Coffee Break Read – Aaspa and the Vampire

Excerpt from Aaspa’s Eyes by Jane Jago. You can listen to this on YouTube.

‘Enough’ the hulking Gregorius howled. ‘I have seen enough.’
The Sharing stopped and I became aware of the vampire before me trying to bring his will to bear on my mind. I kept my voice level and even.
‘Do you accept that I did not kill your brother?’
‘I do’ he said. I could feel the lie but said nothing.
The voice from the platform spoke again. ‘We find this female innocent of any wrongdoing. She did not kill your brother. Although she would have been within her rights so to do.’
The vampire howled again.
I pitched my voice with care. ‘He doesn’t believe. And he never will. I will never know a moment of peace while he is convinced I killed his twin.’
‘Perchance not’ the voice was measured. ‘What will you, Huntress?’
‘I will fight him.’
‘Fight him?’
‘Yes Great One. Fight him. To the death.’
‘Is this truly your will?’
‘It is.’
The vampire was delighted, and I could feel him beginning to gloat. Be over confident, I thought, therein lies your downfall my friend.
‘And does your Mate permit that you meet this vampire in single combat?’ Lucifer was polite.
Aascko spoke from behind my left shoulder. ‘It is not for me to permit or forbid. My Mate is free and equal. All I will say is that she has my love and support.’
‘Very well’ Gabriel’s discordant tones reverberated in my head. ‘It is agreed. You will begin on my count. Ready yourselves.’
Even as he spoke, the vampire brought the full weight of his mind to bear on me and leapt forward with his fangs exposed. I stood still for a second, as if pinned by his glamour. Then I made my move jumping towards the foul creature and butting his perfect nose with the bony ridge under my crest. Done properly, and believe me this was done extremely properly, such a move drives the bone in the nose right up into the opponent’s brain. As Gregorius fell like a huge rotten tree I reached into my weapon belt for a yew wood stake. I drove the stake into his heart and he crumbled into dust. There came a wind from behind me and the pile of dust was blown out of the vaulted space into eternity.
The disembodied voice from the platform spoke with deep contempt. ‘The vampire deserved to die. Probably more slowly than he did. He attacked foully, and was killed in fairness. Who is his Master?’
‘Raziel’ Lucifer bowed.
‘Summon him then.’
There came a sound like clashing cymbals and rattling drums, and a Dark Archangel walked carefully into the place. He bowed to the throne.
‘Almighty. What would you of me?’
‘Two vampires. One killed hell-hounds and almost killed a Helper. Then one Gregorius accused this female of killing his child. She agreed to fight him and he attacked before time. However the Huntress triumphed. I will have your word that this is where it ends.’
The Archangel bowed. ‘May I speak to the Huntress?’
‘You may. Politely.’

Jane Jago


Coffee Break Read – This Moment

A powerful flash fiction from Ian Bristow. You can listen to this on YouTube.

A stiff ocean breeze swept past me, carrying with it the delighted chirps of those couples who had already been reunited. Their affection drove my gaze back to the sky, where I was desperate to find any sign of my beloved.

After several hours, the sprawling form of a female with her wings at full stretch glided towards the rocky shoreline. Could this be? Had my dearest, survived the hardships of a year at sea to return to the place we had professed our love so long ago?

She landed, and I started toward her. But I had only taken a few steps forward before I realized the patterns on her wings were not those of my love. I watched as she strode up the shore, her lover meeting her halfway in a foot-pattering show of affection.

The sky grew darker as several more hours drifted past with the prevailing coastal wind. The others were now nestling in for the night, tucking their heads into one another’s breasts.

Still I looked to the sky, but as the light faded, so did my chance of being reunited with my beloved. Survival out at sea was a challenge not every Albatross managed to overcome. I knew that to be true. Each year that I left this island, I knew it might be the last time I would ever see the love of my life. But each year, she had returned to me.

Until now.

Devastated, I tucked my head into my wing and tried to put the images of her returning out of my head. But the memories were powerful and my longing for her touch was insatiable. It was almost as if I could hear her calling to me–chirping her love in the tones unique to her alone. Her voice was beautiful. And the memory of it was so real I had to look, feeling like a hopeful fool for doing so.

She had already traversed half of the cragged shoreline by the time I looked up. I flapped my wings to move to her more quickly than my feet could carry me. All the fear and anxiety melted away as we clacked our beaks together in greeting. Against all of nature’s odds, she had come back to me.

Knowing in my heart I was the luckiest being alive, I led her back to the place I had prepared for us. She moved close and rubbed her head against my neck and breast, settling in to rest after her long flight.

It was for this moment that we lived. For this moment that we answered nature’s call to survive.

This moment.  

Ian Bristow is an author, artist and musician. You can follow him on Twitter

Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Three Hundred and Eighty-One

Right on cue Nipper dropped it. In front of the store detective. As the bottle smashed at his feet we ran, dodging and kicking display stands over in our wake. Our escape route remained undiscovered, and we all got into the duct before the heavy feet charged around the corner, waving their night sticks and yelling threats. We waited for them to pass before scuttling away to our nest. Nipper looked at me with big worried eyes.

“Why isn’t it working?”

“Yours was just the dummy bottle. Karim planted the real stuff. Now all we have to do is wait.”

©jane jago

Coffee Break Read – A Night Camp

From Transgressor Trilogy:The Fated Sky a Fortune’s Fools book by E.M. Swift-Hook. You can listen to this on YouTube.

The path he chose was only crossable in the middle of the short summer season and even though it was nearly three moons since the last rush of spring flood, the steep pass was still a treacherous mixture of loose stones and turbulent streams. At its highest point there was still snow and ice underfoot and even leading the ponies, there was danger in every step on the slippery rock. But this was the land of his youth and Durban knew it well. He had grown up in the wild vastness of the Garia mountains and had sometimes managed to escape from the pressures of his intense and unusual upbringing by vanishing alone for days at a time into the natural wilderness around his childhood home.
He contemplated making a detour to the remains of that strange place, now demolished, where he had endured an upbringing unique on Temsevar, learning of things no other child on the planet was taught. But his work was urgent and he could not afford the delay. Besides his last encounter with the imperious guardian and mentor of his youth, by the temple of the gods in Alfor had left him with little appetite for another.
The choice was taken from him. He woke to find her ancient body warming itself beside his night fire. A skeleton pressed with flesh. The woman he knew only as Alize.
“Do not trouble yourself,” she said, as he got up quickly to build the fire, the voice was a wisp of frost. “This body is almost done.”
“And then?” he asked. He had to know.
And then you will have to bring me what I need.
The words formed in his mind even as the over-bright eyes gripped his gaze.
“I will if I can,” he said.
You can and you will. This has to be. More than you can begin to imagine rests on what you have to do.
“My imagination is very good, you could try me sometime.”
There was a sensation of contempt.
You had your chance to ask me and you refused it.
“I was a child,” Durban protested. “That is beyond unfair.”
You were a child then, yes, but you have not changed. I came to remind you of what you must do. That is all.
It dawned on Durban, belatedly, that there was no way the woman he had spoken to in Alfor could be sitting here in the mountains with him. He opened his mouth to say as much, but closed it again immediately. The space where Alize had been sitting wavered as if it were a reflection in a still pool and someone had dropped a small pebble in the middle. Then he was sitting alone by the fire.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Author Feature. Haunted: The Sparkly Badgers’ Anthology. By Brent A. Harris and Fourteen others

Haunted: The Sparkly Badgers’ Anthology features a spooky collection of tales and poems, including The Intruder by Brent A Harris. Check out the trailer!

A taste of Brent’s scary story  – The Intruder    

The knife. I need to get to the knife. It was the same knife Beth and I used to cut our wedding cake not long ago. And it was there, on the counter of our home… just out of my reach. There was someone in our house. The intruder was dressed all in black, though his face was not covered. Beth was in her bathrobe. Alarm screamed across her face. She was near to tears. My attention was drawn to a bruise across her left check which contrasted sickly against her pale skin and blonde locks. I had to get to that knife.

The man in black drew towards me I was caught stuck between the microwave and toaster, unable to get to that knife. I was frantic now, trapped as I was in the kitchen, my wife beyond my capacity to save. But I had to do something. I suppressed my fear and replaced it with a growing, boiling rage.

I burst forward, leaping through the air towards my assailant. I seemed to hover over him. I would have collapsed down on him, if it were not for a quick stab of white-hot pain. It crackled over my whole body. I felt shock and then went still for a moment before my anger burst forth again, overcoming the agony until the whole room started spinning out of control.

The man in black must have stabbed me, but I couldn’t tell with what. The lone lightbulb which hung on a cord above him swung wildly, spotlighting the dim room’s cheap particle-board furniture. I swung along with it. Then, the lightbulb exploded, showering the room in luminescent sparks while glass shards stabbed into the yellowing linoleum.

A Bite Of…  Brent A. Harris

Q1: You know you want to…. Facing your demons? How much of what you write could be classed as therapy?

Only a very little. It’s probably not what you think. That’s all made up. The real stuff, the therapy, is all hidden inside Easter eggs that only I know. I’m like an onion. In that I have many layers, I can make you cry, and I smell.

Q2: Have you ever written somebody you dislike into a book, just so you could make them suffer?

Not yet, but there have been some un-named people *Ricardo Victoria, Stephen Hunt, Rob Edwards* that have dangled precariously close to the edge. Not that I would name names. I owe Stephen Hunt a particularly grizzly death scene.

Q3: You are at a dinner party.  Name the four people living, dead or fictional you would least like to be sitting with.

Probably just about any politician, actor, or celebrity. I don’t do fake. I like real people who are probably (hopefully) just as petrified of everyone else as I am. And most of all, I can’t stand authors who make up answers to interview questions in a vain attempt to score humour points. Awful.

In between herding Nasutoceratops and breaking in Allosaurs, Brent A. Harris writes about things that were, things that are, and some things that have not yet come to pass. His current work in progress is a horror novel about a house that wants to kill you.

That said, come to his website or follow him on Twitter. He *promises* that he is not looking for test subjects.


Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Three Hundred and Eighty

Seven years old she was when they left her in a tumbledown cottage in the very centre of Darkwood. But she squared her small shoulders and opened her mind.

She could never quite work out how long she spent seeing nobody as she absorbed the knowledge that imbued the very bones of this place of power. 

Then the wizard came, astride his tall horse. He pointed his staff intent on bending her to his will. Instead, he fell screaming to the forest floor.

She took from him every ounce of his magic, as the cottage collapsed and she mastered Darkwood.

©jane jago

Sunday Serial – Dying to be Roman XIV

Dying to be Roman by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook is a whodunit set in a modern day Britain where the Roman Empire still rules. If you missed previous episodes you can start reading from the beginning. You can listen to this on YouTube.


Julia was rapidly getting annoyed. There was something big and bad going on, she knew it in her gut but she couldn’t pin it down. As she had feared, talking to the lion keeper’s wife had proved a waste of time although it wrung her loins with pity. Somebody somewhere had to know something. But whom? She kicked the wall of the office she had been allotted and swore sulphurously. Edbert looked up from the dagger he was polishing the nicks out of.
“Why don’t you go have a word with the lovely Lydia?” he rumbled. “I heard a rumour that she’s thick with the wives of both the dead Romans and with the Arena boss.”
Julia gave him a grim look, knowing full well that asking him about the source of his rumour would get her nowhere. Praetorian barrack-room gossip was her guess. Stamping her feet into her boots and striding out of the room, she crossed the courtyard and was admitted to the Tribune’s lodgings without comment. A moment later she was at the door of Lady Lydia’s rooms. She tapped and a homely female face appeared.
“You after her ladyship?”
Julia nodded.
“She ain’t here.”
Julia was nonplussed and the woman sighed.
“If you was to ask me, she don’t intend coming back.”
Julia stiffened.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because I just found out that she took her jewel box.”
“Come with me,” Julia snapped.
She stomped off along the corridor, not bothering to check whether or not the woman followed her. Hurrying as fast as she dared without causing too much remark, she was soon knocking on the door of the Tribune’s suite of offices. The secretarius came to the door.
“I need to see the Tribune,” Julia demanded.
The man frowned, but she heard Decimus speak sharply.
“Who is it, man?”
“Domina Julia,” the man mumbled.
“Let her in then, and bugger off.”
The secretarius glared at Julia, but he opened the door wide and shuffled through it and passed her.
“Come in, girl. Come in.” Decimus bellowed.
Julia went into the room followed by Lady Lydia’s servant. The Tribune stood in front of an open window with his big hands clasped grasped behind his neck. She stopped quietly and waited for him to speak.
“I hate all the admin and paperwork that goes with this job and I hate that little pederast of a keyboard-fiddler. Hate him and his computer equally.” He did not trouble to modulate his volume and the secretarius would still have been in earshot. Then he dropped his voice and turned to her with a smile. “I was about to contact you with some new information anyway. But what brings you here, little sister?”
Julia shuffled her feet and he stopped smiling.
“So. It’s not a social call?”
“No. It’s about the Lady Lydia.”
“What about her?” He sounded long-suffering rather than surprised.
“I went to talk to her and she seems to have gone missing.”
That summoned a frown to his face.
“Missing? What do you mean missing? And why did you want to speak to her?”
“Missing as in not in the house, and her woman here says she has taken her jewellery box. And I wanted to talk to her because one of her close friends is dead, and two have been recently widowed.”
Decimus glowered at her from beneath his thick, black brows then hit a bell on his desk with one hard fist. A guard came scuttling in.
“Will you please find out if Domina Lydia is in the house?”
The guard left at a gallop, and the Tribune turned his fulminating gaze on the serving woman who shook her head and returned it stoically.
“You might have known she was up to something,” the woman said, her tone inappropriately accusing. “She has been too quiet. Except for that Titillicus and he was in the nature of a diversion.”
Decimus showed his teeth.
“Shut up Boudicca. If you can’t be anything but right you can just shut up.”
The woman actually smiled at him. There’s a story here, Julia thought, but she was too exercised with the puzzle in hand to add another set of questions to her list. However, Decimus obviously felt the need to explain.
“Boudicca here is a Briton by birth, but she was sold to Lydia’s futatrix of a mother when she was a little girl, just before enslaving anyone was outlawed. Of course every decent person promptly freed their existing slaves, if they had not already done so, but as it was not a legal requirement, the old cunnus didn’t. So Boudicca came with my lady wife as a body slave. I freed her. Annoyed the merda out of Lydia, but you know how I feel about slavery and those who keep trying to get it reinstated.”
“I do.”
It was not the whole story, Julia thought, she got the impression she was being told the details as much to distract as to inform. But right then there seemed no more to say on the topic and she was not about to enquire, so the three people in the room stood in silence for a moment.

Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook

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