Sinead wrapped her arms around Moonsprite’s neck, resting her cheek on her unicorn’s silver mane. Moonsprite cantered swiftly through thick shrouds of morning mist. Beneath her hooves was the shimmering Bridge to the End of the World, suspended in a ghostly void.
Images tugged and twisted in Sinead’s mind as Moonsprite pressed onward. Ghostly faces formed from the fog. She cowered beneath a vision of Last of the Oppressors. It reached for her and she tried to scream, but no sound came. Its huge arm swiped at her. Moonsprite veered, breaking into a gallop, sparks flying from her hooves. The monster Sinead had once destroyed melted into the mist.
The day wore on. Beams of sunlight pooled around them. Green tendrils sprouted along their path, flowers bloomed and sweet perfume filled the air. A lush woodland paradise unfurled beside the bridge; temptation beyond the imagination. Moonsprite slowed to a walk.
Sparky dropped another batch of ripe dragon-snap pods on the table. A plume of sad smoke dribbled from his drooping snout.
Alys frowned. ‘What’s the matter, Sparky?’
Her diminutive dragon sighed. ‘We never seem to have time for any fun anymore!’
Alys examined her hands which we’re raw and stained from splitting the sharp seed pods which contained the collectible dragon cards. Even liberal applications of her Hand cream for Hard-Working Witches, hadn’t healed her skin. Their partnership with George the Dragon had really taken off, but it was awfully hard work on top of her cosmetics and potions business.
The Magic Messaging Machine pinged into life. George’s big friendly dragon face filled the screen. ‘How’s it going, partners?’ He clapped his big blue paws together. ‘I have news!’ I’m going to be discharged from the Home for Delusional Dragons! ‘I’m cured, you see,’ said George happily. ‘It’s the business. Given me focus. No more delusions about long lost family!’ A stream of happy steam billowed from his big nostrils.
Once the steam had cleared, he continued. ‘I’m off house-hunting. Preferably a place with a large garden. For expansion, you know,’ said George. He lifted a big blue paw and waved. ‘Toodles!’ and with that, the screen pinged off.
Alys and Sparky exchanged glances, but before they could say anything, a gentle thud on the doormat heralded the arrival of the morning mail. Sparky flew across the room and brought back an elegant envelope bearing the logo of Edelweiss Paradise, the Swiss factory that produced a crucial ingredient for one of Alys’s best-selling face creams.
Sparky opened the envelope with a carefully trained stream of fluffy white steam and a crisp white card slipped out. The card took a deep breath and bellowed: ‘Otto and the team at Edelweiss Paradise humbly request your assistance. We have a big problem and we’re certain you can help.’ The announcement was accompanied by a small shower of tiny white edelweiss buds. The card sobbed slightly and added. ‘As s-soon as you c-can, p-please.’
They both glanced over to the book-case where the Medal of Honour, presented to them by Otto for fixing the Edelweiss Paradise factory’s Eternal Flame, was proudly displayed.
Alys frowned. ‘I wonder what this is all about?’
A plume of puzzled purple smoke rose from Sparky’s nostrils. ‘Only one way to find out.’
‘Okay, let’s go.’ She picked up her wand and hurried over to the doormat. Sparky flew after her and perched on her shoulder. ‘Edelweiss Valley, Switzerland,’ she enunciated carefully.
Moments later they were standing in front of the flower-shaped emblem which adorned the frontage of Edelweiss Paradise. The doors opened and Otto appeared, a worried look on his face. His white beard twitched anxiously as he raised his pointed red hat.
Otto sighed gratefully. ‘Glad you could come so quickly.’ He raised his hands in the air. ‘I didn’t know where else to turn.’
Alys looked around. All seemed fine inside the factory where the copper vessels bubbled away contentedly.
‘Come with me, I’ll show you.’ Otto ushered them back outside and gestured to the hillside where the new edelweiss was growing. A swathe of matted dark vegetation was creeping down the valley towards the tiny white blooms. ‘Smother-weed.’ Otto huffed. ‘It started this morning and Horace has gone AWOL.’
‘Horace?’ Alys and Sparky questioned in unison.
‘He’s the flame-thrower dragon who burns off all the smother-weed. It’s the only way to control it.’ Otto shook his head.
Sparky’s yellow eyes widened. ‘It’s a very large area,’ he said worriedly.
‘Oh no, I didn’t mean that a little fellow like you should try to tackle all that,’ said Otto hastily. ‘I just thought that you might know another dragon who might be able to step in.’
Alys and Sparky looked at one another. ‘George!’ they said in unison.
‘It couldn’t have worked better, could it?’ said George, draining his third pint of edelweiss cordial. ‘Gave me a bit of a turn to be summoned like that though.’ He winked at Alys.
Alys grinned back. ‘I wasn’t sure the summoning spell would work on someone so… er, large.’
‘But it was such fun! Mass incineration!’ George laughed. ‘So kind of you to offer me a little plot on your valley, Otto. A place to stay and room for a few rows of dragon-snap trees,’ George continued delightedly. ‘And you’ll never have a problem with smother-weed again,’ he said, beaming at Otto.
‘You’ll be happy to take over our share of the business, Otto?’ said Alys, rubbing her sore hands.
‘Delighted my dear.’
Sparky showered the table with relieved ruby-red sparks.
Otto raised his tankard. ‘Here’s to you, George! Settle down here, plant your trees and we’ll provide the labour. The gnomes of Edelweiss Valley are at your service!’
Sinead shivered in the pre-dawn blackness. Moonsprite stamped her hooves on the cold stone of the castle battlements. They waited, as Tarron had commanded.
As the lip of the sun appeared on the horizon, Tarron raised his staff. Out of the darkness, a golden pathway shimmered into view. The eyes of the elderly elf fixed unwaveringly on the pathway as he spoke. ‘The Bridge to the Edge of the World appears only on this, the longest day of the year. You must travel swiftly. Do not look over the edge. Do not stop for anything.’
Tarron whispered in Moonsprite’s ear and the silver unicorn lowered her neck. She whinnied gently, encouraging her mistress to mount.
‘Go now,’ Tarron commanded. ‘Remember, you have only until nightfall.’
Moonsprite sprang onto the Bridge and set off at a canter. Sinead glanced over her shoulder. Tarron stood, staff raised, a ghostly Hound beside him.
It was just one year ago this weekend that fellow author, Paul English and I held ourbook launch partyin a lovely cosy cafe in our home town of Somerset West in South Africa.
I sold a small stack of the paperback edition that evening, and since then I’ve sold a few more, had a good number of downloads of the ebook and received some great reviews and feedback.
I still love this book and I miss the characters. One day I might write a sequel, as they’ve been asking me to do (really!) ever since I left them at the end of the book.
For now though, for this weekend the ebook will be FREE to DOWNLOAD. Sorry to bang on about it if you’ve already read it, but if you have, and you haven’t left me a review, I’d love it if you’d consider doing so.
Here’s what some of my readers have said about it:
You’ll Never Walk Alone is like a Scouse James Bond story. There are jewel thieves, evil villains and their sinister henchmen, plus a blooming romance between two beautiful people. But since it’s set against the vivid backdrop of 1980s Liverpool, it’s blended together with some wonderful Scouse charm and humour. Oh, and there’s a genius cat, a kleptomaniac monkey and an appearance from Dead or Alive singer Pete Burns. Doesn’t it sound like fun?Read more…
Chris Hall’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is an absorbing fast-paced action and adventure romance that’s nearly impossible to put down. Hall expertly weaves together a fascinating plot-line involving several fascinating and complex characters while the action and danger written into this story is both dramatically and poignantly offset by what’s going on behind the scenes.
The story is full of interesting characters, especially those of the two couples. Gary and Gina have a strong established relationship, and live what most would consider to be a normal down to earth sort of life. Lucy and Pierre are caught up in a wild blooming romance which spins them into a life that some may consider as living on the edge. There is so much going on… You’ll want to take your time with this one.
In You’ll Never Walk Alone, Chris Hall tells a good story a story I highly recommend.Read more…
Sparky was sitting on the table reading the latest edition of Magical Creatures Monthly. He was studying a tempting-looking chocolate cake recipe by a dragon from Wisconsin, when with a loud pop and a puff of pink smoke, a small rectangular object landed on the doormat.
‘What was that, Sparky?’ called Alys from where she was busy cleaning her cauldron.
The diminutive dragon flew down to inspect the recent arrival. ‘It’s a Magical Messaging Machine. How exciting!’ He poked it gently with a small purple claw. ‘Oooh,’ he exclaimed through a shower of excited sparks as the screen sprang into life.
Alys hurried over. The Magical Message Machine pinged loudly and the large friendly face of George the Dragon filled the screen.
Alys and Sparky exchanged glances. Even though George had made a huge mess of Alys’s herb garden when he’d visited, and hadn’t actually turned out to be one of Sparky’s relatives as he’d claimed, they’d felt rather sorry for him when he had to be returned to the Home for Delusional Dragons. It was good to see him.
‘Listen both of you,’ George said, leaning even closer to his side of the screen. ‘I want to make it up to you for barging in on you like that.’
Alys smiled. ‘No harm done, George.’
‘Nothing which Alys couldn’t put right with a wave of her wand,’ added Sparky.
George held up a big blue paw. ‘I have a gift for you. It should be arriving about now.’
There was a gentle thud on the doormat accompanied by a cloud of dust. The retired cauldron sneezed, clearing the dust to reveal a tray containing six silver seedlings in little green pots.
‘Dragon Snaps,’ George explained. ‘Pop them out in your garden. They’ll be ready to harvest in ninety-nine minutes. I’ll call you back then, toodle-pip!’ The screen went blank.
‘Come on, Alys,’ excited steam issued from Sparky’s nostrils. ‘Let’s plant them.’
Soon the little Dragon Snaps were sitting comfortably in the soil. ‘All we need to do now is wait,’ said Alys. ‘What shall we do?’
‘We could make a cake.’ Sparky flew over to the table and brought back the recipe he’d been reading. ‘Looks good, doesn’t it?’
Alys grinned. ‘Let’s do it!’
‘Of course,’ replied Alys. ‘I can cook conventionally.’
Sparky raised a purple eyebrow but said nothing.
The time flew by as they measured and mixed and finally popped the cake in the oven. Sparky glanced out of the window. ‘Look!’ he pointed with a chocolate-covered paw.
The silver seedlings had grown into tiny trees. Hanging from their branches were dozens of strange-looking objects.
Just then the Magical Messaging Machine pinged. It vibrated agitatedly on the table until Alys picked it up. George’s face appeared. ‘Are they ripe yet?’
Sparky took off through the kitchen door and returned clutching a rectangular-shaped pod. ‘Go on, open it,’ said George excitedly.
Alys took the pod and carefully split it open. Inside was a playing card with a picture of a dragon on the front and some numbers and symbols beneath it. Alys turned the card over. The words Dragon Snap Collectibles™ shimmered in silver.
‘There are lots of different dragons to collect and it’s a game too!’ George grinned toothily.
‘Awesome!’ said Sparky through a shower of excited silvery sparks. ‘How many cards are there, George?’
‘It’s impossible to say. They just grow…’ George paused, noticing Alys’s expression. ‘They’re perfectly legitimate. I have a wizard contact who cultivates them in Seattle. He’s given me a license to import the seeds. All I need is somewhere to grow them. There’s no garden here at the Dragon’s Home.’
‘Collectible cards that grow on trees, Alys,’ said Sparky. ‘You were talking about growing the business, weren’t you?’
Alys grinned. ‘Why not, we’ve nothing to lose. They might attract a new set of customers.’ Sniffing the air, she whirled around and snatched open the oven door. Alys sighed and picked up her wand.
George continued. ‘I can supply you with the seedlings, you can to the rest…’
‘…and we can split the profits!’ Excited amber smoke issued from Sparky’s snout.
‘That looks tempting,’ said George, eyeing the cake with its glistening chocolate frosting from the screen. ‘You’re obviously a very accomplished cook.
Alys smiled at the compliment. ‘I’ll send you a piece, George.’
Sparky glanced at George’s beaming face and winked at Alys. ‘He may not be my uncle, but he can be our business partner, can’t he?’
‘The Chalice!’ the words echoed inside Sinead’s head. She’d dropped it when she’d retrieved her sword. The Hound stirred as she leapt to her feet and scurried along the passageway. Tarron, the elderly elf, stood in the archway where she and the Hound had first entered the Great Maze. He smiled. The Chalice of Earthly Liberation was in his hand and Moonsprite, her unicorn, stood beside him.
‘The Hound…’ Sinead began. Tarron shook his head, pulling her urgently through the archway. She turned and looked back. There was just an empty room. The Hound, the monster and the maze were gone.
‘Grieve not, Sinead, it was the Hound’s destiny.’ Moonsprite edged forward and nuzzled Sinead’s neck.
Tarron placed the Chalice into Moonsprite’s saddle bag. ‘Hurry now, I will lead you to the Bridge to the Edge of the World. You must cross while you still can, then gather the Sisterhood.’
‘What are you reading?’ Alys asked, glancing over the steaming cauldron at her diminutive dragon. His pointy tail was twitching with agitation as he read from the crumpled piece of parchment in front of him.
‘It’s a letter from my Uncle George. It just arrived by doormat.’ Sparky put his head on one side. ‘I didn’t know I had any family.’
‘Nor me. What does it say?
‘It says he wants to visit; something about a family tree. At least I think that’s what it says. His writing is terrible.’
Alys peered at the parchment. ‘Well, if he’s a relative of yours I suppose we should invite him.’
The room darkened. Something very large was squashed up against the window. Alys hurried over to see what it was.
‘Oh, I think this must be Uncle George.’
Sparky flew to her shoulder and together they opened the back door to a huge scaly green flank which undulated as its owner turned around. A large but friendly-looking face appeared. ‘Hello,’ it said, yellow saucer eyes gleaming.
‘You must be Uncle George.’ A welcoming plume of purple smoke issued from Sparky’s snout.
‘I was expecting someone… er, smaller,’ said Alys, edging around the door and stepping into the only part of the yard which wasn’t occupied by Uncle George. His great paws sunk into her carefully-tended herb and flower beds and his tail was draped inelegantly over the little garden shed which complained crossly under its weight.
Alys remembered her manners. ‘Pleased to meet you,’ she said politely.
‘So, this is young Sparky, is it?’ Uncle George grinned toothily. ‘I haven’t got long, I’ve lots of relatives to visit.’ He rummaged under his left wing and retrieved a battered book. Then he felt under his chin and pulled out a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles which he perched precariously on his huge green snout.
Sparky flew up and landed on Uncle George’s head, so as better to see the book. He read the title: Who’s Who in the Dragon World.
‘What are you doing up there, boy? Can’t you see I’m trying to read?’ Uncle George said sternly.
‘Sorry, I just wanted to look at the book too.’ A little steam of sapphire smoke seeped from his snout.
‘All right, but keep still.’ Uncle George leafed through the pages with a golden claw.
‘You don’t look like each other at all,’ ventured Alys.
Uncle George ignored her and continued his perusal of the pages. ‘You know, boy, you could be a high-born dragon just like me. Caves and castles, riches and…’
He was interrupted by a big booming voice. ‘George, there you are!’ A bearded face appeared over the wall.
Alys looked around in alarm. Another giant! She’d only just repaired her ceiling after the last one visited.
‘Sorry, Miss,’ the giant apologized, flashing an identity card at her. He smiled sympathetically at Uncle George. ‘My name’s Arthur, I’m afraid George gets awfully confused.
Uncle George looked up. ‘Oh dear, I’ve been rumbled again.
Sparky flew over and perched on the wall, just out of Arthur’s reach. ‘What’s going on? This is my uncle.’ A handful of indignant indigo sparks flared from his nostrils.
Arthur sighed. ‘He’s escaped from the Home for Delusional Dragons again. Not your fault, of course, his letters can be very persuasive. I expect you invited him, didn’t you?’
Alys and Sparky nodded.
‘It breaks the Spell of Confinement if you do, you see.’
‘Perhaps you need to change your spell,’ suggested Alys.
‘Yes, Miss, we will. We don’t want to be too harsh on him though. He’s had a rough time. Gambled all the family riches away…’
‘And I’m not part of that family?’ asked Sparky.
Arthur chuckled. ‘I don’t think so young’un.’
‘I’m fully grown,’ replied Sparky stoutly.
‘Well then, you’re not likely to be related to a dragon like George, are you?’
Sparky stared at George, who was folding his horn-rimmed spectacles. ‘Don’t I have any family?’ asked Sparky plaintively.
George shrugged his huge shoulders.
‘Ready, George?’ asked Arthur.
George nodded happily. ‘Lot’s more family to visit, eh?’
Arthur waved a giant-sized wand and both he and George vanished. The garden shed sighed with relief.
Alys turned to her diminutive dragon. ‘You’ve still got me, Sparky.’
‘And you’re all the family I need, Alys,’ he replied, sending up a pretty plume of purple smoke. ‘I’ll fetch your wand and we can tidy up the garden.’
Alys smiled. Sparky was all the family she needed too.