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Collar and Gruel

The creature was tall. At least a head and shoulders above Nodwin, though she slouched terribly. Her hair was matted and covered in soot and dirt through which Nodwin could barely make out hints of what was possibly once a very healthy, if pale, green. A black collar, made of some hard, unidentifiable material, painfully encircled the creature’s neck. A long, fine, black chain of the same unknown material trailed from the collar out the door and down the corridor. She carried a wooden bowl filled nearly to the top with thin, colourless paste.

“You’re a Faerie!” Nodwin remarked rather abruptly. Under normal circumstances, such an utterance would be considered rude, but in light of Nodwin’s recent experiences, some latitude was entitled to him. “A real one, I mean, not a Pixie disguised as one.”

The Faerie nodded, and extended the bowl to Nodwin.

“What is your name?”

She shook her head, her eyes betraying the pain of a fellow prisoner, and thrust the bowl forward once more. With her other hand, she covered her mouth and shook her head again, then pointed to the ominous black collar. Nodwin understood. Perhaps the collar prevented her from speaking, or perhaps it alerted the guards if she did speak. Either way, Nodwin wasn’t going to get a word out of her.

“Alright then, just listen.” The Faerie made an urgent face and gestured back to the corridor. “Don’t worry, I’ll be quick. I am aPim. My father is the mayor of my village. A few days ago, we were visited by a Faerie named Willowswitch, who turned out to be a Pixie pretending to be a Faerie. He put a curse on my father and fled.”

The Faerie was enthralled by Nodwin’s tale, but just as he was coming to the nature of the Pixie’s curse a stern shout came from down the corridor and someone gave a sharp tug on the Faerie’s chain. She dropped the bowl and ran out the door without looking back.Nodwin caught the bowl before it hit the ground.

He sat, scooping the tasteless mash into his mouth with his hand and hoping beyond hope that that same Faerie would bring his next meal as well.

<< Previous Chapter | First Chapter

An Apology

I have to apologize for the lack of new content in the last week. Unfortunately, I also have to inform you that it will be followed by another week or so of no new content.

I’m heading off to Mexico in a couple of days, and my life has been surrounded by those pesky Things That Need Doing. Both at work and at home.

I don’t think I’ll have access to an Internet in Mexico, but I plan to take my binder with me, and work on a long-term project.

Things will be back on track in February. Never fear.

A Noise in the Graveyard

Klaus collapsed to the ground, pressing his face to the still relatively fresh dirt of his wife’s grave. He was as close to her as he could be, like this. Tears streamed across the the bridge of his nose and onto the tiny blades of green grass, already sprouting, as he let his grief kill his anger and fear.

Tiny blades of green grass. In the darkness he could barely make them out but they were there.

Klaus had watched his wife’s coffin be lowered into the ground and covered in dirt. He had seen the funeral director seal the coffin shut with Klara’s body inside. The dirt above her grave was still relatively fresh, yes, but it already had grass growing in it. It was impossible that this grave had been dug up again since the funeral. The verdant green of the new growth testified to that. This ground was undisturbed.

Klaus felt relief was over him. Following closely behind was renewed anger. How could someone torture a widower like that? Worse, how could the respectable Klaus Drecker be so foolish as to believe so ridiculous a claim. Murder and grave-robbing. Nonsense.

There was a noise then, in the nearly pitch dark of the graveyard, so faint that Klaus wouldn’t have heard it if his ear had not been pressed against the earth. It was a scraping noise, perhaps of a shovel cutting through stony dirt. It seemed to come from farther down the row of graves. Klaus rose and walked along the row, treading softly. He came to another fresh grave, this one with no grass yet growing, and the funeral flowers still barely wilted at all. The sound was loudest here. Yes, certainly a digging sound, but no-one was digging here, that could be plainly seen, even in the dark.

But perhaps … The sound was muffled. It was coming from underground!

Klaus silently dropped prone once more, pressing his ear to the dirt. He could hear the shovel scraping against wood. He listened for a few moments, until he heard a loud thump, then a dragging sound.

Someone was robbing the graves from underneath!

Oh, horror! My Klara! What if it’s true?

Klaus ran through the streets once more, aiming for the constabulary. What was he thinking? Who would believe a half-crazed grief-stricken man who had not left his house since his wife’s funeral, especially when he looked as if he’d been crawling around a cemetery. He must go home and collect himself.

Klaus opened the door to his workshop.

Whoosh-Whump.

Klaus opened the canister.

NOW YOU SEE

NOW YOU KNOW

COME TO THE CASTLE KLAUS

A chill ran up Klaus’ spine.

<< Previous Chapter | First Chapter

Prison

Nodwin opened his eyes, the grogginess of being knocked out slowly dropped away. He was in a windowless room. The walls and floor were made of dirt that had been hardened somehow. Maybe even by magic. It was smooth and he couldn’t even put a divot in it with his fingernail. The room was lit by a single glowing orb, certainly magical, that gave off a sickly pale white-green light, like a permanent after-image from a lightning strike. It made Nodwin slightly ill.

The door was sturdy, and was made of wood. The hinges were on the outside, apparently, and there was no apparatus for opening the door on Nodwin’s side at all. The furniture in the room consisted of a simple hammock hung across the breadth of the narrow room and a small bench with a hole in it – it’s use obvious. Nodwin could hear a trickle of water coming from the hole. He supposed there was some kind of stream beneath it to carry away the refuse.

Knowing all there was to know right then about his prison, Nodwin took stock of himself. He wasn’t hurt past having a headache from being bonked. His muscles were sore from the struggle. But both ailments would pass soon enough. More importantly, the Pixies had taken his shield and spear and his pack. He had no tools or supplies. He hoped they intended to keep him fed and watered.

They had left him his clothes, and, surprisingly, the Mancer’s stone. He still at least had the vessel to bring home his father. That was a blessing. He wondered why the Pixies had left it on him. They had been so thorough in removing everything else. Even his pockets had been utterly emptied. The stone was large – nearly as large as Nodwin’s fist – they couldn’t have missed it. Unless it was enchanted in some way.

The Mancer had told Nodwin that he could only bring Furlwid home in that stone; it must be special. Perhaps there were other things about the stone that the Mancer hadn’t mentioned. Like perhaps it was invisible to Pixies, or maybe it hurt them to touch it.

Nodwin lay in the hammock, contemplating his options for escape. The door would not budge. There were no other openings, apart from the toilet. He glanced at the toilet. Though he hadn’t used it yet, he could smell the air that wafted from the trickling stream beneath it. He set thought of it aside as a last resort.

Nodwin turned his thoughts to the stone around his neck. He felt sure that whatever had prevented the Pixies from taking it from him, that would be the key to his escape. He rolled the stone in his palms, feeling the weight of it, wondering.

Suddenly he heard the sound of footsteps and muffled voices through the door. Nodwin hastily popped the stone back under his shirt, not ready to make experiments with it yet, however anxious he was to learn why the Pixies had ignored it. He heard one of the voices shout something, and the footsteps quickened noticeably.

The door to his prison cell opened, but despite his expectations, it was not a Pixie that walked through.

<< Previous Chapter | First Chapter | Next Chapter >>

Come to the Castle

KLARA

Klaus glared at the new slip, fury consuming him. This was the most depraved display of poor taste he’d ever witnessed. Somebody was impersonating his dead wife – Oh God, Klara – mere days after her funeral. He wanted to tear the tubes from the wall, he wanted to find whoever was doing this and cause them pain, but most of all he wanted to be sick.

This joke, if such a thing could be given a name like that, had finally forced him to admit that Klara was gone. For that, he supposed amid his emotional agony, he should be a little grateful.

“She’s dead,” he said woodenly, facing the tubes. He pulled out another slip and began writing the same.

Whoosh-Whump.

KLARA IS NOT DEAD

KLARA ARE … IS … I

Klaus hadn’t even put anything in the tube. But he’d spoken. The Thinking Box can’t hear, can it? Even if the sound carried through the tubes, there were no lateral connections. Every tube went straight up Cutter’s Crag. Nobody in town could have heard him. This was getting to be too much.

Whoosh-Whump.

THEY MURDERED KLARA

TOOK KLARA FROM HER GRAVE

“No! Stop it! You’re lying! She’s dead! She got ill and died from her sickness!”

Whoosh-Whump.

COME TO THE CASTLE

Klaus fled his house. He stumbled wildly into the street. It was night, some time after the witching hour, for the lamp-man had extinguished the streetlamps. Clouds covered the night sky, making it very dark.

Klaus ran aimlessly, taking turns at random, the energy of pent-up mourning and cloistered inactivity ejecting itself through every outlet.

Finally, whether by some cruel twist of fate or by some unconscious desire of the heart, he found himself standing before Klara’s grave.

<< Previous Chapter | First Chapter | Next Chapter >>

The Garden’s State

“Please slow down!” Stella’s skipping was tossing Nodwin about in her pocket.

“Sorry!” Stella called, and settled into a much more stable walk.

Nodwin was able to poke his head out of her pocket without fear of a sudden motion snapping his neck on its edge. What he saw amazed him. Huge trees sailing by as if he were a bird flying among them. He looked down at the ground, whizzing by at stupendous speed. This is what it might feel like to ride a chipmunk – something the Pims had never dared to try.

Stella chattered along the way about this and that, and Nodwin provided, like a good, patient friend who was being done a favour should, polite, interested replies when his turns came up in the conversation.

Before very long (Nodwin was astonished at the distance they had traveled in such a short time, and wondered at how long it would have taken him alone) they arrived at a small woodsman’s cot which had been made the best of by the woodsman’s wife, presumeably Stella’s mother. There was a bit of lattice with some creeping vine growing up the side of the cot, some lovely dressing in the windows and a little stone path leading up to the door. The garden gave Nodwin pause.

What obviously was meant to be a few beds of pretty flowers in neat rows was the scene of a botanical massacre. Nearly every bloom had been torn off its stem. Who would do such a thing to a beautiful garden like this one?

“Oh no!” Stella cried. “They’ve been at the garden again!”

“Who?” Nodwin asked, but Stella was preoccupied by her own dismay.

“Mother and I worked so hard!” Stella gently plucked Nodwin from her pocket and placed him on the ground. “You stay here, I must go tell Mother what’s happened, and if she saw you in the house, she might think you were a mouse and try to hit you.”

“Who did this?” Nodwin called after her, but she didn’t hear him. Nodwin looked around, suddenly feeling very alone in a very strange place, a place inhabited by giants, and who knew what else. He looked at the flowers, beheaded; something was wrong here. He heard a noise from behind some of the fallen blossoms.

Then Stella’s voice rang out in the relative silence, carrying all the way from inside the cot. “Mother! The Faeries have destroyed our garden!”

Nodwin’s breath caught. Faeries would never do this. Not ever! But if Stella thought it was Faeries … Pixies!

Nodwin turned around and began to run toward the cot, but before he had taken more than two steps, he was surrounded by grey-white skinned people with scraggly dark hair and sunken, circled eyes. As they advanced he crouched into a defensive position, holding up his shield and thrusting at them with his spear. But they were quick, nimbly stepping out of its way as others closed on him from the rear. As they smothered him he called out.

“Stella!”

<< Previous Chapter | First Chapter | Next Chapter >>

A colleague (by which I mean fellow relatively unpublished writer who’s decided to use the power of Web 2.0 to motivate his career) of mine, Mark Putnam, recently did something remarkable.

He started a blog called “Plotastic!” and got a huge pile of people to fill out a ballot. It was a big ballot, and it contained at least 3 or 4 choices for every major, and many minor, element in a novel. He took the results, and in less than half a year, turned them into what he calls “draft zero” of a novel.

Then the crazy son of a gun turns around and writes ANOTHER novel in just one month! OMGWTF!?!?!

This guy is a freakin’ machine. Anybody who is the least bit interested in writing or extreme discipline (the safe word is “eraser”) should absolutely read his new blog (which replaces “Plotastic!”): “Write Damn Now“.

Read it!!!! And then Write. Damn. Now.

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