[teaser 02] the collector’s lost things

The Holanian capital, Adria. Rei-Hai Shaw knew it like the back of his hand. For the Tower to mark the city as his next hunting ground was both fortune and cruelty. Two years had passed since he last walked the streets of his homeland; he’d been a shadow then too, lost amongst the crowds gathered for the royal wedding of heir apparent, Crown Prince Kiokharen. But this time, Rei was not here for a celebration.

            The Grand Cathedral of Nirhana stood nobly behind the castle proper. Secured within the gated domain of Upper Adria, it was not open to the general populace; the cathedral was the wedding chapel and worship venue of choice for the Holanian highborn. Rei had visited it a number of times in his youth—being the son of the reigning Swordmaster, Rei was privy to the inner circles of nobility. He was of age with the wayward Princess Amikharlia and had more or less grown up alongside the royal siblings. They’d often come to the cathedral to play, to see who could climb the highest up the ivy-coated walls. Rei always won.

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[short story] the cottage on peppercorn tree hill

The cottage on Peppercorn Tree Hill was not a cottage: it was a Federation Bungalow with a bay window and Evelyn Millar loved it. From the moment Harold drove her up the dusty road and she saw red brick façade with cream latticework under the eaves, Evie knew they would be happy here. The front was shaded with a large peppercorn tree, for which the hill was named, with a swollen trunk and wide-spanning limbs. Evie jumped out of the car, blonde curls bouncing, and breathed in the fresh country air. A smile curled her lips as she beheld her future looking down at the town below.

            Evie and Harold met in a hospital, though neither was a patient. Her mother Vilma had been volunteering at the 113th Australian General Hospital to care for the many repatriated soldiers wounded in the Pacific. Together with her younger sister, Margaret, Evie spent much of her time there, helping where she could, while their father fought in Papua New Guinea. While assisting the nurses on their rounds, Evie happened upon a fresh-faced, fair-haired doctor by the name of Harold Millar. In spite of horror piling up around her, Evie fell in love.

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[teaser 01] the morning of

 

Ami watched the sun rise over the swell of mountains on the horizon. The golden arms of morning spread dawn’s embrace across the sleepy castle town below. The Holanian capital, Adria, would soon be waking. Her still-made feather bed beckoned, though she would not be joining it. The young princess sipped the wine left on the drawing table along with the remnants of her uneaten evening meal. The dark Bararnite vintage was a sharp assault so early in the morning but Ami welcomed the wetness on her tongue.

            It was the Day of Blessing—a humble day of virginal simplicity to be enjoyed in the presence of her betrothed. A day of tradition, of ceremony, of celebration—a day Ami would not see through to completion. Had it been Tallas, she would have endured. Tallas, heir to the neighbouring throne of Bararn, had been her promised one, not his snivelling, unctuous little brother, Reminas. Even before Tallas’s cruel and untimely death, Reminas always believed himself entitled to everything his older brother possessed—his titles, his birthrights, his armies. Now he had the impudence to name himself successor to the Holanian marriage alliance as well. But he would not have Ami. She would not be Reminas’s bride. He would not be her king.

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[short story] a table for two

At a table set for two, tucked away in the corner of a restaurant whose name she couldn’t pronounce, Miss Williams slipped into the leather upholstered seat. A crystal pendant light hung low above the table, casting nightmarish shadows from the proud napkin-swans across the white tablecloth as she set down her clutch and keys.

            ‘Can I get the wine menu for you, Ma’am?’ The waiter asked. He was a tall slick man with not a hair out of place.

            ‘Actually,’ Miss Williams said with the faintest of smiles, ‘I think champagne might be in order.’

            ‘Very well, then. I shall bring you our best bottle.’

            ‘That will be delightful.’ Miss Williams shrugged off her lilac pashmina and draped it across the back of her chair. Her elbow brushed the back of the man sitting behind her. She apologised but the scowl on his face suggested she’d made him spill his drink. Turning back around, Miss Williams took a deep breath to calm the nerves swimming in her stomach.

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