Monthly Archives: January 2015

ASBO Tagged In My Sleep

For Christmas I asked the Big Green Gummi Bear for a new watch. Not an expensive watch. A simple black or purple every day watch. Nothing fancy.

Following an expensive mix up with dates and tickets for a West End show, I was pushing my luck asking for anything. (If anyone wishes to buy two tickets to Riverdance in London on 4 April please drop me a message. Best seats in the house.)

Anyway, Christmas morning duly arrived and I opened my gift from the Big Green Gummi Bear to find an ASBO tag – sorry- a Fitbit Charge inside. True, it tells the time as requested but I eyed this strange black device somewhat suspiciously.

I am not the fittest person on earth. Not a total couch potato but Hell will freeze over before I go to the gym. The Big Green Gummi Bear freely admitted it was a bit of a wild card gift but he hoped it would trigger my OCD and encourage me to become a bit fitter. I had to admire his optimism.

As I was badly in need of a watch, I began to wear my ASBO tag. (Still not convinced he hasn’t tampered with it and it’s my whereabouts being tracked rather than my activity)

While I go about my daily business, it counts away silently on my wrist – steps, stairs, distance and calories required.

We tolerated each other quite nicely for a few days.

The first time it reached the daily step target of 10 000 steps, it scared the crap out of me! Completely unexpectedly it started to vibrate on my wrist. My ASBO tag seemed rather over excited by the fact I had been trailing round Tesco and the local shops then dared to go out for a walk. It soon got over the shock!

After a couple of weeks, the Big Green Gummi Bear asked if I’d tried its sleep activity tracker. I eyed him rather sceptically and said “No.”

I never wear a watch while I’m sleeping!

Curiosity got the better of me. How could this inanimate black band possibly know if I was asleep or awake?

Let me tell you- it does!

The step, stairs, distance thing I understand. But how the Hell does it know when I’m asleep, restless or awake in the middle of the night?

I have had a rather annoying cough for several weeks so I know my sleep pattern just now is horrendous. It’s never great, if I’m honest.

Night One – I managed to keep the damn thing on all night, a major achievement in itself, and according to the app on the pc, once I’d synced my ASBO tag, I’d been restless ten times for a total of 22 min 49 sec, awake for 5 min 52 sec and asleep for 6 hrs 44 min. It even showed me a bar chart detailing the time I fell asleep, when I stirred and when I was awake during the night.

Every night since has been pretty much the same story give or take a few minutes.

This has me baffled!

The Big Green Gummi Bear may have succeeded in triggering my OCD here but perhaps not in the manner he intended.

I WILL sleep all night without being restless and without wakening up!

The goal is 8 hours of completely undisturbed, unbroken sleep. Somehow I don’t ever see it happening and, if it does, my ASBO tag will probably get itself over excited again, start rattling and waken me up!

With A Little Help From My Friends – hopefully!

It’s been another one of “those” weeks around here. Living with two exam-stressed teenagers isn’t fun, as I’m sure all parents of teenagers will agree. Five exams in five days has been baptism by fire for Girl Child. (These exams are her first experience of sitting formal exams in the school assembly hall) I really felt for her and could empathise with her rising fear and panic, as I recalled my own exam experiences. I can still clearly picture the rows and rows of desks and still hear the silence.

In the midst of all this emotional turmoil, I made time to take my next leap of faith towards bringing my “creative baby” to life. Well it was on this week’s To Do List and had to be done at some point.

Mid-week I set up my Kindle Direct Publishing account. GULP!

Cue rising fear and panic to rival Girl Child’s!

Adding things like your tax information and bank account details in international format suddenly felt like very grown up things to be doing. Not like me at all. Scary stuff!

On reflection, my immediate reaction didn’t totally surprise me. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, my biggest fear as a writer is letting folk read what I write. Crazy, I know. By creating the KDP account and reading the T&C’s, in particular the list of countries that Amazon cover, brought home how many people my “creative baby” will be exposed to. Now I know that’s a good thing. The more exposure I can get for this book, the greater the chance of sales and success etc. I get it. But what if they think my “creative baby” is ugly? Hence the rising tide of fear and panic.

Breathe! Deep breaths! Breathe!

(A medicinal glass of wine may have been required at this point)

The following day, I stumbled across a magazine article about something that is another weakness of mine. (No – it was nothing to do with coffee or rock stars!) It was an article extolling the virtues of asking for help.

To ask for help is a bit of an alien concept for me. I’ve always attributed this to the fact I was an only child and had no siblings to either ask or help. Over the years and through various situations that life has thrown across my path, I’ve got used to finding my own way through things. I guess there have been times when I’ve felt to ask for help was to show weakness. The article brought home to me the fact that sometimes it’s necessary to ask for some assistance. We don’t all know the best way to do things or have the ability to do everything on our own. At the end of the day, it’s not a sign of weakness or stupidity to ask for help, particularly if you are doing something you’ve never done before.

The time has come to follow the advice I’ve been giving to both Boy Child and Girl Child for years. If you don’t fully understand the subject, ask for help.

So, that’s what I need to do here. If any of you beautiful people have any hints or tips to offer this fledging writer regarding using KDP, I’d be eternally grateful. If there are any pit falls lying in wait that I should be aware of, please let me know where they are lurking as it may save me from a painful fall. Any help will be gratefully received.

And if there are any suggestions for steering stressed out teenage girls through exams, I’ll take those on board too!

 

 

The Imp – part eleven

Flames danced over the logs as they burned in the grate in the king’s private study. The king himself sat in a high-backed well-worn leather chair gazing into the fireplace, trying to make sense of the events of the past few months. His train of thought was interrupted by the arrival of his son and the wizard.

“Good evening, sire,” greeted Urquhart, as he took a seat on a low stool to the king’s left. “You summoned us saying it was important?”

“Yes,” replied the king, watching his son lower himself into the chair opposite him. Seeing his son still in agony thanks to the curse’s poison tore at his heart. “It might be something or nothing but I’ve been reading my wife’s diaries. Folk tales and legends fascinated her. I recall that she favoured a tale of three witches from the mountains to the north east of here. Do you remember it, Jem?”

Hearing his mother’s soft lilting voice in his head, the prince nodded and replied, “Yes. She loved that story. I have fond memories of her tucking me into bed and reading it to me from a big blue book.”

“And do you remember the details?” asked the king, his tone surprisingly sharp.

“Some of them. It was a long time ago, father. I remember the book itself more vividly.”

“I believe the book is still here somewhere,” commented the king. “If my memory serves me well, each of the witches was tasked with finding a particular jewel. Once brought together these jewels would give them the combined power to control every living being in the land.”

With a sudden flashback memory vivid in front of him, Jem exclaimed, “And each of the witches had the power to transform themselves into a bird!”

“And one of them favoured the form of a hoodie crow,” finished off the boy wizard calmly. “We need to find that book.”

“All of my wife’s things are still in her bed chamber. Nothing has been touched in there since her death,” said the king, his voice filled with emotion. “I ordered the room to be sealed after her funeral.”

“And where’s the key?” demanded Urquhart bluntly.

“Here,” said the king, handing him a large ornate key on an emerald green ribbon. “You know where it is, don’t you?”

“Yes, your majesty,” replied the wizard, pocketing the key.

“Father,” began Jem softly. “Will you help us search for the book?”

“No.”

The king turned his chair to face the blazing fire, signalling to his son and the wizard that their audience was at an end.

Leaving his father lost in his memories, Jem followed the court wizard out of the room and down the dark corridor that led to the narrow passageway to his mother’s room. He had been only ten years old when a fever took his mother from him and he had avoided that part of the castle since. It was with mixed emotions that he entered the room.

The air, although stale and musty, still carried a hint of the late queen’s perfume. A film of dust covered everything. Much to their surprise though, there were footprints leading from the window to the dressing table and then over to her writing desk. When Urquhart investigated further, he found bird footprints in the dust on the window sill.

“The witch has been in here,” he muttered sourly. “I wonder what she was looking for and if she took anything?”

“We’ll never know, Artie,” sighed Jem wearily, as he gazed round the room.

It was more luxuriously furnished than he remembered. Memories of sitting on his mother’s knee by the fireplace, of bouncing on her large four-poster bed, of having his hair brushed as he stood by the dressing table all tumbled through his head and he felt tears prick at his eyes. The far wall was lined with bookshelves, each shelf piled high with leather-bound volumes of all sizes and colours. In front of the shelves, the layer of dust was untouched. The witch had been nowhere near the books.

“So what does this book look like?” asked Urquhart, gazing up at the towering library. “We could be here a while trying to find it.”

“No we won’t,” whispered Jem, as he walked across the room towards the books. Instinctively, he reached for a large, slightly battered looking volume on the second shelf from the bottom. “It’s this one.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” said the wizard with a smile.

Once the baby was finished feeding, Amber lifted him onto her shoulder, gently rubbing his small back to wind him. After a few moments he obliged with a loud “burp” then snuggled into her neck. For the first time Blain noticed the baby’s tiny elven ears and smiled.

“Yes,” he said quietly. “I’ll help you if I can but I won’t put either of you in danger.”

“Thank you,” whispered Amber with a relieved smile. “And I promise not to put you at risk either.”

“Do you have a plan, princess?”

“I’m working on it,” she sighed, as she hugged her tiny son. “It would help if I knew what was being transported to the fayre to trade. I will also need to find someone the same height and build as I am.”

“Why?” questioned her friend.

“The less you know for now the better. If you don’t know the details then you can’t be punished if I am caught,” answered the fairy/elf. “Can you get me the trade schedule? The High Council still approves it, don’t they?”

“Yes,” said Blain. “It is on the agenda for our next meeting. Finding someone to match your height and build will be more of a challenge. You are somewhat taller than most of the women in the village.”

“Ah, my elven blood again,” acknowledged Amber. “It doesn’t have to be a female. Just someone my size.”

“In that case, I know the very person,” declared Blain, with a wink.

In the distance they heard the long bow on a horn that signalled dinner time at the High Council chambers. Quickly Blain lifted his cloak and the now empty basket.

“I need to go, princess. I’ll be back in a couple of days. Is there anything else you need me to bring you?”

Amber thought for a moment then, just as her friend reached the door, she said, “Yes. A silver thimble. A needle. Some soot and a rowan twig. A green twig. Not a dried up one.”

“I won’t ask. Consider it done.”

The door closed softly behind him leaving her sitting alone cradling her sleeping son.

Deep in the mountain fortress, two raven haired witches stood staring at the half dead crow that lay at the bottom of a wicker cage. The guard who had picked the bird up from the floor had given it some water laced with wine and it had briefly rallied before collapsing a second time.

“I tell you, it’s our sister!” screamed the smaller of the two witches.

“How can you possibly tell?” squawked the other witch instantly. “There’s no ruby. Karina wouldn’t return without it. That was the arrangement, sister dearest, or had you forgotten?”

“This creature is Karina,” insisted Isabella, the youngest of the three witches. “I can smell magic on her. She’s been cursed.”

“By whom, may I ask?” demanded Greta, the eldest of the three sisters.

“I smell her own magic but it’s been tampered with. I don’t know who else is involved but they’ve had power to match hers. I tell you, this is Karina!”

“Well, if it’s Karina,” hissed Greta with a sneer. “Transform her back!”

“Very well. I will,” snapped Isabella.

Try as she might, the witch failed to transform the exhausted crow back into her human form. Eventually, after an hour or more of wasted spells, she changed tactics. With an intricately woven hand spell, Isabella restored the power of speech to the bird.

“About bloody time, sisters!” screeched the crow, as she struggled to stand.

“I knew it!” declared Isabella triumphantly. “I knew it was Karina.”

“Hmph,” snorted Greta, peering into the cage. “Whatever happened to you, Karina dearest?”

“A meddlesome half-breed fairy and a wizard called Urquhart.”

“Do tell us more,” implored Greta, her curiosity triggered by the bird’s response.

“Let me out of this cage and I’ll tell you.”

“Ah, perhaps not,” commented Greta with a malicious smile. “Explanations before freedom, sister.”

It took the cursed witch a further hour to tell her tale while her sisters crowded round the cage. As she told of the events that transpired in the king’s bedchamber, Greta cursed her stupidity. When her story was told, Karina stood in the centre of the cage staring at her sisters with her black beady eyes.

“Very well,” muttered Greta. With a snap of her fingers, the cage door flew open.

Slowly Isabella reached into the cage and Karina hopped onto the trembling outstretched hand. Not quite the welcome home she had envisaged.

The Annual Duvet Battle

The annual duvet battle has comenced!

We’ve had a few preliminary skirmishes where I begged and pleaded to be allowed to swap the thin lightweight summer duvet for the thick fluffy one. Each time I was brow beaten back under the summer covers.

A more subtle approach was required as the nights grew longer and darker.

The pink stripy fleecy blanket that is usually folded neatly along the bottom of the bed, was duly spread out across the bed. The majority of it was spread over my side of the bed, I may add.

Slowly, over a period of time, it became evenly spread across the entire bed. Hmm I wonder why? Could the Big Green Gummi Bear be feeling the winter chill creeping in?

A cold snap around Christmas saw me add a second fleecy blanket on top of the pink stripy one. Again, primarily at my side of the bed.

I was nice and cosy – result! J

Wrong!

Gradually, over a few nights, the second blanket too found its way over to the Big Green Gummi Bear’s side.

All the evidence I needed!

If it was cold enough for a summer duvet and two layers of blanket then I could justify the winter duvet without challenge! I was feeling confident about winning the duvet battle.

Last weekend I swapped the thin summer duvet for its thick, fluffy, warm, cuddly cousin – the winter duvet! Welcome back, old friend!

So for the past two nights what has happened? NO! Nothing like that!

For the past two nights the Big Green Gummi Bear has pulled most of the duvet off me because he was too hot! Go figure!

Me- I surrender!

I’m buying a onsie and putting the summer duvet and the two blankets back on the bed at the weekend. At least then I’ve a one in three chance of a share of some of the bedcovers!

Music, Music Everywhere

Yesterday I spent several frustrating hours battling with the wonders of modern technology. For the record, after about five hours, I won only to waken this morning, check my Facebook and find a You Tube link to the damn thing! C’est la vie!

The battle? Oh it was nothing life threateningly vital. I was merely attempting to download some video footage from a recent MTV live show.

It did set me thinking though about how the world has changed with regards to obtaining new music.

I clearly remember walking into my local Woolworths store circa 1982, with my money tightly clutched in my hand, to purchase my first ever 7” single. And the record was? “Best Years of Our Lives” by Modern Romance and, yes, I do still have it and have a soft spot for it.

This triggered the start of my addiction to music. Lunch money was squirrelled away in order to save up for the next single or album (Sorry, Mum). Trips to Woolworths became a weekly pilgrimage as my vinyl collection grew.

Although I had a cassette player, I never bought pre-recorded tapes, preferring to buy vinyl instead.

In time, I joined the local record library and, like every other local member, took the discs home for the allotted period, having closely inspected them for scratches, and invested in a stack of C-90 blank cassettes. I’ll leave you to figure out the rest of that bit.

The first CD I ever bought was “Stars” by Simply Red. Again, this proved to be the first of many; the first of a collection that continues to grow today on a regular basis.

For a couple of years vinyl and CDs co-existed quite happily in my wee world then, largely due to the demise of the stylus on the turntable, CDs won that round of the music battle.

And so it continued quite happily for many years until Hey Presto! Enter iTunes and mp3 files. The Digital Download age was upon us, signalling death of many a good record shop.

I will confess to being VERY late to this particular party.

I only purchased my iPod eighteen months ago but have been making up for lost time at a rapid rate of knots as my bank balance will testify!

Now it’s second nature to head to “Digital Music” on Amazon or straight to iTunes. Some bands themselves are making mp3 files available via their own websites. Just yesterday I downloaded a whole live concert from Hogmonay on mp3, for a fee, direct via the band in question’s website. Happy days!

As I stare at my small purple iPod, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of music it holds. Even more incredible is the amount contained in the SD card that I use in the car’s stereo.

At the end of the day though I can’t help but feel that there’s something missing from the whole music buying experience when you purchase digital downloads. Even when you buy a CD a bit of the magic is missing.

I was given a turntable for my birthday some eighteen months ago. The Big Green Gummi Bear may argue it was the worst thing he ever bought me. I would vehemently disagree!

Despite all the media that music is available on, you just can’t match that feeling of buying a new album on vinyl, bringing it home, slipping it out of the sleeve and setting it on the turntable for the very first time. That subtle “dunk” as the stylus connects with the black, or coloured, vinyl disc.

You just can’t beat it!

And on that note, I’m off to see if Amazon has any decent vinyl in their January sale!

01072013

The Imp – part ten

An icy east wind bit into the crow’s feathers as she flew deeper into the mountain range. All around her grey, lifeless rock faces loomed. The only sound was the wind whistling through the gorge. Far below she could see the silvery, winding ribbon of the river that ran through the stark peaks. Using it as her guide, she continued on and up. Food had been scarce since she had crossed the plains and entered the mountainous terrain but the landmarks below were becoming more familiar. A few more hours and she should reach the sanctuary of her family home.

It had taken her four weeks of constant travel, after spending the first two weeks resting and feeding near the bothy, to reach the mountains that she had called home for the last two centuries. Every feather tip ached with exhaustion. The remnants of the curse’s poison still coursed through her narrow veins, sapping her diminishing energy reserves. She held onto the vain hope that her sisters would be able to reverse the wizard’s magic and restore her to human form. It was growing tiresome being trapped as a bird and she longed to enjoy a hot bath, a fine meal and a smooth glass of wine.

In the distance she spotted two flickering lights high up on the cliff face. The sign she had been searching for – the torches that lit the entrance to her family home. Drawing on her final drops of strength, she flew towards the beacons. As she glided soundlessly into the mouth of the cave, she crash landed unceremoniously on the dusty floor. Her chest feathers heaving, she lay panting for breath. She opened her beak to let out a “caw” but no sound came. As exhaustion swept through her, the witch felt herself being scooped up into a leather gloved palm.

 

Under the shade of the lower branches of a huge pine tree, Jem sat leaning against the trunk, his baby daughter nestled in his lap. Gently he ran his good hand over her soft auburn hair and marvelled yet again at her beauty and innocence while she slept. Silently his heart wept for Amber. She should be here sharing these first few precious weeks of the baby’s life. Despite the pain it caused him, the imp reached up with his burnt hand to touch the fairy/elf’s amulets that he now wore round his neck. It may have been his imagination, or just wishful thinking, but Amber felt closer to him when he wore her talisman.

It had been two weeks since Urquhart had deemed him strong enough to make the journey home to the castle. Since his return, Jem had struggled to settle. He felt caged and suffocated within the thick stone walls of the castle and longed to return to freedom of the small mountain bothy. At every opportunity he would escape outdoors with the baby and roam the extensive woodland behind the castle.

His injured arm was healing slowly and, with the assistance of the wizard’s magic, the feeling was beginning to return to his damaged hand. The curse’s poison still burned deep within him but Urquhart had devised an enchantment that contained it within the injured arm. Despite his best endeavours, the wizard had been unable to restore the sight in his eye. In his heart of hearts, Jem knew that only Amber held the magic to do that.

A soft cry from the baby brought his attention back to the present. In his lap, the baby had wakened from her nap and was whimpering softly.

“Time for your dinner, little princess,” he whispered softly. “I guess we had better take you back to Martha and Mistress Morag. Time for some milk.”

With the baby securely nestled in his arms, the prince walked slowly back towards the towering castle walls.

 

Up in the small tower room that was his private study, Urquhart stood by the window with the black crow tail feather in his hand. Several others that had been found in the Lady Karina’s bedchamber lay on the table behind him. These feathers, plus the small chest containing the witch’s personal belongings, were his only hope of breaking the remains of the curse. Beside the pile of feathers lay Jermain’s silver brooch. It too would be required to break the spell, if there was any magic left in it.

“Where has she gone?” muttered the wizard, turning away from the window.

He laid the feather on top of the wooden chest and made his way back down the spiral staircase to his main chamber.

A second dilemma was also troubling him. Where was the portal that had been used to bring the baby to the prince? His instincts told him it had to be close by or near to somewhere Amber could visualise. But where?

While the prince had been recuperating at the last house in the village, the wizard had spent his time trying to retrace the path that brought the baby to them. Whoever had delivered the basket had been clever and cautious in the extreme. His tracking efforts had taken him round the perimeter of the village and into the dense woodland at the foot of the mountain. It had taken all of his tracking skills to follow the trail through the deep bed of pine needles that covered the forest floor but, when he reached the stream, the trail stopped. The mystery person would appear to have walked either up or down the stream for some distance to destroy their trail. Finding it on the far side had so far proved impossible.

His last remaining hope was that the fairies would return to the village during the fayre to mark the end of summer and open a new portal. Traditionally they came to trade and to provide entertainment for the locals. The fayre, however, was still two weeks away.

Muttering sourly, Urquhart sat at his desk staring at the map of the local area that was spread out across the top of his piles of books and scrolls. His search area was marked out on it. Previous portal locations were highlighted. Spinning his wand through his fingers, the wizard sighed.

“Where would I hide the gateway?”

Sunlight rippled through the leaves outside the window of her tree top prison. From her bed, Amber could just make out the lilac mists that marked the boundary between her world and Jem’s. With tears in her eyes, she rolled over to face the wooden wall and rested her hand on her now empty belly.

Less than a week after the birth she had been brought there by the order of the High Council; by the order of her grandmother, the queen. Light fairy chain had been shackled to her ankles, long enough to allow her to move about the small room but short enough to keep the door out of reach. Only once in the following days had her grandmother visited her and then the visit had been filled with hate and disgust.

The High Council had sentenced the fairy/elf to be confined to the tree top cell indefinitely. Her defiance of ancient laws was unprecedented so they determined that solitary confinement for her was the best course of action to take until they could reach a formal agreement on an alternative form of punishment. Only one member of the council had spoken up for her. Her childhood friend, Blain, had risked his position by proposing that they petition the elves for their opinion on the matter, arguing that Amber’s defiance was as much an elf issue as a fairy one. It was a risky strategy but Blain hoped it would buy him some time to try to persuade some of the other council members to review their stance. To his relief, the High Council had agreed and had arranged to send two representatives to consult the elves. It was anticipated that they would be gone for two months. In the meantime, Amber had to bide her time high up in the tree tops.

As she lay on her side, she counted the marks she had scraped into the soft wooden wall beside her narrow bed. She counted thirty five small scores. Adding on the seven days she had spent in her grandmother’s home following the birth, Amber calculated that word from the elves was due to be received in a little over two weeks.

The soft squeal of the door opening startled her. She turned over in time to see Blain tip toe into the room carrying a small basket.

“Good afternoon, your highness,” he said rather formally, setting the basket down on the table.

“That title’s long gone,” answered Amber as she sat up.

“You’re still the queen’s grand-daughter,” argued her friend. “And will always be a princess in my eyes.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere,” giggled Amber, her laughter filling the small room with music.

“I live in hope,” sighed her visitor, shedding his cloak. “But I fear your heart belongs to another. Well, three others to be precise.”

“Perhaps,” sighed Amber, feeling tears prick at her eyes. “Won’t you be in trouble for visiting me?”

“No,” replied Blain, producing a small parchment scroll from his pocket. “I can argue that I’m here on official High Council business.”

“You are?”

“No,” stated her friend, showing her the blank parchment. “But no one will question me if I claim I had to read this to you. Confidential High Council correspondence relating to your trial and for our eyes and ears only.”

“Devious. I like it.”

Reaching into the basket, Blain brought out some fresh bread, fruit and a small bottle of wine. He put his hand back in and retrieved a small round cheese.

“I thought we could break bread together for a while,” he explained with a warm smile. “Break the monotony for you.”

“Thank you. I’d be happy to,” she replied as she came to sit at the table.

Over their simple meal, her friend filled her in on all the comings and goings of daily life in the fairy community. When she asked, Blain confirmed there was no word yet from the elves. Between bites, he spoke about various High Council matters that he wanted her opinion on then he happened to mention that the queen had tried to forbid them from visiting the fayre being held in the mortal realm that marked the end of summer.

“She didn’t succeed, did she?” gasped Amber, her eyes wide with concern.

“No. She was promptly over ruled on economic grounds. We need the trade. Why?”

“No particular reason,” murmured Amber, keeping her gaze lowered.

“Amber?” he said softly, reaching out to touch her hand. “What are you scheming?”

“The portal remains open while the fayre runs. It is usually open for five days and loosely guarded. If I’m to escape from here, those five days are my window of opportunity.”

“And just how do you plan to escape the High Council’s bonds?” demanded Blain sharply, pointing to the silver thread-like chains around her slender ankles.

“Elf magic,” stated Amber plainly. “The less you know the better.”

Before Blain could reply, their conversation was interrupted by a sharp wailing cry. Instantly Amber leapt to her feet and darted to the far side of the room. Whispering softly, she scooped the crying baby into her arms. The wails subsided to whimpers as she carried the baby back to the table. Discretely she opened her tunic to allow the hungry mite to suckle.

“And you’ve that elf blood to thank for the fact that you were allowed to keep this little one,” commented Blain, watching the fair haired child suck contentedly at her breast. “Only act of compassion I have ever seen from the queen.”

“That I have,” agreed Amber, gazing down at her tiny son. “But I have to return to Jem and to my daughter. What if she’s like this little man and needs half-breed milk to survive? She could be starving to death in agony!”

With a heavy sigh, Blain nodded, “You’re right, as always.”

“Then help me find a way back,” pleaded Amber quietly.