09 April 2009

Thursday Excerpt: Erastes

Today on Excerpt Thursday we have the opening to chapter one of Erastes' TRANSGRESSIONS, which will be released next week. We'll be doing a Q&A with Erastes on Sunday when you'll have the chance to win a copy. Here's the skinny:

In 1642 England, David Caverly's strict father has brought home the quiet, puritanical Jonathan Graie to help his dreamer of a son work the family forge. With war brewing in Parliament, the demand for metal work increases as armies are raised.

The indolent and deceitful David Caverly is bored by his father's farm and longs to escape, maybe to join the King's Army, mustering at Nottingham. David finds himself drawn to Jonathan, and after a passing cavalry trooper seduces the beautiful David and reveals his true nature, he determines to teach Jonathan what he's learned. When David is forced to leave the farm, and the boys are separated by mistrust and war, they learn the meaning of love and truth as they fight their way across a war-torn country, never thinking they'll ever see each other again.

David was not where he should be. He rarely was. He was supposed to be in the shed, milking the four cows and then cleaning the barn, but he had not even started. The beasts were at the gate lowing insistently, but David was sprawled in the tall grass on the side of the river, ignoring them and the work to be done.

He was comfortable. He had all day, and the warmth of the sun on his naked body gave him no inclination to move. The day was perfect; the grass gently grazed his flanks and his skin tingled deliciously as the water dried upon it.

Jacob, his father, had left early that morning and had given David tasks enough to keep him busy for the remainder of the day. Dutifully, David had completed the morning milking, but after he let the gentle beasts back out into the water meadow, he had sauntered down to the river and had done nothing since. It was too hot for chopping wood, and he felt his father was being somewhat overzealous by demanding such a stockpile made ready in this heat when September had not yet arrived. He planned to do it later, before his father returned.

His father had informed him that he was going to be away from the forge all day, although he not told his son where he was going, and David had not particularly cared. He liked being alone.

David chafed against hard work. He hated the forge and he loathed the smallholding. His natural state of being was one of cheerful indolence, and he would find any way of avoiding work he could, unabashed by his father's speeches on the merits of toil. Therefore in keeping, he did not spend more time than he could avoid worrying about the inevitable, such as the threat of his father's censure on his return when he found David's work undone.

The sun was scorching his flesh and getting too hot at last, David rose; a berry-brown perfection of immature muscles and rounded boyish pertness. He was not particularly tall for his sixteen years, but he was still growing; his hands and feet seeming larger than they should be as his body caught up. His body was sun-dried after his bathe, but his hair, startlingly white blond and so long it reached halfway down his back, clung damply to his skin like a white-gold horse's tail. It was David's private glory and his father's public shame. David was careful to keep it tied back and appearing to be shorter than it was when his father was about, for if his father knew that David was prideful over his hair, he would surely insist on having it cut as short as his own chin length bob.

Resentfully, David dressed and let the cows in from the fields for milking. He slapped their silken rumps a little too hard in unjust punishment for the work they were making him do, tugging at their teats and growling in annoyance when he paid the price for it, losing a whole bucket of milk to an angry kick. He knew his father would react more strongly to the loss of the milk than the chores he had not accomplished, for the milk was money. It was not that they were poor, but it was waste, and waste was sin.

David frowned; everything was sin with his father, who reproved David daily for failing to defeat the demons of the seven sins and being unable to master any of the cardinal virtues.

A joy of food was sinful, getting angry with the cows for stepping on him was sinful, wasting money was sinful, even taking a pride in his own handsomeness was somehow wrong in the eyes of the Lord. David knew he was beautiful; he did not own a looking glass, (another sin) but he had a river in which, Narcissus-like, he would gaze at his reflection. He knew that his face was changing as he matured, becoming more lean, accentuating his cheekbones and his straight dark brows. He knew too, that his eyes were unusual, for his friends had remarked on them. Not quite brown and yet not hazel; in some lights like amber honey, and in others lit with a greenish fire. He never let his father see him looking at his reflection because that, of course, was a sin.

Singing--frowned upon, dancing--forbidden. This did not prevent David doing any of these things, but it did mean that most of everything that he enjoyed he was forced to do in secret in his attempts to keep his father from being disappointed.

Such subterfuge meant that when his father did find out, he was even more disappointed by the deception more than the act. Trammelled in this way, David felt caged and trapped; his joy of life and of living spoiled, and everything he took pleasure in was tinged with guilt.

He'd become used to the guilt; his constant rebelliousness inured him to it, and the more he broke his father's rules the less he worried about it. He could not help but resent it, however, even though his father never beat him for his transgressions, never got angry with him. He simply sermonised or prayed to God to ask him to intercede, and David had long ago learned to look penitent, beg forgiveness, and promise to pray for strength to change his ways; his father accepted it, every time.

He was chopping his fifth log when he heard the return of Jacob's wagon, and he pretended to ignore it, applying himself to the task before him, not looking forward to the speech he was likely to receive for the endeavours left undone. As the horse rounded the barn he straightened up as he noticed that his father was not alone. Sitting beside him was a young man clad in sombre clothes, overshadowed by a large black hat. David's eyes narrowed; he glared openly at the stranger as he jumped down from the wagon and took the reins of the horse whilst Jacob descended.

David didn't much like what he saw. The newcomer was a tall youth about his own age or possibly a little older. Brown straight hair, pale suspicious and unhappy eyes, plain of face with flat cheekbones and a defiant scowl under his wide-brimmed hat. A plain black coat, black breeches and a high collar confirmed David's worst suspicions. A Puritan.

Read the rest of the chapter here!