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Novel Extracts

When the Snow falls Red

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Twin Blood ( A Red Snow Fairy Tale)

After their music lessons ended the twins decided to play in the gardens. They were running around throwing snow at each other, laughing wildly when Cristof saw a little child peering out from behind the crooked tree. She was laughing and she waved at him.

“Did you see that?” Cristof asked his twin.

Petya looked up but the little girl was gone. “See what?” he asked.

“Never mind,” Cristof moaned, dismissing the sight as just being his imagination. They carried on playing and Cristof saw her again. This time she appeared to be angry with him.

“There she is again!” Cristof called pointing to the tree. Petya still saw nothing. “Wait here,” Cristof ordered and made his way to the tree.

Petya watched in silence as his brother neared the great dark trunk. He disappeared behind one side but didn’t emerge from the other.

“Cristof!” he called a couple of times before plucking up his own courage and following his brothers footsteps. He followed the small prints, much like his own, around the tree where they stopped suddenly right at the base. A boy with pale skin and ebony hair was seated in the snow with his head in his hands.

“Have you seen my brother? He looks just like me,” Petya asked sensing Cristof was playing a game with him.

“I haven’t seen anything,” said the boy. He raised his head, opened his eyes and showed empty sockets. “I am blind,” he explained.

“Who are you? Where do you come from?” Petya asked.

“My name is Baldasarre,” said the boy. “I am from a land far from here.”

“What happened to your eyes?”

Baldasarre told him, “They were taken from me. That is why I am here. I am going to retrieve them but I can’t get inside the castle. Will you help me?”

Petya hesitated, “I really need to find my brother.”

Baldasarre sighed, “If you help me get inside the castle I will help you find your brother.”

Petya, sweet, trusting, naïve soul, asked, “What do you need me to do?”

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As with all good fairy tales it all started with a curse. This particular one was brought on by the clash of egos between two powerful witches.

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Diaries of a Cursed Kingdom: A Red Snow Tale

Dearest Brother,

Since boyhood I have enjoyed taking the horses and hounds into Mendelov woods. The bounty of animals to hunt there is wide and varied. It is a tradition passed to me by my father that the meat and fur we find there be shared among the people as much as possible. The nights can be long and cold so the kingdom appreciates the warmth.

Today was different though. There were scarcely any animals to be found save one rabbit which the hounds slaughtered for their own supper. There was a fire in the distance. Some celebration of sorts seemed to be happening in the nearby village. Singing and chanting filled the air. I had just about given up hope of ever finding a deer or elk. The noise had most likely scared them off. I was preparing to turn away when I stumbled across a clearance. My bow was prepared. My straining arms had all but fired a shot. I was startled. Before me was the most beautiful woman my eyes had ever beheld. She was seated upon a white horse. Her long black locks were so dark they almost shone blue in the fading light. Her skin was as white as the freshly fallen snow.

“Aren’t you frightened?” she asked me. Why, in all my heart and soul, would I be frightened by an image so fair? That was when she did the strangest thing. She threw to me a trinket, a macabre symbol. I held the skull of a cat in my hands.

“It will help aid success in your hunts,” she explained. Her voice trailed from her lips like fine silk threads.

Her name was Francesca. She was from a village far from here but I would scour the known map to find her again. I know nothing of this woman and yet I know I will have no other as my queen. I can’t erase her presence from my mind, nor her voice from my ears. I can’t explain it. We have met only once and yet I will offer her everything I have.

King Roman


My Dearest,

It has been done. I have left it all behind. The last sight I had of my kin was of them burning, begging for the pain to be ended. Even after it all those who could still pleaded for me to stay with them.

The man with the black eyes still claimed be me to as his love until I removed his heart from his chest. The blood was still warm as I devoured it. Great was my fury that they tried to stop me and greater was my horror at what the love of Roman has made me see.

The eternal child, was the last to speak. A curse she warned me of. That was laughable. Her power could never match mine for I was Queen of our people and none of them could match me. She quipped about a plague that would follow me to my new land and infect all those who crossed my path. My husband would be driven insane as images of my deeds flooded his fragile mind. Any children produced from the marriage would suffer from cradle until they begged for death. The girl doesn’t frighten me.

The village was reduced to ashes in my wake. The evil of its people banished. Annabelle followed me. My first reaction was to kill her too. She stared at me with those pitiful green eyes of hers. I’m not one to hold sympathy but she had been loyal to me. She is the only one who could rival me and yet she is too dim to realise.

On our way to kingdom, I on horseback, she on foot beside me, we came across one of the strangest creatures known in my black circles. We were met by a Hangram. It was creeping to the water, gasping for whatever pity the world could spare it. They are fierce yet wretched creatures. It’s finger tips flamed with the heat of redemption.

Annabelle and I knew the Hangram immediately but a ‘dweller’ may have been alarmed. Not many are seen by the dweller folk and fewer leave the unfortunate alive to tell the tale. It looked up at us from its contemplation over life and death. It approached. It recognised the blackness within me. It had softened since meeting Roman but still burned in my chest. Hanram are drawn to malevolence like thirsty men to a pond.

“You are evil, quite unlike any I have known and yet you roam this land without hinderance. Today is the day you answer for your evil,” said the creature.

“I am sorry for all I have committed!” I said knowing the proper way to address a Hangram.

“I’m not,” Annabelle interjected.

The flames from the Hangram raged. It’s eyes began to glow. Annabelle showed no fear. Truthfully she had little patience for such creatures and I wished to be on my way.

“Francesca!” the Hangram raged. “There is a special place in Hell reserved for you.”

“If you are waiting on my repentance I will not give it to you,” I told it.

The Hangram closed in on us. “I don’t expect contrition from the likes of you.” It’s burned face contorted into an unsettling smile. “You will have to find comfort on a bed of blades if you do not appease your conscience.”

This particular Hangram was not to be fooled. It knew me, although in its form I couldn’t quite place the haggard frame. I had seen so many Hangram over the years. “The kingdom do well for you,” it said. “The King’s love will save you but only if you accept the punishment you deserve. End your life here and now, save the kingdom and the generations to follow. There is not a sin so great that a single act of selfless sacrifice can’t save you from,”

Before I could make my response Annabelle stepped forward. She threw dust at the Hangram’s feet. The Hangram emitted a high pitched, pained shriek. The form began change in a swirl of black and red energy. The colours cleared. The body of a little boy of nine years old lay where the Hangram had been. I remembered him. His name was Dale and he had come from a village, deep in the woods. My brother Julian loved to toy with Hangram. There were countless of them wandering the land because of him. The soul purpose of these creatures was to seek out sin and evil and vanquish it. My people would absorb the energy left behind, strengthening our own macarbe magic. This was our way. When the Hangram had fulfilled its duty it would be disposed of. Formidable to the ‘dwellers’ but a mere pet – a blood hound in many ways – to us. To create a Hangram required the body of an innocent, someone who had led a pure life. This was often difficult to find in an adult so most of the time children served the purpose. Julian sought them out like an avid hunter. With his handsome face and bright, kindly eyes they flocked to him. Dale had been one such trusting soul.

Annabelle removed a dagger from her boot. She meant to cut his throat while he lay asleep on the forest floor.

“No wait,” I stopped her. I had been thinking of what the Hangram had said. I left him. When he awoke from his slumber he would have enough provisions to keep him until he found a way back to his family. When I left Vorelia Julian had burned with all the others so Dale needn’t fear him any more.

So here I am in the arms of the King, in the beautiful kingdom. The curse and all the others have been left behind. I will defy them, to be happy, to live.

Francesca

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Extract from Dust and Devotion by Vivika Widow

The whole house was bathed in darkness. The heavy, dusty curtains had barely been drawn and the fire place in the main parlour was lit even though a latent heat hung in the air. Furniture was sparse.

“It wasn’t me who sent for you,” Julien announced. “It was my twin.” He gestured to a girl seated on the floor by the fire. Her royal blue dress fanned out around her. Her thick coal black hair almost reached the bottom of her back. Like Julien, she had the most piercing shade of blue eyes.

An older man sat in a bottle green sofa chair, staring blankly into the nothingness in front of him. His grey hair still clung onto the youth of its black roots. His beard was full but neatly trimmed.

Annabelle turned her attention to the girl. “Why did you send for me?” she asked. Her attitude at the door with Julien having simmered down to a cold vehemence.

“I’m Francesca,” said the girl. “That there in the chair was my father. We are the premier family and we have returned home. Come, I want to show you something.” Francesca took Annabelle’s hand and led her into the next room. It led from the main parlour but it was brighter and airier than the rest of the house. A mongrel dog lay cowering underneath a large dining table.

“Come, Savo!” Francesca called to the animal. It drew itself slowly from its hiding place. Its ears dropped, eyes lowered and its tail quivering between its legs. Francesca held her hand out. The dog tipped her fingers with its nose. She smiled and drew her hand softly across the light brown fur. The canine responded with affection. Francesca flashed a smile to Annabelle., filled with radiance and malice in equal measure, before she tapped the dog between the eyes and it fell to the ground in a fit, its leg twitching. White drool gathered at the corner of its mouth.

Annabelle asked, “Why did you do that?”

Francesa shrugged her shoulders. “It amuses me. It also highlights my point.”

Annabelle raised her eyebrows. “So what is your point?”

Francesca smiled. She watched the mongrel convulse on the floor in front of her. “Well, no matter how many times I do this to him he still comes to me whenever I beckon. I open the door so he can flee but he chooses not to.”

“He’s just a dumb dog,” said Annabelle.

“Perhaps, but people are not so different,” Francesca explained. “People have an inexplicable need to be shown the way by someone or something else. If only they opened their eyes they could see for themselves. As powerful as they think they are the people of Vorelia are no exception. With the magic we possess it is imperative that a guiding hand is laid over their eyes. As the premier I will do what I must.”

“So your going to make us all sick for your amusement?” Annabelle groaned, pursing her lips.

Francesca laughed.

“Not everyone. All I have heard since I came home was that you are quite strong. You are the one they have turned to whilst your premier was gone. I brought you here because I thought we might be friends.”

It was Annabelle’s turn to smile. “Perhaps.”

Francesca dropped her gaze back onto the dog whose fit was beginning to fade. “Why don’t you start by deciding a path for this beast, before fate decides for him.”

Annabelle tensed her broad shoulders. She reached her hand out, laying it on the dog’s fading heart. Life fell away from him.

“You decided death?” Francesca snickered.

Annabelle replied, “Anything that takes such punishment and returns for more isn’t really worthy of life.”

Francesca ran her hand over the canine and it faded into ashes. “Then you should meet Basilio, my father.”

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COMING SOON – The Red Snow graphic novel series.

 

 


Extract from Vivika Widow’s ‘Red Snow’

The people parted and began jeering as a young woman dressed in filthy rags, hiding very little of her nakedness, was brought forth by guards. Her head had been shaved and she was skeletal thin. Her long nose hooked and her chin was pointed. Rotten fruit and vegetables were thrown at her. Children spat on her. A plump woman in the crowd screamed that the vile creature was causing her to itch uncontrollably.

“Burn her!” the crowd cried in agreement.

The condemned woman pursed her lips causing her filthy face to seem all the more despicable and spat back at those who were accusing her. The guards, both young boys in their teens, tied her to the stake. Fire wood was piled up to her waist.

She corrupted my poor boy!” The plump woman told those around her. Her screeching voice rose above the unrest.

Another woman reached her hand up and cried out, “She sacrificed my child to her blood magic!”

The prisoner let out a peal of wicked laughter, revealing she had several teeth missing from her rotting mouth.

“We really must get out of here! I don’t want Hannah to see this!” Helena protested to the driver.

The driver leaned back and replied. “If you can see somewhere for me to go girl, please be my guest and show me.”

An older man, in the same guard uniform but with golden medals on his chest and fine lace on his shoulders, addressed the crowd. He was someone of high importance judging by the respect and admiration he was shown. He had a thick brown beard. A tall and commanding general of the Navarian Guard. They hushed obediently when he held his hands up signalling that he wanted to speak. He was General Drenisov and had long served in Navaria’s battles. He was now acting as the Minister of Justice by order of Queen Annabelle.

“Rebekka Rarikova, you have been found guilty of witchcraft. The penalty is death by burning. Is there anything you wish to say before sentence is carried out?” asked Drenisov. The people became more impatient and more eager to shed blood. They were salivating in their lust like hounds ready to hunt. The snow was starting to fall again. The sky darkened into a deep inky blue.

A fiendish smile spread across Rebekka’s lips. “I curse you all!” she cried. “It is your children who will suffer!” she continued.

Drenisov shook his head in disapproval. “Rarikova, you are a whore. You are a heretic. You are a witch.” The crowd cheered in support of him.

“That wasn’t what you told me last night when you wanted to fuck me?” Rebekka replied. She showed no fear of death as it leaned in close and whispered in her ear.

Drenisov signalled to the boys to bring their flaming torches. “Hurry up and get it done,” he murmured to the young guards.

Hannah stirred from her slumber whining in pain and crying for Helena. Helena lifted the child, holding her close to her chest. She shielded her eyes and ears from the horror they were about to bear witness to.

“You’re all going to die! I curse you all!” Rebekka cried, her final cackle floated into the air like the smoke. The crowd gasped in horror. Mothers began pushing their children away. The wood surrounding Rebekka’s legs was lit. Flames of punishment erupted. The crowd began to sing as they watched the woman die. Rebekka screamed a high pitched shriek of fear and pain that echoed above their song. The flames licked her legs and lit her clothing. There were large gaps between the screams to allow for heavy coughs as the smoke filled her lungs. It was a long and painful wait for her skin to ignite and for Hell to finally consume her. The smell as Rebekka’s flesh burned was unbearable. It reminded Helena of a time her father had killed their pig and was roasting it for supper. Andrew had fallen asleep drunk and the pig flesh burned to an inedible crisp. Their cottage was thick with a sickly stench.

Hannah shook with fear listening to the screams, the chanting, the singing and the death croak as Rebekka became nothing but charred bones. Helena brought Hannah down into the cart beneath the blanket to soothe her until the crowd began to dispel and the horse had room to move again.

“What a horrid place!” Sofya commented. “What kind of barbarians would do such a thing?”

Helena lowered her voice to a whisper. Hannah had closed her eyes with the intention of falling asleep again. “Things are different here in town. We will just have to get used to it.”

“Get used to public murder?” Sofya gasped. The very idea was unimaginable.

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