Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Is this the right ballroom for Strictly Come Dancing?

The top rings on the sleeves of York’s greatcoat bore a lustre lost by the others. Although newly promoted, he carried himself with the assurance of a man who had borne the responsibility of command for some time.

He stood at the edge of a group of officers. They were absorbed with spending the night in revelry. York desperately wanted to be on the bridge of his ship. He was a warrior, not a courtier; the scars on his face were acquired in battle, not on the duelling fields.

The myriad coloured gowns swirled across the dance floor below the gallery, but he was focussed on two figures. Admiral Morton was working his way though the cream of society’s female aristocracy. The other subject of York’s attention had been more difficult to identify. York had been trained to look for patterns, gaps and weaknesses that could be exploited.  Despite that, it had taken a full fifteen minutes of study, before he was able to spot somebody whose behaviour was different. The young woman in the green ball gown had not danced, skilfully avoiding engagement with any officer who had tried to approach her.

Two officers stopped in front of him. He wasn’t a tall man and they blocked his view of the waltzing crowd. York could command a deck without raising his voice and, quietly, attracted their attention. Although they acknowledged his rank, it was his aura of authority that moved them on.

Beneath the gaiety, there was an undercurrent of fear. York was not afraid. His whole purpose was war.  The morning would see his ship setting out, part of a fleet that would engage the enemy within a week and he hungered for the visceral excitement of battle.

The temperature of the upper gallery was rising; York could feel beads of sweat beneath his close-cropped hair. He stepped towards the doors emphasising his limp and leaning on his cane to avoid being drawn into the dancing by any of the matrons that hunted for heroes. Morton was feted as a hero but, to York, his reputation was blackened by the fact he was an uninspired commander, employing strategies that resulted in huge numbers of casualties and an uncertain outcome. York championed different tactics, using sudden and overwhelming violence and was determined that it would be he who directed the strategy of the fleet. Morton would be dead by midnight, but not by York’s hand. This had been planned from the point when war became inevitable and, as much as he wanted to be on his ship, York had to be here to see the culmination of the plot unfold.

He walked along the terrace outside, undisturbed snow crunching beneath his polished boots. As he surveyed the formal gardens, the doors opened behind him and the woman in the green dress stepped out. For a moment he felt dismay. If his plan was uncovered, then there was every chance that she was here for him, not the Admiral.

Previously i posted the scene where York and Echo meet, on the castle terrace. After writing that scene i asked myself the question, why are they there? and got the answer - to kill somebody. That's what they do. So, although this scene is set before that one, it moves the story on.

This scene didn't actually make it into the book (but the murder gets referred to several times). Looking back at it (i've not read it for a while), it feels like i was trying too hard. This was a 500 word assignment and we spent a lot of time using as many different descriptive words as we could shoehorn into the limit. Writing 100,000 words is very different. I'm trying to get somewhere, at a reasonable pace, so there's a lot less description (you can make it up yourself) and the language is less flowery.

The green ball gown is a theme that runs through the book. I really have no idea why. I'm sure there was a reason originally but, like so many things, it's been lost (like car keys and several sets of glasses).

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