Search This Blog

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Halloween story and holiday blog hop

I've been invited to take part in a holiday blog hop of Halloween stories, and though I intended to write a Regency one, it didn't happen, and instead I was influenced by a pop video called 'Daze' by the Poets of the Fall.  The blog hop more or less grew around the prevalence of scary clowns, and I do actually have a clown phobia.  However the guy in the video is both more and less than a clown ... check it out as well as the stories by the many excellent authors below. 

THIS   will take you to the other Halloween stories including one by Giselle Marks; for my efforts see below

Warning: this is very very dark.  About the darkest thing I've ever written. 

Lord of Fire

She was mortal, she was her own person and she had free will.  Her name was Elaine Rathbone, not Aine. No matter what he called her.
And then he smiled at her, and that smile was more frightening than any other man’s scowl.
“Not thinking of leaving me, my Aine?” he asked. “You know what happened last time.”
She shuddered.  Aodh was his name, born of the fire, and he had drawn strands of flame directly from his hall’s fire to whip her.  She still bore the marks.
“It’s Samhain,” she whimpered, and hated herself for whimpering.  “If I come out with you when you go hunting for pleasure, if I find a replacement…”
“If you leave another time, Aine, you will die,” said Aodh. “I find you too … entertaining … to want another lover.  But you may come on the hunt.”
She suppressed a shuddering sob.
That Halloween night … how many years ago had  it been? … when she had first met Aodh, at a party, she had thought herself the luckiest person in the world to have such a handsome and skilled lover.  It had only been when she had realised time had passed in his arms that she told him that she wanted to go home. She wanted to let her parents know that she was all right, and to return to college.  She told him, she could always come to him in the holidays.
That was when she discovered how jealous he was; and how violent he could be when irritated.  That beating had only been with his fists.  He shouted, as he always shouted,
“You are mine!  Mine alone!  You are my toy, and you are nothing to anyone else!” 
It had been when he had changed her name, though he had been calling her Aine for a while.  Her former, besotted, teenage self had not noticed.  But he forbade the use of her old name.  She was Aine, his toy, his slave, his pet. 
She had plotted to run away.  That first year, he had left her alone when he went hunting.  She had tried to find her way out, only to become lost in a labyrinth, magical and confusing, that surrounded the rath, the fairy hill, in which his halls were built. And he had found her, and marched her back to his bedroom, the hedges moving aside for him to take a straight path through the labyrinth, and then he had whipped her with fire.  Then thrown her upon her burned and agonised back to rape her.   Elaine Rathbone did not believe in magic, but Aine suffered from it, every day of her stolen life.
“You came to me willingly, and ate at my table, so I get to keep you, and you live and die by my whim,” he said.
A choice to risk death was still a choice.  Death could be no worse than this. She stared down at her hands.
“I would like to hunt,” she said.  “If I cannot go home, I need to learn the customs.”
“There’s a good girl,” he raised her chin and kissed her, almost tenderly.  Aine … Elaine … tried not to shudder at caresses that had once driven her wild with passion.

Aodh and his minions gathered for the hunt on Samhain, what most mortals called Halloween.  They needed no costumes, because their everyday garb, tawdry finery of the eighteenth century, was costume enough for most people.  Elaine remembered being impressed by the clothes, and by the jewelled Venetian masks they all wore, all ancient and doubtless valuable.  She was given one too, to wear with the cinch-waisted gown and its panniers, her hair dressed in an updo somewhere between Marie Antoinette and a rat’s nest, by the smaller, low-fae servants who did not get to go on the hunt.  They were servile, disgustingly so, but capable of magic, and had great strength, That she had discovered on the second Samhain, when she tried again to escape.  Too bizarre looking even for Halloween, the little creatures were not allowed to go on the hunt, and they were set to watch her, and their fear of Aodh was such that they pinched her cruelly and sat on her to keep her in her room. 
Now they chattered excitedly.
“The lord’s lady is one of us, now!” said one. “And at the end of this night, you will never be able to leave, you will be all fae, your mortality burned away!”  A small, blue being, with a huge head, and eyes all liquid navy blue, with no whites to them, informed her.
“Hush!” a more senior maid said.  She was as brown as a berry, and heart-stoppingly lovely on her left side, but wrinkled and ugly on the right, her features twisted, leering on that side.  She had more magic power than many, and some said she was Aodh’s base-born daughter on one of the low-fae.  It was only a whispered rumour; it was not done for the high-fae to lie with their servant race, but Aodh was a man of complex and not always salubrious sexual tastes.  Elaine had seen him kiss a servant girl and then have her tortured for not giving enough evidence of enjoyment.  He had then had her tortured again for simulating too much enjoyment when he did it the next time.  Aodh had taken Elaine with enthusiasm, while he watched the torture, both times. 
“I have to accept my fate,” said Elaine.
“We is glad to have you, lady.  When he has you, he doesn’t hurt us as much,” said the little blue one. “He dares not hurt you too bad; mortals break too easily.”
“But after this night?”
“You will heal as well as any of us!” squeaked the little one, and was cuffed by her superior.
“You talk too much, Gormbhinn,” she snapped.
“You are immune, Grainne, even he does not break that taboo,” squeaked Gormbhinn.
“I will tell him,” threatened Grainne.
Gormbhinn whimpered.
“Never mind that, make sure I am beautiful enough to please,” said Elaine.  If she got away … or died … it was a shame that the mostly gentle little servants would suffer, but they had magic, and if they had but stood together, they would be able to overthrow Aodh.  Yet they seemed, mostly, to accept it. 
She wished she could take Gormbhinn, who had been kind to her.

The wild hunt under Aodh turned up, as they had when Elaine had first met them, at a country house where they gate-crashed a party.  Elaine gate-crashed with them, and pirouetted and laughed and flirted her fan.  Aodh of course was impressing all the young women at the party, and after an hour or so was busy indulging in a flirtation with the daughter of the house. She was a pretty, rather silly-seeming girl, and Elaine wondered whether Aodh would choose her as his replacement consort.  Poor girl, but Elaine must think of herself.   Elaine slipped out, heading for the garage.  Sure enough, many cars had been left with their keys in the ignition; a lot of these county types were careless about such things on what they saw as ‘home territory’.  She picked a Porsche, and set off, driving in what she hoped was the direction of a larger town than the village near the mansion.
She laughed in relief, discarding her mask, as she drove, this was technology, something beyond the ken of the fae.
And then she saw that the petrol gauge was running down, the petrol going quite visibly.  Surely it was not such a gas-guzzler?  No.  He could not be removing the petrol could he?  The tank must be holed.
The tank must be holed, and she was leaving a stream of petrol behind her.  And Aodh was the Lord of Fire.
There was a flickering behind her in the mirror, visible above the hedges where it reflected on wet leaves of overhanging trees.
With a whinny of terror, Elaine stood on the brake, and wrenched open the side door, flinging herself across the country lane into the ditch.
The line of flame ran hungrily to the rear of the car, and the night exploded in white flame.  Elaine thought she could hear Aodh laughing as she almost blacked out.
He must not find her. 
She had already kicked off the impractical high heeled satin shoes which were part of her costume, in order to drive, and hardly heeded the brambles and nettles tearing at and stinging her bare feet as she scrambled out of the ditch and ran along the road, searching for someone, anyone.  She leaped out and waved frantically as headlights came towards her.  The car screeched to a halt.
“Have you any idea how stupid that was?” Yelped a male voice. Then, more panicked, “Here, Ruth, help, the lassie is hurt.”
And then there was blessed oblivion.

Elaine woke up in the white sterile atmosphere of a hospital.   Her parents were sat at the end of the bed.
“Oh darling!” her mother cried, seeing her daughter awake.  “Where have you been all these years?”
“I … he kidnapped me,” said Elaine.  “But he thought it was safe to take me to the party … thought I was cowed …”
“Stockholm syndrome,” a white coated man said quietly.  “Elaine, do you remember the things he did?   Those … burns on your back…”
“He whipped me with fire,” she whimpered.
“We believe it was some kind of homemade electrical device,” said the doctor.  “You can tell the police about it when you are a bit better rested, but if he took you to the party at Marston Manor, I think your tormentor might be dead; it burned down, and everyone who was in it died in the blaze.”
“Those poor people…” Elaine started to sob, gently.  “But he didn’t get that poor silly girl.  Better burned than his toy ….”

It was never quite the same, because Elaine had lost seven years of her life; and she could never, ever tell her parents, or the police, exactly what had happened.  They would never believe her.  She spoke of a man who thought he was the king of the goblins, and dressed like David Bowie in Labyrinth;  and her vagueness was put down to a voluntary amnesia to block trauma.  Her parents did not push her to unblock the memories.  She did wonder why the house had burned, and whether Aodh had perished as well, and whether he could hurt her again. She became reclusive, brooding, and throwing herself into the degree she had been taking when she had been seduced by Aodh.
And then, one day, she shrieked in fear as Gormbhinn appeared in her room.  Her parents were out, and Elaine cowered.
Gormbhinn ran to her and hugged her.
“Lady Aine killed him!” she exulted.
“I … I just ran away,” said Elaine.  “And my name is Elaine, not Aine.”
Gormbhinn regarded her solemnly.
“Elaine.  It’s pretty,” she said.  “But that’s what killed him.  He sent fire after you, to burn the rest of your mortality and make you a spirit-slave.  But you wasn’t burned, and at dawn, your immortal part grounded back through him and he burst into flame.  You killed him and we is free.  Gormbhinn would like to serve her lady,” she added.
“Oh, I so wanted to take you with me, but I dared not,” said Elaine.
Gormbhinn nodded.
“Gormbhinn understands.  We does things to stay safe.  Gormbhinn … I … hoped that you would understand my words and escape.  Because if you stayed free until dawn, I knew it would be all over.”
Elaine embraced Gormbhinn, and cried a flood that she had never quite dared to let out before.
Fae magic would mean that her parents never even saw the little creature, and they would have each other, two who knew, understood and had survived.
And Elaine would never, ever go to any Halloween party ever again.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Emma's Education with Grace's Gift is live

‘Emma’s Education’ and ‘Grace’s Gift’ are two romantic interlinked stories in the Charity School series. Spoilt Emma Spink is sent away to school in the hopes she will learn to behave.  But the school is harsher than her father intended, and she begs Marianne, now Mrs. Tempest, to put in a word for her at the Swanley Court school as a paying pupil. Her schooling is not without adventure, especially after she befriends Emmie Kovacs. For Emmie has a wicked uncle and a rather handsome older half-brother.

When young Cecil Hasely falls through the door of his father’s London house with a baby in his arms, a wet nurse is needed quickly. Grace Burrel, a war widow, agrees to tend the child following the stillbirth of her son. She swiftly becomes one of the family, helping to nurse the now chronically sick Cecil, and acting as hostess to Chris’s intended bride.  The growing happiness of a damaged family is threatened by ill-intentioned people. Meanwhile, Chris has been dancing attendance on his intended in Bath, where some lively young boys cause disruption on a royal scale.

Kindle available HerePaperback should be out momentarily