Wednesday, 16 October 2019

#WEP/IWSG October challenge - #FlashFiction - Meet my Renaissance hero, Duke Vipunin de Castellina.

Hello friends!

It's time for the October Write...Edit...Publish challenge. This is always our most exciting month where we delve deep into horror ... or we don't. 

Part of the blurb for this challenge is:

Write a ghost story, or a mainstream one. Most of our members go with horror or speculative for October. But that's not written in stone. Nothing rigid about us - we are a culturally diverse mix and we welcome all interpretations of writing prompts.

This is the perfect month to introduce my Renaissance-era vampire, Duke Vipunin de Castellina. I've written a 'reader magnet' to gift people when they sign up for my email list on my new website (not yet operational). From this short story, I harvested 2,000 words, then painstakingly edited it down to 1,087 words.

I don't yet have my pen name website up and running, but here is a sneak peek:

 What do you think? It takes a village and all that, so grateful thanks to my buddy Lynda Young for her fancy work on my pen name, 'Silver Tree'. and Wallpaper Access for the medieval battle image. Thanks to my husband Geo for his dab hand at Photoshop to pull it all together.

And more excitement! When this post goes live today, I'll be in Castellina, Tuscany, spending the day checking out the ruins of the castle and the subterranean tunnels which run underneath and feature in Book One. 

So ... ta da ... Meet the Renaissance hero of my Paranormal Romance, Duke Vipunin de Castellina. 

For this WEP challenge, I’ve reworked the end of Book One of my  four-book (so far) soon-to-be-published vampire series. 

It’s Duke Vipunin’s 30th birthday. He’s left behind his life in Florence as an advisor to Cosimo 11 de’ Medici to take up his inheritance at Castello de Castellina, the family home in Tuscany.

Tonight’s the celebration of the grape harvest on his lands, but tonight more than grapes will be harvested. A vampire queen, Alliyra, has lied her way through his gates and into his parlor.

For those who shudder at vampire stories, or violence, I hope you’ll read as much as you can. In this scene, Vipunin fights for his human life.

Harvesting His Soul

Castello de Castellina, Chianti, Tuscany, 1610.

ALLIYRA placed her hands upon Vipunin’s head. Looking into his eyes, she snapped her fingers, breaking the spell that had held him in thrall. Come, Duke, drink in the night.’ She walked toward the window, gesturing for him to follow.

He felt powerless to do anything but obey.

Her eyes glinted. ‘Duke Vipunin de Castellina.’ She pointed outside. ‘See the darkness beyond your walled garden – the burial ground, the forest, the all-knowing moon? That is where you belong. A night creature.’ 

He jumped backward to avoid the power of her gaze and stood, legs apart, hand on sword. How dare you. Beyond the wall was sacrosanct; the cemetery where his parents and grandparents lay. All who’d lived and died at Castello de Castellina were eternally bound with the rich soil. One day he would join them.

Not today.

Ripping his sword from its scabbard, he was comforted by its ting-shink-ting-shink. ‘I belong here.’ He clutched his weapon in both hands, rotating the hilt.  

She locked the windows, jerked the curtains closed and turned to him. ‘I will have you,’ she rumbled. ‘Tonight you celebrate your grape harvest. I celebrate harvesting you. Put away your sword.’   

He stepped backward and tightened his grip. ‘I’m no creature of the night.’ Gesu’, give me strength to kill this creature.  

She tisked. ‘Kill me? Your knightly arts are useless against my powers.’ With a movement that tricked his eye, she kicked his sword. It arced across the room and speared the door where it shuddered, hilt and pommel trembling.   

‘No!’ He spun to retrieve his weapon. Once again, his feet stuck to the floor. Gesu', she’s mesmerized me again.

She clicked her fingers to release the spell. ‘Come. I will show you something.’  

He reached her side in time to see her hold out an emerald necklet, his face visible in the facets. What trickery is this?

As the stone began to vibrate, Alliyra nodded, replaced the emerald down the front of her gown. ‘The spell was cast many years hence. I chose you as my new companion the night your brother Abelli brought you to me as tribute when you were a boy. I refused you then, but I take possession … tonight.’

‘No!’ He shoved her away, fighting the spell. Slipping his dagger from his boot, he stood, legs apart, body forward. ‘I remember you drank from me that night.’ He panted, tightening his grip on the knife. With his other hand, he felt the two raised marks on his neck. ‘You branded me.’

‘I did. You tasted divine.’

‘Help me, Celso!’ His manservant should be outside the parlor door by now. He slashed at Alliyra with his dagger. Abelli couldn’t inherit while Vipunin lived, so he’d arranged his death. If Vipunin died, everything would belong to his half brother. 

‘Ah, Duke.’ Alliyra’s voice poured over him like sickly sweet wine. ‘Celso has been called away to attend some crisis at your gate. Perhaps a dead gatekeeper.’ She tutted. Maneuvering with lightning speed, she grabbed both his arms in an iron grip. ‘Isn’t this cozy?’ She squeezed his hand until the dagger fell from his nerveless fingers.

As a knight, without weapons, what did he have? She’d killed Beppe, his faithful Captain of the Guard and the de' Medici knights who guarded his gate. ‘Witch! Leave me!’  

‘I’m not one of your subjects. You … obey … me. Her eyes blazed red. Silver specks swirled around the edges.  

His heart rammed against his ribs. The evil he’d read about in his grandfather’s library had been given life. ‘Filth.’ He balled his fists, punched at her face, but she stood unmoved, smiling when he yelled, ‘Revenant. Demon. Vampire.’

Alliyra cackled. ‘You’re dead.’ Her clawed hands rose into the air, hovering near his face.

He took jerky steps backward across the room. He could make the door … grab his sword … run her through.

A blur. She had him. 'Uhuhuheh,' she growled.

He squirmed in her grasp. ‘Holy Gesu’, protect your servant.’

She clawed his face and warm blood oozed down his face. ‘There … is … no … god … to … protect … you ….’ She licked him. Rivulets of blood dripped down her chin, bathing her white neck. ‘We are a pretty pair, are we not, Duke?’   

He kicked, he writhed, revolted by the transformation of beauty into hideous specter. ‘Get out of my life.’  

‘But your brother wants your life, dear-ling. He wants your titles. He wants your castle. He wants your land. But most of all, he wants you dead.’

Driven by jealousy, Abelli had tried everything over the years to kill Vipunin. He must not succeed. The title was his.

‘You will no longer care for titles, dear-ling. Your worldly life will be cast aside – your betrothed Ciassia will wed your brother and his progeny will inherit. Soon you will care for nothing, nothing but the sharp claws of blood hunger tearing at your insides. And you will care most of all for me, your maker.’   

‘God is my Maker!’ The door is so close. Salvation is so close. Hot blood seethed through his veins at the specter of his brother taking his beloved Ciassia from him.

Alliyra's beautiful, inhuman face with its mad, night-dark eyes loomed over him. ‘I am your maker. I choose whether you live or die. Forever and ever. Amen.’  

‘Never!’ Reaching behind, he felt the heft of his sword. A little farther and he would grab it, behead her.  

She slammed him against the wall. ‘Huhhuhsss,’ she hissed.

His sword was but a hair’s breadth from his face.

She held him upright with one arm and wrapped the other behind his back, pulling him close. Merveilleux,’ she gasped. ‘You are mine.’ With her free hand, she tore at his cloak, ripped his doublet, his shirt, then licked his neck with her dagger-like tongue.

He kicked at her knees with every shred of strength, but she pressed her body against his, imprisoning him. ‘Get away,’ he groaned, his voice hoarse with the terror that pulsed through him. 

Her fangs scratched his skin. Her claw-hand vibrated at the back of his head with some dreadful, alien power. ‘Together, Duke de Castellina. You and I. For eternity.’ She plunged into his flesh, the pain as excruciating as when she branded him those many years ago.

Loud crashing outside his door. His name called over and over. 'Vipunin ....'

Too late Celso.

I'm a dead man.

WORDS: 1084 - I tried so hard to get it below this ... :-(


Thanks for reading. I'd love constructive criticism. Depending on where my travels take me, I may be a little slow in replying, but reply I will.

Go HERE to read more entries.

The WEP/IWSG challenge prompt for December was dreamed up by Tyrean Martenson: 

And here is the challenge list for 2020. Start thinking.


  1. Fantastic writing style, and a most formidable foe.
    Although even she does not quite measure up to the swarm of vampires which came in through the still screenless windows the first week in my son's and my new home.
    I had bites all over my legs which didn't stop itching for more than a week.
    I'm talking about mosquitoes, the awfullest of all vampires!
    Seriously, this was wonderfully written. I'm always a great fan of a formidable female villain.

    1. Thanks Cie. Isn’t it strange how the villains take over?

  2. I remember Vipunin! :) Marvellously dark and Gothic, Denise. The grape harvest and a much, much more sinister harvest underlying it. Kudos.

    I love the pen-name Silver Tree too. Very evocative.

    1. The story has changed since you read the original Nila. Have Story Genius’ed it and done heaps more research. Hey look at me in Castellina! Goosebump moment.

  3. Yes, me too, love the pen name, and very suitable for the genre! And very scary, I'm the one who tried to read Susan Hill's The Woman in Black and was scared rigid, but read as much of your writing as I could 😱

    1. Glad you like the pen name. Sorry you couldn’t read all the story.

  4. Hi,
    I remember the story. I also remember that I was very much rooting for Vipunin. I certainly hope he doesn't die and that the pounding on the door was Celso coming to save him just in time. I love the tension in the story and how you used the dialogue to give a bit of backstory.
    It's a wonderful delivery and I read through it completely, hypnotise by the way you narrated it.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    1. Pat I’m glad you read it through and you liked it. Since I wrote the original in 2015 I’ve done heaps more work on character motivations etc and that has enriched the story.

  5. Poor Vipunin :(
    I was kinda hoping he'd get away.

    "Tonight you celebrate your grape harvest. I celebrate harvesting you."

    This was the freakiest part of your tale.

  6. Yikes! VIpunin has his hands full - and not in a good way!! Well done :)

  7. Resistance is futile...
    Loved this piece, and look forward to reading MORE.
    Have a wonderful time on your travels.
    Add me to those who really like the pen name too.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments Sue. The first book will be out in January so you can read to your heart’s content then. Meanwhile I’m having a ball checking out Castellina.

  8. What a scary story, Denise, dark and heart-pounding.
    Love the Silver Tree banner!

    1. Glad you like the banner Olga and my story didn’t scare you too much.

  9. She sure knows what she wants and takes it, or him. Really sucked me in with the emotions described too.

    A nice banner indeed.

    1. Glad I sucked you in Pat. Glad you like the banner too.

  10. I love the pen name! I also thoroughly enjoyed reading this. So much intrigue and betrayal. It's amazing what greed can drive unscrupulous people to do. You had me riveted with your tale!

    Hope you're enjoying your travels!

    1. Thanks Laura how could I not just returning from Castellina and the castle where this part of my story took place. Gave me goosebumps seeing it for real.

  11. Poor Vipunin. I hope he retains some of who he was even turned and that Alliyra's arrogance proves her undoing ... and that someone teaches her not to play with her food! Great riveting post, Denise.

    1. Ha ha. Not to play with her food - love it.

  12. This was amazing. I loved it! I enjoyed your other vampire story and am looking forward to reading more of this one. Are they connected? It seems familiar. I may need to go back and read it again. In any case, your words are elegant and the imagery is vivid. I adore classic vampire tales (I pretty much appreciate all vampires, but the traditional/gothic ones are the best for me). It's pretty cool that you're visiting Tuscany. Hope you have fun and gain loads of inspiration. Oh, and love the pen name too.

    1. Thanks Toi. Yes I’ve taken this story from my original vampire tale and given it a complete makeover.
      Glad you like the pen name!

  13. Certainly not my chosen genre, but your mastery of dialogue and the action in your 1084 words kept me reading and on the edge of my seat. I felt my gut wrenching, too.

    1. Dreaming, thanks. Glad you read on and enjoyed it.

  14. I remember reading this, like Nila but it's true, it has changed and improved, if that is possible. I loved it then and now too. Fabulous. I'm so impressed that you're in Tuscany, researching. I'm following your travels. Pen name website looks very professional and appealing.

    1. I’m loving the excuse to spend time in Florence. This is a long series so need a lot of scenarios.

  15. I agree with the other commentators, a well-written piece and fast paced. It's not my usual reading genre so I found it interesting to read about vampires.

    1. Thanks Sally. Writing about vampires is fun.

  16. The Banner looks good. Geo is a whiz at this!

  17. I liked the story overall.
    You said constructive criticism, my two remarks are more like editing suggestions...
    First, there's a sentence that uses "face" twice, both where she claws him and where the blood rolls. It seems like the word is repetitive.
    Second, near the end, with the free hand, that confused me a bit. Was the free one holding him up or ripping off his shirt? And was she holding him up by the back of the head instead of by the neck? I just had a little problem picturing that.

    Otherwise, I really liked the story. Lots of good imagery. A lot of names to follow but, like you said, it's an excerpt, so that probably all works out on the bigger picture. A compelling scene.

    1. Thanks for the critique Jamie. Always happy to receive it.

  18. Hi Denise - funny isn't it ... I really wanted Alliyra to be the heroine ... but I guess I took myself off in a different direction - my bad! I did thoroughly enjoy it ... but you mentioned it was 'the ending' and thus Vipunin needed to die ... so the story could continue with Alliyra and Abelli ... but my wanderings have allowed me to develop a story you're not writing!

    It was great and I was really drawn in ... and what joy to be in Tuscany with their grape harvests, castles and wonderful countryside ... so glad you're gathering more snippets to embroider into your stories. Enjoy Paris too ...

    Silver Tree - clever ... as too your banner - so pleased Lynda's been helping you, as too your beloved Hubby ... cheers and enjoy Europe. Hilary

    1. Thanks Hilary. What a lovely comment. No, Alliyra (and another vampire, Luigi, are the antagonists. They're both awesome! Vipunin is dead - to his human life - and about to be reborn into the vampire world. So the story begins of his vampiric acts. You'll love him mostly.
      Glad you like the pen name and banner. Took me months to dream up.
      Loving Europe. Currently in Provence.

    2. Ha - he does die and isn't rescued ... well I look forward to more Vipunin - though I'm still quite keen on Alliyra!

      Just enjoy Provence ... pen name and banner - both are great ... and yes working out a few things can really hit the 'wall' for a while ...

      Just love France ... xo

  19. Beautiful banner and great pen name, Denise. Brilliant story, and well-crafted. The fear and tension builds. I kept wanting him to defeat the she devil/vampire and stop his brother. I fear that seems impossible. But still, masterful.

    1. Thanks Roland. It’s going to be a long hard road for him.

  20. I like what you did with the banner. Thinking of you on your travels... I'd love to be there too. Maybe one day!

    1. Thanks for your help. You’ll get here one day I’m sure.

  21. Ooh Denise, shiver, shiver. Sooo Gothic. Tuscany, the Medici, wonderful. I love the action and dialogue. The film is unfolding before my eyes thanks to your vivid descriptions.
    Thank you for entertaining me.

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