Sunday, April 13, 2014

Serialized Sunday: The Gpysy's Curse, Chapter Six II

Chapter Six, Part II


The Gypsy's Curse, By Lily Silver, copyright 2013

           "It smells of smoke in the house, I tell you." Annie McIvey insisted as they unpacked the grocer goods in the kitchen. "And if I'm not mistaken, venison stew."

          “Pssshaw!” Jasper McIvey returned. “I don’t smell a thing, woman. Admit it, you’ve been reading Mrs. St. John’s silly novels again, haven’t you." It was not a question, but rather an accusation.

          “And what if I have, old man? They’re entertaining.” Annie replied, setting the crock of freshly churned butter on the table with more force than necessary. So what if she enjoyed the Gothic novels that had once belonged to the mistress of Huntingdon Abbey. Mr. St. John didn’t mind if they borrowed books from the library here. He said so himself, back in the days when he lived here with his lady wife. He’d been most generous in that.

           Annie mumbled under her breath that at least one of them saw fit to improve her mind when offered the chance. The winter evenings were long and lonely.  Jasper spent the evenings carving and whittling by the fire, immersed in his own wool gathering and not offering her much by way of conversation. She went to the village but once a week, and made the most of the occasion by socializing at the shops with the other women in the area. Since the master closed up the abbey after his lady’s untimely death, there was little to keep them busy anymore. They were paid to merely keep an eye on the place where once they’d had a firm hand in running it.

          The former master, Edward St. John, had kept them busy between looking after his four children, preparing feasts for his many guests and for the entertainments head provided for his people who tended his lands. Not so with the son, the heir of the estate. Stephan was the opposite of his father, quiet and reserved where his parent had been boisterous and outspoken in his manner. The Elder St. John had been a wool merchant who grew rich in the wool industry due to the wars. A bit rough about the edges as far as high society was concerned, but he’d made sure his son was educated in the finest schools and had married a title.

          Poor Master Stephan.  Remembering the reason the master went away, Annie shook her head and made a sign of the cross. "And poor Lady Julia, you didn’t deserve to be killt, regardless of your wild ways."She said aloud, her mouth pinching inward as she recalled the shy, sweet girl who had first come to Huntingdon Abbey six years past. Lady Julia was the daughter of a Viscount. She had a sunny, spirited disposition that contrasted with her husband’s somber ways. The marriage had been arranged, but Annie saw straight on that Stephan was completely taken by his new bride. The pity was that Lady Julia didn’t seem to feel the same about him. Tolerated, that was how she’d describe the woman’s attitude toward her spouse. Julia tolerated Stephan, and it went no further than that.

         "While you’re unpacking the food, I'll go look about the place before it gets dark, and lay a fire in the main rooms to welcome St. John." Jasper said as he shuffled toward the door leading to the interior of the house.  "I'll make a fire here when I get back. Don’t think he’ll make it till tomorrow, myself." He groused to himself as he made his exit. "Still, can't have the master arriving to an empty, cold house."

          "Aye, then. Be quick about it." She shouted after him, "I want to make a few meat pies against a late arrival. He’ll be hungry, be it midnight or noon when he makes his grand entrance."  Annie removed her woolen cloak, hung it on the peg, unpacked her apron from the satchel and tied it about her waist.

          Zara remained in the shadows near the butler’s pantry. She watched the old woman bustle about, and listened for the return of the man to the kitchens. The smell of chopped onions quickly filled the air as the old woman’s hand moved the knife with sure, swift strokes to reduce the translucent white orb into a pile of diced bits. The old woman turned her back and moved to the cellar door. When she disappeared down the steps, Zara quickly moved to the counter and snagged two biscuits from the bowl the woman had unpacked from the crate before returning to her attic retreat.

                                          *    *    *    *

          "Jasper!" Annie sat up in bed in the strange house and shook the snoring pile of blankets beside her. The dear old fart was deaf, but he'd not admit it, not to himself or anyone else. Lord knew he couldn’t hear the devil’s hooves on the floorboards if he came to call. "Wake up, old man. There’s someone in the house!?

          Jasper made a snorting cough as he came awake. "What-what is it!" He rubbed his white stubbled chin and frowned at her in the candlelight.

          "I heard something, out there, in the kitchen." She insisted in a low whisper.
          "Huh" Speak up woman. He chided, so loud that whoever might be trespassing was sure to be gone in another instant.

          "Shhh!" Annie chastened. She pointed to the door, and mouthed the word 'Intruder' to him.

          "Go back to sleep, woman." He said, loudly again, and she slapped his arm for his impudence. "What? Ain’t nobody there, I locked the back door myself. You’re hearing things, its a strange house, we ain’t slept here for over two years??

           "Jasper McIvey" I heard something, I tell you, out in the kitchen."

           "Aye and you can hear ants fart over in Castletown, cant you?"

           "Go look." She insisted, crossing her arms about her chest. "It might be Master Stephan."

          "I doubt it, but I'll go, cuz you’ll not let me sleep otherwise." He huffed, and tossed the covers back from their bed beyond the kitchen.

          Annie clutched the covers about her chest and listened. She was sure she heard someone rummaging out in the kitchen. While the servant’s quarters were upstairs, on the third floor, opposite the attic storage room, the bedroom she and Jasper shared when she was the housekeeper was just off the ancient stone kitchen on the back of the house. She liked it that way, as she ran the household and did most of the cooking for the St. John’s when they were in residence, which they had been consistently for the past forty years, until the murders happened.

         Jasper returned to their small bedchamber. His nightcap was askew, and he seemed to be out of breath. Worse for it, he looked pale, as if he’d had a fright.

         ?What is it?? Annie went to his side right away and placed a reassuring hand on his arm.

         ?I saw her, Lady Julia.? He mumbled. His flesh trembled beneath her hand.

         ?Hush.? Annie scolded, but gently, as she could see he’d had quite a scare. "Its just your imagination, Jasper. You’re thinking of the poor mistress, with Mr. St. John returning, same as me."

          He grumbled, but allowed her to lead him back to the bed.

          ?Did you see any sign of an intruder?? She changed the subject to the more tangible threat that had sent him looking about the main floor of the house.

          ?No, nothing. Place is locked up sound.? He replied, still somewhat shaken by the experience as he sat on the bed with his back to her. "T'was in the library I saw her. Peculiar, as our Julia never was much for books. Stood there in the shadows near the window, in a long white night dress and a cap, just as if she were alive and going about her secret adventures.?

         ?Aye.? Annie sighed, climbing in bed and pulling the covers over herself. ?They say the dead often keep to the same habits as when they were alive. Poor St. John. Say nothing of this to him. T’was bad enough she betrayed him in life. We needn’t speak of seeing her cavortin' in the halls still, meeting with her lover. Our Stephan’s come home at last, let’s hope he’s found peace with what happened here two years ago.?

                                           *     *     *    *    *  

         He was burning up, burning with fire from the inside out.

        The sweet, sick coppery taste in his mouth spurred him on, driving him as he ran through the moon bright forest.  The brilliant white disk in the sky shimmered off the water of the lake, reflecting light around the forested shore.

As he moved through the low shadows formed by the dark brush, the taste of a fresh kill on his lips, he caught the scent of a woman walking the forest path. He crept along the shore, following her with curious eyes and a heart anxious to know what she was about, stalking about in her nightgown in the middle of the night. She turned, as if sensing his approach, and clutched her skirts higher. Fear mingled the sweat of her body, adding a heightened edge to the game.

        As he stepped out onto the path, he saw her glance ahead of them and her face contorted with terror. Stephan couldn’t stop himself. Instinct took over. He raced up the path, fangs bared, hackles raised as his front paws rose up to confront the bold intruder.

        Her screams echoed through the forest as the sound of snapping jaws and tearing flesh became his only memory.  

       "Julia . . . no--no." He growled, but it was too late. She didn’t listen. She never had.

       Stephan sat up in the small bed, his body drenched in sweat from his tormented struggles to be free. He tossed the covers from his naked form, feeling as if he were trapped in an inferno. The heavy blankets left his body damp and crawling with discomfort. The cool air surrounding him kissed his moist skin, bringing the succor of a freshening breeze on a sweltering summer day. He glanced about the small, confining room with uncertainty until he remembered, they were at the posting house. He sat forward and wiped his damp brow on the discarded sheet.

         Damn, a body would think it was the middle of summer. He would like a cool dip in the lake near the abbey to cool his heated skin. The nightmares left him feverish in both mind and body.  His mouth was like sand. He cleared his parched throat, recalling the odd growling noises he’d been making in his dreams. His hand rose to his raw throat. Had he been growling and snarling in his sleep? If so, the room held his secret, as he was alone with his nightmares. Brisbane and Maggie had rooms in the attic, where the servants of the wealthy travelers slept.  

           The flames of the fireplace flickered with worry as they bathed the small room in a red-orange glow. They would be at Huntingdon Abbey tomorrow. Tonight, he must endure the twisting shadows of the strange room and the clawing of his dark conscience alone.

Copyright Lily Silver, 2013 

Thanks for visiting us today. Have a great week.  

 Lily Silver 



Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Romance of Springtime in a Renaissance painting

Bottecelli's  "Primavera"c. 1482

Ah, spring, when forest nymps frollick, gods and goddesses embrace humans, and when the earth bursts with new lush growth and a renewed spirit.

Historically, springtime is a time of renewal and rebirth. The easter bunny has nothing on the ancient religions, with Beltane, Ostara,  Spring Equinox, May Day, and the rites of spring.

The painting is Renaissance Art, by Bottecelli. The layers of meaning are endless, as art historians love to interpret the scene in many different ways.  Note the couple in the far right corner, they are Chloris, a forest nymph, being seized by Zephyr, god of the wind.


Next to the maiden Chloris, who is being passionately embraced by a very determined god, is Flora---actually another Chloris, who is transformed by love into Flora, the goddess of flowers, who symbolizes the onset of spring.  Another source claims that Zephyr doesn't just grab her but also rapes her. Nasty man. It's said that he was so sorry for his act and so he married her and made her the goddess of flowers, Flora.

  In the very center of this tableau is Venus herself, the goddes of love. She also guards and protects the institution of marraige. She's dressed in the pink flowing train, with lovely long blondish red locks. You've seen this woman before, in The Birth of Venus. Who was this lovely creature? Someone Bottecelli loved,  a beautiful model, or one of the Medici's?  The painting was commisioned by the Medici's so it's speculation as to who she is and why she's in more than one painting by the famous artist.  

The Birth of Venus, Bottecelli


The three women in the painting symbolize the Three Graces, Chastity, Beauty and Love, the companions of Venus. Next to them is Mercury, the god of the Month of May.  

 And don't miss Cupid, hovering above ready to fling his arrow and an unwitting victim.

The tableau is ripe, if you'll forgive me the pun, with images of spring and fertility. The myrtle plant surrouding Venus traditionally symbolized sexual desire, marriage and fertility. The oranges in the painting also represent fertility or bearing fruit through sexual union.You'll notice flowers everywhere, hanging from every bough, draped amid the trees, springing from the ground. Ah, springtime, when hearts lighten and a young man's thoughts are turned toward love . . . . 

Bottecelli's masterpiece has a very etheral feeling. It's love personified, as a lovely woman, as innocence, and as a violent force with the male god Zephyr physically seizing the object of his obsession, Chloris, and his possession of her transforms her into Flora, the goddess of flowers. It's rumored that a Medici patron had this painting commissioned in honor of a family wedding, and that the painting hung in the bride's bedchamber.   So, Spring is here. Feel like frollicking in the forest . . . watch out, the wind gusts might bring the lusty god Zephyr your way and you'll be transformed by the wonder and splendor of love! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Serialized Sundays, The Gypy's Curse, Rough Draft

This Week's Excerpt of THE GYPSY'S CURSE  By Lily Silver, copyright 2013

Chapter Six

            As fate would have it, Zara found herself stranded in the mansion for the next two days.

            The frigid north wind would not let up, and the icy rain seemed just as determined to keep her from continuing her journey. November was always a blustery month in the northern part of England. Harsh winds blew in from the sea and forced many a cottager to remain indoors for days at a time. The gypsy faced a harder time of it, being they had only wagons and tents to shield them from the harsh winter weather. That was why her family always traveled to southern regions for the winter months, and she suspected that other caravans would do the same.

            Zara hoped that news of her banishment would not have reached some groups, and thus, they would take her in and allow her to join their caravan. It was a vain hope, perhaps, but she certainly had no friends among the Gadje to turn to, and after the widow’s death, she feared she might even be suspected of the crime. Her tribe often left signs for other caravans traveling through the forest, signs that only a fellow traveler would recognize; a twig bent to a certain shape or a small symbol notched on the tree.

            She stirred the small fire with the iron poker and memorized the greedy, seeking pattern of the flames.  The house was peaceful. She liked it here. It wouldn’t be too difficult to spend the winter here. It might be a challenge to keep her presence a secret from the cottagers, but if she were very, very careful, didn’t burn a fire until nightfall so the smoke wasn’t noticed and didn’t leave evidence of her stay in the kitchens, she might pull it off.

Then again, she might end up in the gaol for trespassing if they caught her here.

            It seemed a shame to leave this lovely house empty, forsaken, like an unwanted child. The Gadje were wasteful, that was undeniable. Shed explored the lower floor over the past few days, and found much to envy among her father’s people. Books, and more books filled the library shelves. She could easily spend the winter reading all day long and not conquer the horded volumes stored in the great vault know as the library. Although she possessed a rudimentary ability to read when she came to the Widow’s household, Widow Kendall had helped her to overcome her lack of education by making Zara read aloud to her each evening. It was a task that both women enjoyed immensely, and it didn’t take long for Zara’s reading skills to improve under the widow’s kind instruction.

            Being inside a house gave Zara a feeling of belonging. Her mother’s people didn’t understand such a longing to settle in one place and call it home. She wondered, and not for the first time, if they were right about her? She didn’t belong with them. And yet, neither did she belong among the Gadje. She was alone in the world. The one person who had shown her kindness and acceptance, aside from her uncle, was now dead, horribly murdered.

            The old anger from childhood surfaced with a vengeance. So, she was neither gypsy nor Gadje? Well, then, she’d make her own path, seek her own destiny and create her own past. No more would she cling to the traditions and beliefs of her mother’s people. They cast her aside, so she’d make her way in this new world without their approval. The red silk stockings were more than a coveted treasure. Tonight, as she admired them on her legs by the light of the low fire, they would become a symbol of her freedom. She would embrace the life of the Gadje, become one of them and create a new identity for herself. She would spend the winter months in this abandoned house, learning, studying, reading everything she could in order to pass as one of them.  There were newspapers in the study, old certainly, but they contained reports of the outside world. There were enough books here to help her gain knowledge of the world beyond England, the world beyond her mother’s limited experience with caravan life.

The more she thought of it, the more she warmed to the idea of embracing a new life among her father’s people. The Gadje had last names, family names. She’d need one. Once she left this place, she’d need a family name and a story that couldn’t be questioned. She’d have to be a foreigner. Her dark features could be considered Spanish or Portuguese. She might pretend to be French, but she didn’t speak the language so that was a problem.

            She rose from her place by the fire and paced about the room. She’d fit in better with the Gadje if she seemed to be from another place. But where? America? No, too difficult to pretend knowledge of such a vast place. Some island, yes, yes, the Caribbean, the West Indies. The widow’s nephew had come from the island of Martinique. He commented that first night he arrived at the cottage that Zara looked like she might have come from the island, as girls there had more swarthy complexions. Jasper had talked a lot about the island during his stay. If questioned, she could recount enough of what he had said to satisfy any skeptics. Short of meeting someone else from Martinique, she was confident in her abilities as an actress to pull it off. Gypsies were good at bluffing, at playing to the crowd. And she had learned from the best.

            The clothing wouldn’t be a problem. She’d take a few of the fine dresses from the lady’s room upstairs. Surely, the woman had more than enough garments, if she could easily leave several dresses behind here while traveling abroad. If the mistress here was like most women of the nobility, she’d have enough dresses to cloth an entire caravan, with several items to spare. Gadje women seemed to feel it necessary to have several changes of clothing at their disposal, and judging by the coffers in the room upstairs, this particular lady was no exception.

            So, it had come to this. Being reborn as a Gadja woman to save herself when her mother’s people exiled her from their company. From now on, she would be Sarah, a form of Zara that was more appealing to the Gadje tongue. Sarah---but Sarah what? Zara considered what surname she must use. Her father’s name had been Bartholomew Leeds. She would become Sarah Leeds of Martinique. Yes, that would do nicely.

 *  *  *  

           The following week brought a mixture excitement and contentment to Zara as she spent time studying for her new role. Simply having a sense of purpose, a direction in life, revitalized her. Her hand was healing quickly with the daily cleansing, soaking and application of herbal pastes. She managed to set a few traps in the grounds outside and caught two rabbits into the bargain. Lothar taught her at a young age how to trap and also how to clean the kill. She didn’t want to keep using the meat stored in the cellar, as her small daily cuts would add up to a large parcel of missing meat over time and be noticed when the cottagers came to restock their own stores. She’d poked about in the stables and some of the outbuildings, surprised to find that no livestock were being kept there. The manor was truly deserted then, shut up and forgotten by all, it seemed, except the couple below the hill who had been given the charge of looking after it until the lord decided to return.

         Realizing that the cottagers might return at any time for one reason or another, and catch her unawares in the downstairs parlor, Zara moved her belongings, her camp? as it were, to the attic rooms. She chose a small corner behind a support post where furniture had been stowed away, realizing that even in the attic, she needed to maintain a secluded presence for her own safety. During the day she wandered the manse at will. She was careful to not leave any evidence behind of her passing. She ate cold food during the day. Apples found in a large, overflowing crate in the basement, raw carrots and a little of her saved ham. She was reluctant to start a fire during the daylight hours to cook with lest the smoke alert the cottagers or a passing neighbor that someone was in the manse. She doused the fire and cleaned up the hearth each night, taking the drenched coals out to the nearby woods to dispose of them, along with her refuse. The chores were not much different than those performed in the gypsy camp; save there they left the fires burning through the night for warmth and to keep the forest animals away.

        Zara was having such a good time camping at the deserted house that disappointment came to her when the cottagers showed up late one afternoon in the second week of her stay. She’d been upstairs, on the second floor exploring the rooms when she heard the door below bang shut with a loud clamber. She closed the drawer of the lady’s dressing table, and rose quickly to leave the room. Passing the window at the end of the hall, she observed the man and woman from the cottage below the hill in the back courtyard. They had a wagon pulled by two horses. The wagon was full of packages. This seemed a curious arrangement, as the two times they’d visited before; they had come on foot and empty handed.

        The old woman seemed happy as she bustled about the courtyard, unpacking the lighter crates from the wagon. The old man was gruff and irritable. Zara didn’t pause overlong. She hurried up the servant stairs before they noticed her in the window and settled into her dark attic corner. She had a small iron pot she kept banked coals in, a set of candles and a brass candle holder she’d taken from below for her night time reading but there was still enough sun coming into the window at the opposite end of the attic with which to see at present. She flopped down on the old feather mattress she’d dragged from an opposite corner, feeling cross at the intrusion as she wrapped one of the thick, warm coverlets she’d accumulated against the cold winter nights about her shoulders.

        Why were they here? Certainly the owner of this house wouldn’t want to come here now, at the beginning of winter. It was early December, and the Gadjes--no--she must stop referring to them so in her mind lest her tongue slip in the company of others--the English were serious in their celebration of the Solstice. They called it Christmas, the birthday of their god, and they did a fair amount of feasting and celebrating during the twelve day holiday.

        Why would a rich man wish to come here, to this dreary, cold, neglected place for the holiday season when he could spend it in London or at least in a more welcoming place? The snow hadn’t fallen as yet, but it was merely a matter days--or hours--until that happened. Once it did, she was well and truly stranded here, as she’d likely freeze to death alone out in the elements. Without a wagon to sleep in, she’d be forced to sleep on the ground, and between freezing rain and snow, she’d be dead in short order.

        This was not good. She had to stay here or find lodgings elsewhere.

         Preferably not in a cold gaol for trespassing and thievery.   

         Patience, Zara, patience wins, in the long run. Lothar's unwanted advice rose up in her mind.  She’d been happy about staying here alone through the winter months, happy spend the time educating herself and planning her future. There had to be a way to remain here. If not, she may as well go drown herself in the lake below the hill. 

        Was she cursed, after all? Destined to end her days scratching for a place in which to lay her head? Curling into a cozy ball beneath the heavy coverlets, Zara pulled the blankets up over her head to shut out the brutal world determined to bring about her downfall since the day she’d been born. Copyright Lily Silver, 2013.  

Tune in next week to see what happens when Stephen St. John arrives at his home. 

Thanks for visiting, 




Monday, March 31, 2014

Addictive Reads, the best of many genres in a Free Giveaway


Happy April Everyone!  

You know the old saying, April showers bring May Flowers. Here's hoping we'll have some rain soon to wash away the snow in the northern regions like Wisconsin, in the USA. I'm part of an incredible author's network called Addictive Reads. This week, we're having a special event in celebration of springtime. 

We're a dedicated bunch, and we strive to bring you books from all genres. Our goal is to provide you with well-written and entertaining reads.
Several of our authors are New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Authors.
Each author has an individual page with all of their books listed, along with their social media links. We also have genre pages where you can find books in just about any genre you enjoy. (See the menu guide links at the top of the page.)
And we have FREE ebooks for you, as well as collections (anthologies and box sets) from Addictive Reads authors.

As a thank you for checking us out, we're holding a giveaway. You can enter through Friday, April 4, 2014. Winners will be announced, Saturday, April 5th.
We're giving away one $25 Amazon Gift Card, one $20 Amazon Gift Card, and one bundle of eBooks from Addictive Reads Authors including:
§  LET'S SCARE CANCER TO DEATH Anthology (Horror) with short stories by Rhonda Hopkins & Gregory Carrico
§  EVIDENCE OF TRUST (Romantic Suspense) by Stacey Joy Netzel
§  DEADLY OBSESSION (Romantic Suspense) by Kristine Cayne
§  ETERNITY OF ROSES (Paranormal Romance) by Natalie G. Owens
§  BIRDS DO IT! (Contemporary Romance) by *lizzie starr
§  AIR: MERLIN'S CHALICE (Fantasy) by Meredith Bond
§  ANGEL OF DEATH (Fantasy) by Anna Erishkigal
§  WANING MOON (YA Dystopian) by P.J. Sharon
§  TRUST NO ONE (Suspense) by Diana Layne
§  ALWAYS REMEMBER (Contemporary Romance) by Sheila Seabrook
§  STARS, LOVE AND PIROUETTES  (Contemporary Romance) by Alicia & Roy Street
§  REVENGE (Romantic Suspense) by Dana Delamar 
>>>>>HERE I AM>>>§  SOME ENCHANTED WALTZ (Time Travel Romance) by Lily Silver

To enter the giveaway, just go to our ADDICTIVE READS site and follow the prompts in the Rafflecopter near the bottom of the post for your chance to win one of the prizes!
We hope you'll visit with us often and connect with us on our social media sites. We enjoy talking with our readers.
Thank you for being part of our reading family!
*Please note: If any of the winners do not respond within five days, we may select a new winner and the original winner will forfeit any prize.