Wednesday 16 August 2023


chocolate in RENAISSANCE times – an elite treat

Why I’m posting on this blog -

As this is my pen-name, Silver Tree’s blog, I will post about my vampire series and the era I dropped him in. It worked for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and the idea of CHOCOLAT(E) in Renaissance times intrigued me beyond measure so I joined the August challenge.

DUKE VIPUNIN DI CASTELLINA – my vampire hero is from a hill town in Tuscany where I’ve visited and checked locations, and Florence, where I did the same, drooling over the Medici (who feature strongly in my series)  landmarks throughout the city. What you read about Castellina in my series is authentic, the castle and tunnels and town are still standing today. 

Castello di Castellina

And Florence just gets better over time.

WHY RENAISSANCE TIMES? – author’s choice. My favorite period in history, heralding the move into modern times, but with so much color!

So let’s get into this chocolate biz -

In Tuscany, the birthplace of my Renaissance vampire, Duke Vipunin di Castellina, the history of chocolate begins with the adventurous Florentine merchants around the 15th century. These merchants built empires, every bit as sophisticated as any modern businessman and ever ready to sell their soul for money. Hmmm. As my hero Vipunin quips when in conference with his ‘brother-in-all-but-blood’ the prince, ruler of Florence, Cosimo de Medici, “it is refreshing when a Florentine merchant is interested in something other than money.”

During the Renaissance, (beginning circa 14th century), eating well was a real art. In this period “banquet” etiquette was born where the prince showed all his wealth to his subjects, but rarely shared it with the peasants. Food and drink were signs of status, with the upper classes enjoying banquets the peasants could only dream about as they clutched their hunks of bread and drank the ale that sustained their short lives. Which is why humanist Vipunin, pre-vampire, always threw a big party on his castle grounds to honor his laborers at the end of the grape harvest. He served copious food and drink to the peasants, much to the disgust of his half-brother, Abelli the betrayer, who tells Vipunin in no uncertain terms how things will be different when he gets rid of his young brother.

Onto the scene of “fine dining for the elites” came this exotic food imported from South America everyone was talking about. 

Chocolate arrived in Europe during the 1500s, likely brought by both Spanish friars and conquistadors who had traveled to the Americas. Chocolate played an important political, spiritual and economic role in ancient 
Mesoamerican civilizations, who ground roasted cacao beans into a paste that they mixed with water, vanilla, chili peppers and other spices to brew a frothy chocolate drink.

Originally consumed as a bitter drink, it was prized as both an aphrodisiac and an energy booster. The Spanish sweetened the bitter drink with cane sugar and cinnamon, but one thing remained unchanged: chocolate reigned as a delectable symbol of luxury, wealth and power—an expensive import sipped by royal lips, and affordable only to elites.

In Florence, with the particular jasmine-scented chocolate, produced by the Medici, there is a progressive move away from complicated tastes of the Spanish to bring out tastes such as rose, orange and lemon essences, ancient flavors to be appreciated today.

Chocolate’s popularity eventually spread to other European courts, where aristocrats consumed it as a magic elixir with health benefits. To slake their growing thirst for chocolate, European powers established colonial plantations in equatorial regions around the world to grow cacao and sugar, thus that ugly word ‘slavery’ entered the chocolate business and unfortunately continues today. (Buy Fairtrade chocolate).

At the end of the Renaissance, this exotic cocoa called "food of the Gods" was successfully experimented with in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Duke Vipunin’s home, and its consumption became one of the many elements of the status symbol typical of the time.

It wasn’t until centuries later that the invention of the cocoa press by Dutch inventors, the van Houtens, that chocolate became cheaper and more readily available to the masses. The cocoa press ushered in the modern era of chocolate by enabling it to be used as a confectionery ingredient, and the resulting drop in production costs made chocolate much more affordable.

The cocoa press squeezed the fatty butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving behind a dry cake that could be pulverized into a fine powder and mixed with liquids and other ingredients, poured into molds and solidified into edible, easily digestible chocolate we so love today.

But of course, my vampire Vipunin couldn't enjoy the delights of chocolate once he became a vampire. Once a connoisseur of wine and fine food, he is reduced to a hateful "blood sucker".

TAGLINE: A world without chocolate would be a sad world indeed; thank God for the adventurous ones who brought chocolate home from distant lands!

Thanks for visiting Silver Tree's blog for the WEP challenge!
Please don't forget to FOLLOW ME!


Wednesday 21 June 2023

#WEP #JUNECHALLENGE - Close Encounters of the Third Kind - my #flashfiction - Close Encounter With a Vampire Queen

Hi all!

This is a close encounter from the second book in my Duke Vipunin vampire series set during the Renaissance. Here the main character is coming to terms with his new life and fighting against those who have done this to him. I hope you enjoy it.

Close Encounter With a Vampire Queen


Alliyra the Vampire Queen slept. Vipunin unwound her arms from his neck, crept past the vampires sprawled where they’d fallen into daysleep. Murderous swords were clasped against their chests. He imagined one piercing his heart or lopping off his head.

He slipped past Luigi the Ancient One. The lumbering vampire snored so the walls of the cave shook, but there would be hell to pay if Luigi caught him.

Squirming through the intricately entwined branches over the cave entrance, he was free.


He flew down the mountainside. Wove between trees. Slipped on stones and slick undergrowth. The forest between Italy and France lay before him.

Tall trees protected him from the early-morning rays. But there were things more dangerous than the sun. Flying over fallen trees and running up-current through streams, he covered his scent from his pursuers.

He ripped apart vines and branches, tested his new powers. Tried to block Alliyra from his mind.

Failed. He could not resist the formidable lure of the enchantress.

Alliyra had turned him, wrenched him from his life and his people. His beloved Ciassia was alone in Tuscany with his brother, Abelli the betrayer. With Vipunin dead, Abelli lorded it over Vipunin’s castle and lands. Until Vipunin returned to reclaim his inheritance.

As he ran, sounds, sights and smells bombarded his enhanced senses. Over logs. Through dense undergrowth. Under trees. He smelled rotting animals, decaying undergrowth, the bittersweet fragrance of oak. He marveled at birdsong, marveled at every vein of every leaf of every tree, marveled at every slick green vine that snaked overhead. Under his feet, he squelched mounds of pungent brown leaf, alive with the humus of centuries.

A massive tree root slammed him face first into the forest floor. He slithered like a felled knight at the joust, pushed earth in mounds before his outstretched hands. He was earth’s creature. He was Earth. He lay, ear to the ground, listening for the rumble of vampire footfalls.


Then … several furlongs behind him … Alliyra’s musky scent. Every hair on his arms rose. His breath hitched. She was closing the distance with lightning speed.

Arrows shot into his mind – Stop, my love. Come back. Return to me.

Hauling himself to his feet, he darted forward. Get away from her.


Alliyra’s anger prickled Vipunin’s skin. Her frustration shook his heart. Her rage sent hot blood shooting through his veins. What would she do if she captured him? Withhold blood and watch him die a long and painful death? Stab him through the heart with her bejeweled sword?

Entangled with his thoughts, he was surprised when claws dug into his skin through slashes in his ripped doublet. ‘Duke. What are you doing?’ Her voice was a wild animal at his throat.

Anger surged through him, waves of boiling oil. He wrenched his arms from her grip. No escape. Panic tore his heart.

‘Why do you run?’ Alliyra’s huge green eyes brimmed with a bowl of tears. ‘I’ve given you a second life. Look at your new, strong, handsome body, and how your hair grows lustrous long.’ She threw him backward against the nearest oak. Squeezed his shoulder muscles, ran her hands over his chest, down his thighs. Disregarding his hands slapping hers away, she flipped his cloak over his shoulder, scorched his flesh with her fingers. ‘You are a magnificent creature.’ Her deep, captivating voice rumbled. ‘No one excites me like you.’ She wrapped her steely arms around him, clasped him to her chest so he could scarce breathe.

Angry breath clogged his throat. In his world, women were soft creatures; men spoke with swords. In this new terrifying world, this one woman controlled hundreds of men.

He fought her hold like he’d done the night she’d turned him. ‘Leave me. Free me. I want no part of this life.’ He twisted, kicked her shins. She yelped in surprise but held fast. ‘I’ll never be one of you,’ he shouted.

‘Don’t rage so, Duke. You are one of us, Dear-ling. No one will ever love you as much as I.’ She held him with one hand while she ran her fingers through the length of his hair with the other. ‘In seven days your hair has grown halfway down your back.’

As if that were a good thing. He struck her hand. ‘Don’t do this.’ He fought her mesmerizing eyes which compelled him to do revolting things.

She rammed his head against the tree, draped her body over his, arm for arm, leg for leg, face for face. ‘Since you drank from me, I now read your every thought. You are my blood spouse. Nothing should revolt you.’ Her eyes lit with passion. She touched her puncture marks with trembling fingers. ‘Taste me. Grow strong.’

‘Stop it.’ He ground his knuckles over his eyes, blocked her spell. He longed for his beloved Ciassia, not this witch. He recalled his first time in Ciassia’s arms. Their gentle lovemaking before he left her. ‘Luigi is your blood spouse, Alliyra. He’ll kill me for usurping his place.’

The glint in her eyes showed him she enjoyed two men fighting over her. 

‘Luigi does as I say. He worships me.’ Her voice triumphant, she pulled his head close to hers, forcing him to see her. ‘Worship me. Don’t run,’ she warned, ‘or I’ll give Luigi permission to punish you.’

‘You’re a fool. Luigi does as Luigi wants.’

‘Take care how you address me.’ Her eyes blazed with her need to control him. Taking a ragged breath, she intoned her spell:

Blood thirst

is yours.

Take from me

Be transformed my love.

Now … drink, Dear-ling, drink.’

He must trick her into trusting him. The sooner he broke free, the sooner he’d return to normal life. But what would become of him? Even though of noble status, an erstwhile advisor and brother to the powerful de’ Medici rulers of Florence, he’d be a pariah, his body burned, buried deep, exhumed on a regular basis to ensure he was really dead.

Alliyra’s eyes lit red. ‘Stop thinking of your old life. Drink.’ She jammed his mouth into her neck. ‘Why do you always make it so hard?’

Shrugging, he pierced her and drank. As Alliyra’s blood coursed through his veins, every one of the new cells her blood created hummed with power. How fast he could run, his sharp vision, how distant sounds magnified, how intense smells overwhelmed him, how minds opened to him. Power.

Every new power would be used to defeat his enemies, starting with her.

‘Enough.’ Alliyra tugged his head from her throat, brushed her wound with her fingers, healing it. ‘Forget escape. Forget your old life. Forget Ciassia. You belong to me. No more idyllic days with your earth-bound, high-born lady who will grow old and ugly, no cherubic children will play at your feet. A pity. Your children would have been extraordinarily handsome.’ She tossed her hair, rattled the knuckles from the dead that decorated her braids, flashed her eyes cruelly. ‘That … will … never … happen.’

Here was something strange. She saw the future. Did his seed enter Ciassia on that golden afternoon in the vineyard and was it even now taking root in her womb?

Alliyra held his cheeks, ground her face into his, her woodsy forest fragrance suffocating. ‘Embrace your new reality.’

He made a vow. He’d embrace his dark side, use his new powers to break the chains. One day he’d return to Ciassia, his love, his betrothed. He’d destroy Abelli for selling Vipunin’s soul, for making him the newest member of the Children of the Night vampire coven.




The Devil’s spawn.

Plaything of Alliyra, the Vampire Queen.

But not forever.

Someday, somehow, no matter what trials he faced, no matter how long they held him enchained, he’d find his way back to Ciassia.

And their love child.

WORDS: 1300


Now go HERE to read more entries for:

Post - June 21st  to 23rd 2023

Monday 29 May 2023



Once assured Alliyra slept, he unwound her arms from his neck and crept past the unconscious vampires sprawled where they’d fallen. He grimaced seeing the huge swords clasped against their chests, imagining one piercing his heart or lopping off his head. How he burned to steal one. His own sword had been left behind in Italy, and he’d been issued no other.