Monday, 6 June 2011

Peter Alan Orchard: short story - 'Starlight'

My short story Starlight takes place in Anglo-Saxon England at the time of the Viking raids of the later ninth century AD. I had already created Ulf, my main character, in a very short, lightish piece called Safe-Keeping (now one of the stories in my collection Voices from the Past) and touched in a backstory for him. It seemed reasonable to explore the backstory in a bit more depth, hence Starlight, which starts immediately after a raid on Ulf's village, with Ulf lying seriously injured under the stars.

Here's an excerpt from a little after the start:

When he woke, dazed, he was lying on a trestle. Roof-timbers stretched above him and smoke from a log fire idled out through the doorway. Somewhere a woman's voice muttered.

Ulf sniffed the air. 'Flowers?'

'Bonewort.' The voice belonged to Harald, herbalist and leech, from the next village. 'On your legs. Bonewort, elm and eggs. I've splinted them both, but don't try to move them. We had to give you poppy to carry you here, if only to stop you babbling.'

Harald's angular face appeared, grinning, between Ulf's face and the roof. There was a lump on his forehead.

'You too, eh? Did we see them off?'

'We did. There weren't many and there's not enough to attract them back here. Bigger pickings in bigger places.' Harald patted Ulf carefully on his bruised arm. 'You're a tough one, lying out there all night, but it's lucky we found you. You must have chased the Dane hard to be three fields away.'

'Oh yes, I chased him. He was in my house with two others and I could only chase one. I had a knife in my belt and cut him once or twice, but he had a sword and beat me down. He broke my legs with a branch from the wood then, and ran. He was laughing at me. I saw Hroswitha later, crossing the field, but she was dead.'

Ulf's chest heaved, fighting against tears in front of the leech. 'She was a lovely woman, like a little primrose…..' He tried to sit up, but Harald pressed him down. 'The children?'

'The children are safe. Oswy has them with him. Winfrith has been here all night, since we found you.'

'Then this is my sister's house. Of course. Last time I was here, there was a ham hanging up there.'

'The Danes took it.' Winfrith was standing beside him, her innocent, round face pink with indignation. 'I hope it chokes them.'

Starlight is around 3500 words and you can download it from Smashwords for $0.99c, where you can also find Voices from the Past. For more information on my writing, please drop in at my website: or follow my ramblings on Twitter.


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