A sneak peek at my new novel.

I’m giving you a quick look at the next book in the saga that traces the history of a family from Roman Britain through the ages. The first book, already published, is called Vengeance of a Slave.

This second book takes place during the time of the Danish occupation of the East of England. It tells the tale of a young girl, a descendant of Adelbehrt from the first book. She is the daughter of an Anglo Saxon woman, descended from Adelbehrt, and her Danish husband. It’s called Revenge of a Viking

I hope you enjoy it. I’m currently on the first rewrite, but I hope to have it published by September, all being well.

As yet I have no artwork to go with it. Apologies about that.

Helgha bent down to pick some herbs she had been looking for. The sound of hooves came from around the corner of the track. She whirled around, her ash blonde hair whipping across her face. The forest was not a safe place, especially as it was getting dusk now. All kind of dangers abounded. A pack of wolves roamed not far away, and the threat of bandits was a very real danger. She should have been home already, but a clump of the herbs had caught her eye. They were just the ones she sought and she stayed to pick enough for her mother to use to prepare the medicines.
A man appeared from round a bend in the road, leading his horse. She backed towards the bushes at the edge of the track, hoping to make herself invisible to the man, but his eyes alighted on her as she whirled, her sudden movement giving her away.
‘Hey,’ he called, ‘Can you help me? I’m lost.’
Helgha backed further into the bushes, looking for somewhere to run. Perhaps this track, made by some animal would lead her to a wider one where she could make her escape. The man called again.
‘Stop, please. I won’t hurt you. I promise. I just want to find a way out of this infernal forest and back on the road to Jorvik.’
Helgha stopped. She could not go any further, anyway. A large bramble bush prickled her back, its thorns even penetrating the woollen cloak she wore.
The man had now reached where she had pressed into the bushes.
‘I understand why you’re afraid,’ he said, ‘but I’m not one to harm a young girl. Certainly not one as pretty as you.’ He smiled, making his grey eyes light up.
‘My name’s Erik,’ he continued. ‘I’m assuming there’s a farm or a village ahead and that’s where you’ve come from. I don’t expect you’re wandering the forest at dusk if you’re far from home.’
Helgha stepped out from the bramble bush, pulling her cloak free from the thorns that grasped the wool, trying to pull her back.
‘No, sir,’ she murmured. ‘My home is just a few minutes away.’
‘Then will you take me there?’
Helgha looked at the man. He was tall and had light brown hair, a beard and a long moustache as did most of the Danish men. His clothes looked of a good quality and his cloak an expensive brooch pinned his cloak.
He’s not a beggar, or even a poor man, she thought Having made the decision that she ought to help him, she nodded in answer to his question and began walking along the road, beckoning Erik to follow her.
He pulled his horse to get it walking again, and it shook its head before beginning to reluctantly walk forward. Helgha had been so busy trying to make herself invisible when Erik appeared she had not noticed the animal had an injured foot.
The girl walked over and patted the animal talking gently to it before reaching down to feel its foot.
‘She tripped over something and threw me,’ Erik said. ‘I hope she’s not hurt her leg badly. She’s a good horse and has served me well.’
Helgha smiled back at her companion.
‘Father will have a look when we get home.’ she replied. ‘Have you walked far?’
‘It seems like hundreds of miles,’ Erik replied, ‘but it’s probably only a few.’
‘How did you come to be lost?’
‘A group of us went out hunting, then my horse tripped and threw me. The others went on and I started back towards Jorvik, but must have taken a wrong turn somewhere.’
‘You must have done. We’re nearly a day’s journey from Jorvik.’
They continued to walk along the forest road that wound between tall trees, mainly oaks, with bramble and bracken growing beneath the canopies. The leaves had begun to turn a yellow-gold and many had dropped to form a carpet beneath their feet. The rustling of these dry leaves had alerted Helgha to Erik’s approach. They swished like the sound of waves on the beaches as the feet and hooves passed through them.
The smell of fungi made Helgha stop.
‘Wait a moment,’ she said, and rushed off towards a fallen tree trunk where she picked some fungi from its bark.
‘These are good to eat,’ she told Erik. ‘Mother will be pleased to have them.’
Then she continued walking without looking back to see if he followed her.
After a little while, the ground began to rise and soon the trees stopped altogether. Ahead was a cleared area around the top of the little hill. Fields surrounded the village with partially harvested crops growing in them.
As they reached the top of the hill a palisade with an open gate appeared This, then, was Helgha’s home.
A large longhouse stood in the centre of the village surrounded by smaller ones in the same style as the longhouse. All the houses had thatched roofs and were built of wattle and daub.
‘Tie your horse here, Erik,’ Helgha told him, ‘then come into the house. The Dane did as she bade him and followed her into the longhouse.
The pair entered through a door set in the middle of one of the longer sides of the building. Erik blinked in the darkness that met them. It seemed darker due to coming in from the light outside. His eyes quickly became accustomed and he looked round.
Inside, the longhouse was much as Erik expected. The fire pit lay in the centre of the single room. Smoke curled up towards holes cut in the thatched roof, These holes allowed light to enter as well as the smoke from the fire to escape. Three boys, all younger than Helgha, sat on a bench running along one side of the house. They were playing some sort of game. A similar bench ran along the other side where three women sat spinning, and weaving at an upright loom.
One end of the longhouse was closed off. Animals shifted around, and occasionally there came the lowing of a cow. At the other end another room had been closed off. This gave some privacy to the lord of the village and his wife.
A pot stood over the fire and a woman with ash blonde hair very similar to Helgha’s stood stirring it. Helgha’s mother, Erik deduced.
She straightened up and rubbed her back, then smiled at Helgha and said, ‘You’re back then. Who’s this you’ve brought home? And did you get the herbs?’
‘Here’s everything you wanted. I was lucky in finding them all today. I also found these mushrooms.’ Helgha handed over her basket and her mother put it to one side.
Helgha continued speaking as her mother dealt with the herbs and mushrooms.
‘This is Erik. I met him just as I started for home. He got lost. He was with a hunting party out from Jorvik and his horse threw him so he became separated from the rest. He was trying to find the road back to Jorvik when he saw me.’
Just then, the door opened to admit a tall man with light brown hair. He walked over to the fire and warmed his hands.
‘It’s getting cold in the evenings,’ he said. Then he noticed Erik. ‘Who’s this?’
Erik stepped forward and introduced himself. He told the man how he became lost in the forest and had been rescued by Helgha.
‘So, my daughter found another stray. This one’s a bit bigger than most.’ He laughed and put his arm round Helgha to give her a hug. ‘She has a kind heart and is always finding something that needs looking after.’ He turned to the girl. ‘You’d better go and see to that little fawn you brought home, although he’s not so little now. He’ll need to go back to the forest soon.’
Erik looked at the man. He was big and had the look of a warrior about him. He had a full and bushy beard and twinkling blue eyes that he now turned towards Erik.
‘Well, you can’t leave for Jorvik now. It’s going dark. It’ll take you nearly a day to get there. Stable your horse with the other animals. Over there.’ He pointed to the room that held some cattle and pigs.
Erik thanked the other man and brought his horse into the stable end of the house, through another door. Helgha’s father noticed the animal’s limp and followed.
‘Let me have a look at your animal. She seems to have hurt her leg.’
He knelt down and ran his hand down the leg. The mare shifted uncomfortably as the man touched a sore spot.
‘Well, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, he said. ‘It’s a bit bruised that’s all. Rabbit hole. was it?’
‘Yes, I think so. I didn’t really see properly. I was too busy getting up and looking where my companions had gone. Then I noticed she was limping, so I couldn’t chase after my friends.’
Although it was not very near the fire, the stable end of the house was warm due to the presence of the animals. When he had made his horse comfortable, Erik returned to the main part of the house.
Helgha’s father said, ‘Well, I know your name. You don’t know mine.’ He laughed. A loud and cheery sound. ‘I’m called Biorn. My wife is Aedelflaed. Helgha you know. Boys, come here,’ he called to the three sitting in the shadows. ‘This is Hartvigg. He’s seen eleven summers. Then there’s Laeff. He’s seen nine summers. Little Sighmund five. Helgha has fourteen, or is it fifteen. I forget sometimes.’
Aedelflaed shook her head. ‘I don’t know,’ she scolded with a smile at her husband. ‘She’ll be fifteen in three weeks time. You know that as well as I do.’
‘Well she’s fourteen now.’ argued her husband, and turned to Erik. ‘It’s late. You must stay here tonight and tomorrow. Give your horse chance to recover. Then I’ll show you the road to Jorvik. Your companions. Will they be anxious about you?’
Erik laughed. ‘I expect so, and when they return to Jorvik without me my father will no doubt punish them before sending them out to find either me or my body.’
When Aedelflaed served the stew, they all sat round eating. Erik noticed a shield hanging on the wall opposite him.
‘You were a warrior then?’ he asked Biorn.’ When did you come here?’
‘I came with the Great Army. We conquered this area. The Anglo-Saxons were weak fighters. It wasn’t too hard.’
‘And you decided to stay?’
‘Not straight away. I went back. Then I came again. I met Aedelflaed and stayed. The land is good here. Rich and fertile.’
‘Many came to settle here. My own family did. My father also fought with the Great Army and was there when they took Jorvik. He still tells tales of that battle, and how the Anglo-Saxons tried to fight back, and we killed their leader.’
Helgha sat looking at Erik throughout this conversation. She was trying to memorise his features. She knew when he left in a couple of days she would not see him again. She thought he was the finest man she had ever seen. He was handsome and tall with the body of a warrior.
He turned to look at her and she blushed. Erik smiled and that made her face heat up even more. He knew she liked him. That idea embarrassed her but why it did she was unsure. She was only a young girl, but she was of marriageable age. There were many girls her age who were married.
Her parents would find her a suitable husband, and she would endeavour to be a good wife, but she wanted to remember Erik. She could dream of him at night and imagine his kisses, but only if she could remember exactly how he looked. That was why she had been watching him carefully, noting how he held his head and threw it back when he laughed. She noted the way he smiled at the little boys and how his voice changed when he spoke to them. He loved his horse, too. she noted how he patted it and spoke in a low voice so as not to startle it. Yes, she had enough stored to remember this man who had come so unexpectedly into her life, and just as quickly was going to leave it.
That night as she lay in her bed, she wept silently for what could not be.
The next day, Erik went to examine his horse’s leg. It seemed less painful when he touched it, but it still made the animal toss his head and snort. He had hoped to be able to leave that day, but he did not want to harm his horse, and so he agreed with Biorn to stay one more night.
Helgha watched as Erik tended the animal. She stroked its soft nose and whispered to it as it shifted uncomfortably under Erik’s ministrations. She loved the horse. Its warm smell and brown eyes looking so trustingly at her. Erik looked up and smiled.
‘He likes you,’ he told her.
‘I like him, too,’ she replied. ‘I like all animals, but horses are special.’
Biorn came to speak to Erik. He looked at the horse’s leg and said he did not think Erik should ride him for a few days.
‘I need to get back to Jorvik, though,’ Erik said, getting up from where he had been kneeling while he looked at his horse’s leg.
Biorn thought for a moment.
‘Well,’ he said, scratching his beard, ‘I could lend you one of mine for a few days until yours is better. I’ll tend him well.’
Helgha could not help the smile that broke out on her face at this. Erik would need to return to get his horse. She would see him again.
Erik rode out later that morning on his borrowed horse and Helgha returned to her tasks dreaming of his return.
She spent time with Erik’s horse. She groomed him and took him apples. He welcomed her with a gentle whicker whenever she came near him. She leaned against his side and spoke gently.
‘You are so lucky,’ she told the horse. ‘He’ll come back for you. You’ll be living with him, seeing him every day. When he comes back it’ll be the very last time I’ll ever see him.’
The horse seemed to look at her with sympathy in his brown eyes. Or so Helgha thought as she returned reluctantly to her tasks.
When Erik returned for his horse, Helgha ran to take her father’s animal and lead it back to the barn. Erik walked with her and smiled down at her.
‘How is my horse?’ he asked.
‘He seems to be better,’ she replied, not daring to look at him in case she blushed. She could not let him see her blushes because she would never see him again after today. He had brought her father’s horse back and had only come to collect his own and then he would ride away forever.

 

 

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An Interview with Author David Kummer,

Last week I published my review of David Kummer’s book, Until We Burn. This week, I have the pleasure of introducing you to David.

David is a promising young author, who has already published quite a number of books. He is one to watch for the future.His books are generally in the fantasy or horror genres.

Welcome to Dragons Rule OK, David.

David Profile Pic

 

1. What is the first book you remember either reading or having read to you?

One of the first books I remember my dad reading to me is C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series. He would read two or three chapters a night, and we zoomed through all the books. I really enjoyed those, and still do, as well as the memories it brings.

2. Who is your favourite author?

My favorite author is Mark Edwards

3. What is your favourite book?

Probably “The Magpies” by Mark Edwards. It was surprising and I read it in two days.

5. Apart from writing, what is the thing you enjoy doing the most?

I play basketball quite a lot, and work. See below.

6. If you weren’t a writer, what job would you do?

I want to be an English teacher once I get out of college, probably for middle school or high school.

7. If you have a “proper” job, what is it?

I do landscaping. And most of the time the heat index is well over 100 degrees, so that’s fun.
8. Why do you write?

Honestly, I just enjoy it and it’s something that’s now a part of my everyday life. I’m so immersed in it, I don’t think I could separate without losing a part of myself.

9. How old were you when you published your first book?

I was 15 years old, but 14 when I wrote it.

10. Do you write to music? If so, what music inspires you?

Occasionally, I will listen to soundtracks while writing. But when I’m not writing, I’m constantly listening to music. I prefer Alt-Rock, and my favorite bands are the Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, and lately Arcade Fire. Also, Twenty One Pilots, who I saw in concert back when they were still a tiny band with no fans.

11. A question I can’t answer, myself. Where do you get your ideas from?

Most often, I get them from a setting I see. I’ve had one short story come from a dream. Usually, I’ll be in a situation and think “What if this terrible thing happened?” so then it does in my story.

12. Do you have any pets?

My family has two dogs, but at one time we had four. Also, two cats.
13. Are you a dog or a cat person?

Dog

14. When you go out to eat, what type of food do you prefer?

I like Chinese, or buffalo wings.

15. Do you prefer the city or the country?

I prefer small towns, like Hanover, Indiana where I live. Somewhere in between the country and the city.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to get to know you better, David.
You can contact David on the following links.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100014606114521

My blog- http://davidkummer.com/

 

Newsletter- http://eepurl.com/bPgy4n

 

Goodreads Account- https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14106755.David_Duane_Kummer

 

Until We Burn: A Psychological Thriller by [Kummer, David Duane]

 

Blurb:

Cyrus Street never forgot about his home. It was always in the back of his mind, with the memories, the nightmares. Alluring, always pulling him back. There were so many questions unanswered. Something he left behind.

When he finally returns, he’s drawn back into a world even worse than he remembers. Werifesteria, with its dark secrets and murky past, never changed. It remains a cesspool, a danger. There’s something about the town unnerving, yet enticing. It isn’t normal. It isn’t sane.

As soon as Cyrus steps back into it, the murders begin. He’s the only one can catch this madman, if he can only control his mind.

Everybody remembers the fire. Everybody remembers him. But there’s a darkness he’s buried inside his own head. And unless he can remember, the entire town will burn.

 

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Until-We-Burn-Psychological-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07CXL1RSC

 

 

Review of Until We Burn by David Kummer

 

Until We Burn: A Psychological Thriller by [Kummer, David Duane]

 

Cyrus Street returns to the town where he grew up. He returns to try to solve a mystery that had ruined his life.

15 years previously, the church in the town had burned down, killing, amongst many others, Cyrus’s young son. The fire had been arson, and he wants to find out who did it.

Helped by a young man from the town, he sets about trying to find clues as to the perpetrator of the crime. This becomes more important as murders begin to take place in the town, seemingly of people who were witnesses. Cyrus’s probing has worried someone.

David Kummer is a very talented young author. I found I couldn’t put the book down once I’d started it. He manages to grip the author and carry them along with him. It is a dark story, described as ‘psychological horror’, and I would go along with that description.

David Kummer has an insight into character unusual for one so young. His characters are real, and have both flaws and virtues. We find ourselves sympathising readily with them.

The ending is surprising. I thought I’d guessed the perpetrator, but I was wrong.

If I have a fault to find, it’s that at the end, we know who, but not why. There are also a couple of places in the book I was unsure about what had happened, but this did not spoil my overall enjoyment.

This is a young man to watch.

 

I gave it 4 stars on Amazon

 

Wolf Moon is Free from tomorrow

Wolf-Moon-Promo-Paperback

Tomorrow, 20th July, Wolf Moon, the third part of The Wolves of Vimar after The Wolf Pack and The Never-Dying Man, will be free on Amazon. This offer is until 25th, so don’t miss your opportunity to get your copy.

This book follows adventures the five members of the group calling themselves Wolf, who had become separated from the others. They need to escape back to their homeland of Grosmer to tell of the plans they had discovered of the Leader of the land of Erian’s plans for war, after centuries of peace.

They have to travel through mountain caves where they discover a hidden people. They need to convince them to allow them to continue on their travels, as the people are afraid of being discovered by the outside world.

Can they manage it, and can they reach home in time to warn the King and his council before war breaks out?

This book, although part of a series, can be read as a one off, although, of course, it is better if you have read the other books. To buy the others, and claim your free copy, follow the links.

The Wolf Pack

The Never-Dying Man

Wolf Moon

Other books by V.M.Sang are:

The Stones of Earth and Air,

The Stones of Fire and Water

Vengeance of a Slave

Viv’s Family Recipes

SMC Cartography – Making Maps

Quote

 

I found this quite fascinating and very useful, too, so I thought I’d share it with you all.

Thanks to Nicholas Rossi for sharing it in the first place, and Soraya Corcoran of SMC Cartography for posting it.

via SMC Cartography – Making Maps

How a Farmer’s Son became a Prince’s Best Friend

In my Elemental Worlds books. Pettic, a farmer’s son is the best friend of the Crown Prince. although there is mention of how this came about in the books, I thought I would give you a fuller account of their meeting.

The-Stones-Of-Fire-And-Water-Promo-Hardback-Ereader

The-Stones-Of-Earth-And-Air-Promo-Hardback-Ereader

Pettic woke up early. It was still dark, but he could hear his mother moving around in the downstairs room. Today they would have to get their chores done early. Today they were going to take the two day journey to the capital city of Ponderia.
Pettic had never beem to Glitton. In fact he had never been further than a half day’s journey from the farm that his parents owned. This journey was to celebrate his thirteenth birthday.
He poked his little brother in the ribs. ‘Derkil, get up. We need to do our jobs quickly. Don’t forget that today is the day we’re going to Glitton.’
The eleven year old Derkil rolled over and opened his eyes, then closed them and rolled back.
‘Derkil, come on, get up!’ shouted his brother.
At that, Derkil opened his eyes wide and laughed.
‘Did you think I’d forget, Pettic? I’ve not been to Glitton either, remember.’
With that, the younger boy jumped up and dressed quickly, then the two boys climbed down the ladder that led from their loft bedroom into the main room of the cottage.
Their mother was preparing breakfast and packing a large hamper to take with them.
‘Come on, boys,’ she exclaimed when she saw them. ‘Go and get your jobs done. Your father’s milking the cows today, so I can pack the food we’re taking, but the chickens need feeding, the sheep watering and checking over, the dogs and cats fed and the horse harnessed to the wagon.’
The brothers ran outside with alacrity and began their various tasks. Their father, Brimar, was pulling down hay for the two cows to eat while they were being milked when the boys appeared.
‘Get on as quickly as you can, lads,’ he called to them. ‘I want to be on the way as soon after sunrise as possible.’
‘When will Yelldon be coming?’ Pettic asked.
Yelldon was a neighbour who had handed over the running of the family farm to his son the previou year. He was still an active man, though, and had agreed to look after the farm while the family were away.
‘At dawn, he said,’ replied Pettic’s father. ‘I want to be ready to leave just as soon as I’ve told him what’s what.’
The two boys ran to their tasks with alacrity and had finished just before the sun poked its head over the horizon.
Yelldon arrived soon afterwards. Being an experienced farmer, he did not need much instruction. It was more a case of telling him where things were.
‘Are you ready Helra?’ the boy’s father called impatiently to their mother. Pettic could swear that his parents were as excited as he was about the coming visit.
Helra came out brushing a lock of her long chestnut hair from her eyes. ‘Just making sure everything is left tidy,’ she told him, climbing onto the wagon to sit next to her husband on the driver’s seat and they trotted out of the farmyard about half an hour after Yelldon had arrived.
The drive was through familiar land for the first half-day until they reached the village of Prind. The land around was fertile and quite flat and much was produced. Here they came each week to the market to sell any surplus produce and buy things they did not produce themselves. People came from the towns around too and not only produce was exchanged, but news too.
They called in at the local tavern and bought some lunch and exchanged comments with the various friends and acquaintances gathered there before continuing onwards.
This second part of the journey was much more exciting for the boys, and, truth to tell for the adults too. The land began to rise into rolling downland as they left the plains behind. Here the farming was predominantly sheep. As it was summer, the spring lambs were growing quickly and many had been rounded up to go to the markets.
The first day ended with the family approaching the town of Clind Row. This town seemed like a huge metropolis to the boys who had never before seen anywhere bigger than their village. In truth, it was quite a small town.
They found an inn for the night and as soon as Brimar had ensured that their horse was well stabled, the family went into the inn and had a hot meal. Brimar struck up a conversation with one of the locals and stayed down drinking ale, but Helra and the boys went up to their room. Pettic had wanted to stay down with his father, but Helra had insisted that he was still too young, thirteen in two days or not.
The next day was much the same as the previous one, except that they ate the food that Helra had packed rather than eat in inns or taverns. Then, about an hour before sunset, a city appeared over the horizon.
‘Is that Glitton?’ asked Pettic.
‘Yes, that’s the capital city,’ replied Brimar. ‘That is unless I’ve taken the wrong road somewhere,’ he teased.
‘Oh, no,’ wailed Dirkil. ‘Could you have done that? What happens if it’s the wrong place?’
‘Stop teasing the boys,’ scolded Helra with a smile. She turned to Dirkil. ‘Yes, it’s Glitton,’ she said. ‘There is only one road to the capital. Even your father can’t get that wrong.’
Brimar aimed a friendly punch at his wife who ducked, laughing.
The little party soon passed through the gates of the capital city. All four of them looked around in wonder. Here the houses were built of stone and looked huge to the country folk. The roads too were paved and not the muddy tracks that they had known in the villages around their farm. There were churches with tall spires or towers that looked as if they were trying to reach the heavens, so tall did they seem.
They found an inn and asked if they had rooms, but they were told that all were taken due to something called “The Proclamation”. The innkeeper sent them off down a side road to a smaller inn.
‘It’s clean and does good food,’ the innkeeper told them. ‘but it’s not so fashionable as this one, although I say it myself. They may have space for a family if you don’t mind sharing a room.’
That turned out to be the case and so they booked the room for a week and unloaded their things. Their wagon was taken into the coach-house and their horse to the stables. Brimar was secretly glad the other inn was full. This inn was, as they had been told, small, but it was clean and the landlord friendly. It was also cheaper than the other one, an important consideration for the country folk.
They ordered a meal and this time took it in their room. They were all tired after travelling and so they went to bed early. They were used to going to bed with the sun and rising with it too and so it was no hardship.
The next morning, Helra told the boys to put on their best clothes. She had insisted that they were going to the big city, home to the king, and so they should look their best. Dirkil protested.
‘But mother,’ he said, ‘it’s not as though the king or anyone important will see us. My best clothes are so-o uncomfortable.’
Helra insisted, however, and as usual she got her way.
Shortly after they had eaten, and Helra had inspected the boys (and incidentally, her husband too) they set off to look at the city. It was huge. No one in the family had ever been in such a big place. It was busy too, and noisy. On every street corner, it seemed, there was someone selling something. Flowers here, sweetmeats there, pies too. They entered a square where a market was in full swing. The boys wanted to stop and look at the wares, but their father hurried them on.
‘Why can’t we stop to look?’ asked Pettic.
‘We’ll look another time,’ replied Brimar. ‘We have a week here, after all. I thought we’d begin by looking at the palace. Today, I believe, they have opened it to the public because it’s the Prince’s thirteenth birthday.’
‘Just like you, Pettic,’ pointed out Dirkil.
‘Oh, I hadn’t noticed,’ replied his brother, sarcastically. ‘I thought we were here to see the king!’
They then passed through some inner gates into the oldest part of the city. Here the houses were even bigger and the place looked tidy and well kept. The streets were clean and the windows of the houses were polished. Helra surreptitiously peeped into one of the windows as they passed.
‘It’s beautiful inside,’ she whispered.
They came then to the palace gates and were admitted. After crossing a large courtyard with a variety of buildings in it, they arrived at the main doors and were ushered into a large hall. There were chairs in this hall as if there were going to be some kind of ceremony. The ceiling had flags hanging from it. Brimar told the boys that they were the emblems of all the nobility and knights who would be called on to fight for their country in times of war. The ceiling itself had large wooden beams and the walls were covered with tapestries, mainly scenes of warfare.
There were several families there, all with at least one boy around Pettic’s age. Some were sitting on the chairs and some were walking around looking at everything there was to see. Those on the chairs were looking bored as though they had seen it all before, which they may have done because they were all richly dressed. Their parents were talking quietly together as if they had known each other for a long time. These were obviously noble families, but what were they waiting for? That they were waiting for something was obvious.
After looking around at the tapestries, and Helra admiring the fine stitching, Brimar suggested they sit down ‘for a rest’.
Dirkil protested that he did not want a rest. He was not tired. Why could they not go and look at somewhere else. They had seen this place now.
‘Your mother needs to sit down for a while,’ responded Brimar.
Pettic looked at his mother. She did not look in the least bit tired. What was his father up to? Anyway, he needed to go to pass water. He had been holding it in for quite a while now, and he was getting desperate. He whispered to his father who went to one of the men standing around the room and asked.
‘Come with me, young man,’ the man told Pettic, and walked off through a door on the opposite side of the room from where they had entered.
Pettic followed and was taken down a number of corridors until they came to a door.
‘In there is the garderobe,’ said the man. ‘I need to be in the Great Hall now and so I trust you can find your way back. If you get lost, just ask one of the servants. There are usually plenty around.’
With that, he walked off leaving Pettic in front of the garderobe door.
When he had finished, Pettic left the garderobe and started back towards the Great Hall. After a while he found he was quite lost. He was just beginning to panic when he spotted a young boy of about his age at the end of the passage.
‘Hey,’ he called, ‘I’m lost. I need to get back to the Great Hall. Can you tell me which way to go, please?’
The boy stopped and looked round. He came down the corridor towards Pettic.
He was about the same height as Pettic but with dark hair whereas Pettic’s was fair. He had brown eyes and was wearing a dark blue jerkin over a maroon shirt. Pettic knew these were the royal colours and so he assumed this boy was one of the royal attendants.
‘I can show you the way back. I’m not wanted for a while yet,’ he answered.
‘Thank you very much,’ Pettic said. ‘I suppose you work here. Are you some kind of page, doing your training?’
The boy smiled. ‘Yes. I am in training,’ he said. ‘What do you do?’
‘My father is a farmer in a village two days’ drive away. We only have a small farm, but we do have two cows,’ he answered proudly. ‘Not many farmers have a cow. They get their milk from goats. My mother makes butter and cheese from the extra milk. It tastes different from goats’ cheese and butter.’
‘Yes, I know,’ answered the boy. ‘I’ve had cows’ cheese and milk. I prefer it to goats’.’
Pettic was pleased to meet someone who liked the cows’ milk and cheese. Most of his friends preferred the goats’ but that was mainly because that was what they were used to.
The pair chatted on as they wended their way back to the Great Hall. Pettic learned about life in the palace and the boy learned about Pettic’s life on the farm.
When they reached the door to the Great Hall the boy said, ‘It sounds a great life, living on a farm. So free. I loved the story you told about falling out of the tree you were climbing. I’m not allowed to climb trees.’
With that, he ran back the way he came and Pettic entered the great Hall once more.
His parents had been getting anxious about him and were pleased to see him back. He told them about getting lost and meeting the trainee page and how the boy had shown him back to the Hall.
‘I think we should tell him why we are here, don’t you, Brimar,’ said Helra suddenly.
Pettic looked at his mother and frowned. ‘We’re here for my birthday, aren’t we?’
‘Yes, dear, of course, but there is something else too. Now I don’t expect it will come to anything, but a proclamation was sent out a few weeks ago. Crown Prince Torren is thirteen today, just like you and all the other boys here today.’ Pettic looked puzzled. His father continued. ‘The king sent a proclamation to ask if any boy with a birthday on the same day as the Prince would care to come to the palace today, then the prince would choose one of them to be his friend and companion. So here we are.’
Just then, the first of the boys was called and he stood and went through a door at the far end of the room.
‘Mother, Father,’ said Pettic. ‘This is ridiculous. You know that one of the nobles’ sons will get it. We should go now before we’re embarrassed.’
‘No, son,’ insisted Brimar. ‘We’ve come this far and I don’t intend to leave until you’ve at least seen the prince. The king has said that he will leave the interviewing and choice entirely to Prince Torren. It is said that the prince is not in the slightest snobbish and so I think everyone here stands a chance.’
Pettic sighed. The boy who had just been in to see the prince came out and another boy went in.
This went on for a while until Pettic’s name was called. He stood and looked at his parents for help. His mother gave him a little push and he crossed the room towards the little door feeling as if all eyes were on him. (Which of course they were.)
He entered a small room. There was a large table in the centre and a window behind it. Pettic bowed to the pair seated on the other side of the table. A voice that he recognised bade him be seated.
He looked up in horror to see the boy that he had been so casually talking to, and whom he had unceremoniously asked for help. He could hardly believe that he had been in the presence of Prince Torren and not known it.
Next to the prince was a man that could only be the king. He was a tall man with the same dark hair and brown eyes as his son, but he sported a well-trimmed beard. He looked a kind man and he smiled at Pettic to give him courage.
Prince Torren also smiled at Pettic.
‘Well, Pettic, we meet again,’ said the prince. ‘I hope you won’t hold it against me for not telling you who I am. I have so little chance of talking to someone not of my family, who doesn’t treat me as different.’
‘N-no, Your Royal Highness.’
Prince Torren asked more questions about Pettic’s life on the farm. Pettic quickly relaxed and soon had both the prince and his father laughing at some of the tales he told. Eventually, though, Prince Torren told Pettic that he had seen enough to make up his mind, and dismissed the other boy.
‘You were a long time in there,’ his mother said. ‘I was wondering what was happening.’
Pettic smiled. ‘We were just talking, mother,’ he said. ‘Prince Torren is very nice and friendly. Did you know that he showed me the way back from the garderobe when I got lost?’
‘What?,’ said Dirkil ‘You were talking to a real prince and didn’t know it? I’d have spotted him right off.’
‘I don’t think so. He looks normal and speaks normally too.’
It took quite a long time for all the boys to be interviewed. Derkin had been complaining for quite some time about being bored and so Helra said she would take him out to look at the market. Thus it was that when the last boy came out, only a restless Pettic and his father were sitting waiting.
‘Why can’t we go and meet mother and Derkin, father?’ Pettic asked.’It’s not as if I was likely to be chosen, is it. The prince will want someone from his own class as a companion.’
But Brimar insisted that they stay. They had come this far and they were not going to leave before they found out who the prince had chosen.
It was only about ten minutes after the last boy had come out that the prince and the king emerged from the little room. Everyone stood and bowed as the pair went to a platform next to the room where the interviews had been held. The king bade everyone to sit and took his place on the throne. Prince Torren stood next to his father, glanced once at himand then stepped forward.
‘I have made my decision,’ he began. ‘It was not an easy one. All of you had things to recommend you to me, but eventually I thought that there is one of you that I took to immediately.’ The prince paused and looked round the room. His eyes caught Pettic’s and held. ‘I would like to employ as my companion, and I hope my friend, Pettic.’
Pettic looked round the room. There must be some mistake. There must be another Pettic here. But no, no one else was moving, and all eyes were on him.
The prince smiled and said, ‘Yes, Pettic, I have chosen you. Come up so everyone can see you.’

To learn about Pettic’s adventures in the four Elemental Worlds, you can click on this link, or go to My Books page and click on the book image.