Monthly Archives: September 2013

Spring Holiday – Day Eight… Last of the land mines!!

Well it’s finally here – the last day at Wyoming. Tomorrow morning I shall be setting off home – for the last day of my holiday [I shan’t have time to blog Day Nine and will save it for the weekend, when I hope to add photos to the other blogs of the holiday].

It has been a busy morning cleaning: the deck furniture, the screen door, and the bathroom. I attempted to clean the windows yesterday, but that Coles Window Cleaner [Smart Buy] is a waste of money. Perhaps it was the cloth I was using or maybe because the windows were exceptionally dirty, but they’ve come up a bit smeary – so I’m not too impressed.

I nipped out to the shops [what again… I hear you say] as I had a few little things I had to do for myself, but also to buy a birthday cake and a bottle of sparkling wine as it’s someone’s 30th Birthday tomorrow.

Sandra and I shall be taking him to lunch at the Banjo Paterson Cottage Restaurant in Gladesville. I’ve booked the table for noon. If you live in Sydney [or visiting] and haven’t been there yet, and you would like to dine somewhere very special, then I can certainly recommend this place. I was there last March and the ambiance and views were beautiful and the food – excellent: http://www.banjopaterson.com/

Afterwards we will head back via Berowra so he can pick up his car to drive home. We shall follow on behind so we can share in the cake and wine – and besides we can’t leave Riggs out of all the celebrations!!

Changing the subject and reverting back to today; I tried out the high pressure cleaner properly. Unfortunately it did not remove the mold from the gyprock panels of the house, but I then tried it on the drive way and paths at the front of the house and it worked beautifully. It even managed to shift a huge oil stain from the car port. I may take it home with me to use to clean up the oil stains his car has made of our communal driveway [the neighbours are up in arms – I mean the driveway is breaking up and looks absolutely shabby, yet they’re whinging because of a few oil stains].

For the last time, I cleared the back garden of Riggs’ land mines. Of all the jobs I have done at Brad’s during this past week this was one job I could have done without doing. Unfortunately, it’s not the dog’s fault, and it’s not really fair on him to not clear up the mess.

On a happy note regarding my novella it is: Finito, Fini, Finished… at just over 19,000 words “To Embrace Amidst Orange Blossoms” has been completed. Now the fun starts with fine tuning it…

I hope I will have good news if and when I can get the novella published.

Also, I will try approaching a couple more publishers for my historical saga: “The Sword and the Rose” as it is looking very unlikely that neither Harlequin nor Momentum are interested as I haven’t heard back from either of them yet.

I am determined to have it published one way or another so unless a third-party publisher takes it on before year-end, I will be self-publishing it on Smashwords in time for Christmas.

For now however I shall sign off and would like to thank you all for following.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Spring Holiday – Day Seven… Annoying bird

It must be spring as that most annoying bird is back. The Common Koel [scientific name: Eudynamys orientalis] Click on the link and check out the bird call – you’ll recognise it straight away if you live in Australia: http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Eudynamys-orientalis

Mind you I currently also have an annoying dog who keeps barking because he’s not getting any attention.

Who said Sunday is a day of rest? Obviously whoever it was doesn’t live in Wyoming on the Central Coast!!

I have tried to have a relaxing day, apart from planning to finish touching up the paintwork in the bathroom. I set off at around 9.30am to do yet more shopping. On my return a neighbour from across the streets asked if I could help resolve an issue with his front door. No Problem – nothing longer wood screws couldn’t fix.

Then after finishing off the painting which took less than an hour I spent a fair bit of time with Riggs, just soaking up the sun on the back deck and throwing a yucky, slimy ball.

At 4pm I decided to write-up today’s blog; no sooner had I started that Riggs started his barking, and then the phone rang. It was my elder sister calling from France. We had a nice chat.

Continuing with my updates on the progress of my novella; I’m well pleased at having finished last night on 300 words short of 19,000. I am confident it will be finished tonight and then begins the editing stage.

When I’m finally done with it I shall ask for a couple of volunteers to be the first to read it to give me their honest opinion. A word of warning before you volunteer – the “blush” factor is extremely high on this book: it’s definitely not for kids.

When I was at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Fremantle last month I approached a couple of editors if they would be interested in viewing the novella. Both agreed, so as soon as I feel the book is ready I shall send it through to each of them and hope for the best.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Spring Holiday – Day Six… Rosmarinus Officinalis

An utterly lazy day today – I can honestly say I don’t feel any guilt whatsoever. Although I didn’t get up too early, I certainly didn’t sleep in either. I was off home to spend some time with Sandra [my wife – for those who have just started to read my blog].

After breakfast I headed out and down the F3 – sorry I should say the M1 Motorway – because the Road and Traffic Authority in their wisdom have decided not to confuse us motorist with the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway a distance of 127.1 km (79 mi) that has been known as the F3 since the early 1960s. One wonders how much this exercise has cost in changing all the road signs, when the money could have been better spent in repairing the blasted roadway instead!!

Getting off the soapbox now… I arrived in Berowra at around 11.30am. Had a cup of tea and a chat, and then we set off to the pub for some lunch. She had a very nice John Dory fillet, whilst I opted for the chicken breast stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes. The food has certainly improved at the Berowra Tavern these last few months – new chef??

Afterwards Sandra stopped at Civic Video and hired a few movies to watch over the weekend. By around 3pm I was back on the motorway going back to the Central Coast and once there I drove to Bunning’s to purchase a plant to replace a dead one which is on Brad’s front deck. As it was necessary to find a plant which likes full sun and has fragrant foliage I chose a Tuscan Blue Rosemary. It got planted as soon as I arrived – one less job to do tomorrow, which is going to be full on.

Even though I finished painting the bathroom last Wednesday, these last couple of days I’ve noticed bits which got overlooked. I will therefore need to touch up these oversights or there will be no doubt a few comments made… Then there’s shopping to do: it never ends!! And I still need to finish my novella.

I think I was being too optimistic yesterday when I hoped to add another 2000 words by Monday night. Last night I spent most of the time re-reading what I had written so far and made a few changes. I then did some more writing but I didn’t hit the 500 word target [only half that amount]. As for tonight, as I am writing this blog I don’t know whether I’ll get much more of the novella done, although I’ll give it a go; besides I need to have my Candy Crush fix!!

RLB – Tomewriter

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Spring Holiday – Day Five… Dog Hair and Fish & Chips!!

Friday already – my goodness where has the week gone?

The holiday is almost over and although I have not stopped being busy around Brad’s house, apart from a couple of hours or so on the computer a day I haven’t really had a “break”.

So today was going to be a day for myself, and in a way it turned out to be if only for a few hours.

As much as Riggs is a short-haired German shepherd it’s the molting season [all year round for him] and his hair seems to be everywhere. I have been “closing my eyes” to it all week, but I couldn’t stand it any longer. So today armed with the vacuum cleaner and a broom I got to work and cleaned the place of hair, dust, and a few cobwebs thrown in. I’ll do a better job of it on Sunday; tomorrow I’m going home and spend some quality time with my wife.

I left Brad’s at around 10.30am and headed out to Terrigal – it was beautiful. Not quite a millpond, but close. I had a nice long walk along the front and did some window shopping, and then tucked in to some fish and chips enjoying the wonderful vista.

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Lunch with a view

I finished off with an ice cream before heading back to the car.

From Terrigal I went to Erina Fair for a few necessities, especially chicken necks for Riggs. Tonight however he will be having steak – I bought him a juicy portion of rump [visions of Shirley Valentine spring to mind – for those of you who have seen this brilliant movie you’ll know what I mean!!].

I wasn’t able to get all I wanted – too bad; there’s always another day. By then I was hot and bothered and all I wanted was to get back and have a cold beer.

The one thing I am pleased about though is that last night I managed to surpass my minimum target for my novella: I finished on 18,064 words. I am now aiming to write another 2,000 over the next four nights [Friday-Monday] – fingers crossed the creative juices will flow freely for me to conquer this target.

Meanwhile it is almost 5pm so I had better give you know who some of my time…

RLB – Tomewriter

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Spring Holiday – Day Four… RATS!!!

Early start today – 6am: As usual let the dog out and made a cup of tea. I stood out on the deck to play with the dog – minus ball: destroyed yesterday and I threw out the remnants.  Then I got myself ready in anticipation of the electrician’s arrival. At 7am there was a knock on door – Yippee!!

Stuart and an assistant electrician arrived [apologies if he’s reading this, but I’ve forgotten his name]. They professionally replaced the heater/fan/light in the bathroom – looks really nice, and replaced the broken power points in the laundry. I then told him of the hassle with the high pressure cleaner and the dodgy light fitting in the outside toilet. As he tested the wiring it became apparent the problem was with the loo. Every time the light switch was flipped on it tripped out the mains. There was nothing for it but to pull out all the wiring.

Before Brad had purchased the property the house had been allegedly renovated. Some of the neighbours we had talked to after he had moved in had said the builders must have arrived on horseback packing six-guns!! I was trying to be polite, but there is no other way of saying they were a bunch of “Cowboys”…

The saga today only strengthened my feelings for them. When the electrician tried to remove the cover of the light switch he found the door frame had been fitted over it!! Only one thing for it – the frame had to be cut so they could get access to the light switch… Oh Boy!! What a find!! Where you expect to find only one wire from switch to light and extractor fan [as there is no window], there must have been a dozen or so!!! I could see Stuart wince at the sight as he needed to check every one of them to find out which was causing the tripping out. I felt sorry for them what was thought would be a simple job was turning into a nightmare. Worse, I couldn’t even make them a cup of tea or coffee as there was no power to the house as we had unplugged all the appliances so he could carry out his tests effectively and efficiently.

Using a smart little gadget – a TV camera at the end of a probe with a light and backing into a handheld receiver/viewing panel Stuart fed the gizmo into the opening where the ceiling light was. He could see something was not right. Getting my permission he cut through a section of weatherboard [the house is entirely constructed of weatherboard with tile roof on brick piers as it is a sloping block] to reveal the wiring. The pungent odour of vermin urine hit his nostrils nearly knocking him off the step-ladder. Every wire had been stripped bare – hence the shorting every time the light was switched on. It’s amazing it hadn’t happened sooner – Brad’s been in this house at least 4 years. It’s also a blessing that Stuart wasn’t able to come Monday as he was able to fix this really nasty problem. In the end it was safer to replace all the wiring in that section. It would be left up to me to fix the gap.

All tested to their satisfaction and wire cut offs cleared away it was time to pay the bill. Considering all the work they did and that they were on site for over two and a half hours I thought $456.50 was money well spent. At least I know the house is safe from faulty wiring. There have been too many house fires in NSW recently some due to faulty wiring.

In all this time poor Riggs had been locked away in his room for his own safety and for the peace of mind for the tradesmen. One never knows how the dog might react, but more so with doors open here and there, there was a danger Riggs might have bolted. Had that had happened Brad would never have forgiven me.

He was so grateful when I let him out, and when I gave him some dry food and clean water with ice cubes I got my faced licked when I put the bowls down.

I had to go shopping as he is running out of food and I wanted to get some more DIY products including some Ratsak. In the end, I never put the rat poison in the gap where the wiring is [underneath the kitchen] for Riggs’ sake. Even though it would be well out of reach, I thought perhaps if any rat does eat any of it some may spill to the ground and as Riggs is rather partial to anything blue it could have lethal consequences; so best to be safe than sorry. I fixed the gap by using some wire gutter guard and stapling it to the wooden surrounds. It’s only a temporary measure until I can figure out how to properly repair it at a later date.

Anyway, as I had no breakfast I stopped at MacDonald’s for brunch, and then went onto Coles to do the shopping. Guess who’s got a brand new ball?? Mind you, you have to laugh at these pet toy manufacturers. Vita Pet claims the product is:

  • “Boredom Breakers for persistent chewers”
  • “Tough and durable”
  • “They could play for hours”

At $12 one would hope the ball would last for a few days at least. They haven’t designed a ball tough enough for Riggs!! He’s only had it a few hours and it’s almost completely destroyed…

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Riggs and the new ball

He’d been asleep when I started typing this at about 3pm – it’s now 4.30pm [my mum rang from France and I spoke to her for 30 minutes. He’s now getting grumpy so I’ll pick this up a little later on. Almost finished anyway – Riggs is so demanding!!

It’s 8.25pm and it is Rob’s time for some well-earned R & R. Riggs has had his puppy milk, done a wee and is now in bed so I can have some peace. It’s a shame really that the only time he will sit with me quietly chewing on his toys is when we are outside. For some unknown reason known only to Riggs he will not replicate the exercise indoors with one exception. He will come in, sit on his “indoors bed” and chew on a treat courtesy of Schmackos, but once finished he gets restless and walks to the door to be let out. With Brad around he is totally different and gladly comes in and stays calmly – weird!!

Enough about the dog; as for me my I had every intention last night to knock off another 500 words on my manuscript, but I didn’t realise how tired I was. I made the mistake to get onto Facebook, had a game of Candy Crush and then went to bed at 9.30pm [too early for me normally] and uncharacteristically slept through to 5.30am this morning [I usually wake up at least two or three times in the night] – the joys of getting older.

Although I could go on with this and no doubt bore you all further, I’m signing off and will head back in time to the 18th April 1622 aboard the Santa Theresa and find out what my hero and heroine are getting up to. When I left them the other day they were standing side-by-side at the stern quarterdeck enjoying a glorious sunny day whilst he implied his love for her…

RLB – Tomewriter

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Spring Holiday – Day Three… Who’s counting!!

Don’t know why but woke up at 6am with a thumping headache – felt like I was having a hangover: if only that was the reason…

My only conclusion to it might have been as a result of constantly switching glasses from reading to distance several times yesterday. It could also be due to the heat but I doubt it. I need the reading glasses for close work, such as the computer or painting. Initially I had the distance glasses for driving, although these days I’m finding them a necessary accessory. So to save the hassle of constantly switching I had multifocal lenses put in to my old frames, which is fine at the best of times; but as I said for constant close work I must have the reading glasses… Jeez I just read this back: My life must sound really boring…

On the other hand I have to fill up this blog somehow!!

Nice day in Wyoming today – very hot indeed: at least it helped the paint dry quickly. I’m pleased to say [and I expect you are too] I’ve finished the painting. It doesn’t look too bad. You don’t have to take my word for it – when I get home next week I’ll upload the before and after photos and you can decide.

 

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               Before                      &                      After

I suppose if I don’t make my fortune with my novels I could become a decorator… or here’s an idea why don’t I write about the do’s and don’ts in how to paint a bathroom??

On the subject of my writing I’m well on the way to achieving the target I set for myself which was 18,000 words minimum. Last night’s effort helped me reach 17,600 words. Looking forward to tonight as I know I’ll have hit the target.

Anyway, today so far has been a bit of a lazy day; apart from finishing off the painting, playing with Riggs, a bit of gardening and general tidying up outside I haven’t done much else. Oh! And it is bin collection day tomorrow so had to put the bins out – isn’t my holiday exciting!! And the most exciting of all was to don some rubber gloves and armed with a small spade and two plastic bags [one inside the other] I went around the back garden in search of land mines. There were enough to fill the bag!!! The worse of it is I did the same exercise Monday afternoon; I’m beginning to wonder if Riggs is the only dog in the back garden.

I know what you are thinking – why doesn’t he take the dog out for a walk: If only I could… Alas, Riggs is far too powerful for my dodgy hips and I’m not as strong as I used to be. I’m certainly not like any of the hunks my fellow romance writers’ show on their book covers! Unfortunately, Riggs never attended any puppy training classes. Even though we offered to pay for it, Brad was adamant the dog didn’t need it as he is fine with him. But what about the times when you’re not around Sonny Jim?? Oh Well, we make do. Fortunately it is a large back garden and Riggs gets exercised of sorts when I throw the ball for him. Might not be ideal but it’s the best I can do. Pity really, because right now I would be taking him to a beach somewhere for him to have a bit of fun instead of him pacing the deck restlessly because I’m typing and he’s bored!!

Fingers crossed the electrician arrives tomorrow. He’s done loads of work for us in the past so I don’t really want to use anyone else [for any locals reading this: Stuart Millington Electrician of Berowra – he does good work and is reasonable with his charges].

That’s it from me. Even though it’s only 3pm I’m off to play with Riggs and then much later I’ll be back on the computer to write more of my novella and expect to play Candy Crush on Facebook…

RLB – Tomewriter

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Spring Holiday – Day Two… Kids!!

I did tell you I was on holiday? It is now 4.30pm and I’m absolutely knackered.

I began early… ish; letting the dog out and letting him sort himself out in the garden. Whilst I made a cup of tea, he sat patiently at the door with his trusted ball in his jaws.

How could I not oblige? With cup of tea in one hand and soggy ball in the other, I played with Riggs a little while before getting set to attack the bathroom. Donning my old clothes – kept especially for decorating jobs I armed myself with brush, roller, paint, etc.

Switching the radio on and twiddled the dial until I found some reasonably pleasant music to keep us both entertained. Of course Riggs wasn’t too impressed after 30 minutes or so of being ignored and having spotted me at the bathroom window, which overlooks the back garden, he began to bark rather annoyingly. I did try to tell him to be quiet as he was drowning out the music, but to no avail. I put down tools and brought him in to show him what I was up to. I asked him if he liked the colour, but I don’t think he was too impressed – did I hear him mumble it clashed with the blue of his ball…

He won as always, not that I’m changing the colour – I may change his ball though!! I needed a small break anyway; at least for 5 minutes. Back to it for another hour until the first coat was done. Standing back it looked nice.

I went out to Bunning’s again to purchase a 4 in 1 heater/light/extractor fan as the one in the bathroom is defective – the extractor fan has never worked; and it’s been one of those jobs which keep being put off. However as the electrician is coming on Thursday  I thought I would take advantage of his presence and get the job done.

Hello… the neighbours down the valley must be home… the music is at full blast: At least its good old Rock and Roll… it could have been some head banging rubbish then I would have been forced to close the door and switch on the air conditioning.

The other thing I did when I returned from the shops was to assemble a high pressure cleaner which Brad had asked for at his last birthday [2012], but despite the “have to have” urgency of it has remained in its box unopened – Kids!!!

That done I went back to give the bathroom a second coat of paint. One hour later it was all done – Hooray!! Tomorrow I’ll paint the window and door frames.

OK… let’s test the cleaner. Connected it all up to hose and electrical socket in the front garden only to find the tap connector has a leak – sod it!! And guess what of the two taps in the back garden one was broken and the other not compatible with the tap at the front!

So disconnecting all from the front I moved to the back, but not wanting to risk Riggs getting in the way of the high pressure in case anything went wrong, I decided he should go into his room out-of-the-way. Riggs however had different ideas. Then began the chase around the garden until I managed to corner him and forcibly showed him the door. Not an easy task when the reluctant chap weighs in at 50kgs… Much to his disgust and repeated barking of “Let me out” I attempted the high pressure hose test again.

  • Water all connected – check.
  • Plugged into the electrical socket – check
  • Release safety on trigger – check
  • Switch on – hooray we have lift off!!

It worked beautifully. Disconnected everything and put all away then released the hound…

Feeling guilty at having locked him up, I spent some time playing ball with him. Not too sure if that is a correct terminology: he chews the ball stripping bits of it and spitting them out; every now and again he’ll make a mistake and I manage to grab it and chuck it for him to run after. In 48 hours he successfully managed to utterly destroy one ball; he’s now started on another…

By 2pm the worms were biting having had no breakfast [I forgot]. Went to the fridge but the light wasn’t on when I opened the door – odd I thought. Looked at the microwave and the clock was definitely not on… Now What!! [Or words to that effect]. Went out to the meter box and the safety switch had tripped out – the only thing I can think which might have caused it was the high pressure hose. I’ll get the electrician to take a look at it.

Lunch consisted of a cheese sandwich and some crisps [out of date but still edible]: oh! Did I say “Kids”?

Don’t get me wrong here, I love my son to bits, but there must come a point when even he must say: “I really should do a few things around the house” – here’s hoping things might change when the next milestone is reached next Tuesday: hard to believe where the years go… as he hits 30!!

It’s now 5.30pm – time to sign off and watch Hot Seat. I’ll get back on the computer later and do some more work on the book. Last night I managed to reach 17,000 words. Only 1,000 more to hit my target. If I can go beyond all well and good, but it all depends on where the story goes and if my characters want to hang develop it further – it’s up to them: they can decide if the story is finished or not.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Spring Holiday – Day One…

Am currently on leave – Hooray!! Need a break – if you can call it one though… I’m house and dog sitting for my son whilst he’s away relaxing in Melbourne [until Thursday] then he flies up to Cairns. Lucky Sod!!

Meanwhile I’m decorating his bathroom from a yucky green to a sky blue; in fact it’s called: Blue Passion. The door and window frames will be painted in Hot Pop Blue; should cheer it up a bit. In between all this I’m taking advantage of the break to play with Riggs, the dog, and do some writing.

I was expecting an electrician this morning. He told me he’d be there at 7.30am. So to be ready for him I got up at 6am; had a cup of tea and played with Riggs for a while before giving him some breakfast whilst I went to get showered and dressed.

By 9am and still no-show from the tradesman, I phoned and left a message on his voicemail. He phoned back about 15 minutes later; it seems he forgot to book my job in. He’s now coming on Thursday instead. Actually the forecast for Thursday is 30*C so when the electrician is finished I’ll be off to Terrigal to enjoy the sea air and perhaps some fish and chips – yummy!

But today I’ve done the preparation work before the painting; did a bit of shopping: paint, weed killer – think I’ll do a bit of gardening whilst I’m here , frozen TV dinners, and ice cream: Well I am on holiday!! As I walked past the BBQ chickens I couldn’t resist buying a half of one for my lunch in a bread roll. Of course when I got home, I was persuaded by those large sad brown eyes to part with some of it… which he devoured with gusto. He is now pacing the deck like a caged lion wondering when I’ll stop hitting this keyboard to go out and play with him.

He did this to me yesterday and as always I don’t have the heart to ignore him for too long. In the end I abandoned any idea of work on the book until I put him to bed. I then worked for a couple of hours on the novel before retiring myself at around 11.30pm. I expect this is how the week will pan out.

I don’t mind just as long as I can get to finish the novella by the weekend. At the same time I have been researching for my next project. Still keeping to a historical genre although unlike my previous novels which are set in the 17th and 18th centuries, this one will be played out during World War II. That’s all I’m prepared to mention at this stage.

Well, that’s it for today – ball throwing waits for no man!!

RLB – Tomewriter

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Ramon’s Dream

As I wait to hear the verdict on my manuscript “The Sword and the Rose” from the two publishers whom I have submitted it to, I am in a bit of a dilemma about a particular scene in the book. It is a dream sequence of one of my minor characters. I say “dream” though perhaps in truth it more of a nightmare as he re-lives a traumatic event from his past.

Ramon might be a minor character but his presence in the story has a dramatic effect on the life of the heroine and later influences the behaviour and future of my principal hero.

The dilemma I talk about is whether or not the “dream” should stay in the story at all. Since its conception I have removed it and put it back several times.

The last time I removed it was last year.  I then read it at the Writers’ Group I had been a member of during one of our many critiquing evenings. The feedback, criticism, and improvements to the scene inspired me to put it back in, especially after the group’s encouraging comments.

So the scene has remained as it gives the reader an understanding of the man’s behaviour and personality [a split one] in current times.

However I can’t help having doubts at its importance.

I am including it in this blog for your entertainment; I shan’t give too much away as to why the nightmare has come about, tormenting Ramon’s soul.

I welcome your comments – good or bad; which might help me decide whether it stays in or finally comes out before the book is eventually published…

Extract from “The Sword and the Rose” Copyright © Alexander Grant 2013

The dungeons were dark, save for an occasional taper fixed to the walls which burnt a dull yellow flame. Despite the dampness and cold within the depths of the castle, Ramon was extremely hot. The palms of his hands were sweating profusely as he passed his sword from one hand to the other; occasionally patting his chest to make sure his concealed dagger hadn’t fallen from his coat. Her pleas for help were faint, they seemed to emanate from somewhere ahead of him, but the gloom only allowed him to see his immediate vicinity. There were scratching sounds as rats, disturbed by his presence, scurried on their way.

Behind heavy iron doors, some which seemed as though they had sealed themselves from having not been opened in many years came inhuman cries of anguish from forgotten prisoners. Ramon wondered what they would be like; how long had they been there? What had been their crime? Perhaps they had become diseased from living in total darkness around their own excrement. Its smell was already filling the passageway in which he walked, making him want to constantly retch. Their clothes, if they had any to begin with, would have become rags, or even disintegrated to nothing. The cold on their naked flesh would make them constantly shiver. They would be filthy, riddled with fleas and lice; their teeth, if they still had any, would be rotten as would their gums. They would have lost their ability to communicate with men, having only rodents and insects as companions. In a short space of time they would become insane, and then finally beasts until death freed them from their anguish.

Ramon shook his head; why was he here? What in God’s name possessed him to come on such a perilous venture? He knew, in his heart, the answer before he had even asked himself the question. Somewhere in this maze of despair was his one true love…his betrothed…Paola.

His thoughts raced about in his head like a jumbled up mass of information, which he was desperately trying to sort out before the inevitable confrontation with her captors. The Infidel was renowned for his brutality to Christians. He remembered as a child the stories his father would tell him of the battles his own father had fought. At Lepanto, when the ships of the Holy League challenged those of the Turk, men boarded each other’s vessels for fierce hand-to-hand combat. The Infidel would swing his mighty scimitar, a vicious weapon which would shatter a normal rapier in one blow, and cut a man in half in another. Only incredible skill, superior Spanish Toledo steel, and God’s love would ensure survival against such odds; fortunately, his grandfather had been blessed with all three, and survived to recount the tale.

All Ramon knew was, that for someone as young as he, he should not have been there. Perhaps if the ship they had been travelling on had not encountered a storm and run aground on the coast of North Africa he would not now be in this position. But he was, so it was pointless speculating. The only thing he could do was find Paola, and then try making their escape.

He had been sent to Gran Canaria to see the land where his father had been born; and to visit his uncle and the rest of the de Cabazon family. His uncle, Don Alfonso de Cabazon, was extremely wealthy, owning vast plantations. He was well-respected and carried much influence in the community. It was he who arranged a match for Ramon, deciding he should become betrothed to Signorita Paola de Tristao, the only daughter to one of his dearest friends, a man wealthier than he.

Paola was bright-eyed, with a golden complexion, and a year older than Ramon. They had taken to each other on first meeting, and spent all their days together. When it was time for Ramon to return to Spain, Paola’s parents decided to make the journey to meet Ramon’s parents and arrange the marriage of their children.

Ramon remembered seeing Paola’s father struggling to reach his wife and daughter as they were swept overboard by a monstrous wave which had crashed over the ship. Moments later, as the vessel began to break up on rocks; he too seemed to disappear beneath the waves as he slipped over the side. Whilst desperately holding onto some flotsam for buoyancy, Ramon could see Arab tribesmen clambering down the cliffs slaughtering any male survivors and carrying away the women and anything else of value which had been washed ashore.  Not wishing to fall victim to the Infidels’ blades, Ramon paddled a small distance though trying not to lose sight of them. He dragged himself ashore, and followed the tribesmen to a castle which was located practically on the cliff’s edge. To avoid detection, he had smothered his flesh with dirt to disguise the colour of his skin, and had stolen some cloth from a nearby dwelling to wrap around him. Through luck, more than anything else, he had managed to penetrate the fortifications, until he found himself in the depths of the castle itself.

Now as he drew closer to where he believed the women to be, he could hear their screams and whimpers. They were obviously being tortured, abused and raped. Ramon steadied his nerves as best he could, afraid of what he might find. As he spied through a doorway, he was right. Many of the women had been stripped bare, they lay on the floor shivering from fear and cold, weeping as the tribesmen, also stripped, took turns in having intercourse with them. Ramon’s blood was enraged, but what could he do? He was merely a fourteen year old youth with a sword, against two dozen ruthless killers.

In the dim light of the chamber, he could just make out Paola leaning against a wall looking wretched, but thankfully appearing still untouched. During the whole time he watched, which seemed hours, yet only a few minutes, the tribesmen where shouting abuse and spitting at the women, whilst intermittently laughing – no doubt enjoying their work. When one of the tribesmen seized Paola by the hair with one hand and tore off her clothes with the other, exposing her delicate body, Ramon lost all reason. He burst into the room yelling abuse, swiping and thrusting his finely tempered steel rapier at the women’s assailants. He worked his way towards Paola until he was finally stopped by one of the Arabs. He was a monster of a man, built like a human wall. He must have been over six-foot tall, and seemed to be just as wide. He stood naked before Ramon; his skin shimmered from perspiration in the torch-light. With one hand grabbing Ramon’s sword arm, and the other around the boy’s throat, he lifted the youth several feet in the air, before throwing him forcibly across the room, where he fell heavily against a wall.

“You think you save women?” someone shouted in broken Spanish.

“Perhaps he wants to have the women?” another comment was made, followed by laughter.

The giant had stomped across the chamber, stepping over some of the slain men to where he was lying. This time the sword was taken from him, and its point pressed against Ramon’s own throat. At the sound of a voice booming over the incessant chatter of the men who were demanding the death of the youth, the sword was quickly withdrawn, and the room fell silent.

Ramon could barely make the speaker out as he stood in the shadow of the giant. Suddenly the big man stood aside. Looking up at the new arrival revealing him to be a tall man, and although his skin was dark, did not appear to be Arab. He was dressed in European attire, and had a haughty demeanour suggesting nobility of some kind.

“I admire your courage, although such a brave act is also an extremely foolish one.” The man said in excellent Spanish as he approached Ramon.

“Who are you? Why do you allow this to happen?” Ramon replied, sweeping his arms, gesturing at the scene about him.

“It is how we deal with spies.”

“They are merely women who have been unfortunate to be shipwrecked in this filthy land.”

“Then you are a spy, perhaps?”

“I am no spy.”

“It is of no consequence; you shall suffer their same fate.”

Ramon quickly scampered to his feet, threw himself at the man, knocking him over, and sitting astride his chest, pressed a small dagger, which he had been concealed in his coat, against the man’s throat.

“Release the women or you die.” he shouted.

There was some movement near him, and Ramon pushed the blade harder into the man’s skin, this time drawing blood. At that, the man shouted something in Arabic, and slowly his followers backed away.

“You have made your point.” he told Ramon cautiously, “what do you want?”

“Release the women and give them safe passage to Spain.” he demanded.

“Remove the blade from my throat, and we shall talk.”

“Why should I trust you?”

“You have no other choice that is why.”

“But I do, I can kill you.”

“And you and the women will all die horrible deaths.”

Reluctantly Ramon dropped his hand. Instantly the leader jumped to his feet, pushing him into the grasp of the giant. The man shouted an order, and all the women were ushered out of the chamber. Ramon was never to see any of them again. The giant dragged him to a wall, where iron chains were secured to his wrists, and his face against the cold rough stone. He wriggled violently trying to free himself, but only succeeded in causing his wrists to bleed as the rusty metal cut into them.

“Such a heroic act, for what?” the man scoffed. “You have achieved nothing.”

“I have killed some of your filthy men.” Ramon spat defiantly, “and I have freed the women.”

“For the men you killed, it is of no consequence. As for the women, all you are aware is they have left this chamber, only I know their fate.” he laughed callously. Still laughing, he issued some instructions. The giant approached and ripped off all of Ramon’s clothes.

“Now you will pay the price for laying your filthy Spanish hands on my person.”

Before he had even finished speaking, Ramon felt a sharp pain on his back, as a lash fell on it. He bit into his lip, drawing blood, rather than give his torturers the satisfaction of knowing his anguish. After the tenth blow, he lost count and consciousness.

A shower of cold sea water was thrown on him. The salt mingled into his open wounds causing him to cry out from the piercing stinging. The chamber was silent, and Ramon tried to look around to see if he was alone, but a large hand grabbed his head, pushing his face hard into the stone. He then felt his legs being forced apart, followed by an excruciating pain in his anus. At first, Ramon could not understand what was happening, then, as he could feel the presence on the giant close to him, the smell of his foul breath, and the stench of his body odour, it dawned on him what was happening. The realisation the disgusting man was raping him, made him vomit profusely, much to the pleasure of the other tribesmen who were watching, patiently awaiting their turn.

The constant abuse of his lower regions seemed to go on for an eternity. He no longer felt pain, just a kind of dull dumbness overwhelmed his broken body and he prayed in earnest that his misery would soon end. As though his devotions were answered, the shackles were removed from his wrists, and he slumped gratefully to the floor, tears running down the cheeks of his face. He was then picked up and slung unceremoniously over someone’s shoulder, being carried to where, he did not know nor did he care. All he could see in the dim light were stairs, lots of them, as he was taken upward. Then there was daylight, the storm had not abated. He could feel the rain beating down on him, like thousands of needles pricking his flesh, and the fierce wind sliced into the open wounds on his back making him wince. He closed his eyes tightly wishing away the nightmare. Without warning he sensed weightlessness, a sudden rush of air about him…….he was falling. Ramon willed himself to open his eyes in time to see the surf crashing on the rocks below, coming closer by the second.

He screamed………..

RLB – Tomewriter

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