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 The Dragon's Promise - reviews needed please

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Briarcal
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The Dragon's Promise - reviews needed please Empty
PostSubject: The Dragon's Promise - reviews needed please   The Dragon's Promise - reviews needed please EmptyTue Apr 13, 2010 2:06 am

This is a sample chapter of my novel THE DRAGON's PROMISE, a comic romance set in the Scottish highlands. Any reviews are very welcome, positive or not The Dragon's Promise - reviews needed please Icon_smile 1793 words.


‘Whenever, wherever I find who you are

If time has forgotten me, I’ll find a star

And rest my head upon it and dream a little while

I’ve travelled far’



Ellie listened to the words and wished she had written them. The old song was one of her favourites, the music speaking of loneliness and isolation, both of whom she joined regularly for a drink. She closed her eyes, smiling at the warmth of the May sun on her face. There was no feeling in the world like this, and she should know, having tried plenty of them out for size. The sand beneath her fingers was as fine and white as flour, and she turned her face into it, feeling the soft warmth rub against the rough and ridged tissue of her scarred skin. Perhaps if she stayed here for a thousand years the sand would rub away all trace of those scars. She grasped a handful of the stuff and held it tightly. Geology was simpler than real life.

A lot simpler.

She opened her eyes to see a tern hovering in the blue, wings outstretched like an angel. He spotted a fish and pulled his wings tight to dive. There was barely a splash, and the silver gleamed in the dark beak like a shard of stolen sunlight.

She stood up, switching off her IPod. The tide would be turning, and it was time to go.

She walked round the tiny island towards her boat, pushed it out of the shallows and got in. As she rowed for the mainland, she looked back at the lonely speck of land, her own special place. The island was no more than half a mile across, and there was nothing but ocean between it and America. She looked back to check her position, and rowed for the landing.

As she drew nearer to the shore, the sound of the birds became louder. She couldn’t see them behind her, but she knew their names from their voices; kittiwakes, gannets and fulmars, guillemots and razorbills. They covered every inch of the tall cliffs, living on top of each other in grudging accord.

Four months, she’d been here, and already the city was like another lifetime. The memory of her last night out with her friends was like the full stop at the end of the book. She’d started a new one now, and at the moment it was shaping up to be a bestseller. There was a lot of truth in what Fiona had said; that she was running away, hiding from the scars. But there were few things to rival contentment. This job was going to save her life.

She tied up and walked up the sand and shingle beach, all that remained of the former cliff face. Some twist of geological fate had dumped a weaker strata of calcite there, which the sea had steadily worn back. Seen from the sea, the cliffs looked like a mouth with a tooth missing. Ellie climbed the ancient steps cut into the rock face, counting as she climbed. There were one hundred and forty seven. A month ago she had counted to take her mind off the height, but now she paid the shore below scant heed as the tide came rolling in fast, lifting her little boat and tugging at its mooring.

The cottage was an old croft house, and had probably looked out over these cliffs for two hundred years. It had three simple rooms. The only door opened into a living room-cum-kitchen, behind which were a bedroom and small bathroom. The windows were small, to keep out the Atlantic winds, the walls a foot thick to keep in the warmth.

Inside, Ellie lit the stove and put some music on. She opened the fridge door and stared in as she did every single day. She could describe the contents of her fridge in perfect detail, but every day she performed the ritual of the door opening, in case someone might have sneaked in and filled it full of unexpected goodies. Unfortunately, there was still only milk, cheese, a mouldy tomato and a half-empty jar of mayonnaise. She closed the door again and made herself some toast, sitting down at her laptop to check her e-mails, singing along as she did:

These are my mist covered mountains

my dark loch, silence surrounding…

There was one from Fiona, and a couple from her old workmates. Ellie didn’t even open them. Another was from William Ross, the warden on the isle of Rhum. He had spotted a white tailed sea eagle, and she felt the sudden thrill that the bird might come here. They were very rare. William was an enthusiastic e-mailer, and she realised he was getting more and more keen, which was a problem. He had never seen her, nor she him for that matter. It was best to keep it simple, so she kept her replies as formal as she could. Life was fine until other people got involved, then it got messy and uncomfortable.

This is my sky filled with stars

She closed the e-mail page, glancing at her saved mail. There was only one item in there; an article Jim MacGregor had sent her. Jim was a retired psychiatrist, and her best friend on the island.

‘I know you might not be interested in this now,’ he had said in the mail, ‘but keep it. One day you might be.’

The article was all about reconstructive laser treatment for hypertrophic scars. He was right, she did not want to even think about it.

She glanced outside, where the sun was setting beyond her little island. The pale, slow moving clouds were lit up from below, and rimmed with gold like a party invitation.

in the land of my hope and my heart

Four months, to change her life. She smiled. It sounded like one of those new diet fads, or some self-help course. She had learned, and learned fast, and not only about the birds.

The music finished, and she wandered outside into the cold air, enjoying the feel of the wind on her face. Rubbing her cheek in the sand had not been a good idea, and the scars felt like they were crawling around looking for something. Escape, she hoped, sadly.

No chance.

They talked to her.

Now and then she’d reply, say things like: what’s with all the itching, you got fleas? Or why can’t you just give me peace, or you don’t get any better looking, you know that? As if the scars were some mischievous mongrel dog that was a pain in the arse to look after, but that she loved all the same. Sometimes, she’d be laughing, and she’d feel the skin tighten round them, in a way now familiar and depressing, but still somehow reassuring.

She headed back indoors and smeared the bland smelling cream on her ravaged face. The cream numbed the skin, but she hated it, all the same. It smelt of defeat, of yet another lie. She glanced at herself in the mirror, and decided there was only one thing to do.

The evening sky was the palest of blues, and hanging there like an unwelcome blot was a big vermillion cloud. As the sun travelled south, the topmost cloud layers turned brown, smudges of darkness, like smoke against the blue. And then suddenly, Mars appeared. Of course it had always been there, but the light had died enough that it now shone out like a quiet beacon. The air smelt of summer, though it was still a way off. After another moment, the vermillion was gone, and there was nothing left but a few donkey-brown smudges against the perfect sky.

Ellie walked down the track towards the village. She rounded a bend, and there it was: the pale shapes of long-empty cottages, dimly lit windows, darker shadows of boats moored in the safe waters, their masts ticking like metronomes against the stars. Ellie smiled to herself, making for the brightest building, hearing the gentle sounds from within.

There were four people in the pub, and they all looked up as she walked in.

‘Evening folks.’

‘Ah, Ellie. It’s a gentle night.’

She sat at the bar and took the drink Murd had already poured for her.

‘So how are your birds?’ He asked, leaning on the bar and fixing her with his doleful stare.

‘There are more arriving every day,’ she replied. ‘Coming here from warmer places, which I will probably never understand.’

Archie Marr stood up and handed his empty glass to Murd, who took it slowly.

‘I’d go somewhere warmer mesel’ if I had the cash.’

‘Where would you go, Archie?’ Ellie said, grinning. Archie was small and stocky, with a sort of permanent stoop, as if he was carrying an invisible rucksack. He had intense eyes that were never still, and now they flitted round the room as he thought about the question.

‘I’ve heard it said the Greek isles are just like the highlands,’ piped up Donnie MacLeod. ‘Only a wee bit sunnier.’

‘Aye, and they speak funny there too,’ Ellie agreed.

Donnie laughed. ‘You softy Southerners.’

‘Watch it, MacLeod,’ said his wife, Lisa. She shook her head at Ellie.

‘Come away and sit down.’

Ellie was happy to oblige. Lisa was a large woman with a thick Welsh accent and a fearsome head of curly black hair. Ellie had heard that she was formidably strong, with a temper to match, yet most of the time she reserved it for her brood of five sons. She had come here on holiday one year, and had danced with MacLeod at the gathering. She had never gone home.

‘Well, I wouldn’t mind going, some day,’ Archie said wistfully.

‘Aye, and leave your Flora behind,’ Lisa laughed. Archie forced a smile, but his face was burning.

‘So, Archie,’ Donnie said, ‘Did you have a look at that old banger our Iowyn’s bought?’

‘I did that,’ Archie said, pleased at the change of subject.

‘So what is wrong with it, then, can you put it right?’

‘Just crap in the carburettor,’ Archie said, taking a long pull of his pint.

The others took this in carefully.

‘So how often does he have to do that then, Archie?’ said Murd, his face twisted in a frown.

Ellie burst into laughter, feeling the skin tighten round her cheek, not caring.

The door opened before Donnie could reply, and Jim MacGregor walked in.

‘Hello, Ellie,’ he said, listening as the story of Iowyn’s car was recounted for his benefit. Murd stood behind the bar, looking solemn.

‘Knowing the state of the car,’ Jim said eventually, ‘I can’t see it would do any harm,’
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