The Queen of Summer’s Twilight

The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapters 1-3.

© Charles Vess 2019   Well, I guess now no one can ever accuse me of being safe and staying in my zone. After years and years of pushing and pulling at the words and characters, I’ve finally decided to self-publish my first novel, “The Queen of Summer’s Twilight”. Why self-publish you ask? Well I do have an agent but she as well as my previous agent have read the book and suggested that my

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Four.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Four       As the bike glided past the bright lights of oncoming cars and the cold, fresh wind rushed over her newly exposed scalp. Janet felt her old life fade away. At that moment she was certain that everything would be all right.       But that’s crazy? I don’t know who this man is or even where he’s taking me!       Arms clutched tightly around her rescuer’s waist she studied the young man. From that

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Five.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Five       A short time later, Janet stirred, then stiffly got to her feet before leaning quickly down to pick up the coat that was left under her head. Shivering from the cold she slipped gratefully into it, her arms clutching the leather coat close to her body before looking around.        In the pre-dawn darkness, Janet could just make out an almost treeless landscape that rolls away into upland glens and

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Six.

© Charles Vess 2019     Chapter Six       Later that morning, within a small circle of standing stones, far out on the heather covered moor, Thomas leaned back against the rough granite surface of the tallest of those dolmens. His face creased in thought as he stared at the heavy, black motorcycle leaning against the stone opposite him.        With practice I’ve grown accustomed to riding that strange construction of metal as I ever had any living steed.

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Seven.

© Charles Vess 2019          Chapter Seven          Two days later, Janet was seated at one of a long row of benches that lined a small triangular park at the junction of two streets in downtown Inverness. The park is filled with bright, multi-colored playground equipment, being enthusiastically and thoroughly abused by a half dozen gleeful screaming children. Along the other benches, adult guardians sat patiently watching their charges exhaust themselves.          Beside her was a small mountain

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Eight.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Eight A light rain began to fall as Thomas pulled his bike into the loading zone in front of a busy downtown music club. As she hopped off, Janet whispered into his ear, “Meet me inside, okay?”       Tom nodded and then as he threaded his bike through the busy traffic looking for a place to park, he began to wonder why he’d allowed himself to spend so much time with

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Nine.

© Charles Vess 2019   Chapter Nine       Janet cried, “Bloody hell that fucking madman’s got a sword!” And a moment later as a second question crashed through her mind, she cried, “Why isn’t everyone running away?” Then she realized the answer. Only she and Tom actually saw the swordsman and his pack of wretched beasts.  Tom face was a grim, determined mask as he pulled away from Janet’s arms. Suddenly there was a long thin blade

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Ten.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Ten       Unconcerned with the dead man at his feet, The Huntsman kept his eyes locked on Tom. “Have you chosen then to remain in this dreary realm?”        Ignoring the casual taunt Thomas shouted over the music to Janet, “Find the rear exit. My Vincent is parked in the alley. Get on it. Leave. Leave now!”       Shocked, Janet stared at the dead body of the complete stranger that had just tried

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Eleven.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Eleven       Both arms clinched around Tom’s waist, Janet welcomed the numbing exhaustion that almost smothered the chaos raging through her thoughts. The crowded streets flashed by offering a barrage of sight and sound that blesses her with needed distraction. But vivid images of first the dead man laying in a pool of his own blood and then Lottie’s father, kept relentlessly overpowering her thoughts. Fiercely she clutched at Tom’s arm

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Twelve.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twelve       Janet pushed against the massive French doors that opened into the great room inside, but when they wouldn’t give way, she noticed the red blinking light in the darkness of the room inside. Briefly glancing up at yet another of her father’s security cameras, she casually offers it an obscene hand gesture.        “Bloody stupid codes…”       Furiously she punched in a set of numbers and threw the doors open, letting

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Thirteen.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Thirteen        That afternoon a satisfied smile played across John Ravenscroft’s face as he picked up the new dossier that waited on his desk. It faded quickly after thumbing through an extremely thin folder that contained exactly two digitally enhanced pictures of a pleasant-looking young man. Both were taken with his own security cameras. In the first he sat a motorcycle with Janet’s arms wrapped tightly around his waist. They were

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapters Fourteen and Fifteen.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Fourteen        Rain thundered down from a dense, sullen sky so endless that it seemed to swallow the plain of heather and granite boulders spread out below it. A great black mare surged across that moorland, regardless of the sharp broken stones or treacherous mire under its hooves. The hot breath of both rider and mount plumed out behind, leaving a momentary trail of white mist in the frigid morning air.

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Sixteen.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Sixteen        Forty-five minutes later, the caravan of black SUV’s turned off Culloden Road and onto the long private drive that bore the Ravenscroft estate’s name. Huddled in the back of the middle vehicle, Janet had pushed herself as far away from her father as possible. Her thoughts a tangle of half-truths and revelations, she hadn’t spoken for the entire length of the drive across downtown Inverness.        Finally, in an attempt

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Seventeen.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Seventeen       A full hour later John Ravenscroft walked into the great room of the house. His daughter Janet lay unconscious on the plush couch, her arms still tightly wrapped around the mysterious man who had helped save both their lives. Thomas looked up at John, cautiously following his every move as if he were ready to bolt like a wild animal caught in a trap.       The older man cleared his

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Eighteen.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Eighteen        Resplendent, even wearing cast off clothing, Thomas, The Knight of the Rose looked intently down at Janet. Meeting his ardent gaze, she felt a pleasant shiver prickle the flesh of her arms and neck.        Beside his daughter, John Ravenscroft considered the meaning behind that deeply intimate look and uncomfortably shifted his considerable bulk on the couch. “Well, yes…of course, but we have other matters to discuss, don’t we? All

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Nineteen.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Nineteen       Janet took Thomas’ hand and led him along the long, carpeted hallway that ran down the length of the west wing of the house. Part way, she pushed open what looked like a simple closet door leading into a small room filled with cleaning supplies and boxes stacked against every wall. For a moment, Janet fumbled with a catch set almost invisibly in the elaborate wood railing that followed

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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

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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

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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!”

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

© Charles Vess 2019       Chapter Twenty-Three       Janet clenched her teeth as the Vincent jolted across a vast plain of withered grass and dead, twisted trees, leaving a burning trail of smoke and ash in the bike’s wake.       There was nothing living to be seen. No creatures. No birds or beasts. Nothing. Above her was only an endless twilight strewn with glistening stars.       Damn, where are they?       Janet floored the powerful bike, hoping to catch up

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

© Charles Vess Chapter Twenty-Four       Exhausted, Janet brought the Vincent to a stop and cut the motor. Instantly, she was aware of the dreadful silence of the land that surrounded her, only the whistling of the wind past the red brick towers above her could be heard.        She reached up to wipe the sweat from her brow and looked again at the immense wall that stretched endlessly before her.“Bloody hell. How can I even try

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

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty-Five       Far away, down long silent corridors, Janet tossed in her sleep. Abruptly, her eyes blinked open as two soft tongues began to lick her face. In the total darkness of the cell, she was unable to see whatever impossible thing it was, but from either side of her head, she heard soft panting. Small paws pushed at her arms, and soft fur brushed her face. Janet whispered into the

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The Queen of Summer’s Twight, Chapter Twenty-Six.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty-Six       In the long journey afterward, Janet became certain that when its long-forgotten architect had finally looked upon his bitter construction of darkness and endless twisting passages, he must have been pleased by the success of his cruel art.        Because it was their only hope to find safe passage through the labyrinth, Janet gave herself over and over again to The Queen. Each time, no matter how brief, left her

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

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty-Seven       On the far western edge of the ruined plain that was the realm of The Lord of Darkness and of Death, there was once a great river.       A deep river and wide, one that once flowed swiftly past.        This river was and ever had been all that separated the Land of Summer’s Twilight from that of The Dark Lord’s kingdom. Between its two high banks flowed all the blood

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

© Charles Vess Chapter Twenty-Eight       Stretched beyond the limits of her strength, Janet collapsed unconscious into Tom’s arms. Gently laying her on the ground, he anxiously gazed down at her worn face.        Beside them, Mairi opened her eyes, and for the first time in too long, looked out at a world that should have been free from the taint of her madness. But what Mairi saw was the very world she’d looked at for the

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

© Charles Vess Chapter Twenty-Nine       In the profound silence that followed, Janet looked to the bottle witch, and feigning indifference asked, “Okay, are we done? Can my mother and I go home now?”       Mother Hainter cackled to herself, “Nae, no yet I fear.”       Janet’s eyebrows lifted impatiently, “Why not, little witch? What more can we do that hasn’t already been done? My mother and I are weary to our bones.” The mortal girl gestured at

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Thirty.

© Charles Vess 2019       Chapter Thirty       Janet never knew how long it took for their company to travel through the Queen’s great forest. Only the moon above them, slowly waxing greater and greater until it was full and strong spoke to any passage of time. Their steps, though, quickened as they saw, all around them, the once dead land of The Queen become lush with new life. Each blackened tree or withered bush and briar,

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Thirty-One and Thirty-Two.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Thirty-One       When at last the companions emerged from the great forest to stand on a hill overlooking the vast rolling plain that swept toward The Queen’s city, Thomas’ heart leaped. Below, the blackened grass and withered trees were verdant once more. The gentle rolling hills spread for as far as his eyes could see, laced with sparkling streams and stands of towering oak in full leaf. Crowding the sky above,

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapters Thirty-Three, Thirty-Four and Thirty-Five.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Thirty-Three       This time when The Lord of Darkness and of Death entered The Queen’s city, none there sought to impede his progress. He brought with him no army of shadows, but only a single companion, the last great hunting beast that stalked close by his side, fitted with an elaborate harness made of shining black leather. Although the crowd filling Her throne room was relieved to have their Queen with

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapters Thirty-Six, Thirty-Seven and Thirty-Eight.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Thirty-Six       As the words of the song faded, Janet sat silently gazing at the distant figure below in elegant red armor that knelt now in supplication before his Queen. “Thomas, what do I have to do to bring you safely home?” She turned back to her mother. “Good for her but there’s more to the song isn’t there?”       “Yes. The Queen is left angered and vengeful, cursing the girl and

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapters Thirty-Nine and Forty.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Thirty-Nine        Since the night that so many had been slaughtered at his front gates, everyone that had ever worked for John Ravenscroft had tendered their resignations, leaving him alone to look after the great, empty house. So, it was that the lovely singing voice that carried down the hall and into John’s office where he sat with his head buried in his folded arms, fast asleep, was the first welcoming

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapters Forty-One, Forty-Two and the Epilog.

© Charles Vess 2019     Chapter Forty-One       Janet screamed over the pounding of the hooves, “All of you here are on a fool’s errand this night.”        Only the slight flicker of hands on reigns and the turning of Her steed made the mortal girl aware that The Queen had heard her. Then once, twice, three times the mounted Host of Fairy circled moonwise round the hill before coming to an abrupt halt. And there they stood

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