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The Lynher Mill Chronicles

When folklore and the modern world collide, who's to say which is the myth?

Weather games turn to war, and even the most ancient, bone-deep loyalty is shattered by mistrust. When the three factions of elementals -- Moorlander, Forester, and Coastal -- pay heed to the words of the wicked, those mortals caught in their crosswinds must stand strong against a fate already carved into the land.

 

A brief introduction by the author.

 

Lynher Mill is based on the Cornish village of Minions, on Bodmin Moor, where, as a child I played with friends. As I got a bit older I used to just walk there, imagination flying, day-dreaming about what might be happening beneath my feet in the endless tunnels of disused mines... And about who, or what, might be watching from behind granite mounds and among marsh grasses. No-one could tell me, so, many years later, I decided to write it myself. 
 

The answer surprised me...

There are currently three books in the main Lynher Mill series;

  • The Dust of Ancients

  • The Lightning and the Blade

  • The Battle of Lynher Mill.

A fourth book, a prequel, is also available, and you can read the prologue free, here.

Click on the images to take you to Amazon, where you can buy the books in ebook or paperback.

While the first three books focus on modern-day Cornwall, the prequel takes us back to the origins of some of those characters, and is set during the first English Civil War period: 1643. For any readers of the Penhaligon Saga, it will also tell the full story behind the mysterious and intriguing questions that are raised, and partially answered, in that series. With additional... elements, so to speak.

Prologue

The Unquiet Dawn - a Lynher Mill Novel.

Prologue

Bay of Biscay 1643

Smoke curled into the sky, smudging grey streaks across the blue. There were still a few screams drifting across the water, but, for the most part, the only sound now was the crackling roar of flame consuming seasoned wood.

Stormrunner’s quartermaster, Jack Varney, turned away; the sight of a dying ship always struck him where that of a dying man did not. He pulled his blade through the rag in his hand, and his eyes sought his captain who, as a child, had never seen the point in keeping a clean sword. Now it was a different story, but by the time the lessons had been learned, the child had grown, and the nickname had stuck: Blacksteel. The sword itself was still black, though with a more natural patina now, but the name of the one who wielded it was a powerful thing in itself, and two more men stood now in dwindling hopes of mercy.

Varney squinted up at the quarterdeck where the men stood facing Blacksteel. ‘Both of them? Will neither serve you?’

Blacksteel’s calm grey gaze went to the two men who stood, bedraggled, bleeding, but still defiant. The burned merchantman’s captain and his mate. ‘Those I would take, I could not trust.’

 

A tug at Varney’s sleeve made him glance down, his impatience fading slightly when he saw the orphan Peter, who had joined them only last month. He couldn’t have been older than ten years, and Blacksteel’s ways had come as a shock to him at first, but he was learning fast.

 

‘What is it, boy?’

 

‘Is the cap’n goin’ to put them to the sword?’

 

‘Aye.’ Varney almost continued, with a kindly word that the boy could go elsewhere if he wished, but Peter spoke up again.

 

‘Can I do one of ’em?’

 

‘What say you, Cap’n?’

 

Blacksteel, who had heard, was watching the boy with a speculative expression in those cool eyes. ‘Send him up here.’

Varney gave Peter a little shove, and Blacksteel drew a shorter knife and held it lightly by the blade, the handle outward.

The boy took it and eyed it for a moment. ‘Which one?’

 

‘Him.’ Blacksteel pointed at the first mate, whose expression of staunch acceptance faded, as well it might; a swift death at the hands of one of the high seas’ most feared pirates was one thing, but to be at the mercy of a ten-year-old boy, handling the short sword as if it might bite him...

 

‘Please…’ Desperation weakened the mate’s voice. ‘Not the boy. I will join you, Blacksteel, and I swear on all that’s holy you will be able to trust me with your life. I swear it!’

 

Blacksteel stayed Peter’s hand a moment, and studied the first mate’s face. Greasy with terror, and licking his lips, the man couldn’t take his eyes off the knife in Peter’s grasp. Varney even felt a moment’s pity for him. But he knew the decision had already been made; this was little more than a game, in truth. Eventually Blacksteel took the knife back from Peter, and stepped up to the merchantman’s captain. The blade moved, and the captain crumpled, soundless, a stain spreading across his tunic. His eyes were still open and shocked, his mouth slack.

 

Blacksteel handed the knife back to Peter. ‘Quick, you see? Like that.’ One long finger stretched out and prodded the first mate low in the chest. ‘Here, and upwards.’

 

The mate swallowed hard. ‘Please…’ His voice was little more than a high whistle now.

 

‘Don’t worry,’ Blacksteel said with a sudden, cold grin, ‘we’ve got someone to patch you up if the lad makes a hash of it. Haven’t we, Hutton?’

 

Hutton, more properly a cook, looked hungry at the chance of practising his second craft on a real live person.

'Aye, I’ll stick him back together if you want. Just ’til the boy’s ready for another go.’

 

Peter stepped forward and gazed up at the man, his eyes wide and solemn, his young face pale. ‘I’ll try, sir. To be quick, I mean.’

 

Fat tears rolled from the terrified man’s eyes, and he took a shallow, hitching breath and turned his face away. Peter glanced back at Varney, and then at Blacksteel, and took a firmer, two-handed grip on the knife.

It was over far more quickly than Varney – and the mate himself – had feared. Peter tugged the blade free, and Blacksteel kicked both bodies over the edge and into the water, the double-splash barely heard over the cheers of Stormrunner’s crew. Hutton gave a theatrical sigh of disappointment and went below to the kitchen, accompanied by the sound of his fellow crew members’ laughter.

 

Blacksteel took the blade back and wiped it before re-sheathing it – Varney grinned at that – and turned to go below, leaving the crew to their work.

 

Peter came back over to Varney, rubbing his hands on the seat of his trousers. ‘That’s it, then.’

 

‘You did well, lad.’

 

‘Did we get much from the merchant?’

 

Varney suspected the boy was trying to distract himself, and bravado must have its moment, so instead of talking about the kill, he considered the boy’s casual question; as quartermaster it was his job to know exactly what they’d taken, and how much it was worth, and he could see a few of the men had also stopped work in order to hear his answer.

 

‘Dried fruits, flour, some barrels of sugar.’ Varney shrugged. ‘Not enough. But…’ he sent a grin around the crew, ‘plenty of rum, lads!’

 

Another cheer went up, and the men dispersed, some to clean the blood from the decks of Stormrunner, some to roll the barrels they’d plundered down to the hold, some to sleep off a long night of hunting and waiting, and to ready themselves for the next.

 

Peter wiped at his trousers as if he couldn’t quite rid himself of the feeling of the sticky blood on his hands.

'Where to next?’

 

‘Cornwall, at a guess. We’ve been away a while.’

 

‘What’s in Cornwall?’

 

‘A good place to wait for ships heading around the arse-end of England, heading up to London. They’re the ones worth getting after. Oils, wines, silks and spices for the rich folk – including the Royal Court. Good, fast ships too, some of them, worth taking over ourselves, if they take our fancy.’

 

Peter looked doubtfully up at the heavy sails tied to the galleon’s three masts, and Varney knew what he was thinking, but he waited, letting the boy form his concerns.

 

‘This isn’t a fast ship,’ Peter said at last. ‘That merchantman last night was a lucky one—’

‘Not so lucky for them,’ Varney grinned, and pointed to the still-burning ship, drifting towards the horizon.

 

‘Lucky for us,’ Peter said earnestly, not sharing Varney’s dark humour. ‘But what chance would we have of getting close enough to loose a cannon shot, if those ships are so fast? They’re sure to see us, even at night with black sails up. They’d easily out-run us.’

 

‘You’re an observant lad.’

 

‘Then I can’t see Blacksteel taking us to Cornwall, no matter what you say.’ Peter lifted his chin with a faintly nervous look of defiance, but Varney only smiled.

 

‘Maybe you can’t, but that’s where we’ll be going, mark my words. Now get to your work, I have an inventory to take.’

 

Later, he found Peter on his knees, scrubbing at the bloodstains and sweeping the reddish-brown water off the deck into the sea. Behind them, three small boats, lashed one atop the other, creaked in their mid-air moorings, and Varney made a show of checking the ropes that held them before turning to Peter again.

 

‘You at peace with what you did?’

 

Peter sat back on his heels and dropped his brush into the bucket of seawater. ‘I’d do it again right now if I had to.’

 

‘Aye, I thought as much. Blacksteel’s own first kill went very much like yours. That’s why you were allowed to draw your first blood today.’ He dropped a hand onto Peter’s bony shoulder. ‘Make no mistake, if you’d hesitated that man would have just as soon torn your belly open as shook your hand in thanks.’

 

‘I know. My pa spared an exciseman’s life, and died for his trouble with a musket ball in his head. I’ll never make that mistake.’

 

Varney nodded. ‘You’ve got the makings of a good pirate.’

 

‘You think I’ll have my own ship one day too, like Blacksteel?’

 

‘Well, not one of us could have ever guessed what that child would become.’ Varney shrugged. ‘Why shouldn’t you be the same?’

 

Blacksteel soon returned, having checked the charts, and gave the order to weigh anchor and set the course for the south west coast of England. Varney winked at Peter, who threw him an exasperated look.

 

‘Alright, then tell me how, and why?’

 

‘A fair wind is a gift, lad.’

 

‘But it’s just as much a gift for them! More so, since we’re so heavy and slow.’ He waved his hands to encompass the calm sea, and still air. ‘And it doesn’t look to me as if we’re going to get such a gift, anyway.’

 

Varney squinted at the clear blue sky, and smiled. 

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