The Rose Shield – Catling

catling

The Rose Shield is my current WIP. Last month, I introduced Raker. He’s half mad, but has sparks of unexpected wisdom if you can get over the fact that he converses with the river fog. My main character is Catling, and here’s the start of her story:

Chapter One Excerpt

Hanging Day.

Catling clutched the back of her mother’s wool skirt as Keela picked a path through the market crowd. Head down, she kept her eyes on the bare heels slapping the pavers ahead of her, afraid of a swat if she let go.

“Stop tugging on my dress and tramping on my heels,” Keela said without a glance back. She wrenched her skirt free. “And keep up.”

Catling flinched and scurried to catch up. At six, she was a scrawny thing and easily buffeted by the larger bodies that failed to see her. The market was all shoving and yelling heads off on hanging day, and she wouldn’t have minded if Keela wasn’t in such a hurry.

She spotted a split-copper and darted from safety to pinch it from the crack between two pavers. A pair of scampering boys dodged around her as she ducked back behind her mother with a crooked grin. She slid the coin into her pocket beside her carved waterdragon and considered where she might hide it. All over the warrens, she kept secret stashes of split and clipped-coppers, stowed into crevasses and holes and buried under stones. She was rich and someday she’d collect them in a sack and ride a ferry to the sea.

“Always big crowds Summertide hanging day,” Keela said over her shoulder. “The weather’s kind enough and food’s plenty. Maybe we’ll share a meat tart and catch a couple neck-stretchers.”

The mere thought of a tart set Catling’s stomach growling. During Summertide, the market circled almost all the way around the warrens. Tables, carts, stalls, crates, and planks balancing on rickety chairs were set up haphazard like river rocks that people flowed around. Servants from the tiers sauntered down with their guards and pockets of clipped silver to spend however they pleased.

Riverfolk sold fish and eels by the pier. Glassy-eyed twitchers lolled against a stone wall, begging for anything they could sell for a taste. Smelters and smiths hawked pieces of metal shaped into knives and tools. She passed other guilds peddling rag-cloth and rope, trinkets and baubles, lye soap and tallow candles, and just about everything else she could imagine. Kull Bane preachers traded promises for prayers, and tradesmen from far off Lim-Mistral decorated tables with smooth glass bottles for nighttime luminescence. She caught her reflection in a standing mirror and winced at the sight, the ugly red halo on her face like a permanent bruised eye.