Currently Browsing: Fantasy
Aug 28, 2012
Syeribus Creatures of the Night, by L. M. Boelz
Description: Carol had the perfect family, in a small English province during the late 1940′s. A place where she feared nothing, as her imagination took her from one adventure to the other. This, was unfortunately was all too soon to change. After hearing stories warning of a mysterious troll-like creature that hid under your bed at night, Carol began to wonder if the recent foreboding sounds and shadows in her room were more than the normal sounds of the house settling.
Carol continued to be faced with uncertainty, when she learned that she was moving to America. Her mother said it was a place full of wonder, where your dreams could come true. However, she soon found herself wishing her dreams would just go away. Carol hoped that by moving to America she could leave her fear of the dark behind. Instead, her fear of the unknown began to unfold as the darkness began to reveal secrets, which were better off left hidden beneath the shadows. In an effort to help herself face her growing fears, Carol began weaving tales of heroic deeds where she always saved the day.
As she moved progressively across America, Carol found others also interested in creating tales of fantasy and adventure. Encouraged by this, Carol started The Weaver of Shadows Club.
Carol found herself falling deeper into the darkness. In the club, she was able to explain away her fears, and bad dreams. Until unexpectedly, the tales told by other members in the club began to mirror her dreams a little too closely. Carol found herself questioning whether they were really dreams at all. Most of all she Carol was left with a haunting unanswered question: Was “the troll-like creature, referred to as Syeribus by the old man, behind it all?
Stomping her feet on the doormat and brushing the dirt off of her pants, Carol twisted around to survey herself.
“There, I think that’s pretty good,” she commented to herself, while feeling satisfied that she had done all that she could not to track dirt into the house.
Carol was through the front door and approaching the living room, as her father was trying to convince her mother of something.
“It would be fun. There are going to be other families and lots of other children there too,” he offered, using his best pleading voice.
Becoming very excited with the possibility of going on a trip somewhere, anywhere, Carol bounded into the living room and came to a halt, just short of where her father was sitting.
“Where are we going? I want to go!” Carol burst out.
“You don’t even know where it is that you want to go, Little One,” Mom replied coyly.
“It doesn’t matter, Mom. I heard the words fun and lots of children to play with. That’s all I need to know!” Carol almost shouted.
“Since it’s a company camping trip, it’s all paid for, and you’ll know most of the people there.” he continued to explain.
Carol’s imagination wasted no time in coming up with guesses on where they might be going. Carol waited while her mother playfully tortured them by making them wait for her answer.
“Well… alright. I don’t see much harm in going,” she finally relented.
Not wanting to waste any time, Carol raced off to her room to start packing.
The next weekend, with the car all packed, it was time to head out for their first camping trip.
“This is going to be a grand adventure!” Carol declared, as she climbed into the back seat.
Pulling into the campsite parking lot, Carol bolted out of the car and began marveling at all the different sights and sounds to explore, not to mention the sweet smell of pine trees coming from everywhere. The trees stood so tall against the sky and the breeze was cooler than back home, but it felt so good. Stopping for a moment to close her eyes against the sun, Carol took in a deep breath and wondered, Why couldn’t we live here?
With all of their things unloaded from the car, everyone carried what they could to the campsite.
“I will have this up in a jiffy. I have pitched my fair share of tents in my day. I will see you up at the end of this trail, at campsite number three,” her dad stated matter-of-factly.
Stopping to close the trunk, Carol followed her mother up the trail. At first, Carol walked closely behind her while trying to look into the trees, to see if she might be able to spot any deer or even a bear!
Knowing they would be cooking hotdogs later, Carol scanned the trail for the perfect stick. Spotting one, she stopped for a second to stoop down and pick up a long stick. Seeing that she was falling behind, Carol hurried to catch back up.
“What do you have there?” her mother queried.
“This is my hot dog stick, Mom. Isn’t it a beauty?” Carol asked, while holding the stick up.
“Don’t the tents look grand?” Carol asked, as they came into view. “Which one is ours?”
“Your dad said ours was number three.”
As they walked past a few campsites, they both read the numbers aloud, “seven, six, five.”
“Here, Mom, our tent is over here. And what a great job Dad did of putting the tent up, too,” Carol called out in a triumphant voice, at having been the first one to spot the site.
After everything had been put away, everyone attending the company camping trip gathered down at the fire-pit shortly before sunset. Carol sat examining the stick that she had found for roasting hotdogs, when her attention was drawn away by the sound of people laughing and having fun.
“You know, Little Lady, I think I can hear people out by the water. I wonder if someone should go check and see if that’s where your father has gone off to,” Carol’s mother wondered aloud.
“I’ll do it!” Carol almost yelled.
Laughing softly at how animated her daughter could be at times, Carol’s mother sent her to look for her father. “I think it would be okay, for you to go ahead and play with the other children at the water’s edge, as long as you are down there anyway,” her mother added.
After a full afternoon of unpacking and playing, it was time to come back to the campsite to get ready for dinner, which was to be followed by campfire stories.
Arriving back at the campsites, the adults, and children, who had gone into the lake earlier, quickly changed into some drier and warmer clothes, before returning to the shoreline to watch the sunset with their co-workers and their families attending the company camping trip, before dinner.
Carol watched in silence, as the sun slowly melted into the water. Oh, the colors were magnificent! The sky was filled with oranges and reds, causing the clouds that hung in the sky to look like softly spun cotton candy with their pink and blue tones. The setting sun cast ribbons of what looked like molten gold and silver gliding on the gently rippling water.
With only a little light remaining, everyone headed over to sit near the fire. Settling in, Carol sat staring into the flames, as they wickedly flickered and danced in the light breeze, as if they were alive.
Glancing to the man sitting next to her, Carol couldn’t help wondering, With a nose as big as that, can he smell things better than other people can?
Carol’s attention was taken away from staring at his nose, when he leaned over towards her and softly asked, “Did you know that some people say that if you stare into the flames of a fire long enough, you can hypnotize yourself?”
Carol’s stare went from his nose to his eyes. They were the strangest looking eyes she had ever seen. They were large and unusually close together. The round wire rimmed glasses he wore made them look even larger than they actually were.
“No, I did not know that,” Carol replied, while trying hard not to continue staring at him.
“Okay, may I have your attention,” a short, round bald man declared, as he stood up in front of the fire. “I want to thank all of you. Without the dedication of our sales team, Little Lake Bass and Hunting Shop would not be what it is today.”
Everyone sitting around the campfire clapped and cheered, as their employer took a bow.
“Okay, as those of you who have been on camping trips with us before already know…” he then paused briefly, “We have a tradition of seeing who can tell the scariest campfire story, and as usual, there will be a cash bonus going to the winner.”
Carol found herself startled, when a tall slender man who had been sitting near a pile of firewood jumped up without warning.
“Prepare to be terrified, like you have never been terrified before in your lives!” he boasted.
Taking up a flashlight and drawing it up close under his chin, he used the light to cast an eerie glow across his face.
Carol couldn’t help thinking how he looked like a Daddy Long Legs Spider, as he crouched and crept around in the firelight. The flashlight made his eyes look sunken into his face, almost as if they weren’t even there. Except for when the light would catch them just right, then, and only then, could you see tiny sparks where the eyes should have been.
His tale was about others that had gone camping, and were never to be heard from again. He went on to explain how one at a time, the campers all disappeared. When one of them would leave to collect firewood or go for a walk down by the lake, it would be the last time anyone would see them. As he continued, the gruffness in his voice helped to add a sinister feel to the story, which hung in the air like a thick grey mist.
Carol watched him, as he walked, methodically from one side of the fire-pit to the other. His slow deliberate movements began to have an almost hypnotic effect on the rest of the group as they watched his every move, and listened to his every word. He talked about how the other campers, tried to stay together in groups, but even this did not help. Each morning, when they would wake-up, there would be someone else missing. Finally, there was no one left. No trace was found of the missing people. No tracks. No clues. Nothing at all.
As the storyteller made his way to the other side of the fire-pit, Carol whispered to her mother, “If no one was left, then how does he know what happened?”
Looking down at her daughter with the oddest expression, “Oh, you are a silly little one. It’s only a story. It didn’t really happen,” her mother replied.
“Oh, I knew that. I was testing you to see if you believed it or not.”
Reaching over and patting the top of her daughter’s head, she then turned her attention back to listening to the rest of the story.
After the man finished his story, five others stood to take their turn at telling the scariest or best story, in hopes of winning the cash prize.
As each storyteller made his or her way around to the far side of the fire-pit and was out of earshot, Carol would stare into the flames or look at the faces of the people sitting around the fire. They too were lit up with the same unnatural glow as the flashlight cast on the faces of the storytellers. None, however, looked quite as scary to her as the tall thin spider man who had jumped up to present the first story of the night.
As Carol sat between her parents, clutching their arms, she could not help wondering if the stories were scaring anyone else or if she was the only one who was frightened.
“Alright!” yelled their boss, as he stood up in almost a rolling motion.
A chorus of “AH, E-E-E, OH,” shattered the calm of the night air. Most of the people had been startled by the sudden outburst, as their attention was drawn back to the center of the fire-pit, instead of looking for anything that might be lurking in the trees or bushes behind them, just out of the reach of the fire light.
Seeing that he had succeeded in getting everyone’s attention, he asked with a hardy laugh, “I didn’t scare you all, did I?” Even though the entire group, all at once reassured him that he had not, he knew that he had.
“Alright, it is…” he paused for a moment to look at his watch, as if to make sure of the time, “nearly midnight; the witching hour. Therefore, for safety’s sake, we’ll call it a night and continue tomorrow night. This way, you can all get safely tucked away in your tents before witches, demons, and the really scary things come out, looking for unsuspecting campers to carry off!”
While some of the campers gathered their things, to make their way back to their campsites for the night, others continued to talk amongst themselves about the different stories told, comparing which story they thought had been the best so far. Many of them really liked the tension that was added with the way their boss had dispatched his employees and their families to their campsites.
Peering into the darkness all around, Carol turned to her mother and tugged on her shirtsleeve. “Witches and demons, Mom! Really? Witches? What does he mean scarier things are waiting to come get us? I’m not scared, you know. I’m just making sure you and Dad are okay. That’s all.”
Pausing for a moment, Carol’s mother looked out into the still night surrounding them. “He was just trying to scare you, and it looks like it worked. There really isn’t anything to be afraid of out there. Remember, these were only stories,” she added.
Somehow, she didn’t quite sound as if she believed what she was saying, so Carol did not feel particularly reassured that there was not really anything out there.
Waking up the next morning, Carol was sure to check on the other campers who had come on the company camping trip with them. This was not hard to do, since their group, only took up eleven campsites in all. Carol was deeply relieved to see that no one had gone missing during the night.
That evening, after dinner, Carol and her parents joined the other campers around the fire-pit for roasting marshmallows and the continuation of the campfire stories.
While letting her thoughts wander off, it occurred to Carol that she had not mentioned to her mom and dad, that earlier she had seen a creepy little man, a short way off in the distance. Oddly, she couldn’t help but wonder who he was or where he had come from. She was not quite able to see his face. He kept his head down and wore a wide brimmed hat. Even though it was very warm out during the day, he wore a pair of tattered black gloves and a long black coat. Carol guessed he must not have been able to walk especially well, as she watched him walking hunched over and clutching the top of a strange looking crooked stick that he used as a cane.
Carol’s attention was snapped back to the present, as the first of the campers took his place in the center of the group near the fire, to begin his story for the night. This story started out like most of the stories that were told the night before. The next storyteller, however, had one significant difference. The previous stories were all about things hiding in the woods or near some cabins, but this one was about a lake creature.
After announcing what his story was about, he paused for a moment. Without saying another word, he slowly raised his arm and pointed his finger. As all eyes followed the direction he was pointing, they all became frightfully aware of the close vicinity of the lake to where they were currently sitting.
Carol was sitting on the lakeside of the fire-pit with a couple of new camping friends, when suddenly; she shuddered. She was sure she felt the icy fingers of the lake monster slithering up her back. Not wanting her back to the lake, Carol quickly rose and made her way over to where her parents were sitting. Nestling between them on the other side of the fire-pit, she was surprised to see that she was not the only one to get up and move to the other side of the campfire.
Satisfied that his theatrics had set the appropriate mood for his story, the storyteller dropped his arm back down to his side and began his tale.
“Sunlight or the bright light put off by a fire, are the only things that can hurt it. Because of this, it always waits for the cover of darkness, where it hides and watches for the campers to get too far away from the light of the fire.”
He continued to tiptoe around the fire-pit, as he told his story. With all eye’s riveted on his every move, he crouched down and acted as if he were trying to hide from the creature that he spoke of.
“The lake creature would ooze and slither out of the water, silently with cold, wet slime dripping off of its body,” he uttered in a deep and sinister voice.
At this point in the story, Carol found herself looking toward the shoreline for anything oozing out of the water, rather than at the man telling the story.
“You always knew when the creature was near. The ground you walked on felt cold and damp to the touch,” he whispered. Then shuddering, he drew in a ragged breath, as he pretended to be scared half to death himself.
Syeribus Creatures of the Night, by L. M. Boelz
Aug 20, 2012
Fiddlesticks, by PD Allen
Description: Blind giants run amok, voracious Weendigo who eat everything in sight, the horned one riding on a dragon-cat, characters from Ojibwa mythology come to life, a dark shaman, the Corrupted Horde, and a blight on the World Under the Flesh and the World of the Flesh. What’s a young fiddler to do?
Sixteen year old Ojibwa Rene DeClaire is disillusioned and alienated from the modern world in which she lives. She would rather play her fiddle, inhabiting the backwood of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, practicing the old ways and learning to be a shaman like her Grandma Rena. Her older brother Stephen lives in the forest, hiding from the government and the Eater of Souls. Her mother Judy worries about her children and their inability to compromise with the dominant civilization. But Grandma Rena knows how important it is that the siblings and their mother find the right path. She has dedicated her remaining days to helping all three of them to open their eyes.
Soon the younger DeClaires will find themselves in the World Under the Flesh, locked into a merciless battle to save the Heart of the Wilderness and the Land Between the Sky Waters from the Horde, the Blight and a powerful and corrupted shaman known as the Ogimauh.
Along the way, they will have many adventures, joined by other characters first introduced in the Tales of da Yoopernatural, as well as new friends of myth and legend. They will find this struggle for the World Under the Flesh is also a struggle to awaken the world from which they came, the World of the Flesh. And it all revolves around the Heart of the Wilderness, a magical fiddle, and a fiddlestick.
The Ode’imaa Bagwaji
The bridge in the World of the Flesh cast a shadow spanning Gichigami to touch the Land Between the Sky Waters. The Manitou knew when this bridge was completed the trolls and ogres and all the Corrupted Hordes would rush across to invade their sanctuary. There was no way the Manitou could stop the humans from building this bridge. All they could do was prepare to defend themselves.
The Corrupted Ones were drawn to the bridge by the scent of fresh meat and the promise of new treasure. And when the bridge was finished, they raced across to meet the marshaled forces of the Manitou. The numberless horde was held back by the strong and the powerful, whose many acts of heroism remain unsung. The Manitou fought while the weaker among them fled, many of them retreating to distant lands beyond this world where the Corrupted Hordes would never tread, far beyond the touch of humans.
The heroes of the Manitou fought valiantly and prevailed for a time. Yet in the end their efforts were doomed. The numbers of the Manitou had dwindled since humans first set foot in theNew World, while the ranks of the Corrupted Ones were swollen inversely. The conclusion of this battle was foregone when the first troll set foot in the Land Between the Sky Waters. The defenses were overrun, and the invasion of the last refuge of the Manitou began in earnest.
As the defenses crumbled, the Lady Aki-ikwe called Waub-oozoo, who was neither strong nor powerful, out of hiding and made him swear to preserve the Ode`imaa Bagwaji. Standing only two and a half feet tall, his dark skin covered with a fine fur, Waub-oozoo was the most furtive of the little Manitou. He passed his life without leaving any sign of its passage, staying hidden in the secret places only he knew, ever alert for trouble with his bug eyes, round furry ears and his fine sense of smell.
Few had ever seen Waub-oozoo, and only one person knew his true name, the Lady Aki-ikwe, who knew everyone’s true name. And, knowing his true name, she could call him to her and place upon him the duty of keeping the Ode`imaa Bagwaji safe. Waub-oozoo was terrified of taking on so important a charge, but he could refuse the Lady Aki-ikwe nothing.
She called him to her gardens, lush with exotic blossoms, tended by butterflies and hummingbirds. Waub-oozoo had never been so close to the Lady Aki-ikwe before. She was a vision of beauty, soft, radiant and light. Her long hair was a rich red, the color of the Earth and the good red path, and her skin was the color of pale ivory. She was dressed in white flowing robes, and between her breasts shone a warm, healing light.
“Waub-oozoo,” she said to him, “you must hide the Ode`imaa Bagwaji where it will never be found by the Horde. So long as it is safe, they can never completely destroy this land.
“Some of us will survive in the shadows and the remote places. And there will be hope that our world will one day be restored. You must keep the Ode`imaa Bagwaji safe until that day.”
“I will try, m’Lady,” Waub-oozoo’s eyes popped large with concern. He politely held his cap before him in gnarled hands. “But how will I know when that day has come.”
Lady Aki-ikwe had the gift of distant sight. “It is for a human to restore our world.”
“A human, m’Lady?” Waub-oozoo quailed at the very thought. “Are you sure?”
“The humans have taken this world from us,” Lady Aki-ikwe said in a distant voice. “It is for a human being to return it to us.”
“As you say,” Waub-oozoo still had his doubts, “but humans are so shortsighted!”
“One day there will come a child of the first people,” the Lady Aki-ikwe proclaimed. “She will be looking for her voice, and you will know her by her song. The Ode`imaa Bagwaji will respond to her, and your duty will be fulfilled.”
“Yes, m’Lady,” Waub-oozoo bowed before her.
“Arise, Waub-oozoo, and take your charge,” the Lady Aki-ikwe clasped her hands over her chest and drew them away, opening them before Waub-oozoo to disclose the light that had shone between her breasts.
Waub-oozoo held up a hand to shade his eyes, so bright was the light. Looking at what she held, he saw a large glowing crystal. As he watched, it was transformed first to a shining white blossom, and then to a large acorn.
“Take it,” the Lady Aki-ikwe urged him.
Waub-oozoo wiped his hands on his vest and reached out to take the seed. In his hands, it became a large piece of black obsidian, warm to the touch. Waub-oozoo worried his unworthy grasp had damaged it.
“It changes form depending on its surroundings and who is holding it.” The Lady set his fears to rest. “That should aid you in hiding it. But do not take chances. Don’t let anyone see it.”
The sounds of battle drew close to the garden. The Lady’s attendants were agitated. It registered with Waub-oozoo that the Lady Aki-ikwe sounded weary, and she had lost her former glow.
“Put it away,” she told him. “Keep it close to you until you have found the right hiding place, and guard it with your life.”
The battle spilled into the garden, as defenders sought with their last breath to hold back the invading hordes.
“Now go, Waub-oozoo,” the Lady Aki-ikwe urged him. “Flee!”
Waub-oozoo hid the Heart of the Wild inside his vest, next to his own heart. “I will not fail you, m’Lady,” he promised as he vanished into the undergrowth.
“Farewell, Waub-oozoo,” the Lady Aki-ikwe whispered behind him. “All our hopes go with you.”
At the edge of the garden he paused, pretending to be a dead stick, and looked back on the Lady Aki-ikwe. The Lady dismissed her court and stood to face the oncoming attackers. A large ogre reached her first. He held her with one hand while he brought a war club down on top of her head, smashing her skull open. Waub-oozoo stood frozen in horror as the ogre ate the Lady’s brains. Then he was gone, fleeing for his life and the future of his people.
Hither and Yon
1. Waub-oozoo and the Corruption of the World Under the Flesh
Waub-oozoo had long dreaded this day. He should never have been chosen as the guardian of their most sacred treasure. There were others well noted for their prowess, their intelligence, their wisdom or their ingenuity. Waub-oozoo possessed none of these gifts. He was weak of body and mind, and fearful of his own shadow.
His only skill, which had spared him all these years while others more worthy fought and were defeated, was the art of concealment. He knew every secret place in the Land Between the Sky Waters — Akki Nisaway Gichigami. He could hide so well only those who knew his true name could ever find him. Waub-oozoo was his common name, meaning little rabbit or the white-tailed one. That he knew of, only one being knew his true name, and she died after placing the Ode`imaa Bagwaji in his hands. Waub-oozoo had been in hiding ever since.
That is precisely why he was chosen to be the guardian of the Ode`imaa Bagwaji. As long as the Ode`imaa survived, their world could not be completely overrun. And woe to all worlds should the Ode`imaa ever fall into the wrong hands.
It had been fifty years as humans told time since the Land Between the Sky Waters was invaded. In all those years the land resisted defilement because the Ode`imaa Bagwaji was safe. And in all these years the Horde, minions of corruption, had hunted for the Ode`imaa without ever finding a trace of it.
The Ode`imaa Bagwaji had been safe in his care for so long, he had grown lax. The hiding place he chose was in a remote area of the Land Between the Sky Waters, an inaccessible glen Waub-oozoo’s thought that this leaking power would help to cloak the Ode`imaa.
among stony hills nearly as old as time itself. This was a mountainous region where the land had never quite solidified into reality, the Unfinished Hills. Out here it was easy to pass from one world to another without even being aware of it. This unfinished creation leaked magic, and it was
This it had done. For fifty years, no minion of corruption had come near the Unfinished Hills. From hiding, he saw them scour the Land Between the Sky Waters, yet they always steered clear of these mountains. Even the dimmest ogre and the greediest troll knew a wrong turn in these hills would transport it to some other world — perhaps even the land of the Weendigo — with no way back. Or, worse yet, an unwitting bumbler might stumble through a portal to find itself unmade.
Until now the search for the Ode`imaa had been unorganized. The Corrupted Hordes, the defiled ones, knew it was somewhere in the Land Between the Sky Waters simply because that land continued to exist. The trolls craved it as a treasure they could horde, the ogres as a tasty morsel they could devour, and the goblins as a trinket that would bring them prestige. Yet they lacked any more sophisticated motivation, and their searches were uncoordinated. Such had always been the way with these beasts; it was one of the few things the Manitou had in their favor.
Fiddlesticks, by PD Allen
Aug 5, 2012
ADAM OF ALBION, by Kim and Neil McMahon
Description: We all know people who act like they’ve been everywhere and done everything, right?
Well, Orpheus really has.
And if you thought your older brother could be a pain, wait till you meet this talking head—literally—who’s way, way older than the Pyramids.
When 14-year old Adam Keane gets sent to spend the summer with his rich relatives in England, he never dreams that one night soon, he’ll end up in a creepy old graveyard, hiding from gun-toting thugs. As if that isn’t bad enough, Adam sees them shoot a young man who’s running from them.
But it turns out that dodging bullets is just the beginning. Adam tries to help the wounded guy and ends up with his daypack, along with the mysterious object inside it—
Which turns out to be Orpheus, a handsome, miniature man’s head who’s really a cyborg supercomputer—and who can time travel.
Next thing after that, Adam and 13-year old Artemis, a brash, brilliant little feminist Goth, are careening through centuries and across continents—running for their lives on a Mission Impossible.
Along the way, Orpheus clues them in on the back story. He was created by an advanced civilization that sank into the sea in a disastrous war, thousands of years before recorded history began. Since then, he’s roamed all over the globe, living by his wits through countless hair-raising adventures.
His computer brain makes him an off-the-charts genius (which he’s quick to tell anyone who’ll listen), but he’s entirely human in all the ways that matter. He can be cantankerous and bossy, but he’s also fun and funny, smartmouthed and sly, and overall, way cool. He claims that he’s known pretty much every important person in history and been at every important event, and let’s just say he’s not shy about bragging on it—although his stories sometimes do seem a little hard to believe.
But Orph is also heartbroken. His true love, Eurydice—a beautiful, glowing, emerald green ankh who fits inside his skull—was stolen from him during the Third Crusade. Not only does he miss her terribly, but she’s the power-pack that supplies his life force. Since losing her, he’s been running on empty, and now, even empty is almost gone. If he doesn’t reunite with Eurydice soon—
Suddenly, the thugs show up again with their guns, ready to kill in order to steal Orpheus. He and the two kids have no other choice and no chance to prepare—they must plunge through time and space to the Holy Land in the year 1192 A.D., landing right in the middle of a brawl between the soldiers of King Richard the Lionheart and the Sultan Saladin, ruthless Knights Templar, and a mysterious group of female Assassins called the Sisters of Isis. Danger, treachery, and fast action abound as they fight and scheme to find Eurydice, and save the lovable little head’s life.
Jason Apostle stared, frozen with horror, at the shadowy figure sneaking up behind Simon Lodestone—with the long thin blade raised high, poised to ram into Simon’s back!
Jason tried to yell a warning, but his voice stuck paralyzed in his throat.
No one else seemed to notice, although there was a huge crowd around. The night was dark and the place was way out in the English countryside, a meadow with a ring of giant ancient stones called the Watching Druids that jutted up eerily out of the earth.
But mostly, no one noticed because they were all watching the stage set up near the stone ring—where the world’s greatest heavy metal band, Dearth, was about to start a concert guaranteed to split every eardrum in the crowd.
The guy with the dagger looked like all the other grungy young Dearth-heads here tonight, dressed in torn jeans and T-shirts, heavy boots, with multiple tattoos and piercings—thousands of them from every country who spent their summers roaming the globe, camping and hitchhiking to follow their idols.
But he must have known the true, hidden purpose of this concert that Simon Lodestone had arranged: Simon, the great rock promoter, master musician, mathematical genius—
And keeper of the world’s greatest secret.
It was the most precious object ever created. Mountains of gold and jewels were worth nothing by comparison. Since the mists of time, legends had sprung up around it. Cults had worshipped it, kingdoms had warred for it, secret societies had pursued it through the centuries.
Now it belonged to The Calculus—a super-covert, super-elite group made up of Simon, Jason, and a very few others. All of them were trained to a razor edge both mentally and physically—martial arts and survival skills, math and computer programming, ancient languages and secret history that wasn’t found in textbooks. All of them were sworn to live and die for the Head.
That had to be what the assassin was out to get—which meant he knew it was here tonight.
And that meant someone in The Calculus was a traitor.
Jason was almost sure he knew who it was.
But now, right this second, it meant that Simon was only a heartbeat away from death!
As the knife started its plunge toward Simon’s back, Jason managed to burst the dam that was blocking his voice.
“Simon! Behind you!” he yelled.
Simon whirled around, his arm slashing upward in a karate block.
But the blade drove home.
Jason was too far away to see exactly what happened. He heard Simon growl in rage and pain. But then, even badly wounded, Simon fought like a wildcat, smashing a kick to the attacker’s knee and then a chop across his throat.
Jason started running toward him to help, but Simon stopped him with a shout:
“No! Follow the plan!”
Jason obeyed. It was the hardest thing he’d ever done, turning his back on the man who had raised him, taught him, loved him like a son. But Simon had drilled it into The Calculus again and again: the Head came first, before anyone or anything else. It had to be protected, kept safe and out of the wrong hands, at all costs.
And it was Jason, not Simon, who had the Head in his backpack.
As he took off in an all-out run, it slammed against his spine like a rock with every step. He leaped over the edge of a steep hillside and stumbled down it, skidding and half-rolling through the brush. His eyes filled with sweat even though the air was cool.
Suddenly, the quiet was blasted by the wild, clashing music of Dearth, the high priests of aural pain. The sound was so startling it made Jason trip and fall headfirst, but his highly trained reflexes took over and he twisted the backpack up in his arms, cushioning it as he fell.
He tumbled a good thirty feet before he was able to stop. Panting, bruised, he swung around to look back up at the concert. Simon’s attacker might be coming after him now—there was no way he could pick the guy out of the army of Dearth-heads, thousands of them like a dark moving blanket, spilling out across the surrounding hills and perching on rock crags like crows.
But Jason had to take the chance. The music was racing toward the instant that Simon had spent his whole life working for. The Watching Druids concert was really only a cover, a means to strike the tremendous, crashing, supreme chord that would awaken the sleeping Head.
All-important success or failure hung in the next few seconds. Without Simon here, Jason would have to witness it alone.
His shaking hands lifted the Head out of his daypack. It was a little bigger than a tennis ball and crusted over with mortar to disguise it as an ordinary rock. But two small indentations showed the eyes—which had been dark and blank since the time of Sir Isaac Newton.
The last seconds ticked off. The music stopped suddenly, hung in a breathless pause for one more excruciating beat—
Then the great chord tore through the night as if a giant axe had split open the sky itself: thousands of decibels of mega-amplified guitar, bass, drum, organ, synthesizers, all perfectly calibrated.
Teeth clenched, heart hammering, Jason stared into the small dark orbs in the rock.
And far, far back in their depths, he thought he saw a tiny flicker, like a lightning flash on a distant horizon.
He almost screamed with joy. But his training took over again. He had to move, get the Head to the safe hiding place that Simon had picked out, an old ruined church at the bottom of the hill.
Especially because his sweeping gaze spotted a car pulling away from the concert—a sleek black Jaguar, picking up speed and coming in his direction.
He jumped to his feet and started running again, concentrating on his stumbling feet and shooting down the hillside in long soaring leaps. Man, he was flying! If he could just keep from getting his own head bashed in. It was almost pitch dark, and as his eyes strained to see the steeple that marked the church, a stone slid out from under him and he fell again, skidding like a wild toboggan with the sharp rocks pounding and jabbing him.
When he stopped this time, he was so beat up and panicked that the sweat in his eyes was mixed with tears. He’d never imagined that he could feel so totally desperate. Noble, kindly Simon was probably dead. The killer was speeding this way to murder Jason, too.
But worse, far worse, the great mission would end pathetically in some forlorn English field—and Jason would be the one who had failed.
No! He could handle this, he’d trained long and hard, and there was too much at stake. He dragged himself to his feet again, but he’d lost his bearings. He stared up to find stars in the cloudy night, the celestial map that Simon had taught them to use like the ancients had. There was Orion, followed by Sirius, the Dog Star. There was Ursa Major, the Big Dipper. There, Merak and Dubhe, the two stars that pointed at Polaris, the North Star. And that was where the church was, to the north.
He lowered his gaze, straining to pierce the night. There it was!—the dark mass of a crumbling old steeple, barely visible a quarter mile away.
But coming down the winding dirt road from the concert, closing the distance fast, was the menacing low shape of the Jaguar.
Jason clenched his hands around the backpack’s straps and ran.
ADAM OF ALBION, by Kim and Neil McMahon
Aug 4, 2012
Kendra Kandlestar and the Door to Unger, by Lee Edward Fodi
Description: Long ago, when the world still remembered some of its magic, the Land of Een was born. Tucked between the cracks of here and there, it is a hidden place—and an enchanted one too. But young Kendra Kandlestar will have to leave it all behind if she is to discover the truth of what happened to her long-lost brother. Will she find him—or will she simply end up losing herself amidst a maze of magic, monsters, and mystery?
Chapter 1: A Mysterious Visitor
This is a story about monsters and mazes, and what it means to be lost. If you have ever been inside a maze, then you know that they do a very good job of making you lose your way. They are full of tricks and turns, and if you’re not careful, you will find yourself going in circles or headed down a dark road with no end.
There are still a few mazes left in our world—you may have found yourself inside one if you’ve ever wandered through a farmer’s cornfield or visited a palace garden. But really, there is nothing very frightening about these modern mazes, for they harbor no fanged goblins, no slurping monsters. But if you so lose yourself in this story, you just might discover such an adventure.
Our tale begins long ago in the tiny land of Een. It was a wretched night—the whole sky crackled with claws of lightning and the dark clouds boomed with thunder. Now, the land of Een is a very small place, tucked between the cracks of here and there. A normal-sized person might walk right through Een and not even realize it existed—especially during a terrific storm when the only thing anyone really wants to do is get indoors and dry themselves by a warm fire.
Yes, to you or me, a storm can be quite a dreadful affair—but think of the tiny people of Een: to them, a raindrop could be like a bucket of water, a gust of wind like a hurricane. Of course, the Eens are a magical people and have been in the world for a very long time, so I suppose they know a thing or two about getting through storms. Some experts say that Eens are related to Elves because they have pointed ears and can talk to animals, but I have also heard that they to no one—that they are a strange race of people all their own.
Whatever the case, we will concern ourselves with one Een in particular: the tiny girl named Kendra Kandlestar, who, on this dark and shadowy night, was nestled in her bed inside her uncle’s house.
Kendra was in a deep dream. Those of you familiar with Kendra’s adventures will know that this girl has had her fair share of dreams—many of them quite frightening. But this dream was pleasant. On this night, Kendra was dreaming about her family, who had mysteriously disappeared long ago, when she was just a baby. Even though she couldn’t remember them, it was quite wonderful for Kendra to dream about her family: her mother, her father, and her brother, Kiro. Inside that magical dream world, she could clearly picture them all together: picnicking on the banks of the River Wink or resting in the shade of the yew tree, where she now lived with her Uncle Griffinskitch. In her dream, everything seemed right. Everything seemed perfect.
But the dream was not to last.
Suddenly, Kendra bolted awake and sat upright in her bed. What had awoken her? A sound? A light? No . . . it was the darkness. It was too dark, even for a black sky raging with storm clouds. She tugged nervously at her braids. Tugging always helped her clear her mind. Kendra had seven braids in all, radiating out from the top of her head like the rays of a star, so she had plenty to tug at.
Something is out there, Kendra told herself. Through the wind and thunder, she could hear a strange sound. It was a grunting sound, as if someone were in terrible pain. Kendra sat still, frozen for several minutes, but eventually her curiosity won out over her fear. So finally, she crept to her window and pressed her face against the glass—but she just couldn’t see well enough. Frustrated, she wrenched the window open, and instantly, wind and rain billowed into the room. She brushed the waving curtains out of her face and leaned out into the rain.
She could see and hear more clearly now. She scanned the yard around their yew tree cottage. Suddenly the lightning crackled again and—for a split second—illuminated the yard. Then she saw it—or, more accurately, she saw its shadow. She caught the dark shape against the garden shed, but she could not tell who (or what) it was. The shadow only told her one thing about its owner: it was simply enormous.
“It’s no Een,” she murmured to herself. “No animal either; it’s bigger even than a badger.”
She could still hear it breathing, but now, she detected something else: the sound of it dragging itself across the ground, between the shed and the house. Whatever it is, it sounds as if it’s injured, Kendra thought.
She had to tell Uncle Griffinskitch. Clutching her blanket around her, she raced out of her room, bare feet and all, and scampered up the stairs towards her uncle’s room. Suddenly a strange shape, all hairy, hunched, and with a sunken face appeared from around the bend of the staircase. Kendra shrieked in surprise as a bony hand reached out to hold her tight.
“Don’t play the fool! It’s me, Uncle Griffinskitch.”
Kendra opened her eyes and was greeted with the familiar face of her uncle. It was no wonder he had frightened her, for he was a ghostly figure at the best of times, never mind in the dark, with some strange thing wandering around outside. He had sharp blue eyes and a crooked nose, and his bent body leaned heavily upon the support of the short staff that he always carried in his thin and gnarled hands. Perhaps the most striking thing about Uncle Griffinskitch was his beard, for it was long and white, and covered his entire body, right down to his toes. But Kendra was relieved to see her uncle. He was a strong old man, and a gifted wizard too; some said the best in all the land. And wizardry was something they just might need this harrowing night . . .
“Are you all right?” Uncle Griffinskitch asked.
“Yes—you startled me, that’s all,” Kendra replied.
“Didn’t mean to,” he told her softly. “But keep your voice—,”
“There’s something out there,” she interrupted. “And it’s not Een.”
He gave her a nod that told her that he had heard it too. They sat there for a moment in the dark, listening. The night, so wild and stormy, suddenly seemed peculiarly quiet.
But the silence was brief. After a moment, a loud, alarming knock cut through the darkness. Whatever it was, it was now banging on their door.
“Humph,” Uncle Griffinskitch muttered. “We have company.”
He lifted his staff and waved his hand over it so that its round top began to glow faintly.
“What are you going to do?” Kendra whispered.
“Answer the door of course,” the old Een said, illuminating the stairs with his staff as though it were a torch. “I suppose there’s no use in asking you to stay up here.”
Kendra opened her mouth to protest, but her uncle cut her off. “Of course not.”
The knock came again, loud and threatening.
Uncle Griffinskitch grunted and hobbled down the winding staircase, Kendra close behind him.
“HURRY!” bellowed a deep voice from outside.
The voice sent a shiver down Kendra’s braids, but her Uncle only grumbled a sharp “Humph.” His annoyed tone made Kendra feel better; it meant the old wizard wasn’t frightened. Most Eens, of course, would be terrified at even the thought of a knock in the middle of a stormy night. But not Uncle Griffinskitch. Nothing seemed to ruffle him.
Uncle Griffinskitch now unlatched the door, and as it swung inward, Kendra screamed in spite of herself. For the thing that hulked in their doorway was definitely no Een. And it was bigger than a badger, too—much bigger.
“Kandlestar,” the creature grunted.
It was too large to enter the house, but it plunged its giant cavernous face forward just the same, directly into the light of Uncle Griffinskitch’s staff.
“An Unger!” Kendra cried. “You’re an Unger! Uncle Griffinskitch—how? It’s impossible for any monster—er, creature—er, anything other than an Een, to get through the magic curtain!”
“Yes, I know—hush,” her uncle scolded.
“Kandlestar,” the giant gasped again.
Kendra knew Ungers all too well. She had once saved one from death, out there in the wilds that lay beyond the magic curtain that protected the Eens from the outside world. That creature had just been a youngster, and she had been able to find the courage to help him. But now—this was completely different, for here was a fully-grown Unger standing in their doorway, right here in the land of Een—where they were supposed to be safe from such creatures.
Timidly, Kendra peered from behind the open door and studied the beast. The Unger was gargantuan. He looked as if he had been hewn from stone, for his skin was gray and hard, knotted with wrinkles and blemishes. Two giant tusks jutted out from the corners of his mouth. He was very old, Kendra could tell, for his hair was ghost white and his skin paper-thin. But there was something more—a streak of blood was running down the Unger’s face.
“He’s wounded!” Kendra exclaimed, reaching towards the mighty Unger.
“NO, CHILD!” Uncle Griffinskitch ordered, pulling her back with a surprisingly strong hand.
The Unger pointed a crooked claw at Kendra. “Childs of Kandlestar,” it moaned. “Youzum. Unger seekzum youzum.”
“How do you know who I am?” Kendra asked.
“Quiet, I say!” Uncle Griffinskitch cried, casting a critical glare in her direction. He turned back and stared directly into the creature’s giant, round eyes. “She’s not the one you seek.”
“Itzum her,” the Unger groaned. He shot out a claw and grabbed Kendra’s arm. He twisted her wrist so that her hand was visible in the light of Uncle Griffinskitch’s staff. The Unger’s grip was tight—but also remarkably gentle. “Eeneez marked withzum star.”
Kendra stared down at her palm. She could see nothing—just the normal lines that had always run across her hand.
But the Unger seemed to see something more. “Unger can seezum mark,” the mighty creature said, releasing Kendra’s wrist. “Youzum Kandlestar . . . youzum key. Unger prophecy sayzum Een withzum star must gozum to Greeven Wastes by first summerzum moon.”
“The Greeven Wastes?” Uncle Griffinskitch asked. “Where is that?”
“And why should I go there?” Kendra added.
“There youzum finds Door to Unger.”
Kendra looked at her uncle for some sign that he knew what the creature was speaking of—but the old man only shook his head in confusion.
“Timezee runszum short,” the Unger said gravely. “Door openzum but oncezum year—nightzum of first summerzum moon. Youzum findz it before then, Kandlestar! Otherwize it too latezum!”
“Humph,” Uncle Griffinskitch muttered, banging his staff loudly against the floor. “None of this makes sense. Now see here—,”
“Oroook,” the Unger interrupted. “Unger’s namezum Oroook. Eeneez mustzum trust Oroook. Oroook knewzum motherzum of Kandlestar.”
“My mother!” Kendra gasped. “Where is she?”
“You’re talking nonsense!” Uncle Griffinskitch told the Unger. “Kayla Kandlestar would never befriend a—,”
“Oroook speakzum truth!” the Unger interjected again. “But now Oroook havezum no time lefts. Oroook wounded . . . listenzum! Youzum, Kandlestar, youzum must findzum Door to Unger.”
“Why?” Uncle Griffinskitch demanded.
“Itzum doorzum to truths,” the Unger groaned, falling to his knees in pain. “Truthzum about Eens! Truthzum . . . about family of Kandlestar! Een child must findzum Door to Unger. Rememberzum, by first summerzum moon!”
He grunted and his final breath was sharp and edged with a whistling sound. Then he closed his large eyes and slumped forward against their house, so hard that they could feel the tree bend against his great weight. He was so big that he completely blocked the doorway.
“Days of Een!” Uncle Griffinskitch uttered. “He’s dead!”
And then, before their very eyes, the fallen creature faded away and disappeared. There was no puff of smoke, no sudden flash—he just melted into the darkness and was gone.
Kendra rubbed her eyes. I’m still dreaming, she thought. I must be. This still must be a dream.
Quickly, Uncle Griffinskitch closed the door. He shuffled to the kitchen table, only a few paces away, and fell heavily into his chair. He looked at Kendra with a strange expression on his face.
“It didn’t really happen,” she announced, somehow hoping that her uncle would agree with her.
But he didn’t. And, in fact, the next day when the rain clouds scattered before the sun, Kendra discovered that it had to have happened. For there, pressed into the thick black mud before their doorway, was a set of enormous three-toed prints—the type of footprints that could only belong to an Unger.
Kendra Kandlestar and the Door to Unger, by Lee Edward Fodi
Aug 2, 2012
A Comedy of Terrors, by Graeme Smith
Description: Segorian Anderson’s an Idiot. But that’s fine with him. It’s a well paying job with no heavy lifting.
Nobody ever remembers Segorian. It isn’t magic – he just has the sort of face his own mother could forget, and she’s been trying to for years. But being forgettable is a job requirement for an Idiot.
No, he’s not the Court Jester. He doesn’t wear motley (whatever motley may be). That’s a different union. He’s the Idiot. In a Queen’s castle, wine spilt down the wrong dress can lead to war. So someone unimportant has to be blamed for it. That’s the Idiot’s job. He’s the Idiot that did it, for any value of ‘it’. Of course, as soon as he’s exiled-for-life out of the castle gate, he uses his back-door key and sneaks back in.
But that’s not all. Someday, something really bad will happen. Really, really bad. Badder than a bad thing on a very bad day. With extra badness. When the world’s about to end (or the washing up won’t get done – whichever comes first), who you gonna call? No, not them. They haven’t been invented yet. You call the Idiot. Someone nobody will miss if things don’t work out. And now Peladon has a case of dragon.
But the dragon may be the easy part. Segorian has woman trouble, and he’s the only person in the castle who doesn’t know it. Because to Segorian, women are an open book. The problem is, he never learned to read.
The Heights of Idiocy
Yesterday was a busy one. I was exiled-for-life for dancing with the Emissary from Targis at Queen Sonea’s welcoming ball. It hadn’t been the dancing. Apparently I’d worn red shoes, and only an idiot would wear red shoes to dance with a Targisian. Red shoes are the mark of their Assassins’ Guild. So in Targis it’s a point of honour to let people in red shoes kill you.
Targisians are crazy. Everybody knows assassins wear green shoes.
While I was dancing with the Emissary I was also running down the corridor of the castle with a message for the Queen’s First Minister. Apparently I’d tripped and fallen, knocking over a four hundred-year-old vase. It was a gift from First Fist Andrakan of the Eldrak Horde. What else could it be except, exile-for-life?
Of course, I wasn’t in either of these places. Well, I was, professionally speaking. Not in person. But that’s my job. The Idiot Who Did It. For any value of ‘It’. So I was exiled-twice. It helps to have a key to the backdoor.
It’s an essential qualification for my job to look like, well, like nobody. I have a face my own mother has problems remembering. Of course, she’s had more practice. She’s been trying to forget it for years. That’s why I can get exiled-for-life so often. Nobody notices that while the uniform might change it’s always the same me underneath. And even if they did, they’d make sure they didn’t. Notice, I mean. That’s Politics, that is. But with two exiles in one day and both the First Demon and the Emissary still in the castle, I was confined to quarters till they left. Just in case.
I’d been on a necessary visit to Jake-down-the-hall. Of course, I got lost. I didn’t know my way around the upstairs halls yet. My old quarters in the lower cellars were apparently infested with something undefined but clearly infesty. Not that I’d ever seen anything infest-ish. I only knew because some people came by one day, picked up everything I owned, and moved it to new quarters on an upper floor. There were only two of them, but at least that meant one of them had a hand free to open doors. They had a piece of paper with lots of ‘By orders’ and ‘Herewith and hereunders’ on it. There was even a seal. With a tassel. I try not to argue with tassels.
When I found my way back to my new rooms I checked the tiny piece of parchment I trap in the jamb each time I leave. I know all sorts of things I’ve been exiled for doing, which sometimes makes people nervous. Whatever paranoia is (I don’t think it’s been invented yet), it’s one of my hobbies. Anyway, the piece of parchment was still there. So it was a little surprising to find the other side of the door less than empty. It was even more surprising to see what was un-emptying it. I made sure I was looking at the floor before I spoke. “Good day, your Majesty.”
Of course, there’s isn’t any law against looking at the Queen. I’m told even cats do it, not that cats would care about laws. It’s just that she expects people to notice things. Things like her hair looking different. Or that she has a new-new-new dress. Women are like an open book to me. Mostly because I never learned to read. So I kept my eyes on the floor. That way at least I could say I hadn’t seen whatever it was I was supposed to be noticing. This time I might have got away with it. Her Majesty was looking out of my window.
“Yes, Your Majesty?”
“Not you, Segorian. Him!”
From the window of my new apartments on the third floor, I could see a figure scurrying to and fro across the courtyard beneath. From time to time, for no reason I could identify, the figure would suddenly roll on the ground and freeze while it looked around.
“The Guards do this all the time. They assign some trainee to follow me. This idiot is the latest.”
I watched the figure for a while. “So he’s…” I peered a little closer… “… yes, he’s a trainee. He was assigned to follow you. He failed to do so. There is no doubt his superiors will find out. And only an idiot would fail in such an important task. No doubt he will be exiled-for-life. Or rather, I will, of course. Your Majesty, I’ll arrange for a trainee guard’s uniform. Would tomorrow be appropriate?”
“Not necessary, Segorian. There are Rules, you see. The Guard OverCaptain has standing instructions in such matters. As anybody would know, nobody in their right mind would assign a trainee to follow the Queen. The OverCaptain is by definition in his right mind else I would have removed him from his post. Since I have not removed him—there was no trainee. There is no trainee. No exile required.” Queen Sonea stepped away from the window. I—did not.
“Your Majesty. I notice my window is open?”
“Is it, Segorian?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. I also notice the ivy growing up the wall is quite prolific this year. It is no doubt well rooted.”
“No doubt, Segorian. No doubt.”
“I try my best to know if anybody has entered these apartments. Through the door at least. As far as I can tell, nobody did.”
“Segorian. Let us be realistic. You seem to be trying to suggest the Queen of Peladon, irritated at being followed by a trainee who thought rolling was a proper form of locomotion, saw an open window and climbed up the ivy to an empty apartment. Which is madness. The Queen climbing ivy is clearly impossible. So it must be the case that it didn’t happen. The Queen is not in your apartment. The Queen is walking around the gardens wondering why the gravel behind her crunches every now and again as if someone—not an Idiot—were rolling on it. Is that clear?”
“Quite clear, Your Maj…” I knew if I’d been looking at her I would have seen the “Look” in her eyes. It is not a good day when the Queen looks at you with the “Look.” “Quite clear, Your Not-Here-ness.”
Her not-Queen-ness threw herself down in one of the better cushioned chairs. “Segorian…I’ve been an idiot.”
“The Queen cannot be an Idiot. She has an Idiot for that sort of thing, Your Not-Here-ness.”
“The Queen can be anything she damn well pleases to be, Segorian. It’s part of being Queen. Tell me. What do you know of dragons?”
Dragons? Gods above. A bad day was clearly about to get worse. “Dragons, Your Not-…” I could almost feel the “Look.” “Er, right. Yes. Dragons. As investigated and confirmed by the Royal Commission established by your father, may he rest in peace…”
“Pieces, Segorian. Pieces. It was a very messy battle.”
“… by your father, may he rest, as you say, in pieces, dragons are mythical beasts. They are found in the legends of nearly every country and people. However, they’re probably a race memory. Whatever a race memory is, Your Not-Here-Ness. A race memory of, um… of something huge and scaly with massive teeth and claws. Something very definitely not a dragon. The Commissioners were very clear on that, Your Maj… er, Your Not… and the fire breathing nonsense is probably Poetic license. And we all know about Poets, Your Majesty.”
“What else, Segorian?”
“Well, er, oh! Yes! Festival! Young men put on a scary dragon costume and run round the streets. Always fun! It was started to interest children in joining the Dragon Corps when they grew up. But it’s just Poetry these days. Your…the Queen disbanded the Dragon Corps. No point in spending large amounts of gold supporting a band whose job was to slay mythical beasts. Better and much cheaper to spend imaginary gold on a mythical band whose job it is to slay mythical beasts. The rest, well, we have Poets for that.”
“Indeed. And so—I’ve been an idiot.”
Of course, I waited.
“It seems a figment of the imagination has been sighted in theBlackrockMountains. When the reports came in, the Royal Commission declared them to be founded in strange cloud formations and rocky shadows seen at night by peasants all the worse for—for whatever peasants drink. So they sent a team to investigate Which is part of the problem. Because it appears a strange cloud formation or a rocky shadow (the reports are a little confused) burnt their camp to the ground. Fortunately nobody was killed, but the team is currently trying to decide if their singed clothing is the result of a persistent and infectious mass hallucination or the unfortunate result of new advances in soap manufacture. They prefer the soap manufacture idea, but they can’t announce it until we have some. New advances, that is. Or even soap.”
Not-Queen Sonea stood up and stared out of the window. “Segorian, I’ve been an idiot. There seems to be a real imaginary beast threatening the kingdom. An honest to why-the-gods-me dragon. And I have—Peladon has—no dragon slayers. And…and I don’t know what to do!”
I looked around the apartment. It had been a nice apartment as apartments go. “Your Not-Majesty. There appears to be a dragon. Dragons must be fought. And, well, only an Idiot would fight a dragon.”
“Segorian…” There was a note of objection in her voice, and rather more relief.
“Her bloody Majesty isn’t bloody here, Segorian.” Even if I didn’t look, I could feel “The Look.” No. Not that “Look.” The other one. Of course, I had no idea what it meant, but it was still there.
Yes. I’m an Idiot.
A Comedy of Terrors, by Graeme Smith