The prologue for a novel similar to Celtic legend with a warrior queen.
| This is a prologue for a novel I am currently writing. I hope I can receive feedback including constructive criticism, and please, let me know if it makes you want to read more. Thanks! :)
Morna’s eyes fluttered as she felt the light hit her. Her handmaid, Macha, was busying herself with opening the heavy drapes. She was the only to enter the room each morning, bringing with her a large, clay pitcher of water. Morna’s throat was parched upon awakening.
Morna rose from the covers, feeling the aching in her joints and the burning from deep within her stomach. There was a soreness in her muscles that was so constant and old, she barely noticed it anymore. This morning, it seared like a wet pan over a fire.
Macha handed her a mug filled to the brim with the cool water. Morna, always with the poise befitting a queen, took polite sips despite the dry desert in her mouth.
“Are you well?” Her handmaid watched her closely.
Morna cleared her throat, and croaked, “I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“Your pallor and stiffness suggest otherwise.”
“I just need my morning’s walk.” Her voice sounded a little less amphibious.
Macha opened the closet doors and picked a plain white shift. “Let’s get you undressed.”
Morna stood as Macha removed her nightgown. It was a moment in the cold draft of castle air before the shift was pulled over her head. They then moved to the small table and mirror across from the bed. Morna sat, and Macha gently brushed her mistress’ long, red locks.
Morna gazed at her room for a moment. It was large and largely unadorned. Her closet doors were a heavy wood with few etchings. The walls were stone and bare. The floor was also stone, and had only one finely woven rug of faded golden strands. The curtains by the window were a rusted red with bands of gold thread along the edge.
The bed was what she loved. The bedposts spiraled high, made of a dark wood, and the headboard was carved by the finest artisan with figures of women laughing and dancing in a flowery meadow. The bedspread was made with the faraway oriental silk that the traders brought home. The result was a tantalizing web of threads and patterns, all in the colors of red, green, blue and gold. It had once been her mother’s bed.
Morna focused her eyes back on herself, reflected in the mirror. They were a vivid blue, similar to her father’s, with fine wrinkles beginning to form. Her father’s eyes had been a blue of changing shades. In her childhood years his were pale and bright. At times they would darken, but they often twinkled like the ocean beneath a starlit night. Later, they turned blue-grey and stormy.
Her hair was long, thick, and a flaming red. It had streaks of white at the temples. She had her mother’s hair. Her father’s had been dark and kept short, often slicked back. He lost most of it before his death.
Her eyes gave away her sickness with their dark circles. Her cheeks were sunken, and her skin bone pale. Yet, some cold beauty remained.
Macha finished and laid the brush on the table.
Morna rose slowly from her chair. There would be guards waiting outside her door, as well as other servants. Each day she felt her stomach churn at the idea of facing them.
Macha opened the door. The entourage stood waiting, their faces carefully expressionless – a learned trick, by any who wanted to survive the intrigue of Court. Morna kept her own feelings guarded in such a way.
She led the way, feeling the chill of the hallway stone wall as she brushed her hand along it. Her head was bowed, and her eyes were closed. She knew the path well.
One, two, one, two, one, two, foot after foot after foot. Here are the stairs. Step down, down, down, again and again four-and-twenty times. Walk one and two and one and two. Turn right. One and two and one and two and one…
The door to the outside. The servants have opened it.
Morna could hear the waves ahead of her, gently lapping the shore. Her muscles suddenly felt on fire. She breathed in sharply.
“My lady?” Macha said gently.
“I go alone this morning.”
“What?!” Macha’s tone changed to one of concern.
“No. There is something there. I must…” Morna breathed in again, deeply smelling the sharp, ocean air. She finally opened her eyes. The rising sun was gaining power, shining brighter and brighter by the moment. “I must do it alone, this morning.”
“Morna, the guards won’t stand for that. We are concerned for your safety.” Macha whispered so no one else would hear. “What if-”
“It worsens this morning.” Morna finally blurted. She bowed her head. “I know I must go alone. It is the safest for all of us.”
“Oh,” Macha fretted, “Please, allow the guards to at least stand near.”
Morna sighed and nodded. “They must not step into the water.”
“Thank you.” Though her voice conveyed her worry.
Morna looked at her handmaid, who in the long years had come to be her friend.
“Thank you, Macha.”
Macha nodded emphatically, still wringing her hands. Her hair was tied back, black with grey streaks. Her eyes were black, and her skin alabaster white. There were a few wrinkles at her eyes, which were now wide with fear.
Morna pulled her gaze from her and looked upon the sea. Sunrise and sunset were the best times to look upon the sea. The colors danced among the waves and ran together like an unkempt painter’s palette. Morna couldn’t help but smile as her muscles blazed with desire.
She walked towards the sea with her head held high. Her stomach filled slowly with butterflies as she neared, uncertain of what to expect this morning.
“She could be out there.” She heard herself whisper. The wind picked up, and her whisper was lost.
Morna could hear the guards behind her, stepping quietly. That too was soon lost in the wind.
Her hair whipped about. The waves were tumbling over themselves, competing to reach the shore in a tireless frenzy. The wet sand was cold beneath her bare feet. She welcomed it.
It wasn’t soon enough for her when she finally felt the first wave of water run over her toes. The deeper she went, the stronger the water would pull, sucking at her feet, covering them with sand. She was knee-deep now, the water splashing onto her thighs, wetting her shift, sending shivers speeding up her spine.
She felt her muscles relax, and though her nerves quickened with anticipation, the pain lessened. She stepped further in, almost to her waistline. The waves crashed over her outspread hands.
The voice was a murmur at first.
It became clearer.
The onlookers didn’t hear the voice. They saw their queen pause. Then, she fell.