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Old 09-30-2005, 03:38 AM   #1
TeenLit Regular
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 57
Default How's my beginning?

What do ya'll think? Any good as an opening?

Rachel lay awake listening to the sounds of the forest at night. It wasn’t the first time she had done so; for the past three days she had not slept. Her body ached with weariness, but she had to stay alert because she knew the men would come soon. It made her feel sick to think of it, but she had thought of nothing else for days, and if she lived through this night, she knew she would have to do the same the next day.
Her father had killed a deer, which was a terrible crime in Sherwood Forest where the Forest Law ruled, for the deer belonged to the King and none but he could hunt them. The awful thing was, her father had not even meant to kill it, he had been aiming at a hare. But that wouldn’t matter to the Sheriff Of Nottingham. He always took a swift revenge on any lawbreakers in the area, and Rachel could not hope that they would escape detection.
The Sheriff already knew of their existence on another serious matter. They had not paid their taxes, again, though through no fault of their own. They had no money, which was why her father had been out shooting hares in the first place. Up until a few months ago, his business had been doing well, he was a good carpenter and his work was well carried out. Yet still people had stopped buying from them. Rachel hadn’t found out exactly why for several weeks; not journeying into the nearest village very often, she was cut off from the local gossip. One day she had been walking in the forest, not going anywhere in particular, just wandering, and she had met a boy from the village.
She would never forget the things he said to her, and it certainly explained why her father wasn’t doing so well. The boy called her all sorts of names, but the basic gist of it was, that the whole village had heard rumours that her mother was a witch. This wouldn’t have mattered much, women skilled in herb lore with a certain unnatural air about them were often respected for their wisdom, but the rumours seemed to be blaming her mother for many odd and unlucky occurrences that had plagued the forest lately. So now, no one wanted to buy anything that might be contaminated with her ‘evil’. Rachel knew this was all rubbish of course, but it still hurt. The lies that were being spread were making life very difficult for them. And then, when a few weeks later, her father killed the deer, she knew they were dead too, or they may as well be.
Recently, taxes had been getting higher and higher to pay for King Richard’s crusade to the Holy Land. More and more people had refused to pay, or simply been unable to, like themselves. The money from the peasants who did pay didn’t often reach the Sheriff; outlaws and robbers seemed to rule the forest more than the Sheriff or the King did. Now people were saying that the Sheriff was growing angry and there had been cases of harsh penalties to those who didn’t pay. The punishments were growing worse, and she knew that her family would be the perfect target for something big, something that would deter others, and frighten them into paying.
She lay turning these things over in her mind. She had tried to persuade her parents to flee, but they refused. They maintained that it was not their fault, and they would not behave like guilty people. Rachel knew this pride would get them killed, but could do nothing about it. She was only a girl, just turned nineteen years old the week before; no one took her seriously, not even her parents.
So she knew she would lie awake on her bed in the corner of the tiny one-roomed cottage, while her parents lay in the other corner, also awake though they pretended otherwise, listening for the sound of hooves that she knew must come. But two nights of the same thing had weakened her resolve to stay awake and she drifted off without realising, slipping into dreams of rustling animals padding around her home.
All too soon, her parents were shaking her and forcing her awake; telling her to run, that she must save herself. They would catch up when they could. Rachel knew this was a lie, but what could she do? She didn’t want to die. She fell out of the small window in the back wall and stumbled away, making sure the cottage shielded her from the view of the soldiers who were dismounting on the other side.
Her heart beat quickly, she could almost feel it moving her dress, but for all the movement of her body, her brain was numb. She ran through the trees, wide-awake, yet hardly able to think, until she could hear the sound of the horses’ whinnies no more. Then she collapsed onto a fallen tree, telling herself she would not look back.
She couldn’t stop herself. She turned, and though she could no longer see the cottage for the trees, a bright orange flickering light was clearly visible. She could hear too, the screams of a woman, the sound deadened by the trees, but no less frightening. Worst of all was the chanting of a dozen men.
‘Witch. Witch. Witch. Witch. Witch.’
Turning away once more, she forced herself to carry on, trying to make as little noise as she could with sobs wracking her body and her vision obscured by the tears rolling fast and unstoppable down her face.
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