As my outline for Born von Burlau approaches 75 pages, I’m becoming increasingly anxious to actually begin writing it. I can understand the logic of mapping out a series before ever writing a word, but I have to confess that outlining a story is not nearly as fun or satisfying as actually writing one. So today I’m breaking the rules a bit and playing with my first chapter of the first manuscript. I’m planning it as a series of three books. I can’t wait to write the rest! Hope you enjoy it.
The Countess of Ardendoth vs. the Empress of Ireland
The Countess Hilda von Ardendoth was enjoying her dream wedding, when her world was quite literally turned upside down. One moment, she could see Peter waiting for her at the altar. The next, she was tossed ass over ankles from her bed amid an avalanche of pillows and blankets. She bounced over the cabin floor in her nightgown like a lacy tumbleweed. She could hear her maid, Elli, shouting some nonsense about a collision, but she could not see her in the pitch dark of the cabin. When at last she came to rest against the wall, Hilda cursed the girl, almost instinctively, as though she, rather than the sea itself, was to blame for their predicament.
The unhappy servant was already wearing a life vest and dragging along a spare for her mistress. “The ship’s going down, my lady,” she said, fighting to keep her balance as the floor fell away beneath her feet. “We need to get above deck right away!”
“Don’t be stupid, girl,” Hilda said. “Look at me! I can’t go above deck in my nightgown.” She attempted to stand, but could not disentangle herself from the bed linens. “Get over here and help me up,” she demanded, holding a hand out from her place on the floor.
The maid glanced longingly in the direction of the door to the main corridor before doing as she was told. The two women stumbled and fumbled together for several long moments before regaining their balance.
“Where is my gown?” Hilda screamed, her tone more angry than afraid. “What do I employ you for if not to help me dress? I can’t be seen above deck like this,” she said, indicating her lace nightgown.
“There’s no time for that,” the maid insisted, her voice now positively panic-stricken. “Don’t you understand? The ship’s going down right now!” As if on cue, she felt icy cold water seep around her ankles and creep up her shins.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the countess snapped, although the maid was sure she felt it too. “Ships this size take hours-not minutes-to sink.” Despite the conviction in her voice, she seemed to be arguing more with the water than her servant. The frigid water was indifferent to her protest.
The girl let out a terrified scream and tried to flee, but Hilda held fast to her arm. “I have not excused you,” she said, now returning her attention to her maid. “I will not die here on this damned boat. I am going to marry the Baron Peter von Burlau two weeks from tomorrow, come hell or high water.” She said this without a trace of irony. But no sooner had the words left her mouth, than the sea itself seemed to call her bluff. What was left of the ship shuddered.
The maid tried desperately to pull her arm free. “Let me go, you horrible cow!” she screamed, all propriety now falling away in her struggle to escape. “I believe you’ll get your hell and your high water, but I’m guessing it will be Miss Elsa who gets the Baron.” Ellie’s eyes had adjusted to the dark and the reaction she now observed on her mistress’s face was one of pure rage. She knew in that moment that if the water didn’t get her, the countess would. There was a giddy, deranged quality to her next taunt. “Wouldn’t surprise me if he seeks out Elsa’s body even before they find yours.”
That did it. The countess released her grip and made to slap the girl, but Ellie was too quick. She ducked and lunged blindly in the direction of the door, flung it open, and was knocked backward off her feet as the water rushed into the cabin.
The countess, thrown forward by the momentum of her unblocked jab and the pitch of the sinking ship, had landed in a heap on the floor. Although her maid didn’t live to see it, the look on her mistress’s face as the wave engulfed her was beyond astonishment. She didn’t even appear angry anymore. It was a look of bemused-even indignant-disbelief. How could mere water claim the life of the Countess Hilda von Ardendoth?