Wednesday, June 18, 2014



Fae - The Wild Hunt
The Riven Wyrde Saga Book 1
By Graham Austin-King
Release date - March 9th 2014

It will be live on Kobo shortly!

Blurb:
Fairies... The Fae... The stuff of bedtime stories and fables.
But sometimes the fairy tales are true. Sometimes they hold a warning...
For a hundred generations the Fae have been locked away from the world, in the cold, the Outside. They have faded out of sight and mind into myth and folklore, but now the barriers are weakening and they push against the tattered remnants of the wyrde as they seek a way to return.
As a new religion spreads across the world, sweeping the old ways and beliefs away before it, a warlike people look across the frozen ocean towards the shores of Anlan, hungry for new lands. War is coming, even as the wyrde of the Droos is fading.
Only by realizing the truth lost in a child's tale will the world hope to withstand the wild hunt.



Chapter One
Miriam gazed through the
small window at the sun as it sank
slowly behind the tiled rooftops of
Kavtrin. Smoke was rising from
the chimney pots, lending a
contrast that painted a dirty stain
of indigo across the flaming skies.
It was a sunset for young lovers
and poets, but Miriam was blind to
it. Once there had been a time
when the sight would have struck
a chord within her, but those days
seemed long gone to her now.
She traced her fingertips idly over
the worn and knife-scarred
worktop and sighed as she picked
up a damp cloth and began to run
it back and forth over the surface.
There was no dirt to clean. The
counter was as clean as anyone
could make it, but hands need to
feel busy and the cloth worked
almost unnoticed by her as she
stared unseeing out of the
window.
She caught sight of her
reflection as she turned and she
froze in place, one hand coming
up to touch her cheek. Her face
was lined and drawn. Her once
lustrous brown hair was tied back
into a severe bun, which only
served to highlight the faint touch
of grey at her temples. She
looked... old? She wondered at
herself. Who was this woman
looking back at her? How long had
it been since she'd really looked at
herself? How long since she'd
really been herself?
She turned to stir the pot
resting on the woodstove, and
glanced nervously at the door.
The stew was catching again, but
he probably wouldn't notice unless
it was really badly burned. She
was a good cook, she knew she
was, but there was only so much a
person could do to keep food hot
once it was ready. The mutton
had stewed for a good six hours
and she had been trying to keep it
hot for the last four. She glanced
at the door again and tutted as
she caught herself doing so.
Sliding the iron vent in the base of
the stove closed, she lifted the pot
with a grunt and placed it onto the
heavy table.
Her eyes drifted to the simple
cot in the corner and she padded
over on quiet feet. The only joy
she had found in the last fifteen
years of her marriage lay sleeping
soundly in this small bed. Caerl
hadn't really wanted children, but
she'd hoped that it would have
mellowed his temper and when
Devin came along, he'd seemed to
calm for a time. Then of course,
he had taken up the drink again.
Creaks and mutterings drifted
in from the stairs, she turned with
a smile carefully arranged on her
face as the door opened, and
Caerl slumped against the door
frame. She took in all of his
appearance in a single glance.
The stained and slovenly clothing,
the unwashed and unkempt hair,
the filthy and scraggly beard.
Where under all of this filth, was
the man she had married? The
man who had stolen moments
with her, risking her father's wrath
when she'd been little more than
a child herself.
“Hello dear,” she said, forcing
lightness into her voice. “How was
the marketplace? Would you like
some dinner? I made your
favourite.”
Caerl grunted, a non-committal
noise that could have meant any
number of things, and staggered
the three steps to the sturdy table
before collapsing into a chair.
Miriam busied herself with the
stew, spooning out a healthy
portion into a large earthenware
bowl and setting a hunk of bread
on the side. She put it down in
front of Caerl's slouched form, and
stepped quickly away to busy
herself in the tiny kitchen. Not
that anything needed doing, the
rooms were spotless. Living in fear
of Caerl's dark moods had turned
her into an efficient cleaner, and
the fewer reasons she could give
him to start off with her, the
better.
Caerl dunked the dark peasant
bread into the stew and chewed.
He shovelled a spoonful into his
mouth, and then grimaced and
spat. His dark eyes sought her out
and seemed to flash in the light
from the fire and the oil lamps on
the walls.
“This is burnt, woman.” He
slurred, seeming to chew out the
words from a mouth slack from
drink.
“I'm sorry Caerl,” Miriam said,
hating herself for the way she
sounded. “I tried to keep it warm
for you, but it must have caught.”
“Dammit girl, how hard can it
be to put some food in a man's
belly?” He pressed his hands to
the tabletop and stood in a
sudden burst, knocking the simple
wooden chair to the floor. It made
a sharp crack as it splintered. “I
run those damned carts all day
long for you. Put food on the table
and a roof over the head of you
and your brat, and you can't even
make a decent meal?”
Miriam rankled at him starting
on the boy. She knew she ought
to keep her head down just as a
rabbit will stay in the warren when
a storm is coming, but Caerl
always knew somehow what
would set her off.
“Well, maybe if you had been
home instead of in the tavern
three hours ago, it wouldn't have
caught,” she muttered, the words
spilling from her lips before her
good sense could stop them.
Caerl stopped, and stared at
her with dark eyes for a long
moment. A slow smile spread over
his stubbled face.
“So, it's my fault is it?”
“No, Caerl. I didn't mean it like
that.” She took a step back away
from him and began edging along
the wall towards the window.
“I work all damned day and
this is what I get? Burnt slop I
wouldn't feed a dog!” He slammed
his hands down on the table,
making the bowl jump.
Miriam flinched and turned
quickly to see if Devin had woken.
“Dammit, woman. Look at me
when I'm talking to you!” He
snatched up the bowl and hurled it
at the fireplace. It shattered on
the woodstove, splattering stew
over the walls and onto the hearth
where it bubbled and hissed.
Miriam cried out as the bowl
smashed, ducking involuntarily as
though it had struck her. She
cowered down, her hands
shielding her face as Caerl
stormed towards her with rage
dancing in his eyes. She drew
back as he came closer and
grabbed for her and then skittered
along the wall towards the
woodstove and the doorway to
their own tiny room. Caerl
followed swiftly, his movements
unimpeded by the ale he stank of,
as if the rage had burned the
alcohol from him.
“Caerl, don't. Please?” She
backed into the darkness of their
small bedroom. “You'll wake the
boy. Try to calm down.”
“Don't you tell me what to do.”
He reached for her and managed
to grab her hair, pulling it free off
the bun as she twisted and tried
to dart away from him. “Who in
the hells do you think you are,
telling me what to do?”
He yanked savagely on her
hair, bending her backwards and
off-balance as her eyes filled with
tears. “You're nothing!” he spat.
“That's what you are woman. You
know it, and I know it.”
He let go, dropping her to the
floor as she curled up tight, balling
her fists and pressing them to her
face as if to ward off the hate.
“Say it,” he whispered, but she
lay silent, biting her cheek to hold
in the tears.
“Say it!” he roared, drawing
back his foot and kicking her
savagely in the ribs with his heavy
boot.
Miriam gasped as the pain
flooded through her. Her eyes
filled with tears and she felt him
crouch down and grab her by the
throat , wrenching her towards
him. His calloused hands were
rough on the delicate skin of her
throat, and she fought to draw in
a ragged breath as he squeezed
at her neck.
“Don't you ever tell me what to
do.” His spittle sprayed onto her
cheeks as he spat out the words
and the stench of stale beer
turned her stomach. She began to
sob silently as she fled inside
herself. Her silence seemed to
enrage him more than her
defiance had, and he struck her
with the back of his hand, the
force throwing her to the floor.
“Da?” a small voice carried in
from the doorway.
Miriam's eyes flew open in
horror and her pain was forgotten.
Devin was a slight boy and the
nightshirt made him seem all the
smaller as he looked up at his
father.
“Da, don't hit her.” He said
again, a world of reproach in his
small voice.
Miriam flew to her feet as Caerl
turned and bristled at the lad.
“You telling me what to do,
boy?” he asked in a low dangerous
voice as he moved toward the
doorway.
“Don't you touch him, Caerl,”
she warned. “Don't you dare touch
him.”
“Boy needs to know his place,”
he muttered almost to himself, as
he looked down at the dark haired
child backing away from him.
Desperately, she reached for
him and clung to his arm, trying to
hold him back as he dragged her
into the kitchen again. Muttering a
curse Caerl struggled to throw her
off, turning to face her once more.
His face was a mask of pure rage
as he struck her with his open
hand across the face. This was no
slap, his hand was rigid and she
staggered backwards into the
wall, her head ringing. He stalked
towards her as she dashed the
tears from her eyes and looked up
at him. Her face throbbed and one
eye was already starting to swell.
He staggered suddenly as
Devin launched himself on his
back screaming like a feral cat.
Caerl's eyes went wide in shock
and then pain as the boy’s nails
clawed at his neck. He reached
back almost casually, grasping a
handful of the nightshirt and threw
the boy at his mother.
“You both got no damned
respect.” he spat and began to
undo the thick leather belt he
wore.
“That's enough Caerl,” Miriam
said snapped, her lips white with
anger as she got to her feet,
clutching Devin to her skirts as
they moved sideways towards the
fireplace. He laughed coldly and
shook out the belt. Miriam
reached out blindly and took up
the first thing that fell to hand.
The heavy iron ladle from the pot.
“So help me Caerl, if you touch
this boy...”
His laugh was frost as she
thrust Devin behind her
awkwardly. She shrieked as he
feinted towards her and she
swung wildly with the ladle,
spraying stew across the room
and missing.
He grinned and lunged again,
but this time his balance or the
ale betrayed him and he had none
of the grace of moments ago. She
lashed out, screaming, and the
ladle caught him solidly on the
temple with a sickening crunch.
Caerl staggered backwards and
fell, crashing through the chairs
and table before hitting the floor.
The silence when it fell, was
louder than her screams had ever
been. She stood frozen, holding
the ladle with both hands. She
was dimly aware of Devin behind
her, both hands gripping her dress
and his face buried in the cloth.
Extricating herself from his grasp
she crept towards Caerl's prone
figure. Blood was seeping slowly
from his temple and one nostril,
and his eyes were half closed. She
looked carefully, but saw no signs
of movement. He lay still,
seemingly out cold. She felt a wild
exultation in her breast but then,
just as powerfully, the reality of
what she had done washed over
her and Miriam was filled with a
fear deeper than she had ever
known. He would kill her. Her and
the boy both, that much was
certain. If he didn't kill her, he'd
either make her pay so savagely
that she begged for death, or he'd
have her up before the Justice.
“Devin, sweetheart?” she
called softly. “Let's take a trip, just
you and me. We'll have an
adventure.”
The boy looked at her with
huge dark eyes. “Without Da?” he
asked in a small voice. Miriam
nodded.
“Good,” he said firmly.
Forcing a smile onto her face,
she set about grabbing clothes
and what little food they had in
the house, filling bags while Devin
dressed. Taking his small hand,
she led him to the door and
reminded herself to walk normally
and calmly into the hallway and
down the stairs, even as her mind
screamed at her to run.
Kavtrin was not a small city
and even at this time in the
evening the streets were filled
with people. Miriam held tight to
Devin with one hand, and the
bags with the other, as she tried
to thread her way through the
crowded streets. Many people
were still making their way home
from work. Some few hawkers
were still on street corners, trying
to sell this and that. Miriam
noticed first one, and then several
evening girls coming to stand
under the, as yet, unlit street
lamps with their lost and hopeless
eyes.
She hurried Devin along the
cobbled streets, trying to keep
from being forced into the gutters
by the sheer weight of traffic.
They darted over to the side from
time to time to avoid the carts
that clattered through with their
drivers flicking the whip at the
horses and cursing at all who
stood in their way. She was only
dimly aware of where she was
going. It had been so long that
she was surprised she even
remembered the way. Devin had
been silent since they left the
house, and she needed
desperately to get him into the
warm.
Miriam didn't notice the rain
when it first started, a soft misting
drizzle that was more like spray
than rain, but which soon began
to soak through her simple
woollen dress. It slowly changed
into a steady rain that plastered
her long brown hair to her face
and her dress clung to her legs
with each step. They were both
soaked to the skin as they finally
crossed the high cobbled bridge
and saw the golden glow of the
lamplight coming from the
windows of the Broom and
Badger. Miriam made her way
around to the rear of the inn and
pounded on the large oak door as
Devin pressed himself hard
against her hip. The boy was
shaking, not simply shivering, but
a solid trembling. Miriam drew in a
breath to speak as the door finally
opened, but the girl in the
doorway pulled them both out of
the rain with wide eyes.
“Lords and Ladies, look at the
state of you two.” she exclaimed.
“Boy'll catch his death out in that.
So will you! An' what's wrong with
the front door anyway?”
“Shalin said I could call on her
if ever I needed anything,” Miriam
told the blonde girl in a tiny
broken voice. The girl looked at
her, taking in the deepening
bruises, and her face softened.
“Ah darlin', you've been through it,
haven't you, love?” She hurried
them through into the warm
kitchen, still filled with the aromas
of dinner, and sat them close to
the fire set in the long wall.
“You two sit here and I'll find
Shalin. I expect you could use
something hot inside you too.”
She bustled around and set a
large bowl in front of Devin,
before leaving through the double
doors that led into the inn proper.
The kitchen was long and lowbeamed,
with huge cast-iron
ovens set against one wall and a
long table filling the centre of the
room. It was well-lit with oil lamps
on the walls shedding a warm
comforting light. It smelled of
chicken, fresh baked bread, and
hope. Miriam let the warmth from
the fire soak slowly into her body
and watched Devin devour a large
bowl of warm apple pie as only a
ten year old boy could.
“My stars, Miriam, I never
thought I'd see you again!”
exclaimed a slim blonde woman
from the doorway. Shalin seemed
determined to overcome every
stereotype about innkeeper's
wives. She was tall and willowy,
with a figure that made other
women hate her on sight. She was
neither matronly nor blousey,
though that was not to say she
was not beautiful. She had long
hair the colour of good honey, and
piercing blue eyes. It would be
easy to assume that she was just
some pretty thing the Innkeeper
had been lucky enough to end up
with, but Shalin was far more than
a pretty face. She ran the inn with
a brisk efficiency that showed in
her eyes. This was a woman who
brooked no nonsense and
demanded both order and respect.
This was a woman that
commanded loyalty and who no
man with a whit of sense would
cross. She had once been Miriam's
closest friend, and the last things
Miriam had said to her had been
lies. “Shalin,” she breathed as she
made her way to the doorway.
“Lords and Ladies woman, look
at the state of you,” Shalin
muttered as she drew Miriam
close into a fierce embrace,
ignoring the water that was
pooling by her feet. “What's
happened to you?”
Miriam sucked in one
shuddering breath before spitting
out, “Caerl.” The name tore from
her throat and carried all the
years of venom and fear. All the
love and betrayal, the hurt and
every bruise. She clung fiercely to
Shalin, taking strength from the
embrace and the simple
knowledge that another adult
cared for her. Shalin stroked her
hair softly, making hushing noises.
“Deena,” she called through into
the hallway. “Why don't you get
the lad a warm bath and wrap him
up in Thomas' old room?”
The girl nodded, smiling at
Devin as she held out her hand.
“That pie was good wasn't it? I
always feel better after coming in
from the wet, when I can get
something warm inside me. Now,
how about we get you out of
those wet clothes, into a hot bath,
and then find you a nice warm
bed?” Devin nodded sleepily and
allowed himself to be herded from
the room.
“He'll be fine,” Shalin said,
stepping back to look at Miriam.
“Now, how about we get you
warm and you can tell me what is
going on? Go on with Deena and
she'll get you one of my robes.
You can wrap up in that for now
and get dry.”
The blonde girl led them both
up the stairs and pointed Miriam
towards a bedroom door, “There
should be a robe or two on the
back of the door. Just leave your
dress in there and I'll see it's
cleaned for you.”
Miriam nodded her thanks and
crouched a little to give Devin a
quick hug before stepping into the
room.
Shalin smiled at her as she
came back into the kitchen and
waved her back into the chair. The
robe was soft and with the
warmth from the fire she was
beginning to thaw. “Now then,
now that you look more like the
woman I knew and less a
drowning kitten, why don't you tell
me what's going on? The last time
I saw you, your Caerl had gotten a
new job in Savarel and you were
moving up there.”
“We were never going to
Savarel,” Miriam admitted in a
small voice. “I lied because he'd
lost his job again and we were
being thrown out of our home.”
“Why didn't you say
something?” Shalin gasped. “I had
no idea! You know I would have
helped you.”
“When you've got nothing,
Shalin, sometimes pride is all you
can to cling to,” Miriam said
simply.
“Hmm, you're right.” said
Shalin. “We were so poor, we
made the birds look rich when I
was a little'un, but our doorstep
was scrubbed daily.” She folded
her arms across herself. “So,
what's happened now? I mean, it's
been what, eight years? Nine?”
“It's been eleven, Shalin,
almost twelve.” Miriam walked
over to the fireplace and stared
deep into the flames. “He drank,”
she began. “Most men drink, but
he drank and then he got mean
with it. I could cope with that well
enough, I suppose, but it was
almost every day in the end.” Her
head bowed as if she were
speaking to the floor, like the
confession of a naughty child.
“And he would hit me. Nothing I
did would be good enough, Shalin.
I tried. I really tried! There would
be days when he would come
home and it seemed like he was
searching for something to start
off on. Then tonight, he beat me
and Devin woke up.”
“Your boy?” Shalin asked
quietly.
Miriam nodded silently. “Caerl
was always careful not to wake
him, either that or Devin always
made out like he was sleeping.
He'd never stir.” She breathed
deeply before pressing on. “Caerl
had me on the floor and he just
kept kicking me. All I could think
was, this was it. This was the
night that he's finally going to kill
me. Then, Devin was there,
throwing himself on Caerl and he
grabbed him and threw him at
me. He actually threw my boy,
Shalin! He was taking his belt off
to beat the both of us.”
“How did you end up like this,
Miriam? You were always so
strong, when I knew you.”
“He wasn't always like this.
When we first met, he was so
sweet you wouldn't believe he
was the same person.”
“How did you meet him? You
never did tell me, you know?” She
stood and took down a kettle from
a hook, filling it from the pump
over the double sinks. “I expect
you could use some tea to start
with?” She cocked an eyebrow at
Miriam over one shoulder.
“He was a caravan guard. He
used to come in to my father's inn
every few months, doing the route
from Savarel to Kavtrin.”
“And I bet you thought he held
the sun in one hand and the moon
in the other didn't you?” Shalin
said as she set the kettle to boil.
“And then some,” Miriam
admitted. “He was everything my
father hated, and of course,
everything I wanted. I was all of
fifteen when we started sneaking
about together.” Her face twisted
as she spoke. “Eventually, he
talked me into running away with
him, and that was that. I snuck
out of the window one night with
nothing but a small pack of
clothing and keepsakes.” She
picked up the mug and blew softly
at the steam curling from the top.
“At fifteen, I knew all there was to
know, and so I turned my back on
my family, friends and my home.
All for a man I'd really, barely
known.”
“You don't need to tell me if
you don't want to,” the woman
said softly.
“No, it's good. It sort of helps,
you know, to talk about it? I don't
think I've ever told anyone the
whole thing before.”
Shalin nodded, setting the
steaming mug down in front of
Miriam and moving back to her
own chair, cradling her cup in her
elegant hands.
“We settled here in Kavtrin. He
found work easily enough in the
marketplace and on the docks. I
found easy work in a tavern. We
had a lovely room in a nice area
overlooking some of the gardens
by the park. It wasn't anything
especially wonderful, but it was
ours, and it felt like a home.
Things were wonderful. I mean
truly storybook wonderful, until he
started drinking.” She cleared her
throat and looked down at the
table as she continued. “First, he
started drinking after work with
the boys from the marketplace. I
didn't mind or blame him. It's hot
and heavy work, and a man needs
to spend time with the folks he
works with.
“Then, he started drinking
during lunch with the dockhands.
Before long, he was drinking more
than he was working. That was
when he lost the first job. He was
so ashamed that he hid it from me
for almost a week before he finally
admitted it. He'd been still going
out to work in the mornings and
not back until dusk, but I'd known
something wasn't right. A woman
always knows. So, he'd sworn off
the drink and we'd muddled
through. He found more work and
things were back to normal, until
it happened again.” She drew in a
deep shuddering breath and
sighed it out slowly. “This is
harder than I thought,” she said,
looking at Shalin with an
apologetic smile.
“You're doing fine Miriam, just
take your time.”
Miriam nodded and drained her
tea, setting the mug down and
curling her hands in her lap. “After
we lost the third home, I told him
straight. One more time, one last
time, and that was all the chances
I was giving him.” She sighed and
gave a wry smile, “We hadn't
really planned for a family. Oh, we
hadn't exactly avoided it, I'd
stopped drinking moon-tea soon
after we settled down again. If I'm
honest with myself, it had been
my price for keeping us together,
and that had been the idea really.
Maybe I thought that if we
concentrated on starting a family,
then things would be better. Of
course, you need to be home to
start a family. It helps if you are
conscious and not snoring ale
fumes into the kitchen floor. I'd
been right on the verge of telling
him we were done, when along
came Devin, just like that.” She
laughed a bitter little laugh.
“He changed. Overnight he
changed, and it was like none of
the strife or struggles had ever
been there.” She glanced up at
Shalin and smiled with tearrimmed
eyes. “He helped through
the pregnancy. He worked harder,
was home earlier and looked after
me like I was made of glass.
Sometimes too much! When Devin
was born he was there, though he
bolted outside as soon as the
midwife arrived and wouldn't
come back into the building until
he heard the babe squall. Life was
back to the storybook for almost
four years, four blissful years.”
“So, what happened? What
changed?” She heard Shalin ask.
“Honestly? I have no idea.”
She shook her head. “I wondered
for a while if he'd been having an
affair and it had ended or
something like that. Between one
month and the next he shifted, he
became distant. He came home
twice with ale on his breath,
though I pretended I hadn't smelt
it. The following week it was
spirits he reeked of. Then it
seemed it was every night. You
know the funny thing?” Shalin
shook her head quietly and Miriam
smiled a sad smile. “It was only
then, that I began to realise how
alone I'd become. We lost most of
our friends when we'd had to
move the first time. There's
nothing quite like pride to rob a
person of their good sense is
there? Oh, I'd reached out a
couple of times, but after we'd
moved the third time, I was so
ashamed I never bothered trying
to keep in touch again. Then
Devin came along and my days
were filled with him and what
work I could find. Caerl had been
so good to me that I almost didn't
notice that I never really saw
anyone else. Until of course, I
needed somebody else. Until it all
began again. And then I was
alone. So, so alone.”
Shalin moved to take her in her
arms as the tears began to fall.
Her body shook with silent sobs,
and she allowed the willowy
blonde to pull her head into her
shoulder. For a time they just sat
in silence, until Miriam pushed
herself away with a sniff. “Look at
me, crying like a babe.”
Shalin just looked at her in
silence, a faint smile on her face.
“Where were you working?”
Miriam sniffed. “I still worked
in a couple of taverns. It was hard
to find one where I could bring
Devin. But then when he got old
enough he worked as a scullion,
while I worked in the kitchen or
the laundry. I'd tried working as a
serving girl again, but any man
who smelled of ale reminded me
of Caerl. I tried a few places, but
in the end I realised it wasn't the
inn, it was me. A girl working in an
inn needs to be able to laugh and
banter and flirt a bit. I couldn't do
it. I couldn't find it in me. Any man
so much as spoke to me and I ran
off to the kitchens like a startled
rabbit. So I stayed in the kitchens,
preparing meals and washing
linens.
“Through all of it, Caerl was
the same. He ran in cycles. He
would drink himself to almost rock
bottom before swearing off the
stuff. He was true to his word too.
He wouldn't touch it, or go to the
inn with the others. He'd come
back from his work early. He'd be
calmer, kinder, more attentive,
and then it would begin again.
Always the same, every time. It
would start with one drink with
the boys on a Friday. Then it
would become Wednesday too,
then a touch of wine with dinner.
Before too long, he'd be cursing
that we had nothing in the place
to drink. He'd be coming back
from the marketplace later and
later and stinking like the bottom
of an ale barrel. The more he
drank, the blacker his mood
seemed to get, and then before
long I was back to never knowing
when he was coming home, or
who he might be when he arrived.
“Some men are happy drunks.
We've both seen them, laughing
and carrying on. Some become
depressed and snuffle into a
tankard in the corner. Caerl wasn't
either of these. He would fall in
through the doors with a shadow
in his eyes, and then it would
start. It seemed some days, he
almost had to search for
something to get angry about, but
he always found something.
Everything was meant as a hurt
when the mood was on him. If the
fire was built too high, I was
squandering his money. If the
food was too simple or the rooms
not spotless I was failing as a
wife. But it was rare for him to
actually hit me, until just lately.”
Her hand crept unnoticed to her
face and she fingered the bruises,
probing the sore flesh absently
she spoke.
“Always before, even in his
darkest place he stopped at
hurling things across the room or
kicking over the table. He'd rage
and curse at me as I stood in front
of Devin's cot and eventually, it
was like he'd suddenly see me.
Maybe he saw how scared I was
or something. But he'd turn and
storm out of the door. He'd be
back later, stinking of cheap gin
and slurring apologies as he
pawed at me in the bed.
“And then one time, he did it.
He hit me. And it was like, now
he'd crossed the line and seen
that nothing came from it, he
decided it was okay. He never did
it in front of the boy, though. It
was like he thought beating me
was fine, it was okay. But children
shouldn't see it. Then tonight, he
woke Devin with all his shouting
and Devin saw him hit me. My boy
actually tried to protect me
Shalin.” Her voice was filled with a
fierce pride.
“What have you done, Miriam?”
Shalin asked, as understanding
suddenly dawned on her.
“He was going to beat us both.
He was taking off his belt!”
“What have you done, Miriam?”
she repeated in a soft voice.
“I went for him with a pot
ladle. It caught him in the face,
just here,” she touched her
temple. “He fell hard. And…and,
we just left.”
“Is he dead?”
Miriam gasped. “I don't know,”
she admitted as her hand flew to
her mouth. “I didn't think to check.
Oh, Lords and Ladies! What if I've
killed him?”
Shalin took her by the hands,
and looked at her firmly. “Now,
listen here. You did what you
needed to do. Nobody in this room
is going to blame you or think less
of you for that. You were keeping
your boy safe, and that's what
counts. If he's dead, well then he
got what was coming to him. Less
than I would have given him!” She
stood abruptly and left the room,
returning quickly with two glasses
and a dark bottle.
“Take this, you look like you
could use a good drink,” she said,
pressing the brandy into Miriam's
hands.
Miriam drank the fiery liquid
down without comment and held
her glass out for another. Shalin
chuckled and poured, before
turning back with a serious look.
“Have you thought what you
might do?”
Miriam shook her head.
“I'd have you here, Miriam, you
know that. But you must know it's
going to be one of the first places
he looks, if he comes looking for
you. If he's dead, well then, better
you were gone from Kavtrin
completely.”
“Maybe I should just go to the
Justice, Shalin. I mean, if he's
dead?”
“Now don't talk stupid, girl!”
Shalin snapped. “You've done the
right thing. You got yourself out,
you looked after your lad. You've
walked all the way here, and now
you talk about going to the
Justice?”
“If he's dead though...” she
trailed off.
“What? Because it's the law?”
Shalin scoffed. “You know as well
as I do, that people die in this city
every day. Caerl wasn't rich or
important, they won't bat an eye.
IF he's even dead!” she took a
deep drink, and set down her
glass again. “Now, before you
started on that nonsense, I was
about to ask if you have anywhere
you could go. Somewhere outside
of Kavtrin, until you get on your
feet? Are you in touch with your
family at all?”
Miriam shook her head. “No.
And it's been too long. I couldn't
just turn up, not now. To be
honest, I don't even know if
they're still there.”
“It's a start, Miriam. Go there
and see. It gets you away from
any... problems here. And it gets
you moving off your behind, girl!”
“I don't have any money,
Shalin. I hadn't really thought past
maybe someday getting away
from Caerl, and finding a job
somewhere with just me and
Devin. It was all just rainy day
dreams, but now...”
Shalin took a deep breath,
visibly biting back words which
were too harsh for the moment.
“Wait here,” she said tersely and
strode from the room. Miriam sat
by the fire, listening to the sounds
of raucous laughter and merriment
from the common room. She was
dimly aware of Shalin's voice in
the hallway. The words were
indistinct, but the tone spoke
volumes. A few moments later she
stepped back into the kitchen.
“I've a few things to organise,
but we will sort you out, Miriam.
For now, I think you probably
need a bed. You look like you're
about to drop off your feet. Why
don't you head up and climb in
with your boy? We'll talk more in
the morning.”



Graham Austin-King began his writing with children's stories to entertain his children when walking them to and from school. When he started getting demands to repeat the same story over and over again he decided to write them down.
Liam and the Grump was soon followed by Captain Pegleg and the Greatest Treasure.
Fantasy is the genre which has always appealed to him, a result of reading too many books and playing too many roleplaying games and computer games. Having weaned himself on Tolkein he cut his teeth on David Eddings and Raymond E. Feist.
Finally the keyboard beckoned, there were worlds to create.
Graham lives in Kent in England with his wife and three younger children.