Tuesday, 16 May 2017

New! 'Dark Maiden' by Lindsay Townsend. Historical Romance. Medieval Romance. Excerpts.

Ghosts, revenants, incubi , vampires and demons haunt medieval England, as Yolande and Geraint must use their love to survive.

Beautiful Yolande comes from an exotic line of exorcists—a talent she considers a gift—and a curse. In fourteenth century England, a female exorcist who is also black is an oddity. She is sought after and trusted to quiet the restless dead and to send revenants to their final rest.

Geraint the Welshman captures Yolande’s heart with his ready smile and easy ways, and the passionate fire of his spirit. An entertainer, he juggles and tumbles his way through life—but there is a serious side to him that runs deep. He offers Yolande an added strength in her work and opens his heart to her with a love such as she’s never known.

But Yolande is not free to offer Geraint her love completely—not until her “time of seven” has passed. 

Can the powerful attraction between them withstand the powers of evil who mean to separate them forever? Yolande’s conscience and conviction force her to face this evil head-on—but can Geraint save his Dark Maiden…

Read Chapter One

On Amazon Com 

On Amazon Co UK 

Read Reviews

Two Lips Reviews:


Yolande is half Ethiopian and wonders around the medieval British countryside dressed like a man using her Saint Sebastian bow which is blessed and her knowledge of herbs to exorcise evil demons and bring peace to the restless dead. She must remain chaste for a time of seven or endanger herself to possible possession by a demon. Until she meets the entertaining and charming Welshman, she has always worked alone. While their bond grows, so does the danger in which they put themselves.

Geraint is a Welshman who earns his living by juggling and entertaining, but he is smitten with the fierce, but lovely, Yolande and determines to travel with her as her protector. But the 1300’s is a time of mistrust and danger to those who are different. As they travel from place to place, they occasionally fall under scrutiny and suspicion from villagers as well as the evil spirits they have come to hunt. Even if they survive villagers, evil spirits and the undead, will Yolande and Geraint ever find a way to have a normal life together?   

I found the exorcisms and release of restless dead exciting and interesting. Dark Maiden isn’t just about exorcisms, however; it’s also about human nature and the distrust of anything and anyone who is different. Yolande not only looks different, but acts different. I liked the way Ms. Lindsay Townsend handled those differences without coming off preachy or making it the focus of the story. Ms. Townsend creates believable characters with purpose and motivation.

I particularly liked the character of the Welshman, Geraint. His devotion to Yolande, his innovative ways of showing her how much he cares about her and respects her, and his bravery really made me care what happened to him. Sometimes I felt some distance with Yolande’s character and she didn’t seem to reciprocate Geraint’s regard to the same degree. 

Dark Maiden is filled with beautifully constructed and layered scenes that make the reader feel they are part of the story which I have found to be Ms. Townsend’s trademark. Dark Maiden is a delightful story filled with historical details that make the reader feel they’ve taken a step through time. Readers will thoroughly enjoy Ms. Townsend’s Dark Maiden.

Here's two new excerpts, the first from Yolande, my exorcist, when she meets the dangerous Geraint, my anti-hero.

The following morning, passing the bread and cheese that the sisters had generously given her to a beggar outside the convent walls, Yolande sensed someone watching.  She turned, forced to take a rapid backward step as a stranger trod on her shadow. She had not heard his approach.
“Mistress Yolande?”
“You have the advantage, mister. You know my name.” She smiled to take any sting from her words. “May I know yours?”
Greetings and courtesy were important to her. Each gave clues as to character and wishes. She had once known a demon, beautifully polite, who would have ripped the flesh from her bones had she not bound him by his own rules of manners.
The stranger bowed, a good sign. He muttered something in a language she did not know, which was not good. She moved a little closer, ready to boot him in the balls if he did anything unsavory.
“Geraint Welshman, at your service.” He crouched then looked straight at her. “I am just taking something from my pack, if it please you.”
She grinned at him to prove she was unafraid, her body heavy and languid as she itched to go onto the balls of her feet, ready to scrap. A quick stab to those astonishing black-blue eyes, a swipe at his knee and Geraint the Welshman would be groveling in the hard-packed mud.
Which would be a shame for such a glorious face. He bent his head, showing his trust of her, to rummage in his pack. He was a good-looking brute, not too muscled but as lean and wiry as herself. There was a soft jangle of bells within his patched shoulder-pack, revealing him as a wandering entertainer, a less deadly mirror of herself. They were even about the same height.

 I entertain the restless dead before I send them on. What must it be like to work for living laughter?
Hard, she guessed, noting his less-than-clean black hair, the scars on his knuckles, his drab motley, missing bits of ribbons and coins. He was darker that she was, tanned by many suns, and with excellent teeth.
Strong, rangy and in no hurry to stick to one place, but a honeyman all the same. She felt a flicker of interest, a few youthful, girlish hopes. She was ten-and-eight these days, young for an exorcist but ripe for marriage. Her father, a remarkable man, had managed both. She missed him, but her time would surely come—maybe with this Welshman.
“The pardoner said you would understand the message with this.” Geraint interrupted her reverie as he laid a crucifix down on the rutted road, on top of his pack to keep it from the dirt.
Yolande stared at it, all hopes forgotten in an instant. She sensed the earth shifting beneath her feet as the blood pounded within her temples, making her convinced the top of her skull might shatter. “Oh, great Maria, already?” she said, unaware she had spoken aloud, crossing herself, making the sign of the cross above the crouching Geraint. The great bow across her shoulders creaked as if in warning.
So soon! I must prepare with care. If this sign is right, there can be no mistakes. Pray that I am ready. It is so soon, so soon…


Here's the second excerpt, this time from my hero's point of view.

The abbot… moved to the crucifix, bearing it aloft and tucking it safely into the crook of one arm.
Will he sing it a lullaby too?
Geraint folded his arms across his chest like an angry fish seller’s wife. It was that, or punch an abbot. “And what do you love about Yolande? How her eyelashes curl at the ends? How she puts herself into danger first, to protect others? How she never abandons a friend? How she walks all day without a complaint? How she sometimes talks in her sleep because she is so beset? How she laughs and sheds ten years each time she does? Or are such human reasons too earthy for you?”
He stopped, mainly because he had run out of English words for the moment and his mind was filled with indignant, furious phrases in the Welsh. He also wanted to see whether Abbot Simon would answer.
 “These human trifles, as you call them, are irrelevant. It is her soul—”
“Yes, her soul, hers alone, and unique. Created in the image of God. What do you love about that? Or is the soul of one female exorcist too mean to consider?”
“Stay away from her!” thundered the abbot. “What do you know of her trials and torments, of what she might need to encounter? If you love her, you should not trouble her. Or would you act upon this love and then abandon her —as is the habit of fleshy, sinful men?”
“Sorry, no.” Geraint counted off on his fingers. “I will not leave her, no. I will not act upon anything and abandon her, no. I will not trouble her, no. Do I know the trials she has? No, I do not, but then, neither do you, my lord abbot, neither do you.”


This is one of my favourite excerpts from my historical romance, “Dark Maiden”, and shows Geraint, my hero, and all his anti-authoritarian, bumptious attitudes. Geraint will stand up and fight anyone or anything, including an abbot. I also like it because it shows Geraint’s deepening feelings for Yolande, my black exorcist heroine, and it tells us more about her. This excerpt also shows the attitude of the medieval church to physical love outside marriage and hints at the serious trials that Yolande will have to face – but not without Geraint

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Bridesmaid and the ghost.....

Here's an excerpt from my latest, published in February this year:

Walking with my cousin Robert Fenwick was always a pleasure whatever the weather, but especially so in today’s early summer sunshine. Blue sky arched over our heads and the hills that formed the border with Scotland rolled green to the distant horizon. At this time of year England’s most northerly county was always beautiful.
“I am serious, Leigh. It is time she stopped bullying you.”
“She doesn’t really bully me.”
His answer was merely to raise his eyebrows almost to his hairline, so in hope of distraction, I said, “Amelia will be entirely focussed on her latest beau for the next few days. She won’t take much notice of me.”
My elder sister had somehow contrived an introduction to Lord Felsham, one of the few notables in Northumberland, and had spoken of little else but his perfect manners, good looks and vast estates for the last three weeks.
Robert glanced in every direction and then leaned closer to me. “That is part of the problem. Haven’t you heard?”
“Heard what?”
“Can you keep a secret?”
When I nodded impatiently, he said, “Her beau won’t be at Matfen for the wedding. Felsham has contracted measles and will be persona non grata for some time.”
I stopped in the middle of the gravel path. “Oh, no!”
Our families were due to travel south to Matfen Grange in a day or two in order to celebrate my cousin Lucy Fenwick’s wedding. Such gatherings brought the rather large Fenwick clan together in one building, and offered a chance to meet old friends and perhaps make new acquaintances. I had been particularly looking forward to this wedding because I was to be bridesmaid to my cousin Lucy. Almost two years my junior, she was to marry Adam Ridley, aged twenty-five. Seven years was not generally thought too great an age difference, though I did have my doubts, for Lucy was a very young seventeen. Though I hoped Adam was not a frivolous young man about town, I equally hoped for Lucy’s sake he was not averse to gossip and fun.
“The young couple will have to marry without Lord Felsham’s presence,” Robert said with a chuckle.
But I was not thinking about the bridal couple. “Amelia will be distraught,” I said softly. “She has spent days deciding which gowns to take to Matfen. This is poor news indeed.”
“Why so?” Robert asked. “Lord Felsham’s absence should not spoil your enjoyment.”
I had few illusions about my elder sister. Once decided that Lord Felsham was excellent husband material, she had every intention of entrapping him by fair means or foul. News of his indisposition was likely to throw her into a fit of the dismals for days. I looked down at a clump of lavender growing in the border that ran along the side of the house. Several bees collected pollen and their contented hum was as pleasant to the ear as the scent of lavender to the nose. He was right, of course. My sister’s bad humour would not stop my enjoyment in wearing my new gown and being part of the wedding celebrations. A shell pink delight, my dress was already rolled in soft cloth to prevent creasing during the journey.
“The bride won’t care a jot if Felsham is missing or Amelia is in the droops,” Robert said cheerfully. “She probably won’t even notice his absence. The groom has never met either of them, so he won’t be affected.”
“That is true, but you know how Amelia will be if Felsham is not there.”
“She will be in a fit of the dismals, and when that happens, everyone will suffer?”
I could not contradict him. Yet his comment, and the glance that accompanied it, lifted my spirits. “That is true.”
“You give her too much credit, Leigh.”
“You are right. We should not allow measles to spoil anyone’s wedding.”
At that moment, a loud hail drew our attention to the corner of the house where the old pine tree stood sentinel. Cousin Robert groaned.
“Shush. She will hear you.”

“I don’t give a damn if she does.”


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Blue Skies & Tiger Moths - first in three book series Ellen's War

Today, the first in my new WW2 series, Ellen's War, is released. This series follows Ellie through the war years. Blue Skies & Tiger Moths opens in 1939 when she is a flying instructor  and follows her into the WAF  and up to Dunkirk. The second book she is a pilot in the ATA ferrying aircraft across the country for the RAF. In the final book she is still an ATA pilot but leaves to get married at the end of the war.
 Here are the first few pages which I hope you will love enough to download the rest.

July 1939, Essex
£2.99 & $3.99
Free for Amazon KUL members.
CLICK HERE



'Well, Miss Simpson, what do you think?' Joseph Cross asked as he pointed to the de Havilland 60 Moth that stood proudly on the worn grass outside what served as a hangar.
Ellie wanted to hug him but thought he might not appreciate the gesture. 'I love it. Is it dual control?'
'No, but it has the usual two seats so can take a passenger.'
'Good – I've got more than enough pupils to teach. Since the Government subsidy last year every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to learn to fly.'
'I hope you don't expect me to pay you any extra, young lady. I reckon you owe me far more than your wages would have been for all the lessons and hours you've spent flying my aircraft over the past five years.'
She put her hands on her hips. 'Giving my brothers and me lessons at your flying club couldn't have been as much as the rent you would have had to pay to use my father's barns and fields.' He was about to interrupt but she continued. 'Not forgetting the fact that Dad bought the first aircraft and both Neil and George acted as instructors until they joined the RAF.'
He scowled but she wasn't fooled for a minute. 'The cost of one lesson is usually two pounds – the three of you never paid a penny…'
'Joe, I don't want to stand here arguing anymore. I want to take her up before it gets too hot. Are you coming with me or can I go solo?'
'Circuits and bumps only, my girl, no flying off into the wild blue yonder. There are three new enquiries to be dealt with in the office – I want you to sort those out this morning.'
The other aircraft the flying club owned were a Swallow and a Gypsy Moth. Both were fitted with dual controls. Joe had several clients who liked to go up on their own and poodle about until the fuel ran out. This de Havilland had been bought to satisfy those clients.
Sidney, the ground engineer, and the only other full-time employee, wandered out from the hangar. 'Nice little machine, Ellie, sweet as a nut. You going to take it up for a spin?'
'If that's all right with you, I'd love to. I'll not be long – I just want to get the feel of it for myself.'
'The bloke what brought it said it flies like the Gypsy only a bit faster. You'll have no problem – you're a natural. I remember your first solo flight when you were no more than a nipper…'
Joe poked his head out of the office. 'No time for reminiscing, Sid, let her get on with it. Just had a bell and we've got a new pupil coming in an hour.'
'Sorry, guv, I'll not hold her up.'
She collected her helmet and goggles and scrambled into the cockpit. Even though the weather was warm she needed her flying jacket on over her dungarees. It got a bit nippy a thousand feet above the land. After doing her preflight checks she taxied into position on the grass runway and took off.
An uneventful forty-five minutes later she landed smoothly and headed for the office to catch up with the paperwork. The new pupil, a middle-aged bank manager, decided after a couple of circuits of the field that he didn't want to learn to fly after all.
As they'd only been in the air for a quarter of an hour there was no charge. By the time her last pupil left the airfield it was almost six o'clock. Often they had to work until it was too dark to fly but tonight they'd finished early. Ellie left Sid to lock up and jumped onto her bicycle. At least in the summer Dad didn't come in for his tea until late so she wouldn't have missed her meal.
She pedalled furiously down the track, swerving instinctively around the dips and ruts, covering the mile in record time. She skidded into the yard, sending half a dozen chickens squawking into the air in protest, and tossed her bike against the wall.
With luck she'd have time to wash before her parents sat down to eat. It had taken Mum months to get used to seeing her only daughter dressed in slacks or dungarees. She might be a farmer's wife now, but she'd come from a grand family and had very high standards.
The fact that Mum had been disowned when she'd married a farmer should have softened her but instead, according to Dad, it had made her even more determined to bring her children up as though they were landed gentry and not the children of a farmer.
After a quick sluice in the scullery Ellie headed to the kitchen – she was about to open the door when she realised the voices she'd heard were coming from the seldom used sitting room. Mum insisted on calling it the drawing room, but no one else did.
This must mean they had guests. She looked down at her scruffy oil-stained dungarees and wondered if she had time to nip upstairs and put on something more respectable. Unfortunately, her mother must have heard her come in.
'Ellen, you are very late this evening. Had you forgotten Neil has a twenty-four hour pass?'
She was pretty sure this was the first she'd heard of it, but having her oldest brother home was a wonderful surprise. She didn't stop to think why this meant they were in the parlour, and burst in.
'Hello, little sister, I've brought a chum along. Let me introduce you to Gregory Dunlop.'
Only then did she become aware of the second RAF uniformed young man staring at her with open admiration. He was a bit shorter than Neil, but broader in the shoulders, with corn-coloured hair and startlingly blue eyes.
'I'm pleased to meet you, Flying Officer Dunlop.' She wasn't sure if she should offer her hand as despite her efforts it was far from clean.
He stepped closer and held out his and she had no option but to take it. 'I've heard so much about you, Miss Simpson, and have been pestering your brother for an invitation in order to meet you for myself.'
His grip was firm, his hand smoother than hers – but what caught her attention was his upper crust accent. 'I'm sorry to appear in my work clothes. If you don't mind waiting a few more minutes, I'll pop upstairs and change into something more suitable for the occasion.'
'Please, don't worry on my account. I think you look perfectly splendid just as you are.'
He seemed reluctant to release her hand but she pulled it away firmly. He was a very attractive man and was obviously interested in her, but she wasn't looking for a boyfriend.
'Run along, Ellen, you've got plenty of time to put on a frock as your father has only just come in himself. We are having a cold collation so nothing will be spoiled by waiting for another quarter of an hour.'
She smiled at her brother in resignation and he winked. They both knew there was no point in arguing once their mother had made up her mind.
She met her father in the passageway. 'Have you got to change as well, Ellie? She told me at lunchtime I've got to put on something smart.'
'It must be because of Neil's friend. He certainly sounds very posh.' She pushed open her bedroom door and was about to go in when he replied.
'Seems a lot of fuss for nothing but easier to give in than put up with a week of black looks and sour faces.' He shook his head sadly and went into the room he no longer shared with her mother. Ellie wished her parents had a happier relationship.
If there was one thing she'd learned, by watching the disintegration of what must have been a happy union once upon a time, it was this. Don't marry for love as it doesn't last. If she ever took the plunge it would be with a man she respected, liked and who shared her outlook on life.
Her mother had told her to put on a frock but she rebelled. She didn't wish to impress their visitor so would come down in what she usually wore – slacks and blouse. The only time she put on a frock was when she was forced to attend church. Most Sundays she had the excuse that she had to work at the airfield.
She checked her face was oil free and ran a brush through her hair. Satisfied she was presentable she hurried downstairs eager to catch up on Neil's news. George, her other brother, hadn't been home since January and she was desperate to hear how he was doing.
Her mother pursed her lips when Ellie came in. 'Is your father coming, Ellen?'
'I don't know, Mum, but I don't think he'll be long.' She joined her brother by the open window leaving his friend to entertain her mother.
'I wish you wouldn't deliberately provoke her, Ellie. Why won't you call her Mother? You know how much she dislikes being called Mum, especially in front of strangers.'
She shrugged. 'Whatever she was in the past, now she's just a farmer's wife. Have you finished your training?'

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Medieval dragons

Painting by C. J. Begas, 1828 (public
domain image from Wikimedia Commons)
Medieval people believed in dragons. In the east, dragons were seen as powerful, imperial, and signs of good fortune and plenty, but in the west they were often linked to Satan, the devil, "The Old Serpent", and regarded as trouble.

Sometimes such creatures are called dragons, at other times they are worms or wyrms, armed with poison like a snake. The hero Beowulf fights a dragon who lives in a mound and guards a treasure hoard. The Vikings believed in dragons that were more like serpents, so in the Poetic Edda we learn how Sigurðr killed the dragon Fafnir, who behaves very much like a snake.

Sigurðr and Reginn went up onto Gnita-heath and there found Fafnir’s track, where he slithered  to the water. Sigurðr dug a pit there in the path and went into it. And when Fafnir slithered away from the gold, he breathed forth venom, and it fell down onto Sigurðr’s head. And when Fafnir slithered over the pit, Sigurðr stabbed him in the heart with his sword. Fafnir shook himself and lashed about with his head and tail.


In Viking art dragons appear lithe and sinuous, coiling about. However ominous, they were popular in stories, suitable opponents for warriors in tales.

The appearance of dragons in the Middle Ages usually foretold disaster. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 793 tells of the first Viking raid on Lindisfarne, Northumberland, and the omens that preceded it: ‘Here were dreadful forewarnings come over the land of Northumbria, and woefully terrified the people: these were amazing sheets of lightning and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky.’ 


In keeping with the heroic warrior theme but now in a Christian context, several saints battle with dragons in medieval tales. There is the famous Saint George and the Dragon (a dragon lays waste to the countryside and is offered sheep, youths and maidens as sacrifices. When the situation becomes so desperate that the king's daughter is offered, the knight George appears and vanquishes the beast.) In the ultimate show-down of good verses evil, the archangel Michael battles the great dragon Lucifer in the Book of Revelations. a text often illustrated by medieval artists.

For my own story of 'The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon,' I took these ideas of might, power, battle, knight heroes, sacrificial maidens and gold and gave them a twist. I hope my readers enjoy the results.

The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon on Amazon

The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon on Amazon UK

The two book series on Bookstrand







Sunday, 5 March 2017

Read an Ebook Week! LOVE AND THE LIBRARY Series on Sale




Read an Ebook Week is here!


From March 5, 2017 through March 11, 2017, I'm offering my entire LOVE AND THE LIBRARY series (3 books) at 25% off on Smashwords.  Use coupon code RAE25 (the same code for each book). All formats are available on Smashwords.


LOVE AND THE LIBRARY-- A celebration of the beginnings of love, wherein young Regency gentlemen meet their matches over a copy of Pride and Prejudice at the library. Sweet Regency romantic comedies.


Book 1: A Similar Taste in Books

Clara and Justin--finance and fencing

 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/247691 

Use coupon code RAE25

Book 2: A Mutual Interest in Numbers

Ellen and Laurence--mathematics and steam engines

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/317971 

Use coupon code RAE25

Book 3: A Distinct Flair for Words

Felicity and Frank--Jane Austen fan fiction and publishing

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/317971

Use coupon code RAE25


All my books are here:
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/LindaBanche

The entire promotional catalog is here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1

Have fun.

Thank you all,
Linda
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!
http://www.lindabanche.com

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Love Dragons? See 'The Virgin, the Knight, and the Dragon'

The Virgin, the Knight, and the Dragon (MF)
Medieval Creatures 2
Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 24,824
Fantasy,  Historical,  Romantic Suspense

PRE-ORDER HERE!

AVAILABLE: Wednesday, March 8th

[Bookstrand Romance: Historical, Fantasy, Romantic Suspense, HEA]

This story is a sequel to my Medieval Creatures 1 book, The Virgin, the Knight and the Unicorn.

BUY BOTH BOOKS HERE

Blurb

Can Princess Adela, heiress to a deadly destiny, be saved by the love of a knight errant?

The youngest of nine sons, Jesse is used to neglect and hand-me-downs. Becoming a knight through his own efforts, he encounters a beautiful, virtually naked stranger in the countryside above the farmlands of his old home. Who is she and how can he help her?

Flaxen-haired Adela D’Varm is compelled by the magic of a faery geas to remain in the high grasslands until she is rescued by a knight—a worthy knight who must contend with a dragon. But this dragon is no ravening beast, as knights soon discover if they offer Adela any insult.

Amiable and truly chivalrous, Jesse is different. Through their encounters—amusing, tender, exciting—he and Adela fall in love. But, even as they marry, Jesse and Adela encounter a deadly conspiracy and a final test for Adela.

It seems that Jesse has deserted her—or has he?

 Excerpt:


Ahead he could hear a deep rumbling, like a cat purring—a cat the size of a hut. There was a smell of blood in the air and a savour of roasted meat.
Dragons, like wolves, prefer to feast on horses, not men.
From where had that thought sprung? Jesse felt for an instant as if he was bathed in heat—real, forge-hot heat. Older memories and stories trickled up and down his back in a messy puddle of sweat.
A dragon. Walter the shepherd whispered there was once a dragon up on these high grasslands. A creature of faery. Maybe it has returned.
The sweat turned clammy on his back. Trying not to stiffen up, Jesse choked down a cough. Above him, how high and how far off he did not want to know, he listened to the sounds of gnawing.
Turn back or go on? Either action held both appeal and risk. To retreat might mean survival or a blast of fire at his back. To go on—if he bested a dragon, he would be as famous as Beowulf.
No doubt Beowulf was an elder son . With my luck, I could win and gain nothing but a few coins for my trouble. Any treasure would be claimed by my older brothers.
Jesse stopped crawling. Roast horse swirled in his nostrils and, despite his wavering dread, his mouth watered. Wanting to travel light and make haste, he had not eaten well for days. Succulent, hot meat tempted him to raise his head.
A dragon rose on its haunches to tear and swallow a morsel of some animal that once may have been horse. Again Jesse’s hunger flared.
His older brothers would never have attempted what he planned, but that was a virtue. Why not? he decided, as the dragon took another bite. A dainty bite, he noted, for a beast as long as a cavalcade.
It did not kill the knight. The thought was almost a prayer. Inspired—or mad, or truly desperate—Jesse threw down his weapons and rose out of the grass, his hands filled with herbs. He averted his eyes, hardly daring to look.
“Good day.” He was glad he had planted his feet wide apart and pitched his greeting above the steady breeze of the dragon’s breathing. “May I join you?
“I have brought herbs.” He raised his cupped fingers, allowing some greenery to slip from his hands so the dragon would know he was unarmed. “Good eating herbs, wild parsley, wild mint, wild sorrel, also called vinegar leaves. I think you will find they enhance the taste of your meat.”
He stepped forward, placed the herbs on a boulder, and stepped back. “The marigold is simply for the colour,” he added, his throat growing dry again as he sensed the dragon leaning closer.
It must work, a wild, mad babbling voice wailed in his head. Dragons are said to be silver-tongued and to understand speech. And I like animals. Jesse had worked with hawks, horses, oxen, sheep, chickens, and goats and found each creature appealing, in its own way. Dragons were creatures of faery, and perhaps more. If there is a dragon, there must be a maiden close, a living maid. The old stories always have both.
Those jaws of hell gaped nearer, each tooth sharper than any sword. Through his half-closed eyes, it seemed to Jesse for an instant that the beast was smiling, which was surely impossible. Determined to look his probable death in the face, Jesse stretched on tiptoe,  raised his head and stared.
Now he could study it more closely. The dragon  was a shining gold blending to silver, lean and long as a vast snake or a whip, but with powerful legs and a deep chest. Jesse could not see any wings, but he did note, with a certain detached surprise, as of someone who could perish at any second, that the beast was ornamented with flashes of silver and gold scales about its neck, like a necklace. It had a narrow, almost elegant snout, prick ears topped by small, shiny spines, and deep large eyes the colour of an emerald. Strangely beautiful eyes that were considering him in a thoughtful, almost tender way .
“Thank you.” The voice sounding in his head was not his, though how had the dragon spoken?
Jesse decided not to trouble over that and made a bow. He sensed the dragon deftly plucking at the herbs, heard the faint scratch of very sharp claws on the boulder, then flinched as a round cut of steaming horse steak was placed on top of the boulder, laid neatly beside the rest of the herbs.
No one would believe I shared my dinner with a dragon. Jesse ate in a daze. The meat was cooked to a turn, and tender.
“Thank you for the flowers.” Again the voice that was not his sounded in his head.
Jesse harnessed his manners and his wits and swallowed the final piece of meat before he answered. “It is my pleasure.”
A wave of heat surged over his neck, followed by a percussive clap of huge, scaly wings. The force half stunned Jesse, and when he stirred again the dragon was gone.

“Good day.” A small slim young woman stood over him. She gave the same greeting that he had given the dragon, and her dainty bare feet rested in the hollow made by the dragon’s claws. “Are you hurt?”
Jesse shook his head. The woman seemed to be wearing nothing but a cloak. She had a flower in her electrum-pale hair, a marigold.
The same as the spray I gifted the dragon. She has the same colour scales—sorry, hair—as the beast, and the same deep green eyes. What is going on?







Tuesday, 10 January 2017

One Winter Knight - Medieval Romance Anthology. Lindsay Townsend


One Winter Knight is a medieval romance anthology filled with stories perfect for a snowy winter and Christmas-time. My story is 'Sir Thomas and the Snow Troll.'

Here's a blurb and the first chapter.

LINDSAY TOWNSEND—SIR THOMAS AND THE SNOW TROLL
Sir Thomas no longer knows who he is, or even who his natural father is. Adrift, Thomas sets out on a winter journey to discover more, finding adventure and passion on the way that he ever expected. Fiery Ruth, a young woman who has escaped a terrible servitude to live alone in the northern forest, is proud of her independence from all others...but can Thomas protect her from the dreaded and terrible Snow Troll?


Two lost souls, striving through long winter nights and days, find each other—but can they begin to truly live?

Winter 1134, Northern England

You were always the son of your father’s soul. You were not his seed but you were always his heart. He loved you my child, never doubt that.
His mother’s voice pounded in Sir Thomas’s head as he rode through the forest, his mind as purposeless as a ship without a rudder. Believed to be on her death-bed, Christine of Carcassone had confessed to her son what Thomas had long suspected—that his father, Sir Guillelm of Normandy and Tissaton, was not his sire.
Sir Thomas, Tom to his family, squire and friends, snapped the ends of his horse’s reins against his right thigh, caught between pity, exasperation and relief. For of course his mother, contrary as ever, had then rallied after her confession and was even now on her feet and gadding, chattering of the Yule to come, keeping the servants busy with Christmas preparations. She had gaily waved him off that morning, assuring him she would be quite safe and well.
“You know how I love Christmas, Tom, and the whole month beforehand with all the gathering and cooking and preparations. My ladies and I will be very happy and snug in the keep. Take that long face of yours away! Go forth and seek your natural father! Look to your roots! You have my blessing.”
Beneath her bright and airy manner Christine had been determined and Tom, torn between staying at Tissaton to hover over her or striding out to find his native father, had found himself agreeing. Now, after riding for several hours along the great north road in the northern forest, he was less sure.
I am pushed from my nest like a dazed fledging chick but Mam is surely right, as she usually is. Tom knew Sir Guillelm had loved him. It had been in his father’s every look and smile and gift, in his teaching Tom to ride and count and to fashion baskets and panniers and reed fertility charms from the rushes of Tissaton’s sprawling, watery estate. Scarcely a month since his father’s death and Tom still missed him with a tearing ache in his chest, still longed to hear his stumbling footsteps on the floor of the great hall and see that cheerful, gap-toothed smile.
I will call him father still, for he was ever one to me.
Is this how a cuckoo feels? Tom scowled at the idea and snapped his reins again, wincing as his mount reacted with a surge of speed along the snowy track and the persistent, nagging wound in his backside stung and ached anew. A knight for three years since he had won his spurs in Normandy, Tom had become used to carrying injuries from the battle and tourney fields, but this embarrassing stab was slow to heal.
Were my father alive, I would ask his advice. I will not ask the other.
The other was how Tom thought of his natural sire, the one who had cast his seed into his mother and then abandoned her. He snapped his reins a third time as his mother’s voice hissed in his head, cold and hard as the winter sleet he rode through.
Never think that, my son! she had scolded, soon after they had buried his real father and she had taken ill herself, dropping the equivalent of a siege boulder on his head before making a miraculous recovery and then taking him to task. Tom could picture her clearly, round and red as a robin and as furious, hopping about the solar of Tissaton keep, barely a day after she had left her fatal sick-bed.
“Magnus does not know of you,” she had told him then. “I took care he would never know. He was a lad, a squire, just fifteen years old, when I tempted him into my bed and took his virginity. A fine, sweet romp for us both, and a parting with no ill-will on either side. Magnus wanted to court me, but I told him no. I was ten years older, and I had my sights fixed on your father, Sir Guillelm. A fifteen-year-old swain did not suit my purpose.”
Fifteen years old. God’s bones! All lads are idiots at fifteen.
Catching her son’s distaste at her seduction, Christine stared back at him until Tom had blushed. “It was Yule and feasting and Magnus was handsome, then,” she had snapped. “Do you think only men can feel desire?”
“But Sir Guillelm—” Tom had started, unsure what to say, but feeling he should protest.
His mother folded her arms beneath her bosom and glowered still more. “Had a loving, splendid son and the heir he needed,” she answered swiftly. “You were both tall and dark and if your features do not match your father, your gestures do. Guillelm was always proud and pleased of you.”
“Of another man’s bastard!”
“A youth, not a man, Tom, and a single time, only. I married your father within a month of bedding Magnus. Once we were betrothed, I was always faithful to Guillelm, so for years I thought you were his.” Her round face softened and her pretty gray eyes sparkled. “We were content, very content.”
Remembering her flushed and dreaming expression Tom could not snarl, not even when his horse skidded on an ancient cobblestone on the old Roman road and the wound at the top of his thigh flared again. His parents had been happy, and for an age he had dreamed of a marriage like theirs.
It was a marriage built on a lie, and yet...
“We were not blessed with children,” Christine had added, after a heavy, breathing pause. She had stared from the small lancet window in the solar, her pleasant features becoming as pale and blank as the snow outside. “After our first year of marriage, Guillelm was not strong, or hale or vigorous.”
Tom nodded, recalling how his father had frequently taken to his bed, especially in winter.
“If he ever wondered about you, as I imagine he did when you grew more and more like Magnus in looks, he was prudent enough to recognize you as his heir. You are a good son, Thomas. Guillelm was proud to claim you as his scion and tactful enough never to ask questions. And now those who might have made trouble for us are all dead, of age or disease or war.”
Tom had shuddered at his mother’s cool assessment. The larger part of him wanted to flee the solar, with its cushions and bed and books, and disappear into a new battle-fray. He did not because he
respected his father, Sir Guillelm, who had trusted him with his lands and title. Only this fall, when the man was still alive, Tom had promised the older man that he would care for Christine—Guillelm had insisted on that vow.
He never asked aloud, but father realized I was less than his. And yet, he loved me. I know he did.
You were always the son of your father’s soul.
Perhaps Guillelm’s actions had been directed by self-interest and prudence, as his mother’s had certainly been, but there was a loving kindness, too, Tom thought now, ducking under a low arch of trees to avoid a tangle of wind-whipped branches. Yet perhaps, damn all the heavens, his mam was right. Guillelm had loved him.
Would I be as generous with a child not of my own flesh and blood?
The fact he did not know chilled him.
Again, he drove his heels into his horse’s flanks and the black surged forward, foam falling hot from its gleaming mouth. Off in the distance, the low winter sun burned in Tom’s eyes and the bare trees seemed to crowd ever closer. For an instant, he wondered if he had strayed from the track, but then the puzzles of the moment overcame him afresh.
The other, the man whose face he wore, what kind of creature was Magnus? Brooding, Tom hunched lower in his saddle and considered what his mam had said. Drawing knowledge from her was always as tricky as taking honey from a hive, but he recalled the most.
“He was so handsome then, just like you, my son.”
“Then?” Tom had prompted, flinching as his mother sighed.
“He was almost pretty at fifteen, though not any more. Magnus, so I have heard, was much cut about in his final crusader battle.”
A crusader! At just twenty years old, Tom was still boyish enough to feel his heartbeat racing up in awe.
“He was at Azaz,” his mother added.
A great battle, Tom thought. This Magnus must be a mighty warrior. I am still glad Sir Guillelm is my real father.
“He is married, or so I have heard. A slip of a wench, a red-head. They live over beyond Great Yarr and have a son. Of course, the babe must survive infancy, but I have heard it does well. Still, you can make a claim on Magnus, if you wish. I think you should. After all, you are his mirror, and a knight making his way. He will be proud of you.”
A baby son, Tom had thought, a strange sinking sensation sucking at his bones, a healthy baby son. I have no place in this new family. And yet, Great Yarr was only twenty miles away, off to the north.
He was brought back to sharp attention by his mother’s next statement.
“’Tis said to be a love-match, which is typical for Magnus. He ever let his heart rule his head.”
Unlike you, Mam?
Tom winced as the grinding cold bit through his leather cloak and a heap of slush and sleet tumbled from an overhanging branch onto his head. What was he doing out in this white murk, quit from all company?
Because I am fit for no human-kind at present. Had I stayed, I would have roared and raged at my mother and told her the dark truth, that I am ashamed of her. Yet, who am I to judge?
He had broken his promise to his real father, too, and that made him more ashamed. Christine had manipulated him, suggesting he seek out his roots, whatever that meant.
If the other is married now and has a child, what am I? Mam said he would be proud of me, but for what?
Peering through the ever-falling sleet, shaking his head to rid his eyelashes of the snowy crust, Tom decided he was lost. His whole flight from Tissaton had been a poor design, half-baked notions of seeking out his native parent, and for what? Material as ever, his mam had strongly suggested he make a claim against Magnus, but truly how could he accuse Magnus of anything? The lad, as he had been as an eager fifteen-year-old, had tried to court Christine.
If I find him, what then?
The idea of intruding on a grizzled warrior, who had earned his respite, plus a new wife and baby, sickened Tom.
He wheeled his horse about, determined to turn back, if only to gallop to the closest town where he could squat down in a stew or inn over Christmas and leave those with true connections to themselves.
Distracted, he missed the overhanging cloud of mistletoe and blundered head-first into the mass, almost swallowing a milky berry. Rearing back, he overbalanced and skidded from the saddle, untangling his feet from the stirrups just in time.
The snow stopped falling around him for an instant as the world seemed to slow, and then he was down, struggling to right himself like a clumsy beetle tipped onto its shell.
I may die down here. The thought held no malice or alarm, sliding through his mind like a shaft of sunshine.
Get up! He told himself and rolled sideways.
Agony lit through him as the wound on his backside burst open. Tom fought the dancing black dots in front of his eyes but the pain closed about him, choking as a fist, and he felt himself going.
At the very edge of his consciousness, before he blacked out, he thought he heard a voice exclaiming, “Idiot male!” but then, he knew no more.


To read the rest and more stories, please go to Amazon Com or Amazon UK 

This anthology is FREE with KU (Kindle Unlimited.)




Sir Thomas' father Magnus is the hero in 'The Snow Bride' and 'A Summer Bewitchment' and he and Elfrida appear in my 'Medieval Captives' Series.

All these novels and novellas are on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple, Bookstrand. Excerpts and Reviews of these can be seen at Bookstrand, from my author page there. http://www.bookstrand.com/Lindsay-Townsend