Greetings and salutations!
Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster. My name is Nimue Brown. I herd eldritch, tentacular creatures and soothe dustcats professionally. I’m here having learned about the flesh eating birds and the Sugar-Zombies. I know the general intention is to keep the flame burning, bring comfort in the darkness, and resist the terrifying monsters.
But, terrifying monsters? Excuse me while I rub my hands together in wild and abandoned glee. Would I lick a Sugar-Zombie? Yes. Yes I would.
While others are armed for the fight, I’m primarily going to protect you through the medium of distraction. It’s surprising how many unspeakable entities like to pose for a camera and a quick bit of portraiture. I’m hoping for interviews as well. Everyone gets bored with tearing the living limb from limb sooner or later, and hopefully I’m late enough to the party for that moment to have arrived! Failing that I’m just going to throw myself enthusiastically at them, but that tends to work out well for me.
Monsters are friends. Like Simon – who is a sea monster inhabiting the waters off Hopeless Maine. Pointy, always hungry, terribly misunderstood, Simon is very much my sort of people. I’m currently working on comics pages for the last book in the Hopeless Maine comics arc – having recently handed in the penultimate one. The haunted goth boi I live with (Tom Brown) does the drawing and then I get in for the colour, because he’s enough of a goth boi to find colour a bit threatening. I’m also working at the writing end on what happens on the island of Hopeless, Maine after the comics arc – for this I am aided by Japanese wizard Dr Abbey, who gave me an octopus knife and taught me how mermaids make blood candles.
My other recent exploits have included investigating the paranormal activity in Stroud – including wizard conspiracies, outbreaks of were-rhubarb and fairy kidnappings. I’ve shared my findings on Youtube (start here, Wherefore runs to 3 series – https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLd-6bmI3UuPDjEp1YqIYY6GkVTmG-1qux )
You can pick up pdf versions for free from my ko-fi store – https://ko-fi.com/O4O3AI4T/shop
Otherwise, if you’d like to purchase any of my Hopeless wares you can find them pretty much anywhere that sells books. If you’re in America, Outland editions starting with Personal Demons are your best bet. For UK readers, The Gathering published by Sloth Comics is the place to start. You can find out more about what we do over at https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/
If you’d like to connect you can find me here….
And for Hopeless Maine there’s these…
Thank you for joining me to keep the light in the lantern burning. I’ve heard some authors have had their spines ripped to pieces up here by those Liver Birds, and I’m fairly sure I’ve just seen one so I’m going to go and see how it feels about having its head scritched. I still haven’t managed to lick a Sugar-Zombie, but the night is yet young and I’ve not entirely given up hope.
Stay safe friends, and when things look ominous in the dark remember to seek out the friends who squeal with joy rather than terror. We are amongst you, and if nothing else, we’ll run happily towards the approaching zombies giving you time to make your escape.
“Woah! The wind is really strong, up here at the top of this
ancient and crumbling tower, Miss Plumtartt, I don’t know if I can
keep the lantern lit or not!”
“As we have accepted this Midnight watch, Mr. Temperance, we
shall see our duty through sir, eh hem? I am attempting to keep these
blood-thirsty crows at bay that you may maintain our source of
illumination and protection for faire Lancaster.”
“I didn’t reckon on no demon crows!”
“Be that as it may, it behooves us to take a care in handling
these marvelous creatures. I forbid you to hurt one razor sharp
“Yes Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. Maybe we would do better with
them there sugar zombies down in the street?”
“Mr. Temperance! You are double forbidden from interaction with
those mindless fiends.”
“But they’ve got sugary sweets!”
“Your tummy torments should be sheltered by shunning said
“Uh oh, here comes another murder of crows with killing in their
deranged and vicious beady eyes!”
“Mr. Temperance, please use the bristled end of the broom to
drive away our ornithological demon friends, eh hem? I am afraid the
blunt end might hurt the dears.”
”Watch out, Miss Plumtartt, I think a couple of them are trying
to nest in your hair!”
“Nest in my hair!?! Eee-Aye-rRoark!!! You filthy, black pigeons!
I’ll rip you to pieces! I’ll stuff my pillows with your nasty feathers
you foul fowl fiends! Oh, ‘caw-caw’ yourself! At you!”
“Eep! Um, howdy folks. Miss Plumtartt’s language has grown
salty, so uh, maybe I’ll take this opportunity to mention our literary
adventures. They are ten books in the series. Each is a stand-alone,
themed adventure tale, such as the time a fleet of Martian spacecraft
invaded Planet Earth, or, the time we drove our tunnel machine to the
center of the Earth and discovered that our hollow planet was filled
with magical fantasy creatures, or the time we met Sherlock Holmes, or
the time we met King Arthur, or the time we visited London while it
was being terrorized by a terrible monster in a top hat and cape. But
a warning to any would be readers: though I encourage you to select
the genre that appeals to you, I must say the books get better, or, at
least, I develop my own style of writing as the books go on. As they
are stand-alone adventures, selecting one of the later books is a safe
way to start.”
“Blast you, Temperance. Stop crassly pushing your wares and help
me to fend off this raucous, cawkus murder caucus!”
Eep! Here’s a link, y’all. Happy Trails!”
Over a blasted landscape, a mouse scampers. He lifts a defiant paw to the heavens, oh, wait, he’s just saying hello…
Mousetrick: Greetings! Welcome to Steampunk Lancaster! My name is Mousetrick, prince of the warren, owner of whiskers extraordinaire…
Theodora is the large, stuffed bear carried in the arms of the little girl wearing a red cape.
Grace: (the girl in the cape) Theodora says you’re supposed to introduce our scribbler. Not yourself.
Mousetrick: Says who? (chitters) I am a lot more interesting than she is! Just look at my whiskers. (twirls his whiskers)
Theodora: (unimpressed) Growrrr…
Mousetrick: Oh, fine. We were created by K.S. Trenten. She scribbles. Back to what I was saying. Strange time have struck the Islands of Ire…Flesh eating Liver birds plague the sky…
A sinister cackle erupts as said birds dive-bomb Mousetrick…
An army of tiny soliders march over the landscape, taking aim at the birds with their tiny toy guns. They’re lead by a nutcracker. They take aim at the sky.
Pop! The birds screech their indignition and depart.
Mousetrick: That’s my toothy beauty! (preens and smooths his fur) As if those weren’t bad enough Sugar-Zombies roam the streets, spreading their curse like a plague…
There’s moaning and shuffling sound from all directions. Mousetrick, Grace, Theodora, the soliders, and the nutcracker freeze in their tracks.
Grace: Quick! To the lighthouse!
Everyone runs in the direction of the lighthouse, glowing, emitting choral music which stops the zombies in their tracks. It gives mouse, girl, and toys a chance to pound on the door.
It’s opened by a sleek, attractive individual of indeterminate gender, dressed in the somber black attire of a household servant.
Claude: Good evening. You’d better hurry inside.
They stand out of the way to let the refugees race up the stairs.
At the top; a slender boy and four young women stand together, singing in perfect tune.
In the old tower
We re-kindle the beacon
Keep watch on the hour
So hope may awaken
They stop singing when the little party stops and stares at them.
Nathalie: (for she’s one of the women singing, a coppery-skinned young woman dressed in loose russet) Grace!
Christopher: (for he’s the boy. Never mind how he knows Mousetrick, he knows all of my characters) Mousetrick!
Cinders: (the dustiest of all the four women) Claude let you in? You found your way here?
Ariella: (a dark-haired lady in dark blue with sharp ankles visible beneath her skirt) Of course they did.
Maia: (the last woman wearing a top hat) Grace, what were you doing out there? Didn’t you hear what we were singing?
Grace: It’s all right. We got away from Liver Birds and Sugar-Zombies.
Mousetrick: (smoothing his fur once more) As you can see, we are well-armed and able to protect ourselves.
Cracktooth: Except we ran.
Mousetrick: Oh, don’t sweat the details! I’m well-armed with my toothy beauty and our army of tin soldiers. We shall keep the beasts at bay.
Christopher: We shall?
Grace: We’ll think of something. Won’t we, Theodora?
Nathalie: I could distract them with a story? Maybe they’d go bother someone else.
Cinders: As guardians of hope, should we really encourage them to go bother someone else?
Maia: I could take them down a casserole. Or gingerbread. Are Sugar-Zombies fond of sugar? Maybe they’d prefer gingerbread to brains.
Mousetrick: You’ll attract all sorts of riff-raff if you start carrying around gingerbread. (He sniffs in unease at the night. Yes, among the monster sounds there’s the chittering of other rats.)
Christopher: (opening eyes filled with color and stolen memories) I wonder if what’s out there is worse than what I’ve found beyond the Door.
Grace: Let’s not find out!
Nathalie: I agree.
Cinders: Let’s just keep the forces at bay. Keep hope alive.
Grace: We can do that.
Mousetrick: (striking a pose) Of course we can!
Cracktooth: Aren’t we supposed to be introducing our scribbler’s work?
Mousetrick: (striking a pose) Of course! Her’s is the tale of our torrid passion, Cracktooth’s and mine, misunderstood in many a story or ballet; Seven Tricks…
Some say a mouse king has seven heads. Hah, trust a human to get our legends wrong. A mouse prince must perform seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are up. It’s how he wins his crown, but I’ve got my whiskers set on something else. A stiff beauty with a magnificent jaw, waiting for me under the holiday shrub. I caught his scent in a dream, which I’ve been sniffing after ever since. Scamper with me through my adventures and misadventures, dodging traps, cats, and giants, while I win a steadfast nutcracker’s heart.
And if you wish to read about our adventures-
Cracktooth: Or misadventures.
Mousetrick: (unphased) -go to…
Nine Star Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/seven-tricks/
Maia: And here’s where you read about my torrid affair with Nathalie…
Nathalie: Not to mention Grace’s adventures. Or misadventures.
Maia: No matter how much of it is inside her head.
Grace: You tell them, Theodora! This is our story. As long as Princess Grace’s story. And Iama the Terrible’s story.
Maia: I’m *not* that terrible.
Nathalie: Depends on which Iama you’re talking about…
When their home becomes too dangerous for them, Nathalie and Grace’s mothers decide that Mama Morisot will move with the girls to the city of Verity while Mama Bibi stays behind. There, they find safety and friends—Nathalie in the dashing Maia and Grace in Theodora Bear—but all is not right in Verity.
The gears of industry grind on relentlessly in the city, threatening to stifle creativity and magic, seeking to end childhood. One tragic blow at a time, Grace watches as the magic and love around her dies until she also begins to give into despair. It will be up to a stuffed bear and the magic of the holidays to remind Grace how vital imagination is in keeping her family whole.
Maia: Nat, the buy links! We need to tell them where to buy our story at!
Nathalie: Oops. (abashed grin) Here’s where you can find Wind Me Up, One More Time…
Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/wind-me-up-one-more-time.html#/
Cinders: Ariella and I-
Ariella: And Claude.
Cinders: And Claude. We have our own story, At Her Service which is searching for a home.
Ariella: Which means it needs to be republished.
Cinders: Our scribbler does have another story, A Symposium in Space. I feel a lot of empathy for Phaedra. She’s on a journey, too, only it’s through the stars. And her heart is being tested.
Ariella: You go to a ball. She goes to a symposium.
Cinders: Yes, there is that, isn’t there in A Symposium in Space?
Phaedra and her lover, Pausania are invited to a dinner party. Only this won’t be like any party Phaedra has ever been to. Nor does Pausania want her to go. Phaedra is determined, even if she has to find her own way to this symposium in space. A fateful encounter with the spaceship of her dreams and the wandering philosopher, Sokrat, lead Phaedra to a unique gathering of individuals where thoughts of love are offered up…and consumed.
Tagline: The party continues in a decadent matriarchal future where the guests may find themselves eating their words…literally.
Ariella: You can find A Symposium in Space at…
Nine Star Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/a-symposium-in-space/
Christopher: I’m involved in a series of stories our scribbler has been working on for some time, Tales of the Navel. You can find some of those stories at her blog, the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration. I’m there most Mondays, having conversations with other characters. When I don’t have to share the space with a particularly obstinate dwarf.
Quartz: (his voice comes from the air) Who’s obstinate?!
Christopher: Ahem, we’re at inspirationcauldron.wordpress.com
Quartz: Ruddy shadows. Don’t eat, just devour memories and feelings. Like vampires or ghosts they are.
Everyone looks at Christopher.
Christopher: (lowering his eyelashes) I’ve never denied it. Our scribbler sometimes writes as herself at…
Christopher: Or she indulges in flights of fanciful fandom at…
Quartz: Ruddy Hannibal. As if she wasn’t distracted enough.
Christopher: You’re not here! Fairest needs to find a new home, too! And Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystals Coffins, your story, hasn’t been published yet!
Ariella: He’s right, though. She is distracted.
Cinders: This may be why many of us are distracted, too. Grace?
Grace gazes off into space, not answering.
Nathalie: I guess that proves your point.
Christopher: Anyway if you’d like to find our scribbler, K.S. Trenten on social media, look at these places…
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/kstrenten
Nine Star Press Author Page: https://ninestarpress.com/authors/k-s-trenten/
Grace: Is that all?
Mousetrick: (twirling his whiskers) Our shift is over.
There’s a pounding at the door below.
Mousetrick: (scampering behind Cracktooth) Liver-Birds?
Grace: (hugging Theodora) Or Sugar-Zombies?
Christopher: They have a taste for artists. Ever since one fell afoul of them.
Nathalie: (raising an eyebrow at Maia) We’d better be careful.
Maia: (walks to the stairs leading up) As if Iama the Terrible has anything to fear.
Christopher: (follows) I thought she was just a character in your mother’s novels.
Maia: (smiling with a glint in her eye) Oh, Christopher. Is anything “just” anything in a place like this?
The two of them watch the stairs. Happily the rest of the watch passes peacefully…we hope!
Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster. My name is Madeleine Holly-Rosing and I’m the writer/creator/producer of the steampunk supernatural graphic novel, prose and now audio drama series, Boston Metaphysical Society.
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. It’s a harrowing situation that demands we make tea and contemplate a solution to this problem.
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. I, for one, will be stoking those fires until the sun rises.
Tonight is my shift and never fear, I am well armed to protect myself with my magic teapot which when miffed turns into a mechanical beast of epic proportions. 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…
To the delight of everyone this scary season, Boston Metaphysical Society now has an audio drama called, The Ghost Ship, on Kickstarter. Based on my graphic novel series about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston. The Ghost Ship takes place during our original six issue mini-series. It follows the story of our three main characters, Samuel, Caitlin, and Granville as they investigate a mysterious ghost ship that has sailed into Boston Harbor and is not only killing those who board her, but luring children to their death.
To help make The Ghost Ship happen, I brought on the amazing team of Eddie Louise and Chip Michael of the steampunk scifi audio drama Sage and Savant to handle script editing, audio engineering and direction, as well the music.
It is an eight-episode standalone series with a full cast, special effects, and original music. The voice tracks have already been out, and we are currently working on the special effects and music.
There are many delightful reward tiers such as a wood flash drive with a ship engraved on it and a CD.
If you’d like to pledge to the audio drama you can find it here:
Kickstarter Link: http://kck.st/3m0MIVo
The campaign ends on Nov. 19, so pledge today!
If you’d like to connect you can find me here:
Thank you 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 and tastes rather like a lemon tart.
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, and be sure to stay off those ghost ships!
Greetings! Welcome to to Steampunk’d Lancaster!
My name is Felicity Banks and I write books, adore my kids & cats, and run the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group. Currently I’m raising funds for a thirteen-year-old boy, little brother of a friend of mine, who was shot in the leg while the family was trying to get out of Afghanistan after the Taliban destroyed their house.
The days are dark, is what I’m saying.
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 the Mightier-Than-Thou Sword-Pen (patent pending, pun intended) 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…
Lately I have written an interactive cat breeding tale. It is bright and happy and sweet and no one dies. Not even a background character. Unusual for me. Also, people have told me that the heavy grief of the backstory combined with the main character finding out they have a chronic and disabling illness… is not so happy.
But see, I know illness. I wrote what I knew: poverty; pain; and cats. Every silver-lined cloud carries rain. And the thing is, disability isn’t death. Sometimes it can be a new life. And if you’re very VERY lucky, it can be a cat-filled life. So it’s a fun story, a happy story, a happy place for me to visit, and to invite others to join me.
So that’s my story about my latest story, FINE FELINES, which is currently free to read/play online. And it is so full of gorgeous cat pictures that one could argue it’s mostly cat pictures with a story loosely wound around them… like string around a playful cat.
You can read it right here: https://dashingdon.com/play/Felicity_Banks/fine-felines/mygame/
If you’d like to purchase any of my wares, which usually tend strongly to the steampunk & fantasy, you can find them here:
If you’d like to connect you can find me here:
CastleOfKindness@gmail.com (including GoFundMe link)
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 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….
Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster. My name is Elen Sentier and I write crafty novels about the adventures of witches in our everyday world. I also teach up-n-coming witches and wizards and help them get their own handles on their crafts.
Strange times have struck the Isles of Ire – Flesh eating Liver Birds plague the skies, terrorising the poor lone metal one atop the Liver Building, and Sugar-Zombies roam the streets spreading their curse like a plague… I’m always amazed at how they turn up every dratted Samhain and stick chocolate spanners in the works. Nothing seems to stop them, not even contaminating the sugar with tincture of fly agaric.
The first I knew of this year’s attack was when I woke suddenly in the pre-dawn, absolutely certain I’d been run over by an omnibus. I could feel the leaden weight of the engine crushing my chest. I opened my eyes to find myself staring into two huge luminous green headlights.
Hang on a minute … green? Headlamps are usually yellow or orange. Had I scoffed too much camembert last night? I tried breathing again. My chest muscles still worked despite the weight on them. And then I noticed the whiskers. Two matching sets of shimmering black whiskers stood out just below the green headlamps. I blinked. Several times. Regained focus. My Familiar Smilodon, Kellan, lay up my chest, purring like a traction engine.
‘Gerrrofff!’ I managed.
She yawned, showing off her awesome fangs. ‘You’re wanted,’ she told me. ‘And you’re already seven minutes late!’
‘Gerrrofff!’ I growled more strongly, managing to raise myself a little on my elbows. ‘How can I get up with you lying on me like a ton of bricks?’
She stood, arched, stretched, pedaling my stomach so I nearly pee’d myself. I rolled out of bed and ran for the loo. 5 minutes later I galloped down the outside staircase in her wake and we leapt on the broomstick. I pulled the starting lever, it gurgled, spat and stalled. I tried again – same thing. And again.
‘Carpet!’ yowled Kellan, leaping through the garage window. I kicked the lock on the doors til it fell off, hauled the groaning metal aside. A waft of dank, stagnant air threatened to bring up my stomach contents. Fortunately I’d abjured breakfast.
Kellan hauled at the rolled up carpet. I helped. It was damp. Three large rats ran out, complaining bitterly that I’d disturbed their rest. Kellan showed them her fangs, they absconded precipitately. We got the mouldy thing out into the street and Kellan pounded its tail-end while I waggled the controls. The carpet spat foam and three inches of fringe onto the pavement then took off with the jolt. Kellan dug in her claws while I jerked back and thudded into her nose. She yowled and bit me crossly.
I managed to get the benighted thing aloft and under some sort of control. Its near-front stabiliser is wonky so its like driving the average supermarket trolly, you have to lean hard to starboard or the thing continually heads off larboard. I swore. A lot.
‘Z-zombies at angels f-five thousand,’ the coms stuttered into life.
I yanked the stick back and we climbed. ‘There!’ yowled Kellan over my shoulder. I saw them, trained the gatling gun on them and pulled the trigger. A blast of flame seared the sugar zombies into crème brulée as the trigger fell off in my hand. Flaming fiddlesticks I swore violently. Instantly my curse materialised and the carpet whooshed up into a flying bonfire to the accompaniment of number 15 of the 24 Caprices by Paganini.
‘You are the dumbest witch on the block!’ Kellan caught me in a huge paw and planted me on her back, spread her wings and we sailed off into the sunset towards the Liver Building.
The Liver Bird Himself was battling furiously, smacking zombies with the branch of laver seaweed and squawking miserably, Obviously on his last legs. Kellan dived. I clung to her mane for dear life. She snapped and bit, chopping zombies into sugar cubes, pink-coloured from the blood. The Liver Bird sagged into a sweaty heap of scales and feathers on the top of the dome. ‘Thank you,’ it croaked. ‘A pleasure,’ Kellan replied.
We landed on the roof. The Others ran out to greet us, shoved a cauldron of mead under Kellan’s nose, she slurped and purred happily. Somebody remembered to give me a glass too.
That night, we all went up to the watchtower, re-kindled the old beacon above the city. We’ll keep its flame burning each night through the Dark Times as a way of giving hope to those being hunted down by terrifying monsters, or evil scarecrow landlords…
Tonight is my shift. Never fear, I’m well armed to protect myself with my newly blunted runcible spoon. And Kellan’s here to keep an eye on me so I think I’ll manage to keep the beasts at bay.
There’s a nasty-smelling brownish-grey splodge down in the street below. I just hope the rains will come in spring and wash away the remains of the carpet. Until then, and since I’m here, I thought I’d while away the small hours and share some of my work with you all…
As well as the Awenydd Apprenticeship and Rainbow Warriors, I’m doing a whole set of masterclasses on ReWilding Your Heart in 2022. We did the introduction in November but don’t let that stop you coming to them. – See here https://www.elensentier.com/about-1-3 to book
You can apply for the next Awenydd Apprenticeship intake from Imbolc (1 Feb) 2022.
My latest book about Practically Pagan – an alternative Guide to Gardening is just out …
And while you wait for my latest novel, Spirit Keeper, to be published you could do worse than read Owl Woman 😊
If you’d like to purchase any of my wares you can find them here… www.elensentier.com
If you’d like to connect you can find me here…. https://www.facebook.com/elensentier/
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 – especially after my overly dramatic entry, I shan’t live that one down for a few years!! I’ve heard some authors have had their spines ripped to pieces up here by those Liver Birds – they just never know which side their bread is buttered! And last week a fellow artist fell foul of a horde of sugar zombies and is now best avoided unless you’re really into crème brulée. But her paintings are now apparently better than ever–
Kellan has decided she’ll still stay with me despite the incompetence I displayed at the beginning of this year’s campaign. Oh and the Liver Bird was sick for three whole days and nights from eating the sugar-zomie-cubes! Stupid bird!
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….
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen!
Welcome back (goodness, hasn’t it ben too long?) to Max and Collin’s drop dead delectable parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster!
True, some have called it a ghastly garret haunted by fiendish ghouls and black hearted demons, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation 😉
You find us this morning, quaking to the core because we are certain we heard the mournful cry of the first flesh eating Liver Birds rising from their long summer sleep and we are now trying to pluck up the courage to ask our terrifying landlord if he might not possibly, very sweetly, consider replacing our sack cloth roof for something more substantial…
I did actually mention to my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend earlier that Mrs Baker -our stoic kitchen witch – is re-kindling the light in the old watchtower again this year and, in fact, she has drafted in a marvellous array of friends from various other dimensions to help her… and they are all bringing a magnificent array of weapons with them… and wouldn’t it perhaps be prudent to offer to assist in the venture ourselves – surely the old watchtower will be a much safer place to haul-up in than this miserable rotting old fish factory?
I mentioned all this to Max, and yet Max remains unmoved. In fact he has remained unmoved for the better part of the last three hours and I suspect that he has actually fallen asleep.
So let us leave him snoring there for a while and contemplate the matter over a nice cup of tea and a good book…
Our tea this melodramatic morning is Re-animator by Tenatious Tea
And our book is ‘I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse’ by C H Clepitt – and I must be perfectly Frank (one of the many people I am when I am not Collin The Octopus) and say that we have been meaning to review this book for so long it has become something of a scandal (blushes as only an octopus in a top hat can)
We read it a couple of years ago and it was such a delight that we got quite over-excited and weepy and read the sequel and then got all over-excited and weepy again and then the world exploded and our puppet mistress sailed away in a pea green boat with a Spoonwalker and got lost on an island with some Necromancers and Max died and was resurrected as a skeleton princess…. and, well, long story short, we have quite a long list of books which we have been meaning to review and haven’t yet and this is one of them…
So without further ado…
Heels is a heart-warming, hilarious, wondrously witty and splendiferously satirical romp through a marvellously imagined apocalyptic nightmare.
We follow Kerry (who, for all the fact that she is, indeed, in heels and feels utterly unprepared and ill equipped to cope with the end of the world, is actually an utterly awesome action hero in her own very engaging and adorable way) and her band of misfit-heroes who each have their own esoteric, bizarre and completely fabulous skill-banks for navigating the apocalypse.
Best of all – it has a talking badger. We will say no more. That alone should be enough.
( FMI : @BadgersTweetToo )
We laughed out loud from start to end. There is enormous heart and insurmountable wit within this treasure trove and a wicked golden-glint of mischief running like a magic thread throughout its pages – a perfect antidote to the gloom and doom that seems to have seized the world in its iron grip of late!
So, the question is, friends, what would you wear to the apocalypse? Because if those screeches really are Liver Birds out there – and if the rumours of a new wave of Mancunian sugar zombies are true, that could be a very important question! I hope that by the time it is all over I can merrily type #IWoreHeels with a flourish, but I have yet to find eight matching pairs to fit my tentacles, you see? Ah well.
Perhaps we will pluck up the courage to join the intrepid band of authors, artists and other creatives who are fending off the monsters over at the watch tower this month… then again perhaps we won’t… but if you are feeling brave (or stupid) and would like to throw in your oar with that crazy lot, do give Penny a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org we’re certain they can use all the able bodies they can get (always good to have extra bodies to throw at zombies; helps to distract them, you know?)
We wish you a divinely dark and marvellously magical afternoon, and until we meet again, please be always
Greetings! Welcome to to Steampunk’d Lancaster! My name is Mrs Albert Baker and… well yes, that’s right I am a witch, how very kind of you to notice! Perhaps it’s my magical aura… or the smell of freshly baked gingerbread that tipped you off?
Officially I’m actually The Last Witch Of Pendle but, sadly, 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 my little underground soup kitchen for the street urchins.
This beautiful outfit helps me to disguise my true nature and was made for me by my wonderful friend Catherine E Mclean who also created my gorgeous bakery here in Steampunk’d Lancaster and makes all the outfits and accessories for my dear friend Darq -‘the doll with a blog’. (you can read all about the time she came to visit me here)
Strange times have struck here in the Scattered Isles of Ire – Lord Ashton’s Flesh Eating Liver Birds plague the skies above us and hoards of Mancunian Sugar-Zombies roam the cobbled 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 running for their lives and 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 a hot cauldron of soup, a fistful of hexes and of course my trusty rolling pin, which has seen off many an Annoying Wizard, Giant Crab or Night Potato, I can tell you!
Over the coming weeks, a marvellous host of writers, artists and creators will each be taking a turn to keep the light in this old lantern burning through the dark and share with you some of their wonderful books, stories, artwork and other fabulous creations.
If you’d like to lend a hand as well, do drop us a line at email@example.com and I will book you a shift on the rosta – we can always use more able hands to fight off these zombies and we love to see and share the works of writers, artists and every kind of creator to brighten these dark times!
Now then, since I’m here I thought I would share a little excerpt from some of my own adventures with you to try and take our minds off the danger that encroaches from every angle.
This is taken from The Dangerous Exploits of Smith and Skarry – which is the second book detailing how myself and my miscreant protégés failed to save the world. In this scene we are attempting to have breakfast before embarking on our ill-fated mission to discover the lost tribe of Siberian Soup-Seers who, we hoped, would be able to save both the daughter of The Pirate King, and the world, but of course things like saving the world and having breakfast are always more complicated with Max and Collin in tow…
Excerpt from The Dangerous Exploits Of Smith And Skarry…
“So, your chum with the hair…” Eightcups Max, Therezine-goggles firmly in place and lurid purple mop sticking crazily from beneath the brim of his esoterically customised bowler hat, violently assaulted the chair beside Skarry in an attempt to get into it and eventually let it fall to the flagstone floor with a clatter.
Skarry raised his eyebrows and glanced across the table at Mercurio, who had his head of tight golden curls buried in a book of dubious academic merit.
“Think he’ll lend me his cat?”
“Mm. His cat.”
“I… sorry, his cat?”
“Mm. Scarrrlette told me he might lend me his Cat O’ Nine Lives, that’s an incredibly fancy little toy, by the way,”
Skarry frowned, there was something about the way his sister’s name purred in Max’s throat that made his shoulder twitch. Just ever so slightly.
Max turned up his collar and leant, in a conspiratorial fashion, too close for comfort or propriety “Look here,” he said seriously, “you really ought to stop worrying about her, she’s not about what you think she is, you know?”
“Weeeell…” Max spread his arms in a wide sweeping gesture, “…if all the spoons were one spoon, as they say…” his grin widened with the furrows in Skarry’s brow “..what a great spoon that would be
And if all the teacups were one cup what a great cup that would be
And if all the teapots were one pot, what a great pot that would be
And If all the tealeaves were one leaf, what a great leaf that would be
And if all the women were one woman what a great woman she would be
And if the great woman
took the great leaf
and brewed it in the great pot
and poured it into the great cup
and stirred it with the great spoon
what a helluva stir that would make eh?” he carefully adjusted the brim of his bowler hat, “…Not that it’s any of my business, of course, but, I do have a sister, as it turns out – who knew eh? Well, Mother, presumably – I discovered her in Hull…” his eyes seemed to glaze over for a moment and Skarry cleared his throat loudly “… sorry, yes, she wanted to do unspeakable things to me as well…”
“Hm? Oh yes, she was Hull bent on power too, and toys… but anyway I digress, so, your chum – Smith is it? Think he’ll lend me his toy for a bit?”
Skarry shifted his weight moodily and looked again at his friend. “I doubt it,” he said stiffly.
Max looked crest fallen, “Really? Damn. I want a message taking to Lichfield, to the arcade in fact,” the coat collar came up with a flick of those elegant fingers “need to ask them to update my cameo, you know?”
Skarry did know. The Burlington Arcade in Lichfield was notorious for many things, one of which was a very particular type of street artist who, for a very particular type of payment – illicit tiffin, Skarry supposed and shuddered inwardly at the memory of his own recent baptism of fire – would carefully create and maintain a pristine cameo print of their customer upon the wall of the arcade, inscribing below it whatever social and political achievements, thoughts, fancies, whims and witticisms their patron decreed. Skarry had spent many painful hours – Mercurio had repeatedly assured him it would be minutes – loitering uncomfortably at the entrance, trying not to stare at the scribes with their leather gauntlets and wild crimson attire, while his new acquaintance attended to his various pressing business arrangements in the peculiar little studios that heaped themselves higgledy piggledy above the tiny shops and tiled walkways of the arcade below.
“Update your cameo? To say what?”
“Oh, well, you know, just that I’m back, after a dashed fine spot of jail breaking, on the run from the good folk, available for parties … that sort of thing…”
“Well, you could ask him”
“Hm. Yes. Yes I could couldn’t I?” Max nodded thoughtfully. “Right, here I go then…come on Collin, best foot forward, you’ve got enough to choose from…” He attempted to scoop his octopus up from the table, where it was wrapping its long tentacles around a teapot and a plate of hot crumpets, but Collin seemed reluctant to relinquish his prize and after a spectacular battle in which pot, crumpets, jam and cream all went flying across the hall, Max went crashing to the floor, tangled in his ridiculously long coat with Collin plastered to his face.
“Oops. Are my tenfacles showing affain?” he chuckled through a mouth full of octopus.
“What?” Skarry gaped in astonishment at the pandemonium caused by one individual attempting to sit down to breakfast.
Max choked and wrestled Collin from his face, his bowler hat clattered to the floor and for the first time Skarry got a really good look at The Heir To The Throne Of Ire… Max’s skin was white as porcelain, not surprising really when the fiend had spent the last few years living in the underwater prison city of Hull. His purple hair was dishevelled, a long and clumsily stitched scar traced an ugly line across his high forehead and in all respects he looked like a human wreck…
Max grinned and slammed the bowler back into place, adjusted the brim and scooped Collin up onto his shoulder. He laid a set of long, delicate fingers on Skarry’s arm “It’s quite alright,” he whispered “I understand, you’re only human.” Then he straightened up, turned his back and cried “You can look, Mr Skarry, but no touchy touchy!” before swaggering off to try his luck with Mercurio.
“What? I…what?!” Skarry floundered in a red fog of rage, embarrassment and indignation but Max was out of earshot and severa members of the crew were now smirking at him from across the table.
He began to ardently protest all the things he had not been doing or thinking or looking at when the doors to the hall burst open and in danced the captain of the chronic agro, followed by the hulking figure of Billy Blythe, the pirate king.
“All hands to the decks me loves, and wrap up warm! The wind is up and we’re bound for Siberia!” Captain Jack Diamond clapped his hands together and grinned at his crew who were all helping themselves to buttered crumpets around the long trellis table.
“You bloody well wanna change yer own outfit.” Bill growled. “You’re not bleedin well goin to the frozen wastes dressed like that.”
Jack looked himself up and down. “I’ll put a coat on,” he said defensively.
Well, what do you think? Will Captain Jack survive the Siberian sub-temperatures if he puts on a coat? Will Eightcups Max manage to get his cameo updated before we set sail? Will Jonathon Skarry ever be able to string a sentence together?
These are all philosophical questions my dears, but more pressingly we must ask ourselves – are we going to survive this night?
Hold tight to your rolling pins, recite your recipes like a rosary of hope for in desperate times there is no better thing to have committed to memory than a recipe for a good soup!
If you would like to read more about our adventures you can find the first book here:
Stay safe my friends, whatever assails you, and remember when times are dark, kindle the light in your own lantern, and look for the lights in the lanterns of others!
Free dnd 5e Halloween Adventure: Queen of Hordes – horror on the high seas! — Glitzy Demon’s Dungeon
FREE UNTIL HALLOWEEN! Our newest 5e adventure is available on DMs Guild now… The Zombie Queen, Kallisti, believes she’s The Fairest in the land – and with hordes of undead sailors and zombie chickens at her command, she’s after your heart… A fun, comedy-horror style adventure of zombie mayhem on the high seas. Scalable for […]Free dnd 5e Halloween Adventure: Queen of Hordes – horror on the high seas! — Glitzy Demon’s Dungeon
Hello my lovelies! I’m so so sorry I’ve been quiet of late – life has been so up and down (I think for all of us hey?) the last two years I feel like I’ve been doing rounds with our lovely Gypsy King and wondering where the next punch is coming from XD XD
I desperately want to write ‘we’re back on our feet now’ but every time I say that we get knocked for another pretty six! XD So i’m not going to say that – instead I’m going to say that from now until at least the end of November we’ll be hosting our Light In The Lantern festival – a chance for writers, artists and all types of creators to showcase their wares and spread some joy and hope through the long dark winter.
It’s our small way of offering some light in the darkness and I’m super-happy to have the energy to do it again this year – and super excited and grateful for all the fabulous folk who have signed up to take part already! If you’d like to jump in, you can shoot a message at me on fb or twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (or you can click on the submissions button above and scroll to the bottom of the page to find the template)
We’re kicking off on Friday with awesome Elen Sentier and her fabulous familiar on their flying carpet so I hope you’ll all join us for that. Our lovely kitchen witch Mrs Baker will be dropping in on Thursday and I may even be able to round up Max and Collin at some point and see what those miscreants have been up to (well, obviously no good, that goes without saying, but perhaps learning what form the ‘no good’ has taken will prove entertaining?)
Hugest love and blessings to you all, however you celebrate the season!
with tentacular monster hugs, Penny
Halloween gorgeous moon pic by Larisa K on pixabay 🙂 xx
Happy Friday me loves! I hope you’ve all been getting snippets of warmer weather in between the snow and hailishness! XD Things are snowballing here this morning so I will scoot and leave you all with Vraxi’s philosophical viewpoints on the nature of reality XD xx ….
“Books!” Vraxi cried in delight as Edmund opened the door to his rooms and showed them inside. He skipped over to the many rows of bookshelves crammed floor to ceiling along the wall and stroked the leather spines with a delicate forefinger.
“They are something of necessity in this game,” Edmund smiled, “but I didn’t know you were fond of reading…although I suppose I should have guessed you would be.”
“Oh yes, I read voraciously,” Vraxi said, pulling out a book and thumbing through the pages then returning it to the shelf with a slight frown. “I buy a pocket pamphlet from the market almost every week.”
“What is a pocket pamphlet?” Xander The Demon asked.
“Oh, you know,” Vraxi waved a hand breezily, “tales of adventure and romance, a few intrigues and mysteries, a few misunderstandings and mishaps, but everything always ending up happily in the end…” he returned another book to the shelf, “…you know, stories that are like real life.”
Edmund laughed out loud, “They call it fiction,” he said gently, “beacause it is not like real life.”
The yag frowned, “do you really think so?”
“But of course! In a story like that there is a plot, yes? The reader is only permitted the viewpoint of one, or occasionally two, characters.” He took his pipe from his coat pocked, knocked it out on the mantlepiece and started to refill it with Rocaana powder. “ And as for those characters,” he continued “well, they are archetypal aren’t they? And they tend to have a single ultimate goal and they traverse a series of obstacles until they finally achieve it. But there are no such archetypes in reality and there is no such end-goal in real life… we merely play the hands fate deals us daily, interacting with those around us in a… to some extent organised but generally chaotic and incidental fashion, trying to survive as best we can until, in the end, we die. Or, in our case, perhaps eternally.” He lit the pipe, took a long drag on it and puffed out a stream of tiny heart shaped smoke rings.
“One day, I shall nail that – super power or none.” Vraxi insisted, narrowing his eyes carefully in an attempt to see how Edmund was doing it. “But your views on fiction are, I believe, skewed by your experiences.” He took the little pouch of Roccana Edmund offered him and fished in his pocket for his own pipe. “You describe the way things are now, for us,” he said, filling the pipe and lighting it,“but that is because we are down in the ditch. I myself – and Xander and his demon here – we are right down in the dirty ditch water.” He drew on the pipe and failed miserably at imitating the heart shaped rings. “You may have hoisted yourself out onto the bank, Edmund, but you are still balancing precariously upon the edge. When I say fiction is like real life, I am talking about real life – the life lived by those who can afford to do the thing properly!”
Edmund raised his eyebrows.
“Oh, you know,” Vraxi insisted, passing the pipe to the demon, “people like the Hogarths and the Beuforts and the Duke…for them every day is their happily ever after and the rest of us run around desperately helping to make it so. That is real life, that is what fiction is all about, and that is why I like to read it because even if I cannot have it for myself, I can at least pretend for an hour or two a week that I can.”
Edmund blew a particularly large heart ring then smiled and shook his head, “I disagree with you on enough points to write another thesis about it, but rather than risk boring you to death I will say simply that I think what you have, what we have, is far more precious than happily ever after in The Groves.”
“Well you maintain that ludicrously romantic attitude and you will find you fit right in there when you graduate,” the yag said with a grin,“For my part, there is nothing romantic or precious about listening to the mould and mildew dripping from my ceiling all night, risking my life clambering over roof tops, being chased through the streets by the city watch or handing over three quarters of what I earn to a tight fisted antiques dealer.” He steepled his fingers as he said the last two words and ended with such a hammy impersonation of Spyro’s sinister smile that the half demon exploded into a fit of giggles and then glanced around nervously as if the act would make Mendicci suddenly appear in the room with them.
There was a knock at the door and they all nearly jumped out of their skins, staring wide-eyed towards it before Edmund suddenly breathed a sigh of relief and then burst into giggles again “Dinner!” he explained, his voice full of relief, “Remember? I ordered us dinner!”
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.
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 🙂
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
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
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
you’d like to connect you can find me
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…
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:
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…
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.
“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?”
“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?”
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. 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.
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”
“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.”
“I will be up to speak with you in a moment.”
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?”
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.”
“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?”
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
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!
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?”
“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…”
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.
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.”
“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.
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)
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….
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?”
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:
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.