Katy’s Blog

A Day in Lautrec, Tarn, France

A Day in Lautrec, Tarn, France

A few years ago, my husband and I spent a lovely week in the Tarn, Southern France. One of the highlights was the beautiful village of Lautrec, Here is a short video of the village.

Music: Chad Crouch – Song Sparrow Serenade

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 5 & 6

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 5 & 6

Every Monday and Thursday, I will post two chapters of my enthralling fantasy romance novel, Maid of the Forest (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in a mystical Arthurian world, filled with mythical creatures, Goddesses, and magical powers, the reader is taken on a truly memorable journey.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 5 & 6

Chapter 5

Present Day.
The Cellar.

Standing amongst the rotting furniture, Clara sniffed, ‘Phew, can you smell that?’  Above them, the dark shape melted into the wall.

‘Ugh, it’s putrid. I wonder where it’s coming from?’

 ‘Ouch.’ Clara grimaced, stopping and sucking her thumb. ‘I’ve cut myself on that damn chair. Lily sweetheart, get out of the way.’

Tani frowned. ‘That’s quite a nasty gash; you’d better clean it; everything is so mouldy down here.’

‘I will, but let’s see what’s beyond that arch. Hmm, it’s much lower than the other one.’

Bending their heads, they went through, oblivious to the dark shape, growing, and thickening, wafting behind them, long arms stretching out over their heads.

Tania stopped, the dark form now looming high, its shadow stretching over the low stone ceiling.   ‘What’s the matter?’ She stooped down as Lily whined.  ‘I think it’s the atmosphere down here; it’s getting to her.’

 ‘These arches are getting smaller and smaller.’ Clara whispered. ‘Why on earth would anyone build small arches? Either they were midgets or, it’s just some crazy builder’s joke.

 ‘I know.’ Tania panted, ‘It’s like Alice going down the rabbit hole.’

‘Hope we don’t meet the old queen.’ Clara snickered.  ‘Off with their heads. Let’s not tempt fate.’

Tania laughed; again, it lifted Clara’s heart to hear it.

 ‘Yes, let’s hope it’s the White Rabbit.’

‘Hmm, curiouser and curiouser.’ Clara squinted into a corner.  ‘Look at that mirror, Tania, its polished steel with a silver frame.’

 ‘Yes, It’s must have been quite beautiful at one time, but now it’s worthless.’

‘I wonder how old it is. See the swirls and loops? It looks Celtic.’

‘Hmm, the Celts, it’s – magic.’

Lily padded forward, stretching her long body, to look straight into the mirror and padded backward howling. 

‘Whoa.’  Tania backed away. ‘She’s terrified; she hasn’t been happy since we came down here. Neither am I.  I’ve got a bad feeling about this place; let’s get out of here.’

‘Oh, come on. It’s so exciting. There’re a couple more rooms yet.’ Clara protested. ‘Let’s just have a look.’

Backing out of the low arch, they rubbed their necks, looking around the other archways to the main room. ‘Let’s try that one over there.’ Tania shone the torch at another opening, ‘you know the light in here is playing tricks on us; that arch was definitely larger when we first came in. It seems they’re all shrinking.’

‘Maybe we’ve taken a wrong turn or something. Stone arches don’t shrink Clari.’

This time Clara led the way. ‘Well, something’s wrong, terribly wrong. Oh my God, Tani, this is incredible.’

‘What?’ Tania came up beside her and gasped. ‘How could anyone leave this? I mean, it’s priceless.’

They both looked at a tarnished suit of armour.  

Tani jumped back, clutching Clara’s arm. ‘Eyes – there were eyes in there.’

Clara whispered, ‘You’re kidding; it’s empty.’

‘No really – eyes.’ In silence, they watched the lance slowly fall from the chainmail glove.

Both now jumped back. With Clara’s heart beating a tattoo, she stuttered. ‘It’s … it’s only us disturbing everything.’

Tania whispered, ‘you know what the walrus said?’

 ‘It’s time to talk of cabbages and kings.’ Clara whispered. 

‘What – what was that?’ they both shrieked; Lily joined in, whining. Tania’s heart thudded. ‘What the hell was it?’ A dark shaped flitted against the wall, then to their horror, leapt upon a crumbling chair.

‘A rat – a cat? No, it’s too big for a rat.’

‘Come, let’s get out of here – fast.’ They both leapt for the archway with Lily now in front, struggling to get through. Almost on all fours, they made for another arch. Scrabbling out, they tried to stand up, but the ceiling was too low. Crouching, they saw wooden crates, bound with rusting iron bands.

Clara whispered, ‘What’s in them? Lifting the lid, she gazed on garments covered in mildew.’ Carefully, she picked out what looked to be a dress. ‘My goodness, it’s almost shredding in my hands; it’s medieval fashion, dark ages even. There’s a veil; it stinks of mould. Ugh.’  She dropped them back into the trunk and closed the lid. ‘Disgusting, they were ancient, who on earth would keep them.’

Tania squatted by the other trunk. ‘Might as well have a look. We’ll kick ourselves if we don’t. Look at this; it’s so faded.’ She held up an old grey cloak with patches of deep blue. ‘It’s old, but I think this is supposed to be ermine trimming. I can’t believe Aunty Teg’ just left all this down here. It not like her.’

‘Hmm, I wouldn’t know; I’ve never seen ermine.’ Clara went closer to look. ‘There some gold embroidery on the back.’

Tania came over, squinting in the murky light. ‘It looks like a dirty yellow.’

Clara came closer. ‘It’s a cup, with initials embroidered above, KA and look; there’s something on the front, a large Y or something, and a Red Dragon. You know this cup could be the Holy Grail; maybe there’s a re-enactment group somewhere re-enacting some Arthurian or medieval battles or something.’

Tania groaned, backing away. ‘It’s all so weird; they wouldn’t go about in those filthy rags, surely. Come on, let’s get out.’ Lily pulled back growling, as Tania cried out, ‘Where are the arches? Where have they gone?’

‘Oh, God, what’s happening. This is no Wonderland, bugger Alice; we’ve got to find a way out.’

Tania shrieked, ‘That’s a black shape – it’s moving. Both girls backed up against the wall, searching feverishly for an archway. They watched horrified as the black shape leapt on top of a decomposing armoire.  ‘It’s a fox,’ Tani whispered.

Clara screeched as the black shape leapt towards her. She fell, as she felt a weight on her head, claws digging into her forehead.’

Tania rushed forward. ‘It’s a cat – a cat.’ Lifting the petrified creature from Clara’s head, she cried out, ‘come on, let’s get out of here – now.

‘But’s there’s no way out.’ Clara cried, blood trickling down her face. Tania turned and swung her torch around.  ‘Look the arches, there – over there.’

‘But they’re large; they’re not the ones we came through.’

‘Damn, just go, Tani – go.’ 

Petrified, they ran through tall arches and cellar rooms, reaching the narrow corridor and the rotting stairs. ‘Oh, thank God, thank God,’ Tania cried. Her heart thumped, the blood pounding in her ears, as  still clutching the cat, she half crawled, half scrambled up the rotting steps of the cellar; Clara and Lily were close behind.,

Gasping, Clara flung down the hatch and stood up straight in the small kitchen. Her face white, voice trembling, she muttered. ‘What’s happening, Tani?’

‘God knows, but we’ve gotta leave here now. This place is haunted. You saw those arches getting smaller and then growing. We must get out.’

Clara nodded. ‘Yes, let’s go right now.’

Tani gulped, grabbing her arm. ‘D’you think it was a trick of the light? I must say, it’s so murky and dirty down there. I mean what with the cat and the darkness.’

Clara took a breath. ‘I smelt those clothes, Tani,’ and I didn’t imagine the arches getting smaller. Really, this place is creepy – dangerous. You can’t stay here. It’s a nightmare, haunted; you have to leave.’


Chapter 6

449 AD.

Forestyne climbed from the sacred pool to kneel amidst leaves bleeding scarlet on the mossy bank. Now to summon the Goddess. Lifting her hands in supplication, she raised her voice. The incantation must be repeated three times for Carrawana, the Goddess of Healing, to appear before her.

‘Beloved mother, most gracious sisters,

I now entreat you; appear before me. 

Let your beauty shimmer through the veils between the worlds.

Come, I beg you; show this worthless creature your power.

My dearest mother has need of succour,

The Eternal Shadow of Death hovers near.

Pray intervene in my mother’s destiny.

Pray show the herbs that will banish his shadow. 

Bring forth the magical plants which will share their healing spirit.

May they look upon me kindly.’

She waited for a few seconds then repeated the plea twice more.

Whilst she chanted, showers of leaves in rainbow hues fluttered down, carpeting the pool. She was indeed in an enchanted bower.

As Forestyne completed her final incantation, she raised her head to feel her heart almost rise from her chest. There, before her stood a wondrous female figure crowned with the most vibrant red roses, weaving to and fro on her head; ebony tresses curled and waved to her knees. Her body swathed in delicate crimson chiffon was sprinkled with glittering gold leaves; her swanlike neck and slender arms adorned with sparkling rubies. Scarcely daring to breathe, Forestyne looked up into eyes darker than the blackest night, glittering with the brightest stars, her body quivering in adoration and fear.

‘Blessed Goddess, help me, I entreat you.

‘I already know why you are here, dear child. You fight the Eternal Shade?’

‘Dear lady, I love my stepmother; I still have so much to learn, so much to do before—’

‘You would deny her divine destiny?’

‘Yes, oh yes, I am broken- hearted and —’

‘My dear human, you have the right to question fate,  and now because of your deep love for your step-mother, I will give you the herbs you so desire, but heed my warning, they will last only three days. Then must you release her to her fate.’

‘My lady, I beseech you, can you not spare her?’

‘You cannot go against the Lord of the World Tree. Even now, the eagle waits, perched upon the topmost branches.  From thence, he will guide her soul to the Upper Worlds.’

Biting her lip, Forestyne wept. ‘Then please at least spare her the agony of death. Let it be peaceful.’

‘That I can grant you.  Fate decrees you meet your birth mother – tis time for you too to embrace your destiny.’

Forestyne gasped. ‘You know my birth mother?’

‘Yes, she awaits you in the court of the evil King Vortigern.’

She did not seem fazed by Forestyne’s shocked gaze but carried on.  ‘Now for your purpose here this day, on the bank, you will find the magical herbs of the mandrake and henbane. First, introduce yourself to them, beg for their aid, and apprise them of your need for their services. If they are willing to help you, be sure to dig with your fingers deep into the earth and lift them from the bank whole, their roots unbruised, then place them gently in a bag of soft wool.’

‘But I have not brought a bag with me. I was distraught and sped from the cottage, thinking only of reaching here and begging for your help.’

The goddess nodded. ‘Yes, I heard the roar of my fearsome cousin, Hanatac; you were blessed; she deigned to come to your rescue. The elves and gremlins were intent on your demise but more so, that of your blessed stepmother. Evil creatures, they kill for no good reason. However, fear not, you will find a bag for the precious herbs on the bank.’

‘Thank you – I am so grateful for your compassion and kindness.’

The Goddess’s smile lit up the beautiful features of her divine face. ‘Treat these magical plants with great respect. Sir Mandrake is a major plant with a fierce temper, so vex him not. Despite his volatile nature, he will ensure your stepmother experiences the most beautiful visions that take her out of all pain. Now pay attention to the herb entitled Lady Henbane, as she is sly and can release poison through your skin in a second if you annoy her.  Yet, she will ensure your stepmother Moraig experiences the most beatific calm on her journey to the Eternal Shadow.’

As Forestyne looked up, she saw the goddess vanish in a shimmer of golden threads. For a moment, she stood still, in awe of meeting with such a divine being, and yet shivering as the daylight began to fade. Drifting towards the bank, she saw the mandrake’s bright green leaves and the henbane’s yellow flowers. Sharp needles of fear scraped her stomach.  Would the plants deign to speak to her? Would they allow her to lift them from the earth?

Taking a breath, she swam to the bank and, standing in shallow water, bowed to the herbs.  Immediately, she felt a soft breeze about her head, with an acidic scent that made her retch. Stifling her repulsion, she called out to them. ‘Sir Mandrake, suffer this poor creature to approach you. I have need of your powers to allow my mother three days’ grace before she departs our Middle World.’

She waited, her eyes lowered in respect. The acrid smell was almost overpowering as a raspy voice spat out. ‘Pray human wretch, who gave you permission to address me?’

Startled at the vehemence in the voice, she fluttered her eyelashes nervously whilst gazing at the bright green leaves. ‘T’was the Goddess Carrawana.’

He waved his leafy head from side to side. ‘Hah, then perchance I may speak with you.  If I give you leave to tear me from my abode in the earth, you do realize, tis the end of my days in this miserable kingdom?’

‘Yes, I am eternally grateful for your tender care.’

‘Don’t be, because on leaving this pitiful world, I shall be raised to enjoy the hallowed gardens of the gods.’

Forestyne waited, not daring to move.

‘Get on with it, foolish girl, get on with it.’

She bit her lip; what should she do, dig him out or address Lady Henbane first? She decided on the latter; best to get it over with as soon as possible. She just prayed her hands would stop trembling.

Bending to the small flowering plant, she murmured, ‘my Lady, forgive me for disturbing you, but I have great need of your healing powers.’

 A slimy voice seemed to slither over her skin, raising goosebumps.

‘Tis my pleasure.  Unlike my Lord Mandrake, I am pleased for you to address me. Soon, I too will earn my release from this pitiful dirt and enjoy the wild meadows of the Upper World, so please hesitate not dear child, release me from this earthly prison.’

Forestyne felt her heart lift. At least they did not seek to kill her on the spot. Now she just had to be sure to lift them out in one piece. One bruise or blemish would destroy their powers to evoke a calm painless journey for Moraig to the hallowed realms of the Upper World.

As she began carefully digging into the soft wet earth, the mandrake shouted out. ‘Be gentle, you wretch, break one of my limbs, and you will die in agony.  D’you hear me?’

‘Yes, my lord. I will be gentle.’

Her hands shook, even more when he shouted out yet more dire oaths and threats as she dug around him. She held her breath as she lifted him out, the human-like limbs of the plant’s body waving in the light. She tried not to grimace, for they felt so repulsive, so greasy. To her relief, he muttered.  ‘Hmm, that’s better, now I hope you had the intelligence to prepare a soft woven bag for me?’

‘Yes, my Lord, tis here on the bank, from the Goddess herself.’

‘Hmm just so, as befits my station.  I shall ensure your mother has a peaceful end, experiencing the most wondrous visions, as she floats up to the gods.

‘Thank you, my lord. I am so very grateful.’

‘Oh, shut up, you obsequious human.’

Carefully, Forestyne placed him, still grumbling in the bag. Turning to the henbane, she softly dug around the delicate roots. To her surprise, she heard soft sighs and whispers so different from the seething mandrake. ‘Oh yes, such ecstasy to be released from this wet earth. Soon I shall thrive on earth fed with golden gems. Yes, you are such a gentle mortal. Thank you, dear child. Now I can poison your beloved mother for you – gently, so she will float to her fate in sublime calm.’ 

Forestyne shuddered at the sibilant voice. Although the two plants would take away all pain, she knew they were also lethal and would end her mother’s mortal life.

She jumped, as Lady Henbane said, ‘But of course you do know that I am renowned for also saving life. A poisonous plant can actually poison the illness and not the person. So be aware, my child.’

‘But what of Lord Mandrake?’

‘He too is oft inclined to save a life despite his mean temper; he actually does have some affection for humans, however slight.’

‘But would you go against Eternal Death, against the goddess Arianrhod?’

‘Oh yes, we plants are the power hub of the universe; without us, the worlds would be arid, dead. Tis, we plants that feel and hear the worlds’ hearts and correct anything that may become awry in the golden threads’ subtle rhythms. The threads being the very stuff of life, tis we who empower the golden threads.

Amazed, Forestyne sat back on her heels, amazed that a tiny plant had such power.

~*~*~*~*~

Devlin pursed his lips. As usual, the gnome was off on one of his fantasies. Golden threads, spider goddesses weaving the worlds, the universe?  Lances tearing the web? He had to divert his friend’s attention. Still, he also had to be careful; the gnome Prince of Irondragarth was powerful of build, quick temper, and a master of the sword. He also held a high station in the lower spheres and essential links in this middle world. It would not do to anger him unduly. ‘So what else have you heard?’

‘Hmm, after your derisive remarks, I hesitate to impart more.’

‘Come now, Ansgar, I wait upon your words.’

Mollified, the gnome lifted his chin. ‘My spies warn me the Wanderer of the Worlds has announced a prophecy.’

‘The Wanderer of the Worlds?’ Devlin frowned, wincing from his many wounds upon his body. Although beholden to his new Christian God, he still stood in awe of the ancient Wanderer. ‘You have my attention, pray, tell me.’

Ansgar scowled. ‘I dislike your tone; I fear you mock me, Sir Knight.  T’will be your undoing to insult the gods, for surely they will bring down fearful punishment upon us. They may even turn us into toads, or even a lowly grub.’

‘Come, Ansgar, my humblest apologies, I need to hear the prophecy.’

The gnome lifted his chin, his hand now on the pommel of his sword. ‘Oh, very well then. The Wanderer said, “There will be more invasions in our southern lands.  Kings and dragons will join forces to save Middle Earth. Together they will destroy the Picts, once and for all.” So we must act quickly.’

‘Kings and dragons are sworn, enemies?’

‘Yes, but even the druids and the shamans bend to the Wanderer.’

‘Tis impossible, the Wanderer goes too far. I trust not a druid or a shaman.  They should cast aside their female devil goddesses and follow the Virgin.’

‘Hush; there are many spies around, on the ground, branch, and twig.  The druids use the raven or owl as spies.’

Devlin looked swiftly up into the trees.  ‘Hmm, I see only finches, pigeons, and magpies, not one squawk from a raven.’ Hearing a rush of wings high in branches of overhanging trees, he looked up. There was no sign of a bird, just two squirrels scurrying down a gnarled trunk, chasing one another. Obviously, there must be a flurry of messages, and they were arguing as to who would be first to serve news. ‘Come Ansgar; let us search for rest and succour. I am in sore need of food and a bed.’ Wounded and weary, just lately have returned to Albion. He’d travelled many leagues without sight of a dwelling where they could seek rest. 

Ansgar grasped his arm. ‘Did you hear that?’

‘What?’

Devlin looked up, his heart beating faster, as wings seemed to hover right over them, then a voice singing, the clear notes trembling with grief. He spurred his horse forward, peering through leaves wafting to the forest floor. Straining to hear the voice again, he passed the remains of wooden planks crumbling into the ground, possibly the remains of some forsaken Keep. Hearing water splashing, the beautiful voice seemed much nearer now. Perchance was a water sprite; they sang and danced in the sacred groves and rivers. T’was then he espied her, standing in a pool, beside a well; most probably the goddess’s sacred dwelling. He held his breath as he gazed at the curvaceous curves of the most beautiful woman. Her bosoms were barely concealed above the sparkling waters, her golden hair floating amongst reeds.  

Inflamed with her beauty, the pain from his wounds receded.  Desire swept through his veins; his only thought was to tear off the dratted chainmail and join with her.

Ansgar whispered, ‘She is too beautiful, too ethereal to be human. She may truly be the Goddess of this hidden well.’

Devlin swallowed, his throat dry. He’d heard of such magical creatures from his fellow knights and the storytellers.  Seated with his companions around the castle’s great hearth, he would listen to the storytellers’ marvelous tales. He believed in their magical tales, as he imbibed the wine, with logs blazing, casting haunting shadows over stone walls. However, in the cold morning light, he shrugged them off, along with his headache, they were only heathen enchantments. 

‘Sir Knight, she is stunning.’ Ansgar always reverted to Devlin’s formal title when perturbed.  ‘My heart is jumping up into my throat.’

Devlin grimaced. ‘Be silent, keep the horses still, we must not frighten her.’ With bated breath, he stopped behind a screen of hawthorn bushes, watching her softly singing as she drifted by a bank bedecked with fresh plants. He shivered, as early winter’s sharp teeth bit through the air; how could she cavort in such icy waters? She must be a sprite or a goddess?

All pain left him as he gazed upon her loveliness. He was surprised he felt no fear to be in the presence of such an unearthly creature. Had this Goddess favoured him? Was this his reward for the blood and tortured suffering of warring with the Picts? To his dismay, his horse gave a soft nicker, yet loud enough for the vision to raise her head, her large doe brown eyes startled, peering through the bushes. As Devlin tried to retreat, the maiden saw them in an instant, raising her hands to her mouth to cover a scream.

Devlin, undeterred by her fear, now oblivious to his wounds, alighted from his mount and crept forward. He also forgot all his new Christian beliefs, as fear gnawed at his stomach. Yet even though his brain warned him to withdraw, his heart urged him on. Not wishing to scare this rare creature, he murmured softly, ‘prithee, dear maiden, are you a water sprite, for verily I have seen none so lovely as your sweet self?’

Seeing his intense gaze, Forestyne stooped deeper into the water, covering her bosom with her small hands. She shrank back from the tall, dark knight with the face of a god, towering above her; black hair curled around his collar. As if hewn from rock, his features were indeed gentled as he swept sable eyes over her, eyes that devoured her body, reaching into her soul.

As she was either a sprite or a woman of the Whispering Trees, he spoke using the ancient Brythonic language, ‘Pray have no fear for I mean you no harm. So tell me, be you a sprite or spirit of this pool.’

‘Sir, I am no sprite, just a —’

‘Then a nymph, a soothsayer once told me I would meet such a one?’

She gave a winsome smile, ‘A nymph is just another name for a sprite, dear sir, but I must disappoint you, for I am just a poor maiden of the forest, and at your mercy.’

‘Hah, now you seek to trick me, or cast a spell on me with your beauty.’

‘Nay Sir, believe me, I am—’

‘Enough, you sing such a sweet song, yet tinged with sadness, what ails your heart?’

‘My mother is stricken by the wasting disease; I came here to the sacred Grove of the Great Goddess and her two sisters, to pray for succour.’

Ansgar jumped down from his horse and ran to Devlin, ‘Sir Knight. I beg you, pray listen not; she is casting a spell over you.’ His eyes wild with fear, he drew his sword.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 3 & 4

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 3 & 4

Every Monday and Thursday, I will post two chapters of my enthralling fantasy romance novel, Maid of the Forest (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in a mystical Arthurian world, filled with mythical creatures, Goddesses, and magical powers, the reader is taken on a truly memorable journey.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 3 & 4

Chapter 3

Present Day.
England.

Tania bit her lip, clearing up some of the cups and plates piled up on the draining board. ‘Oh God, Gary will never read another word of what I write.’ She clutched her head. ‘I can’t do it; I just can’t, not without him. He always urged me on when I had a block. He would just say, “You can do it, Tani, just put the music on and get started.” He knew I always wrote to music.’

‘I know, but doesn’t music interrupt your concentration?’ Clara went to the sink.

‘Oh no, I couldn’t write without it; I have different composers for different moods; the music spurred me on, fired my imagination.’

Putting some washing liquid in the bowl, Clara turned on the hot water tap, watching the bubbles pile up in myriad sparkling colors.  ‘You’ll write Tania again.’ just sit at the computer, let it happen.’

‘Hmm, I’d love to get lost in another world, but not yet. Besides, there’s all that unpacking to do and sorting, washing down the cupboards. I’m like that old well in the garden; dried up.’

‘A well? You didn’t say you had a well. I thought you only had the pond? ’

‘Didn’t I tell you?   Gary was so excited about it all; he had such plans. Tegwen told me to leave the well and the pond alone; after all, they’d been there for hundreds of years, so why change things.’

Clara frowned. ‘Strange thing to say, after all, you have to muck out a pond now and then.’ 

‘Yes, and the brickwork’s crumbling in the well, but she told me about some extraordinary things that happened here.’

‘Really?’

‘In Georgian times, a woman went missing; she’d only just moved to the cottage. It was owned by the lord of the manor then, and his servant came to collect the rent, but the cottage was empty. All her things were there, but no sign of her.  No-one saw her. They searched all the surrounding villages, but she was nowhere to be found.’

‘Well, maybe she couldn’t afford the rent, maybe she did a runner.’

‘Perhaps, but many years later, a newly married couple rented it.  The cottage was owned by the Parish Council then, and this couple moved in; they too went missing. The same thing, all their belongings were there, some of it still unpacked. Just plain disappeared. They were never found.’

‘How long ago was that?

‘Oh, I don’t know, late Victorian times.’

‘Old wives tales Tani.’

‘There were other stories about it, all strange and eerie; superstition, I guess, but she was quite adamant. I did ask her what kind of things, but she just smiled and changed the subject.’

‘With that creepy history, it’s a wonder she didn’t move out long ago.

‘Oh, Tegwen thought it was so cool. She loves the supernatural; that’s why she’s gone to Carnac, in Brittany; some say it’s older than Stonehenge. There are lots of standing stones there.’

‘Did you take a look at the well?’

‘Yes, we were curious. It had an iron drain cover over it; I couldn’t budge it, but Gary soon had it off.  We found the well was fed from a natural spring. The pond at the back was connected somehow; it’s only a couple of meters away, by the trees; most of it’s covered in dark green moss – looked sinister.’

‘How old d’you think the cottage is?’

‘Hmm, I’m not sure; on the deeds, it dates back to the fifteen hundreds, but I believe it goes further back. It has a warren of cellars underneath here. Gary was going to explore them; that was days before he disappeared.’

Clara beamed.  ‘Oh, come on, show me.’

Tania’s eyes widened. ‘There’re mice and rats down there. I’m sure of it. There’s bound to be with the well and the pond so near. Besides, it’s so dark; I haven’t been down since Gary….’ She faltered, biting her lip. ‘It’s pitch black down there. The electrics aren’t working.’ 

‘Have you got a torch handy?’

‘Yes, I had to get a couple.’

‘Come on, then, let’s go.’

‘Okay, you’re on,…. Wait ‘til I get my wellies, I don’t want those damn rats running over my feet.’

Clara laughed, ‘rats? You won’t put me off, you know, but … d’you have a spare pair for me?’

Pushing back the chestnut locks, Tania smiled, a smile that momentarily reached her grey-green eyes. Clara was so calm; she always managed to cheer her up. She wished she could be more like her, unlike herself; she never seemed to get irritated or frustrated. Tania wondered if she would have made it without her.  ‘So you are scared? Hang on; I’ll call Lily, she’ll make them run.’

 After donning the boots, the two girls walked out to the kitchen just off the narrow corridor from the sitting room with Lily close on their heels. Opening the cellar door on the side of the kitchen, Tania clicked on her torch. ‘Mind the steps; they’re rotten in places.  Make sure you hold onto the rail.’

Clara nodded as she followed Tania down into the darkness, a darkness smelling of the must of centuries. She was terrified of rats, but she would brave anything for her best friend. ‘Gosh, it stinks down here.’

‘Like I said – rats.’

‘Ugh, I’ll confess, they terrify me.’ Gritting her teeth, Tania shone the torch over the walls, part lime, and wattle, part stone, ‘Look at the stones, wet and covered in moss. But, that pond is so near. Tegwen told me it floods at times – flash floods. Gary was going to see about that.’

‘Well, let’s hope it doesn’t happen while we’re down here.’

Tania pointed to the far wall. ‘Look, there’s an arch over there. It’s quite low, so watch your head.’  

Bending her head, Clara followed her into a passageway.  ‘Hmm, just a few barrels moldering away, they look like kegs for beer.’

Keeping close together, they entered the cellar only for Clara to gasp, ‘wow, look at the furniture, it’s antique. That cupboard looks gorgeous; see the carving? It’s beautiful.’

Moving over to her, Tani nodded, ‘Yes, beautiful but rotting, what a shame.  ‘Look, there’s an old trestle; now that doesn’t look too bad; you may be able to save it.’ She felt a rush of air over her shoulders and shrugged. ‘It’s cold down here, should have brought a jacket.’ Neither was aware of the dark shape building up behind them.


Chapter 4

The Forest, 449 AD.

A mist gathered as Forestyne fled through the forest, the trees now waving their topmost branches, the leaves fluttering to and fro amongst furious whispers. ‘Beware fair maiden, beware. Stay with us – stay with us.’ She answered softly, ‘Nay I must go on, l must save my mother.’

‘Sweet one, stay with us, be safe amongst our branches, our leaves will cover you. Sta – aa – aa –y.’

 She would not listen to them; she had to reach the sacred pool. Yet, even as they warned her, they did not seek to bend or swoop down upon her. She’d heard the trees saved many a life, especially from the wild boars. They would dip slender boughs and grab unwary travelers without any warning, flinging them onto the topmost branches. Thus they saved their lives from the boars, wolves, or robbers who would murder for a few pence.

Yet, she knew the path to tread; knew the way to the sparkling pool by the sacred well.

She became aware of mist thickening, the wind whipping up acrid fumes. Fear gripped her stomach; the elves?  Had the Eternal Shade brought them upon her because she sought to defy it? Would their evil arrows shred her skin?  The mist thickened into a blinding fog, the path turning to a treacherous bog, sucking and grasping her feet. Her body condensing, became heavy as she moved in slow motion, mud gobbling her feet.

These were not the actions of the elves; it was something far worse. Forestyne looked down to see the malicious smiles of gremlins; their green scaly skins ridden with warts, thick yellow slobber drooling from gruesome jaws. Their fangs glinted as they leaped upon her, licking, sucking, and biting her soft skin. Soon they would flay her alive before shredding her flesh. In her terror, she remembered Moraig’s words, ‘use the power of the bracelet, call upon the god or goddess you need.’

She searched her mind, yes – yes, the goddess Hanatac, the destroyer of bestial evil. ‘Hanatac succor – help me – please help me.’

Crying out, she felt the first tear of her skin. Her heart jumped and then jiggered in her chest when agony streaked up her arm. More drooling slimy fangs crunched into her flesh. The gremlins despised Moraig, despised her healing sorcery and magic. They wanted her dead; they would even kill Forestyne to stop her from reaching the herbs. She screeched out, ‘Hanatac  – succor.’ Screaming, she felt fingers, bigger than oak trees dragging her up out of the swamp, out of her terror and despair; saw darkness descending as a voice boomed, like a growl of thunder.

‘Whither go you maiden?’ Her mouth dried up, her heart fragmenting.  ‘Was this indeed the Goddess, Hanatac herself?’’

‘Tell me, maiden. Where?  Anger me not.’ A voice boomed down from the heavens. 

Forestyne had to speak, but her mouth seemed frozen. ‘Carra … Carrawana’s pool near the sacred well.’

‘Hah, so you wish to visit that ugly cousin of mine, interfering bitch. So be it.’ Forestyne felt herself lifted into the air, flying over the trees, then darkness.

Coughing and spluttering, Forestyne struggled to the surface of a still water pool, the trees reaching up into the wisps of clouds floating overhead, so it did happen. The mighty goddess did indeed rescue her.  She cried out loud, ‘Thank you, Hanatac, thank you.’ A bellowing giggle reached her from the heights.

So, she amused the goddess, twas better than being the victim of her anger.  Now to search for the herbs to save Moraig’s life. She must summon Carrawana, the goddess of healing who, in her tender mercy, would save her beloved mother. She prayed fervently to the goddess, willing her to appear.

~*~*~*~*~

449 AD

Weary from fierce battle, seeking somewhere to rest from his wounds, Sir Devlin, the Black Warrior – the most fearsome but youngest knight in King Vortigern’s royal court, entered the dense forest of the ancient Weald. He made a handsome figure in sparkling chainmail armor, with a voluminous Capernaum draping over the back of his mighty destrier. With elegant grace, Sir Devlin guided his mount around almost impenetrable bushes, their bulbous shapes burgeoning like fattened monks.  Warily, he peered around, heeding the warnings of his fellow knights. Twas, a place of sacred groves, rippling streams, and still silent pools, a place where strange creatures, winged with pointed ears gathered.  He grimaced; gnomes, goblins, and cruel witches raced through his mind. He shook his head; now he was foolish, t’was superstitious nonsense. Such fancies were the wanderings of a story teller’s wild imagination. He frowned; he needed to seek assistance from the new Christian God. The mighty gnome Prince Ansgar Drunraig drew alongside him, ‘My lord, tis eerie here, see the yew trees yonder?  Tis, a place of worship for the druids, let us leave before they come upon us.’

‘Away with your superstitions, my lord. Tis a safer route; the Picts are not far behind, but we will lead them a merry dance through this wood. Devils, they almost slew our party; I pray God some escaped. We two cannot survive another ambush.’

The gnome, over four feet tall, with massive girth and iron-bound muscles, scowled, his huge fist reaching for the pommelled hilt of his fearsome sword.  ‘Heed your words Sir Knight; forget not you speak to a Prince to the Lower World, heir to the mighty kingdom of Irondragarth – we’re never beaten – never. We two will rout the devils.’

Devlin grimaced, ‘How many times must you remind me of your lofty titles Drunraig; you and your fearful pride. We have been friends too long now, fought too many battles together for such grandiose talk.’

‘Hmm, sometimes you are too bold, Sir Knight; may I remind you it is a mere two years since we met. You are still a green colt in the world of stallions.’

‘Now, you mock me.  I am three and twenty years of age; many men of my years are wedded with offspring, so choose your words carefully.’ Yet it was said in jocular tone for Devlin was very fond of the fearsome dwarf.’

‘Hmm, I am inclined to return to my homeland, at least there; I will be treated with respect. You Middle World people are prone to patronize. Forget not, without the Irondragarths; you would not exist. We are bound to each other by the web of the goddess Arianrhod.’

‘My prince, may I remind you, tis the new Christian God who created the world. The bald monks tell us He created our world with His Word in seven days and then shaped the winged angels to protect us. T’was not some huge Spider Goddess – rubbish, I say.’ Yet, even as he uttered the words, he gazed fearfully around him.  The Christian God was still new to him, and Arianrhod had many spies hidden among the trees.

‘Fiend’s teeth, Sir, you know full well, her priestesses, the Sisters of the Wyrd, wove the golden threads of our worlds.’

‘Tis a pretty tale but—’

‘Careful what you say, Arianrhod is the spinner of our fate. Even now, her priestesses weave her golden threads into the ground beneath you, the trees, even your miserable body.’

Devlin sighed, ‘Ansgar; for goodness sake, you fairly make my head ache with such mystic nonsense. Believe me, now, I love and respect you as a brother. I, too, can lay claim to high birth; my father is a great and powerful chieftain of high lands and mountains that sweep down to the northern ocean. But alas, I did not know how weak our new king is. Vortigern has made grave mistakes, and now we must fight to save our fair Albion.’

‘Hmm, we were better off under the Romans. For centuries, we led decent lives, protected from marauding savages. At least, they respected our differing ways of life and just overlooked most things.’

‘Aye, King Vortigern, is indeed a vain and weak man; his foolish actions will surely destroy us.’ Devlin scowled. ‘It is because of him; we are now attacked from all sides.’

Ansgar sighed. ‘The high priests of the Upper Worlds are displeased with the warring of the tribes. Soon this Middle Earth will be aflame with their wrath. They will come down on you with a mighty blaze; you will burn in hell for eternity.

‘How came you upon such fearful knowledge?’

‘We gnomes of Irondragarth have the ear of the gnomes, the blacksmiths, of Lower Earth.’

‘So what have these noble blacksmiths told you?’

‘We face our doom, all because this stupid King invited the Saxons to help him fight against the Picts.’

Devlin rested the reins on his horse. ‘The fool, the Saxons turned up in three warships; I don’t trust them.’

‘I trow they are mercenaries; they will take all they can get; our forts, our fertile lands, our women, and our cattle. Mark me; they’re not just here to help fight the Picts, the blue-painted brutes. They’re here to invade our lands.’

‘That can never happen. We will fight to the death for our fair Albion.’ Sensing his anger, his destrier shook his mighty head, neighing and pawing the ground

‘The Spider Goddess, Arianrhod warns the wars threaten the delicate web of our world, our very being. All earths will suffer; bide the words of the Great Wanderer of Worlds, “The coming war will destroy Middle Earth.” Our fate is stretched beyond the laws of existence. The lances of the warriors pierce the web; the golden strands are tearing.  We shall all perish.’

‘Hmm, you and your sorcery, tis mere scaremongering. It is rumoured a King known as The Mighty Bear will emerge from the south-west, a king who will despatch the invaders from our fair land.’

‘Well, I know not about that, but I pray he will deliver us, for now, we fight not only Picts but the Saxons as well.’

‘I haven’t encountered any.’ ‘You will fair, Knight. You will.’ Ansgar narrowed his eyes, grimacing.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

A Rook in my Garden: The Nest Builder

A Rook in my Garden: The Nest Builder

A simple short video of a Rook – or it could be a Crow – that decided to build it’s nest in our garden. It got hold of a cushion from one of our garden chairs … and used the natural fibre stuffing! Nowadays, we keep our garden cushions safely indoors when we are not using them. I hope you enjoy this. Love, Katy.

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 1 & 2

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 1 & 2

A New Exciting Read! Every Monday and Thursday, I will post two chapters of my enthralling fantasy, romance , ‘Maid of the Forest’ (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in a mystical Arthurian world, filled with mythical creatures, Goddesses, and magical powers, the reader is taken on a truly memorable journey.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 1 & 2

Chapter 1

Present Day.
West Sussex. England.

No matter what you say, I can’t stay here, Clari.’ Tania Roberts crouched in the old chintz chair, crossing her arms tightly across her chest. 

‘Look, the lease on my flat finishes at Christmas, so I could find somewhere near to rent. It’s not much further from the hospital.’ Clara Price pushed back a hank of blonde hair, ‘Really; I mean it.’

‘I couldn’t let you do that. You work all day and cram for the finals as well.  ‘No, it’s not fair to you.’  

‘Where else could you go? It’s nearly the end of term, the Uni’ halls are full, that only leaves the bedsits and they’re are all taken.’ Clara glanced up at the low hanging oak beams and bowed wattle and lime walls. There was no way Tania could ever afford another place like this; thatched cottages were gold dust. ‘Give it time – you never know; he could just walk through the door anytime now.’

‘He’s been missing nearly three months now. I don’t think I can cope—’

‘Yes, you can. Look, you’ve already half unpacked. Aunty Tegwen wanted you to have this cottage. She knew you’d keep it in the family.’

‘What’s the point – without him?’ Tania took a shuddering breath.

Clara bit her lip; how could she comfort her? It was an impossible situation. ‘Something will happen soon; it has to.’

‘What if he’s … oh God, I can’t feel him – his spirit.’

Clara hugged her friend, her tears dropping on Tania’s tousled curls. She bit on the silver ring, quivering in her lip, as she murmured, ‘Now, I’m going to make you a cup of tea.’

‘Yeah, I need it. I know I have to go through it, but staying here keeps bringing it all back.’

‘Come on; you’ve done so well.’ Clara murmured. How Tania coped was a miracle. She nearly died in the accident.

‘I have no-one else, Clari, besides you.’ Tania sobbed pitifully, ‘Mum’s living it up in Spain. She was furious when we got engaged, said we were irresponsible – eighteen was no age to get tied up. I should finish my degree, concentrate on a career.’

Clara bit her lip, allowing her to talk it out.  

Tania’s voice almost broke, ‘how could she say that? Mum married when she was seventeen, had me at eighteen. Honestly, she just doesn’t care; you know all she thinks about is the holiday and the next man on the horizon. There’s Helen, but she….’ her voice trailed off.

Clara held her hand; usually, Tania was the stronger of the two. But now her fiery-tempered friend needed her help. ‘Helen’s going to make it, you see; she will. She’s fought it for five years now; she’ll beat it.’ Standing up, she went into the tiny kitchen to find the kettle minus a lid. Darn it; it was on its last legs; she’d buy another for Tania; otherwise, they’d be boiling water in a saucepan.

Finding a tray, she put out two mugs, popping a teabag in each. Biscuits?  Where were they? Shuffling through the bottom cupboard, she found some in a Cadbury’s sweet tin. That would cheer Tania up; she loved chocolate wafers. She heard the kettle splutter; yes, it did need changing. She walked back into the room, forcing a smile, relieved to see Tania standing by the French windows.  ‘That’s such a lovely garden, all those trees, and the cabin; just perfect for you to write and paint.’

‘I know I should be grateful, but it’s hard, Clari – so hard. Gary was over the moon when Aunt Teg gave it to us.’ Tania sucked in a tearful breath. ‘I do love the birds and the squirrels – watch them for hours. Lily’s just fascinated; look at her now.’

Clara went to her side to see the enormous white retriever standing at the bottom of the tree, gazing up at a lower branch where a bushy-tailed squirrel perched, watching her. ‘It’s teasing her, look, now it’s rubbing its tiny hands together, and that furry white bib … oh it’s so sweet.’

Tania’s voice lifted a little. ‘Look, see the pigeons and magpies up in the higher branches? I know I sound weird, but I can’t stop hoping Gary will appear through those trees.’

‘Maybe he will, one day.’ It was such a hollow assurance, but what could she say?

‘They’ve never found him; how could he just – just disappear? It’s not fair; Clari not fair. Maybe he’s alive; maybe he’s lost his memory, maybe someone abducted him. After all, he’s an IT wizard, his fantasy games are a hit, and then all those awards.’

Clara nodded. ‘Yeah, his latest medieval game is trending, isn’t it?’

‘Yeah, ‘Sorceror to King Drogartha.’  Where could he be Clari’?’

Handing Tania a steaming mug of tea, Clara frowned, ‘You know maybe he was kidnapped, forced to develop more software.’

‘But where?’ Tania pushed aside a chocolate wafer. ‘Surely he’d have tried to contact me, got a message through on the mobile or my tablet? She clenched her fists. ‘We were to be married at Christmas – a Christmas wedding no less. But he’s left me, hasn’t he? Just couldn’t face me.’

‘You mustn’t lose hope, Tani,’ he was so excited about the cottage; I mean, he was drawing up plans to renovate it. He wouldn’t have done all that if he was leaving, would he?  If he’s held against his will, he’ll find a way to contact you.’

‘Maybe he doesn’t want to; maybe he just wants out of the relationship.’

‘But it was Gary who wanted you both to move here. He loves you, dearly; he just wouldn’t desert you – right in the middle of it all.’

‘Clari, it’s awful; every day, I just keep on hoping he’ll appear.’ She drummed her fist on the armchair.

‘But for now, sweetheart, you must get on with your life, for his sake. Think about how upset he would be to see you like this.’

‘I am trying Clari, but it’s hard.’

‘Don’t say that, be positive. You know, he could have lost his memory? Be out there, lost and confused even.’

‘But the police searched everywhere; his photo’s been on TV, and in the newspapers, surely someone would recognize him.’

Seeing the anguished anger in Tania’s sweet face, Clara tried to change the subject and walked over to the table. ‘Err … I never knew you had so many discs and books.’

Rising from her chair, Tania looked over books, piled on every available space, even perching precariously on stools. ‘When we decided to move, we threw out over a thousand of them; put them in the garage ready for the library or charity shop. But, after the accident, I saved them; brought them here. I’ve got every one of his books, his games, and all his plans for more games. I spend hours watching and playing them now.  It makes me feel closer to him wherever he is.’

Clara smiled warmly. ‘So if you stay, where will you put them all?’

‘I haven’t said I would stay, Clari.’

‘Pretend.’

‘I’m not in any mood to play games.’

‘Okay, I’m sorry, Tani; I’m just—’

‘Oh Clari,’ I’m a bitch; don’t take any notice.’

Clara smiled. ‘That’s better, bring the bitch back; it’s not like you to give in. Come on, let’s finish clearing the kitchen up, shall we?’  Seeing Tania follow her, she said, ‘So have you started writing the book yet?’ ‘No, every time I start, I just can’t get past the first three lines; I mean; I have it all set up, the computer, the music, the keyboard, and then I freeze.’


Chapter 2

The Whispering Forest

‘Dearest mother, desert me not.’ Forestyne whispered, bending over the frail figure lying upon a mattress of straw. She could hear Death’s cackle through her stepmother’s brittle breath. ‘Prithee, chase Death away, you can, you must.’

Moraig struggled to rise; her pale face fanned by logs burning in the open fire pit. ‘My precious girl, hearken to me.’ She held out arms once rounded and robust, now skeletal; the rosy skin turned to ancient parchment.  ‘You heard wolves howling, saw ravens circling; my life force is slowly ebbing away.’

‘I pray you, stay – stay with me.’

Moraig pointed a bony finger to heavy shadows gathering in the corner of the hut. ‘The Eternal Shade holds out the icy shroud, and I am drawn to its frosty folds.’ 

Forestyne shivered, icicles of fear scraping her spine, as she peered into the shadows. The flames from the embers of the fire flared up to the smoke hole. Her slender body trembled as freezing drafts blew in through cracks in the wattle and mud walls.

‘See dearest, Death’s shade swallows the heat.’ Moraig whispered.

Forestyne peered into the far corner to see a dark shape building. Was it Death? Was he so close? Had he thwarted the power of the most powerful sorceress in Albion? Sobbing, she lapsed back by the wooden ledge holding the straw mattress. ‘I beseech you, stay with me – stay.’ Tears sparkled as the firelight flickered over her ivory skin, her hair shimmering in tones of silver and gold.

‘The time is nigh, sweetheart.’ Moraig said, her voice so faint. ‘Even the most powerful sorceress cannot evade the sovereignty of time, and Death has that lethal control. Yet, even he obeys the Goddess Arianrhod, she who wove my fate at my birth.’

Forestyne gazed at the shape. ‘Methinks I espy him in the shadows rising tall and black. I shall cast the potion of the viper upon him; it will destroy him.’

Moraig sighed. ‘My sweet child, I trow your only failing is your stubbornness. You will make a great sorceress, for you do challenge the gods themselves. But, hear me Forestyne; you cannot conquer the Lord Death, for he is all-powerful. I bid you, help me up.’

As Forestyne lifted her into a sitting position, the failing woman said, ‘now the time is nigh for you to claim your birthright. Go to the old cauldron stowed away under the rugs and furs. In it, you will find a small leather bag. Prithee, bring it to me.’

Puzzled, the girl nodded and, burrowing deep in the cauldron, lifted the bag, which she carried back to her stepmother. Untying the leather thong, Moraig brought out a bracelet of polished stones. With weak trembling hands, she placed it on Forestyne’s wrist.  ‘This is sacred to you, my dear. I cannot tell you of its origin except to say they are rightfully yours to cherish. Our ancient gods speak through them, and they guide and protect you.  One of the great gnome smiths of the Lower World fashioned this bracelet. It hath nine gems; the magic figure. Each gem is empowered with the name of one of our ancient gods and goddesses. So treat it with great care. Once I place it upon your wrist, the gems will embed themselves into your flesh.  It will become a living part of you forevermore; these gems are powerful aids for divination or prophecy.’

‘Tis beautiful, I will treasure it.’ Forestyne whispered, stroking the glowing gems.

Moraig smiled. ‘Your fate is woven in the golden strands of the world web. Hearken unto me; these gems will protect you. You know the precious stones for each god or goddess, so be careful whom you summon, be specific to their different powers. If you be in mortal danger, call thrice upon our goddess, the giantess Hanatac, and she will come to your aid. However, be warned, summon her not for trivial threats, for she will be sorely angered, her mighty spear turned against you.’

Forestyne trembled. ‘How will she appear?’

‘Hanatac fills the sky with her mighty girth so you may only perceive a part of her limbs for they are taller than our highest mountains. If you are beset with demons, call upon Deniac, the most powerful demon God. Remember, each one of these gems empowers a god or goddess; they are a living part of you, your spiritual body.’

‘I tremble at the thought of calling on any one of them.’

Moraig managed a faint smile. ‘If you treat them with great respect, they will be as squirrel kittens in your hands. Come now be still, as I perform the incantation.’

Forestyne shivered, feeling the gems colder than ice, sliding into her flesh, as Moraig chanted in a trembling voice.

Oh, ye Gods and Goddesses behold,

I have immortalized your greatness in these gems.

May they empower this mere human, as she calls upon your holy names.

Mayest ye heed her pleas in time of need,

Mayest ye heal her frail human body in times of pain.

Mayest, she walk ever heeding the whispers of the trees, may she understand their meaning.

Mayest, she tread amongst the magical beings of the world and the spirits of death at ease.

So Be it.

Forestyne gritted her teeth, feeling the gems grind through her flesh, her whole arm shuddering at the ache, but t’was bearable. Yet, she drew back as her skin became brittle like that of a cuttlefish, before changing to the palest blue.

‘Fear not child, as the gems become part of your wrist, your arm will return to human flesh. You are now empowered, and I can rest in peace.’ 

Yet the power and beauty meant nothing to Forestyne as she gazed upon her beloved carer’s pallor, those dark eyes fading to pale moss. 

‘Why do you not send away the Spectre of Death?’ Forestyne fingered the runes around her wrist, tears stabbing her eyes.

With a frail finger, Moraig gently wiped them away. ‘You have reached your eighteenth year, and tis now your turn to become the sorceress for the tribe. Always respect the People of the Whispering Trees; they worship the old ones, not the new God of the Christians. You and I belong with them. I have taught you all that is necessary to help our people of the Whispering Trees. They will turn to you for healing and prophecy.’

‘But I am not ready; I cannot do it without you.’

‘Tis your destiny. You were sworn to serve the gods and thus destined to travel through the web of life alone.’

Forestyne hung her head, not disclosing the lover that haunted her dreams. He always appeared in a swirl of smoke, a tall man seated astride a black destrier, dark hair reaching the top collar of his black cape, his muscled limbs encased in chain mail armor.

Moraig stroked her cheek. ‘Alack, tis the time of your transformation, the gateway to your new life. Doubt, not yourself. You have the power to heal, to search for lost souls in the spirit worlds, while here in middle earth, you have dominion over the animal kingdom. Of course, the Lycans were forever within you.  Use it wisely, unveiling only to those who are in need. Obey the true gods and goddesses; travel to the upper worlds to hear their wisdom, for they will come unto you in your hour of need.’

‘Mother, hush, I can bring back your life force; I will go directly to the sacred pool of the Sisters of the Wyrd; I will plead with Carrawana the Healer; I can find the most powerful herbs to—’ 

‘Listen, child, do not fight fate; accept it.’

Forestyne took Moraig’s frail hand and kissed it. ‘Nay, I don’t believe that we are prisoners of fate. My heart will not let me rest; I must save you. I love you so much. Please, please do not leave me.’ The girl wept, her tears hot on her stepmother’s skin.

‘I love you too; I worshipped you from the day your parents placed you in my arms, a sweet babe taken from her loving mother’s breast.’

‘Who was she? Why did she forsake me?’

‘She and your father did not forsake you, my sweet child; they sought only to protect you against those who would cut the gold strands holding you in this web of life.’

‘Tell me – tell me about my mother’s name, my father’s.’

‘Nay, tis not the time or place. Not yet.’

Forestyne hung her head. Why must she lose the stepmother who loved her? She may not be her blood mother, but she had given her such tender love, such strength, as she grew to maidenhood. ‘I shall plead with the gods, to spare your life.’ Forestyne’s skin grew cold, overlaid with goosebumps; she shivered at the thought of being so utterly alone. The Whispering Trees people were gentle and kind, but they had their own families; hers were scattered over time. 

‘Hush now, you cannot go against the power of Arianrhod, the supreme goddess, the weaver of life and worlds. She hath decreed my death. She spews forth the golden threads spun from her own body. Hah, she is the Great Mother with a great, but oft-times, terrible love. I must submit, for I am needed amongst the Gods.  Beware what you say, dear child; her minions are everywhere; they will surely report your treacherous words.’

‘Mother, there are other powerful gods; I shall plead with them. ’

‘There is no time, my sweet one, the Eternal Shade holds me in a tight embrace, and my guide now beckons. I must obey Arianrhod.’ Her heart reached out to this stubborn but brave girl. This very flaw would evolve into strength as she met the many dangers and evils in her perilous journey to rescue the tree people’s souls. She would pursue those dedicating their lives to wreaking fear, pestilence, and torture, those who would see a sorceress dead before she could save the innocent.

Forestyne heard the throb of wings, saw the ravens, the psychopomps,  alight at the door, their beady eyes glittering. She knew they came to guide and protect  Moraig on her journey to the Upper World. Her heart almost stopped as a golden squirrel raced into the room, then stopped abruptly, twisting its dainty head in jerks. It sat upon its haunches, folding its tiny hands across a sparkling bib of white fur. Forestyne bowed her head as the squirrel was the most powerful guide and protector to the Whispering Trees people. Now its sparkling eyes alighted on Moraig. 

Forestyne gritted her teeth, unafraid she whispered, ‘get you hence; she’s not ready, d’you hear me? Fie upon you.’

The squirrel remained, rubbed its tiny hands together, moving its head sharply to one side. Forestyne cringed as the creature spoke softly. ‘do not resist.  Arawn, the God of the Dead, heard the decree of the Spider Goddess and awaits his faithful subject.’ 

Never had she heard a messenger of the gods speak before; Forestyne’s heart thudded. She turned to see Moraig’s eyes close, the slight quiver of her lips, as the breath escaped.  She looked at the dark shadows covered in frost, now gathering stealthily around them.  Crying out, she tried to push them away, only for her hands to go right through their icy shapes. Yet, she would not give up; she had to try, had to race to the sacred pool of the Three Sisters, to unearth Carrawana. Only she could help her find the magical herbs to bring her mother back from Death’s embrace.  Other shamans had quarrelled with the Spider Goddess and won, had snatched people she’d thrown to the eternal Death’s greedy clutches, why shouldn’t she?’ She visualized the enormous spider, its body larger than a hut. Its eight furry spiked legs were as high as three men atop each other. ‘I pray you, as I am gone; fight dearest mother – fight death – fight.’

Her mother sighed, dropping back on the straw pallet, her breath a crackling bark.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 49 & 50

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 49 & 50

We have reached the final two Free chapters of my exciting historical paranormal romance novel, Return to Rhonan. Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, the reader will find much to enjoy on this mysterious well researched journey.

On Thursday, we reveal the first two chapters of ‘Maid of the Forest’! Mark your diary for a thrilling journey!

Don’t worry if you have missed any chapters of ‘Return to Rhonan’, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Return to Rhonan: Chapters 49 & 50

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 49

Pulling the sea green bathrobe around her, Jessie opened the door to the pink scrubbed face of the courier. Her hand trembled as she signed for the letter.  Excusing herself, she crossed to the writing desk whereupon a delighted Daisy jumped up ready to play with this new friend.  Jess returned pulling her off him, “Sorry about that she’s just−“

‘Gorgeous ma’am – got one of these at home. Beautiful natures.’

Jess smiled broadly. She was like a doting mother when it came to Daisy. Tipping him generously, she closed the door.  Daisy busied around her legs as she stared at the envelope.  Now was the time of reckoning. For all Douglas’s assurances, she still had that slight fear of his reactions.  Calling for him, he appeared, toothbrush in hand, a towel slung over a bare shoulder, another wrapped around his waist.

 ‘DNA. Results are here. I thought I’d just wait for us to do this together.’   He grinned through the toothpaste. “Give me a second, I’ll throw on some clothes.’   

Her heart thumped as she turned the letter over. What the hell did it say?  Although it was addressed to both of them, she feared to open it alone.  Better, he read it for himself. Sitting down in the chair, she called to Daisy, busy fussing around by the door sniffing all the lovely scents left by the courier.   ‘Daisy come here – come on.’

Daisy ambled over, her tongue lolling from the black smile, the dark eyes questioning.  She didn’t miss a trick where Jessie was concerned. She came over and licked her hand, finishing off on her knee.  Jessie let her fingers run through the white silky fur gaining strength from the sheer calm of the dog.  Looking up, she heard Douglas re-enter the room. Smiling still, he came and sat by her. ‘Hey come on.  It’s not the end of the world. We’ll face this together. You know I’m always with you.’  

Jess nodded handing him the letter.  ‘Seeing as it’s your hotel and your ancestor, I guess you should open this?’

 Taking the letter from her, he put it on the table.  He took her hand, looking earnestly into her eyes, ‘Before we open any letters Jess. I just want to say this.’

He left the chair and knelt before her.  Jess‘s heart almost stopped. What was he doing?

He brought out a small navy blue box and opened it for her to see a deep blue sapphire surrounded with diamonds nestled on a tiny navy velvet pad. She caught her breath, as he said, ‘Marry me Jess. Make me the happiest man on the planet.’ He took the ring from the box and held it up for her to see, ‘There’s an engraving on the inside and here’s a magnifying glass.  

Her eyes now open in wonder, she said ‘Oh my God.’   Taking the ring and the magnifying glass she read, “From LDR to JM Forever United.’’

Hardly able to speak, Jessie put her hand on his shoulder drawing him up to sit beside her. ‘And I’m the happiest woman on this planet. Oh Douglas, I love you.’

He held her tightly for a few seconds, his hand stroking her bright thick hair.  ‘Always babe, always.’   He drew back and grinned, ‘I wanted you to have this before – before we open the damned letter.’

He read the first page of the letter without a word, a slight frown creasing his forehead.  ‘Damn, it’s complicated.  Why can’t they just spell it out?’

She looked over, her heart racing, but said nothing except to bite her lip.

Douglas read the second page and then the third before going back again to the first page.  Putting them in his lap, he laughed and took her in his arms.  ‘Hey look at me –Jess – look at me …  seems we’re related.’ With that, he laughed out loud and grabbed her. ‘Hello cousin – we could be had up for incest.’

 Jess snatched up the papers her eyes racing down the pages. ‘Oh my God, my God – we are related. You really are my family.’ She bit her knuckles.

As he took back the papers, he said, ‘It reads here that the skeleton in the grave is not related … so Duncan did not drown himself in the lake then? They’ve got the connections of the hair from the canvas and us.’  

Jess put her hand down only to bite the knuckle of her finger. ‘So where does that leave us?’ 

‘Exactly where we were minutes ago babe. I love you even though you’re the heir to this estate.  Bugger, you just made it though, there’s only a couple of weeks to go before the whole bloody thing folded up anyway.’

‘It’s yours Douglas.  I don’t need it.  I really don’t—‘

 ‘Hey – we can work this out.’

‘Listen – I’ve thought a lot about it. I know that you will lose everything, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  I can re-sell it to you for pence – really.’

He took her hands in his. ‘Okay – I’ve been thinking too. I knew from all that’s happened that it was on the cards. There were too many co-incidences for me to ignore, but, what about this?  You become the major share-holder – I’ll just hang in there.’

‘No – I’m the major shareholder in the McGregor Empire. How about I’m on the board or whatever you want to do – just a minor shareholder? I really don’t want to be anything else.  I have my practice, my psychology – research, besides my art.’

Douglas held her eyes. ‘Whatever happens babe, we’re together. He saw her glance down at her ring still in the box. Tugging at her hand he said, ‘I mean that in all ways. You’ve said you love me, but you have not answered my question yet Jess. Marry me – now – tomorrow.’

Jess felt her heart almost burst with love, relief and sheer joy. ‘Of course I’ll marry you – you’re my life Douglas –my life.’

He grinned ‘I know, I overheard you and Dinah that day.’  

Jess drew a breath quickly and punched him lightly. ‘You devil.  Did the others hear too?’

‘Of course they did. We could hardly stop grinning. That’s why George grabbed Dinah and I sat at your lovely feet.’

‘Now I’m embarrassed.’

‘Made my day – love you Jess.’  He grabbed her kissing her all over her face. He stopped for a moment to look at her, then grinned, ‘Cousin. However, we go back so many generations it doesn’t count does it. Not as long as we don’t get throwbacks, just think a little Duncan and a tiny Murial.  See we’ve got the names already.’

Jess blushed. ‘Hey we’re not even married – time enough for all that.’

‘Not soon enough for me. But hey, we’re gonna have to let the gang know. I think Nat should be told before that.  He’s my brother and partner after all.’

Jess straightened up. ‘Yes, of course. Have a chat with him – see if he’s happy with me being a minor shareholder. Think Douglas, I can put a lot of money into this – extensions, golf course – safari – anything you like.  I’ve got an idea, why don’t we open a Complementary Healing Centre even a Psychic Centre.  I’ve heard of one in England –can’t quite remember the name. People come from all over the worlds for week-long seminars and courses.  What d’you think?’

‘Sounds good, but let’s take it slowly.  You’ve got to think about this too and your board of directors. I’ll talk to Nat and then we’ll get the others together. Let’s surprise them.  What about we have a sumptuous dinner served in here – champagne the lot.  We’ll have the dinner first and then tell them about the DNA and our engagement.’

Pushing her hair back from her face Jess said, ‘I don’t know that I could go through all the courses and not let on – do you?’

‘We can try.

 ‘How about tonight? I don’t think I could go any longer without telling Di.” 


Chapter 50

George beamed, tucking into potato wedges covered in golden batter. ‘My favourite – but you knew that Jessie.’

‘Glad you like it George, Chef chose the menu for us tonight.  Seems he’s well acquainted with all our tastes.’ Jessie grinned, her bright hair complimenting the deep blue of her dress. 

Lucy dazzled in a shift  of gold silk as she tucked into a melon salad, ‘Yep, he’s catered for us all; I see Nat has his garlic mushrooms and Dinah the lobster tails – great.’

‘Smashing idea having dinner and then a meeting. But, I warn you, I shall be too full to think properly.’ George patted his ample belly, and proceeded to take off his velvet cord jacket

Dinah laughed, ‘Time you went to the gym George. You’ve always got an excuse. Or, you could start taking Daisy and Victor out for some long walks.  ‘

On hearing their names, both dogs raised their heads but seeing food was not on the horizon, sprawled back down across the bedroom door. They both had strict instructions to stay in the bedroom, but inevitably, they would work their way to being under the table nudging for titbits.

George sighed. ‘It’s the way I’m made babe. Look at Lucy – thin as a rake.’

‘Hey not so much of the  “thin” thanks. I think slim is the word.’

Dinah beamed ‘Well, I love you just as you are huggy bear.”  She bent to pinch one of his potato wedges, seeing the appreciative glances he shot at the low cleavage of her strapless bustier scattered with scarlet sequins. Silently, Dinah vowed she would take him in hand, diet, gym, long walks. He was a great guy, but loved his food and beer.

As the waiter cleared away the first course, Douglas looked over to Jess his eyebrows raised.  Catching his message, she nodded. He rose to his feet, ‘Hey folks, we’ve got something to tell you.’ Four pairs of eyes widened with anticipation. ‘I – err – Jess and I got the news this morning… about the DNA.  Seems we’re related—’

Lucy squealed with delight, as George exclaimed, ‘Good God – so you’re cousins.’

Dinah leapt to her feet. ‘Oh my God – my God.’

Nat already apprised of the situation, grinned, ‘Yeah seems I’ve gained beautiful American cousins.’

 Lucy tapped him on the shoulder. ‘You didn’t say one word Nat and I’ve been with you all afternoon. How could you?’

He put a finger to his lips, and then grinned.

Dinah looked at Douglas. ‘How about the body in the tomb?’

Shaking his head, he said, ‘It’s not Duncan – seems his death is a mystery.  He didn’t commit suicide by drowning after all.  The rumours about him disappearing in search of Murial could be true.’

‘Hmm I wonder. Last we know from the letters, they were going to Jamaica whether or not  their marriage was approved of by the Earl or the Ton,

Jessie interjected, ‘She was only in the early stages of pregnancy.  But Duncan does write to say he is returning as speedily as possible.’ 

 ‘Enough of this maudlin stuff.’ Taking Lucy’s hand he added, ‘Looks like we get to visit our American family. Coming?’

 The banter continued, as the wine flowed.  Dinah looked at Jess speculatively, she seemed to be holding back, giving surreptitious glances over at Douglas. What was it?

As one waiter cleared the dessert, another entered with a champagne bucket whilst yet another carried in flute glasses.  George laughed, ‘Way to go, way to go.  This is a celebration alright.’    

Lucy gave a little shriek as the champagne cork flew across the room whilst Dinah ducked.  Once the waiter left, closing the door quietly behind him, Douglas once again rose to his feet. ‘Okay folks – Jess and I have something to tell you. We’re getting married.’

After a momentary silence, they leapt to their feet, lifting glasses. Raising his voice over the congratulations and laughter, George said, ‘So when’s the happy date?’

Jessie said, ‘Haven’t got one yet, but we’re working on it.  Lot of things to get sorted with the hotel and everything.’

 Bringing out the little jewel box, Douglas took out the ring placing it on the third finger of her left hand. ‘My bride to be.’  

Dinah clapped her hands, ‘I knew I knew it.  You’ve been giving each other secret glances all evening. Let me see?’ Jumping up she grabbed Jessie’s hand as Lucy followed.  The men sat where they were grinning.        

Dinah said, ‘Maybe now Murial’s spirit will be at rest.  You’re the descendent of the baby she was searching for Jess.’

As Lucy made her way back to her seat, she said, ‘Murial does seem to be quiet. I haven’t experienced anything lately have you Jess?’

Jess looked over to Lucy, ‘No – no dreams or premonitions.  I know I saw her just that once at the writing desk, but nothing since.’

Dinah nodded, ‘Yes but the letters and articles end so abruptly at the end of November.  The Clearances go on for years. There must be more. So many questions left unanswered.’

Jess nodded, ‘You’re right.  Father O’Reilly isn’t at all happy. He insists the haunting will continue until we have the exorcism. But then, he’s an old grouch, puffing on that smelly pipe of his, rasping on about demons and Jesuits. He swears blind, we need the exorcism not for Murial but for the demon, which could be Max – certainly looks like him from the portrait.  I thought it was in my imagination because I’d seen the portrait. But, you fought with him Douglas.’

‘I fought a monster Jess, all scales and fangs. Just looking at the portrait, I’m not sure if it was Max, but it did remind me of him.’

Jess sighed, why did he have to go on fact alone? Couldn’t he use just a bit of imagination.  She quelled the frustration. He wasn’t going to change.  He was almost black and white, and she was all the shades in between.

 As if reading her thoughts, he said, ‘You know, maybe you’re right, I remember now, I saw this guy by the lake – he was quite odd, I thought he was in fancy dress or something. It was the day I was searching for you…’ He hesitated looking at her, choosing his words carefully, ‘You know the day of our – talk. I heard voices in the suite, arguing, but when I opened the door, there was no-one there. I went over to the window, and that’s when I saw him by the lake, looking up at me and smirking. I thought he looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him, just thought he looked odd in fancy dress costume or something. But, come to think of it, yes, it could have been Max.’

Jess felt her whole body lighten. A smile twitched at her lips. ‘I could kiss you for that Douglas.’

He hugged her tightly to him. ‘Maybe Father O’Reilly’s right you know.  But, the only thing is, an exorcism could stir things up.’

As he uttered those words, Phantom shot out from his favourite sleeping spot on the window sill, hissing at the writing desk. 

Stunned to silence, they watched as he slunk across, his whiskers, fangs glistening.  But then, he stopped and sunk to the carpet scratching his ear gracefully.

Jess laughed, ‘He’s moody.  Maybe woke up from a bad dream of losing mice.’

Dinah grinned, ‘So much for black cats, witches, and the devil. Anyway, Murial has helped us to reveal her descendent. She must be at rest now.’

Jess nodded, ‘True. The only thing that is not clear, is why she carries the skeleton child – that is a mystery still. Anyway, now I know she is my grandmother a few greats removed.  It’s a wonderful feeling you know, a family at last. Now I can visualize all those ancestors standing behind me.  I feel … complete.  She stroked Douglas’s hand, smiling into his eyes.

Douglas beamed. ‘Now for some more news, Jess and I have been discussing some new additions for the Hotel, like a Centre for Complimentary Healing, seminars and courses in the Paranormal.’  Something for you guys to mull over. But we can discuss that another time.’ 

Dinah frowned looking over to George, wondering if she could go back to work in New York.  Their relationship looked to be going to another level.  She was falling in love with the guy but what about her practice? Could she and Jess transfer to here in Scotland? With Douglas  making arrangements to improve the Hotel, Jess would be making her home here.

As if reading her mind George murmured, ‘Hmm I have been thinking of taking out a tenure at the university here, it’s not too far to travel.’ He paused, looking meaningfully at Dinah who flushed. 

Nat caught hold of Lucy’s hand, ‘So what about it? You can’t go back now.  We need you.’

Lucy lowered her eyes, her heart beating a tattoo. It was too alluring to refuse.  The idea of the Centre along with lecturing in the evenings at the Hotel was attractive. Besides she didn’t want to leave now. Nat was becoming important to her – too important for her to leave right now.

Jess smiled inwardly, it sounded as if there were some impending proposals floating around here.

Aware of the softness of Daisy’s head nudging her legs, Jessie looked at the faces around the table. She felt a rush of joy, of belonging.  She had a family and loving friends, the vacuum was filled, her heart at peace.

***

 A few doors down from the Mermaid Suite, a woman shivered as voile curtains billowed from a sudden breeze.   Setting down her glass of wine, she leant towards her husband, “Someone’s singing their baby to sleep.  Isn’t that sweet?  Can you hear it?’

 The man rustled his newspaper, ‘What?’

‘Someone’s singing, ‘Bye baby Bunting … Daddy’s gone a hunting…. Can you hear it?’

 ‘No.’ He turned a page.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters

All rights reserved


Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 47 & 48

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 47 & 48

Every Monday and Thursday brings two more free chapters of my exciting historical paranormal romance novel, Return to Rhonan (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, the reader will find much to enjoy on this mysterious well researched journey.

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Return to Rhonan: Chapters 47 & 48

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 47

The letters and newspaper articles lay in a neat pile by Dinah’s side. Yet her attention was focused on Daisy’s wound. ‘It’s only been ten days or so Jess, and she’s healing well.’ Lapping up the attention Daisy rolled into her favourite position on her back, her four feet in the air, the pink tongue lolling from the black lipped smile.  In that position, she looked more wolf than the benign golden retriever. A wicked gleam in her eye warned Dinah that if she stopped stroking the pink belly, Daisy would lift a huge paw and proceed to punch her. Retrievers were well-known for boxing in either play or anger.  

Smiling she continued to rub the pink belly as she said, ‘The letters are incredible Jess, but there’s not much pointing to Murial’s disappearance.’ 

‘I know it’s so disappointing.  But since reading the letters I’ve read a lot about the Clearances – had me in tears. People suffered so much, many starving – dying.’ 

Raising her head, Dinah said, ‘How’s Phantom? Scratched anyone lately?’  Like Jessie, she was an animal lover but was now wary of the black cat.  It appeared  from nowhere and clawed her leg drawing blood on the first meeting. Jessie picked  the cat up hissing and struggling putting it in the bedroom and closing the door. As it howled and scratched, Jess said, ‘I still can’t get him to trust anyone. Looks like he’s been badly treated Di, but I could find him another home if you like.’

 Di quickly raised her hand, ‘No – no it is okay he’s been badly treated – he needs time and lot of love. That’s if you can love a cat that mean.’

Jess smiled, ‘Well, he’s a little bugger, but we can try.’

Today, Phantom sniffed around Di’ warily, then to their surprise rubbed his head against the calf of her leg, mewing. 

Jess grinned, ‘He’s still mean, but he’s coming around. Daisy loves him. She was so brave that night at the lake, you know.  I just can’t imagine her biting at that monster as she did.’

‘That was peculiar Jess. We all thought Max was a ghost or incubus but he changed into a demon, powerful enough to overturn the boat almost and drag you down to the bottom of the lake.’

‘I have heard that ghosts or demons can take on human form, demons especially. They’re supposed to be shape shifters as well.’

Giving a slight shudder Dinah said, ‘Let’s hope, he doesn’t shape shift into Douglas or one of the others.  They found no sign of him.  Let’s hope he’s back in hell. Father O’Reilly was none too happy about it.  He still insists it’s because we used the Ouija board, that we’ve released some powerful evil.  But then, he did say it was not one of the major demons or devils.  Bad enough though.’

‘I wonder if he’ll come back?’

‘God I hope not – even Douglas is convinced it’s Max, the younger brother.  I mean if he was in the Hell Fire Club, then he carried out depraved practices, must have prayed to the Devil. You never know do you?’  Crossing to the laptop Dinah said, “Why don’t we search deeper?”

Booting up the computer, she saw Jess try to rise from the settee.  ‘No don’t move, give those ribs time.  Hah, here we are, there’s a load of information on Wikipedia. It says the Hell Fire Club was active in the years 1735 to 1741, but many say it continued in secret right up until the early twentieth century. It’s built on Montpelier Hill known as the Hell Fire Club.  Now on the slopes of Montpelier is a forest named Hell Fire Wood. There was a cairn, a passage grave on the summit.   It seems there were satanic rites carried out – debauchery and so on.  They procured local prostitutes, even abducted innocent girls too terrified to report their abductors. It was known as the Haunted House, The Kennel, as well as the Hell Fire Club.  It says that the lodge was built from the stones of the prehistoric grave, that the lintel from the grave was used over the fireplace.”

Jess shivered, ‘Sounds eerie.’

 Dinah put her finger near the screen.  ‘Here’s some more information, a violent storm blew the roof off the lodge. Local rumours held that it was the work of the Devil in revenge for debasing the roof of a pagan queen.  They always had an empty chair or throne ready for the Devil to preside over the meetings.  Good God, it appears priests visited as well. Look what it says there – they sacrificed a black cat. The priest grabbed the cat and exorcised it only to see a demon released from the cat’s corpse.’     Dinah looked around the room, but the black cat was no longer seated at the window gazing over the lake.  ‘Where’s Phantom gone?’

 Jessie said, ‘Aw come on now, he’s no demon.’

Going back to the screen, Dinah said, ‘Well you never know – you must admit he is strange.’

‘All cats are strange – they have this aloofness, and they can be moody.’

 Leaving the desk, Dinah sat back in a chair, ‘I suppose so, black cats are always associated with magic anyway, either the witches’ familiar or the Devil’s earthly form.   But, changing the subject Jessie, how’s it going with Douglas?’

‘He’s okay.  He’s very attentive – caring.  I don’t know Di….’

‘You don’t sound like you’re all that enamoured of him Jess.’

‘Well I am. I just can’t believe that he risked his life for me, taking on a demon in the lake. But, we’re just so different Di. – personalities – beliefs.  But, at the same time, he’s always in my thoughts. I dream about him, think of him when I wake up, and he’s the last thing I think about before sleeping.’

‘Huh Huh, you’re in love.’

‘Maybe you’re right.  But, how can we ever get on when I believe in spiritual and psychic matters, and he’s an agnostic? Well, was,  I must say he is now admitting that he does believe but just then  in the next breath he’s saying he doesn’t want to dabble in it. The thing is, I’m not dabbling Di.  It’s my life, as you know – it’s yours too.’

‘I know Jess; it’s so difficult loving a guy and yet not gelling on the important things. But you know they do say, you can’t choose who you fall in love with, neither can you mould them to what you want.’ Dinah pursed her lips.  ‘He’s a good guy Jess.  I know I told you he was so upset when he thought you’d – you know – drowned. We’ve never really talked about what really happened – but it was bad Jess. We thought we’d lost you but Douglas just wouldn’t give up.  That’s why you ended up with cracked ribs—’

‘And my life.’

‘Yes – thank God.  I’ve never seen grief like that. When he thought he couldn’t revive you, he just picked you up in his arms and sobbed. I can see him now, catching you up to his chest, holding you tightly, kissing – shouting at you to come back – that he loved you, and then rocking to and fro weeping. I couldn’t console him I was crying too much myself.

Biting her lip, Jessie said, ‘I don’t remember any of it, but from what you say – I just feel so confused. However, coming back to the spiritual side of it. Now he says he believes, but he’s still not willing to go any further.’

‘He’s told you Jess – he’s afraid. Give him time.  Thing is, you’ve got to make up your mind. Do you love him – I mean really love him?’

Lowering her eyes, Jessie went quiet before saying, ‘I don’t just love him Di, I worship him.  I think that’s why I want everything to be perfect.  I had enough of Prissy arguing with me all the time and I just don’t want it happening with him. I couldn’t bear it.’

‘You can’t expect him to go headlong into the things you believe in. He may never. But, there’s plenty going on beside spirituality and psychic beliefs.’

‘Maybe that’s too big a compromise.  But you’re right. I love him desperately.  He is so passionate—’

Hearing a knock on the door, they both jumped startled. George’s cheery voice rang out. ‘Hello ladies – door’s open can we come in?’

Dinah flushed a bright red and looked at Jessie, who bit her lips together trying not to laugh.  Yet, it seemed George had not overhead their conversation as he walked in followed by Lucy and Nat. Douglas was not with them. 

Nat seeing the question in Jessie’s eyes, said, ’Doug’ will be here in a minute. He took Victor out for a walk.’  

Lucy and Nathan took the settee whilst George plumped himself in an armchair pulling a blustering Dinah onto his lap. ‘How’s my girl today?’ He smiled foolishly, patting her knee.

‘For God’s sake George, d’you mind?’  She pulled at her skirt that had ridden up near to her groin.’

 ‘Nope, don’t mind at all.’

 As Dinah struggled to get up, Douglas walked into the room. His eyes lighted upon Jess.  ‘Hi sweetheart, how are you feeling?’ Stooping, he kissed her full on the lips.

 Surprised she laughed, ‘I’m fine thanks.  There’s a spare chair over there.’

Douglas grinned, ‘I shall sit at your feet madam.’ 

Jess felt the blush heat her face and chest. ‘Now to business – let’s discuss the letters.  Who’s read all of theirs?’

Raising her hand, Lucy said, ‘There’s very little of Murial in my lot – more newspaper articles.  However, I must say they were awful times.  She worked so hard to help, but there was little she could do really.’

George interjected, ‘The newspaper article on the evictions from the village was horrific.  How on earth could someone have that kind of power? I mean evicting all those families.  Then having the Military drive them from the holes in the ground.  That landlord literally sentenced them to death.

Lucy nodded, ‘George showed me that. No-one interfered – they just went along with it.’

‘Forced more like.’ said Dinah.  “I read it too.  He wouldn’t allow the neighbours to help those people – the swine. I mean four hundred people.

Jessie nodded her face muscles tensing. ‘It was horrific. Murial was so fierce – so brave. Even though her heart was breaking she did not weaken but fought on trying to protect the women and children.’

Douglas’s face tensed, as he said, ‘One thing I do know Jessie, is your dreams and visions tally with these letters.  There’s something we must do straightaway and that’s send off all we have for DNA analysis.’


Chapter 48

She drank in the moment, an idyllic scene with a gorgeous man. It had taken over six weeks for her ribs to heal. Though even now, they were still sore. Jessie gazed at the sun-dappled leaves of the weeping willow trailing slender branches into the waters. Overhead, a kingfisher‘s wings shone iridescent blues and greens. Jessie lounged on the blanket, stroking the black curls from Douglas’s brow.  It was idyllic, the sun, lake, trees and him; a private spot hidden far enough away from the Manor.  She bent to kiss the full lips her fingers now rubbing against the bristle of his unshaven cheek. He smiled languorously, and with a soft grunt rose to take her into his arms.  ‘So little lady what is next, food or a swim?’

 Jessie laughed, ‘My stomach is pleading with me, so I guess we should….’

Tickling her under her chin, he stretched over to the picnic basket.  ‘Now let’s see what chef has arranged. He said to leave it to him; he knew exactly what we liked.’  Pulling out a linen tablecloth he began unpacking the food, passing it to Jess, barbecued chicken thighs with Piri seasoning along with King Prawns in a light Marie Rose sauce, followed by Panini’s of ham, salami, chorizo and salad.  She smelt the freshly baked bread rolls, as she took out the churned butter swirls in an iced dish.  Her mouth watered at the avocado pears laden with more prawns in a tart lime and coriander sauce. ‘Gosh Douglas, this is great. I could eat it all. He certainly knows what we like. What about you?’

‘Couldn’t have chosen better.  And he’s got some pork and apple sausage, and for dessert Strawberry Pavlova with fresh cream.’ Douglas brought out two crystal flute glasses.  ‘Champagne on ice no less.’ Clinking glasses he said, ‘Here’s to the woman I love.’

As they ate, they listened to the soft tones of a local radio station playing Gaelic songs.  A female voice sang of love and roses, of yearning and return to the beloved land.  Jessie was glad she’d made the decision. It had taken time for her to trust him again, but she did realize she had heaped her own assumptions and beliefs on him.  Maybe that was a bit of Prissy’s character coming out in her.  Over the last weeks, she came to realize that beliefs or not, she loved him and wanted to be with him.  Nothing else mattered.  As she wiped some cream from his mouth, she grinned and standing up, said, ‘Now I’m going for a swim.’ Laughing she ran into the shallows wading through the bull rushes loving the reeds wrapping around her legs. God it was beautiful here, the water just warm, the sun sparkling like diamonds on the still water.  She had thought that maybe the terror of the attack would rise up to haunt her as she entered the water, but to her surprise, she felt completely at ease. Taking a deep breath, she plunged beneath the surface, her feet paddling her further into the lake.  Rising to the surface, she stretched out on her back, floating.  Her thoughts turned to the first time she’d been here, wondering why he wouldn’t come into the water. Now it didn’t matter. 

Jess rolled onto her the stomach and stroked lazily to the willow tree. Did Murial and Duncan make love beneath this tree?  She wondered if she could persuade him to have treatment for the phobia, a phobia that kept him from having fun right now.  He’d broken through the phobia, through his terror to save her life, but she knew it was still with him, still had that fearful hold. However, he was still raw from rescuing her from the demon monster; he needed time. 

He still insisted on sharing the suite with her, the memory of the demonic attack not far from their minds. They all agreed with Father O’Reilly that the Jesuit priest should perform an exorcism to be sure that Maximillian was dispatched permanently.  However, it took weeks to arrange.  They all submitted to psychiatric analysis, which was one of the first steps in arranging an exorcism.  The tests would reveal whether the haunting and attacks were due to hallucinations or underlying schizophrenia. It was highly unlikely that all six of them and the priest also could be suffering from any mental illness, but it was one of the stipulations of the Catholic Church that they were primarily examined first by a psychiatrist.

She had decisions to make, should she push Douglas to remove to his own quarters or should she entice him to stay. Rolling over she began using strong over arm strokes to the shore.  At least here in this idyll, the lake was screened by the bull rushes abating his fear of the water.  Thank God for that.

Slipping a towel over her shoulders, Douglas gently rubbed her back. ‘God you’re beautiful.’

His hands slid softly around her pulling her towards him. She felt the iron muscles of his arms, heard the thud of his heart, felt his abs harden with desire. She shuddered closing her eyes as the tingling swept through her stomach.  His fingers swept over skin, like a pianist creating music. Trancelike she floated into the notes that rose like scintillating colours cascading through sunset.

She moaned softly, as he leant forward, his tongue trailing his fingers, his hands moulding her muscles into sensuous desire.

She pulled away. ‘Not yet Douglas, my ribs are not healed yet. But soon – soon.’

Groaning he pulled her into his arms, stroking back the wet bright hair. ‘It seems my siren has turned into a vestal virgin.’

Smiling, Jessie laid her head on his chest, trying to control her feelings for him, longing to stroke his magnificent torso. Instead, she lay listening to the beat of his heart as it returned to a normal rhythm. 

Nuzzling her ear he whispered, ‘Love you Jess, stay with me.  Tomorrow we should get the results of the DNA and then we’ll know where we’re going with all this.”

Her body stiffened slightly, when it came to it, how would he feel, if she was indeed the heir to Rhonan. For all his assurances that he would be happy with any result, for all his protestations of love for her, how would he really feel and more importantly, how would he react?


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters

All rights reserved


Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 45 & 46

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 45 & 46

Every Monday and Thursday brings two more free chapters of my exciting historical paranormal romance novel, Return to Rhonan (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, the reader will find much to enjoy on this mysterious well researched journey.

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Return to Rhonan: Chapters 45 & 46

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 45

Raising her hands to the circle of light she floated up through the waters.  Glimpsing silver fish, with scales iridescent greens and blues, darting among lily pads, she tried to touch one. At the surface, the sun beamed on her face, as reeds brushed her legs.  However, the sun became an electric light, the reeds, a crisp hospital sheet.  Astonished, Jess saw Douglas asleep, his head lying across her lap. Hesitantly, she reached out, her fingers brushing the blue-black waves.  At her touch, he awoke instantly.

Raising his head, he said, ‘Darling – at last.’ Smiling gently, he grasped her hand.

Visions flooded her mind, the boat tipping, a scaly arm grabbing her, taking her to the bottom of the lake. ‘Douglas?  What happened?  I fell out of the boat –there was a monster. There was−‘

‘Don’t get upset. You’re safe sweetheart.”

   ‘Daisy?’ ow’s Lily?”

  She’s fine – resting at the vet’s. They had to stitch up a tear on her shoulder, but she‘s okay.’

‘Oh thank God. She tried to save me. I can see her now, swimming right down to the bottom.  She attacked that monster.’

 Douglas nodded.  ‘When it came to it Jess, she was right there – would’ve given her life for you.’

‘Did she have many stitches?’

Douglas decided to keep it light. ‘Just a few Jess – but she’s gonna be okay’        

‘How long have I been here?

‘Just the night.’

‘It was Max – wasn’t it?    

‘Yeah, but I don’t think you’ll be bothered with him again. He’s gone back to the hell he came from.’ 

‘You can’t send them back Douglas. Only an exorcist can do that.  He’s not finished yet.’ She shuddered.  “You know – I think I saw Murial. I remember seeing her streaking towards me, long red hair, and a skirt billowing in the water.’ 

‘I saw her Jess – saw her face. She fought him – saved  you – saved me.  I can’t explain it away this time. It happened. I’m sorry Jess. It’s my bloody fault for not believing in you. I feel such a heel.’

He almost jumped as Jessie gasped, ’Oh no, the box – oh no – there was a box with letters−’

‘Is this what you’re talking about?’  Douglas grinned holding up the tin box. She squealed with delight, wincing through the pain of two cracked ribs ‘Oh God, yes – yes.’

‘Nat saved it.  They went out to get the boat and found it in the bottom.  I checked the contents; they didn’t get wet, but then it had a tight-fitting lid. How did you find them?’   

‘I just couldn’t get the painting out of my mind – the inscription. I saw Murial struggling with someone, I thought – Max. Ghost or no ghost, I had to help her.’

Douglas nodded. ‘I understand – I wish to God, you’d contacted me first.’ He lowered his eyes.  ‘I’ve been so stupid Jess.’

Impulsively, she reached out her hand to grip his. ‘We both have.  I shouldn’t have tried to make you believe. You were trying to go along with it.’

He managed a weak grin, ‘Trying is the right word I think.  I know it’s no excuse but it was all too much, but the demon, I saw the bloody thing. Fought with it.’

Jess coloured up. ‘It could have killed you—‘

He interrupted, his face tense. ‘Changing the subject, the inscription on the tin is the same as your locket?’

Jessie nodded opening the tin box.  Lifting out the letters, she looked at Douglas ‘This is as much yours as mine. I mean I found it in the tomb on your island.’ Her voice trailed away as she held his eyes.

‘No, it’s yours as well Jess.  If the inscription on the tin is the same as the locket, then it looks like we’re both involved here. Go on, have a look, take the letters out.’

Jessie hesitated.  ‘You’re sure?

He smiled, as he looked at the pale skin, framed in fiery hair, a narrow bridge of light freckles across her nose. ‘Open the letters.’

Jessie stopped as Dinah popped her head through the door. ‘Hey. You’re awake.  Is it okay for us to come in?’

 As usual, her cousin looked radiant, the raven hair curling around her shoulders contrasting with the pale pink shirt. Lucy appeared behind her followed by George and Nathan.  Lucy put a bunch of mixed flowers on her bedside cabinet whilst Dinah popped some grapes in the bowl. 

As the girls found chairs,     Dinah said, ‘You look better.  That was one terrible night Jess.’

Douglas muttered, ‘She shouldn’t have gone on her own – should’ve asked me.’

Jess threw him a look, but refrained from saying he hadn’t been talking to her at the time.

Nathan said, “We heard Daisy barking and then the screaming. Douglas’s office is at the back, but we made it out front pretty quick.’

 George said, “We were teaching – but when we heard the racket, I think the whole class came out to have a look. Didn’t realize it was anything to do with you.’      

Jessie said. I don’t remember much Nat. But, thank you for saving my life.’

Nat said, ‘Douglas took the beast on. Phobia or no phobia.  I managed to get Daisy and you to the shore.’

Jessie’s eyes filled. ’That was so brave of you both. I just don’t know how to thank you’  Looking at Douglas, she said,  ‘A phobic attack can paralyse, but you not only fought that, but also Max.’

Nat broke in, ‘It was a bloody monster – scales – fangs.  Scared the life out of me.’ 

Douglas took her hand, squeezing it gently, ‘All I could think of was you.’ He rose and gently kissed her forehead.

Jessie felt her heart swell at his kiss. If only they could stop arguing – find some balance.  As if reading her mind, Douglas said, ‘Looks like we’re gonna go on quarrelling into the sunset.’

Dinah grinned, that sounded like a proposal if only Jess realized. She would tell Jess of Douglas’s heartbreak as he fought for her life.  But, not here, not now. 

Jessie flinched at Douglas’s words, blushing as she saw the adoration in his eyes. That look and those words sounded long term. Covering her confusion, she said to the group.  ‘We’ve got some letters here.  I found them in the tomb – I’ll explain later.’  She took the bundle out of the tin box and untied the crimson ribbon. Spreading them across the bed she said, “They’re all dated but out of order.  Let’s start with the first shall we?’

 Startled Dinah said, ‘Oh my God, this is exciting.  What date is it?”

‘Well there’s a single page of parchment.  Oh my goodness, it is from Sir Guy Mavebury. It reads, These letters and newspaper articles belong to my beloved stepsister Murial. These I have interred in her tomb for posterity.   Enclosed also are letters, she wrote to her sister the Lady Brianna. These were kindly returned by Brianna’s husband shortly after her untimely death from the Typhus.  We still had no knowledge of the whereabouts of Duncan and Murial, Her letters to Duncan’s beloved wife should be in your safe keeping. Jessie began sorting through them flinching as she moved her body. ‘Here’s a date – March 27th 1810.  Then there’s another one April 15th.”  Seeing the raised eyebrows and curiosity, she said, “Shall I read it out?’

Dinah quipped, ‘Can’t wait – go on.’


Chapter 46

Pushing herself higher on the bed Jessie began to read, peering closer at the faded script on yellowed parchment paper. Lifting the first page to find the writer, she said. ‘It’s from Murial. She looked over to Douglas, beaming; she continued. ‘Err … it’s to The Lady Brianna A’Hearne, Rhonan Castle, Cornwall, England.  Dearest Brianna, Your letter meant so much to me.  I know that you are with me in spirit, and I am stronger for it. The Scottish Clearances are raising panic on the estates here. We fear the absentee landlords intend to evict the tenant farmers to use their land for sheep grazing. It’s all to do with the wool economy.  How can this be….’?’

She paused; this is just like the dreams; it confirms everything.  Murial was really speaking to us.’

George said, ‘Uncanny – just makes my blood boil.  Those bloody landlords had no right – no morals. D’you know I read that one of the  landlords inherited ninety  thousand acres and immediately planned to clear the lot – give it over entirely to sheep, the  tenants forced to trek to the coast – to cut seaweed. It was a special kind of seaweed only found in deep water.  So the poor devils had to wade out waist deep to hack it from the rocks, children too…. But carry on Jess – carry on.’

 Jess picked up another letter to read of the plight of an old couple starving in a shack by the sea; Dinah looked over to Lucy to see her wiping her eyes smudging the mascara. ‘Oh God, it just doesn’t seem possible. Those poor people, left to die. If, it hadn’t been for Murial and her sister, they would have just walked to their death in the sea.’

Picking up another letter Jessie said, ‘Douglas would you mind reading, I just don’t feel up to it really, anyway my ribs hurt.’

Douglas winced, ‘That’s my fault. I’m sorry, I was clumsy … I—‘

‘You saved my life Doug.  And I’m grateful.’

Looking into his eyes, Jess saw the adoration, the pain.  Reaching out he took his hand, ‘Without you, I wouldn’t be here – I know that.’

His faced flushed. ‘It was joint effort – me, Nat and Murial.’

Dinah bit her lip; Jess still didn’t know that she had literally died for a few minutes. Now was not the time to tell her.  

Pushing through the letters and articles, Doug said, ‘I’ll just read out some snippets, they’re not in date order, obviously they were bundled together in haste. We can study them in depth later.’  As he read, so the tragic story of the Clearances and of Murial unfolded.

After reading for some time, he said, my voice is getting hoarse, so I’ll just finish reading this one, and then you can all take your pick. Picking up another letter ad-lib, he read,

December10th 1810.

My dearest Love,

 How happy I am to read your letter. I love you so much – it hurts when we’re so far apart. I do hope you can rally support.  But now, I must ask you to hurry back.  Duncan I am increasing – I am with child. What are we to do my love?  It will take some time for you to return from Jamaica.  I can conceal it for some months, but then I am at the mercy of the Earl. I fear his wrath. I know he loves me, but if he finds out before your return, I fear banishment. – Or worse, he may put me out into the night. It is just not ‘ton’; it has happened to other girls. They have been left to roam the roads begging.

If I tell him I am your wife, he could have the marriage annulled – make up some excuse.  You know how powerful he is and Father O’Sullivan so timid.’

Please answer this Duncan – I fear the worst.

Douglasput down the letter. ‘Poor girl – she’s fighting for the tenants and for her unborn child.’

Jessie whispered, ‘Good God, what a predicament. She must have been terrified. I know young women were actually thrown out – left to starve really. Honestly, men are beasts.”

Douglas said, ‘Yeah, if wives were unfaithful or even if the husband suspected it, they could be ejected from the house – lose their home, children – money. Some were ferreted away to asylums, or locked in a room without anyone raising any questions.”

Jess muttered, ‘Women had no rights at all– damn men.’

George said, ‘Yeah, seems men ruled with a rod of iron. A man had the right to bring his mistress home and install her in the marriage bed; the wife had to sleep in the spare room. If they rebelled, the husband or even their own brothers quickly subdued them.  There was a film about it, The Duchess, few years back now.’

Jessie scowled, ‘Bloody men.’

George gave a tight smile. “Can’t argue with that now.  It was terrible for women through the centuries. Even in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century, women were sold. It was called ‘wife selling’. In the poorer areas, the wife was paraded before the men wearing a halter and sold off to the highest bidder.  It was legal, went on all the time. With the rich they sold her off to friends to settle gambling debts.”

Jessie plucked at the crisp sheet. “Men – bastards.’

‘But, not all women suffered Jess. Some were cherished. Others led normal lives as long as they didn’t nag or answer back too much.  The husband had the right to use her money as he pleased.’

‘Cherished? I’m sorry George but you make them sound like pets.’

‘Yeah I know – didn’t mean  to – you’re right though – shocking business.’

Seeing that Jess was slipping down in the bed, Dinah, went to help her sit up. Aware of the cracked ribs, she took care not to pull her too much.  Adjusting the pillows, she said, ‘There now, is that more comfortable?’

Jess nodded.  ‘Thanks Di, that’s great.  Looking around at the friends she said, ‘Let’s get on. There’s another letter here from Murial to Duncan.

Dinah moved forward eagerly, ‘What does it say?’

My dearest Duncan ,

I was so glad to receive your letter. I read and re-read it, then held it to my breast as I went to sleep.  I could smell your scent on the paper, even that you had a cigar at some time during the writing of it. I am so relieved you will be home long before I begin to show.  This empire line does indeed help.  Many women dispense with corsets – as have I.  So, along with a shawl, I think I can keep our secret until your return. I know that you are working hard for the slaves.  I do not blame them making for the hills at least they will have some kind of a life with the Maroons, but as you write they can barely scratch  a living  in such arid land.

I miss you so much, I long to hold your dear face and kiss your lips. My body aches for you; I dream of you holding me close to your heart. Pray God, we will soon be able to live as man and wife publicly. But, as you say it could well be that we repair to your plantations in Jamaica. I must say it would be a welcome relief from these cold and wet climes. 

 We are still ferreting food to the farmers and tenants. Uncle has no idea; he’s only interested in his tomes anyway. With regular sustenance, they are beginning to get some flesh back on their bones. Robbie is taking on a lot of work at the stables.  Uncle sees none of the servants besides the intimate house staff, as he expects all servants to keep to the tunnels.  This rule serves us well as now I have Alice helping in the kitchen and the bairns are looked after by the neighbours.  He would be furious if he were to espy any of the servants, as you know, from any room in the Manor so this ruling serves our purpose.  

 We are still saving as much of our own food as we can, and stealing from the stores and the kitchen.  We have to be wary of the Housekeeper you know what the old witch is like, always currying favour with Uncle and the Steward.  One of the servants told me that last night, the Steward, the Butler and the Head Houseman, dined in the Housekeeper’s private rooms, with meats, fish and fine wines and then a pudding of apple pie and custard with helpings of fresh cream. God will repay them their selfishness and greed. How I would like to take my horsewhip to them Duncan. 

But, there is the dinner gong. I must go. You know how uncle becomes so tetchy if anyone is late.  Why we have to dress for dinner I know not? We have no guests this night, but still we must bathe and dress formally.  Aunt will not be present; as usual, she has a touch of the vapours, due to the dog escaping into the gardens today.  On a lighter note, it was such a merry scene, with the housemaids and the Butler running hither and thither after it and Aunt almost fainting as she watched from the balustrade.

Take care my beloved husband. I pray God you can help the slaves. These are wretched times with the slaves and the Clearances.

Your own devoted Murial.

Dinah pursed her lips. ‘I wonder if he did get back in time. Accidents happen especially at sea.’


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters

All rights reserved


Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Memories of Wolves – Initiation

Memories of Wolves – Initiation

Devour and savour the ‘Memories of Wolves: Wolf Rain – Shamanic Initiation’. A deep and vivid poem that leads you into the memories of the wild wolf. Read and enjoy.

Love, Katy.

Memories of Wolves

Wolf Rain – Shamanic Initiation

My muzzle scents rushing blood,
Carpeting the snow red,
Fangs of the Puma.
Tore me apart seeking my heart.
 
Wolves snarling circling,
My brothers howl at Mother Moon,
To light the forest's dark tomb,
Ragged wounds pump scarlet terror.
 
They lay their teeth on my flesh,
Lifting me in soft jaws,
Clawed paws crunch through stars,
To the lair of Grandfather Bear.
 
Mother nuzzles, prods me
Into a nest of rancid hide,
Her muzzle snuffles death-filled slashes,
Pale eyes in white fur stare into my heart.
Black lips part and her tongue
Staunches blood, from torn side,
Ripping off rotting flesh,
Sisters join her. washing, healing,
Cooling my dream-filled fever.
 
They nestle around, beside, above me,
Not one inch of my flesh is left alone.
In delirium I groan and sleep to the beat
Of their protective hearts.
 
Three days pass full of pain,
Brothers, sisters, cubs and love.
I arise healthy again, strong,
But long for my own.
 
I leave their care, their safety
Travelling to the clearing by the lake.
There my brothers shake in horror, and relief,
I smile with black painted lips.
Showing sharp pointed teeth.
 
‘I return from the Dream Quest,
Blessed by the Great Ancestor.
Brother Puma tore apart my ignorant heart,
Sister Wolf sucked it whole again
Filling my new body
With Grandfather Wisdom.
 
Now I return as the Shaman, Wolf Rain.
Tonight around the fire
I will tell you of my terror,
I will tell you of my
Memories of Wolves

Copyright: Katy Walters
Wolf mother and cub

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 43 & 44

Return to Rhonan: Chapters 43 & 44

Every Monday and Thursday brings two more free chapters of my exciting historical paranormal romance novel, Return to Rhonan (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, the reader will find much to enjoy on this mysterious well researched journey.

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Return to Rhonan: Chapters 43 & 44

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 43

Jessie’s heart lightened as she pushed the boat out into deeper water.  Clambering in, she grabbed the oars.  The lights from the hotel looked inviting; she needed a shower, clean clothes, a comfortable armchair and wine. She could see the glow from the two windows of her suite.  In her rush to save Murial, she’d left the lights on and the balcony doors open.

 Daisy splashed in front of her, as Jessie began to row to the quay. Even as a puppy she liked to lead, definitely an alpha female, Jessie was her minion.  Musing on the contents of the tin, the parchment paper, the bright crimson ribbon, Jessie felt the boat rock slightly.  Frowning she looked around to see the water rippling, bubbles rising at the right side of the boat.  She saw Daisy turn her head and twist around; heard her whimpering her paws paddling rapidly back to Jessie.  The boat began to rock ominously, forcing Jessie to let go of the oars, and clutch the sides.  Seeing water slopping into the hull, slurping around the tin, she reached to save it, only to feel the boat almost capsize.

 She shrieked, as a scaled arm reached towards her over the side, a nightmare of a creature rose from the water stretching for her. It was her attacker from the studio, but now barely recognizable. Reptilian scales wrinkled across his face, the violet eyes narrowed with evil intent, jaws snapping with mucous-coated fangs.  A scream gurgling in her throat, Jessie searched frantically for a weapon; panicking she tried to pull an oar from its slot, but it would not yield.  The monster was now pulling at the boat, reaching for her, as she tugged again on the oar, Jessie could hear Daisy barking. Horrified, she saw the creature trying to climb over the side, its huge body reeking of mouldering eggs. Jerking away in horror and disgust, she feared the boat would capsize.  Struggling once more with the oar, she wrenched it free, managing to raise it shoulder high to lash out at her assailant.  Yet to no avail, the creature giving an insane cackle, caught it in mid-air and threw it into the water. 

Again, Jessie heard Daisy howling, surely she would raise the alarm surely someone would come.  Weeping, she wriggled away from the talons reaching for her, knocking over the tin of letters now floating in water at the bottom of the boat. Of God, they’d be ruined. Helplessly she cried out Douglas’s name. Why hadn’t she listened to him – why had she turned him away? Now she was going to die. She screamed out as the fiend too huge to clamber into the boat rose from the water, grotesque shoulders towering over her, hideous arms reaching for her. Moaning she saw the creature grinning, its vicious teeth now mere inches away from her face.

With an inhuman roar, it punched at the side of the frail craft, a mighty fist thrusting through flimsy wood.  Water churned in as her attacker tore at the broken panels. To her terror, it almost sank beneath her, leaving her in the scaled arms of an ogre from Hell. But, it did not seem to be intent on tearing her flesh; instead, it dived with her into the murky water, swimming through reeds and debris to the bottom of the lake. Helplessly Jess struggled for breath, clawing at water.

With breath escaping in a stream of bubbles, she knew she was going to die, prey to this monster.  Biting and kicking, she choked, swallowing muddy water. Desperate for air, she glimpsed a shape streaking towards her through the murk, red hair, like reeds streaming behind her, the face white, a full scarlet skirt billowing.  Even in her terror, she recognized Murial. How?  Why?  But, it was too late she was dying. The creature tightened its hold on her, as it reached out to knock away her rescuer. Through the reeds, she saw another shape hovering – Daisy – enraged, the black lipped smile gone to be replaced with a snarl, her head dipping, teeth ferociously sinking into the thick scaled skin of the creature’s shoulder. 

 Releasing Jessie momentarily, it turned its attention to Daisy now paddling swiftly to the surface, luring the creature away from Jessie.  Floating to the bottom of the lake, Jessie watched the last bit of her oxygen drifting in bubbles from her mouth. She glimpsed Murial’s skirt surround her, felt slim strong arms enfold her, long legs kicking, taking them to the surface and darkness. However, the monster returned, stroking powerful arms towards them, the violet eyes wide and malevolent in silted water. She saw Murial raise a short sword, whilst still holding onto her tightly with the other arm.  Their bodies colliding, the fiend gnashing teeth, wrestled with Murial. In the struggle, Jess felt herself falling once more into the mud. Her breath now gone, her body still, a vision of Douglas floated before her, his hair blue black in the sunshine, his hands so tender caressing, stroking back her hair, his arms lifting her, lips soft on her cheek as he carried her into darkness.

In his office, Douglas leapt to his feet as he heard a dog barking, a woman screaming.  Nat rushed to his door. ‘Come quickly someone’s drowning in the lake, there’s a bloody dog out there in trouble as well.’

‘Jessie?  It is Jessie, I know it – know it – oh Christ.’

Douglas caught up with Nathan. ‘I saw her walking with Daisy. I shouldn’t have left her alone.’  Running abreast, they reached the edge of the lake, to see water churning, a monstrous scaled creature fighting.  Douglas caught his breath as he saw what appeared to be a woman lashing out with a knife.  Surely not? It couldn’t be?  Long reeds of red hair flew above the spray, scarlet skirts ballooning.

He cried out to Nat.  ‘It’s Murial – can’t be – this is crazy.’ He stopped short as he glimpsed a white shape swimming towards them tugging at something white, it looked like another body submerged beneath the water.  ‘Oh Christ – no – no.  Nat quick.’     ‘

Nat shouted, ’What the hell is happening?’

Douglas bent to kick off his shoes, shouting, ‘It’s Jessie – Jessie’. Running towards the water, he felt the phobia rise almost paralyzing him.  Filling his chest with air, he screamed his way through the fear, as he jumped straight into the deep water of the quay striking out towards the dog and Jessie. As he neared the dog, he saw the body rise to the surface, saw the white features so still, the scarlet hair almost maroon in the moonless night. It was Jessie.  Now praying to a God he had so bitterly rejected, his arms thrashed the water as he swam towards her.


Chapter 44

Almost within reach of Jessie’s floating body, Douglas watched her turn face down into the water.  In a frenzied lunge, he reached her, swiftly flipping her over.  Nat now within yards of him shouted, ‘You take her in; I’ll get the bloody creature.’

 But, Douglas could see the creature breaking from Murial and speeding towards them.  ‘No, Nat get her and Daisy to the shore. ‘

Leaving him no option, Douglas turned swimming swiftly to the monster now churning the water towards him.  Taking a deep breath, he dived, his arms pumping, as he swam underwater. He would take the thing by surprise. He saw the heavy body on the surface above him. Forcing his way up, Douglas flung his arms around the scaly body dragging it below the surface of the water.   The creature turned with massive fangs to bite down into his throat, but Douglas was ready for him, punching him in the mouth.  Thrashing and rolling, they sank to the bottom of the lake, the mud writhing up, swirling around them.  Fighting to hold his breath, Douglas would not let go, he had to give Nat and Daisy time to get Jess to safety. Embroiled in the murky depths, punching, kicking and biting, he felt the creature’s rock rough hands tightening on his throat. As he tried to wrench the reptilian fingers away, they abruptly loosened. Relieved, surprised, he kicked himself free to be almost blinded by bubbles of blood. Peering through the gloom, he saw Murial  with skirts billowing, slashing through the creature’s legs with a gruesome sword.

 Choking, desperate for breath, Douglas kicked his way to the surface. Gasping, he looked around to see Nat hauling Jessie up to the bank along with Daisy.  As he peered into the depth’s he saw the white face of a woman, bright steel flashing in her hand,  her long scarlet hair wafting around her, saw the limp scaled arm of the creature now floating with open wounds trailing blood, the monstrous body still.   Douglas knew – knew that he was looking down into the face of Murial.   A sob rose in his chest.  They owed her their lives.  Striking out for the shore he knew, it was all true – true.  He felt a dreamlike calm, as he realized physical death was not final. Jess was right; she’d been right all along. At least, she was safe thank God. He would never doubt her again.  

As he climbed onto the bank, he saw Nathan holding Daisy bleeding from a jagged wound in her shoulder.  His eyes went to George bending over Jessie turning her on her side to help drain the water out of her lungs.  Looking up, George said, ‘She’s not breathing.’

God no, not after all this, she had to be alive.  Pushing his friend aside, Douglas said, ‘Get an ambulance, I’ll do CPR. ‘    He felt the terror rise, reliving his nightmare, his mind flashing to the still small form of his daughter, as the paramedics fought to save her.  It was happening again.

 The phobia rose up and swallowed him whole.  His knees buckled, his body folding in paralysis, move man – move.  Gritting his teeth, he looked up to see Dinah standing beside him, the tears streaming down her face. He said, ‘Look, you do the compressions, and I‘ll breathe for her.  Start now – come on.’

 With her face twisted in grief, Dinah pumped Jessie’s chest, stopping for Douglas to blow into her mouth.  Silently, with muscles clenched, he worked steadily urging Jessie to breathe. After some minutes, Dinah stopped, looking helplessly at him.  ‘She’s gone Doug’ – she’s gone.’

Douglas shook his head, growling.  ‘By God she hasn’t.’  He took over, pressing on Jessie’s chest, then breathing into her mouth.  As he pressed down again, he heard a crack and knew he’d broken her rib. 

 Dinah whispered, “She’s gone Douglas. Please stop; she’s gone.’  

 Douglas looked down at Jessie’s pale face, at the delicate splatter of freckles across the bridge of her nose; the green eyes closed as if in death; he gave a great cry, lifting her lifeless body into his arms, cradling her to his chest.  Kneeling on the grass, with tears streaming, he rocked her to and fro. He didn’t hear the sirens of the ambulance or see the flashing lights neither did he hear the ambulance men racing towards them. 

 The paramedic dressed in dark green overalls patted his shoulder, ‘Okay mate, we’ll take her now.’

Terrified, Douglas clenched his fists, feeling his nails dig into the palms of his hands as they brought out a defibrillator; with hope rising, he watched them cut open the white tank top releasing her breasts.  Looking down on her beauty, the pale skin, the toned muscles of chest and diaphragm, he cried aloud.  No, it couldn’t be, she couldn’t die. For God’s sake Jess fight – fight. Warning the crowd to stand back, the paramedics applied the paddles. Jessie’s body jerked in response, but there was no sign of a heartbeat on the monitor.  Again, they applied the paddles, but to Douglas’s despair, there was no reaction.

 As they began to shake their heads, Douglas shouted ‘Don’t stop, for Christ’s sake work man – work.’

Yet, even on the third try, Jessie did not respond.  The paramedics stood back their faces grim.

Now he screamed into the night, his hand reaching back into his  pocket. A demented prayer escaped his lips,  ‘Jess –come back to us – I believe Jessie – I believe – God help me, I believe in you – in Spirit. Don’t leave me alone.’

His heart leapt as he saw her eyelids move, then open, ‘Doug – my love.’

Dinah looked around, her face pale with relief, her feet soaking in wet trainers. Swiftly, the paramedics inserted an oxygen tube, hoisting her onto a trolley, and into the ambulance.  One of them turned to Douglas, shivering, his face ashen. ‘Don’t know what happened there mate, but whatever it was it worked – bloody miracle.’ 

 George caught Douglas’s arm.  ‘She’s alive man – alive. Thank God. We’ll take you to the hospital.’

 Douglas shook his head. ‘No – I’m going in the ambulance with her. She needs me. I don’t want her to be alone.’  He remembered her words, ‘I’ve always felt so alone.’  He would make damn sure that didn’t happen now, as she fought for her life. He muttered to an unknown god. ‘Thanks – I don’t know who the hell I’m talking to, but thanks.’ 


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters

All rights reserved


Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!