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Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 23

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

The War in the Marches



“It’s her! That’s the Prince!”

The crowd in the Huitelm murmured excitedly as Mara and her Shieldmaid companions descended into the cool relief of the basement tavern. They’d been eagerly awaiting their first glimpse of her for days, since the first soldiers’ encampments had appeared in the fallow fields, pastures, and woodlands beyond the city walls. Thousands of soldiers were camped around the city now, for Mara’s army had increased three-fold since they’d begun the long march from Pendaunzel. Though they were prepared to march again at a day’s …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


DVD Review: The Ash Tree

M.R. James’s story, on the Gaslight site at, is about a 17th-century gentleman who accuses a woman of witchcraft. Unfortunately for him, the accusation isn’t unfounded and she places a curse on his family that will not only destroy him but also his grandson 50 years later.

James tells his story in chronological order, beginning with the grandfather then going on to the grandson. The BBC version, made for their Ghost Story for Christmas series in 1975, reverses the order. It also makes a slight alteration to the family tree, so that the curse passes from great-uncle …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 22

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

The heralds milled about the state hall, waiting for Dafythe to emerge. The eldest boys diced against the wall. Others were engaged in some childish boasting contest. A few conversed with the courtiers who had remained to accompany the Duke. At Dafythe’s entrance, they all drew to attention. Andemyon had been seated at the window with Lord Rafenshighte; when he rose to take his place, the Diplomatic Officer detained him and spoke urgent words too soft for anyone else to hear. Andemyon whispered a reply, and Rafenshighte released his arm.

As Dafythe ascended …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


DVD Review: The Treasure of Abbot Thomas

The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, written by M.R. James in 1904, is a tale in which his usual type of protagonist, an antiquary scholar, discovers and solves a series of puzzles that lead him to find a horde of gold concealed by a wicked Reformation-era Abbot. But this treasure still has a guardian protecting it.

The plot is similar to A Warning to the Curious, but the mystery to be solved is more complicated and interesting, and the creature who guards the gold more horrible than the angry ghost that protects the buried Anglo-Saxon crown.

In 1974, the BBC presented …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 21

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.


War! Dafythe made his announcement that evening and the court hummed with the news by late morning. From Pendaunzel, word spread quickly to the neighboring cities and countryside. By the end of March, all the Northlands was in an uproar. No one could talk of anything else. It seemed too wonderful. Could it be true? The Duke had released troops to Prince Margueryt. The armies of the Northlands were to march to the southern border. At last, they would give Spain a taste of what they deserved and Norman honor would be …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Dark Shadows: Bride of the Monster

Adam has fallen in love with Carolyn. Unfortunately, he decides to take Nicholas’s insidious advice about being a man and taking what he wants, and he grabs her. Carolyn, fortunately, is able to fend him off. She then asks Professor Stokes to have a fatherly man-to-man talk with Adam.

The professor does, although with less emphasis on keeping his hands off girls and more on a delicate explanation of why Carolyn wouldn’t ever marry Adam–for it is marriage the big grabby lug has in mind. Stokes has had hopes of teaching Adam so that he can eventually go out into the …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 20

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

Prince Juan and his bride went to Paris at Christmas and, in January, Juan’s son Eduarde was sent to serve as a page in Kharles’ court. Pendaunzel didn’t know how to interpret this gesture. Was the boy taken as a hostage? Or had Juan offered him as a token of his loyalty? It seemed to indicate only one thing certainly: the war had been averted. Kat’s betrothal was not mentioned again.

Then, as the winter melted away, Mara was called to her father’s chambers. Dafythe dismissed Martleanne and his attending heralds before he …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


DVD Review: Lost Hearts

“Lost Hearts,” one of M.R. James’s early stories, is a more conventional type of ghost story, in which the dead seek revenge against a wrong done against them. But the ghosts are not the horror here. And, for once, the scholarly gentleman is no mere witness nor a victim, but the villain of the piece.

It’s on the Gaslight site at

The BBC version filmed for Ghost Stories on Christmas Eve in 1973 begins on a very Dickensian note. We are in the early 1800s–James’s story was set in 1811, but this looks more like the 1830s or …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 19

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

After the tumultuous summer of 1953, autumn began placidly. Rumors proved themselves true when Guenithyre gave birth to a son; the infant was christened Lyonel Eduarde Pendragon. Mara was listed as a godmother to the newborn princeling and sent him twelve silver apostle spoons as a christening gift.

Juan Maria was well-behaved, so quiet in fact that the Pendaunzel court was certain he must be up to something. Everyone knew the rebel Prince wouldn’t acquiesce to the Emperor’s demands so easily. Dafythe himself said that his half-brother’s pride would never allow him to …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Dark Shadows: The End of Angelique?

Young David Collins has finally listened to the late Dr. Lang’s recorded message regarding the connection between Barnabas and his creation, Adam: the gist of it is that if Adam dies, Barnabas will become a vampire again. Conversely, as long as Adam lives, Barnabas can’t be turned back into a vampire no matter what Angelique does to him. She has tried with her dream curse already, and failed.

Unfortunately, once David discovered the message, he went to Angelique in her guise as his stepmother Cassandra, to ask her what it meant. This gives her the key she’s been looking for.

After …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 18

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

Andemyon’s remarkable beauty had already excited too much attention. Silent and solemn, blond and cherubic, he stood out among the other heralds—gangling, chubby, pre-adolescent lumps that boys of that age generally were. The heralds scorned him, the court ladies fussed over the pretty child and made a pet of him. People liked to see him at the forefront of processions, bearing Dafythe’s standard. The more avuncular and auntish members of the Council rumpled his curls and spoke to him when they met him on errands about the palace. Pleasant jests were made …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


DVD Review: A Warning to the Curious

Legend has it that three silver crowns were buried somewhere along the East Anglian coast in Anglo-Saxon times to ward off invasion. These three crowns can still be seen on coats of arms around Norfolk and Suffolk. In the 1600s, a silver crown was supposed to have been dug up not far from the coast but its finders, more interested in silver than in priceless historical artifacts, promptly melted in down. A second crown is said to have been lost to the sea due to erosion.

M.R. James uses this legend as the basis for “A Warning to the Curious,” written …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Dark Shadows: How Barnabas Became a Vampire Again

Or maybe not.

The dream curse that’s been going around among the main characters has finally reached Vicky. Since Barnabas is the next person–and the last person–who will have it and it will destroy him, she refuses to tell him about her dream. She will continue to have the same dream every night until she does; the other people who tried not to pass the dream on only managed to hold out for about three nights, but Vicky is stubborn and intends to remain firm as long as she can.

Barnabas, on the other hand, can’t stand to see Vicky suffer and …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


DVD Review: The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral

Continuing with my reviews of the BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas based on the stories of M.R. James, I’m going to look at “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral.”

The story, written in 1911, is online at

Short summary: A first-person narrator—presumably James himself, since he did this kind of work in real life—is cataloging the collection in the Barchester Cathedral library when he discovers a box containing the diary and other effects belonging to an Archdeacon Haynes, who died under mysterious and grisly circumstances in the early 1800s. Excerpts from Haynes’s diary indicate that he deserved what he got.

The city …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 17

Part 17

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

The death of Penelope and the increasing infirmity of Marianne forced him to consider the end of his own existence. He might live a few years more, perhaps as many as ten, but he felt the impediments of a man at his century. He tired easily. He was long past the age when he could stay awake for days at a stretch. In his youth, an emergency such as the one he had faced this summer would have kept him at Council for twenty hours each day; now, he had to …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Ashes

Witchy Cassandra/Angelique Collins was banished to some kind of spiritual limbo by the Reverend Trask’s successful exorcism of her. She’s not only disappeared from Collinwood, but her portrait has faded. No one has any idea what’s happened to her.

Then a man arrives, introducing himself as Nicholas Blair, Cassandra’s brother. Since modern-day Cassandra is the same woman as 1700s Angelique, this causes a great deal of surprise and some alarm among the people who know all about Angelique.

Nicholas seems more aware of what’s happened to her than anyone else. He reassures Roger that Cassandra is flighty and likely to go …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 16

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.


Pendaunzel anxiously awaited news from Europe. In May, the Emperor summoned Juan Maria to London, where the renegade swore his fealty. Before Kharles’s court, he declared himself a Norman Prince. Juan claimed that his betrothal to Serafina hadn’t yet been formalized, but he felt unable to refuse her. His kinship to the Spanish imperial family was as strong to the Norman house. He hated to disappoint them, but he would do his liege’s will. If Kharles insisted that the marriage-contract be dissolved…

Kharles insisted.

Juan returned to Naufarre still in possession of his lands …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


DVD Review: Whistle, and I’ll Come To You

From the 1960s, the BBC presented a television series on Christmas Eve titled A Ghost Story for Christmas. Just recently, I picked up a set of episodes from this series on DVD, most of them based more-or-less faithfully on the short stories of Montague Rhodes James.

M.R. James, who was a Cambridge professor, biblical scholar, antiquarian, and historian, had his own tradition of reading his latest story aloud to friends or students on Christmas Eve. Many of his best ghost stories involve scholarly men like himself who accidentally stumble across some inexplicable horror–some, like the museum curator in The Mezzotint …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 15

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

Once Duke, Mara would answer only to her liege lord Kharles and to God. Dafythe found no comfort here. Mara believed now that God meant her to kill Spaniards. She only awaited the call to perform that holy service. And Kharles? A better Emperor would encourage all that was noble and generous in Mara’s nature, but Dafythe had no illusions about his nephew. It was young Kharles who had inherited the Redlyon’s supreme selfishness. Kharles was the sensualist. He placed his own pleasures before his duty to his subjects—a dangerous thing for …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands


Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 14

Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.

Dafythe was often credited with shaping the pax normania of this century, but in truth most of it had been Kharles’s work. He had merely served as his brother’s assistant. At Kharles’s suggestion, he wrote their father letters that were a combination of flattery and his own long-concealed opinions. He urged Eduarde to heed Kharles’s advice. A peaceful accord with their old enemy had economic and political advantages over perpetual war. The Norman Empire was the mightiest nation on Earth and Eduarde the greatest earthly ruler; was it not seemly that he …read more

Source:: TheNorthlands