Week 9 Finalist

Author: Cindy Carroll
Category: Time Travel

Scottish Highlands, Present Day

Paige Dorren picked her way through the castle ruins, trying to keep up with Tanya, the tour guide. The woman talked slow, but she could walk faster than most people could run. When she finally caught up to the group, the guide smiled and looked around for more stragglers.

“Is that everyone?”

A few tourists looked around, and mumbles from the group confirmed they were all present and accounted for.

“This here was the laird’s chamber.”

Not much of a chamber yet. The restoration process had resurrected the walls. The door was gone. Grass grew through the mud floor. Would they make it completely authentic when they were done? A glass case in the centre of the room looked modern and out of place. Even with her imagination, she found it hard to picture the chamber in all its former glory.

Everyone crowded in closer. A nice, cozy, family of strangers squeezed into the tiny room, all vying for a premium spot to see anything. The incessant click of cameras created a strobe like affect.

When she felt a splash on her nose, she decided she should have waited until the forecast didn’t call for rain. But she didn’t have a lot of time to sightsee. If she wanted to learn more about her Scottish heritage, now was the only time she would have. Her sister needed her in Glasgow in less than a month. Just the thought of the hospital made her hands shake. She hated hospitals. Always had. But for her sister, she would do anything. Even face the pain she knew was coming.

Fat droplets of water fell from the holes in the roof, splashing onto the herd of tourists. The soft plunk on the mud floor grew steadily louder. She pulled out her umbrella from her purse. All around her, other tourists opened their umbrellas until the entire group was covered.

“The MacIan castle fell, legend says, because of this dagger.”

With a flourish of her hands, as if she were a game show hostess, Tanya indicated the glass case. She motioned everyone over to the container and picked up a tiny dagger.

“The weapon is small and does not weigh much. But on that fateful day in 1296, a member of the MacDore clan stabbed Laird MacIan while he slept.” She paused and handed the dagger to the first tourist to her left. “The feud that had already begun got much worse. The two sides never united. The handful of surviving clan members from each side eventually joined neighboring clans to survive.”

Paige watched as the other tourists took their turn looking at the dagger. At this rate, she’d never get to see it. Little Miss Sprinter would be on the other side of the castle in a heartbeat. When the dagger finally reached her, she had less than a minute to look at it before Tanya took it away and put it back in its case.

“This way to the great hall.”

She stayed behind while the group followed Tanya out of the laird’s chamber and to a finished section of the castle. At least they wouldn’t need their umbrellas in there. The distant sound of the seal breaking on a bottle of water caught her attention. She hadn’t realized how thirsty she was. Stress always made her thirsty. Maybe this place had a gift shop that sold drinks. Then she remembered she still had some water left in the bottle she’d taken that morning.

The sounds of the group slowly grew fainter. She looked around her and went to the case with the dagger. She wanted another look at the weapon. The craftsmanship was amazing. With one last peek through the laird’s door, she pulled out her water and took a large swallow to calm her nerves. She needed to get in all the recreation she could. There would be plenty of time to worry about the hospital once she was actually in the hospital. She would be out of commission for a while.

After putting the bottle back in her purse, she tucked the umbrella handle under her arm and steadied the umbrella over her head. Then she lifted the lid on the case and gently lifted the dagger out using both hands.

I wish I could have been there during the feud, been able to study them.

She gripped the dagger in her right hand. Then moved it to her left. Something wasn’t right. She put it back in her right hand again. The dagger felt heavier. That was impossible. She could put on weight before she even finished thinking of a brownie. But a metal dagger couldn’t weigh more one minute than it had before. Faint sounds of metal clashing drifted to her. Thunder? The chamber started to spin. The whispers of the tour group gradually faded, then stopped. Shouts filled the chamber, but she was the only one there. Then the thick metallic scent of blood filled the room.


Scottish Highlands 1296

Pain seared Paige’s arm. The smell of blood churned her stomach. The soft plunk, plunk, plunk sounded different than before. She looked around as the room came back into focus.

Her arm bled profusely, a dark red stain pooling at her feet. Though the glass case was gone, she still held the dagger in her right hand.

That’s when she noticed the old man lying in the bed. Where had a bed come from? He didn’t move. She couldn’t tell if he was breathing. What the hell was happening? She was in the hospital already. On pain medication that made her hallucinate. That had to be it.

When she saw the barbarian, she knew it had to be a dream. Tall, well muscled, with a hard glint in his green eyes, he came barreling towards her. Before she could move, he tackled her to the ground and wrenched the dagger from her.

“What have you done to my father?”


16 responses

13 11 2007
What Makes a Hero? « Chase the Dream Writers Contest

[…] without further ado, here’s this week’s finalist and mini-critique winner. It’s hard to believe that there’s only one week left of the […]

13 11 2007

Hi Cindy – this is a great example of, be careful what you wish for. Paige most certainly got her wish. 🙂

And what a fun setup to the story – not only does the scene with Tanya give a bit of necessary backstory into the feuding clans, but it also sets up some pretty amazing conflict. If the two sides never reconcile, then how are Paige and the ‘barbarian’ going to hook-up? You’ve really got me itching to find out. And the way you plopped Paige in the middle of the pivotal scene, with the dagger that kills the father no less, is perfect.

I’d definitely keep turning the page to find out what happens next. Good job!


13 11 2007
Marcia James

This really caught my interest! I want to learn more about the Scottish feud, but also more about Paige’s current-day concerns. And who can resist a handsome Scottish laird? 😉 Congratulations on finaling!
— Marcia James

14 11 2007

Hi Cindy,
All best wishes on being a finalist! You’ve set up a deep conflict for the heroine to surmount with the hunky hero, so it would definitely be interesting to see where you go with the romance development from here!
Cheers, Marie

14 11 2007
Leigh Michaels

Hi, Cindy — I really, really like this opening. The atmosphere you evoke is wonderful, and the device of using the dagger and the wish to transport Paige back in time is plausible and inviting. And — I assume — we’ve already met the hero, too, and there’s a great reason for him to suspect the heroine. Great job!

14 11 2007

Congratulations, Cindy! Time travel romances are so much fun. I’m guessing the hospital issue is an organ donation thing, which is the best ticking clock for getting back to the present I’ve ever heard of. Good work.

15 11 2007

Thanks for all the congratulations! I was very excited when I got the news. I’m having a lot of fun writing this story.

18 11 2007

Hi Cindy……This is a terrific introduction to the Time Travel story. Can’t wait to read more. Keep up the fantastic writing….

19 11 2007

A nice transition from the present to the past that catches the reader and draws them into wanting to know what happens next.

21 11 2007

Hey Cindy,
You had me with the first sentence ( as it should be as I’m told )
George and i would love to have copies of whatever you’re working on.
I printed this out for him to read as well.
You’re going to be PUBLISHED !!! I know it.
Love Sylvia

21 11 2007


Great story! I’m Judy from GIAM. I write Scottish time travels too. Well done! 🙂

22 11 2007
Maureen Fisher

Hi Cindy,

Okay, I’m hooked. I would love to find out what happens next.


22 11 2007
L.A. Mitchell

I write time travel, also, and loved your entry. Best wishes in the contest!

4 12 2007
Paula Eykelhof and Megan Long (editors, Harlequin)

This struck us as a somewhat standard time-travel romance, despite the appealing heroine–which is not to say it wouldn’t work. We found some of the hospital references a bit unclear–more could be done to take advantage of/clarify this element. A real world question: would a guide at a historical site be likely to handle a medieval artifact and encourage others to do so, too? Scottish medieval settings are popular with readers, so this background is a good choice.

5 12 2007
Elaine English (agent)

I liked the main character but felt that there might be a stronger way of introducing her. Some of the narrative seems too much like telling the story, rather than showing her in action. I wonder if the story might be stronger if you began with the dagger rather than going through the details of the tour group. I also was puzzled about the hospital theme. I’m sure it’s intended to make the reader emphathize more with the main character but the references need to be clearer for it to work.

13 12 2007
Cheryl Ferguson

The heroine is very likeable and the telling of the legacy is a great device for revealing backstory without having and information dump. The hospital references are distracting in their vagueness and the overall scene needs to focus on the plot–which is very appealing.

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