Snippet Time – Creator of Shadows!

I love reunions. Just saying. Especially when it’s a character from the past. Also, PSSST! I’m going to have the pre-order links hopefully up by end of the week, so watch out for them. 😉


Arianwen swallowed hard, her throat tightening with worry. They hadn’t expected the people here to know anything about the goings-on in the capital, but they seemed as informed—possibly more—as they were. Deron stepped out carefully from behind Inghard, offering up a tense smile to the two guards. “Both,” he answered easily. “I’m human, and I have friends who are part o’ the Human Resistance. But ‘dis lot,” he gestured with a thumb, “are part o’ the Immortal Resistance. The point is, we’re all Resistance.”

The older man narrowed his eyes at Deron for a moment, chewing at his lip. Seemingly satisfied with the answer, he gave a curt nod, replying, “Aye, we agree. But it’s all humans here, I don’t think I can let you in. We won’t attack you, but you’ve got to move on. Get going.”

As he and the younger man turned to leave, Arianwen was gripped by a sudden mad idea to run over to him, and her legs pumped forwards before she had a chance to think over her decision. “Nae, lass!” Aodhan cried out as she jogged towards them. Opening her mouth to shout for the older man, her heart leapt into her throat as two hot black barrels appeared in front of her face, the young man’s tense features at the other end.

“We said ‘get going’, immortal. Do as you’re told,” the young man hissed in a faint French accent, his hair blowing gently in the wind that had picked up, scattering dust particles through the air. As if to make his point further, he clicked the safety off on the weapon, and moved forwards enough to make her stagger backwards, her feet scraping against the loose gravel below.

Holding her hands up to show she meant no harm, she shook her head, gazing deep into the man’s eyes. She saw terror there, not the cold, steely gaze she expected of someone guarding an entire fort. Speaking softly, she urged, “Please listen to me. We’re really not here to harm you in any way, or anyone inside. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have to be, I promise you. There is only one thing we want, and that is to bring the Clan to their knees.” Arianwen bit out the last few words, venom from her emotions flavouring each syllable.

The older man spun on his heel and took in the sight of the demoness stood on her own, hands still raised in the air, before marching back across and lowering the younger man’s rifle. “Easy, Pierre, easy,” he soothed. “Let’s not lose our heads. They already said they mean no harm.”

Pierre gave an exasperated sigh, but he slung the gun over his shoulder as his companion asked, giving Arianwen a cold stare. “And you believe them?”

“Yes,” the other man replied, “I believe them. They haven’t tried to attack us in the last few seconds, have they?” Pulling his own rifle onto his back, he clasped his hands in front of his camouflage-covered torso and directed his attention at Arianwen, giving her hands a gentle nod. As she lowered them slowly to her sides, he continued, “My name is Franklin. We’re not making you stay out here because we don’t want you. But there are children inside there, and youngsters who have never been outside the walls of the Castle. Do you have any idea how it feels to be that human and terrified?”

Arianwen drew herself up smartly, smiling broadly. “I do,” she answered honestly. “I wasn’t always an immortal, you know. I was once human, like you all. And Deron here is human, and Psyche is…” She trailed off as she gestured towards her jet-haired friend, struggling to find the right words. “Well, she’s still half-human, anyway.” Turning back to Franklin, she added, “We know, believe me. I used to be a police officer before the war started. I know what people are capable of. And I also know what’s capable if we stand by and do nothing.”

Franklin gave a heavy sigh and squeezed his temples between his forefinger and thumb, before blinking and looking back up at Arianwen with tired eyes. “I’m sorry,” he retorted with a shrug, “there’s nothing I can do. Rules are rules.”

With that, he gestured to his companion, and they both turned to head back to the entrance. “No!” Arianwen begged, breathing heavily. “You have to listen, I—“

“Arianwen! Arianwen Harris?”

The male voice that called out her name from above the watchtower was familiar and hard to place all at once. Her mind buzzing with names of anyone and everyone she had known in her lifetime so far, she gazed up towards the tower and bright blue sky, squinting and using her hand as a shade. An elderly man was leaning over the side of the walls, waving frantically down to her. Narrowing her eyes further, she searched his face, flickering over every wrinkle and line around his shining eyes—it can’t be. It is! Waving excitedly back, she shouted up, “By the gods! Shiner! What the hell are you doing here?” Turning back to Aodhan with a face flushed with happiness, she grinned and cried out, “Aodhan! It’s Shiner!”

The rest of the group exchanged confused looks with each other, watching curiously as Aodhan’s jaw dropped and he raced over to Arianwen’s side. Gazing up with her, he let out a low gasp. “F**k me, it is. I never thought I would see that wee guy again.”

The elderly man disappeared from view, and unintelligible shouts came from the other side of the fort. Cries and yells could be heard making their way down from the air to the ground, and when they hit the bottom the screech of pulling wires echoed into the hazy afternoon air. With a groan, the metal entrance door scraped forwards, heaving up from the ground as the pulleys worked their magic in opening it wide. Arianwen nearly had to cover her ears from the metallic sound as it rose up into the air and revealed the inside of the fort, a crowd of people stood on the other side with wide eyes and frightened expressions.

As the dust cleared, Shiner came striding through the crowd, racing outside to meet his old friend. Arianwen’s lip wobbled before she felt the emotions bubbling up from her chest, and her eyes watered with tears. Holding her arms out wide, she sprinted across and wrapped them around the old man, sobbing with relief—relief that he hadn’t died, relief that she had found him again, and he was safe. She felt the warmth of Aodhan’s hand on her back, and he slapped a hand on Shiner’s shoulder. “Good to see you again, old man,” he said hoarsely, voice thick with feeling.

Breaking the bear-hug, Shiner stood back and smiled broadly at the two before him, wiping his tired eyes with the back of his sleeve. His features were etched with lines and worry, and his once thick hair was thin and grey, but it was definitely still him. “Come on,” he croaked in his Geordie accent. “Let’s get you inside, like. We can talk about why both of us are in the middle of nowhere in the fort.” Giving a wave to the two guards, he beckoned the group forwards.

After glancing nervously at one another, then over to the two demons, the others eventually trudged forwards. They stared forwards, ignoring the two guards in case they changed their minds, and they vanished into the fort as the heavy door slammed down again behind them with a cloud of muddy dust.

 

Taken from Creator of Shadows © Copyright Miranda Stork 2014

Manic Monday Once Again!

Merry morning, everyone! 🙂 Well, I was away over the weekend, and WP didn’t bother to put up my scheduled posts. Will I ever get the hang of this internet thing? LOL So, anyhoo, the Manic part of Monday is…that Scrumptious Saturday and Sunday Snippet are both part of today’s post! Scrumptious Saturdays will be from some of my favourite book-related recipes, and Sunday Snippet is…well…a snippet. And it’s from Daughters Of Brigantia again, as this WIP seems to be taking over for now. Well, let’s move on! Or should that be backward? Anyway, enjoy! 😀

 

Scrumptious Saturday

Two of the books I loved most as a child were Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking Glass. (Not to mention pretty much every other book and poem by Lewis Carroll, but that’s for another day.) A recipe mentioned within, that was a firm favourite with the Victorians, was Mock Turtle Soup. Now, I’m not about to get a turtle, OR a chicken for today’s dish, so vegetarians don’t worry! This is 100% veggie-friendly. 🙂 (However, there ARE eggs in the recipe. Please use a vegan egg substitute for a vegan-friendly version.)

Mock ‘Mock Turtle Soup’

Ingredients

  • 1 lb potatoes, or other starchy vegetables
  • 3 qts water
  • carrots (chopped)
  • 3 stalks chopped celery
  • onions (chopped)
  • 12 ozs catsup
  • 21/2 ozs worcestershire sauce
  • lemon (quartered)
  • 11/2 tsps salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • flour (browned)
  • hard-boiled eggs (chopped) (Or use Vegan Egg Substitute)

 

  1. Boil the potatoes to a firm but soft-at-the-edges consistency; add all ingredients to the potatoes in a large pot; cook 1 to 1.5 hours.
  2. Keep lid on for first 1/2 hour.
  3. Add browned flour gradually, stirring constantly.
  4. Add 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs; cook another 1/2 hour.
  5. Browned flour: Brown 10 tablespoons flour in a skillet, stirring constantly. Add a little water to make a thick paste.

 

Enjoy your literary soup! 😀

Sunday Snippet – Daughters Of Brigitania

 

*Please bear in mind there may be some errors, as this is still a WIP. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Darting into her roundhouse, Aiia was glad to see it had been left as how she remembered it. Snatching up a fresh change of clothes, she pulled them on and reached for a jug of water, splashing it into a bowl. As she attempted to clean up her face and hair, a jolt of panic ran through her again. Of all the people who had been in that crowd, only Aiia understood the curious look Cartimandua had given the messenger. She’s going to say yes to their truce. Yes! To the same bastards who killed Gaisio, and would have killed any of us when they landed. After scooping up a hammered bronze mirror to check her reflection, she ran back outside, to make her way into the great hut. Cartimandua would not be happy to see her, but she had little choice—she had to be there.

Two guards were stood to attention at the main doors, but neither of them even blinked when she sped past, keeping her eyes downcast to prevent them recognising her. As she slipped into the darkness of the roundhouse, she ducked in behind the servant girls, perching herself in a dark corner to listen to what was said. Cartimandua and Venutius were seated in their thrones, the messenger sat on a bench the other side of the fire. It crackled and jumped, an unwelcome addition to the hot day, but necessary for the feast to be laid out in the evening.

After making sure that the messenger was given wine and food, Cartimandua settled back into her throne, and fixed him with a wry smirk. “I suppose you have been told we are barbarians and savages, yes?”

The messenger looked up from his drink with a stutter, feigning surprise. “Indeed not, your majesty. We have no knowledge of yourselves, with the exception of our late emperor Julius Caesar’s writings. He merely mentioned how your land was triangular was was at least two-thousand miles across.”

Venutius gave a frown, interrupting, “Excuse me…miles? What are these?”

Coughing on his bread, the messenger hid a smile, replying, “It is a unit of measure, your majesty. For example, it is about a mile from your gates to the very bottom of the valley below.”

“Ah, I see.” Venutius leaned back into his chair, stroking his moustache thoughtfully. Waving an arm he continued, “So I suppose you mi—“

“We did not come here to talk about measurements,” Cartimandua reminded him tartly, turning her attention back to the messenger and adding, “And my husband is not ‘your majesty’, he is merely Prince Regent. You may refer to him as ‘my Prince’. Now, what of these gifts? Are they to bribe us, then?”

The messenger scoffed at the statement, choosing to ignore Cartimandua’s jibe about her husband. Venutius himself bristled at the statement but said nothing, simply sending a dark glare into the back of the queen’s head. The messenger leaned up with a smug lilt to his dark eyes, and crooked a finger at one of the soldiers. They jumped up smartly and strode to the chest, bending down only to click the lock open.

Even Aiia let out an awestruck breath at the sight. Bright terracotta pots lay within, filled to bursting with glass beads in every hue, amphorae of wine and oils. Cartimandua tried to appear unruffled, but she slid forward on her seat to better view the luxuries within the chest. It appeared all the more like a treasure trove for the current situation the tribe was living through. She held her hand out as the soldier passed over a string of amber-coloured beads, running them through her fingers like a gift from the gods. “And all of these…are if we choose to join your empire, I presume?” she responded, ruefully placing the jewellery back down again and staring quizzically at the messenger.

He shook his head. “No, these are yours to enjoy. Rome does not offer up toys as if you were spoilt children. We merely wish to show you what Rome could give you. If you were to sign the treaty…there would be many more gifts.” He gave a charming grin, his stern countenance momentarily shattered. “Rome does not forget its friends. But, I should warn you. Neither does Rome forget its enemies.”

His words were not taken lightly, and the Queen rose her gaze to his, the fires casting dark shadows across her eyes. “Is that a warning?” she answered quietly, her tone ominous.

The messenger’s chewing slowed once more, and he gave a slow swallow, leaning forward on his worn seat. The fire reflected off his brass armour, giving him the impression of being made of fire. “Only if you choose to be an enemy.”

 

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(Taken from ‘Daughters Of Brigantia’, Copyright © 2013 Kathryn Northwood. Do not reproduce, use, copy, or include in any way in any format, digital or print, without prior permission of the author.)

Snippet Sunday – Daughters Of Brigitania!

Morning, folks! 🙂 Hope your weekend is treating you well so far. Today I’ve got a wee snippet (the first chapter, actually) from Daughters Of Brigitania, the historical fiction I’m writing under my pen-name, Kathryn Northwood.  Enjoy! 😀

Chapter 1

Brigantian Rebirth

Two girls stood aside from the crowd, frozen expressions as they watched the druids chanting over the barrow. An old man lay within, curled in the position he entered the earth, his chariot beside him.

The older girl wrapped her arm around her younger sister, but her green eyes never lost their cold edge. The younger girl gave a sniff, but silenced herself as she remembered her place, and gave a short nod to her older sister. The arm fell away. A strong wind whipped through the valley, picking up their woollen cloaks and tugging them, creating the effect of flags flying out under their plaited auburn hair.

The druids and priestesses moved in a wide circle, chanting and murmuring to the gods, one of them holding a torch aloft. The flames from the torch flickered and danced in the wind, creating brilliant patterns in the air above as sparks jumped away. Some of the crowd behind the girls fell to their knees at the sight, sobbing as though their hearts would break. The older girl peered over her shoulder and raised an eyebrow, casting them a hard look.

The King was dead.

“Carti…does this mean you are now Queen?”

The whispered question from her sibling surprised Cartimandua. It was hardly the time for discussing such matters, but she understood that her sister Aiia was young, and didn’t always know when not to voice such concerns. She didn’t answer, but pressed a finger to her lips instead, indicating silence. A thrill ran through her at the idea though. Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes. I am now ruler of all northern Albion. The only thing that didn’t thrill her was the notion of her husband being King, even Prince Regent. An ugly frown darkened her face.

Their father, King Vecorigo, had wanted the marriage to go ahead to secure more lands for his daughter. The Brigantes were a tribe of hardened warriors, but years of trying to secure their lands against other tribes had decimated their coin and defences, and this was her only chance to have security. Her husband was at least ten years her senior, and he had already blessed her with child. Unbidden, her hand stroked across the bulge of her stomach, swollen with her son.

And who knows what will happen to Aiia now. I must make sure I protect her. Cartimandua’s eyes roved across to her thirteen-year old half-sister, taking in her drawn white face and tightly folded arms. Aiia had even less prospects than herself, as the illegitimate child of one of her father’s concubines. Cartimandua’s own mother had died in childbirth, so she had never known the loving touch of a matronly hand. Aiia’s mother had come by court many times, but only ever lavished attention on her own daughter. Cartimandua didn’t resent it, she felt just as close to Aiia herself, and the two had been true sisters as soon as they could utter words.

The chanting grew louder, and one of the druids stepped forward to usher the two sisters over to their father’s grave. Cartimandua gave the white-hooded man a curt gesture, and waved him away. He stepped back, and Aiia gripped her sister’s arm tightly as they made their way over. The trees around them twisted harder in the wind, sending leaves spinning down to cover the King in his final rest. The man the Brigantes had known looked so different in rest, so less forceful. He had been a well-respected King, despite the losses to other tribes, and his booming voice would be remembered by all as though it had spoken in their very ears. He lay in a foetal position, his body wrapped in a blue cloak, his head adorned with the gold band of his authority. It wasn’t until he had been laid in the barrow that the sisters had finally realised how old and frail he looked, with his grey moustache thinning across his lip.

Cartimandua thrust her arm out, dropping a richly-inlaid bridle bit into the barrow. She gave Aiia a nudge, and her sister tremblingly held out a bronze dagger, glinting in the weak evening sunlight as it fell in. Aiia leaned over to gaze at her father, whispering, “May the gods watch over your journey to the Otherworld.”

Cartimandua gave a sad smile at Aiia’s words, and tugged on her sleeve. The younger girl looked up at her, eyes swimming with unshed tears. “Do not worry, sister. He will be watched over and protected, even into his next life.”

The druids and priestesses stopped circling the barrow and swayed from side to side, lost in their utterances, the whites of their eyes turned to the heavens. Their hands rose as one, inviting the goddess Brigantia to bless the ceremony. One of the priestesses produced two silver spoons, both short and without stalks, and one with a small hole at the edge. Cartimandua gave an inward shiver at the sight. Even as a bloodthirsty Brigante, she wasn’t too comfortable with the druidic sacrifices. They were a necessity, nothing more. Without them, the tribe was vulnerable, with no graces from the gods. As she stared in horror, a druid produced a small animal, already slaughtered at the beginning of the funeral. The animal was tipped gracefully, so that its blood dripped into the first spoon. The priestess leaned the first spoon so that the blood trickled through the hole to the second, chanting to herself as the whole putrid mixture was poured into the barrow.

Cartimandua turned herself and Aiia away from the sight as they began the process of laying stones around the graveside, and faced the crowd behind. Her people. Denorix, Cartimandua’s husband, came forward and gave her a curt nod. She eyed him for a second, a curious expression crossing her features, before she turned her attention back to the waiting faces of the Brigantes.

The young girl cleared her throat, collecting her thoughts before she spoke. The crowd fell silent, the only sound the wind howling through the trees, shaking more leaves down in a golden carpet. Her hand tightened for a second on Aiia’s, before she let it fall away, clasping them before her in a regal gesture. “My people,” she called out, “face your Queen.”

Cries of, “Queen Cartimandua!” rose up among them, filling the air with a new sound. Aiia glanced down at the ground and repeated their confirmation, trying hard to bat away the tears that still escaped for their fallen father. Cartimandua attempted to remain stony, but a small smile etched itself onto her lips, and her emerald eyes sparkled with new purpose.

Copyright Kathryn Northwood 2013.

 

To find out more about Daughters Of Brigitania, and to follow Kathryn Northwood (AKA me LOL) in her run-up to publishing it, click here to keep up with her Facebook page! 🙂

Snippet Sunday – Keeper of Shadows

Hello, everyone! 🙂 Well, I’ve actually managed to scrape enough time for myself lately that I’ve decided to set up a new blog schedule, rather than leaving it to ferment on its own. So borrowing an idea I’ve seen quite a few authors doing, I’m going to set up each day with a theme (one for Mondays, one for Tuesdays, etc.) so hopefully this might make the blog a bit more fun to read! 🙂

So of course, Sundays are going to be…..drum roll please……Snippet Sundays! There may also be more gifs. I’m just warning you. O_o And this week I’ve have a snippet from Keeper of Shadows, due out on Tuesday 30th June! Remember to mark your calenders! 😀

KOS banner3

Excerpt From Keeper Of Shadows…

People hung about in small groups, bartering over this and that, shouting and calling for produce. Many of them were behind makeshift stalls of wood and metal poles, calling and hawking their goods. Coloured sheets flapped limply in the breeze, some patterned with long-ago threads. The sheer vibrancy of the colours alone flooded Psyche’s brain, sending her senses into overdrive. And the produce itself was enough to keep her staring for hours, a treasure trove of foil-wrapped meats and sweets.

“Anything you want?” Torolf inquired, watching her face light up like a child’s. He smirked, and gave a sly wink. “I’d sure like to get you another chocolate bar. I remember how you enjoyed the last one,” he whispered next to her ear.

Well, that's the rudest thing said about chocolate I ever heard.

Well, that’s the rudest thing said about chocolate I ever heard.

Psyche flushed scarlet, and shook her head, tearing her eyes away from the temptation of both sweets and husky werewolf. “I’m good, thank you. I don’t want to ask you for anything.”

“You never ask me for anything. Didn’t you say you only once had chocolate? Before I got you some in the house, I mean?” He lost the smirk, and shook his head slowly. “There’s something not right about a world in which a woman only has chocolate twice in her lifetime. I’ll get you some chocolate. Women love chocolate. It’s traditional.”

Psyche stuttered. “Well, yes, I suppose. But I don’t—“

Her words were cut off as Torolf dragged her over to the stall, amid a worried sigh from Arianwen, who relented with a small grin. He stopped Psyche in front of one covered in various goods, squeezing her shoulders firmly to make sure she stayed there and didn’t run off from embarrassment. Small shaped objects in several colours were in paper bags, and one side of the stall was strewn with foil-wrapped rectangles. He gestured to the stall-keeper, a short man wearing a ratty blue shirt and sporting a scarred eye. As Psyche dared to look closer, she saw that the eye beneath the cut eyelid was milky-white. The stall-keeper grimaced at her, folding his arms, and turned his attention to Torolf.

“Aye?”

“Your finest milk chocolate, good inn-keeper.”

“We’ve got the usual. Take it or leave it.”

“Crappy brown-coloured plastic it is,” Torolf wise-cracked, grinning widely. The stall-keeper shook his head and muttered, turning away with a sheet of brown paper in his hands.

Psyche tried to protest once more. “Really, Torolf, this isn’t necessary. I can—“

Torolf closed his eyes for a second as the stall-keeper gathered up a few of the bars, spinning her around to face him. “Psyche, stop it. Just allow someone to look after you for a bit, okay? I’m not telling you what to do, or forcing you to do it. You don’t have to fight me. I’m just trying to do something nice for you. You know, and it’s chocolate.” Ignoring her open-mouthed gape, he turned to grab the package off the wizened man behind the stall, passing him a few bent and tarnished coins. Without another word, he shoved the parcel towards Psyche.

Fine, but if I get a coffee one, I'm out of here.

Fine, but if I get a coffee one, I’m out of here.

Regretting her earlier treatment of him during the day, she whispered, “Thank you.”

“Just promise to eat it in front of me,” Torolf chuckled hoarsely in reply. Seeing her still-humbled expression, he cleared his throat. His hand came up to scratch nervously at his scalp, something he seemed to do a lot when Psyche ignored his flirtations.

Psyche’s face broke into a cheeky grin at his uncomfortable stance, and she raised an eyebrow. “I might. Maybe I’ll wait until I’m in bed.” Her eyes sparkled with mischief as they rose to meet the werewolf’s, his jaw dropped at her bold statement.

“When you guys have finished with the pillow talk, can we please get going? We need to talk, and I need a drink. I’ve got Irish in me, you know.” Arianwen’s clear tones cut through the reverie, bringing the pair back to focus. She set on her heel and disappeared through the throng of people, heading towards the back of the Market.

drink

Hold the umbrella, pet. Ta.

Grab your copy on pre-order from

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And if you need to know what the heck this post is about, you can pick up the first in the series, Vigilante of Shadows from

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