Excerpt: Snow City by G. A. Kathryns


Excerpt & Spotlight (1).pngToday I am pleased to share an excerpt from the magical realism book by G.A. Kathryns, Snow City.

About Snow City

G. A. Kathryns is an award-winning author of novels and short stories. Her latest release SNOW CITY is a novel of hope and magical realism.

SNOW CITY is a dreamlike journey into the life of a woman who has given up on a dystopian reality and fabricated her idea of a perfect dream world. And then one day she wakes up in that fantasy world…

Snow City Front Cover (1)bkreviewtemp1 (3)

Snow City
By G.A. Kathryns
Publisher: Sycamore Sky Books
Genre: Magical Realism



Her name is Echo Japonica, and she lives in Snow City. But she was not always Echo, and she did not always live in Snow City. Somewhere else, she was someone else, and it was to Snow City that she fled in order to escape a place and a self that had at last become intolerable.

For Snow City is a dream — Echo’s dream — of a better place, an idealized place, a place of both anonymity and fulfillment. It is, for Echo, a haven of peace, a refuge, a sanctuary.

But Snow City remains, nonetheless, a dream, and dreams, being such fragile things, can so easily shade into nightmare…

Purchase: Amazon.com  Amazon UK


Excerpt from Chapter 3

“Good evening,” I say. I do not have to see her. I know she is there. “My name is Echo Japonica.”

“H-hello…” comes the uncertain reply. “Have you been following me?”

“I have not. But I knew where you would be.”


“I saw you here on a previous occasion.” I do my best to keep my voice noncommittal. “You were standing in the rain in the daylight, and now you are standing in the rain in the night. It is not right that you be out alone in the dark and the wet. So I wonder…”

I risk a glance at her. Yes: in the rain and at night. But not a drop of water on her.

“…I wonder whether I might once again be so bold as to offer you the sharing of an umbrella.”

Her voice drifts out of the dim alley like a distant hand groping through miles of mist. “Why?”

“Because you are a child.”

The hot denial comes quickly. “I’m not a child!”

I nod, sighing. I should have expected it. “And I, for my part, find it difficult upon occasion to believe that I am an adult. But,
leaving aside the question of our respective ages: share an umbrella with me, I pray, and I will see you home directly.”

“I…I don’t…”

I sense — no, I know — what she is a about to say, and it frightens me. Has Snow City fallen so far? Frayed so terribly? Raveled so completely?

“…I…don’t have a home.”

Homeless, then? Horror follows horror. This should not — cannot — be happening here.

“I mean,” the girl goes on, her words spilling forth in fits and starts, “I’ve got a home, and I’ve got a family. But they don’t…they
don’t want me. They turned me out. They told me…they told me to go away and never come back.”

I stare at her. Well-spoken, polite…vulnerable, perhaps, but with an edge of determination, she seems so unlikely a candidate for abandonment that for the better part of a minute I can find no words with which to reply.

“What about friends?” I manage at last.

“They run away…now.”

Which explains the scene I witnessed the other day: the students’ uneasy expressions, the agonized guilt of the older sister.
I cannot let this happen. Unbidden, I step into the alley and, uninvited, shield the girl with my umbrella…which appears to be
entirely superfluous: there is not a speck of water on her save for the tears trickling down her cheeks.

Has nobody spoken to her like this before, asked these questions, offered the slightest shred of help, of comfort?

What is happening?

“Child,” I say, “regardless of your family, regardless of your friends” — We are face to face, almost touching. I have never allowed anyone else in Snow City such intimate proximity. I never dreamed that I would ever permit such a thing. — “you surely cannot be living on the street.”

Anger flares…accompanied by a kind of vague shame. “Stop calling me a child. My name is Charity. I’m sixteen years old and I’m not a child!” And then: “And in any case, I’m…

She looks away quickly.

“…I’m not living anywhere now. At least…not…not really living.”

I stare at her.

“There was an accident,” she says, the water falling all around and she dry in spite of it. “In January. A car. I was killed.” She
lifts those green eyes to me, and I see in them what I, concerned until now only with surface appearances and bare facts, did not see before: a window into unknown depths, into abysses of knowledge that lie beyond all dreams, all nightmares, all imaginings.

“I…” I stare, stupid and bewildered.

“Don’t you see?” she demands. “I’m dead. I’m a ghost.”

The tears take her then, and she begins to sob uncontrollably.

Author Bio

G.A. Kathryns grew up on the West Coast and later on moved to the drier and higher realms of the high plains. She currently makes her home in the Denver metro area where she shares the company of a spouse and two small dogs.

Along with SNOW CITY, she has written a Southern Gothic themed title, THE BORDERS OF LIFE (soon to be reissued in a revised, corrected, and updated version), several pedagogical works devoted to playing the harp, a number of short stories, and a collection of dark fiction.

Follow G.A. Kathryns: Website  Facebook

I would like to thank the author and Book Publicity Services for this opportunity and excerpt!

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram

The Ambrose Deception Blog Tour & Excerpt

THE AMBROSE DECEPTION (1).jpgHappy Wednesday everyone! I am excited to be participating in the Ambrose Deception blog tour today, hosted by Rockstar Book Tours and sharing an excerpt. They are also hosting a giveaway for 3 finished copies (see details below).

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By Emily Ecton
Pub. Date: February 13, 2018
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 368
Formats: Hardcover, eBook



Melissa is a nobody. Wilf is a slacker. Bondi is a show-off. At least that’s what their middle school teachers think. To everyone’s surprise, they are the three students chosen to compete for a ten thousand-dollar scholarship, solving clues that lead them to various locations around Chicago. At first the three contestants work independently, but it doesn’t take long before each begins to wonder whether the competition is a sham. It’s only by secretly joining forces and using their unique talents that the trio is able to uncover the truth behind the Ambrose Deception–a truth that involves a lot more than just a scholarship.
With a narrative style as varied and intriguing as the mystery itself, this adventure involving clever clues, plenty of perks, and abhorrent adults is pure wish fulfillment.

Purchase: AmazonB&NiBooksTBD


At Morton Middle School

The transaction took less than a minute. The red-haired girl slid the completed worksheet across the table just as the boy in the Blackhawks shirt walked by. She didn’t look up. And the boy didn’t even pause as he slid the worksheet into his notebook, dropping a wrinkled five-dollar bill onto the table in its place.

The girl palmed the five without taking her eyes off of her book.

Neither one of them noticed the two men watching from the corner of the library. They didn’t notice as the stocky man gave a subtle nod. They didn’t notice the taller man snap a photo.

At Noyes Central

The kid with the bouncy step paused as he turned the corner into the hallway. A large bully was in the process of trying to stuff a small, podgy boy into an even smaller locker, with limited success. Neither the stuffer nor the stuffee noticed the new arrival. They also didn’t notice two men watching from the shadow of a doorway.

After only a moment of hesitation, the bouncy kid continued on his way, whistling loudly, seemingly oblivious to the scene at the locker. He was also seemingly oblivious to the bully’s books balanced on the trash can.

The bully paused in his stuffing as the kid got closer. “Not your problem, Johnson.”

The kid nodded amiably. “’Course not. Wouldn’t dream of interrupting.” He smiled. “But you do realize you have an audience.”

He nodded toward the men in the doorway.

“Wha?” The bully loosened his grip as he turned awkwardly to peer over his shoulder, giving the small, podgy victim the chance he needed to wrench free and make his escape.

“Aw. Tough break,” Johnson said, making a sad face before slapping the bully on the back and walking on, pausing only to casually hip-check the trash can as he passed by. The bully’s schoolbooks teetered precariously and then fell with a squishy thud into an unappetizing mass of discarded food containers.

The stocky man in the shadows smiled to himself and nodded discreetly. The tall man with him snapped a picture just as the kid bounced off down the hallway.

At Sutherland Academy

In the school office, the secretary rushed forward to greet her two visitors. She stepped carefully over the feet of the sniffly boy seated by the door. His legs, which seemed too long for his body, spilled awkwardly into the traffic area of the room.

She used both hands to shake the hand of the stocky man. “We’re so honored to have you with us today, sir. Both of you sirs,” she added, smiling enthusiastically at the tall man.

“Not at all,” said the stocky man. He wasn’t looking at her. He was watching as the sniffly boy cracked his knuckles and then blew a piece of hair out of his eyes.

The school secretary frowned and scanned the paperwork on her clipboard. “Now . . . I think you’re all set. You should have everything you— Oh! I forgot to give you your badges.” She stepped back over the boy’s feet and leaned across the front counter, knocking a pad of tardy slips onto the floor. Without a word, and hardly seeming to move, the boy stretched out a long arm and pocketed them.

The stocky man cleared his throat and raised an eyebrow at the tall man behind him. The tall man discreetly snapped a picture.

“Here you are!” The school secretary proudly held out two name badges. The stocky man smiled at her and shook his head. “That won’t be necessary, madam,” he said. “In fact, I don’t think a tour will be necessary, after all. We have everything we need.”

Letter to the Principals of Morton Middle School, Noyes Central, and Sutherland Academy in Chicago:


Your school has been selected for a great honor. Three students have been chosen citywide to compete for a prestigious Kaplin/Baron $10,000 academic scholarship. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with very selective screening procedures. The Kaplin/Baron academic scholarship is a grant of nationwide renown, and the schools that successful competitors attend are given additional points toward national rankings.

You will be pleased to learn that one of your students has been selected for this rare scholarship opportunity.

Please contact us at the number listed below to arrange an organizational meeting. This offer will not be repeated.

At Morton Middle School

Morton Middle School guidance counselor Judy Orlin tapped her fingertips on her desk as she stared at the computer monitor. Something was just not right.

“Melissa Burris,” she said out loud. Then she frowned as if the name had left a bad taste in her mouth. She typed on her keyboard and sniffed.

“Melissa Burris,” she repeated.

“What?” Miss Baker stuck her head out of the copy room. “Did you say something?”

Judy Orlin shook her head. “Melissa Burris. Does that name mean anything to you?”

Miss Baker stared at the ceiling while she thought. Judy Orlin tapped impatiently.

“No,” Miss Baker said finally. “Should it?”

“No, it absolutely shouldn’t,” Judy Orlin said, frowning at her computer again. “She’s not one of my Shining Star gifted students, she’s not in any of the Racing Rocket athletic programs, she’s not in Mathletes or BandTastic or Chess-perts or the Jazzercise Singers or even the AV club. She’s not in anything. She’s a complete nobody.”

“So?” Miss Baker had fifty copies to make before the bell rang. “What’s the problem?”

“The problem, Miss Baker, is that Melissa Burris has been chosen to compete for a prestigious scholarship. A very prestigious, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And she was the only Morton Middle School student chosen. The only one in our entire district.”

“Well, that’s strange.” Miss Baker looked puzzled. “Why?”

Judy Orlin narrowed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. “Exactly.”

At Sutherland Academy

Office receptionist Chad Brown chuckled and crumpled up the piece of paper he’d been reading. Then he tossed the wad at the trash can. It landed two feet short, almost hitting three other balls of paper. It bounced sadly and then rolled over to where Mr. Andrews was coming out of the mail cubby.

Mr. Andrews picked up the wad and uncrumpled it. “What’s this?”

“Some scam. Scholarship con or something.” Chad rolled his eyes. “How dumb do they think we are?”

Mr. Andrews scanned the paper. “Scholarship, huh?” He shrugged. “It’s good to be cautious, Chad, but I have to say, this looks legit.”

Chad hopped to his feet. “No, I know what you mean—I thought so, too, at first. But see there?” He pointed to the paragraph at the bottom of the page. “They chose Wilf. Wilf Samson? They didn’t even pick a believable kid.”

Mr. Andrews frowned. Wilf was in his third-period math class. Most of the time, anyway. “Okay, Wilf. Why not Wilf?”

“Well, you know . . .”

Mr. Andrews didn’t say anything—he just waited.

Chad coughed awkwardly and peered at the letter. “Okay, I guess it could be real. I just thought Wilf . . . funny kid to pick, don’t you think? He’s not exactly a go-getter.” He’d dismissed hundreds of letters as scams. He didn’t see why this one should be any different. But he wasn’t going to let a stupid letter get him in hot water, not if Mr. Andrews wanted to believe it.

Mr. Andrews waggled his eyebrows. “Might as well tell him. Not that he’ll bother doing anything about it.” He grinned as he picked up his coffee cup.

Chad grinned back. What harm could it do? It was Wilf, after all. He probably wouldn’t even read the letter. “Sure thing. I’ll let him know.”

At Noyes Central

It’s not that I have anything against Bondi,” Mrs. Gray said, pursing her lips as she passed the letter to Principal Bart Fleming. “God knows, he’s entertaining enough. But . . . an academic scholarship? Honestly, I can think of a hundred kids more qualified than Bondi Johnson.”

Principal Fleming frowned at the letter. “Wait, our Bondi? Really?” He read the later carefully. “Bondi of the lunchroom serenade?” He looked to Mrs. Gray for confirmation. “The one who got that, oh, what was it—?”

“The one who got Sneezy, the classroom rat, elected school president? Who petitioned the governor to make ‘the Bondi’ the official state dance? Yes, that Bondi.” Mrs. Gray nodded.

“Hmm. Yes. I never did learn ‘the Bondi,’” Principal Fleming said, shaking his head. Then he smiled and shrugged. “Well, you can’t say they’re not thinking outside the box. And, if I recall correctly, he did score well in the last round of state testing. . . .”

Mrs. Gray raised her eyebrows. “So Mr. Personality has a brain. Still, why couldn’t they have picked a more serious student?”

“Whatever their rationale, this seems quite clear. There is to be one scholarship contestant per school. And ours”— Principal Fleming sighed, dropping the letter onto his desk—“is Bondi.”

He chuckled. “God help them.”

Dear Scholarship Candidate:

Remember, your appointment is at 10:00 a.m. this Sunday. Doors will close at 10:01 sharp. No latecomers will be admitted. No exceptions will be made, for any reason. Any candidates not inside the room at 10:00 a.m. will be immediately disqualified.


POST-IT Note on Melissa Burris’s clock radio:

Remember —scholarship thing today, 10:00 a . m . Check bus routes first thing. DON ’T FORGET.

Three minutes to ten. Melissa stared at the ticking clock above the desk in the scholarship office downtown and tried to look like someone more together than Melissa Burris. She didn’t even know why she was there. It wasn’t like she was going to win the scholarship—Mrs. Orlin had told her that flat out after she’d called her up to the office a couple of days ago.

When she’d heard her name over the intercom, Melissa had known without a doubt what it was about. She’d been dreading that moment for a long time. Someone had ratted her out for selling worksheet answers. Tommy Pittman, probably. Jerk.

She’d had her whole defense ready by the time she got to the office—it was all a misunderstanding, it wasn’t like it sounded, Tommy Pittman was a lying liar (or, if it wasn’t Tommy, then Caitlin Jarvis was a lying liar. Melissa was nothing if not flexible). But as it turned out, it wasn’t about worksheets at all. It was actually a good thing for a change—she’d been picked to be in some weird scholarship competition.

Or at least it had felt like a good thing until Mrs. Orlin opened her mouth and ruined it.

“They obviously meant Melissa Burke and just got the name wrong,” she’d said with a sniff, handing Melissa the letter. “Or maybe Melissa Jaffe. To be honest, any Melissa at Morton Middle is more qualified to represent the school than you are, Miss Burris. When I spoke with the organizers on the phone, I tried repeatedly to make them understand their error, but they refused to rectify the situation. We’ll just have to make the best of it. They’ll figure out their mistake soon enough. Try to look presentable, at least. And please, do your best not to embarrass the school.”

Melissa cringed just remembering it. She shifted in the uncomfortable office chair in her “most presentable” outfit and tried not to fiddle with the strap of her book bag. She didn’t know exactly how Mrs. Orlin thought she would embarrass the school, but fiddling with her bag probably qualified.

She just hoped no one would notice that frayed spot on the edge of her collar. She hadn’t seen it until it was too late to change, but even if she had, she couldn’t have done much about it. It wasn’t like she was Amber Whitmore or one of those kids with a whole closet full of fancy clothes to choose from. If she was, she sure as heck wouldn’t be doing worksheets for bus and lunch money.

She had to get that scholarship.

Two minutes to ten. Melissa frowned and looked around.

Aside from the tall man at the desk who was pointedly ignoring her, she was the only person in the room. And except for an abandoned messenger bag under the chair by the door, there wasn’t any sign of anyone else. That was weird. Melissa was pretty sure the letter had said three competitors, but she didn’t even hear anyone else in the hallway. She checked her watch. It said the same thing as the clock on the wall. One and a half minutes to ten. Melissa smiled. Maybe this was going to work out, after all.

Mothballs. That was the first thing Wilf noticed when he lurched up the final flight of stairs into the long hallway. The air had a tinge of mothball smell, with a slight whiff of peppermint. Wilf paused for a second to catch his breath, trying not to let the odors bother him. Then he launched himself down the hall toward the open door.

He thought he’d timed everything just right to get to the office by ten, but how was he supposed to know his alarm wouldn’t be loud enough to wake him up? And it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t have any clean underwear. Well, maybe it was kind of his fault, since he was supposed to have put his clothes in the laundry hamper, but shouldn’t his mom have noticed there was no underwear?

He hadn’t been able to find his watch before he left, so he wasn’t sure of the exact time, but the door being open was a good sign, right? If it was the right room. Wilf wasn’t even 100 percent sure he was on the right floor.

He shouldn’t have stopped for breakfast. That had been a mistake in retrospect. And he should’ve known the elevator would never show up. He’d thought taking the stairs would save time, but he should’ve remembered that liking sports didn’t mean he was the athletic type who could do stairs three at a time. If he’d had to go up even one more flight, Wilf figured he probably would’ve just collapsed on the stairs and died.

Wilf staggered up to the doorway. “Am I too late? I’m too late, right? Is it ten yet?” His mom would kill him if he’d missed this. He never should’ve even told her about it, but once she’d read the fancy scholarship letter, there was no way he could skip out on the meeting. He hadn’t seen her 17

that excited about any of his school stuff in a long time. He was just glad that she didn’t really expect him to win.

The mothball smell was stronger in the room—probably coming from the tall man at the desk, who was acting like he hadn’t even noticed the crazy kid slam into the doorframe. One thing Wilf was sure of—the smell wasn’t coming from that angry-looking red-haired girl sitting two chairs down. She was apple shampoo all the way. She glared at her watch and then back at him again.

“Five seconds to spare,” the tall man at the desk said. “Quite admirable. Now, if you wouldn’t mind, the door? It is ten o’clock. Time to get started.”

Wilf nodded and pushed himself into a standing position. He hadn’t blown it. Not yet, anyway. Five seconds was plenty of time. He still had a chance at this.

Wilf turned to close the door, only to find the doorway now occupied by a wiry black kid holding a cup of hot chocolate.

“Don’t mind me,” the kid said. He stepped in behind Wilf and closed the door with his foot. Then he stuck out his free hand. “So, scholarship meeting, am I right? Bondi Johnson, pleased to know you.”

Wilf stared at the kid for a second, then gave his hand a loose shake. Bondi nodded at Miss Apple Shampoo and settled into the chair that had the messenger bag underneath. She didn’t nod back. She just glared at the clock as though it had personally let her down.

Bondi held up his hot chocolate cup as if toasting the tall man. “Found the vending machine, just where you said it was,” Bondi said, turning to nudge Wilf in the side. “I’ve been here awhile.”

Wilf thought Miss Apple Shampoo’s head was about to explode, she turned so red.

The tall man smiled anemically and got up from behind the desk. “Wonderful. Bondi Johnson, now that you’ve introduced yourself, may I introduce your competitors, Master Wilfred Samson and Miss Melissa Burris?”

The wiry kid, aka Bondi, nodded at Wilf and winked at Miss Apple Shampoo, aka Melissa.

“If you would be so kind, Master Samson?” The tall man gestured toward the chair next to Melissa Apple Shampoo. Wilf nodded and collapsed into it, stretching his legs far out into the room.

Wilf frowned. Maybe the mothball smell wasn’t coming from the man at all—maybe it was the chair upholstery, or the cabinet next to him. But that didn’t explain the peppermint. And the office didn’t look like a mothball type of place—it was just your generic corporate office. But it wasn’t like Wilf could do any investigating without being obvious about it. Once the meeting was over, though, he was out of there. Mothballs always did a number on him.

“Now, so we aren’t disturbed . . .” The tall man glided to the door and threw the dead bolt, locking them in. “This room is now officially sealed.”

Wilf glanced at the other two kids. Miss Apple Shampoo was frowning. Even the wiry kid seemed thrown.

The tall man clapped his hands and then held them together. “I’ll inform Mr. Smith that we’re ready. Let the games begin.”


Emily Ecton is a writer and producer for Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!
the NPR news quiz. She has also been a playwright, a chinchilla wrangler, an ice cream scooper and a costume character. She lives
in Chicago with her dog, Binky.

Follow Emily Ecton: Website | Twitter | Goodreads


3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE AMBROSE DECEPTION, US Only.
Ends on February 27th at Midnight EST!
(This giveaway is not sponsored by Books, Vertigo & Tea).

Enter Here

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I would like to thank Rockstar Book Tours and the author for the excerpt and allowing my to participate in this tour!

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram


The Enchanted Shield ~ An Excerpt

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Geoffrey Angapa is no stranger to Books, Vertigo and Tea. Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing The Quest of the Golden Apple. He has even selected one of my You Choose, I Read titles, the endearing story of The Princess and the Goblin (which is now counted among my favorites). I am very pleased to share an excerpt of The Enchanted Shield (Geoffrey and the Dragon Book 2) today. I am also thrilled to announce the title will be available for free on Kindle the next 3 days.

The Enchanted Shield (Geoffrey and the Dragon Book 2)
Pages: 251
Genre: Fantasy



“Dragon, we’ve got to think of a description—an amazing description—for The Enchanted Shield’s Amazon page. That’s pretty hard work, if you ask me, but I’m sure we’ll put something together.”
“Indeed, writing a description is harder than writing the book itself. Have you thought of anything as yet, lad?”
“Well, Dragon, I have, but it still needs more work, and seems rather incomplete to me. Goes like this: The Enchanted Shield is the sequel to The Quest of the Golden Apple, and once again follows the adventure of Geoffrey and the Dragon.”
“No, that won’t do at all. Certainly needs more work, but I suppose it’s all right for a start.”
“All right for a start? Can you think of a better, Dragon?”
“Sure I can. Let me think. On the other hand, we can’t just give away the whole plot: that would spoil the book. I think it’s better if the reader didn’t know all that much about the tale before reading it.”
“Could be, Dragon. Could be.”
“So let’s ask readers to read our tale, and we hope that it delights them much.”

“Very well, Dragon! I’ll write that up! I knew you’d think of something!”

Chapter 1

About half a year had passed since I had got back from my adventure. I heard of quests and proclamations, but heeded them not. I took delight in simple things, and my work kept me busy and healthy. When I returned to Newstead the previous year, it had been the middle of autumn. Winter was now drawing to an end, and the first beginnings of spring were creeping over the land. The air still possessed a bracing chill; but each day the weather grew warmer and milder, and often got rather hot towards noon. The whole of Newstead seemed to be spring cleaning their homes, and that yielded a great deal of dust to the air. There were days when it felt as if it were summer (as much as there were days when it felt as if it were winter still).
Morning broke fair and bright upon Newstead. The sun was out, the mists had cleared, and the sound of birds’ tuning their notes could be heard throughout the land. I left home for the morning, and passing through the gates of Newstead, directed my steps towards Farmer Woodbine’s farmstead, which stood just outside the town. As I noted in the previous adventure, I worked as a cowherd. When I reached the farmstead, I greeted everyone I saw; and though it was only about half past eight, yet much work was already being done at the farm. Taking the cows, I led them to the fields so that they could graze.
What I found that morning was strange, or at least unprecedented, for the fields I always took the cows to—East-Fields being their name—appeared more yellow than ordinary, when only the day before they had been quite green. Odd, thought I; but not thinking too much about it, I decided to walk the cows to the other fields, of which there were several, that stretched round Newstead. When I got to them, I found the grass there was richer and greener, and so I let the cows graze in those fields, and the hours passed lazily enough. This week had been a drowsy succession of hot days, and that morning was no exception. Round about noon I wiped my forehead and had lunch. The cows relished both the grass and the weather, and wandered aimlessly hither and thither. “Cows,” said I, not that they could understand me, “stay in one spot.” Later, I took shelter beneath a giant tree in the field; and whether it was the food, or the heat, or the haziness of the air; or perhaps all these things together—which, I suppose, is nearer to the mark—I found I fell fast asleep against the tree. This had scarcely ever happened to me before. But that day, as we shall see, was an evil one, and I fell asleep. Upon awakening, I found a couple of guards standing near me. I recognised them from Newstead: the town-guard.
“Good morning,” said one of them, who seemed to be the leader. “Do you know where you are?”
“Yes, I’m in Newstead. You recognise me? I live here. How do you do?”
“This is Newstead,” continued the man; “but you have been very unfortunate in your choice of field, where you’ve let your cows graze. You’re in big trouble, and you’re coming with us, to the Council.”
“Council?” said I, getting up from the tree and standing before them. “What are you talking about? This is a Newstead field, and I can graze my cows anywhere I like.”
“East-Fields are for common grazing,” said the guard; “but you’ve entered fields out of bounds to the Common Folk.”
“Out of bounds?” said I, getting rather angered, not to mention alarmed, by all this talk. “That’s ridiculous.”
“Oh, ridiculous is it? You’ll see how ridiculous it is when we take you before the Council. These fields are forbidden, and that’s the law.”
“I knew no such thing,” said I, “and there wasn’t any such thing before. That new Council has been putting together its own laws.”
“That’s it! Let’s go! Keep your wit for the Council! Come with us!”
“I won’t go anywhere,” said I. “Besides, I’ve got to take the cows back to Farmer Woodbine. It’s getting late.”
“Very well,” said the guard. “You may take them back, but we’ll be waiting for you at the gates. Don’t think of going off; for we know who you are, Mr. Geoffrey, and have all your documents at Home Office. That’s right. Everyone’s documents are kept there, and there they shall remain. Once the cows have been returned, you shall be taken before the Council.”
I tried disputing a little further with them, but try as I might, they would not budge. At length I agreed, so as to put an end to the argument; for it was growing late, and the farmer’s cows had to be returned to his farmstead. I got the cows together and proceeded thither, reaching it in a quarter of an hour. As it turned out, Farmer Woodbine was not there, being on a visit to his family at Montford, and thus I could not tell him about the incident; I sighed, for he might have aided me. The cows being returned to their places, I left and reached the gates of Newstead in half an hour; and there the guards stood waiting for me. We passed through the gates, while the light of the afternoon was fading round us, and then headed for the Council Chambers, as it was known. Once again I tried disputing with them, saying that I should not do that again, but the guards turned a deaf ear to me, and hauled me before the Council.
I stood in the centre of a circular room. Ahead of, and higher than me, sitting behind imposing wooden desks, were the members of the Council. My heart sank within me, as I threw round my gaze. “We have been told by the town-guard—excellent guard they are—that you have committed a grave transgression,” said one of the members. “There are certain fields which are forbidden to the public.”
“Sir,” said I, “I knew no such thing. All the grass in East-Fields looked rather yellow to me, rather more yellow than ordinary; and so I took my cows to graze in better fields. I did no crime. I’m an honest citizen of Newstead. I do hard work, and never harm anyone.”
“Still, you committed a crime. Those fields are forbidden, and are not to be entered.”
“All right, sir,” answered I; “I won’t enter those fields ever again. I promise. I will keep to East-Fields and not stray from there.”
“It is too late. The deed has been done, and a punishment must be allotted to you.”
“This isn’t fair. I’m innocent. I did nothing wrong.”
“What is the punishment?” continued the man, paging through a thick book, from which dust issued into the air of the gloomy chamber. “Banishment it is. That is what the books of law say.”
“Banishment? But this is my home. I’ve lived here all my life.”
“You ought to have thought of that before. You are exiled from Newstead for ever. You are to leave the town by the morning. There is nothing that we can do. That is what the law says.”
“No,” said I, “this can’t be. I can’t be exiled from Newstead.”
“Whether you like it or not, you are exiled for ever.”
“Have mercy!” said I. “Please, sirs, is there no way that I can stay?”
The chief member of the Council, who had been talking to me, looked into the book again, and flipped through the pages for a while. “There seems to be a caveat,” said the man at length.
“What is it?” asked I.
“It is said,” answered the man, “of one who is sentenced to lifelong exile that, if he were to bring back from a distant land a strange heirloom, he shall be restored to his home.”
“What that heirloom is,” said another member of the Council, “is not stated; but custom prescribes that the Council shall determine what it is to be. We will decide.”
“Heirloom?” said I, rather puzzled.
“Yes,” returned the principal speaker; “we will decide what you shall bring back if you are to return.”
The Council left the chamber, and were gone for about an hour. In the meantime I sat down on a chair that was near, and thought of all the evil that had befallen me. Time passed. At length the members returned, and took their seats again.
“We have decided what the heirloom shall be,” said the chief speaker. “You are to bring back to Newstead an artefact, an artefact known as the Enchanted Shield. Secure the artefact and return with it to Newstead, and your exile shall be dissolved forthwith.”
“The Enchanted Shield?” said I. “I’ve never heard of any such thing. Wait a minute! I’ve got an idea. I could return with the Golden Apple—the Golden Apple of Wealdhall—within less than two weeks.”
“No, the Enchanted Shield it is, and the Enchanted Shield it shall remain. Our meeting with you is over. You are to leave Newstead by the morning and are banished for ever; but if you were to return with the Enchanted Shield, your exile shall be reversed. Let us not find you in Newstead by ten o’clock tomorrow.”
Led out of the chamber by the town-guard, and then left outside the Council Building, I proceeded, with heavy thoughts, home. Already it was night, and my mother was waiting anxiously for me at the door of our house. She had grown quite worried that I had not come home earlier; and upon seeing me walking down the street towards our house, she seemed overjoyed. But when I greeted her, and she saw that all was not well, she asked me what the matter was; and I, once we had gone within, and shut the door, told her all that had happened, and she was astonished, saddened, and angered.
“That Council is evil,” said she, “as everyone in the town will attest. The old Council was never like this, Geoffrey. This Council finds fault with everyone in the town. You aren’t the first to fall prey to them, Geoffrey; and I daresay you won’t be the last. Almost everyone in Newstead has had an encounter with them. Even Farmer Wither, I heard. Just last week he was fined because of taxes or something. Mrs. Wither was telling me all about it just the other day. Even Mrs. Milton, the baker’s wife, was complaining of the ill usage her husband has had at the Council’s hands.”
This was all quite true. About three years ago, the new Council had replaced the old one, which, in contrast to their successors, had been a fair and just Council, listening to the voice of the People, except when the People were in the wrong; but through some kind of political machination, the old Council was taken down and another one set in its place; and it was widely believed across Newstead that the present Council was rather corrupt. In short, I was yet another casualty of the evil new system.
The next morning, after we had all eaten breakfast, my mother went to the Council Chambers, while I, packing what I could, remained at home. I had done much the same the night before, but there was still a great deal of stuff left to pack. My heart was heavy and I felt a burden on my shoulders, not from my pack, but from the troubles that had suddenly fallen on my life. But I remained as cheerful as I could, knowing that my return home would come. An hour later the door opened and then shut; and going to the sitting room I found my mother in tears. I hugged her, and asked her what had passed at the Council Chambers. “They won’t listen,” said she. “They won’t listen to a thing. I don’t think they’ve got hearts, and I told them as much. Oh, Geoffrey! I tried my best to save you, but I’ve failed.”
“So I still have to leave, mother?”
“Yes,” replied she.
“What’s worse, mother, is that Sir Richard is out of town. Had he been here, he might have done something to stop that Council, I think.”
“I doubt whether Sir Richard,” said she, “would have been able to gainsay the Council. The Council do as they wish, and there’s little anyone can do.”
“You’re right, mother.”
It was getting late; the town-clock had just struck nine o’clock; and I thought I had best leave Newstead before I was thrown unceremoniously out of it. Taking a last look at the rooms of our house, and fetching a deep sigh, I stepped out into the brightness of the town, and directed my steps towards the gates, my mother and brother accompanying me. The town-guard was stationed there, and one of them observed that I ought to leave the town (or “well-run Newstead” as he put it). I thanked him for his expressing the obvious, and I was going to say more, but thought the better of it and remained silent. I hugged my mother and brother, and hugged my mother again, assuring her that I should return to Newstead before she knew it, but the tears stood in my eyes, and my mother herself had been weeping since the morning.
“I will return home, mother,” said I, aside to her so that the guards would not hear what we spoke. “I will return to Newstead. You can count on that. And that Council hasn’t heard the last of me! I shall get aid from my friend the Dragon, and together we will find this—Enchanted Shield. I do defy that Council and their villainy. I will come back, mother. I promise.”
My mother wept; and again I assured her that I should return, and that all would be well. I took leave of her; and tightening the pack on my shoulder, as I did once not long ago, setting out to find the Golden Apple, I set forth for Wealdhall. If anyone knew what was to be done, it would be the Dragon.

Geoffrey2About The Author

Geoffrey Angapa was born in Durban, South Africa, on October 4, 1987. He grew up in Chatsworth and then North Beach. He finished high school in 2004; and graduated with a B.Sc. degree from Unisa in 2010. Geoffrey likes computer programming a lot, and C++ is the language that he programs in. He knows a slight bit (that is, not much) about literature, and likes physics too.

Tea of choice: You could say that historically my favourite one has been a Ceylon blend; and that I drink black tea with milk and no sugar.


I want to extend special thanks to Geoffrey for allowing me to share this excerpt and for continuing to be supportive of Books, Vertigo and Tea and the blogging community! It has been a pleasure.

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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