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Copyright © Maureen Stych, llamememeg, 2021

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Synopsis: Book 1, The Elderns

Relax, pour a glass of wine, dim the lights and enter my world: a world that will stretch your imagination to the limits.

Humans face extinction at the hands of race of beings blessed with extraordinary powers. This race, created by Lord Etsai, is rising. The Pha’rár resemble the dominant species of our planet but hold powers human beings can only dream of. While human-beings face the end of their rein, a formidable man and his daughter rebels. To restore balance, and save beloved friends and allies, Cæsar confronts my family.

I am Etsai Guýgaal, firstborn son of Zúri and grandson of E’rón. At E’rón’s instigation, the task assigned by my father was to create this new species who are destined to rule your world. In the likeness of humankind but with the intelligence and foresight to return our world to health.

The ancient prophecy claimed a female of the Agirre line will rise. Destined to perform the Cleansing, she will rebel. Although she strives to protect her human friends, all does not go to plan. How could it when I swore to oppose her.

The inhabitants of a tiny village overlooking wild seas of the Bay of Biscay thrives. To escape the Christian movement, led by a witch hunter and a young priest who ventured into their village, the Pha’rár undertake a dangerous journey into the unknown.

A ship, with all onboard, is lost when the island’s Guardian prevents them from approaching the shadow isles. Dejected, the Master Warlock abandons his plans and heads south. Their new homeland is a wild unwelcoming island, the home of a powerful immortal who resents their presence.

Heartbroken when Amaral and Isobel die, Cæsar abandoned Isle Pha’rár seeking solace while sailing through wild seas. A chance encounter with Brae Guýgaal, a notorious pirate captain named “The Laird of the Damned”, draws him into a life of piracy.

Jenny Anders

Jenny raced down the steep staircase to the seventh floor and slid, unseen, into the lift. The underground carpark was dank and dark when she emerged. Briefly, she paused, listening. “All clear,” she sobbed.

A thick blanket of pristine snow covered the pavement. Running was impossible. The pain was excruciating. Tears slid down her cheeks as used her scarf to create a sling. The sound of a powerful car alerted her to Danny’s approach.

She sobbed, recalling the first day of their honeymoon. “The rumours were true,” she whispered as she crept into the woods.

The blizzard raged covering her footprints as her husband of only two days stepped out of the Land Rover. She trembled, wondering how he sensed her presence. ‘Hell,’ she thought. ‘Andrea wasn’t lying. Danny is warlock.’

“I will find you,” he bellowed.

Still and silent, she waited.

“Mark, was I wrong.”

“Forget her, Danny, she isn’t worth it. Lets go back to the hotel.” Mark yelled in a bid to be heard above the howling wind.

“But she lied to me.”

“Does it matter. So she wasn’t the sweet innocent you believed her to be. That’s life, Danny, it’s called equality of the sexes.”

Jenny pulled the black poncho from her backpack and slipped it over her head. The sheepskin mittens warmed her cold hand. Nearly an hour later, she limped into a Motel on the outskirts of Leeds. Voice quiet, she asked “Do you have any vacancies.”

“Just the one, but it’s small. A single bed, en suite.”

“Brilliant,” she whispered. “I need to rest for a couple of weeks, maybe more. Will cash be okay?”

“Rest, or lie low?”

The sob was involuntary. “Please,” she sobbed.

“You were lucky to escape, Mrs Anders. I’ve known Daniel and his brother since we were kids. Violence against women is a family trait. He was married to my sister for nigh on twelve months. With my help Andrea escaped, but the scars ― both mental and physical ― haven’t healed.”

Spectrum

A short while ago, I joined a writer’s group; this was my first (actually my second) attempt at writing poetry, and possibly my last. Definitely not my forte.

The beautiful colours of a spectrum,

A rich red, orange, yellow and green, blue, indigo and violet

The colour of a sandy beach and the fire of a rising sun,

From my perch on a golden moon

I witnessed the creation of a stunning blue planet

Death is the beginning!

I have memories of time spent playing in the attics of a large house; four stories with servant’s quarters on the top floor. I was wearing a white mid-calf length dress, frilly and old-fashioned; pretty ballet pumps made from soft leather, and stockings trimmed with fine hand-made lace. Black hair, styled in ringlets, cascaded down my back. Trunks of clothing and furniture were stored in the attic rooms where I was allowed to play. I raced through these rooms accompanied by another child.

This memory, and my companion, have been with me throughout all my life. I mentioned him, just once, to my mother.

“Don’t be stupid,” Mom hissed, “there are no such things as ghosts.”

“But Mom, he isn’t a ghost. Jonas lives in my bedroom.”

“Stop all this nonsense. Go out and play with your friends.”

I watched Jonas as he strolled around the room. A fleeting glance, his expression bereft, he beckoned me to follow.

Mum screamed my name, over and over again. When I turned, intent upon returning to my home, Jonas took my hand in his. Neighbours raced past me, oblivious to my presence.

Sensing my disquiet, he knelt beside me. “Your second life has ended, but this is only the beginning of your journey to immortality.”

I was seated beside Jonas as a carriage, pulled by four black horses, entered the graveyard. My parents and sister were dressed in black. A veil covered Mom’s face.

Bethany glanced at me and smiled as my coffin was lowered into the ground. A look of sweet innocence, a quick glance at our parents, and she crept towards the copse of trees.

“Sis,” she whispered, “Mom thinks you are dead.”

“I am, but I wanted to say goodbye. Don’t be sad, Bethany, my life hasn’t ended. I’ve moved on, and in time so will you. Just remember when your time comes that there is nothing to be afraid of: Death is the beginning, not the end.”

Jon

This story was penned by my late daughter, Lisa-Jane Stych. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Angela’s expression was chilling as she glanced at Jon when he admitted to being a vampire; “You feed on people?”

“Vampires,” he whispered, “feed on humans. So yes, I do.”

“And the Eldarns too?”

“No.”

“You are evil!”

“Do not moralise with me child. I did not see you weeping for the cow that died so you could enjoy a happy meal.”

“Humans,” Angela retorted, “are not cows, or happy meals for that matter.”

“To me that is exactly what you are. Nothing but walking, talking, happy meals.” He paused, adding as an afterthought. “Although I can be more certain of the contents of my meal”

“You disgust me.”

“I’m hurt. Truly! I would have thought as an animal rights protagonist you would have approved of me.”

The laughter was no longer repressed as Angela snarled, “How so?”

He smiled, his eyes twinkling mischievously. “I always make my kills swift, humane and without pain,” elaborating heavily on the humane.

Nathaniel stalked around them, interceding before Angela could continue. “Enough, “he snapped.

“How can you defend him?”

Nathaniel turned towards Angela, answering softly and calmly. “I do not consider myself moral enough to question his lifestyle, and I do not believe that there is a human alive, at least the meat eating ones, who can either. Humans raise themselves to be above other animals, and consider themselves superior and so cannot handle it when they are reduced to mere food supply by something higher up the food chain. This is all it amounts to: you don’t like the idea of being fed on, yet you feast on other animals yourselves. You look at Jon and see your true reflection―a predator―and do not like what you see.”

Angela stumbled in her response, “I do not feast on my own kind.”

Nathaniel raised his hand, silencing Jon. “And nor does he. He looks like you, he even talks like you for sure. But make no mistake, he is no longer one of you. What you see is the most effective predatory camouflage on this planet. A predator who blends in perfectly with his prey. Jon puts the chameleon to shame.”

Angela was silenced as she opened her mouth, intent on responding, as Nathaniel continued. “Besides, Jon has not killed a human in over two hundred years; not even by accident.”

Lilith glanced at Jon, her expression questioning, “Then how does he survive?”

Jon sighed, “He survives on willing donors, or when they are in short supply, blood banks. But never think for one second that I am one of those tortured Vampires you girls seem to love. If I had to kill to survive, I would. I merely…” he paused, scanning Angela’s face. “ Chose the easier, and far more enjoyable path.”

“Human donors,” Angela whispered, clearly disgusted. “Why would anyone do such a thing?”

Jon held Angela’s gaze, his pupils slowly expanding to the point where she could no longer make out the iris. Angela suddenly felt her pulse quicken; a rapid flutter of heartbeats, her thoughts were submerged in a fog.

Jon held her gaze, his voice taking on a seductive edge, “It can be highly pleasurable, should I choose. Do you care to find out?”

Nathaniel and Lilith leapt up at exactly the same time. Lilith to her friend, shaking her roughly by the shoulders while Nathaniel yelled, “Enough, release her. Do it now.”

Jon snapped out of it and walked away, laughing softly to himself, leaving Lilith and Nathaniel to comfort the dazed and incoherent Angela. Jon’s parting words, “I warned you not to bring cattle on this field trip.”

Cain

I introduced Teresa, her son Cain, daughter Belen at the end of Book 3 (Retribution). Terese is E’rón and Sa’eda’s daughter. They are two characters in the “The Elderns”. Protagonists are, IMHO, far more interesting, especially for the writer. This is the first scene from a short story which will be published on this blog later this year.

“Cain, you gotta come out and meet Uncle Cæsar.”

Cæsar glanced at Oscar when a boy, barely hidden behind his mother, tugged his father’s sleeve and whispered, “Daddy, I wanna go home.”

“Cain, Rùm is our new home.”

“No,” Cain screamed. “Mum, why can’t we return to the island. This island is cold and unwelcoming, and there’s no beach for me to play on.”

“Cain,” Oscar screamed when the tall slender boy raced towards the promontory tip. The young boy glanced at his father then stepped into the fissure.

Morag appeared. Her expression cold, she snarled, “Oscar, why didn’t you introduce me to your son when I visited your island?”

“Cain vanished shortly after I mentioned a visitor and although I searched the island, I failed to find him. Morag, our son is headstrong.”

“Your son is unmanageable, Oscar, not headstrong.”

“Our son exerts total control over his powers. Cain disappeared just a couple of days before we planned on abandoning the island. Belen mentioned, only recently, that he journeyed into the past. Morag, I believe he visited the homeworld.”

“You should have mentioned the boy. Oscar, your daughter is calm, for now, as her powers were taken at birth. The problem faced is that a powerful child protects his or her gifts behind impenetrable shields. If this is the case, then only when she reaches maturity, and I know beyond doubt that she is in control of her gifts, will her crystal be returned.”

“Can you take my son’s powers?”

“Bonding with E’rón and Sa’eda’s daughter was foolish. Oscar, your son’s powers have risen so there’s no other option open to me. His soul must be destroyed.”

“And my wife and daughter’s souls?”

“At Teresa and Belen’s behest their powers were taken into crystal. E’rón and Sa’eda were powerful. Sa’eda’s powers and crystal were taken before she abandoned the homeworld but even so they exceed those held by the Pha’rár. In time, and to protect this community, I will be called upon to destroy Cain’s soul otherwise danger will walk once more among us.”

Excerpt: The Elderns, Book 1: Rising

Morag despaired. The world she created had fallen into disarray. Many unique and beautiful species were extinct, many others faced the same fate. Although Dai and Inyaña were enjoying the freedom to wander, she summoned them to the homeworld.

“Humankind’s time as dominant species must end. Dai, you are assigned the task of creating a new species, in the likeness of humankind but with the foresight and intelligence to work in harmony with Mother Earth.”

Morag grew quiet as words flowed into Dai and Inyaña’s minds and through Dai took form on the scroll.

“Morag, this world is my refuge,” Inyaña pleaded. “Human beings are young, barely out of childhood, be patient, with age comes maturity. In time they will acknowledge and rectify their mistakes.”

Although Morag empathised with Inyaña, she hardened her heart. “And many years from now, humankind will still be young and naive. Despite the help and advice proffered, they do not live in harmony with the world around them. Mother Earth is in decline, to restore balance, a new dominant species must rise.”

“At last,” E’rón growled, “the time has come for me to seize control of Creation.”

“Morag favours Inyaña and Dai so to incur her wrath is unwise.”

“This may well be true, Adya, but the homeworld is my domain. Journey with me and join my loyal companions from the night world. Together we will assign our oppressors to the past.”

Seeking solace from familiar surroundings, Inyaña returned to the outer chamber. “Aari,” she screamed, falling to her knees beside her guardian’s body. Sensing Adya’s presence, she spun to face him. “Dai,” Inyaña whispered as Adya’s slender blade pierced her heart.

I sensed Adya’s remorse as blood dripped from his dagger onto the pure white marble floor.

Minutes only passed before Dai raced into the outer chamber. As he knelt beside Inyaña’s body, and gently closed her eyes, he linked with their mentor, “Please forgive me, Morag. I failed.”

One by one, the minor Gods and demons appeared. E’rón strolled around the outer chamber, and confidently declared, “Your time as Eldern God has ended.”

Despite Dai’s innate powers, he failed to defeat E’rón’s band of hardened warriors. As Dai took his last breath, Morag returned to the inner chamber. E’rón sensed her presence but to his dismay he failed to bypass the Guardian’s Gate. “Inaccessible,” he snarled.

Time paused for all but Adya. Sensing the presence of an old enemy, he spun to face him. Sombrear’s slender dagger pierced Adya’s heart.

“Morag, her daughter and Inyaña’s husband escaped,” E’rón growled as he knelt beside his loyal servant’s body. “Find them.”

“And what of Sombrear’s lover.”

“No matter the cost, trace Máirín before she gives birth.”

Tears trickled down Máirín’s pale cheeks when she returned from the trance. Lightly, she touched her stomach linking with her daughter, “Little one, I must return to Sanctuary.” Without a backward glance, she stepped through the fissure. The freezing cold wind chilled her slender frame. “Thank you, Morag,” she sobbed as a silver-grey fur cape swathed her trembling body.

A familiar young woman approached. Even from afar Máirín recognised the powers held within her slender frame.

“Lady Máirín, Sanctuary’s Guardian welcomes you.”

Glenn’s Dilemma

“Strange,” I murmured. That was my reaction when I arrived at the hospital. Strange as in the circumstances surrounding a young woman’s death, not the woman’s name which was Alice Strange.

Dr. Jake Sanders delivered two babies, born within minutes of their mother arriving in A&E; twins named Cairn and Ruby. He glanced at me and quietly said, “The children’s mother died shortly after their birth. Social Services phoned a few minutes ago. A foster father is on his way. Alice Strange was a healthy young woman ― albeit waif like ― with an upturned nose, rosebud mouth and icy blue eyes resembling the leaves of a weeping willow in shape. Definitely not pretty, but attractive in an ethereal way.

“No obvious cause of death,” he muttered.

I was stunned by the foster father’s close resemblance to my late father. When I glanced at the twins Andy said, “Such beautiful babies, don’t you think?”

His laughter, when I quietly responded, was contagious, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

The coroner was perplexed when we entered the mortuary. “Jake, where is Alice Strange’s body.” Despite an extensive search of the hospital itself and the grounds, her body wasn’t recovered.

When Samuel summoned me to his office, I accepted that yet again I failed to gain promotion.

“Congratulations,” Samuel said as he dropped an envelope onto the desk. “The damn job is yours but before I leave, I must explain a mysterious unsolved case. Nearly twelve years ago my boss asked me to look into an unexplained death in the maternity unit and subsequent disappearance of the body.” Samuel dropped a heavy file onto the table, “Check out the photographs, then we’ll chat.”

Our attention turned to Sandie when she brought two packs of ale, pizza boxes, salad and brownies into the office. As we finished off the brownies and coffee, I flipped through the file.

“This woman resembles Alice Strange.”

Samuel nodded as he pointed to two filing cabinets, “As do all the cold cases. My boss assigned them to me, now it’s your turn.” As Samuel pulled on leather gloves, and wrapped a thick woollen scarf around his neck, he glanced at me and smiled. “Take the time to read each file. Good luck, son, you’ll need it. See you later.”

Just over fifteen years later three missing person reports appeared on my desk. Andy, Cairn and Ruby had vanished. The children’s bedrooms were pristine, somewhat unusual for teenagers. Despite launching an intensive search we failed to find them.

“Yet another cold case,” Sandie sadly claimed as she locked the large cabinet.

Nearly two months later, Cairn strolled into the police station and asked to speak with me. “I am ready to return to our homeland, but first I was asked to explain my mother’s disappearance.”

Though I listened to his tale, without interrupting, I wondered if Cairn aspired to be an author of the fantasy fiction books that I loved.

“Why am I surprised, you asked. Your mother died following your birth. Her body mysteriously vanished during the night. There was no sign of life, yet you claimed she…”

“This is frustrating, I thought while gently massaging my forehead.

“Cairn, what was the word used?”

“Ascended,” Cairn patiently responded.

“Ascended… as in abandoning the body occupied throughout life? Okay, Cairn, but if this is the case then how did her body disappear? CCTV revealed no one left the hospital mortuary during the night.”

“A locked door appeared to open of it’s own accord?”

My eyes closed as I strived to restore calm and make sense of this ludicrous tale. “This is yet another dilemma that I doubt will be solved.”

“Glen, my mother didn’t die. Her body changed after she was taken to the mortuary. She left the hospital shortly afterwards.”

At this point, I gave up all hope. “Surely its impossible,” I thought while watching Cairn. When I queried why they didn’t raise their own young, he smiled.

“We are human at birth. Girls are raised by their mother, while boys are raised by their father. When twins of a different gender are born, either the mother or the father ascends.”

“Do you all have those strange icy blue eyes.”

“We do.” Andy’s laughter echoed around the office as he glanced at Sandie. “It’s time for me to leave but I hope to meet you both again one day.”

Five years later Sandie resigned and I retired passing the cold cases to my deputy. Joel was delighted as it was his dream to succeed where others had failed.

We journeyed to my father’s smallholding in Scotland with the brood mares and a handsome black stallion bred from the horses he loved.

My father vanished without trace on the day I joined the police force. Excited upon my return home, I hoped to discuss my first day at work with him but the house was empty, devoid of life other than my own.

As we headed north, I glanced at a photograph of my birth mother. Mama was beautiful and even though she died within minutes of my birth, I felt a deep abiding love for her. I shivered as the cold reminded me that we would be spending the rest of our lives on a remote Scottish island.

Sandie turned out the horses while I lit the log burner and prepared dinner. Betty and Joe snuggled into their bed set before the blazing fire, sniffing appreciatively at the lamb hotpot cooking on an old-fashioned stove. Dumplings for us, biscuits and a little lamb for my JRTs.

As dawn approached, I cradled Sandie in my arms and proposed marriage.

“Only if you hurry back,” she quietly responded.

Betty and Joe yapped impatiently as I saddled Zen and headed into the wildlands accompanied by the terriers. A fire, set within a circle of stones, warmed my chilled body. Thankfully, the aromatic Columbian coffee with a tot of whisky revived me.

“Time to head for home,” I thought as snowfall quickly covered the rough ground. Though I whistled for my JRTs, they failed to respond. The terriers yapping and sound of familiar voices drew me towards the rocky hillside.

A fire burned in the centre of a huge cavern; comfy chairs encircled the fireplace and assorted dining chairs were set before a long oak table. A huge flat-screen TV was given pride of place; doors opened out into smaller caverns furnished with easy chairs, bookcases, desks, laptops, mobile phones and beds adorned with soft downy pillows and thick quilts. The shower rooms and large kitchen were sleek and modern. A cavern filled to capacity with racks of wine, spirits, ale and cider attracted my interest.

“It resembles a maze,” I murmured.

Joe’s tail wagged manically as he jumped onto a huge leather sofa, clearly enjoying having his ears scratched.

Cairn sensed my confusion. Everyone was wearing stylish clothing and other than their hair the parts of their bodies that should have been visible weren’t. Patiently, he explained the changes.

“This is the form taken following our deaths. While we aren’t visible, in all other respects our bodies resemble humans.” As Cairn placed his hand over mine, he whispered. “You can feel my hand is touching yours. Look closely and tell me what you see.”

“But when you visited my office, you weren’t invisible.”

“We apply make up before venturing into your world.”

Laughter echoed around the cave when I quietly said, “Okay, I understand. You are invisible, but not transparent. I can see the outline of each person.”

“Glen, I despaired but finally you have joined us,” my mother murmured as she gently embraced me. “It’s so good to see you again.”

I was mesmerised as chairs were drawn back from the table and excited voices could be heard as they conversed about the terrible weather.

“Lamb cobbler and my favourite red wine.” Gratefully, I took the seat beside my mother and our family.

“Although we have ascended, we still enjoy a flavourful cobbler followed by a zesty citrus cheesecake with Scottish black raspberries.”

Joe and Betty tucked into the lamb and biscuits as my mother poured red wine into a glass and placed a plate of cobbler with mixed veggies in front of me.

“Eat, then we can chat while enjoying a cup of espresso.”

I was surprised when my father greeted me, taking the chair next to mine. Confused, I said, “I assumed you didn’t marry.”

“We come together when puberty is reached. Nature takes its course and eventually we marry. Glen, it isn’t difficult to understand. It’s simple: you are aware that when a female child is born, her father ascends. When a male child is born, his mother ascends.”

“But I’m not a father…”

“Sandie conceived last night. For some inexplicable reason you are different. You should not have ascended until your daughter was born. It is possible that you ascended before your child was born due to your age. Sandie was heartbroken when an old friend explained that you drowned and although we attempted to recover your body, we failed. An escort offered is accompanying her to your home in Wetherby. Calum, only rarely are twins born; when this happens, one parent ascends, and the second parent raises the children.” She smiled, albeit briefly. “Do you understand?”

“I don’t really understand the differences between our race and humans or your definition of to ascend. Mother, what happened to my Xen and the mares?”

“They are staying on the island with us. At the moment, they are enjoying freedom in the field. Your father will settle them down for the night.”

It’s Never Too Late

Memories buried long ago surfaced as I entered the nightclub with Lucas and Elizabeth. I glanced around the large room, recalling my eighteenth birthday. It was my first visit to a nightclub. As we approached the bar, a gorgeous man met and held my gaze. Christine, a close friend from our school days, asked if I believed in love at first sight.

She laughed when I quietly said, “I do now.”

I was startled when Jon whispered in my ear, “Dance with me.”

His voice was wonderful; deep and melodious. Unwilling to go our separate ways, we spent our first night together. When I arrived home the following morning, an array of boxes ― abandoned haphazardly ― lay beside my battered Jimny. Tears ran down my cheeks as I read the note, “A whore,” I whispered sadly, glancing briefly at my parents framed in the bedroom window. That was the last time I saw them. Not a great loss as we weren’t close: they were lousy parents: insular, selfish and judgemental.

I inherited grandma’s home on the outskirts of York on my eighteenth birthday. It was cold as I lugged the large boxes and cases into the hall. A rare treat, I thought, making my way to Betty’s tea rooms after lighting the fire. The discovery that I was pregnant on my first day at York University was a shock. Twins even worse. Thankfully, due to my grandparents, I was financially secure.

My daughter Elizabeth is the image of Jon while Lucas resembles my father, thankfully not in temperament. On the day that my son and daughter left home they asked for their father’s name. I was certain their search wouldn’t be successful. As time passed, and they didn’t mention him, I relaxed. Finally, I received the dreaded phone call.

It is my fortieth birthday today. I was looking forward to spending time with my son and daughter until they mentioned Jon. I recognised him immediately. The attraction hadn’t faded with the passing of the years. Our children are in their early twenties and in my eyes, at least, I am an old woman. Life hasn’t been kind, or so I thought.

“Hello, Jackie.”

Elizabeth and Lucas disappeared leaving me alone with a man I hadn’t seen for twenty-two years. Without a word being spoken Jon answered the question that was uppermost in my mind.

“I tried to find you, but your mother claimed you left home without leaving a forwarding address. Elizabeth mentioned that you hadn’t married, and never dated. I moved to London in search of a new life but didn’t marry. Jackie, you haven’t changed; you are still as beautiful as the day we met.”

“Too many years have passed, Jon, this meeting was a mistake.”

The gasp alerted me to my daughter’s return, and her fury. “Mum, how could you lie to the only man you have ever loved. I recall hearing your sobs when you retired for the night. Lucas decided before we left for university to find our father, but it was difficult. Two months ago, we found his Facebook page and introduced ourselves.”

“Elizabeth, life hasn’t been kind…”

My daughter wasn’t listening.

Jon was amused when I blushed; the expression in his wonderful dark blue eyes revealed his feelings hadn’t changed. His amusement was palpable as he glanced at my trim frame. I swam, jogged and danced to keep fit.

“Although we spent just one night together, I was certain you wanted it all: marriage, a career and children. Jackie, it’s never too late.”

Miriam

Hoping that she wouldn’t attract Bran’s attention, the young woman moved into the shadows. Allison’s tinkling laughter irritated her, but it was her husband’s words that cut through her fragile confidence. “My wife is enthusiastic, but naive. She has little knowledge of how to please a man.”

Tears ran down her pale cheeks as she slipped unnoticed through the open door onto the terrace. Haunted by his words, Miriam raced towards the airstrip. She had little time left before the aircraft departed. The first storm of winter descended without warning as Miriam waited for the crew to complete their pre-flight checks. Shards of ice bruised her slender frame as she clambered onboard. The journey seemed to take forever.

When the crew disembarked, Miriam changed into jeans, a hooded top and Doc Martens. She opened the safe and stuffed jewellery, currency and her passport into a black backpack. Four large suitcases, packed ready for their trip to the UK, were loaded into the Jeep. By sunset, Miriam was heading north towards her home in Whitby.

Lightning danced among dense inky black clouds as she locked the garage door. “Home,” she whispered sadly.

Her beautiful waist length platinum blonde hair fell to the floor. Tears cascaded down her pale cheeks as she ran her fingers through the short spiky locks, barely one centimetre long. Men glanced admiringly at the tall slender woman when she sauntered into the pub, taking a seat by the bar.

“Vodka on the rocks and a menu please.”

Allan returned Liberty to the water the following afternoon. Nearly two days later, she set sail, making her way north-east through the Baltic Sea.

Olivia was concerned as she hugged her daughter, “It has been a long time. Miriam, what has Bran done now?” She winced when Miriam described Bran’s actions and repeated his comment about her inability to please him. “I don’t want that bastard to visit my island. I didn’t approve of you marrying an old man with children. Bran is sixty years old, nearly three times your age. He treated Amy badly so why did you expect his treatment of you to be any different.”

“Bran isn’t aware of the island’s existence. There’s something you should know, Mom, although Jenny mentioned that I may be pregnant I’m uncertain. Bran has been obnoxious since he brought his new lover to the island.”

“What were you thinking of, Miriam, Jenny is Bran’s sister. When his child is born, he will find you. Amy left him. When the twins entered her world, his minions traced her. Bran took Jade and Jake away from their mother.”

“Mom, I’m astute enough to know that she can’t be trusted, but she saw the test kit. Bran’s lapdog arrived at my old cottage two days after I left the island. The new owner warned me, so I escaped just in time.”

“When was your last bleed?”

“Nearly five weeks ago.”

Olivia opened the safe, dropped a small carton onto the table and poured a glass of water, “Miriam, take it, now.”

Bran’s fury was palpable when he returned from the trance: his anger amused Jake, but not Jade.

“Despite all your powers, you won’t find Miriam.” She smirked as he topped up the coffee with rum. “You can’t blame her for leaving the islands. Goodness, Daddy, what the hell were you thinking of? Miriam is a few months younger than me, and she was in the bedroom when you arrived with the whore.”

“Allison isn’t a whore. Don’t lie to me, Jade, it won’t work. Where is she hiding?”

Bran winced when his daughter cursed him. “I don’t appreciate foul language, especially from a woman.”

“And I don’t give a damn. Use your powers to find her but bear in mind that Olivia is powerful. She loathes you, and who can blame her. Even you must be aware that female witches are far more powerful than males. The fact is that I don’t know where Miriam is hiding, and even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. Allison is an escort who accompanies anyone willing to pay the price; much the same as a whore as she provides sex in return for cash.”

Fury emanated from Bran when Jake quietly said, “We are returning to Scotland. A jet, organised by my mother’s solicitor arrived at the airport a couple of hours ago. All our belongings are onboard. Don’t cross us again: our mother’s powers have risen, as have ours.”