Here’s a little taste of my latest book Evertrue An Underworld Fairytale for you to enjoy. Please feel free to leave me any thoughts and comments below.
Early one hot and sunny morning, Franz the tax collector arrived in the hilltop town of Preznova on an urgent matter of business. Everywhere he went people ducked down the cobble lanes that ran between the pretty, clay-roofed cottages to avoid Franz as he stomped by red-faced and wheezing, but Franz was only interested in one person.
“Ah, there she is!” he gurgled with glee. “Dr. Klara!”
A tall, thin woman with a kind face peeped nervously from behind her newspaper.
“Me, sir?” she squeaked. “But we have an agreement for me to pay five tolar a month.”
“Had an agreement,” said Franz. “The king has heard you’ve found the Evertrue Emerald, property of his majesty by right of law. You have one week to hand it over or pay the taxes on it!”
“B-but, I’ve no such gem,” Klara gasped in horror. “Perhaps I could explain the king’s error to him?”
The tax collector raised his eyebrows, like two hairy caterpillars rearing up for a fight. “The king doesn’t do errors,” he muttered.
Klara’s daughter, Mila, had been listening to all this with a worried, angry scowl that began around her wide, pale forehead and finished somewhere in the region of her boots. Her fingers curled up into fists and even her toes clenched whenever she saw Franz but even so, she always managed to keep her cool.
“How much money does the king want?” she asked frostily, in a tone that would normally have stopped a rampaging bear in its tracks. But Franz was too thick-skinned for that and he roared with villainous laughter.
“One hundred tolar!” he answered.
“But we haven’t got one hundred tolar,” Mila protested fiercely. “Not even close.”
“I’ll be sent to the debtor’s prison,” said Klara, “and then how will I ever find this money?”
“Debtor’s prison?” said Franz with a smirk. “You haven’t heard the news, have you? The prisons are chock full of people that don’t pay their taxes. Now all debtors will be fed to the ravenous Monger turtles out at Hangman’s Creek.”
Klara turned faint at this news so that Mila had to prop her up on her shoulder and pat the colour back into her cheeks.
“You horrible man!” Mila said to the tax collector. “Don’t you see how ill you’re making her?”
“Hand over the gem then,” said Franz unmoved.
“But I couldn’t possibly get the Evertrue Emerald,” moaned Klara. “According to legend it lies in the deepest cave in the entire system – Malrook’s Lair – and belongs to the devil himself!”
The tax collector leered nastily and bowed very low. “Then might I suggest, madam, you go to the devil!”
With that, he turned and departed, sending cats and mice scampering off in fright as he went.
“We will have to find this emerald is all,” said Mila to her mother. “We know the caves better than anyone, and how difficult can it be?”
“Oh Mila, you have no idea,” said Klara. “This cave belongs to the troll king, Malrook, and is more dangerous than any cave we’ve ever been to. There are murderously difficult caves like the Witch’s Cauldron and Satan’s Staircase to pass. We wouldn’t stand a chance!”
“I could do it, I bet,” Mila began but Klara silenced her.
“Now don’t argue with me, Mila, my mind is quite decided. I shall just have to borrow the money from someone.”
She tried to give Mila a reassuring smile, but Mila knew none of their friends or neighbours would have any money to borrow, especially such a sum as one hundred tolar, and she hugged her mother tightly.
Then Klara felt quite unwell again and she sat down suddenly on a nearby bench outside the local inn.
“I need to give this careful thought,” she said, summoning the landlord. “Run along Mila and play now, there’s a dear.”
Mila needed to think, and a cool head was the best way she knew to settle ideas. The bad news and the heat and noise of the now busy square made her grouchy, so she crossed to the fountain place to cool her face in the trickle of water which bubbled from its ferocious dragon statue.
“We can’t possibly get hold of a hundred tolar,” she said to herself as she tied up her golden brown hair (of which, you must note, she was very proud). “We will just have to find this Evertrue Emerald. There is no other way.”
Just then Mila’s friend Tomas arrived bringing his master’s horse to drink at the fountain.
“What’s the matter?” He asked when he saw Mila’s face. “You look as though you’ve lost five tolar and found a stotin.” And he pulled his best drunken monkey face at Mila and slapped his palms on the cobbles and rolled about the floor.
“You’re ridiculous,” she said, and despite everything she couldn’t help but laugh. Then she told him all about the tax collector’s visit.
“We need to find this emerald,” she ended by saying, “but mother is too ill with worry to go looking. I must go and find the gem by myself.”
“Oh no, you’re not,” said Tomas. “If you’re going I’m coming with you.”
He grinned his bright, wonky grin at her and for the first time that day Mila felt the sun shine a little brighter.
Now, to make matters worse there was one further problem to add, something the king might have foreseen if he’d investigated the Evertrue Emerald further, and that was the importance of the emerald’s name. You see the emerald would only ever be true to its evil owner, Malrook, and would only ever bring bad luck to those who sought it. So now we have a bad situation indeed with a life at stake and a dangerous journey planned, all for the petty wish of a horribly petty man.