Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Three Hundred and Twelve

She was only a dancer in a provincial pleasure house, but those who owned her were wise enough to see her quality and husband her virtue.

It was high summer when curiosity brought the shogun himself to visit. He expected to be bored.

Instead, he was sufficiently diverted to buy the dancer and take her back to the city.

He freed the girl and settled money on her.

“Sometimes,” he said to his favourite son, “ there is merit to be gained in freeing an exotic butterfly.”

His son bowed.

“Besides which,” he added, “sixty is a poor match for fifteen.”

©️jj 2019

Coffee Break Read – Moonshine

You can listen to this on YouTube too.

Our family had been making superior moonshine as a sideline for five generations. But then The Shortages struck and the price of booze soared. We were suddenly making a fortune, but we reckoned it only a matter of time before the bad guys wanted in.

Two immaculately tailored gentlemen paid us a visit. Grandma signalled for us boys to disappear and went to greet them. They were inside quite some time, and then Grandma led them up through the orchards to where the still sat in a deep-walled valley in the icy cold waters of a stream that came straight down from the mountains.

Once they had gone the old lady shrugged. “We may lose some profits short term.”

She was right about losing profit, within six months the big guys’ cheap rotgut had undercut us so far that we just stopped selling. Though we did keep producing and stockpiling,

Then the sickness started. First a trickle, then a flood. Men struck down with stomach complaints that left them vomiting blood. At first nobody much cared, then the sons of wealthy families began to fall prey.  

It almost goes without saying that the cheap rotgut was literally rotting guts. There were repercussions, and Grandma reckoned it time to reopen our bottling plant.

Ma looked the old beldame between the eyes.

“Okay. What did you do?”

“More what I didn’t do Charlaine. I mighta forgot to tell them to clean the car radiators before they made ‘em into a still.”

© jane jago 

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Three Hundred and Eleven

Percival’s wedding day dawned and he held his beloved in his arms for possibly the last time.

The ceremony was brief and heartless. 

As they walked down the aisle, his new wife spoke. “I’m sorry. This wasn’t my idea.”

She had huge, frightened eyes, which moved him to gentleness.

“I know that. Our fathers will have done a deal.”

“Aye, but I’m sorry. For both of us.”

“Don’t be sorry. Shall we make our own bargain? Build something worthwhile for us.”

“Can we?”

As it turned out, they could. Though Percival was careful not to ask who fathered ‘his’ heirs.

©️jj 2019

Coffee Break Read – Joah Meer

You can listen to this on YouTube too.

Home was her sanctuary — their sanctuary. It had been hers alone for so long that Joah could never have imagined sharing it. Then she’d met Zarshay and the naturalness of the sharing had been something she still found strange. It was beautiful, wonderful, amazing, but very, very strange. Their lives enlaced in many sweet ways, enhancing each aspect: work, leisure, friendships, sex.
“You know Heila has been for lunch with a guy from Undergrove Promotions?” Zarshay murmured.
It was so not the kind of topic Joah would have chosen for post-sex warmth and cuddles. She heaved a sigh and sat up, reaching for a throw-on wrap.
“All right, if you want to talk about it now. I really don’t mind.”
She heard a snort of amusement from behind her on the bed.
“You are the very worst liar I know. You can’t act worth a thing.”
Warm arms embraced her and for a moment she considered giving in and lying back down again. But it felt wrong to be bringing the stress of day-to-day life into their bedroom.
“If we need to talk work,” she said, turning, “I’d rather do so with a strong drink in my hand.”
Zarshay grinned, her face suddenly that of the mischievous teen she had been when they met.
“Always,” she agreed.

*

They sat in the windowed alcove of the apartment, on a cushioned couch, taking in the glorious vista of graceful towers and the spans between them, small vehicles dipping like living creatures in the air between.
“Is it serious?” Joah asked.
“For Heila, everything is serious: everything is a melodrama and everything is always on the edge of catastrophe.”
It was, Joah thought, a pretty astute assessment. “So, we may lose her?”
Zarshay wrinkled her nose in doubt.
“Maybe. But you can’t forget about the Dog factor. There is the huge Hengast and Heila thing all over social media. She loves that and—”
A soft buzz broke into their conversation. Joah looked at the unfamiliar contact details on her phone, then accepted it. It came from the upper floors, which meant it was unlikely to be any kind of time waster.
She flashed the screen at Zarshay as she answered, and the other woman’s eyebrows rose.
“Joah Meer Productions, how can I help you?”

From Star Dust by E.M. Swift-Hook one of the stories in Dust Publishing‘s anthology The Last City.

 

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Three Hundred and Ten

He hesitated in the doorway of the florist’s shop. The girl behind the counter smiled.

“I want some flowers for a funeral,” he said.

“You want to send some flowers?”

“No. It’s my mother. We are having a humanist service and a green burial. But I want just something I can put on the coffin.”

“Oh I see. When do you want them?”

“Now would be good. I’m due at the green burial ground in half an hour.”

The girl hustled off, returning with a simple sheaf of purple iris. He found himself smiling foolishly.

“They were her favourite flowers.”

©️jj 2019

Coffee Break Read – Into the Forest

You can listen to this on YouTube too.

At the edge of the carefully cultivated parkland which surrounded the summer palace of the rulers of Harkera, just outside the white-walled city of Cressida, lay a huge expanse of woodland in which nature was given great freedom of expression in return for allowing the monarchs of Harkera and their chosen guests, the privilege of hunting there. Not that the privilege was granted freely – it had to be earned. It was a playground for those whose reactions were fast and whose sinews were strong – those who wished to be tested against the wild.

Karlynne knew that it was not a proper wild forest because there were men who took care of it – vergers and warders, gamekeepers and huntsmen, employed to make sure that the main paths were always kept clear and that there were always plenty of wild game to be hunted by the monarch’s noble visitors. But it was almost a proper forest, such as the ones she had read about in her books where winged ponies and talking animals lived. She had been told never to go there because it was home to dangerous animals, tizarts, therloons and seminarls and dangerous men – land-pirates Turla called them – men who would come to steal the animals and who would be just as happy to steal young girls who were foolish enough to wander into the hunting park alone.

But today the forest did not look at all menacing or dangerous and it would not be the first time Karlynne had ridden there alone with no one any the wiser. It beckoned to her, mysterious and inviting beneath the early summer sky and Turla was sitting in her room resting her aching bones having told Karlynne she should do as she pleased for the afternoon.

With a brief and ephemeral flash of guilt, she reminded herself that was not strictly true. Turla had told her to take one of the grooms if she went riding, but when she had got to the stables to find her favourite pony, Mischief, all the grooms had been busy. Being far too considerate to interrupt their work for her own pleasure, she had sent one of the boys for Mischief’s tack and had saddled him herself, riding out unnoticed.

It was a glorious feeling to canter across the park alone, she who was never allowed anywhere unescorted, and the simple joy of freedom made her laugh aloud. In truth, she had not really intended to go into the forest at all that day, but once she had reached the edge of the open parkland, the fringe of trees with its inviting paths had beckoned her in. Now, she rode beneath the canopy of leaves, thrilling at her own daring and filled with a delicious excitement. Her books and Turla’s tales from nursery days onwards, had always been full of enchanted forests, with magicians, talking animals and handsome young men who always turned out to be the long-lost son of some noble who invariably needed rescue from a dire enchantment, by the hands of a beautiful princess. After which they would fall in love and live happily ever after.

Karlynne decided that she was the perfect heroine for such a romance. Turla had often told her that she looked just like her mother, who everyone said was beautiful, so she must be beautiful too and at nearly twelve years old she was certainly young. Every credential met, she was bound to find adventure, romance and true love sooner or later – and where better to look than in the forest? Not that she expected talking animals and magicians here, of course, they were only in stories – but you never knew and the forest certainly seemed a place for adventure.

From Times of Change, which is the second volume of Transgressor Trilogy a Fortunes Fools book by E.M. Swift-Hook.

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Three Hundred and Nine

Tuesday was turning out to be one of those days. The cat was sick on the stairs, then the car wouldn’t start so the children were late for school. To cap it all off Andy’s new secretary called to say he was at a meeting in Edinburgh and wouldn’t be home.

Belle thanked her politely, then went to kick some furniture.

Two hours later she heard a taxi draw up, Andy thundered in and folded her in his arms.

“Edinburgh? On your birthday? I think not. Where do these girls get their ideas?”

“They just want your body.”

He snorted…

©️jj 2019

Author feature: The Weariness of Werewolves by Chrys Cymri

The acrid scent of urine told me that we were approaching the dragon settlement. I breathed through my mouth as we passed over dark dunghills. The forty or so longhouses were scattered across the land in front of us. The grey of stone and slate was brightened by symbols painted across the roofs.
Raven’s matriarch lived in one of the grander longhouses. I searched the building for signs of damage. Dark scorch marks showed where Raven had tried to destroy the place of his birth. I wondered why his mother would want to see him alive. If he were dead, no doubt she would enjoy eating his body.
Raven dropped into a steep landing, and I braced myself as his feet thudded into gravel. I took a moment to allow my spine to settle into a dull ache. Then I slid to the ground.
‘I should’ve taken you on a hunt,’ Raven said suddenly. ‘Have you ever killed a creature?’
‘Only accidentally. Many years ago, when I was on holiday in Iceland, I hit a goose flying across the road.’ I shuddered. ‘I parked the car and went back to make sure she was dead. Fortunately, she was.’
‘Did you tear flesh from her?’ he asked hopefully. ‘With your bare teeth?’
‘Of course not. I went back to my car and drove away.’
Raven sighed. ‘Too late to do anything about that now. Walk without hesitation into the house. Let my matriarch smell the death on your face.’
‘And that,’ I told him, ‘is a mixed metaphor.’
‘Dragons smell many things, more than you could ever understand. You have the knife I gave you?’
‘Of course.’
‘Good. Remember that you are a knifebearer, and whatever she says, don’t let her rattle you.’ Raven turned and led the way to the longhouse entrance. ‘Hrafn Eydisson, son of this house! I claim entry from my blood kin!’
The ease with which the massive door drew back always amazed me. The dark blue dragon standing inside was slightly larger than Raven. ‘Hello, Sylvi, we met you last time,’ I said to her. ‘You’ve grown quite a bit.’
‘My dam allowed me to eat part of the cull from her last clutch,’ Sylvi replied. ‘There’s nothing like dragon flesh to put on strength.’
‘Another clutch,’ Raven grunted. ‘My dam’s fertility shows no sign of diminishing.’
‘Found me another young drake,’ a deep voice responded from inside the longhouse. ‘The mating flight made me feel decades younger. Come in, Hrafn, knifebearer.’
I slid a hand into my trouser pocket, reassured by the weight of my knife. Why a dragon the height of a two-story building feared a blade less than three inches long was a mystery to me, but I wasn’t planning to let go of anything which gave me at least some protection.
A fire was blazing in the large hearth, providing light for the long interior. Gravel crunched under my boots as we marched over to the matriarch. The pleasant smell of wood smoke filled the air, blending with the leathery smell of dragon hide.
Firelight washed over the dark blue dragon. Two of her massive foreclaws were chipped, and I saw a line of grey running along her massive jaws. She might feel younger, but it looked like the years were catching up with her. How long did dragons live? I found myself wondering. I’d met very old dragons, but what was the norm?
‘Hrafn,’ Eydis said, her voice dripping with disappointment. ‘I had hoped to eat you long ago. It would have gone some way to repaying me for the cost of repairing this longhouse.’
‘When I die, my body will go to my fellow search dragons,’ Raven replied calmly. ‘And I caused very little damage. Much to my regret.’
‘And isn’t it nice for the family to be back together again,’ I said with as much false cheer as I could muster. ‘You sent me into the Arctic wilderness, matriarch, and I convinced Raven to return with me. Maybe even search dragons have their uses?’
‘Sometimes.’ Eydis lowered her head to mine. ‘There will be no need to pull out your blade, knifebearer. I haven’t summoned you here to watch me attack my son. I have decided to allow him to live.’
I gave her a smile. ‘That’s very big of you.’
Eydis snorted. ‘Other than the mere fact of his existence, he has done nothing to disgrace this family.’
My mind tried to unscramble her statement, and decided this would have to wait until I had a good portion of whisky both in my stomach and in my hand. ‘I think he’s done a lot to bring credit to your line and to your longhouse.’
‘In the eyes of a skrælingi, perhaps.’ She straightened. ‘Leave us, Hrafn. I would speak with the offeiriad on her own.’

The Weariness of Werewolves by Chrys Cymri is the seventh book in the Penny White Series.

A Bite Of… Chrys Cymri

What sort of music do you most enjoy listening to?

One of the best purchases I’ve made was an Alexa, along with an Amazon music subscription. I used to be able to waste a lot of time scrolling through an iPod looking for what to play next. Now I can simply name an artist and Alexa will play said artist all day. No more time wasting!
I need to music I know well so it doesn’t distract me. I go for mid-range rock/folk/pop groups like Runrig, Jars of Clay, and Alan Parsons Project. My other tastes run to the music of my teenage years, like Journey and REO Speedwagon.

You’re a great traveller, what is the next place you want to visit and why?

Although I’m pretty healthy, I am now firmly middle-aged, so I’m trying to knock remote places off my bucket list. In July I’m spending six days in Finland photographing brown bears, in October I’m off to Bolivia on a bird watching tour, and in June next year I’ll be on a small sailboat, as part of the crew, taking two weeks to sail around the Lofoten Islands. Then in September next year I’m off to Mongolia on a photography trip, visiting camel herders in the Gobi desert and eagle hunters in the northern part of the country. Oh, and I will be staying in a cottage in Wales this summer for a week. Whew! My travel blog is http://www.travellinghopefully.co.uk

What fast food is your favourite and where is the best place to get it?

I’m not into fast food, on the whole. I eat very little meat, and buy organic fruit and veg to cook my own meals at home. But I do love good fish and chips, the original British fast food. There’s nothing like using your fingers to eat a portion on a sunny day at the seaside, sitting on a seawall, fending off the seagulls prowling around for scraps.

Amazon link: mybook.to/PWWerewolves

Chrys Cymri in her own words…

Priest by day, writer at odd times of the day and night, I live with a small green parrot called Tilly because the upkeep for a dragon is beyond my current budget. Plus I’m responsible for making good any flame damage to church property. I love ‘Doctor Who’, landscape photography, single malt whisky, and my job, in no particular order. When I’m not looking after a small parish church in the Midlands (England) I like to go on far flung adventures to places like Peru, New Zealand, and North Korea.

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, YouTube and my own website.

 

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Three Hundred and Eight

The Sunday yard sale was all but over. Fortunately, the old copper whisky still was still there. That and a big ugly plant.

While Stevie was dickering with the seller she idly stroked the plant’s glabrous leaves.

“Tell you what,” seller said eagerly. “I’ll accept your offer. If you take that ugly fucking plant too.”

Stevie was real happy. 

“Y’all can have that plant in the kitchen.”

Monday, Stevie come home from work in an ugly mood. But as he grabbed her throat something odd happened. 

Ain’t too many better ways to find out you got a man eating plant.

©️jj 2019

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