Good evening and welcome to my awe inspiring athenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets – or as that ridiculous octopus calls it, my ‘lovely library.’
I am the ghost of Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect, catalogue and review every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler of the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But I have not always been a bad tempered ghost in charge of an underground library. Once upon a time I was a bad tempered gentleman who had devoted his life to the collection of evidence which might perhaps one day bring about the downfall of our oppressive overlord, Wiz.
Not to be put off by death, I have struggled to find a way to continue my work and I have indeed found a method by which I can sporadically leave this library, to which I am otherwise bound, and travel abroad.
This method is known as The Opprobrious Pith Helmet.
By securing the services of a less than reputable Wizard I have had my soul partially bound to an ancient piece of explorational headwear and am therefore able to possess the wearer for short periods of time, with their consent…hm? Did I have to drug them first? Well how very rude of you of course I did not have to drug them…I mean the very idea!
So, this evening I am most honoured to be occupying the form of authour Guy Donovan and I… no those are NOT blood stains on his shirt. It is red paint. I may have had a very minor altercation with a disgruntled barge woman who mistook my innocent enquiries about leather bound tomes for something else entirely, but I managed to set her straight in the end… after I’d clambered out of the canal and removed most of the pond weed.
Anyway I do not have time for an interrogation on the moral use of other people’s bodies, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have new books everywhere and I must review and catalogue them and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe? You’ve brought along some single malt to keep out the chills as we work?
Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate a short extract of each story and a review, and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…
A WIZARD’S QUANDARY BY JAQ D HAWKINS
The story concerns the wizard Lesana, who is employed by her local king to keep him in potions that preserve his youth. She lives alone in her tower far from the capitol, unless of course you count the small, green dragon in her keeping that she found as a hatchling and named Khadri. No one but Lesana knows about Khadri, and they both intend to keep it that way. If the king found out about him…well, you can guess what would happen, right?
Then one day, a soldier comes from the capitol with orders to take Lesana to the king and teach him how to make her magic potions for himself. Naturally enough, Lesana isn’t very interested in doing anything of the sort, so she and Khadri abscond, with the soldier pursuing them into the mountains—the same mountains in which Lesana found Khadri. The mountains where the dragons live.
What I liked most about the story is the relationship between Lesana and Khadri. It’s very playful and touches on maternal without ever getting cloying. The below sample shows that very well, I think.
Lesana peered carefully into the crucible, closely observing the swirling, black mass within.
“If that pops, you could lose an eye.” Khadri, Lesana’s miniature green dragon companion, hopped onto Lesana’s shoulder, causing her to brace herself against the weight of an animal the size of a full-grown wolverine. He glanced at the churning elixir.
Lesana pulled her head back a little, but continued frowning at the crucible.
“Your eyes see more colours than mine,” she stated aloud. “Can you see any hint of vermilion?”
Khadri danced around on his shoulder perch, pretending not to notice when Lesana steeled herself against the new claw punctures in her partially healed, damaged skin.
“I see the red glowing crystals forming rapidly, as always. You’ve never failed in your efforts to make the Philosopher’s Stone to my knowledge.”
“You should have seen my early efforts, when you were just a hatchling,” she replied. “It’s more by luck than judgement that I never blew up the entire tower.”
“It’s a dangerous business,” Khadri acknowledged. “I don’t see why the king doesn’t just send you to Egypt to retrieve the cinnabar from mummy wrappings.”
Lesana guffawed, pushing herself away from the table where the crucible continued to send sulphuric vapour into the close space of the uppermost tower room where she kept her laboratory, just in case. Fire and explosions tended to travel upwards.
“I can just see the Egyptian Department of Antiquities allowing a foreign wizard to help herself to the preservatives in their precious national tourist industry. Last I heard they didn’t even know the nature of the red ochre. I’d rather not be the one to explain that they’ve had the key to immortality within their relics all this time.”
She wandered to the arched window that looked out over the dead forest to the north. The elevation provided by the fifth level tower room allowed Lesana to see the Crystal Mountains in the distance. A wistful note entered her voice.
“Besides, if I ever leave the king’s employ and travel somewhere, I’d like to go back to the Crystal Mountains.”
“Where you found me?” Khadri gasped. “The dragons would eat you!”
“Perhaps,” Lesana admitted. “But they didn’t before. I felt something while I was there. Something…magical.”
Being a writer of dragon tales myself, (I grew up reading Anne McCaffrey’s fantastic Pern series and the influence shows) I think it’s very important that they be treated as characters in their own right, rather than simply bestial antagonists. Now that’s not to say that dragons can’t be the bad guy! I just think that they’re better storywise when they are presented as more than mere powerful animals. Besides, being that us humans are so good at being bad, I prefer stories where the dragons are more noble. Jaq D. Hawkins did that very well.
And I think we had better leave it there for this evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and I must be getting this body back to its rightful owner… hm? What’s that you say? You don’t think I should give it back in this state? Well we’ve only had a few haven’t we? It is hardly my fault if Guy can’t hold his liquor… hic…
MANY THANKS TO AUTHOUR GUY DONOVAN FOR BEING A FABULOUS SPORT AND SHARING HIS REVIEW IN PERIL’S LOVELY LIBRARY! YOU CAN FIND GUY HERE
AND YOU CAN READ THE REST OF A WIZARD’S QUANDARY IN THE DREAMTIME DAMSELS ANTHOLOGY HERE:
library image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com
An Egg of Temperance
“Yoo hoo, Mr. Temperance, are you about the gardens, eh hem?”
~boingy, boingy, boingy~
“Happy Easter Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am!”
“Eep! Great Leaping Lepus! What on Earth, Mr. Temperance?!?!”
“Don’t be skeert, Ma’am, I’m just dressed up for an Easter egg hunt. We got a special invitation from our pal Penny!”
“Mr. Temperance, One cannot be seen in public with you if you choose to wear that ridiculous garb.”
“But I thought some big floppy bunny ears and a fluffy tail would be festive.”
“I got some for you, too! Take off your hat and put on some bunny ears. They’re fun!”
“I most certainly will not!”
“Will you at least stick a fluffy bunny tail on your bustle?”
~sigh~ “Very well, if it will make you happy.”
“One is compelled to correct you on a misunderstanding. Mrs. Blake has invited us on an ‘Aether’ egg hunt, not ‘Easter.’ The hunt in question is to find some clever positioning of specialized information that only One with ‘insider’ intelligence will glean, thus revealing a hidden message in an otherwise innocent scene, eh hem?”
“Oh dear, well, perhaps I can demonstrate the meaning this way: Do you remember the episode in which our Earth was invaded by Martians, bent on colonizing our fair home?”
“Yes, Ma’am! That adventure came to be known as ‘For the Love of Temperance’”
“Quite so. In it, you and a compatriot commandeer a Martian War Machine. Once within, it is realized that there are no windows. An artificial portal is duly discovered. Readers that are of an age to remember tubed, black and white televisions might recall a similar warm up period before the grainy, pixelated image, scrolling endlessly up the screen becomes fixed.”
“Oh, okay, I getcha. Sort of like that time you got kidnapped by a band of Native American, Pirate Ninja, Middle Eastern, Samurai and I had to make chase in a borrowed Handsome cab.”
“Thank you. Anyway, that stand behind buggy had a mechanical horsie. Readers that are familiar with mid-twentieth century American muscle cars might recognize what they would know as a ‘Four on the Floor’ manual transmission.”
“Just so, Mr. Temperance, however, were we to share an instance with our good friend Mrs. Blake and her wonderful following, then I should choose a selection from the novel, ‘A Journey of Temperance’”
“Oh my Goodness! That there adventure is a Fantasy Saga of Epic Proportions!”
“Yes, rather. In it, there is a chapter in which our intrepid band is assailed by monsters and devices during a perilous trek that reads not unlike a vibrant game of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’. It is the final scene of this outrageous section that shall be our parting, ‘Aether Egg’ excerpt to share.”
“Okey dokey Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. Happy Reading and Happy Easter, everybody!”
“Mr. Temperance, I see a structure up ahead stretching out across this interminable gulf. It is an arched bridge, my friends. This must be the way out of this calamitous cavern.”
“Harumph. That long, slender bridge doesn’t look safe to me. Send the Temperance boy across first, to make sure it’s safe.”
“I say, there is no time for that, Mr. Morganstern. Let us all fly across this stony segue to sanctuary, eh hem?”
“Golly, we are all running and running, but it is still a long way across. Hunh? Do y’all notice an updraft? Do y’all detect an unidentifiable smell that is accompanying it? If I didn’t know better, I’d say that something inconceivably large were coming up out of this bottomless crevasse that we are desperately running across, what do you think? I’m gonna take me a quick peek over the edge, just to satisfy my curiosity. Well, what do you know, I was right! Way down deep, I can just barely make out a faint, pale glow in the distant depths. Hunh, I think it is getting brighter and bigger. No, it just appears
that way because it is getting closer. Oh my Goodness, maybe we should keep running, y’all.”
“Verily, we are caught out. Running will avail us not. The Great White Wyrm of Impossible Revulsion has us and there is no escape.”
“I’ll give it a lick with my magic pick!”
“This would be a noble last gesture, halflet, but this fabled monster is of an enormity that will engulf this entire cavern. Your best attack would be negligible at best.”
“Gee whiz, Mr. Legolamb is right! This big old worm is gonna gobble us up all gone! I sure am sorry that I allowed you to become grub for a giant grub, Ma’am.”
“Come now, Legolamb my dear, is there no spell you can cast that will stay this beast?”
“No Persephone, there is nothing I can do to stop it.”
“Dang, y’all, he is here! We are about to get gobbled up!”
“Could you stop time, perhaps, eh hem?”
“No, I’m afraid not. Wait, I may have an alternative! Great stores of raw magic, as is loose in these mines, will sometimes develop an id, if you will. I have a spell that will force the collective consciousness of these mad mines to manifest itself!”
Mines of Madness and Deceit.
Lord of Labyrinth Despair.
These adventurers demand a receipt.
For tolls taken in your lair.
Traps and armies and devilish schemes,
we have answered all.
We have a token we would redeem,
You cannot refuse our call.
By Elven right and Elven might,
manifest for me, spell caster.
Your game is paused, in position tight,
we would parley with Dunjeon Maester!
“Burbity. The stalagmites have ceased to fall.”
“Blast it, Temperance, I’ll call them anything I want!”
“I say, how extraordinary! Our surroundings hang in suspension. Oh, dear, so do we, apparently. We enjoy very little range of motion, eh hem?”
“Ach, the freakish white glow of the colossal wurm sends strange beams of light up from below, illuminating us all in staerk contrasts.”
“Verily, the spell is working! Behold, a swirl of light inside our five person party reveals our other worldly host.”
“My word, a humanoid head is manifesting in strange turquoise hues. I say, are you our host and Dunjeon Maester perhaps, eh hem?”
“Silence! This is not thy turn to speak. Who would be so insolent as to dare this maneuver? Who hast the gall to summon me?”
“I do, Dunjeon Maester! I, Legolamb of Upper Austeria. Legolamb of the Elven High Council. Legolamb of the High Arts!”
“Ha, ha, ha, foolish elf! This mighty wurm is moments from snatching you into its bottomless gullet! You are caught out and you have failed in your quest to pass through my domain!”
“Verily, I challenge thee by the Rites of Probability!”
“Dost thou carry the Artifacts of Probability, elf?”
“I do. Behold, Dunjeon Maester, they are here!”
“By my Omnipotent Mind, I didn’t see those coming! I haven’t seen a set of those in Ages! Where did you get them?”
“In my time, they were quite common. Any Enthusiasts’ Emporium was likely to have them. These, though, may be the last in existence.”
“I will use thine occult artifacts to cast your fate.”
“I say, small objects of varying polyhedral design float from Legolamb’s hand. Apparently, they are in control by our host’s telekinesis. The multi-sided pieces spin in a furious whirlwind before being hurled to the bridge’s deck. Our disincorporated Dunjeon Maester’s head does a quick calculation in his blue-green mind.”
“Inconceivable! I have never heard of such luck. You will be allowed to cast for your fate.”
“Verily, this is not fair, Dunjeon Maester! We have successfully passed the Rite of Probability! You must let us pass!”
“Quiet, elf! I am the Dunjeon Maester and I make the rules. It is my decision that you must all cast for your passage! First, you, wizard. My reading of you suggests a robust constitution, but low charisma. You possess moderate strength and wisdom but an extraordinarily high intelligence quotient. You will throw three, ten-sided Artifacts. Thou requires a sum of fifteen or greater to survive this confrontation.”
“Verily, my sweet Artifacts, Big Daddy Wizard needs a shiny new staff. Come on, Artifacts, don’t let me down. Go do thy magics, now! Yeah baby, yeah! Verily, seven, four and eight! I succeedest!”
“Next, the dwarf will cast. Strongenfight, I read that thou art of hearty constitution and amazing strength. Moderate wisdom, intelligence and charisma follow. Thou shalt have two, twenty sided dice to cast.”
“What! That’s absurd, that dwarf having more die points to cast than I!”
“Silence, elf, it’s not thy turn! Strongenfight, thou must cast a sum of twenty five or greater.”
“Ye don’t mind if I spit on them for luck, do you?”
“Verily, yes, I do!”
“Too bad, elfie me lad. ~huh-whock a patooey!~ Now then, pull me beard out of the fire, lassies, poppa dwarf needs to buy some baby boots. Aye! A fifteen and a seventeen! I’ve doone it!”
“Next, I choose the strange little creature in the odd black hat. I do not recognize thee as a creature of Middle o’ Earthhe. Tell me, what art thou?”
“Verily, it’s a halflet.”
“Ach, nae, it, I mean, he’s a dwarf! You are a dwarf, are you not, Ichs of the Bod?”
“Eep! Um, yessir, I reckon I’m a dwarf, all right.”
“Thou art a pathetic excuse for a dwarf, Ichs of the Bod. I read thee as possessing low levels in all the major characteristics, with the exception of unusual dexterity. Tell, me, pseudo-dwarf, how didst thou survive this long?”
“I have lots of enthusiasm, sir!”
“You are entitled a cast of two, four-sided Artifacts. Thee must achieve a sum of eight or greater.”
“How do I get greater than eight with two four-sided Artifacts?”
“Thou canst. I merely said that to amuse myself.”
“Oh, okay, well, I’m gonna let Miss Plumtartt blow on them for luck. Thanks, Ma’am. Now come on, Artifacts, don’t fail me now, Icky needs a new pair of gaiters! I done it! Double quads, Mr. Dunjeon Maester, how do you like them apples?”
“Silence, fool, thy turn has passed. Female, you are next. What is your name?”
“I say, I am delighted to introduce myself. My name is Plumtartt, Persephone Plumtartt.”
“Plumtartt, Persephone Plumtartt, thou art a beautiful creature, yet thou art not an elf. Of what race are you?”
“I say, I am proud to say that I am of the human race, good sir.”
“And a better example of humanity one could not hope to meet. Incredible, your aura radiates with the astounding levels of your delightful characteristics. In every category, you are as a beacon of perfection, my dear. You will be asked to cast four, eight-sided Artifacts for a sum of twelve or greater to survive.”
“Normally, I do not approve of gambling, outside of church charitable events, though I suppose one must if our entire party is risking larval digestion in the balance. Yes, hear, hear, come along, Artifacts, mumsy wishes to avoid aforementioned appetizer status. Hoiy-yaw! Brava! I have achieved the requisite amount! Jolly good, hear, hear, I say!”
“You are a human also, J. P. Morganstern. Your aura is unlike that of the Plumtartt girl. Yours is a dun-coloured morass. Your major characteristics are abysmal. You will cast a single, six-sided Artifact. Thou needs a sum of four or better.”
“Harumph. I am well versed in removing monies from my companions by way of gambling sport. Whether by cards, dice, or betting on racing and boxing, I have amassed massive fortunes in just this sort of play. Give me that blasted Artifact. Come on, sweet dollar signs, daddy wants to return to my riches! Burbity! A snake eye! That won’t do. I demand to throw again!”
“The Artifact cast has failed! You shall all perish! I suspend, this suspended animation! You are returned to your gruesome deaths, still in progress!”
Greetings! What a fabulous and utterly breathtaking time was had by all of us at Lincoln Asylum weekend last week.
We had the very great pleasure of spending time with the most amazing authors, artists and creators in The Assembly Rooms where we had our little book stall and wyvern-hatchery, including Nimue and Tom Brown of Hopeless Maine , Nils Visser author of the Time Flight Chronicles, Jade Sarson of Cafe Suada, Francesca Dare creator of Penny Blackfeather, Spec Fiction author Craig Hallam , Ingenius Steampunk creator Herr Doktor, transmedia producer Yoms, Dr Porridge and Chris Mole of Professor Elemental Comics
We met so many fantastic and friendly folks who came to litsen to our storytelling sessions and play with our puppets – Collin was there of course shaking tentacles with folk and sipping his many cups of tea which he had lined up along the window sill, as were the story spirits who took part in the storytelling sessions and of course Kyril our evil crow!
But stealing the show I’m afraid was The Wyvern, our animatronic Steampunk demon who attracted so much attention we have had to take orders to make more of them (see our shop links at the top if you’d like one too) and are debating a Wyvern Tea Party at some point in the future!
Sadly our own wyvern was without a name but thanks to the enthusiasm of his new friends we managed to gather an enormous box load of suggestions and today we will draw out one of those names at random and that shall be his name for evermore …
…. HUZZAH! : We can now happily announce that the name of our Wyvern, submitted by Lyssa Lopez Wain, is … JULES WYVERN!
We love that name so much! But there were so many gorgeous, cute, witty and well thought out names that were suggested over the weekend we’d like to thank everyone who took the time to interact with Jules and lend their ideas to our little game.
And thankyou to everyone who came and said hello and made the whole event such a wonderful experience to be a part of, here are some of our fave pics from the weekend and Jules would like to say a particularly big hello to his new friends Jelly Bean the dog, and Gresley Dragon …