Book 2 of the Umbra Series

Publishing: 2022

A Conspiracy of Queens

Pitt the Younger is concerned. A rabble is following a young woman in the south. They are proclaiming The Girl on the Downs as the Old Queen returned after nearly 400 years...

…’she will plunge us all into Hell’ – Archbishop Feargod Chislett

Britain 1793 – upheaval and rebellion in two realms

It’s three months after the action in Book One of the Umbra Series.
It’s the year Pride and Prejudice is set;
Louis XVI is about to be beheaded;
War with France is imminent;
George III’s Umbra, Hannah Lightfoot, warns the King’s madness is returning.
1793 and the lords of death are busy…

Book Two plots

Some think it is Lavinia Gracegirdle but a growing mob proclaims The Girl on the Downs

and the people above him on it are either dead or facing horrors from the Other Realm

travel to deepest Dorset to paint Lady Isabella’s portrait but assassins lie in wait

The Wolf's Head Moth

The Queen’s Treaty is written in Hedge. It grows and changes. It is also predated – notably by some Wolf’s Head Moth caterpillars.

Excerpt
The start of Book Two

The three new passengers huddled into the coach seats. Arthur’s coach had picked them up from beside their overturned carriage two miles beyond Swanage. To Arthur’s inexpert eye it looked as though their carriage had stumbled off the contorted rolling road in a thicker swirl of mist and thrown a wheel. It canted at an awkward angle and blurred shapes of mist-men were working on it.

The Queen 'neath the Hedge

A divisive figure from Britain's dark past

Some think she may return

Many view the prospect with a shadowed fear.

She is a bringer of war... a subduer of realms... a ruthless ruler, who even conquered death... (for a time)

They will kill to prevent her return.

Others believe Britain needs her strength...

To keep out the French

To staunch the Greynhym

To prevent the plague

They would kill to suffer her rule again.

Is the Queen 'neath the Hedge trying to return? If so...

Who could be the queen..?

or is it all just another rumour put about by radicals, mischievous  Umbra, or agents of Republican France?

If you want to consider other suspects, or want to give us more thoughts on your decision, click on 'The Queen'.

What do you think?

Are you with the Earl of Grenville, who thinks it is a rumour put about by radicals or agents of France. ‘The Queen is dead 400 years and there she must remain.’

Or do you side with the Chancellor of Balliol College, who doesn’t think anyone wants her back: ‘Does King George want to hand control of our new Britain to a medieval warrior who fights with magicks and is most closely allied to fell creatures in the Other Realm – does Pitt, or Helliconian? No Minister.’

Perhaps you side with Isabella Stanton, ‘Whoever carries the Mistletoe Sprig will grow to become the new Queen ‘neath the Hedge. One of the Gracegirdles will evolve into the Old Queen.’

If you want to consider other characters or tell me what you think about her return, click on The Queen to give us more detail.

Her 14th Century reign

The Old Queen

The Queen’s reign began in 1302 after she defeated Edward Longshanks and the Umbra.

Highlands fell to her two years later. It was thought she was just 22 at the time.

She conquered the Greynhym, taking control of the plague they carry when she finally defeated them.

Plot lines

Arthur & Amorrie

Arthur is on his way to the coast of Dorsetshire, there to paint Lady Isabella Stanton, who has wintered out of London on her father’s estate.

But there is evidence that those wishing Amorrie’s death are already hunting Arthur there. One of the would-be assassins may have crawled from beneath the waves.

Why is Amorrie a target?

What we know...
  1. A celebrated warrior was sent to track down Amorrie in the Other Realm;
  2. But she laid a trap and turned the tables on him;
  3. She is said to have upset Umbra lords with her rebellious nature;
  4. But the warrior also thought she might be the Old Queen returning;
  5. He planned to search her body for the tell-tale Mistletoe Sprig blemish that marks the Queen before she grows into her powers.

Stanton

Stanton finds himself on a list plucked from a fishy location. Three of the four people shown above him are now dead.

The fourth, Cotteridge, is being hunted by a nightmare creature.

The Countess of Harrington asks Stanton to travel to the Fens to persuade her Gracegirdle nieces to seek safety in London after attempts on their lives. 

What we know...
  1. A large number of Britons are killed by ‘Misadventure in the Other Realm’;
  2. Numbers killed by the plague rise and fall to a pattern.
  3.  Stanton believes girls and young women are being killed if it is thought they could be the Old Queen returned and about to come into her powers.
  4. He thinks one of the Gracegirdle sisters has come under suspicion.
  5. The sought-after Langtoft Chronicle may contain clues, but it is kept hidden away by the Church.

The Gracegirdles

The Gracegirdles have survived at least two assassins: one, an ex-soldier; one, a creature from the Other Realm.

Their Fen is hard to reach in winter but already strangers have arrived in the area.

There are also reports that Black Shuck, a Fenland devil dog has been seen and heard on the marshes for the first time since the Old Queen’s reign.

What we know...
  1. A former lieutenant of Dragoons was sent to kill one of the sisters;
  2. He had first to determine which of them had to die – did any carry the Mistletoe Sprig?
  3. He said he took orders from Lord Strathearn’s servant;
  4. But the girls’ antagonistic tutor, Miss Pikestaff, hinted that another lay behind the assassination attempt.
  5. A creature was also sent from the Other Realm, the same assassin had tried to kill the Old Queen nearly 500 years ago.

The Queen's Treaty

It no longer says what it did, no longer binds what was bound.
The Wolf's Head Moth caterpillars nibbled the Treaty

The Queen’s Treaty sets out the laws under which the two worlds of Britain and The Other Realm are linked. It was imposed and written by the Queen but signed by all the Umbra kings, lords and noblewomen as well as Edward I of England (Longshanks).

However, it was written in Hedge and no human living can read it. And it is changing with the seasons, as Dawn Withheld tells Stanton. Clauses extend with the seasons, flourishing passages endure the trim of winter, new appendices flower forth on summer’s quill, redundant points wilt in the autumn cull. In short, whatever was writ in the Queen’s Treaty is now modified and reshaped by events. It no longer says what it did, no longer binds what was bound.’ Many clauses relating to the Greynhym were consumed by a spawning of wolf’s head moth caterpillars a century ago.

The only clues to the Treaty are in the Chronicle of Peter of Langtoft, who witnessed its signing. The Chronicle is lost. However, Stanton discovers that the Church has secreted away a copy. A brief glimpse of the Chronicle shows the Treaty has an imminent end date. What happens then?