Depositphotos_222817100_XL.jpg

Upcoming Project:

The Scrying Moon

The Scrying Moon

My new work-in-progress, working title, The Scrying Moon, is a complete departure in genre from the ‘family saga’, relationship journey’, food fiction that was A Pinch of Coriander Trilogy. This new book, set in contemporary Florence, Italy, where history walks with and haunts the present, combines four of my passions: tarot, astrology, witchcraft and Italian Renaissance Art and History. So, not much food, but lots of spell casting!

The central challenge that the inter-generational characters face is how to get Dante Alighieri, who has kidnapped one of them, and is trapped in his own epic poem’s Purgatorio, out  to heaven and reunited with his platonic love ideal, Beatrice. In the meanwhile there is also a murder to solve, a black witch heretic to defeat, and an angry, murderous mob to placate.

Some of this may change as this new world of fiction and its denizens gradually reveal themselves to me; I will keep you posted of progress in these pages. In the meantime, here’s a taste of the first chapter:


Chapter One

Swords and crosses

First draft 

 

Spangles of amber sunlight danced in the jasmine-scented air, settling on the naked figures entwined upon the deep, down mattress. Samatar Saladin was waking; his long muscular bicep stretched across Salome’s lower back, his forearm nestled into Feste who spooned against her. Gently lifting his arm, careful not to rouse the sleeping sylphs, turning on his back, Samatar shook the pins and needles from his hand.  The rhythmic swish of the street cleaner's willow broom against the cobbled pavement, the rattle of the metal shutter raised-up on the Bar San Marco announced the time...it must be seven o’clock...mmm, what a night!, he smiled, savouring the memory...but now, I really need some espresso.

The astrologer doodled on his sketchpad as he sipped the potent brew, thinking of the tattoo mandalas he was creating for Feste, his twin flame and the beloved soul mate, Salome. 

Salome, so deliciously delicate... made of crystal-selenite, luminous, translucent, yet turbulent. And Feste, she is of polished obsidian, volcanic, smooth, reflective and deep, a crucible for my sacred flame and a mirror into which I peer as ‘through a glass darkly”, he mused, watching them turn from the dark depths of their dreams, breaching into wakening.

“Is there any coffee for me?” yawned Feste, blinking open her sleepy, sloe-eyes.

“And me! Samatar...will you bring us some espresso and croissants, if there’s any left?”  enjoined Salome, sitting up, hugging her knees.

He shuffled back in his carpet slippers with a tray bearing a small pot of espresso, two cups and one large almond croissant, which they would just have to share.

Setting it between the two women he said, “There you are, now leave me in peace. I have some designs to work out.”

“No, not before you give us some music,” pouted Feste.

Salome reached for the croissant, tearing it in half, as Feste poured their coffees, “Yes, c’mon Samatar, serenade us on your sitar. Play one of the pieces you were practicing last night, the one riffing that Handel piece about the Queen of Sheba.”

Handel, Hendrix and Ravi Shankar were Samatar’s idols, besides of course, the immortal Mozart. Samatar got his sitar, sat cross-legged on a leather ottoman, carefully tuning the Kharaj-pancham’s seven strings, then began to play his interpretation of the piece. But not at an allegro pace, as Handel wrote it, which always made him think of the munchkins scurrying about, in preparation for the Good Witch, Glenda’s, arrival in Oz; but andantino, slowing it down, more befitting the dignity of a regal procession. Samatar also adapted Handel’s chords to his instrument, playing some as augmented arpeggio in a minor key to create an eastern effect.

Salome leaned against Feste’s shoulder as they nestled into a sumptuous cloud of pillows. Closing her deep, violet eyes, she was transported to the land where ‘the dawn comes up like thunder’; to India, where sari-swathed women flutter like neon butterflies; between their black eyes blaze vermillion bindi. Enticing wisps of sandalwood weave through the strains of tambour and sitar, the shouting and chirping chatter in the bazaar of her imagining; a tableau staged by Merchant-Ivory, cast by E.M. Forster. How she longed to go to India with Samatar.

As the last exotic note reverberated in the air, Feste rolled out of bed, kissed Samatar lightly upon the lips and announced:

“I’m off to take a hot shower. Can’t slink back home to Sunday family lunch reeking of romance, jasmine and hashish; whatever would the judge think?” Feste slapped her cheek in mock horror, anticipating the stern disapprobation of her father, retired Judge Benedetto Valori. Samatar and Salome laughed at the thought of the very proper, sober judge learning of their unconventional relationship and esoteric, recreational activities.

It would be a hard guess as to which would displease him most, the hashish or the scrying, as for the occasional sleeping ensemble, it went without saying it would be a bridge too far for his understanding to cross. 

As she smoothed the sumptuous lather over her lithe, brown body, Feste reviewed last night’s new-moon scrying session on Samatar’s terrace, which overlooked the sluggish Arno and Florence’s magnificent cathedral. 

I wonder why we kept seeing burning swords and crosses and the duomo floating upside down. Salome saw it in her crystal, I saw it in my mirrored bowl and when Samatar twice threw the tarot for clarification, at the centre of each five card cross was the reversed hierophant, crossed by the magician; the odds of that appearing twice in succession are nearly nil...or so I would’ve thought. It looks like Archangel Michael has a message for us, but what is it? Just then a knock on the wet-room door alerted her to Samatar’s insistent plea to be let in,

“Please Feste... I have to pee!”

“I’ll just be a minute longer Sam. Go water your plants, if you can’t wait!” laughed Feste.

 

***

Later that day, Samatar finished up his lunch, and pinching-off a morsel of Foccacia, swirled it in the luscious, deep green pool of olive oil lingering on his plate, then popping it into Salome’s appreciative mouth,  he asked, “What did you make of last night’s scrying, Sal?” 

Swallowing hard, she replied, “Hmm, hard to decipher. The inverted crosses on fire and the duomo upside-down can mean several things; a sudden, violent surge of religious zeal, a religious scandal, or perhaps black magic rituals performed within the sacred realm or with sacred objects...rituals deeply offensive to Spirit and the Arch Angels.”

Samatar looked thoughtful, then added, “Yes, well I think that the appearance of the Hierophant reversed, crossed by the Magician definitely points to black magic conjuring by someone connected to the church...but who and why?”

“Remember Sam, this is also divination, what might be so, not only what has manifested. So, it’s a warning to ‘watch this space’ as they say. I tried to get some clairaudience from Arch Angel Uriel, but all I could hear was ‘as below so above’, over and over. I don’t know what that means.”

 

***