WEP/IWSG February Challenge – Gone with The Wind

I intend my 2023 WEP-IWSG Challenge entries to be more of my Ukraine stories, as I resolve to continue them until there is a just conclusion to the horrendous war.

For those new to this ongoing creation, please note, this present day tale began with my World War II story Feathered Fire, which introduced the Chayka family from Ukraine and appeared in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

The current stories open with Part 1, Rainbow Firebreak, for the WEP/IWSG April: Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/04/20/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-a-hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/.

Part 2, Winged Woes, for the WEP/IWSG June Challenge:     https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/

Part 3, Moonbeam Magic, for the WEP/IWSG August Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/08/17/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-moonlight-sonata/

Part 4, Winged Death, for the WEP/IWSG October Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/wep-iwsg-october-challenge-thriller/

Part 5, Soul Seeds, for the WEP/IWSG December Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/12/01/wep-iwsg-december-challenge-first-time-ever/  

Part 6, Swords to Ploughshares, to conclude the WEP/IWSG December Challenge and close 2022: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/12/10/swords-to-ploughshares/

Part 7, Winter Resolution https://rolandclarke.com/2023/01/31/wep-iwsg-challenge-resolve/  This extra post leads into this month’s Challenge entry and included a plot event I foreshadowed in Part 6.

Therefore, in today’s Challenge entry I’m able to include a key mid-month romantic event. However, with Russia’s winter offensive threatening to erupt beyond probing attacks, I’m unsure what fate has waiting for my Witches. Unless I ignore reality, NATO holds the cards on when they can be deployed.

I will be following events closely, watching the Ukrainian skies for NATO jets, and listening for the roar of leopards.

Blurb: Night Witches prepare for an imminent offensive.

Part 8

Winds of Change


Sunday, February 12th – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.

The Witches’ two squadron commanders were waiting inside with a lanky air force colonel, whom Kalyna introduced as Maksym Bondarenko from Air Command West, Lviv.

“I wanted to be here when our six brave warriors returned from overseas. Curiously, I see ten.”

The new flight leader stepped forward and saluted. “I’m Kapitan Maryna Sobol. We’re Sable Wing from Cold Lake, Canada… the squadron’s newest recruits, sir.”

“More Canadian-Ukrainians. Your aid will be timely with invasion imminent. The 114th Tactical Aviation Brigade formally recognizes this squadron. A unique, all-women unit, though following in the wingtips of a famous regiment. Do you want to resurrect their designation?

Kalyna looked at Vasy, who answered. “Those were Soviet so not our legacy. Just ‘Night Witches’ and the rebirth in 22.”

“Appropriate. However, we must decide how best to covertly introduce 20 pilots flying NATO jets.”

The Witches nodded.

“Use our legacy,” said Kalyna. “–of two Ukrainian sisters who reached Canada in 1945 with Swedish help. Hence, 12 Canadian Hornets and eight Swedish Gripens.”

Commander Evdokiya Bershanskaya gives a briefing to her “Witches”. (Archives Vlad Monster, http://www.ava.org.ru)

“Perhaps,” said Maksym, “your contacts can help revive the plans to begin licensed Gripen production in Lviv.”

Anzhela approached Vasy. “I delivered your message in Sweden. Is that relevant?”

“Yes. Our Saab request ranges from spares to, unofficially, the license.”

Maksym smiled. “Officially, please continue. We need Gripens. Those of you not trained by the RCAF will find flying NATO jets a challenge… one I’m sure you’ll master. Your majors are wise acquiring planes from personal sources where backup is unlikely to fail.”

“When Saab agrees to local production that will change so much,” said Vasy.

“Including removing reliance on the Hornet’s manufacturer, McDonnell Douglas,” added Kalyna. “The RCAF is due to phase that fighter out… so Chayka may acquire more decommissioned stock.”

A murmur sighed among the pilots.

Then Anzhela voiced the whisper.

“How soon before Command requires our new skills? There must have been a goal sending some of us to Canada.”

“True,” said Maksym. “Beyond honing the knowledge to teach others.”

“The next stage is training those who remained,” continued Vasy. “Then we’ll form four Hornet and two Gripen flights will be formed – assignments according to mastery in each jet.”

“You Witches offer unique specialist support,” said Maksym. “However, whether our imminent combined arms offensive includes your squadron depends on other NATO decisions… like openly offering jets.”


Tuesday, February 14th – Zvenigora Restaurant, Lviv.

Mariyka and Sergei were greeted by her mother once they descended into the family’s cellar restaurant.

“How was your romantic visit?” asked Danuta, guiding them to a candlelit table for eight.

Italian patio, Kornyakta Palace, Lviv

Sergei bowed. “I never knew such beauty existed in Lviv… and the Renaissance patio was majestic. A jewel to gaze upon while I held this gorgeous one—”

”—He’s unstoppable… even with a shadow—”

“—who was distracted by your chief mechanic,” said prison guard Odarka.

“All part of the escape plan,” said Dariya, “–so, the lovers can abscond.”

Her mother stroked Mariyka’s cheek. “Will I discover where my daughter has been hiding for five weeks? Military secret?”

Mariyka smiled at Sergei. “He may be Russian, but he’s not a spy. Anyway, only Witches are meant to know.”

As Anzhela joined them, Larisa embraced her cousin Sergei.

When Maryna and Bohdana came over, the octet for their candlelit St Valentine’s meal was complete.

“We’re honored to welcome so many sisters in uniform.”

“Our pleasure to be here in this cozy haven of calm,” said Maryna. “May this terrible war pass you by… and end soon.”

As they ordered from the tempting local selection, a trio of uniformed airmen left their dates to accost the Witches.

“Some of you don’t sound Ukrainian. Please satisfy our curiosity, since I see you’re wearing 114th Tactical Aviation Brigade patches like.us “

Maryna looked to her sisters before saying, “Kapitan Maryna Sobol of the 2022 Night Witches. Apologies for my dialect, but I was born in Canada.”

“So, the rumor is true. We get stuck with MiG-29s,” said the envious flyers. “While you demonic dykes get the American jets us real pilots need.”

One of his mates added, “And they sit here colluding with Orcs – the enemy.”

“Divulging all our military secrets… like Leopard tanks?”

“But you just have,” said Sergei. “Fortunately, your drunk voices didn’t echo for all the other disturbed diners to hear. Luckily all the Russians here want to become Ukrainians,

Danuta approached. ‘Don’t let this war divide us. One day my daughter here may need your wings. Return to your ladies and enjoy your meal with a discount for bravery.”

As the pilots slunk away, she served everyone’s meal.

“I suspect Mariyka and some of you ladies were in Canada ensuring the winds of change were on our side. But I’ll guess no more.” 

“Maybe after the war, mama. Now, we’ll enjoy great food and love.”

Mariyka squeezed Sergei’s hand, then everyone toasted St Valentine.

Delicious dishes brought all words to whispers, and the four couples closer.

Lost in their partner’s eyes’ they were unaware of the empty restaurant, until Danuta came over.

“I’d love you all to stay, but there’s the curfew.”

“Back to grim reality,” said Mariyka, knowing death stalked them all. “It’s been wonderful, mama… please don’t refuse our money.”

“Bravery discount then.”

As they walked to the door, Anzhela asked, “Why Zvenigora Restaurant? I should know.”

Danuta grinned. “The film posters hold a clue, but no guessing. Maybe another time.”

“If it was Tara, I’d say it was from that poster,” said Maryna, shivering. “Too apt for now though.”

Outside in the chill night, Bohdana clutched Maryna. “The air or ‘Gone with the Wind’?”

“The prejudice of those other pilots, and the poster. You had your civil war in the Donbas—”

“Still part of this twisted conflict,” said Anzhela. “Too many secrets even hidden from us. Those other pilots were guessing, but even we must. I trust Chayka’s intentions, and place Ukraine’s freedom first.”

“We must,” said Mariyka. “But I wonder who profits from this war… and from the rebuilding?


FCA 1029 words

Slava Ukrayini

Apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments or struggle to visit all your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:


#WEP/IWSG December Challenge – First Time Ever

As the war in Ukraine continues, so must my tale of two Canadian-Ukrainian pilot cousins unfold to merge reality and inspiration from the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly challenges.

However, my ability to write cannot keep pace with reality. I had outlined a three-act story, but as I wrote it, slowly… while struggling to stay awake – like now – I realized the length would be unacceptable.

So, I dropped Act 3, the promised Swords to Ploughshares scenes. It’s still too long, but my editing brain is frazzled – apologies. But Act 3 is not abandoned, and since it gives a positive conclusion to my Ukraine tales, I will post it in a few days.

As for the horrific war, a just peace is likely months off. Thus, my characters’ trials haven’t ended, so, I may have to write more… if I can prevail.

That depends on my health and the overdue revision of Sparkle Anwyl novel ‘Fevered Fuse’. I’d be remiss if I abandoned my Snowdon Shadows mysteries.

Anyway, on to the Challenge. Please note, this present day tale began with my World War II story Feathered Fire, which introduced the Chayka family from Ukraine and appeared in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

The current stories open with Part 1, Rainbow Firebreak, for the WEP/IWSG April Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/04/20/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-a-hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/.

Part 2, Winged Woes, for the WEP/IWSG June Challenge:     https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/

Part 3, Moonbeam Magic, for the WEP/IWSG August Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/08/17/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-moonlight-sonata/

Part 4, Winged Death, for the WEP/IWSG October Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/wep-iwsg-october-challenge-thriller/

Apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments or struggle to visit all your posts after re-connection to the internet.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:


Blurb: Night Witches commit to soul mates in the season of what should mean Peace.

Part 5

Soul Seeds


Saturday, November 26thAirfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.

As her ground crew maneuvered the Gripen C into its shielded revetment, Anzhela Havrylyuk tried to ignore the mischievous glances of her partner Larisa Kovalyov.

Shouldn’t she behave now she’d been promoted to Kapitan and given command of Gold Wing?

Yet, everyone knew how intimate they were.

Larisa nodded to her crew mates, then sidled up to Anzhela, snaking arms around her.

“It’s been too long, lastachka.”

“One lonely night apart, myshka, while we moved back here.”

The embrace became a passionate kiss, broken when the Chayka majors approached.

“Sorry to interrupt your reunion,” said Vasy. “We have an urgent request, Kapitan.”

“We need you to take command of this squadron,” said Kalyna. “Temporarily… while Vasy and I are in Canada raising support for Ukraine.”

Anzhela gulped at the responsibility… the expectations. Air Force command no longer saw the Night Witches as an effective squadron after the high casualties during the Kharkiv offensive.

Six… including her wing leader and friend Ksenia Zelenko. Killed saving her.

“You are the best person to guide the sisters through this rebuilding,” said Vasy, putting a reassuring arm across her shoulders. “Our seven recruits will be in good hands.”

“Ignore any male prejudice, which questions the Witches’ ability to train new pilots,” added Kalyna. “We were given the most dangerous night missions… and still succeeded.”

Anzhela saluted, saying, “I’m honored you entrust the squadron to my care. I feel this winter will see us all demonstrate our effectiveness. When are you leaving?”

“Tomorrow morning, we drive across the border to Rzeszów,: said Kalyna. “There we join the fifty-three refugees we are helping join families in Canada. On Tuesday, our whole group flies from Kraków via London to Calgary—”

“Our full itinerary and contact details will be posted in the office,” added Vasy. “Plus, a duplicate in the shelter… in case a stray Russian missile deletes our records.”

“As long as it spares our canteen this time,” added Larisa. “Doesn’t a squadron fly better well fed?”


“The first time ever I saw your face,” said Anzhela, as she traced her lover’s nose, “I thought the sun rose in your eyes.”

“A lifetime ago,” replied Larisa. “Yet still, the moon and stars rise in yours. But if you weren’t studying in Kharkiv when my cousin Sergei was exploring clubs there, he’d never have introduced us.”

“And my life would have been dark. Now we share endless skies, my love.”

The couple embraced, letting the moon play across their snuggled bodies, as it shone through ice-frosted glass.

“Where is Sergei now?”

Larisa wiped tearful eyes. “I read on Telegram he was arrested for protesting mobilization and sent to the front.”

Anzhela shook her head. “That’s so wrong. He’s not a soldier.” She clasped her hands to her head. “I can’t kill him. I’ve already blood on my hands. Why can’t it be Putin’s.”


Monday, December 19th – Chayka Air, Cold Lake, Canada

The main hanger was transformed for this crucial fundraising event. Photos from Ukraine, from proud defenders to precious land, lined the walls. Among them the Night Witches, their jets, and ground staff. If supporters wondered where their aid was going, here was a photographic record.

Above was the Polikarpov U-2 flown to freedom by the Chayka sisters in 1944 – the iconic biplane of the original Night Witches.

Kalyna turned to her husband Leonid Sokol, saying, “Our eldest Aliona has excelled herself organizing tonight’s fundraiser.”

“I said she had your PR talent. Expect to raise another million tonight.”

From a dais at one side, Aliona addressed the gathering.

“Before we eat a traditional Ukrainian meal, I would like you to watch a documentary about the Russian Invasion and our reborn Night Witches – Nochnyye Vedmy.”

Even though she’d been in Ukraine since early March, and seen the team making the film, Kalyna was always moved reliving events and seeing departed sisters… like Ksenia. Looking at the guests, she knew the documentary touched them too.

After it concluded, Aliona said, “While you’re enjoying your meal, study the sheet on your table listing the items Ukraine need this winter. Many like warm gloves are things we take for granted as Canadians, when winter temperatures fall as low over there.”

She paused, and everyone looked at their lists.

“Now consider what you can spare this holiday season to donate to their struggle for their freedom… for ours. Whether it’s money for blankets or a jet, no sacrifice goes unseen. We thank you.”

The Cold Lake Garrison Commander opposite Kalyna leant forwards. “Major Chayka, as you’re serving with the Ukrainian Air Force, I must ask a question before I give my speech. By my count your squadron is five jets short if every trainee qualifies—”

“—and all six recovered wrecks become spare parts. Correct. The UAF who insists on giving us dangerous night missions wont supply new planes, even MiGs.”

“Do you prefer Hornets or Gripens?”

“Gripens suit Ukraine’s situation best. But it’s unlikely Sweden will give us more unless that gives them an advantage over Russia.’’

“Okay. I can work with that for now.”

The commander then talked with his deputy, while studying the donation list.

“Yoi made a good impression on him, lyuba,” said Leonid. ”As you did with me… in a different way, the first time ever I kissed your mouth. As I felt the earth move in my hand.”

He held her close, ignoring others. Kissing her deeply.

“And your trembling heart was there at my command, yagudka.”


As coffee was served, Aliona welcomed the Cold Lake Garrison Commander to speak.

He expressed his pride at being amongst so many brave people, especially the refugees, and those who were helping them settle in Canada.

He praised the documentary, adding, “All those associated with what Chayka Air are doing for Ukraine deserve gratitude. However, we all know more is needed.

“Please, give generously… as I and my fellow officers here will be doing, We can’t donate fighter jets, but we can ensure the Canadian Armed Forces pledges to fill the shortfall of the Night Witches squadron. Slava Ukrayini.”

Everyone clapped, then repeated the battle cry.

The commander approached Vasy and her husband Marko.

“Major and Mr Holub, may I join you, please?”

“Of course,” said Vasy. “We welcome whatever CAF can provide. Can they really fill our shortfall this winter?”

“When I report what you’ve achieved, Hornets will be found. CAF has been pledged to helping Ukraine since 2014… not just in military aid, but also humanitarian. Your help mirrors that and continues to.”

“We have to,” said Marko. “The war will end with our victory. But the recovery will be traumatic and long.”

“Have you made plans beyond the peace?”

“The immediate medical needs,” said Vasy. “More accessible health services for survivors, especially of sexual-based violence. As an all-women squadron we’ve learnt a lot about what remains buried.”

“The commander stood and exchanged salutes with Vasy, then joined his fellow officers.

Marko kissed his wife, long and tearfully.

“I don’t ever want to let you go… not now, not the first time I saw your face.:

“Nor I. The first time ever I felt your heart so close to mine and knew our joy would fill the earth.”

“And would last ’til the end of time, moya dusha.”

1229 words FCA

Slava Ukrayini

As promised I wrote Act 3 after posting this Flash. Link to next Part:


 #WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Moonlight Sonata

As the war in Ukraine continues, so will my tale of two Canadian-Ukrainian aviatrix cousins unfold to merge reality and inspiration from the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly challenges.

Once again Putin provided the grist – his clampdown on gay rights banning at the end of June “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”

Wasn’t Beethoven unable to marry Countess Guicciardi due to the strict social conventions at the time? Not the same but… echoes/ripples. Social conventions evolve but never let up.

On the war front, I had to address the shortage of Ukrainian fighter jets and the consequences. My solution might be fictional, but mirrors what is happening.

The ending is intentionally jarring, and a foreshadowing of October’s thrilling prompt.

On the life front: Although we moved into our new mobile home in June, we are not settled in yet. My stepson, his partner and baby are still with us. Finally, their brand new mobile home is ready – two months late. So, they’ve begun moving stuff over, but it may be next week before we can make use of two more rooms. The plan is for my wife to sleep in one and have her office in the other.

I will stay in the master but move from my wheelchair into a new hospital bed. It will be far better for me and my care team, as will a new wheelchair they’ve arranged – a swop for my dead machines. Also, my brother was over briefly from the UK to help, mainly with funding. Also, he suggested putting my desktop in the office and linking it to my laptop I can use in bed.

Anyway, on to the Challenge. Please note, this present day tale follows on from my World War II story Feathered Fire, which featured in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

Part 1, Rainbow Firebreak, for the WEP/IWSG April Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/04/20/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-a-hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/.

Part 2, Winged Woes, for the WEP/IWSG Challenge:     https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/

Apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments or struggle to visit all your posts after re-connection to the internet.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:


Blurb: As relationships are rekindled, an all-women squadron reforms in Ukraine

Part 3

Moonbeam Magic


Friday, July 1stKulbakino Airbase, Mykolaiv Oblast, Ukraine.

A MiG-29 Fulcrum takes off from Starokostiantyniv Air Base, Ukraine, Oct. 9 as part of the Clear Sky 2018 exercise. The exercise promotes regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

Kalyna counted the jets landing after their daily patrol of Ukrainian airspace. She noted the most experienced male flyers deplane, then stride towards the debriefing room.

“When will they let women fly again?” asked Vasy. “Are we on guard duty indefinitely?”

“The men get the choice missions,” responded Ksenia. “We might get a tough night mission…”

Assessing the squadron’s serviceable jets, Kalyna added, “when we get more planes. We have keen pilots joining the unit every month.”

Three young women approached, armed with assault rifles.

“Perimeter secure and guard changed as ordered, Major Zelenko,” said one of the trio, a wiry brunette.

Anzhela Havrylyuk was a recent recruit with flying experience at Motor Sich Airlines in south-eastern Ukraine.

She remained, hands clasped, nodding to her colleagues to leave.

“Majors… I need your advice… but it’s difficult—”

“Relax. We’re friends first… and women. Then officers,” said Ksenia. “What’s the problem?”

“My identity. I was born speaking Russian first… but here in Ukraine. I naively believed Putin wanted the best…” She stared at the three older women, then dropped her head.

“Continue,” said Vasy. “We guessed and understand.  But everything changed, so you volunteered.”

“Yes. The invasion was not as expected… and the wanton destruction isn’t liberation. Now Putin expects us to renounce our citizenship… and become Russian—” The next words were lost as a whisper.

“Take your time if there’s more.”

Tears formed as she said, “My Russian friend. Larisa… Larisa Kovalyov has disappeared… in Moscow… after Putin banned the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” But our son…”

As the moon rose over the airfield. The friends understood. Then hugged their distraught sister.

Friday, July 22nd – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.

A Canadian CF-18A Hornet from the 409th Squadron at Cold Lake, Alberta (Canada), launches a laser-guided bomb at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (USA), on 5 December 2006. U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Tim Pfeifer

Moonbeams flickered on the wingtips of the three CF-18A Hornets as they landed at the repurposed airfield in Western Ukraine – the Night Witches’ new home.

Once the jets had taxied onto the grass near the hangers, their pilots jumped down, then ran to embrace the cousins.

“How was the flight from Cold Lake?” Vasy asked Chayka Air’s lead instructor. “Any problems crossing foreign airspace?”

The woman smiled. “No problems. Total approval for this unofficial scheme. With the US dragging its feet, a private Canadian solution was necessary and welcome.”

“We knew the Chayka team would make everything work,” said Kalyna. “Are the others coming via Sweden as planned?”

“With the three Gripen Cs we acquired when the RCAF chose other replacements. Hopefully our colleagues get the armaments our trio require.”

“Will the Swedish Airforce send more Gripens?” asked Ksenia. “I’ve heard the Gripens can operate from every rough field we find—”

“–and be rearmed, serviced and refueled in 10-20 minutes by 5 untrained volunteer mechanics and a single trained crew chief,” added Chayka’s deputy mechanic. “Wasn’t that why I was coerced into this… and my Ukrainian heritage.”

“It’s why we’re all here… and why the millions of Canadian dollars raised for the Night Witches revival was possible.”

 The six Ukrainian recruits stood beside the three Canadian jets they would fly soon.

The third Canadian aviatrix added, “We painted the planes midnight blue for night missions… presuming that’s best for witch magic.”

Saturday, July 23rd – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.

Dniester River at twilight

Anzhela sat beside the meandering upper reaches of the Dniester River, watching the sun set to the west and praying her partner Larisa and their son Maks were safe somewhere.

“Travel safe my loves wherever the just path leads. We’ll make the zealots run.”

“Zealots are creating difficulties everywhere,” said Kalyna approaching from the base to the north. “There may be news soon. We’re expecting a truck from Poland tonight, bringing supplies and messages from abroad.”

As dusk fell, they reached the edge of the airfield. Headlights glistened on the tarmac and six military vehicles approached, guarded by an armored personnel carrier. The lead truck pulled up. The driver grinned as he saw Kalyna.

“I felt my wife would forgive me coming this far if I had gifts… like Polish alcohol, food, us-time and—”

“—perfect… as long as you have something for my friend Anzhela… plus, our munitions.”

“Of course, in the back with Vasy’s husband Marko.”

Anzhela slowly walked to the rear of the truck, where Larisa and Maks hugged and kissed her.

Beaming, she said, “So soon… how?”

“Others fleeing Putin’s clampdown… and they want to help.”

“Of course. I’m sure the majors will be pleased… welcome friends.”

Volunteers and crew unloaded the vehicles, while the armored personnel carrier patrolled the perimeter.

“No more foot patrols,” said Anzhela. “I won’t miss those.”

The sound of jet engines made everyone turn to watch three Gripen Cs clear the trees washed by the moonlight.

“But I’d love to fly one of those Swedish beauties, Larisa.”

Sunday, July 24th – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.

JAS 39 Gripen of The Swedish Air Force taking off from a short runway located on public road. San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive

Before dawn, the aircrew were gathered in the main hanger, where Chayka Air’s deputy mechanic was briefing the ground crew.

“…the Gripen is NATO compatible with weapons and avionics. It uses its own and link-16 datalink.”

“When the Gripen E is supplied to the Swedish Air Force, will they send us more Gripens?” asked Ksenia.

“We don’t know that yet,” replied Kalyna. “But they sent spare parts and munitions. They’ll monitor our progress.”

“Which jets will we train on, please?” asked a recruit.

“All of you will eventually fly all three models,” said Ksenia. “We’ll form three wings rotating planes. Maybe we’ll receive more to master. For now, it’s three MiG-29s. three Hornets, and three Gripens.”

”The wings are as follows,” said Vasy. “Gold: Ksenia Zelenko, Anzhela Havrylyuk. Mariyka Shevchuk. Blue: Vasy Chayka, Dariya Kravchenko, Tamila Medved. Red: Kalyna Chayka, Olha Tkachuk, Raisa Bondarenko.”

Saturday, July 30th – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.

Moon over Kyrkevik in Lysek by W.carter

Clouds covered the moon, and a chill gripped Ksenia. Were any of the Ukrainian prisoners killed in Russia’s massacre at Olenivka captured at the Azovstal steel mill?

Her brother?

1,000 words FCA


#WEP/IWSG February Challenge – All You Need Is Love

I feared my entry for this month’s WEP/IWSG Challenge would be too late as there were too many interruptions, not least diving down too many rabbit holes... and WordPress being a pain.

Anyway, a writer is never late, nor is he early. He posts precisely when he means to… as the deadline looms.

Having done two Challenge years of Sparkle and Kama tales and having written a romantic interlude for them in December, I felt it was time to give my Norse snow queen another overdue outing. The last one was in December 2019: https://rolandclarke.com/2019/12/11/wep-iwsg-december-challenge-footsteps/

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:



Gold medals are gifted through divine skills and love.



Tuesday, February 8th

Constant clamour engulfs my ears. The din as Ægir’s dreaded daughters crash against the rocks, sending salt spray skyward.

Seagull squadrons screech and thieve my food as they assault me.

Not what I craved, yet my husband Njörðr expects me to enjoy my days at his Nóatún home beside the whale’s way, watching him play.

Sail-boarding, surfing, and today water skiing.

He insists I admire him showing off his talent. But he won’t teach me, even though as the snow-ski specialist I taught him my arts.

Why did I choose him? Cheated by Loki. Made to decide by selecting feet. Handsome limbs – yes. But not Baldr the Beautiful’s as I desired.

So now, Njörðr believes in this false fetish, saying, “See what this gorgeous god can do, and the skill’s all down to fantastic footwork.”

All I want is real romance. Poetic passion. Epic emotions.

Or escape to frozen-tear drifts. Time to be myself.

Time to leave him for the serene silence of my mountains. I must snow-dance again.


Skadi by Michael Jorvik

Thursday, February 10th

Silent-fall settles as I skill-slide into the rural resort near Thrutheimr, my alpine abode. The winter-blanket glistens under the silver-face, and I enter the central mead-hall.

Everyone is enthralled by the glowing screen showing the Beijing Winter Olympics. We all have our favourites in the final of the Women’s 10k cross-country, though all have learnt my arts.

But we cheer loudest whenever a Scandinavian competitor poles ahead of desperate rivals, and we toast the shield-maidens’ prowess.

A strong arm clasps my shoulder, and a seductive voice says, “We’ve bred them strong and swift in our lands. You’ve inspired them, Snow-Dancer, see.”

I smile then celebrate with my people as the Nordic countries sweep the podium, taking gold, silver, and bronze.

Then I turn my gaze on the handsome stranger.

He feels familiar even disguised, and I tease the truth.

“Wandering or seeking rings to break?”

He hands me a silver locket. “Will this do, Snow-Stepper? Or do you want something more precious? You’ve already won every gold medal.”

I laugh, louder than when Loki tussled with a goat then cheated me.

“All I desire is love. Is this heart-bait truly given? Or another trick?”

Music drifts across the celebrating crowd as he laughs and offers to remove his boots.

“I know about your foot-fetish. These aren’t my son Baldr’s, but my heart is bolder.”

“Do you seek to hide from me? That footwork was a falsity fabricated by the Mischief-Maker. It’s not the feet but what goes with them – and how you use them and where.”

Oðinn says, “I desire you forever by my side, Skaði, my goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. Will you be one with me – my Snow Queen? If wished I will break the rings binding you to Njörðr.”

“And what of  your other lovers?”

He covers an eye.

“I sacrificed one sight-light for my wisdom and presage. You will be foremost—”

“—and you tell all your conquests that.”  I point to my face, then wink. “I’m not snow-blind. Frigg will view me as a threat… to marriage-purity. But I foresee another rival – Freyja, Njörðr’s daughter.”

Oðinn hesitates and I fear my truth-quest is doomed.

His grin captivates as the jukebox plays ‘All You Need Is Love’.

“Freyja shed tears of gold when I left to wander the Earth. Do we expect our shield-maidens to receive lesser rewards if I repent? Our match is fated, so we must commit to—”

“—to Infinity and beyond, heart-caller.”

614 words FCA

Apologies to those who know their Norse mythology and folklore, as I’ve taken a few liberties here. However, with so little from the ‘Viking era’ surviving, and much of it being oral in origin, I’m following in the bastardising bardic tradition.

For those who like rabbit holes, visit:

Throughout the mythology, Freya is associated with gold. When her husband leaves her to wander the Earth (more on him below), she cries tears of gold. Because of this story, “Freya’s tears” became a kenning, or poetic circumlocution, used to represent the word “gold” in Norse poetry. Freya’s golden necklace Brísingamen (“flaming necklace”) appears in connection with the goddess in several Eddic tales. According to Snorri Sturluson, the terms “flame” and “fire” are often connected with gold in poetry of the North “since it is red,” so it should not be assumed that Freya’s necklace was a thing of fire, but that it was simply made of her favorite metal.

          [From: http://https://www.norsemyth.org/2010/04/gods-goddesses-part-one.html]


Due to numerous similarities, scholars have frequently connected Freyja with the goddess Frigg. The connection with Frigg and question of possible earlier identification of Freyja with Frigg in the Proto-Germanic period (Frigg and Freyja origin hypothesis) remains a matter of scholarly discourse.[67] Regarding a Freyja-Frigg common origin hypothesis, scholar Stephan Grundy comments, “the problem of whether Frigg or Freyja may have been a single goddess originally is a difficult one, made more so by the scantiness of pre-Viking Age references to Germanic goddesses, and the diverse quality of the sources. The best that can be done is to survey the arguments for and against their identity, and to see how well each can be supported.”[68]

[From:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freyja ]

As for the Winter Olympics reference, that is based on real events. On February 10th at the Beijing Games, the 10k gold medallist was Therese Johaug (Norway), the silver medallist was Kerttu Niskanen (Finland), and the bronze medallist was Krista Pärmäkoski (Finland) – so, a Nordic clean sweep.


And now for the music:  

#WEP/IWSG December Challenge – Narcissus

I feared my entry for this month’s WEP/IWSG Challenge would be too late, but then as I wrote this short piece, I realised I had to post today. The reason might become relevant on reading the last scene. As for the theme, I found a Welsh element to tie elements together for Sparkle and Kama.

This 2021 Year of the Art theme has provoked some interesting thoughts – and trips down rabbit holes.

Although this year’s posts are not another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, I’ve attempted something else involving them. So, once more I’m going down the stand-alone path with my dynamic Welsh duo.

But this time, I’ve tried a change of genre – well, perhaps. Also, this is a response to my editor pointing out an oversight in my Fevered Fuse novel – the lack of personal growth.

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:



Uplifted by daffodils, two women affirm their love and pledge to fight for human rights.



Saturday, 10th December

I stare at the unfamiliar reflection and wince. Pain comes with the job,but I can’t go out like this – not to celebrate.

Stupid. Some guys never give up easily – even cuffed.

Does it matter how I look? I purse my lips. Perhaps. I’m not vain, but tonight is special.

I reach for the makeup bag. Should I use some yellow concealer to hide my black eye? The icepack helped, but it’s still obvious. People might jump to the wrong conclusion. Abusive partner.

My fingers touch the slash on my cheek. Is a scar a turn off or a mark of courage?

Will Kama care? My whisper echoes round our bedroom.

“Of course not, cariad.” Kama replies in the doorway. I swivel and smile as she walks over, then kisses me softly. “You’re beautiful whatever happens.”

Then she sits down beside me at the vanity table.She traces the cut, then my nose. “At least, he didn’t break your mischievous feature.” She continues caressing my face.

The perfect excuse for my own daring exploration for hidden pleasure.

“Leave something for later. We need to get dressed up not down. After dinner antics are best.”

“Haven’t we always eaten first.” I slow my teasing hands, then add, “We never break the rules.”

“Except speeding on our bikes. That’s an unbroken addiction.”

Motorbikes brought us together nearly five years earlier – as did crime and our first case together.

I let our lips meet, and I enjoy the taste of minty cardamom. Long and lingering, and then I ask, “Do you ever regret the life we lead?”

“Never. I’m proud to be your partner. Both as a wife and a cop. You have doubts?”

“No longer, chellam. I admit my heart has wavered – doubt can be a mischievous trickster – was once. But we’ve proved ourselves as women, as lovers, and as crime busters.”

Kama clasps my hands. “Now we can be open with our pride, despite the risks.”

“Risk is our adrenaline and will be forever. And there are tests ahead, but we have each other. Still, I’m covering up these blemishes before we go out.”

“The table is booked for eight so I can pamper myself too. And then I’ve a present for us downstairs. Seasonal light for the cottage.”


A floral feast fills our front room. Dozens of displays of daffodils, not yellow but white blooms.

Kama beams with the flowers. “It may be eleven weeks until St David’s Day on March 1st, but why wait until our Welsh National Holiday?”

“Paperwhites – I love these daffodils. Perfect Christmas light bringers.”

“And I bought some bulbs to plant for the Spring as well. Plus, I added some which might flower on New Year’s Day. Those bring good fortune according to Chinese legend.”

“A bonus – even if having each other is our valuable destiny already.”

“I’ll echo that sentiment, cariad.”


We arrive on time at the Italian trattoria to celebrate and ‘Stand up for someone’s rights’ on a day when we are lucky to be in Wales.

When our cocktails arrive, I toast all those who fight for justice. “Not just on Human Rights Day but at every moment, chellam.”

“And together, we can take a stand for more humanity.”

On the wall behind, the face of Caravaggio’s Narcissus looks down through his pool of water at us and the vase of paperwhites on our table.

571 words FCA

Crime never sleeps.

Nor does the fight for justice and human rights.


#WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Freedom of Speech

Crime never sleeps.

My apologies for the late appearance of Post IV in this year’s WEP/IWSG challenge – the Year of the Art. My first Covid-19 vaccine knocked me sideways and I’m still recovering – and dreading the second one.

Although this year’s posts are not another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, I’ve attempted something else involving them.

So, once more I’m going down the stand-alone path with my dynamic Welsh duo.

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:




Friday, 9th May

This shadow is ideal. Perfect for surveillance without drawing attention to ourselves.

Jeans, sweatshirts, and suede jackets ensure Kama and I merge into the crowd gathered in the hall.

The debate has been civil, although the candidates have all made it clear where they stand on Europe.

In versus out. Vocal arguments with tinges of indecision.

But no sign of the anticipated public order threats – yet.

A smartly dressed man in a pale suit smiles at the gathering, pleads with weaving gestures. “We’re British, we’re not European. One language ensures we remain the United Kingdom. Do you want to be ruled by other nations? Forced to speak other languages? We must reject their unjust directives.”

The Green candidate appeals for calm as several people shout from the audience, pointing at the outspoken man.

I turn to Kama. “He’s deliberately provoking us – the Welsh.”

“He’s the intended target – supposedly. Watch for trouble. He’s setting himself up for attacks.”

Two young women leap up, dressed in our norm of black leathers, and shout – in Welsh. “You’re the invader forcing us to accept your rule – talk your language.”

“Speak English, please, not your foreign gibberish. Nobody can understand you. We don’t have translators here like the European Parliament.”

Another candidate, the woman from Plaid Cymru stands and asks first in Welsh. “Stand if you understood these sisters.” Then as almost everyone stands, she adds in English. “Our Brexit colleague has the right of free speech…” She pauses, then continues, “But not the right to claim his language should dominate us. Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon.”

“My apologies. However, isn’t the law upheld in English. What do my seated friends say?”

Before Kama or I can correct his legal presumption as officers who caution bi-lingually, some seated guys leap to their feet.

They mask their faces as they throw projectiles at the dais and into the crowd.

Flour bombs explode.

“Not just flour.” I choke as Kama shoves a scarf on my mouth.

“Tear gas. We need to protect the bigot.”

“Unless he planned this evening.” Blinded by flour and tears,we stumble towards the platform.

No sign of the candidate. Abducted or scarpered?

We keep searching amidst the confusion. No sign of him or the masked bombers.

Image: Bert Kaufmann/Adam Walker

Monday, 12th May

A bolt hole for a scared politician? Or for a devious one?

But the campaign office echoes others I’ve seen. Diligent drones. Harassed helpers. Flyers and posters everywhere. Clicking keyboards.

“Morning officer. Have you arrested those protesters? The ones trying to challenge my freedom of speech?” The instigator ignores my initial attempt to reply and ploughs on. “Flour bombs and tear gas are offensive weapons—”

“We have a couple of protestors in custody.”

He smiles, continuing to ignore the plain clothes officer beside me – Kama. Did he see us at the meeting – together? And standing with the other Welsh speakers? Obviously not.

“Is this one of them? Come to apologise?”

Kama produces her warrant card. “I was hoping you could answer a few questions as I’m leading the investigation. Provoking unlawful violence is a serious offence under the 1986 Public Order Act. A person guilty of such an offence could face imprisonment for six months or a hefty fine. Shall we talk here or have you a separate office, please?”

His demeanour and voice waver. “Well, um… You’d better follow me…officers. Anything to help…resolve any misunderstanding.”

His office is spacious and uncluttered, except for the electoral material promoting his attempt at election in ten days.

He sits behind his desk, waving us to the seats on the other side.

The desk is meant to be formidable and intimidating. But Kama has dented his defences already.

“Those hooligans misunderstood. I have the right to say what I believe – as do they. But throwing an offensive missile must be a crime—”

“As is orchestrating this event. The statements from your supporters make it clear what you intended—”

“My supporters? You must be mistaken. Those were Welsh Nationalists – they deliberately attacked me. My human rights were violated, as they have been throughout this campaign. Abuse, slander, and lies.”

Kama smiles, then turns to me. “Did the flour bombers speak any Welsh, PC Anwyl?”

“Only a few badly constructed and pronounced curses. But they declared their allegiance to a British nationalist cause – like yours, sir.” Then, I give him the statutory caution and warning against further incitement to violence and electoral fraud, adding, “Or we will be obliged to report you to the relevant European authorities.”

He leans forward, but his threatening gesture is empty. “I don’t recognise that authority, but I will prove the people are on my side at the polls. Trust me. Thank you, ladies.”

Dismissed, we stand, satisfied the press coverage of the incident will undermine his chances.

As we leave his bolt hole, I notice a framed print on his wall. Norman Rockwell’s famous “Freedom of Speech” painting. I point at the print, then turn back towards our English fanatic.

“Free Speech – a right none of us should abuse. And to close the debate, I’ll add, Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon – meaning, ‘A nation without language is a nation without heart’. Remember that.”

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom of Speech,” 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4″ x 35 1/2″. Story illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” February 20, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

878 words FCA

The ‘Freedom of Speech’ prompt triggered thoughts about political hustings in England and Wales as I was involved on the fringes of politics for decades.

As I said in my last WEP/IWSG Challenge post, conservation and environmental threats have concerned me for decades – peace issues included. I was a member of the Green Party for years, involved in various elections – once as a candidate – and worked with Green politicians in other countries, including some elected members of parliaments (Mps and MEPs).

So, I welcomed a chance to involve Sparkle and Kama in an election incident, one that slotted into their storyline – preferably an election I voted in. After some rabbit-hole research into Welsh elections, I chose the 2014 European Elections: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_European_Parliament_election_in_the_United_Kingdom.

In this fictional scenario, I envisaged the provocative right-wing candidate losing – and in reality, the most extreme candidates did lose. But sadly, in my opinion, Britain later left the European Union. Although green in my beliefs, I voted in 2014 for the Plaid candidate, Jill Evans as she was an effective MEP and an active  member of the Green / European Free Alliance (EFA) Group.