After the prologue, this is the first chapter of The Broken Court, the novella directly following Lumina and the Goblin King.

It has not seen my editor yet and so is subject to all the warnings that come with such. Still, I hope enjoy reading it!

Chapter 1 – A Summer Crown for Winter’s Head

Hoarfrost had turned the trees around them into a forest of spun glass. The eld woman made her way through the ebony trunks, stopping every few steps to cut evergreen and holly boughs. She tossed them over her shoulder into the large basket she was carrying on her back, to be woven later into garlands for the winter solstice.

Glancing around, she saw the boy, Thom, walking just a little ways away. The silver cat followed beside him on little prancing feet, as they crossed over the frost-covered ground towards her. The boy’s eyes were bright as he looked at her, but she knew it was not her that he saw. His absent gaze looked right through her. Perhaps, he was watching the sylphs as they danced through the glittering white wood around them. Or perhaps, it was an entirely different wood that he saw, one where crystal trees grew and the queen of fairies ruled. Or had once ruled, as it was.

That did not stop her from smiling at him anyway, and speaking to him even though she knew he would not answer. She did not take his silence personal. In the past month, since he had come to live with her, she had taken up the habit of explaining what she was doing and why even though it seemed as if his attention was elsewhere. She understood what it was like to see what others could not, and how difficult it could be to walk in that space between two worlds. Unfortunately, she suspected that for Thom it was the mortal realm which appeared as if it were a dream, and the hidden one that was his reality.

They came to a small dell where the air felt warmer. She stopped, staring at the patches of color around her. The flowers, in their confusion, had sprung up from the ground despite the sparkling frost, making themselves into a summer crown for winter’s icy head. Had it been early spring, she would have thought nothing of it, but it was only just midwinter. She frowned. She could not say why, but a feeling of unease whispered through her.

A warm hand slipped into hers, and she was surprised to find Thom standing next to her. He was looking down at the flowers as well, his brow furrowed in the same way she suspected hers was. She smiled at the top of his head.

“A few more and we will be finished,” she told him, squeezing his hand.

She continued on with her gathering, but it was not long after that she turned them towards home. Thom held her hand the whole way back, while the silver cat, declaring his paws half-frozen, rode in the basket atop the evergreens.


That afternoon found her standing at the table, the evergreens she had gathered earlier stretched out before her like a miniature forest. The warmth of the hearth was at her back as she deftly wove the fragrant greens into garlands, wrapping them in red thread and stringing them with silver and brass bells. She watched the snow blow past the window in front of her as she went about her task; its multi-hued panes making a kaleidoscope of the flurries as they swirled by.

In only a few hours, the weather had turned bitter. The snow, which was at best only a light dusting at this time a year, was even now piling up into tall drifts. Usually, she did not mind being snowed in, enjoying the hush of the world outside as the snow blanketed the house. As long as the water butt and pantry were full, there was little need for her to go much further than the spring cellar door. But this year was different.

Looking back over her shoulder, she found Thom sitting on the hearth-rug watching the fire, the silver cat curled up next to him, fast asleep. Checking on him was something else she found herself doing often now. An increasingly familiar weight settled on her shoulders even as she smiled at the boy fondly.

She had not had a name for that feeling of heaviness the first time she felt it, but she did now. Strangely enough, it was loneliness. The loneliness of caring for Thom on her own, and the uncertainty of what the years ahead would bring for him. And for herself as well, if she were honest. It was a foolish feeling perhaps, but she felt it all the same.

Once the garlands were done, she set about hanging them above the windows. The sharp piney scent of them tickled her nose as the bells strung throughout winked merrily back at her in the firelight.

She had just finished hanging the last one when there was sharp tap, tap, tapping at her window. Opening it, she found a snow-covered raven perched on the sill. He wasted no time in shaking off his feathers and hopping inside.

“Fah! My wings are nearly frozen,” the phooka declared gliding from the table to a spot on the floor, closer to the hearth.

“What did you expect, flying out in such weather?” she asked, closing the window behind him.

“Tch! Cold-hearted! That’s what you are. All of a sudden, the weather outside seems balmy,” the phooka said, shedding his feathers and holding his hands out to the fire. “And here I am, having braved the elements, riding on the very back of the Northwind no less, all the way here just to tell you…”

There was a knocking at the door.

“…to expect visitors,” she said, finishing his sentence for him as she made her way towards it.

“Just so,” he grinned.

Answering the knock, she found a golden-eyed Lumina standing there smiling at her, snowflakes strewn through her hair like a string of stars in a blue evening sky. The sprite’s arms were full of snow-dusted bundles which she began to hand to Hoax, who appeared as by magic from inside the cottage. Lumina turned again to the pale stag standing behind her, unloading the last of the bundles from his back before stepping inside. The White Stag, now relieved of his burdens, followed in on his bride’s heels, changing to his more human seeming as he ducked his head to cross the threshold.

“Welcome,” the eld woman said, kissing first Lumina, then Lorne on the cheek as they passed by her. “What is all this?”

“We’ve come to spend the solstice with you,” Lorne said, walking over to where the various bundles had been piled. “And, we brought gifts.”

He began unwrapping them one by one. The first held a warm coat for Thom. The ones that followed were filled with shirts and trousers and a sturdy pair of shoes, all just the right size for the boy.

There was also a great deal of food to be had: wheels of cheese, loaves of bread, a cold ham, and small bags stuffed with sugared fruits and nuts. There was even a tightly tied basket of cranberries sitting off to one side, which she immediately set Thom to stringing.

Leaving them to the unwrapping, she pulled on her old shawl and made her way through the narrow door that would take her to the spring cellar. Just as she had hoped, there was still a jug of cider left from the batch she had made out of last season’s apples. They had been gathered from the progeny of the old apple tree, and though they did not contain the same virtue of immortality as their parent, they were tasty and made excellent cider.

When she returned she found there was barely room on the table for the jug she was carrying, so full of food was it. Which was fine because the cider was soon in a pot, set high over the fire to warm. Spices from her dwindling stores simmering serenely atop the golden liquid.

They ate and laughed while they hung the strings of cranberries. Taking care to light the candles she had waiting in the windows so that their warm glow would shine out into the darkness beyond.


She tucked Thom into bed just around midnight. The silver cat followed along, claiming that his hearth rug was too crowded. Which was true, for the rest of her guests were all sitting together on the floor in front of the fire, content in each other’s company, sipping mulled cider as they reminisced about the passing year.

And what a year it had been! It had seen her oldest friend, and her newest, find their deserved happiness together. It saw herself give up a gift beyond price when she gave the oldest tree’s last apple to Lumina. Which she did knowing full well that by doing so, she would once again age as any mortal would, for a time at least. And it brought her Thom, and with him, the changing of her whole world.

The shushing snow outside and the warmth of the fire in front of them lulled everyone into a dreamy contentment. Lumina and Lorne lay to one side of the hearth, heads pillowed on each other’s hips. The eld woman could not help but smile softly at the sight. Perhaps it should have seemed odd to have such beautiful, otherworldly creatures laying asleep, tangled together like two kittens on her hearth rug, but it didn’t. Seeing their happiness had chased away the loneliness of before, reminding her of when she was young. Of long nights just like this one, spent in front of a fire, keeping warm with friends or lovers.

She felt a soft weight settle across her back. The phooka’s chin came to rest on her shoulder, his breath warm on her cheek as he spoke low next to her ear.

“Do you wish that for yourself?” he asked, in a voice made for secrets.

“Why would you say something so foolish?” she retorted softly.

“Am I asking something foolish?”

How to explain the different aspects of love to a creature such as the one sitting next to her?

“Yes, you are. And if you understood the human heart, you would know how foolish a question it was,” she replied.

“Perhaps, and perhaps the question I am asking is not the one you are answering,” he suggested, smoothing his hands over her shoulders as he moved away.

He had left something behind. Her fingers, reaching up, brushed across fabric thick and luxuriant. Drawing it closer, she saw that it was a lovely green shawl, beautifully woven. The silken threads beneath her fingertips were cottony and soft, and unlike anything she had seen before.

“I don’t see why Thom should be the only one to receive gifts,” he said, wrapping the shawl more securely around her shoulders. “A gift freely given. To keep you warm, and to give me a soft place to rest my weary head,” he finished, laying his head on her shoulder, daring her to admonish him.

She sighed in defeat and fond exasperation, allowing him to stay where he was. Resting her own cheek against the top of his head, she watched the salamanders dancing in the fire. The furry tip of Hoax’s ear twitching ever-so-softly against her lips with each out-going breath.

“Do you want to see something wondrous?” a voice whispered quietly in her ear, waking her from sleep.

She opened her eyes to find herself looking up into Hoax’s face, her head now laying comfortably in his lap.

He gestured for her to stand, so she did, wincing as her stiff muscles complained. Hoax took her hand and led her to the window nearest the hearth, its glass panes, traced in frost, hiding the outside world behind icy lace. He undid the latch, opening it just a crack so that they might see out.

The night was clear now, sharp-edged and brilliantly cold. Just beyond the linden tree, she could see two figures dancing out on the snow.

Their feet left no prints to mark their passage. No music guided their steps, or at least no music that she could hear, yet they moved with sureness and grace. The moon was caught up in his silver antlers and the stars tangled themselves in her hair. With each sway and turn the world was made right around them. Spring was in every touch they shared, and autumn in every kiss. Every parting brought with it winter and every return summer. Their dance was eternal, and in that infinite moment, the music of the world revealed itself. It was a song not meant for mortal ears, though they themselves were a part of it. The endlessness of eternity filled her mind as she understood truths she knew she would not remember. She was but a mortal being and her heart ached as she watched the dancers. They were as stars in the sky, pure and beautiful and so very far above her.

A warm hand cupped her cheek, wiping away tears she had not even known were there.

“This is not at all what I intended.” And for once the phooka’s face was serious. “Forgive me, sweet witch, I did not think. Humble beings such as you and I are not meant for such lofty things.”

“Such lofty things?” she repeated, her ire growing unreasonably. “Do you think I wish for them? Only a fool tries to hold the sun. I, for one, would much rather bask in its warmth.”

“Would you? I thought you loved him once.”

“I do still,” she agreed. “But not as I think you mean it.”

“You sacrificed half your sight for him,” the phooka pointed out.

She had given up much more than that to see Lorne happy and whole, but she had no desire to bring the phooka’s attention to that.

“And when he was blind, you were his eyes for a century or more. Though you were no more obligated to do so than I was,” she retorted, annoyed at his interrogation, yet at the same time feeling perversely grateful for it. “You will admit that there are those who are deserving of such kindnesses. Ones like your king and his bride, who do for others with no thought of gain for themselves.”

“I will wholeheartedly admit it,” he said, closing the window. The dancers disappearing from her sight behind the frost-laced glass. “But your answer is really no answer at all.”

“It is as plain an answer as you could ask for, and certainly plainer than anyone you have ever given.”

“That may be, but I think I need it to be even plainer.”

“Even plainer?” she scoffed. “How can I be any plainer than ‘I love him still’? Is it the ‘still’ or the ‘love’ that I need to make plainer?”

“Oh ‘love’, definitely ‘love’. I think everyone could stand to have that made plainer!” he laughed softly. “And I am curious to know what you meant when you said ‘not as I think you mean it’.”

“I am not going to try to explain the different aspects of love to a twisty-tongued creature such as you,” she said, voicing her thoughts from earlier. “You would get too much pleasure out of spinning my words on their heads.”

“Explanations of love should set your head spinning,” he agreed, nodding sagely, but the twinkle in his eye told her he was taking great delight in teasing her.

“Ach! You make me tired,” she said.

“I could if you would only let me!”

“Enough, you ridiculous goblin,” she said with familiar exasperation.

Hoax held his tongue, smiling at her in much the same way as the silver cat did when he happened upon an unattended crock of cream. She eyed him suspiciously, wondering what mischief he was up to.

There was a shifting in the world around her; a turning of the tide. Though the darkness still held sway, the long night was over. The old year was passing, and soon the sun would rise, bringing with it a new year and new beginnings.

For the eld woman, life has changed irrevocably. Her mortality hangs on her like a shroud, and young Thom, newly returned from faerie, has turned her world upside down. Ill portents fill the air, and even the seasons are out of step…

Stories often have a mind of their own, don’t they? Take Lumina and the Goblin King, I was sure the story was finished. It wasn’t until I was in the middle of writing the epilogue that I realized there were other stories there, waiting to be told. That even happy endings aren’t really endings at all, just the beginnings of new stories. In this case, a story about the eld woman, Hoax and Thom, the boy who had been stolen away from Underhill.

So here we are, with The Broken Court set to come out early next year. It follows directly after Lumina and the Goblin King and precedes the final book, whose story is already whispering in my ear, but whose name has not quite revealed itself yet. I already posted one excerpt from The Broken Court in my post The first day of fall, if you find yourself a little curious and want to give it a read. And keep your eyes open for another to be posted later in December. Or better yet, come listen to me read at Strong Women-Strange Worlds’ Year-End Extravaganza on Sunday, Dec. 12th. I am reading a part of that same December excerpt at their Holiday-themed Quick Reads. And if you like Scavenger Hunts, there will also be a chance to win a copy of Lumina and the Goblin King, along with a box full of other books and swag.

If you think the idea of hanging out with over 30 authors for free, without even having to change out of your pajamas, sounds like fun, then here’s the place to register.

That’s right, thanks to the amazing Janis McDavid. Molly the Mermaid now has a voice! You can find it in Reading’s a Breeze’s ever growing library of books.

THE WORLD THROUGH A CHILD’S EYES.

The delightful thing about childhood is that even the most mundane things can be fantastical. Every blanket becomes a vast fortress, every patch of sunlight a pathway to a magical land. Molly the Mermaid opens a door to an incredible place of boundless imagination – the mind of a child.

This light-hearted story is about a girl, the sea, and the wonderful adventures her imagination takes her on while she plays in the waves. As a mermaid, Molly meets a dolphin named Penelope. Together they play in the sunlit waves and explore interesting places under the sea.
A good book for adults and children to read together, the illustrations are fun and the descriptive language appeals to a variety of senses. Young readers will find a springboard for their imagination as they explore coral castles, find chests filled with gold and glittering jewels, and have tea with a leafy sea dragon at the very bottom of the sea.

Below is a short excerpt from one of my current projects. Where the Angels Dream (working title). Set in a time similar to the late 1800s, it is a story about Devon and Sara Amaris. A brother and sister to whom the dead speak and unknown powers take notice. It is still very much a work in progress.

Vintage image of a sad angel on a cemetery against the background of leaves (details)

Devon sat on a garden bench beneath the red cedar tree. He leaned back, one leg crossed over the opposite knee as he drew softly on a small pipe. Tobacco was a luxury he rarely indulged, but tonight seemed a good night for it.

The courtyard was quiet, save for the watery trickle of the fountain and the soft sighing of the night breeze. The air was cool and the seat beneath him, damp with the chill. He could still see the glow of Sara’s bedroom light reflected in the branches above him, then a few minutes later they went out. Just as he expected, it was not long after that he felt a furred body lean against his leg. A tail curled around his calf for a moment before disappearing, to be replaced by small paws pressing against his shin. Whiskers brushed across the back of his hand where it rested on the ankle of his crossed leg.

Of course, he could not see the cat. Of all those in his family, only Sara could see the spirits. Though if she were to hold his hand, palm to palm, then he too could see them through the virtue of her gift. No for him, the spirits were not something to be seen, but he could touch them, just as easily as he could anything made of flesh and blood.

“Is our angel finally asleep, then?” he asked and was answered with a deep contented purr. He felt a weight settle into his lap and two paws come to rest on his chest. Whiskers tickled across his jaw before the cat settled in. Stretching out on his chest, its head on his shoulder so that its nose rested just below his ear, where it continued to purr softly. In the darkness he had no need to worry if any saw, so his fingers came up to absently stroke the phantom fur.

“I worry,” he admitted to his companion. “It is harder for her, being able to see all of you. Other people notice more. She tries so hard to not be seen, and she has gotten better at hiding it. But, she can’t bring herself to ignore someone who speaks to her because she has a kind heart, and she doesn’t want to offend the dead.”

The cat gave a little trill as it continued to purr.

“Do you know she hasn’t even mentioned you to me. Though I’ve no doubt that she has seen you,” he confided to unseen companion, worry deepening his voice. “And that, my little cat, concerns me more than I care to admit. I believe it would be a good idea to have a look at this headmaster.”

Eventually, he tapped his pipe out on the side of his boot heel and stood up slowly. The cat transitioning from his chest to his shoulder where it perched as he slipped his pipe into he trouser pocket and headed up the front steps into the dark house. He walked softly through the silent kitchen, the fragrant ghosts of dinners past twining with the scent of resting dough for the breakfast yet to come. His boots made no noise on the back stairs that spiraled up from the kitchen to floors above. He went to their very end, a short hall in the attic with two doors facing each other across it. He glanced at one, before opening the other and going in. He resolved to walk into school with his sister the next morning.

Changing into his nightclothes, he stretched out on the bed. He could feel his visitor’s whiskers brush his cheek as it settled onto the pillow next to him. The purring in his ear resolving into a gentle rhythm, rising and falling like the rolling waves on an unseen shore. He let himself drift with the sound; knowing that when he closed his eyes, the now familiar figure of a dark haired woman would be waiting for him, down at the edge of the sea.

* * * * *

For any of you who didn’t make it, the Sept. 3rd Quick Read was a lot of fun. If you have ever enjoyed or been interested in hearing authors read from their own works, then I would strongly recommend you go to Strong Woman – Strange Worlds and register to attend one of their Quick Read events. They are on the first Friday and third Thursday of every month and there is always a good mix of authors. Where ever your speculative fiction interests may lie, you will most likely find something to like. Not to mention afterwards, you can talk with or ask questions of the authors.

For authors, it is a great way to meet other authors and share your work with interested readers. It is easy and free for both the authors and the audience, so win-win! Sound like fun? Here’s a link to the form if you want to go take a look. I hope you do, I try to make as many events as I can and would love to hear what others are working on.

Orange aspen leaves glow in the fall sunlight. – Unfortunately, this picture is not from here!

Autumn is my favorite time of the year. Though the signs are a lot more subtle here, since the leaves don’t really change. However, you can still tell and I love it! That I just finished the first draft of one of my current projects, makes it all the better. The working title is The Broken Court, and it’s a novella that picks up directly after Lumina and the Goblin King. Of course it is still in need of a lot of work, but here is a small taste:

The Broken Court – excerpt

She had not expected Hoax to stay much after dinner was done, but to her surprise he did. He was apparently content to watch as Thom drew designs in the ashes by the fire. She went about adding oats and dried fruit to a pot, covering them with water, before placing it near the hearth where it could be ready for the morning.

The hour grew later, and still the phooka showed no signs of leaving. So, she took herself and the boy off to the other room to get ready for sleep. She tucked him into her own bed, before changing into her nightclothes. She gathered her brush and ribbon, then went to the chest at the end of the bed. Opening it, she took out the woolen tick she kept there, after wishing Thom a good night, she left.

She carried the feather ticking out and laid it out on the hearth. There she sat, watching the flames as she brushed and rebraided her hair, listening as the storm outside continued, unabated.

“Is this where you’ve been sleeping since the boy arrived?” Hoax’s voice asked. She turned to find him stretched out on the floor behind her, hands beneath his head.

“Where else would I sleep? The boy needs the bed more than I do,” she stated, although her stiff joints begged to differ.

“I can well imagine you change your mind when the fire burns low. But there is no need for you to sleep cold on the hearth tonight,” he assured her. “For here I am, perfect for curling up with. And should there be a need for comfort in the middle of the night, you can always reach over and rub my belly.”

“A need for comfort in the middle of the night?” she said dryly.

“Well it would certainly comfort me,” he said drolly, stretching out to his full length, before turning on his side to face her. The winsome eyes looking back at her now in the face of a great black hound.

The impertinent creature stood up and nosed his way on to the bedding despite her protests, laying down next to her with a sigh. She gave up and lay down also, turning her back on the phooka. Exasperating creature that he was, still his gentle breathing seemed to lift a weight from her shoulders. The heat coming from him eased the aches in her body better than the fire she lay in front of. Aches that were more than they should be because of the usual lack of them. More at ease then she had been in a while, she slid down into sleep.

She dreamt of Mayings long past, filled garlands and flowered crowns, and the warm kiss of the spring sun on her skin. When she danced in the moonlight with a sweet tune in her ears and sweeter kisses on her lips. Teasing promises in the dark waking a longing for such things that had never truly been hers. The feel of silken skin beneath her fingers hypnotic.

Her eyes drifted open to find that the fire had burned down very low. She knew it would go out if she did not add a log soon, but she could seem to bring herself to move comfortable as she was, her hand stroking along the warm silken flank next to her. A flank that was no longer covered in fur.

She sat up. Away from the phooka’s warmth her joints protesting against the chill that had settled in the house. Carefully she shifted to her knees in the hopes of not waking the goblin man who was currently taking up half her bed. A soft groan hummed in her throat as she leaned over to add a log to the fire.

He did not move when she laid back down, so she assumed he was still asleep. With a sigh she settled back down into his warmth.

“Tell me eld woman, just how heavily does your mortal blood weigh on you,” his soft asked from the darkness beside her, “now that you do not have old man apple’s gift to hold it back?”

“Go to sleep you troublesome creature,” was all the answer she gave.

“You first, dearheart.” Her eyelids grew heavy with his words. Sleep stealing up on soft feet to claim her.

*****

The fall colors that we do see here…

Read out loud to others… no problem. Read something I wrote out loud to other people… what am I thinking!!

I was thinking it would be fun, and I’m sure it will. Still, I can’t help but feel a healthy dose of terror mixed in with the excitement churning around in my belly. After all, there’s only one more day until myself and four other authors gather together via Zoom and read excerpts from our stories to a virtual room full of people. Ahh!!

On the other hand, it is also an amazing opportunity to meet readers and hang out with other authors. Several of the authors, myself included, are offering giveaways and swag. I am offering one free print copy of Lumina and the Goblin King, and a free ebook copy for everyone who signs up for one.

So, free entertainment… free books… what else could you ask for. Maybe someone else to read for me 🙂 Interested? Register here and join us.