In a world where ‘Others’ play with mortal lives

by the Moonlady
from a novel Shifu Cloth by 
Prue Batten


The lady moon came down one night
She did, you shouldn’t doubt it.
A lovely lady dressed in blue,
I’ll tell you all about it.
Attribution: Moon to Moon

That is what they say about me. That I came
‘down’, that I dress in blue. To a point they are right, these mortals whose
lives into which I sink myself. I am a Celestial spirit, an Other, one who has
power over mortals.

“As
he turned toward the woman’s haunting voice, he found a full skirt of midnight
blue organza dragging over his shoulder. He caught the flash of silver
embroidery, of the moon and a galaxy of stars and wondered if he drifted in
some gentle dream.

‘It
is no dream, Nicholas. Wake properly and sit with me.”

He
heard the crisp rustle of fabric and as he pulled himself up, found he was
staring into dark eyes in an ivory face of ageless beauty and around which
wafted pale grey hair like spun sugar. 
Amongst the streaming glory, stars and
moons glittered and he thought they might be pearls and diamonds.”

The kind of power I have I could play havoc
with. Some of us do. Sending mortals on never-ending chases which usually end
in tragedy. But I am not one of those…

“‘Lady…’
he sucked in a breath of realisation. ‘I know you. You are Phelim’s Moonlady,
my mother’s Ladymoon. But you speak as if you are a mouthpiece. Who do you
speak for? I must know. It’s mine and Isabella’s lives that you play with.’

‘No
one plays with your life or Isabella’s. What happened to you happened because
of a curse and it’s about that curse that you must learn and you can only do
that if you speak to your father and to do that you must cross.’ She gestured
with an elegant white hand to the rippled reflection of the moon across the
water.”

I have a certain wisdom, a certain Way and
for the rest of my eternal life, I shall always offer moral support to those of
my choosing. Sometimes Fate plays the cruellest games and if I can help then
why wouldn’t I?

‘Fate
is your master?’


‘As
it is yours, but Nicholas we waste time with semantics. Wake your friend
immediately. Time has become your enemy. Not just tonight but tomorrow and the
day after. It is not just Isabella who is at risk, but Adelina, so you must
leave now and be back from the isle before dawn. If you are not, you will never
return and two more lives may end. Heark to me.’

I have nothing to lose by helping. There is
only one who can punish me and as She is the Mother of the World, I doubt she
would.

But I could be wrong…

Once, I helped a man make a decision to
save himself. He had sunk deep into an opium den in the Fahsi souks and I knew
if he had no one to help him he would become a wraith, for such is the penalty
for Others who choose the wrong path. He was Finnian, the father of Nicholas
whom you will meet in the ballad they call The Shifu Cloth. Finnian was a dark
man, filled with the bile and acid, blacker than the heroin resin that burned
on the brazier the day I found him. The ebony vein had the capacity to cut
through his son as well and I would never let that happen. It is why I met
Nicholas by the lake that night. He needed help.

Attribution: This Ivy House
‘Nico,’
she replied. ‘How can I tell you? It is not for me to say; you know this. A
Celestial only ever makes one aware, never offers conclusions. You must work it
out. In fact I think you know what must be done. But as to when and how, it is
up to you.’

And
then she did a very rare thing.

She
stood, her skirts whispering, the diamond stars and ivory moons glittering in
the silky organza, and she walked over to him, placing her arms around him and
hugging him like a mother would, saying,

‘You
are such a worthy person.’

The Shifu Cloth

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In a world where Others play with mortal lives, in a hidden province that survives on the backs of abducted slaves, Isabella, one of those stolen folk, sends a message woven into rare cloth made of paper and silk, in the vain hope that her cousin will find it, decipher it and rescue her. 

For cousin Nicholas, with whose life the Fates have been playing, only time will tell if he shall find her and whether what makes a curse does indeed break a curse.









Author Prue Batten
Prue Batten is a resident in Tasmania, the only island state of Australia, and she farms, working
with her husband to produce a spectacular superfine merino fleece for which
Australia is famous. 
She is a former researcher/journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Prior to that she majored
in history at university and it is perhaps a gentle irony that she’s moving back
through time to the era she finds most fascinating: the Middle Ages.

Author of the The Chronicles of
Eirie with the fourth of the series, The Shifu Cloth,
published a week before Christmas.
Earlier
this year, she published her first historical fiction: Gisborne: Book of Pawns, the first book of The Gisborne Saga and is busy researching and writing the second at the moment.
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