Apricots and Wolfsbane Pt 2 by KM Pohlkamp [Extract]

Wow, so sorry for the late posting! Life has been absolutely wild. Normally I would make the posts a few days in advance and schedule them, but it’s just been so busy!

But, here it is! The second part of Apricots and Wolfsbane! Remember, if you’d like to purchase her book, link is on the homepage! Also, I meant it mention last post, can we all take a minute to talk about how beautiful the cover is?! My goodness!

•••

The air smelled of fresh rain, and above, grey clouds thinned. In my haste, my boot

splashed into a puddle, wavering the moon’s reflection on the surface and soaking the hem of my

skirt. I did not care. The percussive rhythm of water dripping from rooftops paired with my

excited footsteps over the cobblestones.

Ahead, a man lighting a lantern paused to behold my figure. I supposed I was dressed for

entrapment. My sleeveless bodice was pulled low and tied tight, pushing up my bosom — and I

had not worn a chemise underneath. The crimson ensemble complemented my brown hair left

loose. I could sustain the role for the sake of the kill, but I would not indulge a bystander.

Wrapping the cloak tight around my torso, I glared back as I passed.

The garment’s velvet enveloped me in a familiar embrace of comfort. My father gifted

the cloak not one year before he passed through the Celestial Gates. It was the olive color of wet

moss, custom dyed to match my eyes. My marks often told me my irises sparkled like jewels, but

those men were not the most poetic or astute. They all became unwilling test subjects with only

one means to satisfy my desire. My smile broadened, recalling how well the thief had played his

part.

But the sight of the looming church steeple subdued my arrogance in the space of a

breath. A gust of cold wind conquered my excitement-induced sweat, and the call of the cross

beckoned my heart. My conscience burned with the debt of transgression. I craved dispensation

with every bone in my body and the complete essence of my soul. The sacred pilgrimage was the

necessary second half of my routine and the singular act that kept me grounded all those years.

Entering the church sent needles into my back. An empty nave, especially at night,

always humbled my heart. It was the result of intimacy, the crushing awareness of being alone

within the House of God. Behind the far altar, His Lord’s likeness gazed down upon me from the

marble crucifix. For a moment, I swore the ruby ring around my thumb burned, challenging my

gall for the first time that evening.

Reminded of my guilt, my gut threatened to collapse inward, but I endured, knowing

internal peace was moments away. With a deep breath, I permitted the lingering, sweet essence

of frankincense to burrow into my lungs; the woody aroma enveloped me in reassurance.

Exhaling, I turned towards the confessional, ignoring the ominous aura of the surrounding

statues cast within shadow. Their hard, grey eyes also glared upon me in judgment. I never

claimed to be as pious as those Saints, but there are murderers amongst their ranks. St. Vladimir,

for example. If the Church forgave him for slaying his brother and raping his sister-in- law, surely

God had room for a poison master.

Closing the confessional door, I knelt before the wicker screen dividing the small, unlit

chamber, and made the sign of the cross.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”

My familiar voice startled the silhouette on the other side of the partition.

“Lavinia.” Father Eustace spoke my name with reserved dejection. “Again, rushing to the

confessional will not exonerate such premeditated acts.”

I continued despite not receiving an invitation, “It has been three weeks since my last

confession.”

“The confessional door is not a revolving stile, my child.”

He demonstrated impressive wit, given the late hour, but I had suffered through his

lecture before.

“I confess the sins of murder,” I continued, “of theft and deceit. I am gravely sorry for

these transgressions and the sins of my past.”

The old man doubted my every word, but truly, the weight of the violation always

resonated within. For many reasons, I was glad the act never became trite. The relentless craving

to kill rooted deep in my bones, but I understood the sin.

Father’s silhouette turned to face me through the partition screen. I knew the exact lines

of judgement etched around his eyes without needing to see his face.

“If you spoke true, Mistress Maud, you would not already be thinking of how to improve

whatever concoction you just administered. Admit it. I am right.”

My knees waivered before resuming the ritual. “My God, I am heartily sorry for having

offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of

Hell…”

Father’s preaching continued during my act of contrition, but I ignored the lecture.

“…but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of

all my love. Amen.”

Constrained frustration emanated from the man who found himself lost for words. After a

moment, he spoke plain. “Lavinia.” His exhale conveyed his struggle. “I cannot condone such

continued transgressions. I will no longer play a part in your cycle.”

I admired the tactic — he tried to get through to me by withholding the grace of

confession. As a renowned botanist himself, Father Eustace understood my passion for herbs and

shared my curiosity for experimentation. We also both overflowed with perseverance. I thought

he would never cease his attempts to redeem my soul, but I was not convinced it needed saving. I

was remorseful. I believed the Gospels. For as much as I enjoyed the act, I regretted the result of

every single death and atoned. I harbored a gruesome skill, but as my God-given talent, I felt an

obligation to cultivate it nonetheless.

An awkward silence hung between us until I could endure no more. “I will recite ten Hail

Marys as penance.”

After sliding two gold crowns for indulgence under the partition, I opened the door to the

confessional. Before I could depart, Father Eustace called to my back from the other side of the

screen.

“What did you use this time?”

The hesitation in his voice brought a smile to my face. He wished to both know and retain

his ignorance, but curiosity won the internal struggle. Under all the finery and robes, priests are

human.

I turned on my heels to face him. My cloak flared from my silhouette with the slow,

eloquent rotation. Even there, in the confessional, I could not suppress a hint of pride in my

answer. The priest alone would appreciate the rarity of the tree I had acquired. My own eyes

sparkled in anticipation as I left him with a final thought before departing into the starless night.

“We call them Beans of Saint-Ignatius,” I said with unconcealed pride. “But you were

right about one thing — the more concerning question is what I am concocting next.”

•••

front cover

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I'm a lover of all things Tudor, and historical - fiction or fact. My aim is to bring together writers of all calibers to share their work with like minded people!

One thought on “Apricots and Wolfsbane Pt 2 by KM Pohlkamp [Extract]

  1. Where an extract from a book is concerned, it is good to be able to read the first two chapters as the continuation gives a clearer indication of the main character and with Apricots and Wolfsbane, an outline of the reasons for Lavinia’s lifestyle. Without giving much away, I will say that I feel the initial feeling of suspense will prevail throughout this book with Fr Eustace possibly hitting his head against the proverbial brick wall, but as to the actual outcome I couldn’t guess. The cover is extremely eye-catching and hints at the storyline, as the picture focuses on Lavinia and echoes at her deeds. This is definitely a Tudor crime novel with a novel approach, and shows KM Pohlkamp’s skills as an author in gaining and retaining an audience.

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