Sunday, October 09, 2011

When Maidens Mourn, Chapter One...

Camlet Moat, Trent Place, England, Sunday, 2 August 1812

Tessa Sawyer hummed a nervous tune beneath her breath as she pushed through the tangled brush and bracken edging the black waters of the ancient moat. She was very young—just sixteen at her next birthday. And though she tried to tell herself she was brave, she knew she wasn’t. She could feel her heart pounding in her narrow chest, and her hands tingled as if she’d been sitting on them. When she’d left the village, the night sky above had been clear and bright with stars. But here, deep in the wood, all was darkness and shadow. From the murky, stagnant water beside her rose an eerie mist, thick and clammy.
It should have wafted cool against her cheek. Instead, she felt as if the heavy dampness were stealing her breath, suffocating her with an unnatural heat and a sick dread of the forbidden. She paused to swipe a shaky hand across her sweaty face and heard a rustling in the distance, the soft plop of something hitting the water.

Choking back a whimper, she spun about, ready to run. But this was Lammas, a time sacred to the ancient goddess. They said that at midnight on this night, if a maiden dipped a cloth into the holy well that lay on the northern edge of the isle of Camlet Moat and then tied her offering to a branch of the rag tree that overhung the well, her prayer would be answered. Not only that, but maybe, just maybe, the White Lady herself would appear, to bless the maid and offer her the wisdom and guidance that a motherless girl like Tessa yearned for with all her being.

No one knew exactly who the White Lady was. Father Clark insisted that if the lady existed at all—which he doubted—she could only be the Virgin Mary. But local legend said the White Lady was one of the grail maidens of old, a chaste virgin who’d guarded the sacred well since before the time of Arthur and Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table. And then there were those who whispered that the lady was actually Guinevere, ever young, ever beautiful, ever glorious.

Forcing herself to go on, Tessa clenched her fist around the strip of white cloth she was bringing as an offering. She could see the prow of the small dinghy kept at the moat by Sir Stanley Winthrop, on whose land she trespassed. Its timbers old and cracked, its aged paint worn and faded, it rocked lightly at the water’s edge as if touched by an unseen current.

It was not empty.

Tessa drew up short. A lady lay crumpled against the stern, her hair a dark cascade of curls around a pale, motionless face. She was young yet and slim, her gown an elegant flowing confection of gossamer muslin sashed with peach satin. She had her head tipped back, her neck arched; her eyes were open but sightless, her skin waxen.

And from a jagged rent high across her pale breast flowed a rivulet of darkness where her life’s blood had long since drained away.


Charles Gramlich said...

ooohhh, very nice. I would have read it anyway but this is a nice tease.

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

Just when I thought today couldn't get any better ... Thank you!

paz said...

Oooh, its good, its good! Too bad that we have 5 more months until we can read the rest!!!

cs harris said...

Charles, thank you.

Barbara, nice to hear you're having a good day!

Paz, I know, I'm sorry.

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

Oh, NICE! Although I wish there was more-- both because I want to read more and because it provides distraction from the synopsis I'm supposed to finish today.

What? A girl can dream! *g*

Sophia Rose said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I have been having withdrawal symptoms. Though now after reading it- what a teasers. (-;

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JoAnne said...

Wow, that was great! Certainly whets the appetite for more. Thanks for posting.

cs harris said...

Barbara, unfortunately Chapter 2 reveals some things about the ending of Shadows (in the development of Hero and Sebastian's relationship), so I can't really post it since it would be a spoiler for those who are waiting for the paperback of Shadows. Otherwise, I would. And good luck with the synopsis! (I really do hate those, too.)

Sophia, sorry!

JoAnne, thank you. Not long now. I just read the galleys, so it's well in the pipeline.

nana said...

yay something new to read (I can't always reading the previous 6 ones!!^^)
I'm so far more intrigued by Tessa than by the victim. Is she going to be a recurrent character in this one or is she only a witness of the crime?
I love the arthurian legend so reading something new about it is always a pleasure. & I like the place you chose, Camlet Moat.

"the soft plop of something hitting the water.
hmm she seemed really close to see the culprit.
interesting first chapter, thanks so much!!!!

...Hmm In fact, Just saw you had already posted this chapter (february 2011)How did I miss it??^^...That deserves a real new chapter to read for us!!!!! :D No? *sigh* at least I would have tried :D

...ok go back reading shadows & this wonderful last scene^^

cs harris said...

Nana, Tessa does appear later in the book, but she's one of those characters who spring to life on the page and make me really, really wish I could use them again. I felt that way about the old Scottish woman who lived upstairs to the victim in Angels. And you're right, I did post it before, I think when I was looking for cover ideas. I should go look at it and see how much it's changed.

Sheena said...

Love it! Can't wait to read the rest!

Lainey said...

So atmospheric! LOVE it!
I hope that Tessa receives not only the wisdom and guidance that she seeks but also a nice future.

nana said...

I should go look at it and see how much it's changed.

you did change Tessa's name. Tessa Cooper became Tessa Sawyer.
is there a reason behind this change or is it just a random choice?

Anonymous said...

I think you would be able to post the second chapter, if, at the top of the page you wrote in huge black letters: SPOILER ALERT!!! That would solve everyone's problems!
Keep up the good work! I love this series!

cs harris said...

Sheena, not long now.

Lainey, I think Tessa is the kind of girl with the wisdom and courage to march to her own drummer.

Nana, there's a reason. The mass market of Where Shadows Dance has this excerpt in the back as a teaser, and I realized I had two characters with the last name of Cooper. The OTHER character (a doctor in Shadows) is a real historical personage, so Tessa's name had to change. Which I found really frustrating because in my mind she's still Tessa Cooper.

Anon, I'll think about it!

Ajamajay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ajamajay said...

Such a teaser! I cant wait until it's finished. Also i wanted to tell you I really enjoy your books. You are so incredibly descriptive. As a new mom my time is not my own, so being able to fall into the Sebastian's world is such a treat. Also, the vocabulary is amazing. I often find myself looking up words and feeling smarter after reading your books! Can't wait until November!

cs harris said...

Ajamajay, Thanks so much! I remember those new mom days...

Anonymous said...

I've just discovered CS Harris and am enthralled. Mystery and my favorite time period and an authoress that writes about them with the skill of Ellis Peters and Georgette Heyer combined. I can't wait to read all the St. Cyr series.

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Tessa S said...

This is quite haunting, it definitely makes me want to read more... Especially since my name is Tessa Sawyers, Haha. Please tell me she has red hair.

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