Episode 3 (Butterflies in the Garden): After The Council by Vivian Munnoch

“Why are you spying on the council?”
The aged voice startled Ibris. She stumbled and turned to face the elder. She never would have seen Shanawn there if he had not spoken.
“I-I,” Ibris stammered weakly. A hot flush rose in her cheeks and a sweat broke out on her skin. The sudden dampness chilled her.
She looked down, face red with shame and terrified.

Episode 3:

Butterflies In The Garden

After the Council

Photo by Wolfgang Rottmann on Unsplash

The members of the council table watched the crowded room empty. King Tuathal’s scowl was the deepest. He glared ahead towards the door, making those who dared look behind them as they exited cringe and wonder if his anger was directed at them. They remained cautiously quiet until they breached the freedom of the night, the volume of anxious voices outside growing with the crowd moving swiftly away from the council chamber.

The council chamber doors were closed on the last of them, muffling the voices outside. Hands still on the doors, Sarawn turned towards the council table and his king’s hard glare.

Queen Brionna put a steadying hand on her husband’s large fist. Her touch failed to lighten the hard knot of tense muscles clenching it as though he could punch someone and make this better.

Their sons behind them stepped forward the moment the council chamber doors were closed. They looked around with tense postures as though searching for an enemy in their midst.

Elder Cian’s age-wrinkled face crumpled into even deeper wrinkles with the scowl of distaste. He pounded his bony fist on the table.

“Why is that beady-eyed black-beaked menace back?” he demanded, his voice thin and wavering with the weakness of a great many years behind him and few remaining ahead.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Elder Shanawn said. He waved his own age-withered hand in a dismissive gesture.

Cian glared at him.

“How can you be so dismissive about this?” Alyil, one of the princes behind them, complained, anger putting a venomous edge on his voice. He strode around the table to face them head on, his brother Rioghan following steps behind.

King Tuathal stared stonily ahead, lost in his own thoughts.

“Shanawn is correct,” Queen Brionna said. Her face remained carefully passive, her voice measured and calm.

The others looked at her, except King Tuathal, who seemed oblivious she spoke, and Cian, who’s unwavering glare still bore into Shanawn as though to spike him dead with his eyes.

”There is little randomness to the world,” Queen Brionna said. “It is rare for a thing to happen without some design behind it. I have confidence you will figure out what it is.”

She rose and moved around the table.

“Morning’s light will return soon. I am tired. I’m retiring to my garden. You should follow soon or you will not have time to make it before the sun rises.”

She started toward the door.

Sarawn reached for the doors again to open them for her.

“Escort your mother,” King Tuathal said.

The princes looked as though they would protest being sent away, but quickly checked themselves.

More measured in their reactions young Brassal and greying Farrell came from behind the council table to await orders.

Cian rose now, looking exhausted.

“I will take my leave too. It takes these old bones longer to travel these days.”

King Tuathal addressed the knights.

“Alyil and Rioghan, you will see your mother safely home and stay there yourselves. Farrell, accompany them.”

Farrell nodded acceptance, but the princes tried to hide their scowls. It was no secret the king did not fully trust the young princes to be capable on their own with protecting the queen.

“Brassal, escort Cian home,” King Tuathal said. Perhaps your youthful vigor will inspire his old bones to quicker movement.”

Cian scowled again and Brassal turned his face away to hide his amusement as he nodded understanding.

The three knights followed the queen out into the night. Brassal walked with patiently restrained steps to keep with Cian’s shuffled movement.

Sarawn closed the doors behind them. Only he and King Tuathal were left, Shanawn having slipped out unnoticed with the villagers. Sarawn approached the table to stand before Tuathal.

“Brother, your shoulders are heavy with the news of Craven’s return,” he said.

“That creature caused a great deal of trouble before we routed him,” Tuathal said gravely. “I thought we had seen the last of that ugly bird. He barely escaped with his wretched life. Why would he return to torment us? Revenge?”

“They are creatures of habit, returning to the same places to roost and nest at certain times of the year. Perhaps that is all it is.”

Tuathal shook his head slowly.

“If only. Crows have a long memory. Craven will not have forgotten. I doubt he would have returned to that same roost.”

“But it is likely he would return to his old territory.”

“Even a crow will not return to territory lost. We drove him out.” Tuathal exhaled a slow breath heavily weighted with worry. “Find out where he roosts. I will know everything that is inside his mind. Where he sleeps, hunts, scavenges. I will know why the creature returned. In the meantime we must keep the Glenn safe. He must not learn our location. The lives of everyone must be coordinated to provide safety as they go about their business.”

“Some will rebel against their every movement being controlled,” Sarawn warned. “Some will simply fail to see the danger.”

“If we must lock them inside in the daylight and guard them at night when they go about their business for their own good, we will do that. They do not all have the memories of what it took to survive that blight on our people, Craven. Many were blissfully unaware of what was happening beyond their tiny world. We were lucky Craven was alone, unmated and not a part of a community roost.”

“That is odd, though. Crows pair off to mate, but remain part of their community. What would cause one of them to be cast out?”

King Tuathal snorted.

“It is Craven. Perhaps he was a blight even to his own.”

“Perhaps,” Sarawn agreed thoughtfully.

“We must go,” King Tuathal said. He stood to leave, “before the queen chastises me for being too late.”

They walked out of the council chamber together, closing the doors behind them.

“By tomorrow as the moon rises we will have a plan allowing essential jobs to be performed,” King Tuathal said.

“They are all essential to the people,” Sarawn said.

“So they are. But there are levels even to what is truly essential.”

They walked away along one of the branches angled off from the low building.

The council chamber was like all their buildings, each separately built in the cradle of a tree branch where multiple branches sprout off, creating paths in different directions. It gave the community a sense of being spread out, each building squatting in peaceful solitude that was belied by the activity that swarmed around on a warm night.

The air hung heavy and still so that even sound felt muffled. There was no breeze tonight, nothing to make the branches and leaves dance. Almost as though they waited with held breath, motionless lest they bring the unwanted attention of the crow upon them.

 

Ibris sat on the stem of a leaf, hidden by the cool green blade against the back wall outside the council chamber.

She had made her excuses to Liandan, claiming exhaustion, so she could sneak back and listen in on the council meeting.

The crowd was leaving as she arrived and she had slipped through them nimbly. No one paid attention. They were concerned with their own thoughts. It was not the public meeting she wanted to hear.

When the door opened and closed again, Ibris started to slip from her hiding spot, but she had paused. She watched Queen Brionna and her escort leave, followed by the elder Cian and his sole guard. As she watched them go the council door thudded closed.

She was about to go when she heard voices and instead pulled back, pressed herself against the rough wall, and listened. Her breath came heavier and she had to hold it to not drown out the muffled words coming through the wall. Her eyes widened with the talk of locking them in and a sickness sank into the pit of her stomach.

They could not, would not, do that. Would they? It was against the very nature of their beings to be so confined. They would shrivel inside and die.

When they left, Ibris moved to hurry home. She was just about to step from her hiding spot when she heard their footsteps approach and threw herself back behind the leaf.

That is how she came to be here now, heart thudding so loud in her chest they must hear it. Ibris sat on the stem of a leaf, hidden by the cool green blade against the back wall outside the council chamber.

King Tuathal and Sarawn had not gone the same direction as the rest of the council.

Panic surged as they approached. It was a tight fist that held her breath. It increased her panic. She could not breathe. Suddenly she needed to, desperately. She had to gulp in great gasps of air or she would die. Ibris knew she was caught. She would be punished severely for spying on the king.

Dizzying weakness gripped her as they were upon her. She clenched her teeth against crying out. She gripped the stem as hard as she could against the blackness that threatened to close in on her vision and against slipping to fall limply below. She was on the verge of fainting with fear.

They walked past, unaware of her presence, and Ibris could only helplessly watch. Each step on they took, talking casually, brought home the realization they did not know she was there.

Once they were gone, Ibris stood shakily and leaned against the wall. She brought up a trembling hand to push a strand of hair from her face and struggled to force herself to breathe again.

After a moment to collect herself, Ibris stepped into the darkness of shadows from leaves above blocking the moon’s pale light.

“Why are you spying on the council?”

The aged voice startled Ibris. She stumbled and turned to face the elder. She never would have seen Shanawn there if he had not spoken.

“I-I,” Ibris stammered weakly. A hot flush rose in her cheeks and a sweat broke out on her skin. The sudden dampness chilled her.

She looked down, face red with shame and terrified.

“I just wanted to know we would be safe from the crow,” she mumbled, her voice shaking as much as her shivering body trembled.

Shanawn nodded.

“A little reassurance, huh?”

She nodded miserably, afraid to look at him. What might her face reveal? Her eyes?

“Just do as they say. Follow the safety precautions and do not venture beyond the Glenn during the daylight hours, and you will be fine. Off with you. The morning light is not far off now.”

Ibris almost choked. She nodded too quickly and scampered off, eager to escape.

He watched her go until she was out of sight before he started making his own way home.

Episode 2 (Butterflies in the Garden): Crow Council by Vivian Munnoch

Episode 2:

Butterflies In The Garden

Crow Council

Photo by Valentin Petkov on Unsplash

Raised voices crashed against the council chamber walls in expressions of outrage and fear. Such volume and pandemonium was cruelty to the ears. Even the softening acoustics of the crowded room could not dampen the volume.

Ibris and Liandan stood in the back, huddled in a corner. They could only catch glimpses of the council through the press of bodies in front of them. It was safer in the back. Invisible.

Sarawn’s face held the same hard anger it did earlier when they ran into him and Shanawn. Both knight and younger brother to King Tuathal, he sat next to the king at the table facing the village. Other knights of the Glenn stood behind him, his son Brassal, barely old enough to be knighted, and Farrell, the grey barely creeping into his hair.

Sarawn alone of the knights held a seat at the council table this night. The king’s own sons, both knighted, stood behind their father.

King Tuathal sat center table with Queen Brionna on his other side. Two of the four village elders flanked them on one side, the other two elder seats vacant.

Ibris caught a glimpse of them. She could not tell if the elder Cian’s wrinkled face held a frown that was deeper than his usual dour expression.

Shanawn stood where he should have sat, looking around the room in frustration, one arm raised seeking silence. His thin wavering aged voice was no match for the noise.

With a grunt, King Tuathal stood, silently glowering at the crowd.

That was all it took. The volume lowered, shouts and frightened complaints wavering off to sniffles and a low whimper.

He motioned to Shanawn to continue and took his seat.

Shanawn nodded thanks and addressed the room.

“As I was saying, the rumors are true.”

The crowd almost erupted again, but a stern look from King Tuathal kept them in check.

“Craven’s ugly cry has been heard,” Shanawn said. “His black shadow has been cast across our village again.”

Whispers and murmurs passed through the crowd, but they kept mostly quiet, fixed on the old man.

“Precautions will be taken,” he continued. “The skies will be patrolled. Gathering is to be done only when we have eyes on the ugly black-hearted beast and know he is well away from the village. Above all,” he paused to catch the eye of as many villagers as he could, “take caution Craven does not learn the location of the village. He knows it is in the area, but not yet where. It must stay that way.”

He went on, but Ibris lost interest staring at the backs of her neighbors crowded too closely together. The stuffiness off the room was building and with it her impatience to escape it.

King Tuathal’s voice rose above the crowd and she realized the elder stopped talking.

“We will reinstate the Crow Council,” he said. “Craven may be just a bird, but he is wicked and smart far above the usual crow. We drove him out before and we will drive him away again.”

Murmurs filled the room, silencing quickly.

“Craven isn’t so smart,” Liandan muttered. “He’s just a bird that sees us as food. Everything is food to a crow.”

“Or a shiny bauble,” Ibris said.

Liandan looked at her and they both had to cover their mouths with their hands to stifle a giggle. People nearby gave them irritated looks.

Still, Ibris could not shake the sick chill feeling that clung to her since the large bird nearly ate her.

“Come on,” Liandan nudged her. “We heard this all the last time. Let’s go.”

With an uneasy glance through the crowd towards the head table, Ibris followed. Liandan pulled the door open just enough to squeeze through and they slipped out of the council chamber.

The night air was refreshingly cool after the heated stuffiness of too many bodies crammed in a small room.

The council chamber was built in the cradle of a thick tree branch where multiple branches sprouted off, creating paths in different directions. They took one of these paths. The voices muffled behind the chamber walls softened as the distance behind them grew.

“Crow Council,” Liandan muttered. “They have to create a council for everything, don’t they? It is just a bird, no different than the other birds big enough to see anything smaller than them as food.”

“They just need to live too,” Ibris said. “And they don’t eat everything smaller than them. But they do eat insects.”

“And that’s all they see us as,” Liandan said, her voice pouty. “Brainless insects. They do eat anything. I bet they would eat their own kind too. They may not be able to kill everything they eat, but if it is animal, insect, or plant, they’ll eat it if they get the chance. They are just big ugly dumb eating machines with wings.”

Ibris could not help the image that came to her. Craven looming large and close, his ebony feathers gleaming dully, seemingly absorbing the daylight into his black mass. His unblinking eye bright with intelligence fixed on her.

She shuddered, trying to push the frightful image away. It will haunt her for weeks to come.

Liandan caught the pale waxy look as Ibris’s face drained of color and the frightened ill expression she tried to hide.

“It’s going to be okay,” Liandan said. She draped an arm over Ibris’s shoulders. “We just need to find a way to get the message to that butterfly brain of yours to stay out of the open where the crows and other birds can eat you.”

“You aren’t making me feel any better,” Ibris muttered.

They both laughed, but hers rang hollow in her ears.

A chill crossed Ibris’s shoulders, like a shadow passing over her. She looked up. The sky twinkled with stars in a deep blue-black that felt like it went into forever. The moon was out of sight beyond the trees, its mellow shadow still beneath the canopy of leaves above. A breeze picked up. It lifted and played with the leaves, the moon’s shadow dancing beneath them.

Still, the cold shadow of doom wrapped itself around Ibris and would not let go.

Episode 1 (Butterflies in the Garden): Danger Above by Vivian Munnoch

Episode 1:

Butterflies In The Garden

Danger Above

Photo by Jessa Crisp on Unsplash (edited by Vivian Munnoch)

The dully gleaming ebony feathers of the crow seemed to absorb the daylight into its black mass. The motionless bird stared unblinkingly at the motion below from its perch in a tree, looking more like its deceased and stuffed counterpart than a living creature.

Below him the little butterfly flitted weightlessly, bobbing on its wings over the flowers in the garden, oblivious to the danger above.

The crow blinked just once, the thin membrane moving across its cold emotionless eye a heartbeat behind the eyelid in a slightly off double motion. The bird tilted his head.

Spindly legs reaching, the little butterfly landed on a flower. Its wings moved slowly to some soundless rhythm. It tasted the air with its antennae, picking up only the sweet pollen of the flowers.

Feeling safe, the butterfly stilled its wings, letting them soak in the delightful warmth of the sun.

With slow languid motion, the crow spread his wings and took flight, his shadow passing on the ground below.

The fleeting shade was a cooling pulse across the insect’s back, the warmth returned as quickly. Only its antennae moved in response.

Landing soundlessly on a wooden post closer to the flowers, the crow ruffled his feathers and settled to watch the little butterfly.

The insect lifted one spindly front leg and froze. It sensed danger. Its antennae twitched, feeling for the source. Nothing moved except the barest dance of the flowers in the soft breeze. The butterfly relaxed again.

The crow bided his time, watching the butterfly groom its head with its front legs.

He half spread his wings and tilted his head, coldly eying the morsel below. His wings came up and his head down, wings spreading to their full span. He pushed off the post, bringing his wings down against the air, pushing his feet out ahead of him. He dove down at the garden.

Danger trembled in the little butterfly’s antennae. Its legs quivered and wings twitched as it sought the source. The shadow came down, growing, and covered it. It realized the danger too late, flapping its wings and bobbing and dodging on the air.

Faster, the crow dove straight for it, closing the gap quickly.

The insect felt the displaced air before it could flit across two flowers. Desperate to live, it tried to weave in the air. It could not move fast enough, its bumbling flight too weightless for speed.

The crow’s beak clapped closed a wing’s hair from catching and crushing the little butterfly just as it dropped below the flower heads. Twisting mid flight, the bird reached for it with its talons of one foot, catching only the velvety softness of flower. His claws dug into the blossom, tearing the stigma from style, anther from filament, and ruined petals free in a single violent moment that left the spoiled flower trembling with motion in its wake.

Swooping up to land on the post, the bird shook its foot to knock off the petal impaled on one claw. The torn petal fluttered to the ground. The crow ruffled his feathers in irritation at missing the snack.

The quivering butterfly clung to the bottom of a flower head beneath the watchful stare of the hungry bird above. Hours passed and neither moved. The sun crossed the sky, its light getting old and tired, and finally turned to the gloom of dusk as it hung lower in the sky.

Lifting his beak to stare balefully at the weakening light, the crow finally gave up and took flight across the yard and over the trees towards his night roost. His ugly caws carried back on the wind.

The little butterfly was still afraid to move. It clung there in the growing darkness. The sun on the horizon made the sky burn with the colors of sunset as it slipped behind the skyline, plunging the world into night.

Rising waxy and pale, the moon cast its dull light into the night.

Moonlight reached down through the flowers and touched the wings of the little butterfly. Its wings quivered and rippled, shriveling into themselves. It trembled, its body twisting in grotesque reaction to the trauma. It fell into the full light of the moon. Its antennae withered and shriveled, its body convulsed in wretched spasms and twitched as it morphed. The lower part of its body split and pulled apart into two as its legs pulled into the body. The front legs thickened instead of withering like the rest and it shook its head in agony, legs splaying at the ends to become hands with fingers.

When at last it lay still, gasping raggedly from the pain ravaging it with the transformation, it was no longer a butterfly.

Clutching at and shaking her head, she moaned and pushed herself into a sitting position. She groaned hollowly and looked around.

She is still the size of the butterfly, but has shed all insectile appearances for human-like. Hair cut in a short bob framed her tiny face. Her appearance was almost elven, slender and diminutively angled.

Ibris stood weakly on unsteady legs, wavering a little. A gossamer gown hung off her, limp and tired. Putting an arm out, she stumbled over and leaned on the flower stalk for support as she gathered herself.

“That was close.” Her voice was rough and high with anxiety. She blinked; looking dazed, and tried to clear her thoughts.

“Craven the Crow is back. This is not good. He has killed too many of us. I should alert the village.”

Still weak from the transformation, Ibris shuddered and her gown shifted. Part of it lifted on each side, splitting apart to reveal wings so delicate they seemed they would tear on the barest breath of a breeze.

She looked up anxiously, expecting to see the ugly crow suddenly appear. She could not fly yet, so she started walking, climbing between flower stalks and blades of grass. Everything towered massively above her.

When her wings have dried, she took flight, moving more quickly. Ibris flew recklessly through the flowers, rising above them and speeding up, darting across the garden. She crossed the yard to the woods beyond and vanished into the shadows of the trees.

The village was alive with activity when Ibris reached it. The dwellings were little cottages of twigs and dry grass faded to sandy browns like logs and flat boards of wood. Tiny flowers decorated gardens, their heads hanging large and heavily.

Her legs were already pumping before she landed, her stride going easily from flight to a swift walk as her feet touch ground. She dodged through the village determinedly.

Ibris stopped at a building that was larger than the small cottage homes. The House of Counsel. She looked at the closed door uncertainly, reached a hand out to knock, and froze. Her hand fell uselessly to her side.

“I’m going to be in trouble for going to the flowers without permission.”

She turned unhappily, retreating.

“Ibris, where have you been?” The voice is soft, but with an edge of irritation, lightly scolding.

Ibris stopped and looked. Her eyes flashed warily as one caught doing something wrong might look. Liandan, the weaver of spider-silk cloth was staring at her, waiting for an explanation.

Liandan was taller than Ibris, her arms lean and strong from hard work. She was older, but still young enough to be just starting her journey through the adult life.

Ibris took quick steps to her. She lowered her voice to a whisper.

“I know I should not have, but my butterfly brain does not always think.” She looked down guiltily. “I went to the flowers.”

“Without permission,” Liandan guessed. “You are lucky you did not get caught, or in danger.”

Ibris’s cheeks reddened.

“What happened?” Liandan asked.

“Craven.” Ibris’s voice trembled with the memory.

Liandan blanched and her face turned a sickly shade of pale. She reached for Ibris, needed to touch her and make sure her friend was safe. She felt Ibris trembling beneath her hand.

“Are you okay? Did he hurt you?”

Ibris shook her head. “It was close. Very close. I was sure I felt his ugly beak snapping me in half when I heard it clap closed on the air where I just was.”

She shuddered with the thought.

“But you are okay now. Promise me you won’t go back out there.”

Ibris gave Liandan a pained look.

“I didn’t mean to go,” she pleaded. “I was in the other form. My mind did not think. It has been safe for so long, I guess I forgot.”

Liandan was staring off thoughtfully.

“So, Craven has returned.” She looked at Ibris. “We have to tell the village. Craven is relentless. Ibris, we have to tell the elders.”

“No.” Ibris reached to put a restraining hand on her arm. She stared into her eyes pleadingly. “I will be punished.”

“If we don’t, someone will fall prey to him sooner or later.”

Ibris hung her head in shame.

“All right,” she said quietly.

“We don’t have to tell them everything,” Liandan said. She looked thoughtful. “Did you hear his call?”

“Yes. Ugly and loud.”

“Did you see or feel his shadow cross you?”

“Both.” Ibris shuddered and hugged herself.

Liandan nodded. “We have it then. We will tell them that and leave out where you were.”

“But that would be a lie by omission.”

“It’s only a small lie.”

“It’s a big one and they will ask where.”

“All right. We will have to tell the whole truth. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Come, we have to tell someone.”

Ibris followed her unhappily back through the village.

“We are not going to the House of Counsel?”

“No,” Liandan said. “We will find one of the grandmothers who have retired from the council. They will know best what to do.”

They came around a cottage to see a group of ahead. Sarawn, one of the knights of the Glenn and member of the council was there, looking serious and angry. Shanawn, the elderly historian was looking at him gravely. There were others too, all talking in loud anxious voices and looking concerned.

Liandan grabbed Ibris’s hand so she could not back out and dragged her along towards them.

Ibris tried to pull back, terrified of approaching the them. Not just for what she had done, but because of who was there. Sarawn and Shanawn! They both terrified her. The knight of the Glenn standing tall and regal, his scowl making him even more intimidating. And the stooped historian dressed in a ragged robe more fitting a pauper traveler, who knew too much and was one of the most respected council members.

Liandan, too, hesitated. She took strength from being only one of a crowd clamoring for answers.

“What’s going on?” Liandan asked when they reached the group.

Shanawn turned to look at them. They both recoiled at the attention, expecting someone of lower status like their own to respond.

“Craven’s ugly cry has been heard,” he said, his voice thin and wavering with age. “His black shadow has been cast across our village again.”

Liandan and Ibris looked at each other. Ibris’s secret was safe, for now.

New Release – Madelaine & Mocha (The Wishing Stone) by Vivian Munnoch

It started with a walk in the woods and ended in kidnapping.

 

Madelaine & Mocha

The Wishing Stone series book 1

By Vivian Munnoch,

Author of dark fiction for young readers

Now available on Amazon Kindle and print on demand.

(Click to buy)

It started with a walk in the woods and ended in kidnapping.

Madelaine and her family are on a boring, no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life, camping trip that changes Madelaine and her life forever.

First, her little dog Mocha is lost in the forest. Then Madelaine vanishes from their tent without a trace in the night. Everyone assumes she snuck out to look for Mocha.

Madelaine wakes in the dark, dressed only in her nightgown, with no idea how she got where she is, locked in a small room.

While searchers comb the forest looking for her, Madelaine is trying to figure out how to escape and return to her family. But they will never look in the right place.

Only her little dog Mocha knows what really happened to Madelaine.

 

 

Madelaine thought things could not possibly get worse when her parents dragged her out on a boring, no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life, camping trip.

Then Mocha, her American Cocker Spaniel and currently her only reason for getting through each day, is lost in the forest. Their attempts to find the dog are futile and Madelaine is devastated.

A local boy, Geoffrey, joins Madelaine in her search, promising to not give up and showing her the beauty of the forest.

Then, Madelaine’s family wakes up to find her gone, vanished from the tent in the night wearing only her nightgown.

 

Madelaine wakes in the dark, locked in a small room with no idea how she got there.

The prisoner of a strange old man, Madelaine begs for escape, even in death. But she knew death once. Almost. It was not the blissful drifting off asleep she imagined it would be. It was agonizing and ugly.

The old man’s reason for kidnapping her is nothing she could have ever imagined. Madelaine keeps her hope up by wishing on a stone. Playing wishing games will not be enough to free her and escape her fate.

 

 

Author photoVivian Munnoch grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and continues to live in Manitoba with her family and rescue dogs. Vivian’s writing has always had a vein of darkness to it.

“I’ve always loved horror. I used to sneak downstairs as a kid at night to watch old killer B horror flicks. They were delightfully naughty and scary for a kid before the world evolved into the online forum it is today.”

Vivian Munnoch is working on a few other projects. The Wishing Stone series will touch on a few of young readers’ fan favourites of vampires and the like, but with a darker twist. These creatures are not romantic. The Butterflies in the Garden series is a dark fantasy. You will never see your garden in the same way.

Vivian Munnoch’s books are available on Amazon Kindle and in print on Amazon. You can also check Vivian’s Facebook author page to find out where she will be signing books in the community.

 

https://www.facebook.com/VivianMunnoch/

https://twitter.com/VivianMunnoch

https://wordpress.com/view/vivianmunnoch.wordpress.com

 

 

New Release – The Latchkey Kids: The Disappearance of Willie Gordon by Vivian Munnoch

The Latchkey Kids series is a drama packed middle grade thriller.

By popular demand, Manitoba author Vivian Munnoch releases a second Latchkey Kids book, “The Latchkey Kids: The Disappearance of Willie Gordon”.

 

The Latchkey Kids: The Disappearance of Willing Gordon

The Latchkey Kids series book 2

By Vivian Munnoch,

Author of dark fiction for young readers

(Click to buy)

 

After repeated requests for a follow-up book, Canadian author Vivian Munnoch has written a continuation to the novel “The Latchkey Kids”.

The Latchkey Kids series is a drama packed middle grade thriller. “I purposely avoid describing the kids’ physical appearances because I want the reader to put her or himself into their shoes, no matter the reader’s background.”

This series is “clean”. It is middle grade school library safe.

 

The Latchkey Kids 2-Kindle crop

Five kids, twelve and thirteen years old and on their own before and after school, each faces their own struggles; a broken home, illness, crushes, bullying, depression, absent parents, suicidal thoughts, broken friendships, and fears of being only a kid and home alone.

What would you do if you came home from school alone and heard noises in the basement?

 

The Latchkey Kids: The Disappearance of Willie Gordon (book 2):

Madison, Andrew, Kylie, Anna, and Dylan survived the abandoned factory fire. They thought it was over. Spring break is ending and they are still trying to pick of the pieces of their shattered beliefs in what the world is supposed to be.

Life goes on as if nothing happened. But it did happen. And it is happening again.

Nothing in their lives seems to have changed when everything feels like it did. Everything is back to normal, right?

And then Willie Gordon vanishes.

While new jealousies burn, problems kept secret begin to emerge, and Joshua joins the group after his sister committed suicide, the group feels they are the only ones who can find Willie. Nobody believes them that the monsters are real.

The kids have to face the monsters again, in the basements where they nest.

 

the latchkey kids-flattened-b&n ebook cropThe Latchkey Kids (book 1): (Click to buy)

In The Latchkey Kids you are introduced to the five characters, Madison, Andrew, Kylie, Anna, and Dylan. Each has their own private world of problems they feel trapped alone in.

Madison, “plain old boring nothing ever happens to Madison”, is finally a latchkey kid for the first time. She just turned twelve. And what does she do on her first day ever having to come home alone? She loses her key; on one of the coldest days of a very cold winter.

Andrew has been a latchkey kid since last year but has never gotten used to being home alone. He hears noises in the basement that unnerve him; noises that his parents dismiss as nothing more than the house making noises. Being home alone scares him, but he won’t admit it to anyone.

Anna is alone more than anyone knows. She is a rebel without a cause, skipping school and doing whatever she wants. Dressed always in her long-sleeved shirts and I don’t care attitude, even her teachers have given up on Anna. Behind the face of indifference Anna is a tortured soul. Her younger brother is in the hospital with a terminal illness and may never come home. Her mother spends all her time at the hospital while her father works three jobs trying to hold the family together. Anna is utterly and completely alone, left to raise herself, her parents merely a footnote of her life.

Dylan was a latchkey kid before. Now he goes to a babysitter. Embarrassing! He does not want anyone to know, but is also terrified at the idea of being home alone; ever since their house was broken into, trashed, the perpetrators attempting to burn it down and torturing their now traumatized dog. That weakness and fear is even more of an embarrassment to him. Dylan has anger issues, lashing out thoughtlessly, his problems bottled up inside to the point they are seeping out in explosive bursts of violence. As far as school bullies go, Dylan is the worst at Woodside School. He is also raving mad crushing on Kylie.

Kylie feels like her life is a special kind of hell. She sees what others have and is quietly resolved to not having it. Her single mother is struggling to keep their little family together. It is just her, her mother, and her little sister. She lives in fear of her abusive father, who her mother finally managed to gather the courage to kick out. She lives in fear of Amber Shaw and the Mean Team, whose sole purpose in life seems to be to torture, torment, and bully Kylie. Amber has a special hatred for Kylie.

Newly introduced at the end of the Latchkey Kids:

Joshua walks into the Latchkey Kids world at the end of book one, confronting Amber Shaw in public and accusing her of killing his sister. His sister committed suicide because of Amber’s online bullying. This is only the start to his story and the problems he faces.

 

Author photoVivian Munnoch grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and continues to live in Manitoba with her family and rescue dogs. Vivian’s writing has always had a vein of darkness to it.

“I’ve always loved horror. I used to sneak downstairs as a kid at night to watch old killer B horror flicks. They were delightfully naughty and scary for a kid before the world evolved into the online forum it is today.”

Vivian Munnoch is working on a few other projects. The Wishing Stone series will touch on a few of young readers’ fan favourites of vampires and the like, but with a darker twist. These creatures are not romantic. The Butterflies in the Garden series is a dark fantasy. You will never see your garden in the same way.

Vivian Munnoch’s books are available on Amazon Kindle and in print on Amazon. You can also check Vivian’s Facebook author page to find out where she will be signing books in the community.

 

https://www.facebook.com/VivianMunnoch/

https://twitter.com/VivianMunnoch

https://wordpress.com/view/vivianmunnoch.wordpress.com

 

 

The Latchkey Kids: 3 The Parents Come Home – Andrew by Vivian Munnoch

The clerk looks like he is ready to confront him and accuse him of stealing something, even though he hasn’t done anything.

Andrew walks around the store, trying to be invisible.  He can feel the store clerk watching him and, when he risks a quick look at the clerk, sees the man is watching him suspiciously.  The clerk looks like he is ready to confront him and accuse him of stealing something, even though he hasn’t done anything.

“I just want to keep warm without having to go back home and wait alone for Mom and Dad to come home,” he thinks, feeling dumb just thinking about it.  “What’s there to be afraid of being home alone?  There’s nothing there.”

Andrew is afraid someone might find out.  “I’m too old for this kind of little kid scared of nothing stuff.”

The clerk’s suspicious stare is making him more nervous.  He’s starting to feel panicky; scared of being caught even though he isn’t doing anything wrong.

He tries to pretend he’s shopping, hoping the clerk will leave him alone.  He looks around him and grabs something off the shelf without looking at anything but the price tags below the items on the shelf.  It has to be something he has enough money to pay for, and he doesn’t have very much.  He has no idea what it is that he grabbed.

He’s only buying it to show that he’s not there to make trouble.

Andrew shuffles up to the counter, keeping his head down, and puts the object on the counter.

“Are you really going to buy that?” the clerk asks with a smirk.  He still looks suspicions and is eying Andrew with a distrustful look, judging him either insane or a criminal, depending on his reaction to the question.

Andrew looks up at him with a nod, a flush creeping up his neck, and then looks down at the item in question.  He stares at it in horror.

There, for all of the world to see, is a pink box. He feels like it is staring up at him in gleeful accusation, yelling to the store, “HE IS LYING!”

Andrew swallows, feeling suddenly sick with embarrassment, the red flush rising up his cheeks.  He looks around quickly to see if anyone is looking.

The object pictured on the bright pink box looks similar to that bullet shaped lipstick candy, only longer and white.

Andrew doesn’t know what it’s used for, but the word Tampon glares up like an announcement and all he knows is that it’s something very private that boys are not supposed to know about and has to do with women and teen girls and puberty.

The package says it’s a mini pack just for the purse.  He suffers a sudden flash of thought, envisioning having to explain to his mother why he bought it.

Andrew turns redder, his face burning with a flush of shame, and the clerk behind the counter laughs.  His expression shows pain for the boy’s predicament and relief that he isn’t a shoplifter after all.

“Your mom sent you, didn’t she?”

“Yes,” Andrew mumbles, looking down and hoping no one sees him.

He pays for his unwanted purchase and makes a beeline for the exit, running halfway home before he slows down and starts looking for somewhere to ditch the little bag.

When Andrew gets home, the tampon box has been safely disposed of in a random trashcan along the way.  He lets himself back in the house and goes back to playing video games.

He plays for the next hour, nervously listening for the noises from the basement that sent him fleeing from the house. The noises never repeat themselves, but that almost makes it worse because he can’t make himself stop expecting them.

Finally, his parents come home and he can put this day behind him.

THE LATCHKEY KIDS IS AVAILABLE ON KINDLE AND IN PAPERBACK ON AMAZON

 

The Latchkey Kids: 3 The Parents Come Home – Madison by Vivian Munnoch

“I forgot about Caesar,” she groans, “I have to go past him again.”

The thought of having to go past the dog makes her whole body ache with dread, her muscles unwilling to go on even though she knows it’s the only way.  It will take too long to go the long way around and she is frozen.

With no one at the school to let her in and no idea what else to do, Madison heads back home.  She is getting colder, her fingers and toes are burning and painful from the cold now and she is getting very upset.  She is also going to have to explain to her parents about locking herself out when they get home.

“Assuming I’m not frozen to death by then,” Madison mutters miserably.

She retraces her steps, the walk feeling a lot longer this time, and stops when she reaches Mr. Hooper’s house.

Caesar!

“I forgot about Caesar,” she groans, “I have to go past him again.”

The thought of having to go past the dog makes her whole body ache with dread, her muscles unwilling to go on even though she knows it’s the only way.  It will take too long to go the long way around and she is frozen.

“Come on Madison, you can do this.  It’s only a dog and he’s on a chain that doesn’t even reach past the edge of the yard.  Yeah, only a big mean dog that’ll probably tear you apart and eat you.”

Madison loves dogs, but this one is scary, mean, and large.

She stares at the house and yard, willing the dog to not be outside or that Mr. Hooper comes out and controls that nasty dog.

“Mr. Hooper is as scary as the dog is.  Maybe I am better off trying to sneak past the dog.”

She jumps when the dog pops his head around the side of the house with one loud woof, staring at her from the backyard.

Madison swallows, trying to control her fear.  The dog is only standing there watching her so far.

“His chain doesn’t reach the road, so walking by should be safe, right?”  It doesn’t feel safe.

“Okay Madison, let’s go,” Madison urges herself on.

She takes a first cautious step.

The dog just watches.

She takes two more steps, almost reaching the point where she would be even with the curb in front of the house.

The dog moves, shifting position but not taking a step, and she imagines him coiling to spring at her.

“Just do it Madison,” she mutters, “just go.  Don’t even look at him and just walk right past the house.”

A few more steps and Madison is passing front yard, keeping to the far side of the little road, as far away from Old Man Hooper’s house as she can without climbing over the fence on the other side. Every muscle is stiff and tense.

Caesar just stands there watching her very intently.

“Very hungrily,” she thinks.

When Madison reaches not quite halfway past the back yard, the dog suddenly launches himself at her with a deep growl that becomes a barrage of loud angry barking, bounding after her with powerful strides.

Madison screams and whirls to face the lunging dog, putting her arms up to protect herself from the attack.

The back door of Mr. Hooper’s house flies open with a bang and the old man comes barrelling down the stairs on legs that are little more than sticks covered by loose pants.  He is wearing a stained white undershirt with a hole in it and an unbuttoned plaid flannel shirt that is also stained and torn.  Madison suspects the brown-red stains are the blood of his and Caesar’s victims from cutting them up in his basement to bury them or feed them to Caesar.  His wild eyes, unkempt hair, and grey patchy chin stubble make him look more frightening and wild, like a backwoods crazy man.

Fists clenched, he raises one and shakes it at her threateningly, the other gripping what Madison suspects is some kind of weapon to knock her senseless with so he can feed her to the dog.

“You quit teasing my dog!” he shouts at her.  “Get outta my yard!  Get outta here and leave my dog alone!  You kids are always teasing my dog!”

Caesar reaches the end of his chain and Madison is relieved to see the chain holding strong.  With the chain taught, still pulling and lunging at her, Caesar’s jaws snap as if he is already chewing on her while he continues to bark ferociously.

“I’m not even in his yard,” Madison thinks.  With a scared whimper, she scurries off towards the back lane, putting Mr. Hooper’s house and Caesar behind her as quickly as she can.  The moment she reaches the corner where the little road meets the back lane, Madison breaks into a run.

Behind her, Caesar is still barking after her and she can hear the old man yelling and muttering.

Madison is still shaken by the confrontation when she reaches the fence with the loose board.  She looks up at the fence, picturing for just a moment Caesar breaking his chain and coming after her, pinning her helplessly against the fence while he tears her apart, tearing first through her coat to get to her skin beneath.  She sees its height as an impossible barrier, and then almost panics when she doesn’t find the loose board right away.

“Okay Madison, calm down,” she tries to sooth herself.

Fingers numb with the cold and her toes like numb blocks filled with a distant sharp pain that are there weighing her legs down but somehow detached, not a part of her, Madison tries again, looking for the notch in the board and counting the boards.

Her fingers will not work when she tries to move the board.  Madison pulls her mitts off and blows hot air on her fingers, putting them in her mouth and sucking on them to try to warm them up.  It only makes the pain in her frozen fingers worse.  Putting her mitts back on, she tries again and this time moves the board.

Madison starts squeezing through the board when she hears the sounds of footsteps and heavy breathing behind her, and then the jingle of a dog’s chain.

“That heavy breathing is definitely a dog panting,” she thinks.  “Caesar!  He got loose!”  Terror grips her and she squeezes frantically through the fence, almost falling through on the other side.

She turns as she lets the board fall back into place just in time to see a woman jogging up the alley with a big fluffy white dog.

Madison leans against the fence and lets out a nervous giggle. “It wasn’t Caesar,” she says in relief.

She walks the rest of the way home, each step seeming to take her farther away instead of closer.  The pain in her frozen fingers and toes is getting worse.  She tries walking faster, and it makes the pain in her feet worse but at least she should get home faster. Her nose is burning too now and she walks holding her mitts to her face, blocking the cold and warming her face with her own breath cupped beneath the mitts.  She leaves only a crack to see through between her mitts.

“Will I ever get home?” she moans in despair.

When Madison finally gets home, she is so cold that her hands and feet hurt so much she is crying.  She still can’t get in, though, because she lost her key and locked herself out.  Madison sits on the steps and just cries.

“Are you okay?”

She looks up, startled, to see the woman who lives next door.

“I locked myself out,” Madison sobs.

“You look frozen!” the woman exclaims sympathetically.  “Come inside my house to warm up and we’ll watch for your parents to come home.”

Madison gratefully goes with her.

Inside the neighbor’s house, she is given a warm blanket and a cup of hot cocoa.  Her fingers are too frozen at first to hold the cup.  She sits there, rubbing her hands together, trying to warm them.  When her fingers and toes start to warm up the pain is terrible.  Frostbite had been setting in.  She has to wait for the pain in her fingers to lessen before she dares try picking up the cup of hot cocoa.  She sits there drinking it thankfully and watching a television show that is way too young for her that the neighbor put on to entertain her.

A few hours later, Madison’s mother arrives home.

The neighbor notices the car in the driveway.  “Someone is home at your house.”

Madison looks up at her with fear in her eyes.

“I’m going to be in trouble for locking myself out,” she thinks.  “Worse, my parents are not going to trust me to be home alone now.”

“Do you want me to go with you?” the neighbour asks sympathetically, seeing her fear.

“No, I can manage,” Madison says unhappily.  Her mind is working, thinking through what she will say to her parents.  She gets up reluctantly.

“Thank you for letting me wait here, and for the hot cocoa,” she says as she pulls on her coat and boots at the door.  She waves goodbye as the woman closes the door behind her.

Madison trudges home reluctantly.  “I’m going to be in so much trouble,” she thinks again miserably.  “They’ll make me go to a babysitter now.  I’m too old for babysitters.”  She opens the front door to find her mother frantically searching the house and calling her.

Hearing the sound of the front door and the thud of Madison’s boot dropping on the floor, her mother rushes to the door.

“Where have you been?”  Her voice is as anxious and harsh with worry as the expression on her face.

Madison shifts nervously, standing there with one boot on and one off, her coat open, and hat and mitts dropped carelessly on the floor with her backpack.

She looks down at the floor, not wanting to meet her mother’s eyes.

“I lost my key,” she mumbles quietly.

“What?  Look up at me when you speak. What did you say?”

Madison huffs in frustration, not wanting to repeat herself.  She looks up at her mother, her mother’s worried look making her want to hide.

“I got locked out.”

“How?  Where is your key?”  She advances on Madison.  “Take your jacket off, give me your backpack.  Where is your key, Madison?”

Madison lets her mother take the offending backpack.  She takes off her other boot and jacket while her mother searches the backpack.

“I don’t know.  I got home and I couldn’t find my key.”  Her voice is cracking and sounds small, making her sound years younger.

She stands there watching her mother pull stuff out of her backpack, shaking them out and finally dumping the rest of the contents on the floor in a mess.

“So where were you?”

“I was next door.”  Madison decides not to tell her that she walked all the way back to school and then home again before finally ending up next door.

The front door opens behind Madison and her father walks in.

“What’s all this?” he asks, looking down at the mess scattered on the floor and at his wife rifling through Madison’s backpack.

“Madison locked herself out.  She lost her key.”  Madison’s mother doesn’t pause in her search of the backpack and its contents.

Her father takes his shoes and coat off, hanging up his coat, and gives Madison a disappointed look.

That look makes a red flush burn her cheeks.  She would have preferred anger to his disappointment.

He shakes his head. “Did you check her backpack and coat?”

Her mother looks up at him with an annoyed look.

He picks up Madison’s coat from the floor and searches the pockets, feeling along the bottom hem in case it somehow slipped through a hole in the pocket into the inner lining.

Madison just watches.  There are no holes in her pockets.

“How did you lock yourself out?” her father asks while he searches the coat.  “This was a pretty big responsibility we trusted you with.  I guess you just aren’t ready for it.”

“There is no key,” her mother exclaims, dropping the violated backpack on the floor.  “I guess we were wrong.  You just aren’t responsible enough yet.”

She turns and heads for the kitchen.

“Mom, I am. I’m twelve,” Madison begs, following her.  “What are you going to do?”  She has a pretty good idea what her mother is going to do and she is mortified at the idea.

“Mom, no, please, I’m too old for babysitters.”

Her mother picks up the phone and digs her little phone book out, turning on Madison.  “What if the neighbour wasn’t home?  Where would you have gone?  It’s too cold out; you could have froze or had frostbite.”

Madison blushes at the memory of her freezing walk and the pain of frostbite in her fingers and toes.

“I’m finding you a babysitter.”  Her mother starts flipping through the little phone book.

“Mom, please,” Madison begs, fighting the tears she can’t stop.  Twelve is too old to go to daycare or a babysitter.  Too old to cry.  How can she show them she’s old enough if she cries like a baby?

“You just aren’t ready yet for the responsibility of getting yourself to school and home,” her father says, entering the kitchen and pacing angrily.

The tension in the air between them all is heavy.  Madison watches helplessly as her mother is determined to find a babysitter and her father continues pacing angrily and scolding her and complaining about the locked door.  She doesn’t even hear his words anymore, seeing only the teasing and taunting at school when the other kids learn she’s going to a babysitter.

Madison looks at her father, usually her biggest ally when her mother is set on something and is being unreasonable.  She has no ally there now.  Madison isn’t sure if he is angry with her, himself, or at the door that kept her from getting into the house.

Madison is mortified.  “Babies go to babysitters,” she thinks.  “I’m old enough to be home alone.  I’ll show them!” Her heart sinks. “But how?”

With no mature options, she resorts to what has always worked in the past.  Madison cries and begs them to give her another chance.

This goes on for some time, a battle for who has more stamina.  Her mother keeps threatening to send her to a babysitter, her father pacing angrily and lecturing her, and Madison keeps crying and begging for another chance.  Finally, her parents wear down first and relent.  Madison is given another chance to show that she can handle the responsibility.

THE LATCHKEY KIDS IS AVAILABLE ON KINDLE AND IN PAPERBACK ON AMAZON