The Amethyst Song – Episode Nine

Back in Murpodompous, Alistair had claimed the Mayor’s Manor as his own. He was lounging on the sofa in the sun room, one leg dangling over the back. He was reading through the notes he’d made. These people were proving surprisingly reticent in their willingness to give him what he wanted; which was of course the whereabouts of the girl. Not that it was all bad, the longer they held out, the longer he could play.

Opposite the sofa, the town butcher was tied to a chair. Battered and bruised, Alistair had a certain admiration for the man’s staying power. No matter how much pressure he applied, still the man stayed dumb. But, now the man was passed out, apparently he’d been a little too zealous with that last round.

He’d picked the butcher, not because he thought he was any more knowledgeable than anyone else, in fact he was certain this man probably only knew a little, if anything about what he wanted to know. He was simply the first person he grabbed. Alistair had found in the past that often the family and friends would offer up what they knew, or tell them who did know, in an attempt to save their loved one. So far, no one had come forward, but it was still early.

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in.”

The man with the tattooed face came in.


“The Mayor has asked to see you Mi’Lord.”

“I bet he has. Very well. Show him in. Oh, and could you get rid of that too.” He pointed dismissively toward the butcher, who was slumped forward on the chair. Blood pooling on the floor beneath him.

“Yes Mi’Lord.” He went over, and lifted the butcher up and over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

He left the room. From outside the room, the Mayor could be heard to gasp in horror.

“He says you can go in.”

Hesitantly, the Mayor entered the room. Unsure what else to do, he bowed to the Prince Regent.

Alistair looked up. Not moving from his place on the sofa.

“You asked to see me? I hope this means you’ve decided to be co-operative. Not that I haven’t enjoyed myself. You’ve got  a lovely set up here. But, I do have things to do. The realm doesn’t run itself.”

“Umm… Mi’Lord,” the Mayor was ringing his hands. He was still torn as to what to do. He was aware of the girl, and who she really was, and had been a willing participant in protecting her all these years; as had the whole town. But, as Mayor he knew he had a responsibility to the others in the town as well. “Just…umm… ask, and I will of course offer whatever assistance I can.”

Alistair swung around to sit on the edge of the sofa, both feet now placed firmly on the floor. He looked directly at the Mayor, his ice blue eyes penetrating through his skull.

“That’s excellent. Simply tell me where the girl would have gone, and we shall leave your pathetic little town in peace. How does that sound? Your saw what happened to that man; your butcher I believe? Now, I’m sure your a reasonable man. What’s one girl?”

“Umm, yes. Umm… the thing is…umm… Beatrice was always so secretive. She only told people what she thought we need to know. “

“Hmm, yes. She always was a cunning bitch. I always regretted not questioning her right away when we had her all those years ago. I made the mistake of thinking my brother could hold her. It goes to show that even I am susceptible to a certain familial regard for my brothers. Anyway, she must still have said something. You must have had a contingency.”

“Yes, well, umm…I think that she was talking about taking her to Belbarbiton soon. Apparently she needs to consult someone there. I’m not sure. She kind of lost me with that stuff. He he.” He smiled weakly at the Prince. “But, maybe, since she was going there anyway…umm..she..”

Alistair impatiently cut him off. “Yes, yes. I’m not an imbecile. I’ve made the same deduction. Hmm, of course, the girl is coming of age. I should have guessed she go to see the old crone. I’m almost ashamed I didn’t think of that myself. You may go now. Send Henderson in.”

It was an hour before Henderson returned. When he did, Alistair was pacing up and down the room. His face was red, and his eyes were glowing.

Henderson knew from experience that he would need to tread carefully if he was to last the day.

“I was summoned?”

“Aah Henderson. Yes, I summoned you. An hour ago. Explain yourself.”

“Apologies Mi’Lord. It took longer than anticipated to deal with butcher. I seems the man lived alone, and there was no one to take him off my hands.”

“You should have just dumped him there. Someone would have dealt with him eventually.”

“If only I were as wise as you Mi’Lord.” He bowed.

“Yes, yes.” He waved toward his servant. “No matter. I want you to arrange for our departure. It seems  we are going to be travelling to Belbarbiton. I haven’t been since my boyhood. It will be good to see the old place again. I expect us to be gone directly.”

“Yes, Mi’Lord. I shall bring the H.O.R.S.E around to the front immediately.”

Ten minutes later, they were gone. Headed down the main highway towards Belbarbiton.

Alistair sat in the back seat brooding. This whole exercise had been most annoying. He lent forward.


“Yes Mi’Lord.”

“I strikes me that those people are traitors to the realm. Keeping the rightful heir hidden like that. I believe an example should be set.”

“Yes, Mi’Lord.”

“Have the Royal Guard take care of it will you.”

“Consider it done Mi’Lord.”

The Amethyst Stone- Episode Eight

Beatrice fell silent.

In the lunchroom, not a sound could be heard. For what seemed an age, no one spoke.

Finally, one of the children, a fourteen year old girl named Winnie, asked, “Does that mean you’re a princess?”

Mae, whose face had lost all its colour, turned to her, “No!” Then she thought for a moment, and turned to Beatrice,and whispered, “Does it?”

Mae looked at the young woman that she had raised, “Yes, my love. But, only if you want to be.”

Hector, who seemed to be in a trace, suddenly became serious, “No, you’re wrong. She isn’t a princess. She should be a queen.”

The room fell back into silence.

Then Mae started laughing. Just a giggle at first. Then a cackle. Finally, she was laughing so hard, tears started falling down her face.

Hilda, quickly stood up. “Okay children. I think we’ve had enough excitement. It’s time you went off to bed.” There were a few groans from the older ones, who were more aware of what was happening, and wanted to see what developed next. But, many of the younger ones were already half dozing.

Hilda, started shepherding her charges toward the door.

Hector stood. “Do you, um, do you need me to show you the sleeping quarters?”

“No no. I’m sure we can find them. You stay right here.” She looked significantly at the two women.

He just nodded. “Thank you”

Once they’d all left the room, Beatrice looked at Mae, “What’s so funny?” She was puzzled and confused, and also a little hurt.

“Funny?” Mae tried to stop, but it only made her laugh more, “What’s funny? You ask.”

She took a deep breath, “It’s just completely ludicrous! Isn’t it! I mean, let me see if I have this right. Neither you nor Papa are my actual parents. I’m an orphan, my parents, who just happen to have been the King and Queen, were killed in some kind of peasants revolt, and you, the faithful servant spirited me away to a tiny fishing village where you basically lied to me my entire life! Did I get that right? I suppose next you’ll tell me that man back there is my uncle come to drag me off to sit on my throne, or to kill me in my sleep.”

Hector mumbled under his breath, “Probably not in your sleep.”

“Hector! You’re not helping! Mae…”

“No.” She wasn’t laughing anymore. “Don’t say anything.”

“But, we…”

“I said. Don’t say anything.” She got up. “I think I need some air. To clear my head.” She moved toward the door. Beatrice got up to go with her. “No mama. I just… I just need to be alone for a bit.”

“I understand love. It’s just… it may not be safe.”

Mae slumped, deflated. “Oh.”

Hector came over and stood next to Beatrice. He gently touched her elbow. “Let her go. Mae, this place is huge, if you want to be alone, there is plenty of space for that without going outside. Go and explore, it might help clear your head. We’ll be here when you’re done. No doubt you’ll have questions.”

“Oh, I have questions. I just, I just need to think about this.” She left the room.

Again, Beatrice went to follow. Hector held her in place. “Leave her. Leave her.”

She turned to him. “I’ve made a mess of this. Haven’t I?” She burst into tears. Hector gently pulled her into him and wrapped his arms around her into a hug. The woman cried into his shoulder, while he silently rubbed her back.

Finally, she stopped. She looked up at him, her eyes still blurry with tears. Her nose and face all red and blotchy. “ Do you think she hates me?”

“Hates you?”


“If she does she’s an idiot. She just needs time to think and to process the information. To be honest, I thought there would been more yelling. She must have more of her mother in her than I realised. The worst excesses of the Harrington temper seem to have by-passed her. Although, if I remember correctly, Clari tended to be a slow burning anger. When she was annoyed she could make you feel like a naughty school boy with just a look. Much scarier than Fred.” He chuckled to himself.

Beatrice smiled at the memory. “She was definitely the boss that’s for sure. I miss her. I don’t think I realised how much, until I had to tell that story. I’ve spent so long, being watchful and wary, I haven’t had time to think much about that night. I think I’ve been avoiding thinking about it.”

“That’s understandable. Plus, you had a daughter to raise, and a husband. You had a life. It’s been eighteen years. She wouldn’t have expected you to mourn her this whole time.”

“So you think she’ll forgive me for lying to her?”

“Of course she will. Do you think you’re the first parent that lied to their child to protect them? Once she’s had a chance to absorb it all, she’ll be okay. You both will.”

They stood saying nothing for a moment. Then Beatrice looked around, and saw where she was. She pulled herself away. She then started wiping the remaining tears from her face, and smoothing out her skirt.

“I’m so sorry. What you must think of me, breaking down like that! I didn’t mean to blubber all over you.”

“That’s fine. I didn’t mind.”

“It’s so unlike me, and you’ve been so good taking us in and giving us a place to stay. I promise we’ll be out of your hair soon. Once Mae has had a chance to gather herself, we’ll head off.”

“Head off?”

“To Belbarbiton. I told you when we ran into you that’s where we were going.”

“Hmm…yes. You did. I just assumed you had changed your mind.”

“Even if he hadn’t turned up, we probably would have gone there soon anyway. She’s eighteen now; I’ve been sensing for a while now that she is starting to come into her power. She’s  going to need instruction. There aren’t many who are still able. I certainly can’t help.”

“Yes, you’re right. I know you have to go there. I just, don’t you think he knows it too?”

“Most likely. But, I don’t have a choice. But, it’s a large city. It’s easier to hide. We’ll be careful. In a way, it’s probably better that she knows now. It’ll make it easier.”

She looked around the room.

“I can’t stand this. I’m going to find her.” With that she left the room.

Hector sighed, and sat down. It had been a long day.

Blind Spots

When it comes to reading, I’ve always considered myself to be broadminded when  deciding what to read next. Take a collection of words, stick them on a pile of paper and bind the whole, and I will happily give it a go. I might not necessarily like everything, but I don’t have any preconceived ideas about a book until I’ve at least read SOME of it’s contents.

At least that’s what I thought. It turns out I have one blind spot. A slab of the world’s collective library that I ignore. I’m talking about books that fall under the admittedly broad umbrella of romance.

Just this morning, I was trawling through my emails;I get a lot from various publishers and bookish sites.Today I had one spruiking for some kind of romance novel. It had all the usual hallmarks of this kind of thing. The elegant cursive writing for the title. The picture of a good looking couple, gazing longingly at each other. I think you know what I mean. The book was pitched to me as a great story, by an accomplished author. Apparently this woman is not a novice, and her previous works have been well received.

If this had been anything else, I would have been tracking down a copy to check it out for myself. After all, if you were to ask me what I look for in a book, it’s a good story that is well written.

But, not this time. I looked at it, laughed at the silly cover art and dismissed it as trash. As trash! Not as something that I simply didn’t feel like reading right now, but as something that was rubbish and beneath me to even look at at.

It got me thinking. Why is that? Could it be that the few that I HAVE read in the past tend to be a little formulaic and predictable? If that were the case I would never read another ‘Whodunit’ ever again. No that wasn’t it. Maybe it’s because I have been burned by previous attempts? Again, I’ve never let one poor quality work, or author, influence my opinion of an entire genre. It’s not even that I’m not a romantic, I am. It’s just that I tend to focus more on ‘romantic’ fiction that also lays claim to being ‘classic’ fiction.

I’ve been pondering the matter all day. I can’t come up with any answers except that I have this huge, unjustified prejudice against a whole lot of books. Maybe I’m missing out? The only way I can really find out is to give them a go. So, I’ve decided that the next one that lands in may lap, I’m not going to dismiss as trash. I’m going to read it and give the genre the chance to change my mind. After all, isn’t that what reading is for?

The Amethyst Stone- Episode Seven

“She was the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen…”

Beatrice continued the story. She looked across at Mae and smiled, it was the first time she had genuinely smiled in a couple of days, continuing all the way to her eyes.

“I had of course seen and heard the commotion outside. By then some of the mob were trying to get in, they had got into the grounds. I could hear bitter battles being waged between the Royal Guard and the people. I could also see from the window, they weren’t always successful, bodies of slain Royal Guard were just as plentiful as those of the intruders. It was obvious that the Guard were losing.

I held the baby close to my chest and turned to her parents. Frederick was a good man, but it was for Clarissa that my heart wept. We had been friends since we were children. I loved her like a sister, and I knew that in all likelihood this would be the last time I would ever see her.

With the child still pressed against me with one arm, with the other I hugged my friend. We both had tears running down our faces. I promised her that I would keep her daughter safe, and love her as though she were my own. I kissed her, then I left.

Once in the corridor, I could hear the sound of the great doors of the entrance hall being battered. Boom, boom, boom! The noise was terrifying. There was so much noise. Gun fire, men, and some women shouting and cursing. Two of the Royal Guard had stationed themselves outside the door. They were each holding their weapons, ready to defend their King and Queen to the death. I reached up and kissed each of them on the cheek, and wished them luck.

I looked down at my charge, despite the cacophony, this most sweet, most perfect angel, slept. I kissed her forehead. Then I ran.

Obviously through the front hall wasn’t going to be an option, so I headed toward the back passage way and the below stairs. Fortunately, being a member of staff I knew all the more discreet entrance and exits.

I ran down the back stairs. I was almost at the bottom when I ran into Prince Gordon. I was so intent on getting out that I hadn’t seen him coming up the other way. I slammed into his broad chest. I saw that he was carrying a large gun in his hand. He was a tall man, and he looked down at me. He looked me full in the face, and intense look about his eyes. He then looked down and saw what I was holding. With grim determination, he gripped my arm and began dragging me back up the stairs.

Once at the top, he dragged me to an empty bedroom, pushing me in before him. I was confused, and terrified. He closed the door behind him. He looked at me with such fury that I had never seen before. His eyes were blazing bright blue.

But, then he stopped and let go of my arm. He shook his head, and looked at me again.


“Yeee…ss.” I squeaked.

He breathed in and out, gradually the fury subsided. His eyes returning to their normal, pale blue.

“Beatrice. What are you doing?” He looked at the bundle in my arms.

“Is that the child?” I nodded. Still nervous.

He came over and looked down at the child. His facial expression softened completely. He even smiled. He reached out with his free hand, the one not clutching his assault rifle, and gently brushed the hair from her forehead.

He then stopped, and took a step back. Becoming serious again.

“Beatrice. What are you doing? And, with her?”

I was about to answer when, he suddenly turned angry again.

“Tell me you’re not with THEM!”

“With them? Who?”

“The mob out there. I’ve already killed more than a few of the palace staff tonight that were in league with them. I just never thought you…”

I’d had enough by then. I was frightened, and nervous, and conscious of wanting to get somewhere safe. So, I got angry, and I slapped him. Hard enough to leave a red mark.

“How dare you! You bloody great oaf! With them! Huh. I was, as it happens, trying to get YOUR NIECE to safety. But, in you come, suffering from a case of extreme testosterone poisoning, and jumping to all kinds of conclusions. Perhaps, you would be more use going to see if you can go and help your brother and sister-in-law.”

One thing I’ve always liked about Gordon, even though he tends to be a bit of a hot-head, he’s really quite easy to calm down. My little outburst seemed to have done the trick.

“Oh thank god! I would have hated having to kill you.”

He smiled at me.

“Stay here!”

“But, I…”

“No, stay here. The palace has been infiltrated. This isn’t a spur of the moment assault. This is a planned attack, they have people on the inside. Stay here, quietly, I will come back and get you out.”

Before I could protest, he was out and locking the door.

I looked all around for a way out. We were in the music room. This had long been a favourite room of mine and Classisa’s. She was an Langston on both sides of her family, and even I had some Langston blood. Music spoke to our souls.

But that day, the room had become a prison.

We were on the fourth floor, so even if I was willing to risk my own life going out the window, with thee baby it wasn’t an option.

My only thought was to try and get the door open. I couldn’t do it with the baby in my arms, so reluctantly I found a place to put her. There was a silk screen in the corner, behind it was a basket containing, dresses, and scarves and all kinds of costumes that we sometimes used when putting on concerts. I gently placed the baby on top of the pile of clothes and pulled the screen around it.

I then went to the fire place and picked up the poker. I then started hacking at the door handle, trying to remove it.  

In between swings, I noticed that it was quiet outside. I had been so intent on getting out I hadn’t realised.

I stopped banging, and put my ear to the door. Nothing.

I raced to the window, and looked out. The gardens were still.

Was it over? So soon? What of Frederick and Clarissa? Had they survived?

I heard the key on the lock, and the door opened. Gordon entered, followed by his brother, Alistair. Both had grim faces. Gordon’s eyes were red rimmed, as though he had been crying. Alistair’s pain somehow didn’t make it’s way to his eyes, which were sparkling. He was patting his brother on the shoulder.

“My good, sweet, younger brother. You always were the emotional one.”

Gordon looked at his brother, “If only I had got there in time.”

“We both did the best we could. When I got there it was already too late. I did manage to take care of the scum with my bare hands though. I have to say that was rather satisfying. The looks on their faces when I walked in! You know I really do think I surprised them. No sign of the baby though, and I looked everywhere. No matter, it will be found. As regent, I am responsible for it’s welfare after all. I wouldn’t want anything unfortunate to happen to it.”

“Err, no! Of course not! Oh that beautiful, girl! An orphan already, and not a day old.”

“Girl? What? Have you seen her? Where?” Alistair’s eyes shone.

“That’s what I was… what I wanted to show you.”

They turned and saw me standing near the door. The fire poker in my hand. Gordon, looked at me and shook his head. He then seemed to notice that the baby was gone, and his face clouded over.

“Where is she Beatrice?”

I looked from one to the other. While I’ve always liked Gordon, his brother however is a different story. I’ve never fully trusted him. On that night, whether as a result of still being on my guard following the events of the day, or something else, but instinct told me not to divulge her whereabouts. Besides as far as I was concerned, I had been instructed by my King to get his daughter to the safety of the village where her mother and I grew up. Nothing that I had heard so far countermanded that instruction. I thought quickly. I dropped to my knees and started crying, Clutching at their pant legs.

“She’s gone!”

“Gone? What do you mean gone?”

“They came. They were brutal, they just grabbed her and pushed me to the ground. Then they ran off with her. Ohhhhh!!”

Then I started crying in earnest. Tears hadn’t been far from the surface all night, so it wasn’t difficult to start, but proved very hard to stop. I was tired.

Gordon gently pulled me up and toward the sofa. He sat me down, and took both my hands in his. He wiped the tears from my face with his hand.

“Shhh. Shhh. It’s alright. We’ll find her.” He pulled me to his shoulder and rubbed my back.

His brother hadn’t moved. He looked at me, his eyes narrowed, and penetrated into my being.

“So, these brutes. They just came in here, pushed you down, took the baby and left.”

I looked at him and nodded.

“And locked you in again?”

I looked at him, no doubt the look of shock on my face. He knew I was lying.

“You also look to be in remarkably good health. Didn’t put up much of a struggle did you?”

I had nothing to say. He had seen through me so easily.

“I think it’s clear what has happened here.”

Gordon had stopped holding me and was backing away.

“She’s been in league with them this whole time.”

He came and stood over me. But, I had immediately relaxed. At least for now, my secret was safe. I took the opportunity. I didn’t know what would happen next, but I knew I had to keep her hidden. I looked up at him, defiantly.

“You’ve got me!”

Gordon stood up. Shock, and hurt, on his face.

“But when I confronted you. You were so adamant! “

“Well I lied.”

Alistair turned to his brother.

“You’ve always been susceptible to a pretty face. I’ve told you before it would get you in trouble.”

He sighed and walked back to the door.

“I am going to get the search party organised. Dear brother, do you think you can manage to secure this wench so she doesn’t get away? We’ll need to question her later. But first, we must find the brat, I mean the child. I am extremely concerned about the child’s welfare, it would not do if something nasty happened to her.”

With that he swept from the room.

As soon as he was gone. I got up, and headed to the screen in the corner, picking the baby up in my arms.

Gordon’s expression had become one of confusion.

“What the hell is going on?”

“I’m taking your niece somewhere safe. I told you that.”

I started heading for the door.

“But, she is safe. They’re all gone.”

I turned and saw him standing there. I walked over and gently touched his face,

“Oh you sweet, good man. You’re such a good brother. But, I wouldn’t trust your brother with a dog I liked much less a new born baby. Fredrick told me to take her away, and that’s what I intend to do. Are you going to stop me?”

He looked at me. Confusion giving way to uncertainty. Then he shook his head.

“Just, where will you go?”

“To somewhere that she will be safe, and loved and protected.”

He nodded. “Okay then. Go, I’ll handle my brother.”

“Thank you.” I reached up and kissed his cheek. Then I ran, this time out of the palace, for good.”


The Amethyst Song- Episode Six

The children and adults sat quietly, while Hector continued his story.

“Theodore and Evelynne had a happy marriage. Their union produced three sons. Frederick, Alistair and Gordon.

I’ve already said that Theodore’s rule was a time of great peace and prosperity. It was also a time of healing. The Harringtons were strong rulers, and just. However they did like their battles and the honour and glory that victory over foreign rulers gave them. They were also an acquisitive lot. During the century or so that the Harringtons had been in charge, the country of Gildamoor had grown into the vast land that we are now familiar with. But, it wasn’t without pain or heartache. As new lands were conquered and added the old and new inhabitants had to learn to get along. That is never easy. Minor squabbles and the odd atrocity on all sides made the place especially unhappy.

In addition, for those who cared about such things, the displacement of the Langstons from their place of power caused a pain and a deep depression that came up from the land itself. Nothing was quite what it should be.

But, the marriage of the two families brought an end to that. The strength and power of one, combined with the ancient knowledge and wisdom of the other, under the protection of the restored Amethyst Song spread joy throughout the land. In their sons, the people placed great hope that this golden age would continue.”

Looking around the room, Hector saw dozens of eyes trained on him in rapt attention. His words had had the effect of soothing their fears. He smiled, and continued his tale.

“Continue it did. When Theodore died the country went into mourning, but not for long. Queen Evelynne still remained, and their son, Frederick by then a handsome and intelligent man in his mid-30’s was a favourite with everyone. At his coronation, a glittering affair and was marked by a month long celebration, he was presented with the Amethyst Song. It is said that when it was placed on his chest, it sang; the sweetest, most joyous song anyone has ever heard. The song reverberated throughout the land, echoing from every tree and every stone. His own wife, a distant cousin on the Langston side was a stunningly, beautiful woman of such grace that the people fell in love with her immediately.

His brothers too, had grown into accomplished men. Gordon was a revered general in the Royal Guard, and had shown himself to be a master tactician, living up to his Harrington heritage. But, it was the middle brother, Alistair that had shown himself to be truly gifted.

From the moment he was born, it was clear that Alastair was intelligent. His understanding of complex ideas and concepts was a wonder. As he grew, his natural flare, especially for mathematical and scientific principles, plus an inclination toward creativity meant that he would become one of the most prolific inventors of our time. You would be hard pressed to find a gadget or a gizmo that we use today, that didn’t originate in his superior mind.

He was also blessed with extraordinary charisma and the ability to turn his creations into money making ventures. He established the Harrington-Langston Corporation which quickly became the most profitable and and most influential enterprise in the world.”

He paused for effect. He had always been a gifted storyteller, and he was in his element here. He hadn’t had so much fun in ages.

“It seems however, that despite his brilliance, and despite all his achievements and material wealth, his hunger for power and glory could never be sated.

A year or two following Frederick’s coronation, it was announced that his wife, Clarissa was pregnant. The people rejoiced. At least, for awhile.

Shortly after the announcement, rumours of discontent began to circulate. At first it was only small things. People were complaining about the pavements not being swept enough, or the water in the pipes not being cold enough. But then, it was that taxes were too high and that the roads between the main cities were not maintained properly. Squabbles between neighbours became outright feuds. In cities and towns up and down the land public meetings started being held. The mood of the people was not good. Finally, it began to circulate that the source of the trouble was, King Frederick and his wife. No one is sure where this last came from, but it grew.

Before long, people were marching in the streets. The protests started peacefully, but grew more violent over time.

Then came a night roughly eighteen years ago. The long awaited event had arrived. Frederick and Clarissa’ child was born. A beautiful, raven haired daughter. While the dark hair marked her as a Harrington, everything else about her was pure Langston. Anyone who saw her, knew immediately that she was special, and not just because she would be Queen one day.

However, Frederick and Clarissa’s joy was short lived. Only hours after her birth, a rumbling could be heard outside the palace grounds. Frederick looked out the window of his wife’s birthing suite and saw the palace was surrounded by throngs of angry people, wielding all kinds of weapons. They were waving placards and shouting. They had come for him, and his family.

His immediate thought was for his daughter, if nothing else, she must be protected. He called for the queen’s most trusted maidservant. A good woman who had come with Clarissa when she was married; they had grown up together in a part of the world long associated with the Langston family. When she came, he handed her the tightly wrapped bundle that was his daughter and the amulet. We instructed her to run, to the place she and the Queen called home and to keep them both safe. If all went well, he would come and get them. If not…”

He stopped again. But this time, there was only sadness in his expression. The fun part was over. He turned to Beatrice.

“I think it’s your turn to take over the story.”

She simply nodded, sighed and began.

“She was the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen…”


The Amethyst Song- Episode Five

Mae woke first. Seeing that her mother was still sound asleep, she quietly got up and padded out to the lunchroom, in her bare feet. Without any windows, it was difficult to tell how early or late it was. She found Hector at one of the tables, cradling a coffee cup in his hands, staring into space. He didn’t notice that Mae had come in.

She quietly made a coffee for herself, before going to sit opposite the man. The sound of her spoon stirring her cup, caused him to jump with a start.

“Oh! You’re up.”


She kept stirring. The man looked at her, but almost seemed to be looking through her. Like he was trying to work something out.

“How much do you know about history?”

“History? What do you mean? Just what they taught us in school.Not much.”

“So, none.” He sighed.

“Okay. I know you must have a lot of questions. Your mother really should have told you already, but since she hasn’t….” he moved in his chair so her was looking at her eye to eye.

“Before we get into… specifics, I think it is important for you to have a quick history lesson.”

Mae was still groggy with sleep, but her annoyance with her mother, and now this man, refusing to tell her what was going on was intensifying.

“Is that really necessary? Can’t you just tell me. You said yourself I have a right to know, if this all concerns me.”

“Oh it concerns you alright. But, a little more patience… you need to know the history of this place, or nothing else will make any sense.”

“Pfffftttt…alright! Tell me.”

She slumped in her chair, her arms folded, prepared to be bored.

“Okay. Once upon a time,”

“Wait. Stop. Really? You’re really going start with ‘Once Upon a Time’?”

“Yes, I am, it’s how all good stories start.”

“Stories? It thought you said this was meant to be history.”

“Calm down. I’m getting there. History is just a story that happens to be true. Now, do you want me to tell it or not?”

“Oh alright. Just… get on with it.”

“Once upon a time, this country was one kingdom, ruled by one King. King Theodore Harrington. While far from perfect, as no man is, as far as kings go, he was one of the best. This country experienced peace and prosperity unlike any time before, or since.

His wife, Queen Evelynne came from one of this land’s oldest families. The Langstons. Her family are said to have ruled this place in one way or another since before time itself. It was only when the Harringtons came along a century or so ago, that they lost their place. When Theodore married Evelynne, many said that finally the rightful rulers were in place again.

All superstition, no doubt, except…for the Amethyst Song. The Amethyst Song is an amulet that has been in the possession of the Langstons since anyone can remember. They say that whoever holds the amulet is the true born ruler of this land. It was lost for a time, no one knows for sure what happened, all that is known is that when they lost it, is when the Harringtons took power. Then mysteriously it resurfaced when Evelynne was born.”

Hector paused and took a sip of his coffee. In the silence, a banging could be heard coming from the back entrance. He was immediately on his feet, and alert.

“Stay here.”

He left the room.

Mae got up. “I wish people would stop telling me what to do.”

She left the room too. She saw Hector moving, slowly and quietly in the shadows toward the entryway. A pistol was in his hands. She hung back, watching to see what he would do, but not wanting to draw attention to herself.

After he had disappeared into the office, she moved next to the door, and stood listening. The banging was louder, and more insistent. There was a pause. Then she heard him gasp, and start unbolting the door. The silence was then filled with the sound of dozens of young voices. Hector was ushering them in.”Come in, come in. What is this all about?”

There was a commotion by the door and then dozens of children came pushing through the door. Some crying, all exhausted. Bringing up the rear was Hilda Ravencour who ran the local school. Hector came behind them motioning them through the door. Mae was pressed with her back to the wall, in the dark shadow, but that didn’t stop him from spotting her. He gave her a look that said he wasn’t surprised, and just shook his head.

“Come on everyone. Now, now. Enough of the tears. You’re all safe now. This way. We’ll see if we can’t put some food in you all. Then maybe you can tell me why you’re all here, and what’s going on.”

“I doubt it.” Mae mumbled under her breath.

It wasn’t long before all the children, plus Hilda, Hector and Mae were in the kitchen. Fortunately there were a several loaves of bread, and tins of tomato soup, so they were all able to be fed. It was clear that they had been walking all night, and most of the day. During the excitement, Beatrice had woken, and come to the kitchen. She was helping the other adults with feeding the children.

While they ate. Hilda filled them in on what had happened in town, after they had fled. As she spoke it was clear that the strain of maintaining calm for the sake of the children was taking its toll. As she spoke, Mae became more subdued. Her mother glanced across at her, a worried and sympathetic expression on her face.

“It’ll be alright, my love. You’ll see.”

Her daughter looked across at her, “This is all because of me. Isn’t it?”

“No love, you mustn’t think that.”

“Stop it!” Mae stood up abruptly, causing her chair to fall to the floor with a crash. “Look at them mama. Look at us. That man came looking for me! Don’t deny it. You need to stop lying to me. I’m a big, girl, whatever it is, I can handle it. But, stop treating me like a child.” Her face had turned red, and her eyes had started to turn silver.

Hector came over and placed a hand gently on her arm.

“You know she’s right Bea. The time for secrets is passed.”

Beatrice just sat, nodding her head defeated. “I know. I know.” She turned to her daughter,a pained expression on her face, “First, though, before we tell you everything, I want you to know I love you, and I always will; and that everything that has happened has been to protect you.”

“Of course mama. I love you too.”

Hector had moved back to his chair, and motioned for Mae to sit beside him.

“Okay then I was just starting to give you a history lesson. I see no reason why all you young folk would benefit from a bit of history. So if everyone will get comfortable, I’ll get started. Once upon a time,”

Mae groaned, while Hector smiled at her, a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and went back to the beginning, “ this country was one kingdom, ruled by one King.”


The Wasp Factory (Iain Banks) 

This book is fantastic! It is another one of those books, that I go on about, that I found by accident. I had never heard of it until it picked it up, and the only reason I did was because I had finished a book, and needed something to read for the train ride home from work. I don’t even know why I picked it. It was on a shelf, and not displayed prominently on one of the bargain tables, all that was there to draw my attention was the spine. It wasn’t even a big book, just 200 pages; I’m surprised I even saw it.  

Iain Banks was a Scottish author of both general and science fiction. The Wasp Factory was his first novel. In a poll taken in The Independent it was voted by readers as one of the top 100 books of the twentieth century. When it was published in 1984 it received both wide acclaim and condemnation. I can see why it would polarise readers so much. The writing is superb, it is macabre and gruesome with a narrator, Frank, who makes you glad that this is fiction and you have no chance of meeting them in real life. The depiction of violence is chilling, graphic and disturbing. I concede that while I loved this book, it is most certainly not for everyone. If you are at all squeamish I suggest you skip this one.  

The only criticism I have is with the final chapter. The final resolution and denouement, not to mention the ‘explanation’ for the events that had taken place were anti-climactic. The so called ‘surprise’ wasn’t really all that surprising, I had pretty much guessed it almost from the beginning of the novel.  

I would suggest that he wrote the ending first, as most writers are told to do at one point, because it is almost like it comes from a different novel. Even the pacing and the overall tone change from the rest of the novel. Where the story is teased out gradually giving the reader just enough information to want more, maintaining a suspense that is exquisite; the final chapter is rushed with all the action spilling out over the course of a few pages. I am almost tempted to suggest that you stop reading before the last chapter- I wish I had. But, I know you won’t because, like me, I know that you will NEED to know what is on the next page.  

Having said all that, I still think that this is one of the best books I’ve read. It has made me curious to read Banks’ later works. As I said earlier, this book is not for everyone, but if you like horror and the macabre this will satisfy on both counts.