Yawning Spreads Like a Plague in Wolves

wolf

Evidence of contagious yawning in chimps, dogs and now wolves suggests that the behavior is linked to a mammalian sense of empathy

By Helen Thompson

SMITHSONIAN.COM
AUGUST 27, 2014

Chimps do it, birds do it, even you and I do it. Once you see someone yawn, you are compelled to do the same. Now it seems that wolves can be added to the list of animals known to spread yawns like a contagion.

Among humans, even thinking about yawning can trigger the reflex, leading some to suspect that catching a yawn is linked to our ability to empathize with other humans. For instance, contagious yawning activates the same parts of the brain that govern empathy and social know-how. And some studies have shown that humans with more fine-tuned social skills are more likely to catch a yawn.

Similarly, chimpanzees, baboons and bonobos often yawn when they see other members of their species yawning. Chimps (Pan troglodytes) can catch yawns from humans, even virtual ones.   At least in primates, contagious yawning seems to require an emotional connection and may function as a demonstration of empathy. Beyond primates, though, the trends are less clear-cut. One study found evidence of contagious yawning in birds but didn’t connect it to empathy. A 2008 study showed that dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) could catch yawns from humans, and another showed that dogs were more likely to catch the yawn of a familiar human rather than a stranger. But efforts to see if dogs catch yawns from each other and to replicate the results with humans have so far had no luck.

Now a study published today in PLOS ONE reports the first evidence of contagious yawning in wolves (Canis lupus lupus). “We showed that the wolves were able to yawn contagiously, and this is affected by the emotional bond between individuals, which suggests that familiarity and social bonds matter in these animals the same way as it does in humans,” says study co-author Teresa Romero, who studies animal behavior at the University of Tokyo.

The prevalence of contagious yawning in primates and other mammals could give us some clues to the evolution of empathy—that’s in part what makes the phenomenon so interesting and so controversial. If dogs can catch yawns from humans, did they pick up the behavior because of domestication, or does the trait run deeper into evolutionary history?

The Tokyo team took a stab at those questions by looking at contagious yawning in dog’s closest relatives, wolves. For 254 hours over five months, they observed twelve wolves (six males and six females) at the Tama Zoological Park in Tokyo. They kept tabs on the who, what, when, where, how many and how long of every yawn, then separated out data for yawns in relaxed settings, to minimize the influence of external stimuli.

Next, they statistically analyzed the data and looked for trends. They found that wolves were much more likely to yawn in response to another’s yawn rather than not, which suggests that contagious yawning is at play.

Wolves yawnng

In image A, an individual (right) yawned during a resting period, and a few seconds later, image B shows the subject (on the left) yawned contagiously. (Teresa Romero)

Wolves were more likely to catch the yawn if they were friends with the yawner. Females were also quicker on the yawn uptake when watching the yawns of those around them—possibly because they’re more attuned to social cues, but with such a small group it’s hard to say for sure.

The results seem to add to the case for empathy as the primary function of contagious yawning. “We have the strongest responses to our family, then our friends, then acquaintances, and so on and so forth,” says Matt Campbell, a psychologist at California State University, Channel Islands. “That contagious yawning works along the same social dimension supports the idea that the mechanism that allows us to copy the smiles, frowns and fear of others also allows us to copy their yawns.”

Empathy likely originated as an ancestral trait in mammals, and that’s why it emerges in such disparate species as wolves and humans. “More and more research is supporting this idea that basic forms of empathy are very ancient, and they are present in a wide number of species, at least in mammals,” says Romero. Elephants, for example, comfort their upset friends. Even rats exhibit a basic helping behavior toward other friendly rodents.

Why does contagious yawning between members of the same species show up in wolves and not dogs? The difference probably comes down to study design, not biology. “Most likely, dogs also catch yawns from [other dogs], as now shown for wolves,” says Elaine Madsen, a cognitive zoologist at Lund University in Sweden. Further studies might reveal the extent to which human interaction has affected present-day dogs’ susceptibility to catching another species’ yawns, she says.

It’s impossible to say what true function contagious yawning serves in wolves, but the researchers argue that such behavior could cultivate social bonds. “If an individual is not in sync with its group, it risks being left behind. That is not good,” says Campbell. Just watching wolves yawn can’t definitively prove that empathy drove the behavior, but it’s certainly compelling evidence that wolves might feel for their fellow lupines.

– If you yawned while reading this, please tell me in the comments (hopefully you didn’t yawn out of bordom 🙂 )

-HMC

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Hello Everyone

Just a note to all my readers – I have moved my site to a new address.  hmclarkeauthor.com , please click on the link and book mark the page.

Thank you all very much!

My turn again with BlogRoll Tag! – On Publishing….

books

I was tagged by author Hiram Crespo who wrote the fascinating book  Tending the Epicurean Garden’, who asked me the following question:

What motivated you to write and then self publish your first book ‘The Kalarthri’?  

All my life I have wanted to write books and stories.  But I have never had the courage to actually pursue it.  I had written a lot of stories and had a quite a few manuscripts under my belt – one of which was The Kalarthri.  And then one day (well, a couple of days),  I sat down and really thought about what I really wanted to do with it.

I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to be traditionally published or self-published and then thought about the pros and cons about what would happen to me if I did bring out my very own book.  And here is what I came up with:

1)     I don’t have to slave over my work until I have the next ‘War and Peace’.  I am not writing to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.  I am writing because I have these stories running around in my head that want to come out.  Stories that I would like to read and have other people read.  And they can’t do that if it has not been published.

2)    I don’t have to write to a ‘word count’ because the industry says so.  I wanted to be able to write my stories to the length they need to be and no more.  I have heard some editors and agents tell their clients that manuscripts need to be ‘bulked out’.  I did not want to do this.

3)    What if people do not like it?  Then people do not have to read it.  Simple – I could not use this excuse anymore for not publishing.

4)    The time is not right.  But then I ended up thinking ‘The time is never right’  and if I kept on thinking that then nothing will ever happen and my stories would languish in their dusty box forever.

5)    And this was the decider for me to publish – If I don’t do it now, then most probably I would never do it and I did not want to look back on my life and regret that I didn’t do this when I had the chance.  I already have a small list of things that I regret not doing (and doing) in my life – I did not want to add to them.

So, to answer Hiram’s question on what motivated me to publish The Kalarthri’… To be honest, it was the fear that when I am near the end of my life, that I look back and regret that I did not conquer my fear and publish.

And with this post ends this round of BlogRoll Tag….

I hope you’ve all had fun ‘playing tag’ and seeing what everyone had to say!

The link for seeing all of the collected Tags!

-HMC

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And now…for something completely different!

tag

We, ladies and gentleman are now going to try something new.  It’s good to experiment once and a while and to try new and exciting things.

I have been invited to be a part of something that we are now calling ‘Blogroll Tag’.  And I have been chosen to start the ball rolling so to speak.

“What is Blogroll Tag?” you ask.  Well it’s really rather simple.  One person (me in this case) asks a question and I ‘tag’ someone else to answer it.  And then the person tagged does the same thing to someone else.    Each Tag holds links to the next blog so people can follow along to see where the ‘ball’ ends up.

So let’s get this ball rolling shall we?

My first question is to Melissa Barker-Simpson, Author of ‘Sins of the Father’ and ‘The Missing Link’ and the upcoming new release ‘Hands of Evil’

Why did you choose to write mystery, and which authors influenced that choice?

Here is the link to Melissa’s blog so you can see her answer – http://mbarkersimpson.wordpress.com/   NB: This link will work once she has her answer up 🙂

I hope you all have fun ‘playing tag’ and remember to keep following to see what new stuff is thrown your way!

The link for seeing all of the collected Tags!

-HMC

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Things to Read….My August Book Recommendations

Hello Everyone – I hope you are all doing well?

As well as writing, I absolutely love to read!

Here are some books in various genre’s that I have read and enjoyed.  If you are looking for something to read, then maybe you might find something in this month’s recommendations list 🙂

-Hayley

NB:Genre’s will vary each month depending on what spine catches my eye in my library when I go to chose books….Also depends on my mood, the phase of the moon, and how much sugar and caffeine is in my blood stream 🙂

FANTASY

Myrren’s Gift by Fiona McIntosh

 

Destined by blood to command the Morgravian army, Wyl Thirsk assumes his awesome responsibility while barely a teenager when his father meets an early death — a duty that calls him to the royal palace of Stoneheart and into the company of the crown prince Celimus. Already a spiteful and cruel despot who delights in the suffering of others, Celimus forces his virtuous new general to bear witness to his depraved “entertainments.” But a kindness to a condemned witch in her final agonizing hours earns young Thirsk a miraculous bequest, at the same time inflaming the wrath of his liege lord.

With dread war looming in the north, Wyl must obey the treacherous dictates of Celimus and embark on a suicidal journey to the court of an ancient enemy — armed with a strange and awesome secret that could prove both boon and curse. For unless he accepts Myrren’s gift, it will surely destroy him . . . and the land he must defend as well.


Thriller/Action/Sci Fi

Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham (I do like my original Australian Release cover much better)

On the eve of America’s greatest victory in the Pacific,
a catastrophic event disrupts the course of World War II, forever changing the rules of combat. . . . 

The impossible has spawned the unthinkable. A military experiment in the year 2021 has thrust an American-led multinational armada back to 1942, right into the middle of the U.S. naval task force speeding toward Midway Atoll—and what was to be the most spectacular U.S. triumph of the entire war.

Thousands died in the chaos, but the ripples had only begun. For these veterans of Pearl Harbor—led by Admirals Nimitz, Halsey, and Spruance—have never seen a helicopter, or a satellite link, or a nuclear weapon. And they’ve never encountered an African American colonel or a British naval commander who was a woman and half-Pakistani. While they embrace the armada’s awesome firepower, they may find the twenty-first century sailors themselves far from acceptable.

Initial jubilation at news the Allies would win the war is quickly doused by the chilling realization that the time travelers themselves—by their very presence—have rendered history null and void. Celebration turns to dread when the possibility arises that other elements of the twenty-first century task force may have also made the trip—and might now be aiding Yamamoto and the Japanese.

What happens next is anybody’s guess—and everybody’s nightmare. . . .

Biography

Elizabeth’s Spy Master by Robert Hutchinson (I love anything written by Robert Hutchinson)

Francis Walsingham was the first ‘spymaster’ in the modern sense. His methods anticipated those of MI5 and MI6 and even those of the KGB. He maintained a network of spies across Europe, including double-agents at the highest level in Rome and Spain – the sworn enemies of Queen Elizabeth and her Protestant regime. His entrapment of Mary Queen of Scots is a classic intelligence operation that resulted in her execution. As Robert Hutchinson reveals, his cypher expert’s ability to intercept other peoples’ secret messages and his brilliant forged letters made him a fearsome champion of the young Elizabeth. Yet even this machiavellian schemer eventually fell foul of Elizabeth as her confidence grew (and judgement faded). The rise and fall of Sir Francis Walsingham is a Tudor epic, vividly narrated by a historian with unique access to the surviving documentary evidence.

Enjoy!

-HMC

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Writing Update: 19th August

Hayley - workHello Again!

Winter’s Magic:Act One is due out in a fortnight and it is now available for pre-order on amazon.  With Act Two due for release on the 25th October 2014.

The Dream Thief – The second Way to Freedom book has just finished it’s second draft and is still on track for it’s mid December release date.  Covers for the Dream Thief have been designed and will soon go out to my ‘Explorers’ on my Newsletter for their opinion.

The next piece of news is that I am going to delay the writing of Fyre and instead finish working on The Verge Book 2.  People want the sequel  to The Enclave, so I will ‘cave in’ to the pressure and give them what they want 🙂 (Plus Katherine needs to go out and kick some more Alliance Arse!)

And the final piece of news is that I am writing a novella for a new anthology themed for Romantic Fantasy.  As this project develops further, I will give out more news.

Well, I think that’s everything I have for now – ’til next time

Cheers

– Hayley

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Book Review – Circle of Fire by Keri Arthur

Circle of FireThe Cast

Maddie is a reclusive rose grower with secrets.  John,  a shapeshifting Private Investigator who wants to be left alone.

The Vague Description

The Circle of Fire is a romantic paranormal mystery with not much of a ‘who dun it’ aspect.  The characters are likable enough, though Maddie annoyed me sometimes with her running internal monologues of put downs and variations of ‘what a bad person I am’.

The romance also felt a little forced but was still entertaining.  And I did feel a little robbed with the ending, but overall the story lines and the case was still nicely wrapped up.  I did not like this as much as the Nikki and Michael and Riley Jensen novels.  But I would read this again for a light, easy read.

Takeaway

Don’t give in to your fears.  Take control of your own life and never live ‘down’ to the expectation of others.

End Thought

I wish I could start fires with just a single thought.  It would make BBQ’s and campfires soooo much easier.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a quick, light, entertaining romance with a little ‘flight of fancy’ 🙂

-HMC

Get Circle of Fire Here

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7 Tips for Writers Jealous of Other Writers

Posted by Laurie 🙂

How do you deal with the jealousy you feel when you listen to authors at writers’ conferences or read Pulitzer-prize winning magazine articles in the New York Times? If you’re not a writer jealous of other writers, I need your advice.

writing jealousyOne surefire tip for dealing with jealousy is to get deeper into your own writing. Use the exercises in books such as One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft by Susan M. Tiberghien to develop your own distinct writing voice and style. If you’re jealous of other writers, it may be because you haven’t figured out who you are as a writer.

Anne Lamott describes her jealousy of one writer in particular in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (I think she was referring to Natalie Goldberg, but I have no foundation whatsoever for my suspicion).  Actually, it may have been traveling Mercies that she talked about her writerly jealousy. If you haven’t read Lamott’s books on writing and life, get thee to a library or Amazon.com! It’s good stuff.

Here’s how I deal with jealousy of other writers: I stop writing. I let my feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and uncertainty overwhelm me, and I surf Youtube for “how to play the flute” videos. That makes me feel even more inadequate and insecure because I’m a new flutist, so then I eat. Lots. Blech.

Click here to read the rest of the article

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The Perseid Meteor Shower Due To Shine Tonight!

by DANA FARRINGTON

For the main article, click here

A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky over the Lovell Radio Telescope in Holmes Chapel, U.K., on Aug. 13, 2013.

A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky over the Lovell Radio Telescope in Holmes Chapel, U.K., on Aug. 13, 2013.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

 

The annual Perseid meteor shower will streak the sky tonight. The best time to watch is between 3 and 4 a.m., for all time zones across the world, NASA says.

“This year, light from a nearly full moon will make the meteors harder to see, but NASA says you can still expect around 30 to 40 per hour,” reports NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel.

Brumfiel spoke with Rhiannon Blaauw of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office for shower-watching tips:

“Just lie on your back, look straight up, give your eyes time to adjust to the dark; it takes longer than people think,” Blaauw said. “And if you can, get away from city lights — it’s not great to be in the middle of Chicago.”

If you manage to stay awake, but would rather stay in bed, NASA will be posting a Ustream view of the skies over Marshall Space Flight Center at 9:30 p.m. ET.

The best places to watch the Perseid meteor shower for 2014.
 

NASA

For those of you interested in brushing up on your meteor knowledge, here’s some background from NASA:

“The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s debris. These bits of ice and dust — most over 1,000 years old — burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the best meteor showers of the year.”

 

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Cover Reveal and First Chapters for Winter’s Magic!

HMClarke_WintersMagic_part oneWinter’s Magic  – My new paranormal Romance serial!

This is the first Act of  a saga in an urban paranormal/ fantasy series set in Adelaide, South Australia. Based around Kaitlyn Winter and the  investigative unit she is attached to which protects the ‘straights’ from all the nasties that go ‘bump’ in the night…

Book Blurb!

Kaitlyn Winter is biting at the bit to become an active agent for the Restricted Practitioners Unit.  And on her first day in the job she is thrown into a virtual s**t storm (to put it nicely).

First, she gets targeted for Assassination by The Sharda’s top assassin

Second, her Werewolf best friend decides that her being ‘Straight’ means she can’t protect herself and places her in protective custody

Third, the love of her life still won’t notice her existence and the Tempus Mage who’s set to keep an eye on her is infuriatingly attractive….

And here are the first two chapters!

The Explorers on my newsletter list saw these last month….so if you wish to be the first to know next time, then sign up now! 

Chapter One

Adelaide CBD

He sat at his desk, the creased whiteness of his business shirt beckoning her to touch it.  Her fingertips itched to reach out and stroke the cotton fabric and the muscle that moved underneath it.

But Kaitlyn dare not.

He was at least ten years older and a widower, but that did not stop her longing.  His short brown hair and beard now held a tinge of gray and the soft sound of his voice was seductive to her ears.  Intelligent and witty, he was everything that she could ever want in a man.

Sighing, she turned away from the sight of Chris’s straight back to stare at her own monitor and the insistent flashing of the message icon.

Not more work was her first thought.  Kaitlyn glanced down at the clock on her desk.  It was four thirty, it was Friday and to her it was time to go home.  The message icon kept blinking.

Kaitlyn looked again at the flashing icon.  She rubbed the end of her nose with the tips of her fingers as she decided what to do.  Should she open it or can it wait until Monday?

The icon still blinked at her furiously.

Perhaps she better read it.  No one could possibly expect her to do any work this late in the day.  Tucking her long hair behind her ears, Kaitlyn bent forward and tentatively moved her cursor and clicked on the icon.  The message suddenly opened to reveal a picture of a cartoon dapper dog escorting a young puff balled poodle out on the town.  Underneath the cartoon was written in bright blue letters

I’m blowing this place in five minutes – want to go to the pub?

Kaitlyn nearly laughed out loud.  The annoyance she felt suddenly evaporated into relief.  Trust David to send a message stating exactly what she was thinking.  She suddenly blushed remembering her thoughts about Chris.  Perhaps not exactly what she was thinking.

Smiling Kaitlyn quickly typed a reply.

Only if you shout me too dinner as well.

His reply came quickly.

I’ll be around in a minute. Just let me pack my bag.

Kaitlyn quickly shut down her terminal and began to pack her books and papers into her backpack.  She had just finished doing up the last buckle on her bag when David popped his head around the wall of her cubicle.

“Ready to blow this place?”

“Yes,” Kaitlyn answered shrugging the strap of her backpack over her shoulder.  Swinging out of her chair, she turned to the two occupied cubicles next to her.  “See ya Chris, Mark.”  Both men turned at the sound of her cheery voice and gave her a wave good bye with a ‘see you Monday’ and ‘have a nice weekend.’

David grabbed Kaitlyn by the arm and hurried her on her way from her desk and herded her through the double security doors and out of the office.

“C’mon Kath, I need a drink.  Today has not been good to me.”

“Friday’s have never been good to you Daf,” Kaitlyn replied with a laugh and threw a companionable arm about him as they walked into the waiting lift.

Kaitlyn pressed the button for the ground floor before turning to look at David.

David Wheeler is Kaitlyn’s best friend.  They had met at high school when he and his family had emigrated from England to Australia.  He was tall, well over six feet, blue eyed and scruffy looking with a dress sense straight from the 1920’s and even though he had been living in Australia for over a decade, David still had a strong drawling English accent.

“When do you find out about that Art Competition you’ve entered?” he asked as the elevator doors closed and the familiar sinking feeling started in the pits of their stomach.

“Tomorrow, but I still don’t want you to come.  I’ll be too embarrassed,” Kaitlyn said quickly.  Really she had not invited anyone because she had a good feeling that she would not win.  And she did not want anyone seeing her in a dress.  It would give the guys in the office a heart attack it they knew she had legs.  Kaitlyn quickly changed the subject.

“So, where are you taking me?”

“I was thinking of going to the Tavern-“

“No, not the Tavern,” Kaitlyn groaned.  “Since you’re paying I want to go to the Gryphon, then you can take me to the movies afterward.”

“What! I didn’t say anything about any movies,” David puffed up with mock indignation.  “All I wanted was a beer and a good chin wag and now I’m up for meals and movie tickets.”

“David, don’t fret so much.  You know that you only ever spend your hard earned money on me.  Actually, the only time I ever see you spend anything is when I make you,” Kaitlyn said as the elevator gently came to a halt and the door opened out into the building foyer.

David rolled his eyes at her as he stepped from the elevator.  “Don’t bring that old bugbear up again.  I own my own place and I clothe myself don’t I?”

“Yeah, I’ll give you that.  But you really should let me come shopping with you one day so I can get you into a shop other than Goodwill.”

“There is nothing wrong with my dress sense and you’ve even said that I look cute,” he said pressing his hand to his chest.

“Yes in a scruffy sort of way.  It does suit you but sometimes it is nice to have a change.”

“Come on Kate, you haven’t changed your style since you were eighteen.  How do you expect me to?”

The conversation continued in this vein as they walked down Gawler Place and turned down Grenfell Street towards Hindmarsh Square where the Gryphon was located.  Next to the pub were the cinema and café’s and David and Kaitlyn stopped there first to check out what movies were on before going to eat.

David shouldered his way through the crowd by the pub door and Kaitlyn followed him as his tall form made a path towards an empty table.

Dumping her bag in the spare seat Kaitlyn slumped into the chair opposite David.

“What do you want?  Your usual?”

“I’ll have a schnitzel, chips and hard fried egg-“

“-and diane sauce, so yes to the usual.”  David went to the bar and ordered their meals and returned bearing two schooners for the both of them and a plastic stand bearing their order number.

“So what was so bad today that it has driven you to drink?” Kaitlyn asked after taking a sip from her ale.

David took a mouthful of his beer and swallowed.  “Had a call from Him today.”

“Him?  You mean Ishmael?”

“Yeah.  I mean Him.  He promised to give me a month off field work after the last assignment but now two weeks into my month of desk jockeying I get the call.”

“But that’s unfair.  That was the deal for you taking the last field assignment,” Kaitlyn said indignantly.  “Agents are supposed to be rotated.”

“It’s what I get for being good at what I do.”  David drained the rest of his glass.  “I’m just going to get another,” he said jiggling his glass as he rose from their table.

Kaitlyn played with her half full glass as she waited for David to return.  Her own day at work had been calm and routine or to put it in layman’s terms – boring.  She felt the twinge of envy as she turned and watched David waiting at the bar.  They had joined the Antipodean Order at the same time after they finished their degrees at Flinders University.  David quickly became a fully qualified field agent but she on the other hand was stuck as a rookie behind a desk doing research work.  She had been subconded out to work for the Australian Federal Police but that was about as exciting as it got.

Kaitlyn looked sourly back into her glass.  Why does David always get all the fun…No, not always fun.  Fieldwork can be downright dangerous, after all David was nearly killed on his last assignment.  But even so, she would like a chance to help hunt down the bad guys.

Kaitlyn’s musing into her drink was suddenly interrupted by the clinking sounds of glass.  She glanced up to see David seating himself in his chair while arranging on the table a schooner and two bottles of coke.

“The woman at the bar said that our meals won’t be long so I got us some cokes to drink while we eat.”

“Thanks Daf,” Kaitlyn said as she pulled the coke bottle and the ice filled glass to her side of the table.  “When do you start?” she asked David idly as she took another sip of her drink in an effort to hide her envy.

“He wants to have a briefing with me tomorrow.  He’s given me one concession though, He’s going to let me choose my own team,” David replied with a scowl.

“I wish I could go on assignment,” Kaitlyn said wistfully.

“Be careful of what you wish for Kaitlyn…” David let his words trail off unfinished.

“But I do want this Daf, I know I’m ready for it.  We’ve both been working there for over five years and yet you’ve been promoted to field assignments and I’ve been kept on the rookie list.”  Kaitlyn could not keep the resentment she felt from her voice.

“Ah, come on now Kate.  Let’s talk about something else.”  David looked about him searching for inspiration.  He caught a glimpse of a group of office workers standing near the bar, their creased white business shirts reminding him of someone.

“How did your Chris watching go today?” David said with a smirk.

“I don’t watch Chris!” Kaitlyn tried to put as much indignation into her reply as she could.  How did David know about that?  He sits on the other side of the floor from her and she had not mentioned a word about her ‘thing’ for Chris to anyone.

“Who are you trying to kid?  Nearly everyone in the Order apart from Chris himself knows that you moon over him all day.”

“I do not!”

But any further retort was stopped by the appearance of the waitress with their dinner.  They both ate in silence with Kaitlyn throwing a still smirking David narrow eyed glares across the table.  Once their meals were finished, conversation started again as they both got up from the table to leave.

As Kaitlyn and David came out of the Gryphon deep in conversation about the quality of Australian films compared to that of British Cinema, they walked straight into the path of a preaching Evangelist.  The man was grey and grizzled and dressed in a much mended tweed suit and was gesticulating wildly at passing people with a black leather covered bible while shouting at the top of his lungs about the love of Jesus and the vengeance of God on all sinners.

As soon as he saw them the man’s eyes hardened and his face contorted into a hate-filled grimace.  Automatically Kaitlyn tried to take a step backwards but David had a hold of her hand and he hurried on as if unaware of the man’s scrutiny.

“Demons! Lovers of Lucifer! Plague on Humanity!”

Repelled by his words Kaitlyn hurried after David but the man followed after them.

“I see you.  I know you!” he shouted after them.

“Well, drop me a letter sometime,” David threw back over his shoulder.

“David, don’t encourage him,” Kaitlyn hissed at him as they crossed the street to the cinema.  The Evangelist kept shouting abuse at them but stayed on his side of the street.

“I am not encouraging him,” David replied with a touch of annoyance.  “How can I let him say that crap without a response?”  He said as they halted outside of the cinema’s main doors.  “Idiots like that need to be stood up to Kate.”

The tone of David’s voice told Kaitlyn to drop the subject and as he pushed through the door into the cinema foyer, she turned back and saw the strange man arguing with two Police Officers.  Someone must have called to complain about him.

Quickly pointing out a movie for them to see, Kaitlyn sent David to the box office to buy their tickets.  As soon as he was gone she turned back to look through the glass doors of the Foyer to see what had happened to the Preacher.

He and the Police Officers were gone leaving a sour feeling sitting in the pit of her stomach.

 

Chapter Two

Adelaide – Somerton Park

David stood in the driveway staring up at the large Federation style house in Somerton Park.  He had been standing on the course gravel for at least the last quarter of an hour, pondering to himself what this meeting will bring.  This was the first time he had been called to meet at ‘His’ house.  Usually briefings were given via a video feed from the office conference room but this time He wanted to see David personally.

David was dreading it.

David scuffed at the gravel with a booted foot.  He should not really delay this.  Why did the Old Man want to see him face to face?  He only ever sees members of the Old Guard personally.

He kicked at the gravel again.  Better get this over with, whatever this was about it must be important to warrant a face to face visit.

“I am glad to see you Sir, the master has been waiting for you.”

David jumped in surprise.  The figure had appeared out of nowhere.

He was a tall, angular man with swept back blonde hair and bright blue eyes that seemed to absorb everything.  He wore an immaculately tailored three-piece black suit with customary starched white shirt and black bowtie.  He was the stereotypical image of a butler.

“Please, if you would follow me?”

The butler gestured toward the house with an immaculate white-gloved hand.

David gave the man a curt nod and followed as the butler spun quickly on his heel and walked smartly back to the house with David slouching along after him.

The butler led David around to the front of the three-storey mansion and showed him into the front entrance hall.  It was a large open space with a wide central stairway that lead up to a landing on the second floor.  David glanced around at the large paintings and mirrors that decorated the silk lined walls.

“May I take your coat?”

David jumped again at the sound of the butler’s voice.  The man had a habit of blending easily into the background.  “No.  Thank you,” he said quickly.

“Mr. Rothe is waiting for you in the parlor.”  The butler gestured towards a large ornate wooden door to one side of the entrance hall.

David turned to glance at the door indicated by the butler.  It was very pretty but it was plainly made from solid wood and David instinctively knew that the door would at least have a three point locking system.  He turned back to ask the butler to announce him – after all, that is what butlers are supposed to do – only to see the man’s tailcoats disappearing through the door opposite.

David frowned.  Why couldn’t this meeting happen at the office?  Video conferencing was always good enough in the past.  Seeing the Old Man on screen was enough to put the shivers into him, seeing him in the flesh might turn him into a quivering jelly and may very well ruin any reputation that He may have of him.

David balled up his courage and approached the ornate door and gave it a light rap with his knuckles.  For a moment there was silence

Then David heard a deep voice, though muffled, through the thickness of the door.

“Enter.”

David paused a moment before laying his hand on the brass handle of the door.  The Old Man’s voice sounded much lighter over the video link.  Pushing down on the handle, David went through the door.

The room was dark apart from the weak light produced from small wall lights but the one thing that struck David was that it was very Red.  Thick red curtains were drawn across the large front windows; the red walls warmed against the traditional gold-framed imagines of landscapes and nineteenth century horses.  Dark wooden furniture was crammed around the room and intermingled among them were several high backed chesterfield chairs and to one side was a large three-seater chesterfield lounge.

“David, thank you for coming.”

The Irish burr made David’s eyes jerk to a large chesterfield armchair in the darkest corner of the room.  A shape moved from the shadows of the chair and stepped out into the weak glare of one of the wall lights.  The Old Man was dressed casually in dark trousers and a course patterned linen shirt worn open at the collar with a well-loved sports jacket thrown over it, a pair of white sneakers topped off his ensemble.  David blinked twice at the sight of Ishmael not wearing a tailored suit.  He had never seen the boss look so under dressed.

“Mr. Rothe.”

“Please, David Wheeler.  Call me Ishmael.”  Ishmael gestured to a nearby chair.  “Take a seat.”

David walked across the room and perched awkwardly on the edge of the chair.  The shock of seeing a causal Ishmael Rothe in such a congenially good mood made David more uncomfortable than he already was.  David could feel the Old Man’s eyes upon him as he glanced uneasily about the room.  He tried not to squirm under Ishmael’s gaze, he felt that he was back at primary school again being glared at by stern Mrs. Duncalf.  Even with his innards twisting in turmoil, David sat silently waiting for the Old Man to speak.

“I suspect that you are wondering why I’ve called you here.”

David stopped his eye wandering around the room and focused himself on the man who still slouched comfortably in his chair.  The over saturation of red in the room vividly reminded David of Ishmael Rothe’s particular Talent, one that is respected throughout The Order world-wide.  The man is a Master of Fire Magic – an Ignis Mage, a rare Talent that David had never witnessed.  In fact being so close to a practitioner who could incinerate him with a thought made David very nervous.

Rothe sat staring at him, elbows resting on the arms of his chair, fingers steepled before him. A slight smile playing across his lips and its familiar resemblance struck a chord in David – Maybe the rumors were true.  But brave though David was, he did not have the courage to ask the question that everyone in the office would like to know the answer to.  David blinked rapidly to bring his thoughts back to order, it did not pay to lose ones attention while the Old Man was talking.

“Yes I am Mr. Rothe,” David moved slightly on his chair to be able to see the Old Man better.

“No need for the Mister, David.  It makes me feel so old and since we will be meeting more often like this I would like us to be friends.  Call me Ishmael,” Rothe said as he slipped from his chair and moved to the drinks cabinet.  “Would you like a drink?” Fine, slender fingers lifted a crystal decanter from the tray and began to pour the liquid into two matching glasses before David could answer yes.  Rothe handed one of the glasses to David before sitting back into his chair.

David held the glass in his hand but did not drink from it.  “Why am I here?”

Rothe leaned back in his chair with his legs stretched out before him and took a taste of his whiskey.  “I am truly sorry for bringing you back to active duty.”  David did not believe that for a second.  “But Jack Havelock’s death has thrown me into a bit of a quandary.  His team is depleted and leaderless and the others are no better.”  Rothe moved forward in his chair and rested his elbow on his thighs, his whiskey glass cradled loosely in his hands.

“I am going to remake the teams and I would like you to lead one of them.  To sweeten the deal I will also let you chose your own team of five – I have an idea of who you might choose.”

David knew this was coming, after all, the Old Man had told him this yesterday when he arranged the meeting.  But David did not know that the team he was choosing was going to be permanent.  Christ, some of the people he is going to ask for are considered part of the Old Guard and might not take kindly to being over looked as a team leader.  David took a sip from his whiskey glass and let the liquor sit on his tongue a moment while he gathered his thoughts.  He knew which people he wanted but was unsure of the Old Man’s reaction to one of them.

“I want the brothers Lucien, Phil Summerby, Mark Rimmer and… Kaitlyn Winters.”

“Kaitlyn.  Why Kaitlyn?”  Rothe asked in clipped tones.  His calm façade was now marred by a deep frown and his relaxed posture suddenly stiffened as if in rigor.  Rothe’s gray eyes were the only things that moved and David had to restrain himself from recoiling from their brightened gaze.  He had been warned about this but he owed it to Kaitlyn to try and give her a gig.

“Because I think she is ready and I would prefer Kaitlyn to have her virgin run where I can keep an eye on her, seeing as she does not have a specific ‘Talent’.”  David kept his eyes on the Old Man and was glad that his voice remained steady as he spoke.  But he must have said the right thing as Rothe’s body relaxed and he leaned back into his chair.

“A lifelong friendship can be a good thing to have with a new team member and I know that you and Kaitlyn are that.  But.”  With a lazy movement, Rothe placed his whiskey glass on his side table.  “I wish to state right now that I have an interest in Kaitlyn Winters’s career as well as an interest in your own and I would like to see her well mentored.  That is why David, I have chosen you to be one of the new team leaders and you will be reporting direct to me – not to Montrose.  I have told Montrose that the other two teams will report directly to him but to leave you to operate on your own.  I thought Winters would be one of your choices.”

“Does that mean I have the team I want?”

Rothe stared at David over the rim of his whiskey glass.  He gave a quick nod.  “Now that we have that sorted out we can get down to the business at hand.”

###

There are the first two chapters for you – I hope you enjoyed them!

Winter’s Magic: Act One will be out September 4th and Act Two is due out on  October 25th (just in time for Halloween!)

Cheers!

-HMC

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