out of brambles title pic final


Out of Brambles

Leenna Naidoo

“Bubble, bubble, taste of sambals,” I intoned, slightly high on chocolate wine. “Let my love climb out of brambles.” I added the bramble jelly, wondering where on earth those lines had come from.

Shrugging, I stirred my Halloween dinner. Tree branches tapped the window. I shivered. I’d never been a fan of October squalls. Time for my sweater.


beautiful pumpkin pic

My first Halloween alone.

A creative sabbatical to write my new cookbook made this old cottage in Scotland my temporary home. It was a tad lonely… and spooky. The tappings at the window increased with the gusty wind.

I turned on the radio. “…tale, by The Erskine Storytelling Association.”

I sipped my wine, hoping the story would be good.

“It was a dark and stormy night…”

I groaned, too comfortable in my chair to move just yet.

“…a ghostly knock on the door,” went the narrator.

How could a knock on the door be ‘ghostly’? Soft, tentative, loud, unexpected, maybe…

I stood up. The pot needed a stir.

“…You called for me, and now I have come,” rasped the radio.

I stopped. That sounded different, not like the narrator at all. I turned off the radio, and plugged in my flashdrive. The distinctive sounds of The Cure merged nicely with the weather.



I opened the pot,

breathing in deeply.

I could almost taste

the divine sweet and sour notes already.


I closed the pot and…

turned around.



“You called for me, and now I have come!”

I stared into the light grey eyes of the man standing in my kitchen. His haggard, annoyed face reminded me of a man pulled out of bed for a trifle. He was handsome in a ragged way, with a dark ponytail and simple clothes.

“What will you have me do, Mistress?”

“I beg your pardon!” I wasn’t anybody’s mistress, and I never meant to be. What was this stranger, a man twice as heavy and tall as me, doing in my kitchen — full of my newest, most secret recipes?

“Who are you? Who sent you? Have you come to steal my recipes?” I inched towards the sink where a sharp knife and a frying pan lay.

“I am the Dark Man of Erskine. You have called and I have come, Mistress. I know nothing of recipes.” His eyes slanted towards the pot. “That smells delicious. It is surely more than haggis and neeps you cook there.”

My heart softened. He must have been passing in the storm, and smelt the cooking. He looked half starved anyway. Maybe all he wanted was a hot meal.

“It’s….” I hadn’t named the dish yet; hadn’t even tasted it. And here was a man with an empty stomach. “…something new. No haggis and neeps; but if you’d like, pull up a chair and I’ll get you a bowl and a glass of wine.”

He looked surprised. “Mistress, are you sure that is what you want of me?”

“I don’t want anything of you, and stop calling me Mistress!” I said, spooning the hearty stew into two bowls. “But, you can tell me what you think of this.” I placed a steaming bowl on the kitchen table.

He raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”

“Quite sure,” I insisted, pouring him some chocolate wine, the only wine I had left.

“I thank you, Mis…Ma’am.” He sat down and picked up a spoon.

I joined him, my bowl opposite his. He took a spoonful, the smell of damp earth accompanying the scent of my cooking. What an odd man!

I tasted the stew. It was good, but…

“This is good!” He had finished his serving.

He looked at the pot. I obliged, filling up his bowl again.

“Do you like the bramble in it?” I asked .

He smiled. “Indeed I do. It is my favourite! Especially with the rose tea!”

I was impressed. I had added some rose tea. What a fine palate! “Who are you?” I was still confused. “Are you from around here?”

He put down his spoon, satisfied, and turned his attention to the wine.

“You are a fine cook, ma’am. The best I’ve met in years, so I shall be truthful with you.

dark man of Erskine pic Out of Brambles_edited-3I am the Dark Man of Erskine, once the Lord Erskine’s wayward son, but now a spirit to be called upon by a mistress on Halloween –”

“But!” I protested. “I was cooking! I wasn’t…” Then it struck me.

He was smiling at me, a curious, amused smile.

“Are you…?” I couldn’t say it. It was too preposterous! So I tried, “Just how old are you?”

His smile grew sad. “I am two hundred years and twenty-seven years old, by most reckoning. Then he brightened up. “And that was the best meal I have had in one hundred and ninety years! So, I shall not take you with me.”

I looked askance at him.

He explained. “When a mistress calls the Dark Lord of Erskine, she may have him do as she pleases for that Halloween. Then she must accompany him back to his resting place.”

I shivered again. It was hard not to believe him.

He continued. “Your meal has brought me peace and well-being, something I have not experienced since childhood. Two more such meals, and my lonely soul shall gain peace. Will you help me, ma’am?”

I had to know, “How did you…die?”

“I was poisoned by my mistress.”

I sat speechless. The wind howled, then died down to a whisper.

“Will you cook for me–just two more meals to set my soul free?”

How could I not?  “Well, I do need a taster for my newest recipes. And with tastebuds like yours…”

His smiled beatifically. “We are agreed?”

I smiled back. “If you do the dishes.”

He laughed, nodding.

My spookiest Halloween, but by far the most productive. Besides, no gourmet goes to hell from my kitchen.

halloween pumpkin




“Out of Brambles” © Leenna Naidoo
Leenna loves writing sci-fi/fantasy and suspense/romance. Her books include Settle Down Now and Here Be Monsters. She had wanted to be a witch when she was little, but decided to be a writer instead. She loves blogging about totally random things at www.leennanaidoo.wordpress.com, and tries to be more creative at www.leennascreativebox.wordpress.com

Kitchen Witch” © Daria Azolina
Daria Azolina, known as kakao-bean on deviantArt, lives in Moscow, Russia. She works in mixed media, watercolor, and graphics. Her website is kakao-bean.jimdo.com

“A Rainbow of Thorns”, background title photo, http://thoughtmemory.deviantart.com/

Halloween pumpkin by iguanadongreenstock.jpg



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