Seasons of Love

I brought my love a golden ring and on it I did write
Words that spoke of love so true and bonded spirits bright
I gave my love that golden ring and with it gave my heart
And we exchanged our soul-sworn vows that never would we part.
And as the winter turned to spring and summer fell to fall,
We wove our hearts as lovers do and answered Cupid’s call.
And as the spring to summer changed and autumn passed to chill
We held each other in our clasp and love grew stronger still.
When summer faded with the leaves my love he faded too
And as the gold gave way to white my love slept ‘neath the yew.
And when the snowdrops pierced the snow, their cold grief pierced my heart
And when the bluebells ‘gan to grow they tore my soul apart.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Weekend Wind Down – Sanctorum

“So, run this past me again, Drew – you want me to join a unit that does not exist to help babysit a group of the Vanguard’s freaks and failures? I am sure you have held back the bad news until last.”
Drew felt himself wince at the cutting tone. Prudence Armitage was not one to mince her words – it was more usual for her words to mince those she spoke with.
“Purdie, Purdie…”
“Don’t you ‘Purdie’ me, Andrew Gilroy! I have just got back from a reconnaissance mission and my mood is foul.”
He loved the way her slightly upper-class accent lingered over the last word, making it sound almost onomatopoeic. But then he adored almost everything about her and had as long as he knew her. Seeing her sitting in her mahogany and glass office, her back straight and her head slightly tilted up so the chisel sharpness of her profile was accentuated, he was irresistibly reminded of their first meeting in Rome. Then she had coal-black hair framing those amazing grey-blue eyes and a gloriously athletic body. She still had the body, but now her choppily short hair was steel, as if it had finally come to match every other aspect of her. For maybe the thousandth time he wondered why he had never asked her to marry him. Now it was twenty years and a hundred encounters too late.
Sighing slightly, Drew turned away from the piercing iron gaze which made him begin to feel uncomfortable like being under the twin barrels of a shotgun. He picked up something, anything, from her desk and looked at it without seeing.
“Silver medal. European Junior Gymnastics Championships. I was 13 years old and trying not to be seen as an overachiever. Even at Roedean that could lose you street cred. Coming second was my social salvation.”
He put the framed medal down quickly and pulled his attention back to the matter in hand. With Prudence, honesty and straight delivery were always the best policy.
“The thing is Purdie, we really are in a bit of a jam. The whole notion of apprentices and preparation for initiation, filtering out the unsuitable as we go is being made redundant by the present crisis. There has been nothing like it in centuries. Sanctorum was not designed to be a – mainstream operation unit. It was set up to be what its name suggests – an asylum for those we couldn’t risk in the open.”
“More like a semi-secure unit for the crazies who can’t adjust to being able to see demons.”
“That is an exaggeration. It has just managed those with adjustment issues. But the numbers recently…” he broke off. Then working to keep the slight trace of his near desperation from his voice, said: “It is getting very bad. You will have heard they opened a new training facility on the Perthshire Estate – already there is talk of a third being needed. And Sanctorum…”
“Sanctorum is being overrun by maladjusted post-millennials who think they are at Hogwarts?”
“Not quite.”
“But close enough?”
Drew just looked at her. He knew she was being deliberately difficult, but as always he had no idea why. The neat grey outfit gave away nothing of her personality. She wore it like armour. 
Sometimes he wondered how she felt when most of her peers – those she had been in training with and who had become her friends – and others much younger than herself, were now in the upper echelons of the Vanguard’s ranks and she was still a lowly commander. It was not that Purdie had ever lacked ability, but as Gita Sharma had read out of from Purdie’s psychological profile at the selection board for this post, she was not suited to take on the responsibility of an independent command. She was, Gita had observed, simply the best lieutenant – fiercely loyal, well able to give orders and run field-missions, so long as the ultimate authority was not herself. 
If Purdie was consciously aware of that aspect of her nature and the degree to which it defined her prospects, he had no idea. But she had never shown any sign of resentment even at the promotions of others who had once served under her – or any particular desire to seek a place higher than the one she had held now. Secretly, he suspected she had no wish to leave active service and trade her weapons for a desk and computer terminal.
“Really Drew, you know I have all the maternal instincts of a seahorse. Is a baby-sitting job the best use of my abilities? We are being overrun – what happened in Penrith is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg. We need every capable initiate in the field twenty-four seven. It is not the time for me to be sitting on my bum in a glorified…”
“Sanctorum is a fully operational unit within the Vanguard.” Drew spoke more sharply than he had intended “It has had the highest proportion of mission losses of any active unit in the Vanguard over the last year. They get sent in where anyone more…”
“You mean they are seen as disposable cannon-fodder? Or is their commander a useless wanker?”
“No. I mean it has stood where others would have run. Its CO is a highly competent woman, Janice Roslaird. She has been doing an incredible job with people that no one else can handle. Sanctorum is…”
Purdie lifted a hand to silence him.
“It’s alright Drew, you don’t need to give me the full heart-wringing oration – I have already heard the sound-byte.”
Gods, the woman could be so damn cold! Drew felt his anger rising, then saw the slightly mocking look in Purdie’s expression and bit back his intended retort.
“It’s an assignment, not a volunteer position,” he heard himself say tightly. “I didn’t come here to persuade you – only to inform you. A courtesy between old friends.”
She looked away then, for once perhaps shamed. He could only hope.
“Who put me up for this?” she asked, still avoiding his eyes.
“It’s not like we have many options. Roslaird needs a rottweiler – but she gets you instead.”
“She asked for support?”
“Of course not. She may even resent you – I am sure you would love that.”
Purdie shook her head briefly, but whether in denial or resignation, he could not tell. Then she got up and moved around the desk to stand with him. For the first time he noticed the gouges on her neck and the patch of naked scalp where a row of stitches ran into her hair. Close up he could see etched into her face the marks of exhaustion together with contained physical pain and…
“We lost Nish in the Penrith thing,” she said, as though reporting the loss of a cricket match rather than of her most trusted Sergeant for the last five years. Possibly, rumour had it, something more. “He was torn apart by demons – literally. Bits and pieces. Nothing left.”
Andrew swallowed, unsure now.
I’m s-sorry. I was not informed.”
“It’s alright, you are in good company. His twin sister can never be told and his parents will have no body to bury and be left to wonder forever why he didn’t come home.” She sounded almost offhand, but the storm-sky eyes were unfocused. “Still, you know what they say – the war must go on.”
“Purdie, I…” 
She moved her body slightly in easy evasion so his comforting hand reached only into air and he withdrew it quickly.
“So. Who? Who do I have to blame for this? Tell me.”
“I can’t tell you that. You know I can’t.”
“Karl? Christa? Josh?”
Drew shook his head. His silence determined and final. Purdie closed her eyes in resignation, head slightly bowed.
“When?”
“Tomorrow – unless you need medical attention? No? You are sure? Then you’ll get the orders tomorrow to report to Karl at HQ. He’s to brief you formally, after which you will be removed from our active files and transferred to Sanctorum.”
She nodded once, then managed to recapture a brief waspishness which Drew felt was almost entirely for his benefit.
“Does it have to be Karl? He is such an adolescent with attitude, and his cynicism…”
“…matches yours?”
It was always hard to know with Purdie, but it was just possible that the warmth in the smile she gave him then was more than just acknowledgement of his attempt at humour. Whilst he was still trying to decide if that was so, she reached over the desk and swept her grey jacket from the back of her chair.
“Take me for a drink, Drew, and I might even forgive you.”
Following her from the office, he wondered if Karl and Gita really knew what they were doing in pushing for Purdie to be given this assignment and wondered again if he had been wise to let himself be persuaded into supporting the notion…

E.M. Swift-Hook

Self Improvement

Please do not offer me one of those books
That promises ways of improving my looks
That says if I only restricted my diet
I’d live to one hundred. I ain’t gonna try it
Please don’t expect me to read your advice
About how I could be much more slender, or nice
I don’t want to stare at my own little poos
As they lie like dead dolphins abeach in the loo
And I have no idea what your jargon proposes
To make you consider me smelling of roses
You can take your improvement wherever it comes
And stick your pretensions inside of your bum
You won’t understand and I don’t think you can
That I’m happy with being the way that I am 

©️Jane Jago 2019

Growing Old (Dis)Gracefully

Jane Jago is at it again! Advertised as a Handbook for trainee pensioners, Growing Old (Dis)Gracefully is a slim volume of limericks (many limericks), verse and short fiction whose sole function is to stick two fingers up at growing old and the world around us as we grow old.

BEING OLD

I have just seen my backside in shorts
And it’s almost as bad as I thought
It’s as broad is a ship
And my bum cheeks have slipped 
Those are hips built for sitting, not sport

FESTIVE ELD

Deck the house with chains of paper
Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah
Clout the kids and cut a caper
Nah, nah etc 
Fill the socks up
Drain the money
Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah
January isn’t funny 
Nah, nah etc

ENLIGHTENMENT 

She sat outside her cave. Her face was as seamed as the striated rocks behind her, and grime was ingrained into every crusty crack.
But still they came.
The rich, the famous, the desperate, all seeking enlightened words. To some she vouchsafed nothing and they crept away, ashamed. To others she gave but one word of hope. The third group bathed in the almost sightless seeming whiteness of her eyes and heard her words of wisdom. 
When the last named supplicant backed away, she plugged her iPhone into its solar charger and offered a silent prayer of thanks for Google.

You can snag your copy now!

Discover some more awesome new books out this month in the SciFi Roundtable Newsletter.

Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Three Hundred and Ninety-Seven

It’s a twisted road to the wyrm’s lair. 

Even hungry as we were, it took us a while to pluck up our courage.

Brightstar lay on her treasure watching us through half-closed eyes.

I began to sing, and as my song seduced the beautiful one into sleep Denny crept close. He was supposed to take only one bar of gold and run. But he got greedy.

Seems that gold is as seductive as music.

She ate him, belching one delicate gout of flame when she had crunched the last bone.

But she paid me in gold for my song.

©jj 2019

Coffee Break Read – Woo-Woo Stuff

From Who Put Her In? a thriller with supernatural overtones by JaneJago.

There was one slice of steak pie left and some salad, so I put the pie on a warm plate and beckoned our young guest to the table. She took an experimental bite of pie, then dug in with enthusiasm. When she had finished she grinned.
‘Where did you get that pie? It was wonderful.’
‘Joss made it.’
‘Oh. Cripes. I clean forgot. Michelin starred chef and all that. But I don’t actually associate Michelin stars with proper food…’ Then she wound down and went bright pink. ‘Oops. Foot in mouth again.’
‘No’ I said ‘you’re all right. I happen to agree with you. So many places with Michelin stars are all style and no substance.’
Her smile returned. ‘We got took to that ginger bloke with the funny name’s place. I couldn’t eat half of it, and what I could eat was tiny-weeny. Me and my dad stopped for fish and chips on the way home.’ Ben started the laughter, and we all joined in.
When we had calmed down I patted Bethan on the head. ‘You’ll do. Fancy a chocolate brownie?’
She nodded ecstatically, and Ben fetched the cake tin and a plate and fork. Neil shoved the dish of clotted cream in her direction. She ate. Then grinned like the child she still was.
‘And that’s a lesson to me. I won’t sneer at Michelin starred chefs again. But I’ll still be suspicious.’
I laughed. ‘That’s a girl.’
She smiled happily, then sobered. ‘Joss. Just exactly how bad is whatever those two are facing out there?’
‘Tonight. Not bad at all I hope. Tomorrow morning could be another game of soldiers. Tonight they are looking for the bones of two women, both have been dead a long time and both are gentle souls…’
‘And tomorrow?’ she prompted gently.
Ben took over. ‘Tomorrow we really don’t know. We only have suspicions. But if we are even close to right there’s at least one girl who was murdered. Probably last year. And probably by being drowned in a well.’
‘Oh shit’ Bethan said bitterly. ‘I hoped I was imagining things.’ Then she started to sing in a thin, sad little voice. ‘Ding dong bell. Pussy’s in the well. Who put her in?
‘Who indeed’ Stella said softly.
Stella was very pale, and Bethan looked close to tears. I was casting around in my mind for a way to lighten the atmosphere, when Neil piped up.
‘Right you lot. Stop it now’ he said firmly. ‘Enough with the woo-woo stuff. It gives me indigestion.’
‘Not possible’ Stella said flatly. ‘You could fucking well digest an armchair.’

JaneJago

Coffee Break Read – Hole in the Sky

“The men who came out of the hole in the sky, what did they look like, Dylan?”
Dylan thought for a bit and chewed on his pencil. He wanted to help the nice lady, she had been very kind and said he could play with any of the toys in her room.
“They were big and scary,” he said, and started drawing. “They picked up mummy and Gwen and ran back into the hole in the sky with them.”
“Then the hole closed up?”
Dylan nodded. He wanted to explain how the hole had pulsed and made the air around it shimmer, as if it didn’t belong. He wanted to tell the nice lady how he had tried to run through the hole after the men, and seen a strange boat with a dragon’s head on the other side. But he wasn’t sure how to put the images in his mind into words that made any sense. So he kept working on his picture instead.
“There wasn’t really a hole in the sky, was there?” the nice lady spoke kindly. “It was a car or a van that the men got out of, wasn’t it?”
Dylan wondered if the nice lady was trying to make fun of him. He finished his picture and held it up.
“They looked like this.”
The nice lady must have been very tired because her face went very pale and she suddenly fell asleep on the brightly coloured carpet.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Three Hundred and Ninety-Six

There was no point in resisting, and no good crying. What would be would be, although she could have done without the knife at her throat. She must have pleased him, because he let none of the others have her.

“Sleep,” he said almost kindly, “in the morning I will be gone.”

But when sunrise came he discovered his mistake.

The raiders were not destined to leave, instead, they were chained forever to the wheel that lifted water to irrigate the lady’s garden.

Lesson…

If the night belongs to the men in their longships, morning brings the vengeance of women.

©jj 2019

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