Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: A Mysterious Stranger


It is so beautiful and wonderful here. I love it. I love my flat and the walk to class and the delicious hot chocolate and all the old buildings that surround me everywhere...

But I'm still in the process of formulating a coherent first-London-blog, so in the meantime, and because it is Tuesday, have a teaser!

Background: Maire has had a really rough day. The night before, her family was threatened with eviction, and now, she's just been thrown out of the pub where she was asking for work. And then she stumbles across this guy...



“Having some ill luck today, I see.”

Maire jumped at the sound of a voice. She was just outside the town now, surrounded only by fallow fields and a few sheep, and she had not expected to see a man leaning calmly against a stone mile marker, watching her with dark eyes. He smiled, nodding his head towards her.

Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú?” he asked.

“What’s it to you?” she snapped, ignoring his salutation. She sensed a sharp edge to his polite words.

Maire looked at him suspiciously, unable to think why a man would be standing so nonchalantly in the road when he ought to be doing something more useful. He seemed cleaner than most people Maire knew, with a face free of grime and dark red hair like hers, but while hers was swept back in a haphazard and hay-like braid, his was combed and neat. His clothes were not fine, but they were clean, like his face, and they were not threadbare and tattered as hers were. Why was a man like this standing in a road watching her? He looked far too neat to be there; he did not belong in this place, for he was not desperate like the people or empty like the fields – he seemed far too hard, far too solid, and Maire did not trust him.

“I’ve taken an interest, is all. I’ve seen you here before, you know. You are not a hard thing to miss – all the fighting for scraps, all the pounding on doors. You aren’t one to give in easily, are you?”

“No,” she said. “I’m not. What do you want?”

The man grinned at her, a sly gesture that snaked sideways along his mouth. Maire did not like that smile; it sent a chill down her spine, although she had no idea why. She watched him, tense and ready to run, waiting for him to answer, but he took his time. He paused a moment, pulling something out of his pocket. Maire’s eyes widened as she saw him spin it in his fingers – it was a gold coin, glinting bright and magical in the sunlight. She was mesmerized watching it move through his hands, spinning a web around his fingers, glowing bright like a promise. Finally, the man stopped, hiding the miraculous coin in his pocket again. When he saw Maire gawking at him, he chuckled softly, the sly smile growing just a bit wider.

“I’ve a proposition for you, Maire Finn.”

Everything snapped back into place then; the golden magic was forgotten, and Maire felt as though someone had just pulled the earth out from beneath her feet.

“I never said that was my name.”

“No, but there’s no use in denying it. I know quite well who you are.”

“You don’t. You don’t know me at all.”

She took a step backwards, away from the strange man, glancing momentarily towards the town she had left behind. She could still run away, she would be safe from this stranger at the docks, with other people nearby – wouldn’t she?

“Oh, but I do,” the man said, waving his hand as thought it were nothing at all. “I know a great deal about you, Maire. You aren’t one to give in without a fight. And this winter, when the snow was as high as your head and so many of those you knew were slowly dying around you, you swore that you would survive, no matter what it took.”

Maire could only stare at him. There was no way he could know that. There was no way he could know the dark promises she had made to herself in the most desperate blizzards of the winter. She had told no one – he could not possibly know that she had determined, then and there, that no one was going to watch her die. That she would do whatever it took, whether that was fighting or thieving or working, to put just one more step between her and the grasping, greedy fingers of death.

“You did say that, aren’t I right?”

She nodded, completely dumbfounded. She wanted to run, but her feet would not unstick from the road and her legs refused to move. Whatever golden web this man had woven, he had caught her in it, sure as anything.

“Aren’t you interested in my proposition, then?”

“What is it?”

“I have a job in mind for you. There are conditions, of course-”

“I’ll take it,” she said, the words tumbling instantaneously from her mouth.

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