Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “Magic

#RainbowSnippets: Jack and Marjory

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“It is easy to go down into Hell; night and day, the gates of dark Death stand wide; but to climb back again, to retrace one’s steps to the upper air – there’s the rub, the task.”
–  Virgil

Happy Saturday! Lil’ Virgil there for your weekend inspiration and here’s my #RainbowSnippets post for this week – if you’re new to this, Rainbow Snippets is a chance to read and share 6 sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction every Saturday. There’s a huge variety from Steampunk, like mine, to Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Comedy and everything in between. You can join the fun and read all the other fabulous snippets at the wonderfully friendly and supportive official facebook group here 🙂

So, here is the next snippet from Jack and Marjory – my novella-in-progress which gives two of my Bi-Gendered characters a chance to tell something of their own little side-adventure, which actually had a massive impact on the history of Ire in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ kind of way.

If you missed last week’s snippet you can catch up here: #RainbowSnippets: Jack and Marjory

If you want to start from the beginning you can do so here: https://blakeandwight.com/2018/09/29/rainbowsnippets-jack-and-marjory/

 

Who’d have thought a career path in the criminal underworld would involve so much fresh air and exercise? Jack and Marjory are cursing their way along the picturesque Way Of The Roses en route to  pick up the smuggled teaset for the leader of the revolution…

 

We stopped for a swig of tea and a breather up at  Crook O’ Lune Point. We was all ready to be seduced and fall into the arms of our good friend Mr. Thomas Gray, but in the end Madame Nature proved The Tart ; throwin’ late campion at our feet and baring her silver birch legs coquettishly until we threw down our poetry book and screamed ‘take me now’ to the heather.

The view down over the weir is incredible from there, speakin’ as they who used to work Pit down the Chobam Treacle Mines, deekin’ the enormity of all that land an’ sky fair takes the breath out of the old coppers.

A couple of buzzards rose up over Lawson’s Meadow and disappeared against the yellow- gold beeches of Aughton Woods and, further down, the early morning mist began to fade, showing the white  steel of the aqueduct and its pretty red-painted roses, carrying water from Thirlmere to Manchester. We shuddered at the thought of the problems they were having over there right now; Sugar Zombies was the whisper on the street, none of our business though we s’posed.

What was our business was the watchtower on the north bank, beside the weir towards Ingleton – dressed as we were in exquisitely tailored tweeds, carefully cultivated to look ambiguous and deflect attention, we was unlikely to attract a second glance from The Good Folk stationed there, but, all the same, better not to give them the first glance to begin with.

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

Wishing you all a most splendiferous week and don’t forget to check in at the #rainbowsnippets facebook group for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction 🙂 

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 

 


#RainbowSnippets: Jack and Marjory

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Happy Saturday! And Happy solstice / christmas / yule / wizmas / or whatever you happen to prefer celebrating at this time of year 🙂

Still posting  from the novella I’m working on. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my  bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some world background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂

To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page 

The previous snippets from Jack and Marjory were posted here:

Snippet 1

Snippet 2 

Snippet 3

Snippet 4

Snippet 5,

Snippet 6

And here’s snippet 7 – Jack and Marjory are about to find out what Max wants them to do in exchange for a small fortune in illegal gunpowder tea…

 

A tentacle began to coil and flex against the back of our hand and we lurched back to reality with a jolt, “What needs doing?”

Max leaned forward conspiratorially and checked all round the room in an unnecessarily dramatic fashion. There was still nobody there but Kitty. “In a certain room, in a certain inn, near Cottingham,” he whispered, “is a certain chest. In that chest is a certain teaset – it would be far better for you if you didn’t ask which.”

We nodded and he smiled and continued, “the Inn is The Haworth Arms and the room has been booked for Friday and Saturday night under a name which, for the purposes of this little venture, will become your name,”

We nodded again, feeling he was making a simple thing ridiculously complex with his prattling. “Arrive late on the Saturday and someone will bump into you at the door and give you the key to the room, go straight up and straight to bed, then leave early in the morning, taking the chest with you. If no one sees or speaks to you, so much the better, understand?”

“Perfectly.”

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 

 

Hope you all have a fantastic festive period and please come back and join us all here in the new year for our Annual Lancastrian Frost Fair and of course more rainbow snippets! 🙂 Blessings on your mince pies 🙂

 


#Rainbowsnippets: Jack and Marjory

Happy Saturday! Hope the storms haven’t blown you all away! We’re wrestling with the Beast From The East in a far less dramatic and exciting way than Tolkien envisaged (ie: hiding under the duvet watching endless episodes of Once Upon A Time!)

Still posting  from the novella I’m working on. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my  bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some world background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂

To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page 

The previous snippets from Jack and Marjory were posted here:

Snippet 1

Snippet 2 

Snippet 3

Snippet 4

Snippet 5,

And here’s snippet 6 – Jack and Marjory are down on their luck when Eightups Max, the octopus-wielding leader of the revolution, tells them he needs someone to do a big favour for him…

 

he paused and looked at us earnestly, “…someone who can be discreet…I spoke to Kitty and she suggested you…two…” he grinned and petted his octopus.

“How much?”

He laughed and leaned back in his chair, “You don’t want to know what it is first?”

We shook our head. Max boarded in the old fish factory – that was Montmorency’s gaff and you’d only doss at his place if you was skint and had no other choice. So, whatever this ‘big favour’ is, we doubt our gentleman friend can meet the bill for it.

“Alright then, it’s this,” he pushed a leather satchel across the table.

We took it casually and opened the flap, just enough with two fingers to cop a deek inside,“Blimey!” We swallowed hard and opened the satchel a little wider, it was imprudent, sure, but you have to understand, there must’ve been 8lb of gunpowder tea in there in neat black resin bars.

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

 

being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 


Soup Of The Day: With Meredith Debonnaire

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 sci fi author Meredith Debonnaire! Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, My Dear! May I take your cloak?

Yes indeed, here it is. Thank you so much for having me 🙂

A pleasure! How was your trip from your own dimension? I hope you did not run into any hostile skywaymen or space pirates on your way?

Very smooth, thank you. Came through the inter-dimensional tunnels, so mainly just Dwarfs. And some of those urchins of yours I think, but they weren’t a lot of trouble.

Ah yes, children will get everywhere won’t they? And  have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Oh I am so sorry! I am honestly a terrible cook, so I thought it better not to subject you to my attempts at food. I have brought tea… Lapsang Souchon?

Oh my absoloute favourite how thoughtful of you! (You know tea is illegal here and so very hard to come by, thankyou imensely for that!) Now then, I will cook up a nice batch of soup for the orphans and why don’t you have a seat by the fire here and tell me a little about your book The Life And Times Of Angel Evans, I know Max and Collin enjoyed reading it immensely

 

Oh, how nice to hear! I enjoyed Max’s Utterly Myself book. Anyway, The Life and Times of Angel Evans is about what you do after saving the world. It was a question that has bothered me for a while. So the story is not about saving the worlds, but about picking up the pieces afterwards when the prophecy is fulfilled and you have to get on with things. Angel Evans did save the multiverse, but now she has to figure out how to have a life and sometimes that feels harder.

 

I really love that premise! I must confess to have dabbled a little in world saving myself but in the end I found running this soup kitchen far more rewarding! Have you brought a copy with you to show the orphans?

The Life and Times of Angel Evans.png

 

Marvellous, thankyou! Ah, now that is the kettle boiling, what is your ‘poison’ dear and how do you take it?

I like a good strong hot chocolate, with chocolate dark as moonless midnight please

Ah, fortunately we have plenty of smuggled cocoa powder in storage ready for the winder months! There you are. Now tell me, My Dear, what do you look for in a good story?

Hmmm, well, characters that I can root for are very important – I find it difficult to be immersed in a plot if I don’t care about the people. I want magic, and I want to be surprised, and I want lots of women and preferably queer representation. Tight plotting is a little less important to me, although I do appreciate it as a skill. As I mainly read fantasy and sci-fi, the worldbuilding is very important and I can be drawn in by an exciting-sounding world. It boils down to wanting something that I will be able to get emotionally invested in, and that will reward that investment rather than stomping on it.

Splendid, … Oh! Do excuse me for a moment, that’s the post…. There we are…Oh lovely it’s the brochure I ordered!  I am looking for my next holiday destination (it is never a good time to be a witch here in Ire but sometimes it is positively dangerous so I like to take the odd pleasure jaunt when that occurs)

How exciting! May I take a look? Holidays are very important things, especially if there is any chance of a mob turning up on one’s doorstep…

Well, yes indeed… mind you, I have heard that you are a chronicler of the history of the curious town of Tantamount – is that a holiday destination you would recommend for a witch?

Absolutely. Tantamount gets seasonal witches most Autumns as they migrate, and to survive in Tantamount you have to be at least a little bit witchy. It’s particularly a good place for picking up odd spell ingredients, though you have to be careful of the history; it bites.

Oh how wonderful it sounds like just my cup of tea! Collin told me they have interesting wildlife, I am very fond of magpies…

Magpies are very important in Tantamount, although why they are important is a subject of great debate and the occasional stabbing. So far as we can tell from the correspondence, there are also very intelligent Wild Boar (who have successfully negotiated for voting rights), spam pigeons, and of course the Carrion. We’re not sure if the Carrion are really wildlife or just some sort of odd phenomena, as no-one who’s got close enough to tell is in any state to pass the information on.

I see, perhaps I might ask Max if I can borrow his aether energy pistol. He also said they have some charming rituals there as well, although as I am post-menopausal myself it sounds like I may not be of much use for some of them?

Ah, I think you are referring to the Bluddening Ritual? That one is specifically for people who menstruate, as it is the most convenient way of bleeding a lot without hurting anyone. There are plenty of other Rituals that you could take part in: The Feast of Fears, which comes around at slightly random times and involves the ancient sport of Carrion Running, is one example. There is also the Awakening of Spring, which involves pouring tea on the Dumpsy Tump while singing classic Tantamount songs such as Truly, It Is Time To Get Out Of Bed, Hades is No Fun Anyway, We Are All Bloody Cold Oh Spring and When Will the Daffodil Beast Roam Free Again? If that doesn’t work, someone has to go and hit the gong. But usually it doesn’t come to that.

I see, well I shall certainly mull that over carefully, it does sound a lot of fun but I want to make sure I return in one piece!  Now then, where can we read more about Tantamount?

All of Tantamount is currently available here: https://meredithdebonnaire.wordpress.com/tales-from-tantamount/

I recommend reading about it from afar; it isn’t a place with a high life expectancy.

And where else can we find you on the aether web?

https://meredithdebonnaire.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/DebonnaireMerry

https://www.thebooksmugglers.com/2016/09/life-times-angel-evans-meredith-debonnaire.html

 

Marvellous! Well thank you so much for joining me in the kitchen this morning, that soup smells as if it is ready, would you give me a hand dishing it out to the orphans?

Thankyou all for joining us in the last soup kitchen of 2018, have a very blessed Wizmas or Feast of Fears or Christmas or Creepmas or Yule or Hiding Under The Duvet Until It All Goes Away Fest …. or whatever you celebrate in your dimension at this time of year and I will see you all again once the tinsel and mince pies have died down and the frost fair arives on our frozen river Lune, so until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


#Rainbowsnippets: Jack and Marjory

 

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Happy Saturday! Hope you’re all getting into the festive spirit and yet artfully managing to avoid the insane highstreet crushes! Lancashire is mostly soggy just now but in a cheery sort of way we’re ‘hugging the yog’ as they say and keeping the hot soup flowing!

Still posting  from the novella I’m working on. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my  bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some world background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂

To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page 

The previous snippets from Jack and Marjory were posted here:

Snippet 1

Snippet 2 

Snippet 3

Snippet 4

And here’s snippet 5, (just a tiny bit over six lines so I could work in the tease at the end)… Jack and Marjory have been innocently minding their own business (sort of) when they catch the eye of the notorious trouble maker Eightcups Max…

 

It ain’t that Max is a bad sort, quite the opposite really – the most notorious tea fiend in all of The Scattered Isles, a fugitive from Hull and, along with Christina and Michael Biscotti, one of the foremost figureheads of the revolution. No, that ain’t our problem, it’s that a gent like that attracts too much attention of the wrong sort, and hex slingers like us need to avoid attention wherever possible ; magic, like tea and cake, being illegal in The Scattered Isles, unless you’re rich enough to rise above the law – which we ain’t.
Still he comes swanning over with that dumb grin on his face, his octopus clinging to his shoulder and his bowler hat jammed down tight, covering the worst of those gawd awful scars… “Good evening Jack,” he says, “where’s the lovely Marjory tonight? Not out to play?”
“Not just now.” We hug our teacup and keep our eyes on the steam.
His brow furrows under his hat brim and his purple eyes fill suddenly with concern, « You alright ? Look, I was only playing, you know, I didn’t mean… »
« S’alright, we know, we just had a bad night – one fat monkey an a flippin’ big stick, y’know ? »
“Yes. Yes indeed. Right, well, listen, I’ve got something – something quite big actually, something that might just cheer you up and I need someone I can trust…”

 

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

 

being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 

 

 


#Rainbowsnippets : Jack and Marjory

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Happy Saturday! I didn’t have an author snippet sent to me for today so I thought I’d share another six lines  from the novella I’m working on right now. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my  bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some world background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂  To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page 

The previous snippets from Jack and Marjory were posted here:

Snippet 1

Snippet 2 

Snippet 3 

And here’s snippet 4, Jack and Marjory have just come up from a difficult fight in the hex ring and are absolutely NOT listening in on Kitty and Max’s conversation, nor indulging in a cup of illegal Lapsang…

 

« I tell you, Kitty, the revolution’s gone to the dogs and Christina… » he knocked back his teacup and Kitty refilled it sympathetically, « …Christina is la reine de salope, if you’ll pardon the French. »

« I wouldn’t excuse you for anything, darlin’, I think it’s lovely. »

He shook his head, « No, no it really isn’t and there’s the rub. » He massaged the back of his neck carefully and ,on turning, caught sight of us and waved cheerfully.

We turned our head to the side and tried to pretend we hadn’t noticed.

 

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 

 

Hope you’ve all survived the storms last week and are getting in the festive spirit (or not depending on your take on the whole tinsel-fest thing) We’re still in new-house-honey-moon mode I think and have gone decoration nuts which is not like us at all! Hope you all have a warm and cosy weekend, blessings on your brew! 🙂


#inktober Necromancers and Tea

Greetings! Unfortunately there have been technical hitches abounding this week and last – laptops have died and other devices have proved unhelpful for most things other than facebook. However inktober has still happened as it’s non-tech dependent! So, here are the teabie doodles from the last few days.

The next 50 shades of tea sketch is here…

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These will be painted in tea eventually, maybe next week.

And I’ve also been doodling some silly little Necromancers who are characters in the very last (probably) novella of the Ashton’s Kingdom series (which you’ll be pleased to hear I am NOT illustrating myself! lol)  Here they are and below is the opening of that work in progress…

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Thunder, Lightening, rain, hail, ominous fog and all the other things that accompany the beginning of an iconic horror movie or damn fine novel about Tea, Cake and lashings of Untimely Death, were occurring all over the little crag of rock known colloquially (and everywhere else) as The Skull.

Douglas skidded and stumbled over the vindictively slick cobblestones, cursing the length of his disgustingly sodden red robes, the ineffectual protection offered by his floppy wet cowl, the stupid little purse that dangled at his waist and was constantly expelling all his valuables into the muck, the fact that his favourite pocket watch had broken – again – and any and everything else that passed through his mind as he finally staggered, panting and wheezing to the top of the hill.

Sheet lightening flared for a second, silhouetting the crumbling chapel as Douglas clasped the cold iron ring in the studded wooden door and, with a cautious shoulder, silently eased it open.

The eerie luminescence of a hundred flickering candles, vanished in an ebbing wave to be replaced by darkness and smoke and a smattering of accusatory choking noises.

Thunder shook the walls and lightening flashed again, gleaming on several stiletto thin blades, poised in mid air.

“Sorry,” Douglas ventured, shuffling sideways along what he hoped was the back row of folding chairs. There was an almighty crash as something large and metallic clattered to the flagstone floor. “Sorry! So sorry,  Sara, er, Your Grace…”

“Douglas!”

“Sorry!”

“Late again Douglas, we have already begun the casting!”

Douglas gulped as tapers flared on either side of him and the candles were slowly re lit illuminating hundreds of furious faces all glaring at him. He fumbled frantically with the circular tin he had been cradling…

“I…. I brought cake…”

“What?” Archcleric Sara lowered her knitting needles and the rest of the assembled necromancers did the same.

“Sticky toffee double fudge triple chocolate tray bake with crystalised ginger?” he ventured, prising off the lid and offering the tin with a trembling hand.

“oooooo!”

General pandemonium ensued as the Necromancers all abandoned their half completed cast-ons and scrambled for a slice of Douglas’s offering.

 

 

Blessings on your brew and all your #inktober endeavours! 🙂


#rainbowsnippets: Jack and Marjory

Happy Saturday! I didn’t have an author snippet sent to me for today so I thought I’d share another six lines (well sorry a bit more than six because otherwise it would have ended in a weird place, hope that’s ok) from the novella I’m working on right now. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my  bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some world – background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂  To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page 

The previous snippet of Jack and Marjory was posted here

 

We wasn’t always called Jack and Marjory.

Then again we didn’t always live in Lancaster, we didn’t always own these boots, we couldn’t always wield magic, didn’t always work for Kitty Flynn…

Kitty’s coffee house, The Angel, is always full, always bustling, always respectable and everything above board.

They serve government standard issue caffeine-free coffee – the lifeblood of the workforce and the would-be well-to-do alike.

Chicory, acorn, dandelion … the great copper pots of caffeine-free brown liquid sit simmering in the seventeen fire places all day long and Kitty’s daughters run to and fro serving it out in pewter tumblers on silver trays.

The rules are framed in mahogany on the white washed wall: no foul language, no char-latin, no anti-royalist, anti-religious or anticlimactical notions, no games of chance, no business dealings, no magic.

Yes indeed, The Angel is a perfectly respectable place. It must be. The patrons run the great societal gamut from the lowliest mill worker, to dockers, street traders  and Sho’vani barge folk; from town Tinkers like The Time Keeper and The Spoon Smiths, to landlords like Montmorency and Clitheroe, even true aristocrats like Lord Ashton and Lady Grace and wizards like that so-called ‘Dr. Smith’…

The Angel is always full, never a spare room in the place. Kitty rents rooms alright but you’d be damned if you could ever get one. Very particular is Kitty Flynn about who she’ll let a room to and once she gets a tenant in, they tend to stay for a very long time.

We, certainly, intended to stay for a very long time.

Because once you’re in, like us, there’s only one way out – and it ain’t pretty. No, indeed, it really ain’t. Dying in a Hex fight, your atoms ripped apart by some aether-wielding maniac, is no one’s plan for their day trip to Abney Park. Certainly, it has never been our aspiration.

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

Being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 


#rainbowsnippets: Silver and Stone

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Happy Saturday! Welcome to our next Rainbow Snippets post – 6 sentences of top quality LGBTQIA+ fiction to brighten your weekend. This week our snippet comes from Steampunk author Felicity Banks. (Photo by Cat Sparks) Visit the rainbow snippets facebook page to read more brilliant blasts of LGBTQIA+ fiction.

Fcombo1

EXTRACT FROM SILVER AND STONE

Matilda smelled of smoke and eucalyptus from her time spent burning off the nearby forest: a delicious mixture of our temporary outback home all tangled up with elemental fire. And she smelled of her own unique spice, making me want to lean forward and inhale until I swooned. Her coppery-brown eyes shone in the lantern-light, ready to laugh. Her lips parted. Her breath quickened. . .

            I kissed her, and forgot I was holding a square of tin

 

 

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 http://www.freeimages.com


Pipe and Slippers: Tales From Steampunk’d Lancaster

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

I am the ghost known as 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 every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving  Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising  cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of vintage port eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing, stalking … I mean studying… the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in the curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE FIFTH: PENNY BLAKE

 

So, here we are, Johnny. You have asked me to put to paper my reasoning in support of my new found pastime. Nevermind that you are as transparent as ever, obviously hoping to glean some marker as to the level of either my sanity or depravity or perhaps in the pompous hope that by attempting to justify myself I will find my own supporting arguments so weak that I will realise my own folly and quit this… what did you call it? …. deplorable habit?

Sorry to disappoint you but, true to your enviably robust character, you have again completely missed the purpose of my endeavours.

But perhaps I am being ungenerous, afterall, despite all we’ve been through together – the giant crabs, the loss of limbs, the zombie hoards, the atrocious dinner theatre… – if you cease the whirlwind and reflect for a moment, you barely know me at all.

Let me enlighten you then and perhaps, if I am really as wicked as everyone says, you’ll see that I am also correct and that your only option, really, is to join me or wash your hands of me completely. I don’t believe you are the sort of man to walk away from any challenge, Johnny, but, lets see, perhaps I don’t know you as well as I think I do either… unlikely but always a possibility…

I must begin with an apology. I’m afraid I have let you believe for some time now that I failed my exams multiple times and was only, eventually, allowed to enter the Collegium because my uncle is head of one of those Towers. How you could have believed such a flagrant twisting of the facts for so long is beyond me, still you will take people at their word won’t you? Another useful character flaw.

The truth is that I passed my exams with merit but my Uncle, who had overseen a large portion of my earlier education, petitioned the Dean repeatedly against my admission. Why would he do such a thing? Why do you think? Because he could already see that my ideas and ambition, my reckless innovation and energetic pursuit of knowledge would be dangerous within those walls.

He guessed, quite correctly, that my passion to enter the wizarding profession had nothing to do with a desire to serve Wiz or learn his petty doctrines and laws of magic, no, all I wanted was access to all those books and ingredients and utensils that were banned everywhere else in Ire. I wanted to get my hands on and into everything related to magic, I wanted to possess it, to become it, to use it to create my own reality and make the world around me dance to my own tune.

You suppose that I accepted Lord Ashton’s commission to create a portal in the aether because of the reward he offered me. I cannot fault you for that, Johnny, it’s exactly what I told you. But really, really, are you honestly that obtuse? To open a portal, whether you believe there is a goddess on the other side of it or not, is to invite new power into our world and that can only increase the power here at our disposal. And what of the world on the other side? A chance for an ambitious wizard to pull the strings on not one, but two realities? I sense your frown already, stop it at once.

 

Perhaps you feel that none of this has anything to do with Hex Slinging, as they call it; that back alley sport of pulling magic, raw and burning, from the aether and using it to rip your opponent to shreds in front of a rabid crowd of gamblers. But my hope is that, being an intelligent fellow, a dread enlightenment of sorts is beginning to awaken at the edges of your consciousness.

I am not, as you are no doubt beginning to realise, frequenting the hex rings of Lancaster in the interests of pleasure, distraction or mere entertainment. The study of magic must be practical, and by observing and imitating these men and women who live and die by the aetherial sinews of the universe, we can learn far more than the fusty towers of wizardry could ever have taught us.

That’s right ; us Johnny, I want you beside me in this as always, our fates are almost inseparably entwined now, even you must see that neither of us can ever go back to Litchfield , so what else can you do? Join your sister in rebuilding the pirate city? Live out your days gutting fish like your father? I think we both know that is not how your story ends.

I am not suggesting, of course, that you join me in the ring ; although I don’t doubt your capabilities in this field, your skills in alchemy are equally as vital to our enterprises and I would not risk you for that reason – you have already made your revulsion at my own scarred and aether-damaged hand quite clear and there is no reason for you to suffer the same.

But nevermind about me, Johnny, I have heard of an underground craftswoman who can replace my prosthetic left hand with a silver one that will conduct both soul and aether and then I will be able to use that instead of continuing to sacrifice the flesh I have on my right.

So, there you have it, my obsession is incurable and I invite you to join me in it at once, if you know me at all, John, you’ll have expected nothing less.

Your friend and associate, Dr. Mercurio Smith