Saturday, 24 May 2014

Spiced Honey

Here is my response to another wonderful prompt from Write on Edge.  I used the picture prompt, as I thought it would be fun.  

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Steve had not expected to be invited to the celebration at Lord Lothar's court.   He was still not sure it was a good idea.  Elfen are not safe creatures.  They may give a convincing performance of humanity, but they are not human.  It was also incredibly dangerous to accept food and drink from them, but Lord Lothar had waved aside Steve's carefully worded concerns.  The local paladin and exorcist were both here, which was reassuring.  Steve didn't know them well but both Mike Doyle and Darren King had good reputations.  Besides, it wasn't just elfen.  The faerie court had plenty of werewolves and boggarts around with a couple of vampires politely sipping red liquid in the corner. 

In the main part of the hall the elfen were getting drunk.  As Steve sipped his plain red wine with caution, the elfen were pouring honey into heated wine and adding suspicious spices.  One fae was already sitting in a corner giggling and pointing at nothing.  Steve had not needed Mike's warning to stay off the honeyed wine.

More honey was being poured over fruit at the side and being brought around.  Once again Mike gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head and Steve excused himself.  Chopped strawberries and apples were handed round in bowls, shrouded in thick layers of the molten honey and sprinkled with more of the strange spice.  Four of the elfen stood up and started to dance.  Steve watched entranced.  They wore human shapes but they had never looked less human as they whirled and spun around the hall.  Steve blinked and checked his wine.  The dancers' bodies seemed to flow from shape to shape as they traced their patterns around the room.  Steve felt his eyes lose focus.  There seemed to be trails of coloured light following their movements and hanging in the air to form intricate and elaborate geometry in the air.  He glanced nervously around.  The elfen seemed entirely at ease and he could hear a couple having noisy sex in the corner behind him but the others, the werewolves and the boggarts, were equally uneasy and the vampires had stood and were looking stern.

"Enough!" Lord Lothar's voice thundered suddenly and for a heartbeat the coloured light froze and dropped splintering to the ground.  "I will not have enchantments danced when it is more than elfen present.  It is an insult to my guests and an insult that I will not tolerate."  There was an icy still in the hall before Lord Lothar waved a lordly hand.  "But make merry.  Today we celebrate the coming of a new paladin - we must enjoy."

As Mike made his way purposefully towards Lord Lothar, Steve found himself beckoned closer.  Lord Lothar casually dipped a whole strawberry into the seasoned honey and looked at Steve.  "You are surprised at me asking you to stay after your very welcome delivery of fifty barrels of honey.  But have much to discuss.  I need to speak to you about Lord Marius."

For anyone interested, this is the continuation of the Steve Adderson story, and you can read previous installments here.  The Steve Adderson novel is coming along nicely, but I didn't expect it to take the twist that this image has inspired.  I hope I am not being too pushy, but Lord Lothar, Mike Doyle and Darren King are all in my first novel, The Forgotten Village which is on Smashwords and at Amazon.  

Sun Through the Door

I have finally managed to get a response for the Light and Shade Challenge.  I always used to find Trifecta a tough challenge, and it is proving just as tough at Light and Shade - and that is a good thing.  For me it is the writing equivalent of the gym.  

photo by sulaco229 at

I stay very quiet in my cool and shady safe place
I never want to step outside into a hot and dusty place
I ask for no disturbance as I hide inside my shadow place
But sun and life and warmth keep knocking at my enclosed place

Green and growing living things are creeping in the shuttered door
The sun is inching further in as it pushes against the wooden door
I hear the noise of birds that I have kept outside my painted door
But life and love and living are pushing past the broken door. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Washing the Cups

Here is my response to the Light and Shade Challenge based on the picture below.

Picture by Ayla87 on

"Did you see her, the one with the dress?" Angie asked as she splashed the dirty cups through the water at speed.
"Her with the dress and the handbag?" asked Betty.  She switched to a dry cloth for the next batch of cups.  They had been washing up together after the meetings for thirty four years this June and they had perfected the routine.
"No, the one with the dress and the handbag is Zoe.  She reckons that the handbag is designer and cost a fortune.  But you can't tell me that handbag is designer, I saw one just like it on the market." Angie sniffed.
"Well she said that he was doing alright and had got a bonus at Christmas.  I told her that everyone gets a bonus at Christmas but she wouldn't have it." Betty rattled the teacups into a stack and slotted them neatly into a cupboard.
"My Den said that he was doing well, but they aren't spending that much.  You should see the state of her sofa.  I'd be ashamed."
"You do like your furniture nice." Betty nodded.  "Of course, he could be spending some money on her at the corner, you know, just past Mrs Henderson.  She always has nice things."
"Her at the corner, she's the one with the dress.  She said that it was a charity shop find, but you can't fool me.  That dress cost a fortune, and her with her car in the garage."
"She spends her money on something.  There must be some money going into that house with them both working and I know they ask the lad to tip up now he's started at the call centre, but they still have that old car."
Angie nodded.  "My Jim said that it was a scandal that car, they've had it for four years now.  But I saw her in the supermarket and she had a bottle of wine in her basket." 
Betty nodded knowingly as she switched drying cloths again.  "Mind you, I heard that her aunt was the same, you know, the one who married the plumber and moved to Brighton."
"Is it her aunt that married the plumber?  Well that explains it."  There was a pause as Angie changed the washing up water.
"I see Mary's got new curtains." Betty rattled some more cups into the cupboard. "I would have thought she would have done something with her kitchen first.  I don't know how she cooks."
"Mary told me that she got them second hand.  You can't tell me that they are second hand, not with those seams.  And as for cooking, she buys frozen veg.  I pity her husband."
"Of course he makes up for it with the darts team.  They were out again last night.  Ted from two doors down came in at midnight."
"By the way, what was the talk today?" Angie rinsed out the washing up bowl.

"The dangers of gossip." Betty gathered her cloths for the wash.  "See you next week."

I have never, ever known a function where the washing up wasn't a chance for a full exchange of views.  I did 'hear' it in the local accent, but I am confident that the sentiments expressed are universal.  

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Strange Meeting Place

Another wonderful prompt from Write on Edge.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Steve worked hard to keep his face.  All of the older faerie had the ability to create their own pocket worlds, their own domains.  So why this particular lord was using an abandoned multi-storey car park was a mystery.  Moss and weeds tumbled over the dark courtyards and the claustrophobic atmosphere was affecting more than him.  Armani had taken one look at the place and climbed into Steve's inside pocket. 

Steve walked warily past the stained pillars and knots of people around the scattered braziers.  Lord Gwill Mawr waited on a large makeshift throne at the far end of the central floor of the building.  While the rest of the building huddled in gloom, Lord Gwill Mawr had arc lamps rigged around him and growing lamps focused on ferns draping luxuriantly over the wall behind.  It was very well staged. 

"You sent for me, Lord Gwill Mawr," Steve said respectfully.
Lord Gwill Mawr inclined his head regally.  He was wearing the glamour of a street beggar with a tattered hoodie.  "I thought it best to meet here, Steve Adderson, merchant.  You are becoming quietly adept at elfen magic but here in your normal world you are slightly less dextrous.  I thought this would make a good meeting place for trade and counsel."
Steve glanced around at the miserable courtiers.  "I have never thought to understand the complex depths of the elfen lord." He said tactfully.
A smile flickered across the eyes of Lord Gwill Mawr.  "I will be having my accustomed feast on the last day of October, and I would have great things.  A few brief months ago there was no knowledge of such wonders as edible glitter and popping candy or the wonders of the colours that you have brought to so many courts.  That Lord Ragnar has a candyfloss machine is a source of stories.  But such things come at a cost, even with your know acumen and fair dealing."
"I have to make enough to eat and pay my dues." Steve said carefully.  "I am sure no elfen would deny me the fruits of my hard work."
Lord Gwill Mawr shrugged slightly, baffled as all elfen by the concept of working.  "I can offer you little coin.  However I can offer something that while not currency may be of value."
"I am willing to trade fairly, but Halloween is only a month away and negotiations take time." Steve felt Armani digging deeper into his pocket.
"I can offer you the long, faithful love of Elaine, guaranteed for her mortal lifetime, to be ever true to you." Lord Gwill Mawer studied his broken nails.
"A bought love is worthless."  Steve kept a lid on his emotions.  He may be inwardly reeling but he couldn't risk letting his guard down.
Lord Gwill Mawr sat back confidently "I can offer you something that you desire more, something that you have already touched on, something that drives your study of magic.  I can offer you the name of your father."

If you are interested, the Steve Adderson story is on the side bar here.  I am still chipping away at making it into a novel, and as I write the novel all sorts of other things are coming out.  I thought I would hint at it here.  I hope you like it.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Faerie Wall

Here is another response to the Light and Shade Challenge.  The Queen Anne's Lace in the picture always makes me think of faeries.

Keep away from the wall, my child,
It keeps us from the faeries wild.
It keeps us from their faerie fear.
Keep away, my child, come here.

They blight the cows and cost us money
They steal the bees and take the honey
They spoil the butter in the churn
They cause the cakes and bread to burn

They steal our children, blight our wheat,
Ruin pigs and taint the meat.
Keep away from the wall, my dear,
Keep away, my child, come here.  

I have a very old fashioned view of faeries.   My grandmother was incredibly superstitious and, for example, would get genuinely very upset if she caught me putting my left shoe on first or stirring cake mixture the 'wrong' way.  This is very much her view of Faery, which was old fashioned even for her generation, but lots of fun as a story from a safe distance.   

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Castle

Another prompt from the Light and Shade Challenge and this time I was really stuck.  It is really good, though, to move out of the comfort zone, so I have gone for it.  

image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/

There is a castle on the hill
A king sat there in days of old
His knights were brave, his ladies fair
A pinnacle of brave and bold

Minstrels there were, and jesters sharp
Ministers with wisdom deep
Priests and monks in cloistered nooks
All knowledge gathered in his keep

There was a knight, a lady fair
A false man and a desperate fight
A riven kingdom, empty hope
A funeral byre and fading light

The story's old and patched with songs
On threads that wore out long ago
Who knows the truth of treasure there
Before the final overthrow

Young lads go there to try their hand
Digging the vaults and dusty hall
The tombs are empty, nothing's there
A bird's nest in a broken wall.

Some nights, when Venus sails the sky
And Mars is courting near the moon
They say that ghostly dancers whirl
To echoes of an ancient tune

Splendour and crowns have tumbled down
The painted walls have faded pale
And while we bustle round our lives
Dust slowly settles on the tale. 

I admit it, I used a rhyming dictionary, but I did have fun.  Thank you for reading.  

Saturday, 10 May 2014

A Test

Another wonderful prompt from Write on Edge.  I couldn't wait to write this. 

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Steve looked at the foul imp digging its claws into his expensive suit jacket.  "Are you sure it is this way?"
Armani belched, spat and scratched the dirty, tiny t-shirt covering his stomach.  "That's the way.  Lord Darcy is through there."
Steve stared at the wooden planks across his path.  Why the hell had an elfen decided to call himself 'Lord Darcy'.  Where had he picked up the stupid name?  The elfen lord would be wearing a velvet jacket and a lace up shirt.  Steve leaned closer to the planks.  The trouble with these older faerie lords is that they were insanely powerful.  They were insane, they were powerful and this one actually wanted Steve to do something for him.
Steve considered turning back.  A large trunk of guaranteed genuine medieval prayer books would fetch a very good price - but he had to strike the deal first.  Was the money going to be worth the risk?
"It isn't real, boss." Armani looked bored.  "Just walk straight ahead."
Steve tentatively touched the wood.  The grain of the planks ran from left to right, he could feel the tiny ridges and valleys and smell the pungent creosote.
"Seriously, boss, not real." Armani chuckled coarsely as Steve pressed his fingers against the unyielding wood.  Stretching out his wings, Amani hovered in Steve's eye line.  "Watch this." Armani flapped forward and passed through the barrier as if it was mist. 
Steve pressed his palm against the cool, grooved wall.  It was still solid.  Armani flapped back into view.  He tugged nonchantly at one of his tattered ears.
"Actually, boss, there's a forty foot pit with iron spikes on the other side of this.  I think we need to find another way."
"A pit with spikes?" Steve said levelly.  "I was asked here, I don't need to do this trade.  Why are we getting these tricks?"
Armani shrugged.  "Powerplay, ego trip, practical joke, fear that if he looks weak you'll rip him off, placating an awkward courtier, worried about werewolves, forgot he put it here, someone else put it here to screw the deal, proving that you were up to making a deal with an elfen lord - take your pick.  You're the one that makes the deals with elfen."
"How would it look if I just turned back?" Steve stepped back and looked at the barrier.  Armani shrugged again.
Steve took a deep breath.  He hated the elfen playing mind games, but this was a test.  He strode confidently forward and through the planks as if they were just a dream.  For a heartbeat his foot seemed to hover above the steep sided pit and the iron spikes and then was placed confidently onto the solid stone floor.  He glanced at Armani.  "Since when did ancient elfen tolerate iron.  The older the faerie the less they can bear it.  However I don't like being tested." Steve was well aware he was being overheard.  "My commission has just gone up."

Previous stories about Steve Adderson can be found in the sidebar here, if you are interested.  I have started knocking them into a novel, which is a lot of fun.  


Here is my 100 word take on Friday's Light and Shade Challenge prompt.  It was great fun, but I really, really regret setting 100 word challenges.

"Is that the post?" Estelle called.  "I thought it had already been."
Phil shrugged and picked up the envelope.  "It's from the solicitors."
Estelle jumped up.  Her rich, spiteful uncle had promised he would leave Estelle £1000 in his will.  She had been waiting for months. 
'Your legacy valued at £1000 is with this letter, according to the exact instructions of our late client.' The letter read.  Estelle turned the page over and over.  There was nothing. 
"He always was a skinflint." She said bitterly.

Unheeded in the wastepaper bin the perfect Penny Black sat smugly on the envelope.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Child in a Sweet Shop

Here is my take on the third Light and Shade Challenge.  I went at a happy tangent with the picture and I had so much fun.  Here is the picture that sparked the idea.  

Picture by ciscopa on

He looked carefully at his outfit.  He had to get the look exactly right, it could make all the difference between success and failure.  There was an all night screening of the Twilight films and he could not miss this opportunity.
 He was naturally pale but his blond hair was a problem.  The old fashioned top hat that he had picked up on the internet should cover it and give the right feel.  He had considered a cane but he hoped there would be times in the evening when he wanted both hands free.  There were likely to be a lot of young ladies at the screening.
The suit had been a problem.  He had found one eventually in a second hand shop.  The black suit jacket had velvet lapels and the waistcoat was nicely cut.  He had been meticulous to get rid of any faint trace of the iridescent dusting powder.  With the slightly flared trousers it said very clearly that this was a man who had not quite got the decade right. 
He had wondered about the shirt.  He may have wanted to look as if he couldn't keep up with fashion after all this time, but there was no way he was wearing 1970s drip dry polyester with a frill.  He had settled for a deep crimson silk shirt.  It was brand new, but silk was an old fashioned material and he could always say that he had ripped his favourite brushed nylon shirt in a fight with a werewolf.  With well polished shoes and a heavy, plain signet ring he should look the part.
He checked he had his ticket and plenty of cash.  He didn't want to break the look with a credit card and if he got lucky with a persuadable lady he didn't want to give too much information about himself, just in case.  The taxi outside sounded the horn.  
"Going to the screening?  You look just like a vampire, mate.  It makes a better night if you put a bit of effort in to look the part." The taxi driver sighed.  "I used to have a suit like that forty years ago.  Of course, I was a lot thinner then.  Well, you won't be lonely tonight, I bet you've got a hotel room booked."
He smiled enigmatically and gave the driver a generous tip.  Looking at the crowd there were others who had aimed for his intended look but he prided himself that he had hit closest to the mark.  He was already getting interested glances and he thought it would not take much to entice the pretty brunette near the popcorn stand to a secluded corner to 'talk'.

Carefully keeping his expression immobile, inside he was laughing wildly.  He may be seven hundred and thirty two years old and a vampire but looking at all those pliable, gullible necks made him feel like a child in a sweet shop.  

I've never really got into the Twilight series, but I can't help feel that vampires are not very nice.  This is my take on a baddie.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Sea and Selling

Another wonderful prompt from Write on Edge.  I've been looking forward to this as I have missed Steve Adderson.  You can see more of his story here.  I've taken my inspiration from the picture, credited to Unsplash.  

Steve gazed over the cliffs and drank in the view. 
"Be careful here, the path is steep." The young elfen taking Steve to the meeting had introduced herself as Tegan.  She looked small and fragile with big dark eyes and a shy smile.  Steve knew better than to trust appearances with the faerie, though, and he was being very respectful.
"It's a beautiful place." Steve said politely.
"The storms are magnificent with the waves hurling themselves at the land.  The kelpies ride and chase the unwary sailors and the walkers on the beach." Tegan looked sideways at Steve.  "In these times of course we only chase.  We are well behaved."
 Steve nodded noncommittally and followed what the track down among the pinks and the tufts of grass.  "The storms must be dramatic.  It's hard to imagine on a still day like today."
"Have you heard from your fair lady who was lost?" Tegan enquired politely.
"Who?" Steve racked his brains to think who that could be.
"Elaine.  Have you heard from Elaine?"
"No, I haven't heard from my ex-girlfriend." Steve clenched his fists.  The elfen loved their games and gossip.  "I think it is inappropriate to discuss her in this beautiful place.  I have come here with commerce and business and trade and it would be wrong to sully the thought's of my lost one with such matter." Steve hoped that would get Tegan to shut the hell up.
Tegan's soft eyes filled with tears.  Steve did not believe them.  Tegan wiped away a tear with delicate artistry.  "It is sad but good for my lord that you drown your sorrows not in sweet wine but in the hard salt work of merchants."  She paused.  "You haven't brought anything salt, have you?  We get all our salt from the kelpies."
"I wouldn't like to slight the kelpies.  I don't want a repeat of Chichester." Steve paused and took a lungful of sea air.  He didn't want to upset murderous sea creatures with long memories.
"What happened in Chichester?"
"I didn't realise that I was underselling some werewolves." Steve shuddered.  "A house blew up and I made a loss."  He tried to look suitably stricken.  It was helpful for the faerie to just think of him as someone who sold useful things and not someone to play with. 
"And you have brought us brass nails, rose petals and strawberry jam."
"I have bought best quality brass nails, exclusive strawberry jam and sun dried rose petals from the gardens in Hertfordshire." Steve smiled.  "They are all in the van."
"All in return for some stone bones." Tegan shrugged.  "I have heard that normals like these things but we like rose petals more."
"It is a very fair deal." Steve said carefully.  "I shall not cheat you." And 30% of an ichthyosaur fossil would easily cover his expenses.  He would concentrate on getting a good price for that.  He would not think of Elaine. 

White Lies

Here is my response to the Light and Shade Challenge of 2nd May 2014.  It is a bit embarrassing that it comes so long after the responses from people who didn't actually help to set the challenge.  I took the inspiration from the quote:

'She tells enough white lies to ice a wedding cake'.  Margot Asquith

"Honestly, you look lovely in that, Claudia.  It really suits you, the colour is ideal.  You will look fine.  And the neckline is perfect, not too low."
Claudia looked doubtful.  "I don't want to show too much..."
"You will be fine!" Jenny smiled frantically and avoided the sympathetic glances of the bridal shop assistants.
"There's not too much beading?" Claudia smoothed down the expensive silk.

"It's perfect.  You will be stunning, honest." As her mother-in-law-to-be headed back to the changing rooms Jenny checked her watch.  She had twenty minutes left to choose her wedding dress.  

If you enjoy writing challenges please jump in and join us at Light and Shade Challenge.  We love to see people posting!