The Proof
Chapter Excerpt #10 of 10
Siena, Italy

When would his past stay in the past? Though a blazing fire added ambiance to the dining room, none of its warmth reached Gabe while he waited at the table for dinner. He glanced through the large carved arch and listened. Louis spoke on the phone in the library, giving Gabe time to collect himself from the distressing afternoon.

Rinaldo set another platter on the table. When the call was finished, Louis entered the room and commenced with dinner. He seemed at peace compared to his anguish in the chapel this afternoon.

At least one of them was. In spite of the nervous twinges in his stomach, Gabe managed to consume a good portion of each course. Having overheard Louis’ prayer, he realized he still knew very little about his grandfather. After taking a long drink, he asked, “How did you injure your leg?”

Louis shrugged his shoulders and grinned. “As a young man, I had no common sense and thought I was indestructible. I took it upon myself to break my own horses until one of them broke me.” He bit into a crust of bread, chewed, and swallowed. “My pride suffered more than my leg.”

The simple explanation caught Gabe off-guard. This man embodied everything his father was not. He took failure in stride. Did not cast blame.

Rinaldo cleared their dishes and left the room. Gabe met the old man’s anxious eyes. Louis spoke in a low tone. “I know your father tried to poison your opinion of me. Nevertheless, I let you tell your story, now will you let me tell mine?”

Gabe nodded. He wanted to know what his grandfather had done that was so horrific his father had shut him out of their lives. Ralph had been mute on the subject when he had visited. As far as Gabe could see, Louis was kind and generous. Do I really want to know? His gut tightened. The truth could ruin everything.

Louis cleared his throat and began. “There is a hill south of Siena called Montisiepi. In 1185, the Pope ordered a chapel built on its crest around a miracle—the authentic sword in the stone.” He must have caught Gabe’s smirk, for he was quick to add, “You do not have to take my word for it. You could drive there tomorrow.”

After letting that settle, Gabe asked, “When you say stone, you mean it was cemented into the ground?”

“No. The stone is solid and the story is of the purely miraculous variety—unless some scientist can explain how the solid rock melted in that one specific place just in time for Galgano Guidotti to stick his blade into it—then immediately became solid again. So far, no assertions of that kind have been made.”

The confidence with which he spoke silenced Gabe’s logical retort.

“Through the centuries, people have gone to Montesiepi to try to pull the sword out. The legend was added to the King Arthur tales—a year ‘after’ Galgano’s miracle. A few years ago, vandals used a sledgehammer and broke off the hilt. However, they were caught, and the sword studied. Scientists verified it as twelfth century and reattached it to the blade. It is now protected with a transparent cover and iron bars.”

Banking on a scientific explanation, Gabe let it go. “That’s fascinating. I never considered the legend beginning anywhere besides the British Isles—or that the idea could have come from some historical…story.”

“Of course, there is still a measure of disagreement on that issue.” Louis’ eyes twinkled. “However, that is only the starting place of my story.”

Hmm. With the beginning this eccentric, Gabe braced himself for the rest and downed the last of his hot tea.

“As the patron of the family, all of these treasures have passed into my care.” He gestured at the paintings and fine antiques. “Along with the tangible things, there are also the intangible. These are what matter most. The history of every family member—along with their deeds, good or bad—has contributed to who we are.”

He peered at Gabe. “Your father was headstrong, as you well know. He wanted nothing to do with his heritage, nothing to do with fulfilling his responsibility and passing these glorious stories to you and to your children’s children. Gabriel Russo Dolcini, it is vital that you know these things.”

The conte looked so intent, that Gabe nodded his head. He let out the breath he had been holding and leaned forward. “Tell me.”

With evident relief, Louis smiled, easing years off his tired face. Clapping his hands together with anticipation, he rose to his feet. “Come with me.”

Gabe followed the straight-backed man through an arched entry. Steps led downward, disappearing into the shadows. His grandfather flipped a switch that lit the sconces lining the stairwell. A host of carved brass snakes coiled around metal torches that illuminated the steps. With care, Louis grabbed an iron rail that was hammered into an elegant twist, and ambled down two sets of stairs. Gabe readied himself to steady the older man should he falter, but he never did. Soon, they were in a subterranean part of the palazzo that he had not yet explored.

They reached a massive oak door somewhere below ground, and Louis unlocked the ancient deadbolt with a brass key. Short of breath, he turned. “I must ask you something of gravest importance.” He studied Gabe’s eyes. “Before I expound upon the mission entrusted only to our family as the Custodi, the Keepers, you must promise to hold secret all that I show you. Will you keep this vow of silence?”

Though it seemed a bit cryptic, Gabe saw nothing particularly sinister about the request. He had never been a gossip. “Certainly.”

His grandfather nodded, and his broad shoulders relaxed. They entered a cold room furnished with dark antique furniture. Natural stone tables had serpent-like beasts carved on their wooden legs, creating the creepy sense of something slithering up one’s shins.

Louis stopped at one end of the room in front of a huge mirror that covered a six-by-ten-foot section of wall. The frame sported gilded birds of prey, their talons and beaks aimed toward their unsuspecting quarry. Gabe shivered as a chill passed through the room and into his body.

Sliding the leather toe of his expensive Italian shoe under a section of the mirror’s frame, Louis pressed upward, initiating a series of clicking noises. “Just like in the movies,” he grinned, then pressed the place again. He moved aside while the mirrored wall swung outward, allowing them to step over the threshold and pass into a large hidden room. Once inside, he switched on an electric candelabrum and closed the door with a lever.

In the ample glow, the nearly empty, castle-like room seemed to swallow them. A desk, two chairs, and a large globe, floating in its iron support, huddled together in one spot. On one wall, tall wooden shelves stood empty except for a few dozen books, stacks of paper, and small art objects.

All the architectural elements in the room—the floors, walls, and arches that held up the domed ceiling—were made of icy stone. The room retained a constant chill, and Gabe imagined he had landed in the middle ages. It was sinister. And fabulous. “What is this place?”

“This is where I keep those valuables I was speaking of—our family ancestry, ancient legal documents, and histories of objects we have acquired…or protect.” I added this outer wall for safekeeping some years ago. He touched a thick leather book on a near shelf. “Our military records are here, with all their history.”

Gabe leaned his head to one side for clarification.

Pride beamed from Louis’ face. “One of our ancestors served as a Templar Knight.”

“You approve of the Knights? Weren’t they responsible for the wars, greed, and heresy of the medieval period?”

A shadow of disapproval passed over the older man. “There was much envy leveled against the Templars. And it is true that some deviated sharply from their vows. Later, when they became rich and powerful, there existed even more self-interest and corruption. But who of us has not wrestled with that?”

Gabe cleared his throat. “Yes, but I don’t go around killing, pillaging, and dealing in the occult.”

Louis’ eyes held Gabe’s with firm conviction. “The heresy charges were invented by evil men to discredit the Templars and steal their fortunes.”

Gabe masked a shrug of disbelief. No sense arguing, as neither of them had been there.

Continuing his story, Louis said, “The majority of the Templars, in contrast to the crusaders, were pious and humble. They were pure in their motives to protect Christ’s people from bandits on their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. And to guard articles pertaining to Christianity.”

Again, Gabe felt perplexed that Louis held such a biased opinion. “Where does our family fit into all of this?”

Louis leaned his forearms on the back of a chair and clasped his fingers. “Like other noblemen of the day, your ancestor, Antonio Dolcini, left his family to join the Knights Templar. Beginning in 1177, he spent two years defending the Holy Land, but was appalled at the violence he found there. To add to his grief, charges of heresy and pagan worship had been directed at the Templars. He wrote to his wife about the moral decay in Jerusalem.

Louis’ eyes closed while he quoted one of Antonio’s letters. “We guard a solemn secret. That which has touched our Lord fills us with the hope that our broken bodies shall also be caught up in the resurrection. Yet the very object we protect with our lives and secrecy brings these charges upon us.”

“You’re speaking of the Holy Grail or lost Templar treasure?” Doubt laced Gabe’s words.


Gabe parried. “My studies of ancient myths show that the Holy Grail—just an ordinary cup really—was tracked to Spain, long before the time you are speaking of. It was then moved to Valencia in the fourteenth century.” He cocked his head. “Where it still resides.”

His grandfather donned a patient expression. “Please, sit down.” He motioned toward one of the burgundy and gold brocade-covered chairs. A screech reverberated off the walls as Gabe dragged the chair over the rough, mottled stone.

The conte sat down in the opposing chair and continued. “Many stories exist. The first Templers spent years digging under the Temple Mount in the bowels of the mountain. They were guided to the exact locations where many important items were hidden.”

“You don’t really believe they found the authentic Holy Grail?”

“I am saying that Antonio brought back from Jerusalem what he described as, ‘the desire of every Templar.’” His grandfather held his head high.

Gabe turned his gaze toward the enormous stones, cut to fit precisely together in the walls of the bleak cellar. He considered the conversation. In the faculty room, he had listened to Howard’s scorn when teaching classes on ancient religious art and relics. Gabe remembered pitying the excitable freshmen.

Howard had mocked, “I can’t comprehend that there are still those who believe in the possibility of the Grail’s existence—or God’s existence for that matter.” Howard described his delight in dashing his student’s hopes and ridiculing their faith with the historical facts at hand. “You’d think we still lived in the age of superstition and idol worship.”

Gabe agreed with Howard, but this was his grandfather, and a man who held his artistic career in his hands. He decided to use logic and questions to bring the deluded man around to reason. “When you said they were guided, what did you mean?”

A smile seeped out from under the corner of Louis’ short, white mustache. “They had a map.”





Dear Subscribers,
I apologize for the many posts that have gone out recently. A colleague was sued for posting photos on her blog, even with the credits listed and links back to the original site. Not wanting to take any chances, I removed many of my blog photos and republished, resulting in MailChimp sending them out again. Please bear with me while MailChimp finishes its course (I think it has).
Cheryl Colwell
The Neanderthal man has long been portrayed as a pre-human "cave man" who spoke only in grunts, relying heavily on body language, as do primates.

However, after finding a fossilized Neanderthal hyoid, a bone that is instrumental in enabling speech, this assumption has been revisited.

Using a computer model of the bone, scientists compared it to that of modern humans. It demonstrates that modern man and the Neanderthal have very similar linguistic capabilities.

In non-human primates, the hyoid is not placed in the right position to vocalize like humans.

Our human capacity for speech and language has long been used as a fundamental characteristic that makes us human.

Researcher, Stephen Wroe says, “If Neanderthals also had language then they were truly human too.”

This, added to other recent discoveries, show that far from being pre-humans, Neanderthals were extremely similar to ourselves in almost every respect.

Read more.

PictureGold earrings from Hellenic era. Credit: Balkan Insight
Over 80 golden artifacts are presumed stolen from the museum depot in Skopje, the capital of FYROM, the Reformed Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Many of the items were golden earrings dating back from the Hellenic era. They were discovered in digs between 2009 and 2010.

Several archaeologists (illegal excavators) working as employees of the culture ministry, have been charged with helping to determine the price of the artifacts and find buyers abroad.

FYROM's former chief excavator, Pasko Kuzman, was arrested in July for misuse of office, leading to speculation of his involvement in the theft.

And so the "Indiana Jones-esque" intrigue continues.

Extra tidbit: Though the country’s residents call themselves the “Republic of Macedonia,” its neighbor, Greece, is outraged. It has threatened economic blockades, fearing the use of the name “Macedonia,” might provide claim to ancient Macedonian lands that reside well within Greece.

For more on the lost treasure, click HERE.

For more on FYROM, click HERE. 

GATEHAVEN by Molly Noble Bull

Chapter Excerpt Part 3 of 10

(Scroll to bottom of page for location of all chapter excerpts)
             Shannon had only planned to go as far as the road that lined the farm where they lived. When she reached the gate that fronted the property, she stood there a moment.

Apparently, her parents thought her brother was perfect; therefore, Peter never had problems like this. He was three years older than Shannon, but if Peter had wanted to go to England when he was nineteen, he would have been given permission as soon as he asked.

“Peter is the sort of boy a man can be proud of,” her father once said.

Then her mother had added, “And he takes his responsibilities seriously.”

Her mother didn’t actually say that Shannon never took her responsibilities seriously or that she acted like a child, but she might as well have. In Shannon’s mind, her parents’ true feelings were clear enough.

Peter wanted to immigrate to the colonies where Uncle Henri and his new wife lived, and he’d convinced Grandma and their parents to travel with him. Mama and Papa would insist that Shannon immigrate too. But how could she? If only she could convince them that her future was with the earl.

The early autumn air felt cool on her face. The bushes and grass that edged the road clung to the thin, rocky soil like a lifeline, and though there weren’t many trees, the few she saw pointed upward to a clear and windless sky.

In the distance, heather bloomed sweetly, coloring the hillsides in shades of pale purple and gray. She took in a deep breath and released it slowly. Despite everything, she savored the moment.

The farm didn’t front the loch like Ian’s farm did. But sometimes when the wind was right, she smelled the faint odor of the sea.

Today, a mist slowly draped the landscape like it often did over the Loch.

Shannon shivered. There was something haunting about a mist—especially when it hung over the smooth yet deep waters of the loch like old lace. When they were children, Ian had often taken Shannon and her brother out on his small boat on sunny afternoons in summer when the sky was clear.

They picnicked on a nearby shore, and sometimes on their way home, she would lean over the side of the boat, dip her fingertips in the cold water, and gaze at the rocky shore. She never tired of studying her surroundings—green hills and a lake as big as the sky.

“Do not do that, lass,” Ian would say. “Sit right in the boat. If ya lean over like that, you could upset the balance. We could go tumbling into the loch.”

Ian was the tallest and handsomest young man in Luss. Everybody thought so. He watched after her like an older brother might, but Shannon already had a brother. She would love Ian forever, but he didn’t make her heart beat faster. Just looking at the earl did.

The Earl, Edward.

Thoughts of her recent conversation with her parents blocked out everything else. She longed to see the earl—needed to see him—at once.

He was staying at his hunting lodge, but sometimes he came to church in town.

“To see you,” he had said.

The village of Luss beckoned. She never went to the village unless Mama or her brother went with her. Today, she would. She would stroll down the country road until she reached the village and pay a visit to her grandmother. Grandma Aimee might be the very one to convince Papa to change his mind and let her go to England with the earl.

The earl had men working for him. Shannon called them his spies because whenever she entered the village, she found them watching her. Sometimes the earl would appear a few minutes later whether at church or at the shop where she and her mother bought bread. Maybe she would see him again today.

Her heart beat faster with the hope.

She was about to cross the bridge over a small stream when she noticed Ian strolling briskly at the water’s edge. Ian’s father was the second son of the Laird of the village, and though his family lived as modestly as hers, Ian’s last name had always given him a certain prestige among the villagers that newcomers, like the Aimee family, had never known.

Ian didn’t appear to have seen her yet.

The soles of her shoes tapped the wooden bridge. He probably couldn’t have heard, but he looked up.

If only he’d smiled. His smile always warmed her—even on the coldest day in winter. Merely looking at him made her almost forget her troubles at home, and she’d always counted on Ian in her time of need. Maybe he would be willing to talk to her father about the earl on Shannon’s behalf.

“Good morning, Ian.”

“Morning, lass. I am surprised to see you walking out here alone.”

Normally, dimples dotted both his cheeks, and his wide smile lifted her spirits. Today, the sun hid behind the clouds, and she saw no smile at all. Today his hair looked as thick and dark brown as her father’s. Yet on other mornings, the sun turned it almost as red as her own.

“Where is your brother?” Ian asked.

“You would have to ask Peter where he went this morning.”

“What brings you to the village so early in the day?”

“I thought I would visit my grandmother. She has been feeling poorly of late. It was time I paid her a visit.”

“Mind if I walk along?”

She turned. “Please do. I would appreciate the company.”

“Maybe we should take the road nearest the Loch. We are less likely to be seen there this time of day, and we would not want to damage your good name.”

Shannon looked up at him and smiled. Despite the tender sound of his words, the flesh around his lips tightened, and he didn’t smile back.

Her head barely reached his shoulders, and he’d always walked with a long stride. Yet when they walked together, he often set his pace to fit hers. Today she had to practically run to keep up.

Obviously, his normal good humor had faded. She would need to find a way to revive it.

“Ian, I’ve known for a long time that you hope to go into the ministry. Have you found a mentor yet—now that our pastor will retire to his sister’s home in the country soon?”

“Not yet, I am afraid.”

“My father would be willing to teach you about the Bible. But that would never make you a man of the cloth. However, I know someone who might.”

“And who would that be?”

“I am sure you know that the Earl of Northon has a hunting lodge near here. But you might not have heard that I agreed to marry him.”

“Aye.” He glanced away. “I saw you dancing with him at my uncle’s ball.”

Then he looked down at his feet like he always did when he didn’t want to say more.

Shannon scolded herself internally for feeling obligated to rush into a long explanation. She had the right to marry whomever she pleased. At the same time, Ian was her oldest and dearest friend.

“I know it seems unlikely that a man of the quality would choose me—a young woman with no money or high station in life. But as amazing as it might sound, he loves me, Ian, and I love him. It would so please me if you told Papa you agree with the match.”

“Apparently, congratulations are in order,” Ian said, ignoring her request. “But what does any of that have to do with me?”

“I am getting to that.” She was talking much too fast and probably telling more than he needed to know. “You see, the earl employs a vicar to tend to the spiritual needs of his family and those who live in the village nearby, and every few years they select a young man to come and live at the vicarage and learn from the vicar. They are looking for such a young man right now. All I would need to do is say the word, and I am sure the earl would choose you.”

Shannon had tried to fill her voice with the promise of great things to come. However, Ian’s cold glance indicated that he hadn’t received her suggestion with interest and excitement as she’d hoped.

 “Like your parents, I am a member of the reformed church,” he replied. “What benefit would learning the ways of the Church of England be to me?”

She tried not to roll her eyes. “Is it not true that just last Sunday our pastor said that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever? So the earl’s church must be more or less the same as ours.”

He shook his head. “I disagree about all the churches being the same.”

“Still, how could serving under an English vicar not help in your quest to become a pastor?” Shannon’s lips turned up at the edges. “Besides, I would miss you terribly if you did not go to England with us.”

“Would you now?”

“Most certainly. You are my oldest and dearest friend. Please say you will go.”

“I cannot promise. But I will agree to think about it.”

If Shannon were Ian’s judge, she would say that he wasn’t as happy about her good fortune as she had hoped. In fact, she didn’t think Ian wanted her to go to England at all.

He gazed at her like a provoked parent might do. “To be completely honest, lass, I do not trust the earl. I feel it my duty to warn you. Continued association with this man could put you and perhaps your entire family in danger.”

Shannon bit her lower lip to keep from saying something she might regret later. As much as she loved and trusted Ian, she was in love with the earl. Why didn’t Ian understand?

Her grandmother wasn’t home, and Shannon didn’t see the earl or any of his servants, so they headed back to the farm. Ian bid her farewell at the gate of the family farm and went his own way.

“I must finish my chores,” he said.

Before Shannon had reached the front stoop, her father rushed out the door to meet her. “Shannon.” He seemed relieved to see her. “I thank the Lord that you are home.”

Shannon halted. Tears moistened the edges of her father’s dark eyes. He’d never looked so grave. Something was terribly wrong.

“Your mother was so worried about you, Rachel Shannon, after you ran away like you did. Now, she—she—”

“What is wrong, Papa? What happened?”

“The baby is coming. Hurry, she is in the bedroom. She will need you now.”

Shannon raced into the house. Her mother groaned as Shannon hurried into her parents’ bedroom.
Don't miss Part 4 of 10 on March 6 at

Daily Chapter Excerpts for all THREE New Releases:

Daily Chapter Excerpt for Gatehaven can be found at:

March 3: #1 Jill Richarson

March 4: #2 Malo Bel

March 5: #3 Cheryl Colwell

March 6: #4 Cheryl Colwell

March 7: #5 Carol Brown

March 10: #6 Laura Davis

March 11: #7 Emma Right

March 12: #8 Kimberly Payne

March 13: #9 Martin Roth

March 14: #10 Molly Noble Bell

Daily Chapter Excerpt for The Proof can be found at:

March 3:  #1 Laura Davis

March 4: #2 Carol Brown

March 5: #3 Martin Roth

March 6: #4 Kimberly Payne

March 7: #5 Emma Right

March 10: #6 Jill Richardson

March 11: #7 Cheryl Colwell

March 12: #8 Chuck Page

March 13: #9 Dana Rongione

March 14: #10 Cheyl Colwell

Daily Chapter Excerpt for Shadow Stalker can be found at:

March 3: #1 Kimberly Payne

March 4: #2 Emma Right

March 5: #3 Chuck Page

March 6: #4 Laura Davis

March 7: #5 Jill Richardson

March 10: #6 Malo Bel

March 11: #7 Carol Brown

March 12: #8 Martin Roth

March 13: #9 Cheryl Colwell

March 14: #10 Barbara Derksen

This 2,300-year-old collar, which was worn by a mummy, was discovered in fragments in a tomb in Thebes. The falcons in the top corners signify the god Horus, while the "Ba-bird" at top center represents the immortal soul of the deceased mummy [Credit: Susan Redford]
Reassembled after 2300 years, this beautifully decorated collar was found in fragments in an Egyptian tomb in Thebes.

Called “wesekhs,” they were made of beads and worn by people in ancient Egypt while alive. The painted “cartonnage” collars were worn by the mummy only after death.

The tomb became crowded through the years, as more mummies found homes there, a common occurrence with possible economic motives

An inscription written in a mud-clay seal near the collar
says that it was made for a man named "Padihorwer."

The translation reads he was "privy to the mysteries and god's sealer, 'embalmer,' scribe, prophet of the 'desert' (necropolis) of Qus," which is located north of Thebes.

Read more
The Grand Giveaway starts March 1!

The John 3:16 Author Network is pleased to announce the launch of three New Releases from our members, and you are in for a
great time!

Enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card to spend however you wish, as well as print and ebook gift bundles of great mystery/suspense stories.

Each weekday from March 3 - 14
you can follow the
Daily Chapter Excerpts
from the 3 mystery/suspense books.
(See locations below)

Q: What more could you ask?
A: Each New Release is on sale!

Join the fun! It all starts at our

Launch Page

While traveling around Italy, I met a store owner in Tuscany. After I explained I was a novelist, he asked,

"Have you seen the Sword in the Stone?"

He went on to explain the site
was only 15 kilometers away. Thoroughly jazzed, I drove to San Galgano with my husband the following day. Wow!

Even if the story had proved to be false, the Chapel of San Galgano and the fabulous ruined Abbey were spectacular.

However, the story is real...

In 1178, a wayward knight was challenged by a heavenly vision to leave his destructive style of life.

The violent man responded, "That would be as easy as plunging my sword into this stone." He thrust his sword at the stone and was recorded as saying, "It melted like butter." For centuries, pilgrims arrived to view the miracle.

(Keep in mind this event occurred one year BEFORE  the sword in the stone story appeared in the King Arthur tales.)

Galgano became a hermit and stayed atop Montesiepi until his death in 1181. Five years later, a chapel was erected to protect the miracle.

Not a believer yet? A few years ago, vandals broke off the hilt, but were caught and the piece of sword recovered. This permitted a scientific study, which confirmed the sword was indeed twelfth century!

Now, how does a suspense writer leave a scene like this without using
this extraordinary event in a novel? She doesn't!

I am pleased to announce my latest novel, "The Proof." It will not be released until next month, but please enjoy a peek at the story through the video trailer HERE, and please, don't be shy about sharing it.

See more beautiful photos of San Galgano HERE.


Black Friday Deals you will LOVE!

Avoid the traffic, crowds, and cold, while finding delightful gifts for those you love - gifts that will take them on an adventure, through a mystery, or let them discover a far away fantasy.

Over 30 Christian authors have created a fabulous shopping event just for you.

Don't miss these great books, sale priced for gift-giving within your budget.

The EVENT begins at 7:00 PM on Thanksgiving through December 3rd. Travel to the Event HERE.

Did you know there are over 3000 Stonehenge-like formations around the world?

Placed in circles or rows, these structures still baffle the experts. They have been linked with worship, sacrifice, and alignment with the planets

A newer idea is that they were used for their earthquake-warning ability. Hmmm.

A beautiful example are those in France, called the Carnac Stones, which are configured in different patterns.

For more info, check this out.



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