Addiction & Pestilence Book 1 of the Slaying Dragons: A Journey Through Hell Series By Edmond Kelly

ADDICTION & PESTILENCE, Book 1 of the Slaying Dragons: A Journey Through Hell Series by Edmond Kelly is a well-told, top notch dystopian novel with an original twist.  As the story opens the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have arrived on Earth and the White Horseman turns loose a devastating plague, the likes of which humanity has never seen, that runs rampant killing people by the millions, then by the billions.

The protagonist, Drew Murphy, is an EMT, former marine and a raging alcoholic. He is extremely realistic and easy to relate to, as is the entire supporting cast, even if a good many of them are addicted to one thing or another. After all, truth be told, most of us today are addicted to something, though many of our addictions are not so innocuous (i.e.: coffee, tea, sweets, chocolate, the high from certain physical activities, etc.), as those in this tale.

The plot is chilling, intense, brilliant, and moves along at a rapid pace, but is quite easy to follow and comprehend. I found this book nearly impossible to put down in spite of my current busy schedule. I don’t do spoilers, but I will say that this book ends with a cliff-hanger and I am incredibly anxious for Mr. Kelly to release the next book in this series so I can find out what happens.

I highly recommend Addiction & Pestilence to fans of this genre, or anyone who enjoys an exceptionally good book.

Who are the Fairies?

 

 

 

Fairies, Homo sapiens viridihirsutensis R., who appear inThe_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Burgeoning, The Reaper WitchDoom and Wham! are a race of humans indigenous to the primeval oak forests of Fairy Valley and to the lands which become the Chokewoods under Razzorbauch’s enchantment. They are characterized by alabaster-white skin, eyes with emerald green irises, pointed ears and brilliant green The Reaper Witch 01 copyhair that has metallic iridescence in sunlight and which develops bright yellow streaks with advancing age, much as the hair of other races turns grey or white. They are, like their Elven cousins, highly intuitive and predisposed to magical abilities. However, their attunement with their surroundings far exceeds that of the Elves and has become a specialized involvement with the green world, particularly with oak trees. Barring accidents, they are immortal.

 

mud-maid-main_1

 

 

News of Daniel and Ariel’s Birth Arrives by Elven Message Globe

 

Minuet looked up with a start from her knitting as Hebraun burst into their parlor with a small globe and a huge grin. He held out the tiny orb.

“Here! Talk to it,” he said, parking it in her outstretched palm. “Ask it to play your Scan10075message.”

Minuet hesitated, having not actually seen such a thing before. “Please deliver your message,” she said.

The ball lit from within and directly Lukus appeared with a huge grin. “Congratulations,” he declared. “You are the grandparents of a fine healthy grandson. Soraya and I have named him Daniel. You are also the very fortunate grandparents of the most beautiful baby girl that has ever been born. We have named her Ariel.” He stepped aside for them to see Soraya sitting up in bed, radiantly holding forth first one baby then the other so they could have a good look. Lukus stepped back into view. “Grandfather and Rose will be home before long. They’ve much news to bring you. Soraya and I will not be returning to Niarg for a bit yet. We’ll let you know when we do. In the meantime, I’ll say that you have yet another happy surprise coming, though I’m not at liberty to tell you what it is. We love 84526848you and miss you. And you must set down this globe so that it can fly back to King Neron. Goodbye.” The image in the globe vanished. Its glow faded out and Minuet set it down, still astonished by it, as it rose and flew like a shot out the window.

“Twins Hebraun! A boy and a girl!”

Hebraun smiled and put his arm around her. “Guess you’ll be needing both the pink and the blue layettes after all, dearest.”

“Of course,” she said as she spun ’round to look up into his face. “What do you reckon Lukus meant by, ‘at least one more happy surprise?'”

“Can’t imagine,” said Hebraun. “But at least it’s going to be pleasant, and we can use all the joy we can rake in. I think it may be a good long time before we have much more.”

“I know,” she said. “We’ve got bad times ahead.”

“We knew this was coming,” he said, squeezing her hand.

“Yes, but I kept hoping that somehow the Elves were wrong, for once.”

“I’d hoped it, too,” said Hebraun, hugging her as they stood at the window, gazing into the starlit night as the newborn hope for their world slept in their mother’s arms across the miles in the Jutwoods.

Ch 30, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Teeuh the Winged Fairy Hatches

143881854.mDiqyn6G.LunaMothCocoon2.5

 

 

Celeste scooped her up and set out for Longbark. Alvita and Nacea were already there with two great baskets of silk. Before long, Nastea the Damned Baby was hanging fromCeleste one of Longbark’s great limbs in a snug cocoon covered over with leaves. And so began the long communion between the oldest and wisest magical tree and the three most powerful mother Fairies alive. After seven days and seven nights they went to their beds.
There was nothing more for to done. The unmaking of Nasteuh had begun.

Ch. 28, The Reaper Witch

The Reaper Witch 01 copy

 

 

 

 

 

Snow melted, trickling everywhere in the bright February sun. Far above, a raven 2140060120_5b3e9e0159croaked. Jays and chickadees called. Bound to one of Longbark’s great branches, a leafy cocoon larger than any hornet’s nest began having twitches. Soon, it was rocking from side to side as a lime green split suddenly ran down its side. A pair of titmice flit away to a nearby tree, as a young woman pushed out of the cocoon like a wad of wet lettuce.

She climbed onto the outside and held fast throughout the afternoon as her wings unfolded and her thigh length cascades of dark green hair dried and fell free to stir in the hushed air. As the sun westered to the far rim of the crater, her great luna moth wings now felt flat and firm and she opened her emerald eyes and bb62e7a28ba656264ee9d6b85c970b01_edited-1slipped to the ground.

Celeste, Nacea, Alvita and Rodon were sitting at the board having salsify soup when she appeared. Celeste looked up with a gasp at the only winged Fairy she had ever seen and dropped her spoon into her soup. “A!” chorused everyone, “the Dampned Babi!”

The gorgeous Fairy held out her arms. “Mamas,” she said with her smile of wee shark teeth.

Ch. 31, The Reaper Witch

The Reaper Witch 01 copy

***

Teeuh is a character from our Heart of the Staff, epic fantasy series, which takes place in medieval times. Since fairies are eternal beings, this is no problem. Wham! is set in the same fictional world the Heart of the Staff series inhabited, albeit in the 21st century. The above excerpt was taken from The Reaper Witch, Book 5, Heart of the Staff series.

In Wham! Teeuh travels the fairy paths with Daniel, the young elf wizard, to take Tess Greenwood back into the past at the request of her grandfather, Meri Greenwood. Teeuh and Daniel both become major supporting characters from this time onward, and aid Tess in her quest to save the future of her world.

 

 

 

 

WHAM! Personality Profile: Mistress Samantha Bodine (Sam)

(Mistress) Samantha Bodin

“Sam”

Age 34

5’8”

124 lbs

Amber Eyes

Blonde Hair

 

Samantha Bodine is the Mistress (or Madam, to put it less delicately) for the girls chosen to service the elite leaders of the World Alliance at the secret undersea capitol of Atlantis. She originally arrived in Atlantis as one of the chosen, but decided to remain and become a Mistress in hopes of helping the girls who were chosen to avoid the pitfalls, and actually survive their 5 year service. Many did not, and Sam wanted to change that. When first meeting a new girl Sam was cool and professional, perhaps even brutal, but she believed each one must completely understand the brutal reality of her new life in Atlantis. Later, as she and her new charges get to know each other she lets them see her softer side and they discover she is their strongest supporter and staunchest ally. And in the case of Nia Greenwood and Jill Macintyre, Sam becomes their dear and trusted friend.

 

Excerpt from WHAM! :

“So, awake at last!” the shapely thirty-something blonde said, as she glided into the room like a model moving down a runway. “I am Mistress Bodine, but you may call me Sam. That is short for Samantha, of course.”

Nia blinked and tried to sit up on the bed she had recently awoken to discover herself lying in, though she had no memory of how she had come to be there. “An accident or sudden illness?” she wondered as she tried to focus on the older woman’s face. She tried once more to sit up, but discovered she was restrained. A stab of fear ran through her as she turned her panicked eyes to gaze around the room. She noted the pair of guards at the door and her heartrate increased enough that the monitor they had her attached to began to beep. She swung her head back to stare at the blonde woman. “What is this place, and why am I here in these restraints?” she asked, her voice trembling with fear and anger.

“Why, you’re in the Capitol, Nia, don’t you remember being chosen for this honor?” Mistress Bodine said as she reached over and reset the monitor so it ran quietly once more.

“The Capitol!” Nia repeated her alarm growing as she struggled uselessly once more against her restraints. “Chosen!” she spat, her lip curling…is that what you people call it when you abduct someone against their will to become a girl toy to the monsters now running the world?”

“I’m glad to see you have some spirit, Nia, but I warn you…never again say anything derogatory about those who run our world government if your life has any value to you. Cooperation and compliance will serve you well here and guarantee that when your short five-year service has ended you will be allowed a most comfortable retirement in the country of your choice. You can even pursue another career at that time, or if you wish, you can marry and have a family.” Mistress Bodine smiled and studied Nia intently making the younger woman feel like a fish in an aquarium. “There is no other vocation in the entire unified world that offers these benefits. Now do you understand why you are called chosen?”

“You people are really incredible!” Nia said. “You almost act as if you truly believe girls have any choice in the matter.”

“Well of course you have a choice,” Mistress Bodine replied with a benign smile. “You can fulfill your service to your government like a good and loyal world citizen, or you can refuse and be executed as a traitor. Her smile widened. “So, now that you understand the terms of your service what do you say I release you from your restraints and I’ll show you around?” Without waiting for an answer, she continued, “ And then after a nice meal somewhere, someone will take you to your quarters and you can get a nice hot bath and some sleep.” she added as she began undo Nia’s restraints.

“Wait,” Nia said. “What makes you think I’ll choose to comply with your terms of service rather than execution?”

Mistress Bodine sighed and sat back to look directly into Nia’s face. “I have been mistress here for twelve years, Nia, and in all that time not a single young lady has chosen execution. Now…I’ll grant you that a fair number of them agreed to service with the idea in their heads to escape at the first opportunity, but they choose service over death initially.”

Nia frowned. “What do you mean…initially?”

Mistress Bodine resumed unfastening Nia’s restraints as she replied, “there is no escape from service in the capitol other than retirement or death, Nia. Remember that. Those who forgot that, paid the price.” She sat back and smiled blandly at Nia once more. “There, you’re free. I advise you to get up slowly. You’ve been unconscious for a while and may suffer a bit of vertigo at first.”

“Unconscious?” Nia said with and eye roll. “You mean drugged, don’t you?”

Bodine shrugged her slender shoulders indifferently. “What does it matter, you’ve been out of it. Now, up you go. Let’s get on with things…I have other things to do today.”

 

Excerpt from WHAM! :

“So why did you come?” said Nia, now that the room was quiet.

“I had every intention of coming ’round to see how you’d managed,” said Sam, “though I’d have waited until tomorrow so you’d have had time to rest and sort out all this that you’ve just been through.”

“So what came up?”

“Well your watcher contacted me, so I came right over to make certain you didn’t do anything foolish.”

“My watcher? In the skinny?”

“Yes…”

“I did think he was kind of an ass,” said Nia. “What exactly did he tell you?”

Sam’s eyebrows went up. “He thought you were contemplating suicide, Nia,” she said. “Was he correct?”

Nia looked away for a moment. “Even if it’s true that we’re retired from this, this service after five years and allowed to live out the rest of our lives as we choose, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “How could it? Everything’s been ruined. It certainly has been for me. After what happened to me last night, I’ll never be the same again. I can’t possibly pick up where I left off with my life and marry and raise a family. I’d be better off dead. And I wish I were!”

“Hush!” said Sam with a stern nod at the door, though her face softened the moment she turned to Nia and the sight of her made her think of a beautiful broken doll. “Nia. I do understand. I went through that very thing myself, years ago.”

WHAM! Character Profile: Jill Macintyre

 

Jill Macintyre

Age 19

5’

94lbs

Brown eyes

Red hair

 

Jill Macintyre is a young woman of Beak descent from what was once the Kingdom of Marr, captured by Children and Family Assistance and sent to Atlantis to be a sex slave for the World Alliance. She is a major supporting character and good friend to Nia Greenwood, one of the main characters, and the eldest sister in the Greenwood family.

Beaks are a diminutive people making up the Kingdom of Marr in medieval times, (Heart of the Staff series) who spoke Goblish-Beakish and had scarcely joined the Iron Age. They decorated themselves extensively with blue tattoos which they preferred to enhance with blue woad stain rather than to cover with clothes. They built wooden stockade style castles atop great mounds and made a life of raiding and plundering their neighbors as well as farming. The Kingdom of Marr made up of an extensive region of fens called Beakmore or the Beakmoor, that were known as the Gobbler Marshes (Marshmallow Marshes) during the Peppermint Forest days, which surround a raised pastoral part of the Kingdom known as Caistealbeak, which includes the village of Caistealbeak which surrounds the Beak Castle, known as Caisteal-Beak. Modern day Beaks still favor tattoos, but most speak Modern Niarg speech and dress in the current fashion.

 

***

Excerpt from Wham!

“I’m starting to worry about Jill,” said Nia as she swallowed her last bite. “Should we have the waitress fetch a skinny?”

“She’s right behind you,” said Sam.

“Sorry I’m late,” said Jill, taking a chair. “What’s good?”

“My hamburger and onion rings were wonderful,” said Nia as she poured herself another tea.

“You’re all right?” said Sam as she wiped her mouth and parked her napkin under her plate so that the breeze wouldn’t take it.

Jill rolled her eyes and nodded.

“Well the only problem with your being late is that I have an appointment in twenty minutes,” said Sam as she rose to leave. “I don’t mean to be rude. Now you’re sure you’re all right? And Nia, I’ll be back at your flat in plenty of time for supper.”

“I’ll be there,” said Nia as Sam picked up her bag and stepped between the benches onto the promenade.

“There was something about that which sounded like she’s staying with you,” said Jill.

“Long story,” said Nia. But yeh. Kind of. She came to see how I’d managed after my first assignment, but there’s more to it.”

“Merciment! I forgot about that. Are you all right? Was he really awful?”

” Here came the waitress to take Jill’s order. Nia turned aside and blinked to keep from having tears. “I’ll live,” she said as the waitress left. “But I’m not yet up to talking about it.”

“No problem,” said Jill as she put ketchup and mustard on her hamburger and took a bite. She gave Nia a thumbs up sign as she chewed. “Wow! This hamburger doesn’t taste one bit like old rotten butcher shop filth.” She nodded at Nia’s bag. “Is that a book?”

“You’re asking? You’ve not seen one before?”

“I knew what it was. That’s just the first one I’ve ever seen. Could I look at it when I’m done eating?”

“Sure. But I thought you were taking a reading class.”

“I am. But the teacher has a sublim board. We haven’t got to actual books yet.”

“And you never saw a book back home, either?”

“Never.”

“So what kept you?”

Jill rolled her eyes as she swallowed. “I had an assignment this morning,” she said. “Vile old hog of a banker. He could’ve been my granddaddy. He had a big round belly. I swear! Had to ‘ave been years since he could see his toes or his wee tassel when he stood. But at least I’ll not have to put up with the likes of him again. No one will.”

“What are you saying?” gasped Nia. “Did something happen to him? You didn’t do anything to him, did you?”

“Not the way it turned out. He spared everyone with his heart failure. I think that when he woke up from his nap tied to the bed and saw me in his kitchen cutlery, he couldn’t manage. Really. A man in his shape shouldn’t ‘ave been forcing his awful diddling and bruises on people.”

ALL ABOUT THE #RRBC SPONSORS BLOG HOP! Today Featuring Susanne Leist, Author of THE DEAD GAME

Welcome to the first ever ALL ABOUT THE SPONSORS BLOG HOP!  These kind members of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB (RRBC) donated their support during the 2017 conference, in the way of gift card and Kindle e-book donations for our Gift Basket Raffle. They supported us and now we are showing our support of them by pushing their book(s).  
 
We ask that you pick up a copy of the title listed and after reading it, leave a review.  There are several books on tour today, so please visit the HOP’S main page to follow along.  
 
Also, for every comment that you leave along this tour, including on the HOP’S main page, your name will be entered into a drawing for an Amazon gift card to be awarded at the end of the tour!
Blurb: 
Book 1 in Series
Linda Bennett leaves New York for the slower-paced lifestyle of Oasis, Florida. She opens a bookstore and makes new friends. Life is simple that is until the dead body washes up onshore. She is horrified to learn that dead bodies and disappearing tourists are typical for this small town. Rumors abound of secret parties held by the original residents in their secluded mansions. Once night falls, the tourist-friendly community becomes a haven for evil and dark shadows. However, this is only the beginning.
Linda and her group receive an unsigned invitation to a party at End House, the deserted house in the forest behind the town, a mansion with a violent history. They are pursued through revolving rooms and dangerous traps, barely escaping with their lives, leaving two of their friends trapped inside.
It is up to Linda and her friends to search out The Dead and find the evil one controlling their once peaceful community. Can they trust the Sheriff and his best friend, Todd?
THE DEAD GAME has begun.
This blog hop sponsored by:  4WillsPublishing

My Review for AHNN by T.E. Mark

Blurb

In the early 21st century, in an effort to increase human productivity, science granted mankind wearable AI headsets.

By 2016, these early versions were cast aside and replaced with more reliable, Nano-sized, implantable devices tuned to human thought.

Infants received their implants at birth. Total human connectivity was achieved in March of 2201.

Governments, militaries and schools were abolished, and the world was handed over to a network of intelligent computers called AHNN.

Now in the 31st century, or 9th, depending on who you talk to, AHNN has pretty much had it with running the world and has decided to give it back.

This is AHNN’s story.

 

My Review of AHNN by T.E. Mark

Imagination or vision? I couldn’t help but ponder this question while reading this multi-layered tale. In this scifi/dystopian novel the entire world has been transformed and is ruled by a vast A.I. (artificial intelligence) known as AHNN. This plot at first glance might appear to be just another tale on a familiar theme, but AHNN deviates from the norm almost instantly.

AHNN is a clever, highly imaginative, and well-written original story with a god deal of humor. The plot flows smoothly and quickly, and the characters are as diverse as they are interesting. For these things alone, AHNN is worth a read. Though personally, I feel it would be a shame to dismiss this book as mere entertainment, and not give it some deep thought. On close inspection the story reveals a world with technology and social issues reminiscent of our own, such as A.I.’s taking over jobs that were previously filled by human workers, racial discrimination, and unrest due to border and immigration disputes, to name but a few. Does this suggest we are on the verge of becoming a dystopian society, or have we already taken the first initial steps to that end?

In AHNN, the all-powerful A.I. resolves all the issues which face the population under its rule. The irony is that once the people become totally reliant on AHNN and the new technology which runs their world, they lose all the things which make them unique, and well, human. Meanwhile, AHNN, the great technological guide and deity in orbit above the earth, appears to gain at least the rudiments (if not more) of humanity itself, when it realizes that all its efforts to improve his people’s lives have not yielded quite the results it envisioned

I believe that the way the book ends is a warning about human complacency, and the fact that down through the ages humankind has never been able to fully resolve its in-group, out-group issues satisfactorily. Instead, we seem to resort to the same old tactics and behaviors we always have used in the past, even though our knowledge and technology continues to increase. It appears that our advanced knowledge and technology only serve to make us more dangerous, and vulnerable, and ultimately the probable facilitators of our own eventual demise. Or could it simply be that the only way humankind will actually grow and thrive is on chaos and conflict?

I highly recommend this brilliant scifi/dystopian tale to all who enjoy this genre, and especially to all who want a book that makes them think.

 

Minuet Tells Rose to Let Her Heart Decide

Rose and Lukus had been home less than a week, when a page knocked on her door and announced the arrival of Prince James. Rose’s heart fell at this. “I shall meet him directly, in the second drawing room off the dining hall,” she said with a quiver to her voice that she didn’t expect.

“Very good, Your Highness,” said the page. “I shall convey this at once.”

Just as she was about to go out the door, Minuet arrived with an encouraging smile. “Rose, your Father and I have discussed your marriage at length since your return. We’ve decided that if you still find James objectionable after you’ve seen him, we’ll make some sort of reparation to King Edmond and cancel the wedding.”

“But…you said that such an action might start a war.”

“Anything’s possible, but we think that war is very unlikely for the time being. King Edmond would fare very badly in a war and frankly, a tidy windfall might be exceedingly beneficial to him.”

“Why Mother, what’s happened in Loxmere?”

“It’s a right lengthy tale, I’m afraid,” said Minuet as she put her arm around Rose and walked her out the door and down the stairs. “There’s no time now. James awaits. Go to him, and let your heart and nothing else decide, Rose.”

Rose hugged her and hurried through the dining hall to the drawing room, relieved to be able to make short work of her childhood nightmare. She entered softly. There was James, standing with his back to her, warming his hands at the fireplace. She studied him
for a moment. “He’s certainly not the short, pudgy thing he used to be,” she thought. “James?” she said.

Ch. 30, The Collector Witch    

“O-ooh! That arrogant, dimwitted pig boy!” said Rose between breaths, at the top of the spiraled staircase. “How could I ever have believed he’d changed?”

“Rose?” said King Hebraun softly, making her gasp and jump.

She’d not seen Minuet and him following her all the way up. She turned to face them and panicked. What could she say to them? She began at once in trembling dismay, telling them everything as they carefully listened.

“…And so,” she said with a tremulous heave, “I told him I’d not marry him now, or ever.” She looked at their faces with tears filling her eyes and added a squeaky: “I’m so sorry!”

“Rose,” said Hebraun. “it sounds to me as though you handled the situation in the only responsible and sensible way possible. Your Mother and I stand behind your decision completely. The timing might be a bit awkward, considering the large numbers of guests who’ve already arrived…”

“Hebraun!” said Minuet, as Rose’s tears brimmed over and ran down her cheeks.

Hebraun went wide eyed and quickly gave Rose a shoulder to cry on.

“Hey!” cried Lukus, charging to the top of the stairs, full of dash from having just been with Soraya. “How come you all are up here? Oh!” He saw Rose’s reddened eyes. “So what’s going on?”

“I told James I’m not going to marry him, Lukus,” she said over her handkerchief. “The wedding’s off.”

“No! It’s…no! Rose, you’re making this up, right?” he said. Of course he could see that she was not. “Whoa! So what happened? Is James the same old pea-slinging gwrtaith he always was, Rose?”

“Lukus!” cried Minuet. “Walls have ears.”

Hebraun jerked his finger to his lips.

Rose nodded. “Lukus is right!”

“I am? You mean to say he actually shot peas at you? If he did, do you want me to…?”

“Lukus! If you’re not teasing, don’t be so dim. If you are, I’ve just been through too much. You’re about to become betrothed yourself, so I’d think that you’d…”

“That’s it!” cried Hebraun, giving Minuet a jubilant nod of resolution. “Where did anyone last see King Neron?”

“I left Soraya at his chamber, just now,” said Lukus. “I think they might be taking a stroll out by the big fountain.”

Ch. 31, The Collector Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Minuet is a Lucky Woman

 

Hebraun collapsed onto the goose down settee beside Minuet in their private parlour. “I thought you’d already knitted a blanket, sweater, cap and booties for the baby,” he said, glancing aside at her.

“You’ve been paying attention,” said Minuet. “And I certainly did, but they were all blue.”

“So, you suddenly don’t like blue?”

“Oh Hebraun. You know that blue is for newborn boys. What if it turns out to be a girl?”

“Well, she’ll no doubt look cute as a button in blue.”

“Certainly, but the best dressed newborn baby girls wear pink.”

“Do they? Who says so?”

“Well everybody.”

“So, if you give Lukus and Soraya gifts that are blue and they have a girl, whom everyone must see in pink, then they won’t let us be grandparents?”

“Stop teasing me,” giggled Minuet.

“I’d never tease you, darling,” he said with twinkling eyes amidst his dead serious face.

She knew, of course. “I guess it does seem silly, but, this is our very first grandchild,” she said as she put aside her knitting. “It doesn’t seem possible. Just yesterday I was knitting for Lukus, Hebraun. And the day before that, Rose. I certainly don’t feel like a grandmother.”

“Nor do you look it my sweet,” he said, with admiration in his eyes, before looking away with a sigh. “On the other hand, I’m not only beginning to feel it, I’m beginning to look it. Grandfather that is. Old.”

“I’ve never heard you say such a thing before,” she said with wide eyes as she brushed back a strand of hair from his cheek. She knew that the talk flying ’round the kingdom was getting much worse, particularly since it was now fall and no cure had been found for the blight affecting the kingdom’s crops. She bit her lip. “Surely everyone knows that if it comes to it, the grain in the crown’s bins will be distributed to them to see them through the winter, right?”

“That was today’s discovery,” he said with a haunted look. “It’s all tainted. It has some kind of strange powdery mildew growing on it, every bushel of it.”

“That evil, evil woman!” she cried, springing to her feet. “Even Ugleeuh was never so vile.”

Hebraun rose and put his arm around her. “We’ve no proof that Spitemorta has done anything, Minuet. You know that.”

“And we’re not going to get any, either. Not for magic. There’ll be no physical traces at all. She’d had to have been caught in the act. This is a very dry year. There’s no way that any granaries could possibly spoil on their own. They checked the wheat?”

“Yes, right after the barley…”

“And the rye?”

“Yes…”

“Millet?”

“Yes. And the bean stores are the worst of all.”

“So, it’s been done.”

“It looks that way, said Hebraun. “The only option left to us is to purchase enough grain from our allies to survive the winter, it seems.”

“And hope that Spitemorta doesn’t get wind of it.”

“Well, someone with magical abilities could keep watch over the new stuff, now that we know.” He sank back onto the settee. “I hope your father returns soon, Minuet. I’m beginning to think Niarg won’t survive without his help.”

Minuet rubbed his shoulders. “You’ll manage, love, you always do. Everyone’s upset right now, but when it comes to it, they’ll remember how you’ve always stood by them and seen to their needs even above your own. You’ll see.”

Minuet always made him feel better. “You know,” he said, with a new twinkle in his eye, “you’d make some lucky fellow a mighty fine wife, my lady. Would you marry me?”

“Oh I would, sir,” she said with a laugh, “except that I’m already married to the finest man I’ve ever known.”

“Well, he’s a lucky fellow.”

“Yes, and I’m a lucky woman,” she said pulling him onto his feet. “Now, I think it’s time you got some rest, love.”

Hebraun did not argue. He followed her, certain that if left to his own devices he could sleep for a week.

Ch. 29, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps