history, writing

Battle at the Bridging of Two Worlds

WIPpet Wednesday BannerIt’s Wednesday! I took a two week hiatus, but I’m back again on this hump-day to bring you a snippet of my work in progress (thus, WIPpet), a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Basically, you post a snippet of your current project which in some way relates to the date. Most participants do various mathematical formulas to come up with the amount of words or sentences or whatever to post, but I decided to draw inspiration from today’s date in history.

History.com informs me that on January 8, 1877, Crazy Horse fought his last battle. Crazy Horse is the Native American leader who famously defeated General George Custer with a force of Cheyenne and Sioux six months earlier. Alas, he was not to remain successful long, for the U.S. Calvary in Montana outnumbered them and forced them to retreat, ending their organized resistance.

My work in progress, Book 1 of the Dark Ages trilogy, in which reluctant knight Justus must redeem a thief (Tristan) and guide a barren woman (Richende) on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, has no Native Americans, but it does have cavalry and battles. Here is one particular battle which takes place at a bridge …

This close, everything sharpened and slowed as only happened when Justus found himself fighting for his life. He made out the curly gray hairs in the barbarian’s beard, and smelled the rank scent of his unwashed body. The strong, nervous horse had froth bubbling from the corners of his mouth, and his sides heaved with the effort of the run and the melee of combat. The horse pranced back and forth, making the rider struggle to control him and causing Justus to pay attention to its steps lest he find himself crushed beneath heavy feet.

The barbarian, a Lombard from the cut of his tunic and fringe on his boots, passed the axe to his left hand and swung at Justus from that angle. Justus countered by chopping at the wooden axe handle with all his might, trying to break the head off, but succeeding only in lodging his blade in the wood. With his other hand he grabbed the back of the axe head and yanked, ripping the weapon free from the barbarian’s startled grasp. He flung the axe and his sword both–joined together–to the ground and snatched his dagger from the sheathe at his waist. The barbarian, now disarmed, let loose a stream of curses in a guttural Germanic dialect that Justus could not identify, and pulled the reins of his horse to the left, simultaneously urging the beast to carry him away from Justus.

Justus heard a harsh burst of laughter–realized it was his own–and applied his boot to the axe in an effort to free his sword. A few quick yanks did the trick, and he spared the time to grab the axe handle and stomp down on the blade, causing the head to break off. The last thing he needed was someone else picking that thing up and splitting his head with it.

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them. Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:


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16 thoughts on “Battle at the Bridging of Two Worlds”

  1. Nicely done fight sequence. I like the way it takes Justus a minute to realize he’s the one doing the laughing. All the little details you add are exquisite and really help to set the scene in my mind.

  2. I’m reading all about war this week, although the war I’m reading about has different weapons, but what I find similar is the sense of loss of self. Justus is laughing and doesn’t even realize he is laughing until after a moment passes. That really resonated with me.

    However…I’m lost as to how this could be happening on a horse. Logistically in my brain it doesn’t work for both of them, or even just one of them, to be on a horse the entire time. Just a thought.

    Great excerpt!! Hope to read more next week.

    1. Thanks so much for your comments! It originally was on foot and then I changed it to on horseback, at least for the one opponent. I think I need to go over it again to make sure it makes sense!

  3. I had a bit of trouble, as Adrian notes, picturing this on horse (certainly the stepping on the ax handle part especially). Or Is Justus on foot and the Lombard mounted? While your finer details are, as usual, Xina, vivid and easy to picture, the scene as a whole felt a bit vague.

  4. As I read this, it seemed clear to me that Justus was on foot and the barbarian mounted. The only problem I had was the curly gray hairs on his beard and the smell of his unwashed body. That makes it sound like the opponents are right next to each other and not one on foot and the other mounted.

    Otherwise, great details!

  5. I had no problem following the everything and the imagery was great. My only thing is it read slow. I know things felt slow for Justus, but I’m talking, grass growing slow. I didn’t feel danger or colliding of forces. But, that is something that could be me.

    1. Great comment, Gloria! Yeah, I can definitely see where you’re coming from. I’ll give it another looksee and revision when I’m finished with this draft. Any suggestions in particular? I probably need: short, snappy sentences and power verbs. Anything else? I’ll have to consult some of my favorite fight scenes, too.

      1. I think you got the major points. I don’t write them often enough (maybe one a year) to be an expert. When I do, I tend to do what you said. (Fast. Short. Powerful.) Reading fight scenes you love is always a great idea.

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