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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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Monster Hunter (A Red Snow Fairy Tale)

Another dead and the town had gathered. Set deep in the Mendelov Woods the village of Caster was hidden from the wider world. The timid people had presumed themselves safe until recently when bodies began to be found, torn apart as though from wild animals.

A bear or a wolf,” a recently widowed woman cried, clutching onto her children. “What ever it was it ripped poor Frank to pieces.”

The town mayor raised his hands to try to calm them. They were frightened. They hadn’t seen anything like it before. Frank Islay was the most recent but it had been happening more and more lately. Frank had been found close to the village entrance. He had been torn limb from limb. His eyeballs were ripped from his skull and what remained of his face was shredded beyond recognition. Only a lvoing note from his wife that he carried in his pocket had identified him.

It was no bear!” one of the village elders called. “I’ve read about this kind of thing. It used to happen all the time. It is some kind of monster.”

The town erupted into a frenzy.

We’ll have no talk of monsters,” said the mayor sternly. “There are no monsters in these parts,” he grumbled. His twinkling blue eyes met the gaze of his grandchildren. He didn’t want them to be frightened.

There are monsters. I have seen them!”

The gathering acknowledged as a stranger amongst them. He had been with them ever since the killings began. He had sat quietly in the tavern every evening before retiring to the small room he rented. No one had conversed with him. Strangers were always welcome in Caster but since he didn’t seem willing to share they left him be. Now they turned to him as though he had answers to life itself.

My name is Edgar Scholtz,” he announced. “I have seen attacks like these before.”

Edgar had a captive audience so he continued.

They prey on the evil amongst us. The liars, cheats and thieves.

The widow sobbed. “My Frank was none of those things,” she protested. He was a good man.”

Edgar thought about it for a few moments.

None of us are without misdeeds to our names. A stern word at the dinner table could be enough to invoke the wrath of this creature.”

The mayor himself was now intrigued. “You say you have faced these monsters before?”

Edgar nodded. He smiled just enough to be charming but not so much to seem as though he wasn’t taking the situation seriously.

They are of an ancient magic that is the blackest ever found. They are drawn from pure souls and sent in search of sinners like hounds on the blood trail,” Edgar explained.

The crowd gave a collective gasp. They considered themselves good people but there were misdeeds they had committed. If we take a closer look, haven’t we all?

The creature you face is called a Hangram and I will stop them.”

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Fall to Ruins

Once upon a time, in a land far from where I write to you, existed two kingdoms headed by two great rulers. The kingdoms of Elgany and Navaria bordered on each other. Elgany, a kingdom of wealth and culture lay to the temperate south. The kingdom of Navaria, a land of harsh landscape and strong people lay to the cold north.

King Roman of Navaria and King Benjamin of Elgany were the closest of allies and the greatest of friends. Benjamin’s queen, Manon, was the sister in law to Roman’s cousin which made them relations of sorts. In all of their years as friends King Roman’s family had never hosted Benjamin at their home, Castle Kroestov. Benjamin rarely left Mardaux Palace in Elgany so it came as something of a surprise when Roman received a letter from him stating that his arrival in Navaria was imminent.

So what is the king like?” Roman’s wife, Francesca, had asked having never met Benjamin.

Roman smiled as he considered the thousand adjectives that would befit his friend. Burly, friendly, loud, excitable; all of them would not suffice. Benjamin had an overwhelming presence. He treated all as though they were his family. His visit made for an unexpected delight.

Roman waited in the entrance of Castle Kroestov as the convoy of golden carriages carrying the pale blue and yellow flags of Elgany drew nearer. The Navarian king was accompanied by his two sons, James the elder and Edward the younger. Both of them were in the throws of early adolescence. The king’s only daughter, Charlotte, waited at her father’s side. She was unsure of what to expect.

The Navarian guards – dressed in the black and red of their own flag – opened the doors to allow entry for their regal visitors. In a parade of noise and commotion, King Benjamin came bounding in. His large smile wide and bright. He abstained from respectful bows to his fellow king and instead gripped Roman in a tight embrace. Behind Benjamin marched a very pretty queen with long golden hair. Her neck was completely covered in glittering pearls. Her fingers were laced with diamonds. She wore a gown of rich purple with emeralds sown into the bodice. Queen Manon was a great deal younger than her husband. She was a youthful woman who shone radiant amongst the finery. Four girls ushered in behind their mother in order of height. Behind them a nanny carried Ben’s only son, the infant Prince Julian.

You brought the whole family!” Roman cheered. “I’m so happy to see you all.”

Manon gave a polite curtsey to the Navarian king. Her daughters followed suit.

Benjamin approached Edward and tousled his ebony curls. “Your sons are grown now Roman. What strong young men they are.” He drew a small sickle bladed dagger from the pocket of his black travelling cloak. The handle was studded with diamonds. He handed it to the young prince.

Thank you, Your Majesty,” said Edward in receipt to the gift. His eyes were drawn to the beautiful weapon.

Ben, you shouldn’t have,” Roman interceded.

Nonsense! Every well bred boy in Elgany has one, Eddy should too,” said Benjamin. He smiled at Edward before turning his attention to James. “And you must be James.” This time he shook the boy’s hand with reserved respect. “Future ruler of this wonderful land.” He drew a golden seal with the emblem of Elgany etched on it from his other pocket. “This jewel has never left the confines of Mardaux. Keep it safe.”

James shook his head. “Your Majesty is too generous. I cannot accept this.”

Benjamin shrugged his shoulders. “Of course you can. It is mine to gift as I please. Perhaps when you are king you will remember this and look to Elgany with kindness. Long may the friendship between our two kingdoms continue.”

Before any more objections could be made, Benjamin lifted Princess Charlotte into his arms. A little girl of fewer years than her brothers, Charlotte giggled as she was spun around like a ragdoll and placed on Benjamin’s shoulders. “I have always had a keen eye for precious things and I think I may have found the most precious of them all!”

Roman laughed, “My little princess is not for sale.”

Pity,” was Benjamin’s retort. He leaned forward still carrying the child on his shoulders he kissed Francesca on both cheeks. “My belle, introductions are not necessary for you. Roman speaks of you so often I feel I know you as well as I would my own sister.”

Francesca curtseyed. “I could say very much the same. It is a pleasure to have you here with us.”

Roman drew Benjamin aside. He lowered his voice to a more solemn tone. “I am pleased that you have come to visit us but I must ask, is there another purpose?”

Benjamin’s large brown eyes clouded with solemnity much unlike him. He drew Charlotte from his shoulders and down his back. “We should speak alone.” He addressed the child, “Charlotte, my Madeleine would very much like to meet you. Will you show her around?”

At the king’s request, Charlotte made to introduce herself to the Elganite princesses.

So what is wrong?” Roman asked.

What I have to tell you is of grave importance,” Benjamin began. “My kingdom is in danger.”

***

As Roman and Benjamin drew away to talk alone, Manon left her ladies in waiting behind and was escorted by Francesca to a study. It was a cerebral room, filled with polished mahogany furniture and shelves filled with books. A fire was lit. The cold snow and icy winds outside contrasted the cosy warmth of the study. It was a room that Francesca kept exclusively for her own use. Even the servants of the castle dared not to enter.

You have a beautiful home, Your Majesty,” Manon commented with politeness.

It’s draughty and very grey but it is home. Not as lovely as Mardaux I hear.”

Manon smiled coyly. “My husband enjoys the finer things.”

Francesca poured them a glass of deep red wine each in crystal goblets. Like al of her children, she had raven hair and a pale complexion. She was a striking woman with the brightest blue eyes.

You like the finer things too from what I see hanging around your neck,” Francesca commented, handing a glass to the Elganite queen.

Manon clasped the glass in both hands. She shied away from eye contact with Francesca. “I’m glad I have the opportunity to speak to you alone.”

Francesca seated herself on the sofa opposite. She lay one arm over the back, the other holding her wine. “Really?” she enquired. “Might I ask why?”

Manon took a deep breath. “There is talk, rumours of what you are capable of.” Francesca narrowed her gaze. She already knew what Manon referred to but she wanted to draw it from her like venom from a snake bite. “They say you are a witch of tremendous power.”

Francesca betrayed no emotion. “The say a lot of things,” she answered.

My little boy, Julien, is a sick infant. Benjamin has hopes of him succeeding him one day but I fear he won’t see his next birthday.”

Isn’t that what doctors are for?” Francesca dismissed.

We’ve had the best doctors that money can buy. It is no use. Please, Your Majesty, if the rumours are true you can help my little Prince Julien.”

Francesca darted a glance at the door before leaning forward. “My twin, who is no longer with us, was also named Julien. He would not have liked to see any suffering in his name sake. I will help your little boy but there is something you have to do.”

Anything! I am at your mercy. No price is too great.”

Francesca raised her hand to hush her. “Firstly, calm yourself down. I can’t have anyone overhear what I am about to do. Secondly, my husband can know nothing of this. He would worry that his people wouldn’t look too kindly on witchcraft, no matter its intention.”

Manon breathed a sigh of relief. “I am eternally in your debt. Your Majesty is too kind.”

Francesca shook her head. “Hold your applause,” she said. “There is a great penalty attached to giving life, even to one so small. It can’t be conjured from nowhere. It has to be taken from something.”

Manon wiped the tear that was forming in the corner of her eye. “I’ll pay with my own life.”

Francesca stood. She went to a cabinet by the window in an almost gliding step. From a drawer she removed a straw figure in the crude shape of a person. “I can see to it that your little boy never falls to ill health. It can’t come from a parent because that is where the life springs.”

Manon’s upset was beginning to grow. “What can I do?”

Francesca clasped the poppet tightly in her right hand. “If your baby boy means so much to you, choose one of your daughters to be replaced.”

***

Princess Madeleine of Elgany, the youngest of Benjamin’s daughters was making a game of hiding and seeking with Princess Charlotte of Navaria. Charlotte had the advantage of knowing Castle Kroestov as home so she hid and Madeleine went in search of her. Madeleine’s excitement for the game grew when she wandered into the kitchens and found Charlotte stowed away underneath one of the counters. Charlotte cried out and ran, almost knocking the chef onto his backside. Madeleine chased after her, both girls alight with laughter.

The Elgany princess lost her Navarian counterpart somewhere along the third floor so she was searching from room to room. Her heart beating a little faster with the thrill and anticipation of the game. One of the doors lay ajar. Madeleine assumed Charlotte had hid in there so she boldly charged inside. She almost crashed into a man larger in presence than her father. He wore a military uniform but not like that of the guards at the entrance of the castle. He was an officer.

And who might you be?” he asked. His grin stretching in maliciousness from ear to ear. His mouth filled with pearly white teeth.

Madeleine hesitated. She stepped back towards the doorway. “I’m looking for Her Highness, Princess Charlotte.”

The officer bore down on her like the jaws of a great monster. “Little girls shouldn’t be in here,” he said. His voice was husky but polite with underlying tones of danger.

Madeleine’s eyes were drawn to a table behind him. Spread across it was a map of Navaria with red pins in ever widening circles around Castle Kroestov. The officer noticed her gaze and challenged it. Still smiling his dark eyes blazed like a fierce forest predator. The sheepskin fur forming part of his uniform seeming much too soft for such a marauding creature.

Drenisov?” barked the little Princess Charlotte.

The officer – Drenisov – looked past Madeleine to the Navarian princess and offered her a most congenial bow. “Your Highness, this young lady appeared to be lost. I was merely directing her onto the proper path.” He gracefully moved back towards the table and folded the map away.

This young lady is Her Highness, Princess Madeleine. She is also my friend. You will show her the proper respect.” Charlotte took Madeleine’s hand and pulled her away. Drenisov watched them with a growl until they were out of the line of view before closing the door and locking it.

***

Benjamin paced the room. Roman watched his restlessness from an armchair by the fire. At the Navarian king’s request they had been left alone.

There are whispers of my people overthrowing me. They no longer believe in my right as a ruler granted to me from the Lords above,” Benjamin was explaining.

How can you be so certain?” Roman asked.

Benjamin shook his head. “My life has been in danger for some time. I can’t even trust my own people. They are looking for my head.”

I never thought I would see the day where a rebellion would rise in Elgany.” King Roman was flabbergasted. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Benjamin affixed his usual light air again. “My Minister, Antoinie Lubek, has been a tremendous help. He is keeping the people appeased until we can find the source of this upset.”

Navaria will always be your friend and ally,” Roman assured him.

Benjamin gripped his arm. “I don’t fear for myself. As a King my life has always been forfeit to a higher purpose. It is my young boy Julien that warrants my concern. Should anything happen to me they will make an example of him as heir to my throne. They will tear him apart or worse, they will make him a puppet to their whims.” Roman listened to his friends concerns with silent horror. “The reason I came here – aside from seeing your lovely home – was to ask you a personal favour.”

Roman urged him to continue. “Should there be an uprising in Elgany, will you provide safe passage and refuge for Julien?”

Of course,” said Roman immediately without having to give any thought to the matter.

I don’t ask you this as a king and ally. I ask you this as a friend and a father.”

Roman had already decided. He too had a strong paternal instinct. Roman’s first dedication was to his children. This was a bond that he and Benjamin shared. “Of course I will assure that Julien is safe here but what about you? What about your girls?”

Benjamin itched his nose like he did most often when he was feeling nervous. “Nothing is certain yet. I just want to be cautious. I have to return to Elgany. If there is to be a revolution then my leaving will only fan the flames. My girls will be safe enough. Manon can take them as far as Hagen Moor if she needs to and they will not be disturbed. They will be of no consequence to the rebels. However, they will bay for Julien’s blood and so I need to know he will be somewhere he can be protected until he is old enough to return to Elgany and resume his throne.”

You needn’t fear. For as long as I live your family will always be kept safe…”

***

Princess Marie, the eldest of King Benjamin’s children, had taken quite a shine to Prince James of Navaria. She had watched as he finished talking with his young brother and began to make his way to the third floor. She followed him in the hope of being able to elicit a conversation. Marie was blossoming into a beautiful young woman. As an Elganite of noble birth she took great pride in her appearance. She was dressed often in pale blue as it matched the soft tone of her eyes and lemon because it highlighted the warmth of her golden tresses. She watched as James made his way along a long corridor on the third floor engrossed in his own thoughts. He quickly turned, having forgotten something and made his way back towards her. Marie turned to the painting on the wall at her side. She focused on the artists attention to detail and the brush strokes that had been given so much thought. She couldn’t really be sure of what she was looking at because she felt James close beside her. Her heart began to beat a little faster.

Are you lost?” James asked politely.

Marie turned to him, hoping she seemed nonchalant. “I was just admiring this painting. There is so much beautiful art work around the castle. It must be thrilling to be able to look upon it every day.”

James too looked at the painting. It was an image of Castle Kroestov painted generations previous to theirs. “Well as thrilling as it can be looking at a picture of a the castle every day whilst in that castle everyday …” Marie shied away. James laughed. “I’m sure Mardaux Palace must be brimming with art work.”

It is but the art there seems so … superficial. When there is so much of it, it begins to become less special. What you have here is genuine.”

Prince James had a handsome smile. He had the finely sculpted features of his mother and the charm of his father. His raven hair was thick and well presented. He was not overly indulged in jewels or finery. His simple refinement echoed the strength of his people. “I’m very glad you like it. You are Princess Marie aren’t you?”

Marie offered a polite curtsey. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said.

James took her hand and kissed it. “The pleasure is all mine I assure you.” Marie bowed her head and smiled coyly. “It is getting a little stuffy in here. I was going to walk in the gardens for a little while. Would you like to join me?”

Marie became giddy. “I would love to.”

The snow had ceased. The sun sat high in the sky as James and Marie made their way through the well tended gardens of Castle Kroestov. They saw little snow in the South so Marie was enjoying the glittering sparkle that lay across the deep red of the rose bushes.

They were discussing matters that brought them far from their regal parentage.

I enjoy sailing,” Marie was explaining. “I have my own little boat which I take up and down the Chessy River.”

James was intrigued. He had heard much of the Elganite way of life but had never witnessed it first hand. “I was on a boat once when I was a small child. The rocking motions made me sick the entire time. I have never been back on one since. My little sister, Charlotte, loves boats. So what is your boat’s name?”

Promise you won’t laugh?”

James raised his hands. “I promise…”

Alice,” Marie admitted.

James shrugged his shoulders. “That’s a fine name for a boat.”

Marie explained, “I had an invisible friend as a child. We went on all sorts of adventures. The boat is named after her.”

James chuckled. “Now that is just adorable.”

Marie laughed too. She slapped James’ arm playfully. “I warned you it was silly.”

James shook his head. “Not at all. I’m sure Alice is the finest vessel in all of Elgany.”

As they made their way to the furtherest end of the gardens they passed a large crooked tree. It was old and withered. Amidst the winter splendour the crooked tree stood brazenly against the beauty. It was not inviting, it was not life giving. The withered hands of the branches reached out like it threatened to throttle passers by.

Marie began to feel dizzy. James noticed her steps lurch so he gripped her arm. “I’m feeling a little faint,” she said.

Do you want to sit down?” James asked with genuine concern.

No I will be fine. It will pass.”

Marie’s delicate frame became a dead weight. With a sudden pull she slipped from James’ grasp and tumbled at the foot of the crooked tree. Blood spilled from her mouth onto the fresh white snow. She was gone. The doctors claimed her heart had failed her as though it had been crushed under a vice-like grip. Francesca watched from the window as attendants and a distraught king and queen saw to their daughter.

Fear, panic and horror would quickly spread and the two great kingdoms of Navaria and Elgany would fall to ruins.

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Hangram: A Myths and Tales graphic novel (extract)

There was no one sent to help him so he had to find the stables himself in the dark. His feet sank heavily into the mud. Mercy was still limping although the bold steed that she was, she never complained. As Edgar felt the warmth of the hay that he fed to Mercy he was in two minds whether to return to the house or settle down beside the animal and be off before anyone awakened in the morning. He even got as far as throwing his hat onto the ground before a shiver fired up his spine to remind him just how cold it would get.

When he returned to the house he found that the rear entrance was open. Had it been left open for him or had it been open all night? He didn’t know. The staff saw him approach yet he still politely knocked on the wooden frame of the open door. A man with a large protruding stomach tucked behind a well pressed white shirt zipped past him almost knocking Edgar back outside. He was among the household staff. Edgar had never had staff of his own but it looked like the staff were mixing with the guests far more than was socially acceptable.

“Miss Abigail has had a plate prepared for you, sir,” the rushing man called to him over his shoulder. When the only response Edgar could give was a vacant stare he placed the plate he carried down on a table and pushed Edgar from the kitchens with a firm hand on his back. Edgar spotted Abigail. She wasn’t sat in her place at the table but stood behind it. An empty seat was beside her with a fresh plate of stew awaiting the new comer. Hunger pangs gargled in Edgar’s stomach. He sat himself beside the Mayor’s daughter.

“Daddy!” Abigail rudely called across the conversation being passed back and forth. “This is the man who came to the door. Edwin…”

“It’s Edgar.” Edgar murmured beside her.

Abigail looked down as he found his seat. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is Edward.”

The Mayor was a tall, slim man who still held a great deal of vitality despite his progressing age. His hair was snow white and he had a full white beard. “It is nice to have you with us Edmond. Enjoy the food. Perhaps you can tell us all about yourself. Where are you from? What brings you here? We don’t tend to get many passersby in these parts.”

It was too late to correct it now so Edgar went along with the name change. “I’m from Elgany,” he said. “I was travelling through on my way to the trading ports in Navaria.”

A man sat directly opposite him sneered down his  thin pointed nose. “But you have nothing to sell!” he said noticing Edgar was empty handed.

All eyes now became fixed on the stranger among them. Edgar shuffled in his seat. “I was going to purchase supplies. I have my own trading post back in Elgany,” he said.

The man was relentless. He leaned forward on the table and affixed his beady black eyes on Edgar. His pointed elbows pushed his plate away from his looming  body. “You decided to travelby horse? It would have been much quicker and much easier to sail down the coastline.”

Edgar’s gaze quickly surveyed the others and his surroundings before returning to the man  asking him the questions. “It would have been but my horse – she’s out in the stables – was one of the things I was selling. She doesn’t like the water.”

“So what happened to you Ed?” asked the woman next to the man with the beady eyes. She was much more forthcoming. She had a rounded face and her hair hung close to her scalp in tight curls. Edgar assumed she was the wife of Mr. Beady Eyes, judging by their closeness and body language.

“Unfortunately on the road I was attacked by highway men. I had to divert and that’s when my horse was hurt.”

The man with the beady eyes raised his top lip slightly in a sneer. “There are no highway men about here,” he stated.

The woman patted her hand against his arm as though scolding a small child. “Now Bryan, stop giving the boy a hard time. He has been through enough.”

“I’m only trying to find out where he came from Martha,” Bryan ‘Beady Eyes’ complained. “I would only give a hard time if he had something to hide.”

Edgar affixed his most pleasant smile. “No harm done,” he said through gritted teeth.

Martha and Bryan returned to their own conversation leaving Edgar alone. The rest did likewise. Edgar stabbed a fork into the meat and had a small piece. He had lost most of his appetite and just wanted to sleep. He turned to Abigail to find she had rested her head in her hands on the table but her eyes were firmly closed and a soft wheezing was escaping from her nostrils.

Edgar managed to clear most of the food on his plate, just through politeness. When he wanted to excuse himself he approached the Mayor. It had been the first time since his arrival he had managed to have an audience with him alone. The Mayor had spent most of the evening dancing with the local women and singing bar songs with the men, including little ditties with the staff.

“I just wanted to thank you for your hospitality. I’m very tired from the journey now, if I could trouble you for somewhere to sleep for the night?” Edgar enquired politely.

The Mayor looked up at him, large white teeth made a wide grin. “The room on the first floor, second on the left should be vacant. Do you need someone to show you the way?”

Edgar shook his head the negative. He was just approaching the doorway that lead upstairs when Bryan called after him. “I am surprised the Hangram didn’t get you…”

Edgar turned back. His patience wearing to the thinnest it had been all evening, including when the robbers were behind him. “Excuse me?”

“The Hangram  hunts down criminals.”

Martha smacked her husband’s arm again. “You are scaring the boy!” she exclaimed. “You don’t know he’s a criminal.”

In the midst of the conversation Edgar hadn’t noticed the music stop. Everyone was staring at him again. He had never before felt more like a stranger. Even Abigail had stirred from her slumber and was watching him with blurry eyes.

“What … The hell …. Is the Hangram?”

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Well that got out of hand …

Helena to Hangram meme.jpg


Is there a video game in development?

hangram