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Fortitude Chapter 1

by JacksonDove


Chapter 1

She flicked the lighter on and off, the orange flickering light illuminating her masked face for a brief moment before it was snapped off once more. On and off, click and snap. She watched the short lived dancing flame with some fascination, holding her breath as the warm air tickled her nose. She was outside, in the grounds of the Stately Home in the Country, leaning against a felled tree and waiting. The air around her was crisp and sharp as knives, her itching hands deep in the pockets of her cloak, her body hunched over in an attempt to stop herself shivering. She breathed deep scratchy breathes, readying herself, mentally preparing herself for the act she was about to commit. She had thought about it, had endured sleepless nights about it and the more she considered it, the surer she was that this was the right thing to do. It couldn't happen any other way. She wouldn't let it happen any other way.

There he was, coming towards her, striding forward hurriedly, his hands tucked under his arms to keep them warm. He was going home, no doubt slightly drunk and ready to light the fire and collapse on his threadbare bed in his log cabin not twenty metres behind where she stood resting against the tree, waiting. Click and snap.

He saw her, stopped. Peering at her, his face furrowed in a confused, puppy dog frown. “Who are you?” he asked, his words slightly slurred by the alcohol on his breath. “What are you doing out here?”

Click and snap.

He took a few steps towards her, rubbing his hands on his trousers, his eyes narrowed, trying to get a better look at her through the nights mist. He stopped a few feet from her. His eyes widened in recognition.

Click and snap.

“Lady, forgive my manners. I didn't realise it was you. But what are you doing out here in the cold? Come on, I'll walk you up to the house and get you a place by the fire eh?”

Her hand twitched. She removed it from her cloak pocket and closed the lighter with a final snap. The darkness seemed to envelope them completely now with not even the alternating flame to dash it away. Shadows merged. The moon was shrouded in the leaves of the tree. Putting away the lighter she watched as he came closer, his arm out for her to take.

“Come on, m'lady. Come with me back up to the house.”

Her fist closed around the shaft of the knife strapped to her thigh. It has been resting there, whispering to her, pressing tightly to her every time she moved. The leather grip was colder than ice and she felt as though the skin of her palm was fusing with it. She took a long steady breath that stung her lungs. The dagger slid out of its sheath with the ease of a ghost through the air, with the silence of a rustling breeze. She exhaled.

“What have you got there, m'lady?” He was frowning again, watching her, suddenly wary.

She revealed the dagger, the polished blade winking at them in the darkness. They both looked at it for a long time, watching it shimmer, the air still and stifling suddenly.

She did it then, one quick sudden movement like a darting snake and her arm to the elbow was spattered in hot steaming blood like scarlet silk. He collapsed to his knees, tried and failed to draw in a rattling desperate breath, clutching at the expanding gash at his throat. His eyes were wide and white, his forehead already gleaming with sweat and his hands trembling violently. He started making hacking sounds and squelchy wet coughs, red bubbling at his lips. She stepped back and regarded him approvingly as all the colour drained from his face and he pitched, face first into the packed, hard, frozen earth.

There was a moment of utter silence, in which not even the wind dared breathe. It lasted for what must have been an eternity, and then finally she released all the pent up energy inside her in one long low sigh. She was shaking, her heart throbbing painfully, light headed and faint. She swallowed and re-sheathed the dagger, iced with his now cold blood. Stepping over him, she made her way swiftly across the grounds to her waiting vehicle, a single thought lingering in her mind.

He recognised me. Even in the mask he recognised me. The next time I cannot allow myself to be seen.

XXX

“But I want it now!” whined Kisandra, her chin on the high table, pouting her little lips irritably. “Why can't I have it now?”

Lizzy giggled and tucked one blonde curl behind her ear. Kisandra glared at her, taking in all of the loveable round cheeks, pretty golden ringlets and bright blue eyes with a growling stare. “It has to be baked first,” she told the child firmly.

“No it doesn't” Kisandra moaned, reaching for the bowl which was swiftly pulled out of her reach. “I can just eat the mixture with a spoon.”

Lizzy the kitchen maid let out another high pitched giggle and shook her head, folding the mixture in the bowl with practised ease.

It was a glorious bright winters morning and everything was sparking with the crystal frost but the kitchen was comfortably hot with the cast iron range pre-heated and ready for Lizzy's cake. Kisandra was sitting at the kitchen table, watching and sulking, folding her arms on the table and resting her chin there, her mousy locks veiling her scowling cheeks. How dare Lizzy make her wait for cake. It was downright unfair!

With a final few beats, the cake mixture was slid onto the bottom shelf and locked in. It would be another thirty minutes before it would be retrieved and that only make Kisandra sulk all the harder.

“Don't be like that,” Lizzy smiled. “You'll have it all to yourself soon enough.”

“Soon enough isn't soon enough.”

Lizzy shook her head with exasperation and turned away, busying herself with the daily maintenance of the kitchen, starting with the scrubbing of surfaces. Kisandra would usually have helped but her stomach was really grumbling, making her all but unable to even stand.

A chilling cry was suddenly heard outside, some distance towards the gamekeepers cabin and Lizzy dropped the scrubber with a jolt. Kisandra was on her feet in a matter of moments and was darting through the door before she could be stopped. Sprinting towards the sound of the scream, she heard her sisters voice, crying and whimpering.

“Murder! Oh God, the blood! Murder!”

The cold air caught in her throat as she pounded towards the cabin and she had a wounding stitch in her left side.

“God, come quick! Murder!”

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Points: 1145
Reviews: 3

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Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:37 am
feodora wrote a review...



Hi! I'm Feodora, and I will be reviewing your story today. :)

At first read: It seems much like a prologue to me, short and in two parts that seem vaguely connected. I hope this is what you aimed for! It is for the most part quite well written.

Now, a step by step analysis.

JacksonDove wrote:She breathed deep scratchy breathes, readying herself, mentally preparing herself for the act she was about to commit.

'Breaths'. To 'breathe' is to inhale. It is a verb, the former a noun. But that's an easy mistake to make.

JacksonDove wrote:He was going home, no doubt slightly drunk and ready to light the fire and collapse on his threadbare bed in his log cabin not twenty metres behind where she stood resting against the tree, waiting.

Too much information. Knowing that he lived in a log cabin with a threadbare bed isn't helping the storyline any more than it does here. The sentence would mean the same and be a lot less clunkier with that part edited out. ^^

JacksonDove wrote:He saw her, stopped. Peering at her, his face furrowed in a confused, puppy dog frown. “Who are you?”

"He saw her and stopped. A frown appeared on his face as he peered at her..." perhaps? And I think you meant the frown was lopsided. A puppy dog frown is hard enough for a man to do while sober; he'll have one heck of a time trying to make such a face when drunk. :P

JacksonDove wrote:Her fist closed around the shaft of the knife strapped to her thigh. It has been resting there, whispering to her, pressing tightly to her every time she moved.

Unexplained tense change from past to present continuous.

The second section seems full of small errors. It mostly depends on which time period this story is based, really, but here I am going to assume it is the Victorian era. If it's another, you can alert me to it and I'll edit my review. ^^

One, is Kisandra a Victorian name? If it is a short form, ignore this question.
Two, I hope I'm not wrong in assuming Kisandra is a ward of the master of the house? In that case, she would not be permitted to enter the kitchen or talk to the servants. Again, it depends on the time period and their status in society. For the latter, the higher-up you go, the tighter the rules.
If, however, Kisandra is a fellow servant, she would not be allowed to slouch around demanding food. There's usually a head cook supervising duties in the kitchens of a rich person. For a house with a gamekeeper's cabin, I should think this is the case.

JacksonDove wrote:A chilling cry was suddenly heard outside, some distance towards the gamekeepers cabin and Lizzy dropped the scrubber with a jolt.

This sentence could use a revision. What about 'A chilling cry was suddenly heard outside, in the direction of the gamekeepers' cabin. Lizzy dropped her scrubber with a start.' or something of the like.

Overall, I have to say this chapter is passable. The story is good, but the draft could use some proofreading as far as punctuation and sentence structure is concerned. Do look into it and, if you wish, tell me once the revision is done. I'd love to read it!





“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents!”
— Little Women