Monday, July 26, 2010

Chapter 14 Excerpt: Horatio is Shivering

“Shall we go inside? There is a fire in the coal stove.”

“Are you cold, astrologer?” Bernardo looked around as if only just noticing that it was winter. “We will go to your fireside in a moment. I have something to give you first.”

Bernardo took from beneath his cloak a simple dagger in a black leather sheath and handed it to me.

“When you return to Kronberg and kill Old Hamlet, you will use this knife instead of your clumsy potions and frozen serpents.”

“I am no soldier,” I said. “I do not know how to stab a man.”

“You will find that it is easily done,” Bernardo said. “Put the bare point to one side of the king’s spine between his shoulder blades and lean hard on the hilt. The blade will do the rest. You need merely wait until you are alone with the king.”

“I do not think—”

“King Hamlet is a man. He deserves a man’s death. You must be a man to give him that death.”

“How he dies can be of no matter to you, as long as he is dead.”

“It matters. Do not cross me on this, little astrologer.”

Had Bernardo’s gaze been a dagger, he’d have flayed me on the spot. I recalled the ease and amusement in Marcellus’ bearing when he had beaten me before sending me to the island and I nodded to Bernardo and took the dagger. I hid it in my doublet, the cold steel hilts hard against my ribs.

“Shall we go inside?” I said.

“The king gave you a commission here, did he not?” Bernardo looked over the collapsed towers and tumbling bricks of Tycho’s palace.

“Aye. There is a lit stove upstairs, in a warm room. You see the window with closed shutters?’

“Have you taken your inventory of all Brahe’s toys yet?”

“Nay. There is yet work for me. And it is cold work, and slow. My notes of the excavations thus far are inside. Shall we look at them?”

“I have little interest. Polonius asked that I inquire, that is all. I should speak to the prince now.”

At last, I thought. My fingertips and toes ached madly with cold.

“Then we go inside?”

“Nay, for look where the prince comes down to see us.”


  1. Ah, the plot thickens. Nicely done.

  2. I love the two layers of tension in this scene. Yeah, sure there's the whole matter of stabbing a king to death in a manly way, but meanwhile CAN WE GO INSIDE IT IS EFFING COLD OUT HERE!

    Hee, hee.

    "Bernardo looked around as if only just noticing that it was winter."

    Hee, hee!

  3. Anne: A knife gets introduced in Chapter 14, you know someone's getting shivved later on! Whee!

    Tara: I'm doing a lot of casual rudeness in this book, all based on social positions. Also, Bernardo is a bastard. In a previous version of this book, he had my favorite line of dialogue: "After I kill him, I shall make a present of his pretty hat to one of my lady friends."

  4. Casual rudeness... yes, I think that is a believable way to convey social position. Also, getting shivved.

    And I like that line.

  5. Ooo! I like this very much. This is so different from the other draft. I'm in awe! Do consider this a completely different book, pretty much?

  6. Tara: Yeah, getting shivved is a good way to know where you stand!

    Michelle: Yes, this is a totally new and different book. I found a self-contained story for Horatio that drags Shakespeare in its wake, not the other way around. It's way cool. But, because I've pretty much got "Hamlet" in my bloodstream by this point, weird things are going on between my story and Shakespeare's, and the dramatic functions of characters are gradually morphing as the story goes along and that's pretty cool too. It's not like I planned it; it's just sort of happening by itself as a function of the way the plot works. Bonus for the author!