Hey, hey, hey...It's Monday and a new clash begins! We received numerous excellent submissions for this category and had a very difficult time selecting our top two. After cycling the blind submissions through our staff, we agreed--these two excerpts nailed it.
Now it is up to you. Which excerpt will reign as our next Clash of the Titles' Champion? Voting will be open all week, authors will be revealed this Friday, and our new COTT Champion will be announced on the following Friday along with two book winning readers. There are three ways you can be entered into the drawing: leave a comment with your name and email, post a link to your fb wall then send us the link, and/or vote for your favorite.
Kaitlin slipped past the barricades and pushed through the crowds. Heavy smoke made it hard to catch her breath. Nothing could stop her scream when she saw her apartment building engulfed in flames.
She scanned the lines of blackened faces. Her family wasn't there. Her gaze was drawn to the building, to the raging mingling of fire and life. Kaitlin prayed her family would come out. No one exited -- the agony of her thoughts cut her like a well-sharpened saber. Looking up, her thoughts became flesh.
Jean Marc stood in the upstairs window holding a bundle. Kaitlin knew, with another slice to her soul, the bundle was Simone. Jean Marc, so quiet, protective, so uneasily riled, yelled. Tormented wails for help rose along with tears of anguish and fear as angry flames licked out behind him.
The knife in Kaitlin's gut pushed through and slit her spine, filleting with cold precision.
Pandemonium reigned around her where men held out their arms, coats, and blankets, and yelled for those Kaitlin loved to jump.
Across the space of the yard, over the din of bells, the cries of man and beast, over the conflagration -- eternity settling between them -- she caught her beloved's eyes. She couldn't read them. Perhaps she could, but couldn't bear to hear the message. Jump, she bade him. He remained at the third floor window, their daughter pressed to his chest. A sparkle of flame in his tear-filled eyes, spoke of things to come and time froze. She closed her eyes for a brief moment to dam the tears and looked up to find him gone.
No one had jumped.
Spurred by inner wells of terror, Kaitlin raced for the doors. She groped for the handle, ignoring the pain. The timbers that secured the awning crashed, splinters of flame flickered like fireflies around her head, and fell to her skirts like droplets of orange rain. She stopped momentarily to brush her skirts and continued past the obstacle. Moving on, ignoring the rush of heat, she screamed for her husband, her child. Her legs ignited with heat, her lungs burned with the smell of seared flesh. She pushed on through the maze of lashing flames, ignoring the screams behind her.
Kaitlin was pulled to an abrupt stop before she could cross the threshold. She fought for release so she could join her family -- in death. She was dragged from the building, thrown to the ground and rolled into the dirt.
Afraid to look at the window and have her fears justified, she closed her eyes against the burning tears. Unaware, as she succumbed to the blackness, whether it was her voice she heard screaming so loudly, so pathetically, or the haunting cries of her husband and child, calling for salvation.
Philip sat numbly in the corner of his cell, oblivious to the dawn light that had filtered into his bleak surroundings. His mind was fixed on his last sight of his young wife, looking scared and small, flanked by soldiers, forbidden to speak to him. He knew it would likely be the last time he ever saw her.
It still astounded him that he was even here in his father's prison, forbidden to communicate with anyone. His father thought him mad or bewitched and would not hear him. Katherine was doomed, he could feel it in the cold dread that sat heavily in the pit of his stomach, and he could do nothing.
He knew Margaret had somehow engineered this mockery of a trial to cover her own infanticide, but still he could not answer why. He believed Katherine's story, knew her tender heart incapable of such a monstrous deed as that of which she had been accused, but even she had no explanation for what Margaret had done. What could Margaret have gained by it?
The low noise of a crowd broke into his thoughts and drew him to the window. The people thronged the streets, pressing against the soldiers who were holding open a pathway through them. The rumble grew until it seemed loud even high up in Philip's prison tower, and then he saw what he had most feared.
There was Katherine being brought along in a cart, tied to a post, barefoot, wearing only her shift. Her face was pale and there was a terror in her eyes that Philip could not bear. And her hair! The long, glorious locks that had hung like spun gold past her knees were gone, shorn as a sign of her excommunication and disgrace. She was truly condemned and he could do nothing.
"No!" He struggled with the bars on the window. "Do not do this! Kate! Kate!" He was drowned out by the jeering crowd.
"Burn, witch!" they taunted. "Die, and be under God's curse!"
Even from where he was, Philip could see she was covered with cuts and bruises from the stones they threw and, as he watched, they spit on her, taking pleasure in her suffering.
"You'll not practice your devil's arts on our Prince Philip after today!"
"Kate!" Philip howled, cursing their misdirected loyalty to him, still grappling uselessly with the bars. "Kate! Kate!"
He did not know if she actually heard him over the din, but she looked up just then and their eyes met.
"Kate!" he cried again, and he stretched his hand down towards her. Her mouth formed his name, but he could not hear her, then a stone caught her in the face and she flinched and turned away. A moment later the cart passed out of his sight and he saw her no more.