Tag Archives: The Sword and The Rose


Out of the Darkness is a full-length novel consisting of 66,565 words. This Mystery Suspense with Romantic Elements story contains murder scenes some readers may find upsetting. However, it is a story that will keep you on your toes, making you wonder what happens next.

The idea for this tale first entered my head in 1994. Although I had written the initial draft I was not happy with it to submit to a publisher. Over the subsequent years I would revisit the story and make a few changes but never of any magnitude to warrant  confidence that the book was ready.

Of course, being a writer the enthusiasm of creating stories didn’t stop just because the first novel was, in my opinion, not good enough. That same year I began writing my second novel which I assigned to a pen name ‘Louise Roberts’. This too was a full-length novel, but a historical romance entitled “Beneath Southern Stars” [e-published on Smashwords]. A year later I began a non-fiction history book that would take 10 years to complete.

From that time to this, I have written three full-length novels, a non-fiction history book, five historical romance novellas, and several short stories, as well as some poetry. You’ll find most of them on this blog.

Despite writing so many different genres, my first story was never forgotten. When I arrived in Southern France in 2016, the change of pace and locality gave me the courage to tear it apart and start again. I should have done so years ago.

In truth, I expect that since creating my other stories, and having editors advise on how to improve them, my craft of writing has had the opportunity to develop and grow in strength.

It is with pride and great pleasure therefore, that after so many years, Luminosity Publishing LLP has today released Out of the Darkness in digital format. The novel is to be released in a paperback version on May 15, 2018.

The book can be obtained from various sites as well as Amazon:




The Mark Lander Chronicles – Book 1



From the depths of darkness, a cry of distress leads Mark Lander from a world of violence to a place where romance awaits . . .


It’s January 1994 and it is proving to be another hot summer in Sydney Australia. During the early hours, lonely in his thoughts and strolling along the shoreline at Freshwater Beach, Mark Lander, a war correspondent home on leave, is distracted by cries of help from the surf and wades in to rescue a swimmer in distress.

Unbeknown to Mark his courageous action will make him an unsuspecting champion in the defense of the rescuee, Robyn Shelly. Inquisitive by nature, a requirement of his chosen profession, he teams up with his best friend, Detective Sergeant Jim Sanders. Their respective investigations will pull them deeper into a world of violence and mayhem.

Despite his personal emotional anguish, Mark finds himself captivated by Robyn’s beauty and gradually falls in love with her. However, although he gladly accepts the unexpected friendship, will the trials still to come dash any hope of romance and eventual happiness . . .?


RLB – Tomewriter


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Sensual Liaisons: The Sword and the Rose Collection


Cover Design by Dusktildawn Designs and Luminosity Publishing

All original artwork by Dawné Dominique and copyright remains with her.


Sensual Liaisons: The Sword and the Rose Collection by Louise Roberts is a paperback that is to comprise of books 2, 3, and 4 of The Sword and the Rose Series.

So that these three great e-books can be available in print, Luminosity Publishing has incorporated them into a paperback.

The book is due for release on 15th April 2017 and can be purchased through the usual distributor channels such as Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Luminosity Publishing’s own website.

Although there had been plans for three more books in the series it was decided that it was time to end the Spanish 17th century saga after book 4.


Louise Roberts will now concentrate on her “Romance in War” series comprising of different stories set during World War II.

Book 1 – Letter from a Stranger is set in London during the Blitz was published by Luminosity Publishing in June 2015 and is available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble.

Book 2 – Dragoon Serenade is set in the south of France during the three weeks leading up to the Allied invasion of Operation Dragoon on 15th August 1944. Although this book is completed it is currently awaiting publication.

Book 3 – Balor’s Landing is set on the tiny island of Toraigh [Tory] off the Irish coast of county Donegal starting in September 1944. This book is Louise’s current work in progress, with four more books planned after this one.

In addition Louise is considering starting other adventures with new characters set during the 18th century but at this stage she won’t give anything away as to where and when those characters will emerge.


RLB – Tomewriter

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Time for an update

Apologies to my followers for the long silence, but things in my personal life have been a bit unsettled of late and there hasn’t been much time, let alone enthusiasm to do any writing.

The reason for this has mostly been to the fact that my day job as a contractor at Kimberly Clark was coming to an end, and I had been frantically devoting as much time as possible in trying to find another job. Fortunately I have now scored a permanent role at Konica-Minolta so hopefully I won’t need to worry of an end date any time soon.

With the day job secured [a necessity as book royalties cannot be relied upon to make a living – unless of course you’re a famous author such as George RR Martin, Ken Follett, or J K Rowling to name just a few], I can now revert back to picking up where I had left off with my writing projects.

I have three books currently on the go; two novellas for Louise Roberts and a novel for me:

  • Passionate Harvest – Book 3 in The Sword and the Rose Series
  • Dragoon Serenade – Book 2 in the Romance in War Series
  • When Doves Weep – Book 1 [but is in fact the second book] in the Mark Lander Chronicles.

When I say that When Doves Weep is the second book it’s because after I wrote Out of the Darkness which is listed as Book 2 in the Mark Lander Chronicles I thought it would an idea to write a prequel to allow my readers to find out where Mark Lander, and Mark’s best friend Jim Saunders come from. The prequel also introduces the second of Mark’s closest friends, Chris Hardaker who will become a prominent character in the two subsequent proposed books in the series [Nightsafe – scheduled for 2016 and Guardian Angel – scheduled for 2017].

Having said that though, at present my creative juices appear to have dried up and I can’t seem to get into any of my works, apart from dabbling in a couple of hundred words here and there. Luckily, though, on the 21st of this month I shall be heading to Melbourne for the two-day 2015 Romance Writers of Australia Conference. I have enrolled to attend several workshops that I hope will kick-start my creativity again:

Saturday 22nd August

09.30 – 10.30                      How to Plot A Page Turner

11.00 – 12.00                      How Stories Work

12.00 – 13.00                      Scene Diagnosis

14.00 – 15.00                      Not another Sex Scene

Sunday 23rd August

11.00 – 12.00                      Deep Editing

12.00 – 13.00                      Media Boot camp

14.00 – 15.00                      Fact into Fiction

Somewhere in between the workshops I will also be pitching my novel Out of the Darkness to three publishers [put it this way, I have submitted my pitch appointments, I just now need to receive the designated time slots]. Even though this latest novel is written in my own name rather than Louise Roberts, and even though I have placed it into the genre of Crime Fiction, this book does contain romantic elements and as such I believe it could be included in the Romance Genre as well. I hope it will be well received – I have only had one book published this year [Letter from a Stranger] so it would be a great morale booster to get the opportunity to get another published in 2015. In truth however, even if I was lucky enough to score a contract for it, because of the long drawn out editing processes the book might not be released before 2016. Anyway… fingers crossed I say, one never knows how things turn out.

Regardless of what happens to Out of the Darkness, I am hopeful that the two romance novellas I am currently writing will have been picked up by a publisher or two by the end of this year which is when I am aiming to finish them both. Although there are no guarantees in life except perhaps taxation and death I am confident that whether they are published or not I will be moving on to starting the next two novellas planned for each of the series.

I have decided that the series will have no less than 4 books each; what happens after that will depend on how successful or unsuccessful they are. For now therefore the series will consist of:

Under the name: Robert L J Borg

The Mark Lander Chronicles

When Doves Weep – Book 1 [WIP]

Out of the Darkness – Book 2 [Completed]

Nightsafe – Book 3 [In Planning Stage]

Guardian Angel – Book 4 [In Planning Stage]


Under the pen name: Louise Roberts


The Sword and the Rose Series

The Sword and the Rose – Book 1 [Published by Secret Cravings publishing – 2014]

Embrace Amidst Orange Blossoms – Book 2 [Published by Secret Cravings publishing – 2014]

Passionate Harvest – Book 3 [WIP]

Lady from Seville – Book 4 [In Planning Stage]

Romance in War Series

Letter from a Stranger – Book 1 [Published by Luminosity Publishing – 2015]

Dragoon Serenade – Book 2 [WIP]

Neptune’s Landing – Book 3 [In Planning Stage]

Warm Nights in Alex – Book 4 [In Planning Stage]


What happens after I complete these projects is anyone’s guess. My son Brad believes I should try something new, such as fantasy or science fiction – I’ve told him to write me a premise of a story and I’ll ghost write it for him, but to date he hasn’t come up with anything. I am tempted however to use him [or his name at least] and his faithful German shepherd as a crime fighting team of the 24th century in outer space – ha ha!!

As we authors always say – “don’t mess with a writer as you will never know what they might do to you in a story”.

Meanwhile however there are books to write so I had best get on with it… it’s no point keeping the ideas locked in my mind: I have to share them.


RLB – Tomewriter


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Moving On To The Next Book…

With The Sword and the Rose all done and dusted and happily selling… yes a few copies have been sold already. I received my first statement from the publishers last weekend to show the total sales for April. Considering the book hit the distributors on the 29th April the tally for two days’ sales were okay – not brilliant; but it’s early days.

Now it is time to be moving on to the next book…

Embrace Amidst Orange Blossoms has gone through all the editing stages and I’m just waiting for the final copy for sign off.

No rush to receive it though as I have been given the scheduled release date: 26th June 2014.

However I expect it should arrive soon so that the Publisher can have the book available for anyone who wants to pre-order.

Then once this is out for sale I should be able to resume with the other three projects which I had placed on hold.

Looking forward to picking them up again as I have been a bit slack lately ignoring them whilst spending too much time on Facebook.

RLB – Tomewriter



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The Sword and the Rose is released!


The Sword and the Rose is released and is now available at:

Hoping you enjoy the read…

RLB – Tomewriter

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The Sword and the Rose – To be e-Published April 2014


The Sword and the Rose will be e-published in April 2014 by Secret Cravings Publishing and will be available at Amazon.

Copyright 2013 © Louise Roberts

Brothers, Iago, the Sword, and Ferdinando, the Rose, return from a sea voyage. On their arrival home, Ferdinando proposes marriage to Margherita, who refuses in the hope Iago makes a similar offer. He does not. Instead Iago departs to fight a war. And disappointed Ferdinando travels to Naples to study law.

Margherita is sent to her sister, Isabella, in Valencia. She is introduced to a potential suitor Don Ramón de Cabezon. When her brother, Miguel, arrives to fetch her to Cullera, Ramón kills Miguel.

On Ferdinando’s return to Spain Margherita relents and a romance blooms but she will not commit to marriage until her brother is avenged. Only when Iago comes home that the brothers find justice for Miguel.  During a banquet, Iago announces he will marry Margherita. Ferdinando is enraged leading to an illegal duel. There can only be one winner and victory comes at a very high price…

RLB – Tomewriter


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I expect it’s because I have yet another cold at present which has got me thinking about doing things differently or should I say revising my priorities.

I had decided I would be putting book writing on hold for a couple of months and concentrate on my blogs whilst I await on the fate of The Sword and the Rose and To Embrace Amidst Orange Blossoms.

Although I have every intention to write Out of the Darkness and Affectionately Yours… I think I may be putting these two books on a back-burner for a while.

The reason being that I have had a re-think… and a re-prioritisation of what to write.

When my mother published her memoir in 1997 she said she had regretted naming it When the Wind Blows. One of the reasons was because the author James Patterson had released a best seller at the same time with the same title [Barnes & Noble rating 4/5 and Goodreads 3.9/5].

The main reason however was her unmovable love for the Nile. As children growing up in London in the late fifties and sixties all we ever seemed to hear was reminisces of her life in that far away land.

Some time ago Mum came up with the idea of re-writing her book with a revised title; but now in her late 80’s and suffering from macula degeneration the likelihood of this happening is next to zero. As a loving son and author in my own right, I hope to allow her achieve this ambition by re-writing it on her behalf.

I agreed to do so on one condition. Mum had used fictitious names for the characters in her book. This being a memoir of her life experiences I see no reason as to why the true names should not appear, especially now as so many of them are deceased. This book would then be a tribute to their memory as it would be for my father’s as my mother had intended.

The only other change I may make is to add photographs where appropriate [always assuming I can find them – mum had a clear out of these not too long ago and I fear many memories have gone to some landfill project]. The rest of the book will remain unchanged except in the Preface where references are made in the present [for we are now in the 21st century] and will be presented in the same manner of the original book.

Ever since mum wrote her memoirs the book has been in high demand; unfortunately as she only printed a limited number of copies many people who would have loved to have read her story never got that opportunity. It is hoped by re-writing it as a soft copy initially it may allow greater distribution. When it is completed I will be sending it on her behalf to various 3rd Party Publishers in the hope they will pick up the option to turn this good book into a great one.

As of today Exiled Children of the Nile will begin to take shape. I hope I can do it and my mum justice.

RLB – Tomewriter


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How Long Does One Wait?

Back in the 1990’s when I first started writing my non-fiction history book and my novels I was disappointed when doing the rounds of Literary Agents and Third Party Publishers I began getting “knocked back” by every single one of them in Australia, England, and even the USA.

For years my manuscripts were “lost” in a box in a cupboard until last year when I decided to upload them onto soft copy onto the computer. One by one they got done.

The first of them was “Beneath Southern Stars” – the 2nd novel I had written. I hesitated about approaching 3rd party publishers again, but then thought what have I got to lose? I should have known better… After the 3rd rejection I said “sod it!” and self-published it through Smashwords.

I did the same with my non-fiction history book: “Smithy’s War” and children’s fiction book “To Tell Three Tales” – both also published through Smashwords.

With my Mum’s novel “A Tangled Web” and our poetry anthology “Poetic Whispers” I didn’t even bother attempting 3rd party publishers – you could say by then I was truly disillusioned by the game and just self published as with the others.

However, as much as I have sold copies of every book – not all to friends and/or family: in fact the majority of my friends and family haven’t even bothered to download the free samples let alone buy a book! – A self-published author is not regarded “published” unless he/she has signed a contract with a third-party publisher.

I hope in time this narrow-minded view will change, but for now whilst the big corporations hold the monopoly and power over Independent publishers we have to grin and bear this stupid stigma.

My Novel “The Sword and the Rose” when I initially wrote it in 1999 had taken me two years to conduct all the research needed to turn this story into a Historical Saga.

How it came about was when many years ago my father’s elder brother, Edwin, told me a story of how our ancestor came to arriving on the island of Malta in the early 1500’s. It seems he and his brother had an argument which flared into a duel. The brothers lived in Valencia, Spain and as duelling was an offence punishable by death the young men fled. One was captured and hanged. The other changed his name and arrived on the island of Malta to start anew.

In a way therefore I have my uncle to thank for my version of how my ancestor came to being on Malta. The difference being is that I begin my story some 100 years later.

Having invested so much time on this saga consisting of over 100,000 words and, as I believe, it is a lovely story [perhaps even romantic – there certainly are romantic elements in it] I decided to go against my gut instinct and submit it to a 3rd party publisher.

My first choice was Allen & Unwin [not sure why I picked them – perhaps because they might have been one of the smaller publishing houses appealing to my nature] but as per their guidelines stated after 3 weeks it became apparent they weren’t interested. I moved on to the next one.

Harlequin said they would review manuscripts between 8 – 12 weeks. I submitted the manuscript in full as per their submission guidelines in mid-May 2013. The deadline approached at the same time as the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Fremantle during August. It was also my birthday weekend and I didn’t want to spoil it with another rejection so I let it well alone.

During the conference, which incidentally was sponsored by Harlequin, I raised the question of waiting times for manuscript submissions with Sheila Hodgson, Senior Editor, Harlequin Mills & Boon UK. She confirmed it would be 90 days but emphasised that agented material or previously contracted authors would receive priority.

When I returned from Fremantle I sent an enquiry email to Harlequin and was told they were still to review my work as they had an exceptional back log.

Fellow authors [who I also list as friends] told me that I have no loyalty to publishers and should submit it to others at the same time. Personally I dislike multiple-submissions as I feel as though I am being dishonest in some sort of way. But having waited some 4 months without an answer, I approached Momentum Publishing. Their guidelines advised that if I didn’t hear within 30 days then they were not interested.

As they did not get back to me either, I took it as punishment for having submitted it whilst I hadn’t heard back from Harlequin. Being honourable I emailed Harlequin at the weekend just gone [5th October 2013] and told them that as I hadn’t heard back from them that it was obvious they weren’t interested and for them to withdraw my submission to protect my copyright.

I received the following reply:

Hi Robert,

We have not yet reviewed your manuscript, and I really apologise for this. We are trying to get through hundreds at the moment, and because we want to make sure we properly consider each submission, it is something that is taking an unprecedented amount of time.

We understand that you may want to submit to other publishers, and we have removed your submission from our system.

Thank you, and we wish you the best of luck!

This response only seemed to strengthen my suspicion of what Sheila Hodgson had said in August that agented material or previously contracted authors received priority and hence pushing my work to the bottom of the pile.

So after five months I pulled the plug on them… stupid? Maybe, but then how long does one wait for a third-party publisher to say whether or not they want to take on your manuscript?

The manuscript has since been submitted to another publisher. I shan’t name who as I don’t want to tempt fate.

Meanwhile however, I have also submitted my romance novella to a 3rd Party Publisher – their waiting time is allegedly 2 weeks. I will wait three before moving on to someone else…

The joys of writing AND publishing…. why do we do it?

The answer to that is simple: because we love it!!

RLB – Tomewriter

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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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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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