A Prologue

Writers' groups will all tell you that everybody hates a prologue. I still like this one from my second novel, Ghosts of the Heart:

Gavin Hudson narrowed his eyes against the glare of the sun. He could never quite accustom himself to the brightness of the overworld. Still, he'd been waiting for this moment for some time. She was back. He was certain of it. This time, the ascent would be worth the effort.

Alice Fleming looked to be worth any amount of effort. Her French hood, simple for a woman of Elizabeth's court, lacked pearls and even the colored glass "jewels" which edged the hoods of many fashionable ladies in waiting. Instead, a simple ribbon of red satin edged the fall of black velvet which covered her red-brown hair and framed a face that Hudson found delightfuly delicious.

Delicious. Yes. That was the word. Alice Fleming looked just delicious. He had been too startled the first time to pay much attention to her looks. Now they added zest to her appeal. Like fruit fresh from the vine. Timeless.

And she would be ripe for the picking as soon as her newly betrothed sailed off to Brittany. Most of her companions at court were too busy currying favor with the queen or others close to her to console a maiden when news of her beloved's death reached these shores. Which it would, soon enough. He had made certain of it.

So he couldn't help but smile when she pulled another red ribbon from a small leather pouch. The ferry carrying soldiers to ships waiting in Thames Estuary would pass beneath London Bridge at any moment. The shops and houses that lined the bridge closed off any direct access to a view of the river, so Alice and her companions had crowded onto a small balcony at the rear of a public house where they had been escorted to send off husbands and lovers.

Hudson's post on the Waterman's Stairs gave him a perfect view as the boat passed under one of the arches. Flowers and ribbons showered down on the soldiers who stood, craning their necks for a last look at loved faces before they went off to fight the Spanish who, it was feared, wanted to establish a foothold in Bretagne for an expedition into England.

One red ribbon in particular drifted into the faint seaward breeze but missed its mark, landing beside the ferry, its drift in the current too slow to stay with the boat. Hudson smiled at the dismay that shadowed Alice's lovely face. He imagined those green-flecked hazel eyes pool with sudden tears and thought of ways he could evoke this moment, ways in which he could then comfort her.

But as Hudson watched, her dismay faded, replaced by a shy smile of joy. She lifted her hand in a gesture of farewell. He followed the line of that gesture to where a gallant young soldier, whose long black locks trailed from under a black velvet cap, stood at the rear of the ferry. The soldier had drawn his sword, and from its tip hung the red ribbon, fished from the water. Hudson frowned. The soldier bowed to his lady and plucked the ribbon from the sword, kissed it, and tucked it into his brown leather jerkin.

Little good that will do either of them, Hudson thought. Now it is my turn.