Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Highland Scot's Version of a Multipurpose Tool

The Scottish Dirk.  Why Dallan MacDonald never leaves home without one. 

Dallan peered intently around the edge of the aisle, then looked at Lany and brought a finger to his lips before returning his attention to the sounds coming from around the corner.
 “Little Bo Peep?” The voice was mocking, dangerous. “Where is your sheep? Send it out to play with us.”
 Lany cringed at the words, and took a cautious step forward to stand next to Dallan whose eyes were narrowed to two bright green slits, his jaw tight, nostrils flared. Lany knew he no longer searched. Dallan was on the hunt, stalking his prey, and it wasn’t the Maiden.
 “Oh look, a little lost sheep with tender white meat, all for us to devour. Can’t wait to eat this young little sheep, too bad we’ve only an hour.”
   Dallan reached his right hand behind him, down the back of his loose sweatshirt, and silently pulled a dirk out from underneath.  Lany grimaced. So that’s why Dallan had worn his hair unbound today, he thought to himself—to hide the weapon better. It also explained why he’d wanted to rip the elastic off the sweatshirt last night.
 Dallan’s eyes narrowed even further. Lany tapped the Scot on the shoulder and he abruptly turned his head around, eyes intense, brow furrowed in warning.
 Lany mouthed the word ‘No’, indicating the dirk with a nod of his head. Dallan remained expressionless and turned his attention back around the corner. Now he heard nothing. Only silence. He began to move.
 Lany grabbed him. “Dallan, wait,” he whispered urgently. “This isn’t seventeenth century Scotland. You can’t just kill someone and be on your way.”
 “Quiet, man,” Dallan’s voice was low. “She’s running again.”
 They both froze and listened intently to the light footsteps fleeing down the next aisle. This section of the library was like a huge maze, the shelves and aisles all connecting in a pattern. The problem was, neither Dallan nor Lany knew it well enough to know where they were, not to mention the Maiden and the unexpected company which lurked nearby.
 The footsteps stopped just as another set, heavier, could be heard in another aisle, and yet another. They, whoever they were, had split up to either try to box the Maiden in or simply flush her out into the open.
 Dallan took a step forward and Lany again grabbed him and got his face right in the Scot’s ear, albeit on tiptoe. “No killing! If you do we’ll all be in a lot of trouble!”
 Dallan turned to face him, narrowed his eyes, flared his nostrils, then spun away.  He crept down a side aisle, stopped abruptly, and motioned Lany to do the same. He listened intently, and then looked to Lany, a wicked smile on his face.
 Lany glared back and folded his arms across his chest.
 Dallan merely winked at the Assistant Councilor as he turned to the wall of books at his left. He brought a hand to the shelf at his own eye level, paused then moved his hand to the shelf below and began to quietly shove books aside.
 Lany watched nervously as Dallan reached into the hole he’d created and started pulling books from the shelf in the next aisle over. Comprehension dawning, Lany tiptoed to the opposite end of their aisle to carefully peek around the corner. Sure enough, what must be one of the thugs stood up against the shelves. The young man had a long ponytail that swished every time he moved his head to scan the aisle. He probably waited for the Maiden to come running by.
 Lany turned and glanced back into his own aisle. Dallan looked at him, flipped his dirk in the air once and smiled broadly. Lany gulped as quietly as he could and waved his hands frantically. “No blood, no wounding, no killing!” He mouthed.
 Lany got an inspiration. “However,” he added, eyebrows arching mischievously, “you can humiliate them.”
 Dallan smiled and reached through the hole in the books. Lany gulped and carefully peered around the corner. Thug Number Two’s head was turned away from him at the moment. Lany switched his position and looked back to Dallan, who had his left arm in the hole, the dirk in his right hand poised and ready for use. The Weapons Master’s eyes  intent on his prey.
 Lany nearly gasped at the audible thud that followed, and prayed no on else heard.
 Almost afraid to look, Lany leaned back far enough to see Dallan, dirk still poised in his right hand and what looked like a long piece of hair in his left. The Scot quickly strode past and tossed the severed ponytail at him.
 Lany caught the hair, looked at it, glanced at the unconscious form in the next aisle and sighed audibly. He then threw the hair over his shoulder and trotted after Dallan. “Well, that takes care of humiliating that one.” 

From Time Masters Book One; The Call copyright 2012.

It's one thing to see the weapons you're writing about in books, perhaps even as part of a Highland games participant dressed in full Highland rigout. But to then actually get to see and handle the weapon itself is quite another matter.
 I went into a Scottish store in Portland to see if I could get my hands on a MacDonald plaid to utilize for book signings and events. The ladies of the shop were quite happy to help me out and made sure I had the correct plaid for Dallan's time period. (Seeing the illustration of Dallan didn't hurt the fun they were having in doing so either!). Whilst busy with Tartan catalogues and fabric samples, I noticed something within the glass counter beneath the folded pieces of tartan. A Scottish Dirk. The hilt alone was scary. Easily grasped by a man, not so easily as held by a woman. The shop keeper took it out for me and showed me the craftsmanship of the hilt and sheath. Though not an antique, it was still superbly crafted. I, of course, asked her to unsheath it. She pulled the blade from its cover and the steel flashed more brightly than I imagined it would. It was one of the most wicked blades I had ever seen. To then think of the scene I just shared with you, and picture Dallan reaching back and pulling something like that out from under a sweatshirt, well ... no wonder Lany freaked!
When I wrote the scene so very long ago, (I wrote Time Masters back in 1994) I was more concerned with measurments than anything else. Dallan, at 6'6", had to have a long enough and broad enough build to pull the stunt off, and after seeing the blade, I knew I had calculated correctly. But again, to see such a wicked and extrememly deadly looking thing was something else all together. My hats off to the Scots for so handling such a weapon. And to think in the next scene Dallan is picking at his finger nails with it!
I now own the dirk pictured above.  I do not however clean my finger nails with it!

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