Coming Soon… from Paul White

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Life in the War Zone is not a ‘WAR’ story.
It is a collection of poignant, eye opening stories and articles, written primarily as fictional accounts, yet based on true experiences of people living and working in major war zones around the globe. Each story and article has been formed from interviews, discussions, reports and dialogues from those directly involved and affected by conflict.
Here, with ‘Life in the War Zone’, Paul White has gently coaxed from the depths of people’s hearts the truth of how destructive and debilitating the effects of war are to individuals, families and entire communities.
Each tale reflects true events; Paul has managed to elicit the emotions, the feelings and the inner anxieties of those whose accounts are represented here.
Yet he has also found stories of great courage, fortitude and resilience of human spirit strewn amongst the detritus of war.
Whilst these stories are particular to the individuals to whom they belong, the sad fact is they can easily be told by so many.
This book may be finished, but sadly the strife continues.

OUT ON 11th FEBRUARY as Amazon Paperback or eBook direct

The Fireborn Road: Under Construction

I’m currently working on the next installement in the Black River Chr10363792_717834221671554_5418496076232081864_nonicles. At the moment, I’m supposed to be writing a battle scene – something I could live without – and it’s fighting back. So here’s a snippet of it for you to enjoy.

“On the other side of the melee, the wizards were having a field day. Bert was flinging bolt after bolt of magical charge at the creature in front of him, whilst Bobang had snatched up Jocelyn’s discarded ladle and was beating it anywhere he could reach, screaming about his ruined dinner.”

The Al Rahiri Dinner – extract from Rattatat a new Aberddu Adventure

The Al Rahiri Dinner had been discussed at length. This was hardly a surprise as the Al Rahiris themselves were often discussed at great length. They had arrived in the District, direct from Arabi about eighteen months previously. The wife had spoken very little common then and even though there was no ‘Aberddu’ way as such, it was very obvious to the other residents of the Merchants Quarter that whichever way the Al Rahiris did things it was most definitely not the Aberddu way. It wasn’t that people were openly hostile to them, they were in general very polite and helpful but it was clear that whilst they had come from a great range of Western nations that lived in the same climates and had the same kinds of clothing and diet they were strangely uncomfortable in the presence of people of equal wealth and standing who were so very far from home.
The wife didn’t wear a corset. In fact both of them dressed in loose-fitting silks dyed opulently. They had food specially imported for them. In the summer – at first at least- they had no worn shoes. Having arrived in August, when the sun beat down on the city the building held the warmth well and they were comfortable. Some of the more ample matrons had suggested, not exactly unkindly, that when they were first met with the western winter they would return to Arabi on the first caravan going East. None of their husbands bothered listening to them, or they would have discovered that getting a caravan back East would have been both easy and pointless as Mr Al Rahiri pretty much had the monopoly on East-West import into Aberddu and out across the sea to Aragon and Nortrol.
It was a strange kind of polite ignorance that kept the Al Rahiris at arm’s length. No one knew what they ate or what kind of hours they kept. No one was even sure that they’d be able to get the wife to understand them. Whilst they were highly intrigued by the couple, they were not prepared to accept them into their homes with undue haste as more than anything they feared it may lead to nothing more than an uncomfortable and embarrassed silence.

It had taken six months for what Mulligan had started to think of as the Metcalfe Gang to invite them anywhere, and it was Metcalfe herself that plucked up the courage after running into Mrs Al Rahiri, whose name it turn out was Jali, at the Weavers and Dyers Guild perusing the same newly arrived batch of muslins and silks. After that, when Metcalfe had discovered that in fact Jali, and her husband Kaseem drank tea and were prepared to keep local hours and ate normal food, they were invited more freely to social events, although they were by no means part of the ‘usual crowd’ as Maurice Fortescue had swiftly become.

Extract from Rattatat

Rattatat – the newest Aberddu Chronicle, currently in progress.

“What about her teeth?” was all the Mulligan could manage.

“What about them?” retorted Luce with definite affront in voice.

“Well look at them,” returned Mulligan, “she can’t go parading around the Merchant’s District with a mouth like that.” Luce was just about to open her mouth to give Mulligan some very choice instructions when Clara cleared her throat and said,

“No problem gov,” Mulligan just looked at her, so she carried on. “Aint no problem at all, there’s a chap down the black market he’ll do ’em for two florins, one and an ‘alf if he’s down on his luck and outta cider.” Mulligan didn’t understand. He was too busy staring at Clara hoping for more explanation to see Luce giving him a filthy look. When further information wasn’t forth coming and Mulligan realised, yet again, that he was the only one who didn’t understand he said,

Ballentini’s Caravan (sneak peek 2 – The Fireborn Road)

Mr Ballentini was as unprepossessing as the tavern in which he had arranged to meet the adventurers. The name Ballentini had conjured a certain image in Derek’s mind of a large ebullient man with massive flaring nostrils and a rich, resonant voice. He had hoped for the fumes of inexpensive liquor on his breath as his voluminous chortle echoed around the room. Instead of a picturesque bonviveur, Derek was now sitting opposite the dullest man he had ever encountered. Mr Horace Ballentini was gaunt, but not to the point of being interesting and he had one of the biggest noses Derek had encountered in a long time. Apart from that, he was completely average in appearance – short light brown hair, mildly weather-beaten skin, hazel eyes and a slightly miserable mouth. On top of this complete lack of distinction, he also had the most monotonous voice Derek had ever heard. In fact, Derek was struggling not to fall asleep just listening to him detailing the terms of travel.
Morwenna and Iona, who had a tendency to act like naughty school girls when given half the chance, were sitting either side of him snorting into their mugs of ale. Derek had given up trying to silence them with school-masterly type glares because they only made things worse. Luckily, it appeared that Horace Ballentini was completely oblivious to their rudeness. He just continued to explain the caveats under which the caravan would not protect them from flood, fire, bandits, demons and acts of assorted deities.
The Mages, Adarius and Reet were sitting at a separate table a little way away because there had been no other space. Bobang was sitting on a stool with one foot balanced delicately on top of the other so that as little of himself was in contact with the floor as possible and a look on his flabby face that suggested he was only putting his buttocks in contact with the seat because he didn’t want to waste the magic of conjuring himself a shelf to sit on. He had left the construct outside the tavern guarding everyone’s bags. Bert was teaching Reet how to play a game that was apparently very big in Alendria. As it wasn’t dissimilar from draughts, Reet was winning and Bert was taking this in good spirits. Adarius was looking on at the whole affair with the same gently bemused expression he had been wearing since they left Aberddu. He had at least put his coin back into his shirt pocket. Tollie and Sylas, who were somewhat subdued from their earlier escapades, had decided it was probably more politic if they sequestered themselves in a nook by the fireplace, hoods pulled well up, faces down. They still hadn’t let on about what had led to the incident with the militia.
Derek gathered them all together half an hour later and with a lack-lustre smile opened his mouth to explain the arrangements.
“Now, the plan is this,” he said, but that was as far as he got before he was rudely interrupted by Bobang, who let out an effected snort and said in a voice clearly used to its own way,
“I hope you’re not about to suggest that we spend the night here.” It might have been possible to fill a word with more disdain that he had put into ‘here’ but it would have taken quite some effort and possibly a funnel. Derek, who had a well-deserved reputation as one of the most even-tempered Guild Masters in Adventuring history, produced an irked snort and closed his eyes.
“Funnily enough Professor,” he said quietly with a satisfied half-smile, “I wasn’t.”

Two hours later, as Iona cracked the reigns of her wagon and gently easied the cart out into the caravan, she was still chuckling under her breath. Bobang was wearing the same sour scowl that had slipped over his features sometime earlier, when Derek had explained that they wouldn’t be spending the night anywhere. Or at least, anywhere that contained a bed, a fireplace or even a privy. Apparently, the caravan need to leave post-haste, so they were going to have to travel over-night to make up some miles. He was even less pleased when he had discovered that they would be travelling with the livestock.
Tollie, Sylas, Derek and Iona had volunteered to take turns driving and the others had been offered seats in the lap of luxury – amongst the sheep and goats. Reet and Adarius had climbed into the back of Derek’s cart without a word. Morwenna had let out a joyful squeal, clapped Bert soundly on the back, said cheerfully,
“Sheep, excellent! Better than chickens believe me Berty,” hiked up her skirt and scrambled into Iona’s cart. “Come on, give me your hand.” Bert, who seemed to be treating the whole trip as a delightful cultural exchange, held out both hands and with little dignity crawled into the cart with Morwenna’s help. She installed in one corner, and he adjusted his hat. Morwenna turned back to Bobang and said,
“Come on then, prof. You’re next.”

The Fireborn Road: Chapter 1 (a sneak peak)

The ballroom glowed with soft, golden light from the thousand floating glass lanterns that hovered, in a complex pattern a few feet from the ornately vaulted ceiling. Dozens of mirrors around the walls and ceiling reflected the magical light, amplifying it and enfolding everyone in a rich, warm blanket. Along the whole length of the room a white clothed table groaned with the weight of delicacies piled high on silver salvers and arranged around the centre piece of the whole roasted boar. Fresh white roses, the Queen’s favourite, stood amongst the food in exquisite designs. Liveried footmen with blank expressions were poised with bottles of the finest vintages and cordials of exotic fruits. A twenty seven piece orchestra, composed of some of the most gifted musicians in all Albion, played a lively reel. The music swelled and tumbled carrying the dancers with it as they spun and trotted through the intricate steps of the set. The women, bejewelled and pink faced in their tightly corseted fine silks, smiled demurely at the dashing military captains and the elegantly suited politicians whose arms they graced. The young queen, a vision in eau de nil, charmed her partners with her beauty, warmth and wit. It was a perfect tableau of the restrained and civilised opulence of Royal Albion.
From his place at one end of the gargantuan buffet table, Derek watched with lacklustre attention. He could just about see Iona in the centre of the crowded floor, paying polite attention to a tall and handsome Colonel, who in spite of his apparent poise continued to tread on her feet. He yawned languidly, without covering his mouth and reached out for a small pastry thing that looked quite tasty. As the light of the chandeliers twinkled and glinted from the black jet fluting on Iona’s hair piece, he shoved the whole thing into his mouth and chewed vigorously. He could tell from the fixed smile on Iona’s face that the gentleman with whom she was dancing was both an ungainly dancer and a bore. The little fold of a grimace that appeared momentarily on her otherwise serene countenance every time he trod on her foot was perhaps the most entertaining part of the evening so far. In fact, all the amusement he had garnered from this ridiculous occasion had been from watching Iona parading herself around as though she had been born Albion nobility and everyone else falling for it.
Lady Iona, the Dowager Duchess of Pringle was quite a name amongst minor Albion nobility and the diplomatic corps. Little was known publicly in Albion of Iona’s beginnings, and as far as Derek, who knew the whole sordid tale could tell, this was very much to her credit. She had been an adventurer of no significant standing when she had married the guildmaster, a renegade Albion Duke, Dakarn Pringle III and that far her credentials were unimpeachable. The fact that she clearly knew how to dress and behave had never been questioned by the aristocracy. They were not aware how she had come by her stunning grasp on Albion etiquette and how it differed from social convention in other countries. They had not spent enough time with her to find out that she could be surprisingly violent and extremely blunt.
It was only when the stories of her exploits during the Summer of Fire and the following years had begun to filter through the court had she become a source of intrigue in her own right. The foolish women of the Queen’s court were enamoured with the romance of a brave and elegant widow who set aside her grief and the comforts of her rank in the pursuit of Justice, and Iona did not disappoint them. At one point, she had become a tea-parlour heroine and would have remained so had she been prepared to make house calls. The fact that Iona had never set eyes on her Dukedom, nor experienced the so-called comforts of a noble life was so far beside the point it was not considered. Certainly, none of the fawning politicians and simpering débutantes who sought her attentions realised that she was nothing more than a grubby parvenu from the Elven Territories with one eye on Frisia and one hand in the pocket of anyone who could buy her a controlling share of Aberddu. The Dowager Duchess of Pringle was a construction that the Bard’s Guild would have been proud of, a real piece of performance art and one Derek never tired of watching.

Extremely open-minded Clerics

Jocelyn did the lion’s share of the talking, leaving the others to the odd sentence here or there. She introduced her partner as Brother Bernard. The clearly religious horrific caused the Chaos followers to bristle, although they were too busy being sullenly paranoid to actually say anything rude.

“We’re missionaries from the Temple of Reverential Justice in Port Selliar,” explained Jocelyn when she noted the reaction. Derek was the first to choke out the words

“So you’re Law Clerics?”

This was rarely good news, given how many adventurers were technically some kind of criminal, never mind about those who willingly followed the ways of Chaos.

“Yes,” said Jocelyn enthusiastically, then on seeing the look of poorly concealed horror on Derek’s face she added, “but it’s okay, we’re very open-minded.”

This comment lead to a snort from Morwenna that Iona translated as ‘challenge accepted’. This statement also troubled Derek, who was familiar with many clerical definitions of ‘open-minded’ including ‘we don’t insist on that you remain silent on the high-day’ and ‘we don’t always execute infidels who make fun of our relics.”

A conspicuous lack of goblins

– free extract ‘The Winter Follows’ book 2 the Aberddu Adventures.

Charlie heaved the barrel up through the trap door and lumped it down beside the other two. It was unusually quiet this morning. The Law Temple nine-hour bell had rung long since, and yet there was no noise in the street. He wiped his forehead and hands with his apron and went to the door of the Tavern.
Charlie was used to goblins, some of his best customers were goblins. In fairness he didn’t have many customers that weren’t goblins – which is what happens if you open a bar called ‘The Startling Toad’. Today, however, was suffering from a conspicuous lack of goblins and the sound of no goblins always made Charlie nervous. It usually meant they were up to something. Mind you, goblins were up to something whether you could hear them or not, but if you couldn’t hear them it meant they were up to something organised.
Charlie was still recovering from the chicken rustling plot of 1099ac, he couldn’t live through that again – green-skins, militia, and chicken feathers everywhere and he was still finding grain in places he could have sworn he had cleaned. He tried to rack his brains, what had he heard? One of them had been muttering about the Temple district he thought, and another couple had been mumbling about the Adventurers Guild. He hoped it was the Temple District. It was already a pile of rubble and therefore there wasn’t much more damage they could really do to it.
If it was the Adventurers Guild things were not likely to go so well. The combination of a bunch of self-obsessed hero types and a load of piss-head goblin dock-hands was not something that Charlie wanted to contemplate at this hour of the day.

A Quiet Life – from ‘The Winter Follows’ Book 2 of the AA Chronicles

Sylas had possibly lucked out even more than Tollie; he had been assigned to the cook-house. Tollie still couldn’t get used to Sylas with short hair.  It made his ears stick out. He might have to get up before everyone else but he was excused morning drill and he got extra portions at meals. Several of the other cook patrol thought this was more like a punishment than a bonus and complained constantly. Sylas didn’t point out that army food might be bland and homogeneous but at least it was better than quite a lot of the things he had eaten over the years – mainly because he hadn’t had to shoot it, gut it or skin it and it didn’t come with a face. None of the rations came with faces or feet or bones for that matter. This had led to several troubling rumours that the Frisians were breeding demons specifically for the purposes of feeding the army. Again, Sylas wasn’t bothered by this. The chunks of meat that came through were protein-rich, easy to cook and tasted better than badger, hedgehog or squirrel. 

Summer of Fire – Coming Soon – Free Extract 3

Summer of Fire has now gone to the editor and cover artist and will hopefully be available soon (unless it needs a massive re-write). 

 

Oh that poor little mite,” cooed the tailor’s wife. “She must be frozen solid in that thin little dress in this weather.”

She’s almost as thin as that dress,” fussed the baker’s wife, “I wonder when she’s last had a decent feed.”

Oh Gods love her,” whispered the preacher’s wife, “it’s no life.”

The three women were clutched together in a huddle in the village square waiting for the carter with lists and baskets of goods to trade. The small girl in the pink shift with the moth-eaten woollen shawl was across the muddy grass, kicking the heels of her holey boots against the wall of the Inn. She looked so forlorn beneath her bush of untidy hair with her pale, bony limbs. She seemed tall for her age they thought and quite unfortunate in the face but that didn’t stop them being compassionate. There was a sharp gust of wind pushing an unpleasant splatter of rain out of the menacing grey clouds. The girl sneezed and clutched her head, the three women let out low sighs of pity and scurried for the shelter of the large sycamore.

Ten minutes later, when the squall had passed and the women had emerged from the protection of the tree shaking water from their cloaks, they hurried over to the poor little mite who was now shivering, her sodden dress clinging to her gaunt frame. The cleric’s wife took off her own cloak and wrapped the child in it. The baker’s wife pressed a plaited bread roll from the trade basket into her ice cold hand. It was still warm from the bake oven, and the Baker’s wife hoped it would warm her before she ate it. The girl smiled wistfully in thanks, her soulful eyes speaking volumes to the kind hearts of the three women.

They were still fussing over her when her bearded monstrosity of a father swanned out of the Inn five minutes later, dry as a bone in a heavy canvas coat. With pointed looks, they nodded their greetings to him and departed muttering under their breath, the cleric’s wife taking her cloak as she went. Grabbing the girl savagely by the hand, the bearded man dragged her away around the side of the Inn and out of the women’s sight. They were left, lips pursed, shaking their heads.

What the hell do you think you were doing?” growled the man, through the rough fur of his beard.

Nothing,” replied the girl sulkily, through a mouthful of bread. “They felt sorry for me, that’s all. I didn’t do nothing.”

Bloody marvellous,” grumbled the man, “give us some of that.” He held out a calloused hand expectantly.

Sod off,” hissed the girl, her voice taking on a strangely masculine tone, “I’m frozen and you promised you were going to delouse this wig and patch this dress and you lied.”

Oh poor baby,” snarled the man, scratching his chin vigorously. “At least you haven’t got half a badger’s backside glued to your chin.”

Come on, let’s get back to the wagon,” muttered Sylas, taking another bite out of the bread roll and chewing thoroughly. He probably didn’t have enough spit left to swallow it quickly. “You have no idea how cold this wind is when there’s nothing between you and the air.”