Animals on WIP Wednesday

All sorts of animalsThose of you who subscribe to my newsletter will know that I put a short story in each issue: one I write specifically for my newsletter. In February, I asked the newsletter readers to tell me what they’d like to see in the April newsletter, and the story I drew from the replies was one about a rescued dog and the love and bond that is formed between him and the rescuer.

That story is percolating at the back of my brain, but it got me thinking about the times I’ve used pets and other animals for my characters to relate to; a creature with whom they can be themselves.

How about you? Do you have animals in your stories? How do you use them? Please share an excerpt from a current work-in-progress in the comments.

Mine is from A Raging Madness, which is back from beta readers, requires a restructure in the last third and is currently burning a hole in the corner of my otherwise occupied brain.

The carriage way turned onto the village road. She kept to the side, ready to hide in the ditch if anyone came. Alone, in her shift, and still dazed from the drug? Being returned to the Braxtons would be the best she could expect from a casual passer by, and the worst… She shuddered. She had travelled with the army, worked as her father’s assistant, been Gervase Melville’s wife. She knew the worst that could happen to a woman at the mercy of the merciless.

A soft whicker caught her attention. Falcon’s Storm. He was a lighter shape above the hedgerow, stretching his neck to reach his mistress.

“Storm, my sweet, my champion.” She stopped to fuss over him for a minute that stretched into a timeless pause, crooning nonsense about having no treats in her pocket for she lacked a pocket. He lipped at her shoulder and her hair, but showed no offence at being denied the expected lump of carrot or apple.

“I missed you, too,” she assured him. “If only you were old enough, dearest, you would carry me away, would you not?”

He was solidly built for a two-year old, but so was she, for a woman. He could not take her, and she could not take him. She walked away with a deep sigh. He was the one thing in the world that was solidly, legally, beyond a doubt hers; her only legacy from the swine she had married, born of her mare, Hawk of May, and Gervase’s charger.

But if she took him, how would she feed him? And if they were hunting for a woman and a colt… No, she could not take him with her, and for the same reason, she could not open the gate and set him loose. He would follow her, for sure.

She could only pray that the Braxtons would leave him to the care of old Jake, the groom, or sell him to someone who appreciated him for the future champion he was.

Storm followed her to the corner of his field, and called after her until she was out of sight.

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3 thoughts on “Animals on WIP Wednesday

  1. There aren’t any animals, really, in TLS, but as you probably know I wrote a short story a few months ago based on a horse race that took place while my boy John was Governor of Gibraltar. I know next to nothing about horses (unlike John), but I quite like the following little scene. If I’ve committed any honking horsey errors, PLEASE tell me.

    Stokes, the PoV character, is Chatham’s secretary.

    ***

    The horses stood by the edge of the racetrack, flanks quivering and streaked with sweat. Chatham led Captain Jones over, Stokes following close behind with the rest of the staff. At their approach both animals raised their heads. The Arabian twitched his tail. Weathercock turned his head towards Chatham and gave a soft whinny of welcome. The Governor reached up and stroked his head fondly; the horse snorted and nuzzled his coat.

    ‘Congratulations, your excellency,’ Captain Jones said. ‘It appears your English horses are still capable of holding their own against Arabian stock.’

    ‘Weathercock did well, I admit,’ Chatham observed, rubbing Weathercock’s forehead. His gaze, however, was on the other horse. ‘But he is six years old, and has not spent the last few months on board ship.’ The Governor turned to the Arabian. The horse was perfectly still, its black eyes on Chatham. When the Governor came closer and reached out a hand the Arabian whinnied loudly and skittered sideways, twitching its ears.

    ‘Hush,’ Chatham said. ‘Hush.’ He moved gently closer, whistling through his teeth. The horse moved nervously from side to side, but Stokes watched as Chatham pulled off his gloves and edged forwards with exquisite patience until his hand made contact with the horse’s neck.

    ‘Easy,’ Chatham murmured, running his hand along the horse’s flanks. The appreciation on his face was obvious; he stroked the Arabian’s nose for a moment, then bent over and ran his hands delicately up and down the horse’s forelegs. Stokes expected the horse to protest, but to his surprise it just stood there. It was as though the Arabian knew Chatham was impressed, and was flattered with the attention.

    ‘Splendid forequarters,’ Chatham observed, straightening up slowly and whistling again as the Arabian started back in alarm. ‘The shoulder is particularly fine. He will bring you much credit, once he has matured.’

    ‘Weathercock is no less admirable,’ Captain Jones said. Chatham smiled and turned back to the English horse, which nickered softly and nibbled at his coatsleeve as though in protest at being ignored.

    ‘My Weathercock is the pride of my stables. He belonged to Lady Chatham; she chose him herself, when he was barely older than your Arabian.’ It was the first time Stokes had ever heard Lord Chatham speak his wife’s name. A melancholy sheen came over Chatham’s face, as though the memories had taken the shine off his enthusiasm. ‘How she would have loved to have seen him run today.’

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