Book Spotlight – “Mirrors & Thorns” by OWS Ink, LLC Catterfly Publishing

Book Blurb

Where the fairy tales ends and the reflection begins….
A dark fairy tale collection from the twisted pens of:
J.M. Ames, Kerry E.B. Black, J.K. Allen, C.L. Bledsoe, Lucy Palmer, Stacy Overby, T.S. Dickerson, Edward Ahern, Melanie Noell Bernard, S.L. Scott, Sarah Chamma, Paul Stansbury, Cassidy Taylor, and J. Lee Strickland.

OWS Ink, LLC is very excited to announce the publication of our 2017 anthology, Mirror & Thorns. Just in time for Halloween, these fourteen stories from fourteen different authors will have you curled up on the couch ignoring those trick or treaters! These exceptional tales will stay with you long after the last page. This collection of short stories releases on Wednesday, October, 25th, 2017, and a Facebook Release Party open to the public occurs on October 21, 2017.

The authors have weaved each one of these enchanting stories with quirky and intriguing characters as well as plots with compelling twists. You can learn more about these authors and the anthology by following along with the book blog tour which begins on ourwriteside.com on October 20th. Preorders will begin at the Facebook event on the 21st.

Pre-order Your Copy Now! E-Book, Paperback

From the Author

Stephanie and Amanda (A.L.) were partnered up during a writing project nearly 10 years ago. They learned they had much more than just writing in common and bonded right away. Over the years, they have supported each other’s other writing and have grown together, eventually adding Heidi to their dynamic duo. This writing relationship naturally evolved into a dream: to build a writing community that would offer others the support they found in each other. Our Write Side was launched in October of 2015 and has seen incredible growth since.

Where To Find OWS Ink, LLC Catterfly Publishing

Twitter, Facebook, E-mail, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Website, Newsletter

Advertisements

My Top 10 Haunted Locations

No Halloween event is complete without a trip to the local Haunted House. For this reason I’ve scoured the internet trying to find some of the most iconic, and most haunted locations around the world.

Even though the number of places I found was huge, I selected my top 10, and present it (in no real order) for your reading pleasure.

#1 – The Catacombs of Paris (France)

The Paris Catacombs are built in the remains tunnels that connect the old stone mines. The tunnels head south from the Barrière d’Enfer and they were converted into a series of ossuaries to help alleviate the overcrowding of the Parisian cemeteries.

Work began in 1774, and by 1786 remains were being transferred to the catacombs on an almost nightly basis. After a while, it became almost forgotten, before being rediscovered and becoming a venue for private events and concerts.

In 1874 the catacombs opened to the public, and now see over a million visitors a year. With all those visitors and guides walking around, surrounded by the dead, is it any wonder that there are reports of encounters with ghosts?

#2 – Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp (Poland)

There are few names that inspire as much horror and trepidation as those of the concentration and extermination camps built during the Nazi rise to power. Auschwitz-Birkenau was a complex of camps established to initially extend the prisoner holding capability of local prisons in Poland, and received it’s first prisoners in June 1940.

The main camp, Auschwitz I, held anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 prisoners at any one time, and was built on the grounds of a Polish barracks.

Construction on the second camp, Birkenau (aka. Auschwitz II), was started in 1941 on the site of the Brzezinka village. The villagers were all evicted to make way for the camp, and it was here that the greatest part of the extermination machine was enacted, with the majority of deaths occurring within it’s walls.

When the Soviet troops approached the walls in January 1945, most of the prisoner population was west on a death march. Even those who visit the camps today can’t imagine the horrors that must have occurred on these grounds, with estimates of the dead from 630,000 to 900,000. With so many prisoners going unregistered, it’s almost impossible to guess at how many souls still wander the grounds.

#3 – Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon (England)

Berry Pomeroy is a Tudor-period mansion that was built within the walls of an older castle in Totness, England. It was built in the 15th century, on land owned by the Pomeroy family since the 11th century, before passing into the hands of the Seymore family in 1547.

There are two very famous ghosts that haunt these halls… However, there are often overlaps between the stories, and the truth behind them is often blurred by time and retelling.

The White Lady is said to be the spirit of Lady Margaret Pomeroy, who apparently starved to death while imprisoned by her jealous sister.

The Blue Lady apparently also walks the hall and grounds, luring people into following her to her tower. Those who follow her are said to plummet to their deaths from the tower.

#4 – Underground  Vaults, Edinburgh (Scotland)

Edinburgh Castle sits atop the remains of a volcanic plug, overlooking the city from it’s highest point. The current structures are built on a site that has been occupied by one form of settlement since the 2nd century.

Over the years it has grown from a small settlement to the imposing fortress we see today. It served as a formidable stronghold throughout it’s 1100 year history, including at least 26 sieges, the Wars of Scottish Independence and the Jacobite Revolution.

While few of the current structures pre-date the 16th century, there are underground vaults that were rediscovered during the 1980’s. These vaults had lain abandoned for almost 200 years beneath the South Bridge, and had once been used as cellars, workshops, and even residences for the businesses that operated on the bridge. Unfortunately flooding started almost as soon as construction began on these vaults, and now the South Bridge is said to be among the many sites where hauntings have occurred. Some visitors even report being attacked, or nausea and vomiting when passing over the vaults.

#5 – Coliseum, Rome (Italy)

The Coliseum (aka Colloseum) is one of the most impressive landmarks to dominate the skyline of Rome. It dominates an area 620 feet by 510 feet,  and rises almost 160 feet over the crowds that come to visit it every year.

Construction was started by Emperor Vespasian sometime around AD 70, and it was officially opened in AD 80 by his son Titus. The event was celebrated with 100 days of games, gladiatorial contests and wild animal fights. And that was just the start of the history that bathes the amphitheater in the blood of those who fought for the entertainment of 50,000-80,000 spectators at any one time.

The complex boasts a number of cells, tunnels where slaves, prisoners and animals would be housed between fights. And fights and other entertainments continued to be held here right through to the middle of the 6th century, until it fell into.

With so much blood being shed within it’s walls, over such an extended period of time, is it any wonder that some visitors report seeing ghosts, or feelings of disquiet while making their way through the grounds?

#6 – Whitechappel/Spittalfields, London (England)

The streets of Whitechapel and Spittalfields are part of the famous London East End, and among those that became associated with the classic Dickensian London.

During the 1800s they were an overcrowded warren of poverty-stricken streets, alleyways that saw a large population increase from immigrants in the 1880s and onward. Even today, the East End is considered one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the London area.

Having already been made famous in the stories of Charles Dickens, it became infamous in 1888 for a string of murders that have baffled even modern investigators. Five murders occurred over the space of four months before the killing stopped, and all within a few blocks of each other.

Why were these deaths so significant? Because the killer struck without warning, with apparent surgical precision, and was given a name that struck terror into people’s hearts… After the fifth, and most brutal killing, he never struck again, was never caught, and his real identity has become the subject of hundreds of theories.

Just who was Jack the Ripper? And why did he stop killing? Maybe we’ll never know.

#7 – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (USA)

In 1863, a tiny town in Pennsylvania played host to what has been described as the deadliest battle of the American Civil War. Over the course of three days, with the Union soldiers low on ammunition, and losing the fight against the Confederates, over 8,000 men died on the fields of this town.

However, the men weren’t the only ones to die during the fighting, 3,000 horses, and one woman were also killed, and it is said that the ghost of Jenny Wade haunts the apothecary at the center of town. But she’s not alone in haunting the town and fields. Visitors report seeing ghosts all over the battlefield, and some have even told tales of seeing parts of the battle replayed around them.

With such a huge loss of life, and the emotions that are stirred by the events of the battle, is it any wonder this is considered one of the most haunted places (acre-for-acre) in the USA.

#8 – Dominican Hill, Baguio City (Philippines)

Built the early 1900s, the Diplomat Hotel is one of several locations in the Philippines where refuges fled from the Japanese forces during World War II. That is until the location was bombed, causing severe damage to the building.

Over the years, the property has passed through several hands, starting life as a vacation house, seminary, and eventually a hotel.  A number of people are said to have died on the site, despite having come in the hopes of being cured of whatever terminal conditions they had.

The last known death was in 1987 when the owner of the property died of a heart attack. Ever since then the property has been off limits to the public.

Over the years, stories have circulated that the property was the site of a number of beheadings of priests and nuns, and that headless ghosts have been seen roaming the grounds. Considering the current dilapidated state of the property, it’s not hard to see why people experience periods of dead silence, when not a single sound can be heard.

#9 – Ancient Ram Inn, Gloucestershire (England)

This former pub is currently listed as one of the most haunted hotels in England. Built back in 1145, and said to have been owned by St Mary’s Church, this property is now under private ownership, having passed through a number of hands since it’s construction.

Over the years it has been investigated by a number of paranormal research groups, and featured on many shows centered around investigating hauntings and paranormal activities.

If local stories are to be believed, the inn is built on the intersection of two ley lines, and over an ancient burial ground from 5,000 years ago. It has apparently also been host to child sacrifice and devil worship. People who have stayed at the hotel have reported everything from a young ghostly girl (called Rosie), and objects being moved by unseen presences, to being physically pushed by forces they couldn’t identify.

Whatever is really going on here has been enough to terrify some guests into jumping out of windows to escape their experiences.

#10 – Highgate Cemetery, North London (England)

This is quite possibly one of the most famous cemetery in England, because of the size of the site, and the list of famous people who are buried here. It’s not just the people who have been buried here, but the architecture, and grave markers of the 170,000 people buried in 53,000 graves.

I’ve personally walked through sections of this cemetery in search of the graves of Karl Marx, Douglas Adams, and George Eliot. What struck me most is just how much architecture plays a part in the atmosphere of the site. Huge terraces at the top of the hill rest upon the catacombs beneath, Gothic architecture dominates large portions of the site, and there is even an area where Ancient Egypt seems to have taken root.

What I can’t easily describe is just how different this place feels and looks between daytime and night. But I was leaving the site just as the sun went down, and it’s easy for the mind and emotions to become ensnared by the creepy feeling that you’re not alone.

Discussion Topic:

Do you have a Top 10 of haunted places you’d like to share?

Have you had a personal ghost experience?

Comment below, and let everyone know they’re not alone in their experiences.

 

Book Spotlight – “Hell Bent Arc 1” by Kayla Matt

Book Blurb

Travis Malone and Dr. Spencer Abbot never expected their lives to devolve into a sheer nightmare until they encountered Jesse Lynn Belle.

Visions- A quest that began with a hunt for an anniversary gift turns into a struggle to stay alive.

Retribution- Five months after the Visions Incident, Travis and Spencer learn that they still aren’t safe.

Destruction- Another four months pass. And Travis is taken from his home and loved ones and thrust into his own personal hell.

This collection brings the first three books of the Hell Bent series together into one volume, a full chronicle of the struggle between the Malones, Abbots, and Jesse herself.

Buy Your Copy Now! E-Book

From the Author

K. Matt is a graduate of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, and uses her Illustration degree in relation to her books. In addition to her workaholic nature, she is also a fan of comics, anime, animation in general, horror…a number of things, really. When she’s not writing and illustrating her own books, she can usually be found writing short stories or drawing other people’s characters. In much of her writing, she seems to enjoy making certain characters of hers hate her, thus making her quite thankful for that little thing we call the Fourth Wall.

Where To Find Kayla Matt

Twitter, Facebook, E-mail, Blog

Event Spotlight – 4th Annual Brain To Books CyCon

Introduction To The Brain To Books CyberConvention

CyCon is a virtual version of the San Diego Comic Con, but our theme is books. We organize a number of events, celebrating every genre, reader, and undiscovered author out there, and we host dozens of events all crammed into three days. To experience CyCon is a lot like attending a State Fair, only CyCon is 100% online. There is simply so much to do that it’s impossible to do it all in one day and there is something for everyone.

For three days, Brain to Books shines the spotlight on authors not seen in bookstores as a means to welcome in the new season of book releases. Working to increase reader awareness to these hidden treasures, authors, publishers, and retailers are coming together world wide for the largest book event designed just for you, the book lover!

We’re giving away books, presenting readers with never-seen-before content, and featuring the world’s largest collection of undiscovered talent available today. We have blog hops, panels, discussions, contests, games, prizes, story time, book readings, sales, and exclusive content only available for these three days.

This is content you won’t find anywhere else!

#B2BCyCon spans the world, is free to attend, and boasts everything a live book convention has without the expense of travel, food, and lodging, making this the fastest growing convention available today.

What is the B2BCyCon?

The Brain to Books Cyber Convention and Book Expo—or B2BCyCon for short—is an online event modeled in the likeness of a State Fair and a comic book convention.

Authors have virtual tables or “booths” just like at a real fair where readers can go and browse the selection.

But unlike other events, the B2BCyCon is not just an event on Goodreads. It not just an event on Facebook. The Convention is a single three-day event stretched across all the internet world wide. We are on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, more than three dozen websites, and http://www.b2bcycon.com. We are on blab, Google Hangouts, podcasts, the radio…

We are in Greece, Japan, Australia, Bristol, New York, California, Alaska, Hawaii, South Africa, Jamaica, Israel, and India!

If you found us through Goodreads, you found only a small branch of the Convention.

If you found us through word of mouth, you only saw a sliver. With 160 in our first year, we quickly grew to 800 in our second year. Our third year projected an attendance of more than 2,000.

We are the event for book lovers.

Some Highlights From The 2017 Event

The first Brain To Books Anthology was released:

Brain to Books presented its first anthology, “Book Dreams (Volume #1). Here we present a collection of short stories and poems featured in the 2017 Brain to Books Cyber Convention and Book Expo.

Authors included Ani H. Manjikian, Adam Dreece, W.J. Howard, Toi Thomas, Timothy Bateson, Laura McHale Holl…

A ton of events happened across multiple genres:

Take a look at the list of genres we covered, and then click through to see everything that happened in each genre. There are just too many things to list in a short blog post…

And Here’s Your Invitation To Participate in 2018

Brain to Books is inviting readers from across the globe to join us again, for the 2018 Brain to Books Cyber Convention and Book Expo.

Benefits of an online expo include:

  • No travelling
  • No costs to readers
  • The chance to discover some amazing indie authors, and books that you won’t be able to put down

Mark Your Calendars For:

April 6th-8th 2018

And Join In One Of The Most Exciting Online Events Ever!

Author Spotlight – Stephanie Ayers

Introducing Stephanie Ayers

A published author with a knack for twisted tales, Stephanie Ayers is the Executive Creative Director of OWS Ink, LLC, a community for writers and readers alike. She loves a good thriller, fairies, things that go bump in the night, and sappy stories. When she is not writing, she can be found in Creative Cloud designing book covers and promotional graphics for authors.

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

What can I say? I am me, and that is all I am. I’m quirky, weird.. I talk to myself. I have 8 children altogether, cats, dogs. I’m married. I met my best friend through a writing group who paired us up as writing partners and we started a writing community in 2015, and have grown into a publishing house more recently. I enjoy book creation from cover to formatting, and am currently more interested in designing than writing. I am a fierce football/soccer/basketball mom. and I decompress by reading, playing Oz: Broken Kingdom, or watching tv/movies. I am one of those “I like anything” types who listens to all types of music and reads all types of books. I am easy to get along with, suffer depression and anxiety, am diabetic and deaf, and very passionate about my friends and my family.

Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

I found myself to be fond of writing short stories vs the traditional novel. I like the brevity and the ability to turn the tables with unexpected twists. The 13 is definitely a book full of twisted stories. It began as a collection of soul collector type stories and turned into a different project as I hand selected each story from my library and polished them to a shine. It starts with my favorite poem, Soul Survivor, and moves to a camera with ill intent, a haunted house, an electric chair, supernatural creatures, evil pixies, gypsy magic, ghosts, and a serial killer or two. it’s hard to narrow down the characters as they are all lively on their own, but perhaps Mr. Worthington , Logan, and Abigail are 3 of the best. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

Who is your intended readership?

This particular book is definitely intended for an adult readership, and one that loves horror, macabre, and good twists. This book has a little bit of everything wicked in it, from stolen children, to sexual predators, to seductive ghosts, and much of everything in between. It’s definitely not a read for the squeamish or the easily frightened. If you’re not into horror, this is not the book for you. It’s well and above Til Death Do Us Part, as I have learned to let many of my inhibitions go in order to tell the story the way it deserves to be told. That said, there isn’t a lot of slasher type gore within the pages. They are more psychological terrors than anything else. A lot of What If? and real possibilities went into the creation of these stories.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I wrote my first story in 3rd grade. The teacher read it aloud to the class as an example of how stories should be written. This definitely made me write more. Life got in the way for a while and I stuck to mostly poetry writing in my late teens through my 20s. When I became a single mom, the writing took a backseat. It was not until 2010 when I started my blog that writing became a thing for me again, and when I wrote my first story for the first time in forever via The Red Dress Club writing group, my soul was complete.

Do you have a favorite author, or writing inspiration?

I don’t have one favorite author, I have several. Stephen King is an author I read a lot of as I grew up, and he has probably had the most impact in my writing style. I also love Terry Brooks and his Shannara series, Tolkien with the Lord of the Rings, both of whom play a role in my fantasy writing. My current favorite reads are from indie authors like Andy Peloquin, EC Jarvis, John Ryder, and A.L. Mabry.

What advice would you give beginning writers?

“The blank page is the canvas on which a writer paints a story.” Stephanie Ayers. “A single letter cures the blank page.” Stephanie Ayers.

Do you have any amusing writing stories or anecdotes to share?

I used to run a blog called The Scoop on Poop. The premise was a humorous look at the daily life of my family as a special needs mom with kids in a large age gap and coparenting.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies?

I am passionate about suicide prevention. As a former suicide candidate myself, and mother to a suicide candidate, and after losing a beloved friend to suicide, it is one of my highly passionate parts of my life. The other parts I am passionate about are my graphics and my family. Wanna meet my momma bear? Mess with my family.

What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

While I am busy reworking websites, creating book covers, and formatting books, I am also working on getting book one in my fantasy series The Master of the Relics ready for editing. I need to add the finish to Elven Games, and finish writing my novella, Say Say Oh Playmate. And then, I have another story collection I want to put together titled Cheap Thrills. I keep busy, but it’s the only way I stay sane.

The 13: Tales of Illusory


Can you survive all 13?

13 enchanted horrors. 13 spine-chilling tales. Down down in the depths they fell, bodies in the dark of a liquid hell. Can you survive all 13?

Buy Now: Paperback, E-Book

Author Pages:

Amazon, Smashwords

Where to find Stephanie Ayers:

Website (Stephanie Ayers: word whisperer, coffee guzzler, creative ninja), Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook

Storytime: “Shade’s Shadow” by Assaph Mehr

I should not have been out that night.

I knew better, or at least I should have.

There are three unlucky nights in the year. Three nights where the stone slabs over the mundus cerialis stood open. An ancient tradition, whose reasons were forgotten but its ritual strictly adhered to, dictated that the stone doors to this hemispherical pit located in a declivity near the temple of Ceres be opened on three nights — even though they represented the gates to the underworld.

A night with the doors to Dis wide open.

A night with — according to custom — the shades of the dead free to roam about.

A biting November wind was chilling me to the bones. I was limping home from a rather nasty assignment, involving some of society’s undesirables, an orphan, an enchanted signet ring, and several pig carcasses. I wasn’t planning for it to go that way or for that long, but it did — and now I had to make my way home across the deserted city. The cruelest master would not risk slaves out on this night. Even stray dogs slunk away to their hiding holes, and the sliver of moon hid behind grey clouds.

I made my way home as quickly as I could in my battered condition.

I took shortcuts.

I made a wrong turn.

I faced a blank wall at the end of an alley, and had to turn back. At the opening of the alley, silhouetted against the sky, was a half-translucent grey shape. It advanced upon me, and I retreated the few steps I could. It advanced further, closer, closer.

I started to mutter prayers to all the numina I could think of, promising offerings if I lived to see the morning.

It stopped three paces away from me.

It raised its grey arm.

It reached with its grey hand to its grey mouth, and pulled out the coin that tradition dictated should be used to pay the ferryman to Dis.

“Payment,” it croaked, and reached out its hand with the coin towards me.

I stared at it, dumbstruck. The night was clear of clouds, and the stars twinkled above us. I could make out the shape of the shade. It was that of a woman, young, well dressed, high class — or at least wrapped in a rich woman’s funeral shroud.

I found my voice at last. “To guide you back to the mundus?”

“No,” it croaked again. “Revenge.”

***

By noon, I had almost convinced myself it was a dream. Almost – because the coin was sitting on my table, the profile of a long dead consul showing his disdain at my vacillations.

I went over in my mind about the details. I tried to avoid exactly how it felt when the shade of the woman — Licinia — had imparted this information, and concentrated on the facts.

The time was about fifty years ago, well before I was born. Licinia was just married to a senator’s son, part of her father’s political alliances. According to her, marriage was a short, brutal, hell. It ended when her husband strangled her one night, during what would have been referred to as rape were they not married.

She wanted me to bring him to justice.

A fifty year old case, with nothing but the say so of a dead woman’s shade.

And to complicate things, I knew the man.

Not personally, no. But I knew of him.

Just like everyone else in Egretia, I knew him.

He was a famed rhone, former consul, and current censor. Doesn’t get more famous than that.

After fifty years, there was no way I could find evidence to tie him to her murder.

Neither could I bring him to court for it, because as paterfamilias he was within his rights to treat her as he liked. Even kill her.

Which apparently he did.

But that coin, and that voice, and the memory of those haunting, luminous eyes in the grey face…

***

I had two options. I could try to bring him to formal justice — on Licinia’s behalf or any other charges that might get him exiled or executed — or I could exact a more direct revenge. Public humiliation in the courts would have been ideal, but I doubted my chances of successfully bearing suit against him.

I decided to get his measure first. ‘Start with the slaves; always start with the slaves’ was the advice I got from an old mentor. I found his domus, situated high up on the slopes of Vergu, and lurked about. There was plenty of traffic coming in and going out of the house. The hour was early afternoon. Slaves and freedmen were finishing up their errands and returning, messengers were going back and forth, and even some respectable citizens and minor dignitaries — no doubts clients of the master — were still coming and going.

I was munching on a squid-on-a-stick bought from a nearby stall, considering whom should I approach first, when I saw a muscular man come out of a side gate, pushing ahead a wheelbarrow containing some old sheets. He was accompanied by a slender girl, a slave as well by her short tunic. They never spoke, never looked up, just trudged along, slinking on the side of the street.

I have no idea why, but I felt a chill as they passed me. I was drawn to follow them, and I did. We walked down the mountain, the slaves leading in silence, and me following behind. They reached the Porta Alta, the gate in the city walls on the road that leads up Vergu. A short distance later they took a small track that branched left and led down the hills and towards the Fulvius river. It has fallen into disuse over the years, the majority of human traffic going through the city streets. They quickened their pace, and though the path was broken their steps were lighter. I had the impression they were glad to be away from other humans.

I kept a respectable distance as we walked, though they seemed to care little. When we reached the flat grounds closer to the river, I was not surprised they were not interested in any of the small gardens, minor estates, and occasional trade post that lay outside the sacred perimeter of the city. They kept going, avoiding people, heading to the river. We reached the Pons Mors, an old wooden bridge, with a foreboding name to match its history. They crossed it and started to trek up the hill toward the sacred hill of Libitina, where the records of the dead and the graves of the poor were.

They made their way to the lye pits, where unclaimed corpses are discarded. I took out a writing wax tablet I keep to take notes, quickened my steps, and got to them just as they stopped next to an open pit.

“Excuse me!” I said and put my hand out. The girl recoiled as if I struck her, while the man pushing the cart froze completely.

I softened my tone. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just need to ask you a few questions.”

“Please, domine — my dominus instructed us to be quick about our task,” she answered without lifting her eyes.

“That’s alright, I just need a name and cause of death for our records,” I waved the wax tablet.

“She was called Victoria,” said the girl.

“Grand name for a slave.”

“Our dominus likes to name us after the gods.”

“And the cause of death?” I asked and flipped over the rags covering the body in the wheelbarrow.

And immediately wished I hadn’t. A short, curvy girl. Long, brown hair framing a face out of which brown eyes stared out unblinking, never to see again. The slave girl didn’t answer my question, but the scars were obvious. The poor girls has been whipped over the years, certainly, but that was not what finally killed her. On her fair skin I saw the same scars as I’ve seen before at military sieges, though these looked deliberate. She was slowly and repeatedly scalded by hot oil, the red burn scars snaking around her young body as someone flung the oil at her time after time. Her legs from the knees down looked like they have been boiled in the oil. I could not imagine the workings of a twisted mind that would do such a thing to a defenceless girl, though I would guess he was getting off by savagely attacking symbols for gods.

“And who shall I write as brought her here?” I asked after I covered the body back with the rags.

“He calls me Concordia. He said I am next,” she said without lifting her eyes, or showing any emotion.

***

It was almost a month later, when I had everything in place. On the start of the last nundinus of December, on the day and night we celebrate the mythic woman Acca Larentia for having nursed the three brothers who founded our city. This winter celebration is on the side of the ending year, and thus most offerings are for the dead.

I made her my own offering in advance, all as prescribed. I asked her a favour, to speak on my behalf with Dea Tacita, the mute one, goddess of the dead, for they share the same festival day. This matter concerned the Dea Tacita, for it was the shades of the dead girls that were denied their eternal rest, but I was not so rash as to apply directly to the mute one.

I had to organise things carefully. I had to coincide any ceremony I would carry out with general festivals, so as to hide behind the noise of public magia and escape notice of the Collegium Incantatorum. Understand, the times where everyone sacrifices for the gods, even when the magia is not properly directed and the public ceremonies are bordering more on superstition than on real incantation, still provide me enough background noise to mask any dark deeds.

On the celebration of the Larentalia the censor was invited to be present at the rites carried out just outside our walls, on the wide ledge where funerals are held. This was one of the progression of special events marking the end of the year. A necessary ceremony, to propitiate the numina, and ensure that a new year will start after the intercalaris, that countless period over the winter between December and the beginning of the new year on the first new moon of the spring solstice.

I was standing to the side of the sparse crowd of citizens, further up the slope and away from the city. The censor, resplendent in his white toga with wide purple stripes, the brass buckles on his crimson shoes flaring with the last rays of sunlight, was standing at the centre of the row of dignitaries as befitting his position, with a look of boredom and disdain that betrayed true feelings.

When the rites were over, I uttered a small incantation and spoke his name softly. The wind sighed, and carried it to his ears alone. He turned his head. Behind me, two girls — one dressed as Diana and the other as Fortuna — disappeared quickly behind a bend in the road. He stared at me for a moment, shook his head, and turned.

I signalled the girls, and spoke the incantation again. As he turned, the girls looked up, laughed, and ducked back behind the rock. I walked towards him, slowly, keeping my eyes locked on his, letting the crowd wend their way down the hill and leave us alone. He stayed, mesmerised, looking at me and the tantalising visions of girls in goddesses costumes peeking behind me, and dismissed his retinue with a wave. The men around us hurried down, before full darkness set in.

By the time I reached him, we were alone.

“I’ve heard you’re in the market for some slave girls. Particularly ones that know how to dress up and act like goddesses,” I said.

He stared at me for a moment, licked his lips, and said, “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

“I have a young woman to sell. Well read, cultured, pretty. Her father was forced to sell the family into slavery to repay a gambling debt. Can recite Andronicus and Terentius. Likes to dress up as Diana the Huntress. Give her a bow, and she’ll look just like a temple statue.”

My sources and hunches were right, for I could see him waver. “I have her right here for you. You can check her out, sample her… recitation skills. It won’t take a moment.”

He followed me. We went just around the bend. “Just in here,” I pointed at a shallow recess. He just wasn’t expecting me to hit him on the side of the head with a leather pouch full of sand as I turned to show him the way.

I caught him as he collapsed.

I tied him down, with special leather tongs that have been inscribed with sigils marked by teeth.

I laid him neatly in the recess.

In the centre of a circle drawn in blood and bones.

We waited for the moon to rise.

He woke up.

He threatened.

He pleaded.

Threatened again.

Cried.

The waning moon finally sailed past the peak of Vergu to light our little hollow on the western side.

I chanted the necessary prayer. I made the right sacrifices. I gave it direction and focus, beyond mere superstition, yet without the callous hubris of an incantator channeling the magia.

I stood back.

We didn’t have to wait long. Deeper shadows amidst the scree shifted, morphed, advanced. With halting movements, in bursts that seemed always to be at the periphery of my vision, shadowy figures drew closer.

Until finally they resolved themselves into human shapes, rising from the rocks to stand around us. Against their grey skin I could make out the luminous yellow eyes, the webbed hands, the sharpened teeth.

They looked at me unblinkingly. I spoke the last words of the prayer, promising the Dea Tacita that which was hers, and backed away.

Their eyes shifted from me to the gibbering censor in the centre of the circle.

And descended upon him.

Beyond the circle of writhing bodies, I saw the grey shape of Licinia, looking emotionless at her killer being killed.

I took out the coin from the fold of my toga, looked again at the face of a long dead consul. I balanced it on thumb and forefinger, and flicked it above the circle and over the grey lemures at Licinia.

She caught it deftly, placed it in her mouth, and began to fade away.

I could almost hear a faint ‘thank you’ over the sounds of ripping flesh and crunching bones.

I turned away, and made my way down the mountain, back into our city and its lights, towards the nearest cup of wine, hoping that Licinia would now find peace across the river Styx.

From the Author

Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learnt to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy – he whinged horribly when they dragged him to “yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling”, yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art.

He has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin.

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife Julia, four kids and two cats. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he’s writing – he seems to do his best writing after midnight.

Where To Find Assaph Mehr

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Blog, Website

Book Spotlight – “Horror Haiku Pas de Deux ” by A. F. Stewart

Book Blurb

In the shadows—voices.
Calling, screaming, moaning.
Countless tongues telling tales…
of Hell
of Monsters
and Unnatural Things

Come chase the dark words, fall into the spell of terror and sit with the poetic weaver as you watch the world burn. Horror Haiku Pas de Deux is a volume of poetry mixing horror with haiku and verse to chill your bones.
Poetic beauty lives forever with the undead.

Buy Your Copy Now! Paperback, E-Book

From the Author

A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being epic or dark fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author she’s published novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction.
She is fond of good books, action movies, sword collecting, geeky things, comic books, and oil painting as a hobby. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories.

Where To Find A. F. Stewart

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Blog, Website, Newsletter