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Here are a couple of scene bits that didn't get into Heart Duel. Since this is a rough draft, not cleaned up in any way, you can see how I write. ;) Note the comments to my critique group. Also note the * Now I use ** when I can't think of a good word and one of the last things I do on my rough draft is search for the ** so I can revise or cut the sentence.

Holm tossed the brush aside and combined swearing with a cleansing spell as ink flew from the brush to dab his desk, the carpet, the drapes, and his own clothes. Littered around his desk were crumpled sheets of papyris, some with bold strokes, some thin lines. All flawed.

He stared at his hands. When had he lost the facility to shape a rune-character in the Chinju manner? It had been several years since he had practiced, and now nothing approached what he'd once been able to do.

He flexed his fingers and banished the papyris to the recycler. He paced, muttering to himself. He wasn't even sure of the glyphs he wanted to fashion.

He'd studied some of the old style books. The masters had been able to weave an entire poem of love or death or spring or triumph into the positioning of a few, beautiful symbols. He had once mastered the drawing, at least. But not now.

Now his hands trembled from love, or lust, distraction, or sheer exhaustion, and always at the wrong time -- turning "loving" into "horror."

Or perhaps over the last few years he'd spent too much time with broadsword, dagger, main gauche, or blaser in his hands instead of a brush.
Holm wanted to express himself as eloquently and beautifully as past masters, and knew he couldn't.

After long thought, he'd chosen three symbols -- Family, Heart, Forever, and intertwined the lines until they read: "You are my loving Heart, the core of my being and my Family, come to me and we shall bond forever." {ANY OTHER WORDS, PHRASE SUGGESTED BY MY CRITIQUE GROUP WILL BE CAREFULLY CONSIDERED}. It was sincere but not exact enough for him and not passionate enough, either, and he wanted the passion of his love for her, the pledge of his very breath to her, to pulse off the page. He wanted to capture her attention, so she'd be unable to wrench her glance away. If she accepted his HeartGift, willingly and without knowing it was a HeartGift, he could legally claim her as his own. When the HeartGift was accepted, so was the mate. The act of acceptance was recognized in Celtan law as an official engagement, that all must honor, and that included FirstFamily GreatHouses and GrandHouses -- the Hawthorns and the Hollys.
So the gift must be potent.

He found his lips curving wryly. Isn't that what every person who made a HeartGift tried to craft? Something the adored could not refuse.

Stories were told of such epic presents. But now that Holm really thought on it, the stories were always set in the distant past. Any acceptance of HeartGifts that Holm had personally known had been almost a mere formality between the couple.

Danith Mallow, now Danith D'Ash, hadn't accepted the gifts until after she'd agreed to marry T'Ash.

Holm needed to talk to someone. T'Ash would just grumble and agree with whatever Holm said about HeartGifts, but wouldn't give any acceptable advice on wooing, couldn't give any acceptable advice. For all Holm loved the man like a brother, T'Ash was completely ignorant about relations between men and women. Holm was sure the only way T'Ash had managed to win his HeartMate, Danith, was through sheer dumb luck.

Holm shivered at the thought of leaving such a vital portion of his life up to sheer luck.


After Holm left, Lark stared at his calligraphy for a long, long time. The symbols intertwined in a bold dance that spoke to her very soul. Now and again, she reached for it, but pulled back. If she held it, caressed the smooth wooden frame as she liked to caress her lover, it would spin her mind to Holm's and they would link. He'd know the gift, and he, had triumphed over her mind, her common sense, her sense* of Family. His HeartGift would be accepted, and he could claim her before the law as his HeartMate, and the balance of power in all of Druida would shift in unknown and terrible* ways.


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