Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tuesday - Oldie But Goodie Day

Jewel of the Sun's BLOOD DESTINY - available at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and a few other places. - sizzling romantic paranormal

“Elan, please. Can we talk?”
           He looked through the camera at her as he spoke, “It’s not personal. It’s a means.”
“A means to what? I don’t—”
“The end.”
“Damn it, don’t talk in riddles,” she said, realizing he was taking photos. Too bad, if they come out crappy, if he’d be straight with her, she wouldn’t have to disrupt his play.
“No riddles. A means to the end. We follow the path of the visions and they’re over.”
Follow the path of the visions. Suddenly, she felt as if she’d been knocked down and found herself sitting on the bench, her hands gripping it for support. Her mind tried to wrap around his words.
No, he couldn’t mean it the way she took it. They were strangers. Sure she wanted him, but it was her mind’s game. Shudders swept through her. “I don’t understand,” she said.
“Cross your legs.”
His words barely registered, but she crossed her legs and her hands shook so much she couldn’t straighten the skirt. Before she knew he’d moved, he was there, kneeling. He stopped her hands with his.
“Look at me!” he commanded with a quietness she had to obey.
She had to look at him. “You can’t mean…this can’t…I can’t…”
He brought her hands to his lips, caressing them. “When the time’s right, there will be no fear.”
“I’m not scared. Practical. I don’t go to bed with anyone, especially if we’re strangers.”
“You’ve been thinking of it.”
“Yes, but it was the dreams, being here…it’s like déjà vu. It’s natural I would.” She tried to free her hands, but he wouldn’t let go.
“It’s not our will. We use our will to break a binding.” He played with the ring. “Bound by the jewel of the sun.”
“We must talk tomorrow. Time is slipping away. We deviate long, it will not work.”
“You want me to sleep with you without knowing why.”
He touched her trembling lips. “For now. Trust me.”
Right, the first thing her grandfather told her about boys was to never trust one who says ‘trust me’. He let her other hand go and fixed the skirt around her legs. His warm fingers straightened the anklet, and then he studied her with his infamous eye.
“Close your eyes. Breathe. Relax.”
Cassandra closed her eyes and breathed, but she didn’t relax. How could she? He wants to use her.
“Let it happen. Let it consume as before.” He tipped her chin enough to tilt her head. “Want me like you saw.”
“I do,” she whispered. “I burn for completion.” She did and maybe that’s why she felt herself giving in without much hesitance.
“Yes…yes…yes,” he whispered.
He returned to the camera and her leg bounced as she relaxed with her hands on the bench. She stopped the movement, because not only could it ruin his photos, but also the rocking of flesh against flesh fueled the smoldering ache between her thighs.
When he’d done as many shots with the still as he wanted, he picked up the digital and came in closer with each click. Though he never deviated from his work, she sensed a change in him. Who knows, it’s possible the discussion they’d had changed things between them. Maybe her admission of wanting to get her hands on him excited him. For herself, she found the instructions he gave easier to do and fun.
Some eight, ten shots later, he told her, “Walk around the bench toward the wall of ivy and give me an over the shoulder look.”
Cassandra took a few steps, looked over her shoulder and saw he’d lowered the camera. “Did I do it wrong?”
“No.” He brought the camera up and shot. “Needed you to relax into in to it.”
“Oh.” She smiled and turned looked over her other shoulder, while telling him, “You’re being easy on me, I think.”
“For now.” His words, the husky sound of his voice sent tingling sensations through her body. “I’m changing the scene,” he said, setting the camera down a few minutes later.
For now. What did he mean? She watched him walk past her and raise the screens to reveal white-paned French doors. There was darkness beyond the panes. She looked around for a clock and wondered why she’d never noticed it before. It set over the doorway and told her it was eight thirty. Had they been at it for almost two hours?
The butterflies returned to her stomach, but not from worry. The way all this was playing out was responsible. The trickle of information she had to pull from him like a splinter under the skin raised many more questions.
Elan finished with the screens and before he could tell her what she was to do next, she had to try to get more answers. “You obviously know more than I do. Tell me what you know. How did this happen? Who would do this to two strangers?”
He stood before her and caressed her forehead with the pad of his thumb, smoothing a frown she supposed. “It’s complicated.”
He scanned her face making her feel as if he was memorizing her features, her bone structure, but then he focused on her mouth. His eyes didn’t falter. He simply saw, caressed without touching. Cassandra parted her lips in anticipation, he came closer his breath fanning her face. She raised her chin wanting him to close the distance, her eyes searching brown circles intent on her mouth. Her breasts rose and fell. Her tongue ran over her lips and a groan slipped from him. His lips brushed hers, left her, touched again and then covered them completely. She moaned as she leaned in for a deeper connection, feeling like she was slipping down wet, grassy hill. Unable to stop herself, she sank into him and when she started to wind her arms round his neck, his mouth left hers.
“Answers will come,” he said. “Now we follow through.”
Have a Great Day!
Bekki Lynn

Monday, May 30, 2016

Solemn Day

As we gather with our family today, let's not forget to give those who fought and died for our country more than a 'oh yeah, it's memorial day, let's party'. Wouldn't it be great to discuss how this day became a day to honor the dead soldiers. After all, we wouldn't have the freedoms we have without their sacrifice. Pay tribute to a family who lost their loved one in war.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Morcar the Northern Earl and His Captive. Bk4 of Medieval Captives Series by Lindsay Townsend

PRE-ORDER NOW - AVAILABLE Tuesday, February 2nd.

Morcar the Earl is a pagan, hated by the Norman Bishop Cyril. Cyril and his bastard son Gaspar plot to unseat Morcar and kidnap his son Thorfinn to raise as a puppet manipulated by Cyril. Morcar is overcome and flung into a cave chained to a young woman, the witch Hemlock. Hemlock has herself been betrayed by Gaspar, who had forced her to be his mistress and then abandoned her once she became pregnant. Hemlock has just lost her unborn baby and is highly distrustful of men. 

 As a pagan, Morcar believes in many gods and worships the ancient stag god, whose horned tattoo he bears on his arm. It is partly for fear of the god that Cyril’s men dared not murder him, instead manacling him to Hemlock and leaving them both to starve. Can they work together to escape? Can they recover Thorfinn? In the end, what future can there be between an earl and a witch? A BookStrand Mainstream Romance.


Chapter 1

Fall of the Year, 1133, Northern England
Someone petted his hair. At least he still had a head, although it felt like a splintered log, which Morcar decided was better than the alternative. But what had happened?
Without opening his eyes, he flexed his fingers and toes, a rush of gratitude sweeping through him as he realized his limbs were also still attached.
And they may not have been.
A memory fell into him like a striking hammer on an anvil. Sudden fist and knife blows from behind, from unseen unanticipated enemies, wild fighting, his son—
Morcar reared up with a shout. The slim fingers petting his hair pushed him back down.
“Your lad is alive,” a voice breathed by his ear. “Alive and whole. The church-men took him. Sleep.”
“Do not order…”
The hand resumed carding through his hair and Morcar wallowed back into unconsciousness.
* * * *
Later he blinked again into wakefulness. His brains no longer felt to be seeping from his skull and his shoulders burned, which he assumed was an improvement on the hollow ringing that had throbbed through his body earlier. Shifting slightly, he forced his eyes open wider, seeing an orange, flickering glare against a black backdrop. Is it night or am I underground?
“Sage tea. Want some?”
Jerking aside, Morcar rolled onto his back and yelped, his vision blurring afresh for an instant.
“You have grazes and knife cuts and deep bruises down your spine but you can move so you will heal up tight. Tisane?”
He smelled the fresh, head-clearing sage tea, then, and watched a cup wobble in out of the gloom in front of him. Squirming onto his side, Morcar tried to clasp the cup and failed, tried again and succeeded.
He groaned as the hot drink almost scalded the back of his throat and then thirstily drained the rest of the cup.
“More?” the voice suggested.
His clearing vision showed a pair of startled hazel eyes and a heart-shaped, delicate face, framed by a melee of tangled tresses. The spiky brown hair looked surprisingly pretty on this urchin, though he had only seen short hair for women on female prisoners before. But what was he rambling about? Focus. A girl. My nurse is a girl. Her brilliant eyes reminded him sharply of Maud, his wife. My wife! Mother of our son. Thank the Gods she died in her sleep three winters past, at peace and ready to join the old ones. He could not have borne her suffering, else, or her knowing that their child had been stolen away.
Thorfinn, their son. Small and dark-haired like his mother, with a gap-toothed grin and a low, chortling laugh. Thorfinn, with his secret bedtime toy of a raggedy cloth robin and his favorite bright red boots. Named for the God Thor and Maud’s father, Finn. Five years old and already a fearless horseman and a merry, good-natured soul who would share his supper with any who looked hungry. Thorfinn would be a generous lord, leading his people with a high heart. Unless the church-men corrupt him. That is why they kidnapped him, to act as regents in my—his—lands and to raise him as they see fit.
Remembering Thorfinn’s wild sobbing as the bishops’ men took the boy away was the worst sound he had ever heard. Grief bit into his lungs, harsh as a Viking blood-eagle, and Morcar choked.
“Sit up, please,” the girl beside him coaxed. “You will breathe the easier.”
“Thor’s hammer! Do not order me—” Morcar’s rasped complaint subsided into a new bout of coughing. The wretched girl seized the advantage. Hauling him up under his arms like a bag of tools, she dragged him into a sitting position, bracing his back with a knobbly knee. Another cup of sage tea appeared and Morcar drank it, scowling at his rescuer. She was small and prickly, like a hedgehog, if such a creature ever dressed in a faded, ruby-colored gown and with grubby bare feet.
“My name is Hemlock.”
At his stifled snort, the girl flicked her bangs back from her forehead like an irritated mare shaking its mane and went on, “I am a hedge-witch, though by no means as powerful as Elfrida, Magnus’s wife.”
Morcar nodded his understanding, feeling a little ashamed now of smirking at her unusual name. The church-men disliked witches nearly as much as they disapproved of pagans.
“You follow the old ways?” he asked, wondering where they were.
Hemlock’s answer had him twisting round to stare at her. “Always. After my parents died, my greedy brother sold me to Gaspar, the bishop’s son. He baptized me by force and re-named me Mary. He cut off my long hair and sold it. I worked in his household for two years. Despite my protests and distaste, he kept me as a mistress until I got with child because I no longer possessed the herbs to make a pregnancy-stopping tisane. Then the pious bishop’s son called me a whore and cast me out.”
Hemlock stopped speaking, the sound of her quickened breathing very loud and echoing faintly. We are in an enclosed space, then, possibly close to the sea from the faint tang of salt I can smell and taste in the air.
“Why should Gaspar do that?” he asked, feeling still very slow and stupid as he caught up with Gaspar’s casual cruelty. To shear off a woman’s glory, her hair and then sell it, and worse, to throw her from his household when she was pregnant—Morcar shuddered, strongly, once. Children were a gift from the gods. “Why?” he asked a second time.
“He wants no bastards,” snapped Hemlock. She had gone pale, white to the lips. In the dark of the cave her face hung beside his like a death mask on a pole.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Out Today! One Christmas Knight - perfect holiday reading

ONE CHRISTMAS KNIGHT, an anthology of medieval novellas, is now out at Amazon. There are seven wonderful historical romances here, by various authors, all set around Yule and Christmas.

Here's a blurb for each of  the stories, plus the blurb and an excerpt from mine.


Sir Rhys de Valyer, on his way to Scotland to join his liege, Julian Challon, becomes lost in a blinding snowstorm. But this is only the start of his troubles. In a brutal ambush, he and his men are attacked and left for dead. Rhys only escapes the horrible fate due to his trusted steed, who manages to drag him away from the battle. Fearing death’s approach, he never expects a beautiful snow angel to come to his rescue.
After being cast out by her family for being the bastard child of a Selkie, Annys Bràigheach has made her life in the sanctuary of Rowenwood Forest, far away from the world. In spite of her acceptance of the solitary life, her heart still yearns for more. To her surprise, after making a Yuletide wish, she discovers a handsome knight, clinging desperately to his horse, half-frozen with two arrows piercing his body. Her healing skills may save him, but can she reach his heart?
Magic can happen at Yuletide if only you can believe….


When Meryk the Outlaw finds a badly beaten woman beside the road, he almost rides on. With a price on his head and a winter storm raging, even a short delay could cost him everything. But when he discovers she’s ready to give birth, he takes the risk and vows to protect her.
Ada of Bew doesn’t want the outlaw’s help—much less his protection—but she has no choice. Unable to run any farther and ready to give birth, she must place her faith in this stranger…or die at the hands of the men who want to kill her unborn son.
In the struggle against the cold and would-be kings, Meryk and Ada discover love is the most unexpected gift of all, but will they survive long enough to claim it?


Sir Hugh Tarrant returns home from war with a limp from an enemy's sword and a hole in his heart from the death of his beloved. Lady Margaret Dillon is filled with anger at the man she believes deserted her sister. On a stormy Christmas Eve night filled with danger, fate throws them together and makes unexpected allies of them. Will passion ignite as a result...or will they survive to find out?


Annalisa has lost everything to her uncle. Taking sanctuary in a convent for safety, she yearns to go back and reclaim her rightful place. When she discovers a seriously wounded man, she realizes that he might be the one who can help her.
Jack wakes up in a convent, wounded and fearing for his own sanity. The last thing he remembers is a firefight in the Middle East, and the pain of being shot. Waking up centuries in the past is not what he expects—but Jack has his own code of honor, and when Annalisa asks for his help, there’s no way he can turn her down.
With the help of Mother Albrade, a nun who has powerful visions and knowledge of the future, Jack and Annalisa begin a journey of discovery and bravery that just might change both their lives—or end them.


Cursed by a bitter enchantress in ancient times to wander the earth as an immortal, Jurian Locke is bound by both love and magic to answer his beloved's need in times of danger.
Into each new life, his soulmate is born, unaware she is tied to him by magic, unknowing that a threat to her life will send forth a summons to a man she doesn't know.
Drawn together in dangerous times—his eternal love is her single chance at life. His curse, the only time he can be with the woman who possesses his heart.
Her call reaches him, this time, in 1328 at a Yuletide tournament for King Edward III.


To save her family’s fortunes, Lady Alisoun must wed an elderly earl the day after Christmas. But in the chapel on Christmas Eve, her heart collides with that of an elegant, mysterious stranger. Is he…one of King John’s spies?
Raised in a monastery, Lord Kitt has no experience with love, but finds his heart lost to a lovely lady. Yet he cannot succumb, for the day after Christmas, he must marry a woman he has never met.


Ambitious and arrogant, the young knight Sir Baldwin returns to his family’s lands and estate at Brigthorpe to face disaster. The pestilence has struck, destroying his parents and all his family save for a young half-brother, Martin, whom Baldwin does not wish to acknowledge because Martin is the bastard child of a serf. Baldwin needs to learn kindness and how to be a lord–and quickly.
Into this hopeless situation comes Sofia, a young woman who can see glimpses of spirits, of the restless dead. These revenants are very restless around Sir Baldwin.
Somehow, Baldwin and Sofia must work together, to make a true Christmas for the survivors of Brigthorpe and the Christmas ghosts. Can they do so in time—or will the gulf of class and custom make any love between them impossible?

For sale here at Amazon here 

And at my author Amazon page here

For sale at Amazon UK here

Excerpt from Sir Baldwin and the Christmas Ghosts.

One Christmas Knight

Sir Baldwin and the Christmas Ghosts

Lindsay Townsend

December, North of England, 1369

“I can help you with your ghosts, sir.”
For an instant, no longer than a single beat of his heart, Sir Baldwin of Brigthorpe was too startled to answer. That a stranger had entered the manor and he had not heard any approach was disconcerting, that the said stranger could sense the spirits that accosted him every night was disturbing. Not that he let such unworthy, serf-like feelings show on his face. He was a knight—courage and power were his.
“Sir? Do you wish for my help?”
He would have ignored his own peasants if any had dared to keep questioning him, especially one certain grizzling boy, but courtesy to strangers had been ground into him. Reluctantly, he fashioned some reply. “I do not think anyone can aid me. There are too many ghosts.”
I should not have admitted that. Mother of Almighty God, I must be wearier than I thought.
Scowling, Sir Baldwin swept the last of the rotted floor strewing into the fire-pit in the great hall and watched the stinking mess smoke and slowly burn. His back and shoulders ached worse than after a sword practise but he forced himself to straighten and relax. He had not been physically attacked yet and doubted he would be. There are few left alive to try. The ghosts were another matter. There are so many...

Reminded of his losses afresh, the grief sharp as broken glass within him, Baldwin looked at the dais. A swift glance reassured him that the brat was still asleep on the platform, snuggled down in his own long winter cloak. Last year I would never have given a cotter bastard any of my clothes, even though we are akin. Frowning anew, he flicked the broom from hand to hand and raised his head. “How did you come here?”

Lindsay Townsend

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Two Historical Mysteries for £4.00/$6.00

Two historical mysteries in the Widow of Bath series are half-price at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, UK Nook, Kobo and Apple until July 15th. For details just go my Lindsay's Book Chat blog and click on the links on the right-hand sidebar

Lindsay Townsend

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

OUT TODAY - Valens the Fletcher and His Captive by Lindsay Townsend

Valens the Fletcher and His Captive (MF)
by Lindsay Townsend
Medieval Captives 2

Siren-BookStrand, Inc.

Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 23,476


Now with money off!

Katherine has been let down by men before. Can she trust the man who captures her?

England, Summer 1132

Valens is an arrow-maker and spy for Lord Sebastian (the hero of Sebastian the Alchemist & His Captive, Medieval Captives 1). His beloved sister Julia has died, leaving an infant who needs breast-feeding. Valens is still single, so needs to find a wet nurse for the baby.

He kidnaps young Katherine, and her baby, Jack, from a camp of women. Can Katherine save Edith, Valens’s little niece? Can she trust the handsome Valens, share her secrets, make a life with him? Can she recover Jack’s lost inheritance?

Ordered to court Katherine by his lord, Valens slowly begins to understand that he loves Kate, that he loves making a family with her, Jack, and Edith. Does his realization come too late? When, on their wedding day, a plot between Valens and Sebastian is revealed, can Katherine forgive Valens? Can she trust a spy?

A BookStrand Mainstream Romance

Chapter 1

England, Summer 1132

Valens heard the girl he had chosen as booty before he saw her. Crawling beneath the luxuriant low-hanging hazel branches and over the stinging nettles and ruthless brambles toward the women’s summer camp, he heard her weary, patient whisper. “Come on, Jack, feed for me, sweetheart. That’s right, that’s right. Good boy…”
There was a mewling whimper and the soft sound of suckling. Valens took a chance and raised his head.
Here she is, my little mother.
She crouched, half-facing away from him and behind the other women, on the less favored side of their hissing fire. Her face remained in shadow and he watched her hands, cradling, soothing, coaxing. A spit and flare from the flames illuminated her charge, Jack.
Her son, I think, or the son of her heart. Whichever the babe was, Valens took in his rounded limbs and downy head with pleasure. The infant was well cared for and the girl would care for Julia’s child—She will if she wants her own brat to thrive.
Valens lowered his wiry frame back into the crush and scratch of brambles and allowed the wet nurse’s soft crooning to wash over him.
“You are doing so well, my pretty darling, growing so big and strong. Let me check your padding…Good boy! I have more wool tufts and moss in my pack. Soon you will be clean and dry again, my Jack…”
The girl had been saying similar nonsense over the past four days that Valens had been tracking the women’s camp. So far he had only approached this close to her after twilight, content in the day to shadow the group at a distance. With her hair hanging limply ‘round her face in greasy, dirty-blond curtains, he still did not know if the wench was as pretty as a beech nut or as ugly as a gall apple, but her hands were clean and deft and her clothes patched and tidy. Baby Jack had more things than she, with three carrying slings and a half dozen little cloaks and hoods.
She may not wash her hair but she cares for Jack and will be a fine wet nurse for Edith. Valens frowned and tried not to think of his dead sister and her ailing child, in case a passing devil caught his feelings and made them worse, but it was no use. Julia had passed away seven nights ago and he and his widowed father were struggling with their grief and with Edith, Julia’s child. At almost two years old, Edith was beginning to eat more solid food, but it was the custom to breast-feed until two years, and weaning itself was dangerous. He and his father Thorkill, Edith’s granddad, had no idea what to do, beyond treating the grizzling infant like a sickly calf. Julia’s child was not thriving and would not do so until he could supply breast-milk by means of a wet nurse.
His present duty, to spy on the goose herder women, had proved provident. Accepting the task from his lord, Valens had known that such bold females would have youngsters and babies and one of the women would be in milk. Lucky for me. Julia would have said it was God’s will, but Valens was less sure, seeing that God had stolen Julia from him. He knew that tiny, squalling Edith would not make up for the loss of his sister, but the child was a part of Julia, one he vowed to preserve.
“You are not getting her,” he vowed under his breath, not caring who he meant at that moment, God or the devil.
He felt breath on his neck and twisted ‘round. The scowling face of his lord loomed briefly, then Sebastian crawled to one side, cursing at this cramped spying place.
“Only you, runt, dare have me scramble this way.”
Valens acknowledged the grumble with a flash of teeth. “But always worth it,” he countered, ignoring the taller man’s nickname. No one but Sebastian dared to comment on his lack of height, so he reckoned they were even.
“Are they thieves?” Sebastian jabbed a long, pale fist at the camp. His blue eyes darkened as Valens gave a brief nod. “Explain.”
Used to the man’s brusque orders, Valens counted off on his fingers. “One, they are meant to be goose herders but they have no geese.”
“This close to Michaelmas? They should be thigh deep in fattened-up birds, driving them to market.”
Valens grinned afresh. Sebastian was always quick, it was one reason he spied for the man. That, and he paid in gold, on time. “Two, they have clubs and ropes, lots of ropes.”
“For restraining prisoners and hostages. Go on.”
“Three, they are practiced in pretending to be fluttery, foolish maidens. A well-set-up traveler rides through the forest on one of the main trails and these women are there, arranged like a Mystery play, all tasteful sprawled limbs, big eyes, and pleading glances.‘Oh, kind sir, can you help us?’ and more of the same, till the fool steps down from his horse and they have him.
“I can count.”
The warning made Valens skip to his greatest news. “Big Agnes is their leader.”
In the dark blue twilight Valens almost missed Sebastian’s thin mouth tightening, but he heard the satisfied, “A name worth gold. Our sheriff has wanted her for some time.”
“Where is Julian?” Valens whispered, checking on the girl again as she rubbed her baby’s tiny back.
“Swirling somewhere in that red cloak and being heroic, no doubt.”
A prickle of alarm sped down Valens’s spine. “Not here, I hope. That cloak and that yellow hair of his, they will show up.” He dismissed the rest of Sebastian’s sour comment. His lord was touchy about his looks—though far less since his marriage—but Julian was something else. Even Valens, who also liked women, could see that.
There was a low snort from the hazel thicket, as Sebastian stifled laughter. “Peace, man, the sheriff is not an idiot. He does not go to your lengths, but he knows how to blend in woodland and so do his men.”
Valens forbore to comment that he dyed his red hair black so as to blend in, as Sebastian put it. His bushy and above all bright mane was distinctive, and for a spy that was bad.
“We attack them tonight?” Sebastian asked.
“Early morning is better. We shall see more and the women are slow to shift. Several have children.”
“By Lucifer, another problem,” muttered the man beside him. “My men will not like that. I do not like it.”
“I think you will have little trouble,” Valens said quickly. “Such women with youngsters are low status, like camp followers. They earn their keep by washing and cooking and are kept away from the main leaders. A few strikes on a shield will have them scattering and their brats with them.”
“Runaways and strays, eh? They will not be harmed. And where is Big Agnes?”
“Sprawled, with her flagons, right by the main fire with her cronies, dividing up the day’s takings. They are usually half-drunk in the morning, still.”
“Better, by Lucifer.” Sebastian clapped him on the shoulder, the closest his lord would come to outright approval. “And what do you want for your work?”
Valens showed his teeth at his lord’s scowling face and pretended to consider. “Four days and nights squatting in holly bushes, covering my tracks, going without food or more than a sip of ale. What would you say to granting me a holiday, my lord?”
Sebastian wormed backward and Valens followed. Skirting a flowering and spiky wild rose that showed blue in the late evening light, the men crawled behind the cover of a beech tree and stood upright.
“Ask again, master fletcher,” Sebastian said then. “I need those arrows of yours.”
Valens shook his arms and legs to get the blood flowing again. “Well, then.” He braced himself, aware his next request would most definitely not be approved. “I want a girl from the camp.”
 Sebastian dragged him off his feet and hoisted him aloft as if he weighed no more than a leaf. Half-choked by his tunic, Valens sucked in air and kept talking.
“Not as my slave but to help! The wench will have a better life with me than cast adrift.”
His lord’s eyes glittered. “You will marry her?”
By Adam, he is wed and now thinks every other man should be.
“If she is a widow, then yes.” Resentment sharpened Valens’s answer. “I need a wet nurse for my sister’s child, not a bed-mate. Put me down.”
“Or what?” Sebastian chuckled and lowered him. “I should call you Cuchulainn after the Irish warrior. He was a runt, too.”
“Everyone is short to you,” Valens muttered, slipping his knife back into its sheath as he was released. Not that he did not trust Sebastian, but spying kept his reactions honed. The dagger had been in his fist and pricked against the taller man’s belly before he had even thought of it. He had no idea who Cuchulainn was and did not care. “Are we agreed?”
Stepping back, Sebastian glared down his long hooked nose and gave him a searching look that made him feel like a new apprentice with his master. “You will keep her and her infant safe?”
“I will,” vowed Valens, thinking of Julia and Edith.
“Snatch them tonight, then, and take them away with you.”
Valens gave a brief but wide smile. His lord had given him something else with this, the chance to spare the girl and her babe the panic of an attack. “I intend to. Let me have two men.”
Sebastian folded his arms across his chest. “You want to terrify mother and child?”
“Two good men,” Valens persisted, ignoring his lord’s mocking glower, the dark humor in those dark eyes. “Two good men to show her the futility of struggle. I’ve taken down knights in full armor before now, so a girl and a baby will be easy.”
“Very well.” Before he moved back in the direction of the camp, Sebastian touched his arm. “Be careful,” he warned. “Too much…trouble and the girl might lose her milk.”
“I have my ways,” said Valens, with a confidence he did not altogether feel. Sebastian was still glowering down his nose, though, so all must be right with the world.
“Keep safe, runt.” His lord seemed on the verge of saying more, but instead clapped him on the shoulder for a second time.
“And you, my lord.”
The two men parted ways.

* * * *

Katherine could not shake the feeling that she was being watched. Worse, that she and Jack were being watched. The other women of this camp constantly slighted her in flea-bite ways, remarking or gesturing about her small size, feeble strength, and lack of wood-craft. Big Agnes, their leader, had agreed to let Katherine travel with the gang and had then ignored her. The others—who surely were no goose herders, for where were their geese?—had copied Agnes, or Aggie, as she liked to be called. For the week Katherine had traveled with them, aside from being piled with filthy clothes to wash, she and Jack had been left alone.
It is exactly what I want, she told herself, but lately, with this constant tingle at the back of her neck and the sinking feeling in her stomach, with this sense of being watched, spied on, she was less sure.
Jack smiled at her, gummy and warm, and she was enchanted afresh. That she and Eric had produced such a wonderful, sweet, clever child she thanked Christ for every hour. Propping the bundles of clothes she had to wash in a protective circle around him, she set Jack down to roll and crawl and toddle, clapping her hands in warning each time he crept and waddled to the edge of the circle.
Her bare hands, Katherine thought with a sigh. She had sold her wedding ring nine days ago but the lack still smarted. If only Eric had not died. If only I had been more patient with him and not nagged him in our bed. That was a dark shame and secret of hers and one she still flinched from. If only my husband had kept his word and not kept all those secrets
“Hey, Wash-tub!”
Katherine refused to flinch at the hated nick-name, or at the muddy, cold scrap of cloth that slapped down the side of her face. She caught it before it fell anywhere close to Jack and heard the braying order, “Big Aggie wants that washed tonight.”
She nodded and scooped a faintly grizzling Jack into a carrying sling. Where she would find wash-water at this hour was one problem, although at a pinch she could use her own urine and rinse the scarf in—what? Rainwater collected in a tree stump?
But she did not complain. Better to be bullied here than bullied and raped at the old house by my stepson. He was starting to pick on Jack, too. Eric had sworn he had made provision for us, but he did not. Secrets, always secrets. Remembering her own secret with a shudder, she picked up her pack and the washing bundles and moved farther back from the fires, preparing to do as Big Agnes demanded.

* * * *

Spiteful fools, Valens thought, wishing he had his lord’s skill with poisons and could slip some to these chattering mares. To expect a nursing mother to leave the safety of the camp simply to wash a scarf spoke of a careless arrogance that made his blood boil. The girl and her babe would do far better with him. They do not deserve her.
He was so furious it was several moments before he could admit that their petty malice, to one of their supposed own, had made capturing his prize easier. The young woman was clearly seeking fresh water and had just found some in a moss-covered birch stump. She had placed Jack into a cocoon of bedding and was pounding the scarf on a smooth rock, stopping after each weary flick to glance to the distant camp and peer into the closer trees. Sure that his dark clothing, dyed black mop and dirt-smeared face would make him invisible, Valens slipped his sheathed knife from his belt into his boot—he did not want the girl trying to grab his blade and stab him—and waited. He moved as she did and squirmed closer to the baby.
Jack was gnawing his fist but content and eager to be diverted by the sparkling toy of a gold chain and crucifix, dragged by Valens across the rim of his circle of blankets. Gurgling, the baby obligingly tottered, then crawled on plump little legs after the pretty thing. Valens allowed Jack to grab the chain and picked up the baby, settling the child on his hip. Jack snuffled and stared up at him in wide-eyed wonder. He trusts me.
“Jack! Where are you?”
On her knees now, the woman was patting and throwing aside the empty circle of clothes, gasping in her panic. Valens loomed closer, sweating a little himself, though his voice was cool and low.
“Here with me. Shush.” He closed his other hand around his little mother’s thin wrist and yanked her to her feet, deftly releasing her and removing her eating dagger from her belt as she stumbled. She fell against him and he caught her again, winding an arm about her middle and snagging her against his body as closely as he cradled her son. Her mouth and eyes were as wide as Jack’s, but she did not scream. Her attention was altogether on another matter.
“No, Jack, not in your mouth.” She grabbed the gold chain and made a brave attempt to smile at her son. “Never something you could choke on.”
Valens released her wrist to sweep his dark cloak around all three of them. “I shall know that next time.”
“Give me my boy.” The wench reached for him but Jack nuzzled against Valens, who was in no hurry to release either of them. He leaned closer, keeping a firm hand on the baby.
“No.” Valens gambled on her not wishing to scare or hurt Jack by trying to wrest him free.
Her eyes glanced away from him and her baby to the camp. At a snap of his fingers, Sebastian’s two good men rose out of the undergrowth, taking a step closer. The woman moaned as she saw the chance of any possible escape diminishing to nothing.
“No help here or over there,” Valens spoke as if no other fate was possible. “You and Jack are coming with me.”
“Why should we?”
He liked the flash of temper. Anger meant she would not faint. This close, he saw her face for the first time, rather than her bent head or profile. He stared for an instant—he could not help it.
My little mother is a pretty waif. Not beautiful, he corrected at once, not with that grubby hair or sharp little nose, but her face was free of pox scars and had an open, impudent look. She had a narrow head and a thin mouth that curved up at the corners and green eyes that shone with fury, lightening them to the color of fresh beech leaves. He had done well for himself by her capture. To marry this will be no torment.
He inhaled sharply and smelled her sweet, milky scent, felt her turgid breasts press against his lower ribs. She was smaller, much slighter than him, but tucked nicely under his chin for all that. The realization slid through his mind as fast as an arrow bolt, then he was answering.
“I need your help.”
He had not meant to say that. He wanted to get her walking, get them farther into the trees, away from the others. “Come with me now. No trouble.”
He prodded her side with a finger and she jerked sideways, flinching as if she feared a dagger thrust. “I promise I will not hurt you or your boy,” he added.
“Such vows are easy to make,” she answered at once, reaching out again. “Give me my son.”
He prodded her shoulder. “Walk first.” He did not tell her there were horses nearby, one step at a time was enough.
Still the woman did not move. She stared at how he held Jack, balanced against his hip, and more suspicion flared in her face. “Why—”
I cannot waste more time on this. Edith is ailing. Valens scooped baby Jack into her arms and picked both of them up. Ignoring her instant struggles, he began a shuffling retreat, flanked by the two men. When the girl opened her mouth to yell, he silenced her by pressing his lips onto hers.
Refusing to acknowledge either the guards' knowing smirks or the blistering agony when the annoying, squirming, necessary wench bit him, he staggered deeper into the forest.
How had he ever thought this would be easy? Once I have them back at home, it will be.
He could only hope.

Valens the Fletcher and His Captive is book 2 of my Medieval Captives Series. Book 1, Sebastian the Alchemist and his Captive, is already out.

He takes her for hate. Will he keep her for love?

Sebastian, lord of the tower in the northern high lands, is a proud, bitter man with a dark past. An alchemist and a warrior, he has had lovers but knows he is ugly—experience and betrayal have taught him that.  When Melissa, the beautiful, neglected daughter of two old enemies, falls into his possessive hands he is determined to hold her. Why?

As one of the detested and defeated Felix family,  Melissa must cling to her courage when she is claimed as a war-prize by the tall, grim Sebastian. Expecting torture and ravishment, she finds instead a peace and sanctuary that she has never known. Treated with kindness for the first time in her life, Melissa begins to blossom.

But there are secrets and old betrayals between them. Sebastian’s abiding jealousy is not easily quelled, especially when someone at the tower seeks to destroy his growing love with Melissa…

Medieval Captives 1

Read Chapter One 








Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lindsay Townsend: Medieval curses and more

Medieval people believed in magic, both good and bad. Spells and charms cast with evil intent were called curses and several have survived from that time. The Anglo-Saxons believed in both charms and curses, including a curse chanted against a wen or boil. The little wen is told to go away, to become smaller and vanish into nothing (Her ne scealt thu timbrien, it says - “Here not build your timbered house.”)

The Vikings also believed in the power of words and words for magic and curses. In one saga a witch called Busla issues a curse against King Hring, who has captured and threatened to kill Busla’s foster son. The curse is chanted at night (a good time for such dark matters) and Busla’s magical threats are made manifest.  In lines of poetry, the witch claims that her curse will cause Hring to go deaf, make his eyes to the leave their sockets,  make his bed like burning straw and make him impotent. In addition, any horse he rode would take him to trolls– and more.
“Shall trolls and elves and tricking witches,
shall dwarfs and etins (giants) burn down thy mead-hall…”
 The king is still reluctant and  Busla chants the strongest part of her curse, magic so dark that she does not utter it at night but which will cause Hring to be torn into pieces and flung into hell.  Faced with these gruesome outcomes, the king swears an oath to release his captives. The witch then stops the curse.

Curses could be used both as items to propel malice and as a curious form of protection. Curses were often attached to medieval and Anglo-Saxon wills, mostly to ensure the last wishes were observed, or for more day to day purposes.  The will of Siflaed (composed between 1066-68, soon after  the Norman conquest of England, which may explain the strength of the curse)  states “Whoever alters this, may God turn his face away from him on the day of judgment.”   The Will of Wulfgyth, dated 1046, promises that anyone who detracts from his will shall be denied all human comfort and joy and be delivered into hell “and there suffer with God’s adversaries without end and never trouble my heirs.”  

This form of invoking God by means of a curse to protect others remained popular throughout the Middle Ages.  In 1407, the Will of Thomas of Tyldeslegh gives a hundred shillings of silver to a John Boys to make him an apprentice in a trade and “If anyone hinder this, may God’s curse be upon him.”
Curses could be used by medieval people everywhere and in all circumstances. When a monk  in 1420 discovered that the monastery cat had peed  on the manuscript he had been copying, the monk cursed the cat and recorded his curse—with a small drawing, showing pointing hands toward the cat pee—

Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.

Which translates as:

Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.

Curses as medieval swear words can be found in this article here:

The ultimate curse could be considered to be excommunication, where a person and a person’s soul is cut off from God and the comforts and body of the church. This was feared as a terrible punishment but was not seen as being permanent, since a person could make amends and have the excommunication lifted.  Bishops and popes used excommunication as a political weapon and means of control.

 Objects could also be used in a malicious way. An amulet containing such vile materials as human waste, a splinter of wood from a gibbet or menstrual blood might be hidden under a bed to cause anything from impotence to sickness. Corpses of dead animals, such as black mice, were sometimes wrapped in cloth and buried under a threshold to create trouble for the inhabitants. Sympathetic magic, where a witch would ‘milk’ a knife stuck in the wall of her cottage, would enable her to steal milk from a cow. In Lucerne in 1486 2 women were accused of making hail by pouring well water over their heads. In Coventry in the 14th century a sorcerer created a wax figure of his neighbor, then drove a spike into the figure’s head and then heart. The neighbor died. In the 1130s the Jews of Trier were accused of making a wax figure of the archbishop and melting it in a fire to cause his death.

Some people were believed to have the power in themselves of cursing others, particularly if members of their family had been accused of sorcery. In 1454 at Lucerne a woman called Dorothea  was widely believed to be an ill-wisher—her mother had been burned as a witch and Dorothea, being unpopular, was accused in her turn.

Certain things were considered to be inherently cursed or evil in the Middle Ages. The wood of the elder tree was believed to be unlucky (it was said Judas had hung himself from an elder tree)and it was also thought to be a witches’ tree. Elder wood can easily splinter, so strictures against its use were in some ways sensible.  Juniper was another plant with a mixed reputation. Although a sprig of juniper was believed to protect the wearer from curses, to dream of juniper was said to foretell bad luck or a death.

What could protect against curses? Rowan was said to be a strong protector. The rowan tree, taken from the Norse “runa” meaning charm, was often planted close to houses to protect the household  against evil. Around Easter time medieval people would make small crosses from rowan wood to give further safety to the house.

Illness, famine, flood, plague and all manner of misfortunes in the Middle Ages were believed to be either due to God’s anger (as with the Black Death) or the result of a curse. Given the state of knowledge about the natural world at that time, the idea of deliberate evil by a person (or in some cases an animal) makes a strange kind of sense. Moreover people were comforted when they could use prayers, amulets, witch bottles and, in extreme cases, the law to protect themselves against the occult forces.

Belief in magic was strong in the Middle Ages. I write about curses and have characters use, or fight against them, in Dark Maiden, The Snow Bride and A Summer Bewitchment . I touch on the idea of God's anger and the Black Death in To Touch the Knight and belief in magical creatures in The Virgin, the Knight and the Unicorn