Friday, 6 July 2012

Harts Change - Some scribbley bits

What's all this then?

It just so happens that a while back I posted some notes on amputation since I'd been researching it for Harts Change.  The main character, Evelyn Oneeye is minus a hand and her dog is down to three legs, the correct name for this condition is tripawd but that probably won't make it into the book.

For your perusal I offer a few drafts that I've been working on and, at this point in time, are outdated enough to be considered safe to post.


In order for some of this mess to make sense you might need some background so here goes.

  • Thanks to the first outbreak of real magic in many centuries the shape of humanity has been altered to a more Cervidae form.
  • Evelyn Oneeye escaped from Baron Trailin, had her life saved by Leonia and subsequently escaped again after it was revealed that she was wearing Leonia’s adoration which, if left unchecked, would have left her little more than a slave with no real will of her own.
  • Now she has managed to make her way to Lilytown, a small village with no survivors.
  • As always anything that looks like this are notes for things that need to done or, more usually, fixed.  I've left them in because I'm too lazy to take them out.
  • ...Now Read On

  1. Saving the Dog:
    [In which Evelyn and Straggletaggle meet and love blooms.  Well not really, but there is a heart involved.]

A little ways up the track out of town she hears sound of dogs and comes to a fork in the road with a crude sign which was nothing more than a dog burnt into a tree.  She follows the path towards what used to be a mine.

The dog fighting pits are a long abandoned mine that have been refitted into a series of pits for fighting dogs.  As with everywhere else in the place there are a number of corpses and the main building has collapsed on itself due to a large crack in the earth.  The smaller buildings have undergone similar damage but they aren't important.  Already some of the dogs have gone wild although none are attacking her just yet.

The large dog thing, she had to call it a dog because tables didn't move and ponies didn't bark. “At least they never did before today” barked and with its hackles and hair up surely it wasn't as big as it appeared, chained to the middle is being harassed by a pair of lean fighting dogs who have managed to get free.

[nw: It looked like it had some wolf in it. Judging by its size it looked like it had some horse in it as well.
To judge by the colouring she would say that it had some wolf in it but to judge by the size she would say that it had some horse in it as well.

This works as filler but not at this point I think]

It is easy to see that the dog is a veteran of the ring and knows enough to properly conserve its strength But with patience the smaller dogs are wearing him down.  Evelyn drives these dogs off with some well-placed rocks and the pair slink off in search of easier prey.  The dog growls low as she approaches, straining at the end of the chain in an effort to get to her.

A bucket of almost solid ice and the corpses of several dogs told her everything.
The welljudge. ultimate fate of any animal, champion or not, who had outlived their usefulness.  The heavy chains tethered the dogs to each other and for one to reach the water the others had to die.
“Welljudge” she spat in disgust at the sight “Fucking barbarians” [They could have given you lot a clean death but that's far too easy”]

Again the dog lunged madly at her when she got close, pulled up short by the length of his chain and the weight of his dead partner.
“You don't want to do that” she pushed a bucket of ice water into his range with the spear.  The dog worried the spear a little but then fell onto the bucket of water with enthusiasm.  His stumpy half tail moving slowly from side to side and his eyes never leaving hers sent a mixed message.
“I'm going to set you free” she pulled at the heavy pin that held the chain fast to the post “because I know what it is to live in the chains of another.  But know that if you go for me then I'll kill you and let your friends finish you off”

The clap of the chain against the stone startled the dog into movement with only long habit pulling him up short before the chain could tighten against his throat.  Realizing that something was finally different it turned around on itself once and once again before running off with a distinctive limp and the length of chain trailing behind him.
“There's my good deed for the day” Evelyn mused and examined the spear where the dog had bitten but was distracted by an angry roar and the renewed sounds of fighting.

The pit bear was clearly on his last legs but sill the king although judging by the amount of scars that showed through the thin and mangy fur it was a kingship that had been hard in the earning and harder still in the keeping.

Its range was restricted by a heavy chain that bound it to the pits central post and the heavy shackle had rubbed at the bear’s leg until it was raw and festering.

The dog darted in and out, confusing his old opponent and using his greater speed as an advantage.  But a heavy blow from the bear slammed it into the wall where it lay motionless but still breathing.  The bear roared out in his victory and reached out for his challenger, pulling him in by the very chain that had once held him prisoner.

Without giving herself time to think Evelyn advanced and dashed in to bury the spear into the bear’s chest.  It wasn't ever going to be the cleverest of moves as the beast, maddened with rage and pain, took no notice of the wound [that, in a lesser creature, would have been mortal] that should have been mortal and his large claws drew blood as they raked at her hindquarters.

But even as it looked down at her the fighting dog, ignoring the blood that ran freely from its own wound arose and attacked again.  This time getting past the claws and savaging the thick fur.

Maddened as with rage and pain the monster took no notice of the wound that should have been mortal his claws drew blood as they raked at her hindquarters.  It turned to focus on her and that was a mistake because the dog, ignoring the blood that gushed freely from its own wound, rose from the ground and attacked again.  This time managing to get past the claws and terrible snapping jaws to sink its teeth into the bears thick neck, ignoring the spray of blood to savage it until both combatants collapsed onto the frozen ground.

With her spear next to useless she draws the chisel and makes certain that the bear is finally dead and although the dog growls when she approaches it does not have the strength for anything else.

“You're a brave one dog” she stroked his head and then reached for the knife “it's not right you should end like this”  the dog flinched as the blade touched a raw section of skin but something stopped her from pushing it any deeper and putting the beast out of his misery.
“I'll be cursed if I just let you die without even trying”

The strong ribs had already cracked but with her hands as slippery with blood and gore as they were pulling them apart was difficult, it was worth it to expose the heart and cut it free of the body.  With the bucket leaking blood and the dog slung across her back she turned back to the village.

[nw: Evelyn’s injuries need to be talked up.  They start hurting when she tries to move the dog back to the smiths house]

  1. The dogs surgery:
    Where the dog tries hard to go through deaths doggy door and Evelyn tries just as hard to stop him]

A series of frantic scrambles for even the most basic of equipment while the dog lay, far too still on top of the table. His lifeblood staining the spiral message that she had left just a short time before.

The last of the smiths clean clothing were quickly sacrificed for bandages and her night was a mixture of blood, sinew and endless stitchery.

“Those other curs wouldn't have survived a bear.  But you did because you're a champion and I didn't free you only to stand by and see them throw their life away.  So I'll make you a deal fighter dog.  I'll put you back together and you don't die on me alright?”

Her torrent of words and emotions eventually settled down into a simple mumbled litany but as she spoke her work was steadily progressing the burnt shell of the tavern was scoured and an unbroken clay bottle of powerful spirits was recovered from the hands of the dead who had no more need of it.

The rough spirits cleaned the wounds easily enough although the dog growled and thrashed around whenever it hit his exposed flesh and then whimpered in pained agony as she cauterized them with the iron poker or pulled out more of her hair so that she could sew him back together.

The most serious wounds were from the bears heavy mauling and how this hadn't finished him off she couldn't say but by the time she'd finished the stitches stretched across his large chest and gently curved around the neck before ending in the same small flower that her mother had used all those years ago.
[nw: the flower behind the ear is a plot point.  It identifies the dog as hers when she encounters Glino the Dogman outside Tardeel]

“Don't move!” she ordered as he twisted round to look at what she was doing “if you break these things my mother is going to come back from the dead and tell you off something horrible and, none of us want's that.  It was hard enough getting me to sew at the best of times.  Now let’s have a look at that leg of yours”

  1. The leg amputation:

[In which the title explains what happens better than I can.]
Calling it a leg was generous; The discoloured skin branched out towards the thigh while the old wound itself oozed oily green pus.
“Bastards just left you to die” mangy fur came away easily from the flea ravaged wound. “sorry about this my friend”  the sharp blade of the chisel sliced open the healthy flesh above the mess of the dogs leg and then she was forced to hold him down, get sprayed in the face with buckets of blood and avoid the powerful snapping jaws by the narrowest of margins.

“Calm down!  I am trying to help you!” he growled a few moments longer but lay back on the table, exhausted once more.  “that things going to have to come off. I can't save it and you'll be dead within a week if it doesn't”

Maybe the dog understood, maybe it was just drained of his strength but he lowered his large head to the table top and allowed her work to continue.

The heavy blade of the axe bit deeply into the table but was quickly forgotten while she held the beast down and was again drenched in his blood.  Again her job was stitching and cleaning with the one hand and holding the dog down with her stump.

As the winter sun surrendered the sky to the freshly born pair of moons the dog raised its head and licked at her cheek weakly.  She carefully untied the wide belt that had served as the tourniquet and rubbed uselessly at her own stained arms.  It was over at last, what was supposed to be on the inside was more or less back on the inside and that bad leg had been taken care of with an axe and rather nice piece of blanket stitch
that she was secretly proud of. 

  1. The Ghostly Visitor:
    [A visit by a spirit who gives her friendly advice]

The distinctive ring of the smiths hammer finally roused her enough to bring her back to the world.
“Hello?” she called “who's there?”
Her path was lit by the moonlight, it didn't need to be since the forge was lit up as though it were the middle of the day while the smith pounded away on a glowing piece of metal

“Evening” he didn't turn away from his work but motioned to the bellows “care to make yourself useful?”
“Aren't you supposed to be dead?” she pulled hard at the bulky things
“That's right.  Thanks to you so is Monster” he thrust the metal in the heart of the fire and motioned for her to pull the bellows harder “really should have a bigger forge for this kind of thing”
“Who was Monster?  The bear?”
“Damned thing was a man killer long before those stupid bastards managed to catch him.  Then they had to put him in the fighting pits because he was bound to die and someone thought they could make some money off him first.  That might actually be the only good thing to come out of all this”

The metal, now glowing white hot was returned to the anvil where it was worked as though it were no more than simple potters clay.
“Why are you here?”
“I'm here because you went to the trouble of looking me over which is more than any priest ever did in my life.  But I'm really here to tell you that it's time for you to leave Lillytown”

“What? Why?”
“You killed the bear which gave you a little leeway.  But I've exhausted myself trying to keep them from you”
“Them who?”
“Them” the smith gestured towards the open doors where the ever changing faces of the dead watched her with a myriad of different expressions. “this village is no place for one such as you”
“A thief?”
Alive.  We could not survive the turning and so we sleep away the long night.  You've been with us for far too long as it is.  It isn't healthy”
“But the dog”
“”Straggletaggle will survive.  You do good work though I have to admit I helped out as best I could.  He'll look like a patchwork blanket for a while but now it is time for you to return to the beginning”

Without warning the Smith, or the ghost of the smith vanished and the iron snowflake that he had been so intent on making pass through her fingers and shattered against the stone floor.

The heavy weight of the dog’s head lay across her own and he growled at her first few tentative movements before allowing her up but continuing to stare into the corner of the room.
“My Straggletaggle” she murmured and together they turned to face the first rays of the sun that shone through the windows
She woke to find the dog standing over her defensively and staring into the corner of the room. 

She strokes the fur gently, being careful not to disturb the wounds or antagonize the beast but it isn't long before it runs out of strength and lies down on the floor.
“My Straggletaggle” she stroked his heavy fur until the first rays of the sun shone through the holes in the door.

In the dawns light the village seemed more desolate than ever.  Those few corpses that had not been covered with last night’s snows stared vacantly at nothing.  While she watched a few of the fighting dogs, already half wild, slunk past.  They eyed her warily but made no move to attack.
“He was right Strag.  This place has nothing left to offer either of us”  With visible effort the dog joined her side and the pair limped slowly down the forest road that eventually to Lutins Barony, her boss and her son.


  1. This was really very good! Your research on amputation paid! I really like Straggletaggle's backstory. Very good read!

  2. It's certainly gruesome but fascinating to learn about the various techniques that have been developed through the ages.