The Red And The Grey is a novel plotted by Patrick Wilson and written by Mark Wilson and Patrick Wilson. Coming autumn, 2019.
The following excerpt is unedited and is copyright to Mark Wilson and Patrick Wilson Copyright, 2019.
Hitting The Target
“Like this, Alfie.”
Shifting the young squirrel’s hold, Brielle loosened his right hand, rotating his entire grip, and then his left, pinching his fingers tighter around the bark cradle of the hand-made catapult.
“Try it now,” she instructed him gently.
Taking a step back, she whispered to him, willing the small kit on. “Breathe, and release.”
A second later she watched the Alfie’s chest deflate and his forearms tense as he drew tension into the weapon.
Alfie had already attempted seven shots, compared to three that most of his classmates had taken, to hit the target. Small for his age, he had crafted a gorgeous catapult from willow twigs and stretchy vines. One of the finest Brielle had seen for a kit his age. His hands, despite dogged hours of practice, still struggled to summon the strength needed to make best use of his superb weapon.
Brielle held her own breath willing the kit on. Alfie’s gaze narrowed.
His class mates, cheered and all tension disappeared from the small kit’s body. Ears twitching, he turned to look up at his teacher.
“Thanks, Mrs Tearmann,” he grinned.
Brielle offered him a smile of her own. Placing her arm around him, she drew him closer that only he might hear her words.
“Determination, Alfie. And focus,” she whispered. Behind her, Brielle’s own children mouthed the mantra, affectionately mocking their mother.
She had repeated the mantra to the group countless times over weeks. Weeks in which the little kit had steadfastly practiced despite so many failures.
Alfie nodded silently. Basking in his little victory.
“Not bad for a runt!”
Brielle whipped her head around to admonish the owner of the gruff voice.
Locking her eyes on their guard, Lars, she bored them into the Grey.
Beside her, Alfie’s little body sagged, his elation at his small triumph crushed.
“Mind your own business, Lars,” Brielle instructed the Grey.
She bobbed a nod down at Alfie. “Any one of these kits is a better shot than you are.”
Lars, lounging on a mossy tree stump beside his partner, waved her off lazily. “Greys don’t need those ridiculous weapons. “Above it, we are,” Lars grinned.
Infuriated by his casual disdain, Brielle felt heat rise in her cheeks and ears.
“Incapable, is what Greys are,” Brielle replied.
Lars rose to his feet, covering the ground between them faster than Brielle could follow the movement. Finding the large Grey stood over her, pressing his bulk against her chest, Brielle ignored her instincts to back away. She lifted her chin and pushed right back with her full weight.
The kits in her class gasped. “You’ve no right to…”
Lars silenced her with a lightning fast slap to her cheek that sent the Red sprawling to the forest floor.
Dazed, Brielle struggled focus her eyes, but sensed that Tod had placed himself between her and the Grey. Forcing her eyes to obey, Brielle cast her glance over the kits in her class. Most of them had stayed back. Her eldest daughter, Chase, stood, her arms wide, corralling and comforting the younger Reds. Chase’s little sister, Bendis, amongst them.
Lars, on his hind legs, had risen up to his full height, assessing Tod as he stood glaring up at the Grey. Eyes darting from Brielle to Tod, Lars’ face broke into a mocking grin.
“Brave for a Red, boy.”
Enraged, Tod dashed at the Grey, right arm cocked to deliver a blow.
Lars laughed loudly as he delivered a brutal right fist into the kit’s face.
Tod’s nose crumpled under the grey’s fist. Flung back several feet by the impact, the young Red landed on his back next to his mother.
“Or simply stupid,” Lars sneered, looking over his shoulder for approval from his fellow guard.
Glor, an older grey on duty with Lars, who remained laid on the tree stump, showed only a passing interest in Lars’’ scuffle, offering the junior guard a half-hearted smile.
Still partly-stunned, Brielle rolled Tod over that she might see her son’s face. Moving Tod’s hands from his nose, Brielle found her son bloodied; his eyes tear and hate-filled. The kit was furious, but he was also petrified.
Placing both of her hands on his cheeks, she told him, “Calm, Tod. Today’s not the day.” Observing him, Brielle watched the fire in his eyes dim slightly.
Rising to her feet, she rounded on Lars.
“He’s only ten years old, for maker’s sake!”
The same disdainful grin playing on his lips, Lars cocked his head, regarding the young downed Red.
“Big for a ten year old,” he noted with amusement. “Big enough square up to a Grey, he’s big enough to learn that it’s a bad idea,” he informed Brielle.
Moving his eyes down Brielle’s body, Lars cocked an eyebrow. His expression, playful, his eyes bottomless in their scorn.
“You darker Reds think that just because you resemble us, you can take liberties. Remember your place. You’re beneath us.”
Lars jutted his chin toward Tod. “Teach your kit some manners. Or I’ll do it for you.”
Waving her off with a hand, Lars turned away from the teacher, returning to his spot on the tree stump.
Staring after the Grey, Brielle took several moments to rein in her anger, before turning back to her son. Crouching on one knee, she helped Tod to sit up.
“Pinch your nose here,” she instructed him, placing his fingers at the correct spot. “It will clot in a few minutes
Brielle’s eyes flicked up to meet those of her eldest daughter. Well doneshe nodded, silently conveying her thanks to Chase for caring for the younger kits in her class.
Returning her attention to Tod, she helped the young Red to his feet.
A chilling scream-bark broke into her intended words.
Lars and Glor shot to their feet. Noses sniffing at the gentle breeze, ears rotating to locate the direction of the scream.
“Pine martens, Lars” said, his voice low. Glor nodded once and both Greys tore up the bank of an oak, leaving the group of Reds alone in the clearing.
Instinctively, Brielle’s class of Reds gathered around her and Tod. Tod pinched harder at his nose with one hand, the other subconsciously, uselessly wiping at the blood on his chest fur.
Assisting Chase in gathering her class around her, Brielle whispered, “They smell the blood.”