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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.

Light In The Lantern: With Jan Stone

Gracious! You startled me!

Apologies, dear friends. I was expecting this old city watchtower in Steampunk’d Lancaster to be empty when we entered. Ah, but given the conditions outside – all those flesh eating Liver Birds plaguing the skies and the Sugar-Zombies roaming the streets and spreading their curse like a plague – I can’t blame you at all for taking refuge here.

Permit me to introduce myself. Jan Stone, story-maker and general assistant and dogsbody to a group of diminutive steampunk ladies and gentlemen who know me as Mrs Euphoria Steampunkle. I have brought a few of them with me tonight to provide some much needed help and protection. You’ll see them more clearly once I get the lantern burning.

As I’m sure you know by now, some of us have decided to re-kindle the old beacon in this 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.

Luigi, would you be good enough to pass me a lucifer? No, best I strike it, I think, given your long, flowing sleeves. There, that’s better. We can see one another more clearly now. Feel free to shuffle closer and warm yourselves slightly. Let the little ones come close to the flame; they look half-frozen.

But why are you huddling in that corner, whimpering and clinging to one another in that desperate way?

Oh, bless you, no! These are not flesh eating Liver Birds! I admit at first glance they have a slightly corvid-like appearance, but they are good plague doctors who have travelled all the way from the disease-ridden city of Roma to lend us support and assistance, having heard that we too are in dire circumstances at present.

No Giulio, I don’t think kissing the urchins on each cheek would reassure them of your friendly intentions at all, although it was a kind thought.

So you see, my friends, we are in safe hands for this night at least and since we will be here in the watchtower together for a while, let me tell you a little about my work, to pass the time.

‘Mwumph mwah gruphg.’

Luigi, I think it would be best if you left the talking to me. I agree that your English is coming along splendidly, but those masks, stuffed as they are with wormwood, make it quite hard for others to understand what you’re saying.

‘Gaph gogh eegha eegg!’

Exactly, Paolo, that’s why you carry your sticks. They allow you to show people what they need to do to keep safe. And obviously they are also fearsome weapons, are they not? No? Ah. Well I’m sure you will protect us perfectly, should the need arise, and if all else fails, we have a good supply of books we can hurl at any assailants.

So yes, I divide my time between curating these gentlemen and their fellow steampunk characters and accessories at The Steampunk Dolls House – a virtual shop located in the aether which exports worldwide – and writing blogs, books and so forth.

In fact, I have recently published a novel aimed at 8 to 12 year olds called The Glassmaker’s Children. Perhaps the urchins would enjoy listening to an extract from it? Here is a section from near the beginning, in which we are introduced to the Glassmaker and his craft:

He had a workshop right down by the coast and each day he would fire up the great, enormous furnace to a temperature you can’t even imagine. He had to wear special leather gloves and a heavy helmet and apron to protect himself. Imagine having all those thick clothes in such heat!

Once the furnace was roaring away, he would take his cart down to the beach and collect masses of soft, white sand. These days, all kinds of strange substances are added to sand when it is heated to make glass, but back in their times, it was usually just sand plus heat. He would tip the sand into the furnace and it would melt into a bright, glowing sticky liquid, like pale treacle.

Carefully, carefully, the glassmaker would take great globs of the glass out of the furnace with a long hollow pole and blow it and turn it. It was like a big, wobbly balloon. He would shape it and move it and stretch it, quite wonderfully, into whatever the villagers wanted – windows or drinking glasses, jugs or mirrors, bottles or ornaments.

Sometimes he would bring home gifts he had made for the children. For Ruby, he made a pair of glass slippers, so she could pretend to be Cinderella. (Her mother thought this was the stupidest gift she could imagine and worried that the child would fall and cut herself horribly each time she wore them.) For Stellan he created a magnifying glass with a silver frame and a brass handle, so that he could explore all the tiny wonders he found in the garden, and the mother was happy with that.

The children thought their father was a very clever man, and so he was.

Ah, but the Glassmaker had secrets. There were secrets about glass that were passed down from one glassmaker to another through the ages. Glass is a magical substance. You can see it, yet you can see straight through it. Sometimes you can even see your own reflection in it.

There’s something more, though – something chemical. Chemistry is hard to understand. What we really need is a chemist to explain it to us. Luckily, there is a chemist hidden in the pages of this book. He isn’t supposed to appear until later in the story, but I think I’ll bring him here for a while, to see if he can make things clear. He’s called an apothecary, which means he mixes medicines and potions and stuff to unblock drains and powders to make cabbages grow enormous and so on.

Here he is.

Good day, Apothecary.

What? Where am I? And, ugh! What’s that smell, for goodness’ sake? Salt? Seaweed? This is the seaside, isn’t it? I HATE seasides! Nasty windy places with sand getting between your toes and into your lunch… and all those noisy, greedy seagulls. You can’t just pick me up and dump me here! I was in the middle of mixing some cough syrup for little Lily Jenkins. I’m not supposed to come into this story until Chapter 11!”

I’m sorry I shocked you, dear Apothecary, but I’m afraid we need you here, just for a little while, and then you can go back to mixing the medicine and I promise I’ll leave you in peace until your part of the story. You see we are talking about glass, and the Glassmaker. I need you to explain what is special about glass – the chemistry of glass – to our readers. Would you mind?

Humph! It seems I don’t have much choice. Story-makers! How you mess about with people’s lives! Very well, then. Let’s get on with it, so that I can get back to my work. Glass is an amorphous solid.”

A WHAT? I think that’s a bit too complicated for us, Apothecary, dear. Could you make it a bit easier to understand?

Oh blah! Well, let me see. Remember when the children and their mother made biscuits? The squishy mess went into the oven to be heated and came out as crisp golden biscuits, didn’t it? A chemical change. The dough turned into solid, tasty little shapes. Is that simple enough?”

Yes, we understood that perfectly. So what about glass?

Glass is far stranger. Sand goes into the furnace and is heated up until it melts into a very hot goo. When it comes out of the furnace, it gradually cools down and becomes almost a solid thing.”

Almost?

Yes, almost. That’s the strange thing. No matter how much you cool it, it never turns completely solid. Certainly it feels solid, when you tap on it or drop it or drink out of it, but it isn’t. That’s what an amorphous solid is – something almost solid, but not quite. It’s like a frozen liquid.”

Beautifully explained! Thank you so much, Apothecary. Would you like me to move you back to your proper place in the story, now?

Well as I’m here, could I just take a peep at the Glassmaker at work? Such an interesting job.”

I suppose it wouldn’t do any harm, but don’t spoil the story, will you?

Oh don’t worry! I’ll just look through the window. Ah, there he is. I thought he might be blowing some glass. I love watching them do that, but – hang on! What is that in his hand? Is he doing what I think he’s doing?”

There, I knew this wasn’t a good idea! Please don’t give his secret away just yet. I was building up to that.

But he has – unless my eyes are deceiving me… No, it really is. I’m certain of it. He has a sly-glass! That’s outrageous!”

Oh! Enough! Right, I’m sending you back to Chapter 11. We’ll see you later. Thanks for all your help.

But…”

GO!

Oh dear, I hope that hasn’t ruined the story for you. I suppose, then, I’d better tell you the Glassmaker’s other secret.

As you have discovered, glassmakers are very talented people. They work with this not-quite-solid stuff in all sorts of ways. They know the many secrets of this magical substance and a few glassmakers – a very small few, luckily – work out how to make the most magical and dangerous thing of all. They discover how to make a sly-glass.

I can’t tell you exactly how it’s done. It’s something to do with smoke and mirrors, but it doesn’t usually end well.

And if you want to discover what happens to the Glassmaker and – far more importantly – to his children as a result of his unfortunate discovery, you can search for The Glassmaker’s Children by Jan Stone on Amazon, where it is available as a Kindle e-book or a regular paperback.

Here is a link to the UK site: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Glassmakers-Children-Jan-Stone/dp/B08HTM1LNK/ref=sr_1_1?crid=23CSEKIU0C17K&dchild=1&keywords=the+glassmaker%27s+children&qid=1600758506&s=books&sprefix=the+glassm%2Cstripbooks%2C351&sr=1-1

Should you be more interested in the 1:12 scale hand-crafted steampunk miniatures and other delights at the SteampunkDollsHouse, you will find them here: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SteampunkDollsHouse .

If you’d like to connect you can find me here:

https://opentheboxweb.wordpress.com/ (story-maker blog)

https://steampunk-shrunk.com/ (website and blog about the steampunk miniatures)

https://www.facebook.com/janstoneauthor

https://www.facebook.com/steampunkle

Well it has been a delight to meet you. 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. No doubt the ferocious appearance of my three companions here kept even the most audacious adversaries at bay.

I’ve heard some authors have had their spines ripped to pieces up here by those Liver Birds and there was tell last week of an artist who fell foul to a hoard of sugar zombies and is now best avoided… although his artwork apparently is better than ever…

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….

Silk and Steel

Happy fireworks weekend! I hope you’re managing to enjoy the festive spook-sparkle-tasticness of the autumnish season despite being locked down and wot not. If I didn’t lose everyone with the last nose dive into insanity then we now flip to Xander for the next bit…

Xander could smell the smoke as he opened the front door of the run down tenement building they called home.


He took the stairs two at a time, the thickening miasma fuelling his worst fears as he neared his own door.


The hallway seemed to lengthen, the adrenaline more than the distance sapping his strength.


Finally after seconds that seemed like hours he flung open the door of their room, splintering the feeble frame to shards without even bothering with the handle.


The entire place was filled with flames.


Hundreds of candles covered the floor, and every other available space in the tiny dorm.


Xander cast about him frantically for a second before realising that his friend was perfectly safe – albeit by some strange miracle – weaving and swaying unsteadily around the room and humming to himself while the smokey haze was coming from burning incense cones and not from anything that was actually on fire.


“IDIOT!” Xander screamed, seizing Vraxi by the shoulders and throwing him onto the bed. He quickly snatched the boa which had begun to singe and stamped it out before turning his attention to the candles and snuffing as many as he could at a time.


He doused the inscense cones with wet fingers and opened the window.

Vraxi laughed and rolled off the bed. “Xaaaaaan. Always sooooo dramatic!” he crooned, stumbling over the long silk dressing gown he was wearing over his clothes. “I don’t need to worry about the flames, the candles won’t burn me Xan, they love me, I’m their mouthpiece…their voice in the darkness of a world made all of dust!” He spread his arms up to the ceiling and started swaying about again as if dancing to a music that only he could hear.


“What crap are you spouting now?” Xander muttered, more to himself as he continued to snuff out the flames and clear some of the floor space. “Where have you been?” he growled, darting forwards to catch the yag as he careered to the side and almost out of the open window. “What the hell have you taken this time? Honey again?”


“Pff! Tish and pish to honey…Honey,” Vraxi giggled, trying to put his arms around Xanders neck.


“No. Stop it. Look, don’t do that.” Xander grabbed his wrists and disentagled himself.

“Urg. You are no fun at all Xaaaaan. No fun at all,” Vraxi sighed, sinking dejectedly to the floor in a puddle of lavender coloured silk. “Always soooooo up tight!” He grinned mischievously up through his long strands of untidy black and henna hair. “Ooooh, I know what will help you unwiiiiind!”


He pushed himself back to his feet and tried to reach for Xander’s belt buckle. “Don’t you want to unwind Xaaan?” he smirked, almost tripping over the dressing gown again.


Xander caught him by the elbows “Look. Stop this. Now.” He said sternly, feeling panicked and horrified and completely unsure what to do. “I don’t want… I mean I can’t… ok? I can’t… a…and I wouldn’t anyway… I would never, never take ad…”


“Never?” Vraxi frowned and stepped back a pace, feeling unsteady and confused.


“No! Of course not! What sort of a…”


“Oh.” The mischievous swirls of flame died instantly, leaving dark vacant pools. He smiled ruefully and shut his eyes; of course Xander would never want him that way, he could barely stand his company when they had to work together. He could see the disgust and revulsion in his eyes just contemplating it. Never mind. Nevermindnevermindnevermind….now where was he, getting distracted, candles…. and the music…the beautiful music that sang to his soul… he let it flood in again and eclipse that horrible yarn ball of feelings that felt like a lead weight in his chest.


Xander watched his friend slipping away from reality again as he raised his arms to the ceiling and started humming. Damn it. He hadn’t meant… well he had meant everything he’d said…it just hadn’t come out right. Stone the crows, the yag looked like a malnourished twelve year old who had been at his mother’s liquor cabinet and decided to play dress up with her wardrobe… what kind of a monster would take advantage of someone in that state?


He balled his fists as he thought of everything his friend must have been through in his lifetime before the end of the world. Eighteen years of a hell he had never spoken about, but he didn’t have to. Xander could imagine, and it made him sick to his stomach. So much so that some days he couldn’t even look him in the eye for fear the demon might burst out and annihilate the entire city on his behalf.


And he’d hurt him. Again. His clumsy words not conveying what he wanted to say, as usual… “Woah! Stop that! What the hell are you doing?” He snatched the matches away just in time to stop the curtains going up in smoke.


“Candles want it to be brighter…” Vraxi murmured, his eyes not really focussing on anything but the few flames still flickering on the mantlepiece.

“That’s the honey talking,” Xander snapped, putting the matches in his pocket for safe keeping.

“I’ve had nothing to do with any honey I’ll have you know.” Vraxi sneered, his eyes rolling as the ceiling flipped places with the floor and then back again. “Only the very purest sacraments have passed these lips tonight…”


Xander pulled a face.


“Shh! Blood…” he whispered.


“You drank blood?”


“Mm, blood from the red river…at the other church…”


“You went to church? That’s it, I’m… I’m calling the doctor…”


“He won’t come…”


“Damn it, you’re right, well I’m taking you to Bartzack then. What the hell were you thinking?”


“Bartzack is off his feet. Anyway, does it matter? My body remembers now…what happened…and why…we are not real, did you know that? We are nothing at all…just the memories of dust as it tries to rebuild what once was, re-enact what went before… but the clocks know, Xan, the clocks know the dust has got it wrong…this isn’t even how it happened but that doesn’t matter because look…look out there…the sun is dying and when its light is gone, who will we turn to to light our dark world? Hm? Not the dust, oh no!”


He gestured around the floor, “That is why we need the candles. Candles understand this, candles are ready to step forward and shine in place of our dying star… but we must keep them safe…they are so few and so fragile…”
He closed his eyes and began humming again.


“You’ve lost your mind. Candles? Clocks? Dust? Stone the crows what have you done to yourself?”


“I have sold my soul to the priestess of the evrlasting flame…” he sang, still dancing to the music only he could hear. “…in exchange for a twist of fate…”


Xander ran a hand over his face, uncertain what to do. There was an all night apothecary on bridge street but carrying this manic street preacher through the spires was not going to be a picnic. He took a deep breath. “Look, I’m going to apologise for this now…”


“Hm? Apologise for what?”


“This.”

Light In The Lantern: With David Lee Summers

Greetings! Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster! My name is David Lee Summers and I spin tales of possible pasts, presents, and futures. Some may delight. Some may make you pine for days yet to come. Some may send you underneath your covers awaiting the light of day.

I hear that strange times have struck the Isles of Ire. I’ve been told Flesh-eating Liver Birds circle the skies looking for hapless victims while Sugar-Zombies roam the streets spreading their curse like a plague. What is this world coming to?

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 Professor Edison’s marvellous lightning gun. I hear it has proven effective against everything from vampires to those war wagons they have out in America’s Wild West so I think I will manage to keep the beasts at bay
as long as I can aim while wearing these dark goggles at night.

Now then, since I’m here I thought I would share some of my work with you all. Many here in Lancaster know me as the creator of the Clockwork Legion series of novels. These four novels – Owl Dance, Lightning Wolves, The Brazen Shark, and Owl Riders – tell the tale of Sheriff Ramon
Morales and the love of his life, Fatemeh Karimi, as they travel through America’s Wild West and beyond encountering outlaws, mad scientists, and even an alien from the most distant corner of the most distant corner of the universe. They stopped Russia’s invasion of the United States, kept
outlaws from getting their disreputable hands on the lightning gun, one very similar to the one I’m carrying, I might add, and then kept Russia and Japan from going to war – on their honeymoon no less.

If these dark nights put you more in the mood for tales of creatures who roam the night, then you’re in luck. I have just finished new, revised editions of my Scarlet Order vampire novels. Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires tells how a vampire born to darkness in Arthurian Britain formed a band of vampire mercenaries. Why, I hear the Scarlet Order may be roaming the streets this very night keeping us safe.

Vampires keep us safe? I hear you scoff, but I hear tell these
vampires are good stewards and know that letting humans perish would end their food supply. Still, I do want them to keep their pointy little teeth to themselves. I like my neck in one piece. Makes me glad for this here lightning gun.

Their story continues in Vampires of the Scarlet Order where we
learn there are scarier things than vampires in the dark of night.
If you’d like to purchase any of my wares you can find them here. The links will take you to a page where may read a sample chapter and find links to your favourite retailers:


The Clockwork Legion Novels:
Owl Dance: http://davidleesummers.com/owl_dance.html
Lightning Wolves: http://davidleesummers.com/lightning_wolves.html
The Brazen Shark: http://davidleesummers.com/brazen_shark.html
Owl Riders: http://davidleesummers.com/owl_riders.html

The Scarlet Order Vampire Novels:
Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires: http://davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html
Vampires of the Scarlet Order: http://davidleesummers.com/VSO.html
If you’d like to connect you can find me here:

My blog is at: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidleesummers
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/davidleesummers

Well thank you so much for joining me this evening as we keep the light in the lantern burning. My goodness, is that a sugar zombie over there? Let me set the controls on the lightning gun. Blast, but my hands are trembling too much.

Wait! Someone has tackled the sugar zombie. He’s biting its
neck. I’m not absolutely certain, but I think that’s the Vampire known as Roquelaure. He is a handsome devil isn’t he? Look at him run. I think he has a sugar rush.

Well thank goodness my shift is over. I’m glad I didn’t have to face one of those Liver Birds. The thought of them gives me shivers. Well, I must be off the streets before Roquelaure comes back looking for a more substantial meal and I advise you to do the same!

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.

Silk and Steel

Happy Halloween weekend! And full moon as well – woop! I hope you all have splendid plans despite the lockdown putting a bit of a damper on things! xx

Content warning – this post contains stolen words, phrases and philosophies pilfered from the pockets of well respected writers and thinkers and mercilessly mutilated out of recognition. It also contains a hidden lost poem by James Joyce and probably a lot of nonsense… I have no idea if it makes sense but hopefully you will enjoy it anyway as Vraxi enjoys his first taste of Church…

Deep into the rusky-dusky neon dusty where high cathexis reigned.
The petrichor struck him first – attar half-dreamed backwards. Lives overlapping. Tang. Saline and sour – the hot liquor that runs its corniche passage out to the ethereal sea – damned spot – Spyro may have teased him many times for the fiction he enjoyed but. He had read other things. He did have a library card after all.
Now. The primal scream of body fluids calling across the womb-world he was stepping into snatched at his senses; transcending the ineluctable modality of the visible until it brine-bleached him out and washed him up. viii
A husk. Longfellow’s wretched wreck.
Blood-boiling-sea-spewed and spineless and ready to receive the sacrament : The sound. The Demonsong that plunged unrelenting talons into intercostal space and tore.
Rent.
With ferocious delight the fabric of assumed reality.
Result? Strange gibbosity of chroma. Not the art of oracular contemplation – not thinking through the eyes – not thinking at all for his ears now perceived the waves of colour before his blundering matter grasped for purchase on a description.ix
Even then. All there was to grasp at was the tincture – vanished or obliterated the form. The form has left the building. Thankyou and goodnight. And jolly good luck. Like the long snot-green sari wraps of kelp which drag the mariner down or lash the frozen maiden from her grotesque vigil at the prow.x
The myriad layers which enabled sight were filtered now through the portals of his auditory lens…and so-spinning not transmuted but perceived with something like a third eye.
Eyes shut tight.
Looking in and seeing out.
Lives and worlds overlapping.
Hearing backwards and seeing scents.
Each cast then became. Not a component of some puzzle to be assembled into karoo, egg, brake, hominid, demitasse or walrus.xi Coo-coo-Ka-chooxii. But symbols to be read and understood.
Sigils of power; their purest essence now revealed in perfect, sacred, sublime simplicity.
Here was rust and silverbluexiii
icterine
sandy taupe
quinacridone magenta
ultramarine
and here was violet Caran d’Ache and violet and very light blue
isabelline
nadeshiko pink
titanium yellow
palatinate purple
eigengrau
rose madder
chartreuse
heliotrope
eggshell
deep space sparkle
ao
ecru
rubine red
ivory
emerald
oxblood
nyanza
timberwolf
hunter green
ecru
caput mortuum
razzmic berry
amber
gamboge
saffron
orchid
feldgrau
turtle green
inchworm
magenta
electric green
wild strawberry
harvest gold
eggplant
rojo
erin
telemagenta
honeydew
ebony
rhythm
umber
dutch white
eton blue
denim
indigo
neon carrot
old burgundy
fiame
tangerine
harlequin
india green
sepia
celadon
earth yellow
navy blue
tennè
ultramarine
rose pompadour
yellow
Carnelian
arylide yellow
nickel
teal
redwood
olive
upsdell red
bistre
lapis lazuli
eerie black
hot pink
Illuminating emerald
maroon
naples yellow
onyx
mindaro
olivine
richblack
electric lime xiv

And now here. He perceived himself; manifesting his resonance, and his companions – himself and all of them – grey in their unripe and pitted youth.
And now. Here. Here she came. A Goldmother, sweet like honey in the veins; bearing lightly that radiant maternal sheen of stars… her twin pronged crescent crown rising through the dark.
Chi-chi was demanding they seek council from the very capable somebody or other and it was explained, then, that Chi Chi was a Priest Of Dust and ever opposed to the ‘pestilent, boiling light’ of candles who would one day inherit the earth and bring about its destruction.
Everyone ignored him.
Everyone was a lost sheep who had found his own gibbosity to give a sermon from.
Gathering followers like a carcass gets flies.
Matti was talking seriously about the pinpricks of light at his feet. The pinnacles of grass blades. Bubble universes. Synchronicity. Feeling the feathers tickle his flesh through his boots.

And Klauda was weeping like Mary The Mare or Sara with nothing but her cloak to save the sinking vessel carrying all the Hope in the world…

crying the blades were steel and had stripped his flesh to ribbons. Rivers of boiling blood and not a rock to run to.xxi Crying “As the soil is that brought forth these, so the heart of this city – the heart of Man.”


Vraxi could see none of it. Not the grass. Not the blades. Not the rivers of boiling light and blood.


He saw the diaphanous haze, like a scrying screen, reflecting each object’s inner truth – each sigil-self, each signature of dust, imprint, riddle. Secret name… each code for adding up the dots of every chunk of matter… each idea, building on the other until he felt himself ‘The Master Of Those Who Know’xxiii and the truth of all the world prostrated itself before him like a red carpet as the diaphane slid, its limits shifting like the dust, or his consciousness, or the sand of a strip of lonely strand.


And there was the Goldmother. Coming towards him – sung by demons into bright and resonant form.


“Touch me?” He whispered. “Touch me that I might know I am real, and you are real?”


But the Goldmother laughed and shook her head. Her wax face began to melt. “None of us is real.” she whispered back. “We are just the memories of dust – and a poor memory it has indeed. But it matters not. Come through. There is still work that we can do, and the fates need us. Candles have seen your light. Candles have chosen you because you burn like them. Come and join us in the cult of candles.”


Nacheinander, nacheinander, as if to wake the clocks and remind them of their duty, he went with her; pious as a Jesuit scholar, trusting in the ineluctable modality of the audible – the song of demons and the voice of the wax melting Goldmother, the priestess of candles, one foot after the other, nebeneinander; side by side, through spaces occupied by the signatures of so many souls all merging into clouds of diaphanous coloured dust – one becomes the other – sound becomes vision, scent becomes sound, space becomes time, and still the clocks sleep on and the dust in its frustration and powerlessness pines for company and tries to remake the world with the petulance of a little Nag Hammadi not-god – so many stories – now nothing but shadows on the cave wall…


And now here it was.
The wall.
Wrought by the Demiurge no doubt; a last stand against this journey into eternity.
Strands of times and spaces. All woven into one. One. And not-One. In the End.
As if in confirmation – the image of a raven.
Carved into the stone.
And Goldmother struck it with her rowan staff, that grew into a persimmon tree and rooted itself to the ground.
She pressed the fruit into his palm and he opened it. Five fingers in.xxvi
Found in his hands a necklace of shells

To place around her neck. Something he had crafted as a child and now forgotten – lucky silver, saved up under boards / secret safe between himself and the accumulated attic dust.
Lucky silver to keep her safe on those dark nights, walking home in her honey-sweet dreams. She had two nights off a week to do as she pleased and always he was afraid he would never see her again.
So.
Silver bells and cockle shells – he’d heard the street birds singing of His delight.
“Is this the way to Deasyville, four score and ten , pray go up and pray go down and widdershins ye turn around, a jump to the left, a step to the right and ye’ll be there by candlelight, the triptogram the hare goes down, is this the way to Mulligan’s Town? Widdershins ye turn around and wade up to yer knee. For all the blood in all the world runs through the veins of that country.”
And the Church men.
The Old Church men.
Processed the goddess of life on their shoulders, where no woman or unclean thing was permitted to step.
On their shoulders into the sea.
White horses a-gallop in the spray.
Silverblue were her eyes as the fairy-flax, her cheeks like the dawn of day.
And it seemed a hundred lifetimes ago, and only yesterday.


“Close your eyes now.” she whispered.
He felt they had been closed eternally.
Only now beginning to open.
“Three, four, knock on the door, five the gate and six too late…”
And he reached into the warm fissure of his memories, of the memory of her memory, through the shadow-mimes on their rock-wrought canvas stage, hearing in his bones, the children singing on the strand below the gibbosity of his own firm plateaux.
For half
For a gasp
For half a heart beat he was afraid to wake, lest the world be gone away, as so it seemed.
Open your eyes now, do, no cliff-top plummet down for you, no slughorn knell.
See?
You are through. The victory of the adiaphane is not redeemed.
And there. Opening eyes. The world is returned. No black adiaphane of eternal nothingness but light!
Light!
Candles in their multitudes. Their stuttering a catalectic tetrameter of iambsxxxi – goo goo g’joob – pulsing back the diaphane, revealing the signature of everything.
And there she stood, his own goo goo goosth goldmother, mountain of femininity, Astarte in crystalline relief.
“I… I… I need four vials of demonsong.” he blurted. Anchored to that thought. Tears streaming down. On his knees before his Not-mother Mother : all Gold and Horned and Radiant perfection and melting before his eyes.

“I need four vials of demonsong, or… or else they’re going to kill me… the Colonel will, certainly, and when Ros and Spyro find out, perhaps they will too…and Keyja… Keyja has sworn that she will turn me inside out and…”
“Serve the light.” she whispered. “Serve the bleeding river and the boiling sea, serve the dust and the rock-mothers, serve the candles and the memory of me. Soon the dying sun will bring all things to an end – even eternity.”

Light In The Lantern: With Karen J Carlisle

Greetings!

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster. My name is Karen J Carlisle, and I’m a writer and illustrator of Victorian mysteries, steampunk and fantasy.

Strange times have struck the Isles of Ire – Flesh eating Liver Birds plague the skies and Sugar-Zombies 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 re-enforced steel-armoured corset, night-stalker goggles, and sharpened nib pen (for the pen is mightier than the sword, they say), 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…

2020 began as usual, researching for my current work-in-progress, the second book in The Aunt Enid Mysteries (set in 1920) for a throw-away comment about the ‘Great Picnic’, a euphemism used for the quarantine tent city at the Jubilee Oval, Adelaide, South Australia in 1919. After reading accounts of mental health issues related to the epidemic and its aftereffects, I was moved to write ‘Spanish Flu’. The lyrics were originally written in February, 2020.

Little did I know we were destined to experience such times ourselves.

You’d think writers would love enforced lockdown? More time to write. Quite the contrary. Many of us have been overwhelmed, just when the world needs words of hope.

So I lit my watchtower beacon:

When times are dark, fiction can whisk us away to other worlds to find new friends and have fantastical adventures. Quarantine Reads: Escape to Adventure was released in April, and is a collection of short stories of a lighter note, to inspire and transport you beyond four walls. The fantasy, steampunk and fairy tale fiction was created to entertain those in isolation or quarantine, or anyone needing to escape the worries of the world for a while.

But I can only keep those flesh eating Liver Birds and Sugar-Zombies at bay for so long, for they know their time is at hand. Join me to hunt them down in my Halloween-read offering: Another Twist of the Nib: short tales with a darker twist. Here be ghosts, vampires, apocalypse, and humans with nefarious intent. Help me bring their stories into the light, so we can diminish their power.

If you’d like to purchase any of my wares you can find them here:

Spanish Flu – original (steampunk) music – https://karenjcarlisle.com/product/song-spanish-flu/ )

Quarantine Reads: Escape to Adventure – https://karenjcarlisle.com/product/quarantine-reads/

Another Twist of the Nib: short tales with a darker twisthttps://karenjcarlisle.com/product/another-twist-of-the-nib/

For more info on A Fey Tale: https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/aunt-enid-mysteries/ and paperback pre-orders (Australia): https://karenjcarlisle.com/product/a-fey-tale-pre-order/

If you’d like to connect you can find me here:

Website: https://karenjcarlisle.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenjcarlisle/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4LiXU6uVL_g4MT5ykMIUzw

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle

Thankyou for joining me to 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 those Liver Birds and there was tell last week of an artist who fell foul to a horde of sugar zombies and is now best avoided… although his artwork apparently is better than ever–

Shh, did you hear that? I’ll just take a quick peek…

There it is again. Did you hear a scraping sound? What was that in the shadows?

What the–?

Quick, light the torch!

Phew, that was close.

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….

Silk and Steel

Hugest apologies for not posting last week! Our internet dies and even now we have had the engineers out it is still being unpredictable – apparently the old phone line is to blame but I suspect it is the dirt cheap internet as well, lol. Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers as they say! XD I hope you all had a wonderful week and that your weekend is filled with fun and festiveness as we head towards the spectacular spooky season! 😀 I’ll leave you with Vraxi again as he continues his quest to find some demonsong…

There were two churches in Ryzym.

Vraxi stepped out of the tin bath, cranked up the phonograph, draped a feather boa around his shoulders and shimmied around the room, rolling his shoulders a few times as if he was psyching up for a bizarre fancy-dress boxing match.

The first church was the one everyone new about and most people attended. Still. Even though the gods and goddesses had made it abundantly clear they wanted nothing more to do with the world or anything in it.
He hummed to himself and swayed his hips as he fished studiously through his meagre but utterly fabulous wardrobe and selected his very most beautiful shirt and a pair of stunningly iridescent moth-scale leather trousers.

Then there was the Other Church. The one nobody had ever heard of and absolutely nobody went to at all ever.
And yet some people must surely go – because it was definitely a real thing. A thing which caused neighbours to eye eachother sideways and wonder…
Vraxi did not go to either church.

Ever.

Due to the ‘circumstances of his birth’ he had not even been permitted to set foot in the graveyard to put flowers on the paupers’ mound for his mother.
But he had made a great many ‘deliveries’ to the Other Church on Spyro’s behalf and so he knew exactly how to get there.

The first trick was to find a street preacher. The Other Church didn’t have a building of its own and so it moved around, holding services in a different setting each night – perhaps a disused warehouse or abandoned town house, perhaps a welcoming tenement building or the cellar of a sympathetic tavern. This had the benefit of making it almost impossible for any one to find out where the next service was going to be. But for those ‘in the know’ it was a very simple matter.

“You look down, brother,” the street preacher said, after Vraxi had spent a good few minutes loitering around his turf, listening intently to his rabid ramblings about fate, the philosophical musings of dust, the wrath of candles and various omens which indicated the indisputable omnipotence of clocks.

The yag heaved a heavy sigh. “More morose, really.” he said, emphasising what he knew was today’s password, based on the preacher’s leading remark.

“Morose? Oh dear, dear me, we can’t have that. No no no, we certainly can’t have that at all.” The preacher shook his head and stroked his long, braided beard. He laid a hand on Vraxi’s shoulder. “If I were you, brother, I would seek solace in the Rusalka’s Arms,” he whispered, leaning in close with a theatrical wink. “I promise you it will sooth your soul.”

“Many thanks, wise one.” Vraxi said, placing his hands together and offering a little bow of respect as he he backed away.

The preacher nodded and turned back to his rant and Vraxi spun on his heel and strolled off in the direction of the Rusalka’s Arms.

He knew where it was; off a quaint little cobbled backstreet in The Spires. He had made deliveries to the back door many times but had never been inside and, despite his anxiety about how his first foray into the realm of religious fanaticism might go, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of excitement.

Inside, the place was frantic. Poets, artists, writers and radicals sat alone or in small groups, sketching, scribbling, smoking and bantering belief systems with eachother. It was a curiously pleasant and invigorating atmosphere and Vraxi wondered if if he ought not to just linger a while and enjoy it. He had no idea how things worked from this point on – would it be obvious where he should go to attend the service, or would he have to ask?

“Hoi! You! You in the shirt!”

Vraxi looked about him. Lots of people were wearing shirts.

“You! Hoi! You in the shirt and the boa!”

Ah, that was more to go on. Vraxi gave another glance around the bar, he did seem to be the only one sporting such an accessory and he took a second to congratulate himself on outshining even the most pious devotees in the city.

“Me?” he mouthed uncertainly, pointing to himself.

“Yes! You. You’re from Pav’shma, am I right?” The young man rose and crossed the room as he spoke, ending his sentence at the bar beside the yag. “I’ve two bonecoin riding on it” he whispered. “Be a sport about it and I’ll split it with you?”

Vraxi grinned hugely. “The trousers are from Pav’shma, if that helps?” he smirked, “So tell your friends I’m half pav’shmian and neither of us has spun them a yarn?”

The young man laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Come tell them yourself, join us for the evening, do – we have a thirst for the exotic and you outdo all our feeble aspirations.” He ordered a round of coffees and shots from the bar. “I’m Mateo – Matti if you like – my friends there are Klauda and Vitchiento – we call him chi-chi because he hates it.”

Vraxi laughed, nodded his thanks and gave a hand transporting the drinks to a table at the back of the tap. Of course he really ought to be getting on with his plan but a true gentleman, he told himself, as he settled comfortably into a chair beside his new friends, should never turn down an invitation – and Vraxanthrin Bane should never be accused of not being a true gentleman.

They talked Pav’shma’s silk road, Ryzymian politics, the rising unpopularity of the duke and the push to legalise roccana as a medicinal substance, then they talked philosophy and art and ancient literary symbolism and Vraxi quite surprised himself with the breadth and fervour of his own opinions on subjects he had barely even contemplated before.

“They’re preparing the sacrament,” Chi Chi observed, nodding to where rows of pewter tumblers were being lined up along the bar.

Matti turned to Vraxi with a wry smile. “Are you seeking solace for your soul tonight?” he asked.

“Oh, I certainly am,” Vraxi grinned; feeling glad at the prospect of spending longer in such pleasant company.

“Is it your first time?” Klauda asked, her voice dripping innuendo like honey from a needle’s tip.

“At church.” Vraxi smirked back, just to be clear.

Matti laughed, “Then we’d better take care of you, hadn’t we?” he said, taking Vraxi’s hand and leading him back to the bar. “Here,” he handed Vraxi one of the pewter tumblers, passed two to the others and took one for himself. A dark red liquid sat like treacle inside.

“Drink and remember,” he said, giving the yag a reassuring smile.

“Drink and remember” the others chorused, and they knocked their tumblers together and downed them in unison, Vraxi following suit.

It was sweet and sour and metallic and almost too sticky and stringy to gulp down. Vraxi’s eyes watered as he swallowed repeatedly to free his throat of the last of it. “What is it?” he asked hoarsely, shaking his head to clear his vision, but it didn’t clear. Instead the world around him seemed to be melting like candle wax; all colour a veneer that had been washed over a grey, grainy substrate… “What..?”

“You’re seeing things the way they really are, brother,” Matti said, laying an oddly insubstantial hand on his shoulder. “You’ve drunk blood, from the red river, and now your body remembers the flesh it used to be, what this world used to be, and your mind can’t trick it anymore… see? It’s nothing but dust! All of us, look, we’re just dust!” He laughed and looked into Vraxi’s face and the yag’s eyes widened in disbelief.

“You’re… you’re made of dust…” he whispered, marvelling at the tiny glittering grey grains that now seemed to compose everyone and everything around him. Even his own hands when he looked at them were the same.

“That’s right, come on, let’s go down to the service.”
Matti took his hand again and they went through to the back of the bar, down a flight of stairs and into the cellar.

Into the cellar?

Pah!

They might as well have stepped into another world.

“Remember why you are here, Vraxanthrin.” he told himself sternly as layers of sound and light and motion washed over him in waves of ecstasy. “Somewhere in this place there is demonsong – lots of it – and you must not leave without at least four bottles of the stuff or this whole insanity-laden evening will have been for naught.”

Light In The Lantern: With Elen Sentier

Greetings! Welcome to to Steampunk’d Lancaster! My name is Elen Sentier and I teach and write books about British native shamanism.

Strange times have struck the Isles of Ire – Flesh eating Liver Birds plague the skies and Sugar-Zombies 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 Top Hat and witchy black cat is my familiar spirit who is really a sabre-toothed panther but shrinks herself down to mini-cat size so as not to frighten the neighbours. She eats Liver Birds for breakfast so I think I’ll 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…

Like I said, I write books about the old ways of Britain. We never did lose them you know, despite what iggerant Liver Bird Lovers may tell you. we just learned to keep our heads well down below the parapet for the past 2000 years so we’re seriously good shapeshifters, and that’s part of what I teach. My Mum and Dad, most of our relations and quite a few folks in the villages where I grew up all followed the old ways, we even got our local vicar into it so he let us use the church for some of our ceremonies like the Night of the Mothers. Our ancient patroness, a well maiden from thousands of years back, had her shrine under where the Normans built their church, it was great to be able to use it again. He was a good bloke, that vicar.
I teach through a website – the Deer Trods Tribe – you can find it at http://www.deerttrods.com and on Facebook. The courses start really easily, from the beginning, and you can do them all online once you become a member. And there’s out old teaching tales there, and the weekly bog my colleague, Fiona Dove, and I do, sometimes with one of our shaman friends from around the world. We have a book of the month, videos we enjoy including our own, and the seasonal Newsletter. And then there’s all the Members’ courses, some are quite short and others can last the whole year – you choose.

If you’d like to purchase any of my wares you can find them here: http://www.deertods.com and you can find my books on Amazon.

If you’d like to connect you can find me here: Deer Trods Tribe website

I’m on Facebook at Wye’s Woman Shamans and Deer Trods Tribe

Well thankyou 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 those Liver Birds, (hope to goodness my cat can protect me!) and there was tell last week of an artist who fell foul to a hoard of sugar zombies and is now best avoided… although his artwork apparently is better than ever…

Oh and I went out for a walk last full moon up here in the Wild Hills of Shropshire and got scooped up by Wild Edric and the wild Hunt, they’re always out around then. Ye gods it was a wild ride! But we did spend the end of the night together in his lovely lodge up in the Long Forest … say no more! Say no more! But I did come home with a smile on my face LOL. I tell you following the deer trods is quite some fun 😊

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….

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