Friday, 20 November 2015

A Kernel of Truth

Steve Adderson sat at looked at the result of months of hard work nestling in his hands.  It looked like a conker case, the green, spiky shell that enclosed the polished brown nuts inside.  It had taken him months of hard work, arcane research and difficult spell casting but inside was the answer to a question.  He just had to choose the question.
"What are you going to ask?" Armani said, taking a lungful of foul smoke from his miniature rollup.  The imp settled on Steve's hand and spat on the table next to where it rested.  "There's no rush, boss, maybe just go for a walk, get some fresh air.  It won't hurt to sleep on it."
Steve said nothing, continuing to stare at the cases. 
Armani took another drag of his rollup and pinched it out.  "Listen, boss, you could ask for the way to get Elaine back, to make her stay.  You know she loved you really.  She just couldn't hack the weird stuff."  Armani grasped at straws.  "I tell you what, I wouldn't smoke in the house either."
Steve said nothing.  The cases felt cool and slightly damp against his palm, as if they had been freshly picked on a damp autumn day instead of being conjured in a converted garage. 
"What would you really achieve if you found your father.  He could be dead." Amarni tried to read Steve's face."  I mean, he never knew you, so he could be living with a family.  He could have grandkids.  He may not want to see you."
Steve slowly moved his fingers over the cases.  They felt rough and organic.
"You've missed Elaine a lot." Armani persisted.  "I know she's just dumped her last boyfriend.  Why don't you just send her a text?"
Steve surfaced and looked at the scruffy imp on his hand.  "It's good to know when something is finished." He said quietly.
"Then look for a new girlfriend." Armani urged.  "Ask who would make you the best wife and find her."
"You know who my father is, don't you?" Steve said quietly to Armani.
"I don't know who." Armani said.  "I don't have a name.  But I've got some ideas and you've been a good boss and as a decent imp I'm telling you to step away from this because you had enough pain from Elaine."  Armani pulled out the dog end of the rollup and lit it again with a spark from his fingers. "And there's no rush.  We've got that shipload of dog chews for Lord Thibault to sort out.  You can think it over."

"I need to know who my father is." Steve said firmly.  "And I need to know now."

This is the last Steve Adderson story until after I publish 'The Prince and the Paladin' when all will be revealed.  Publication date - I'm working on it.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Magician

A short story in response to the Light and Shade Challenge for 3rd November 2015.  Do go along and have a look, and take part if you enjoy it.  There is a new one each Wednesday, and all are welcome.

"It is good to meet you again, Steve Addison." Lord Marius smiled with what looked like genuine warmth.  "And so many people are impressed at your ability to provide honey from the other side of the world..."
The bar surrounding them slipped away.  Steve looked around.  Lord Marius froze.  They had met in a bustling, upmarket pub with a big screen in the corner showing the big match.  Now they were in a dark, cavernous space.  Faint lights glowed some distance above, too distant to show the edges of the room.  Cold, damp flagstones had replaced the pub carpet.  Steve swore and purple sparks arced off into the dark corners.
"Someone has pulled us into a dark realm." Lord Marius said quietly.  "And I know not why."
"It always comes down to money." The voice that floated out of the darkness sounded dry and dusty.  "Money, power and sex.  But money, mostly."
"I only have small change on me." Lord Marius said coolly as he watched the figure approach.  "Steve Addison, have you met a lich before?  Those who have died yet remain, animated by magic.  They can be quite dangerous."
Steve could feel the tension in Lord Marius as he watched the violet flame encircling them flickering soundlessly as it marked a line that they should not cross.  "I haven't much money on me myself."
The lich strolled casually into the faint light.  Once he had been a handsome man, but now he looked dried out and papery, his sunken eyes looked mockingly at the two in the circle as he adjusted his old fashioned velvet jacket.  "Steve Addison has made a fortune trading with the elfen - and good luck to him.  There are few who would take that risk.  So the plan is that Mr Addison is the hostage while Lord Marius goes and gets the money.  I believe there is a cash machine less than a hundred yards from the entrance to my realm."  The lich smiled thinly.  "Lord Marius, you can try your best, but your magic is no match for mine.  I've bested you before, remember."
Lord Marius glanced at Steve and stepped forward.  "I do not forgive insults of such magnitude." He said coldly, catching the lich's gaze and keeping it.  "I do not lightly accept such a slur on my honour to be a boy to fetch pennies."

The lich's mocking laugh started to break.  He stared at Lord Marius.  "What have you learned?" He held up his hand and a violet glow surrounded it as he pulled it back, claw like and ready to strike.  Lord Marius watched impassively as the violet glow shimmered and the colour slid to scarlet and started to flame upwards.  The lich stared in horror as his own magic consumed him, burning him up in a smoky pyre, Lord Marius stepped through the fading violet circle.  "I have learned that Steve Addison is a far greater sorcerer than I will ever be."  He bowed politely to Steve and the pub returned around them.  "I believe I owe you at least a drink."

Friday, 2 October 2015

I want to fling my cup
I want to hurl it at the wall
I want to watch the tea dripping
I want to see the dark fluid staining
the bland, blameless wallpaper
I want to see the fragments
rattle and tinkle across the floor

I sit and primly sip
Waiting to be released.

Saturday, 5 September 2015


The cupboards need cleaning, I'll turn them all out,
 I can check all the contents and move stuff about.
I'll rotate the cans of the sweetcorn and beans
And won't have to think what a eulogy means.

This floor is disgusting, I'll get it scrubbed clean.
I can move out the chairs and sweep in between.
I can polish the legs of the table and sink.
I can scour and rinse and I won't have to think.

The table needs moving, it's in the wrong place
And tablecloth's edged with the wrong kind of lace.
It all needs renewing or at least turning out,
Which means no time to think what tomorrow's about.

I've dusted the top of the doorway and door,
I've counted the candles and twice mopped the floor,
Tomorrow's the funeral, but I've no time to think,
As it's far too important to scour out the sink.  

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Knock at the Door

Rose jerked awake from where she had been dozing.  The knock on the door had sounded like thunder in her dreams.  She rushed to the window and peered through the dusty nets.
Ellen joined her at the window.  They both looked out at the slim young man.  "Is this it?" Ellen asked.  "Have they found Mary?"
Ruby stood at the entrance to the room, too nervous to join them at the window.   "Does it look like good news or bad news?"
The door knocker sounded again.  "We should answer the door." Rose said, sounding braver than she felt.
"What if it's bad news?" Ellen asked.  "What if they haven't found Mary?  What if she can never come home with us?"
"Is it a man or a woman at the door?" Ruby asked, edging a little closer to the window.
"It's a man." Rose said, peering a little further then darting back against the cobwebs as their visitor looked up at the window.  "He's wearing a suit."
"Does he have anyone with him?" Ruby clenched her hands into fists.
Rose shook her head.  "He's got a box, though, all draped with a silk cloth."
"Is that good news or bad news?" Ruby asked.
"It has to be news about Mary." Ellen said.  "We should answer the door."
"What if it is another 'favour'." Ruby said flatly.  "We've worn ourselves to shreds doing 'favours' for those who should have helped us.  Perhaps they think we need to do more."
The knocker thundered again.  "We have to answer the door." Rose said.  "We should all go."  The man was looking around curiously.  An expensive car stood at the end of the weed covered drive.  "He may leave and then we will never know."
The sisters tiptoed into the hall.  "We can't ignore this." Rose said.  "We have to take courage and think of Mary."

It was Ellen who finally slid open the chain and turned the stiff lock.  The neglected door creaked a little as she dragged it open.  It was a cold, late autumn day with damp in the air but the man did not rush.  He nodded politely and stepped in.  He looked around, and, without saying a word, pulled the dusty hall table to the centre of the hall.  Then he placed the box reverentially on the table.  The sisters didn't speak as he carefully pulled off the black cloth and folded it neatly, tucking it inside his heavy, expensive overcoat.  The sisters could barely move, transfixed by black, lacquered box.  The man deftly removed the lid and removed an urn.  He checked that it was safe and centred.  Then he looked around the hall.  The sisters did not make a sound.  The man bowed politely again and left, closing the door behind him.

The sisters finally relaxed as they listened for the old gate creaking shut and the car purring away.  Then they crowded around the urn.  The three ghosts, finally reunited with the ashes of their beloved sister, faded away.  

This has been written in response to the Light and Shade prompt, and is actually part of the Steve Adderson story.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Exchange of Post

Steve took a suspiciously large bag from Lord Marius.  "What's changed?"
Lord Marius looked at him thoughtfully.  He was looking casual in a slim fitting t-shirt and immaculate jeans.  "Nothing has changed yet." He said coolly.
Steve kept his cool.  Elfen could feed off human emotions and some of the older ones, like Lord Marius, were connoisseurs.  Lord Marius would find his frustration far too amusing.  "So what is going to change?"
Lord Marius shrugged casually but Steve was not fooled.  Lord Marius looked at his slim watch.  "The Leeds train is due to arrive.  I must not miss it."
"The Leeds train is not due for ten minutes, and Huddersfield station is small enough that you won't miss it.  What do I need to know?"
Lord Marius looked carefully at Steve.  "You are becoming remarkably competent at dealing with the non normal community.  What you need to know is that I cannot tell you everything, at least not for a while.  But I do think you should take over some of my tasks."
"Are you employing me?" Steve asked carefully.
"Not as such, no." Lord Marius peered carefully down the track.  "It is remarkable how the trains work, is it not?  One minute in Manchester and the next minute in Leeds.  I remember the first time I saw a train - I thought one of the devils had appeared again."
"This bag is full of messages." Steve said.  "You've put notes on all of them, and they're all places I've been.  Are you training me to be your replacement?"
"I bought a ticket once." Lord Marius craned his neck.  "I put it in a frame, I thought it was so wonderful, a small piece of paper to allow me such liberty to travel and at such speed."
"What are you up to, Lord Marius?"
"There are..." Lord Marius paused and waved his hands as he searched for the right words.  "Lord Lothar warned you to never go with me into Leeds, did he not?"
Steve nodded.  "You've never asked me to go there."
"And I am still not asking you to go there.  I am asking you to..." Lord Marius once again scratched for the right words.  "You are not as good as I but you are adequate to take the messages from lord to lord." He glared at Steve.  "You are barely adequate, but you will do.  You will find many opportunities for business."
Steve knew better than to risk the fragile ego of an elfen.  "I can't do all that you do, but you have given me enough training to manage a shadow of your skills."
Lord Marius looked at Steve for long, long minutes.  His face was entirely expressionless.  "You have different skills.  It is of particular interest that your skills with magic are starting to outstrip all but the most skilled elfen.  You search for your father.  I advise you to stop looking."

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Message on the Wind

The wind rattled the ends of branches against Steve's window  A patter of raindrops hit the glass.
Armani grumbled in his sleep.  He had claimed the corner of the mantelpiece as his, a small, fetid corner of a neat room, but Steve could live with that.  The wind, though, was getting on his nerves.
He leafed through his notebooks.  He had a stack of notebooks, a folder on his laptop and his iPad and phone were stacked with note after note.  He wasn't getting anywhere.
The wind rattled again, moaning outside.  Armani stirred and turned over.  Steve could hear the rattle of autumn leaves being bowled down the path and whirled around the garden. 
Armani sat up and scratched his crotch, knocking against a picture of Steve and Elaine on the mantelpiece next to him.  His ex girlfriend looked so full of life in the picture, taken as they had been joking on the steps of York Minster.  Steve remembered that day.  He had had the ring in his pocket ready to propose but they had had a few glasses of wine by the river and he had worried that she wouldn't take him seriously. 
Armani coughed and stretched.  "Are you going to do something about that wind, boss?" he grumbled. 
Steve looked back at his notebooks.  He was getting very good at elfen magic but he was still hitting a wall.  He had been offered the love of Elaine by an elfen as a bargaining tool.  It wasn't what he really wanted, though, and the elfen had known it.  That chapter had closed.  He had forced magic to bend to his will, pushed back barriers that had been thought impregnable, he had fought and fought and fought.  But he still did not know the name of his father.  He did not know who was the one night stand who had left his mother unexpectedly with him. 
The wind rattled again and Steve could hear something bouncing noisily off the kerb and rattling down the street.  He pulled back the curtains.    In the evening light everything was still.  A few streets away the smoke from a chimney drifted straight up and there would be a cold dew by morning.  Steve tapped his fingers thoughtfully on the sill.  Then he closed the curtains.  Once again the noise of the wind started up, howling and rising. 
Steve opened the front door and looked out into the quiet street.  "Lord Gwill Mawr, thank you for your presence.  However I am interested only in things I can trade fairly.  There are two weeks before Halloween.  The earlier I get a trade, the earlier I can get your fripperies at a good price."  Steve shut the door. 
In the living room Armani was watchful at the window, but when Steve looked at him he shrugged.  "They're still here, boss, but at least it's gone quiet.  At least for now." And he started rolling another of his foul cigarettes. 

I just want to say thank to to Sarah Head and Witch Hazel for their incredibly kind words of encouragement.  After dipping back in to look at some of the Steve Adderson, it seemed a shame not to write some more. 

Witch Hazel - there are a lot of ideas about the characters in The Forgotten Village.  After all, Darren is still single, and Carl is far too nice to be left on the shelf.  As an author I have a duty to give them complicated love lives!

Sarah Head - thank you so much, especially for the comment about structure.  It is really kind.