Category Archives: stories

The promises of dragons a short story

I wrote this story in response to a picture prompt, but I’ve lost the picture, and can’t remember who posted it.

The picture showed a wizard standing on a rock in the mountains, and a dragon breathing fire towards him. this is the story I wrote.

I have considered the possibility of expanding it into a novel or novella. I like the title, and think it’s too good to waste! What do you think of the idea? Let me know in the comments box, please.

The Promises of Dragons

It suddenly appeared one day and took a cow from the field.

A week later, dark wings blotted out the summer sun. The farmer looked up and saw an enormous shape gliding overhead. A dragon! He watched, cowering behind a large tree.

The dragon swooped down and carried off another cow.

As soon as the creature disappeared towards the distant mountains he ran as fast as he could to his home.

“What? You say a dragon is stealing our cows?” His wife was incredulous. “They‘re supposed to be extinct, aren’t they?”

“It was a dragon. A huge beast with horns on its head, leathery wings and reddish-brown scales. It was a dragon for sure.”

“Then you must go and tell the village council. They must do something about it. We can’t have dragons taking all our cows,” his wife exclaimed.

“I’m not sure they’ll believe me. Anyway, what can they do?”

“Nevertheless you must go. Leave straight after we’ve eaten. I can see to things here until you get back.”

The farmer strode resolutely into the village that afternoon and made for the home of the leader of the council. When he heard the farmer’s tale, he called an emergency council meeting.

Once all the council members were assembled he turned to the farmer.
“Now tell the council what you told me.”

The farmer bowed to the council. “A dragon has been stealing my cows. I’ve lost three over the last three weeks. At first, I thought is was rustlers, although I did wonder why they were taking them one at a time.”

“It could have been a wolf pack, or some other predator.” The leader of the council looked around his colleagues and grinned.

“No. I thought that at first.” The farmer shook his head “But in that case there should have been blood and bones at the very least. The cows just vanished without a trace.”

“Did you search for remains?” one councillor asked.

The farmer nodded. “ I looked everywhere. There was nothing. Then I decided to wait near the field where I keep the cows. It was then I saw the dragon.”

“You are certain you saw a dragon? Most experts say they’re extinct,” the leader of the council said.

“It was a dragon. I can’t be mistaken about that!”

Another councillor asked, “It was in the sky, against the sun. Could it have been a cloud?”

“And clouds swoop down and steal cattle?”

The members of the council asked more questions but eventually they were convinced–at least enough of them to agree to send a troop of volunteer guardsmen to investigate, and to kill the beast, if it turned out it were truly a dragon.

Two days later the volunteers set off to track down the mythical beast.
They crossed the plain towards the mountains in the direction the farmer told the council the dragon had gone. It took a full day to get to the base of the mountains and they made camp when they arrived. The men were in good spirits. Searching for an extinct creature was a bit of a lark. They were mostly young men who volunteered and not one of them believed the story the farmer had told.

“An old man, going senile and seeing things,” one said.

“Or perhaps his eyes are going. It must have been a cloud. I’ve seen clouds in the shape of all sorts of things,” another said.

“What about the cows that vanished?” asked a third.

“Rustlers, as the old man suggested himself,” the first volunteer told him.

They all laughed at the foolishness of old men.

The next few days they spent climbing the mountains. They trudged ever higher, but the path stretched before them in a never-ending ribbon. The peaks soared high above them, wreathed in snow and clouds. Each footfall seemed to make little difference to their progress. Still the mountains grew above them. and as they got higher and higher some of them began to wonder why they were here on this futile search.

“Where are we supposed to look?” said a young red-headed man, little more than a boy, really.

The others shook their heads, then one of them, older than the others, said, “I’ve heard dragons live in caves”.

“Hey, I used to play in these mountains when I was a kid,“ another said. “We lived high up and we played in some caves. Perhaps we should look there.”

He led the troop in the direction of the caves he remembered.

After another day of weary climbing, their breath coming fast, and hearts beating ever more quickly, they saw dark openings in a cliff ahead. They stopped and had a brief discussion.

None of them believed in the dragon, but the oldest man said, “We ought to be careful, ‘just in case’. There might be bears in the caves.”

Later that afternoon, just as they were about to set off up the mountainside to the caves they heard a strange noise as though a large flock of bats were flying overhead, or a tanner was shaking out a piece of leather. A flapping sound like wings, but not feathery wings like a bird. More like what they thought of as …dragon wings. The sunlight disappeared momentarily and as they looked up, they saw what could only be a dragon, flying towards the largest of the cave openings.

“By all that’s holy,” breathed the leader of the group. “The old man was right. It is a dragon. Where has it come from? It can’t possibly exist. They were extinct hundreds of years ago, yet here it is.”

“Evidently the scientists were wrong. They’re not extinct. Some must have survived in the depths of the mountains where no one goes,” the oldest man said, standing beside the leader and shielding his eyes as he watched the beast enter the cave.

“We need to wait until it leaves.” The leader frowned as he peered toward the cave where the dragon had gone.

A full day passed before the creature left again. They took their opportunity.

“Aren’t dragons supposed to have hoards of gold and other stuff?” one man asked, rubbing his hands together. “If we find its treasure, we’ll all be rich men. We’ll be able to court any girl we want, and buy farms, but have someone else to work them. We’ll never need to toil in the fields or factories again.”

They all nodded and laughed at the idea of all those riches, but when the dragon left the next morning, the reality hit them. They would need to go into the cave to get the treasure. The little group of young men crept towards the cave mouth, keeping an eye on the sky above, and ears open for the sound of leathery wings.

The stench of dragon hit them as they neared the cave. It was a sickly, sweet smell with hints of sourness in it. They held their noses. Around the mouth of the cave lay bones from large animals. Many were obviously deer, but there were sheep and cow bones there too.
As they neared the lair the leader asked for a volunteer to go into the cave to look. These otherwise brave young men looked at each other, eyes wide and hearts pounding. What happened if the dragon returned while they were in the cave?

Then one man stepped forward. He entered slowly and with some trepidation and lit his torch, for it was dark inside. The smell was even worse here and at first he thought he might be sick, but he wrapped a rag around his nose and mouth. That made it a bit more bearable. A little way into the cave he stumbled over a smooth, rounded object. He lifted his torch and saw—an egg! Not just one egg, but ten. He sprinted out of the cave and reported what he had seen.

They went in and smashed the eggs. Even though they searched right to the back of the cave, no treasure could be found. The leader said they should take some of the egg shards to prove there was a real dragon in the mountains.

After smashing the eggs and destroying the threat of ten more dragons rampaging through the land they began the decent to the plain.

~~ When Gulineran returned to her cave and found her smashed eggs the roar of her anguish made the mountains themselves tremble. She determined to take revenge. First she looked for the culprits. She saw them like ants, trekking down the mountainside. Flying over them, she burned every last one to a crisp with her flaming breath. Her anger and sorrow still not appeased, she swept down and breathed flame onto the hapless village. The cottages burned like tinder. Many lost their lives. Those who survived crowded into the stone-built village hall. ~~

The leader of the council stood before the surviving villagers. His eyes raked the gathered people, and burned with tears. So many dead. And all those young men who did not return. The dragon must have incinerated them, too. He held his hand up for silence.

“We must destroy this pest,” he told them, over the sobbing of the people.

“Who is going to tackle a creature who can do such things?” a voice called from the back.

“And most of our brave young men are dead. There’s no one here who can fight, even if we weren’t facing a dragon,” someone else called.

A heated debate ensued, but in the end they decided to send for help to the nearby wizards, thinking perhaps magic would be able to destroy this dragon.

The message took a week to get to the wizards’ college, but eventually a message came back. The leader of the council called all the surviving villagers into the council chambers where he read the reply.

“We are very sorry, and we sympathise with your problem, but we cannot spare anyone at the moment. We are far too busy.”

There was pandemonium in the hall, but then, the door opened and a wizard entered. The crowd immediately became silent.

The wizard stood before them and began to speak. “I do not agree with my colleagues, I cannot stand by and watch a dragon decimate your village. Believe me, it won’t be the last visit you have from her.” His eyes blazed as he spoke. “I’ve made a study of dragons. You could say they’re my speciality. I have special knowledge not many others have. I am prepared to help you with your problem.”

He was a young man by the name of Oni. Oni talked to the council, and promised to do something about the dragon. The council accepted his offer and promised him great rewards if he could manage to get rid of the great beast that was terrorising them.

Oni walked out of the village and into the mountains. He followed the path the young men had taken until he stood near the cave, Then he called. Within seconds the dragon rushed out ready for battle. She breathed flame. The flames washed over Oni. Gulineran expected to see a dead wizard when her fire died away, but Oni was left standing and very much alive. She looked into his eyes.

“Ah.” Oni sighed. “I’ve not seen such beauty in two hundred years.”

“How can a human talk of hundreds of years?” Gulineran asked. “Your lives aren’t that long.”

“No, but dragons live centuries. You’re the first female dragon I’ve seen in more than three.”

His skin began to change, turning a rich, deep red and he grew and rippled, smooth skin turned into scales and horns sprouted from his head. His shoulder blades burst from his skin and he folded a pair of wings along his back. A handsome male red dragon stood before her. “Will you accept me as your mate?” Oni asked.

When Gulineran accepted Oni’s offer he changed back to human form and returned to the village. There he told the villagers of his encounter with the dragon.

“I used magic to charm her and I have managed to get her to agree not to attack the village nor take any cattle. She will live on the wild creatures of the mountains.”

The council offered him gold, but he refused saying, “I have everything I need now. Indeed, everything I ever wanted.”

When he returned to Gulineranm he told her of his promise to the villagers.

“Oh, Oni.” Gulineran answered, smiling. “Don’t they know not to trust the promises of dragons?”

Some thoughts on Covid 19, and a FREE offer

Just a pretty picture to cheer you up.

It has been reported that the Government of the UK is considering telling all over 70s to stay at home for the next 4 months. What the…?

I also heard, but haven’t had it confirmed (so it might be fake news) that any elderly people found out will be fined.

Are we now in a police state, and with an autocratic government? How can a democratic (supposedly) government even consider this? ‘For their protection’, they are saying. Putting innocent people under house arrest, simply for having been born before 1950 is NOT on.

Can you even think what it will be like to have to stay in your house for 4 months, not seeing anyone but the people you live with—or in many cases, alone?

Receiving food by the various supermarket delivery services is not an option for many. Some do not have access to a computer. Also, due to people panic-buying, it’s not easy to get the deliveries. My daughter couldn’t get her usual delivery due to increased demand.

And I just read some comment, that has made me incandescent with rage. Someone posted ‘Good. 4 months without stupid old gits clogging up the roads…’ I can’t remember the exact quote, and can’t find it again. (I did flag it, so it might have been taken down.

On a lighter note, though—if you do either have to, or decide to, self-isolate, there are books to read.

From today, you can get Book 2 of Elemental Worlds, The Stones of Fire and Water as a FREE e-book to help you pass the time. It is FREE from today until 19th March, so don’t miss this opportunity. Click here or on the cover in the sidebar.

If you would like to also buy Book 1, The Stones of Earth and Air, you can get it for £1.99 by clicking here.

Please leave a comment in the comments box if you have anything to say, and feel free to reblog this.

If you would like to receive my quarterly newsletter, and information about new releases and offers, click the JOIN button in the left-hand sidebar, or click here

A catch up on my #writing and an #offer.

I’ve been working on both the next book of The Wolves of Vimar series. It’s book 4, and will be called Immortal’s Death.

It will follow on after the friends, who call themselves Wolf, have discovered disquieting things about the Master of Erian and his designs on the land of Grosmer.

Duke Larrin of Sendolina has been missing, and all contact with Sendolina lost. The friends, who call themselves Wolf, send the little dragonet, Muldee, to find out what has happened.

When he returns with the news that Duke Larrin has been imprisoned in his own castle, five of them set off to rescue him.

Meanwhile, there have been riots in Hambara, and Thadora is dispached to find out what is happening. She finds the populace starving because there are no jobs, the richer people, who, by and large provide the jobs, having left in the riots.

I am about half-way through at the moment, and hope to get it finished in the next few months, Then I need to submit it to Next Chapter. It will be some time before it’s released.

In the meantime, I’ve submitted a prequel to the publisher, and am waiting for the next step. It’s the story of the parents of Carthinal, the protagonist in The Wolves of Vimar. I am looking forward to that being released, but as yet have no idea when that will be. I’ve also finished the story of Carthinal’s early life. Just a bit more editing, then I’ll submit that to Next Chapter.

Wolf Moon, Book 3, will be FREE in ebook format from tomorrow, 8th February until Wednesday 12th February. Get your copy soon or you’ll miss the opportunity. If you’ve not read the first two books, you can buy them at the same time by clicking on the covers in the sidebar.

Thank you for reading. Please add a comment in the comments box.

A Writer's Year

As it’s my last post of 2019, I thought I’d sum up my writing year.

This year I’ve been quite busy. I decided I’d write some prequels to my Wolves of Vimar series, some of which I serialised here. I originally thought I’d write them as short stories, but they have grown into novellas.

I wrote the back stories of Asphodel, and Kimi and Davrael. When I decided to submit them to Next Chapter, the publisher who published The Wolves of Vimar series as far as it’s got, I thought I should begin with the story of how Carthinal came into being. I told the tale of his parents. It’s a rather tragic story. I’ve now submitted it to Next Chapter, and am waiting for their next move.

I finished Vengeance of a Slave, my very first Historical Novel, submitted it and it is now live on Amazon. (http://mybook.to/voas/ ) It was released on Boxing Day. If any of you decide to purchase and read it, I would be grateful if you could post a review.

Researching this book, and the next one, Jealousy of a Viking, took a lot of time. Although some research is needed, even for fantasy novels, to get the history right, and the background is much more exacting. This book is not yet ready for publishing. It’s needs much more polishing before I submit it.

Earlier in the year I lost a lot of Book 4 of The Wolves of Vimar, and I searched all my places on my computer and also online. I felt demoralised by this, having lost several chapters. Then, out of the blue, I looked in one cloud storage I’d not looked in. In fact, I didn’t know I’d stored anything there, but there it was! Hooray!

I started working on it again, but it’s coming on rather slowly. This is because I started working on the backstory of Carthinal from The Wolves. This novella isn’t yet ready for submitting to Next Chapter. In fact it’s not quite finished, but I hope I’ll get it done shortly after the New Year. Then I can finish Book 4, probably to be called Immortal’s Death.

Next year I hope to release more of the novellas—Davrael and Kimi and Asphodel. I also hope to get Jealousy of a Viking released and finish Immortal’s Death. Quite a big task to get it all done.

I also have another fantasy novel that I started a couple of years ago that I want to finish, then there’s the on-going saga of the descendants of Adelbehrt from Vengeance of a Slave and Jealousy of a Viking. The next one is to be in Britain just after William the Conqueror beat Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Not sure of a title yet.

So that’s my year.

Thank you for following my blog, and to those of you who bought my books, a big thanks. I would be grateful for any reviews. They are most helpful, not only to me, but also to potential readers so they can tell if the book is for them.

You can purchase any of the books by clicking on the cover in the sidebar.

Please leave a comment in the comments box. I love to hear your thoughts.

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

celebrating-1297376_1280

 

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

scrabble-2378253_1280

 

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.