Friday, October 31, 2014

Blessed Samhain and Rising Shadow Interview !!!

Samhain Blessings... (photo by Marnie Shelton-Klein)

So much change is in the wind it's hard to keep up with it all. Tonight, All Hallows' Eve, has traditionally always been my favorite holiday (Beltane comes in a close second) although this year it feels more than a little bittersweet. Even though the Indian summer lingers on the winter blues are beginning to set in. Tonight I plan on going out far into the woods to my new favorite spot and honoring the ancestors and the spirits of the land. I am a creature of warmth and sunshine, and summer is always over too quickly for my liking, but tonight I will honor the dark lady of winter and ask for her protection and guidance throughout the upcoming season and pray she heeds my call. It is the cycle of life and the seasons that somethings must to die in order to be reborn anew. Winter is always a time for writing and introspection and no matter how desolate it feels sometimes, spring always arrives, and summer comes once again. So tonight I will honor the cycle. Never have I felt the change so keenly as this has been one of the hardest year of my life, but tonight I will honor the Goddess for keeping me safe and for all she has given to me.

So enough with the melancholia - there's news to report!

We redesigned the cover for the first SAURIMONDE book and I think it looks pretty damn cool. Melissa did a fantastic job as always!

Second edition of the first SAURIMONDE book in the flesh! 

Below is a link to the free prizes we will be giving away to celebrate our second book of the SAURIMONDE series so please give it a whirl for your chance to win! On November 11, 8-10 EDT, we will be hosting our big promotional party happening on Facebook for the launch SAURIMONDE II.  Please come and join us as we'd love to see you there!  SAURIMONDE II  launch party link here

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So there's more new. Recently Melissa and I did a lengthy author interview for the lovely and fascinating site Rising Shadow. The questions were quite thought provoking so we've included one just to give you a taste.


What is the target audience of Saurimonde and Saurimonde II?


Scarlett: I think people who loves dark fantasy and are interested in supernatural mythology and in magic will enjoy this book. There are strong elements of sex and violence but the action is fairly tightly written so it is a bit of a page turner. The first book contains quite a bit of death magic and the metaphor of 'day and night are not what they seem' is also a metaphor for the psychological aspects of what needs to be destroyed in oneself to come back to the essential authentic wild soul. I also think that anyone who has every been bullied or been forced to live in the shadow of someone more powerful than themselves and has found the courage to rise up and find their own voice and personal power will enjoy these books.

Melissa: I would add anyone who is fascinated by otherworldliness, things unseen but felt, and the thin veil between the normal and the paranormal, like shapeshifters, and those who want to escape to another world for a while.

To read the full interview just press here.


May your candles burn bright throughout the Samhain season. May the ancestors recognize and bless you. May the magic hour descend upon you. And may you have cause to celebrate as the dark lady makes her way back home. This is the time for introspection and to sow the creative seeds for the upcoming winter. May the path be shining and may your world be filled with magic.

Samhain blessings to you one and all !!!

Much love from where the worlds touch,

S - xx

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lux in Tenebris

So let's start with the really fabulous news. SAURIMONDE II is finished and is available now on Amazon in both print and Kindle!!!. I'm thrilled and terrified at the same time because although SAURIMONDE II begins where the first story left off it contains a whole new pantheon of characters and is a really different beast than what we first set out to write. But what's life without taking a few chances, right? Completely boring. I don't think this new tale is boring though. Actually, I'm so close to the material I don't know what to think so I'll have to let you the reader be the judge (gulp!).


Links to buy SAURIMONDE II on Amazon are here: http://www.amazon.com/Saurimonde-II-2-Scarlett-Amaris/dp/1502598507

Also, for all our friends on Facebook, Melissa and myself will be hanging out, answering questions, and giving away a couple of FREE e-copies of SAURIMONDE II at the Ragnarok Publications - Ragnarok October Block Party on October 20, 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm EDT. If you wish to join us  (and we hope you do!) and a lot of other fabulous aithors just follow the link for all the info - https://www.facebook.com/events/577239332405796/

And to celebrate I am posting the first chapter of the next story I am working on which is so near and dear to my heart and will be my first real stab at historical fantasy, but it will of course have supernatural and erotic elements. It doesn't yet have a title but like all good things that will come.


Untitled
(Lux in Tenebris)

       
       A cold sweat ran down her back and she shivered against the immense heat generated by the heavy blankets that she lay imprisoned under. How long had she been here? Time had become indistinct as she lay lost in fevered dreams. She could smell the scent of honeysuckle which had run wild on her father's estate over it's crumbling walls and turreted tower. Then she was dancing in the moonlight by herself and with the trees as her only companions. Another memory came of the night her daughter was conceived as a masked face hung over her and the land was regenerated once again through a ritual older than anyone could recall. There was the shock of pain and disbelief from the first time her older lord husband had raised his fist to her and then dragged her down the stairs by her long chestnut-colored hair. Then a piercing cry of a newly-born child and the thinly pursed lips of her disapproving step-mother. Another bastard, the old chatelaine had hissed under her breath. From one bastard to another... These fleeting images flowed one to another, out of sequence, with no beginning or end. Life is like time, a voice whispered to her echoing throughout the cavern. There are currents and crosscurrents. We may think there are beginnings, endings, and resolutions but in reality it ceaselessly flows onto itself.
         She began to float again lost amongst the stars, somewhere out between the pillars of creation. Weightless, ageless, sexless, something more than human. This was the true home and from where they had once come from. Her heart beat with the pulsing of the stars. Infinity was within her grasp. The immaculate darkness swam about her. If only she could stay here and from this place she would dream throughout the ages. She could bring them all home. She...
         “Esclarmonde...” a voice called out as if from a great distance.
         She fumbled towards consciousness as she recognized her name. Her head felt heavy from the concoction she had drunk earlier and her mouth was dry as she tried to swallow. Sinking further into the blankets, she was not yet ready to leave the dream. She wanted to find out more. If this was what was waiting for her on the other side than let her have it now. Gone was the strife and the violence which had afflicted her life and the war torn land which she loved. Stay, she thought to herself. Please stay... But the fragments were already fading like strands of a spider's web once it has been torn.
         “Esclarmonde...” the voice was louder and more insistent this time. “Awaken.”
         The blankets were thrown off of her as a cool rush of air enveloped her body. She opened her eyes in the darkness and she could have sworn she saw the shapes of other people crowding around her; curious shades who had become trapped between the worlds and had never found their way out. She reached out to one but as she did so her fingertips went right through them and she knew they weren't really there.
         A hand stroked her brow and gently lifted her head. “Steady yourself.”
         “I... I saw...” she managed to croak. Her throat felt like it was on fire.
         “Shhh... don't speak. There will be time enough later.”
         She grabbed the woman's hand so familiar with its network of veins and calluses. The woman's grip was surprisingly strong given her age and diminutive stature. Her aunt had been the closest thing she had ever had to a mother and she would know her touch anywhere.
         She sat up and she felt her hair heavy and matted fall down her back. A wave of sickness ran through her and her stomach lurched as the world turned upside down for a moment and then righted itself.
         “Take you time. Take it slowly.” Her aunt's voice has a quiet resonance that was both hypnotic and authoritative.
         An arm reached around her helping her up. She stood a good foot taller than her aunt as she leaned against her for balance. Her muscles ached and there was a stiffness throughout her which she was unaccustomed to. But the damp earth felt good beneath her bare feet as she took her first tentative steps.
         “Shake off the dream and ready yourself. It is time.”
         The older woman called out a command and the small boulder was moved away. The thinnest trickle of light came streaming through the narrow entrance.
         “Close you eyes and follow me.” Esclarmonde did as she was told as she blindly made her way out of the narrow entrance of the cave. She smelled the scent of pine mixed with the smell of laurel and the sunshine felt warm against her clammy skin. As she stood upright the pebbles gathered between her toes and she welcomed the sharp edges; the pain throwing her back in the waking world. She could also hear her aunt's sure and steady footfall come to a halt.
         “Awaken my child.” her aunt said.
         She opened her eyes. The brightness of the light hurt as she blinked against it. They were standing just below the citadel high on top of the mountain with the valleys spread out below them. Mountain peaks surrounded them like a jagged cradle. All were awash in a riot of colors and she watched as they sparkled and changed like the sun shining through pieces of moving stained glass. Giant trees were levelled into bare patches as glaciers pushed their way through leaving nothing but cut devastation in their wake. Under a gigantic full moon tiny fires emerged on the Thabor only to be quickly extinguished. The skies grew stormy and thunder raced across the heavens to strike into the castle above them. A howl began which grew into a wailing fevered pitch. Esclarmonde covered her ears with her hands as the sound became so loud it was painful. Then the noise stopped as the picture in front of her shattered like a broken window. A calmness enveloped the landscape as it took on a hazy golden glow. She could see the pulsing of the mountains as the grass and trees began to cover them once again. They beat in time to the rhythm of goddess whose name they only knew. She was the heartbeat of the land and she permeated its every aspect. The leaves rustled with her breath. The river rushed to do her bidding. The trees kept her secrets. All was one with her and she was one with all. And in this moment of breathless suspension, poised between the worlds, Esclarmonde understood who it was she was descended from. Belisama was not some figurine or some mythical deity talked about in hushed tones around a camp-fire or a darkened hallway. Belisama was the land itself. The interior and the exterior. She was the light and the dark, the sun and the moon, and all were one with her will.
         “There are places where the worlds touch.” Her aunt said quietly behind her. “Where the telluric currents cross and our ancestors still walk the land. There has been a temple on this mountain since time immemorial. Know this is your lineage and you are a part of her and will always be a part of her. Our reality in infinite and yet our destiny is tied to the land, her land, and it for this reason we must defend it, and her, at all costs. If we lose this connection then she will be lost to us forever.”
         Esclarmonde nodded her head. She understood now. All the vague rumors that the house of Belissen had descended from the goddess Belisama, or 'summer-bright' as she was known in the old tongue, were true. They were partly divine. They were her chosen. The ones she had decided to incarnate back into this world. How this had come to pass Esclarmonde did not know, but it was true.
         “It is a blessing and it is a curse to be her avatar, but that is what you are now. It is your birthright as it was mine.”
         The pulsing stopped as time seemed to right itself and her aunt grabbed her hand and started leading her down the narrow and rocky path. Her steps were disjointed and she felt a little unbalanced, but she experienced a quietness as she tried to process all she had seen and felt. It was like being born anew or being washed clean inside. She had always been the storm and now she felt like the first cool breath after it had passed. 
         Esclarmonde struggled to keep up with her aunt who, despite her advanced age, was as agile as a young girl. No wonder the Crusaders had nicknamed her 'the fox of Foix', she mused. No one could catch her and no one ever would. . The older woman's hair fell just below her waist in a thick braid and was a melee of different shades of silver gray as it swung back and forth with her quick descent. Her brisk steps never faltered. She was Esclarmonde the great – the high priestess of the Catharii.
         The older Esclarmonde stopped and turned. She stared deep into her niece's eyes, her dark honey colored eyes were unblinking as they looked right through the younger woman. Then she said, “My time is coming soon and I pass this gift to you. And may you live long enough to pass it to another of our line. But beware. Trouble is coming. The likes of which we have never seen before” She reached up to stroke the younger woman's cheek. “I saw what Bernard did to you. Beware of him as well. He wants you as a possession and he envies you. Never believe his promises. No matter what.”
         Esclarmonde d'Alion hung her head. She had never told anyone what transpired with her husband behind closed doors. The harsh words, the accusations mixed with the occasional blows. This was a private pain she had lived with for far too long and she didn't know what to say let alone what to feel about it.
         The older woman smiled at her sadly. “You are not the first, nor the last, nor is it your fault.”
         Esclarmonde bit back the tears. She would save those for later. After all she had seen, learned and experienced in the last twenty-four hours her husband Bernard, the lord of Usson, whom she'd been forced to marry a few years back, was the last thing she wanted to think about right now.
         “Never trust him, because when you need him the most he will betray you and he will hurt you worse than you ever thought possible.” her aunt warned. A crow flew by cawing loudly and her aunt watched it fly into the distance. “ Remember my words...” her voice trailed off.
         As they neared the bottom of the mountain Esclarmonde felt her breath catch in her throat . Maybe it had been the crow, or the way the clouds were gathering around the edges of the jagged peaks, but she knew beyond the shadow of a doubt this was the last time she would ever see her aunt alive.
         As if reading her mind her aunt answered. “I know. But remember what you have learned. I will be with you always even though our time is short now.” Her aunt paused and tilted her head, “Seems funny doesn't it after all of that?”
         Esclarmonde nodded her head as she didn't trust herself to speak. Funny wasn't the word she would have used. Sad, or ironic would have been more like it.
         Her aunt grabbed her face a pulled it close as she reached up and gently kissed her niece on the forehead. “You will never be alone and soon you will find what you have been searching for your whole life and when you find it, never let go of it. Allow him to keep you warm throughout the long nights and to give you hope in your darkest hour.”
        She kissed her aunt back on the cheek and reached out and gave her hand a squeeze as she prayed on the inside that her aunt's words would come true...

Copyright: Scarlett Amaris, 2015.

I'm stopping it there although there's quite a bit more which has been written now.You'll have to forgive me as it's a first draft and still pretty rough. But I'm happy to say the muse whispers once again and the words, and the dreams, whether waking or sleeping, have been flowing at full force.

Enjoy the turning of the seasons as the Our Lady of the Snow's first breath spreads across the land and tints the night air with a frosty glow. This is one of my favorite times of year and plans are being made for a Samhain celebration high atop the hidden Grail Castle. Spells will be cast, wishes will be made, and a celebration and re-dedication to the Goddess who has loved and protected us throughout the ages.

Much love from where the worlds touch,

S - xx


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Will summer never come?

It's been a crazy, busy summer here in the zone. Lots of projects, visiting friends and new adventures. But the funny thing is with the continuous gloomy and overcast weather it feels like summer never arrived. Not properly at least and it's already well into August. Besides the solstice, I don't think there's been one night clear and warm enough to spend in the castle. We did get a chance to soak in the hot springs of Rennes-les-Bains the other night under the stars. For once we had the whole place to ourselves which was a rare treat and the water was delicious. All the gray weather means its been a productive summer as well and I'm thrilled to announce that Melissa and I have finished the first draft of the next Saurimonde story. This one is a beast. It grew arms and legs and then started running full tilt. Reining the story in was no simple task and balancing all the characters and plot threads in my head made me question my sanity at times. Of course now we are at the story editing stage and there are some changes which need to be made. After that, fingers and toes crossed, it will be finished and ready to be put out into the world. That's the most terrifying moment. The moment when you decide enough is enough, it's as good as it's going to get. Normally, by this time you're so sick of the story there's a part of you which doesn't care anymore. Of course you would never admit this to anyone, but it's true. It's part of the process. Just like later on you will wish you had done certain things differently in the story. But for right now it's in a good place and I'm pretty pleased with the job we have done so far.

Thanks for your votes! This is the image that won and our next cover.
Next I'll be writing the erotic horror version of the Rennes-le-Chateau / Berenger Sauniere story. I know it will be controversial, but I am saying this now - it will be entirely a work of fiction very loosely based on historical fact. I have no agenda other than telling my own twisted reinterpretation of the story because I feel like it - and because it will be fun. The outline and the beginning already exist and I had the good fortune to spend some time in Rennes-le-Chateau the other day hanging out in Le Jardin de Marie and wrote pages of notes on the story. My timelines are always a bit vague as real life has a way of derailing my best laid plans but if I can get down to work then it should be done by the beginning of next year.

The August super moon is on its way. Unfortunately mother nature is not abiding by our plans and the skies are cloudy which means the moon will be occulted and the meteor shower non-existent. Perhaps it will change in a few hours and we can go and celebrate under her light.

Just a few shots to show life is not so terrible in the zone... but a little sunshine would be much appreciated...

Photos by Mars Homeworld
The road lies ever on...

Much love from where the worlds touch,

S - xx

Saturday, July 12, 2014

New cover artwork for Saurimonde II

Sooo... The new Saurimonde book is almost finished.Yes, I know I said the same thing in my last post and that it would be done by now.But guess what? It's not finished. The good thing is the story has grown beyond what we had first imagined and I'm rather happy, although a little daunted, by the scope it has taken. We didn't set out to write anything this complicated, but that's the way it goes sometimes. It doesn't help that the 'so-called real world' has been doing everything it can backwards, upwards, frontwards and sideways to try and sideline me. Technological gremlins abound. Continuous stormy skies hover on the horizon. Black snow in July. In my own delusional way I rationalize the book must be fairly decent for the wrath of Rex Mundi to be working at such a full throttle freak-out. Old Rex is an excellent teacher though, who keeps you sharp-eyed and on your toes, and once your done crying and picking yourself off the floor, you're forced to try even harder. No easy rides this time out. it seemed that way at first when we were able to write the first two-thirds of the book so quickly. Now it's a cold and wet July and the truly superstitious side of me wonders if there aren't repercussions for doing so many terrible things to so many of our characters. Yes, I know they are fictional characters, not sentient beings, set in a fictional universe, but still, some kind of psychological sympathetic magic voodoo whammy malarkey seems to be on the make. Maybe it's a case of subconscious self-sabotage, or quite possibly I'm just tired. I've been playing mental Jenga for too damn long now. As it will so mote it be. Let this book be born! I need my mind back.

In the meantime, Melissa, my co-writer, has been hard at work on designing the new covers. I have no graphic art skills whatsoever despite having attended a prestigious art school for a year-and-a-half, so I just throw in my two cents here and there.

So this is where we need your help. Any thoughts, ideas, likes, dislikes, suggestions, off-the-cuff musings of the images below would be very much appreciated. We are all ears! I should state that we haven't picked any one in particular and are still playing with the material. Your input at this point would be invaluable to us.

1. 

2.

3.

Thanks so much in advance for taking a look. That's it. I'm off to make my strange prayers to the moon even if she won't show her face tonight. Happy and blessed full moon to each and every one of you! 

Much love from where the worlds touch,

S - xx

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Joie de Vivre in Chalabres

So I've been lagging here again. It's weird how the creative cycles will take you by force and spin you around and around on high tumble dry, and then the so-called 'real world' will come crashing in and demand all of your time. There has to be a balance somewhere. I have yet to find that 'somewhere' but it doesn't stop me from trying.

I haven't been on the social media sites much as we're so close to finishing the next 'Saurimonde' book. Considering how quickly the first three-fourths was written I thought for certain it would be finished by now. But stories and characters are infamous for doing things in their own time and don't like to bother with such petty things as the mortal concept of deadlines. I've also just gotten out of a weekend creative conference with filmmaker, Norbert Keil and filmmaker and writer, Richard Stanley about an original supernatural, horror script which may be the next project on the table. Richard calls it "a saga of doomed love and pagan sorcery" and that description pretty much nails it on the nose.

The green stone labyrinth at Nebias. This is what a script meeting should always look like. (photo by Richard Stanley)
 There's also the outline for the erotic horror novel 'Demon Priest' which sits and stares sullenly at me from the desktop and says, "you promised to start me this summer and I've been waiting so patiently..."

The stunning village chateau in Chalabres, Yobaba Lounge
In the middle of May I took a few days off and changed hats for a while as was the historian / guide for a joie de vivre / wellness retreat at the spectacular 500-year-old chateau in Chalabres, Yobaba Lounge. I love this place more than I have words to describe. Besides feeling like you are in a Jean Rollin movie all of the time (think soft focus long shots of a stunning mansion and women in gauzy gowns holding candelabras), this place has a soft, subtle, and nurturing energy which is completely conducive to the creative process. It's obvious this house was built with love, and was restored with love, all of which still resonates within its walls. I think of it as sanctuary because it's a place which envelopes you from the rest of the world and keeps you safe.

This is exactly what you want to wake up to in the morning! 
What a pleasure it was to wake up in such beauty and start the day with some fresh pressed coffee and an hour and a half of hatha yoga with Mangalo Upasaka. Then, late breakfast/early lunch in the large walled-in secret garden in the sunshine.


All the food was raw and freshly prepared by the lovely hostess, owner, and all-around-goddess, Gertrud Mayer.

If you ever wondered what a Victorian brick orangerie looks like... well here you go!
Afternoons were spent traveling to nearby castles or natural labyrinths where I talked about the little known history and legends to my heart's content and then spent some time writing. Others of the group were sketching and some were soaking in the medieval atmosphere.

Getrud Mayers and self talking medieval chatelaines in the troubadour room at the castle of Puivert  (photo by Mangalo Upasaka)
Then it was back to the chateau for dinner and afterwards we gathered by the fire with blankets for a half hour to hour meditation session. One of my favorite nights was scorpion full moon. We decided to watch the sunset from nearby Lake Montbel and built a fire by the shore. It was one of those spectacular moments when the cosmic sun is setting and a blazing full moon in rising and we were caught in that perfect balance between the two. Once night fell and the moon rose overhead we decided to take a quick dip in the still chilly lake and then wrapped up in blankets and sat around the fire.
Self in thrall to the full moon in Scorpio. Lac Montbel  (photo by Mangalo Upasaka).
If you ever feel like treating yourself, or if you need to recharge your batteries, than Yobaba Lounge is the place for you. For more information about the upcoming joie de vivre retreats follow the link below:   www.yobabalounge.com

For now I'm back writing away in the mountains as the June gloom continues on. I'd like to get some of these projects wrapped up before full summer appears. There's too may adventures awaiting the sunshine to be shut indoors with the keyboard and I don't want to miss a single one. The new projected release date for 'Saurimonde II' is June 21st, on the solstice. And fingers crossed we'll have some new artwork to preview for the new 'Saurimonde' covers very soon.

Much love from where the worlds touch,
S- xx


Friday, April 4, 2014

Saurimonde II - Third Chapter!

       
         Saurimonde's heart pounded as she turned another corner. The forest was like a maze and crashing sounds were coming closer. She sprinted towards what looked to be a clearing. As she entered a human-sized raven unfolded its enormous wings. “Not this way,” it croaked at her. She backed away, stumbled, and then took off again. The branches whipped at her face and hair. All around she could hear voices chanting; the words were indistinct, but grew to a fever pitch. Out of the corner of her eye she caught glimpses of fires, and figures which moved around them. What could she do? The forest was tightening its grip on her and there was nowhere left to go. The crashing was coming closer. He was coming closer. The sound of her heart beat so loud now it throbbed in her ears.
         Bang. Bang. Bang. She opened her eyes, caught in the void between waking and sleep. Bang, bang, bang. Her heart still pounded and she was slightly sweaty, but that noise was not a dream. Groggily she looked towards the door.
         “Madame... Madame... Are you in there?”
         “Wait a minute.” she answered more to herself than anyone else. Slowly she lifted herself out of the bed. Her muscles ached in protest and her feet complained the minute she touched the floor.
         “Madame...?” The voice was more insistent.
         “Coming.” She wrapped a sheet haphazardly around herself, still too dazed to dress. As she walked over the bare floor it felt like she was walking over a bed of nails. She opened the door a crack as a moon-faced woman stared at her anxiously.
         “I'm so sorry to bother you. I know you just arrived home from nursing your sick relative and must be very tired, but there's a lady waiting for you downstairs. She says she must see you right away.” Saurimonde tried to process this as she stared at the woman's rounded face. Sick relative? Where had that come from? She wondered. Sweet goddess, the word got around fast that she was back. She couldn't have been asleep for very long. She certainly didn't feel rested. In fact she felt more tired than she had thought possible. “Did she give you her name?” she asked as she wondered if it could be Elazki. But that wasn't possible - was it?
         “It's Loreley, madame. The master's sister. She's come to see her daughter.”
         Oh this was bad, Saurimonde thought. She despised Gilles' sister on the best of days and her timing couldn't have been worse.
         “Tell her I'll be right down.”
         The woman gave a clumsy sort of curtsy and said, “Yes, madame.” Then she turned and fled back down the corridor.
         Saurimonde shut the door and then rubbed her eyes, yawning loudly. She stretched letting the sheet fall to the floor. Gingerly she walked over to the standing bureau and grabbed a dress. Any one would do just as long as it covered her. She slipped it on, luxuriating for a moment in the soft feel of the fabric and the way it hugged her skin. It was a good choice.
         There was no time for a bath, or to splash her face, so she did what she could in front of the mirror. Most of the dirt had wiped easily away and the low cut moss colored dress set off her tawny skin. She still looked haggard around the eyes. Gathering up her long hair, she fastened it haphazardly with a couple of combs, pulling out wisps here and there. It wasn't glamorous, but it was good enough. In her mind she rehearsed various different scenarios and her responses to them as she put on the last minute touches. The problem was she didn't know Loreley very well as she and Gilles had a complicated relationship and they rarely could stand to be in the same room together. She was haughty and ostentatious from what Saurimonde remembered, and beautiful in a coldly remote sort of way, but that was many years ago and time could be unkind. She'd never even met her niece. Well, not in this form anyway. Feeling a sudden pang of regret, she quickly pushed it aside. She didn't want to remember. Not now at least.
         Sighing heavily, she stared at her feet. There was no way she could get away with going barefoot. There had to be slippers somewhere. She found a pair hiding under the bed. The color wasn't right, but she didn't care as she couldn't keep Loreley waiting much longer without some sort of scene happening. Deep breaths, deep breaths, she told herself If she could just keep her thoughts focused it would be okay.
         Loreley looked around the cold, masculine room with its heavy tapestries and hunting trophies on the wall. Even though the curtains were drawn, hardly any light penetrated its depths. Her companion was busy running his hands over a suit of armor that stood in the corner.
         “This looks real.” He said, a look of awe in his dark almond eyes..
         “Yes, dear. It's real. It's been in the family for hundreds of years and technically it should be mine.” She didn't bother adding it was because she was the eldest sibling. He didn't need to know that. She ran a hand across her perfect, ginger-colored chignon. It was her trademark hairstyle, only now it had a few streaks of gray in the front. Poor Guihelm, she thought, as she stared at him. Not the brightest spark, but he was handsome to look at. If only he didn't fancy himself a poet. Not that there was anything wrong with poetry, but his was just so insipid and mechanical. The flowery nothings he espoused with an irritating air of faked romanticism. How the simpletons must have swooned at his feet wherever it was he came from. Some remote backwater in the mountains if she remembered correctly.
         “What do you think could be taking them so long?” he asked.
         “How can I know? It's the middle of the day,” she answered as if it were obvious. “My brother is a very busy man with a lot of important duties.”
         Saurimonde stood silently in the doorway. “Indeed, your brother is a very busy man and I'm so sorry that he isn't here right now.”
         They turned in unison at the sound of her voice. “I'm sorry to have kept you waiting,” she continued, “but I was very tired from a long journey last night... and well.” She gave them a little smile, tilting her head like a coquette. “I confess, I over slept.”
         Loreley glanced at her companion as his eyes roamed up and down the voluptuous body of her sister-in-law. The older woman plastered on a smile. “Saurimonde, my dear. How lovely to see you.” She almost kissed her sister-in-law on the cheek. Then she stood back, glancing a critical eye over her. “As lovely as always. Just like one of your paintings. But yes, you do look a little worse for the wear. It must have been a very difficult road.” The was a subtle emphasis on the last three words. “And this is my traveling companion, Guihelm. He's a poet. You do know how I love to patronize the arts.”
         Is there anything you don't patronize? Saurimonde thought to herself. Loreley's ingenue was indeed handsome. He was tall with dark, shoulder length hair, matching eyes, and high flat cheekbones and he had a foreign look which lent him an air of exoticism.
         “My dame,” he dropped to one knee as he kissed her hand with great ceremony. Never once did he take his eyes off of her.
         Loreley smiled harder to keep from rolling her eyes. She'd seen this same act everywhere they went. She didn't know why she didn't dump this dancing monkey at the circus where he belonged. There was no future with him. It was just that with Mariel here and her husband gone, she'd gotten a little lonely and Guilhelm provided a needed distraction. He wasn't smart enough to realize she was out of money, though. No one knew except her little girl and she'd come to see if Mariel was keeping up her end of the bargain in securing their future.
         “So where is my beloved brother? And not to mention my daughter,” asked Loreley expectantly as she tilted her head mimicking Saurimonde's earlier expression.
         “Please have a seat.” Saurimonde motioned graciously at a couple of over-stuffed leather chairs. “That's what I wanted to talk to you about.” Saurimonde sat down opposite to Lorelei. She leaned forward, placed both hands on her chin and said, “Mariel has gotten herself into a little trouble and Gilles had to go and fetch her.” Her eyes dropped and her lashes fluttered. “Well, actually he has to find her first.”
         “Trouble? Find her?” Loreley's voice raised a couple of octaves. “What kind of trouble?” she demanded. “Is she all right?”
         “She's fine.” Saurimonde reassured her. “It's just, you know how girls at her age are. I don't know how to tell you this... but she's run away with a boy.”
         “What?!”the older woman screeched. “Well, I never...” She glanced over at her companion who raised his eyebrows, not knowing how to react.
         “I know. Gilles will handle it. Don't worry,” Saurimonde responded.
         Two bright spots appeared on Loreley's cheeks as her eyes quickly darted back and forth. Damn that girl, she thought, I will hide her black and blue. But at least Gilles was going to save her. It would give him the chance to play hero and he would like that. And Mariel would be forced to behave. “I'm certain he will.” She said stiffly. “Well, we'll just have to wait for them then, won't we? I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem.”
         Saurimonde cursed inwardly, but her expression never wavered. “Of course,” she heard herself say as if from far away, “it would be no problem at all.”
         “Madame,” said the moon-faced servant nervously as she hovered at the door. “You have another visitor. I tried to tell him you were busy”
         Old Thome didn't wait for an introduction as he ducked his burly frame beneath the doorway. His face was tanned from the sun and he smelled of fresh earth and his long, graying beard made him look like a giant billy goat. “Saurimonde, so good to see you back. I'm...” He stopped as he noticed the others. His blue eyes widened as he took in the older woman. “Loreley?”
         She shifted in her seat and patted her hair before she answered, “Hello, Thome.”
         His weathered face grew softer as he gazed at her. “It's been almost 20 years.”
         “It hasn't been that long. Besides, I was just a child the last time I saw you.” She laughed nervously. “A mere child.”
         “You were?” Old Thome questioned, his confusion evident in his voice.
         “Of course I was.” Loreley twittered again. She reached over and possessively stroked Guilhelm's hand and said to him. “Thome was like an older brother to me when I grew up here.”
         “Older brother. But we were...”
         She cut him off. “How is your dear family?”
         His expression darkened. “Bad. Very bad. My oldest boy has gone missing for a few days now and there hasn't been any sign of him. Gilles said he might have run off with a sweetheart.”
         Loreley gasped, clasping one hand theatrically to her throat as she started to quickly fan herself with the other. Then she leaned her head on Guilhelm's shoulder as if she needed corporeal support to hold herself up.
         Exhausted as she was, Saurimonde saw the opportunity and she took it. “Oh Thome,” she said, “Loreley's daughter has gone missing too, and Gilles said the exact same thing. He's gone looking for her. Do you suppose...?” She let the question hang.
         Old Thome shook his big head while frowning. “I saw Master Gilles the other night. He was the one who told me my boy had found a girl, but he didn't say anything about his niece.” His bearish brows knitted together and he asked, “When did she arrive?”
         Outside there was the clatter of hooves on the cobblestones and a man's voice could be heard shouting. Loreley got up quickly. “Hopefully that's Gilles, and we'll get this mess straightened out.” Guilhelm followed her. Old Thome and Saurimonde stood behind them as they peered out the window into the courtyard below. Gilles' normally docile gelding was making a fuss as Sordel, stripped to the waist, tried to quiet him down. He held the reins with both hands and stood his ground as the horse kicked out over and over again, scrambling on the uneven footing. Sordel was sweating and his lithe muscles gleamed in the sunlight.
         No, no, no, thought Saurimonde, this is a mess. But there was no way she could explain the truth. How could she tell them she'd killed their children? That she hadn't meant to because it hadn't really been her and she had been a monster. Something unnatural and they could still be in terrible danger. There was a chance they wouldn't believe her. They might think her insane. She'd be branded a murderess even if there was no proof. Her thoughts raced as she began to panic. It was time to end this charade before it went any further. She didn't know why she had thought she could pull it off. It was survival instinct and, really, she hadn't known what else to do.
         Noticing her distress, Old Thome gently placed a hand on her shoulder. “Don't worry. It's just Sordel. Maybe he'll have some news.”
         She flinched under his touch. “I know, but...” She swallowed her confession. She couldn't tell them. “That's Gilles' horse and I don't see any sign of him.” The hollow words echoed in her ears as she hung her head in shame. “I don't deserve this.” She looked up at them with tears in her eyes.
         Loreley stood glaring at her. “What is the matter with you? This is no time for tears. You don't see us crying do you? We must go and see what has happened right now!” With an authoritative flounce, she grabbed Guilhelm and elbowed her way past Thome and Saurimonde. She stopped at the door and turned. “Well, are you coming? Let's go.”
         Saurimonde took a half step forward as Thome hovered protectively beside her. She felt sick and ashamed and she wasn't sure she could handle any more.
         “Don't worry about Loreley,” Thome said quietly.”Her bark is much worse than her bite. And a very sweet bite she has. Believe me, I know.” Then he gave her a knowing wink and she felt herself smiling back at him. That she hadn't expected at all.


And that's it for now. Thanks so much for reading! Oh yeah, if you get a chance please visit my new website Fiat Lux - First Light 'Legends of the Languedoc' at www.fiatluxfirstlight.com

Much love from where the world's touch,

S - xx


Chapter Two from the upcoming Saurimonde sequel!!


         Saurimonde jerked the cloak back into place after it had slipped over one shoulder. Her dress was disintegrating before her eyes and Elazki's frock she had borrowed barely fell below her knees. Ahead of her was the garden full of hollyhocks and she could hear the thrum of the bees as the day began to warm. She skirted the edge as she didn't want to look too closely. This was something else she would have to sort out and there were so many messes and mistakes, she didn't know where to begin. She prayed no one would see her arriving back to the manor house. She must look like a beggar woman and prying eyes and wagging tongues were the last thing she needed right now.
         There had been no way to cover her feet so she had to pick her path carefully. It was slow going, but the stables were within shouting distance. She knew this place so well. This had been her home. It still was her home, but it felt unfamiliar, like it was part of a life lived long ago.
         She tiptoed quietly into the stables and listened carefully. All she heard was the restless shuffling of the horses waiting for their morning feed. Good, she thought, luck was with her. The stables were cool and damp and she could barely see in the tack room as she fumbled slightly, but she knew where Gilles' saddle and bridle were as they sat in perfect condition. He'd always insisted on the best and he'd always gotten his way. Well, almost always. She wasn't sorry she'd killed Gilles, as far as he was concerned she felt nothing at all, except the overwhelming need to erase all trace of his existence. It wasn't rational, she knew this, it was reaction to all the events which had befallen her. All because of Gilles and his need to destroy everything around him. At least he couldn't hurt anyone any more.
         Still cursing about her lack of footwear, she saddled up Gilles' black gelding. The poor beast had been so beaten into submission, he barely moved a muscle as she tightened the girth. Hopefully his next owner would be kinder. She led him out the back, tied the reins in a loose knot and hooked them through one of the buckles in the front of the saddle so he couldn't get tangled in them. Then she let him go. He stood still for a moment unsure what to do so she grabbed the nearest whip and gave him a harsh whack across the hocks. It was all the motivation he needed as he took off for the trees. She felt a little bad about it, but desperate measures called for desperate means. If her luck continued then someone would find the horse sans rider in a few hours. Then there would be a search party to go look for their master, thinking he had fallen off. After they didn't find him the rumors would start about the men in the forest who had been attacking people for money. Maybe they had been stupid enough to abduct Gilles. Maybe they'd gotten in a lucky punch or stab wound. Maybe Gilles was dead... It could all work so perfectly, she thought. She froze as she heard someone whistling a tune not so far away. Damn, and double damn, she inwardly swore.
         She backtracked a little to give herself some time and to make it look like she was coming in from a morning stroll. She smoothed down her hair and put on her most regal air. And then she strode forward to face the inevitable full of false confidence.
         A boy of about ten with carrot colored hair and a smattering of freckles across his nose was putting together the meat for the pack of mastiffs Gilles had bred and raised as his hunting dogs. She didn't recognize the child and at closer inspection with the red hair she wondered if he was Gilles' offspring as well. The man had certainly been busy populating the countryside. Thank the goddess he had never gotten her pregnant. It wasn't that she didn't love children, but her skin crawled at the thought of it. Then she noticed Lucifer, her late husband's pride and joy, lying sulkily in a corner away from the rest of his pack who were busy making a racket as they waited impatiently for their breakfast. His sullen, golden eyes caught hers as if conveying some hidden message. An older man walked up to the boy and grabbed the haunches of fresh kill from him. His pinched face was redder than his hair and his hands shook a little. She knew who he was, one of Gilles' lackeys, and by the look of it, more than a little hungover. She decided to make the first move to catch him off guard.
         “Why is Lucifer separated from the other dogs?” Her voice rang out sharp as a blade. Even she was taken aback by the harshness of it. 
         The man jumped as if he'd seen a ghost. “Madame...” He stuttered, “No one told me you were back. How...?”
         “I came back early this morning,” she answered in a haughty manner. “You haven't answered my question. Why is Lucifer separated from the others?” She could see him sizing up her unkempt attire so she stared him straight in the eye, until his gaze hit the ground.
         “The master told me to... I...”
         She didn't let him finish. “Put him back.”
         “But the master... The dog savaged him – and he...” He stopped.
         “Gilles is not here. I saw him this morning as I was arriving.” She continued to lie smoothly. “He went to fetch his niece. Seems she's run away and gotten herself into some trouble. I don't have to tell you that Gilles would want you to keep this quiet.” She arched an eyebrow.
         “No surprise there, madame. A bit of a wildcat she is. You don't have to worry about us.” He pointed to his son who was busy taunting a beetle with a stick. “We won't say nothing to no one.”
         Yeah, right, she thought as she gave him a tight smile. “Good. Then do as I say and put Lucifer back. I'll deal with Gilles.” She gave a little imperial wave towards the pens as she started up the drive towards the house.
         “Yes, madame...” he called out after her.
         She walked as calmly as possible, but inside she was quaking. What was wrong with her? She'd never taken that kind of tone with the servants before. She had spent most of her life here trying to be invisible. All of the hired help were Gilles bought and sold. But Gilles was gone and he was never coming back. For a moment she felt like skipping. She felt like a warm wind after the rain. She felt... That would never do. First she had to play distraught wife and then, hopefully, grieving widow. She giggled softly to herself. It was quite mad, but things were going to be very different.
         She made it up the backstairs and to her room unseen by any of the house staff. She desperately needed a bath, but that would mean asking one of the servants and she wanted to delay the inevitable a little longer. Her sanctuary looked untouched as she basked in its heavy wood and jewel tones, but something was missing. She looked around as she tried to figure out what. Her carved, oval mirror was missing. Why that of all things? She wondered. It was not exactly an easy piece to move. Maybe Gilles smashed it, she thought, as she poked into one of the upright cabinets finding nothing. Some of her clothes were gone, but she had expected that.
         As she looked around, she noticed the door on the far side was slightly ajar. Possibly someone had put her mirror in the other room? But that room was never used for anything other than the guests they'd never had. She opened the door cautiously and sucked in her breath - every shade of pink imaginable was vomited all over. It was a sickly monstrosity mixed with the definite odor of dog shit. She felt faintly nauseous as she took it in. This must have been Mariel's room, she thought as somewhere at the back of her mind the briefest flash of a salmon colored dress appeared. Why had Gilles let her do such a thing? Tentatively, she walked across the carpet spotting her mirror propped up by the bed. Had Gilles given it to his niece? she wondered. It certainly didn't fit in this confectioner's nightmare. Then she noticed the piles of frilly expensive lingerie sitting on the bed. Had Gilles given her those as well? It seemed so tacky. The girl could not have been barely more than a child. Spying a slip of paper that was sticking out of the wall, she walked across to take a closer look. She tugged at it and noticed the perfect round peep hole. Her late husband had been a man of many devious appetites and peeping was high on the list of them. She shouldn't be surprised, but Mariel was his niece – a close blood relative. She peered at the slip of paper. It was a receipt for the lingerie and the amount paid was staggering. Gilles had indeed signed for it. Pervert, she thought as she threw it down in disgust.
         She stared at the mirror, hands on hips. It would be heavy to move, but she had to take it back. Lifting it up, she grimaced as she heard what was left of her frayed dress rip down the side. That was definitely the end of it. The mirror was heavier than she had guessed as she awkwardly rolled it across the carpet and maneuvered it through the door. It was louder too. Great. No doubt one of the servants would be up soon to investigate, she thought. Her dress ripped further with every effort until there wasn't much left covering her. Breathing heavily, she managed to lift and edge the mirror back into place just over the low-seated vanity. She stared at her reflection. She was a mess. How long had it been since she sat there examining the bruises Gilles had left around her throat? she asked herself. The memory had faded like all bad memories did with her and she wanted to hold onto that one. She wanted to remember that day clearly, and exactly how beaten down and afraid she had felt. Picking up the golden comb she struggled with the tangled mess of her hair until it shone like the sun and fell smoothly down her back in waves. She was still covered with grit, but it was a start. She smiled at her reflection. One step at a time and things would get better. She would deal with the servants. Then, she would deal with Sordel. And after that she couldn't plan any further. But first, she sat on the edge of her bed and peeled off the remnants of her frock. She was going to close her eyes for a few minutes to gather back her strength. She grabbed the pillow nearest to her, pulling it close and hugging it like as person as she snuggled into the blankets. Then, blessed nothingness.

And that is chapter two. Thanks so much for reading! We decided to post the first three chapters to give a little taste of the second book. It's a bit of a slow burn at the start, but when things start to go magically wrong it all explodes into mayhem with demons galore. I hope you'll enjoy it!

Much love from where the world's touch.

S - xx