Winter Blogfest: Jane Dougherty

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Revelation.

This year, we have left our offspring in the city and retreated to a farmhouse in the middle of a field. Without the family and religious aspect, and the glittery commercial temptations, Christmas as a concept is fading into the past of childhood when it actually meant something. This year we will listen to the wind in the poplars instead of Christmas carols, the owls calling instead of ‘Dumbo’, and the foxes bickering instead of Julie Andrews. We will celebrate the winter solstice instead of the 25th, with a log fire in the grate, and tell a few stories by the firelight. Like this one, perhaps.

Long ago, in the land of the Northmen, as the longest night of the year was beginning, Gudrun was sent to bring in the last of the wethers. He was the biggest, wildest of the curly-horned sheep and a right royal pain in the arse. Gudrun wrapped her thick cloak tight about her and trudged through the snow up to the oak copse where she suspected he would be, gorging himself on the last of the acorns. She called and whistled, more to keep the wild beasts away than with much hope that the daft sheep would come.

The copse was empty. The wind blew flurries of snowflakes between the tree trunks and Gudrun cursed. Beyond the oaks was empty heathland until the fjord dropped away abruptly, and the sea crashed dark and wicked below. It would be just like the gormless creature to have fallen over the edge and be stuck on a ledge. Sure enough, after a quick search, the setting sun through the clouds along the horizon showed her the wether’s neat prints. Snow clouds hid the sun, and the wind whined, and in its voice, she heard another sound—someone calling faintly.

She ran across the heath that sloped down to the sea, to where the last rowan tree clung to the rocky soil before the slope became bare rock that tumbled into the waves.

“Who’s there?” she called into the wind, fearful that on this long night, the Draugr would be abroad.

“Gudrun? Tis Sigurd Two-Wolves. Take care, the rocks are as treacherous as sin!”

Gudrun picked her way to the broken edge and peered down a narrow goat track. In the middle of a group of scrubby trees, the yellow-eyed wether, straddling a pair of legs, was glaring up at her. With the last of the light to guide her, Gudrun clambered down to the outcrop that had stopped Sigurd’s fall. He raised himself feebly on his forearms, and she caught her breath. A ray of sun picked out the red of his hair and turned it to flame. His eyes glittered, with fever or with something else, she couldn’t say. Though they had been children together, she had never before realised how beautiful he was, and the expression in his eyes, she had never seen in a man’s eyes before. He needed her. Not in the way men usually need women, but he needed her because he was weak and helpless. She knelt down by his side. Her hands twisted a fold of her cloak, itching to touch him, to find out where the pain was.

“It was the wether,” he said sheepishly, “and I almost had him. Then he jumped, and I went with him.” He looked along his body. “The ankle. Nothing to weep over, but I’d best wait for the light before trying that track again.”

Gudrun ran her hand down his leg and had the satisfaction of seeing how he stirred. Gently, she lifted his leg from the rocks that imprisoned it in a twisted position. He cried out and she felt power and pleasure and compassion all at the same time.

“We’ll not be moving from here this night,” she said.

“You’ll stay with me, the dark night through?” he asked, although he must have known the answer.

“This night and every other, if you asked me,” Gudrun whispered as she wrapped them both in her cloak. The wether settled down, sheltering them from the wind, until the sun goddess birthed a daughter to light the first day of the new year.

Carla was expecting Paradisio to be like…well…paradise. But bad boy Nathaniel shows her that the inhabitants are anything but angelic.

Wormwood has fallen, but the journey isn’t over for Carla and Tully. Erelah, the Messenger, leads them onward to Paradisio, where they hope they will find their real home. The Grigori recognize Tully as Israfel, and he takes to his new role of guardian of music like a duck to water, but Carla’s impressions are of a world with dark secrets hiding in the shadows.

Tully seems absorbed in his music and whenever he comes up for air, Erelah with her neat little wings is waiting. In her misery, Carla finds consolation in Nathaniel, a Warrior who is a hunk and knows it. But she is playing with fire. Nat wants her, and what Nat wants, he takes.
As if her personal problems weren’t enough, Carla begins to piece together the mad plan that Nisroc, the Yazata of Paradisio, has lined up for the other worlds. But Tully, who has been promised a star part, seems keen to play along with the lunatic scheme.

Carla finds herself caught up in a revolution, to stop Nisroc and the one who is creating his weapon of mass destruction—Tully.

 

Jane Dougherty writes stories where the magical and the apocalyptic mesh, where horror and romance meet, and the real and the imaginary cohabit on the same page. If real life bores you and you hanker to be whisked away to somewhere infinitely worse…before it gets better…and turns into your wildest dreams, her stories have got just what you’re looking for.

Jane was born when she was very small and was brought up in Yorkshire. Her first job took her to France and she has never found her way anywhere else. She now lives in a strange world where she writes the rules, creates the landscapes, catastrophes and the magic. She also bends the rules of physics, plays Cupid and hands out happy endings to deserving characters.

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Comments

  1. You capture so well that magical moment when love first blooms between old friends. Lovely story, and wonderful hints at their world!

  2. Your winter solstice plans sound incredibly relaxing.

    • Jane Dougherty says:

      It looks as though we’re going to have fires going in three rooms now. The woodburner in the kitchen should be up and running by this evening so we’ll have the open fire in the bedroom.

  3. My first job also took me to France, but I ended up in Yorkshire, where I’m still an incomer after 30 years.

    • Jane Dougherty says:

      My family emigrated to Yorkshire and my grandmother married a Yorkshireman. His family were horrified and airbrushed him out of their family history. They lived just down the road from us but never, after three generations spoke to their ‘Irish’ cousins. They are funny folk. Thirty years is nothing…

  4. interested retreat

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