted from him. Even if it means dying?
“Frea,” he warned and a hint of his old commanding self touched his words.
First Page Feedback from the Historical Team!
This extract is filled with tension and emotion, which immediately held our attention. There are some really lovely moments here, with great examples of show, don’t tell which all editors love to see when it comes to characters’ emotions. For example, the spool of thread slipping from the heroine’s fingers is such an effective way of getting across the heroine’s shock and dismay.
You’ve created a lovely sense of the atmosphere in the room, hinting that Alf’s death somehow holds importance to a wider community, with the council of elders gathered to hear the news. It makes us wonder what his death will change and how it will impact the fictional world.
Again, the reader is intrigued as to the heroine’s position in this household. We liked the sense that somehow she is the underdog here, a silent observer, a secret lover… These hints make us want to know more about her background.
We were intrigued to know where this scene sits in relation to the bulk of the story’s timeline. For example, is it perhaps a prologue, a flashback to the heroine’s past? She seems so in love with Alf, but we assume he can’t be the hero of her story, because he is dying. In general, we do like to see some time having passed between the death of a previous love and the heroine meeting her hero, because this period of grief might make it hard for the reader to believe a character to be invested whole-heartedly in the fresh relationship. However, the promise Alf demands is very intriguing, and we can see this working well as a motivation or even a potential conflict for the heroine’s actions throughout the novel – as the title suggests.
Overall, a lovely tone, and an intriguing start! We’d be turning the page to find out more!
There were a few grammar things to watch out for, graze instead of gaze, is it spinning whorl or spindle whorl (not entirely sure of terminology), “she ran hand” instead of “her hand” and so on, but they are easy fixes.