Writer Wednesday

If you see me bouncing this week it’s because the announced sale is finally out! My first professional publication! I might not be on the ebook cover, but I’m so proud and awed to be in such good company! Yes, I’m in Pulphouse #5, out now! 😀

When I got that email, I forgot about Himalayas and the Smashwords sale, as you can imagine! 😉 And I was so excited I postponed to the weekend listening to the narrators auditions for the next two audiobooks… but now two more are scheduled for production.

I also had time to write another 13K, but I have a fairly detailed outline, so I’m going very fast. I want to finish at least volume 1 of the Moren Empire this month, and it might turn out longer than usual (but it’s also 4 or 5 short books put together, haha!).

If I don’t make it, I’ll push the “30 stories in 60 days” to June and finish it in April. In the meantime I submitted another couple of shorts to traditional markets, although I like SFF fandom less and less. This year will probably be my last Worldcon, since my readers don’t seem to be attending members! 😉

And I have a few links today to share with you.  Indie sci-fi authors are upending traditional publishing, and it’s turned into a war. I am a member of the 20Books group, although I don’t earn much, and will attend the Edinburgh workshop/conference because it’s closer than Vegas and it also has the writing days. But I’m nowhere their results with sales, I still have to find my readers. Let’s hope that whoever started a couple of my series with the free books in the Smashwords sale (see above) will turn into fans! 😉

David Farland on when to stop polishing your manuscript with some good anecdotes from the past. Kris Rusch on priorities – have you made yours? I should probably push my health before my writing, since I don’t have a Dear Husband… although I’m married to Mr. Writing, so… conflicting priorities here… 😉

And the longest article, but worth reading and mulling over – 35 Hard Truths You Should Know Before Becoming “Successful”. I like #20 very much and write what I’d like to read, not chasing the latest trend… which might make it harder to find my readers, but well…

I have a couple more, but I shall leave them for Random Friday Rant! 🙂 Have a great week!


Random Friday

Just wanted to let you know that Starship Pilot with Techie Bro’s illustration Ready for Take-off is now available for the first ten (10) patrons, no matter how much you pledge. So, if you’d like to read it before it comes out in the volume Star Minds Third Generation Snippets, you can become a patron of yours truly and have this neat illustrated preview.

Since I’ve decided to try and write a couple of short stories for submission, following some writing prompts I found on Reddit, and the magazine currently only wants fantasy and no sci-fi, I watched Warcraft that I found at the newsagent’s. I didn’t know it was directed by David Bowie’s son (I love his Moon movie) and I’ve never really played the game (although I know that my WoW (words of wisdom) Sundays used to confuse WoW (Worlds of Warcraft) fans, but I knew nothing of the franchise at the time), so…

It’s a nice fantasy movie… got choked up a couple of times and of course it’s only the beginning (in fact the Italian titles says “Warcraft – the beginning”), so there’s an open ending for sequels. And I was impressed by the CGI, they can really make anything look real!

So if you want to see orcs and gryphons and warriors in shining armor and even “boomsticks” (yes, those pesky guns are everywhere nowadays, haha!) with elves and dwarves, go check this movie – it’s not as long as LOTR (which I haven’t seen yet anyway, nor read the book).

Now I’m back to my publishing stuff… expect a new title soon… Have a great weekend and Happy Easter! 🙂

Sunday Surprise

Cyber Bodyguard

by Barbara G.Tarn

C’ell’andy was confused. He remembered the explosion, and throwing Kol-ian to safety before being half-buried by a crumbling building. Now he felt a numbing pain and couldn’t tell if he was conscious or not. He still had a body and it was probably tied to a machine – he could feel the tube down his throat, but not much else.

He didn’t know where he was, if the darkness was inside or outside of him, or if he was alive or dead. His mind struggled to stay focused, to understand what was going on.

C’ell’andy, do you hear me?

The powerful mind of the Emperor echoed in the nothingness that engulfed him. This was getting scary – he didn’t know how to answer with his mouth full – then he remembered the Emperor was a telepath and he didn’t need to speak. The voice in his head was a mind projection anyway.

Your lower body is badly damaged, and we need to attach a prosthetic to keep you alive, the Emperor continued coldly. But we don’t have anything ready except a horse body. You might not live long enough to have a proper human prosthetic, but it’s still your choice. Do you want to live as a scary-looking cyborg, or would you rather die and be honored for saving my son’s life?

So he was alive, albeit maimed. He couldn’t die now. The Sire had the most advanced technology in the galaxy, so the prosthetic might actually enhance him. He was a bodyguard, sworn to protect the Emperor’s son. If the Emperor saw it fit to save him by attaching a weird-looking prosthetic to what was left of his body, he could only be grateful for the gift.

Let me live, Imperiestra.

You shall live.

C’ell’andy’s consciousness slowly faded away.


art by Silvano Beltramo

art by Silvano Beltramo

C’ell’andy put down the dumbbell with a sigh. Time for the last pull-ups. He didn’t have any abs anymore, and his upper torso muscles had atrophied during the past two months. He’d recovered their strength by now, though, in spite of the added weight of the prosthetic. His biceps swelled as he pulled up the miracle that kept him alive. It looked like a silvery horse body attached to what was left of his hips. In the daylight it gleamed white, which made a great contrast with his dark-chocolate skin.

“Bravo!” Tyro clapped his hands while C’ell’andy finished his exercise.

C’ell’andy’s naked upper torso and shaved head were covered in sweat, but the prosthetic didn’t produce any. He walked to his friend, relaxing as his new lower half moved under his command.

“You’ve recovered your full mass of muscles,” Tyro complimented him. “You look even more fierce than before.”

“I look weird, but I had no choice if I wanted to live.” C’ell’andy sighed. “I think the Emperor used me as guinea pig.”

“Well, you’d be dead anyway if your body rejected the implant,” Tyro said. “But I’m glad everything went well. You control everything now?”

“Yes.” C’ell’andy went through some gaits – walk, trot, canter, gallop – around the gym, then slowed again to a canter and then a walk. He stopped in front of the scientist who had created the artificial body. “How did I do?”

“Perfect. I knew you could do it. You’re ready to go back on duty.”

“I’ll stop to hug my wife and will be on my way.” C’ell’andy grinned and clasped Tyro’s arm. “Thank you, my friend.”

They exited the gym together, and as they walked through the Vaurabi Labs, C’ell’andy’s metallic hoofs clanged on the floor.

“Do you think you can add padded horseshoes so I don’t scare Kol-ian away?” the cyborg asked, frowning with worry.

“Sure!” The pale-skinned scientist was quick to fix the annoying noise.

C’ell’andy exited the Imperial palace and galloped back to his quarters, exhilarated. The housing looked very small with his new body, and his wife giggled as he bumped into furniture with his prosthetic.

“Sorry, I’ll have to figure out a way to sleep,” he grumbled. “So far I lay my head on a shelf with a pillow… let’s see if I can sit by the bed and use it the same way…”

He squeezed the implant between the bed and the wall and sat his horselike body down. Since it was mechanical, it had no problems in doing so. Rotating his torso felt uncomfortable, though, so he decided he’d have to find another solution.

He rose again to his four feet with a sigh and backed out of the narrow passage.

“We’ll work it out later.” L’ill’oretta slid a waistcoat on his shoulders. “I know you don’t have private parts to cover anymore, but you don’t want to be completely naked, especially in front of the Emperor – or his son,” she chided.

He adjusted the colorful sleeveless vest and turned to take her in his arms – his beautiful, pregnant wife who now barely reached his nipples. The implant made him even taller than what he already was.

“Thank you,” he whispered, before kissing her. He was grateful she had stood by him in spite of the maiming that had cost him his manhood. Well, the whole lower half of his body.

“You’re alive. Our child will have a father,” she replied tenderly.

He caressed her round belly, thanking the gods for keeping him alive. He might have a robotic body, but he still felt completely human. He was lucky the accident happened when L’ill’oretta was already expecting, or he might have lost his wife along with half of his body.

“Thanks to Tyro Megnaghy and his wonderful prosthetic,” he said.

“How does it feel?” she asked, curious.

“I’m getting used to it. Controlling four legs instead of two is tricky at first. Unfortunately it was the only implant ready and available when I was taken down.”

“You look gorgeous,” she assured. “Like our legendary man-horses!”

He chuckled and gently squeezed her in his powerful arms.

“I better go and see how Kol-ian is doing,” he said, then kissed her frizzy hair. He knew he hadn’t been replaced, and the little prince he’d protected from the explosion was locked in his room since the accident – two long months to attach the implant to his ruined body, make it work, and then for him to learn to control his new lower limbs through a neural interface inserted at the back of his neck.

“Sure.” She sighed. She was on maternity leave, which had allowed her to care for him before she got too big and needed care herself. “See you tonight.”

They kissed and C’ell’andy left their apartment to go back to the palace. He walked to the higher floors and the little prince’s room, mostly ignored in spite of the obvious prosthetic. He knocked before the door slid open and he entered the child’s apartment – an antechamber for playing and reading, and a bedroom.

ImperialPrincesTXTeng_resize“Prince Kol-ian?” he called, not seeing him on the couch as he expected. “Are you hiding?” he chided, stepping forward. He reached the bedroom and heard a ragged breath coming from behind the big bed.

“Why are you hiding, my prince?” he asked, stopping at the door.

A tuft of raven hair followed by a pair of big black eyes peered over the bed. The eyes widened and C’ell’andy heard a gasp. The head vanished again.

“Prince Kol-ian, may I come forward?” C’ell’andy asked. “Why are you afraid of me all of a sudden?”

“I’m not scared.” The childish voice was muffled. “I’m ashamed.”

Startled, C’ell’andy crossed the room and reached the corner where the prince was hiding. Kol-ian Vaurabi was six and his eyes were wide with pain, shame, guilt and who knew what else.

C’ell’andy’s impulse was to grab him and hold him to his chest. He followed through with it and picked Kol-ian off the floor. The child looked even smaller next to his mechanic body.

“Why are you ashamed?” C’ell’andy asked, puzzled, looking Kol-ian in the eyes and stroking his back with one hand as he held him with the other arm.

The child sniffed and lowered his eyes. “Because Granny is dead and you are maimed, and it’s all my fault,” he whispered.

“No, it’s not your fault,” C’ell’andy assured. “What makes you think you have anything to do with this?”

Barely a whisper. “They were trying to kill me. Because I’m the Emperor’s son.”

C’ell’andy sighed. “Well, that’s why I’ve been appointed your bodyguard. So nobody could hurt you. That’s why I’m protecting you. Unfortunately I couldn’t save your granny.”

Kol-ian sniffed again and glanced at his horse body. “You look funny.”

“Do you want to ride me?” C’ell’andy suggested with a smile.

Kol-ian nodded.

C’ell’andy moved Kol-ian to his metallic rump and wrapped the short arms around his waist. “Ready for a ride?”

“Yes!” Kol-ian said, finally loud. Soon he was all giggly, and his shame was forgotten while C’ell’andy caracoled between the two rooms making horse sounds.

The cyborg finally took the child off his back and threw him on his bed, where he landed with a soft thud and a final giggle.

“Thank you, C’ell’andy,” Kol-ian sighed, curling up. “Will you tell me the story of C’est’aran now?”

“Of course.”

C’ell’andy realized he couldn’t really sit on the boy’s bed like he used to. Drat, this prosthetic can be very impractical in some situations. He couldn’t lie to sleep, he couldn’t sit… but the happiness of the little prince riding his implant was priceless. Kol-ian was a gloomy prince – the second-born of the Emperor – who had found some affection only with his late grandmother.

The Imperial family was quite cold and used to hiding their feelings. Some said they didn’t have any, in spite of being Sire and telepaths and superior to other Humanoid races like C’ell’andy’s. But the cyborg knew Kol-ian had feelings, much like his mother used to.

It had been mostly his maternal grandmother who often made the child smile. Except the aging woman had been killed in the assassination attempt and Kol-ian was left with only his bodyguard, now a cyborg, who could still tell him stories of his home world, Ulba’wis.

Kol-ian listened wide-eyed for the umpteenth time to the story of C’est’aran, a hero from Ulba’wis. The Humanoids living there were warriors and had plenty of stories about wars and great adventures, while the Sire had lived in peace for centuries, until they’d become the dominating race among the Humanoids and had formed the Galactic Empire. For some reason, Kol-ian preferred Ulba’wissian stories to Sire stories.

“You will have your own child soon?” the boy asked when the story was over. He looked worried again.

“Yes, in a couple of months,” C’ell’andy answered, caressing the child’s black hair.

“So you will tell him or her your stories.” Kol-ian averted his eyes, disappointed.

“No, I will still tell them to you. It will take some time before my child will be able to listen to my stories,” C’ell’andy assured.

“Really?” Kol-ian brightened again. “Tell me another, then!”


Cyber Bodyguard is included in Star Minds Snippets. Pictures by the author and Silvano Beltramo.

Sunday Surprise – Tim Flanagan

Since I’ve already interviewed him, but he has a new book out, here’s everything you need to know about his latest “baby”. AND there’s a short story as well! Welcome back, Tim Flanagan! 🙂

The Curious Disappearance of Professor Brown, or The Pumpkins of Doom.

A Lawrence Pinkley Mystery

By Tim Flanagan

with illustrations by Dylan Gibson

timEighteen year old Lawrence Pinkley is Whitby’s greatest Private Detective. In fact, he’s Whitby’s only Private Detective.

Pinkley’s skills are called into play in the first case of a reluctant career.

One night, in a high security laboratory, a scientist mysteriously disappears, leaving behind an overly nervous assistant and a trail of pumpkin juice. Pinkley is hired to investigate the disappearance by the professor’s beautiful daughter, forcing him to quickly learn the skills he needs to solve his first major crime.

But every move Pinkley makes is being watched.

As he blunders from one clue to the next he stumbles across secret messages, talking pumpkins, the Russian mafia, and hired hitmen. His life now depends on him solving the case. Not to mention the future of mankind!

Publication date : 15 November 2013

Available on Amazon Kindle  $2.99 / £2.99 and full colour paperback  $25.96 / £14.99

Tim Flanagan Profile Info

At some point in Tim’s childhood, he was abducted by aliens and sent on a voyage of knowledge and discovery across the universe. Eventually the aliens realised how pointless this was and, as a failed student, he was returned to Earth and left with a family who brought him up as a human bean. But, the persistent memories of new worlds, dragons and other creatures, continued to knock at his frontal lobe, desperately trying to break out.

To avoid making a mess and calm his imagination, Tim began writing as a way to communicate with Earthlings. Fuelled by Chilli and Nachos and a bottle of wine, Tim manages to balance a love of loud rock music and fast cars (preferably red!) with emotional chic flicks, smart leather shoes and a well tailored suit. He has successfully infiltrated the humans and hides behind the façade known as a family. He learns from his children, but is regularly told to stop acting like a child by his wife.

Naturally shy and unsociable by nature, he is selective of the human company he keeps, preferring to be around old books, bonsai and art. He cries at ‘It’s a wonderful life’ but sulks if fed evil vegetables disguised as Parsnips or Peas. He is bored by mundane conversation, excited by architecture and castles and fuelled by Caramel Latte Macchiato’s.

Occasionally, he likes to catch up with old acquaintances on Tatooine, Westeros, and Middle Earth, and stare at fantasy and concept art as if it is a window to his childhood adventures. He is always trying to learn lessons from the masters; Mr Charles Darwin and Mr Lionel Ritchie, about life and love. Tim’s galactic mission is to translate his brain activity into a language that inspires and entertains you, transports you to different worlds and grants you an audience with the characters you have dreamt about, but never dared to remember. All of this in an attempt to redeem himself with his childhood alien abductors and travel the stars once more.


The Moon Stealers and the Quest for the Silver Bough (Book 1)

The Moon Stealers and the Queen of the Underworld (Book 2)

The Moon Stealers and the Everlasting Night (Book 3)

Book 4 coming out end 2013

The Curious Disappearance of Professor Brown


My blog is the best place to get an insight into my mind. There are various posts and videos that have nothing to do with writing, sometimes just things that made me laugh or made me think.


Social Media

Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/timflanaganbooks

Twitter : http://www.twitter.com/timflanauthor

Google+ : http://www.google.com/+TimFlanaganAuthor

Join my mailing list. I don’t do spam so will only contact you when I have a new book release.

Links to books:

The Moon Stealers and the Quest for the Silver Bough (Book 1)

The Moon Stealers and the Queen of the Underworld (Book 2)

The Moon Stealers and the Everlasting Night (Book 3)

The Curious Disappearance of Professor Brown ebook and print.

And now… the short story! 🙂

The Mystery of the Purple Christmas Goose –
A Lawrence Pinkley Mystery

The highlight in Whitby’s social calendar was the annual Christmas market. Local traders dressed up as characters from the books of Charles Dickens, drank too much mulled wine and said ‘by jove’ far too often. The snow covered street down to the harbour was lined with stalls, whilst barrows sold steaming hot meat sandwiches and pies.
I left my Detective Agency and strolled towards Healthcliffe Ablett’s prize winning goose stall, but as I approached I saw an angry looking Ablett poking a rival poultry farmer in the chest.
‘This is your doing!’ he shouted. ‘You knew I would win the rosette for best bird again.’
‘I’ve been on my stall all day!’ responded Peter Tweedy.
‘You,’ said Mr Ablett upon seeing me. ‘You’re a detective – prove this scoundrel defaced my prize winning goose.’
I stepped nervously forward, conscious of everyone watching. In a cage at the side of the stall was a goose covered in purple liquid.
I bent down and looked at the goose, instantly aware of a strange fruity smell. I dipped my finger into the purple liquid, sniffed it then touched the end of my tongue. Blackcurrant juice. I looked up at Mr Ablett’s table – directly above the bird cage and hidden behind some country cider was an empty bottle of blackcurrant.
‘The bird’s covered in blackcurrant juice,’ I announced. ‘The bottle must have fallen over and tipped onto it.’
As I examined the bottle I was surprised to find that the top was still screwed tightly on, whilst near the base was a small hole in the plastic.
Floating on top of what remained inside the bottle was a white flake of wax.
Bored that nothing interesting was going to happen, the crowd instantly dispersed. On the table where the bottle had stood I could see a ring of white melted wax.
Why would wax be inside the bottle as well as around the base? I thought to myself. For it to get inside it would have to go through the small hole. Or, maybe it was already in the hole? What if it had been used to block up the hole?
I could feel heat coming from the chestnut stall next to Ablett’s stand. If the wax had plugged the hole in the bottle, the heat coming from the neighbouring stall could have been enough to soften it and allow the blackcurrant to drain freely out of the bottle. It seemed that Mr Ablett’s goose had been intentionally, but cleverly, ruined.
With the argument forgotten, Mr Ablett carried the bird into a nearby hairdressers to shampoo it back to its former glory.
Mr Tweedy walked over to the chestnut seller and suspiciously stuffed a handful of banknotes into his hand before turning to me. ‘Will you be looking for a goose for your Christmas table?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, wondering if he had anything to do with the waxy plug.
He put his arm around my shoulders and walked me over to his stall.
‘Choose your goose. I don’t want any money for it! My way of saying thank you for stopping that old fool from making a scene.’
Although I still had my suspicions, Mr Tweedy was right; I had spared the town an embarrassing event that would have spoiled the Christmas market.
I chose a prepared bird that looked far more appealing than a blackcurrant marinated goose, and began to leave. As I did so, I noticed a book poking out from Mr Tweedy’s waistcoat pocket: Dodgy & Crook’s, 437 Ways To Knobble The Competition.

Writer Wednesday

SMShalfblood_resizeLet’s say I feel jet-lagged, although I have no reason to (England is only one hour difference and 3 hours flight) – blame it on my age! 😉 I love winter, but the cold also slows me down, along with a couple of womanly things I hoped I had gotten rid of. But I digress. It’s Writer Wednesday again aaaand, as promised, I have a new short story out, at the moment only on 3 distributors but with more to come.

Star Minds Snippets – Half-blood, a 99cent short story out now on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes&Noble and eventually Kobo and Apple.

I’ve brought the proof for SMSnippets to London and found a few typos and duplicated words, so I’ll have to spend a day (next weekend) correcting and uploading the new doc. Hope I don’t get another email from CreateSpace reminding me about it – I know I have it pending, but they themselves recommend checking for typos and stuff, and you need time for that! 😉

Also, I received an email telling me the expanded distribution is now free, so they’ll refund me the 25$ I paid when I set up the new title. They haven’t credited my credit card yet, but I still have a few days before complaining, LOL! So SMSnippets will be distributed for free, while I paid for Star Minds. Oh, well. I still don’t think I’ll sell many printed copies and still can’t see the MatchBook thingy, so… good for me! 🙂

I wrote a final short story in English while in London, then I’ll be back to translating Star Minds in Italian – and by the way, the series won’t change name (translation) after a friend told me I should leave it in English and non-English-speaking friends confirmed it’s fine for them if the series has an English title. I guess we’re used to (mostly) Star Trek anyway… 😉 (Older people like me still remember Star Wars with its Italian title, but Star Trek was never translated).

I also spent one rainy afternoon at the Westminster Library instead of watching a certain movie for the third time (more on that Friday, of course) where I found a couple of books on armor and swords that gave me ideas for my Assassins’ Guild weapons – although I had to integrate with a Wikipedia search when I came back. So I used that research for both the short story I was writing and then I’ll reuse it when I’ll write Assassins (might end up being next year – I’m falling behind again, sigh).

So far the only assassin is Kumar in BoI – Air, and he’s a noose-operator inspired by the Thuggee. The short story is one century later, and I’m adding the Sikhs’ chakram, while Assassins is 4 centuries later, so things will probably have changed more (maybe I’ll introduce the shuriken?). These new assassins in the short story use not only the noose but also other weapons that might end up vanishing 4 centuries later. Maybe. I’m working on a cover and will send it to a beta-reader this weekend, hoping she’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Now a couple of writerly links: Reality check by Kris Rusch. Like her, I’ve never done NaNoWriMo and never will. If it motivates you to write the next book in the series, please do it! 🙂 But if it’s your first (or third) NaNo, you might want to keep that thing in a drawer until you’ve written your million words of crap.

Covers: careful what you use (that’s why I love fantasy and sci-fi, no photographic covers, thank you!). Here’s a list onf 150+ things you can’t show in a commercial stock image. Which includes the Eiffel Tower, for example, I didn’t know I couldn’t use it on a book cover. Glad I haven’t published stories set in Paris (although in Love&Prejudice they do go to Paris at some point, but I didn’t put it on the cover, LOL!).

That’s all for now… Have a great week! 🙂

Sunday Surprise

So, poll results (13 votes out of 200 followers… neat! Not) say 7 votes for giveaway and 5 for free fiction. Not counting the 13th vote, I’ll give you both. Free fiction is the prologue of Technological Angel, that was taken out of the final draft of the novel. It might be “recycled” or it might be completely changed when I’ll write about Kol-ian’s stay on Earth, but here’s how it started. Short and sweet.

Technological Angel

by Barbara G.Tarn


When Kol-ian saw the blue planet, he thought he was safe. His computer readings told him it was a Humanoid planet where he could easily disappear, as it wasn’t part of the Galactic Empire yet.

The impact with the planet’s atmosphere was harder than expected, but Kol-ian ignored the warning signals. Maybe the part of him that had pushed him to run away also wished for death. Crashing on an underdeveloped planet could be a nice ending to his stupid story. And maybe it was the only way for him to be free.

He drove the starship towards the night side of the planet as he glided closer to the surface. At the same time he got the identification request.

“Saurians,” he muttered. “Don’t even think about it!”

He was gliding over a peninsula roughly shaped like a boot when he received the radio ultimatum.

“Go to hell.” Kol-ian got out of his pilot seat, mildly irritated by the interference. He grabbed his backpack.

Outside the sky was clouded with sparkles of rain. Perfect for my mood! Just the warm welcome I expected, Kol-ian thought, getting off the flying starship.


Lombardia, June 12, 1933: a mysterious flash of light lit up the night on the road between Magenta and Novara. No noise could be heard, but at dawn of June 13, the Blackshirts recovered a flying saucer. First news spoke of “landing”, immediately turned to “crash” to hide the fact that the starship was damaged but whole.

The Fascists hid the flying saucer in the buildings of Siai Marchetti of Vergiate, covering up the fact that remained secret for at least half a century.


The Blackshirt shivered before entering the room. His superior sat at a desk wrapped in darkness, as if he didn’t want his face to be seen.


“Nothing, Sir, the flying vehicle is empty,” he answered, saluting and staring into space so he wouldn’t have to focus on the intimidating shadowy figure.

“It’s imposssible!” The hissing sent shivers down his spine. “There was a pilot or a passsenger!”

“We found nobody, Sir.”

The man muttered something, then threw a picture on the desk. “Find this man. He must be around.”

“Yes, Sir.” The Blackshirt grabbed the photo and left the dark office as fast as he could. Why was that man so slimy? His hissing was most unnerving, almost like talking to a snake – if snakes could talk, that is.

He took a closer look at the picture and stared at it, puzzled. The young man on it looked normal enough – dark hair and eyes, pale skin, flawless features – but it was a color photograph with a different resolution of the normally very expensive color prints of the time. And in spite of showing a close-up of the model, the background looked strange and the collar of his shirt very unusual.

German technology? he wondered. Whatever. It was bigger and better than usual, it must be easy to find someone with such a perfect picture.

He called his team and showed everybody the strange color picture, then they split to start searching for the mysterious youth.


Kol-ian made the first contact as he came down on foot from the top of the Appennini. He was following a track in the forest of chestnuts when his long legs made him catch up with a petite woman who was carrying a wheel-shaped basket full of grass that was almost as big as her.

“Do you need help?” he offered, as his own backpack was much smaller than the weight the woman was carrying on her head. She looked in her thirties and dressed like a local peasant – human peasants, what an interesting notion.

She stared at him, surprised. “No, no, thank you!” she said, quickly.

“Really, I can help carry that,” he insisted. “What is it for?”

“Rabbits food,” she answered. “We have some. And hens.”

He managed to unburden her. She smiled, relieved, and thanked him. “My name is Caterina, yours?”

Kol-ian hesitated and searched for a name that could sound familiar to her. “Pietro,” he said as they emerged from the trees and reached a small village on the side of the mountain. “What is this place called?”

“Fosciandora,” she answered. “Is it your first time in Garfagnana?”

“Yes… but it looks beautiful.” He looked around, quite pleased. The little houses looked old and there was no trace of technology, but the place seemed peaceful, almost out of time. A great change from the galactic frenzy he came from.

He followed her to a stone house where he put down the wheel-shaped basket next to an external wall. He saw the cages with rabbits inside and hens wandered around them. Cows mooed from a part of the building that must be the stable.

“Thank you,” Caterina said. “Would you like a glass of milk?” she offered.

He accepted and entered the house. The windows were small, so it was quite dark inside. Three children sat in the small kitchen and stared goggle-eyed at the guest, too intimidated to speak. He smiled at them, but they didn’t react.

Caterina shooed them off while she offered Kol-ian a glass of foamy milk. She mentioned her butter – the best – and her cheese as well, but he wasn’t hungry, so he accepted only the drink. It tasted strange – very rich compared to the diluted beverages he was used to. He licked off the foamy white mustache over his upper lip with a sigh of satisfaction, putting down the empty glass.

“You’re so tall!” Caterina looked awed even now that he was sitting down. “Where are you from?”

“Roma.” Again, he fished for an answer in her unprotected mind. He hadn’t really studied where he was yet, but it was obviously impossible to avoid all contacts with locals. He needed to rethink his strategies for his stay.

He thanked the woman for the milk and headed out again. He’d stop on the way to the bottom of the valley to check his laptop, so when he’d reach the closest town (Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, from what he could tell), he’d be ready.

That was it! 🙂 Caterina is a real person and I had to ask my dad how old she would be at the time and if she already had kids and whatnot (my dad himself was barely 1 then). She died in the 20th century (can’t remember if it was the 1980s or 1990s), but I still remember her handmade butter, cheese and fresh milk. Her daughter has sold the cows and was never as good as she used to be…

1000likesNow, to the giveaway! I shall celebrate also the 1000likes you gave to posts on this blog (with special thanks to WordPress for keeping count)! 🙂 Leave a comment to have a chance to win a Smashwords coupon for a free download of one of the Star Minds booksTechnological Angel if you’re new to the series, Mind Link if you have already started on it, or Slave Traders, the brand new third book that completes this (short) saga of science fantasy (and even if you’ve beta-read it, you might want to check the modified ending…).

Official announcement of Book 3 will be repeated next week when it will be live on all platforms like the previous books. At the moment it’s only on Smashwords – which allows me to get those coupons for free downloads. Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

Surprise Sunday

Guest post! Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Shafali the Caricaturist!

I am happy to be posting here on Barb’s blog. I’ve said it often but not enough, Barb inspires me. I admire her ability to discipline herself, her positivity, and her consistency. I don’t often wish to be like anyone else, but Barb makes me wish to be like her in many ways. This tiny story is a Thank You Note:)
My Imagination is My World
The soft quilt under her chin felt so good. She drew the quilt up and tucked herself in some more. The alarm hadn’t gone off yet so there was no reason for her to wake up, but in some crevice of her mind, she was already beginning to. The quilt felt good, but it felt too soft and… too unlike her quilt, and the warm glow that was beginning to spread through her cheeks too didn’t feel normal. Something was different… nice but different. The warmth felt like sunlight, but on a Monday sunlight didn’t have a reason to enter her bedroom before six when her alarm would go off, and she hadn’t heard the alarm yet.
Her eyes flew open. They were blue in color with a tinge of green – you could’ve called them cyan, but in the sunlight that streamed in from the French Windows gave them a golden tinkle – but the golden tinkle couldn’t hide her look of shock and disbelief. This wasn’t her bedroom. Her bedroom didn’t have French Windows that opened on a marble terrace, which had carved pillars on its edges and a quaint little fountain in the middle, it didn’t have that magnificent dresser that stood in the eastern corner, and for god’s sake, it didn’t have a canopied bed! Her bedroom was a modest affair, which had a simple wardrobe, a bookrack and a couple of reading lamps. A canopied bed? Good Grief!
Something was wrong. Either she had been abducted by the aliens because she was the reincarnation of their long-dead princess, or she was brought to Atlantis, or perhaps she belonged in a fairytale and the fairytale was real while the life that she had been living was actually all fiction!
After the initial shock, she decided to explore the place. It was amply clear that she wasn’t a captive here; captives aren’t given gowns of silk to sleep in. She went back to her bed and looked for her slippers. She found them – they weren’t hers, at least she didn’t recognize them as hers. Lined with fur, they were the softest things that she had ever sunk her feet into. A girl could easily get used to this lifestyle, she thought.
“So am I alone here? There must be someone else who polishes the furniture, vacuums the carpet, makes the bed, or who knows, even runs me a hot bath,” she mused aloud.
“We do.”
Her heart skipped a beat, as she almost stumbled and turned. A matronly looking maid, followed by a…butler! Good heavens! Someone tell me what’s going-on. Please.
“Great. But what am I doing here?” she asked, almost afraid to hear an answer. Any answer would make her heart stop, because all this just couldn’t be true.
“Ma’am, you were sleeping until a while ago, and now you are ready for your bath.”
Bath sounded good and mmmm…it also smelled good. As she slipped into the warm bubbly comfort of the beautiful bathtub, she decided that she’ll take it one moment at a time. She had already pinched her arm red and blue, and she knew that this wasn’t a dream. Whatever else it was, she better found out, because she was already beginning to miss her collection of books, her computer, her blog, and her stash of Bollywood movies.
When she got out of the tub, the maid was right there – she was looking through her, and funnily enough being naked in front of her felt like being naked in front of a robot. This is how those Roman women pampered themselves, she thought as the maid helped her with her dress and makeup. Makeup? I seldom used anything more than a lipstick, she thought. But then the pampering felt good.
Stepping out of the bedroom, the first thing she wanted to do was find a library and a computer. Unless she had moved into a different timeline, which she perhaps had, she’d be able to find a computer. So she asked the maid, whether there was a computer in the mansion. The maid looked surprised, but led the way into a beautiful room with bookshelves lining its walls. Those books looked so lovely, so rich – some were clad in leather and had their titles embossed in gold. Those must be the older ones. And then there was a glass cupboard right behind the handsome rosewood desk, and it contained hardcover books that looked like…fantasy literature!
She let out a long sigh, and forgot everything else. At least, this place had books that she loved to read…and write. She went behind the desk and picked up one of the books. It was a new book, one she hadn’t read before, and it looked like it could be an interesting read. While she still wanted to find some answers, the idea of leaving the sleuthing for later and enjoying the book began to brew. So she requested the maid for some tea and settled down behind the desk. The book started off well, but after a few pages, she began to feel slightly uncomfortable. The book was written in a style that she recognized well…in her own style. She turned to the first page – it was written by Katyayni! Someone else had stolen her writing style…but, wait a minute. What had the maid said? They worked for her? Did she say that? If she had heard the maid right then… a possibility began to emerge.
She got up and got a few more books out of the rack. All the books were written by the same author, but they were all printed after 2014! How could she be reading the books that were published in the future?! She could hear her heart thumping in her chest. Something wasn’t right. Who was Katyayni? She opened the drawers to find some clue. The files were neatly organized. They contained the contracts. She browsed through them…not knowing what exactly she was looking for, but she found it.
She found herself staring at the contract that clearly told her that Katyayni was Barbara G. Tarn’s newest pen-name, the name that made her the most read fantasy-fiction author ever. The contract was signed Feb 28, 2014. As she lifted her eyes from the contract, they automatically found the calendar on the desk. It was 20th of January 2020!
We can make a world out of our dreams and live in it, and once in a while our dreams can help us make a world that will make us want to live in it!
Convoluted? It appears that the caricaturist within me is struggling to get out and speak her mind. She always exaggerates, you see 🙂 My best wishes to Barb’s readers and visitors. May your dreams come true.
Shafali's reaction to reading BoI - Air

Shafali’s reaction to reading BoI – Air

Well, thank you, Shafali, for this little story! I must admit I guffawed through it, so you not only draw to smile, but you also write to make people smile! 🙂
Anyboy else with a blog who would like to ramble in here? Just leave a comment and we’ll set it up… have a wonderful Sunday! 😀

Six Sentence Sunday

OK, here’s the beginning of the short story The High Priestess that will be featured in the collection Tales of the Southern Kindgoms out as soon as I can get my hands on an editor, haha. Consider it a WiP.


The doctor straightened his back and looked sternly at Neeraj who was lying in bed at the royal palace knowing exactly what his sickness was but eager to hear an expert’s opinion.

“Too much alcohol, your majesty,” the doctor said. “One more glass and it will kill you. It has become poison for you. Stop drinking now if you care for your life.”

Neeraj scoffed and shooed him away.


Wanna know more of what’s going on? Any more comments? Thank you for dropping by… now hop off to the official blog for more Six Sentence goodies!

Six Sentence Sunday

Welcome back, Sunday visitors… not as many as on the list, but thank you to those who made it to this little blog. I thought I’d continue with Air, but instead I will post six sentences from a short story available for free download at Smashwords… and it’s almost as if I kept posting from the novel. The Dancer happens 5 years after the end of the novel (Books of the Immortals – Air), just to prove there is no happy ending in life!

I’m picking up the story from the POV of the new character, Bella the dancer from the north (scene 2 of the short story). She’s resting with her musician Matteo after her performance, enjoying the southern food:


“He can’t take his eyes off you,” Matteo warned, staring at someone beyond her. Too busy with her food, she didn’t turn to look.

“Who?” she asked.

“The king,” he said gloomily. She shrugged.

“You should be used to it by now,” she said.


Thank you for stopping by and be sure to check all the entries at the Official Blog!



Here are the titles available at Smashwords for download to any e-reading device:

Tarun (erotica short story)

Books of the Immortals – Air (fantasy novel)

The dancer (FREE fantasy short story)

Starblazer (FREE fantasy short story)

Jessamine (fantasy novella)

short story – The Sect (part 1)

As promised, and because I’m offline this week, a short story in two parts. I’ll be back next week to answer your comments and visit your blogs! This is the first of the Tales of the Southern Kingdoms, and it happens 25 years before the start of Books of the Immortals – Air, in the kingdom of Arquon mentioned yesterday by Shafali(sorry about the weird formatting, sometimes word.doc don’t convert well on WordPress, sigh!)

The Sect

by Barbara G.Tarn

Manjeet closed his eyes, blinded by the torches that lit the Temple as if it were daylight. The guard behind him pushed him forward and he moved again, adjusting to the light after days in the darkness.

A hostile whisper accompanied his walk, and the stone eyes of the Goddess seemed to pierce him. He wished he could free himself from the ropes tying his wrists behind his back – they were too tight and his hands were numbing.

“Sinner!” an old woman hissed as he passed. Manjeet wanted to scream. I haven’t done anything! I’m innocent!

Still more insults flew towards him. The alter was a few paces away now, with the statue of the Goddess looming over all of them. Manjeet stopped and the guard forced him to kneel in front of Puddra, the Supreme Judge and leader of the Sect. The High Priestess Chandra stood at Puddra’s right and stared at Manjeet through half closed eyes. Still, he could feel her lust, and he shivered, his head hung in front of the two most powerful persons of the underground city that had given him birth.

“The trial begins,” the herald announced, and the crowd of white clothes fell silent. Puddra stood up like the king he wasn’t and stepped towards Manjeet. His black hair was hidden under his white turban, but he caressed his well trimmed black beard, thoughtful, before speaking. Manjeet dared to look at him, silently pleading for mercy.

Puddra crossed his arms on his chest, still staring at the young man kneeling in front of him.

“The accusation is not light,” the Judge said. “Manjeet has done dirty deeds outside our community. He had already been admonished for trying to corrupt Neha, the Virgin Seeress…”

Manjeet lowered his eyes. Ah, Neha. He saw her again with his mind’s eyes, beautiful and  pure. She was younger than him, but her visions had consecrated her to the Goddess since childhood. For months he had loved her without telling her, realizing she was no longer a child. And one day he had dared to speak, to tell her what he felt, brushing his lips against hers… then the Goddess had punished him: lightning had struck him, leaving him half-dead and scarred for life on his left shoulder. But the Goddess had kept him alive and by simply looking at him, everybody was reminded of his sin.

Manjeet was called back to reality by the words of the High Priestess who was now chanting a spell. And the Goddess got him again, sneaking inside him and breaking him with pain. He writhed on the floor in front of Chandra, too breathless to scream, but groaning and moaning as the fire of the Goddess burned him.

Through the flames he saw Ashlee’s sweet face. She whispered his name, worried, and vanished. He shook his head, trying to free himself from the powerful spell, but he wasn’t strong enough to defeat the Goddess.

Chandra took his face in her hands and forced him to look at her. The crowd, who had been screaming with joy to punish him harder, fell silent again. They couldn’t see the dark eyes of the High Priestess burning with lust like him, though.

The silence and Chandra’s eyes hurt even more. Manjeet wondered what else awaited him. He was numb from pain, but managed to catch some breath and slow his panting during those few moments of respite.

The High Priestess let him go and the guard banged his head on the ground. Dazed, he was forced to stay down, nose bleeding, while the High Priestess put one foot on his head.

“Like a woman kills a snake, the Goddess can kill a man,” she said. “Today, the Goddess is good. We shall be the judges and Puddra shall give the verdict. Lock up this sinner while we discuss his fate.”

She took her foot off of him, and the guard pulled him to his feet, dragging him back to his cell, untying him before locking his door.

Manjeet sat in the darkness again, exhausted and hurt. Why were they after him? What was wrong with loving a woman? Why did the Goddess punish him?

Like everybody else in the community, he had been coupled with someone since childhood. He was supposed to marry that girl chosen for him at birth now that they had both grown up. But he had always been restless and unsatisfied with his betrothal. He had always avoided the chosen girl to play with the other children, and when they were all beyond childhood games, he had fallen in love with Neha.

But Neha was off limits, untouchable, consecrated to the Goddess… so he had looked elsewhere for love. And he had met Ashlee. The monsoon was barely gone and the nature outside the underground city had called him. He had walked and walked, unaware of the distance, enchanted by colorful birds and attracted by strange smells. He probably got lost in the jungle and by sunset he had reached a small village.

Hospitality was sacred even for pagans, so he had been welcomed for the night. People wore clothes of different colors, not the usual white he was accustomed to.

When morning came, he followed them in their fields and meadows, and helped them harvest, listening to their songs and their jokes and their laughter.

He had been told all his life that outside of the underground city there was only an ugly, evil world, but he was witnessing something completely different. Outside the safety of his  community, people were just… people. They only adored different gods and wore slightly different clothes.

He had gone back to the underground city too puzzled and amazed to discuss his discovery with anyone. He didn’t even know how he had found his way back through the jungle, but as soon as he had been back, the village outside had started calling him.

“So I went back, and tried to observe from the safety of the jungle,” he told the Council, the Judge, the High Priestess, anyone willing to listen to his story as he pleaded “not guilty”. “Then one day a girl saw me and greeted me. And I answered.”

“Our law forbids any contact with the outside world,” Chandra said sharply.

Manjeet bowed his head. He could still see Ashlee and her beauty. His hands were free now, so he hid his face in them. Why couldn’t they understand him? Why couldn’t they let him go?

“Repent, Manjeet,” Puddra warned with a frown.

Repent of what? Falling in love? Wanting to live in the open instead of caves, hiding from the world and eating mostly meat as there was no way to grow anything in town in spite of the opening up there in the giant cave ceiling?

Neha spoke with her eyes lost in her vision.

“Your sin is not talking to a stranger, Manjeet.”

“Continue, then,” Chandra said. “What happened after the greeting?”

“My accuser knows very well what I was doing when he found me,” he said through clenched teeth. “No, I didn’t ran away after she greeted me. Her name is Ashlee. She told me she had heard of us as a bunch of fanatics hiding from the king’s wrath.”

She also said he couldn’t be too happy with his upbringing, which was totally true. He wasn’t happy in the underground city, he had never felt the Goddess’s motherly love he had been told to worship since childhood. He had actually felt her wrath and wished he  could leave that temple and that community to live with Ashlee under the sun.

“How dare you?” Puddra’s face became red with anger. “This is blasphemy! Your pride shall be punished!”

“The Goddess knows all her children,” Chandra said. “I’m sure she knows everything about Manjeet. Let him continue, Puddra. Let’s hear what this perverted being has to say.”

“I’m not a perverted being!” Manjeet exploded. “I didn’t do anything evil!” He could name people who were perverts in his own community, though. He could accuse too. But he was accused now, and throwing venom on somebody else wasn’t a good strategy.

“Shut up!” Puddra replied. “Finish your dirty story, we shall be the judges!”

Upset, Manjeet looked at Neha, but she was lost in her visions. And Ashlee had no idea where the underground city actually was.

He lowered his eyes, gulping down the lump in his throat. He was alone against his own people.

“Speak, blasphemous being!” Puddra said.

“I kept seeing her.” He kept his voice monotone, hiding his pain and anguish as he spoke. “We talked, we laughed, we cuddled and enjoyed each other’s company. Her village had welcomed me and I enjoyed working with them. I was alive, happy and free for the first time in my life and the Goddess wasn’t mad at me, or she’d have struck me again.”

His body enjoyed the caress of the sun, and of Ashlee’s hands. His eyes had never enough of her, and his lips found their way to her mouth. He got to know her in the deepest way, and she loved him back with all her passion. He moaned for pleasure in her arms, and was inside her.

Puddra slapped him back to reality before he went more into details.

“Fool! You broke a divine law!”

Manjeet stared back at him, undaunted now that the memory of his love filled him.

“I am not repenting, Supreme Judge,” he said. “Because I had something you shall never have. You have sex without love. But combined…”

“Shut up!” Puddra slapped him again as the crowd grumbled and insulted the sinner. The Judge raised his hands to quiet the crowd. “I know, he hurt our pride,” he told them. “And we shall punish him.”

Manjeet had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. He tried to defend himself, but was abused by both men and women because he had dared looking for love outside of the Sect. Ashlee was right, his people were fanatics that could become obsessed with sex for the wrong reason.

He could feel the energy sucked out of him, and hoped they would kill him on the spot. But Chandra stopped them.

“Enough! The Goddess doesn’t want him dead yet!”

They left him alone, naked and bruised on the temple floor.

“Get up,” Puddra ordered.

But he was too weak to obey. Two guards pulled him to his feet and he managed to look the leader in the eyes.

“Let me go,” he begged.

“And where would you go?” Puddra looked sad and tired now.

“Let me go, let me live with Ashlee, let me…”

“Enough!” Chandra interrupted him. “You belong to us! Your life belongs to us and to the Goddess and you have no rights of living elsewhere!”

“I’m sorry, Manjeet,” Puddra added. “This is our way.”

Manjeet bowed his head, defeated.


It was true love. Ashlee was sweet and loving and Manjeet was head over hills. Ramesh watched them making love to each other with anger and envy burning in his heart.

He wished Manjeet looked at him like he looked at Ashlee. He wished Manjeet allowed him to undress and touch him like he did with Ashlee. But Manjeet didn’t care about boys or men, and Ramesh’s love and attraction were  slowly turning to hatred.

Ramesh was Puddra’s beloved son and had the charisma of a natural born leader. He had married the girl his father had chosen for him, but his sexuality didn’t have enough with only one woman. He loved men also, and orgies that made him feel powerful. He could feel the energy flooding him when he had sex, which made him more hungry.

He didn’t like Manjeet’s secret happiness and his more and more frequent absences, hence he had told his father and the whole community about Manjeet’s “sin”. He was the prosecutor that had brought the trial on Manjeet’s head, and was ready to watch him fall with glee.

“It was an obscene sight, my friends!” he told the court. “Both were naked and looked like mating animals!”

Manjeet glared at him, but he ignored him.

“It was disgusting,” he continued, not mentioning he had done much worse in the privacy of some unused tunnel with members of the community who kept their mouths well shut. “Manjeet betrayed our law and our customs, dishonoring all of us with his dreadful behavior!”

“Look who’s talking!” Manjeet exploded. “Everybody knows what you do!”

“I do my duty,” he snapped. “I married the girl my father chose for me and didn’t go out looking for adventures in the world outside!”

“Enough, both of you,” Chandra said. “Manjeet, you admitted your fault, don’t plead innocence now.”

“How can you consider guilty the love for a woman?” Manjeet protested. “How can you live without love, spending life together out of duty, because some inhuman, divine being decides who is our match? I did wrong, I admit it, but I’m ready to leave, to disappear forever from this blessed community! You can’t keep me here!”

“Shut up!” Chandra slapped both his cheeks and Ramesh scoffed. Stupid, stupid Manjeet. The High Priestess was another person hot for the young rebel. Maybe they could join forces to tame Manjeet. “This is blasphemy! The Goddess will punish you!”

Manjeet glared at her.

“You can’t keep me prisoner,” he whispered, so Ramesh guessed his words more than hearing them. Boy, he was desperate! They really should tame him once and for all! Obviously the public rape hadn’t been enough, but in a more private situation him and Chandra could break the little bastard who dared to shun them.

“Shut up,” she hissed back.

Manjeet backed away from her and turned to the audience.

“Listen to me!” he said loud and clear. “The High Priestess is lying to you! I don’t think the Goddess cares if I stay or if I go, but Chandra does! She’s been after me since I was fifteen!”

“He’s lying!” Chandra screamed as Ronan looked at her, admired. He had been drooling over Manjeet for only a couple of years. The High Priestess had good tastes.

“She seduced me,” Manjeet continued, undaunted. “And because of her behavior, I thought I could do the same with Neha, the Virgin Seeress, because I was protected by the High Priestess!”

“He’s lying!” Chandra repeated, furious. “He’s crazy! He’s trying to drag us to hell with him!”

“Silence!” Puddra got up and raised his arms, quieting the growing murmur of the crowd. Manjeet knelt in frond of him of his own free will.

“Help me, please,” he pleaded. No way, we’re not letting you go, Ramesh thought, ready to jump in if his father proved too weak. He knew Manjeet was much loved in spite of his rebel behavior.

Puddra pulled him up.

“I like you, Manjeet, but if they condemn you, there is nothing I can do,” he said. “What are you talking about, though? What’s the story with Chandra?”

“The truth, Supreme Judge,” Manjeet answered. “I was fifteen when the High Priestess summoned me to her rooms. She told me I was a handsome boy and let me sit near her. I was naive and childish, but my blood was on fire. She kissed me and gave me a taste of what Ashlee gave me. A taste that ruined my life, because it awakened the man in me and since that day I’ve been restless. I wanted a woman, but none was really available, and then I noticed Neha was not a child anymore. Chandra caught me and denounced me because she was jealous of her younger rival.”

“Neha was off limits,” Puddra said. “And Chandra is too old for you.”

“Still she messed with my growth, Supreme Judge.”

“There isn’t one word of truth in his story,” Chandra interrupted, venom spilling from her voice. Always deny the truth, Ramesh knew it was the main rule. Manjeet had condemned himself by admitting his fault.

“You will believe her,” Manjeet told Puddra, serious and sad. “Everybody will believe her. You will all keep following that lying witch and none of you will ever know what’s beyond this underground city. You’ll keep thinking you’re perfection, but you’re nothing. Nothing.”

A minority that had hidden from the world to follow their own traditions. Ramesh thought Manjeet was too stupid to live. Maybe both of them had been born in the underground city, but their parents came from the outside world. They knew exactly what they had left behind.

The temple was silent as the people tried to catch every word from the accused’s mouth. But the young man was talking to their leader in a low voice, so only Puddra, Chandra, Ramesh and Neha could actually hear him.

“You’re being stupid,” Ramesh said, scornful. “My father knows very well what’s out there. And so do our elders. And why should I listen to you? Who are you? Nothing. You are nothing, Manjeet!”

Manjeet was still staring at his father, who looked spellbound.

“Go,” Puddra said at last, averting his eyes. “You’re exiled. Don’t come back. Ever.”

“Puddra!” Chandra protested, shocked, while Manjeet fell on his knees again to kiss the Supreme Judge’s hands.

“Go now!” Puddra ordered. Manjeet got up on his feet, bowed deeply and left, untouched.

No! Ramesh swore he’d bring the beautiful rebel back. He’d tame him and break him and make him his bed slave for the rest of his life! If only he had his father’s power…

Something dark started calling him, whispering promises in his ears.

to be continued tomorrow…

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