The Chronicles of Nanny Bee – An Infertile Feud

They called her Nanny Bee, although as far as anyone knew she had never been a wife or a mother, let alone a grandmother. But she was popularly believed to be a witch – so Nanny it was. She lived in a pink-walled thatched cottage that crouched between the village green and the vicarage. The Reverend Alphonso Scoggins (a person of peculiarly mixed heritage and a fondness for large dinners) joked that between him and Nanny they could see the villagers from birth to burial.
Nanny’s garden was the most verdant and productive little patch you could ever imagine, and she could be found pottering in its walled prettiness from dawn to dusk almost every day. People came to visit and were given advice, or medicine, or other potions in tiny bottles or scraps of paper – but they always had the sneaking suspicion they were getting in the way of the gardening.
But there again, digging is second nature to gnomes.

It was one of those winter evenings when your own fireside is the best place to be when Nanny’s dream of bee-loud summer was interrupted by a quiet tap on the door. It was the vicar’s housekeeper. She dropped a small curtesy and Nanny wondered why her prickles didn’t tear holes in her flowered gown.
“The vicar asks if you could spare him a few moments ma’am.”
“What? Right now?”
“If you please.”
Nanny shoved her feet into her bright red rubber boots and wrapped herself in a cloak of fine combed wool.
“Lead the way, Tiggywinkle.”
In the vicar’s study, the formidable bosom of the village’s premier gossip was accompanied by her daughter – who didn’t look too happy to be there.
“Ah. Bee. I’m being asked to call out Farmer Greengrass in church as an adulterer and the father of the baby Amelia here is carrying.”
“I’m not asking Reverend, I demand that you put my daughter in place of that man’s barren wife.”
Nanny sniffed. “Adulterer he may well be. But the child ain’t his.”
“Are you calling my daughter a liar?”
“Egg it how you please. The babe ain’t his.”
The bosom loomed.
“How dare you?”
Nanny grinned. “It ent his wife what’s barren.”
Then she went home.



Battleship of red plasteel from Alpha Centauri
Making warp speed easily above a dead star
With a cargo of human slaves
Rarest furs, jewellery
Golden lace, silver shoes and racing cars

Supersonic cruiser coming from a black hole
Slipping through the galaxy without time to stay
With a cargo of statuary
Painted whores, exotic goods
Platinum, sapphire rings, and velvet grey

Grungy earthling trader with a pockmarked dark hull
Crashing through the atmosphere and killing trees
With a cargo of tractors
Isotopes, scrap lead
Diesel, uranium and prosthetic knees.

Jane Jago

Weekend Wind Down – A Busy Morning

The Dai and Julia Mysteries by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, a  whodunit series set in a modern day Britain where the Roman Empire still rules.

Having seen the Magistratus to his office, Dai was heading for his own office on the first floor of the building and had reached the door when he got a call from Bryn, his voice heavy.
“We got an ID on the body. It’s Manius Terfel.”
Dai struggled for a moment. “But he’s the Magistratus’ primus secretarius. He was with Caudinus for years. He was…” Realising how he sounded Dai stopped talking and drew quick breath. “He was a good man.”
“I was wondering if you wanted to be the one to tell the Magistratus. He might be…”
“Yeah. I’ll do it. And you ought to know he’s planning to perch on your shoulder for this investigation. I tried to talk him out of it but he seems to think it’s his duty to do so in order to protect you lot from any chance of getting blamed for missing something since he says this could make it all the way to Rome.”
“It’s like the man has his heart in the right place but not always his brain. I’m not going to leave you on the sidelines with this even if Dominus Sextus Catus is. Meet for prandium, usual taberna?”
Dai agreed and finished the call then headed back down to the Magistratus’ office.
On the way he ran into Senior Investigator Brutus Gaius Gallus. The older man had been a Praetorian Decanus until a few months ago, part of a vexillation sent to help Dai secure law and order when he first took on the role of Submagistratus. When the Praetorians were recalled to Londinium, Gallus had surprised everyone by choosing to stay behind and take a transfer to the Vigiles as a Senior Investigator.
He was a man typical of his generation and upbringing and although Dai had begun to appreciate the honesty and intelligence that the ex-soldier brought to the job, there was still something he thought Gallus held back when in conversation with him. Bryn seemed to find a good measure of social ease with his colleague, but then they were of an age. But a reserve remained between Dai and Gallus that neither really seemed able to completely overcome.
With all his mind concentrated on the task to hand the last thing Dai wanted right now was yet another awkwardly polite exchange.
Gallus put a hand on his arm. “If I could have a word.” Torn between duties, Dai hesitated, which was clearly enough for Gallus to presume he was willing to listen there and then.
“I wanted to ask how the Citizen recruitment program is progressing. I still only have two Citizens in my team and if we are to work towards producing the local armed response force we need…”
Hard pressed though he was Dai had to admit Gallus had a point, it was a project they were both committed to and recent events had proved even a small number of armed Vigiles could make a big difference when tackling groups of criminals. So he suppressed his irritation.
“I know. And I wish I had a way to attract more applicants. But I’m not sure there is one.”
Gallus dredged up half a grin. “You don’t think it’s to do with working under me then?”
The question took Dai aback. “No. Not in the slightest. I think your team are very happy with you. It’s just that most Citizens seem to think a career in the Vigiles is beneath them.”
Gallus grunted. “I used to think that.” Then he presented Dai with half a salute before striding off.
Bestia was emerging from the room as Dai reached it, a frown on his face.
“Ah. Llewellyn. I don’t suppose you’ve seen Turbel have you? I can’t seem to raise him. I was just heading to his office to see if he was out.”
“Terfel,” Dai said carefully. “Manius Terfel and if we could step into your office for a moment please, dominus.” The frown deepened for a moment, but Bestia must have seen something in Dai’s expression because he opened the door again and gestured Dai inside.
“What is it? You look quite green around the gills.”
“SI Cartivel has just identified the corpse in the portico, dominus. It is that of Manius Terfel.”
Bestia blinked a few times then gulped in some air.
“Surely – there must be some mistake. I only spoke to the man yesterday evening. He was…” Then the Magistratus broke off and shook his head. “Dead you say? That is not good. Not good at all.”

From Dying on the Mosaics by E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago

Granny Knows Best – Fakeup

I have to laugh when I read:
My profile picture is ‘no makeup, no filters’.

Har de frikking har.
Have you thought that people may take more than a cursory glance?
Number one. Why does the pretty rose colour of your lips extend past the lip line?
Number two. Why can the black plastic bit that sticks the false eyelashes together be so clearly seen?
Number three. Why is your face not the same colour as your neck?
Number four. Why do your ‘natural un-retouched’ eyebrows look like woolly bear caterpillars?
And that was all noticed in less than four seconds.

My point?
It’s not necessary to be visually perfect, as the crumpled paper bag I wear instead of a face attests, but it’s kind of disappointing when adult people feel that it’s okay to lie about the lengths they have gone to to achieve ‘perfection’.


Mary stood before the altar with the grim-visaged black-clad lawyer her father had chosen for her and swallowed nervously. She sat silent at his side throughout the wedding breakfast. When the last bawdy joke had been told, he placed her hand in the crook of his arm and led her to the bedchamber.

“Will you trust me?” he asked.

She could only nod mutely.

Much later she lay sated in his arms, shockingly naked save for the silken strands of her hair.

“Oh my goodness,” she said faintly. “Who knew what a lawyer might hide beneath his robes…”

Jane Jago

Dying to be Roman by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook reviewed by Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

Duty is not a popular concept nowadays. It is usually viewed much as the albatross around the neck of the Ancient Mariner, a heavy burden which must be fulfilled if one is not to be crushed by guilt. That is certainly true for oneself when contemplating the growing pile of books my students and others have sent me, asking me to cast my eyes upon pages of pallid prose and turgid tropes so as to bestow even the merest flutter of words in a review.

If you are one such, awaiting my good offices, be sure I have not forgotten you, whoever you are and your book will be quite safe for years to come in my keeping.

However, there is one duty read I find myself unable to escape. A mercifully thin book produced by the cohabiting creativity of the two dreadful females whose blog I so kindly support by allowing them to host my words free of charge. I was poorly repaid for this act of generosity by being presented with a copy of their tedious novella, with the unspoken expectation that I should review it. 

My Review of Dying to be Roman by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook

What an appalling fiasco!

To begin, we have a setting which is in the modern day (indeed, with tantalising hints of futuristic devices and transport), but then we are also assaulted by  inaccurate Latin, as the rather ridiculous premise of the tale is that Merry England is not English – it is a mere province of the still existing Roman Empire. As if!

I was so shocked and appalled by the idea that anyone could cast aside the entire glorious history of my nation and substitute instead a shallow national grave on the ebbing tide of civilisation, that the story itself seemed barely to matter. Something about athletes being murdered and fish sauce…

Avoid at all costs.

Duty called. I have answered.

One star for a clever-sounding title.

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

You can find more of IVy’s profound thoughts in How To Start Writing A Book courtesy of E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.


Eloise was a self-taught artist. She would spend hours painstakingly copying the works of the greats, learning how they created the effects they did, working with the same tools and paint mixes, lovingly recreated with her own hands on authentic canvas, then producing her own in similar style.

When she put some of her pictures in a local charity exhibition, she was surprised they sold. And even more surprised when a man with a big smile and a fat wallet purchased much of her work.

Until she saw one of the pictures under the headline “Unknown Rembrandt discovered, worth millions.”

E.M. Swift-Hook

The Chronicles of Nanny Bee – Egg on His Face

They called her Nanny Bee, although as far as anyone knew she had never been a wife or a mother, let alone a grandmother. But she was popularly believed to be a witch – so Nanny it was. She lived in a pink-walled thatched cottage that crouched between the village green and the vicarage. The Reverend Alphonso Scoggins (a person of peculiarly mixed heritage and a fondness for large dinners) joked that between him and Nanny they could see the villagers from birth to burial.
Nanny’s garden was the most verdant and productive little patch you could ever imagine, and she could be found pottering in its walled prettiness from dawn to dusk almost every day. People came to visit and were given advice, or medicine, or other potions in tiny bottles or scraps of paper – but they always had the sneaking suspicion they were getting in the way of the gardening.
But there again, digging is second nature to gnomes.

Nanny was having a quiet think (okay she was occupied in the closet) when there came a ferocious banging on the door. She adjusted her clothing and made her way to where some person was assaulting her paintwork.
“Whatever is the matter?”
Gladys the Griffin clutched an eggshell to her breast.
“He killed my baby.”
Nanny sighed.
“Who killed your baby?”
“Scoggins the Sadist.”
Nanny removed the shell from Gladys’ front claw.
“Right miss. Why do think this here egg is yourn?”
Gladys shuffled her rear feet and the lion claws dug into the lawn. Nanny winced but pressed on.
“I’m waiting Gladys.”
“It was the gore crow brung it to me and tells me Scoggins has my baby running down his chin.”
“Right Gladys, listen. You doesn’t lay eggs. You got a lion bumhole not an eagle one. And if you did, this here’s a ostrich eggshell.”
Which might even have worked had not the vicar his own self appeared at the corner with egg decorating his chin.
Gladys lunged and he barely got off the ground in time.
He was much too fat to fly well and Nanny idly wondered what would happen when Gladys caught him, but she was too busy tending the scrapes in her lawn to really care.



MacAlistair’s a messy dog, with always muddy paws
For he’s a mucky puppy dog who trails the mud indoors
He’s the scourge of us his owners, and we often do despair
For when we see those pawprints, MacAlistair’s right there.

“MacAlistair! MacAlistair!” we call his name, “MacAlistair!”
He’s running through the flowerbeds and getting muddy paws
We have to yell his name so loud as he runs in the park
But the bold MacAlistair just thinks it’s all a lark.

MacAlistair’s a brindle dog, he’s very tall and lean
You’d know him if you see him as his paws are never clean
His eyes they are so dark and his legs so very long
By the time you see his pawprints, you’ll find that he’s long gone.

MacAlistair, MacAlistair, there’s no dog like MacAlistair,
He’s a wolf who stalks the sitting room and leaves mud on the chairs
Then when you try to send him out, he thunders up the stairs
And all you see is trailing muddy pawprints everywhere!

He’s outwardly a cutie pie who children love to pet
Unless, of course, you need to get him out to see the vet
Then he becomes a racehorse and runs right down the street
And when you get to find him he’ll have smelly muddied feet.

Even when those pawprints are marking your new furniture
You just get out the Vax again and follow round their curvature.
MacAlistair, MacAlistair, there’s no dog like MacAlistair,
He always looks so innocent you can’t keep up the glares.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Weekend Wind Down – Doubled Spirit

You can listen to this read by the author on YouTube.

It always began with an explosion.
Any explosion – any one of the hundred or more he had survived.
The explosion would lock him in, trap him, make him a prisoner of his sleeping mind. In the real world, he was safe in bed with a woman curled close beside him. Vel’s cousin, Lea, her body warm and sated. But it was not enough. The moment sleep claimed him the explosion would still come, shredding his sanity. Then the nightmare would run on, making him relive each episode, as vivid as life. Every thought, sensation, feeling, image, as clear as it had been at the time, pursuing him remorselessly until he could – somehow – scramble back to consciousness from the relentless abuse of sleep….

An explosion crumpling the building to his right as if it were paper.
Three more blasts in quick succession, the last close enough to spew out a lethal hail of masonry. The kinetic shielding on his armaments belt protected him so the rubble bounced away, but the screaming beside him was cut off abruptly. What had been two human beings a moment before, was now a pulped mess.
A shattering silence followed. He could see troops advancing – eight  – and five more still in cover behind them according to the Lattice screen. With three bursts he  dropped two of the nearest, the rest scattered for cover.
“Leader Four-Delta from Prime. Withdraw immediately.”
The voice in his ears at last.
Relaying the order to his three surviving team members, Jaz put down covering fire as they retreated. The Lattice was pounding him with information through his scalp implanted data-port, faster than he could absorb it:  numbers and location of the enemy, their armaments, expected movements, ground plans, suggested paths he could take. More.

“Leader Four-Delta from Prime.  Lattice is showing you are surrounded. We are unable to support. Repeat. Unable to support.” A pause, before the voice added: “You’re on your own out there, Jaz.”
Snarling the word, he focused on keeping up covering fire. He knew they were surrounded. He could see what was going on.  The handful of Special Legion troops he had been given for this job were being sacrificed – a feint – so the rest of his unit could hit the main enemy base largely unopposed. Except of course no one had told him that. It crossed his mind to wonder who he had pissed off enough so they chose him for this suicide run. If – when – he got out of this he would find out and make them pay. Then the thought occurred that it was probably nothing personal at all. When you were living out a death sentence, you shouldn’t be too surprised to be treated as completely expendable.
A sudden blossom of light caught one of the three whose retreat Jaz was covering. It impacted in the centre of the spine and the figure’s arms went wide, briefly embracing air that was suddenly red with a haze of  vaporised blood, flesh and entrails. Jaz swore and pulled a grenade loose from his belt, sending it in a skilful parabola back towards the enemy to cover his own retreat.
Another of his surviving team went down to a sniper shot,  but the third was trying to offer what covering fire she could from behind a partially demolished building and was being pretty effective. He ran, rolled, then vaulted the lowest part of the wall, crouching beside her, checking Lattice screens, looking for any way out for them.
More blasts exploded on either side and the world disintegrated. Finding himself suddenly under a pile of tumbling masonry, Jaz shook free of it like a wet dog shedding water.  But beside him one arm was all that was visible from beneath the rubble – that and the blood.

He started running again.
Watching the environment.
Watching the screens.
Checking the Lattice data overlays.
A movement on the screen broke the profile of the low rise building beside him, some kind of accommodation block. Appearing on screen: ground-plans, elevations, positions of people, their predicted paths. The data projected into his visual field, augmenting his reality. He turned, raking fire across the facade. A figure fell and a fusillade of energy fire came his way from the building.
Lattice visual was showing him six men in there. Lattice data telling him they were armed with anti-mech heavy weaponry, which he knew they would now be turning on him. The energy threshold of his kinetic shield would be zero defence against that kind of power. Lattice data flashed up a helpful message warning him of the over-ride risk. Better late than never. He cancelled it and pumped more of the adrenalin based cocktail of drugs through the intravenous clip fixed into his torso. Speed was his only defence now and not much of one.

He ran.
Using cover.
Changing course.
His whole focus on making that speed.
The buildings ended in a high wall and as he made the final sprint towards it, he tried to decide between tracking along it for a break or scaling it and risking exposure. Checking Lattice screens for the information he needed to inform the decision. A close burn sent him diving into the last available cover before the wall but –
The screens all went dark and a mild voice was speaking calmly in his ear:
“You are not logged on to the Lattice. Please be aware when the countdown hits zero your brain implants will self-destruct – you are not -”
Fuck the bastards.
He cancelled the voice and ignored the timer as its chilling digits counted down his heartbeats on the edge of his visual field.  There was nothing he could do. The coms drone has been pulled out leaving him to die. For a moment he felt the futility of fighting. They had abandoned him, he was not going to get out this time.

Then he heard it.
Distant sounds of a fire-fight.
Jaz felt an almost dizzying rush of relief – these were the sounds of death that offered him some small hope of life. A moment later he was up and running.
Freeing the climbing line on the belt, he fired the grapnel, barely waiting for it to impact before swarming up the high wall. He felt incredibly vulnerable  – naked to the guns behind. Then he was flattening himself, sliding over the top, dropping down and sprinting.
The trace of light caught in his peripheral vision, making him break into an evasive diving roll. He saw, not felt, the next splash of energy. The shock of it impacted afterwards, horrific and crippling, tearing out his strength and will.
He hit the ground and stayed down, unable to rise, unable to think, his consciousness hollowed out by the pain.
Time fragmented.
Awareness shrank.
The smell of the dark ground beneath his face, tasting musty and sweet – an alien soil. The beat of his heart timing the steady flick of numbers that counted down to the moment oblivion would devour him.
Then –
Something moving, lifting him, an arm under his shoulder. A voice – his brother’s voice – Avilon Revid.
“Let’s get you out of here.”

….. waking was always sudden and never easy.
Like ripping away flesh.
Then came the disorientation as the two worlds of the past and present battled for supremacy.
Which was real?
His mind was still caught in the snare of memory, vividly relived.  He could feel the cold sweat on his body and the hammering of his heart.  A face, vague in the darkness, Avilon’s? Then another voice, familiar and feminine, full of concern and compassion:
“You got it bad tonight?”
The face shifted, the features softening into Lea’s. She was there for him as she had been the last time and the time before that. And he knew then, with a sudden certainty, she would be there for him every night he needed her. He reached out and her arms slipped around him drawing him close, holding him as he sobbed in relief, like a frightened child.

If you enjoyed this Fortune’s Fools short story by E.M. Swift-Hook, you can continue to follow the brutal fortunes of Jaz in Trust a Few for FREE if you download the book in the next five days. The book follows on the events directly after this short.

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