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Silk and Steel

Happy Easter folks! Hope you all have an eggztra fabulous long weekend! 😀

“Vraxi! You… you came!” Edmund’s stunning heterochromatic eyes gleamed bright with emotion as he waved and began weaving his way through the throng of assembled students, lecturers and members of the general public who filled the library almost to bursting, towards the door through which the Yag and his demon charge had entered.

This is Edmund, heart-on-sleeve,” Vraxi whispered as they watched him attempt to politely negotiate his way through the wall of bodies.

Xander The Demon raised his eyebrows, “So I tell him outright that I think he is an abomination of nature and his parents were perverts and defilers?” he asked.“You think that would be the best course of action here to keep us both ‘alive.’ ?”

Gods no!” Vraxi slapped his forehead with his hand and rolled his eyes; baby sitting this one might be tougher than he had first expected. “Not you! Edmund. Edmund wears his heart on his sleeve,” he hissed urgently. “He is a good friend, a wonderful person, one of the most beautiful souls you could ever hope to meet… and also we need him, so, … try to be nice and keep your prohibitively puritanical opinions to yourself.”

The demon nodded sagely and attempted a warm smile as Edmund finally managed to squeeze through and stand beside them.

“You came!” the half demon repeated, breathlessly.

“Did I not promise as much?” Vraxi said, with a little bow and a wink which made Edmund flush scarlet.

“And this is… not Xander?” Edmund asked uncertainly.

“Indeed. This is Xander’s demon, as I told you. But we have no desire to rock the boat here, Edmund, let us install ourselves somewhere unobtrusive while you give your marvellous speech on…” he rolled his long delicate fingers…

“Demons Of love And Light” Edmund supplied, with a small smile.

“It was on the tip of my tongue,” Vraxi lied with a twinkle which sent Edmund blushing again. “And then afterwards…” he lowered his voice conspiratorially, “..we hope to hold you to your own promise of dinner? To discuss our, er, little problem?”

“It is all arranged!” Edmund beamed, “Dinner, in my rooms at the university.” He lowered his head suddenly then and mumbled something to his shoes.

Vraxi frowned, such a beautiful gaze should not be so often wasted on the floor, he thought to himself, and gently brought his delicate fingers under Edmunds chin and drew it up so they were eye to eye,“Forgive me, I didn’t catch that,” he said, smiling encouragingly.

“I… I said thankyou, Vraxi, for coming I mean, and… well, for everything… it really means a lot, m- more than I can say… A lot of the other students feel I shouldn’t be here, not only because I am a half-demon, but also because I have only secured a place through sponsorship. I feel so much happier knowing there is someone here who… who is a friend.”

Oh dear, thought the Yag, as he felt his heart melt to molten lava, What am I getting myself into with this one? “Listen…” he began, but stopped almost immediately, caught off guard by a sudden urge to seize these cretinous students – and anyone else who had ever emotionally wounded the half-demon – and force them to suffer the same pain he saw reflected in those beautiful, captivating eyes.

“…listen,” he tried again, clasping Edmund by the shoulders, “the world would be a much nicer place with more people like you in it, sadly you are a rare treasure Edmund, a diamond amongst mundane rocks and anyone who cannot see that does not deserve the richness of your company. Now, your audience awaits – go and wow them with your revelations, go and win their hearts and alter their dull-witted, monochrome perceptions with words of hard-won truth.”

He sighed wistfully as Edmund beamed his thanks and began weaving his way back to the front of the library where a small podium had been set up for him to give his talk.

“Hand me a shovel.” he said, unable to drag his gaze from the half-demon’s retreating rear.

“You said nothing of digging a hole,” the demon said, looking confused.

Vraxi put his hands on his hips and shook his head, “It’s a hobby of mine, it seems.” he said ruefully.

Silk and Steel

Ahoi! I am so so sorry it’s taken so long to rescue the file but it’s here now and I think I’ve grasped where we left off (if not then shout at me and I’ll try again! XD)

So to recap because it’s been so long – Vraxi has stolen some demonsong and plans to sneak some into Xander’s ale so that he can try and talk to / befriend the demon which is bound inside Xander’s soul. He hopes the three of them can form an alliance that will free his friend from the burden and stigma of being demon-bound. He has also promised Edmund he will attend his dissertation speech on ‘demons of love and light’ at the library and that afterwards they’ll have dinner together and try to figure a way to separate Xander from his demon completely so that the two souls can be free.

Here’s the playlist link again to set the mood if you’d like to 🙂 https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVwm8ToS8lYqeirlFPVVrMDeB_0mIBAnB

“Another round?” Vraxi asked politely, too extatic to care that he was now in danger of losing his third month’s rent. Might have to bet my soul in a minute, he thought, and suppressed a gleeful giggle at the notion that he was sitting here playing black jack with a demon.

A demon who was also his friend / his friend who was also a demon… he couldn’t decide which way the truth rang better? It had been a busy day in the end, what with the excitements the morning had brought, and then work, and then a… misunderstanding which had lead to an altercation followed by a spot of light exercise through the city drainage system… Xander had been particularly out of sorts again by the end of it all and it had been a surprisingly easy matter to slip the demonsong into his evening pint and then wait for it to work its magic.

“You fascinate me,” Xander The Demon said, sounding for all the world like Xander The Demon-Bound, now that they had established the growling and snarling noises to be ineffectual and therefore obsolete.

“The feeling is mutual, I promise you,” Vraxi said, grinning from ear to ear as he dealt out the cards.

“Do all your kind take such delight in losing?”

That brought the yag up sharp and to his senses and his eyes narrowed and then widened suddenly in alarm as he realised the actual extent of his debt.

He chuckled at his own idiocy, but gathered the cards back to the deck and slipped them safely back into his belt pouch. “Not when we are playing in earnest,” he said flippantly, “but of course, bets are never honoured in informal games like this one… between friends, so the winning and losing hardly matters.” He waved a hand dismissively at the tokens on the table, “we play for fun, you understand? The pleasure of company and conversation.”

Xander-The -Demon narrowed his own eyes at the yag, “You are trying to trick me out of my gain.”

“But of course!” Vraxi said smoothly, “It is what we do, and you must learn how to deal with it without getting your shirt in a twist. In fact you have a lot to learn if you are ever to walk out of that door and into the world without getting us all into mischief.”

He linked his fingers and leaned in across the table in a conspiratorial fashion. “There are different kinds of people,” he said earnestly. “Some, like the formidable Doctor, who you may meet some day, they take everything very seriously and they let everyone know about it at once. They wear their hearts on their sleeves…er, not literally!” he added quickly when he saw the demon’s eyebrows skyrocket to his brow, “it’s merely an expression – to say they let their feelings be known at all times and to everyone.

Then there are others, like our mutual friend Xander here, and Spyro Mendicci, you might meet him as well, who never let anyone know what is going on beneath ‘the mask’” he swept his hand dramatically across his face.”

“And which are you?” Xander The Demon asked, suspiciously.

“I,” said the yag grinning broadly, “I am the high wire artiste, balancing between them and trying to make sure that nobody dies.” He knocked back his drink and stood up from the table with a flourish, “least of all me…” he jabbed a finger at the demon “…or my friends.”

“What are you doing now?”

Vraxi turned with his hand on the doorknob, “taking you out, did I not say as much?”

The demon frowned, “a moment ago you said I had a lot to learn.”

“And have you not learnt it?” Vraxi asked impatiently “I would rather not repeat the lesson – the night wanes and we have an engagement!”

HAPPY EQUINOX WEEKEND MY LOVELIES! I hope you have an utterly blessed time 🙂

Update

Egad I’m so sorry I’ve not been around at all this year so far – I feel like I’m still in January and it’s March! My laptop died at the start of the year, taking Silk and Steel with it (yes I know I should have backed it up on Drive or something – lesson learned! Hopefully! XD) But I’ve managed to get the file back and now have a laptop to work on at least some days of the week so I’ll get the next bit up asap.

Healthwise this year has gone with a bang too XD – I’ve barely been out of bed thus far but had another transfusion yesterday and another scan last week and tentacles crossed the specialist will get a better care plan sorted out so that these peaks and troughs don’t become so debilitating.

Lifewise things have just exploded in ineffable amounts of shit that I won’t bore you all with the details of. Suffice to say I think we have come to the end of it now (although every time I’ve said that so far I’ve stepped on another landmine! XD XD XD ) Tentacles crossed this really is the end.

SO, that is the dull and disinteresting story of why I have not been around – hugest apologies and I will get back on track and catch up with everything as soon as I can. This has been a tough time for everyone I know and I hope that all of you are bearing up the best you can and that any pressures are starting to ease now and the future is looking bright and rosy 🙂

We have big exciting plans here for 2021 and I’m trying to hold onto those and remind myself this latest bout of zombie-ness is only temporary and soon I’ll have my brain and body back and be fighting fit again 😀 Thankyou all so much for not giving up on me!

Hugest tentacular blessings and love to you all and wishes for a spectacular spring and awesome 2021 from here on in! 😀 xx

Final Light In The Lantern: With Stephen Palmer

Greetings! Welcome to to Steampunk’d Lancaster! My name is Stephen
Palmer and I write epic steampunk novels. Strange times have struck the
Isles of Ire – hair-eating Snow Woollies plague our icy lanes, and Daemon
Chariots roam the streets spreading their curse like a plague… So some of us
have decided to re-kindle the old beacon in the city watchtower and keep its
flame burning each night as a way of giving hope to those being hunted
down by terrifying monsters, or evil scarecrow landlords…

Tonight is my shift and never fear, I am well armed to protect myself with my trusty
Teapot Of Bhutan, so I think I will manage to keep the beasts at bay. Now
then, since I’m here I thought I would share some of my work with you
all…I’m best known for my steampunk Factory Girl trilogy. Set in 1910 and
1911, this work follows the story of Kora Blackmore, cast into Bedlam by
her appalling father, the Victorian engineer and entrepreneur Sir Tantalus
Blackmore. Kora and her friend Erasmus Darwin (grandson of Charles) must
escape capture and find out the truth of the enigma surrounding Kora and her
birth.

This trilogy was republished last year with new covers by the famous
steampunk illustrator Tom Brown, who also did the cover for the fourth
book, The Conscientious Objector, which follows Erasmus into the hell of
1914 and WW1…I’m also known for my WW1 novel Tommy Catkins.
Tommy, returning in 1915 from a horrific experience in the trenches of the
Western Front, finds himself in an experimental hospital on a river island in
Wiltshire, where, suffering from shell shock, he is given the primitive
treatments of the time. But Tommy is badly damaged by his experiences,
and in due course finds that the island is not all it seems to be…If you’d like
to purchase any of my wares you can find them

here:https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stephen-
Palmer/e/B0062Z5R78?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1608641267&sr=8-
1https://www.amazon.com/Stephen-
Palmer/e/B0062Z5R78?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1608641298&sr=8-1If

you’d like to connect you can find me
here:https://stephenpalmersf.wordpress.com/https://www.facebook.com/step
henpalmersfhttps://vimeo.com/stephenpalmer

Well thank you so much for joining me this evening as we keep the light in the lantern burning. I’m
afraid that’s my shift over for the night, thank goodness it was a quiet one!
I’ve heard some authors have had their spines ripped to pieces up here by
book mavens of the worst possible type – craven cowards, all!

Stay safe friends, whatever assails you, and when times are dark, look for the light in
the lanterns of others and treasure the light in your own…

Ghosts Of Wit: A Grimoire For The Apocalypse

Happy holidays my lovelies! Well – I’m about to start mine anyway and I hope you all have splendiferously spectacular things planned as well!

Knowledge should be free – and so should fun! – so I’ve made my Grimoire For The Apocalypse available as a free PDF just in time for Crimbo.

It’s a rainy day activity book for bored magicians in lockdown full of playful stuff that works but is also fun and subversive.

And it includes a bonus short story: a tongue- in – cheek Magician’s Journey crammed full of Easter eggs which, if you find them all, give a lil potted history of magic (well, westish magic anyway!)

It’s licenced under Creative Commons so it’s fine to share as well. Or if you prefer paperback I’ve set the price at print-cost. (Which imho is still horrendously expensive!)

Happy festive wishes however you celebrate the season, and if you are in lockdown I hope this helps while away some dull hours and bring a few giggles to alleviate the stress.

You can download the free pdf here:

Or get the paperback at print-cost here:

BLURB:

It’s Bagatelle. There’s a Wreck in The Zone. This is not part of The Plan. But you are, and your instructions are simple – DESTROY THIS BOOK.

Ghosts of Wit is an interactive cybertext. A bizarre Easter Egg hunt through a twisted Wonderland in the company of dead poets, sinister psychopomps, sentient tarot cards and a mysterious cat with a fiddle.

Is there life after Porridge? Who is Mary? What does it mean to Tread Well in life? Who started the fire? Why does the old man smile? And would you like a bacon sandwich? Are just some of the questions this book will not attempt to answer. However if you already know the answers, then jump on your camel and join the hunt for the book that doesn’t exist… just beware of the white rabbits along the way…

Silk and Steel

Happy Friday! I’m going to make next week the last post before christmas and then carry on where we leave off in the new year. Ghosts of Wit is at the proof stage so that should be out next week as well. Wishing you all an utterly fabulous weekend and hugest thankyous for following along with my wild witterings thus far! Picking up where we left off last week with poor Vraxi…

When Spyro shut the door, Vraxi folded up like a fan on the enormous four poster bed and shed silent tears into the sea of dark silk sheets. He had needed this. He had needed to prove to himself that somebody, for whatever reason, wanted him – that he had some purpose, some skill, some use in the universe however shallow or cheap that thing might seem to others. But he had messed things up again; it seemed all he was ever able to do. And when he went over everything that happened, he couldn’t see clearly what he had done wrong.

Is it any wonder they are all sick of you? his voices whispered. You ruin everything you touch and you haven’t even the intelligence to understand how. You are exhausting everyone’s patience with you, and you don’t even have the ability to change or put things right. “Please stop.” He whispered, pressing his hands over his ears as if he could shut out the voice that was coming from within. “Please, please, please, stop.”

He took an enormous breath and pushed himself up, feeling about for his pipe before he remembered Spyro had tossed it in the fireplace. He slid off the bed and shuffled across the floor, refilled it and took a long drag, completely forgetting that Spyro had told him not to smoke in the bedroom. Come on, enough of this, he told himself, wiping his eyes with the heel of his hand, you cannot still be sitting here when he returns.

He stood up and closed the wardrobe door, trying hard not to catch even the slightest glimpse of himself in the mirror. He had thought the outfit he’d chosen was attractive; but no one seemed to like the things that he found beautiful. Because you’re a cheap, tasteless little tramp, the voices inside told him as he trailed in numbness through the dark corridors to the stockroom, a feat like walking underwater with his head encased in lead.

He pulled something off the rack without fully registering what it was, other than that it looked dull and displeasing, got dressed and went tentatively downstairs.

“Seems like we’re still stuck with eachother then.” Xander said gruffly, his arms folded as he stood by the back door.

“I… is that what he said?”

Xander nodded, and then frowned at him. “What happened to your face?”

Vraxi fussed a bit with his hair, trying to pull it down over the red mark where the belt had struck. “Oh nothing. I tripped over my dressing gown in the bathroom and hit it on the sink.” He shrugged and gave a little half smile, “You were right, it is far too big for me afterall. I don’t know what possessed me to steal it.”

This is all my fault. Xander thought desperately. Why hadn’t he stopped to consider how Mendicci would react to his childish little tantrum? He had thought the antiques dealer had been unfair, spoken to him harshly, tried to pull rank on him and make sure he was still firmly under his boot… but he hadn’t hit him. And this wasn’t the first time Vraxi had come down those stairs with bruises he couldn’t easily explain. Coward, he thought furiously, he knows I would hit him back.

“You liked the little birds on it,” he mumbled, fishing for something he could do or say to make amends. “You said it was nice to see birds that weren’t crows for a change, and that if you held it up to the light you could imagine they were flying against the lavender sky at dawn…. or some crap like that…” he added, feeling his face flush a little.

Vraxi trailed his finger along the banisters and hung his head. “Sounds like the sort of nonsense I’d come out with,” he admitted, and then raised his eyes to peer apologetically through his strands of scarlet and black, “Thankyou for putting up with me, Xan. I mean it. I know it isn’t easy…I don’t mean to be so…difficult…”

Xander flicked down his hood, made a mess of his hair and then flicked it up again. I should be the one apologising, he thought crossly. But he couldn’t find the words or even where to begin.

“You hungry?” he tried, annoyed that his voice didn’t seem capable of ever conveying anything he wanted it to.

Vraxi nodded.

“Come on, I’ll buy you breakfast someplace – where do you wanna go? The Keys?”

Vraxi shifted uncomfortably and rubbed his arms, “I’d rather not, if that’s alright with you?”

He’s worried about running into Mendicci, Xander thought to himself. “Where then?”

“Massey’s?”

“Not Massey’s. I hate Massey’s it’s too much lace and polished wood, it’s suffoctaing in there.” He thought for a minute. “I know, come on.” He tipped his head towards the door and they walked down the garden path and out of the back gate into the alley that ran the length of the shops in that row. They got to the end, turned right and headed out onto the Kadasa’s main vein. “Street food?” he asked, giving the yag a little knowing look.

Vraxi’s eyes lit up like fireworks “Really?! Are you sure? But you hate the market crowds…”

“Yeah. Well. You can do the queuing, I’ll give you the money.”

“Oh! It’s my favourite Xan, thankyou! Can we get those long skewers full of grilled mushrooms? And deep fried crispy crow’s wings?”

The warm feeling that swelled inside him didn’t quite find full expression in Xander’s features but he did smile. “Sure. Whatever you want OK?”

Silk and Steel

Eeeep I’m so sorry I’m late again, I came down with a cold last night and have been bumbling around trying to get everything done XD So, without further blathering, here is the next bit and it comes with a small trigger warning of domestic violence.

Once Xander was settled in the kitchen with a small mountain of scrambled crows eggs, Spyro went upstairs.

He scowled as he followed the trail of used bath towels and discarded clothing from the bathroom and pushed open his bedroom door.

“Right then, Bane, I…”

Not many things in this world could leave Spyro Mendicci speechless. He cleared his throat to cover the fact and stared thoughtfully at the yag who was perched on the end of his bed, smoking and swinging his legs back and forth.

“Bane, when I said help yourself to something to wear…”

“Oh. Does it not become me?” Vraxi asked anxiously, hopping up to examine himself in the wardrobe mirror.

Spyro nearly had a heart attack. He ran a hand over his face. “You are not leaving here, dressed like that,” he said firmly; fighting the urge to lock the door and never let Vraxi leave his bedroom, let alone the shop. “You won’t make it home in one piece.” He’ll be the death of me, he thought helplessly, and this is a weakness I can’t afford to indulge just now, not with Pan stalking about somewhere.

“What were you doing at church?” he asked, trying to distract himself with more serious matters.

Vraxi shrugged, “having an existential crisis?” he tried.

Spyro folded his arms and tried to look menacing. It worked.

Vraxi grinned sheepishly and spread his palms; “In truth, I was stealing demonsong,” he said. “One of Keyja’s dock-rats dropped a crate and she may have got the inaccurate impression that the fault was mine.”

Spyro nodded. That sounded more like the truth. “And so she told you to replace it,” he surmised.

“She told me she’d turn me inside out and hang me from a flagpole and you could ask all the questions you liked about it!” The yag said, indignantly.

“Did she now?” Spyro narrowed his eyes.

“Indeed, she did. And that’s not all..” Vraxi lowered his voice and stood on his tiptoes to reach Spyro’s ear “…while I was at the docks I noticed something else; it seems Keyja is carrying on where her brother left off…”

Spyro frowned and waved Vraxi back a few paces. “Are you still high, Bane?” he asked.

Vraxi shrugged, “only to a level of functionality,” he said, taking another drag on his pipe.

“Give me that, I’ve told you not to smoke that thing up here.” Spyro snatched the pipe and knocked it out in the fireplace. “Let me understand you correctly: you are saying that Keyja – who tipped us off to the fact that her brother was cream-skimming – is now cream-skimming herself? Yes?”

“That’s right. And she wants to turn me inside out and…”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Spyro waved a hand to shush him up. He took a moment to turn things over in his mind. It did make sense, except.. “And what were you doing at the sky docks in the first place?”

Vraxi bit his lip, and then looked a little coy. “There is a barman… at the Valkyrie’s Nest…” he said quietly.

“I see.” Yes it all made sense now. Much as he didn’t like it, it did add up. “And is this debt to Keyja the reason you took the demonsong from the Colonel?” he asked, fishing for the last piece of the puzzle.

Vraxi hung his head and looked up through his strands of coal and henna hair.

Spyro sighed. “Very well, listen carefully. You are going to go and put something sensible on, and then you and Xander are going to go to the skydocks and clean-up for me, understand? And do it properly this time, no bleeding heart sob stories, no second chances I want every last one of them dead and I want it obvious to everyone with half a brain why.”

Vraxi nodded solemnly but he couldn’t prevent the gleeful glitter of flames from dancing in his dark eyes.

Spyro frowned. “You were hoping I’d say that, weren’t you?” Damn it, the little sod had played him and he’d walked right into it. He could just imagine the yag relishing the opportunity to add his own little ‘message’ to the execution and subtly turning it from No one messes with Spyro Mendicci to No one messes with Vraxanthrin Bane. He was not about to let him have that sort of power.

Vraxi bit his lip and gave a mischievous little half-smirk, “can you blame me? She did threaten to turn me inside out and hang me from her flagpole…and I didn’t tell a lie, Spyro, I only… hoped you would chose me to be the executioner…”

I should kill him. Spyro thought furiously. I am going to kill him. He could feel the weight of one of his many concealed knives resting just a wrist-flick away from his palm. I can’t have anyone think they can play me even the tiniest amount, and I can’t have him strutting around looking like that, distracting me from everything else. Half a dozen blades were within a split-second’s reach but still he hesitated, unable to take his eyes from the beautiful fire jinn.

“You should have come to me with this in the beginning,” he said at length. “As I said to Xander downstairs, what we are trying to build here is a family, Bane, and we’re not doing a very good job of that if we don’t trust eachother are we?”

Vraxi bit his lip, “Sorry?” he tried.

Spyro shook his head. “What am I going to do with you, Bane?”

“Give me some honey and take me to bed?” Vraxi asked hopefully, stepping closer and giving the antiques dealer his very best kitten eyes.

Oh gods. “Honey is for good boys.” Spyro said darkly, trying hard to keep the tremor of desire from his voice.

“Oh?” Vraxi smirked, tilting his head on one side, “And what do bad boys get, Mr. Mendicci?”

Spyro thought he was going to explode. He reached out and brushed Vraxi’s dark hair away from his face then let the back of fingers trail lazily down the angle of his jaw.

He eased his chin to the side with his thumb, careful to keep his gaze flat and disinterested as he traced the space around his collar bone, the rise of his bare shoulder, the tight velvet stretched around his tiny ribcage and narrow hips…

He’s like glass, he said to himself, so beautiful and so dangerous; so easy to break, so easy to cut yourself on.

Fantasies of forcing the yag to his knees and having him right there on the floor surged through his mind… he imagined tying him to his bed and taking him from pleasure to pain and back again for hours – watching those delicate features transform from expressions of ecstasy to confusion, fear, agony and back to ecstasy again in a never ending cycle that was completely under his control…

No.

No. No. No. He told himself sternly. I need to be certain I can resist this. Nobody can have such a hold over me, especially not this little one. If I can walk out of here now, then I can safely do as I like with him any time afterwards…but I need to know – and he needs to know – that I am in control.

“I’ll show you what bad boys get,” he whispered, unbuckling his belt and sliding it free of his waistband. He folded the leather back on itself to form a loop then cracked Vraxi hard across the face with it.

“They get nothing.” He said calmly, and turned to towards the door. “Put something decent on, Bane, and go home. I will have Fey deal with Keyja.”

He closed the door and leant his back against it for a moment, breathing slow and deep. He couldn’t do anything in this state. He glanced at Ros’s door, but then changed his mind and headed for the bathroom.

Silk and Steel

Happy Friday my lovelies! Thankyou for still being here and following along with my little miscreants! I hope you have a fabulous weekend! Here’s the next bit of Silk and Steel for you – will Spyro save the day? Well, I think you know our sinister antiques dealer well enough by now to know his ‘kindness’ is a double edged sword at the best of times…

By the time he caught up he was out of breath and Mendicci was just opening the bolted door.

“To what do I owe this flagrant disregard for respectable business hours?” he asked, flashing them his unfathomable smile as he locked the door again behind them.

“I want a new partner.” Xander said quickly.

Spyro raised his eyebrows and opened his mouth to speak…

“No he doesn’t!” Vraxi protested, “He’s merely cross because I went to church!”

Spyro frowned at the interruption, “You went to church?” he asked sceptically, looking the yag up and down.

“The Other Church…” Vraxi corrected.

“It’s not just that, it’s everything, we’re no good, we can’t work together…”

“Yes we can,”
“No we can’t”

“Please Xander”

“No I’ve had enough, I can’t do this anymore,”

“What are you talking about?”

“Sush! Enough!” Spyro clapped his hands together and silence fell instantly, Xander glaring and breathing hard and Vraxi wringing his hands and looking confused.

“Bane. Upstairs. Now. Go and clean yourself up. You can borrow some clothes from the stock room.”

“But…”

“I will be up to speak with you in a moment.”

“But…”

The antiques dealer raised his eyebrows and Vraxi hung his head and trailed out of the room in a waft of stained silk and roccana smoke.

Xander took a deep breath. “I want a new partner.”

Spyro raised an eyebrow and steepled his finger carefully. “I want a new partner, please, Mr Mendicci.” he corrected.

Xander looked irritated. He flicked down his hood, made a mess of his dark hair and flicked it back up again. “Yeah. Sorry. S’what-I-meant. Er. Please, Mr Mendicci, I want a new partner, it’s not working out.”

“I see.” Spyro looked at him thoughtfully for a while and although Xander stood statue still, eyes front without flinching, he squirmed inwardly under the silent scrutiny. “You have very unusual eyes.” he said at last. “Where were your parents from? Kallimbadd?”

Xander ground his teeth. “Don’t know.” he mumbled, looking at the floor.

“You don’t know? Oh, yes, I remember now; you grew up in the children’s home didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Yes…?”

Xander took a deep breath. “Yes, Mr. Mendicci, that’s right.”

“I see. So you have no family here in Ryzym, that you know of?”

Xander shook his head.

“I see, yes, I remember now. Well, here’s the thing Xander; our little… group here, our little posse if you like, is like a family. Now I understand that for some young people like yourself, and Bane, and Edmund, and so on, your experiences of family range from zero to inadequate to… well, we won’t go there… but we, here, are building something better, are we not? A better life, a better future, a better family, Xan, for all of us. I’m going to confide something to you; I used to have a family – very very long ago now – a wife, and two children. Sadly, well,” he spread his hands and smiled that unfathomable smile, “life is cruel sometimes, but here we are, building something better, as I said.”

Xander frowned.

“But it has to be a team effort, Xan.” Spyro went on, “We all have to work together at it, and we can’t just turn our backs on one member simply because we don’t know how to handle their… problems. Understand? Is that how you think a family should behave? Is that a family you would want to be a part of?”

Xander shook his head.

“No, exactly. Bane would never turn his back on you would he? No. He wouldn’t. And you are not going to turn your back on him. So. There we are. I will have a word with him. Have you had breakfast?”

Soup Of The Day: With authour Chris Allaun

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street
urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is Chris Allaun. Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, My Dear! May I take your hat and miscellaneous weaponry?

Yes, of course. Where shall I place my broom?

Oh, just over there beside mine in the corner – it’s wonderful to have another magic user visit the kitchen! How was your trip from your own dimension? I hope you did not run into any hostile sugar-
zombies or sky pirates on your way?

Smooth flying. No problem at all. Except for the Wild Hunt that is happening now.

Ah yes, they have often caused a few problems for our vistors flying in. And have you brought along some soup to share with us?


No soup today.


Alas, I dare say The Hunt upset your cauldron! Never mind I have some left over Pumpkin Soup from Halloween which we can heat up instead.
simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat by the fire here and tell me a little about the types of non-fiction that you prefer to write?

I write books on witchcraft, shamanism, and magick. I’m also an energy healer and necromancer so you’ll see a lot of that in my books too.

Oh my! Not another necromancer! We’ve had quite enough of their shenanigans recently! And what is your latest book, would you like to tell us all a little about that?

My new book is Called Otherworld: Ecstatic Witchcraft for the Spirits of the Land. The book is basically my compilation of my many years of experience working with the spirits of the Otherworld. The running theme throughout the book, and all my books, is how to have a relationship with the spirits. In this book, I talk about how to deepen your relationships with Faeries, Elves, Nature Spirits, and Plant Spirits. I also show you Dragon Magick as it was taught to me in Traditional Witchcraft. There aren’t many books about
traditional dragon magick so I thought I’d “bust the seal” and teach people how to work with those energies!

Well, that all sounds wonderful and not at all what I would have expected from a necromancer so perhaps you are not the baby-eating, demon-raising kind of trouble maker I first took you for afterall. Have you brought a copy of the book with you today to show the orphans?

Ah now that’s the kettle boiling, what is your ‘poison’ Dear, and how do you take it?

With Two children please…

I BEG YOUR PARDON!?!

Um…sugar, I meant with two sugars please!

I see… perhaps you’d better just sit back a little children, we don’t want any hot soup splashing on anyone do we? Hmm…. Now, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your own path into non-fiction writing?


Well, I’m a minister for the Fellowship of the Phoenix and I teach a lot of magical and pagan classes. My go-to is working with the ancestors so over the years I’ve compiled a lot of material and so I thought I’d write a book. At the time, there were only a few books written on how to honour the dead and your ancestors. So, I submitted to Mandrake of Oxford and my first book Underworld: Shamanism, Myth, and Magick was published in
2016.

That sounds marvellous and is there anything that particularly inspires you when you write?

The spirits. The gods. Ancestors. The Elves and Faeries . All these beings are important to me so I want to share with the world on how to have relationships with them. My goal is to help us all heal the magical cord that connects us to the spirits in all of the shamanic worlds.

Of course we love supporting independent writers, artists and small presses here in Ire; do you have any favourite indie authors who have inspired you or whose work you can recommend?

I’m a big fan of Robin Artisson, Nigel G. Pearson, and Gemma Gary,

Splendid, I will be sure to hunt those out – I am always on the look out for a good fireside read to keep me company while I knit or bake. And where can we find more of your own work?

You can always find me on amazon, but I also have free articles on my website
chrisallaun.com and my YouTube channel Chris Allaun.
For Facebook you can find me at Chris Allaun: Author. Teacher. Healer

Splendid! Ah now that soup smells like it is about ready, would you be so kind as to help me serve it up to the orphans?


Of course! They are delicious…um, I mean the soup is delicious. I’m happy to help!

Um, yes, well, perhaps you had better leave the serving to me – why don’t you sit over there in the corner and put your feet up – well away from the children! (Tsk! Necromancers, they are all the same…)


Thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen this morning and until we see you again,
Blessings On Your Brew My Dears!

Silk and Steel

Eep, so sorry I missed a week last week – things got in a bit of a tiz! XD – hoping you all had a fabulous week and wishing you all a marvellous weekend…

Despite the fact that his unconscious charge was as light as a feather, it still took a good thirty minutes to dodge and weave his way through the backstreets and gunnels from the cinders to bridge street, trying to avoid the main streets where every drunk and his mother thought them a fine sight to test their dubious wit against.


The apothecary shook her head in disgust when he explained the situation. “Other Church!” she spat; and crossed herself forwards and backwards and washed her hands in a bowl of salt water on he counter. “Bring him though, put him on the couch.”
She took a handfull of black charcoal from a barrel and added it to a pestle and mortar with more salt solution then lifted the yag’s lids and peered into his eyes. “Blood and Demonsong.” she said, matter of factly. “For the blood, he drinks this. For the Demonsong…” she shrugged “…listening to that affects everyone differently. Some get their wits back, some don’t. You’ve seen the street preachers?”

Xander nodded.

“Well…was it his first time?”

“I… I think so…”

She heaved herself upright again and handed Xander the mortar and a metal pail. “For when he brings the blood up.” she explained, and left them to it.

“Here, sit up, you’ve got to drink this” Xander said, trying to coax his friend into a sitting position.

Vraxi cradled his head in his hands. “Owwwww… and also very much ouch…some blackguard slugged me, Xan…”

“No one slugged you. I strategically and harmlessly incapacitated you for your own good. And I already apologised. If your head’s hurting it’s what you’ve done to it, not me. Here, drink this.”

“What the hell-spawned poison is that?”

“A better kind than you’ve had so far, do you want me to hold your nose and make you choke it down?”

The yag waved a hand, and took the mortar, gulping the thick black soup down in one and pulling a face.

“Uck. What the hell good is that supposed to d…. mphwmmmmph…

Xander quickly shoved his head between his knees over the bucket and held his hair back from his face as an evening’s worth of blood, coffee, kvass and tsujka vacated the yag’s stomach along with the charcoal mixture.

They sat like that for about an hour. Xander saying nothing while his friend continued to bring up bile and black grit in sporadic outbursts of choking fits and curses.

Xander shook his head. He had absolutely no point of reference for this kind of… what was it? Self indulgence? Self destruction? … mind altering substances had not been permitted in the armed forces (other than those administered forcibly in the name of government aproved military strategy ) and since the end of the world and his escape from that life he had never dared do anything that might give the demon a chance at taking control of his conciousness. Of course he drank kvass, there was little else in a city where the river was blood and the only rain that fell was brimstone, but he knew exactly what his limits were and he never, ever, over stepped them. The fact that his friend seemed to constantly need to push the boundaries of his own ability to escape reality was something he found utterly incomprehensible.

This has to stop, he told himself furiously. What is the point in me going to all this effort trying to keep him safe from what’s inside me when I can’t even keep him safe from himself? I can’t keep doing this. I can’t. We’re just both too broken to do anything but…bloody destroy eachother.

“Urg. I’m empty. Anymore and I’ll be bringing up hellfire. Which won’t be pretty, I assure you. Voice of experience speaking.” He wiped his mouth and his dressing gown sleeve, flopped backwards onto the couch and laughed out loud. “Woooo-hooo! Church! Ha! I think I’ve re-discovered my Loca!”

“You are Loca!” Xander growled. “Life isn’t one long party, you could have lost your mind back there! Or worse!”

“Oh, pah!” the yag struggled to his feet and fished about for his pipe, lit it and took a long drag. “This isn’t life Xander, it’s death… or undeath…or some such thing; what have I got to lose?”

“Well you’ve lost me!” Xander spat, pushing the yag aside and heading for the door. “If you can’t give a damn about yourself, then why the hell should I?”

“All done in here?” The apothecary asked, peering through the beaded curtain.

“Yeah. We’re done.” Xander said, glaring at the yag.

He pulled a money pouch from inside his shirt but the woman waved it away.

“No charge.” she said and then turned to the yag and added, “but I don’t expect to see you again, savvy?”

“Much obliged, and utterly understood,” Vraxi said, placing his hands together and giving a little bow.

“Get out with all that crap.” the apothecary snapped, shooing them out of the shop and clanging the door shut behind them.

“Oh good morning! Isn’t it?” Vraxi sang cheerfully to a passing couple who eyed them both with disgust and a smidge of trepidation. He waved as they hurried off down the street and then looked about him for Xander who was already stalking off towards the kadasa.

“Home is this way!” he called, pointing to a side street as he sprinted to catch up.

“Not going home. I told you. I’m done with this. Gonna ask Mendicci to pair me with someone else. Now.”

“What? Xander no, you are not serious?” the yag grinned and tried to put a hand on his arm but Xander pulled away and continued his march.

Vraxi bit his lip and wrung his hands as he considered what to do. This was no good at all. It would scupper everything. And he was so, so close to making all the pieces of his plan fall into place.

“Look, I apologise, I’m deeply sorry, it will never happen again…”

“You said that the last time, with the honey…”

“But that was different!”

“And the time before that, at the dockers’ union… of which you’re not even a bloody member!”

“But that was different too!”

“And I’ve lost count of all the other ‘last times’ I have had to pull your unconscious arse out of some sort of trouble that could easily have been avoided if you weren’t such a greedy, thoughtless, hedonistic, egotistical little prick!”

They both stopped in the centre of the bridge. Xander glaring furiously and breathing hard. Vraxi looking distraught.

“I’m sorry?” he tried. “Look, please, please, believe me Xander this time was different and it won’t ever, ever happen again…”

“How?”

The yag looked confused.

“How is it different? Why is it different?”

“I… I can’t tell you that… just yet… I will, eventually, I promise but…oh no Xander don’t go please I’m in earnest…” he added as Xander snorted with disgust and headed off again towards the antiques shop.

Vraxi tucked his pipe between his teeth, hitched up the long train of his silk dressing gown and sped after him.

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