The Dead Men of Dunharrow

Having escaped the crypt where the Templars fell, the Brothers Carmichael turn to a vacation in Wales. Visiting a castle ruins to relax and take in some history. What can go wrong?

This is the seventh part in a short story series I’ve been running on my blog. I offer apologies for not posting over the last two weeks, but one stepped away for a family holiday and mental recharge.

Last time the paranormal brothers found themselves in a ruined chapel in Compton; an arm of the pentagram disclosed in a previous part of this tale. There they found themselves witness to a cell of Knights Templar ending their days combating something in the distant past that now lies buried in the Marsh.

To escape the growing tension they have taken a holiday in Wales. A time out against the deepening issues back home. After all, it’s not every day the ghost of a Templar Master issues a direct command to flee to living observers.

The links are below, in order, and may contribute to a better plot understanding…or not, as the case may be!

The Room That Swallows People

An Absent Child

Ghost Walk

Witchcraft and Conspiracy

The Marsh Awakens

The Monks of War

If you want to see more then please say so in the comments and please feel free to share any of my post.

The world outside was long forgotten amidst the sounds of dripping water in the distance. Underfoot, the stone was moist and keen to draw uncertain footfalls into treachery. Joseph Carmichael’s torch flashed across the limestone, briefly illuminating a sphere of rock before darkness fell in behind. The air was moist and cold; inhabited by memories of the distant past. Part of the cave felt uncertain whether it had even let go of it at all.

Alan recalled something about the Dead Men of Dunharrow and some academic treatise on the sleeping warriors of Castell Carreg Cennen, doomed to eternal sleep until the world above needed a king to restore order and banish evil. Supposedly, it gave inspiration to Tolkien.

Dead or sleeping though? For Alan it gave the subterranean tunnel an edge, and brought time into being as he pondered the ruins above. A colossus of a fortress dating back centuries, impregnable and defiant; even in the death throws dealt by pick and axe of Yorkists in 1462 as they routed Lancastrians and lay waste to rock and stone. He could feel the castle’s heart beating in the bowels of the earth. Slow, but still there…waiting…for what?

Dead Men of Dunharrow, he thought.

He stumbled into the back of his brother who had stopped without warning. “Al, is it me, or is that a door made of stone hidden in the wall?”

Two torches convened on the alleged portal both had just passed. Joseph’s wandering beam had clipped a fissure inadvertently and chanced to follow it in a neat rectangle rising from the floor.

“Certainly if it were wood, then a door it would surely be.”

Alan was considering it an anomaly of nature whilst his brain attempted to subdue thoughts of hidden bed chambers, filled with the deceased.

Jo was less concerned with apocalyptic warrior kings and more interested in the potential for an unexplored section of cave. He ran his fingers around the gap defining the doorway. After all, tales of subterranean sleepers festooned the European landscapes, so probability rested more on people’s imaginations rather than fact. Standing up and staring at his circle of light, that thought gave him a mental jab. All our investigations rest on imagination and myth – what am I jabbering about?

“If it is a door then it appears well and truly closed does it not?”

“This is true Al, but consider the volumes of tourists visiting this very cave over the years, and the vast centuries of use before then. Is it not curious that nobody has witnessed this curious rock formation and considered it a tad unorthodox before now?”

Alan thought for a few moments listening to drops of water echoing in the gloom. The air was still and the shadows curled around their torch beams like some incorporeal duvet. In the distance there were sounds. Indistinct and far away but maybe shouts and a clash of steel?

“Can you hear that Jo?”

Unconsciously, they both moved against the wall directly opposite their newly found stone anomaly. Both torches clicked off. In the darkness it seemed like their hearts were echoing and each breath sang out saying ‘Here we are, come slay us.’

From the direction of the castle, ghost light was rippling towards them sconce to sconce and chasing back unwilling shadows. Alan nudged his brother and nodded toward the door. It was slightly ajar with light spilling out, but not quite revealing what lay inside. Smoke filled the cave.

This is the past, Alan thought.

The distant noise was now more defined. Steel on steel, or wooden shield. Cries, rich in adrenaline and bravado, mingled with those in sufferance and defeat. Far away the fight continued for what seemed like an age. The brothers remained locked opposite the door. Another ghostly experience, spawned from a chance outing. Joseph was of a growing opinion that the supernatural dogged their every move. Where they went, ghosts followed. Or, maybe, spectres were everywhere and they merely tuned in. It was becoming less fascinating by the minute.

The shouts were growing louder, as the clang of chain mail links and armour drew nearer. Warriors descended into the cave. The Carmichael’s tried to blend into the limestone, until realising this was not their time. They were the apparitions in this scene. Bearded men rich in the stench of battle, blood, smoke and sweat, filed past them and into the room beyond the door. Some wore white surcoats adorned with a large red cross. They reminded Alan of another encounter beyond the crematorium in Compton. What are Templars doing here?

At the rear was a man in a shroud like cloak; it may have been black or deep blue or green. The torch light made it uncertain. Inside the hood his eyes glowed crimson. Joseph drew air in and felt a despair settle that almost sank him to his knees. As the last of the Knights disappeared into the unseen room, the sorcerer drew the door shut. Placing his hands upon the rock words in an alien tongue reached the brothers. Hypnotised they watched white light flare around the door. A light so bright it left spots on the eyes afterwards. Both blinked and found themselves staring into the eyes under the hood.

You have a rare gift Brothers Carmichael. Continue and you will join the ranks of the living dead.

The sconces blew out, and the dripping darkness reconvened on their world. Both exhaled simultaneously and illuminated the rock where the door had been. Joseph ran his hand over the limestone unable to find even a chink or ripple that might hint at what lay beyond.

“Now there’s a thing.”

“Are you referring to the door that is not a door, Templars in Wales, or the threat issued by a ghostly Warlock that we may soon be deceased and yet not so?”

Joseph turned and met his brother face to face; both lit up by the others torchlight.

“How about; now there’s a few things?”

“Better. Perhaps this might be a good point to retire.”

They began working back up the incline. No sconces were mounted on the walls now and smoke was replaced by the aura of time enriched in history.

Joseph spoke quietly. “Did you mean retire from this holiday in Wales, or, retire from our hobby that is no longer a hobby?”

“I rather feel longevity of life is not conducive to experiencing ghosts that know we are there. Have we met this mage before?”

Alan was similarly hushed, but rather more dour in voice. “Do you not find it strange that twice now Templar based apparitions have called us Brothers Carmichael?”

“Indeed, this has not escaped my musings. However, it is the red eyed magician that concerns me now. I have the most terrible feeling we will have seen him in the future.”

Joseph exited the tunnel in the south east corner of the inner ward of a castle in ruin. The steps up were steep but not so treacherous as the dampness lying in wait to take the footing of an unwary explorer within the cave.

“While your statement is curious…I know exactly what you mean.”

If you made it here, then thank you for taking the time to read. Like I said before, these add back story to other books; and yes, I know they need tweaking, but if they become a manuscript then that is where the transformation from short story anthology will turn into the real deal.

Shares or comments are welcome and if you want more then please say so lest I distract…something I am very good at doing !!


Β© G Jefferies and Fictionisfood, 2016. All rights reserved.

74 thoughts on “The Dead Men of Dunharrow

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    1. No pressure on the other ones then!! Have you read them in order or in the jumbled up way I’ve thrown them onto the FB group this time round?

      1. I read them in the jumbled way and didn’t realize at first that they were connected until the third one I think. But now I’ve read them all and am waiting for more. If you took this narrative into a book, let me know which one so I can get it!

        1. It was about the third one when trial short stories began to become a bit more than that in my mind. You may have picked up in that from what you say! The plan is to take these and develop it properly, maybe in NaNo this November. However, I’m four chapters off finishing the book this series promoted. It’s set before this series and has three brothers, not two. How that ends will determine the path this series takes in terms of novel structure. I will certainly blog it when it’s done. In the meantime a few have asked me to do a post on how I write so I may include a few snippets if I manage to fulfill that request!

          Thank you so much for your positive words. Really appreciate the time reading and then commenting 😊

            1. Really hoping to knock the first draft out during August πŸ™‚ I think I am being outnumbered in folk wanting such a post(s) so I may as well give up and do it lol.

              Be later this month now though; going away for a few days soon, wish it was more mind πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Hayley, for me the one where they meet the Templars for the first time was worse as it dabbled with a very old antagonist that all these stories skirt around 😊

  1. Gary, your style is incredibly polished. You remind me a bit of Hugh Howey (if you know him then you know he’s great, if not check him out). You took right to where the story needed me to be, even without having read previously. That’s skill right there. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you so much Daphne, I’ve not read any Hugh Howey yet, but will definitely check him out now. I did write these with the intention of them being stand alone, but interconnected. As I moved through it I found a story before this series and am just finishing the last few chapters of that before coming back to these and maybe recraft ing them into a novel too.

      Really appreciate your kin words 😊

  2. Ok…now here is a rich piece of work…You are a bunch of talent Gary and I should spend like an hour on your page just soaking in your content…Short stories are about to be my thing….welldone.

    1. So kind and just made me smile! My blog has a lot of my writing sampled on it. The bad thing is it’s quite deep in the blog roll. I have found a solution to that in a new more polished theme. Just need to find a few days to set it up and organising the content into featured posts. At the end of the day the writing is why my blog exists!

      If you are going to try short stories, have you heard about The Blog Battle? I write The God Strain for that a while back and really must find time to get back into it.

      Thank you so much too for a wonderful comment 😊

  3. Without commenting too much on the ongoing tension and delicious imagery. I’ve gotta say this phrase stopped me in my tracks.
    “…tales of subterranean sleepers festooned the European landscapes…” Loved the alliteration here Gary. This will stick.

    1. The tension I tried to pick up from a previous encounter with the Templars in another part of the series. This was originally a wheeze only for a good friend from Wales, but now living in Utah. The castle is real and was a favourite place of hers. However once I got started the brothers decided it was no longer just a bit of fun wrt the original reason.

      Thank you so much for the positive words and glad you liked that part. Now and then I can turn a phrase it seems 😊

    1. Thank you πŸ™‚ This is part of that read comments and evidence thinking thing. The others are actually stand alone short stories that grew into something more as I was going along. Including the book I’m close to finishing now lol

        1. Actually, I have written three. One is waiting a full edit and has had some good feedback from beta readers, one is being submitted and is with a publisher that’s sent it to their readers for appraisal and the one I mentioned here which is close. In fact that one was featured in a post I did after NaNoWriMo last year. I can send you the link to that if you want to have a laugh 😊

  4. Great story. Thanks for sharing with all of us. You’ve got the tension and your voice depicts the dialogue of that time. πŸ™‚ Great job!

    1. Thank you Lisa, I did try and research that part and watch films set in the same era. Then again Templars are a proper interest of mine too πŸ™‚

      1. I became interested in the Templars when I read Dan Brown’s book “The Davinci Code.” They are definitely an interesting group. πŸ™‚

        1. The film certainly made them more widely accessible and the book I found fascinating. I’ve actually got quite a library of books on things like this. Long standing interest. I’ve featured then with the brothers before too. 😊

            1. I think elements of it are set in Templar lore yes, not necessarily the bloodline of Christ, although it’s a fascinating take on it. The rumours about them are legion though. They even formed the very first banking system too. One of the things that lead to their downfall unfortunately.

    1. Thank you Shelley. I wrote this because I thought the boys needed a holiday in Wales. Alas they seem to attract strange happenings! I actually thought most of you had already seen these too!!!

    1. Thank you so much πŸ™‚ This was written for a Welsh friend now living in Utah. It’s based on her favourite castle, Carreg Cennen, in Llandeilo. I figured after the last story out chaps deserved a holiday so they ended up here πŸ™‚

  5. Wow! This story is so great! its beautifully written! Definitely going to bookmark this post/blog so that for future posts I can feature you on my blog (if thats ok!)

    This is honestly the first time seeing a blog like this, usually writers post their works on other media but its smart to use a blog for fiction!

    Looking forward to reading more!

    1. I will see your Wow and raise it tenfold in return! Wonderful comment and has made my day! I have quite a few pieces of my writing on here buried in the blog roll, which is why I intend to re-theme shortly to try and give them a featured post slot. The purpose of my blog is to reach out to readers and get feedback on things I am trying out; hence they are just first drafts and are quite a way from final edits. I know a few authors here that use their blogs similarly and can also point you at them for features too if you like. That said you are very kind to offer to features on your blog and that is certainly an offer I cannot refuse πŸ™‚

      This one is part of a series that got to around 8 parts before it gave way to a “prequel” novel I’m currently working on. I’d like to then take these ones and convert them into a book too. I think my favourite ones posted here are Dragon Stone and The God Strain. I’ve been recycling them on the FB group of late as there are a lot of new members that haven’t seen them yet.

      Feel free to contact me if you want to feature anything πŸ™‚

    1. My apologies for the delayed reply! Last nights events in London sapped my energy today sadly. That said, your generous comment has really lifted my mood. Thank you so much for that x

    1. Thank you Ritu πŸ™‚ always nice to hear that counter to the inner voice that’s says “Rubbish” lol

            1. Haha, I hope so; but June is here and I promised myself to start publisher hunting so… positive mental attitude yes πŸ™‚

                  1. Good, because at times I need that extra kick saying get off the flipping and stumbling and go write something lol

  6. Another excellently atmospheric installment of the Brothers C, Gary! These are great characters, and I look forward to reading more of their adventures (although I’m a bit worried for their safety, now that they’ve drawn the attention of the ghostly magician). Well done!

    1. Why thank you Traci. Always brings a smile hearing that when my own mind catastrophises. A pity you are seeing some out of sequence. I am getting inspired to finish my NaNo novel now…four chapters to go and it contains these fellows too 😊

        1. Only one extract left now and then the tale got…paused. I must start installing it into a manuscript and begin to re-write it in conjunction with what happens in The Bequest. I feel this could be novel transformed ??

  7. Wow Gary this is amazing! You got a follower out of me πŸ˜€

    Would love for you to check out a short story of mine when you have a moment.

    Take care!

    1. This one evolved from a short story series on here involving the brothers Carmichael. A friend told me about this castle and how it was her favourite so I dug out some history and, as you do in writing, added a few bits to tie in with previous sections. Thanks so much for dropping in, following and commenting. Really appreciate it. Will pop over to yours today 😊

  8. It’s my first visit, but I must say that you have a gift for writing. The little hairs on my back were standing straight up. I’ll be back for more…thank you.

    1. That is most generous indeed. I am my own worst critic at times so it’s is very much appreciated when someone takes the time to not only read, but make a comment too. This one is part of a series I wrote a while back that I’ve run here week to week…well apart from a two week break! The sequence is listed in the post if you find time….although I have been told several times each can stand on its own so it’s not essential to read them at all.

      Thank you for the visit too.

  9. Hey You πŸ™‚ You know I love this and more so cause you used my all time favorite castle Carreg Cennen πŸ™‚ My childhood was playing at this amazing castle and I could envision being there once again whilst reading this tale. Again I’m in awe at your writing and the Carmichael Brothers – LOVE IT.

    1. I did reference that in the post 😁
      In fact you were the test case before in case I got any of the detail background right! Obviously added the odd touch myself ! Alas only one post in this series left now…to where it stopped at any rate. Have to get the old thinking cap on again now πŸ€•

  10. You have me hooked, Gary! This was much shorter than most, but packed full of everything I was waiting for. This must continue. There is no possibility that I could be satisfied with just one or two more small chapters. Too many loose ends that I am dying to find out about! Just love the way you build the crescendo and then take us to another part of the story. BRILLIANT!

    1. Errr, you mean just one more as that’s all there is at this point in time and it ends in a really “What happens next” moment that will probably annoy everybody 😱

      I have underestimated this story and the type of person that might like it. I’ve said several times I left it alone because I was uncertain about it and other projects took over as a result. I’m in a quandary now as to what to do !!!!

      Thank you for reading and, importantly, for the wonderful comment 😊

    1. Lol…very true…it was supposed to be a nice break from the chaos following them back home. Still, would it be better just to have a trip round a castle ruin buying souvenirs and ice-cream ???

  11. I love your writing and I’m excited to go back and get all caught up on your stories. You have a brilliant way of captivating your audience πŸ™‚

    1. That is most generous of you Lisa (I am assuming you are called Lisa from your blog…apologies if it’s presumptuous). I’ve said it to a few commenters, but this series has caught me out a bit. I never thought it was worthy of much myself. I think I have better writing in some of the other samples. That said, this was never meant to be more than one short story…the first on the list given in the intro here. Funny how things turn out unexpectedly.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. It is most appreciated 😊

      1. You are correct in your presumption, my name is Lisa πŸ™‚ I just read “The room that swallows people” and “An Absent Child”. I’m glad you decided to continue on with the story, very enjoyable πŸ™‚

        1. Then it is a pleasure to meet you Lisa 😊
          Alas one has to admit the continuation continued to the next piece which will be posted in the coming week. After that one became side tracked with a novel manuscript and this series was paused. I underestimated, when starting to serialise it, that people might actually like it enough for me to post it to where it lies resting. I rather think I may have to pick up the pen and start writing more 😱

          Thank you for the comment and your time to read them πŸ™ƒ

  12. In an effort to avoid sounding, yet again, like a Prattling Praisemonger, I would like to say I’m disappointed. I wish it had gone on much longer. So well done.

    1. Alas, this was something I was going to leave out originally because it was not part of the plan…as it were. However, I can see this being much longer if it moves into a bigger story. To manuscript or not to manuscript, that is the question. I rather like the word Praisemonger too…it has a good feel to it…you can be my PA lol

      Thank you once more πŸ™ƒ

  13. AAAAHHH! I was so excited when your post popped up and you did not disappoint! Atmospheric and detailed with a tantalising hint of what’s to the Templar appearances and the way Joseph speaks makes him really ..”characterful”. Is that the right word? Great read!

    1. Good grief that was quick!! Much shorter and this was actually a side line for a friend who loves the castle in this piece. The myths are, well, as true as any myths are so I embellished it a bit. Figured the chaps needed a break from Compton in friendlier surrounds. Alas, the writing said otherwise once more. Thank you once again for the time taken to read and comment. πŸ™ƒ

        1. You are too kind 😊

          Trouble is afoot though. I’ve only got one more piece left in the original sequence of stories before I moved off in another direction with my current procrastination project. Although, unlike this series, that is a fully fledged novel and waiting for me to send the synopsis to my proofer before actually trying to find a publisher….still, kids soon back at school so maybe I could write more on this one then. I mean you are so going to dislike the end of the next bit… 😱

          1. If I could do a “tears of apprehension” emoji..why do I feel I’m going to need it..are you already published? I Googled you (in a totally uncreepy way-lol) but couldn’t find anything, although that may just be my domineering phone app..

            1. My only publications are in science. Geoffrey Ashwell Gary Jefferies search will pull them up but definitely not fiction !!

              Did you just say you were stalking me lol…no to published; not yet. My first full manuscript has been proofed professionally now though and I have a synopsis ready for the same. After that I have to try and either find a literary agent or consider self publishing. The latter will involve working out what to do about a cover design (so not arty here) and then choosing a platform to do it on. Personally speaking, I want a physical copy as well as e-books. The next phase, for me, is filled with trepidation and a degree of ‘What if it all goes pear shaped.’ Scary times ahead !!

              1. Lol! No, I’m not a crazed fangirl…a la “Misery”…just curious, as your style of writing is one that I enjoy. As you can see from your other comments, so do lots of other people!
                I have a Kindle, but I like physical books, kind of adds to the whole reader experience. All I can say is massively good luck with finding a publisher..and..please..don’t kill off any of the brothers!

                1. Really? I never considered I had a particular style as such, but then I guess maybe I, being me, wouldn’t really think about it. I believe ‘they’call it a narrative voice. I think I found mine a few years back. Not something I can describe as such, but when writing it just kicks in. I think part of it is in the writing what I’d like to read approach. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s a bit eeek!
                  Don’t worry kindle will be a platform one way or another…although the first book is going to surprise people in terms of what is is methinks πŸ€”
                  Kill off the brothers…we shall see. I don’t write plans as such, I let the characters set the goal posts. Whenever I try planning they always tell me it’s rubbish and FO their own thing anyway!!
                  Thanks for the good luck message too….methinks I am going to need it 😱

                    1. I guess since kids are back at school next week I can possibly reconvene with the story. Might need zone deep thought after you see the next instalment though…I never did ponder where it goes from the end of that one…and you don’t want them deceased yes πŸ€”

                    2. Your encouragement is such that I feel it would be an injustice not to do so now. Thank you so much for you support x

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