A Singular Circumstance. One Summer’s Day (August#BlogBattle- Peculiar)

Ware the Maid

        Hochtrabende The Tormentor was despicable. And cared not. He committed beastly acts all in his quest for final approval of The Nameless in Ascendancy and the subsequent bounty.

          This, he calculated would be last required location, another pastoral idyl to be despoiled by heinous cruelty to an innocent. Their suffering the last pieces to be set in place.

          He sat in unholy meditation, savouring hideous memories preparing himself.

 

          Kaltblutig was cruel; to be objective Life had been cruel to him from childhood. He was thus an effective henchman. He reasoned his cruelty was quicker and more efficient than Life’s version, so it was a sort of service. Had he met the right sort of philosopher they would have had interesting conversations. Currently though he was working for a necromancer, arrogant of course, but paid well. 

          Young Anfanger, dithered at his side.

          ‘She’s a looker,’ he giggled nervously ‘Think he’ll let us,’ he would have nudged someone lesser than Kaltblutig, instinct warned him not to ‘Y’know,’

          ‘Not supposed to be anything left to…Y’know,’ came the growl. The veteran looked to the door to the chamber, doubt nagging, he could say why. Only an odd feeling he was on this side of the door.

 

          ‘I am Lady Betrügerin. Youngest child of House Krachen. My father, two brothers, my betrothed and my prospective in-laws all predisposed to violent solutions will visit upon so much woe upon you,’

          Acolyte Glucklos winced. The kidnapped girl was possessed of speech characteristics and a variability of tone which made listening to her somewhat grating, the words ‘and’ and ‘so’ at a pitch and drawl to hurt the ears. Worse, despite being ambushed while walking through a wood, roughly manhandled, then tied to a table in the presence of a hooded man she did not appear a’feared, only annoyed and defiant. Peculiar. 

          And then she giggled

          ‘Why do you wear that silly hood? Are you possessed of a peculiarly shaped nose?’

          The suddenness of the question caused him to respond directly.

          ‘There is nothing wrong with my nose,’

          ‘Says you,’ her nose twitched ‘ I bet messing about with all things which give off these funny smells is causing your nose to grow upwards. That’s it. You have a sticky up nose,’ she giggled again, this time accompanied by an intense stare ‘A piggy-wiggy nose,’ she chirped.

          Glucklos was thrown into confusion. These were not the right responses of a kidnapped maiden. Suddenly he did not know what to do. He was gripped by an urge to rush to his master, Hochtrabende.

 

          Hochtrabende heard not the usual pleading, crying or general distress you would expect from a kidnapped maiden. Only a winsome voice, a protest from his acolyte and… girlish laughter? That was peculiar. Maybe hysteria. Yes, women did get hysterical. He would have her sing a different song. He strode out.

          Finding Glucklos had not laid out the ceremonial knives, nor lit the thick blighted yellow incense. He was in debate with the victim over his nose.

          Hochtrabende roared his disapproval and ordered the acolyte to attend to the preparations.

          ‘And here’s another hood,’ trilled the girl managing to waggle one finger in an accusative gesture ‘What’s your peculiar penalty? Droopy earlobes?’  

          Hochtrabende made to loom over her, malignant eyes glaring through slits. This one had a singular capacity to be annoying. He squeezed her face.

          ‘Cease your babble,’ he snarled ‘You are here to satisfy The Nameless in Ascendancy and bring forth Their Horror upon the world,’

          ‘That was very rude,’ she chided with heavy dignity and a slight sniff ‘And I don’t believe you. You are just some silly inadequate with paid bullies and a deluded fellow,’ she twisted her neck and batted her eyes at Glucklos ‘Poor piggy-wiggy here,’

          ‘There is nothing wrong with my nose,’ repeated Glucklos.

          The irregularity of the situation threw Hochtrabende into another bout of precipitate action.

          ‘This is but a taste of suffering to come in your journey to The Nameless in Ascendancy,’ he rasped drawing a curved blade down her arm, blood seeping from the thin line.

 

          Kaltblutig had much experience of screams. Fear, Rage, Defiance, Confusion, Thrills and so forth. That one was different, as if the door did not matter. Aside from the volume and the highest pitch he’d ever heard, there was an odd quality, he would reckon a warble. A right strangeness. His troubled, thoughtful scowl stifled Young Anfanger’s expectant tittering.  

 

          Unlike Glucklos who had hands to his head, all of Hochtrabende’s resolve was channelled into not wilting under the shriek. When finished the girl scowled

          ‘Well that’s a fine how-do-you-do,’ she wriggled her bloodied arm, muscle blossoming ‘This will not go well for you when my rescuers come,’

          The smugness in her voice was harsh, mocking. Hochtrabende had never encountered such distinctive affrontery, which fuelled his rage beyond his usual cold delight.

          ‘Wretch,’ he spat, unaware his vocabulary was narrowing ‘Know you, I have others in the wood ready to ambush any attempt. You are lost,’

          She stuck her tongue out. He had no response but to assail her other arm.

 

          ‘There’s that warbling scream again,’ Kaltblutig muttered ‘Downright peculiar,’

          By now Young Anfanger, influenced by the elder man, shuffled.

 

          Lady Betrügerin examined both arms, clenching her fists.

          ‘My favourite walking out dress torn and badly stained,’ her voice censorious ‘Whereas I normally avoid the propensities of the male where retribution is involved in this case pinches and punches will be considered,’ she glowered at Acolyte Glucklos ‘As for you  Piggy-Wiggy, there will be a severe nose straightening,’

          Maybe it was the imperturbably assertive voice, perhaps the sense his master was losing authority or mayhap whole unreality of the situation which caused the young man to tear off his hood and pointing to his nose scream into the supposed victim’s face.

          ‘This is a normal nose. An average nose, curse you!’  

          Hochtrabende was about to yell the lad was not supposed to reveal himself however this was hindered by the gasp of surprised outrage of Lady Betrügerin

          ‘Cadet Lord Glucklos. Third Son of House Raffgierig. And your father, Duke Bestechlich titular patron of the Cheese Mongers and Purveyors Guild of  Handelsknoten.  The scandal. He will have to stand down and lose the substantial stipend as they find another noble mascot,’ she tutted. Gluckloss howled and intended to strike at her face but bungled the business, she jinked her neck, he missed and as his palm flew by she savagely nipped his little finger, drawing blood.

          By then Hochtrabende had composed himself. He dragged the youth back to the corner swinging him about to view a table with tomes of evil lore.

          ‘You fool. This girl is either insane or possessed of some latent manifestation. Calm yourself and we will consult the Foul Volumes,’   

 

          In his long career on unpleasant actions Kaltblutig had never known such a bunch of oddness.  Hochtrabende usually indulged in malevolent pretend aloofness. Not ranting Self-preservation told him orders forbidding witness of what went on behind the doors no longer applied. He peered through the usual space twix’d locked door and frame.

          ‘Nah,’ he groaned ‘Don’t turn your backs on her,’

 

          When master and acolyte turned back, their intended victim was sitting up, busily untying the ropes to her legs. She paused to waggle her bloodied hands.

          ‘Blood does so slicken ropes and skin, allowing hands to slip out,’ she explained with an air of domesticity.

          Hochtrabende, in horrified desperation, mind filled with impossible answers to this situation began to chant a plea to his patron, hoping fervour and faith would do in place of sacrifice. Glucklos charged in clumsy scamper waving an ornately curved blade, an inappropriate weapon for the thrust.

          And he was felled by the promised punch to the nose.

 

          Hochtrabende lowered his gaze from the usual upwards chanting pose. The girl was not in front of him.

          ‘Yoo-hoo,’

          She was above, impossibly at ease on no particularly visible perch.

          Her eyes bright, teeth sparkling in a cheerful smile and arms outstretched she swiftly descended.

 

          On seeing the girl slip loose Kaltblutig had exited, only to find outside of the previously abandoned abode bodies or soon to be bodies of the lot Hochtrabende had hired. Waiting were ten men in the very dark green of the dread LifeGuard and adding to the dread two in the night black habits of the Custodians of The Lord God’s Will. One of the LifeGuard pointed at Kaltblutig.

          ‘Ah Master Kaltblutig. Yes. We’ll keep him,’

          For a man steeped in cruelty and its consequences, the words were as good as it got. He surrendered.

 

          He was bound, set against a tree and informed he would be telling the LifeGuard every last detail about long list of his employers, locations and deeds.  Meanwhile the body of Young Anfanger was carelessly hauled out by one LifeGuard. They formed a perimeter at the entrance and the Custodians went in, sometime later they hauled out Glucklos, he was alive though, holding his bloodied nose and babbling protests about its state.

          ‘We’ll be keeping this one,’ a Custodian said to a LifeGuard ‘Regrettably all we found of that wretch Hochtrabende was a pile of ashes. Again too late. These debased amateur meddlers thinking themselves able to deal with unquantifiable forces.

            ‘So our unseen allies, they evaded us. Again,’

            ‘Aye, just those hints of screams, barely audible,’ he patted the dog at his side  

          ‘And the locals will be grateful we tracked and apprehended a group of recently arrived bandits before any harm was done. To them, anyway,’

          The two men shared a brief, cold, knowing laugh.

          Kaltblutig shuddered. 

 

          The return was ever the demanding exercise, and therefore a slow rise from the crouch was best, as always the warmth of the greeting washed over them.

          ‘How good to see you returned intact. Still in the female form,’ the voice was gentle and thoughtful ‘Your preference?’

          ‘I do confess to an ease. I feel a may have been such before my original arrival,’

          ‘Aye, there is a likelihood. To return to current matters. Indications are of a complete cleansing. Can you confirm?’

          ‘The tracking and the luring were quite easy and the clues sufficient for the authorities. The rest fell predictably into place. He was left naught but a pile of ash. The evidence was balanced as directed. Sparse enough to ensure mystery but sufficient to encourage study,’

          ‘Others will be returning from their missions. We will gather and evaluate both progress and influence. This recent trend is most distracting. The misinterpretation of an ancient account elevating some ill-fated and obscure dabbler to the level of an evil deity would be farcical, if there were not the suffering many and promotion of negligible individuals to popular notoriety. It is not be tolerated. I daresay some philosophies would be the basis of condemnation on our methods and goals, and yet when faced with the corrosion and nurturing of such evils what is to be done?’

          The returnee sighed, straightened, then made their way over to a bench from where they could look down upon the world they had just left in all its combinations. As they mused their hair darkened and the clothing took on a more basic appearance, they absently scratched their neck. When they spoke their voice was more of the crowded streets of a city.

          ‘It’s a peculiar old state of affairs an’ no mistake,’      

 

Solidarity With #WeAreIndigenous

The Human Lens

In lieu of On August 9, #IndigenousPeoplesDay and every day, let’s raise awareness about their cultures, traditions, languages, knowledge and heritage to protect their rights across the world.

Indigenous traditional knowledge can offer solutions to many of our common challenges.

Article 24 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to their traditional medicines, to maintain their health practices and to access social and health services without discrimination.

The UN data excerpts show;

  1. An estimated 476 million indigenous peoples in the world are living across 90 countries.
  2. They make up less than 5% of the world’s population, but account for 15% of the poorest.
  3. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.

There is no denying that today’s world needs the traditional knowledge, voices and wisdom of indigenous people and can make with…

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Of Maze and Mists Folk (July#BattleBlog- Hatch)

The Maze Folk

          Threll, Invigilator Civic to Prince Machthaber of  Dienlich, was a man who wielded calm patience as a weapon of fearful effectiveness. Nobody wanted to be the one who caused him to lose his temper; in his usual demeanour he left an efficient enough trail of woe upon any who suffered his professional displeasure.

          ‘This is most unfortunate,’

          He sounded as if an unforeseen weather event was causing cancellation of an afternoon’s repose in his garden. However the slight furrowing of his brow warned the two before him. One was trying to keep the word ‘grave’ out of their thoughts; it gave a prescient air to matters.

          Both knew not to serve excuses up to Threll. Reasons and self-criticism were your best hopes; no babbling either. Calm and composed, was the way

          ‘Very unfortunate,’ Surveyoress Bekwaam said, contrition in her voice, encouraging her colleague.

          ‘Quite so,’ Surveyor Ervaren agreed.

          Threll considered the two of his senior staff.

          ‘Indeed,’ he said ‘And have you formulated how the deep coded false message to the rebel group to act, thus showing their hand actually contained a warning they had been compromised? It should have been impossible considering our failsafe programmes,’

          Bekwamm straightened clutching the file into the crook of her arm.

          ‘Three separate layers of code, each with their own clerkes did not account for clerical errors being transposed,’ she swallowed ‘We should have considered this,’ and handed The Analysis to her superior.

 

          Some days before.

          ‘Time to unlatch the hatch, and sneak the catch,’ the fellow trilled.

          Ven being the professional thief of the duo gripped the fellow. Palavelle by name, being a rogue Mechanical. His talents enabled him to work through a quadruple lock with three sets of alarms, his lack of common sense allowed him to announce his success to the locality and would have had him march into the final, least subtle but most effect trap.

          Two axes swung down from the walls in a criss-cross motion.

          ‘An’t you lucky,’ Ven hissed ‘I know the classics. Now let’s get in before someone comes to find out who is singing damn silly songs, this far from a tavern,’

          Once they eased passed the still slightly swaying blades Ven had the man relock everything.

          ‘Ah latch the catch. There’s the thing,’

          Why, Ven mused to himself did these rogue Mechanicals have to been so artisy and showy? They didn’t impress nobody down the working end of the City. After this job was done he’d have quiet words with his Guv’nor, Old Fryd about this one. Even if a contract was a contract, and the whole job was for someone, who might be acting for another someone else, if fellows like Ven Jek was caught, the last conversation would be with a rope.

          Meanwhile, get the business done. Hope everyone in the town house of a lesser duke, one Sabatch, placed too much faith in that lock and assumed it was doing all the work. 

          ‘Stop humming. This is no social visit,’

          ‘You should be happy in your work,’

          ‘I save, Happy, for when the job is over. Save all your talents for third door up on the left,’

 

          ‘It’s not a bad piece of work Guv’nor,’ Ven said handing over the ornately carved lapis lazuli statuette. Old Fryd surveyed with work with a veteran’s eye, but nonetheless passed it to the gang’s own antique expert.

          ‘Actually, very nice,’ the fellow said examining details through magnifier ‘Well done young Ven for bringing such a delicate piece out intact. I’ve seen a thousand golds literally knocked off the value through carelessness,’

          Old Fryd winced at the memories.

          ‘How was our,’ he coughed dryly ‘Specialist,’

          ‘Typical talented risk from the Comfy Class, getting his thrills,’ Ven said sourly. ‘Lucky, we didn’t raid some sort of professional Antique collector, not so legal,’ 

          Their own expert pulled a face.

          ‘They do get very cross and usually have accurate ideas where to express their displeasure. Did he pick up anything of for his own collection, a souvenir?’

          Ven shrugged.

          ‘He fiddled and nosed with a few bits; that was all. Shouldn’t use him again Guv’nor. Him and his damn sing-song silly rhymes. As if everyone appreciates them,’  

          ‘I’ll take care of those words Ven. That I will,’        

 

          Around the same time.

          ‘Imagine how embarrassing it would be to have the name of Hatchapatch,’

          Fegdale tightened putting down his newspaper in a sharp movement. The club was a place where one was supposed to sit and enjoy silence.

          ‘The matter has never occurred to me, Wingsleyden. In fact, I would say I couldn’t care two straws on the subject,’

          ‘Even so,’ the man had continued as if the matter were of fundamental philosophical concern ‘It would be fairly hard going for the poor fellow. You could make all sorts of poor jokes at his expense,’

          Fegdale glowered at Wingsleyden, who seemed unconcerned by the sight.

          ‘Why this sudden morbid interest in such an unlikely name?’

          Wingsleyden waved his own newspaper in response.

          ‘Why? Because I encountered the name in this journal. He’s suffered a ballooning accident at a farm cottage. And the bally paper has made light of it,’ his voice took on an injured tone as he waved the broadsheet in Fegdale’s face, pointing to a small column set aside for trivia ‘Hatchapatch Catches The Thatch In An Inflated Despatch,’

          The irony that one of the biggest fatheads in town was inadvertently blurting out a significance message was not lost on Fegdale. There was no time to reflect on such synchronicity. At least the warning had reached him sooner than the usual network of bemused gossip arising from a seemingly random quirky newspapers items. He grunted his excuse for leaving.

          ‘It comes to something when a fellow cannot find peace and quiet at his club,’

          The bustle of night time mixed with the steady autumn rain would provide distractions and cover. As watchman this was one of his roles. Raise the alarm.

 

          ‘This is very thorough, and it has to be said honest work,’ Thrall said to the pair, at the next meeting. ‘Taking full responsibility for all of your region’s status,’

          Ervaren took the lead.

          ‘We should have been more vigilant with the codes. Both in their drafting and overseeing. Complex systems need constant surveillance,’

          ‘Always a problem,’ Thrall agreed ‘ Balancing a system’s theoretical composition not to be compromised with its efficiency in practice,’      

          ‘Mistakes have been made, I hope lessons learnt,’ Bekwamm added ‘At least the rebels should be relatively easy to trace, with their nascent unprofessional approach,’ 

          ‘Yes,’ agreed Thrall ‘As the old tag-line goes. Good luck, bad luck. Who can say?’

          And sighed.

          The duo laughed, lightly.

          Slightly relieved.

 

          Palavelle relaxed and then only slightly when the coastline slipped from view. Even in uncouth company, being a simple conveyor dropping a message tube into an indifferent vase had been a thrill. All the fuss afterwards though; folk vanishing, strangers come to spirit you out of town. Far too rich a diet for him. Exile it would have to be.

          ‘Do you think he ever knew who he was working for?’ Ven Jek asked from the alley shadows as the ship sailed on.

          ‘Doubt it,’ Wingsleyden drawled glad to be relieved of his public voice.

          ‘Fribbin’ Comfies thinking it’s game,’ Ven spat. ‘Speaking code without checking,’

          ‘You try being one, year in year out chum,’ Wingsleyden said in grim humour ‘Forget your own name in a while, you will,’

 

          Fegdale was carefully drafting his confession, making sure it was officially obvious he had actually been working for the princedom as a decoy agent within the Dukes’ rebellion. That was what he had been told to write. He confessed to being quite wrong, the prince’s administration was very efficient. And was that not what everyone wanted? From his cell window he could see the scaffold. He shuddered thinking on his narrow escape.

 

          Maid Bekwaam comforted by her last herbal tea, walked composed to the scaffold. There was no more to be said. She had been caught in acts of treason. At least Thrall had assured her, her mother would be protected from the threats which had forced Bekwaam into the rebels’ hands. How they had targeted her was still being investigated. She was glad it was autumn, she would hate to be seen sweating.

 

          Bekwaam could remember the rope, it was silken, then the brief tightness. Now she was blinking? Someone was peering into her face with a magnifier. And she was breathing?

          ‘Yes. She is recovering,’ the someone said, her focus returned, he was elderly and maybe familiar?

          Two pairs of women’s hands raised her gently, sweet clear water to her lips, she knew enough to sip, and wait for clarity.

 

          She knew this one; Franzet ‘Old Fryd’ Durchtrieben. In criminal terms equivalent to nobility, always careful in his playing of sides. Thus, not surprising to learn now his network had found out her fate, unbeknown to her smuggled a powerful narcotic into her tea; the resulting feigned death, her coffin switched with another. All an effective rescue. Further details she might know eventually. Until then, be guardedly grateful.

          ‘Hello Miss Bekwaam. I won’t repeat the explanations. Glad to see you looking well,’ he tutted ‘Hate to see good resources wasted. Can’t have that,’

          ‘Thank you for thinking so,’ she replied, still a little croaky.

          ‘We’ll be easing you elsewhere. Five hundred myles south and west to Elinid. I expect you have a working knowledge about how that city is run. We have an agreement with the Silc clan there. They could use someone of your deductive and organisational talents. You’ll like it. Not so stuffy. Still spry enough to start afresh,’ he winked ‘And we’ll arrange for you to keep in touch with your old Mum. We got tender folk are already explaining basic matters to her, so it won’t come as a shock,’

          Bekwaam had to admit, currently this was a better outcome. She could not help but wonder if Thrall had some idea about this. A much broader and deeper game maybe.

 

          Ervaren brooded into the into the glass. He should have helped Bekwaam and not been instrumental in laying her upon Strategy’s bloody altar, our sacrifice of gratitude for a bountiful harvest of the treacherous, all to ensure our prince slept well.

          Without the usual knock the door to his study opened. His servant, a solid veteran entered, three men followed him, stern. Ervaren was familiar with the type, those who did not need to be obvious. He managed a harsh laugh and swilled his wine.

          ‘And so, the covering of the traces. My turn then,’ he raised his glass in a sincere salutation. ‘Make it quick and dignified. And Lave here, I bear you no ill-will,’

          One man of iron-grey short hair afforded Ervaren a softening of his expression.

           ‘Surveyor Ervaren. Your remorse and the urge for self-chastisement are understandable. However, these are pragmatic times. The empire’s stability always paramount. Invigilator Civic Thrall is willing for your talents to be seconded,’

          ‘Seconded?’ the effects of the wine flushed out by professionalism.

          ‘Yes,’ the voice was now shielded ‘The Invigilator understands he is too close to be effective on one issue. There are concerns regarding Prince Machthaber. Being the subject of avaricious potential rebellions does not exclude a prince from suspicion on other issues. You will receive instructions on methods of reporting,’ a thin smile ‘All for the stability of the Empire,’

          Later, pondering, Ervaren could not help but feel it could just as easily have been Bekwaam receiving those words. Imperial Stability was such an amoral concept.

 

          Duke Sabatch was vexed. Another occasion of Court People trampling through his town house. He would vet his staff better.

 

          Thrall made fresh entries upon the map of relationships and alliances. It would not do to lose track of who was who and what was being hatched by all sides. At least Sabatch was consistent, The Useful Idiot.

 

And Another Thing Concerning Odd Motivations

This is subsequent to the post

From Unexpected Places (Something Concerning Odd Motivations)

Concerning the throw away ending “And I do believe I have inadvertently created a template for a book cover.”, this comment related to the image I had created for the post:

Inspiration and Themes

Occasionally one of the Muses nudges me off to Canva https://www.canva.com/en_gb/ to see what can be created from its free images and various tools. Of late when manoeuvring multiple images, I decided to experiment with its ‘Transparency’ facility (top right of the horizontal menu bar, look out for the square made up of squares, fading left to right). This allows you to click onto an image placed on top of another, then drawing the cursor from right to left reducing the depth of the image from 100%, until you have a suitable transparent effect. This allows you create a montage, as you will see above. With some careful twiddling (excuse the technological language) you can click from image to image nuancing the depths of each. Because Canva tends to give you geometric borders to each image using Transparency allows you to diminish or accentuate the borders as you see fit. And you can spend a quite fun-filled creative interlude exploring possibilities.

So, to elaborate on the theme of the previous post I called in Canva. Because the tale in question takes elements of SF with ten dimensions involved and one of those ‘palace’ plots beloved of High Fantasy, there are bound to twists and oddities in all direction, plus some mischief. I therefore wanted a montage, chaotic yet with some geometry involved (Quantum influence). The first image was paradoxically a fantasy castle but overlaid with a galactic scene to set the theme of drifting through realities. After this some pastoral, a smidge of steampunk, over on the top left the faint outline of a pixie/fairy and diagonally opposite another piece of starscape, for contrast. Then eyesEyes are always good to add ‘that air’. Finally in the bottom left corner the faint hint of mischief. I have to admit I was pleased.  There may be a little bit of tinkering, only a smidge though.

The great benefit being the influence images, physical, musical or mental have on my writing. It would not be the first time the book cover influenced my final draft. On this occasion the cover nearly preceded the plot, and now firmly set in my mind, the cover draws me on. For The Cover must have a book worthy of the image. Maybe not the most secure or highly recommended of approaches to drafting a novel, and yet one which is proving worthwhile for dragging me out of a bit of a ditch.  

Inspiration. You just have to love the unpredictability of Inspiration.  

From Unexpected Places (Something Concerning Odd Motivations)

Inspiration and Themes

It’s another ‘You know how it goes’ . You’ve finished your latest work, truly finished. The end was reached the several re-writes, editings, and other associated efforts have been navigated. (Including the occasional episode when the book cover was being put in place, the artist adds a little something and you thought ‘Wow, I have to fit that into the narrative!! ‘ And under the spell of the image you unravel some little part……). All this attended to by one means or another your work is then made available to the public and belongs unto the Ages.

Thus, should follow an interlude of rest and repose. Working at a factory pace does not suit Creativity or Perspective. A writer should not find, one morning their writing has become a chore they feel they must do. Writing should either come from the joy or the restlessness to see ideas taking shape as words. A ‘Because’ not a ‘Have To’.

So time to look at a Fantasy idea. There might be promise there. I would attend. I started.

And stopped. Basically, although there were a couple of amusing bits, it was not working; the word ‘Re-hash’ kept cropping up whenever I read the day’s output. Ah well, something to be left for another day….

Time to revisit the Quantum Space Opera project. On to the opening chapter. There was that word ‘Re-hash’ again. Seems I had invested so much time and effort into my previous project my creativity was still running on the loop. BlogBattle challenges were welcome, making me move elsewhere, but left to my own devices I was running in that loop. The one hope I had was another word… ‘Screwball’ as in 1930s and 1940s Comedy Films, in short when stuck, look for something outside of Serious. There was inspiration here because when scrolling through the Audio Book selection of SF, and seeing the endless lists of Genocidal Aliens, Ancient Long Forgotten Evils, Another Colonial Marines / WH40K Space Marines series one phrase kept popping into my creative mind when relating to the evil protagonists…. ‘Their heads fell off’; it broke the monotony. Thinking there might be a start of a way out, I pondered on this phrase. Now obviously such a gem had to be used sparingly, or if the pace was very fast with mocking frequency. The plot still eluded me though. Even the great Robert Sheckley would not build an entire book around heads falling off, maybe a chapter or paragraph here or there but he was a master of his art / craft. No, the whole structure needed more thought. Still, it was a start.

Buoyed by this slender hope, the musing phase started, as to what would prompt such a statement and where would the exclamation or discovery fit it. Musing on such an aspect does not require a serious frame of mind; irreverently speculative would be a better turn of phrase. Such a state is of course very volatile and unpredictable. In consequence it was with some delight, although not surprise, that bursting into the musing came a small scenario drenched with very inappropriate and excessively farcical humour based on a misunderstanding in verbal translation. There were inane sniggers, for it is a fact of Male Human Nature that no matter their age, life experience, social standing or professional achievements no man ever rids himself of that adolescent streak. However, this ‘situation’ arose, the attendant, events leading up to, social interactions, ramifications, motivations etc were causing the dust of musing to coalesce. The original slender thread of the plot began to take on shape, birthed by an urge to place both comic ideas into some context. They would only be additions of course to a deeper and wider narrative, but in doing so gave some basis and inspiration for getting there. ‘The plot became the thing, wherein the comedy I could bring’ (sorry about that Mr. Shakespeare- no apologies to you Hamlet, to me you always were a royal pain)

Now the words and the possibilities are forming with some ease. Being of the ‘Pantser’ school I have not much of an idea where this particular project is going to go. But if I did, where would the fun in that be?? No, I’m just going enjoy the whole uncertainty happy in the security of the knowledge someone, somewhere, will be involved in a humorously unfortunate incident and some group with suffer from sudden detachment of heads.

Oh, in case anyone was wondering. The Quantum aspect? In comparison with starting a plot for a book, simply no trouble at all to fit in.

Here’s to Inspiration, no matter where or how the dear muse should turn up.

And I do believe I have inadvertently created a template for a book cover.

Grieving A Writing Life

A blog post of much depth and wisdom. Every writer should read this.

K.M. Allan

When you start out in the writing community, you’re learning, and part of that process is seeing those before you rise.

Just as you’re entering the query trenches, there are others being lifted out of them with agent representation and publishing deals, and you wait patiently for the day that person will be you.

Before you know it, years have gone by. You’ve been part of the writing community for a long time, helping those who are now the newbie you once were.

Experienced in the query trenches, you’ve seen it all, gotten every rejection type there is: the no answer, the form letter, the good but not good enough. You might have even hit that 100 rejections goal you’d heard other writers talk about but never thought you’d reach because your MS was too good. At least you thought so.

You might have rewritten it since those lofty…

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Those Jagged Remedies (June#BlogBattle-Scar)

Scars

Intent: cold and raw. A precise mix sufficient to clear your senses. Visceral, held in check by the focus which in turn fed back on that which it supressed. All was balanced for the work ahead.

The figure finally moved out of its cover, slow, patient progress to the campsite, watching the two slouching, complacent guards. The figure did not take anything for granted though, only moving when the guards shuffled off away from the interloper’s planned route.

The plan was clear enough, its execution requiring enduring caution, stealth and concentration. Acceptance of a long night essential.

‘Medician.’

Eight years’ service, Principal Lieutenant Vragen by custom accepted an audible oath as the first sound to leave the lips of a soldier dragged out of sleep. Even dodging the small pillow, sent with some accuracy, considering the dispatcher’s eye were still closed. Eyes widened on seeing the target’s rank.

‘My apologies, Principal Lieutenant. Albeit deep in the first sleep after two days and nights of toil. That was indefensible. What are your orders sir?’

By the time the disciplined apology seasoned with an excuse had reached his ears the soldier was out of bed at an attention which despite the baggy nightgown would do credit to a parade ground. Remarkable recovery, but not swift enough to tame the twinkle in the eyes and the faint twist to the right corner of the mouth. Working the arts of interrogation and investigation gave you an edge in observation.

‘Place yourself at ease Medician. I shall overlook the pillow. Reflexes in the best traditions of the LifeGuard.’ there was a brief exchange of restrained grins ‘I am here to call upon your skills. We are required to supply a miracle. In this case the saving, not taking of a life,’

He was but half way through the opening of the explanation when she uncaring of his presence, pulled off her nightgown, and began to dress into uniform clothing. Her body marked with scars of service and personal shaves with death.

‘Somebody of note Principal Lieutenant?’ she asked.

‘Lord Lemp’s son Idjel,’

‘I thought,’ she said combing fair hair into order ‘he was out somewhere learning,’ -a sarcastic tone entered her voice- ‘a soldier’s trade?’

‘His father purchased a commission, in The Hounds Vigilant,’ their sarcastic exchanged continued, her next contribution a harsh bark of a laugh.

Dressed and gathering up her medical supplies, she continued.

‘Learning how to avoid proper combat and which are the best villages to terrorise and sack, all in the name of the Emperor,’

‘Still not deemed of official concern to the LifeGuard I fear,’ he said in finality.

Their arrival was greeted by a flustered Lord Lemp, the close presence of a LifeGuard outpost being a very mixed blessing to lesser nobles. To his due, Lemp currently embraced the blessing aspect with effusive thanks for their swiftness. Vragen was all diplomacy, any opportunity for investigation was to be grasped. His medician however was for grim efficiency. With a brief, civil request to ‘see the patient’ she set the lord and his senior officials scuttling off, she at their heels like a shepherding dog, her officer in their wake.

At the door of the bedroom, coat and hat removed, hair secured under a tight cap, while hands washed in an astringent of her own, and ignoring the initial goggling that there was a woman here, her emotionless interrogation of the circumstances began. Where had he been? When did this come to the attention of his father? Had they given him any treatments yet?

‘Hmm. Down in Hegohel. Yes. There are three strains of plague there. A day out from coming home with escort? Really? Staggered in by himself? Principal Lieutenant sir. The previous camp needs to be traced and eradicated sir. Expeditiously, sir,’

And having given that command to her commander, she entered the room. Alone.

Yes, a befouled mess, already. Facial skin reddened in patches. Lost in a delirium. Sweating. Threshing too. Not even the lowest of servants attending. The word Plague was enough to let The Fear out. Even mild ones which left the suffered scarred and thus marked. She hitched on her face mask and eased on her slender leather gloves. To work then.

Since there was no one around she dealt with the threshing by kneeling her full weight on his chest, in other situations a man would pay good money for such treatment. In a perfunctory manner she clutched his face, twisting it to right and left, leaned in, he inadvertently helped by screaming in pain, allowing her a good view of mouth and upper throat. In equally unsympathetic manner she examined other parts, his weakness stifling true resistance. Yes, definitely 

Outside she deftly removed cap and gloves, dropped them into a nearby ornamental urn and having washed her hands in astringent emptied some into the said receptacle. She regarded the assembled quartet.

‘Carmine Furusio,’ she announced and raised one hand to still panic ‘It does not travel by air, not even casual touch. Uncleanliness is the cause. It’s curable. The problem is with cadavers, other illnesses can fester. The camp and burn everything, Principal Lieutenant, especially bodies, no survivors. The Good Lord God knows what else mercenaries carry under their skin. Now please, Principal Lieutenant, sir,

Witnessing the prompt exit Lord Lemp, was taken a’ back at the authority these Medicians carried. He did not even question her peremptory tone when she addressed everyone as to what she would require for assist, nor confirmation she would attend to this alone. There was relief on that score.

First, the sight of the carrion birds, then the audible sound of flies, of course the stench and finally the stillness of the camp. Vragen did not have to command the party to halt. Taking a page from the Medician’s book, on dismounting he covered his face and hands, approached slowly, studied the first body. By the distance from the perimeter he guessed the fellow had tried to flee. Some of the horses had broken from tethering, others had survived by reducing the grass around them. No sign of plague. He let them loose, they made for a stream. He returned to the first body avoiding the others. All very sudden, this attack of plague.

He gave the order to collect the first kindling, to start an initial fire allowing safe ground to build a bigger base for another ring of fire,  moving over more scorched land, poking roasted bodies closer in, until the dead were piled into one place and the last great fire started. The Medician had trusted him with the overseeing. The men did too.

Upon returning he found Lord Lemp in a mixed state, agitated, relieved and concerned all at once. If there was not such an air of death about the sight might have seemed comic. Without waiting for the dismount he addressed Vragen.

‘My son lives,’ he said, although the joy was tempered with distraction ‘The Medician remained with him all the past day, night and this day too,’

A loud keening came from the room one flight above them, Lemp glanced upwards, his mouth working while his brain sought words.

‘It seems he must lose one leg. A pernicious infection, she told me. She is about the business now,’ a hope born of desperation into his voice ‘She assures me he will not feel too much pain, there are potions y’see,’

Smoke drifted across the courtyard.

‘She is most meticulous. Insists everything is burnt; to ashes. Says it will halt any progression. We all have to wash our hands too.’ A nervous laugh followed. She’d unsettled the man, Vragen was certain. A signature trait she forcefully employed when encountering negligible but unpleasant folk. The thin mouth, cold remote tone, and dark eyes, the unrelenting stare could curled you. Even more damned unsettling when you knew how cheerful, chatty and mischievous she could be with most folk.

The sound pitched to a sharp screech and as quickly into a moan, and silence. A small audience look upwards, expectant, waiting for the announcement. No doubt, Vragen reckoned, as ordered.

The window flew open, the face gaunt and severe looked down.

‘The leg has been successfully removed,’ she called out, clear and composed ‘Just above the knee, the area cauterised. Squire Idjel has lapsed into acceptable unconsciousness. I require assistance in cleaning and cleansing. The risk of Plague transference has ceased,’

And the window was closed.

The Medician stood before the Lord Vragen felt the rolls might be reversed. She presented two bottles of dark wine coloured mix.

‘Your son will live. Though, Lord, he will be without the vitality associated with a man of his age. This is Extract of Herstel. Ensure he has one quarter wine cup of this each day until both bottles are finished, this will aid his progress. Some would say you should give him a stronger dose. The LifeGuard does not recommend this.’

The duo rode away, they examined the ground scored by fire. The Medician grunted some acceptance. Vragen asked her if Idjel would truly live.

‘I cannot say for certain, Principal Lieutenant, sir. The fellow was weakened. It depends on the care he now receives. In body, heart and soul.’

Vragen was writing his report, based upon The Medician’s own brief, terse account. He was musing not just on the sparseness but her reply to his question of Idjel’s survival.

Vragen’s experience tapped at him. In this case, by her tone and expression she might as well have said ‘Don’t know. Don’t care,’

Some might have admired her composure and dedication dealing with any plague victim. Yet her actions did fit with her attitude, in particular to someone who had ridden with one of the most undisciplined and battle-shy mercenaries of the empire. Consider The LifeGuard’s institutional acceptance of medicians’ inclinations to be covert executioners of folk they judged unworthy to live. She had had ample expert opportunity to ensure the fellow died. No local would have suspected. Instead, she had left with gratitude about her.

Long enough in one area of expertise could leave you agitated as well as alert. Investigation work enabled you to know which references to go to.

Even an outpost of LifeGuard held a sufficiently basic reference library of works, political, cultural, religious and medical. The latter being of his current interest.

‘Carmine Furusio,’. The ailment was indeed one of the more modest afflictions; practitioners opinions seemed sanguine. The symptoms did remind him of encounters in his career. He moved to chapters on poisons. ‘Cremisi Astuto’. Both tuscatalian phrases alluding to red, the former plague, but the latter, no, translated to ‘astute’. Ideal name. Similar symptoms. Only always deadly. Made more sense. Plague camps had bodies lying in parody of repose; this one, they had been scattered, fallen, giving impressions of prior staggering.

Someone had struck, carefully at night. Cooking pots, wine barrels. Revenge upon one group or just a targeting of mercenaries. How had Idjel survived? Easiest part. His own supplies, the last victim when poison was running out. Fleeing in fear at the sudden deaths. Whoever could answer was long gone. A fair reasoning.

The Medician would have surmised the difference too. She covered for them adding her own nuances on the survivor. Had the amputation been necessary? What weaknesses had been left to pervade? A miserable fate. And her parting words, a LifeGuard caution on medication. Most nobility chaffed at LifeGuard strictures. Her words a positive dare to do so. A carefully planted verbal toxin; belated execution by circuitous default.

And evidence burnt.

Motive? Swift undressing had revealed four close, long, narrow pale scars down her arm. A woman’s nails. Medicians made light of small injuries unconsciously inflicted by patients in torment. Dying of multiple rapes, or sadistic injuries, driven mad at death of children..

One man’s prolonged torment both symbolic justice and a balm for scars to limb and soul? How many other applications? Before and to come?

https://bbprompt.com/2022/06/03/june-blogbattle-scar/

The Capitol Police Gave Their All

Lest we forget

annieasksyou...

Image from Georgia Recorder(*)

In Honor of Caroline Edwards, Witness at the January 6th Committee’s First Public Hearing, and Her Colleagues

T he lovely, nails-tough cop described the
H ell raining down upon them.
E nduring torment, taunts, and trauma, they

C ontributed their very lives to save
A building, institution, lawmakers—all
P rey to a mob of fury-blinded
I nsurrectionists whose Chief insisted
T hat it was they who were in the right.
O nly now do we fully see the brilliant
L ight their heroism shone as trained thugs

P ressed against them,
O verwhelmed them.
L isten to her searing words:
“I t was carnage, it was
C haos…I wasn’t trained for warfare.”
E xcruciatingly, she detailed the horrors,

G raphically told of slipping in her fellows’ blood
A nd wiping clean their spray-pierced eyes til
V eils of spray descended on her own,
E xhausting…

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Call For Attention: World Day Against Child Labor

The Human Lens

On World Day Against Child Labor, renewed calls have been made across the globe that call attention and immediate action against this rising phenomenon that robs young people out of their “childhoods.”

The International Labour Organization (ILO) started observing World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 with an aim to highlight the plight of children who are the victims of child labour.

It is a special day that serves as a reminder to global community to guarantee actions that are based on children’s social and cultural protection in their communities at large.

This year’s theme is “Universal Social Protection to End Child Labour” and heavy focus is maintained on creating increased investment in social protection schemes and systems to develop solid social protection mechanisms for protection from child labour.

Despite significant advancement in the fight against child labor, the pace has slowed down especially since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

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June #BlogBattle: Scar

This site is well worth a visit. It’s friendly, helpful and a very good place to hone your art and craft.

BlogBattle

June 2022 Blog Battle

Right-click & ‘Save As’ one or both of these images to share on social media!

Our word this month is:

Scar

You can start writing at any time, but make sure you post your story by the

17th of June

to have a link shared here and on social media.

Once you’ve posted your story to your blog, put a link to it in the comments section, and we’ll add your story to the Battle Stories Line-up post that goes live the 3rd Friday of the month (the same as the post-by date).

Make sure to check back and read some of the stories of your fellow battlers. Leave comments to encourage these writers. And go a step further in supporting one another by sharing each other’s stories on your own blog or social media, whatever you’re most comfortable with!

Basic Rules:

ThePrompt Wordwill…

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