Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Wrong Portal


Steve froze.  The door closely heavily behind him.  Armani the Imp crouched low on his shoulder.
"This is bad boss." The imp had faint wisps of steam oozing from his wing tips.  Very bad.
Steve nodded.  Ahead of him stretched an avenue of green and mist caressed trees leading to an idealised farmhouse.  If he had come into the correct faerie domain he should be looking at a stern stone corridor with an iron bound door leading to the court of Lord Ragnar.  "I think we've been diverted.  This feels like a magical domain, just the wrong one."
"We went through the right portal." Armani shifted nervously from foot to foot.  "It stinks of leech here.  I'll have a look."
As Armani silently flapped ahead, Steve started cautiously moving forward.  All the vampires he knew were more than capable of creating a magical domain for a few hours, just long enough to trap an unwary traveller through a portal.  Steve swallowed as he felt fear crawling down his back.  Vampires were fast, strong and very, very ruthless.   He pulled his stake out from his pocket and held it for an overhand thrust.  Nothing behind the first two trees facing each other across the deceptively rustic pathway.  Steve breathed deeply.  He glanced quickly behind him.  There was no way out there, the door had vanished and gentle fields of corn rolled into the distance.
Armani was using the trees' canopy for cover as he hopped from tree to tree.  Apart from the soft cooing of woodpigeons, the faint rustle of his progress was the only sound. 
Steve took another few steps, stake ready.  Why did it have to be a vampire?  If it had been a boggart or a werewolf they would have just tried to rip his head off in a straightforward way.  Vampires played games.  The next two trees were clear as well.  Steve checked his pocket with his free hand.  He still had the package for Lord Ragnar.  That was probably what this was all about.  He wished he knew what was inside but he wasn't risking looking.  The ground felt soft and springing under his feet.  The next two trees were clear.
"Over here, boss."
Steve strode over to where the imp was pointing.  At the far side of a tree was a vampire bound with wire.  He was cut almost to ribbons trying to get out and his eyes were wild.  His lips dripped with froth.  "He's on dragon's blood.  It looks like it has rotted most of his brain.  There's no point in asking questions."

As Armani finished the vampire off with the stake tucked thoughtfully in the wire at the side, Steve looked around for any further clues.  There was nothing.  The trees wavered and dissolved and then Steve and Armani were standing in the reassuringly spartan stone corridor looking at the iron bound door of Lord Ragnar.  "I owe someone a favour." Steve said thoughtfully, before knocking with the great iron knocker. 

Written during v chaotic time here, sorry for any typos.   

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ambush

Another brilliant prompt from Write on Edge.  I've used the picture again, though the words were very tempting.  


  


Why couldn't they meet somewhere civilised, instead of in the middle of nowhere.  Even his imp had gone to sleep.  Armani snorted and gurgled inside Steve's pocket.  He woke with a splutter.
"Trouble's coming, boss."  There was an edge of panic in his voice as he struggled out.
Ambush, thought Steve.  He was supposed to hand over the rare book to a member of Lord Lothar's court.  He felt very exposed as he glanced up and down the moorland track. 
"Hello, meat." Out of nowhere a tall, rangy figure appeared, scruffy and unshaven with ragged jogging bottoms and a thin t-shirt.  "You have a book for me."
Steve felt in his pocket.  "You don't look like the messenger of an elfen lord."
"Werewolf." Armani hissed in his ear and flew off.
"I'm offended." The thin man bared his teeth in a fake smile.  "I'm what you would call freelance.  I can get a good price for that book.  Hand it over."
"I don't think so."  Steve found what he was looking for in his pocket.
"Brave words for a lonely place." The werewolf smirked.
The werewolf was enjoying this too much, thought Steve.  He extended his hand in his pocket.  "Just a minute." Then he punched the werewolf hard on the jaw.
Steve had come prepared and the silver knuckle dusters fitted easily on his hand.    He wasn't prepared however for the hiss and the stench of burned flesh as the silver bit into the werewolf.  It staggered back, clutching at its blackened face.  Steve followed up with a hard punch to the side of the head and another, then a kick to the sternum as there werewolf fell onto its knees clutching at its damaged head.
The kick didn't do enough damage.  Steve's training and gym work were useless without the reinforcing silver and the werewolf rolled away still clutching its head.  To Steve's horror the werewolf flowed and suddenly there was a large wolf like creature in front of him, its fur matted, its ribs showing and its head burnt and blackened. 
Steve swore as the creature swung round at him.  Desperately he punched at the great head snapping at him.  I must not let him bite me, Steve thought frantically, I have to stay away from the teeth.  Armani was hanging onto the werewolf's back, his dirty claws sunk deep into the creature's flanks.  A part of Steve was impressed by the sparks the imp was shedding as Steve managed a lucky punch to the throat. 
Then Armani flew up and a second werewolf landed on the skinny attacker and bit hard down on the back of the neck.  Steve watched in horror as the skinny, dog-like shape flowed back into a dead, skinny, battered man.  The attacker also flowed back into human form.
"Steve Adderson, do you remember me?"

"Yes," Steve worked the knuckle duster from his sore hand.  "It's Carl Armstrong, isn't it?  I recognise you even without your clothes."

I'm using these prompts as a kind of gym for writing, and I loathe writing action scenes, so I thought I would have a go.  An action scene in 500 words was really, really hard, so worth doing.   Carl Armstrong is a minor character in my novel 'The Forgotten Village' which is free from Smashwords if you are interested (though I used Carl here as a werewolf character I had used in previous Steve Adderson stories - and the Steve Adderson story so far is here if you are interested).  I hope you don't mind me mentioning it, and I hope you enjoy the story.  

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Skimming Stones

Once again there is a wonderful prompt from Write on Edge, and this time I am using their picture


This is another in the Steve Adderson Story and you can read the challenges so far here .  I have enjoyed writing this so much, but it is getting harder and harder to keep them self contained.  I am challenging myself to finish the novel before I need to choose another thread of stories (I've got some ideas for that as well).  Thank you for the encouraging comments so far, they have really made a positive difference to me and I hope you enjoy this.  

The imp belched in Steve's ear.  "Someone's coming, boss."
Steve didn't look around.  He skimmed another stone across the lake.
"I see that the imp has its uses." Lord Marius said coolly.
"His name is Armani." Steve said, still gazing across the lake.  He picked up another stone.
"On account of my style, yer highness." Armani leered at Lord Marius.
Lord Marius took in the scruffy and torn miniature t-shirt, the filthy jeans and stained boots.  "I can see that only a normal could call you that."  The imp chuckled coarsely and spat onto the rocky shore.
Lord Marius walked closer to Steve.  "There is no door to a magical kingdom here." He said.
"I know." Steve selected another stone.
"You are not meeting anyone?" Lord Marius was fairly sure he knew the answer, but asked anyway.
"No." The stone skimmed for four bounces across the still water.  Steve bent to carefully select the next stone.
"But you are here." Lord Marius persisted.
"I wanted a bit of peace and quiet." Steve glanced a little bitterly first at Armani and then at Lord Marius.  "And Armani is quiet enough."
Lord Marius watched Armani roll one of his foul cigarettes.  "Elaine is in Iberia."
"Spain." Steve skimmed another stone.  It was only three bounces this time, but he seemed satisfied enough.  "She's gone to Spain with a friend."
Lord Marius shrugged.  "Spain used to be part of Iberia.  No matter.  Is she coming back?"
"To England, yes.  She's got a flat in Manchester and a good job offer."
"Is she coming back to you?" Lord Marius asked.
Armani took a long drag of his roll up and gave Lord Marius a disbelieving look.   As the imp oozed smoke Steve took his time selecting his next stone.  Eventually he glanced up at Lord Marius.  "No, she's not coming back to me." He said finally and skimmed the stone.  It shot five bounces across the water sending ripples across the stillness. 
"I am in contact with an elfen marriage guidance expert who..."
"Don't you dare!"Steve whirled around and glared at Lord Marius.  "Don't you even dare.  You think you know people, but you don't.  You don't understand emotions or love or caring and you don't understand me.  Elaine's gone!  That's it.  I can't force her back.  She couldn't cope with the magic, the elfen, the weirdness.  And even if I wanted to I can't walk away from that because of Armani.  And I don't.  This is who I am.  This is what I am.  And Elaine doesn't want it."  Steve sagged.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to take it out on you."
"I understand." Lord Marius said quietly.  "And I also am sorry, sorry that your love affair failed."  He picked up a stone.  "We don't understand, really.  We try, but the elfen never quite understand the marvel that you are.  We do love, in our own way, but not in yours." And he skimmed his own stone across the cool water. 


I am a bit nervous mentioning this, but if you like Lord Marius he is a minor character in my novel 'The Forgotten Village' which is available free from Smashwords here.  It is compatible with practically every form of e-reader, and I hope you will feel able to dip in and enjoy.  Thank you for reading my take on Write on Edge's prompt.  

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

There's nothing you can do. You own me.

Another wonderful prompt from Write on Edge.  This week it used the quote 'You could've made a safer bet, but what you break is what you get, you wake up in the bed you make.  I think you made a big mistake.'  It's hard to do that justice in just 500 words!

Elaine sat down carefully at the kitchen table.  "I can't wait to hear your explaination."
Steve shifted uncomfortably.  "Well, I have been dealing with the elfen."
"And werewolves, and goblins, and that nice Mr Beddoes is a vampire." Elaine pointed out.
"It is dangerous to deal with the faerie." Steve rolled up his crisp shirt sleeve.  "You can still see the bite marks from when I got chased by Yell Hounds.  These are real scars."
"Yes, real scars that you got in the land of Faerie." Elaine waited patiently.
"So I followed some instructions from an old book." Steve glanced at the kettle.  "Should I make us a coffee?"
"Not yet." Elaine remained calm.  "Where did you get the book?"
"It was part of the job lot from the house I cleared.  You know, where the vampire had been staked.  I sorted stuff out for the local lord."
"I remember." There was ice in Elaine's voice.  "That's where the rug with the strange smell came from."
"Anyway," Steve desperately tried to get back on track.  "I found the cave that it described, and all the strange jars.  I should have paid more attention to the verse carved on the shelf." He pushed a copy of it over to Elaine.
"'You could've made a safer bet, but what you break is what you get, you wake up in the bed you make.  I think you made a big mistake.' Nice rhyme.  What does it mean?"
"It means that I get whatever is in the one jar I am allowed to break.  I can't break a second, and I can't change what I get.  It's a permanent deal.  I was heading straight for the one with the golden flower on, right in the centre.  Suddenly Lord Marius appeared.  That was a bad sign."
"Lord Marius has been reasonable in the past." Elaine wasn't going to allow Steve to get away with blaming Lord Marius.  "And he was certainly not responsible for you being there in the first place.  That's all your own work."
Steve looked hunted.  "If he hadn't turned up so suddenly I wouldn't have jumped and knocked over the one at the corner.  And if I hadn't knocked that one over it wouldn't have broken and I wouldn't be stuck with that!"
The imp sitting in the middle of the table looked at Elaine balefully.  It's bulging muddy green eyes were unblinking as it scratched at the seat of it's dirty jeans and spat on the kitchen floor.  Then it dragged out a miniature tin and rolled a cigarette.
"No smoking in this house!" Elaine snapped.

With studied insolence the imp lit the cigarette with a magical spark and took a long drag.  As it coughed smoke oozed not only out of its pared nostrils but off the tips of its pointed ears and the ends of the batlike wings poking through its dirty t-shirt.  It spat on the floor again.  "Make us a cup of tea, will yer."

Earlier installments of Steve Adderson's story can be found here  I'm starting to turn them into a novel which I will be self publishing later.  I am looking forward to finding out how it ends.  

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Day continuing Odd

I just had a call to say that the delivery driver had just handed a parcel to my mother.  She passed away in 2003.  I was a bit stumped.  It was actually a delivery to a friend whose mother was able to take in the package.

And I posted on a forum without thinking about the local funeral parlour having MacMillan Cancer Care coffee mornings and chatting to them if they were on a cigarette break.  I didn't realise how deeply ironic this was until it was pointed out.

I think I will sit quietly for a while until my Morrisons delivery comes.  The delivery charge was £1, the savings were sensible, last time the quality was exceptional and I have had an email and a txt telling me the name of the driver and that there were no substitutions.  

I think I love Morrisons.

Monday, 10 February 2014

On the Rocks

I've taken on the challenge from Trifecta to write 33 words about love gone wrong but without using love, sad, tears, wept, heart or pain.  Here is my take...

I'm trying to explain to the kids why mummy left, why there is no money and why she left a pile of whisky bottles behind her.  We are abandoned for her next drink.

Image from Stockfreeimages.com

A Cold Picture

This week's prompt from Write on Edge included the picture below.  I decided to carry on the Steve Adderson story, to see where it goes.  I would be grateful if you feel able to comment and let me know if it stands alone.  It is drawing from a world background I am exploring in other places, but I think it's unfair to write something that assumes prior knowledge and don't want to cheat.  Actually, I'm really grateful if you comment at all.  

Image from Unsplash

The cold leeching out of the picture burned Steve's hands.  "I thought deserts were hot." he said, putting the picture down and rubbing his hands together.
"When I was at Acre I found the heat of the day and the cold of the night difficult contrasts." Lord Marius looked thoughtfully at the picture.  "You could refuse this request, you know.  Taking a package from one faerie lord to another has its risks."
Steve carefully wrapped the picture in its layers of silk.  "Do I understand this correctly.  Lord Ragnar in York is gifting this picture to Lord Justinian in Rochester.  Lord Justinian will not be sending anything in return."
Lord Marius seemed lost in his memories as he gazed at the silk wrapped picture.  "It is such a remarkable picture, made many centuries before I went to Jerusalem." He returned to the present.  "Lord Justinian is having problems with a salamander which the picture will solve and Lord Ragnar is in a weak position at the moment.  He will rely on magical aid from Lord Justinian before long, I am sure.  How is Elaine?"
Steve had wanted to avoid this part of the conversation.  "She's fine."
"And you are still not married?"
"She didn't think that a proposal in a magical land counted." Steve held the picture lightly in his hands.  Even the silk wrappings were icy.  "She thought I had just got carried away.  She says we need to wait a bit."
"Is she performing wifely duties?" Lord Marius asked with helpful innocence.
"Why can't one of the elfen take this package?" Steve changed the subject.
"Distrust and paranoia." Lord Marius waved a hand.  "A werewolf will give you the letter from Lord Ragnar to accompany the gift.  You will meet him in the tea shop on Micklegate, near the bridge, on Monday at 11am sharp.  Here is an image of him so that you are not mistaken.  Another werewolf will collect the package in Rochester Cathedral tea rooms, once you have confirmed you have arrived.  Their image is here."
Steve nodded.  Werewolves were usually trustworthy in this situation.  "It's not a bad journey.  It's motorway all the way."
"Lord Ragnar is not popular." Lord Marius warned.  "He is only sending this treasure under great need.  You are at risk of interception."
"How great is the risk?" The cold stung Steve's fingers as they clenched on the picture.
"Do not take unnecessary risks." Lord Marius said carefully.  "Be careful where you pause your journey, and be particularly careful of strange weather."
"I've taken precautions."  Steve shoved his hands into his pockets to try and warm them.
"I know I can no longer approach your car." Lord Marius shrugged then changed the subject back.  "How do you propose to make Elaine wed you?"
Steve  concentrated on sliding the picture into its thick, insulated bag.  "I don't know." He carefully buttoned the cover.  "But it will be without elfen help, no matter how well meant.  I'm already in enough trouble."