Category Archives: stories

Review of Missing Thread by June V. Bourgo


This is Book 3 of the Georgia series by June V. Bourgo. Although it is the third book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone novel. Anything that occurred in the previous books that is needed in this one is explained.


Georgia is a young woman who has gained fame by writing about her previous experiences. In this book, Georgia goes to a writer’s conference where she is to speak. While there, she uses a hire car to visit places, but is caught in a torrential rainstorm. She is forced off the road by a vehicle and into the river. Although she manages to escape the car, she is swept away and into a nearby lake.

Fortunately, she is rescued by a man and taken to hospital, almost dead and suffering from hypothermia.

Eventually, she recovers consciousness, but with no memory of who she is, or her life before waking in the hospital.

The story tells of how Georgia, helped by her husband and daughters, struggles to rebuild her life with, to her, total strangers.


After a strange accident, Georgia awakens from a coma to a sea of faces she has no memory of, in a place she doesn’t remember.

Returning to a home she doesn’t recognize, Georgia struggles to mend the strained relationship between herself and her family, and rediscover a life she can’t recall ever having.

Through life-changing events and a mental struggle that challenges the very core of their family, Georgia realizes that her accident is linked to something in her past. But can she put the pieces together and learn the truth?


I found I liked Georgia and her family, and was rooting for her to regain her memory. Ms Bourgo does an excellent job of drawing a picture of a woman with no memory of her past life, and the anguish she goes through as she tries to rebuild her life with total strangers. We feel Georgia’s confusion and her anxiety that she won’t be able to love the stranger who is her husband and the two little girls who are her daughters.

Georgia’s husband, Sean, is another character I could relate to. Sean does his best to be understanding and patient, but on occasion, as would we all, things get too much for him.

The two girls behave like most intelligent children would. Confusion and anxiety that their mother will no longer love them if she can’t remember who they are.

 I don’t want to spoil things for you and so I will say no more.


As said earlier, Ms Bourgo does an excellent job of making us feel like Georgia in her predicament. She gives us a sense of Georgia’s panic when in the sinking car, and how she feels about her unknown family.

Sadly, there are typos and grammatical errors, and while they were irritating, and did on occasion throw me out of the story, I think the story is so good, they did not detract too much.

I gave the book 4*.

My ranking of books. In order to get a particular number of stars, it is not necessary to meet all the criteria. This is a guide only.

5* Exceptional. Wonderful story. Setting well drawn, and characters believable. Not perfect, but with flaws. Will keep you up all night. No typos or grammatical errors.

4* A thoroughly enjoyable read. Great and original story. Believable setting and characters. Very few grammatical errors or typos.

3* I enjoyed it. Good story. Characters need some development. Some typos or grammatical errors.

2* Not for me. Story not very strong. Unbelievable and flat characters. Setting not clearly defined. Many typos or grammatical errors.

1* I hated it. Story almost non-existent. Setting poor. Possibly couldn’t finish it.

I enjoyed this story as much as the previous two. Have you read it? Did you enjoy it if you have? Let us know in the comments.

If you would like to receive an exclusive, free short story by me, called The Haunted Table, simply click the link. This will take you to the page where you can download it.

Maria and Tom have bought an antique table for the old cottage they have bought. When they hear strange noises in the night that sound like crying, they worry their house is haunted, but the sounds seem to come from the table.

They set about trying to find what is causing the disturbances. The answer is stranger than either of them had thought.

(Clicking the link will add your email address to my email list, but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe immediately if you wish. Nor will you get any spam. I only send out an email each quarter, or if I have any exciting news–like a new release.)

The Wolf Pack book 1 of The Wolves of Vimar series

All Carthinal wants is admission to the ranks of the mages. Traveling from Bluehaven to Hambara, where his rite of passage is to take place, he doesn’t expect to end up on a quest to find the long-lost sword of the legendary King Sauvern. With strangers he meets on his journey, Carthinal sets out on the seemingly impossible quest. Followed by Randa, the snooty aristocratic daughter of the Duke of Hambara, and the young runaway thief Thad, Carthinal and his companions face tragedy and danger. Watched by the gods and an implacable foe, they will have to accept help from the least likely sources and face their innermost fears. As the fate of their world hangs in the balance, they realize that this is more than an adventure. This quest will change them all.

This book came from a Dungeons and Dragons scenario I wrote for my D & D club at the school where I worked. I had been buying scenarios, then I thought I could write one myself. I wrote one from which this series has emerged.

I played Dragonlance, both as a player and a DM, and when I discovered that Weiss and Hickman had turned it into a series, I thought, ‘Why not?’ Thus The Wolves of Vimar series was born.

I only intended it to be one book, but it sort of grew into what will eventually be a five-book series. I’m unsure that my players will recognise it now, although some things are the same, such as searching for Sauvern’s Sword (Book 1) and the name of the antagonist.


Discerning Reader

5.0 out of 5 stars A solidly done, and crafted fantasy novel.

Verified Purchase

“The Wolf Pack” is an original and well crafted fantasy novel. If you like novels like the “Earthsea Saga” by Ursula Le Guin or “When the Heavens Fall” by Marc Turner then I suggest that you may well enjoy “The Wolf Pack.” British style and spellings throughout. Not really a negative, just a difference to be noted.

I found the characters well developed, and complex (in a good way).

The plot is unique and unusual. It is not easy to explain, but does unfold nicely as one reads through the book. I am trying to avoid spoilers, so I do not want to give too much away.

Dialogue is well written and each character has his or her own voice

To purchase from the seller of your choice click on the book cover in the sidebar, or on the button below.

The book is available as:

ebook, paper back, hard back, large print, pocket book and audio book.

The ebook is free on all platforms except Amazon where it is 0.99 (pounds or dollars.)

Painting The Sky #writephoto

Why didn’t Michelangelo paint the Last Supper? And what problems did he encounter when he painted the Sistine Chapel?

Find out in this hilarious story by Geoff Le Pard.

Painting By Heavens

‘Mr Angelo?”

‘Please, call me Mike. And you are?’

‘Ann Officious-Bastard.’

‘Of course. How can I help?’ Mike looked over his shoulder at the gods, some of whom were firing balls of fire at the curtains. ‘Take five, people. I need to deal with Ann. Yes, Zeus?’

‘Can I have a discomfort break?’

‘You had one an hour ago.’

‘That was a gratuitous volcano. I’ve a tsunami building pressure in my Azores and if I don’t let it go soon….’

‘Yes, alright. Just don’t lose the toga.’

Zeus exploded up and out of the ceiling in a shower of sparks and sprinkles.

Mike turned back to Ann. ‘Gods, eh? Can’t live with them, can’t… well, anyway. What can I do you for?’

If you would like to receive an exclusive, free short story by me, called The Haunted Table, simply click the link. This will take you to the page where you can download it.

Maria and Tom have bought an antique table for the old cottage they have just moved in to. When they hear strange noises in the night that sound like crying, they worry their house is haunted, but the sounds seem to come from the table.

They set about trying to find what is causing the disturbances. The answer is stranger than either of them had thought.

(Clicking the link will add your email address to my email list, but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe immediately if you wish. Nor will you get any spam. I only send out an email each quarter, or if I have any exciting news–like a new release.)

Review of Dragon Train Rebellion by RJ The Story Guy.


A Good Teen and YA story.

This book is the second in the Dragon Train series. It begins two years after the events of Dragon Train.

 It is an original take on dragons. There was, many years before, a war between dragons and humans. The humans won and enslaved the dragons, treating them badly and making them pull their trains.

The humans–most of them–are unaware that dragons are intelligent and can speak to each other through telepathy.


Jaidon is visited by the Dragon, Skye, whom he rescued from the dragon train along with her mate and three youngsters. She wants his help in freeing the dragons from slavery.

Jaidon goes with her to where the free dragons live–a less than hospitable place, where he is enlisted to help.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll leave it there.


Jaidon is a believable character. He has problems with his father, as many teenagers do, but he is loyal in his determination that the dragons should not be enslaved. He is likeable and brave, too.

The dragons all have different personalities. Skye seems to look on Jaidon as one of her own children and there are occasions when he thinks she is behaving like a mother. Her mate is not quite as certain of Jaidon as Skye, but is willing to trust him, in order to gain dragonkind’s freedom.

And there is one very scary dragon who has never been enslaved. He is a huge blue called Helmut. He has his doubts about Jaidon, but decides that he has to trust him, but only up to a point. 


RJ draws a clear picture of the dragons and their situation. He makes us feel sympathy for them. I think there is just enough description of the surroundings for us to be able to envisage it.

He certainly makes Helmut scary!

There were not many typos, although I did notice a few, but the grammar and punctuation were flawless. 

Do you enjoy teen stories? I know quite a lot of adults do! Let us know in the comments.

I really love dragons, and have them in most of my fantasy books to date. If you would like to read about my dragons, click on the covers in the sidebar. They are available in all formats and from many platforms.

You can also buy merchandise related to the books by visiting

A Wonderful Christmas Present.

This story is inspired by the fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, that I’m sure you all know and love.

With no further preamble, here it is. Read and Enjoy.

It has not had a full edit, yet so there might be a few discrepancies. I have done a first edit, but it needs more. But if I leave it, then it won’t be ready until after Christmas.

The little girl woke as a loud voice called, “Come on, you lazy bunch of layabouts. Time to be working.”

She struggled to a sitting position stiff from sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor.

A lad of about twelve thrust a piece of stale bread into her hand. ” Get your water from yon bucket.” He passed on to the next child.

Yesterday, a woman who called herself Annie, had brought her here, but where ‘here’ was, she had no idea. Annie had found her crying and shivering in the street. She had been nice to her, told her she would take her somewhere where she would have a roof over her head and something to eat.

There were five other mattresses on the floor, and children were slowly getting up from them. The boy with the bread was handing a slice to each child.

She took a bite from her slice. It was hard and tasted slightly mouldy, but she was hungry, so she swallowed it.

There were some chipped cups next to the bucket of water, and she dipped one to fill it. She gulped the drink down.

She gazed around the room. The ceiling sloped and had wooden beams. The floor was bare wood and apart from the mattresses, there was nothing else.

A door opened and the man who had shouted at the children entered.

“You. Come here.” He pointed at the little girl. “What’s your name?”

She looked around to make sure it was her the man was talking to, then tiptoed towards him.

“M-m-my n-n-na…” She burst into tears.

“Stop that. I am Mr Smith. You will call me ‘Sir’. Got that? If you can’t tell me your name, I’ll call you Goldie. Now Goldie, how old are you? Do you know? You look about five.”

Goldie nodded.

Mr Smith looked down his long nose. “When Annie found you on the street yesterday, you were alone. Do you have any family?”

Goldie shook her head, still snuffling.

Mr Smith nodded and smiled. He looked at Goldie out of the corner of his eye. ” I’m going to help you, Goldie, and you will help me. You’ll get shelter and food from me, and in return you’ll work for me.”

The door opened at that moment and a woman entered. “Oh, I see you have a new child.” She strolled up to Goldie and lifted a lock of her hair. “What a lovely colour. Like spun gold. She’ll make a good candidate for one of my girls.”

“Not until she’s much older, Mary.” Mr Smith laughed. 

“Undesirable as many of your clients are, I don’t think babies are on their list.”

Mary shook her head, smiling. “You’d be surprised what some of my clients want. I can supply most things, but  even I draw the line at very young children. “

“Most noble of you. But you aren’t getting Goldie. She’s much too valuable to me.”

“Begging? Yes, I can see such a pretty child would make the punters feel guilty and then they’ll give more.” She gave a short laugh. “But bear me in mind when she gets old enough to join my establishment.”

“What do you want? You wouldn’t come up here for nothing.”

“Oh, I heard about your new acquisition and wanted to see if she is as pretty as rumour has it.”

Mr Smith shook his head. “Annie only found her yesterday, and already everyone knows about her.”

“Well, you know what it’s like round here. I’m off now I’ve seen her. Remember me when she’s grown up enough.” 

She flitted through the door, leaving Mr Smith scowling. He turned to Goldie. “You’re to go with Jack. He’ll teach you what to do. Now get out of my sight.”

Jack pulled Goldie towards the door as Mr Smith reached for a cane that stood next to the bucket of water.

“Come over here, Peter,” she heard him say. He swished the cane, and it made a buzzing sound as it passed through the air. “I’ll teach you to keep money back. You need to hand over all you get.”

A snuffling boy of about eight years old dragged his feet as he walked across the room.

“Come on.” Jack dragged her out of the door, pinching her arm as he did so.

“Ow!” Goldie shook him off as they descended the stairs. “What’ll happen to Peter?”

“Get switched. Prob’ly have a meal stopped, too. Shouldna have kept money back. Mr Smith likes switchin’ he does. Don’t give him any chance to switch you. Do as he says, right and proper, and you will be alright.” 

Goldie looked around. “What is this place? Who lives in these rooms?”

Jack shrugged. “Mr Smith lives in one. Annie in another. The rest are Mary and her girls.”

“Mary said she wants me for one of her girls when I am grown. What do her girls do?”

Jack paused on the stairs. “They’re whores. Know what them is?”

“I think so. A whore lived near us, before mamma died.” She sniffed and ran a hand across her face leaving a dirty smudge. “Lots and lots of men visited her. Mamma said she sold her body to them.” She screwed her face up. “I didn’t understand what she meant by that.”

They reached the door and Jack led her into the street. Rubbish blew past them, and the wind whipped Goldie’s hair into her eyes. A scrawny cat jumped onto a wall opposite.

Jack turned right along the street. Tall tenement blocks of houses rose on either side, cutting out the sunlight and making a corridor for the wind.

Goldie pulled her threadbare cardigan closely around her as she followed Jack along the familiar streets. She had lived all her short life in one of the rooms in a house very similar to those they now passed. Her mother scraped a living since her father died by working in one of the cotton mills nearby. Goldie would have been working there soon. She would have had the job of scavenging; scrambling under the looms to retrieve the bits of cotton that fell there. It was a dangerous job. Many children Goldie had known had been severely injured, ending as cripples. Some even died under the looms.

Then her mother became ill. She had been vomiting continuously, and had severe diarrhoea and died. There had been no relatives to care for Goldie, and the little girl was on the streets at the tender age of five.

When Annie found her she promised her somewhere to sleep and food to eat if she would work for Mr Smith..

I think working for Mr Smith would be better than the mill.

The little girl reasoned that even if Mr Smith were a hard man, and it seemed he was, if she were a good girl and did as she was told, she would not get the cane.

Following Jack, she found herself in a part of the town she did not know well. They sat on the ground opposite a church. 

Bells rang from the steeple calling the people to worship. 

Goldie noticed the gravestones surrounding the building. Her mother would not have the luxury of such. Goldie did not know what had happened to her mother’s body. People came and took it away. 

A woman arrived to take her to the orphanage. The little girl had a fear of that place. Her mother had often threatened to send her there when she was angry.

This area was where the middle classes lived. What Goldie’s mother would call ‘posh’ houses surrounded the church. 

The street was clean. Goldie looked at the houses. Most were tall with three stories above road level, and some had steps leading to a basement. Doors opened and people dressed in their best clothes flocked towards the church.

The men wore black or dark brown suits with white shirts and colourful cravats. High black hats were the height of fashion and every man sported one, removing it before entering the building.They shepherded their wives dressed in more colourful attire, although still fairly sober for church. Most of the dresses had bustles, but a few of the older women still wore the wide, hooped crinolines. Like the men, all wore hats.

They hustled their children into the church, barely looking at the two raggedy children sitting opposite.

Goldie’s face fell. “What will happen if we don’t take anything back to Mr Smith? Will he switch us?”

Jack patted her on the back. “Don’t worry, Goldie. When they come out, they’ll feel they should do something for charity and then they’ll give us money. I ain’t never been here on a church day when I got nothing.”

The few passersby sniffed as they walked past, and one or two crossed the road. A couple dropped a few small coins in the children’s hats, but it was a  pitifully small amount. Then the church doors opened. The people spilled onto the road. A carriage drawn by a bay horse drew up and a family climbed inside.  The carriage trotted away.

People chattered outside the church. Goldie noticed the congregation beginning to disperse and was about to give Hyup hope of anyone giving them alms. 

It was then that Jack stood. “Please spare a coin. Me and me sister ’are hungry. We ain’t had nuffin to eat since yesterday morning.” He reached out a hand as a couple passed.

The woman searched in her bag and tossed a penny to the pair.

A little girl looked at Goldie. “Mamma, we can’t let such a pretty little girl starve. Give her something.”

The mother puckered her brow. “How do we know they will spend it on food? You know what these beggars are like.”

The girl looked shocked. “Mamma! You heard what the vicar said. ‘Jesus said when you feed one of these poor people, you are feeding me.’ And he said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’ Jesus would not have left them begging without giving them something.”

The girl’s father had come up to them. “She’s right, you know.” He felt in his pocket and dropped a coin into the hat. Then he shepherded them away.

Jack looked into the hat on the floor. His eyes opened wide. “A shilling! He gave us a whole shilling!”

During the next few hours several more people gave them money, and when the daylight began to fade, they made their way back to the house where Mr Smith lived.

When he saw how much they had gathered, his face almost split with his grin. “I knew you would be good as a beggar, Goldie. Now go and get something to eat.”

They had not eaten all day, and Goldie’s stomach growled. She crossed the room to where Annie stood with a cauldron. As she approached, Annie lifted a bowl and spooned some of the contents of the cauldron into it. She handed it, along with a spoon and a slice of bread, to Goldie.

Goldie looked into the bowl. There was what looked like a piece of fat and a few carrots floating in a greasy liquid. She sat on her mattress and spooned some into her mouth. It tasted like it looked; a greasy, watery liquid with very little sustenance. But she was very hungry, so she wiped the stale bread around the bowl and forced the meagre repast down. When she had taken the bowl back to Annie, she lay on her pallet. Still hungry, she fell asleep.

The next few weeks were the same. She went out with Jack and sat next to him on a pavement somewhere richer folk would pass. He told her that Mr Smith was very pleased with the money they were making. Soon he was going to let Goldie go out on her own. 

She shivered at that thought. Yes, Jack had taught her the things to say, how to say it and what to do, but the thought of being out there on her own made her tremble. What if she was no good at begging? She had seen enough to know that Mr Smith would make no concessions for a novice. She had been lucky so far and had not been beaten, but if she did not make enough money, she would certainly feel the switch.

She crept out on her first day. Where to go? It was not Sunday, so it was no good going to a church. The shops. Yes. She would go to the shops. Sometimes people bought food for her from one of the stalls. 

I hope Mr Smith doesn’t find out about the food. I don’t think he’d understand.

She sat on the pavement and shivered. Winter was on the way. Her clothes had become even more ragged in the weeks she had been in Mr Smith’s ‘employ’, as he called it. She was permanently hungry, and getting even thinner than she had been when she first started ‘working’. A tear formed in the corner of her eye. Her stomach rumbled. It did nothing but rumble these days.  Mr Smith and Annie gave them enough food–just. How she longed for a full stomach. Or a fullish one would be enough.

Here comes a kind-looking woman.

Goldie let a tear fall. “Missus, a coin please. I’m so very hungry.”  That’s true. “I have no home. No one to feed me. Please. Just a farthing.” She held out her hand. 

The woman walked past, drawing her skirts in as she did so.

Not kind at all.

The next three people passed with barely a glance at her.

A man threw a penny in her direction. It struck her on the arm. She rubbed it and went to pick up the penny. 

As she did so, she heard the man say to his companion, “I don’t know why these beggars are allowed where decent people live.” He glanced at Goldie. “But one has to do one’s bit. I give alms as the Church says we should.”

I bet he’s never been hungry.

The men disappeared around a corner.

A costermonger pushed his barrow along the street. He had fruit for sale.

I wonder if I have enough to buy an apple. She looked at the few pennies, halfpennies and farthings she had collected. No. I don’t want to be beaten.

That evening, after eating the thin gruel Annie provided, Mr Smith came to her mattress. She cowered. What had she done?

“I knew you would be good. Folks are sorry for a pretty little girl. That was a nice haul you got today.” He stared at her with his eyes narrowed. “You must do the same tomorrow. Make them feel extra sorry for you. Mebbe you can get some silver coins. Threepenny bits, tanners or even a shilling. You work on ’em. Here.” He handed her a bowl and spoon. “Some extra as a reward.”

Goldie stared at the gruel, then, dipping her spoon into it, she gobbled the foul stuff. 

That night she slept badly. She shivered, and not only from the cold. What would Mr Smith do if she did not get any silver coins? Would he take the switch to her?

The next day her fears were realised. It was cold, and snow began to fall. The middle classes stayed at home, except for the men rushing to work, and rushing home again. 

Goldie pulled her shawl closely around herself, but it made little difference. People were too anxious to get home out of the snow to think about the little girl on the street corner. She dragged her feet on her way home.

“You must have spent some of the money.” Mr Smith’s eyes blazed. “You can’t have only got this much.” He tipped the two pennies and one farthing onto the table.

“It snowed.” She began to cry. “Everyone hurried past.”

“Well, I don’t believe you.” Mr Smith reached for his cane. “You spent some.”

That night she felt the switch for the first time.

Swish “One.” Swish. “Two.” Swish. “Three. I’ll be lenient and stop at three, but if you spend any more of my money, you will get the full six.” He leaned the cane against the wall and left.

Sobbing, she lay on her stomach. Her back burned. She reached around and her fingers came away bloody. She had not had anything to eat. Mr Smith had refused to allow her any gruel. 

A shuffling made her turn. One of the other children, a girl of nine, crouched by Goldie’s pallet. 

She held a bowl half full of gruel. “I knew he wouldn’t feed you tonight so I saved some of my food for you.”

Goldie sat up and passed her hand over her eyes. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you giving me your food?”

“Mr Smith is a bad man. He treats us bad. But it’s better than the streets. Lots die in the cold out there. Lots get other horrid things done to them. Lots become cripples. I like you, so I give you some food.”

Goldie had not heard this girl say so much before. She had always been quiet. 

She took the bowl. “Thank you.” She put it to her mouth and drank the thin broth. Although it did not satisfy her hunger, the empty feeling went away a bit.

The next day was Christmas, so Mr Smith told them. People would be feeling generous. They would be walking the streets visiting friends and relatives after Church. “Go and make the most of it.  Beggars, look pathetic, and pickpockets, be sneaky.  Merry Christmas, and good pickings.”

As the children descended the stairs, Jack tapped Goldie on the shoulder. “Mr Smith put me on pickpocketing. Go to my old spot by the Church. Should do well today.”

Goldie trudged through the snow and leaned against a wall. She thought the church looked pretty with the snow on the roof and spire. Snow coated the ancient yew trees, and the gravestones looked as if they had white hats.

The bells began to ring, calling the worshippers to Christmas Mass. Shortly, doors opened along the street as families made their way to the church. Everyone called “Merry Christmas” to their neighbours, and children laughed in anticipation of the presents to be opened later.

No one noticed the small girl, shivering by the church wall.

The door of a house opposite the church opened. A man strode out, followed by a boy of about eight. 

The man turned back. “Hurry. We’re going to be late.”

“Just fixing my hat, dear.” A woman came out pulling on a pair of gloves. She turned back. “Hurry, Jane. You must not be late for church. Not today, on the birthday of Our Lord. Has Mrs White left already?”

A young woman rushed out pulling the door closed behind her. “Coming, Mrs Beare. Yes, Mrs White is probably already in the church. She has everything ready for dinner, so she went ahead.”

They passed Goldie without giving her a single glance. She watched them enter the Church, and soon heard singing; beautiful Christmas carols.

The sky looked leaden. The wind blew the snow into little heaps in corners and at the base of walls. Goldie looked at the houses lining the street. 

I bet it is warm inside. I would love to go into one, just for a few minutes, to get warm.

Her teeth started chattering as an extra strong gust of wind swept along the street. As she watched, the door to the house where the Beare family lived swung slightly open. Goldie’s eyes popped. The maid must have failed to close it properly in her hurry when she left.

Could I? Should I?

Goldie sprinted across the street.  Has God done this so I can get warm? Looking around, and noticing the street was empty, the little girl slipped through the door. She pushed it so it looked closed, and gazed around.

She was in a narrow hallway with stairs climbing on the right. A narrow table stood at the bottom of the stairs with a vase containing dried flowers standing on it. 

Doors opened on the left and right. Goldie picked the left one. Entering a large room, she gave a sigh. Warm. A fire surrounded by a metal fire guard burned in the grate, damped down while the family was out. She ran across the room and held her hands to the blissful warmth. A smile lit her face. 

Three chairs surrounded the fire. One had large arms and wings on either side of the back.  

That one would swallow me up.

She looked at the second chair. It was smaller, with smaller arms and was not a wing back chair.

Gentleman and ladies’ chairs. Too big for me.

She gazed at the third chair. It looked like a child’s seat. Much smaller than the others, and placed right in front of the fire where she could warm her feet. 

As the cold seeped out of her bones, Goldie began to look around.  In the window stood a large tree. The family had decorated it with wooden ornaments, all different shapes and brightly painted. She also spotted some sweets hanging in little bags. A large star decorated the top.

How beautiful.

Below the  tree was a nativity scene with little figures representing the Holy Family, shepherds with their sheep and three wise men carrying elaborate boxes. A donkey and cow completed the scene. 

Over the fireplace was a large mirror. That someone had decorated with holly. The glossy, green leaves contrasted with the bright red berries. Branches of evergreen trees rested on other surfaces and gave a sweet scent to the room. 

Goldie crept towards the tree. She longed to taste the sweets hanging there. She reached out her hand, but pulled it back. After standing there for a few minutes, she pulled a bag from the tree and opened it. Taking out one of the sweets, she popped it into her mouth. Sweetness burst over her tongue. She had never tasted anything so sweet, and she was unsure if she liked it. She spat the sweetmeat out and threw it into the fire.

On the mantelpiece, a clock ticked. It reminded her of the passing of time. How long would the church service last? When she’d sat outside before, it had seemed like a very long time.

It’s only just started. I can stay here for a bit longer. Then I can go and get money when the people come out.

She jumped up.

Suppose I could get something valuable from this house? Mr Smith would be pleased. He might even give me extra food like he did when I got some silver coins.

She gazed around the room. Most things in here were too big to fit in a pocket. Maybe the room across the hallway. 

Rising, Goldie crossed the hallway and entered a room with a large table in the centre. It was set for three people with crystal wine glasses and silver cutlery. In the centre was  a bowl with holly and ivy. 

She picked up a silver spoon and popped it into her pocket. That would be worth more than she could collect by begging. Perhaps there would be more. Jewellery, maybe.

On leaving the room, she was drawn to the stairs leading to the basement. Enticing smells wafted up to her and her stomach growled. Maybe she could find something to eat down there before going upstairs. Careful, in case there was a servant who had not gone to church, Goldie crept slowly down.

The stairs led into a kitchen with a range at one end and a scrubbed wooden table in the centre. A cupboard stood opposite the window and on it were some mince pies and a large Christmas cake. Goldie picked up one of the pies and bit into it. 

“Ow! That’s hot.” She placed the pie back on the plate and looked around. There on the top of the range was a copper pan with soup in it. She felt in her pocket and fished out the spoon she had stolen from the dining room. Dipping it into the pan, she took a sip. 

“Mmm. Delicious.” She continued eating until her stomach felt full.

Putting the spoon back in her pocket, she returned to the hall and then climbed the stairs to the landing. The first room she entered was a large bedroom overlooking the street. She peeped out of the window. No one about. They were still in church. Good.

The bed was huge, and covered with a red counterpane. Opposite it was a dressing table. That would be where she would most likely find jewellery.

There was nothing on the top, and so she pulled a drawer open. Scrabbling around she only found gloves and handkerchiefs. No jewellery there. The second drawer had a box in it. Goldie pulled the box out and opened it. Yes! Here was Mrs Beare’s jewellery. Now what to take. Nothing too obvious.

A brooch took her eye. It sparkled with what might be diamonds and was in the shape of a crescent moon. She slipped it into her pocket. Then she saw a beautiful pendant with a purple stone. She added that to her pocket. Mr Smith would be so pleased with her that he would never beat her again. She grinned.

I wonder if there is anything in the next bedroom?

She made her way across the landing and into what was obviously a child’s bedroom. A small bed with a blue counterpain stood opposite the door, and on it was a fluffy rabbit with a blue bow around its neck. On a chest of drawers Goldie noticed a toy train. Blue curtains hung at the window, tied back with a blue cord.

Goldie yawned. The warmth and the soup filling her stomach made her sleepy.

What a lovely rabbit. She picked it up and cuddled it. It was soft and seemed to encourage more cuddling, so she sat on the bed and leaned back. Slowly her eyes closed.


“The door is not closed,” Mr Beare frowned as he mounted the steps. He turned to his wife. “How come you didn’t close it behind you. I know you were in a hurry, but it is not like you to be so careless.”

His wife followed him into the house, pulling the hatpin from her hat and removing it. She hung it on a hatstand by the door. “Jane was behind me, Albert. She must not have pulled it closed properly. She went to the top of the stairs to the basement and called the maid.

Jane curtsied as she reached the top of the stairs. “What did you want, Mistress?”

“When you came out of the door to go to church, did you close it properly behind you?”

“Oh, Mistress, I really don’t know. I was rushing, see. I’m sorry if I left it.”

Mr Beare hung his cloak and hat on the stand. “You should be careful, Jane. There are all kinds of undesirables around these days. If someone had noticed, they would have been able to walk right in and help themselves.”

Tears trickled down Jane’s face. “I’m sorry, sir.” She curtsied again. “It won’t happen again. I’ll be extra careful in future.”

Mrs Beare placed a hand on her husband’s arm. “It’s partly my fault, Albert. I told Jane to come through the front door instead of the basement. We were late, and it would have taken her a few more minutes to go down to the kitchen and use the servant’s door.”

Mr Beare nodded and smiled at Jane. “Well, let’s forget it, shall we? Go and get changed into your work clothes.”

Harold Beare, Mr and Mrs Beare’s eight year old son came out of the sitting room.

“Mamma, someone has opened one of the sweetmeat bags.”

His parents rushed in and Harold pointed to the open bag on the roof of the Nativity scene.

Mr Beare picked it up. “Only one eaten, it seems.”

A scream came from the kitchen, and the sound of running feet came from the stairs.

“Oh, sir, I’m sorry. So sorry. Someone’s been in the house. They took a bite from a mince pie.” Jane held out a mince pie with a clear bite out of it. “I’m sorry for leaving the door open. Please don’t dismiss me.”

“No one is dismissing anyone,” Mrs Beare said. “So far nothing has been taken or damaged except one sweetmeat and one bite of a mince pie. Go back to the kitchen and see if anything else has happened.”

“We’d better be certain nothing else has been taken, Grace” Mr Beare said. “First let us see if anything has been taken from down here, then we can go upstairs and check.”

It was Harold who noticed the missing spoon in the dining room.

“That’s odd. They only took one small spoon. Look at all the other silver they could have taken.” Mrs Beare drew her brows together.

As they pondered this, Jane came rushing back. She panted before she managed to speak. “They’ve drunk the soup, Ma’am. I went to heat it up, and there was only a little bit left.”

“Let’s inspect upstairs,” Mr Beare said, striding to the staircase. “Jane, go back to the kitchen and help Mrs White finish the preparations for the meal.”

Jane curtsied and left.

The family ascended the stairs. Mr and Mrs Beare went into their bedroom and Harold went into his. 

While Mrs Beare was inspecting her jewellery box, Harold ran into their room. “Mamma, there is a girl asleep on my bed.”

Mrs Beare straightened. “A girl?”

Harold nodded. “Yes. And she’s got Jacob.”

All three went to Harold’s room. Peering through the open door, they saw Goldie fast asleep and hugging Harold’s rabbit.

Mrs Beare’s eyes softened. “But she’s so little. Is she the burglar?”

“It would seem so, my dear. She’s obviously a beggar or a vagrant. We need to notify the police.”

The little girl woke, looked at the three people in the room and leaped to her feet, throwing the rabbit to the floor.

Harold dived for his toy, shouting “Jacob!”

The girl ran for the door and tried to duck under Mr Beare’s arm, but he was too quick and managed to grab her. He wrapped both arms around her, and as he did so, she screamed again. 

“It hurts. Let me go! It hurts.” She aimed a kick at Mr Beare’s shin.

“Don’t hold her so tightly, Albert.” Mrs Bear protested.

“I’m not. It shouldn’t hurt her.”

The girl was crying now. “Please, don’t get the police. I’ll give back what I took. Just give me some money. Only a little money, or Mr Smith will beat me again.”

Mrs Beare took the child’s hand and prized her away from her husband. “But it does hurt her.” She knelt beside the weeping child. “Where does it hurt? Did Mr Smith hurt you?”

The child nodded and sniffed, rubbing her hand over her nose, spreading snot across her face.

Mrs Beare took out a handkerchief and wiped it away. “Show me where he hurt you.”

The child turned around. “My back. He hurt my back.”

Gently, Mrs Beare pulled the ragged dress away from the child’s shoulders. She drew a quick breath. There, across the child’s back were three long welts. The remains of blood traced their path. 

She turned to her husband. “This child has been brutally beaten until she bled.” She stood her fists opening and closing. “We cannot allow her to return to such a man.”

“You’re correct, dear. I’ll contact the man in charge of the orphanage. They’lll take her if I ask him. I have influence.”

Mrs Beare looked at the child, who had cowered away at the mention of the orphanage. She frowned. “What is it, child? Surely the orphanage is better than your Mr Smith?”

“Mamma said it was a bad place. When I was bad, she said she would send me there.”

Mrs Beare put her head on one side. “So you have a mother?”

“No. She died. Annie found me and took me to Mr Smith. She said I would be one of her girls when I am old enough.”

Mr Beare strode into the room. “That settles it. She must go to the orphanage. We cannot allow her to become a fallen woman.”

His wife sat on the bed with an arm around the little girl. She turned to her. “What’s your name?”

“Mr Smith calls me Goldie.”

“But what did your mother call you? Can you remember?”

 Mrs Beare had to lean forward to hear the whisper.


“Well, Emily, tell me what you did for Mr Smith.”

“I am one of his beggars. He said because I am pretty, the punters will feel sorry for me and give me more.”

“Emily, I will not let you go to either Mr Smith, or the orphanage. I have an idea, but I need to talk to my husband about it.” She stood. “Stay here while we go and think. Harold, come along with us. Bring a toy to play with, but leave Jacob with Emily.”

“But, mother…”

Mrs Beare frowned. “Don’t argue, Harold. Do as you are told.”

He handed his rabbit to Emily with a sullen look, and followed his parents. “What if she runs away with him?”

“We will be outside the room. She will not be able to leave without us seeing her. Go and take your train into the sitting room until we call you.”

Mr Beare stood, head cocked to one side. “What is it, Grace? What’s going on in that head of yours?” He laughed. “I can’t see what alternative there is to the orphanage.”

“Oh, but there is, Albert. You know how I…we…wanted more children, but none came after Harold? Remember our prayers, asking God to help us? We thought that He had decided we should have no more children.”

Mr Beare nodded.

“Well, I think He has answered our prayers after all.”

“You mean… .” He looked at the bedroom door.

His wife nodded, a smile covering her face. “Yes. Emily. I think that God has sent her to us, both in answer to our prayers and to help her, too. I think we should adopt her.”

Mr Beare frowned and shook his head. “I’m not sure, Grace. Adopting a street child? She’s a thief. She entered our house and took things.” He gazed at his wife. 

“She took an opportunity that presented itself. She only did it from fear of this Mr Smith. She’s a beggar, not a thief.”

“It’s a big risk, Grace. Suppose Mr Smith still has some influence over her?”

Mrs Beare sighed. “If she’s living here, with us I do not see how Mr Smith, whoever he is, can get to her.” She held onto her husband’s arm and gazed into his eyes. “Please, Albert. You know how I long for another child, especially a little girl. And here God has provided us with one. Are you going to reject God’s gift?” She opened her eyes wide and smiled at him through her eyelashes.

“You know I can’t deny you, especially when you look at me like that.” He bent and kissed her. “I won’t reject God’s gift, either.”

If it had not been unladylike, Mrs Beare would have jumped up and down.

“You realise we’lll have a difficult job getting her civilised?”

She grinned. “Yes, but I like a challenge.”

On entering the room, Emily was chatting to Jacob the rabbit. She stopped and looked at Mrs Beare with anxiety in her eyes.

Mrs Beare sat next to the little girl. “How would you like to live here with us, Emily?”

Emily frowned. “You want me to be a maid here?”

“No, no. I…we want you to be our little girl. Our daughter. We want to adopt you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will live here with us. We will give you clothes and food. You will go to school. You will have toys. You will have everything our son, Harold has. He will be your brother.”

“Not go back to Mr Smith?”


“And have a rabbit to cuddle, like Jacob?”

“Yes. And other toys, too.”

Mr Beare entered, looking severe. “You’ll have to be good, though. No more stealing.”

Emily put her hand in her pocket and drew out the two pieces of jewellery she had taken from Mrs Beare’s jewellery box. 

She held them towards Mrs Beare. “Sorry for taking these. I was frightened Mr Smith would beat me if I had nothing to give him.”

“You will call me ‘mother’, or mamma, if you prefer, and Mr Beare you will call ‘father’ or ‘papa’. But first we must get you clean and see to those wounds.”

Mrs Beare called Jane and told her to prepare a bath. When the hot water had been poured into the metal bath set before the fire, Mrs Beare washed Emily’s hair and gently sponged her back. Her clothes she gave to Jane with instructions to wash them, and to dry them as quickly as possible before the range. She then plastered a salve on the raw switch marks.

“What are we going to dress you in? You can’t walk around naked. It is indecent.” Mrs Beare thought for a minute. “Wait here, Emily, I won’t be long.” She left the room and sought her husband.

As she crossed the hallway, Jane rushed up the stairs.

“Ma’am, Mrs White says the dinner is ready, and will be spoiling.”

“Oh, Jane, tell Mrs White I’m sorry. We shouldn’t be too much longer. Try to keep it hot, please.”

Jane dropped a curtsey and went back down the stairs. 

Mrs Beare entered the dining room. “Albert, we can’t have Christmas dinner with Emily with no clothes. The vicar has a little girl about the same size as Emily. I’m sure his wife will not mind lending us an old dress of hers.”

Mr Beare rose and tapped his pipe on the side of the fireplace, where a fire blazed. “And you want me to go and ask.”

“Yes, please. She can’t put her old clothes back. Not only are they ragged, but they were filthy, so I had Jane wash them.”

“And I suppose I’ll have to ask for some underwear, too. All right. I’ll go straight away.”

Mrs Beare reached up and kissed him on the cheek, then returned to the sitting room and Emily.


Goldie could not believe what was happening. This must be a dream, and soon she would wake to hunger and cold, not to mention fear of Mr Smith. 

She sat on a small stool before the fire. Warmth. Lovely warmth. Even with no clothes on, she felt warm. Warmer than she had ever remembered.

This was a beautiful house. She had never been inside a house like this. It was clean, with furniture that was not broken or torn. Thick curtains that would keep out the cold. Clutching Jacob Rabbit to her naked chest, she stood and wandered to feel them. Soft. Almost as soft as Jacob.

“Is this real?” she whispered to the rabbit.

The door opened and Mrs Beare came in. 

Mamma, she said I was to call her.

“I’ve borrowed these clothes from the vicar’s wife. She has a little girl about your age. Come and let me help you to dress.”

Goldie crossed to where her new mother stood holding a pair of bloomers. She stepped into the woollen garments. 

“They’ll  keep you warm, Emily.  You’ll have cotton ones in the summer. Now this petticoat and silk stockings.”

I’m Emily again. I have my proper name again.

Mamma dressed her in what looked like the most expensive clothes. She had always worn clothes passed on to the poor by richer folk. They had been worn out in places, and the fabric thin.

Mamma held up a white dress. “Arms up,” she said. 

When Emily complied, she dropped the dress over the child’s head. “Now turn around so I can do up the buttons.”

When the buttons were fastened, Mamma tied a blue ribbon around her waist.

The dress was not as long as Mamma’s. It came halfway down her calves. A hint of the frill around the legs of her bloomers peeped from below.

Mamma picked up a brush and teased out the tangles from her golden hair. “I can see why they called you Goldie. And you have a soft natural curl to your hair. It will be easy to fashion.” She held Emily at arm’s length. “You are exquisite. Now let us go and eat dinner before Mrs White has a fit.”

They left the sitting room and entered the dining room. 

 Mr Beare’s eyes opened wide. “I can’t believe this is the same little girl that was asleep in Harold’s room. She’s beautiful.”

Emily smiles and cast her eyes down.

Jane had set a fourth place, and when all four were seated, Mrs White entered carrying a platter on which sat a large goose. She was followed by Jane with a tray of dishes. The pair placed their burdens on the table.

“I’m sorry about the soup, Ma’am,” Mrs White said. “There was not enough to feed you all.” She glared at Emily.

Emily blushed.

“That is all right, Mrs White. It wasn’t your fault,” Mrs Beare replied.

Emily squirmed in her seat and kept her eyes down. It was her fault there was not enough soup.” 

Mr Beare, Papa, carved the goose and served everyone.

There were potatoes, and a sauce made from some kind of green fruit. Mamma said they were gooseberries, so called because they were served with goose. Another dish had sprouts, and yet another had carrots.

After eating all these delicious foods, Emily had never felt so full in her life. She thought of the thin gruel she had eaten at Mr Smith’s, and grimaced.

Mrs White returned after Jane had cleared the remnants and dirty crockery. She was carrying a plum pudding. 

When she had placed it carefully on the table, Mrs Beare served each of them with some. “Now, be careful. You may be lucky and find the coin.” She laughed. “Do not swallow it!”

Emily’s eyes widened. A coin in the pudding? She began eating slowly, partly for fear of swallowing a valuable coin, and partly because, really, she was quite full.

Her teeth struck something hard. She reached into her mouth and pulled out a silver threepenny piece. “I’ve found it. The threepenny bit.”

Her new Mamma and Papa smiled. “Then it’s yours,” said Papa. “You can spend it or save it.’

“Mine, Papa? Really mine? I’ve never had anything that was really mine.”

Harold looked at her, and took a deep breath. “It’s Christmas, Mamma. We had our presents, but Emily hasn’t had anything.”

Emily grinned. “Yes, I have. I have a new home and family. That’s the best Christmas present ever.” She bounced up and down on her chair.

“But I want to give you something.” He pulled Jacob Rabbit from under the table. “You are now my little sister. You love Jacob, and so I’ll give him to you.”

His parents smiled in pride at the sacrifice their son made. They knew how he loved his rabbit.

After eating, the family repaired to the sitting room, Emily clutching Jacob Rabbit to her chest. Mamma sat at the piano and played Christmas carols, to which they all joined in singing. After a while, Papa got out the dominoes and they played until Emily ‘s eyes began to close.

Jane had made up a bed for her in her very own room. As she lay, her eyes closing, she believed this was the best day ever.


Mr Smith stomped around the sparse loft room. “What do you mean, no one has seen her? She can’t have just disappeared.”

Jack spoke quietly. “Perhaps she ran away after you beat her.”

“Then she’lll be hiding somewhere. All of you will go out and search. Look in every corner, every empty house, warehouses; everywhere you can think of.”

The children left and searched to no avail. 

A few weeks later, Jack went up to Mr Smith, cowering. “I saw Goldie.”

Mr Smith grabbed the boy. “Where? Why didn’t you bring her back?”

“Couldn’t. She were with a well-to-do lady. Dressed nice, she were. Lady was holding her hand, like she were her mother or summat.”

Mr Smith sank into his chair. “Couldn’t be her. A girl what looks like her. That’s who you saw.”

Jack shook his head. “Was her all right. Saw me, she did. Shook her head at me. Rekernised me for sure.”

“Well, we have searched for her for weeks now. We need to get back to business. There’s no money coming in while you are all out searching. If that were Goldie you saw, she’s lost to us.”

The End

Extract from my latest work in progress.

I don’t seem to be getting on very well with Book 4 of The Wolves of Vimar. Somehow, life keeps getting in the way. Anyway, it’s currently undergoing critiques from a couple of online critique groups I’m in. As it’s chapter by chapter, and I need to do crits for others before I can post, it’s a long process. Still, we’ll get there. Eventually!

I’m still waiting to hear about my poetry book. It’s been nearly 5 months now, but I hope it won’t be much longer. I’d self-publish it, but as it has pictures, and the formatting of poetry is not straightforward, I’m reluctant to go down that road.

For your delectation, today I’m going to post a bit from Immortal’s Death, Book 4 of the Wolves of Vimar series. Please, remember, though, that this is just the first draft, so might not be perfect. In fact, it’s unlikely to be perfect!

Here Goes.

This is from near the beginning of the book. Thadora was brought up as a thief in the Warren at Hambara, but she was recognised as a daughter to the Duke of Hambara when he saw her remarkable resemblance to his grandmother. He adopted her, thus legitimising her.

Here, Thadora is attending the wedding of her sister, Randa, the duke’s elder daughter, to Prince Almoro. It’s rather long, so my apologies.


Outside the great banqueting hall in the palace, Thadora found herself standing next to Sandron, brother to Duke Larrin of Sendolina.

“Have you seen Larrin?” he asked.

She shook her head. “He must be here somewhere. There are so many people it’s easy to miss someone.”

Sandron frowned. “I didn’t see him in the temple, either, but you’re right, he’ll be here somewhere. Allow me to escort you into the banqueting hall, Lady Thadora.” He bowed.

Thadora giggled. “Now you’re Sandron, the courtier. Different from when we first met.”

They had met when a group of bandits, led by Sandron, captured Wolf after they found Sauvern’s Sword. The youngest son of the late Duke of Sendolina amused himself by leading these bandits, but Randa recognised him and he quickly released her and her friends when she promised not to tell his father how he had been amusing himself.

 Youngest sons often found they had little to do, and so long ago they formed a band of mercenaries and called themselves The Red Hawks. 

On Randa’s suggestion, Sandron recruited enough young men to form a new group, also calling themselves The Red Hawks in memory of the band from the past.

Thadora took Sandron’s proffered arm and the pair entered the banqueting hall. 

As they crossed the threshold, Thadora’s shoe caught in the hem of her dress and she staggered, hopping, as she tried to release her shoe without tearing it. “Zol’s balls, I’ve been promising myself I wouldn’t do that.” 

Sandron laughed as he managed to steady her. “Being the Duke of Hambara’s second daughter hasn’t improved your language any, has it? Nor your grace in a dress.”

Thadora pressed her lips together to prevent the swear word that rose to them, this time at Sandron. Instead she simply elbowed him in the ribs.

He groaned and rubbed the sore spot. “Sorry, Lady Thadora.”

Lady Thadora stared daggers at him. “Stop mocking me, Lord Sandron, or it’ll be the worse for you. I won’t always be in a dress.”

He laughed and Thadora joined in.

As the sister of the bride, Thadora was seated at the table next to King Perdillon unable to find words to say to her royal neighbour. 

I must mind my manners. I must mind my manners, she told herself, over and over again.

When the king spoke she thought he sounded so ordinary that she forgot about his royalty. He asked about her adventures and the formation of Wolf, and seemed genuinely interested in her answers.

“So this sword, the one that belonged to King Sauvern, is magical and will be needed soon?”

“Yes. Carthinal found a prophecy. But you know about that. He thinks this Branlow he met in Frelli is the Never-Dying Man, and can only be stopped by using the Sword.”

She looked around the room. The crowd made a continual buzz. How was Fero coping? He never liked crowds, and with Randa marrying someone else, it would be even more difficult.

As her eyes sought her friend, she noticed a couple of spare seats. 

She turned to Perdillon. “Who hasn’t come to the wedding? There are two empty seats next to the Duchess of Eribore.”

The king looked to where she indicated and raised his eyebrows. “I think that’s where my wife put Duke Larrin of Sendolina. I wonder why he’s not here?” He leaned across to Almoro.

“Duke Larrin isn’t here, Almoro. Do we know why?”

Almoro shook his head. “He answered the invitation saying he’d be here. It’s not like him to go against protocol.”

Thadora leaned forward. “Sandron was looking for him, too. He thought his brother should be here.”

“No doubt it’ll sort itself out. There must have been some emergency we’ve not heard about.”

The banquet continued through four more courses, then a messenger came and whispered something in Perdillon’s ear.

The king blanched, stood and left, apologising. 

His wife, Queen Helloria looked up. “What is it, Perdillon?” 

The king told her it was probably nothing, but he had to go and see someone. 

He returned shortly and walked over to where Duke Firbolt of Meridor sat next to his wife. The duke looked unwell. His health had not been the same since the mysterious illness that had killed King Gerim, and many of the dukes. The king bent and whispered something in his ear. The duke immediately stood, said something to his wife, and both hurried out of the room.

Without speaking to the master of ceremonies, who announced the speeches, Perdillon lifted the man’s gavel and banged on the table.

“May I have your attention, ladies and gentlemen.” 

Silence fell as King Perdillon began to speak.

“I apologise to Almoro and Randa for this interruption to their wedding festivities, but there has been a serious event. It seems that the army of Erian has entered our territory. They have taken Meridor.”

A hubbub of voices broke out. Meridor had never been taken in battle until now. People called out asking questions, but the king banged the gavel once more.

“From what I have been told, Meridor capitulated without a fight.” 

Gasps were heard around the gathered crowd. 

Perdillon continued. “We have no idea why the Duke Firbolt’s steward surrendered without a fight. The duke has gone to find out. We also noticed the absence of Duke Larrin of Sendolina. We hope there isn’t a similar problem in that duchy.

“Again, I apologise to Almoro and Randa, but, in view of the situation, I’m calling an immediate meeting in the council room. Would the dukes please attend me there? The rest of you please continue with your meal.” 

The king strode out of the banqueting hall, followed by the dukes. 

Everyone else remained sitting in silence. The joyful occasion had turned sour, and few people wanted to eat anything more. 

Seeing this, Almoro stood. “This has spoiled a happy celebration. I’m sorry. I think we should abandon the meal. You can either leave for your accommodation, or we’ll meet in the ballroom. Thank you all for attending, and for the generous gifts you have given to my wife and me.”


Thadora spotted Carthinal across the room. His deep blue robe looked startling with his shoulder-length auburn hair, and almost matched his indigo eyes. He had trimmed his beard to a short stubble.

No doubt about it, he’s a handsome man.

Sitting next to him at a low table was his wife, the elf, Yssalithisandra. She had plaited her golden hair and wound it around her head. Her robe was a rich burgundy. She smiled at their daughter, Starralishinara, who played with a stuffed dragon.

Starr, as she was known, had her father’s auburn hair, and her mother’s blue eyes, paler than her father’s.

Thadora made her way over to them, accompanied by Randa and Prince Almoro. The three drew up chairs and sat. 

Sandron approached with the little dragonet, Muldee, sitting on his shoulder. Thadora exclaimed with delight at seeing this small relative of dragons. His iridescent scales gleamed in the light coming through the large windows on the south side of the huge room. They changed colour as he moved.

“You’re here, Muldee.” She tried to put her arms around the creature, but he flew into the air moments before her assault. “I thought you’d gone back to the lake to join your brothers and sisters.”

“I did, for a while, but after the excitement of living with Sandron, it was boring. When I came back, and Sandron told me Randa was getting married, I had to come. I wouldn’t miss the wedding of one of my friends.” He studied Randa. “You look lovely, Randa. But Sandron told me to stay away from the actual wedding. What did he think I’d do?”

Sandron tossed his head back and laughed. “I had no idea what you might do. That’s why I said you weren’t to come to the ceremony.”

Thadora looked around. The ballroom had been decorated in blue and white in a similar way to the great hall. Tables surrounded an open space in the centre of the room. 

I don’t suppose the dancing will take place now. That’s good. I would probably fall over my own feet and end up in a heap, the laughing stock of the whole court.

Thadora glanced towards the door where Queen Helloria entered with three year old Crown Prince Gerim. Dowager Queen Carrolla accompanied her. Seeing Randa and Almoro, they approached.  

The company bowed or curtsied to the two queens, Thadora barely managing to keep her balance as she stifled the swear word that sprang to her lips. If she swore in front of two queens, her father would definitely kill her.

“I am really sorry your wedding has been spoiled.” Queen Helloria shook her head and hugged Prince Gerim tightly. “I hope we can avoid a war with Erian. What’s this Master doing, attacking us? We’ve been at peace for so long.”

Little Prince Gerim squirmed. When the queen released him he ran towards Starr. Yssa and Queen Helloria moved off to discuss the merits of their children. 

Queen Carolla turned to Sandron. “I wondered why your brother wasn’t here. Do you think it’s anything to do with this crisis?”

“I don’t know, Your Majesty,” Sandron replied, “but I think Muldee, here, might be able to help find out.”

“Ah, yes, your little dragonet. I heard…”

Muldee interrupted the queen dowager. “I’m not his little dragonet. I’m my own little dragonet. I’m not a pet to be owned by someone.”

Thadora stifled a grin that Muldee should speak so to a queen, but the monarch smiled.

“My apologies, Muldee. How can you help find out?”

“You might have heard we dragonets are telepathic. We can hear people’s thoughts. Oh, not everybody, and not all the time.” He giggled. “But it’s fun sometimes to listen to the thoughts of people if they don’t know about blocking.”

“Stop chattering, Muldee.” Sandron turned to the queen who had a slight frown on her face. “I apologise, Your Majesty. Muldee has no idea of rank and treats everyone the same. As to hearing your thoughts, he rarely tries, and even if he does, most people are not telepathic.”

The queen smoothed her face and smiled. “What’s your idea about finding out about your brother?”

“I can ask Muldee to go to Sendolina. It will be much better than sending someone on a horse. He can slip in, listen to people’s thoughts and find out what’s going on.”

“What a good idea.” The queen dowager beckoned to Sandron. “Follow me. We must put this to my son.”

When Sandron and the queen dowager left, the other members of Wolf approached. 

Asphodel smoothed the white robes that showed her as a priestess of Sylissa, the goddess of healing. She curtsied to Prince Almoro before sitting next to Randa. 

Thadora watched The Cat as he squirmed in his seat. She understood why the small thief was uncomfortable. Not long ago he had been a wanted man in Bluehaven and had fled to avoid capture. Now he was here in the royal palace in the company of members of the royal family. He ran his fingers through his dark hair and looked everywhere except at the prince and the queen.

Grimmaldo looked at ease in his yellow robes. She liked the young mage. He made her laugh with his sense of  fun. He did not talk much about his family, but she understood he came from Frind, in the far north, and that his family had been well off merchants. 

Many guests sat on chairs assembled around small tables surrounding the dance floor. From what Thadora could hear, most were discussing the missing duke.

Footmen strolled around the room with glasses of wine and fruit juice. 

All the members of Wolf chose to drink fruit juice, although Basalt exclaimed he would have preferred a good glass of dwarf spirits.

Thadora watched Fero as he looked sharply at the dwarf. “Bas, this is not the place for drinking dwarf spirits, nor any other strong drink. You know what happens when you start.”

“And you’ve never got drunk with me, ranger?” He glanced at Randa and Almoro. “I would have thought this was a perfect time for you to get drunk.”

Fero shook his head. “No, friend. It would spoil her day. That I will not do. I will, however, get blind drunk with you tonight. And perhaps tomorrow, too.”

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An epic fantasy tale

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Muldee, a Dragonet, Small Relative of Dragons.

A small dragon-like creature sitting on a rock. He has two whisker-like protruberances from his chin, and three from behind where his ear might have been.
Two backward facing horns are situated on his head..
His tail ends in an arrow-like form. He has four legs with four talons on each foot, and two bat-like wings, between which, a ridge of spines follows the curve of his backbone. 
His colour  is most impressive. He is not one flat colour, but has mixed red, green, yellow, blue etc. A very pretty creature.
He has a kind eye and looks as if he has a smile on his face.
Image by Homer Manansala from Pixabay

Hi, everybody. My name’s Muldee and I’m a dragonet. Don’t know what one of them is? I’m not surprised. We’re rather rare. *smirks*.

Even most people from Vimar don’t know we exist. By the way, Vimar is the world on which I live.

When those people who call themselves Wolf first saw me and my siblings, they thought we were baby dragons. As if! We may be smaller than our cousins, but we are much superior. Dragons don’t have any psi powers. *wrinkles his nose*. And they are such selfish and vain creatures with no sense of humour.

Nor are they as beautiful as we dragonets, with our iridescent scales. They are just one flat colour. BORING.

Anyway, back to me. Dragonets are born from eggs, like dragons, but our mothers lay them in warm shallow water. (I was born in a lake that I’ve been told is warmed by heat from volcanos.)

My favourite food is fish, but I enjoy eating small mammals and even insects as a change. When I want to catch a fish, I dive into the water from high above, folding my wings back. I rarely miss when I spot one

Catching land creatures is different. I can hardly dive onto a mouse or rat. I’d bang my head something dreadful. *giggles*. So to catch land animals. I use my psi powers. I send a wave of power, a bit like a loud noise, into their heads. It’s usually enough to kill them. If we want to kill something larger, we band together and all send the noise at once. That does the trick.

I love to play. Me and my brothers and sisters had great times, playing in the water and doing acrobatics in the air. I had a great time when Wolf came. That dwarf—Basalt’s his name—has no sense of humour. He was in the water, not very deep, having a wash. His friends had swum out farther, so I decided to have a bit of fun. I dived and charged his legs. Of course, he fell in. *laughs loudly*. He was so cross. *He is unable to stop laughing*.

When they left, I decided to go with them to find some adventure. I learned a lot from reading people’s minds. *grins*. I’m not supposed to, and I always say I don’t, but it’s so much fun. The things people don’t want anyone to know! You’d be amazed at what people think. Most people seem to like me though.

*Jumps in the air and does a barrel-roll, then loops the loop*.

Sometimes I make a servant jump by hiding behind a curtain and making a small object move by itself. I once had a young girl run screaming down the corridor. I think I’ve been the start of a lot of tales of ghosts in some of the places I’ve lived.

I stay with Sandron because he’s fun, too. Did you know he once led a band of bandits? He’s the youngest son of the old Duke of Sendolina, so had nothing to do. He did it for fun. We had good times, he and I, until all this talk of war started.

I might go back to the lake if everyone gets serious. At least my brothers and sisters will still want to play.

V.M.Sang has agreed to give me a bigger role in her latest book. It’s not finished yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing what she does. I told her she should make more of my role in the story.

I hope you’ll read the book when it comes out. Until then, Cheerio.

*Leaps into the air and flaps a few times around the room.*

You feel a scratching in your brain, which seems to turn into words. Or perhaps you’re just imagining it.

Have I been reading your mind while I talked to you? What have I learned that you didn’t want anyone to know? Haha. You’ll never find out!

*Flies out of the window.*

I would love to know what you think of Muldee. Let me know in the comments box, please.

3 different Origins of St Valentine’s Day

I should have posted this yesterday, but I didn’t get round to it. In fact, I’m rather late today, too.

If you’ve been waiting for the post about Muldee, I promise that will be posted next Tuesday.

courtesy of pixabay
  • The easiest possible origin to find is that it dates to possibly three saints, all called Valentine, although two of them might have been the same person.
  • One of the Valentines is said to have defied the edict by Emperor that soldiers may not marry, and secretly married men in the army to their girlfriends, thus linking the saint to romance.
  • The second (who may also be the third) was a bishop, Valentine of Terni.
  • The other (who might have been the same person) was martyred in 270 by Claudius II Gothicus. He was in prison and befriended the jailor’s daughter, possibly healing her blindness. He wrote a letter to her, signing it ‘From your Valentine.’
  • One pagan festival in the Roman era was a fertility festival. It was called Lupercalia and took place in mid-February. Dogs and male goats were sacrificed. Men then took strips of the animals’ skin and slapped women they passed in the street. This was supposed to increase the fertility of the women slapped. Thus it is thought it could be an origin of Valentine’s Day.
  • February was the Celtic festival of Imbolc. It marked the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It was the time for the new lambs to be born.
  • Here is an extract from Vengeance of a Slave describing the festival of Imbolc.
  • Those of you who are from the US might see a resemblance to Groundhog Day.

Soon it was Imbolc, the time when the young lambs began to be born. The villagers had much preparation to do, for they invited the goddess, Brigid, into their homes to bless them, and they prepared special food for this day. Awena, was delighted when the villagers chose her to help carry the image of Brigid around the village.
She helped to clean the house with enthusiasm, sweeping out all the old rushes and piling them up outside ready to be lit into a bonfire. Ailbert laughed at her enthusiasm saying he had never thought of her as a domestic type.
She stuck her tongue out at him in response. “It’s important everything is ready for Brigid.”
“What about the gods we worshipped in Londinium? Have you forgotten them? Jupiter, Juno, Venus and the rest?”
“They’re gods for the Romans.” She shook her head. “They’ve no use for the Britons. Only if we become Roman Citizens will they care for us, and that’s not going to happen. We’re now Britons and we must worship the gods that care for the Britons.”
She carried on sweeping while Ailbert continued walking towards the sheep pens to see if any lambs yet been born.
He met Madoc on the way and the boy told him in excited tones that one of the ewes had gone into labour and the lamb, or hopefully lambs would arrive very shortly. Ailbert quickened his steps towards the pens in the hope of seeing the actual birth. Being a house slave in Londinium he had never been present at the birth of any of the animals owned by the dominus and domina.
They arrived in time to see the ewe pushing out what turned out to be the first of two lambs. Ailbert frowned. He had not expected blood. The little lamb lay on the ground, wet, and the mother turned to look at him, for it was a male lamb. Ailbert watched as she began to lick him clean. The second lamb was born soon afterwards and she repeated the process. The lambs staggered to their feet and immediately began suckling.
Ailbert smiled. He had witnessed a wonderful thing. New life being brought into the world and he ran off to tell Awena and Gwen the first lambs had been born and Imbolc was due to start.
At sunset that evening, the unwed girls carried the image of Brigid around the village. The villagers had made a crude image of reeds and the girls visited each house in turn, walked three times round it and then asked for admittance for Brigid. Each house opened the door and let the image and girls in. They gave them food and each householder added a decoration to the reed image.
For some weeks before, the women and girls had been busy making Brigid crosses out of reeds, and one hung over the door of each house.
As it was winter still, it soon got dark. Each household put out newly made clothes, and food and drink for the goddess. They also made a bed for her in the house, just in case she decided to visit.
They ate and drank the foods made for this special day, a kind of porridge made from the starch left in the husks of the oats, soaked and left to ferment. It tasted sour to Ailbert and Awena but they ate their share as it would have been discourteous to do otherwise.
The next morning, Gwen looked carefully at the ashes that she had raked smooth the evening before, to see any disturbances that might indicate that Brigid had visited in the night, but they were as smooth as they had been when they all went to bed.
Gwen led the way outside to be met with a frost on the ground and an overcast sky. “Ah! That’s good. A cold, miserable day means that the Cailleach is still asleep and not gathering wood for fires to keep her warm through the next cold spell.” She turned to the young people who frowned and looked at each other. Ailbert shrugged his shoulders.
“Cailliach is winter personified. If today is bright and sunny, then she can come out and look for firewood and so keep herself warm for longer. If it’s cold and miserable, or rainy and stormy, then she’s asleep and will soon run out of firewood, so Brigid can bring the spring sooner.”
They, along with the rest of the village, made their way to the well. Here they walked round it in the direction of the sun and prayed to Brigid to bring health and prosperity. They gave offerings of strips of cloth and a few coins to the goddess.
Singing and dancing followed, as well as eating and drinking, and the day passed quickly, darkness coming early at this season, half-way between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Tired and happy with the prospect of a good season to come, the villagers retired
to their beds.

Thank you for reading. If you want to find out more about Ailbert, you can go to the online store of your choice by clicking the link above, or the book cover in the side bar.

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an excerpt from Jovinda and Noli a new release

Have you ever wondered what happened before a story begins? I am releasing a number of novellas that tell the story before the story. The first one is the very beginning and tells how the parents of Carthinal, in The Wolves of Vimar Series met and fell in love.

This novella is now released and can be bought from Amazon. It is available in ebook format and paperback (including pocket book and large print).

Click the book cover to go to Amazon where you are.

Here’s the blurb.

At sixteen years of age, Jovinda is to be presented to the Royal Family. She fantasizes about catching the eye of Prince Gerim and becoming Queen, but her fantasies evaporate when she meets a young elf called Noli.

The pair fall in love, but parental opposition, mainly because of their different lifespans, leads them to meet in secret, despite warnings of severe repercussions from Jovinda’s family.

But can the young lovers overcome the opposition of their parents?

And to whet your appetite, here is an excerpt from the book.

Jovinda is attending her first ever ball and banquet at the royal palace in Aspirilla. She is to be presented to the King and his family, and she is very excited about meeting the Crown Prince, who is almost the same age as her. She has dreams of romance.

The Young Lovers

Jovinda and her parents stood at the top of the stairs leading down to the reception room in the Palace. Jovinda scanned the room looking for Prince Gerim. The prince was not quite sixteen, but would be at such an important banquet as the heir to the throne. She frowned slightly as she noticed a young elf watching her as she descended the stairs.

Ellire had decided the best style for her dress for the banquet would be, not like the elaborate dresses they saw hanging in Madame Frimb’s workroom, but a simple style.

Jovinda saw the green velvet fabric and fell in love with the colour. Ellire agreed it would look good on her, and then went to discuss a style with Madame Frimb. The dress she now wore had a high neckline with small pearl buttons sewn around it. The buttons continued down the centre of the otherwise plain bodice with sleeves that stopped at her elbow. They also had pearl buttons around the cuffs. The skirt flared from her waist giving room for her feet to move when dancing, and more pearl buttons graced the hem. She wore small pearl drops in her ears and a white orchid in her hair.

The family walked down the stairs as a butler announced them. Jovinda stared around. The stairs descended from the balcony where they had entered, and flared out towards the bottom. A red carpet ran down the centre. Large floor to ceiling windows to her right opened onto the Palace gardens, and doors carved with vines and fruits stood open on the opposite side. Torches in sconces lit the room, and glinted on the gold-leaf that covered the cornice. More gold covered a few chairs scattered around for those unable to stand for long, and at the opposite end of the room was a dais with two thrones, again, covered in gold leaf.

A waiter brought a tray of drinks. Jovinda took a glass of Perimo, a sparkling wine from the islands, as she chatted with many of her parents’ friends and acquaintances, feeling very grown up.

Suddenly, a horn sounded. Everyone stopped talking and looked towards the stairs. The Royal Family entered and made their way through the crowd to the dais. As they passed, people bowed their heads or curtseyed. Once the King and Queen settled onto their thrones, the butler announced the first of the young people to be presented.
As it was her first social occasion, Jovinda was one of those young people.

When the butler called her name, she looked at her father who mouthed “Go on, Jo”.

Her mother gave her a little push to start her on her way.

She took a deep breath to try to calm her racing heart, and ascended the dais where she curtseyed to the King and Queen.

The King smiled and his eyes twinkled. “We are delighted to meet you, Jovinda. Enjoy the occasion. There’s nothing quite like your first ball.”
Then she moved on. Prince Gerim smiled at her and shook her hand.

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Jovinda.”

Jovinda curtseyed. He’s quite good-looking. I wonder if I can attract his attention? He may even ask me to dance. I wonder what kind of girls he likes?

The call came for everyone to go into the banqueting hall and be seated. Jovinda was surprised to be seated well away from her parents. She found herself sitting between a young man she knew, whose father was the head of the leatherworkers’ guild, and a handsome young elf—the very same elf she had seen watching her as she descended the stairs. She drew her eyebrows together.

The elf turned to her and asked her name.

“Jovinda. What’s yours?”

He laughed. “I doubt you’d be able to pronounce it.” His smile lit up his deep blue eyes.

“Try me.”

“Well, it’s Nolimissalloran, but you can call me Noli. All my friends do.”
Jovinda looked at the elf. He’s very handsome.

His extraordinary eyes fascinated her. They were slanting, like those of all elves, but it was their colour that attracted her attention. They were a deep blue. Much deeper than any eyes she had ever seen before. She no longer felt an interest in capturing the attention of Prince Gerim.

After the banquet, the king announced that the ball would commence in thirty minutes in the ballroom. Everyone left the tables and stood around in groups talking.

As they passed through the double doors, Jovinda’s mouth fell open. She would have stopped in her tracks if Noli had not been urging her forward.

When the music began, people started to move toward it. Noli held out his arm to Jovinda, beating the young man who had sat on her other side at the banquet. She took it, blushing, and the pair strolled into the ballroom.

The chandeliers hanging from the ceiling cast dancing lights around the room as the candles flickered in the currents of air. Everywhere she looked she saw gold leaf. On the carving on the dais, on the thrones for the king and queen, on the urns in niches on the walls.

A delicate blue paint covered the walls,on which were painted scenes of dancing couples, The ceiling was painted a deeper blue with stars covering it.

The quartet on the raised dais was playing a jolly tune and people were beginning to drift onto the dance floor.

“May I have this first dance?” Noli bowed to Jovinda. She nodded her assent.

He swept her into his arms and whirled her around the floor. Noli was an excellent dancer and she found herself dancing better than she had ever done before. He was so easy to follow.

After the dance Noli escorted her to a seat at a small table occupied by her parents. They were sitting with Salor and her parents. He bowed and drifted off towards a group of elves.

Jovinda watched him go. He bowed to one of the young female elves and escorted her onto the dance floor.

“Jo.” It was her mother speaking. “Jo, Krombo is asking you to dance. What’s wrong with you?”

“Oh! Sorry, Krombo.” She rose and they joined the dancing couples.

A constant stream of young men came to dance with Jovinda. Some danced well, but some were clumsy. None danced as well as Noli. She kept looking around to see with whom the young elf was dancing.

Does he like her better than he likes me?

This thought ran through her head over and over again whenever Noli danced with another young woman. All thoughts of the Prince fled as she watched the handsome elf.

He asked her to dance again before leaving her once more to dance with others. But he danced with her more than anyone else, and danced the last dance with her.

All too soon the evening ended and Jovinda and her parents took a carriage back to The Swan in Flight. They were leaving the next morning for the ferry back to Bluehaven. Jovinda found herself hoping she would see Noli again. After all, if he stayed with the delegation, then he would be based in Bluehaven. She smiled.

“What are you grinning at?” her father asked her.

“Oh, nothing. Only that I had a really good time this evening.”

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