Spotlight: ARIADNE, I LOVE YOU + Excerpt, Author Interview, Giveaway




by J. Ashley-Smith

RELEASE DATE: July 20, 2021

GENRE: Dark Fantasy / Horror



Jude is dragged out of Alt-Country obscurity, out of the dismal loop of booze and sadness baths and the boundless, insatiable loneliness, to scrub up and fly to Australia for a last, desperate comeback tour. Hardly worth getting out of bed for—and he wouldn’t, if it weren’t for Coreen.

But Coreen is dead. And, worse than that, she’s married. Jude’s swan-song tour becomes instead a terminal descent, into the sordid past, into the meaning hidden in forgotten songs, into Coreen’s madness diary, there to waken something far worse than her ghost.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


“She told me she wanted a cat,” Ben said. We were in the kitchen of his Newtown terrace. The windows were steamed. Ben’s glasses, too. He reached into the pot with a slotted spoon and teased out a quill of pasta, tested it, pulled a face.

I was perched on a stool at the breakfast bar, beneath a rack of dangling pans. Ben uncorked another red, raised his eyebrows and waved the bottle in my direction. I nodded and knocked back what was in my glass, held it out for him to fill.

“And she banged on and on about it, wouldn’t let it go. You know what kids are like.”

“I can imagine,” I said, but was only half listening. Since I arrived that afternoon, Ben had talked about nothing but parenthood, the quirks and foibles of this or that offspring. I stifled a yawn between pressed lips, washed it down with another glug of red.

“Anyway, I was this close to going down the shelter and picking one out, when I twigged: it wasn’t a pet she wanted, it was a cadaver.” Ben tasted the sauce, started laying out bowls for us and the girls. “I said no, of course. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere.”

“Is this all since . . .” I couldn’t bring myself to say it. We hadn’t yet spoken about Coreen.

Ben shook his head. “Nah, Margot’s pretty much always been a dark one; ‘scientific,’ she’d call it. The bones thing started with a wombat skull she found last time we were down the train. This kitchen’s been like a mortician’s lab ever since. We’ve had birds, rats, lizards, all stretched out on the chopping board to be skinned and dissected, the bones boiled clean. I’m not even sure they’re all dead when she finds them.”

I pulled a face, hoping it conveyed the expected emotion. I’d caught a glimpse of Margot’s room on my last piss stop. The velvety purple walls, the gleaming bell jars, the displays of mounted animal skeletons and antique taxidermy. It was more like a ghoulish private museum than an eight-year old’s bedroom.

“Couple of months after I shut it down, she came home with something in a plastic bag. It stank, and flies were buzzing.” Ben shook his head again. “Our neighbor’s cat had been hit by a car and Margot scooped it out of the gutter and brought it home. Christ, what a mess! I had to help her disembowel it, and the bloody thing was so big we had to go down the hardware store for an industrial-size pot.”

I glanced over Ben’s shoulder at the pot on the stove, wisps of vapor curling from the rim.

“The kitchen stank for weeks. And I still can’t look the Habibis in the eye.”

“Is dinner ever going to be ready?”

Peg erupted into the kitchen, a five-year-old whirlwind of strawberry-blonde hair and rainbow tie-dye. She seemed to explode out of another dimension, where standing still was a capital crime and every object on the floor a stepping-stone. I scooped up my bag and put it on the stool beside me.

“Just serving now,” said Ben. “Go tell your sister.”

Ben laid the table and invited me to sit, spooned pasta and sauce into the bowls, garnished all but one with some chopped green stuff. He was just tearing the bread when Peg burst back in, Margot walking stiffly behind her.

My heart stopped when I looked up and I prickled all over, like I was seeing a ghost.

Margot was the mirror image of her mother, but at the same time not like her at all—a waxwork, both identical and wrong. Her hair was the same midnight black, but unlike Coreen’s it hung in a straight, neat bob. Her skin had the same powdery whiteness, but on Margot it looked ashen, almost consumptive. And the thought of Coreen in a starched white blouse and old-style charcoal pinafore was absurd.

In two details, though, she was completely identical, and it was these that held me dangling over the pit in my own stomach. Her mouth was pulled down at the edges in a frown that I knew would express both amusement and displeasure. And her eyes—

I realized I was staring and flicked my gaze around the walls, as though Margot was just one piece in a gallery full of other, more diverting exhibits.

She looked at me without interest.

“You must be the one from Daddy’s band,” she said.

I ignored the slight, forced a smile. “The one and only,” I said. “I’ve known your dad since back in the day.”

“His name is Jude, Margot,” Ben said. “Peg. Fork.”

Peg’s head was tilted to one side as she shoveled pasta into her mouth by the handful. Her face, from cheek to chin, was slick with smears of bright red sauce. She looked at me and grinned, her wide-open mouth a grinder of tumbling, half-chewed food.

“I brought the old album.” I turned to Ben, though it was for Margot’s benefit that I said it; for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. “Thought it might be good for a listen.”

“Yay yay yay!” Peg went manic. She was out of her seat, stomping and jumping around the chair, food flying as she yelled. “The album! The album! Let’s listen to Daddy’s album!”

“You still with Mack?” Ben asked.

“Pretty much,” I said, protecting my glass from Peg’s flailing. “He crawled out of the woodwork fast enough when this show came up. Said he’d be over in a week or two, to crack the whip, take his cut.”

“You got anything on the way?”

“Nothing new. Though Mack was pushing for a Best Of to tie in with the show.” I shrugged. “Not going to happen now, unless he plans to burn them himself.”

Ben laughed, topped up my glass.

“I enjoyed your last one,” he said. “Couple of nice little numbers. Not a patch on Troubled Heart, mind. But you must’ve known that was a one-off; pure bloody magic from go to whoa. What was the single again?”

“‘Baby, Leave Your Man,’” I said, and felt my heart pound to speak those words aloud in front of Ben. “That was the big one.”

“With the harmonies? Bloody magic that one.”

Peg had forgotten about dinner, twirled round and round the table like a runaway drill. It made me tense and giddy, but Ben didn’t seem to notice. Margot watched her sister without interest, lifting penne to her mouth one quill at a time.

After dinner, I snuck off to the lounge while Ben and Margot did the washing up. I sat back on the faded leather couch, knocked back more wine, picked a tune on Ben’s old acoustic. I was thinking of Coreen and didn’t notice what I was playing until I felt the pull in my chest, the crack in my throat. I would have stopped, but Peg joined me then with a toy bongo, marched, yelling, round the living room, pounding the drum not quite in time to the music. I couldn’t bring myself to sing.

When Ben came in at last, I was knelt by the stereo, sticking on the CD. He picked up the case, had a laugh at the photo. The Böring Straights. Me and Ben and the others from the old band, all done up in black-and-white suits, half corporate, half Reservoir Dogs, trying way too hard to look rock’n’roll.

Ben tossed back the case and I looked down at it, realized I was stalling until Margot was in the room. I looked at my younger self, felt a twinge of something that might have been sadness, might have been just the hollow feeling of lost time.

I pushed play, cranked the volume. The opening bars of “I Wanna Be Incorporated” blasted out and Peg went nuts, full-on moshing round the room. Ben lay back in an easy chair, eyes closed, an almost-grin tweaking the edge of his mouth. I stretched along the couch with my feet up, half caught in the mistakes I’d obsessed over since the album was first pressed, half checking the others’ reactions. Margot was perched on the pouf in the corner with an unreadable expression.

As each song juddered to a stop or rang out in a squall of feedback, I found I was holding my breath, my right hand clenched into a fist. And my mind was clenched just as tight, second-guessing, as each new song started, what Margot would like about it. Or dislike. Trying to gauge, from the smallest reactions, what her feelings were for this thing I had created. Or whether she had feelings for it at all.

When she got up in the middle and left, I felt as though part of me had broken.

Author Interview:

1. What inspired you to write this book?
This story was conceived over many years – close on two decades – and was simmering away under the surface for much of that time, growing, evolving. The first piece of inspiration was the title (about which, more below). I wrote an early version of the story – a much, much bleaker version, with fewer characters and no supernatural elements – in my twenties, but didn’t finish it as it didn’t really work. But it bubbled away out of sight until I moved to Australia in 2006.

When we first moved here, my wife and I lived in a train carriage in the New South Wales bush. It’s a pretty desolate spot – in a beautiful way. Our closest neighbour was half a mile away, and the further neighbours completely unseen, unheard. I was alone there for a week, while Rosie went overseas, and for a few days of that week was completely freaked out – by snakes and spiders, by the isolation, by the dark. One night I was out in the dark and saw a light moving down in the gully, like someone walking around with a flashlight. Only there wasn’t anyone for miles. It terrified me. I didn’t think at the time, “This will work with that story.” But over the years that followed, the train, the light, that original story, and the music career I’d turned my back on shortly before I left England, all grew together, became somehow fused.

I don’t remember what triggered me to finally sit down and write the present story. I think it was just ready to be written.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
To trust completely in my instinct, that part of me that keeps churning away on an idea even when I’m not looking at it directly.

I did not have a clear direction for the story when I sat down to write it. I had a setting, a history, a central idea, and one or two scenes. I had the first chapter clear in my head, and I could hear the start of the second, knew that I wanted it to jump sharply and disorientingly in both time and place straight to unattributed dialogue. But that was about it. The rest was conceived in the dark of my first son’s bedroom as, night after night, I lay beside him trying to settle him to sleep. Lying there, not writing but thinking, imagining, I was stirring up the unconscious, instinctual mind, giving it license to mull on the story through the rest of the day. That was perhaps the first time that I began truly to trust what it came back with, and to just go with it.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
The character of Margot and her significance to the story. I don’t remember where the idea for her came from, don’t recall ever having had a sense of her outside the story. She seemed to emerge fully formed, a truly heartless child with a death obsession and a gruesome hobby. The realities of being mother to such a child became an important part of Coreen and what happened to her, and Margot grew to play a central, though veiled, role in the secret – possibly supernatural – events around which the story revolves.

4. What does the title mean?
As I mentioned above, the title came first – it was the seed out of which the whole story grew. It’s a quote, a ‘madness’ letter that the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote to Cosima Wagner, wife of composer Richard. Nietzsche descended into insanity in the last years of his life, and wrote a series of letters, wahnbriefe, to friends, to strangers, to royalty. The letter he wrote to Cosima read simply, “Ariadne, I love you!” and was signed “Dionysos.” The idea of a madness diary, and of an incendiary note sent from a brooding unrequited lover, became central to the story, all unfolding from this title.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
Simply, no. I never base characters on real people, not directly anyway. If people I know or have known ever appear in my stories, it’s as body parts, disconnected character traits, separate pieces pulled apart then put back together in Frankenstein’s monster form. Of course, it’s not at all as coldly scientific as that, and if I’m borrowing this or that trait or characteristic from a person, it happens at a level below consciousness.

Characters emerge for me on the page, they write themselves into existence and then simply are, as though they have always been.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
I tend to steer clear of moralising in stories. I like things to be morally ambiguous, open to interpretation.  If I was pushed to find a lesson in there, what would I say? “Smoking yourself to death is bad for your health.” Or maybe, “Careful what you wish for.”

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
Oh goodness, do I have to pick one? A few scenes are particularly resonant for me… Ben preparing dinner while relating Margot’s grim hobby. Jude’s discovery of the Place of Bones. Ben recounting, late at night, his version of what happened to Coreen. This last I like in particular because it shows another side of Ben, who seems throughout the rest of the story to be largely impermeable, always cheerful, unaffected – in a very British way – by misfortune. The scene shows what lies underneath that skin of positivity. It makes Ben very real to me.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Probably the narrator and protagonist, Jude. In some ways he wasn’t challenging – he had a very clear voice that emerged early as I wrote him; through the filter of his personality and experience, many scenes popped into sharp relief. What was hard was to make someone so fundamentally selfish, obsessive, amoral, inconsiderate; someone whose actions throughout the story are essentially reprehensible; someone, in short, who it is difficult to like; how to make such a person compelling enough, likeable enough, to endure a whole story with.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
Finishing all the things! I’m just putting the final touches to a short story collection, which includes two previously unpublished novellas. As soon as that’s wrapped, I’m moving on to the final revisions of a novel I’ve been working at on and off for the last five years. I’m very excited at the prospect of completing these two big projects, and look forward to bringing them into the world.

ariadne, I love you


J. Ashley-Smith is a British–Australian writer of dark fiction and other materials. His short stories have twice won national competitions and been shortlisted seven times for Aurealis Awards, winning both Best Horror (Old Growth, 2017) and Best Fantasy (The Further Shore, 2018). His novella, The Attic Tragedy, was released by Meerkat Press in 2020 and has since been shortlisted for an Aurealis Award, an Australian Shadows Award, and a Shirley Jackson Award.

  1. lives with his wife and two sons in the suburbs of North Canberra, gathering moth dust, tormented by the desolation of telegraph wires.

j. ashley-smith

You can connect with J. at, or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

GIVEAWAY: $50 Book Shopping Spree!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Book Blitz: Echoes of the Runes + Giveaway

echoes of the runes banner
Echoes of the Runes
Runes #1
by Christina Courtenay
Genre: Fantasy Romance


*** 2021 Romance Writers of America Vivian Award Finalist ***

Winner of the 2021 RNA Romantic Fantasy Novel Award.

‘Wow! This book should come with warning! It’s almost as addictive as chocolate!’ 5* reader review 

‘Fabulous. Highly recommended for fans of Barbara Erskine and Susanna Kearsley – and if you want a thumping good read’ 5* reader review

Brimming with romance, adventure and vivid historical detail, Christina Courtenay does for the Vikings what Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Clanlans does for Scottish history. This pacy, evocative and romantic dual-time novel is perfect for fans of Barbara Erskine. 

***Don’t miss Christina’s stunning timeslip novels, The Runes of Destiny, out now and Whispers of the Runes, available to preorder now! Search 9781472282682.*** 

‘Completely magical’ NICOLA CORNICK 

‘A rich, dual-timeline story that totally drew me in’ SUE MOORCROFT 

‘A fabulous adventure, with characters I loved!’ JO THOMAS

Their love was forbidden. But echoed in eternity.

When Mia inherits her beloved grandmother’s summer cottage, Birch Thorpe, in Sweden, she faces a dilemma. Her fiance Charles urges her to sell and buy a swanky London home, but Mia cannot let it go easily. The request to carry out an archaeological dig for more Viking artefacts like the gold ring Mia’s grandmother also left her, offers her a reprieve from a decision – and from Charles.

Whilst Mia becomes absorbed in the dig’s discoveries, she finds herself drawn to archaeologist Haakon Berger. Like her, he can sense the past inhabitants whose lives are becoming more vivid every day. Trying to resist the growing attraction between them, Mia and Haakon begin to piece together the story of a Welsh noblewoman, Ceri, and the mysterious Viking, known as the ‘White Hawk’, who stole her away from her people in 869 AD.

As the present begins to echo the past, and enemies threaten Birch Thorpe’s inhabitants, they will all have to fight to protect what has become most precious to each of them… 

‘Courtenay’s writing brings the past vividly to life, using dual-period narrative to brilliant effect’ Historical Novels Review

‘I was compelled to read on as I was caught up in the adventure, intrigue and romance of the dual timelines’ SUE FORTIN

‘Sparklingly authentic – and page-turning’ MAGGIE SULLIVAN 

‘Rich in Viking history…intrigue, adventure and romance’ GLYNIS PETERS 

‘Christina Courtenay weaves the threads of her contemporary and Viking love stories together expertly and the novel moves along at a cracking pace. The characters are appealing and the rural Swedish setting is engaging’ JUDITH LENNOX

Add to Goodreads

Amazon * Apple * B&N * Google * Kobo

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014) and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the Runes.  Whispers of the Runes (time travel published by Headline 24th June 2021) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).
Follow the blitz HERE for special content and a giveaway!
$75 Amazon giftcard OR Paypal

Spotlight & Excerpt: Prophecy of the Guardian + Giveaway

Prophecy of the Guardian banner anim

By J.W. Baccaro

Prophecy of the Guardian

Author: J.W. Baccaro
Publisher: JW Baccaro Publishing
Pages: 481
Genre: Epic Fantasy 


“Not darkness, not light, perhaps something in between, and is claimed by the darkness…as theirs. Though being saved by the light, that which is saved must in turn save the world…”

Darshun Luthais has never experienced the Nasharin Frenzy—the unbending will to challenge a stronger opponent, no matter the cost. He doesn’t know what he will transform into, has never bonded with an elemental crystal and has never seen any of the unearthly creatures his father talks about. Even though he’s an infant in Nasharin years, his life consists of nothing but constant training, striving to unlock the sleeping power his so-called accursed race is born with.

But all that changes when he is pursued by a Dream Assassin in the dead of night. What he witnesses will forever change his outlook on life and lead him on a quest only the strongest can complete.

This epic fantasy is action packed, all the way through. Definitely a powerhouse for fantasy lovers. It has plenty of dark magic, tons of bloody battles, and even some seductive tones.

The chosen one faces his destiny with tribulations that at times favor Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad. While reading I also felt it resembled Lord of the Rings especially due to its epic length. I can not stress enough how well detailed the story and characters are. Nothing is ever lost in the pages. The timeline is incredible and every aspect continues to build. Wonderful and fascinating!

It is involving, meeting the chosen one as a baby, watching him grow as a young boy into an adolescent, learning to fight, learning who he is, and learning to love. There are many secrets that unfold and characters to meet along the way. From witches to elves, to gnomes and trolls there is sorcery and magic around every turn. The creatures met along the way are descriptively colorful and incredibly likable. Even the darker ones! Well, there are some gross ones too as I think of it. You’ll see!

As a side note, the author does not hold back in his details of war and how brutal the effects are on the people and the land. He sets his world in a beautiful background, so exquisite and then details the destruction during bloodshed and battle.

I’m usually not into a lot of battle stuff. This series however carried so much with it, more than just a battle book. The action was absolutely a big part of the story and without it, the fantasy would not be the epic level that it is, of course! But, there is also the magical side, the mythical and mysterious wonderment. The creatures are so desirable and they stayed with me as I read the story. The colors of the world are so vivid. And actually the magical aspects are my favorite parts of all.”

~Cynthia Ellen Jones~  A Hippie’s Bookshelf: Reading, Reviewing and Bookish Vibes




Book Excerpt:


The clashing of swords began to fade as more and more men fell victim to the army of Asgoth. Outnumbered and outmatched, Asgoth had taken the peaceful city of Zithel by surprise. Human blood now painted the once beautiful infirmary gardens, vineyards, and cemetery orchards. Even the manmade fountain, where the people would cast in gemstones—a different stone for a different wish—now contained the heads of Zithelian fighters. The decapitated heads turned the water crimson as they bobbled within the pool.

Lord Adeleric and his wife remained trapped in the upper chamber of the tower, having no choice but to witness their people slaughtered. Heavy footsteps from outside of the chamber door neared as the enemy stormed up the stairway.

“Rosa, stay behind me!” Adeleric said, stepping in front of her quickly. “Don’t resist them. We may have a chance.”

“Are you sure it’s not our guards?” she asked.

He sighed. “…They’re all dead.”

Suddenly, what could have only been a dozen fists smashing against the door caused Rosa to scream.

“Stay calm,” Adeleric urged. “Let them come.”

The door was breeched and in rushed a horde of lizard-like men, each of them double the height of a common man. They looked around the chamber, seeing no other besides Adeleric and Rosa.

“You can have me,” Adeleric said.

“No!” Rosa begged, clenching his arm.”

He grabbed her hand and squeezed it, trying to reassure her. “You killed my army yet spared our young boys and girls. Spare my wife as well. Let her go and take me. Whatever it is you want of me.”

One of the lizardmen snarled, showing its teeth that dripped with a discolored saliva. It spoke in its own tongue to the others, and they separated. Six lined up against the left wall, the others against the right.

Around the corner and into the doorway stepped a woman. In one hand she held a staff, the other a decapitated head, swinging it back and forth by its matted and bloody hair. She stood at the entrance, smiling.

Adeleric cringed, recognizing the corpse’s face, one of the fallen guardsmen.

“This one especially wanted me to spare you,” the woman said. “His tone was desperate, unlike your other guardsmen. So, I ended his life painlessly.” She released the head. Striking the floor with a loud thump, it rolled off to the side.

The morning sun shined through the chamber window brighter now, illuminating the woman who had yet to move from the entrance. Adeleric got a better look at her. She was not dressed for battle, no protection except maybe her leather
boots.  She wore a long flowing purple dress with a thigh high split. Because of the split, and the way she was standing, her right black boot was exposed and dripping with blood; likely from the decapitated head she had carried. Slowly, she began to walk toward Adeleric and his wife.

“I noticed a working fountain outside,” she said. “Beautifully carved from stone, with an abundant number of gems sitting at the bottom of the pool. I do love gems.”

            “What do you want?” Adeleric said, clenching a fist.

“Your home is the highest point of this mountain. The only source of water flows at the base of this mountain, the Azriel River. So, I ask, where are you receiving your water source?”

“Water has always flowed here, coming from within, spouting upward. We utilize it for drinking and ornamental purposes.”

“Water doesn’t flow upwards, you fool. Not unless affected by another source. You have no such source. No higher elevations, no way to channel it. Unless of course it is by magic. Perhaps this phenomenon is due to Arabeth’s crystal—his water crystal.”

“I am not aware of any such crystal.”

She grinned from ear to ear. “I am, and one of the four resides within this mountain.”

“One of the four?”

“The crystals of power from the first age, lost at the end of the second.”

“I repeat, I… know…nothing!”

She stopped abruptly, now standing an arm’s length from him. Her icy breath and violet gaze caused him to shudder. “Are you lying?”

“…I am not. Do whatever you want with me. Just let my wife go, please.”

She turned to Rosa who had been squeezing Adeleric’s hand. She leaned in closer to her, staring into her fearful eyes.

Rosa turned away, cringing.

She ran a finger across Rosa’s cheek, her long black nail scraping the skin. She stroked her hair, sifting her fingers through the strawberry blonde locks. “So beautiful, you are, dearest Rosa.” Her eyes fixed on Rosa’s jewelry; earrings made from amethyst and spinel necklaces of blue, red, and citrine. “Your husband must feel blessed, to have been given such a woman of splendor. Surely, your deities have been good to you. I too am somewhat of a deity, a goddess. Queen Talvenya is my name—”

“Do not compare yourself to my Rosa!” Adeleric shouted.

Something like a shockwave passed through the room, slightly heating the air, and splitting a section of the wall. The lizardmen kept still. Adeleric noticed sweat dripping from their scaly brows, as if they were afraid.

“Your jewelry, dearest Rosa, give it to me,” Talvenya commanded.

Fearing for his wife, Adeleric stepped in between the two.

Casting a glare, Talvenya reached for his left shoulder. Gripping the cap, a cracking of bone brought a smile to her face, and a scream out of Adeleric’s mouth. Next, she forced him to his knees, pushing down on the fractured shoulder.

“Please stop hurting him!” Rosa begged, quickly removing her earrings and necklaces. She placed the jewelry into Talvenya’s hand. “Keep them. They’re yours.”

“I do love gemstones,” she said, smiling delightfully. She put the necklaces on and then the earrings. “Each one tells a story, just like the four crystals of power you claim to know nothing about.”

“I don’t. Please, leave my Rosa alone,” Adeleric begged.

“You’re awfully fond of your Rosa. It’s quite precious.”

“We grew up together—share everything together.”

She scoffed. “And that makes her special?”

“…Please, I am the one you must deal with. I am the Lord of this land.”

Talvenya pursed her lips. “Lord of what land, this pathetic little mountain top I so easily dominated?” She stepped closer to Rosa.

“Speak with me, I beg of you!”

“Oh, but dear Adeleric, you’ve already stated your ignorance of the crystals,” Talvenya mocked. She slid her hand down Rosa’s chest, pressing her fingers against her left breast and tearing the clothing with her nail.

Rosa quivered, keeping her head aside, avoiding Talvenya’s stare.

Your Rosa…” She smiled. “I’m going to kill her.”

Adeleric rushed at her. Talvenya smacked him across the cheek and he fell to the floor, smashing his face against the granite tile.

“Adeleric!” Rosa cried.

He stood, wiping the blood trickling from his nose. “Queen Talvenya, goddess, deity—whoever you are, don’t do this. I beg of you…”

Ignoring him, Talvenya placed a finger under Rosa’s chin, and lifted to see her face, smiling at those terrified eyes and cascading tears.

“I’ll do anything you command,” Adeleric pleaded. “I’ll search the mountain for you, will not stop until that crystal is in my hands—for you. Only, don’t harm my Rosa.”

She grinned. “Tell your husband to get down on his knees.”

“My knees?” Adeleric asked, before receiving another blow to the face from Talvenya’s open palm. This time, he cried out in pain as his body hit the floor once again, face-down. His cheeks were black and blue, swelled and bleeding, and his chest throbbed because of the hard tile he had crashed onto. For a moment, he could not breathe.

“Stop hurting him!” Rosa shouted.

Talvenya grabbed her by the throat and lifted her off her feet.

Adeleric could hear Rosa gasping for air as her little legs wiggled back and forth. Quickly, he stood. “I’ll do whatever you say, just put her down.”

She released her, and Rosa almost toppled over.

Adeleric rushed over, stretching an arm around her waist to keep his wife steady.

“While you are standing so close to her Adeleric, you should kiss your wife goodbye,” Talvenya said coldly. “It shall be the last time you taste those blush-red lips of hers.”

Adeleric wanted to fight her. He wanted to reach for his sword and separate Talvenya’s head from her body, see if such a cold-hearted creature drew blood. But he knew he would have no chance, especially with several lizardmen gathered around. So, he complied with Talvenya’s suggestion, only he tried imagining the idea as his own. He would kiss her goodbye, passionately, believing he would see her again someday in another world, another realm, where hate and brutality ceased to exist. Reaching for her, he pressed his lips against hers wetting them, messaging them, and inserting his tongue to taste her sweetness.

Her eyes were full of tears and overwhelming passion.

Adeleric wiped the tears as their gazes continued to lock. Then, slowly, he pulled back.
“Do not be afraid, my love. No matter what happens, we will always be together. That I promise you.”

“How touching,” Talvenya commented in a voice cold as ice accompanied by impish laughter. “Now, I command once more, dear Rosa. Tell your husband to get down on his knees.”

She whispered, “Adeler—”

“Speak the words aloud!”

She looked to Talvenya, a submissive gaze accompanied by a sigh of sorrow, then faced her husband once again. “…Adeleric, get down on your knees.”

Adeleric obeyed but tried imagining the command only came from his Rosa—not inspired by this so-called deity queen.

“Tell him you love him.”

“I—I love you,” Rosa cried, “…with all my heart.”

“And with all my heart, I love you,” Adeleric pled.

“Now, extend your hand,” Talvenya commanded.

Rosa obeyed.

“Adeleric, Lord of Zithel, take your wife’s hand.”

Adeleric passed her a glare, and then looked to Rosa. Tears were still cascading down her cheeks. “Do not be afraid, Rosa,” he said, firmly gripping her palm.

“My heart—shall always belong to you,” she answered, lightly rubbing her thumb over his palm, letting him know she was aware of his warm touch, aware he was there by her side, no matter what fate awaited her.

“And I shall carry you in my heart, always and forever.” Adeleric closed his eyes and leaned over to kiss her palm. The warm sensation of her skin disappeared suddenly, replaced by what felt like cold stone. He noticed the same feeling on Rosa’s hand. Opening his eyes, he fell back at what he saw. Rosa, from head to toe had become stone, like someone had carved a figure of her—immaculately.

He turned to look at Talvenya. She was holding her staff high, pointing it at Rosa. She cast the spell.

“Beautiful,” Talvenya said.

Adeleric sat speechless, his eyes still, never blinking. A difficult thing to accept; one moment he held Rosa’s hand, speaking with her, the next, she is a figure of stone. He squeezed her hand, perhaps to see if the hard element was real, and when the reality of it finally sank into his heart, he fell to tears.

Talvenya tapped the statue’s forehead with her finger. It fell back, cracking to pieces as it struck the floor. The severed head rolled toward Adeleric and bumped into his knee, stopping. He looked down on it, the face positioned upward, as if it returned the gaze. A smile sang on her cheeks—the last emotion his Rosa felt, happiness while Adeleric had been holding her hand. Teardrops spilled onto the face as he began to weep bitterly. He meant to pick up the head, perhaps to keep it to remember Rosa’s smile, but even that was taken away from him. A black leather boot stomped onto the head of stone, crumbling the face to pieces, grinding it to bits under the sole.

He peered up to see Talvenya, standing above him, smiling like a demon with a gaze of midnight darkness.

“What was the point of this…? Why did you—you do this?” he asked.

“All enemies are mere insects in my path. I do as I like.”

“That cannot be the reason…”

She stared at him a moment, her face going expressionless. “Why should she
have what was taken away from me? Why should you not feel what I have felt?”

“But I know you not!” he shouted.

“…It matters not.”

“Then kill me—kill me too!”

“In time, I promise to.”






J.W. Baccaro is the author of Prophecy of the Guardian, The Coming of the Light and Blood Dreams. Always a lover of creativity, from works of literature to writing music with his electric guitar; even baking and cooking. When not working on his next story or lost in a good book, J.W. enjoys kicking back with a couple of tasty craft beers and binging on Kaiju movies, 80’s action flicks, Japanese animation and slasher films (particularly the one involving a hockey mask). Heck, he even enjoys a good romantic comedy. Feel free to email him at He lives in upstate NY with his wife Melissa, his son Alexander, his German Shepherd and his three cats.

J.W. Baccaro is giving away a set of paperbacks – Prophecy of the Guardian, The Coming of the Light and Blood Dreams!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the set of books
  • This giveaway ends midnight July 30.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on August 1.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!





Sponsored By:


Scroll Up