Notes from the Studio

The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Twenty-Two.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty-Two       With a hard, satisfied smile, The Huntsman clutched Mairi’s arm as she screamed and screamed again, her worst nightmare come true. With his other hand, he cast a hunting-net over the heads of both Janet and Thomas. Lunging forward, Tom pulled it away before it had settled on the mortal girl but was himself immediately caught in the fine mesh of its weaving. Struggling, he cried out, “Janet. Run!”       She hesitated, though. “Mother! Tom! I can’t leave you both!”       The Huntsman laughed, “No, stay with us, I will have all those that I seek this time.” At his command, the foul beasts stalked toward Janet. Desperately, Thomas tipped his tightly-bound body in front of the creatures, tangling himself and the net in their legs, slowing their charge. He shouted once more, “If he binds us all, we are truly lost!”       “I’m not going to bloody run away, again!”       But four, red-eyed beasts, mouths full of enormous, razor-sharp teeth continued to move toward her, offering no alternative. Jumping back into the hall, she slammed the door and wedged a nearby chair under its handle. Adding her weight against it, she screamed, “Security! Help!”       Returning with Mairi Ravenscroft’s medications, the nurse was shocked at the sharp howls that vibrated through the door and echoed down the hall. Terrified, she still grabbed at the chair trying to pull it away. She cried at Janet, “I have to get to my patient.” Then the door shuddered from the impact of more than one heavy body. Followed almost immediately by the awful sound of something sharp and very determined tearing at its hard surface. “What in God’s name is in there?”        Janet hissed back, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you! But we need help! Now!”       Abruptly, the door

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Twenty-One.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty-One       An hour’s drive from Inverness, on the southern shore of the Beauly Firth, there was a sprawling, single-story building with extensive grounds enclosed by high hedge of yew. A discreet sign just off the motorway, at the entrance to a small parking lot, informed Janet that she and Tom had arrived at their destination: “Greenhaven, a rest for those weary of the world”.       Thomas cut the engine, and they sat quietly for a moment. Janet breathed in and out, trying to calm her nerves, preparing for whatever she would find inside the institution. The air around them was fragrant with the nearby sea, and the sky above was thick with heavy clouds that threatened an early afternoon rain. Just before she climbed off the bike, Tom put a gentle hand on her arm before speaking. “Janet, I do not know what will happen within this place…”       “You mean in what condition I’ll find my mother?”       “I hope she will be responsive to you. But even if she is not, we must get both herself and you back within the protection of your father’s estate as soon as possible. You are in great danger outside its protective walls. If the Huntsman has survived, he will find us wherever we are.”        Janet’s hold on his shoulder tightened. “And you think he survived, don’t you?”       “Almost certainly.”       “Then I promise I’ll be as careful as possible.” Suddenly, a quick grin lit up her features. “And I do have you with me, don’t I?”       “Yes.”       “Then let’s go.”       An earlier phone call from her father had already cleared the way for the visit, so at top of a short flight of stairs, a pleasant-looking woman wearing a trim fitted suit greeted them. Their guide led them through the

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Twenty.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty       After a dreamless night Janet slowly opened her eyes, squinting at the dim room around her. Languidly stretching under the heavy, hand-made quilts as a cascade of memories from last night swirled through her thoughts: Thomas stroking her hair, her body. Her fingers brushed across slightly swollen lips, remembering the endlessly slow, intense kisses that only made her want more. Soon, though, she was aware that the blissful cocoon of warmth generated by their two bodies was melting away, and suddenly she was wide awake.       Clutching the quilt around her, she remembered how their bodies had fit together as if they had been made for each other, each arm and leg shaping comfortably over the other’s. They had slept, still clothed, tightly wrapped in each other’s arms for the rest of the night. And now he was gone.          Pushing the tangle of quilts aside, Janet shivered in the cool air of the cellar room.        Must be upstairs… with my father.        Better go make sure there’s no serious joisting going on…       *******       Minutes later, Janet stepped into the hallway above, and hearing the murmur of voices, followed them into the great room, where she found Tom and her father deep in surprisingly civil conversation.       “Thomas, those detectives were absolutely insufferable. They kept asking me the same questions over and over again, trying to catch me out in a lie, I suppose. But I knew what I had to tell them, and I stuck with it even if I didn’t get to my bed until well afterdawn.”       Janet interrupted, “Were they so awful?”       John Ravenscroft glanced up then and saw his daughter standing in the doorway. “Ah, Janet, there you are.”        She crossed the room to sit on the arm of the sofa beside Thomas. Protectively, she

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