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Carthinal 6

 

Reminder: After the fight with the Green Fish Gang, Carthinal’s gang, The Beasts, discover The Wren, Carthinal’s pickpocket partner, is missing. the Rooster, the leader of the gang, sends Carthinal and The Cat out to search for her.

Carthinal left with The Cat to search. “I think th’ guard caught ’er,” The Cat said. “I ’ope not. Th’ penalty fer killin’ is death by ’angin’.”
“But we don’t know she killed anyone.”
“There was a fight. Folks got killed. She was in the fight, so they’ll blame ’er fer killin’.”
Carthinal frowned, a sadness filling his indigo eyes. “Come on, then. First place to look is the jail.”
“We can’t go ter th’ jail, Fox. They’ll ’ave us in there as soon as we appeared.”
“Do you want to find Wren? If not, I’ll go myself.”
“Nah! I’m comin’ wi’ yer. I’m usually a lucky bloke. You have luck too, Fox. Mayhap our combined luck’ll ’elp us find Wren.”
The pair neared the jail and paused.
“I’ll climb onto th’ roof an’ see if I can find anythin’ out. There’s a chimney I can listen at.” The Cat sprinted around the side of the jailhouse and began to climb. Carthinal hid in a doorway opposite, chewing his fingernails. Soon The Cat returned.
“They’ve got ’er, alright. They’ve got a couple o’ Green Fish, too. Put ’em in th’ same cell, they ’ave. By luck, th’ Green Fish ’aven’t started on ’er. Not yet, anyway.”
“How can we rescue her without the Green Fish, too? In fact, how can we rescue her at all.”
The Cat thought for a moment. “If we can some’ow get th’ guards out o’ there, I can slip in an’ pick th’ lock. ‘Ow t’ stop th’ Green Fish gettin’ out, too, I’ve no idea.”
Carthinal pressed his lips together as he walked towards the jailhouse. He must rescue Wren. She was his partner, yes, but more than that. He was unsure quite how he felt about her. He was, after all, in terms of human life, just a boy in his early teens.
He passed through the door and found himself in a single room. On his left were two cells, and a table stood immediately in front of him. A guard leaned back on two legs of the chair with his feet propped on the table. He had his eyes closed. Carthinal drew in a breath. It was the guard who had thrown him out of Gromblo’s offices.
He turned to make a rude comment in order to get the guard to chase him but he heard a voice. “Fox!”
The voice came from the second of the two cells. Carthinal looked and saw a pair of hands gripping the bars of the door.
At the sound of her voice, the guard opened his eyes. “It’s you! Kendo Brolin’s grandson. What are you doing here?”
Carthinal swallowed the words he was about to say and looked at the guard with eyes wide.“You believe I’m his grandson?”
The guard nodded, “There was something funny about that death certificate. And there aren’t too many red-headed half-elf kids about.”
“Then why didn’t you help me? Why didn’t you expose him?”
“Grondin has friends in high places. It would have been dangerous to try. Besides, he made it worth my while to keep quiet.” He swung his feet down. “How come you know this girl? She called you Fox. Are you with The Beasts now?”
Carthinal glanced towards the cell door and did not answer.
“You know there’s a warrant out for any of The Beasts or Green Fish?
Wren called out from her cell. “There’s always a warrant for us. What’s new?”
The guard stood and walked towards the cell. “You keep out of this. There’ll be a rope for you.”
Carthinal thought quickly. How could he get the guard to release The Wren? He had an idea. “You said you knew the death certificate Gromlo showed you was forged. That means you knew he swindled me out of my inheritance, yet you did nothing. You took his bribe and left me to starve on the streets. I was lucky enough to fall in with The Beasts and that’s kept me alive.”
The guard looked at him through narrowed eyes. “What are you saying, boy?”
“I’m saying it would be hard on you if your superiors found out. Even after a year, they would still not take a good view of a guard taking a bribe.”
“You go to the bosses and they’ll arrest you before you get one word out.” He smirked at Carthinal.

The boy replied, “But if they got a letter, they wouldn’t know who it came from, would they? They’d have to investigate, and you would be dismissed. What would you do then?”
The guard laughed. “And who will write a letter? All you street kids are illiterate.”
“Are you so sure about that? Aren’t you forgetting who my grandfather was? He sent me to school.”
The guard blanched. “What do you want?”
“I want my friend released.”
“And how will I explain where she’s gone?”
“You’ll think of something. Now, give me the keys, and you go and stop those Green Fish from breaking out when I unlock the door.”
The guard picked up the keys, but before handing them to Carthinal, he turned to the door.
Carthinal jumped in front of him and drew his knife. His nostrils flared and his eyes blazed “Oh no you don’t! You’re not going to run out on me.”
The guard put up his hands. “I’m just going to lock this door, then if those thugs make a run for it they can’t get out. I’ll get them back into their cage then unlock the door for you and your friend.”
Watching closely, Carthinal held onto his knife and kept it pointed at the guard’s throat as he locked the jailhouse door and went to unlock the cell.
The Wren rushed out, followed by the two Green Fish. The guard tackled one of them, bringing him tumbling to the ground. The youth rolled over on top of the guard and looked like being able to overpower him, but the guard bucked and threw him off. As luck would have it, he banged his head on the wall of the cell and lay still.
Carthinal and The Wren took on the other youth. He was a big young man, but Carthinal threatened with his knife and as he approached, The Wren stuck out her foot and gave him a push. He stumbled enough for Carthinal to finish his fall and sit on top of him. He held the Green Fish’s long hair and pulled back, holding his knife at the other’s throat.

”Now go back into your cell like a good boy,” Carthinal said with a smirk, “or I might forget I’m a nice person.”
The guard dragged the first youth into the cell, and the second went in quietly, looking all the time at Carthinal.
“They’ll end up on the hangman’s gibbet, no doubt,” the guard said. “Now get out of here before I have second thoughts.”
Carthinal grinned. “You won’t. I know too much about you.”
He and Wren left the jailhouse and met The Cat outside. “What kept you? I thought you were goin’ in ter lure th’ guy out.”
“Long story, Cat, but I found a better way to do it. I’ll tell you on the way back to HQ.”
Wren reached up and kissed Carthinal on the cheek. “Thank you for rescuing me.”
He blushed. “I…it was nothing. You’re my partner.”
The Wren smiled.

***
Another year passed. Carthinal had been with The Beasts for just over two years. There had been many more fights like the one with the Green Fish. Other gangs tried to take over the Beasts’ territory. It was the best territory in Bluehaven, having the market. Carthinal learned to fight with his knife and usually came away with few injuries.

“The luck of the elves,” The Wren told him.

His relationship with The Wren deepened, and soon they shared a room. They were a good team, too, and The Rooster was proud of the way they never failed to get a good haul when they went out to pick pocket.

It was the spring equinox, Grillon’s Day and the first day of spring when they went out, not to pick pockets, but to watch the entertainers in the square.

Grillon’s Day was a day of celebration all over Grosmer. First, there was a service in Grillon’s Grove outside the city. Most people went there or to his temple in the city. Here the priests gave thanks to Grillon for past productivity and fertility. He was the god of the wild and wild things, and beloved by hunters, but because his day was the first day of spring, everyone worshipped him on this day. All except the gangs.

After the services, people came into the towns to feast and be entertained, then in the evening, there was dancing around the bonfires, after which couples sneaked away into the woods. Any children born after this celebration were not considered illegitimate, but thought of as Grillon’s children.

This year, a magician was billed to be appearing, and Carthinal and The Wren got to the square early. They stood hand in hand waiting for the show to begin.

It began with dancers in the centre of the square, then a group of singers appeared. Clowns and people on stilts followed . The stilt walkers began to dance and the audience clapped, cheered and threw money into the arena. A man dressed in a clown’s costume with a bucket, picked the coins up and then went round the crowd shaking it for people to add more.

A woman brought her dogs into the space and they ran around seemingly at random at the beginning, but then she began to play a flute and dance. The dogs followed her movements and soon they were all dancing, weaving around each other. That brought more cheers, and people threw money again. The same clown picked it up and asked for more from the crowd.

Finally the magician appeared. He wore a deep blue robe with stars and moons printed all over it. He had a hood pulled up over his head so no one could see his face. He waved his hands around in the air and appeared to pull coins out of the air.

“I wish I could do that,” whispered Wren. “We’d no longer have to steal to make a living. We’d be rich.”

“I don’t think it’s real magic, though,” Carthinal replied. “If he could conjure coins, I don’t think he’d be here doing that.”

The magician approached the crowd. He reached out his hand and seemingly pulled a sweetmeat from behind a small boy’s ear. He handed it to the child who immediately put it in his mouth and grinned.

This went on for some time, until Carthinal began to feel a prickling all over his skin. He scratched.

“What’s wrong?” Wren asked. “Got fleas?”

Carthinal shook his head and watched the magician carefully. He was muttering some words and a flame appeared on one of his fingers. Still muttering, he made it jump from one finger to the next.

The next thing he did, Carthinal felt nothing, then he felt the prickling again. This time the man held a globe of light that changed colour as he moved it around. He threw it into the air and it turned blue, then disappeared against the sky.

This went on for some time. The crowd loved it, especially when the magician conjured bursts of coloured lights in the sky. All this time, Carthinal’s skin prickled.

After the show, as the pair walked back to the headquarters, Carthinal said, “I think some of that was real magic. Not all of it, of course, just some of it.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Didn’t you get a prickling of your skin when he did certain things?”

Wren shook her head. “No, Nothing. Why?”

Carthinal looked down at her. “Doesn’t matter. I thought it was interesting, that’s all.”

Was it real magic, and can Carthinal sense when it is being used?

Please leave a comment in the comments box. and tell me what you think of this story.

If you would like to find out more about how Carthinal turns out and his later adventures, you can do so by reading The Wolves of Vimar Series. Just click on the book covers in the side bar to go to its page on Amazon, wherever you are.

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Carthinal 5

thewolfpack1

 

Several months later, as Carthinal and Wren were just leaving on a job, The Bull charged into the headquarters.
“Green Fish on our patch.” He paused for breath. “Their boss is with ‘em., too. Think they want to try a takeover.”
The Rooster surged to his feet and began pointing and giving orders. “Fox, Wren, come ‘ere. Job’s cancelled. Porcupine, get th’ weapons. Bull, find th’ other big guys and come back ‘ere. Quickly. Everyone oo’s ‘ere gather round.”
Porcupine arrived pulling a large chest. The Rooster opened it and began handing out weapons. Daggers in the main, but he gave a bows to a couple of the stronger lads, who set about stringing them. Carthinal watched as they heaved on the heavy wood, realising the bows would need a great deal of strength to draw.
“Fox, take this knife.”
“I’ve never used one before.” Carthinal looked at the weapon, turning it over in his hands.
“Mind.” The Wren came up and took it from him. “It’s sharp. Very. You c’d cut yer fingers off.”
Carthinal grimaced and took it from her. “I’ll be careful. What happens now?”
“We go and fight Green Fish off our patch.”
Carthinal frowned and looked at his dagger again. “I don’t know how to fight.”
It was Wren’s turn to grimace. “Then you’ll ’ave ter learn quick. That or die.” She gave a little laugh. “I’d ’ate ter see that ’appen.”
The gang was making its way through the door and into the street. Wren and Carthinal rushed to catch up. Green Fish had set themselves up in the park where Carthinal had slept when he first found himself on the streets. The gang, about thirty strong, stood in the entrance to the park.
A few citizens were strolling in the park as it was a pleasant spring day. One of the first of the year. They stopped, frozen in their tracks.
The Rooster stepped in front of the rest of the gang. “You’re on our patch.”
Another young man stepped in front of the group facing the Beasts. “Sez oo?”
“Sez me, and we’re gonna see you gone or dead.”
He beckoned the rest of the gang, who rushed through the gates. As soon as the gate cleared, the citizens rushed out. Carthinal watched them go, wishing he could go with them, but he must fight. How should he do it?
“Come on,” Wren whispered. “We’re missing all the fun.”
Fun? What’s fun about probably getting hurt, or possibly getting killed? In spite of his fears, Carthinal rushed towards the fight, after Wren.
It looked like chaos to Carthinal. He grasped his knife trying to find someone who he didn’t know to stab. He looked around. He recognised everyone. Then he saw someone he knew. Someone who was not one of the Beasts. Someone who had tried to rob him.
He felt his anger rise from somewhere in his stomach. Carthinal deserved to have his own back on this young man, and, although smaller, he rushed through the melee. He almost tripped over a body lying on the ground, but managed to catch his balance. The trip propelled him forward towards his selected victim. He held his dagger before him and thrust it forwards.
The young man in question had his back to Carthinal, and the dagger entered between his ribs, and pierced a lung. He went down with a cry. Carthinal smiled.
He found himself in the middle of the battle. How dare these people try to take over his gang’s territory? His anger had not been assuaged. The stabbing of his enemy only fed it. He swung the knife at random, but, as luck would have it, he made contact with a young woman’s eyes. She screamed and fell.
So it went on for what seemed to Carthinal like hours. When the last of Green Fish ran away, leaving their friends groaning on the park grass, he looked at the sky. The sun had not moved far. The battle had taken no more than half an hour. He looked around to see how many of his friends had been injured.
There was The Rooster, covered in blood, but checking those lying on the ground. Some he helped to their feet, calling others to take them away. Some he sighed over, bent and closed their eyes, but most he left.
The sound of pounding feet brought Carthinal to his senses. The Cat, blood running from a cut on his cheek, called “Fox, run. It’s the guard. If they catch you, you might as well have been killed here.”
All those who could, scattered in all directions. The guards tried to pursue them, but quickly lost them as soon as they got into the poor quarter. Gradually all made their way back to the headquarters.

 

The Rooster counted them. “We lost five. I hope the injured make it back. I sent them off with help before the guards arrived.”
Slowly the injured, and those helping them arrived.
“Did we lose any on the way?” he asked The Scorpion, who was helping the injured.
“No. We all got back.”
Carthinal looked round the room. Some had minor wounds, others more serious. He had a cut on his hand, and one young woman had managed to cut his shirt, but the knife had not gone through.
“Where’s Wren?” he asked. He felt a hollow feeling in his stomach as he realised she was nowhere to be seen.
The Rooster searched the room with his eyes. He turned to The Scorpion. “But we didn’t all get back. The Wren isn’t here.”
The Scorpion hung his head. “Sorry, boss. I thought she was with Fox.”
“Thought? Thought?” The Rooster paced up and down. “What do you mean, ‘Thought’? Did you think to check with Fox?”
The Scorpion shook his head. “Sorry” he repeated, shuffling his feet.
“We must find her.” The Rooster began organising the search. “She wasn’t among the dead, so she left the park. Let’s just hope she’s not been caught by the Guard.”

Where is Wren? Has she been caught? Find out the first Tuesday in October.

This is the story of Carthinal’s youth. Carthinal is a young man in my Wolves of Vimar series which begins with The Wolf Pack. You can buy this, and my other books, by clicking on the images in the side bar.

I hope you are enjoying this story. Please let me know in the comments.

Carthinal part 4

thewolfpack1

Carthinal spent the next few weeks learning the language of the underworld. The Rooster would not allow him to leave the headquarters until he was reasonably proficient. He must be able to talk with other members of the gang without the Guard understanding.
One day, after he had been with The Beasts for six months, The Rooster called to him. “Fox, you go with Wren. There’ll be lots of punters out in the market. She’ll pick a pocket, then pass it to you. You leave in th’ opposite direction an’ come back ’ere. Don’t run. That’d raise suspicions.”
Carthinal grinned. At last The Rooster trusted him to do a job. His eyes glowed with a seeming inner light, and he jigged on the spot.
“Fox,” The Rooster called as they passed him. “Cover yer ’ead. Yer auburn ’air is too distinctive. Can’t do anything ’bout those eyes, but don’t look straight at anyone. No one else ’as eyes that dark blue.”
Carthinal nodded as he pulled a hood over his hair, and left in the company of The Wren.
The Wren had brown hair and eyes, and was of small stature. They walked to the market, but as soon as they entered The Wren whispered to Carthinal.
“We separate here. Keep me in sight. When you see me bump into a punter, come to me. Don’t stop. I’ll put the stuff into your hand. Keep on going and don’t look at me.”
Carthinal mingled with the crowds, pretending to look at the goods in the market, but always keeping The Wren in sight. She passed many people, and Carthinal wondered how she chose her victim. He saw her stumble and bump into a rich-looking woman.
He walked quickly towards her and heard her say. “I’m sorry ma’am. Caught me foot on summat.” She looked down as if to search for what had tripped her.
Carthinal walked by, close to the woman and The Wren, and felt her hand touch his. He gripped something and continued walking, After a few yards he turned in the direction of the gang headquarters.
“Well done. You’re a natural.” The Wren caught him up.
Carthinal grinned at her. “I did alright, then?”
“Very good for a first time. In fact, I’ve had buddies worse than that after years of practice.”
Carthinal puffed his chest out. He would make sure he was the best in the gang.
The Rooster patted them both on the back. “Looks like you’ll make a good pair. A good haul here, too. There’s even an emperor in the purse.”
He held up a large coin made of platinum. “A few copper royals, ten silver crowns, and three gold monarchs as well.” He grinned and then sent them to get some food at the opposite end of the large room.
Carthinal had been sharing a room with The Cat who hoped to be a cat burglar and had begun his training. Soon, Carthinal and he became firm friends.
“What do you want to do, here?” queried The Cat one day.
Carthinal shrugged. “Not sure.”
“How do you fancy being a burglar? Lots of excitement.”
“No, that doesn’t appeal to me, really.”
“Y’ could be a pick-pocket, like The Wren, or The Rooster could set yer up in a shop in town, an’ you could be a fence.” The Cat’s gaze scanned Carthinal from head to foot. “I don’t think you’d be very good as security, though. We need people built like The Bull for that. Then there’re th’ beggars. They play on people’s sympathy. Usually with an injury or summat. You ain’t got no injury, but you’re pretty enough to make punters feel sorry for yer.”
“I’ve not thought about it, Cat. I suppose I should, really.’
It was decided for him, eventually.
The Rooster called him one day. “Fox, yer must earn yer keep. We ain’t a charity. Go over to The Snake and say I told ’im ter teach you ‘ow ter pick a pocket.”
Carthinal began to learn the art of picking pockets under The Snake’s tutelage. The Snake, as his name implies, was a slippery customer. He was tall and slender with thin, brown hair and green eyes.
“ I ’ave a pouch in me pocket. I’m gonna walk over there.” He pointed to the opposite side of the room. I want yer t’ get it out of me pocket. Dunna worry ’bout me feelin’ yer at th’ moment Just get it.”
This Carthinal did, In spite of what The Snake said, he tried to get it without the young man feeling him.
“Not bad. Yer technique’s not quite right, but we’ll work on that. Yer did well for a first time.”
So it went on over the next few months. Carthinal became better at picking pockets, until eventually, he was allowed to go out with The Wren again, this time to be the ‘dip’ while she received his stolen goods.
They came to the market, and Carthinal sighted a man with a bulging pocket. He stealthily walked towards him, looking the other way. Then he stumbled and bumped into the man, reaching quickly into his pocket and extracting a full purse. The Wren walked past as if she were looking at the stall, and Carthinal pressed the purse into her hand and walked away in the opposite direction.
The victim put his hand to his pocket to get his money to pay for a purchase. “Hey, I’ve been robbed.” He scanned the marketplace. Turning to the man next to him he said, “Did you see anything?”
The man shook his head.
Carthinal looked back and saw this exchange, but continued wending his way towards the gang’s headquarters. No one noticed the boy weaving between them, but concentrated on what went on at the stall, where the victim stridently called for the guard.
Back at the headquarters, The Wren handed the pouch over to The Rooster.
“Well done, the pair of you. Fox, you’re proving yourself a handy pickpocket.”

So Carthinal is learning to be a pickpocket. How will that square with his upbringing? Find out next time on the first Tuesday of August.

If you would like to know more about Carthinal’s later adventures, you can buy The Wolf Pack by clicking on the link here, and it will take you to amazon where you are. It is available both as an ebook or a paperback.

Please leave a comment in the box. I would love to hear your views on this little tale.

Carthinal’s Story Part 3

Carthinal1

“I’m not moving from here until I see the lawyer.” Carthinal set his mouth in a straight line.

The woman stood and rounded her desk. She took Carthinal by the arm and tried to propel him to the door. He planted his feet onto the ground and pulled back. The woman slipped and almost fell. She cried out.
A door behind the woman’s desk opened. “What’s all the noise about, Hiroma?” Then he caught sight of Carthinal. His face reddened and his hands formed fists at his side. He iseyes glam]nced from side to side.
“What do you want?” he growled.
Carthinal’s mouth formed a firm line. “I want my house back.”

 

“What are you talking about, boy? You are, what? thirteen years old? How can an thirteen-year-old have a house? Go back to your parents.”
“I have no parents. And I’m seventeen.”
Gromblo Grimnor laughed. “Seventeen? Seventeen? I’ve seen taller twelve-year-olds than you. Don’t try to kid me. Now, what do you really want? And who sent you? Do you want money? If you’re in some gang, they’ve not done very well with this scam.”
“You know who I am.” Carthinal looked Gromblo in the eye. “I am Carthinal. My Grandfather was Kendo Borlin. He left his house and money to me. He told me so.”
Gromblo narrowed his eyes. “So that’s your game. Trying to impersonate Carthinal. Well, I have to tell you that Carthinal is dead. He died of pneumonia last year. Some say his death was the cause of his Grandfather’s illness. That the old man never recovered from the shock. So,. You see, you can’t be Carthinal.” The lawyer laughed.
“I’m not dead. I’m here. And I want to know why you stole my home.”
Gromblo turned to Hiroma. “Go and call the Guard. We need to get this child out of here.”
As she left, Carthinal felt a tightness in his chest, and a familiar feeling welling up from his stomach. Clenching his fists, he ran at Gromblo and kicked him in the shins. The lawyer yelled, hopped on one leg for a few seconds and lunged at Carthinal, who slipped beneath his arm. Steadying himself on the wall behind the bench where Carthinal had been sitting, he turned and, with a roar, launched himself once more at the child. This time he managed to catch Carthinal’s arm. Carthinal bit the hand holding him, but Gromblo managed to hang on to the boy.
Carthinal screamed at the man. “I’m not dead. I’m here, and you’ve stolen my home and my money.”
The door opened and Hiroma appeared with a guard.
“What’s going on here?” the guard asked.
“This little rat is trying to say he’s Kendo Borlin’s grandson. You know, the head of the guilds, who died last year. I think he’s trying to get money from me.”
“Too right I am. You owe me a fortune.”
Gromblo turned to the guard. “See what I mean? I grant you he looks a bit like Carthinal, with the red hair and blue eyes, but that child is dead.”
“Do you have proof of the child’s death?”
Carthinal looked at the guard. He had not thought of that. There could not be anything to prove the demise of Carthinal. He stood right here in front of them, very much alive.
Gromblo turned to Hiroma. “Go and get the Borlin file.”
The young woman left, to return a few minutes later with a thick file. Gromblo took it and laid it on his secretary’s desk.
He fumbled through a lot of papers then pulled one out. “I did a lot of work for Kendo Borlin “Aah! Here’s the paper giving details of Carthinal’s death. Very sad it was. A lovely little boy. Such a sweet nature.”
Carthinal frowned. He had hardly seen Gromblo when he visited. Neither had he ever heard himself described as having a ‘sweet nature’. He had been too much of a rebel and short-tempered for that epithet to be applied.
The guard looked at the paper. He frowned. “Looks as if the name could have been scrubbed out.”
Gromblo paled. “Well, you know how it is. Secretaries aren’t like they used to be.” He flashed a look at Hiroma who started tapping her feet. “I expect she made a spelling mistake or something.”
The guard grunted. Carthinal thought he saw something pass between the guard and Gromblo as the guard passed the paper back, but he could not be sure. Then the guard grabbed him and propelled him towards the door, pushing him so that Carthinal rolled over in the dust in the road.
“Get out of here.” The guard gave him another push, but more gently this time. “I don’t want to see you anywhere near here in future. That lawyer’s sneaky, not like the old man who used to be there. He’ll try to do you harm if I’m not mistaken.”
With that, the guard stomped away, looking at something in his hand.
Carthinal watched as the guard disappeared round the corner of a building. What did he mean? Did he mean he believed Carthinal and not Gromlo? He made his way back to the park where he had slept. He sat on the grass and pulled out what money he had left. As he counted it, a shadow loomed over him. Carthinal looked up. A boy of about fifteen stood over him, with another standing just behind.
“Hand over your money.”
Carthinal jumped to his feet, stuffing the coins back into his pocket. “No! Why should I?”
The boy was much bigger than Carthinal. In fact, he stood a head taller, and he was broad-shouldered. His friend was a little smaller, but not by much.
“Because if you don’t, we’ll punch you until you drop it, then we’ll get it anyway. Your choice.”
Carthinal backed away, keeping his eyes on both boys as best he could, and his hand on the coins in his pocket. If he gave these thugs his money, he would have nothing to buy food with. He would starve.
They both came at him at once. Being smaller, Carthinal managed to duck under both their hands, but then he felt a blow on the back of his head. He went down, but kicked out his feet as he did so. The second boy, as luck would have it, happened to be coming in for another blow and Carthinal’s kick took both his legs from under him. He crashed down on top of his victim.
The first boy dragged his friend off but the blow Carthinal expected did not happen. He looked up to see his assailant held in a firm grip by another, even larger boy, while a smaller one pummeled the second.
Carthinal’s nostrils flared and he clenched his fists. How dare these young thugs try to steal his money. Taking advantage of the fact that he was held, he bunched his fist and slammed it into the midriff of the larger of his two assailants. The boy holding him swung him round and punched him as well. Gasping for breath, he took off, running as fast as his legs could carry him.
The smaller of the two new arrivals dipped and dodged and got in quite a lot of blow without being hit himself, but as soon as his opponent saw his friend running, he, too, turned on his heels and fled.
Panting, the smaller of his rescuers turned to Carthinal. “Right. ’oo are yer and what’re yer doin’ on our patch?”
Carthinal frowned. “Patch? I don’t understand.”
“Yer not part o’ our gang, and yer not part o’ Th’ Green Fish, either. So oo are yer?”
“Green Fish?”
The boy frowned and ran his fingers through his dark hair. “Start by tellin’ me oo yer are. Bull,’old ’im t’ make sure ’e don’t run for it. Right. We’ve never seen you ’ere before. Tell me oo yer are.”
“I’m Carthinal Borlin. I live, or rather used to live, up on the hill.”
“A rich kid,” growled Bull. “Let’s kick ’im.”
“I’m not a rich kid anymore.”
The smaller boy put his head on one side. “What d’yer mean, ‘anymore’?”
“The lawyer has taken my home and said I’m dead. He had a paper to prove it.”
Bull released Carthinal’s arms. “What d’yer think, Cat? Let him go?”
Cat shook his head. “’e’s not part o’ Green Fish. We can’t ’ave ’im wanderin’ round operatin’ on ’is own. We’ll take ’im to ’eadquarters.”
Carthinal did not know what they were talking about, but as he had no other ideas as to what he could do, he followed the pair.
They led him to an area Carthinal had never been before. Near to the docks, it was very run down. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of rotting food lying in the gutters, and carefully skirted other unmentionable things. A skinny dog barked at them as they passed, and half-starved cats jumped onto walls. Dirty children ran wild in the streets, and people looked suspiciously at Carthinal’s expensive, if dirty, clothes.
They came to a dark alley where his escorts turned off the main road and arrived at a door whose paint had mostly peeled off. Cat knocked a complex pattern and the door opened a crack. Just enough for Carthinal to see a grey eye peering out.
“Oh, it’s you.” The voice was female. Carthinal saw the eye turn to him. “Oo’s this?”
“Someone oo might want ter join us. Come on, Shrew. Open up. We need to see Rooster.”
The door creaked on its hinges as Shrew swung it back. The three entered into a long corridor.
Carthinal looked around. Inside it appeared cleaner than outside. The wooden planks on the floor had been polished and the walls looked clean and painted.
“Come on. Rooster’ll want ter see yer.” Shrew beckoned them towards a door at the end of the corridor.
Carthinal followed and found himself in a large room. Several small tables scattered around with a few people sitting at them. Some played Rond, a card game popular on Vimar. Others sat around talking or mending clothes and tools.
Light streamed in through two large windows opposite the door. As with everything else, they were clean and polished. A large table stood under one of the windows, and a man sat on a large chair behind it.
He stood as the three entered the room. He was dressed in a tunic of red and blue, with green trousers. He had his hair dyed red and it stood up. His nose was long and he craned his neck forward as he looked at them.
“What’s this you’ve brought?”
“We found ’im. Green Fish attacked ’im,” the boy known as The Cat replied. “Well, a couple of ’em, anyway. They were on our patch, so we saw ’em off.”
“Why bring ’im ’ere? ’e looks like one o’ them rich bods.”
“’e was, but ’e was cheated of ’is ’ouse, ’e sez.”
The Rooster came round the table. He walked all round Carthinal, looking him up and down. Carthinal shuffled his feet as he watched the man.
He does look like a rooster, Carthinal thought. He even walks like one.
When he returned to face Carthinal, The Rooster turned to him. “The Cat says you might want t’join us. What d’you say?”
Carthinal looked around the room. All eyes looked in his direction, and a few people had left their places and now stood around looking at him.
He turned his eyes at the person referred to as The Cat. “I never said that!”
The small, dark-haired boy grinned. “Not in so many words, no. But you were on our patch. You’ll be stealin’ soon. You steal on our patch, you better be in The Beasts or we’ll deal wi’ you like we did Green Fish”
“Who says I’ll steal? Stealing’s wrong.”
The Rooster stood up from the table and approached. “’ow much money ‘ave you, boy? You say you got no ’ome. Your money’ll run out soon. Then you’ll steal to live. You can join us or not. Up to you, but if you don’t, expect us to sort you out like we sorted Green Fish. You’ll not survive long. Green Fish’ll be after you, too. You join The Beasts and we’ll give you food, protection and a ’ome.”
Carthinal stood looking at the young man in front of him. What he said was true. He closed his eyes as he thought.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you.” The Rooster interrupted his thoughts. “We hold everything in common. You have to give us what you have.”
Carthinal stepped back. “I only have a little money left. You can’t take that.”
The Rooster shrugged. “Have it your own way.” He turned to go back to his chair. Then he stopped and looked back at Carthinal. “We’ll get th’ money anyway. One of us’ll catch you and take it. Pr’ob’ly beat you a bit, too, ’cos you’ll be on or patch, see. So you lose it anyway.”
“All right.” Carthinal felt in his pocket and pulled out his few royals, He handed it to The Rooster.
“Sensible lad.” The Rooster took the money and called to a young man sitting by the window. “Tiger, bring th’ money pot. We’ve a bit more ter put in it.”
Tiger lifted a pot from one of the shelves and carried it carefully over to The Rooster, who dropped Carthinal’s money into it.
“You need a name,” one of the girls said.
“I’m called Carthinal”
“No, a gang name. We don’t use our given names here. As we’re the Beasts, we all have animal names. I’m The Porcupine.”
Another boy chimed up, “I know. ’e’s got red ’air. ‘e can be The Fox.”

So Carthinal has joined a street gang! Will he be able to fit in? What will he think about committing crimes?

Find out on the first Tuesday of August.

Are you enjoying the story of Carthinal’s early life? Please let me know what you think in the comments.

If you want to know more about Carthinal, you can find out by reading The Wolf Pack. You can buy by clicking here, or on the book cover.

 

Carthinal’s Story, Part 2

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One day when Carthinal had been out all day, he returned to find the door locked against him. Gromblo Grimnor appeared when he knocked.
“Go away,” the lawyer said. “There’s nothing for you here. We don’t want beggars at the door.”
He crossed the road and stood looking at the house he had once called home. Some men came and erected a sign saying it was for sale. How could they sell his house without his permission? His grandfather left it to him in his will.
Carthinal sat on a wall to watch. As he watched, the staff who had served his grandparents left one by one. Some carried bags, others nothing. All turned to look back at the house as they trudged away. None saw the small auburn-haired lad sitting on the wall.
Eventually, when he had seen everyone leave except the lawyer, Carthinal turned away. Where should he go? He had no living relatives. Not here in Bluehaven, anyway. His father had been an elf and had relatives in the elven homeland of Rindisillaron, but he had no idea how to get there, nor how to find his paternal grandparents if he did manage it.
He ambled away, constantly turning to look toward the house. He had no idea where he was going, but staying there was pointless. His stomach rumbled. By now, the cook would have given him some honey cakes to assuage his hunger until it was time for the evening meal. His mouth felt dry, too.
He had a little money in his pocket and so he wended his way towards the market place where there would be stalls selling food. He did not know what his small amount of money would buy him. Although he was seventeen years old, being a half-elf, he developed slower than human children, and he looked and behaved more like an thirteen-year-old. People found it odd, and many thought he was mentally deficient, that a seventeen-year-old should look and behave as if he were only thirteen.
Sixteen was the legal age of majority in Grosmer, but Carthinal did not feel grown up. No one really knew when he would be able to take on the responsibilities of an adult. Elves were twenty five before they became officially adults, but a half-elf—well, no one knew.
Carthinal arrived at the market. Taking a few coins from his pocket, he wandered past the stalls looking for something he could afford.
He stopped by a stall. “How much are your small pies?”
“The very small ones are one royal,” the stall-holder replied, citing one of the copper coins.
“Please may I have one?”
The man smiled and passed a pie to the child. “Don’t spoil your evening meal with it, though, or your parents will be annoyed with me.
Carthinal’s indigo blue eyes filled with tears, and he turned away so the man would not see. He strolled to the park gates, munching on the pie. Where would he sleep tonight? Would it be safe to sleep outdoors? How cold would it be? All these questions passed through his mind as he finished the pie and brushed the crumbs off his tunic.
As the grandson of a prominent guild member in the town of Bluehaven, Carthinal had always been well-dressed. Today was no exception. He wore a dark green tunic over a lighter green shirt and brown trousers. The cut and the cloth marked him out as the child of a wealthy family. He had never known hardship in his entire life.
As he passed a fountain, he cupped his hands and picked up some of the water. When he had slaked his thirst, he entered the park gates. Fortunately it was summer, and so the night would be unlikely to be cold. Carthinal sat down on the grass to think.
The night began to fall and he fell asleep where he sat on a grassy bank, shaded by a large tree. He dreamed of his grandfather. They were in his grandfather’s office and the old man spoke to the child standing in front of him.
“Carthinal, remember this. Life isn’t always easy. You’ve been lucky in that you’ve never known hardship. The gods be praised you never will, but everything will not go smoothly, even so.” His grandfather sat on a chair in front of his desk and pulled Carthinal towards him, putting his arms around the child. “When you meet problems, always think them through. Take your time, and don’t try to rush things. If you do that, things will usually turn out right in the end.”
The sun woke Carthinal the next morning. He stretched , looking around and wondering where he was, and why he wasn’t in his bed. Then he remembered. He had no home now. His eyes began to fill with tears, but he brushed them away.
His stomach rumbled as he stood and made his way back to the marketplace. Here he bought some fruit for one royal and a small glass of goats’ milk for another.
The sun rose high in the sky and Carthinal returned to the park where he sat in the shade of a tall tree. This far south in the land of Grosmer, summers were hot, and soon the young lad began to feel thirsty. He stood and made his way back to the fountain where he drank some water. Then he wandered once more towards the market place.
At noon he bought some bread filled with chicken. He looked at the coins that were left in his hand. Only two royals. He could only get a couple more meals with them. What would he do then? He could get water to drink, but that wouldn’t help him beat off starvation.
He wandered the streets of Bluehaven all day until he found himself outside the offices belonging to the lawyer his grandfather had trusted with his will. He crossed the road and opened the door.
The young woman sitting at a desk looked up. “What do you want?” she snapped. “This is a lawyer’s office, not a child’s playground. Be off with you.”
Carthinal stood his ground. “I want to speak with Gromblo Grimnor, please.”
The girl laughed. “And what business have you with a lawyer?”
“I want my home back.” Carthinal sat on a bench situated against a wall.
“A child can’t own a house.”
“I’m seventeen.”
The woman laughed. “Seventeen? You look no more than thirteen. Be a good boy and go away. Find your friends and play.”

Can Carthinal get his home back? How has the lawyer managed to cheat the boy?

Find out on the first Tuesday of July.

Please leave a comment in the comments box and let me know what you think of this story. It’s the backstory of Carthinal, who is one of the main characters in my Wolves of Vimar series. You can buy the first book, The Wolf Pack, on Amazon, is either an ebook or a ‘real’ book. Click here to go to Amazon where you are.

Carthinal’s Story. Part 1

I’ve posted something about the people in the Wolves of Vimar series. I have now started writing about Carthinal. At the beginning of The Wolf Pack, Book 1 in The Wolves of Vimar series, he is an apprentice mage. During that book, he becomes a full mage, having taken his tests that ended his apprenticeship.

He is a good-looking half-elf, with auburn hair and incredibly deep blue eyes, almost indigo. He is ambitious in magic, and with his good looks, females of all ages tend to pursue him. He does not discourage them.

In this, part 1, of his story, he is sixteen, but, being a half-elf, his development, both physical and mental, are more that of a boy of twelve.

So let’s begin his story.

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Carthinal dragged his feet as he entered the house accompanied by his nanny, Blendin.
He had just returned from his grandfather’s funeral. The old man had passed away suddenly the previous week. Before that, he had seemed full of life. Carthinal could not understand what had happened. His grandfather was the only relative he had in Bluehaven, his parents and his grandmother having died.
His father had been an elf, and so, although sixteen and nominally now of age, Carthinal’s development was slower than true humans and he appeared in both physical and mental development to be a young boy of eleven years old.
The house felt empty, devoid of life. Carthinal went into the garden at the back of the house. He sat on his swing and swung idly back and forwards. What would happen to him now? Would they send him to his father’s people in Rindisillaron? It was a long way away, and he had no recollection of his paternal grandparents, although they had been in Bluehaven when he had been born.
He looked at the house. He heard the laughter of his grandmother, and his grandfather’s deep voice. He even thought he heard his mother calling to him, although both his parents had been dead for the past eight years. He jumped off the swing and picked up a stick.
Slashing at the plants in the garden gave him a little satisfaction. “Why did they all die and leave me?”
Blendin came out and found him still destroying the garden. “Come, master Carthinal. This won’t help. You need to come in and have something to eat.”
“Shan’t! I’m not hungry” He slashed at a tulip.
“What have those poor flowers done to you? You know you’ll be sorry once you’ve calmed down a bit.”
“I don’t want to go back into the house. There’s no one there. It ‘s dead. Just like Mother and Father, Grandmother and Grandfather.”
Blendin sat down on a bench and pulled the boy towards her, holding him tight. “This is now your house, Carthinal. Your grandfather left it to you in his will. You are a rich young man. If you no longer want to live here, you can sell it, I suppose, and buy somewhere else.”
Looking into the boy’s indigo eyes, Blendin saw the deep hurt he felt. She brushed his auburn hair from his face and gently led him back to the house.
The servants worked as usual. Carthinal’s grandfather had arranged that money should be sent to Promin, the butler, who then paid the other servants. Carthinal had his meals in the nursery with Blendin, although Premin had said that as the master of the house he should eat in the dining room. Carthinal could not bring himself to eat alone in that large room.
The days passed. Gromblo Grimnor, the lawyer who dealt with his grandfather’s affairs, appeared frequently at the house.
Carthinal found him snooping around in his grandfather’s study one day.
“What are you doing?” the boy asked him, frowning. “Why are you here? You’ve been coming a lot recently.”
Gromblo Grimnor smiled. With his mouth, anyway. He looked Carthinal up and down. “There are a lot of loose ends to tidy up, child. I need to come here to find things out.”
Although sixteen, Carthinal had always been treated as a child, and so he turned and left the lawyer to do what he needed to do. The law did not know what to do about a boy whose chronological age said he was an adult, but whose development said he was a child.
Eventually, he went out every day to walk around the town. Sometimes he stayed out all day. He hated being in the house. He felt so alone. He considered going back to the school his grandfather had sent him, but they, like everyone else, did not want a sixteen-year-old who looked and behaved like and eleven-year-old. His grandfather’s money had kept him there, but now, they didn’t want him.
Visits by Gromblo Grimnor increased. Carthinal asked Promin why the lawyer was there so often. The butler shrugged and shook his head.

Blendin had no idea either. “I don’t know the workings of the law,” she told him. “Perhaps it’s because your grandfather died so suddenly, or perhaps because he was so well off. Or it might even be because of you. You are an adult in Grosmer law, but still a child, really. That’s a bit confusing for the lawyers.”

What was Gromblo doing? Will Carthinal find out? Come back on the first Tuesday of June to find out.

Please leave a comment in the comments box and say how you like this story. Or even if you didn’t. That’s helpful, too.

2 offers

There are 2 offers today.

Vengeancecover

  1. Vengeance of a Slave, a novel set in Roman Britain, is on offer until Dec 26th. Save £1 and get it for only £1.99 (US $1.99). It tells of how a young man tries to take revenge on the Romans for capturing him and removing him from his family. Click on the cover to buy.
  2. The-Stones-Of-Earth-And-Air-Promo-Hardback-Ereader The Stones of Earth and Air, Book 1 of Elemental Worlds, will be free from 15th (Saturday) until 20th (Thursday). This tells of how Pettic has to enter 4 worlds, each associated with one of the ancient elements, in order to find and rescue his friend, the Crown Prince of Ponderia. In this book, he enters the worlds of Terra and Aeris.

Don’t miss the opportunity to get your copies free.

If you are getting someone a Kindle or other tablet for Christmas, and they like historical novels or fantasy, then you could give it them with one (or both) of these books already on it.

Will you please vote for the cover of Vengeance of a Slave in a cover competition. You can vote this week and I think next, too.

So many of the covers in the competition seem very samey. They all have people on them, often sexy people. Seems to me that’s the ‘in’  thing at the moment. Very little originality.  Anyway, please vote, and thanks for when you have.

Here’s the link.

November/December 2018 #AltRead Alternative Book Cover Award Nominees! Have you voted yet? #BookCover

A Sneak Peek at Jealousy of a Viking

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I’ve not yet got any images for the cover of this book, or I’d post them here. However, there are a few of Viking people and Viking life. (Why has ‘of’ not gone into italics?)

I’m currently in the editing and rewrite process. I did hope it would be able to be released in time for Christmas, but that is now impossible. Anyway, here’s a bit of what I’ve already written. Please bear in mind that this is still only a draft.

This is Chapter 2. In Chapter 1, Helgha, a young Danish girl living near the Danish city of Jorvik, (York) met a young man called Erik, lost in the forest. She helped him to her home and he left his injured horse to be tended by her father, Biorn. After he collected his nirse, she thought she would never see him again, although she had developed an infatuation for the young man.

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 them. 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.

Aedelflaed spoke to Helgha about the herbs she would need to understand before she became a wife. ‘It will be your job to tend to the sickness and injuries of your people. You will need to know about what herbs you use for each job.’

‘Mother! I’ve been watching and learning all my life. I know almost as much as you do about tending the sick and injured.’

‘I know, Helgha, but your father is 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.’

Aedelflaed stretched, put down her spinning and stood. ‘Come with me, girl,’ she said, walking towards the streroom where she kept her dried and fresh herbs.

Helgha followed.

Aedelflaed reached, lifted a pot from the shelf, and turned to the girl. ‘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. Magic words.’

Helgha’s eyes opened wide. ‘Magic? You know magic? Isn’t that dangerous?’

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

‘But someone could accuse you of witchcraft.’

Aedelflaed 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.’

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 is 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 will not make any woman a good husband, she thought. On the few occasions they met, he had treated her with disdain. He did not seem to like women, and had told her once that 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 with a feeling of tightness in her chest, and her hands clenched involuntarily.

Helgha took a deep breath then carried on with her tasks with a heavy heart. She would have to 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 those thoughts, she left the longhouse and walked to the well. 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 his horse and jogged over to where she stood. Taking the buckets from her he looked into her eyes. Helgha thought she saw something there. Something that made her think perhaps her dreams were not in vain.

‘Hello, Helgha,’ Erik said, then looked away.

Had she imagined what she saw in his eyes? ‘Hello, Erik,’ she replied, feeling the redness creeping up her neck and infusing her face.

Leaving the other women who were at the well 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 Aedelflaed. ‘Thank you for your hospitality the other week. I would not be alive now if it weren’t for your kindness.’

Aedelflaed 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, Aedelflaed, I have this.’ He handed over a necklace of glass beads.
Aedelflaed 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’ve got some wine. I’m sure he’ll enjoy it when he comes in.’

Helgha smiled at the thought. Biorn drank more ale than wine, but she felt sure 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 Sighmund this toy boat.’

Then 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 round her neck.
Aedelflaed frowned. Helgha looked at her mother and knew what thoughts passed through her mind. Similar to the ones passing through her own head. Why had Erik brought her such a valuable gift? Did he want to court her? Neither she nor her parents knew anything about him. 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 of lower status?
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.

After this, he came every week on some pretext or other, but no message arrived from his father to Biorn suggesting a marriage. Erik, however, behaved as if he and Helgha were already betrothed.

One day, Biorn tackled Erik on this subject. Helgha held her breath, half-hoping Erik would say his father would send a message to Biorn about a betrothal.

‘You’ve been coming here a lot, Erik,’ Biorn said. ‘You spend a lot of time with Helgha, but we’ve heard nothing from your father about a betrothal.’

Erik went red, and hung his head. ‘I would truly like to be betrothed to your daughter, but my father would never agree. You cannot pay the dowry he would expect.’

Biorn’s face grew dark, and his eyes flashed. ‘You come here courting my daughter, yet you have no intention of marrying her. This is an insult to my family.’

Helgha held her breath as Erik continued to look at the floor. ‘I mean no insult to you, Biorn. My father will not agree to me marrying Helgha, but if I could, I would do so.’ He looked up and into Biorn’s eyes. ‘I’m afraid my father wishes me to marry someone who can bring wealth and influence to our family. Someone, I suspect, who is closer to Halfdan than he is.’

‘Then this means I will have to defend the honour of my family. I will not have you dishonour my sons and myself.’ He went to the wall and took down his shield and battle axe. ‘I must kill you. You have insulted my family. Have you amused yourself with my Helgha? Is she ruined?’

Erik faced Biorn. ‘Should we not fight outside?”

Biorn grunted. Helgha stood with her hands over her mouth and her eyes wide. As the two men went through the door, she ran after them screaming.

‘No! No! No!. Don’t fight over me. Please. Father, don’t kill him.’

She rushed over to Biorn and tried to pull his axe from his hands. He shoved her away. ‘This is man’s business. Go back to your mother.’

Helgha fell to the floor, scrambled up and ran back towards the longhouse where her mother appeared through the door. ‘Mother! Stop them. They’ll kill each other.’

Her mother looked at her. ‘One of them will kill the other. That’s the way it is. Erik has insulted our family by coming here as if to court you, but making no offers. Your father has to have his honour satisfied. If he fails, then it will be up to your brothers to kill Erik when they are old enough.’

Tears started to run down Helgha’s cheeks as she turned to her mother. ‘Please stop them. I can’t bear that one will die.’

Her mother turned away from her daughter. ‘You are a Dane, Helgha. Behave like one. People die in battle, you know that. Your uncles died with honour fighting for the Jarl to gain all this land. They now feast in Valhalla for ever. Whoever dies in this fight will join them.’

Helgha reached out to her mother. ‘You aren’t a Dane. How can you talk like that? You’re an Anglo-Saxon.’

‘I became a Dane when I married your father. I became a Dane when I decided to follow the Danish religion. I became a Dane when I learned how to act like one. Now, daughter, you must act like one too. Dry your eyes and stand and watch.’

Helgha forced her eyes to stay open as the two men circled each other, each looking for an opening. Erik was young but Biorn was a seasoned warrior who had fought hard to gain this land. Helgha knew he had more experience than the younger man and was full of tricks and wiles. She worried that her father’s experience would overcome Erik’s strength. Then her anxiety turned to anguish as she thought Erik’s youth and more recent battle experience would prevail and he would kill her father in this battle.
As the workers returned from the fields, they stood around to watch the contest as the pair continued to circle each other.

Helgha felt the sun’s rays on her back as it struck through a hole in the cloud. It felt as if one of the weapons struck her. She felt sick, but could not give in to the feeling. She felt her mother watching her, expecting her to behave like a true Dane. At that moment. Helgh felt anything but a true Dane. She felt like one of the despised Anglo Saxons, full of fear and cowardice. She turned to watch the fight.

Erik lunged but Biorn avoided his thrust. He struck at Erik who parried with his shield. Biorn made a flurry of attacks, hacking at Erik’s shield and forcing him backwards.
Backed against a store building, the younger man ducked and rolled away. He came up behind Biorn. The older man whirled round just in time to catch Erik’s sword on the edge of his shield. Helgha drew in a breath as he thrust the shield’s boss into Erik’s face. With no helmet to protect his head Erik was forced to duck. The edge of the shield cut a deep gash in his cheek.

Helgha screamed.

To the watching girl, it seemed hours passed. In effect, it was only a few minutes. She closed her eyes so as not to see, then opened them because she could not see. The two men were evenly matched. Erik was quicker, but what Biorn lacked in speed he more than made up for in experience and craft.

Eventually the fighting began to tell on Biorn. He slowed. Erik took advantage of this, and forced Biorn backwards. He rained .fast blows of his sword on Biorn’s shield. Biorn had to fend them off with no chance to retaliate.

Helgha once again screamed and put her hands over her face as she saw the blood-lust in Erik’s eyes as he pressed his attack. That look frightened her.

Biorn slipped. He did not go to ground, but his shield split under the assault from Erik. He regained his balance and held up his axe as defence. Erik slipped. Biorn lifted his battle axe to deal the final blow as Erik twisted his body and thrust upwards, skewered Biorn through the belly.

Blood gushed over the young man as he rolled from under his assailant. He stood and leaned on his sword, gasping for breath as Biorn’s four men rushed towards him, pitchforks in hand. Erik sheathed his sword and ran towards Helgha. He grabbed her by the hand and dragged her to where his horse stood. Leaping into the saddle, he pulled a crying Helgha behind him and turned his horse’s head towards the gates, kicking the animal into a gallop just as the first of the workers reached him.

In a clearing in the forest, four miles from Helgha’s home, Erik pulled his horse to a stop and dismounted. He lifted Helgha down. She had stopped crying, but as she looked at Erik, she wondered what had happened. Her father was dead. She knew that. Erik had killed him. She knew that too. Should she be here with the man who had killed her father? Should she not exact revenge on him?

Erik spoke gently to her. ‘This was all because I can’t marry you. Your father was right. I should not have come calling on you as if I wanted to court you. But you are so lovely, and have such a kind heart.’

Helgha looked up into Erik’s grey eyes. She felt confused. What had happened? Her father was dead, killed by the man in front of her. This same man had abducted her. What should she do?

Erik continued speaking as he wiped away the tear that appeared at the corner of her eye. ‘I would like to marry you, Helgha, but I can’t. My father is a Jarl, and I will be Jarl after him, assuming I can keep his followers. You are a ceorl. You understand?’

Helgha nodded. She understood his words, but did not understand why he had brought her with him.

He went on to explain. ‘I love you, Helgha, and I want to be with you. I can’t marry you, but we can be together. You can be my mistress. I’ll make sure you have everything a wife would have.’

She backed away from him. ‘My family? My mother? My brothers? What of them?’ This man had killed her father and carried her away. There would be blood feud between them now. She should exact revenge on him for breaking up her family. But did she want to?

‘Your brothers are honour bound to kill me, but they are young yet. It will be a long time before they are old enough. Then, I don’t suppose they’ll try. They’ll be up against a Jarl and all his followers.’

Helgha nodded her understanding. Despite everything, Erik still wanted her. He wanted her enough to fight her father for her. He wanted her enough to risk his life for her. But the certainty dawned on her that when her brothers were old enough they would come looking for Erik. Her feelings did not seem to matter.

Did she want to be with her father’s killer? She did not know. That Erik had no choice in the matter she knew. Her father had instigated the fight. It was kill or be killed. Still, her father was her father, and she had loved him.

Now she had to be with this man, like it or not. A part of her said she did like it. She had always been attracted to Erik and the butterflies gathered in her stomach when he came. They fluttered whenever he spoke to her, or if his hand brushed hers. They did so now, as she looked up into his eyes.

She came to a decision and she smiled. ‘I understand. Now let me clean the blood from your face. I can’t do much about the blood on your clothes though.’

She walked to a small stream flowing alongside the road and, tearing a piece of cloth from her dress, dipped it into the water and wiped Erik’s cheek. He winced.

‘It’ll leave a scar. It’s deep.’

‘Better a scar than being dead.’

‘In order to help it heal, I need yarrow. It’ll also help to prevent infection of the wound, too.’

‘There’s bound to be some at my father’s place. We should have a drink and carry on. It’ll be dark before we get there and I don’t want to be out any longer in the dark than needs be.’

Before lifting her back onto his horse, Erik lifted Helgha’s chin with his finger,  bent his head and kissed her.

Helgha felt as if she were hurtling down a steep hill on an out-of-control sledge, her stomach turning over in excitement. Her heart beat harder and faster as she responded to his kiss.

All too soon the kiss ended. Helgha wanted more but she knew she would have to wait. More would come once they arrived at Erik’s home so she sat quietly on his horse as he kicked her to a canter.

An Update on my Writing

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I’m going to give you an update of my writing today.

I have been working on the next historical novel. I’ve completed the first draft, and it is currently undergoing some critiquing from a wonderful site I’ve found called Scribophile. I was hoping to get it out before Christmas, but it might be a bit longer than that.

It is called Jealousy of a Viking and is the story of a descendant of Adelbehrt from Vengeance of a Slave. She, Helgha, is a young Viking girl who falls in love with Erik, the son of a jarl from Jorvik, modern York.

Of course, true love does not run smoothly (no story if it does). They cannot marry because of the difference in their status. She becomes his mistress, but trouble starts when he marries to improve his family’s standing.

Her rival for Erik’s love has the advantage she is his legal wife and a feud begins between them. Which woman will win? Can Helgha find a way to be with Erik after all? Will her knowledge of herbs help her?

I’ve also been working on the next book in The Wolves of Vimar series. I lost a whole chunk of it somehow, and became a bit disheartened, then I found it. At least I thought I had, but a chunk from the middle is still missing and needs rewriting. Hey ho! That’s life. I suppose.

This book has no title as yet. In it, the group known as Wolf travel to Bluehaven and hence Holy Isle for the wedding of one of their number, Randa, to Prince Almoro, brother to the king. Then revolts occur in several cities, and Erian, the land bordering them, marches in and takes over several dukedoms, capturing the Duke of Senndolina.

Several of Wolf travel to try to rescue him, and Rollo, Duke of Hambara, sets off for Erian to try to talk peace with The Master.

That’s the next one to try to finish.