It is 400 B.C. The mist clears and three triremes glide into the calm waters of the bay in Southern Ériu. On a grass-topped dune, a young girl dances gleefully at the Goddess’s gift. Two warrior princesses, the twins Brighid and Danu, leap over the vessels’ sides into the cold waters and look north towards their ancestral home. The clanging of steel from the fort of Ráth Na Conall is not a good omen.
Seated on his throne in Caher Conri the depraved Uallachán rages at the sight of the red shield embellished with a swooping black raven and the memories it provokes. He swears vengeance on the daughters of his old adversary.
Draighean stands impervious to the deep cold and snows of the mountain peak. She bites maroon lips, unhappy at her sisters—the demi-goddesses of the Aes Sidhe. Yet does she have a choice? Evil must be fought.
Uallachán’s idea of peace is to crush all dissent, but is he no more than a puppet of the powerful kings of the Connachta?
The twins know they must defeat the invasion and stop the enslavement of their people. Still, even with the help of the Sidhe, Draighean, the odds are daunting.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, David H. Millar is the founder, owner, and author-in-residence of Houston-based ‘A Wee Publishing Company’—a business that promotes Celtic literature, authors and art.
Millar moved from Ireland to Nova Scotia, Canada, in the late 1990s. After ten years shovelling snow, he decided to relocate to warmer climates and has now settled in Houston, Texas. Quite a contrast!
An avid reader, armchair sportsman, and Liverpool Football Club fan, Millar lives with his family and Bailey, a Manx cat of questionable disposition known to his friends as ‘the small angry one!’
A prequel short read story to the Sea Witch Voyages of Captain Jesamiah Acorne
When the only choice is to run, where do you run to?
When the only sound is the song of the sea, do you listen?
Or do you drown in the embrace of a mermaid?
Throughout childhood, Jesamiah Mereno has suffered the bullying of his elder half-brother. Then, not quite fifteen years old, and on the day they bury their father, Jesamiah hits back. In consequence, he flees his Virginia home, changes his name to Jesamiah Acorne, and joins the crew of his father’s seafaring friend, Captain Malachias Taylor, aboard the privateer, Mermaid.
He makes enemies, sees the ghost of his father, wonders who is the Cornish girl he hears in his mind – and tries to avoid the beguiling lure of a sensuous mermaid…
An early coming-of-age tale of the young Jesamiah Acorne, set in the years before he becomes a pirate and Captain of the Sea Witch.
Trigger Warnings: Sexual content, adult language.
Praise for When the Mermaid Sings
“Ms Hollick has skillfully picked up the threads that she alludes to in the main books and knitted them together to create a Jesamiah that we really didn’t know.” Richard Tearle senior reviewer, Discovering Diamonds
“Captain Jesamiah Acorne is as charming a scoundrel as a fictional pirate should be. A resourceful competitor to Captain Jack Sparrow!” Antoine Vanner author
“Helen Hollick has given us the answer to that intriguing question that Jesamiah fans have been aching for – how did he start his sea-going career as a pirate?” Alison Morton, author
“I really enjoyed the insight offered into Jesamiah’s backstory, and found the depiction of our teenage hero very moving.” Anna Belfrage, author
“I loved this little addendum to the Jesamiah series. I always had a soft spot for the Lorelei stories and enjoyed that the author cleverly brought her over from the Rhine valley to fit into the story.” Amazon Reviewer
I wrote the first Voyage (Sea Witch) back in 2005 after thoroughly enjoying the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Like most avid readers, however, I wanted more than just the movie, I wanted to read something that was as entertaining and as exciting. A nautical adventure with a charming rogue of a pirate captain, written for adults (with adult content) but with a dash of supernatural fantasy as well – elements of which had made that first movie such fun to watch. I found many nautical-based novels, but they were all ‘serious stuff’ – Patrick O’Brian, Alexander Kent, C. S. Forrester … all good reads but without the fantasy fun, and barely a female character in sight. I simply could not find the book I wanted to read. So, I wrote my own.
The first Voyage led to more books in the series, and also generated several emails from fans who wanted to know how Jesamiah had become a pirate in the first place.
When the Mermaid Sings answers that question.
* * *
Virginia, Summer 1708
Calpin set his glass aside, rose from his chair, lifted a canvas knapsack down from a hook beside the door and began putting things in it: cheese wrapped in muslin, a clean shirt, and two small tobacco pouches which he held up for Jesamiah to see before packing them away. “For selling or for barter.”
He went to a seaman’s wooden chest situated beneath one of the two windows, peered out into the darkness, then closed the shutters before opening the chest. He tossed a leather three-corner hat to Jesamiah. “See if that fits. It was mine – good for wind, rain or sun, that hat. These were mine also.” He brought out an elegant box and opened the lid. Inside, a quality pistol, a powder horn, round iron bullets, replacement flints and the various paraphernalia required for keeping the gun in good working order. He closed the lid, slid the box into the knapsack, and added a tinderbox. “You might as well have these things, they are of no further use to me. You know how to load and use a pistol?”
Calpin grunted approval. He buckled the bag and set it down beside the door. Before closing the chest, he brought out a sword and leather scabbard.
Handing them to Jesamiah, he said, “This was your father’s. It is an ordinary weapon, nothing of much value, but it is well balanced and well made. It’ll do as good for you as it did him.” He paused and looked Jesamiah in the eye. “It was not for us to find the courage to fight back, lad – that was for you to do. You will be on your own out there, you need to win your own battles.”
Jesamiah answered with plain frankness. “And if I do not, or cannot?”
Calpin’s answer was equally frank. “Then you will not survive. But you have already shown that you are a survivor. Those who have already been to Hell know the path back, and they can be dangerous people because they know how to survive what life throws at them.”
Tentatively, Jesamiah ran his fingers over the scabbard; he had never seen the weapon before. As far as he was aware, his father had always worn a gentleman’s rapier.
“It is kind of you,” he said quietly, “and I am sure this is a good blade, but…” He paused. “I want nothing of my father’s.”
“Suit yourself,” Calpin answered with a shrug. “Keep his things or sell them. It makes no difference to me, nor to your pa. Not now.” He rummaged in the chest again. “There are these, as well,” he said, handing Jesamiah a small wooden box. “Your ma gave them to me when she fell ill, God rest her soul.” He shook his head, pressed his nose between thumb and forefinger to hide a sudden flood of sorrow. Dona had been a good, kind woman. A good friend. “Anyway, she asked me to keep these for your birthday. I guess she would not mind if you had them a few months early.”
First published in 1994, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She is now branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her new venture, the Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.
Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Talesand Life of A Smuggler. She lives in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon, runs Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction, and occasionally gets time to write…
Welcome to the tour for the gorgeous final installment in The Order of the Crystal Daggers series by C.S. Johnson, called Heart of Hope and Fear. Read on for more details and a chance to win hardcover editions of the entire trilogy!!!
Heart of Hope and Fear (The Order of the Crystal Daggers #3)
In a moment of desperation and desire, one girl takes a leap of faith to secure the future of her nation — and save her family.
Despite the many demands that come with being a member of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, Eleanora Svobodová has plenty of reasons to celebrate. With Lumiere’s capture and Lady Penelope’s reluctant acceptance of Ferdy, not even Ben’s painful ire can completely diminish her joy.
But just as the future begins to look bright, the past catches up to Eleanora and the other members of the Order.
For as they investigate Karl’s disappearance, Eleanora learns the shocking secret about her mother’s final mission—and Lady Penelope’s treachery—just as the Emperor heads to Bohemia to conduct a special tripartite council, despite the threat to his life.
Can Eleanora and the Order find a way to save the kingdom? And even if they do, will they be able to survive a new betrayal from among their ranks?
Full of surprising twists and turns, Heart of Hope and Fear is the final book in The Order of the Crystal Daggers, a historical romance spy trilogy from C. S. Johnson.
Louis Valoris chuckled as he stirred his tea with a spoon. “I do believe it is time we were formally introduced, Lady Eleanora.”
“It’s you,” I whispered, shaking my head in shame.
“I must say, you look so much like your mother. Even in the moonlight, I would’ve sworn it was her ghost if Lumiere hadn’t found you and your brother last year.”
“Eleanora.” Lady Penelope scowled over at me.
I gave her an apologetic look, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. She’d warned me before Louis was crafty and full of cunning, and I’d been completely caught off guard.
“I must commend you on her progress, Pepé,” Louis continued. “But she’s still very naïve, and that’s dangerous, especially for one who carries the weapon of the Order, yet none of its secrets. How do you know she won’t betray you when she learns the truth?”
“Eleanora is a loyal member of the Order,” Lady Penelope said, her voice full of resignation instead of pride. “She will not betray me.”
“It would be nice to see her live up to her mother’s legacy.”
At his disparaging tone, rage and fury rocked through me to my core. Lumiere had told me less than an hour ago how Louis had a hand in poisoning my mother and killing Nassara—and now I knew he’d used Xiana to fulfill his plans.
“The dead deserve some respect, Louis,” Lady Penelope warned, speaking before I could yell at him. “I’d rather talk of the present than the past, now that we’ve arrived at our final rendezvous.”
She reached down and pulled out her own violet-colored dagger in one hand and a pistol in the other.
S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles series, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me.
The Gods demand absolutes, absolute devotion to a prophecy Seanait wishes wasn’t real. Ever since her riastrad awoke she has trained for her seventeenth birthday and the beginning of her destiny. With only a few months left, she is ready to return home to Ulster but when Romans invade Caledonia she can’t leave the land defenseless. Taking up arms next to her best friend Eion she is ready to defy the Gods and save lives. A chance encounter with the seventh fae prince of Amanthia, Cillian, awakens a dream that could change everything.
Cillian has spent nearly a year running from the trials for the crown of Amanthia. He wants nothing to do with the faelands who see him as a monster because of his Primal magic. He’s determined to never return but when Gods meddle in the fates of fae and humans alike everything will not go to plan. In order to survive the war with the Romans and their own destinies, Seanait and Cillian must depend on the one thing pulling them closer, their uncertain hearts.
This is YA historical fantasy series based on the Irish myth of Cu Chulainn.
About the Author
I am a new author who started my self-publishing journey this year in 2021. Curse of the Gods will be my fourth book this year but not my last. I live in the Philadelphia area with a house full of crazy cats you can see on my Instagram or website. I’m a long-time reader and fantasy fan. Anything with strong female protagonists pulls me in.
Ariadne, high priestess of Crete, grew up duty-bound to the goddess Artemis. If she takes a husband, she must sacrifice him to her goddess after no more than three years of marriage. For this reason, she refuses to love any man, until a mysterious stranger arrives on her island.
The stranger is Dionysus, the new god of wine who empowers women and breaks the rules of the old gods. He came to Crete seeking vengeance against Artemis. He never expected to fall in love.
Furious that Dionysus would dare meddle with her high priestess, Artemis threatens to kill Ariadne if Dionysus doesn’t abandon her. Heartbroken, the new god leaves Crete, vowing to become better than the Olympians.
From the bloody labyrinth and the shadows of Hades to the halls of Olympus, Dionysus must find a way to defy Artemis and unite with his true love. Forced to betray her people, Ariadne discovers her own power to choose between the goddess she pledged herself to and the god she loves.
We’ve all heard that history is told by the victors, but it took me a while to realize that this applies to the ancient world and Greek mythology as well.
I’ve long been fascinated by the Minoans, Crete and the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, though I always had questions about it. The myth goes that Minos, a son of Zeus, was given a beautiful white bull as acknowledgement that he was king. Minos was so in awe of this beautiful bull that instead of sacrificing it, he put it among his own bulls and sacrificed another in its place. In anger, Poseidon made Minos’s wife Pasiphae lust after the bull. She got the famous engineer Daedalus to make a wooden cow that she could hide inside… and nine months later the Minotaur was born.
This story has always been strange and disturbing. Years ago I joined an amazing Facebook group that focuses on Modern Minoan Paganism—a testament to how powerful Minoan culture is. At some point, a member mentioned how this story of Pasiphae, queen of Crete, lusting after a bull was a great story to tell about one’s enemy. What a way for a patriarchal culture like Athens to insult a powerful witch-queen than to say she lusted after the bull and bore a monster. What a fantastic story to tell that the monster demanded the sacrifice of Athenian youths, and that the cultural hero Theseus was the one to kill the monster and free Athens from this horrible blood sacrifice.
What better way to slander one’s enemy than to tell this story and to have it be believed and recorded thousands of years later? I was inspired by this idea because I’ve always been interested at looking at history from different perspectives. We currently think of Crete as part of Greece, but Minoan civilization was its own culture for a very long time.
I’ve always been interested in Dionysus and the conflicting myths about his origins. About five years ago, I read Bacchus: A Biography by Andrew Dalby. In my other novels about the ancient world, I’ve made a few jokes about how all children with unknown fathers are said to be the children of gods. Andrew Dalby recounts how Dionysus’s mother Semele was impregnated by Zeus. The story I had always heard is that Semele was tricked by Hera in disguise to ask Zeus to give her a promise. Once he promised, Semele asked him to show himself in his true form. Zeus begged her not to, knowing seeing his essence would kill her. But Semele insisted and even though Zeus tried to show only the slightest bit of himself, she was incinerated. Zeus scooped the essence of Dionysus up, tore open his thigh and carried the baby to term.
What I didn’t know until I read Dalby’s book is that there was another story that Semele, pregnant by a palace slave, claimed Zeus was the father. When lightning struck her bedroom, everyone thought it was divine retribution for her lies. I began to imagine a young Dionysus, unsure of his godhood. Unsure of what kind of god he wanted to be.
My latest novel Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling is a look at the conflicting myths of Ariadne and Dionysus, but it’s also a kind of coming-of-age story for Dionysus. Dionysus is the last god to become an Olympian and the only Olympian who is a demi-god. This gives him a rare opportunity to be different from the other Olympians.
Another huge inspiration for me to write Ariadne Unraveled was to reimagine Ariadne herself. She is often mentioned as a sidenote in Theseus’s story. She is portrayed as a pawn—a princess who falls in love with a stranger who is her father’s enemy. She helps Theseus kill her half-brother the Minotaur.
In most versions of the myth, Daedalus, is the one who gives Ariadne the thread to help Theseus escape the labyrinth. Ariadne has no agency and no motivations for the things she does. Then, after sacrificing everything for the Athenian hero, he abandons her on Naxos.
Some myths say that Athena told Theseus to abandon her or that Dionysus came to him in a dream and claimed Ariadne for himself. In all the myths Ariadne is nothing more than a girl, a daughter of the king, the lover of the hero, the wife of the god. I wanted to give her back the power a Minoan priestess would have possessed. I wanted to tell a Greek myth from a Minoan perspective. And I wanted to re-empower women in the ancient world and depict Minoan culture not as a patriarchy as we often see in the Hellenistic world, but as a culture where women have freedom and Ariadne had her own motivation and strength. I was inspired to write Ariadne Unraveled to tell a story that was written by the victors from the other side and give a mythical woman back her power.
About the Author
Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes historical romance about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun. Visit her at ZenobiaNeil.com
After the explosive events of The Lion Lies Waiting, life has returned to normal for burly fisherman Robin Shipp. That is until the innkeeper of the ancient Moth & Moon approaches him with a surprising proposal, and an unexpected arrival brings some shocking news that sends Robin on a perilous journey alone.
While he’s away, his lover, Edwin, anxiously prepares for the birth of his first child with his friend, Iris. Her wife, Lady Eva, must travel to Blackrabbit Island for a showdown over the future of the family business. Meanwhile, Duncan nurses an injured man back to health but as the two grow close, the island’s new schoolmaster makes his amorous intentions clear.
Robin’s search for answers to the questions that have haunted his entire life will take him away from everyone he knows, across a dangerous ocean, and into the very heart of a floating pirate stronghold. Pushed to his limits, Robin’s one last chance at finding the truth will cost him more than he ever imagined.
Finding a gull in one’s bathroom has a way of bringing into sharp focus just what massive beasts they truly are. They certainly appear large when harassing people at the seafront, or circling overhead, but coming face to face with one in a domestic setting really shows them in a whole new light. It wasn’t actually using the privy, of course, though its demeanour suggested it could have if it wanted to. Rather, it seemed content to simply sit there and wait out the bad weather.
It wasn’t until Robin Shipp approached that it began to caw and squawk furiously, flapping its wings with an air of indignity, as if protesting at him having the temerity to walk in without first knocking. Which, in all fairness to the gull, he had done, but then it was his lavatory and up till that point he’d never known it to be frequented by any type of wildlife whatsoever.
Despite his name, Robin had little affinity for, or interest in, birds. Especially gulls. He found them pests, for the most part. He was a fisherman and spent more time than he’d like trying to shoo them away from his catch. This one in particular was known to him as the Admiral, one of a pair of seagulls who fought a never-ending battle for supremacy of the harbour. Robin stood there, in the whitewashed room, shouting at the bird to leave for a good five minutes before accepting it wasn’t going to be quite so easy.
He slowly slipped off his woollen overcoat and held it open, advancing as cautiously as his enormous frame would allow, then flung it quickly over the toilet. The gull was not amused, nor was it shy in expressing as much. After some kerfuffle, Robin managed to bundle it up in his coat, fearful the whole time of injuring its wings. He didn’t like gulls, but he’d never be needlessly cruel or violent towards them either.
He wrestled the creature out of the room, across the narrow hall, and into his bedroom. The doors to his balcony were open. The method of admission, he suspected. He shook his coat open and the gull tumbled out, mewing loudly, before plodding to the balcony and flying away into the rain. It looked back to squawk at him one last time. An insult, Robin was certain. He shut the doors and sighed. He was late.
He pulled closed the front door of his tall, thin house and trudged down towards the harbour. He tugged his flat cap low over his eyes though the weather was already beginning to ease. With his meaty thumb, he rubbed the palm of his left hand. Injured the previous year, on the night of the winter solstice, it had never properly healed. His hand was always stiff now, with a deep ache and a white, weblike scar. Rubbing helped as he found it seized up if he neglected it too long, especially in cold weather. He’d been advised by the local doctor to keep rubbing it as often as possible as it kept the blood flowing, or some such.
Robin didn’t really understand the mechanics of it. He’d been eager to resume fishing after the worst of the winter season had passed but quickly discovered his efforts hampered by his injury. He tried to pass it off as a minor inconvenience, but deep down he knew it was serious. He’d been a fisherman all his adult life, and before. He’d started when he was a young boy after his father had died and he couldn’t imagine any other way of living, didn’t want to imagine it, even. The hurricane of the previous summer, just over a year ago, had turned his whole world upside down and while he couldn’t have been happier about it, the upheaval had been daunting. What he craved now more than anything was some peace and quiet.
With his bull neck, jug ears, and hooded eyes, Robin had never considered himself an especially attractive man, so quite what the undeniably handsome Edwin Farriner saw in him, he couldn’t rightly say. Yet there Edwin was, sheltering from the rain against a market hall pillar, waiting for him. He was tall, though not as tall as Robin, in his early forties, so ten years Robin’s junior, with receding and close-shaved ginger hair. His smile never failed to light up Robin’s heart.
“You’re late,” Edwin said. “He won’t be happy.”
“Ho ho! When is ’e ever ’appy?”
The rain stopped and the clouds broke. They stood gazing at the roof of the Moth & Moon, shielding their eyes from the midday sun. Atop the enormous inn, workers hammered nails and sawed wood. A framework was coming together—six sided and spacious enough to comfortably fit ten men. Robin pulled his cap lower and cupped a hand around his mouth.
“Oi! Duncan!” His deep voice carried clear across the little harbour. “Time to eat! Come on!”
From the rooftop, Duncan Hunger waved and began to climb down the many ladders strapped to the rain-slick tiles. The Moth & Moon was expansive and ever-changing. A hunk of wood, glass, and lime wash, which seemed to regularly sprout fresh bay windows, bud whole new rooms, and blossom balconies. Its roof, or rather roofs, rose and fell like the sea—a tiled wave here, a slate swell there—and took some skill to navigate. Duncan grasped one of the numerous chimney stacks and used it to swing himself around to firmer footing. When his boots finally touched the ground, he shook raindrops from his coat.
“You’re late,” he said.
“Only a little!” Robin said. “I ’ad a visit from the Admiral.”
“It’s all well and good for you two to swan up whenever the mood strikes you,” Duncan said, “but some of us have work to be getting on with.”
Robin chuckled again. Duncan’s natural state was irked, and he never needed a particular reason to complain. He cleaned all the lenses in his unique spectacles with a handkerchief. Small, round, and fixed with multiple thin armatures, they were of Duncan’s own design. He was forever fiddling with them, setting first one lens in place and then another. Robin wondered if Duncan would be forced to add even more arms with even more lenses as he grew older. Duncan was Edwin’s age but a couple of heads shorter. He was squat, burly, with wavy black hair, long sideburns, and an expression that indicated he had somewhere more important to be, so if you wanted him to stay, you’d better make it worth his while.
“’Ow’s it goin’?” Robin asked, pointing upwards.
“Slowly,” Duncan said, fixing the spectacles back into place on his button nose. “We should have been finished with the basic frame by now. The others are dragging their heels.”
“Nothing to do with you resetting the wood every ten minutes and telling everyone they’re doing it all wrong?” Edwin asked.
“Whoever could have told you such a thing?” Duncan asked. “It’s a gross exaggeration and a terrible slight on my good name. Can I help it if I’m a perfectionist? I want this new bell tower to stand the test of time, to be…”
Duncan trailed off and pointed out to sea. “That boat’s coming in a bit fast, isn’t it?”
Robin turned and squinted before reaching into the pocket of his long, navy-coloured overcoat from which he produced a battered copper spyglass. He extended it to its full length. The glass was a touch foggy, but it was enough to determine a single occupant at the helm of the lugger.
“Can you see who it is?” Edwin asked.
“No,” Robin said. “I can’t see ’is face. But whoever ’e is, ’e needs to slow down or ’e’ll run aground.”
Robin ambled down to the pier, quickly overtaken by the much sprightlier Edwin and Duncan. All three men frantically waved their arms and shouted, trying to alert the sailor to the danger. The sailboat began to turn, taking it away from the harbour and straight towards the headland. Straight towards the rocks.
With a terrifying crack that landed like a lightning strike, the boat splintered against rocky outcrops, and its occupant was flung into the water. Without a moment’s thought, Robin ditched his cap, overcoat, and jumper. He hopped around, pulling off his boots, before diving into the sea. Edwin followed suit. They splashed about in the choppy waters, unable to find the man.
“Robin!” Duncan said. “Over there! To your right! No, the other way… Starboard, man! Starboard!”
Robin kicked his massive legs furiously to avoid being dashed against the rocks himself. With one deep breath, he dived beneath the surface to search where Duncan had indicated, but there was no sign. Underwater, Edwin was pointing furiously. Robin turned to find the figure of a man floating limply. Together, he and Edwin grabbed the victim and brought him to the surface. Robin’s lungs were burning, and he gasped for air.
Once ashore, they lay the drowning man on his back. He was breathing and coughed up some seawater. Blood poured from his left eye, dying part of his white beard crimson. He was huge, as big as Robin himself. A crowd gathered around them. Robin brushed the man’s lank hair away from the wound.
“Easy, easy,” Robin said. “You’re safe now. What… Wait. Vince?”
“Hello, brother,” Vince said. His usually growling voice was weak and cracked.
“We’ll take you to my ’ouse, then,” Robin said. “It’s not far.”
They loaded Vince onto a borrowed cart and took him up the steep slope of Anchor Rise. He placed one huge arm across Edwin’s shoulders, the other across Robin’s, and together they all sidled through the blue front door of Robin’s home. Scarlet dots gathered on the black and white tiles of the hallway floor as blood dripped from Vince’s eye, yet still he stared at the oil painting on the upstairs landing. Once inside Robin’s front room, they put him by the fireplace and wrapped bandages around his head and leg. They would have to do until Doctor Greenaway could be summoned.
“I didn’t recognise you under all the hair,” Duncan said.
“Haven’t had much chance to get it cut,” Vince said. “Been busy.”
“Too busy to visit us, like you said you would.”
“Here now, aren’t I?”
Edwin handed him a mug of water and Vince sipped it, then pawed at his throat, obviously in some discomfort.
“How did you end up running aground?” Duncan asked.
Vince sipped his drink again but said nothing.
Robin frowned. “Vince? Did you ’ear ’im? What—”
Edwin coughed and placed his hand on Robin’s arm. “Let’s just give him time to get his head clear. He’s obviously had a terrible shock.”
Robin had only met Vince once before, around the same time he’d injured his hand. Before then, he didn’t even know he had a brother. They’d promised to stay in touch, and they did, after a fashion. A couple of short letters had been exchanged but nothing more.
“Well, you can stay ’ere as long as you like, of course,” he said. “My ’ome is your ’ome.”
“How’s he going to manage all those stairs with his leg the way it is?” Duncan asked. “You’d be better off staying with me, I suppose.”
Vince growled something approaching gratitude. “Help me up,” he said.
“You don’t ’ave to go right now,” Robin said, as he once more he let Vince lean on him.
“Hallway,” Vince said.
Robin guided him back out onto the black and white tiles. Vince pointed at the painting upstairs.
“Oh, right, you never met ’im. It’s our dad, Captain Erasmus Shipp,” Robin said. “It were painted a few years before ’e died.”
Vince shook his head. “Can’t be Dad.”
“Because just this morning, I saw that man in Wolfe-Chase Asylum.”
Glenn Quigley is a graphic designer originally from Dublin and now living in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He creates bear designs for http://www.themoodybear.com. He has been interested in writing since he was a child, as essay writing was the one and only thing he was ever any good at in school. When not writing or designing, he enjoys photography and has recently taken up watercolour painting.