a bit about the vikings

Image by axe20 from Pixabay

The people we call Vikings didn’t call themselves by that name. The word Viking refers to the act of going on raids by ship. Or piracy, if you wish to call it that. A group of men would ‘Go viking’.

They were not a unified group, either. The people who raided Scotland and to the north of Ireland were mainly from Norway, and were known as the Norse, while those who attacked England were the Danes.

However, they were called different names in different parts of the world. The one who came from what is now Sweden, were known as the Rus. They raided to the east.

The Danes came to England and settled in the 9th century. Of course, they didn’t always come peacefully. You can read about the Great Heathen Army by following these links: https://wordpress.com/post/aspholessaria.wordpress.com/4944
And this one for part 2: https://wordpress.com/post/aspholessaria.wordpress.com/5000

Eventually they conquered nearly all of England, except for Wessex, in the far south. This kingdom was ruled by the only English king to be given the appellation of The Great. He was, of course, Alfred.

Eventually, a treaty was made between King Alfred and the Danes in which they were given all the lands lying to the north and east of what was the Roman road of Watling Street. In this part of what is now England (which did not exist at that time), the Danes practised their own laws, and so it became known as the Danelaw.

Next time, I’ll tell you a little more about the Danes and how they lived; their laws, customs and religion.

If you can’t wait until them, though, you can always get a feel of those times by reading my recently released book, Jealousy of a Viking.

You can get a copy by clicking here or on the book cover in the sidebar.

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my visit to David kummer

David’s latest book

I’m visiting the blog of a young writer friend of mine today. His name is David Kummer and is a very talented young man.

My latest book

I am talking about my latest book and what inspired this series, so you might want to take a look. You can find the blog by clicking on this link.

While you are there, take a look at David’s books. I can recommend them.

the never-dying man

From today, for 5 days only, The Never-Dying Man is for sale at a mere 0.99 (£ or $)

The above picture shows the western entrance gate to Frelli, the capital city of Erian. In the past, many wars had been fought between Erian and Grosmer, and Frelli developed as a fortress city. On this side, the Grosmer side, the gate and walls fill the narrow valley.

Here is a bit about the book.

After finding Sauvern’s Sword, the companions set off to help a friend rescue his child from kidnappers. Instead, they stray into Erian and find preparations for war. They are drafted into the Erian army but are recognised by an old enemy, who arrests some of them and takes them to Frelli, the capital of Erian, where they are put in jail.

The Master of Erian frees them and offers them work. Meanwhile, Carthinal has to face some unpleasant truths about himself. Is his desire to further his magical career more important than his friends and country? After they discover terrible truths about the Master and his magical research, they will need to escape in order to tell the leaders of Grosmer about the plans for war.

To buy, click on the book cover here, in the sidebar, or the link below.

And an extract.

Carthinal, Randa, Davrael, Kimi and The Cat have been taken to Erian’s capital, Frelli as prisoners. The Master of Erian has freed them and is treating them as valued guests, although they are not allowed to leave the castle.
There is a mysterious tower that all are forbidden to enter, and the Cat decides to climb the walls to find out what is going on.

Carthinal had said there would be traps, probably magical, but the Cat decided that no one would bother to put traps on a window so high above the ground. It had to be fifty feet at least. Glancing down, he saw that there were people beginning to move around in the courtyard below. Should he risk it now, or leave it till nightfall? Both were risky. At night, though, he would not be able to see well, and he judged that it was unlikely that anyone would bother to look up, and if they did, would not believe they saw someone climbing on the walls. People usually saw what they expected to see.

He decided to take the risk and go now. His curiosity as to what was in the tower was burning him up. Tell him not to go somewhere, and that is precisely what he wanted to do above all else.

Scrambling up onto the window ledge, he felt to his left. Yes, there was a secure hold. He gripped it with the fingers of his left hand then felt with his left foot. He quickly found a foothold, and then repeated the movement with his right hand and foot. He was now hanging, face pressed against the rough stone of the wall, next to his window. Moving with great care, he repeated the procedure and moved slowly to his left and the walls of the tower.

Twice he thought he was going to have to retreat as he could find no purchase, but then the smallest ledge made itself felt. Once he almost fell, putting too much weight on a crumbling stone. No one called out from below that someone was climbing on the walls. His luck was holding.

It took him about an hour to reach the tower and manoeuvre himself to below the window. Whenever he thought he heard someone below him, he paused, knowing that movement was what attracted attention. Then he began to climb. This was easier as he could look up and see ledges and crannies, and knowing where they were, could put his feet in them after releasing his hands to find the next cracks. After about a further half-hour he reached the window ledge.

He was sweating profusely by now. The sun was climbing the heavens and it was only about two sixdays until the solstice and the warmth of the sun plus his exertions had made him hot. He paused to get his breath. After a couple of minutes, the burglar hauled himself onto the ledge of the tower window. He peered in. There was no glass here, and the shutters were open, but he could see nothing inside for it was dark after the sunlight outside. He squeezed through and dropped silently to the floor, crouching and listened carefully.

Breathing. Very quiet breathing. Someone in here was trying to breathe so as not to be heard. Of course! Stupid person. He was obviously getting out of practice. His body would have been seen blocking the light from the window. Shit. Suppose this person were to jump him? He remained crouched beneath the window for a second, then slowly and silently crept to one side.

As his eyes became used to the dark he could pick out a shadowy shape sitting on a bench opposite the window. A human shape. It too was sitting absolutely still, as though trying not to be noticed. He moved a few more paces.

The tower room was circular it seemed. It must cover the whole of this floor of the tower. He moved again, felt behind him and touched wood. A door most likely. He was nearing the person on the bench when he heard steps approaching the door. Someone coughed and The Cat froze. Were there enough shadows in this room to hide him when the door was opened? Would the person entering have a lamp? Probably.

More importantly, would the person on the bench give him away? Who was it? Was he (or she, he added to himself) working here or a prisoner? If the latter, why were they being held here and not in the dungeons? So many questions passed through his head in the seconds it took him to leap for the window and pass through to hang, breathing heavily, on the window ledge outside.

Fortunately for him, the man entering took several seconds to unlock the door. When he entered, The Cat heard him speak and recognised the voice of Wolnarb. Gone was the charming man who had wined and dined them and the voice now had a grating quality that made the Cat shudder. He ventured to peek round the edge of the window.

He could see little, but could just make out the shape of a small man standing before the bench on which he had spotted the figure previously. He held his breath, hoping that the person on the bench would not give him away, though he felt that he was fairly safe here, as it appeared the other was a prisoner. He listened to the words being spoken, but could understand little as Wolnarb spoke in Erian.

Wolnarb’s words elicited a slight whimper from the person on the bench and he (for it was indeed a man as The Cat could now ascertain) moved away, shuffling along the bench. Wolnarb laughed an unpleasant laugh, and then he spoke again. The man shook his head and lay down as though in resignation.

Wolnarb laid his hands on the man, his left on the man’s forehead and the right on the man’s chest, where his heart was as much as The Cat could ascertain. Words flowed from the magister that made the hairs on the back of the Cat’s neck stand up. He was aware that magic was being done in that room. He had had sufficient dealings with Carthinal in the past to be aware when magic was being performed. The man in the room screamed once, convulsed, then fell to moaning.

Soon, the murmuring stopped and the man fell back as though he had just performed a great feat. Wolnarb laughed again, not a pleasant sound, then spoke. He indicated a tray he had brought with him, spoke again and left.

‘What is going on here?’ thought The Cat. He considered whether to re-enter the room or go back to his own rooms and tell the others what he had observed. Then he heard the prisoner approach the window and speak. Again he could not understand the words, but decided to re-enter the tower and see if he could make any sense out of what was going on.
After climbing back through the window, he made his way to the bench. On it a young man sat with a tray of food.

The young man spoke as though in great pain.

‘I’m sorry, I don’t speak Erian,’ The Cat told him. ‘Mo hambro Erian.’

‘You from Grosmer?’ a heavily accented voice asked. ‘I speak a little but bad. How you get to window?’

‘Climbed, but why are you here? What was going on?’

‘Climbed? It high. It smooth. Why man from Grosmer here?’

‘Not too high or smooth for a cat burglar. Plenty handholds. As to why I’m here in Erian, I’m not sure, myself, and it’s a rather long story. I’m with some friends though. We’re housed not far from here.’

The young man coughed.

When The Cat looked at him, he saw he looked grey and ill. ‘You’re not well. You need a healer. Tell me, why are you in the tower and not in the dungeon if you’re a prisoner, and what did you do to be held?’

‘I a special prisoner. My crime, being young and strong and believing Wolnarb.’

It took The Cat longer to get back to his room as the day had grown quite warm and the climbing was not so easy in the heat. He was relieved to be back in his rooms, which were cool, facing north as they did. He ran his hands through his hair and hurried off to see Carthinal.

To read the book, click on the book cover in the sidebar, or here to go to Amazon where you are.

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England. A poem

I almost entered this into a contest a year or two ago, but in the end chickened out. I thought I’d share it with you. I hope you like it.


That misty isle across the sea
Will always be a home to me.
The cliffs of white that guard our shores,
The rolling Downs, the bleak, cold moors,
The skylark with his liquid song
Soaring high above the throng
Of hikers, picnickers and such,
Whose hearts he never fails to touch.

The little streams and brooks do run
Through woodlands, glistening in the sun.
The little fish are swimming here;
A kingfisher is always near.
A flash of blue above the stream,
A dive, then gone, that silver gleam
Of minnows, gone to feed his brood
In holes, all waiting for their food.

In cities where the pigeons fly
The wind-blown litter flutters by.
The cars and buses, cycles too,
Line up at lights, forming a queue.
The city’s clamorous roar assaults
The ears, but never, ever halts.
The busy folk all rushing past.
They never slow, time goes so fast.

The little market towns do snooze.
The slightest little thing is news.
In pretty villages with greens
Are cottages with oaken beams.
The church bells echo o’er the fields
Calling us with merry peals
As they have done for many a year
Bringing hope and lots of cheer.

This land does not a climate boast.
Just weather blown from coast to coast.
All in one day, this land can get
All four seasons, sun and wet.
Though no extremes do us attack,
Do not go out without a mac
For rain can come at any time,
Though rarely with a gale force nine.

The English folk are stubborn, too,
As we showed in World War 2.
We do not push, but stand in line,
Waiting patiently till it’s time.
We do not wail and wave our arms
We think such behaviour has bo charms,
But when we’re roused, then just watch out
We’ll demonstrate, wave flags and shout.

And so my country is unique;
Its people never really meek.
An upper lip that’s stiff conceals
A wicked humour that reveals
Our lack of deference for power,
Our love for bird and bee and flower.
Abroad may have its charms, it’s true,
But England’s magic’s ever new.

Did you like this poem? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. I always enjoy hearing from you.

Would you like a short story? Sign up to join my quarterly newsletter and I will send you an exclusive story absolutely free. This story will not be posted on any blog, mine or anyone else’s, nor published in any book or magazine.

If you would like this offer, click on the button below.

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review of a threat from the past by paul cude


This is an original story. Dragons are the protectors of humanity. They live below ground, in the main, but some live among us in human form.
This is the story of how one young dragon foils a plot which would have devastating effects on humans.


Can you be heroic and naive?

For one young man, the answer is yes, despite his magical birthright.

Blissfully unaware of what’s going on around him, for the most part Peter remains fully focused on blending in and keeping a low profile.

But fate and plain bad luck have other designs on him.

Not so bad, you might think. Until you discover the TRUTH!
Just like his friends, he is a… DRAGON!

Thrust into a life away from the underground dragon domain, disguised in a new, awkward human form in an effort to guide and protect humanity just like the rest of his race, all he has to do is uncover the diabolical deeds playing out around him.

With the help of his two young friends, a master mantra maker and a complete dragon stranger with more than a little history attached to him, will Peter manage to thwart the dark, devious scheme long in the planning?

Ever wondered how dragons use their supernatural gift to travel below ground at almost the speed of sound?

Want to know how they use magical mantras to transform their giant bodies into convincing human shapes?

Learn the true story of George and the Dragon, see if a prehistoric grudge turns into murderous revenge, and find out what to do if you meet a giant arachnid grinning at you when you’re wearing nothing but your smile.

Lose yourself in this unputdownable fantasy adventure NOW!


The main character is Peter, a very young dragon who works at the factory producing a very important element for dragons. He is naïve and somewhat gullible at the beginning, but he learns much and at the end he is a great hero, thwarting a devastating plot with the help of his two friends.

Tank is a large dragon, and in his human form, an equally large rugby-playing human. He is likeable and a gentle giant.

Ritchie, is a female dragon. She is feisty and not averse to breaking the rules. (Like showing off her superhuman strength by arm wrestling two rugby players at once.)

I liked both of them.


The writing is amateurish, to say the least. I got the impression the author had got to the end of his story, did a spell and Grammar check and left it at that.

There are innumerable (several on each page) uses of ‘just’ and ‘that’. He uses a number of clichés, and repeats descriptions many times. For example, he describes dragons as ‘prehistoric’ on numerous occasions. There are also a number of instances of using words wrongly, and horror of horrors, several strings of multiple exclamation marks (a well-known no-no).

He goes into great detail of a hockey match and of a match of a game played by dragons. There was no need to go into such detail. As, from reading his bio, Mr Cude is a hockey player, I understand why he would want to do this, but I skipped much of these descriptions.

There is also a section where he describes some of the fun ways of getting into the dragon realms below the ground. These added nothing to the story and could be left out with no problem. Some were fun to read, but we did not need so many in one chapter. They could have been spread out.

Finally, on the writing, the paragraphs were far too long, and he did not begin a new one where he should have. The same with sentences.
Long paragraphs of dialogue from one person (or dragon) could have been broken down with a few interjections or action beats.

Especially in the final battle he does quite a bit of head hopping. We are in Peter’s head, then suddenly, without warning, we are in his enemy’s head, then back to Peter.

Finally, when Peter is thinking, he says ‘he thought to himself.’ To himself is redundant. Who else would he think to?

It could certainly use a thorough edit.


If Mr Cude sent it to a reputable editor, or even had it beta-read or used a critique group, I think the book would be a much better read.

I did enjoy the story, but it was spoiled by the poor writing. Too much telling, too many filler words, too many repetitions (both of individual words in close proximity, and ideas).

Also he is unsure about comma usage.

I sometimes felt like saying ‘But you already told us that (several times). Or ‘Yes, I know. I can remember that dragons have eidectic memories’ on the third or fourth time he used it.

The story is worth reading, though, if you can get past the writing. I read a book called Story Trumps Structure, that said, basically, if you have a good story, that’s the most important part.

I will be reading the next part if only to see what happens next.

I love hearing your thoughts. Please leave a comment in the comments box and I’ll get back to you.

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a new offer

The offer of The Wolf Pack finished yesterday, but don’t worry. I’ve ANOTHER offer for you.

From today, July 3rd, the ebook version of Book 1 of my Elemental Worlds duo is FREE on Amazon. It’s called The Stones of Earth and Air.

Click the button to go to Amazon where you are.

After the Crown Prince of Ponderia starts behaving strangely, his best friend, Pettic discovers that the prince has been replaced by a doppelganger, and the real prince kidnapped.

Unable to accept the loss of his friend, Prince Torren, nor the cruel impostor to become the new king, Pettic sets on a quest to rescue his friend. After he sees the fake prince meet a mysterious man, Pettic discovers that the prince has been imprisoned in another plane of existence.

With the help of Blundo, the court magician, Pettic finds out that the only way to enter this another world are four keys, each of them associated with a different element. As Pettic sets on his seemingly impossible quest, he discovers that the four lands that hold the keys are all vastly different… and more dangerous than he could have ever imagined.

Here’s a review.

From United Kingdom
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel through worlds of earth, fire, air and water to complete your quest.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 January 2021
Verified Purchase
I received promotional copies of the audio books of Elemental Worlds by VM Sang. This was my first experience of audio books. I listened to them while doing craftwork and was captivated by the story from the very first minute. I can’t fault any of it from the characters to the different worlds they travelled through. Later I played the first book to my grandchildren who hung on to every word. Keep writing.

The book is available in all formats. Including audio.

I love hearing your thoughts. Please leave a comment in the comments box and I’ll get back to you.

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extract from jealousy of a viking

Here is an extract from the book, Jealousy of a Viking, which has recently been released.

The Danes, as the people who lived in the east of Britain were known, had a strong belief in magic. Magic was used as well as herbs by wandering healers, called Volvir. These women practiced Seidr, or magic, to heal. To avoid confusion I have called healers “Wise Women”.

In my research I learned that the Volvir were respected and sometimes a little feared, but I also discovered that the Vikings believed in Black Magic too, and did not tolerate witches.

Helgha and Erik met when he was lost in the forest. His horse had been injured and Helgha took him to her home. Her father tended the horse and Erik stayed the night as it was getting dark and unsafe for him to leave.
Helgha felt a strong attraction to Erik, a young and handsome man.
In this chapter she dreams of what might happen.

Each night for the next two weeks, Helgha recalled Erik’s features before falling asleep. She could see them as clearly now as she had when she first saw him in the forest. She thought about how he moved his head and how he walked. His laugh sounded in her ears as sleep found her. She dreamed of him walking into her home and asking her father’s permission to court her.

One day Helgha sat with a spindle in hand. She ought to be spinning wool but instead gazed into the fire where her mother stirred broth in a cauldron hanging over the flames. In the smoke, she imagined herself and Erik in a marriage ceremony.

Ædelflaed noticed her idleness and interrupted her dreams. “It’ll be your job to tend to the sickness and injuries of your people when you marry. You’ll need to know what herbs to use for each job.”

Helgha’s heart sank as reality reared its head She dragged her gaze away from the firepit. “Mother! I’ve been watching and learning all my life. I know almost as much as you about tending the sick and injured.”

“I know, Helgha, but your father’s going to talk to Gunnar Janson about you marrying his son. You might think you know everything, but there are still many things you need to understand and not only about healing.”
Ædelflaed stretched, put down her spoon and stood. “Come with me, girl.” She left the longhouse and walked toward the storeroom where she kept her dried and fresh herbs.

Helgha followed.

She took a deep breath as they entered the storeroom and a smile lit up her face. The scents of the herbs perfumed the air. She picked out lavender and meadowsweet. There was the clean-smell of mint. And under it all the earthy perfume of fungi. Some herbs hung in bunches from the ceiling, drying. Others, already dry, Ædelflaed had put into pots and stored on shelves around the room.

Ædelflaed reached up, lifted a pot from a high shelf, and turned to Helgha. “Sometimes, Helgha, no matter how much you care for each other, a man will hanker after other women. You need to understand how to prevent him from straying. Now, I will teach you how to stop that. It involves herbs added to his drink, but also words said over it.” She paused, glancing around. “Magic words.”

Helgha’s eyes opened wide and she gasped. “Magic? You know magic? Isn’t that dangerous?”

“Not if you know what you’re doing, and do it right.”

“But if someone found out, they could accuse you of witchcraft.”

Ædelflaed smiled at her daughter. “That’s why I’ve told no one except you, and you must never tell anyone, either, or we’ll both be in a lot of trouble. This knowledge has been handed down from mother to daughter for many generations. My grandmother taught my mother and she taught me. Now I’m teaching you and I expect you’ll teach your daughter when you have one.”

She told Helgha which herbs to use and in what proportions. “It’s important you get this right. If you use the wrong amounts it won’t work.”
She heated some water, poured it onto the herbal mixture and began chanting mysterious words over it.

“You learn these words, Helgha. You’ll need this someday when your husband casts glances at some pretty slave girl.”

Each day for the next week, Helgha practised the words until her mother declared herself satisfied. “Good. Now your husband won’t stray.”

One morning, about ten days after Erik’s final departure, her father came to her. “I’ve chosen a husband for you. I’ve decided on Gunnar Janson’s son. I spoke with Gunnar yesterday and he’s in agreement.”

Helgha hung her head. She must obey her father, but her dream of becoming Erik’s wife dissolved as she foresaw a life lived with a man she did not like.

Gunner Janson’s son won’t make any woman a good husband.

On the few occasions they met, he had treated her with disdain. He barely spoke to any woman unless it was to give her an order and he had told Helgha he thought them weak. They did not know how to fight, and fighting was life.

But she must do as her father said, and so she whispered, “Yes, Father,” hoping she sounded acquiescent, but a feeling of tightness encompassed her chest, and her hands clenched involuntarily.

Helgha took a deep breath and carried on with her tasks with a heavy heart. She would obey her father, but all her dreams of a life with Erik came crashing down around her ears. Thoughts of rebellion flashed through her mind but immediately disappeared. She did not know if Erik felt the same way. Most probably, he did not. They had been beautiful dreams though.

Crushing her thoughts if Erik, she left the longhouse and walked to the well where two serving women were drawing water. Hearing the drumming of hooves on the road, she looked up. Her stomach turned over and her heart beat faster as Erik rode through the gate. He slid from Stjarna’s back and jogged over to where she stood. Taking the buckets from her, he looked into her eyes. Helgha thought there was something there. Some warmth that made her think her dreams were not in vain.

“Hello, Helgha,” Erik said, then looked away.

Had she imagined what she saw in his eyes?

“Hello, Erik.” Redness crept up her neck and infused her face.

Leaving the other women staring after them, the pair walked to the house in silence.

Why had he come? Surely her dream had not come true and he intended to ask for her hand in marriage. He must have some other reason to come here. Yes, that was it. He was on his way somewhere else and stopped at Thoringsby because it was convenient.

They entered the house, Erik following Helgha. He put the buckets down and spoke to Ædelflaed. “Thank you for your hospitality the other week. I wouldn’t be alive now if it weren’t for your kindness.”

Ædelflaed smiled at the young man. “No thanks are necessary. We did what anyone would do. You could have been killed by wolves or bears out there in the dark.”

“I have something for you. To thank you. Wait a moment and I’ll go and get it.” Erik ducked through the door, and a moment later returned with his saddlebags over his arm.

“First, for you, Ædelflaed, I have this.” He handed over a necklace of glass beads.

Ædelflaed gasped. “This is beautiful, Erik.”

“It was made in Jorvik. We don’t make much glass there, but what we do is usually made into beads or rings, and is of fine quality. Now, for Biorn I have some wine. I’m sure he’ll enjoy it when he comes in. It’ll make a change from ale.”

Helgha smiled at the thought. Biorn drank more ale or mead than wine, but he would enjoy the change.

Erik pulled something else from his saddlebags. “For Hartvigg I have this wooden sword. He needs to learn how to fight like a true Dane. I have a Kubb set for Laeff and for Sigmund this toy longboat. After all, we Danes are seamen.” He turned and smiled at Helgha.

Her stomach turned somersaults.

“And for you, this amber necklace. The amber comes all the way from the Baltic Sea.”

Helgha blushed as Erik fastened it around her neck, and she looked at her mother.

Ædelflaed frowned. Helgha knew what thoughts passed through her mother’s mind. Like the ones passing through her own head.

Why has Erik brought me such a valuable gift? Does he want to court me?

Neither she nor her parents knew anything about the young man. He appeared to be well off if his clothing were anything to go by. But would Erik’s father want his son to marry someone from a family who could not bring an advantage? Helgha’s father was a free man, a ceorl, but what Erik’s status was Helgha did not know. She realised he must be richer than her own family and would demand a high bride price.

Helgha sighed, pushing those thoughts away. If it were the case that Erik wanted to marry her, then his father would speak to hers. She would be the last to know.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this short extract. If you would like to know more about Helgha and Erik, you can find out by reading the book. Click here, or on the book cover in the sidebar, to go to Amazon where you are.
The book is currently available as a paperback and ebook. Eventually it will be released in other formats.

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The Wolf pack OFFER

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

From today, The Wolf Pack, Book 1 of The Wolves of Vimar Series, is only 0.99 (£ or $).

This offer is for a limited time only, so be sure to pop over to Amazon and get your copy before it’s too late. The offer ends on Friday, 2nd July.

Here is the blurb

To end his apprenticeship and be admitted to the ranks of the mages is all that Carthinal wants and so he is excited to travel from Bluehaven to Hambara, where the tests will take place. He did not expect to end up travelling far beyond Hambara on a quest to find the long lost sword of the legendary King Sauvern.

Along with three strangers that he met on his journey, the beautiful but headstrong elven cleric, Asphodel, Fero, a dark foreigner from lands far to the south, known as the Black Ranger and a fearless dwarf, Basalt, Carthinal reluctantly sets out on this seemingly impossible quest.

Followed by Randa, the snooty aristocratic daughter of the Duke of Hambara and a very young runaway thief, known as Thad, Carthinal has to decide whether to send them back or allow them to continue on this dangerous quest. There will certainly be fireworks as Randa will try to take over the leadership of the group.

Faced with floods, wolf attacks and near death in the mountains, Carthinal and his friends will have to accept help from the least likely sources and face their innermost fears.

But this is more than a simple adventure. The fate of a nation hangs in the balance.

And a short extract.

Carthinal, a half-elf mage, and Basalt, a dwarf, have been trying to find out where the lost Sword of the legendary king, Sauvern, might lie. They are searching in the library of the Duke of Hambara, helped by his rather snooty daughter, Randa.

The next day, Carthinal and Basalt returned to the Palace to try to find anything about the whereabouts of the tomb. Lady Randa arrived again, saying that she had risen early in order to exercise her stallion, Storm, and she did not have any weapons practice that day. She should have gone to practice her music, but her music master had reported that he felt ill and so they had all day. Her expression said that she was glad of this excuse to get away from her music, even if it meant spending the day with “riffraff”. Truth to tell, she found the work interesting. She had never taken much interest in history before and it surprised her how fascinating she found it.

Carthinal and Bas exchanged a glance at this dire prospect, but both wisely refrained from making comment.

Lady Randa did not make it any easier, however. She did most of the time remember to call them by their names, but made it abundantly clear that she considered herself above them in all ways and that only her father’s request made her come to work with them.

Shortly after lunch, just after Lady Randa had returned from lunching with her father as usual and as Carthinal searched for a specific scroll, he noticed an unusual crack around a particular bookshelf. He called Lady Randa over and asked her if she knew of any secret passages in the house.

‘There are tales and rumours of course,’ she replied, ‘as there always are in old houses and this house is very old. It has been rebuilt, modernised and extended many times over the years. Why do you ask?’

‘Because,’ responded Carthinal, ‘unless I am very much mistaken, there is a hidden door here which may lead to a secret room.’

‘This is part of the old house,’ Lady Randa told him, ‘but I hardly think that a secret passage would have gone unnoticed by my father, or myself—or my grandfather come to think of it. Why would a half-elf find something in a few minutes that the family hasn’t found in generations?’

‘Elvenkind have very good eyes, and we are good at spotting such things,’ retorted Carthinal, keeping his temper with difficulty.

Basalt spotted the warning tone in Carthinal’s voice and glared at him. It would not do for him to lose his temper and anger the daughter of the second most powerful man in all of Grosmer. However, Carthinal managed to hold onto his temper and suggested that he try to open the disputed door.

‘If it will satisfy you,’ replied Lady Randa imperiously, and turned away.
A few moments later, a grinding and rumbling came from behind. She turned and her eyes popped. Where there had been a bookcase hole had appeared with steps leading downwards.

The three stood looking at each other in amazement. Carthinal had been sure that the bookcase concealed a hidden door, but not that it would open so easily, nor that it would reveal a secret passage. He had thought at the most that it would reveal a hidden room.

The stairs looked dark and cobwebby. Carthinal shuddered to think of the spiders running around. They had had generations to breed down there. However, he would not reveal his feelings of revulsion to Lady Randa.

Instead, he said, ‘Lady Randa, do you think it pertinent to explore this passage at this point. We are not sure that it will aid us in our quest.’
He secretly hoped not to have to go down the stairs with their cobwebs and spiders, and that she would say that others could explore. However, Lady Randa decided that since they had found the passage, they should be the ones to explore it.

‘Why give the pleasure of discovering something new to people who did not find the passage?’ she said.

Carthinal had to admire her guts. She reached for a torch on one of the walls and lit it, then made her way to the entrance.

‘My Lady,’ murmured Bas, ‘we don’t know what’s down there. Maybe we shouldn’t go down without some weapons.’

‘Are you afraid, Dwarf?’ retorted her ladyship. ‘If you are, then stay here. I’m going down.’ She started to move towards the open door.

‘Basalt is right, Your Ladyship,’ Carthinal backed up his friend. ‘At least get a sword or a dagger.’

‘Hmm… I suppose that makes some sense,’ Lady Randa eventually agreed. ‘You two stay there and I’ll get some weapons. What’s your preferred weapon, Dwa…er… Basalt?’

‘A battle axe, if you have one, your ladyship,’ replied the dwarf.

‘Typical. A rather messy weapon, but I understand the dwarves prefer it to a sword. A sword takes so much more skill to use.’

With that she disappeared through one of the library doors to go in search of weapons. It was just as well that she did, for she would have had Basalt taken to the nearest prison and the key thrown away if she could have heard him cursing at her condescension.

‘A battle-axe takes as much bloody skill in wielding as a bleeding sword,’ he spluttered. ‘Dwarves begin to learn at a very young age to become proficient. To become a master of the weapon takes years. That little minx knows nothing. How old is she? Seventeen? Eighteen?’

Fortunately, Carthinal had managed to calm him down by the time Lady Randa re-appeared with the weapons. She had a rather fine long sword, which she claimed as her own, and a rather less than fine battle axe, which she gave to Basalt, for once having the grace to apologise for it.

‘It’s the only one I could find,’ she explained. ‘My father captured it in some war or other, I believe. We don’t have anyone here that uses a battle-axe now. Carthinal, just in case, I’ve brought a dagger. I understand that mages often use one, as they do not have the time to learn more subtle weapons.’

This she handed to the mage, hilt first as was polite. It appeared she did know some of the niceties of life.

‘Diplomacy is not her second name, is it?’ hissed Basalt to Carthinal.

The mage grinned at his friend in reply.

After they were armed, and Bas had hefted his battle axe a few times and proclaimed it ‘Not too bad, considering’, they made their way to the hidden entrance to the staircase. Basalt insisted on going first, much to Lady Randa’s annoyance. She told him that she had trained in weapons with her father’s master at arms and could use the sword, and since it her father owned house, and she outranked the others in the group, she should lead the way.

Basalt pointed out be that as it may, but her father would have their heads if anything happened to her, and he was not going to allow her to go first.

Carthinal held his breath, waiting for the explosion from Lady Randa. She did not disappoint him.

She rounded on Bas like a whirlwind. ‘You…you…Dwarf!’ She said the word as though it were the worst insult in the world, (which to her it may have been.) ‘You DARE to speak to me like that! Me! The Honourable Lady Randa! I am my father’s only heir and will inherit this Dukedom. Yet you tell me you will not allow me! How dare you?’

However, she had not met with the stubbornness of the mountain dwarves. Carthinal thought they would remain there for the rest of their lives with the two arguing, and finally with Basalt standing, arms folded in front of the doorway so that no one could pass. Lady Randa tried to push him out of the way at first, but Bas stood his ground. A dwarf standing his ground is very hard to move, even for a grown man, and Lady Randa was no grown man.

Eventually her curiosity over the passageway overcame her anger and she said, rather reluctantly, ‘Go in front if you wish then—and hope that whatever’s down there kills you before I do.’

So the three crept stealthily down the stairs, Basalt in the lead, Lady Randa next, and Carthinal in the rear. Carthinal was grateful for that as most of the cobwebs had been swept away by the others, but he still had to steel himself not to cry out as a stray one swept his face. It would not do for them to think him such a coward as to be afraid of spiders, even if it were the truth. He kept a look out both to the side and behind, trusting to Bas to watch for anything in front, but they had an uneventful descent of the stairs, although the stairs were old. No one had passed that way in many, many years and their feet sent up clouds of dust, which made them sneeze. The stairs were not worn away either, in spite of their age. Another indication that they had not been much used.

To his consternation, Carthinal saw many small glowing creatures with his infra-vision. Spiders he assumed, that had lived and bred there for aeons. He shuddered, then suddenly, after what seemed like a very long descent, they found themselves in a passage leading straight ahead.
He called to Basalt and the dwarf looked round. ‘We seem to have come down a long way. You dwarves are used to being underground. How far down do you think we’ve come?’

Basalt frowned, did some calculations in his head and replied, ‘We’re very deep, Carthinal. Well below the foundations of the present Palace. If you ask me, we are at least two hundred feet down. This looks like old stone. About a thousand years, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less.’

The three looked around in awe. The dry air in the room had preserved the stonework well. The fact that no more cobwebs hung from this ceiling pleased Carthinal too. The walls were well built, and strong. They walked slowly and quietly down the corridor. They passed doors on either side, but none of them could manage to open them, no matter how hard they tried. They walked until they came to the end of the corridor, where another door stood in the end wall.

‘Should I try?’ whispered Basalt. (It did not seem right to speak normally in this ancient place.)

‘Go on then.’ said Lady Randa and Carthinal together, and Carthinal added, ‘Although why this one should be any different Majora alone knows.’

He had hardly got the words out of his mouth when he saw that the door swinging open with a loud creak. Bas had hardly had to try. It had not been either locked or stuck. As they entered the chamber in front of them, each drew a breath of amazement.

Fabulous carvings decorated the room. Unicorns and satyrs played in woods where dryads peeped shyly from behind their trees. A Centaur appeared to be discussing something with a nymph, half in and half out of her pool. Dragons basked in the sunlight and elves and humans were gathering flowers and making garlands to adorn each other. Here a group of dwarves, hard at work, dug minerals from their mines, there some merfolk sat on rocks in a cove while the waves broke around them. The surf looked so realistic that they almost thought they could actually hear its booming as the waves crashed to the shore.

The room was circular in shape and in the centre stood a large round table. On the table lay a number of books, a quill pen in its stand, rather tattered after all the years that had passed, a knife for sharpening the quill and an ink well, which had dried up.

The books were stacked neatly, all except for one, which lay in front of a chair drawn up to the table as though the room’s occupant had been working there and just slipped out for a moment. A piece of paper in the book seemed to mark a place.

The three walked slowly around the room, gazing at the superb workmanship of the carvings. Basalt declared that it must have been dwarves who carved the stone, and no one, not even Lady Randa, disputed this statement.

Eventually, Carthinal left Lady Randa and Basalt admiring the room, as he felt drawn to the books. He picked up one at random. It was a spell book. He carefully opened it, and it crackled with age. It seemed to be the spell book of a powerful mage.

There were many very complex spells in it, which Carthinal could not begin to comprehend. He put it down in its place, and picked up another. This one he recognised. These were the simpler spells that he himself had in his own spell book, but it had been written in an archaic style and he had some difficulty recognising some of the words. Then he noticed that Bas had gone to the desk, and had picked up the book with the “bookmark” in it.

Basalt thought he would look at the book although he could not read. Maybe he would be able to recognise the word shape that Carthinal had taught him stood for ‘Sauvern’. To his surprise, part way through the text, he thought he recognised the word. He was not certain. These letters were formed in a slightly different way from the way Carthinal had taught him, but it was enough for him to call Carthinal over.

Carthinal looked over Bas’s shoulder, and Lady Randa came to see what Bas had found.

‘It certainly seems to say “Sauvern”,’ Carthinal confirmed.

‘But the rest?’ queried Lady Randa. ‘What about the rest? It looks like no language I’ve ever seen.’

‘No. You won’t have, and probably won’t again,’ Carthinal told her. ‘If I am not much mistaken, this is an archaic form of Elvish.’

‘Can you read it?’ asked Randa.

‘Unfortunately, no,’ Carthinal replied, ‘but I know someone in the Mage Tower who may, or at least, she may know someone who can translate it for us.’

‘There’s some writing on the paper that kept the place too,’ observed Bas. ‘It looks different.’

True enough, the writing was in Grosmerian. Again, it was an old form of Grosmerian, but Lady Randa had learned something of this during her extensive education as the heir to a Dukedom.

‘It’s a poem,’ she said. ‘Should I read it?’

‘We’d better not ignore anything. Especially in view of the fact that the book seems to mention Sauvern,’ Carthinal said. ‘Go ahead.’

‘It’s called “The Wolf Pack.”’, she went on.

“The wolves will fight ’gainst every foe
The balance to maintain.
Though far and wide the pack must go
All borders they disdain.

“The pack contains the strangest group
One whose pride comes with her,
And one who slips through every loop,
The wilful one, the tracker.

“The leader with his anger held,
The ones who hunt the horse.
The rock that’s strong completes the meld
And makes the pack a force.

“The wolf pack’s members are filled with zest
And all do have their place.
They hunt their foes with ruthlessness
Then vanish without trace.

“In times of danger, all must know
The wolf pack will be there.
They work as one; they keep their vow.
For each other they will care.”

‘Doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. I think it’s just something the writer of this book used as a book mark.’

‘I think you’re right there, Your Ladyship.’ Basalt always seemed to make his use of the honorific sound like an insult, and Lady Randa bristled. ‘No reference to Sauvern or his Sword.’

Carthinal replaced the “bookmark” in the place in the book where it came from, remarking that they may as well use it for the job the original writer did.

He went on to remark that the books were all very old, and moving them may damage them, so, with the Lady’s permission, he would bring his friend to the Palace so she could translate it in situ as it were. Randa agreed, and with that, they left the hidden room, almost having to drag Bas out from his examination of the carvings.

When they came up the stairs to the library they found that darkness had fallen. The candles had been lit in the chandeliers and the light bounced around the room, split into colours by the glass, and making rainbows everywhere. The slight draughts moving around the room caused the candles to flicker and the light looked like thousands of fireflies dancing around.

‘This never fails to impress me,’ said Lady Randa, momentarily forgetting to be the Duke’s Daughter. ‘My grandfather had it done. Look at the way the windows reflect the light back into the room. Isn’t it beautiful?’

The others agreed, and reluctantly tore themselves away from the beautiful library to make their way back to the inn and dinner.

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There are dragons and magic in the world if only you look for them… V.M. Sang

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