Scaften threw the chalice to the rushes, scattering the dogs, the dregs of the wine arcing and spattering, ominously redolent of blood.
"By the sun, I will stand afraid of no woman", he snarled, the low pitch of his voice turning the defiant words into a threat.
Mardwn sheathed his sword, his eyes never leaving the younger man.
"You would do well to reconsider, my lord". He spoke softly and without emotion, but Scaften was already turning his back, gathering and marshalling his men with the sweep of his cloak, the stench of war already in their nostrils, the taste of death blossoming blackly on their tongues.
This courage, this bloodlust they display now, let us see it come the day of battle, Mardwn thought bitterly as the belligerent men swaggered from The Great Hall. He remained on the loggia, staring out over the wild country that swept below the city walls and thought of Gajha, the woman at the centre of Scaften's malice, the woman Mardwn had known, down through all the long seasons of sun and snow, life and death. He thought of her strong weathered body, unbowed by war, unbroken by child bearing and hardened by suffering and endurance. He thought of her bow reach, her agility even now, all that she could outwit and outrun. He thought of her hair, a river of molten lead chased through with silver. He thought of her eyes and without knowing touched his sword's scabbard, for he knew all that was hidden in their dark shadowing depths.
No mother was she, this woman warrior, untouched and unsoftened by the natural love that the life maker and giver feels towards other living things. She knew no caprices, no fleeting affections, where she loved, she loved deeply. But Mardwn knew also the Gajha who had soft, vulnerable places beneath the carapace, the irrational attachments to certain of her beasts, the helpless passion for some young warrior or other that would overtake her and storm and rage within her, tearing at her until it was assuaged and spent.
Aye, mused Mardwn, if he but knew, he could defeat you by your own desires my lady, easier than any battle he might ride into against you, for there he like as not will lose, driven by powerlust and defeated in turn by his own impetuous desires.
As the pallid spectre of a ghostly dawn crept out from the shelter of night, Mardwn looked away into the west, toward the sea and an unknowable, unseeable future.
page 31 word 14 scabbard
I love this book but I can't it's a beautiful or uplifting read - it's harsh, uncompromising, brutal. But the writing is heaven......if you only ever read one Cormac McCarthy make it Blood Meridian, apocalyptic is all the words I have. And in true CC style, the word scabbard was a bit of stretch, but I did have this bit of an attempt at fantasy hanging around for just such an occasion.