Tag Archives: v.m.sang

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.

Thadora

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.”

Memories of past winters

With this energy price crisis, I thought about when I was growing up. What sparked this was when a woman on the radio complained about her children being cold in their bedrooms when they were getting up in the morning.

Here are some of my recollections.

Nowadays, we all take central heating for granted. And a wonderful thing it is in many ways. Our homes are, or can be, heated to a temperature we are comfortable with in every room. It was not always like this.

Once, when walking past a house that had recently been built, I was told, “That house has central heating.” On enquiring how one could tell, I was told. “It has no chimneys.”

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Chimneys were an essential part of homes at that time (1950s) because the only means of heating was coal. Every room had a fireplace, including bedrooms, although fires were only lit there if someone was ill enough to have to stay in bed. A fire in the living room was commonplace. It heated that room, but others were cold.

Fires need oxygen to burn, and so they drew in air from any gaps, such as under the door, creating a draught; hence the long sausages people put at the bottom of the doors. One thing I do remember is when we had a Baxi fire put in. This was a special grate that pulled air from outside along a tube that opened under the fire. A great invention. The draught could be adjusted so the fire would burn either high or low.

Another disadvantage of having fires was that they need solid fuel. Coal was kept in either a coal bunker or a coal house. These were, of course, outside, and so occasionally someone had to go out to get the coal in. Coal scuttles were filled, of course, but the coal never lasted all evening. And the next day, someone had to go out in the cold to refill it.

Going from one room to another was always a cold experience, and bedrooms were cold. When going to bed at night, it was a rush to get into pyjamas as quickly as possible and under the blankets. Similarly, getting up in the mornings. Talking to friends from that era, they remember, as do I, getting dressed in bed.

I remember, on cold winter mornings, when there had been a frost, there were wonderful pictures on the window. Ferns, flowers, trees, all drawn by Jack Frost in the night. Sometimes the frost was on the INSIDE of the windows! Now we don’t see these pictures. Such a pity as they were beautiful, if transient.

Image by Eirena from Pixabay

Although I love my centrally heated home, I wonder if we really need to heat all our rooms in this time of economic crisis and with a soaring cost of energy. In ones we hardly ever use, perhaps we could turn off the radiators. It would save us fuel, and money, and also help the environment.

I also wonder if living in a constant warm temperature is actually good for us. We are warm, then go out into the cold. A recipe for catching colds, I think.

I didn’t intend for this to be as long as it is. I apologise. If you’ve got this far, Well Done.

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.

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Peanut Butter Cookie Day

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a recipe for cookies, but they are peanut butter based, so I think I can get away with it! I only just found out it’s peanut butter cookie day, so I’m late in posting.

I’m afraid I don’t have a picture for this. It’s a tray bake and I’ve not made it in a while. I would have made some for this post, but I’ve found I have no peanut butter!

Peanut Fingers

Ingredients

170g SR flour

125g caster sugar

4x20ml tablespoons peanut butter

½ x5ml teaspoon salt

2 eggs

60g peanuts (roasted)

85g margarine

2x20ml tablespoons milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a Swiss roll tin.

Sieve the flour and salt together and add the margarine cut into pieces. Rub into the flour.

Stir in the sugar.

Beat the eggs and milk together and stir into the mixture with the peanut butter.

Spread in the tray and sprinkle over with the roasted peanuts.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes.

You can find more recipes in Viv’s Family Recipes. It is available on a number of platforms in several formats. You can get it by clicking on the title or the book cover in the side bar.

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Spring. A Poem

Dandelions, like gold, cover the meadows.

Newborn lambs frolic in fields.

New leaves on the trees are casting their shadows

And winter’s cold grip quickly yields.

At the edges of woodland the primroses glow

And cowslips their scent fills the air.

Anemones dance when the breezes do blow

And birds sing with never a care.

Then bluebells and campions come into bloom

Their colour the blue of the sea.

The cuckoo, that herald of spring, will come soon,

His call echoing over the lea.

The song of the blackbird is like molten gold.

His notes are so pure and so clear.

Hearing him seems to banish the cold

And brings joy to all those who hear.

Robin is nesting, and other birds too,

The hedgehog is active once more.

The young of the deer and the badger and shrew

Play their games as in old days of yore.

The sun climbs higher and higher each day

Giving more of his heat and his light.

It sparkles like stars fallen into the bay.

All smile at the beautiful sight.

Hope and excitement come with each spring morn.

What blessings will come with this day?

New starts can begin once again with each dawn

And send us all hopeful away.

I’ve submitted a book of poetry, including this one, to my publisher. I am currently waiting to hear if they’ve accepted it. I’ll keep you posted about it.

If you like my poem, please leave a comment in the comments box. Even if you didn’t, you can still leave a comment.

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Here’s a bit about the story.

Maria and her husband, Jack, have moved into an old cottage. They want to furnish it with period furniture and buy a medieval table.

That’s when the mystery begins. Strange sounds in the night. Have they bought a haunted house? But a medium tells them it is not a ‘lost spirit’, but something else she does not recognise.

What is it that is causing them to lose sleep? The answer is more unexpected than anyone thought.

Introduction to a dragonet.

A red outline of Muldee.

I am at the first edit of Book 4 of The Wolves of Vimar. It’s called Immortal’s Death. Once it’s gone through this edit, I’ll send it to critique partners to see what they make of it.

It will be some time yet before it’s ready to go to my publisher, though, but I would like to tell you a bit about one of my favourite characters.

This character began as a surprise in Book 1, The Wolf Pack. He helped the group known as Wolf to escape from capture by a band of hobgoblins. Then he disappeared until the end of book 3, making a brief appearance.

However, this character was not going to be left out. He did not want a bit-part, and so in this book he has quite an important role.

Who is he? I hear you ask.

Well, he’s not human, elf or dwarf. In fact he’s a small relative of dragons. He and his like are called dragonets, and he is called Muldee.

A dragonet looks to all intents and purposes like a small dragon. In fact, the members of Wolf though he and his siblings were baby dragons, until he put them right.

Dragonets, unlike real dragons, have iridescent scales. Real dragons have scales of a particular colour, but those of dragonets shimmer in blue, red, green, purple, yellow, white, you name it and you’ll see it there.

They cannot breathe fire or acid or anything else, like real dragons, nor are they magical, but they do have one talent.

Psionics.

Dragonets are telepathic, and also have a slight telekinesis ability. They can send what they call a ‘mindblast’ into the brain of another creature. They use this for capturing their prey, but it is insufficient to kill a large creature. If they want to kill or seriously harm something larger than a cat, a group of them will band together and use a co-ordinated mind blast.

A single dragonet is capable of giving a large creature a very nasty headache, though.

So much for the background. I’m going to leave more about Muldee for another post, probably next week. He’s quite a character. I’m sure you will like him.

A 4*review for Vengeance of a Slave

I recently discovered this review on Goodreads.

Barbara Ann Author

June 6, 2020

Adelbehrd and his family live in the Roman provinces. Their simple life is suddenly turned upside down when Roman soldiers come to exact revenge for a rebellion in which they played no part.

They randomly choose men to be examples. Adelbehrd’s father is crucified. He and his sister are singled out to be sold as slaves because of their blond hair. Torn from their grieving mother, the two terrified children are carted off to a far-off villa to be enslaved.

For many years, their monotonous life continues. One day, Adelbehrd discovers that his sister is about to be sold. A friend tells him about a group of Britons who rescue slaves. Adelbehrd is determined to protect his sister and hatches a plan to escape.
Will they be successful, or will they suffer the dire consequences?

The book appears to be well researched. The plot moves along and keeps the reader’s interest. I would recommend it to those who enjoy history and intriguing characters.

Thank you Barbara Ann for this kind review.

Please leave your comments in the comments box.

How about a free, exclusive story? You can get one, by me, by clicking on the link below.

Maria and her husband, Jack, have moved into an old cottage. They want to furnish it with period furniture and buy a medieval table.

That’s when the mystery begins. Strange sounds in the night. Have they bought a haunted house? But a medium tells them it is not a ‘lost spirit’, but something else she does not recognise.

What is it that is causing them to lose sleep? The answer is more unexpected than anyone thought.

By clicking on the link, you will join my quarterly newsletter. But don’t worry, you can unsubscribe at any time, including as soon as you have downloaded the story, if you wish.

I won’t spam you, either. You will only get a newsletter every 3 months, but I might occasionally send you a present, or some exciting news, like a new release.

the never-dying man

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

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

Here is a bit about the book.

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

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

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

And an extract.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The young man spoke as though in great pain.

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

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

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

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

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

The young man coughed.

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

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

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

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The Wolf pack OFFER

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

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

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

Here is the blurb

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

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

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

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

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

And a short extract.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mage grinned at his friend in reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Can you read it?’ asked Randa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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a poem about a storm

I was staying in Germany, near Leipzig a few years ago in order to go to a concert in the Thomaskirke. On our way back to the hotel, there was a tremendous thunderstorm. I was inspired to write the following poem.

The Storm

A lovely day, the sun was warm
It had shone on us since dawn.
The heat oppressed us all the day,
Even as in bed we lay.

We went to Leipzig in the heat.
In Thomaskirke we took our seat
To hear St John by J.S.Bach.
It did not end till after dark.

When we emerged it was in rain.
We rushed to find our car again.
The thunder rolled across the sky,
The lightning flashed, but now we’re dry.

We drove toward Chemnitz and saw
O’er Dresden, flashes like the War.
Was it ’45 again
With bombs falling like the rain?

The lightning flashed, the thunder boomed.
We thought that we were surely doomed’
It must at least be Armageddon,
Such brightness in a sky so leaden.

The storm went on for several hours
Showing nature’s awesome powers
And even though it scared us some
We were impressed. It struck us dumb.

3 Haiku about snow.

Probably not the best time of year to remind you of the cold, but here are 3 snowy haiku.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

SNOW

Flakes drop gently down,
Turning all the land to white.
A magical sight.

Nothing can be seen.
Earth and sky blend into one
In the blizzard’s rage.

Waking in the dawn,
Mysterious light shines in.
It snowed in the night.