Collected by Mary Jo
The Word Wenches blog is 15 years old! This is ancient beyond words in internet terms, yet we're still here because we love talking about our books and our travels and delicious odd bits of history. Most of all, we like the chance to interact with our readers.
Our characters have so much to say that this blog will be divided in two with Part 2 posted on Monday the 24th.
The invitations are going out now. Will you join us?
Patricia Rice's characters arrive:
“A party, Max!” Lydia Wystan Ives waved the ragged edge parchment as she raced down the library’s curved staircase. “The Wenches have invited us to a garden party!”
His dark curls littered with wood dust, Maxwell Ives glanced up at his bounteous bride and grinned. “A garden party? And you’ll leave our daughter to yon rascals so we can parade around in our finery and nibble bits of nothing?”
He nodded at his sons, who were hauling in lumber for their project to create a hidden room between the library and the tower dungeon.
“They make excellent guardians. Our daughter will be just fine with two such strapping lads, a nanny, your mother, and a houseful of servants to provide her every wish.” Lydia handed over the crinkled invitation. “Look at this! Our library will be the portal to a special party. It says we may come as we are.”
Max deliberately crossed his eyes and made a face trying to read the scribbles, but he would never deny his wife anything she desired. “A garden party where I come at my worst? You have very odd friends.”
“You know you like my friends, and you’ll enjoy this.” She retrieved the invitation and read it for him. “Adventurers from around the world. Just your sort of thing. And I will have a glimpse of a London garden!”
Checking that his sons were all right with being abandoned, realizing from their grins that they needed a break, Max set down his tools and dusted himself off. “Right now? let us be off—lead me to the food!”
She took his arm and waved the paper at her wall of magical journals. “Show us the way, please!”
And to no one’s amazement, the books opened to show the path through a wisteria arch into a green garden festooned by couples in such a variety of garments that Max, the engineer, leaned over and whispered to a beaming Lydia. “I think we entered another dimension. Is that a Viking over there?”
“Books,” Lydia murmured in awe. “They open whole new worlds.”
A group of six people arrive in a haze of mist, their hands touching an illuminated manuscript with jewelled bindings. Three massive, blond Vikings peer suspiciously at the many shelves of books that surround them.
‘What is this place? It smells of trolldomr – magic,’ one of them says, sniffing cautiously.
‘That’s because it’s a magical library. Those are books, like this one and the ones we looted from the Christian men in Northumbria, remember?’ Sara, his wife, replies. She’s short and curvaceous, with rich chestnut hair, and like the other two women, she’s dressed in her finest apron dress with silver tortoise brooches at the shoulders and row upon row of beads hanging in between – amber, gold, silver and carnelian.
‘These look worthless,’ her husband Rurik retorts. ‘They don’t even have any gold on them. And why would anyone need to write so much? Can’t these people remember anything?’
Linnea, tall and blonde, giggles. ‘Not everyone uses skalds to keep track of their daring deeds. Never mind that now. Let’s go outside and mingle. Look through those French doors – what an amazing garden!’
‘Not one of them has brought any weapons.’ The youngest man, Geir, looks around in astonishment. ‘And Odin’s ravens, what are they wearing? There are men in skirts!’
His red-headed wife, Maddie, laughs out loud. ‘Scotsmen, and they’re kilts, not skirts. I think they’ll say the same about you.’
She turns to the other two women and in unison they say ‘Ah, men in kilts!’ with a happy sigh. Cue three puzzled Viking men.
‘What do you mean? This is my finest tunic. You made it for me yourself.’ Geir frowns at her.
‘I know, unnasti, and you look gorgeous, as always, but come on, I’m starving.’
All six troop down the stairs and onto the lawn, where they gaze around in amazement. ‘Isn’t this lovely!’ Sara scans their surroundings. ‘All these pretty flower beds and a gazebo!’
‘A what?’ Rurik scowls, hanging onto her hand for dear life. ‘I don’t want you talking to any of those men. They look very untrustworthy and they’re staring at you like you’re a tasty morsel.’
‘The women are doing the same to you. Either that, or you should have left your sword at home – I told you! Now taste this.’ Sara grabs two glasses of champagne from a passing waiter and a couple of sweet tarts.
Rurik chokes on the champagne bubbles, then demolishes the tart in one bite. ‘Mm, perhaps this place isn’t so bad after all, but I’m with Hrafn, I’d prefer ale. I suppose we’d better go and talk to the other guests.’
‘Indeed – I can’t wait! This should be fun …’
The third shelf of the second bookcase of the Word Wench magical library quivered, then shook. The books parted, and a tall, elegant, Regency-era gentleman stepped down. He glanced around, then turned back. "Come along my love, it all looks perfectly safe." He held up his hand to assist her.
A small lady peeped out, then carefully climbed down. She looked around her. "All these books, how wonderful." She began to read the titles aloud.
"Now, Prudence my love, you know you can't read at a party. It would be an insult to our hostess. We must circulate."
"Yes, of course. I wonder who else is here, if there's anyone we know." Glancing past her husband she gasped and clutched his sleeve. "Gideon, there's three couples over there and I think they're . . . Vikings."
Gideon turned and saw three tall blonde men and their more varied mates looking curiously around. The men looked wary, the women, positively delighted.
"Vikings, eh? How intriguing."
She gave him an anxious look. "Vikings are—were—supposed to be very fierce."
"Yes, but Lady Putney won't have invited any nasty ones. Let's go and meet them." Tucking her arm in his, they strolled over to the nearest Viking couple. "How do you do? I'm Gideon, Lord Carradice, and this is my lovely wife, Prudence, Lady Carradice." He held out his hand
The man frowned, as if perplexed rather than annoyed, but he responded with a firm handshake. The woman said, "I'm afraid my husband doesn't speak English. I am Linnea and this is my husband, Hrafn." She spoke with a faint Swedish accent.
Gideon frowned. "Bit of a cough you have there, Lady Linnea. Can I get you a drink?"
She laughed. "No, his name is Hrafn." She repeated it, and Gideon nodded. It still sounded like a cough to him.
"Vikings, eh? Or is this a costume?" He indicated their clothing.
"No, we're from the 9th century," she said.
The tall blond man spoke. "Yes. In a book. And I can understand you." He glanced at his wife. "I can speak English. But how?"
"Must be the magic," Gideon said easily. "Some sort of party it would be if we couldn't all communicate. Now tell me, Hruffle—"
"Hrafn," Prudence said.
"Yes, Harffon, any of your relatives ever settle in Britain—the north?"
"Britain?" the tall man repeated and glanced at his wife.
"Norðimbraland," she said.
He turned back to Gideon. "Yes, my cousins went a'viking and ended up staying. They both married Engilskir women."
Gideon nodded. "My grandfather used to talk about our Viking ancestors. It occurs to me we might be related."
"Why not? Now ladies, can I fetch you something to drink?" He glanced at his wife. "Champagne I assume for you, my dear, and you?" He turned to Linnea.
"Oh yes please," she said eagerly. "It's been years since I drank champagne."
Gideon raised a brow. "Didn't know Vikings had champagne."
"They don't," Linnea said.
Gideon gave her a bemused glance, then shrugged. If he knew his wife, Prudence would find out the story there. "Right then, champagne for the ladies, and Hruffyn, I'm guessing you'd prefer something a bit stronger. How about whisky?"
"I do not know this whisky. Is there no ale?"
Gideon shook his head. "Not at an event like this. Let's try you on whisky."
The tall blond Viking shrugged. "Why not?"
"Right then." Gideon signaled a passing waiter, and gave him the order.
"I want to explore that beautiful garden," Prudence said, gesturing to the open French doors. "Look at that wisteria arch. So pretty."
"Oh yes, I haven't seen a proper flower garden in an age," Linnea said. "I'm named after a plant, you know."
"How interesting. I'm dying to know your story," Prudence said. The two ladies linked arms and strolled out into the garden.
"Now Hruffyn," Gideon said as their whiskies were delivered, "You look like a chap that's had a lot of adventures. I'd love to hear about them."
Anniversary Part 2 will be posted on Monday and includes guests invited by Nicola Cornick. Andrea Penrose, Mary Jo Putney, and Susan King.
In the meantime, join us for some champagne, and tell us what Wenchly couples you'd like to accompany you!