Judas Iscariot. A name reviled down the ages. It was thought he committed suicide when he realised the enormity of what he had done in betraying Jesus Christ, but his punishment is far worse.
God condemned him to walk the Earth forever, never able to die.
Now he has been given a task. He has to look after a small girl until she passes her seventh birthday. Just a few days. that's all. A simple task, you would think, but, of course, it's never that simple. This is a special girl. One who will prevent Lucifer from entering the world.
Lucifer actively seeks the child, sending his devils in disguise. Murder and meyhem ensue...
I am not saying any more about the plot of this book. I don't want to spoil it for you.
The character of Judas is well drawn. He is complex, as one might expect, having lived 2,000 years. The other characters are believable, too. There is the policeman who is forced to re-evaluate his religious beliefs when confronted with the evidence of his own eyes, and also the hooker dragged into the conflict, who shows courage she didn't know she had.
Finally, Charlotte, the little girl. She is very much like a typical six-year-old, except for the fact that the horrors she witnesses do not seem to faze her. Yes, she is afraid, but a normal child of her age would be traumatised. But then, she's not a normal child, is she?
The pace keeps you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the next event. At first, I thought I would not like the fact that it is written in the present tense, but as I got into the book, I realised it adds to the immediacy and tension of the story. It also helps wit flashbacks, which are written in the past. You know that this is a previous event.
One thing I would say as a negative, is that towards the end, in a part where the characters are all actively fighting, the author does do a bit of head-hopping, which can be disorientating.
I am probably an old person who does not understand the latest *or not so latest( fashions, but there are some that really confuse me. Here are a few below.
Ripped jeans. What's that all about? I know I'm no longer in the first flush of my youth, but to me it looks scruffy. It also says you can't afford a new pair of jeans and are too lazy to mend your ripped ones. A friend's daughter went to visit her boyfriend's sister. After they had left, the sister's daughter said 'I like Auntie ...... It's a pity she's so poor.' The mother asked her what she meant and the child said, 'Well, her jeans are all ripped. she obviously can't afford a new pair.' Then there's the trousers hanging off the bottoms of young men. This seems to be passing, but I still see a few of them. they look as though they're little boys wearing their dad's trousers. I saw one young man whose trousers were so low that he had to walk as though he had severe problems in order to keep them up. Then there are tattoos. They are fashionable at the moment, largely, I suspect, because of the large numbers of footballers who sport them. The so-called 'sleeves' look, to me, like dirty arms. I often wonder what these tattoos will look like when the owners are no longer young and fit, and are becoming wrinkly and flabby. So many people, not only the young, wear clothing unsuitable to the weather. I've seen young girls out in strappy tops when, although it's been nominally summer, it's not been warm. In fact occasionally it's been cold and windy--temperatures below 15oC. Then there is the other end of the scale. People, often older people, wearing jackets and coats when it is above 30oC. I said not wonder some old fold die when it gets hot if they insist on wearing coats in the heat.
I'm sure I can think of other mysterious fashion quirks if I sat around thinking, but that will do for now.
Please leave a comment, either agreeing or disagreeing with me. And if you can explain why these things are attractive, all the better.
This month I have managed to prize an interview out of Magister Robiam, the chief mage in the Mage Tower in Hambara. Me: Thank you very much for allowing me this time in what must be a very busy schedule.
Robiam: Not at all, my dear. We must keep the press happy. Magic is still not fully trusted you know.
Me: After the Mage War and the Forbidding I suppose you mean. Arch-Mage Yssalithisandra told me about that.
Robiam: Yes. I can't understand why it is taking so long for people to realise that magic isn't evil. It's just a tool, and the users can equally put it to good or bad use. Just as a knife can be used to cut up food for the preparation of a meal, and also to kill or injur someone. The knife isn't evil, just the user.
Me: Quite. You are a magister, sir. Tell me what that means.
Robiam: It is the highest rank that a mage can reach. When an apprentice passes his or her tests, they are welcomed into the ranks of mages and go by the title of simply 'Mage'. The first year of their 'mageship' if you wish to call it that, is a probationary year. They cannot 'fail' this year though. It is mainly to let people know that this person is very newly qualified. Thus, folk know that their experience is limited and not expect too much of them. The probation can be extended or shortened. depending on the mage in question.
Me: What happens after the probation is finished?
Robiam: The mage continues to be a simple mage until, or if, they reach a certain standard when they will become an Arch-Mage. Many do not progress beyond being a simple Mage of course.
Me: And to progress to Magister an Arch-Mage must reach another, much higher standard?
Robiam: You've got it; but the level for Magister is extremely high and few manage to make it.
Me: So there are only 3 'levels' in the magic profession?
Robiam: Yes. Of course, once there were many more. Newly-qualified mages were known as a Conjurors, then they would progress to Magicians, Sorcerors, Wizards etc. Me: Why was this scrapped?
Robiam: It was too cumbersome, and mages are rather fond of their independence. They are free spirits, if you like. They do not like to be regimented, and so it was simplified.
Me: Why not do away with ranks completely then?
Robiam: It was suggested, but the Magister in charge of the Tower at the time thought that the general public should have at least some idea of the power of the mage they were dealing with, and so it was decided to retain 3 ranks. (Although if you consider it, there are really 4, including the probationary mages.)
Me: Thank you for making that clear, Magister. I was wondering, however, about those who fail their mage tests. What happens to them?
Robiam: Unfortunately there are always a few who have a little magic but insufficient to pass the tests. We do not turn them out into the world to create havoc, which they could easily do. We make them associates of the Tower and they become entertainers, keep shops selling magic items, become adventurers etc.
Next week will see the release of The Stones of Earth and Air, Book 1 in Elemental Worlds. It can be purchased on Amazon. Here's a bit about it.
Pettic is the best friend of Torren, the Crown Prince of Ponderia. When Torric starts behaving out of character, Pettic sets about trying to find out why. He discovers that Torren has been kidnapped and a doppleganger put in his place.
He decides he cannot let his friend remain a prisoner, nor allow the cruel impostor to remain as Crown Prince and ultimately King as he would no doubt become a tyrant. Pettic therefore sets about rescuing his friend. He discovers that Torren is imprisoned in a mini-plane created by a magician. The only way in is using four gems associated with the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
There is a problem, though. Each gem has been hidden on one of the four Elemental Worlds. Pettic resolves to enter each of these worlds and find the gem. How can he find a single gem in a whole world, though? And he can't return without the gem.
On each world, he has to perform a task to help the inhabitants.
Can he discover the gems, or will he remain trapped on one of the worlds? What are the tasks he has to perform, and can he get back and then enter the mini-plane and rescue Torren before the false prince becomes king?
English is a strange language. There are many words spelled the same but pronounced differently, also there are words pronounced the same, but spelled differently. then there are words that are the same in spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings, depending on context.
The strangest, in my opinion, are words ending in -ough.
Though, pronounced 'tho'
Bough, pronounced 'bow'. (although that in itself has different pronunciations)
Enough, pronounced 'enuf'
Thought, pronounced 'thort'
Through, pronounced 'threw'
No wonder foreigners have some difficulty with it, although (another one, similar to 'though', here) it seems they are able to manage quite well if the number of foreigners who speak the language extremely well is anything to go by.
I was in an Italian restaurant in Germany and was greatly amused to see the German waiter speaking to a French customer in English. This also happened when I was in Croatia. The Croatian receptionist spoke to a visitor, whom I think was Russian, in English. These strange inconsistencies seem not to faze them, even if they confuse some native speakers!
Kimi shivered as she contemplated her fate. These men were not going to kill her. That was not what they wanted or they would have done so already. Did they want a hostage to ransom? That was not the style of the Tribes. They simply came and took what they wanted. Horses mainly. They did not use money and they measured their wealth by the number and quality of their animals.
Her musings came to an end when she found herself pulled roughly from her horse. Someone untied her feet so she could stand, and a tall man came over.
'Who is this?' he queried in a booming voice.
'She's a settler.' one of her captors replied. 'She came after us so we ambushed her and brought her here.'
The tall man circled Kimi, looking her up and down as if she were a piece of horseflesh.
'Not much to look at, is she?' he said. 'Plain face, and small. Still, she's got nice eyes, and lovely, thick, brown hair. I'm not sure how she'll be at bearing children, though.'
Kimi's eyes opened wide as she realised what this man was saying. They were going to use her as breeding stock, just like a mare. Something snapped in t he girl's mind and she kicked out at the tall man.
'I'm not a mare to be put to the stallion,' she responded, eyes blazing.
The men all laughed, and the tall man called another young man over, who was looking the stolen horses over. When he arrived, Kimi saw a likeness between him and the tall man and concluded the younger one was his son.
'What do you think of this girl?' asked the tall man.
The younger man looked her up and down as his father had done and said, 'She's very plain, and a bit small. She may not be able to bear children successfully.
His father frowned. 'She has spirit, though. That is what we need in the tribe. None of your submissive women. That's fine in a woman, but not if she breeds children like herself. We need women with spirit. I like this girl. You will marry her.'
With that, he stalked off. leaving the young men all staring at Kimi.
The chief's son, for the tall man was the tribal chief, told the others to take her to a tent and to make sure she could not escape. Struggle as she might, Kimi was not strong enough to break the hold of t he man holding her and she found herself thrust into a tent. The man then tied her to the tentpole by her wrists.
Kimi struggled to no avail, only succeeding in chafing her wrists. Then the tentflap opened and the chief's son entered.
'What's your name?' he demanded.
Kimi made no reply, but turned her head away. The chief's son grabbed her chin and turned her head back towards him.
'Answer me when I speak to you.'
Kimi spat in his face and received a blow across her cheek for her insult.
As he wiped the spittle from his cheek, the young man stood.
'We have your best horses now, and you, so we'll be leaving in the morning. My father says we must be married, but that won't happen before we get far away, back to our own territory, the territory of the Prowling Lynx. I will have my tattoos done to show I'm the son of the chief and then we'll be married.'
He started to leave the tent, but turned and kicked out at Kimi, landing a kick on her left leg.
'You're not what I'd have chosen. There are plenty beautiful women in the tribe who would jump at the chance of marrying me. Still, my father says I must marry you, so I'll do so. Those other women will still be anxious to be my lovers.'
He laughed as he left Kimi alone to consider her fate.
Kimi could not help it. She tried not to, but tears pooled in her eyes, and try as she might, they overflowed and fell onto the tent floor.
During he next few days Kimi had some relief from the taunts of her husband-to-be as he was busy erecting and taking down tents before moving off, or herding the horses, who tried constantly to turn back to their old home.
It started again each evening. though. The young man came to her tent and insulted her, or kicked and hit her. Kimi determined not to allow him to make her cry. At least not in front of him. but once he left for his own tent, she allowed the tears to fall.
How long would it take to reach the lands of the Prowling Lynx tribe? She hoped it was a very long time, She prayed that her father could raise some of the settlers and come after her. Then she prayed they would not, because many would be killed in the fight that ensued.
Eventually, she decided she would be co-operative in order to lull this raiding party into thinking she had become resigned to her fate. Perhaps she could manage to spot an opportunity to escape.