Another character excerpt–Siobhan Shaunessy

Another character excerpt–Siobhan Shaunessy

This particular character is from a middle-grade novel I wrote several years ago–the one NaNoWriMo novel I came closest to actually finishing. The story itself takes place in an alternate history, one where much of the Americas were still under colonial rule into the late 1800s and the sciences were just beginning to supersede magic in some areas. I liken it to a mixture of Harry Potter, X-Men, and the gaslamp fantasy Girl Genius with a soupçon of steampunk stirred in. I’ve been editing and rewriting to change the point-of-view from third-person omniscient to third-person limited.

Siobhan is an orphaned girl from Eire, brought to New Anglia by her great-uncle, Father Liam O’Keefe, according to the terms of her grandmother’s will. She is a seer; she literally “sees” things from the past or future of those who touch her skin-to-skin. She also sees ghosts and spirits. Her grandmother enrolled her in a school for mages like herself where she is expected to learn how to control what she can do. At first, she is shy and unsure of herself. Her manners need work and it takes time for her to get into the routine of the household. But as she becomes accustomed to her surroundings, she learns of a plan to use her classmates for profit and insists on acting, even when those around her feel she is too young to help.

Here is an excerpt from Bellecourt Chronicles: the Seer

“When I was young, perhaps.” Geneve put the picture down beside her. “Now, tell me, Father, what does the fit look like?”

Brought back to reality by the question, Liam stood. He glanced at Viveka, who had taken a position beside the couch nearest Siobhan. “She faints, and in her faint, she shakes. Her hands come up like claws…” He took a moment to demonstrate. “…and her head moves back and forth.”

“How long does this last?” Geneve was consulting the letters she had in her hand.

He shook his head. “No more than ten minutes, I would say.”

“And the questions?”

“Sometimes, she asks them about something that turns out to be in their past. Or if she asks a question, and they deny it happened, she tells them to watch for it.” He was stroking his chin as he began to pace. “I have only seen this two or three times since she came into my charge.”

“Your accounts agree with what your sister told me.” Geneve now turned to Siobhan. “Siobhan, when someone touches you, what happens?”

“I… I don’t know,” she replied, hesitantly. She paused, thinking. “It’s like I go somewhere else, and become someone else. The person who touched me. I become them, but I can see things they can’t. It’s like I’m watching, but following them as I watch.” She moistened her lips with her tongue. “It’s hard to explain.”

“And why do you ask the question?”

“Because I want to understand.”

Geneve nodded. “That’s good enough for now.” Standing, she put her papers on the piano bench. “I would like to do a small experiment. As I told you, Viveka here can sense when people are mages and tell us what kind of powers they have. I would like you to let her touch you.” She paused. “But only if you are up to it. If you don’t want to, I won’t make you do this right now. You will have to at some time, but it doesn’t have to be today.”

Siobhan thought for a moment, then nodded. “We can do it now.”

“Good.” Geneve laid one of the sofa’s extra pillows flat. “Since you faint when these things happen, we’ll make you as comfortable as possible. Lie down. Put your head on this pillow here and put your feet up.”

Hesitantly, Siobhan obeyed. She laid down, taking off a glove before folding both hands over her chest. Geneve moved away and Viveka moved in, sitting on the edge of the sofa. She smiled reassuringly at Siobhan. “Now, dearie, I’m just going to take your hand. That’s all.” She reached out with her pudgy hand and gently took one of Siobhan’s in her own.

Something in Siobhan flinched and the world went dark for a moment. She lost track of where she was or with whom. The darkness cleared, like a fog in sunlight, and she found herself running. Her chest heaved from the exertion. Whimpering, she glanced back. A short man, no, two short men with long shaggy beards pursued her. She didn’t understand why they ran after her; she hadn’t done anything, really she hadn’t! But the one in front came closer and closer. Her own pudgy legs were tiring after the long climb into the mountains. She tripped, falling headlong into the carpet of pine needles. Pain shot through her knee but terror spurred her to her feet, tears blurring her vision as she limped along.

Another glance over her shoulder told her the second man had dropped back but the first was gaining on her. Strangely enough, he made no sound; no heavy breathing, no footfalls crunched through the needles or swished through the tall grasses. She could see the tower in the distance. If she could make it there before he caught up, she would be safe.

Her viewpoint changed. Now she could see from above as if she were a bird. Viveka was just a little girl, no bigger than her pursuer. Windblown blonde braids bounced off her back with every hurried step.

Part of Siobhan still ran from the little man in the queer old clothes. Part of her could smell his beer-laden breath as he came up behind her. The bird-like part wanted to cry out a warning, to tell the running part—to tell little girl Viveka how close the old man was. Then she was back in Viveka’s form. The man’s cold hands rested on her shoulder blades and gave her a mighty shove!

Terror had given her speed. The shove all but gave her wings. She flew down the hillside, legs pumping harder and faster than ever before. She wept, she screamed, she couldn’t stop herself. Her breath came in heaves and gasps. Her face grew red. Finally, she slammed into the wooden door of the stone tower, bouncing off, flying through the air and skidding through the grass for a good twenty feet. Her vision blurred and, just as concerned voices mumbled around her, went black.

Siobhan’s eyes snapped open. She drew in a deep breath. Then another. And another. Sitting up, she gasped for breath.

“Take one big breath, hold it. Now, let it out! Slowly!”

Geneve’s command cut through Siobhan’s panic. She followed instructions, holding a big breath and letting it out slowly. Her breathing eased; she flopped back on the pillow, exhausted.

“Saints preserve us.” Liam’s eyes were wide. He crossed himself, still staring at his great-niece. “I have never seen that happen.”

Siobhan turned to Viveka. “Was that one of the little men? The one chasing you? You fell and hurt your knee.”

Viveka stood with a gasp, clapping a hand to her mouth. She nodded. “You—you saw him?”

“I think so. There were two of them at first but one dropped behind. They were chasing you away. You fell on some pine needles. Your braids were yellow. The one who caught you gave you a push and you couldn’t stop running. Then you banged into the door on a tower.

“That—all of that happened. Just the way you tell it. I was just a little girl.”


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