" Damen found himself alongside Jord. ‘If you want to live, ride fast.’
White-faced, Jord took one look at his expression and said, ‘He’s not coming.’
‘We’re outnumbered,’ said Damen, ‘but if you run, you might still make it out.’
‘If we’re outnumbered, what are you going to do?’
Damen drove his horse onward, ready to take up his own place on the front line.
He said, ‘Fight. "
" I'm glad you're here,' said Laurent. 'I always thought that I'd have to face my uncle alone.'
He turned to look at Damen, and their eyes met.
'You're not alone,' said Damen.
Laurent didn't answer, but he did give a smile, and reached out to touch Damen, wordlessly. "
7 " (Dorothy) Dunnett is the master of the invisible, particularly in her later books. Where is this tension coming from? Why is this scene so agonizing? Why is this scene so emotional? Tension and emotion pervade the books, sometimes almost unbearably, yet when you look at the writing, at the actual words, there's nothing to show that the scene is emotional at all. I think it is because Dunnett layers her novels, meaning that each event is informed by what has come before (and what came before that, and what came before that) but Dunnett doesn't signpost in the text that this is happening, leaving it to the reader to bring the relevant information to the table "
" Damen said, with helpless honesty, "Laurent, I am your slave."
The words laid him open, truth exposed in the space between them. He wanted to prove it, as though, inarticulate, he could make up for what divided them. He was aware of the shallowness of Laurent's breath, it matched his own; they were breathing each other's air.
He reached out, watching for any hesitation in Laurent's eyes. The touch he offered was accepted as it had not been last time, fingers gentle on Laurent's jaw, thumb passing over his cheekbone, soft. Laurent's controlled body was hard with tension, his rapid pulse urgent for flight, but he closed his eyes in the last seconds before it happened. Damen's palm slid over Laurent's warm nape; slowly, very slowly, making his height an offering, not a threat, Damen leaned in and kissed Laurent on the mouth.
The kiss was barely a suggestion of itself, with no yielding of the rigidity in Laurent, but the first kiss became a second, after a fraction of parting in which Damen felt the flicker of Laurent's shallow breathing against his own lips.
It felt, in all the lies between them, as if this was the only true thing. It didn't matter that he was leaving tomorrow. He felt remade with the desire to give Laurent this: to give him all he would allow, and to ask for nothing, this careful threshold something to be savoured because it was all Laurent would let himself have. "
" Nicaise had picked up a gilt three-pronged fork, but had paused before sampling the dish in order to speak. The fear he'd shown of Damen at the ring seemed to still be there. His knuckles, clenched around the fork, were white.
'It's all right,' said Damen. He spoke to the boy as gently as he could. 'I'm not going to hurt you.'
Nicaise stared back at him. His huge blue eyes were fringed like a whore's, or like a doe's. Around them, the table was a coloured wall of voices and laughter, courtiers caught up in their own amusements, paying them no attention.
'Good,' said Nicaise, and stabbed the fork viciously into Damen's thigh under the table.
Even through a layer of cloth, it was enough to make Damen start, and instinctively grab the fork, as three drops of blood welled up.
'Excuse me a moment,' Laurent said smoothly, turning from Torveld to face Nicaise.
'I made your pet jump,' said Nicaise, smugly.
Not sounding at all displeased: 'Yes, you did.'
'Whatever you're planning, it's not going to work.'
'I think it will, though. Bet you your earring.'
'If I win, you wear it,' said Nicaise.
Laurent immediately lifted his cup and inclined it toward Nicaise in a little gesture sealing the bet. Damen tried to shake the bizarre impression that they were enjoying themselves.
Nicaise waved an attendant over and asked for a new fork. "