Wednesday 6 December 2017

Diamond Tales : Diamond Windows by Nicky Galliers

A haunting tale of snow and sorrow...
Diamond Windows
Nicky Galliers
(our Senior Submissions Editor)

Day had come late, the air bitingly cold. The sun had barely risen before it had been obscured by great black clouds heavy with snow, and the earth had not been warmed.
The snow fell thickly, silently, coating the ground with a deep layer of pristine white that muffled all daytime sounds. Few ventured beyond their hearths, and candles and torches, fires and lamps burned behind glass, horn sheets and shutters, each a flicker of gold sparking in the gloom.
The young lord shivered despite his warm sheepskin and woollen clothing, gloves made of sheepskin-lined leather, boots with thick leather soles. Double the layers would not have kept the cold out but he did not have time to don more. It was late already and he was running out of time.
His father had detained him, talking of sending his steward to check on the sheep on the home farm and arranging a group of labourers to clear the snow from the courtyard. The young man had only half an ear to lend to his father’s plans. It didn’t seem to matter now, not today. He would be gone soon enough and plans and stewards would be his brother’s concern.
His horse whickered in complaint at the frozen air. The stablehand had not been so unfeeling as to not drape a blanket over his body under the saddle, the young lord noted with satisfaction. When the horse grew hot he could use it to keep himself warm. Time was passing and he could not tarry. He was late as it was and if he delayed any longer it would be too late. He mounted and urged his horse forwards, out of the courtyard and into the bleakness of the countryside.

It was impossible to ride hard. The iron-shod feet of the horse skittered and skidded on the ice-packed road. He had to slow or risk breaking a leg. Damned snow, why today of all days? Tomorrow it wouldn’t matter. But it meant that the road was empty and there were none abroad to hinder his passage, just the snow and ice and frigid air.
He was less than a mile into his journey when his fingers numbed and his toes ached with the cold. He cursed but there was nothing to be done. It was not for long, a few hours, and then he would be inside in the warm, his new life beginning. Behind him, in his saddlebags, was all he needed, coin, plate and gems. His father would eventually notice it was missing, but by then it would be too late. He would not be happy and would know who had taken them, but it was only what he was due. His brother would inherit the estate – this was a small recompense, slightly ahead of time. He regretted not bringing a hat. His head ached as his ears froze. They would be bright red, as ruddy as his cheeks, and he would hardly be fit to be seen, but he would be fit to be seen by her, and that was all that mattered now.
He saw not a soul as he rode too slowly towards his destination. The waymarker told him was nearly half way. He could go no faster and he was late. Too concerned with his own thoughts, he was not able to control his horse when a lone fox shot out of the undergrowth. The horse reared and he slid from its back, jolted as he landed among a pile of saddle bags. The horse jumped around and then calmed, the lord scrabbling to his feet, slipping in the snow. And then finally he found purchase on a rock and he reached for the dragging reins and prevented his palfrey from running into the woods. All would be lost if he let the horse go. He could not reach the house on foot in this weather carrying the heavy bags.
He tugged off a glove and tapped a pocket under his heavy coat. It was still there, thank God. If it had been knocked from its place and fallen into the snow he would never have found it. He took the ring from its hiding place and pushed it into his glove. He wanted it warm when he placed it on her finger. He clambered back up with the help of a fallen log once he had heaved the saddle bags back in place, and set off once more, even more anxious that she had gone without him.
Darkness fell again, too soon, leaving the air thick with cold, but the shadows were not as deep, the snow reflecting what little light was in the world. Now was the time for recklessness. The lord kicked the horse onwards, risking a canter on the treacherous surface under the new-laid snow. The house was in view, just ahead on the rise. A few more minutes and he’d be there.
As he turned into the park he knew that something was wrong. The silhouette was clear, the pointed roofs and the chimneys were outlined against the sky, silvered by the moon that was emerging, full and bright, from behind the snow clouds. No light shone from the windows, no flames of a hearth leapt and glowed behind the glass. It was devoid of life.

A scream echoed in the trees; foxes gambolled in the clean new landscape that was their home, and the lord stared aghast at the blackness where there should have been light. Uselessly he counted the windows. Three to the left, the diamond shaped mullioned window with the tiny diamond slivers of glass limned by the moon. Empty. Black.
‘Where are you?’ he called. No one answered.
He dismounted and left the horse on the front path. He followed the perimeter of the house around to the north, searching for a way in, searching for signs that someone was within. He knocked on the windows, hammered on the servant’s door, his glove discarded, his hand clasped around his precious charge. No answer. He opened the gate into the garden. One more door. He rattled the doorhandle. It was firmly locked. He hammered, calling out.
He heard the crack from above and looked up, too late to move away. The icicle snapped from the overhanging roof, shaken loose with the vibrations, and fell. The vicious point pierced the smooth skin of his neck and he fell back on the carpet of pristine white, the red pool growing and spreading, staining the snow. Out of reach, the gold band of the ring had already been swallowed by the flow of crimson.

A single large diamond glittered in the moonlight, a round piece of ice, cold and hard, set in a claret pool of sparkling crystals as the world froze.

* * *
Inside the house the girl dragged herself from the knole, tugging at the skirts that were trapped beneath her. She had slept so long and it was already night. Her nose was still blocked and she coughed as she struggled up the stairs and her head ached. Her breath clouded in the chill air. The fires in the house had not been lit for days and it was as cold within as it was outside. Wrapped in a coat she found in the wardrobe and a blanket, she stumbled up the wooden stairs. Her hearing was muffled else she would have woken sooner, the foxes and their screams finally penetrating her sleep. She thought she heard a horse’s whinny but there was nothing in sight when she peered out towards the stables. The snow was untouched and only animal prints showed in the perfect surface.
The tinder box sat on the cold mantelpiece. Her shaking hands lit a flame that she held to a wick before it burned her fingers. She placed the candle on the ledge by the window, the diamond window with the diamond panes. The dancing light touched every piece of glass, sending shards flitting around the empty room. She sat down next to it, pulling the blanket close in case it caught on the guttering flame. The world was silent beyond, still and unmoving but for the family of foxes playing on the lawn.
And she waited. 
He would come. He said he would come.

© Nicky Galliers

Nicky is not (yet!) a published writer, but is highly valued here at Discovering Diamonds as it is Nicky who receives the e-files of books sent to us to (hopefully) be reviewed.Without Nicky DDRevs wouldn't function!

Of her story she says:
"The idea developed as I wrote it, he was going to find the house empty, but I then decided, to add a layer of despair, that they both messed up and so their misery is compounded. No happy ending I'm afraid. I owe my inspiration to Walter de la Mare and Barbara Erskine - though I can never make the world feel as cold as she can."

More about Nicky:
The only thing Nicky ever got in trouble for at school was reading under the desk during Physics class. It was probably a Sharon Penman…
Once it became clear that Life (and excess height) was determined to prevent her from becoming a ballerina, after dabbling in the world of motor sport, she returned to her other loves – history and books. A graduate of History, medieval with a bit of pre-historic archaeology thrown in for fun, the Normans and Domesday Book are her specialism, Edward III her passion and the bits in between her essay content. 
When not writing her own brand of fiction, for publication when she overcomes her shyness, Nicky loves to work with other authors to beta read, proof and offer a helping hand with research. She wants to promote great plots, authentic settings, superb characters, but her obsession is accuracy, both historical and grammatical. The image is of Nicky practicing for battle at Crecy...

Follow the Tales…and Discover some Diamonds

3rd December     Richard Tearle Diamonds

4th December     Helen Hollick  When ex-lovers have their uses

5th December    Antoine Vanner  Britannia’s Diamonds

6th December    Nicky Galliers  Diamond Windows

7th December    Denise Barnes  The Lost Diamond

8th December    Elizabeth Jane Corbett A Soul Above Diamonds

9th December    Lucienne Boyce Murder In Silks

10th December    Julia Brannan The Curious Case of the Disappearing Diamond

11th December    Pauline Barclay Sometimes It Happens

12th December    Annie Whitehead Hearts, Home and a Precious Stone

13th December    Inge H. Borg  Edward, Con Extraordinaire

14th December    J.G. Harlond The Empress Emerald

15th December    Charlene Newcomb Diamonds in the Desert

16th December     Susan Grossey A Suitable Gift

17th December     Alison  Morton Three Thousand Years to Saturnalia

18th December      Nancy Jardine   Illicit Familial Diamonds

19th December      Elizabeth St John The Stolen Diamonds

20th December      Barbara Gaskell Denvil Discovering the Diamond

21st December       Anna Belfrage   Diamonds in the Mud

22nd December       Cryssa Bazos    The Diamonds of Sint-Nicholaas

23rd December        Diamonds … In Sound & Song 


  1. Oh, Nicky, give us some hope here; perhaps another chapter for a guest blog ... I got so cold reading this, I had to notch the thermostat up a few degrees - such chilling description of a sparkling cold night.

    1. Hi Inge - thank you, I so pleased you liked it. Another instalment? I don't know! Let's see....

  2. Chilling indeed! I think this would make a wonderful murder mystery... after all, there would be no 'murder' weapon found, and only one suspect (who we know is innocent)... how about it Nicky?

    1. Hi Helen! I don't know, mysteries are not my forte, but maybe there is more to tell here.... Glad you liked it! And thank you so much for asking me to join in with this wonderful project.

  3. Fabulous story - so much revealed about the characters' circumstances without the action ever slowing. And oh, that ending! How dramatic, and yet how true to life - so often plans go awry, timing is thrown, but perhaps not always with such devastating consequences...

    1. So pleased you liked it, Annie. I usually write happy endings but life doesn't always do that. It was a challenge, writing it, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.

  4. Splendid story - and with a hint here too of the inexplable, the uncanny, a time warp perhaps, but better that we'll nevr now. An excellent example of "Less is More". Walter de la Mare would have applauded this.

    1. Antoine, you are so kind! I am so flattered that you liked it. It has given me confidence to do more.

  5. How sad! Me, I'm a big fan of Happily ever After, but I loved the moodiness of this piece. Brava! Looking forward to that book of yours & hoping it will feature a certain Wenceslaus who took the name Charles ;)

    1. One of the wonderful things about this collection of #Diamondtales is that they are all so very different - all exploring different moods, ideas, plots, locations (of time and place) - and they all end with leaving something for the reader to think about. Bravo everyone!

    2. Thank you Anna, Helen. Charles is still there, waiting patiently in the wings.

      What a dizzying range of stories, and we've only just begun - roll on December so I can read the rest!

  6. Oh Nicky! What a fabulous story! Cold and dark throughout and, like everyone else, I'm waiting to know what happens next!!

    1. Thank you, Richard, so pleased you liked it. I have no idea what happens next, I think my poor girl is too distraught to tell me!

  7. More more ... please. A beautiful tale and I was there with him as he rode out to her. Can't wait to hear what you publish. Thank you.

    1. So glad you liked it, Pauline. I have a few things simmering in the background, but Discovering Diamonds will certainly hear about anything I publish first, so come back and check. Hopefully I won't leave you waiting as long as my poor girl....!

  8. Could this be heading in the direction of the splendid Border Ballad "The Twa Corbies"?

    "In ahint yon auld fail dyke,
    I wot there lies a new slain knight;
    And nane do ken that he lies there,
    But his hawk, his hound an his lady fair."

    1. Hi - got to check this ballad out. Is is attributed?

    2. Not that I know of - other than perhaps being by that very prolific individual known as "Anonymous"! It's a chilling and gripping poem.

  9. Brr! I was on that horse, perishing cold as he rode on full of hope. I felt his overwhelming disappointment as he rattled the door and stared through windows. Poor girl, destined to wait forever.

    1. Thank you, Alison, glad you liked it. I feel a little guilty now, dashing the hopes of young love so tragically! I am pleased you feel it worked.

  10. Tragic but beautifully written. Wonderfully descriptive, Nicky. I knew this would wow people.

    1. Thank you, Loretta! I am overwhelmed by the wonderful responses I have had. I was not expecting it at all.

  11. Lovely Nicky! With stories like this the words ‘not yet’ are waiting to be struck out.

  12. I absolutely love this story, Nicky. The atmosphere is wonderful, the story telling superb.


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