We are off to Yorkshire with Helen Johannes, author of Novel Magic Featured book–Bloodstone. Follow Helen and her students as they encounter an unexpected guest in one of England’s most haunted cities.
Then read a tempting excerpt from Bloodstone and grab a copy.
Be sure to enter N.N. Light’s May Giveaway at the end.
A Yorkshire Ghost Walk
by Helen Johannes
My heritage is Germanic, which I can trace back to the mid-1800s, but I strongly suspect it goes deeper into those Teutonic woods, back to those Druidic and Celtic types who sank their roots into European culture. I have a distinct affinity for broken down castles and ruined churches, especially those with Celtic crosses in the cemeteries, like Rock of Cashel in Ireland. Places like the ruined St. Mary’s Abbey in York, England, pictured at twilight on my blog site.
York, formerly Yorvik, before that Eboracum, is one of the most haunted places in England, a place I’ve visited several times with students in my former life as an English teacher. It’s one of my favorite places, history present on every turn, the city wall nearly all intact and walkable, the amazing gothic Minster standing tall, overlooking the ancient Shambles and Clifford’s Tower. From humble pre-Roman beginnings to succeeding Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Norman invasions, it’s full of ghost stories and host to a famous ghost walk.
Now I’m a writer of fantasy romance, not the paranormal, so the ghost walk for me was more about getting a feel for the bones of the place, tidbits of the time since my settings are medieval in nature. For my high school students, however, it was all about the entertainment value, something that certainly paid off.
In Yorkshire in early April, it’s full dark after dinner, cold and damp, a perfect setting for ghost stories. We began with the plague houses, the lost souls starved to death or burned in their boarded-up houses along with their stricken relatives. It was a time of terrible fear of infection—rather like today’s Covid—but the people didn’t understand how the sickness spread.
Then we moved on to the library and stood beside the wall separating the town from the aforementioned St. Mary’s Abbey grounds. Roman ghosts had been seen marching through the basement. Apparently, the old Roman road ran through the building’s foundation. Upstairs, we were told, was the situation of the constantly misplaced book; every time the librarian put it properly back, it would reappear someplace else. I don’t remember precisely what story was being related at the time, but the guide had come to a pregnant pause, and we were silently rapt with anticipation—no mean feat with teenagers.
The most ungodly racket, like a tortured baby, split the air. We must have jumped half a foot, looked all around, shocked, wondering if we’d been visited by one or more of the spirits we’d been hearing about.
Our guide grinned at us, although I’m sure he’d been startled too—you can’t plan for this kind of thing to occur at just the opportune moment. “Peacocks,” he said, and nodded at the abbey wall.
“Peacocks!” we said, hearts still rat-ta-tat-tatting in our chests, feeling now a little ashamed of our gullibility.
Still, lesson learned: Given the proper preparation, just the right setting, and a mind open to possibilities, one can be led to believe almost anything—for a moment, at least. And that’s what I hope to achieve in my fantasy romances, not the paranormal but the possibility of magic, of petrified dragon’s blood and beast-men and she-lions that are more than they seem.
Bloodstone by Helen Johannes
Petrified dragon’s blood. A beastly Shadow Man. A beauty, lost in the dreaded Wehrland, where magic is more than legend and dragons might not all be dead.
What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?
Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones—petrified dragon’s blood—for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…
Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.
Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man—not a fiend—hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?
Read an Excerpt from Bloodstone
“Perhaps we can share your fire.”
In the joy of finding her father, Mirianna had forgotten Rees and Pumble, the two men the Master of Nolar had given her father as escort. And even that dark being which stood somewhere behind her and drew Rees’s stony glare. The Master of Nolar’s man still sat his horse, and his hand hovered near his bow. Beside Rees, Pumble stood, sweating, his fingers twitching over the hilt of his sword. She turned slowly in her father’s arms.
“I said,” Rees repeated, “perhaps we can share your fire, this time…Shadow.”
The Shadow Man stood at the rock ledge, his body as motionless as a bat captured by the sun. His hand rested on the hilt of the sword in his belt, and between his gloved fingers something glinted red. His hood revealed only a drape of cloth where his face should be, yet she knew underneath every inch of that which passed for face was turned on Rees, and the air between them stretched to a brittle thinness.
“Do with it as you please,” he said at last. “The boy and I were just about to leave.”
“Wait!” Tolbert put Mirianna aside. “I need—”
“Bloodstone?” The black hood swiveled. Her father stiffened under the weight of the invisible regard. “There is no more bloodstone, old man. Go home, while you still can.”
Tolbert shook his head violently. “But Ulerroth—”
“Ulerroth is a fool,” said the voice that vibrated along Mirianna’s nerves. “And so are you, if you stay another day in the Wehrland.”
A stallion’s shrill scream punctuated his words.
The Shadow Man spun. Below the rock ledge, the tethered horses milled, huffing. The blind boy clung to the pack mare’s halter, his face a pasty white. “Sir, I think I smell—”
“Krad!” Rees coughed, recoiling from a wave of stench that stole Mirianna’s breath.
“They must have followed us!” Pumble wheezed.
“Fools!” The Shadow Man’s faceless gaze raked from Rees to Mirianna. “I should damn you all to Beggeth, but the Krad will see to that soon enough.” He turned. “Gareth, free the horses!”
“Wait!” Tolbert said as an unearthly, high-pitched clamor erupted from the woods below. “What about us? What do we do?”
Only the hood rotated, cocking with exaggerated deliberation. “Why, you die, old man.”
Her father blanched. His grip on Mirianna’s arms faltered.
She saw the Shadow Man turn, saw the muscles of his thighs bunch as he prepared to leap down the hillside, saw, in the corner of her eye, shapes gathering along the tree line below, horrible shapes she’d seen only hours before rushing at her from a darkened clearing. With a shudder, she broke from her father’s grasp.
“Please!” She reached out to the black sleeve. “Help us!”
He recoiled at her touch like one snake-bitten. The sudden, sharp focus of his regard staggered her, but she backed no more than a step. No matter how he terrified her, he’d helped her once. She’d been led to him again, and not, her instincts told her, without reason.
“Please,” she repeated. “Help us. I—we’ll do anything.”
His voice was a whisper that caressed flesh. Mirianna’s stomach quivered. Her breasts tingled. Her mouth grew even drier. Without thinking, she slid her tongue along her lips. Vaguely, she wondered what she’d done. And why time seemed suspended, as if everyone but she and the Shadow Man had been cast in stone and all sound arrested. All sound except the taut, guttural repeat of his question.
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Meet Helen Johannes
Helen C. Johannes writes award-winning fantasy romance inspired by the fairy tales she grew up reading and the amazing historical places she’s visited in England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. She writes tales of adventure and romance in fully realized worlds sprung from pure imagination and a lifelong interest in history, culture, and literature. Warriors on horseback, women who refuse to sit idly at home, and passion that cannot be denied or outrun—that’s what readers will find in her books.
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