A bite of...Warrior Born - Book 1 of the Katana Series.
Today for our fortnightly "A Bite Of..." I'd like to extend a very warm welcome to Kathrine Leannan. Kathrine is giving us an excerpt of her novel "Warrior Born." (Don't you just love that cover?) So please make her feel welcome and give some feedback!
Can you, in less than five words describe your book?
Prophesy, Scottish, horsemen, Katana, honour
What inspired you to write it?
Having been labelled and punished as a whistleblower nurse, I needed somewhere where I could
get away from the media, the politicians and nursing. The head space needed to write Warrior
Born became my healing place; where I, like all the women of my family, took my place as a
teller of tales.
And here's the excerpt;
It was foretold …
17th April 1746
The dawn, after the Battle of Culloden.
Connor MacDonald, chieftain – to those of the clan who still breathed:
“In times of conflict the horse is called brother,
In peace he is friend.
The clans are lost, torn asunder by the hand of the English.
The blood of the horseman will survive.
A daughter of the highlands will be born
and the ways of the horseman will be restored;
long after our ways have been desecrated by the enemy.
Remember the ways of the highlands,
for she will come.”
Nimerlin Horse Stud, Australia
Marie MacDonald gripped her enormous belly and grimaced as a gush of warm fluid flowed down her legs onto her newly polished kitchen floor.
“Hmmmmp! Bloody typical bairn! Could ye not have come yesterday before I set to polishin’ the floor?”
Another pain. So fast. “Cameron! Cameron! Get your da! The bairn is comin’.”
Marie heard china scrape across the table as her son pushed his breakfast plate away. She grimaced seeing her ten year son’s face was deathly white. The door slammed as he bolted out the back door yelling for his father.
“Da! Da! Come now! Mam is in the kitchen and there is water and stuff leakin’ oot of her everywhere!”
* * *
Angus Macdonald, a traditional Scot who, like his forebears, lived by the ways and laws of the highland clans. Calmly, he undid the buckle of the halter and slid the straps free of the three year old mare’s head. Giving her a heavy rub on her long, thick neck, she leaned into his hand. “Well, lass, it seems we are to have a birthin.” The horse nuzzled his hand and snorted as if to acknowledge the legitimacy of the interruption to her ground work session.
He found Marie leaning over the kitchen table, sweating and snorting heavily. Jesus! He could see the labour was hard and she was struggling to cope with the relentless waves of pain.
“Come lass,” he crooned in his horse-quieting way, “’tis time we went to the hospital, the bairn will be here soon.”
Marie looked up, pain etched across her beautiful face. “Angus, ’tis different this time, the pains are comin’ verra fast.”
He kissed her forehead as he gently tried to propel her forward – towards the front door ... the car ... the hospital...
She refused to budge.
“Angus, Christ mon,” she grabbed a handful of his shirt,” I’ll no be goin’ anywhere – this bairn is comin now!”
Another pain! She buckled at the knees, overwhelmed by the contraction. He grabbed her arms before she hit the floor. She clung to him screaming in time to the rhythm of her womb. He heard her growl and felt her bear down!
He lifted her into his arms, when he passed his son while leaving a trail of fluid in their wake. “Cameron, have a care for the bairn and say a prayer for your mam.” He winced when he saw his son’s wide eyed pallid face. “All will be well lad, ’tis the way of birthin’.” Turning his back on the little boy he mounted the first step on the stair case and carried his wife up to their marriage bed.
Undressing quickly between contractions, he watched as she surrendered herself to surreality and introspection – the private place where women go when the rhythm of the pain and the desire to birth becomes absolute.
Angus marvelled at her beauty. Even after four bairns, she was slender and well formed. Her breasts, normally big, round and heavy, were engorged, lined with the blue veins of a woman who soon would suckle a babe.
Sitting quietly, he rubbed her gravid belly and whispered words meant only for her while he reminisced about the last four times he had been in this situation. All of his sons had been safely delivered by a midwife within the walls of a hospital. His job had been to keep the ice chips coming, wipe her brow and reassure her that she was not going to die. Today however, it was just the good Lord, his beautiful wife and Himself!
Angus was jerked back to the present by Marie who held his hand in a death grip which threatened to dislocate his thumb as she pushed this latest baby out into the world.
“Holy God, please keep her safe. Please help her to birth my bairn safely.”
Marie’s eyes flew open and she screamed.
He pulled her up in the bed and propped her forward on pillows, positioning her to push. Christ! What in the name of God do I do now?
Marie sucked in an enormous breath, spread her legs wide and pushed again; her face red with sweat and effort.
Angus could see a scrap of wet hair protruding past her womanly folds. “One more push lass and I think you’ll be done.”
She turned and glared - eyes like slits and drew her lips back over her teeth, looking for all the world as though she would like nothing better than to take a piece out of him! “I doona want to do this any fucking more, do ye hear me Angus MacDonald, it bloody hurts and it is all your fault. I am not going to do this anymore!”
He smiled recalling the fact that he had heard Marie say fuck precisely four times before - each time when the latest babe, in the act of birthing, stretched her vagina beyond the point of impossibility. He chuckled at the memory and snatched his fingers back – way, way back from those teeth. “Aye lass, it does hurt. Now push and let’s have our bairn.”
Marie groaned and pushed again. The baby crowned and the head delivered with a wet pop. “Angus. Hurry! Check there’s no cord aroond the neck.”
Deftly but gently, he pushed his large index finger into her vagina and along the nape of his babe -- no cord. “Nay lass, all is well.”
Marie smiled and gave a final push.
Angus gasped “Oh, sweet Jesus.”
“What? Angus? Is summat wrong?” “Tell me!” She grabbed his arms and dragged herself up from the ruined bed; staring at the child that lay between her blood-stained thighs. “Angus! Sweet Jesus, Mary and Bride! It’s a lass!” Marie fell back to the bed as the last contraction forced the afterbirth from her body. She looked up at Angus – her tears greeting his.
“Aye my beauty, a lass it is, and she is named for her many times great grandsire – Connor.”
Angus waited until the cord had stopped beating to the cadence of his wife’s heart. He tied and double knotted two lengths of clean string; the first an inch away from his daughter’s belly and another spaced about one and half inches down the length of the cord. Reaching over he picked up Marie’s gold embroidery scissors and with a clean snip freed the child of her biological lifeline.
The little girl filled her lungs and roared; mouthing her hands frantically in the primal response of all mammals – seek and suck.
Marie looked tenderly at her babe, lifting the child to her already dripping nipple while cuddling her in her arms.
Later, sleeping in her mother’s arms, Angus cradled the daughter who shared his blood and the blood of his highlander ancestors. The course of her veins thrummed and sang to him – he felt it! Then he heard the thunder boom outside and recognised it for what it was. He knew…the one the clan awaited had come.
In the far distant sky a low grumbling was felt rather than heard as the blood of the ancient horse masters stirred and woke from their almost three-century slumber. The girl child of their blood in her first cry had summonsed them, awakened them, and they smiled.
Thanks very much Kathrine for sharing.
Good luck with it!