Extract from TOM O’KELL & THE CURSE OF AMURABIS

Cyrances wiped her sweaty hands down the sides of her white linen skirt, staining it brown, and placed the broom in a recess along the side of the courtyard wall. She was relieved to walk in the cool shadow of the cloisters. Singing accompanied by music plucked from stringed lyres floated through a tall arched entrance way. Cyrances was just about to walk through the archway when she heard a hushed call from across the courtyard. She turned. A grey haired old man dressed in a fringed skirt beckoned urgently to her. This was Urkal – one of the elder high priests. Cyrances hurried over to him. He pulled her into the shadows of the cloisters.

‘Cyrances. I thought you would be here.’ Urkal wheezed as though frightened.

‘What is it, Urkal? What troubles you?’

‘I have news for you. We must be careful though. Amurabis has ears everywhere. I fear for my safety if caught imparting this information to you but King Hannouken was kind to me and the fairest of our rulers.’

Cyrances lowered her head, hiding the tears glistening across her eyes.

‘Your children. They have been seen.’

‘What? Nampur and Zayana? Where are they?’ Cyrances asked impatiently. ‘I must see them.’

Urkal swallowed hard and shook his head. ‘No, Cyrances. You cannot. They have been seen incarcerated in a wooden cage driven through the streets on a cart.’ He stroked his long grey beard to stop his hands from shaking whilst looking from side to side checking that no-one was listening.

‘Where? Who saw them?’ Cyrances asked urgently, desperate for information about her two children.

‘A young slave. I overheard him in idle chatter amongst the slaves, yesterday He knows no more, only that they were in the hands of Amurabis’s men, and that other children were caged with them.’

Cyrances wiped her eyes and breathed deeply to compose herself. She was relieved to hear news of her children but alarmed as to what fate awaited them.

‘Th-Thank you, Urkal,’ she stuttered.

‘I only wish my tidings could have bore more hope for you.’ Urkal gazed mournfully at Cyrances, then turned quickly. A tall dark haired man strode purposefully from the temple. A fearful look passed between Urkal and Cyrances. Had they been overheard by Zekel? He walked towards them, his sly dark eyes observing them intently as though he was trying to penetrate their minds.

‘Gossiping with slaves now, Urkal?’ He glanced with contempt at Cyrances and brushed the side of his long dark skirt as though he may have been contaminated with fleas from her.

‘No – No. I was just reminding the slave to change the sacrificial offerings to Hakken, our God of War.’ He turned to Cyrances. ‘Find Ammen or Kanukka. They will slit the throat of a young goat for you. Now hurry!’ he scolded her. ‘And when you have done that, make sure you sweep this courtyard again. It isn’t good enough.’

‘Yes – Yes, my lord. I am sorry. I will hurry.’ Cyrances kept up the pretence and vanished through the arched entrance.

‘Good to see you are keeping her busy. Work her to a standstill until she succumbs to Amurabis are our orders. Flog her if necessary,’ Zekel chuckled.

Extract from TOM O’KELL & THE CURSE OF AMURABIS

Cyrances squinted at the bright sunlight hitting the marbled floor beneath her feet. Damp tresses of dark hair clung to the sides of her face. The morning was already uncomfortably warm. How had this happened? Her fall from Queen of Nephatimis was almost complete but she would not succumb to Amurabis’s demands that she join his harem. He would have to kill her before that happened. Tears of anger and sadness glistened in her dark brown eyes as she thought back to the days when she ruled this land with her husband, King Hannouken.

The people truly worshipped King Hannouken. Many years ago, his descendants had the vision to transform the village settlements along the banks of the two rivers – the Nisai and the Ephramun – into a thriving inland settlement by means of land irrigation. No longer would the people have to eke out a living on meagre crops and a few animals. Vast fields of wheat and barley now thrived in the once desolate flatlands. Groves of date palms, olives, oranges, lemons, pomegranates and other trees swayed in the warm winds offering fruits to the people and shade to the large herds of sheep and goats grazing beneath them. The settlements grew into thriving cities surrounded by man-made canals that allowed merchant ships to sail out into the Galgao Sea to do trade with neighbouring countries and islands. As a result almost one hundred thousand people now inhabited Anun, the main city of Nephatimis.

The centre of the city was occupied by sprawling bazaars and workshops for craftsmen who turned out beautiful trinkets and jewellery, finely crafted pottery, richly woven carpets and rugs, garments of the finest silks and cotton. The air was rich with the aroma of countless herbs and spices, exotic fruits and vegetables. People thronged through the winding avenues and streets of comfortable white bricked houses and mansions in a hubbub of noise and excited barter and haggling.

No one went without in the reign of King Hannouken and Queen Cyrances for this land of plenty was shared with all strands of society. All able bodied were in some form of employment or education and the old and the sick were comfortably cared for.

There were occasional skirmishes between the rival cities, arguing over irrigation rights and petty jealousies. As a result all cities were protected by towering walls and each boasted its own army. Amurabis commandeered the ten thousand strong army of Nephatimis. Amurabis himself had been brought to Nephatimis as a slave, working in the temple for the Grand Sorcerer and either by luck or cunning had eventually gained his freedom. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to he joined the army and swiftly powered through the ranks by his ferocious strength and bravery which no one dared to question.

Had they been asleep to Amurabis’s plans? How had the army of King Hannouken, to whom it sweared its allegiance, turned on them? The morning they dragged King Hannouken from his slumber had left deep scars in Cyrances’s mind that could never be healed. The look of bewilderment on his face as he was jostled from his wife’s embrace by brutish guards, their demonic eyes glowering wildly, insane laughter cackling from sneering mouths. Cyrances never saw her husband again – not as she knew him that is. His kind smile. His loving eyes. His gentle words. The last time Cyrances saw her husband’s face was when Amurabis forced her to the city’s gate to view King Hannouken’s head impaled on metal spikes.

Extract from TOM O’KELL & THE CURSE OF AMURABIS

‘That’s awfully mean of Pater, don’t you think? Do you never get jealous of Pater’s ladies? I mean to say, Pater was mawwied twice before you came along and wescued him.’

‘Jealous? Jealous?’ Mater chuckled to herself. ‘No, of course not Agatha. It wasn’t Pater’s fault his mawwiages didn’t work out, you know. His first wife, Ophelia, suddenly decided she wanted to be a man and had the mawwiage annulled so she could have a gender change. And his second wife, Heidi fwom Hanover, why, she suffered fwom tewwible home-sickness and wan off with a German shot-putter duwing the Munich Olympics of ’72. By all accounts, according to Pater, she looked like she was the one who undertook a gender change.’

‘He does like his ladies on the large size, doesn’t he Mater? Not that you’re large, Mater. I’d say you’re more…more….’

‘Voluptuous is the word you’re looking for, Agatha, my dear.’

‘Is it?’ Agatha frowned and blinked her magnified owl eyes quickly.

‘Yes, voluptuous,’ Mater purred and became dreamy eyed.‘Why, when we were courting, Engelbert used to say I weminded him of Mae West.’ Mater then smiled provocatively and spoke in an American accent of sultry tones, ‘When I’m good, I’m vewy good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.’ Mater’s face suddenly flushed red and she squealed in embarrassed laughter as though she couldn’t believe as to what she had just said.

‘Oh Mater!’ Agatha laughed. ‘You’re such a scweam.’

Mater quickly fanned her face with a tea towel. ‘My Lord, I don’t know what came over me. Must be the fumes fwom the beetwoot wine.’ Mrs. Sparrow giggled and caught her breath and continued in a more controlled manner. ‘Oh, Pater knows which side his bwead is buttered. Gweat Gwandpapa Howatio made his fortune in tea plantations. If ever Pater seems to be getting too fond of his ladies I just ask – “more tea Vicar?” and smile innocently. Engelbert soon falls back into line.’

Mother and baby owl exchanged innocent smiles and burst into owlish hoots.

‘You’re such a card, Mater,’ said Agatha as a flash of inspiration to match Mater’s cunning sparked through her mind.

‘I say, Mater. Surely you don’t need to give all twelve bottles of beetwoot wine to the fete. Why not save a bottle or two for you and Pater? Help with Pater’s migwaine after an evening with his ladies? May even spark off Pater’s memowies of the wesemblance between your good self and Mae West’

‘Hmmm,’ mused Mater. ‘I say, Agatha old girl. That could be an excellent idea. An excellent idea indeed. Although Pater does find it exceptionally powerful stuff. On second thoughts maybe not.’

‘But surely Pater needs it, if only for medicinal weasons. You know how cwanky he can be if he gets a migwaine.’
Mrs. Sparrow hesitated and strummed the edge of the cardboard box with her podgy fingers. ‘Well, maybe just one tiny glass. I suppose one tiny glass can’t do any harm – can it?’

Agatha grinned. She knew full well that Pater would soon get a taste for the beetroot and Mater would resemble Mae West more and more with every sip. Slipping out to see her bestest friend in the whole wide world would be a piece of cake. Yes, thought Agatha, the Lord does work in mysterious ways.

TOM O’KELL & THE CURSE OF AMURABIS

‘I’ve had a tewwific time, Mater. Emily is such a dear fwiend. She’s my bestest fwiend in the whole wide world. I can’t wait to call on her tomowwow.’

‘You won’t be calling on that demon girl tomorrow or any other day, Agatha,’ the Vicar interjected, eyeing Agatha sternly through the rear mirror of the car. ‘She’s the Devil’s child is that one. The seed of Satan.’ He crunched the gears in annoyance.

‘B-But Pater…..’

‘No buts child. You will be coming to the Church Fete tomorrow where we can keep an eye on you, my girl.’

Agatha frowned and begged Mater sitting by her side with pleading eyes. Mrs. Sparrow blinked her owl eyes rapidly and patted Agatha’s knee reassuringly. ‘The Lord works in mysterious ways, Agatha. Mysterious ways indeed.’

Agatha smiled, knowing the Lord would probably help her without upsetting Pater too much.

Just then a blur whizzed past the side of the car. ‘Oh, look Mater. Why, I do believe it’s Michael!’ Agatha pointed excitedly at the large figure cycling down the pavement, wending through pedestrians like an Olympic skier on a slalom course.

‘God preserve us!’ snapped Pater. ‘Is that troll another one of your new friends?’ The Vicar’s voice squeaked in fear. He pulled at his dog collar and stretched his neck as though trying to escape the responsibilities of his garments before the demon turned on him.

‘Why, n-no P-Pater,’ Agatha stammered.

‘Tell me child. Have you been associating with that brute.’

‘N-No Pater. Definitely not, Pater.’

The Vicar’s eyes burned into Agatha’s reflection. ‘God will know if you are lying Agatha. I will ask you one more time. Have you been fraternising with that monster?’

Agatha gulped. Her magnified owl eyes looked up at Mater for some guidance but none was forthcoming.
‘N-No, Pater. You must believe me. I just know him from school.’ Agatha denied Mad Mick’s friendship for the third time. Agatha squeezed her eyes shut tight. A cockerel crowed from the allotments by the side of the road. ‘Forgive me St.Peter,’ Agatha muttered, praying she wouldn’t be crucified upside down for her sins.

‘Humph!’ The Vicar grunted and crunched the gears yet again as he slammed the gear stick into fourth and accelerated into an unfamiliar speed.

‘You can help me with the beetroot wine when we get home, Agatha,’ Mater smiled. ‘Pater has his ladies coming round. He won’t want us under his feet.’

Extract from TOM O’KELL & THE PAPANUK

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But it was the thought of Tom without his Dad that broke Lucy’s heart. Lucy tried to blot out the memory of the moment she had to tell Tom that his Dad had died, but the memory was too stubborn and cruel. She could still feel his little body shaking, the colour draining from his face and the wide eyed stare of disbelief before he fell into a heap on the floor kicking and screaming. Lucy’s thoughts whisked her to Harminster General Hospital. She could still hear her screams howling through the corridors as Mark took his last breath and closed his eyes forever. She remembered looking at the strange lifeless body in the hospital bed. It wasn’t Mark anymore. It was a stranger slowly going cold, warm lips cooling to a shade of dirty blue. Mark wasn’t going to open his sparkling blue eyes anymore. Mark wasn’t going to make her laugh anymore. Mark wasn’t going to hold her anymore. Mark was dead and he wasn’t coming back, ever, and she didn’t know when this pain was going to stop. The funeral had been a surreal day that she had stumbled through, nodding at the well intentioned cliches from uncomfortable friends – “Time’s a great healer” “It will get easier with time” “He’s at peace now” – It wasn’t getting easier and she felt ashamed when she wished that time would speed up so that death could claim her.

Tom stood at the entrance to the living room. He saw his Mum’s shoulders shaking, her long red hair bobbing. Tom sighed and quietly walked over to his Mum. His blue eyes reddened as he curled his arm around his Mum. Lucy hugged Tom tightly into her tummy, while she sniffled and quickly composed herself, wiping away the tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her light brown cardigan. Tom wanted to tell her that he knew where Dad was but he didn’t know how to. She would have believed him a couple of weeks ago when his Dad spoke to them from the television set, but not now. His Mum had put it down to exhaustion and strained emotions causing a shared hallucination, each other suggesting what they saw and heard. Tom wasn’t going to tell his Mum. Tom decided he was going to bring his Dad back home. He didn’t quite know how yet but he knew he was prepared to die trying.

Extract from TOM O’KELL & THE PAPANUK

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The Papanuk sat on the small hillside, surrounded by the children of the Chicuan camp. The children loved to hear his tales and parables. Tales of The Creation; Tales of the woodland animals; Tales of the nature around them. They may not understand their true meanings yet, but as they grew, they would come to understand the true wisdom spoken by the Papanuk. The hillside was bathed in warm sunshine. Birdsong whistled through the balmy air. The children chattered and giggled excitedly, waiting for the Papanuk to begin his storytelling.

One small boy, seated amongst a group of small girls, squealed in fits of high-pitched laughter. A group of boys, sitting across, pointed at him and ridiculed his effeminate ways. Chief Watanu, sighed deeply, embarrassed by his son’s girlish traits. Avoiding eye contact with any of his tribe, he hurried back to his tepee. He would speak with his son, Manitaku, ……again! How had he spawned a boy-girl? There could be no greater shame for a Chief. His authority would come into question. There could be a challenge to his leadership. If only his beloved Shushanay, Manitaku’s mother, was still here. She would ease the Chief’s troubled mind and soothe his aching heart. Shushanay, his beautiful Shushanay, high cheek bones framing two large almond shaped eyes of dark velvet brown, jet black hair cascading and glistening over her slim shoulders, touching the base of her spine. Her small delicate hands would stroke Chief Watanu’s brow and she would whisper her love for him and the World would be well again. Tears glistened in Chief Watanu’s black eyes remembering his beloved Shushanay, cruelly taken away from him at the birth of their son, Manitaku – his boy-girl Manitaku. He would get the Shaman, Mayakula, to take him to the Otherworld to seek out Shushanay. If only so that he could embrace her again, see her smile, hear her soft voice, feel her gentle kisses. How he missed Shushanay. Shortly after her passing over from this life to the Spirit World, Chief Watanu had insisted that Mayakula take him to the Otherworld so that he could be with Shushanay. He didn’t want her to be frightened and alone. Mayakula fulfilled his Chief’s wishes but Chief Watanu couldn’t have been more wrong. When he found Shushanay, she looked even more beautiful and truly happy to be with her ancestors of long, long ago. She assured Chief Watanu that she was waiting for him in the Spirit World. Waiting for the day that his soul would return Home and they would live together throughout eternity, in a tepee of love, in the peaceful land of their ancestors. She was watching over them, patiently waiting. Chief Watanu knew she was watching. He sensed her every day. He dreamed of her every night. He spoke to her in his moments of solitude. Ten Winters. Ten Summers. Chief Watanu had never considered taking another Chicuan woman. His heart belonged to Shushanay.

Extract from TOM O’KELL & THE PAPANUK

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‘What’s up with Franklin now?’ Henrietta cheeped, carefully putting her feather duster and polishing accessories into a large blue plastic mesh container. She untied her floral apron, folded it with pin sharp accuracy and hung it over a wooden backed chair next to Percy. Percy was too wrapped up admiring the completed Tiger Moth to hear his wife’s chirpings. Henrietta hurriedly left the living room. Franklin continued his high pitched yappings at a large dark shadow looming outside the frosted glass panels of the front door. Henrietta stopped abruptly and gasped at the size of the shadow. Franklin scampered back into the living room, trembling beneath the drop leaf table.

‘Who’s there?’ Henrietta squeaked. There was no reply. She carefully slid the bolt in place in the brass door chain and slowly opened the door. She peeked through the gap. Henrietta couldn’t believe what she saw towering above her. She gulped, gasped and quickly slammed the door shut. She pressed her frail back against the door and in a quivering voice shouted, ‘Percy! Percy!’
‘Whatever’s the matter, dear Henrietta?’ Percy asked calmly, pressing his wire rimmed glasses up against his long thin nose on entering the hallway.
‘Th-That,’ stuttered Henrietta, pointing to the dark shadow beyond the door.
‘Who is it?’ Percy was soon to find out. The shadow thumped on the door, shaking it in its doorframe.
‘Out of my way, Henrietta. I’ll deal with this,’ Percy bravely offered. Percy unlocked the door chain and swung the door open. ‘Now look here my f – f – fellow,’ the words stalled to a halt in Percy’s throat. Percy blinked hard. The huge shadow blinked back.
‘I’ve come for Ben,’ Mad Mick told Percy, but with Mick’s permanent scowl and size it came across as an order. ‘Y-Y-Yes of course,’ Percy stammered. ‘J-just a minute.’ Percy gently closed the door and turned to Henrietta.
‘Well?’ she asked.
‘He wants Ben!’ Percy exclaimed.
‘Ben? Ben? Whatever does he want with Ben? Tell him to go away.’
Percy sighed, apprehensive as to what action the monster may take if he disobeyed orders. Ben had heard the commotion in the hallway and came running downstairs to see what the fuss was about. Percy put the bolt back in the chain lock and nervously opened the door. He peered through the narrow gap and looked up at the giant. ‘I’m afraid Ben isn’t in at the moment.’
Mad Mick appeared stumped, unsure what to do next. ‘When will he be back?’
‘Who is it Dad?’ Ben shouted.
‘Huh?’ Mad Mick grunted.
‘Oh no!’ squeaked Percy, smiling apologetically, turning away from the door, hoping the ogre would have disappeared when he looked back.
‘Who is he?’ Henrietta whispered.
‘He’s my mate, Mick. Mad Mick.’
‘You can’t mix with thugs like that,’ she told Ben.
‘Mick isn’t a thug. He’s my friend.’
‘Tell him to go home, Percy. Our Ben isn’t to mix with his sort.’
Mad Mick could hear all of this through the gap in the door. Maybe it was a mistake to believe mistakes could have friends. Maybe he would be better going back to his old ways of terrorising the local kids. Who needs friends? The shadow began to fade away from the frosted glass, rays of light penetrated the hallway.

TOM O’KELL & THE PAPANUK – Free to Download on AMAZON

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Prayer to The Great Spirit

Great Spirit in Father Sky
We sing Your song
We do Your work in our lands
As You would have us do them
Give us our wants
And forgive us when we walk the wrong path
As we forgive those who tempt us there
Do not lead us to Bad Medicine
But save us from Bad Spirits
Your World is our World
Your Power is our Power
Your Spirit is our Spirit
Unitl the stars cease to shine
Peace

Extract from TOM O’KELL & THE PAPANUK – FREE DOWNLOAD ON AMAZON

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‘Look!’ Ben wheezed, pointing to the scary monster gazing down on them. Mick averted his eyes away from the evil Kalamon warriors stumbling down the hillside, and looked in the direction of Ben’s quivering finger.
‘L-Look!’ Ben repeated
‘Huh??’ Mick grunted, twisting his disbelieving face into a ghoulish scowl. ‘Huh??’
The demonic face glared down from the vast rock face. Steam hissed from its dark nostrils. Yellow flames leapt from its sinister eyes and from the gaps between the criss-crossed canines of its snarling mouth. However, it wasn’t the plumes of flame that had the boys transfixed. There was something else, something even more incredulous about the scary monster face.
‘It – It – It’s you!!!’ exclaimed Ben.
‘Huh??’ the image of the evil God, worshipped by the Kalamon, seemed to have put a curse on Mad Mick and shortened his vocabulary even further. ‘Huh??’ he repeated again and again. ‘Huh??’
‘It is. It’s you, Mick. You’re a scary devil God!’
‘Huh??’ Mick broke his gaze from the wicked fiery eyes of the dark God and looked down at the rocky soil, his head in his hands. Ben realised Mick’s sadness and felt a surge of compassion for his blood-brother, even though the Kalamon worshipped his grotesque likeness.
‘I suppose it doesn’t look exactly like you, Mick. I mean not if you look at it from this angle.’ Ben stood up, bent down and looked at the wicked face though his spindly legs. ‘And the teeth aren’t right,’ he added. ‘Those teeth give the monster’s face a scary snarling scowl.’
Mick slowly looked up, his eyes moist and bloodshot. ‘Do yer think so, bruv? Do yer really think so? Yer not just saying that to make me feel better, is yer?’ Mick scowled….scarily.
Ben gasped at Mick’s scary snarling scowl and then looked up at the monster’s scary snarling scowl. They were almost identical. Mad Mick’s just about edged the fear factor.
‘N-No. I’m not just saying it to make you feel better, Mick. That monster is nothing like you, really. Not if you study it closer. There are slight differences.’ Not that Ben was going to tell Mick what the differences were. He didn’t want to upset the sensitive ogre any further.
‘Awww. Thanks bruv,’ Mick smiled, which Ben now realised was a scary scowl. He hadn’t really noticed that characteristic before, not until he had to compare Mick’s scowl to the huge demonic monster above. Relieved to have lightened Mick’s mood, Ben quickly changed the subject back to Agatha’s perilous plight. ‘Look, Mick. We need to hurry.’

Extract from Tom O’Kell and The Papanuk – free download available on Amazon

‘My Lord,’ the first warrior beseeched. ‘Our brother is blinded by Kalamon arrow. Please, Lord. Please restore his sight. Make him whole again.’ They threw the injured warrior at the feet of the Papanuk. The warrior groaned in pain and grew weak at the loss of blood dripping from his blinded eye.

The Papanuk bent forward and kneeled by the side of the warrior writhing in pain. He moved the warrior’s hand away from his blood filled eye socket and placed both of his broad hands over the vicious wound. He looked to the skies, closed his dark eyes and prayed to the Great Spirit. The crowd hushed, anxious faces too scared to breathe. The injured brave squirmed and whimpered in agony. The Papanuk held his head firmly, his arms trembling, his swarthy face grimaced in deep conversation with the Great Spirit above. The body of the brave stopped thrashing and lay motionless as if dead. The crowd gasped, believing their brother to have passed over to his resting place in the OtherWorld. The Papanuk removed his large hands from the bloodied eye. The warrior blinked hard, his eye and sight restored. A broad smile spread across his glistening face seeing the Papanuk and his brothers smiling down at him. The crowd cheered and whooped, waving and singing, honoured to be witness to another miracle of the Papanuk.

‘Are there any other wounded braves?’ the Papanuk asked.

The brave who had just had his sight restored rose from the ground and replied, ‘Only my warrior brother, Pinchanka, but his wounds were too deep and he has passed over to the Spirit World, my Lord.’

The Papanuk broke his distant thoughts, looked solemnly at the young brave and pointed to the end of the seated riders in the distance. ‘Go find your brother, Pinchanka. He only sleeps. His wounds are healed.’ Screams of shock and surprise filtered down the line of warriors. The figure of a young brave ran down the line. He fell sobbing at the feet of the Papanuk. ‘My Lord. My Lord,’ he wept. Slowly he raised his head, his brown eyes filled with love and devotion to the Papanuk. The Papanuk touched the crown of the young brave’s head and spoke, ‘Your faith and devotion in me restored your life. Rise now. You have many more battles to fight before the Kalamon are vanquished.’