Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy what you find here. Whilst you may not agree with everything I post, if you respect my right to my opinion I'll respect your right to disagree with it and we should get along just fine. :)

Disclaimer: the views expressed by the characters in these works may not necessarily represent the views of the author. Got that? Good.

Right then, on with the blog...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

#FridayFlash: Botchett and the Lambton Worm, a True Story.

For my final WeSeWriMo post, we interrupt our normal programming to bring you a glimpse into the early life of one of The UCF Stories' favourite characters, Master Botchett the Gnome. I haven't numbered this as a true instalment of The UCF Stories, though it unofficially forms Episode 20. If you'd like to read The UCF Stories from the beginning, please go here.

As you can see from the WeSeWriMo Progress Meter in my blog's sidebar, with the publication of this post I have achieved the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the month. Yay me! *Ahem.*


Young Botchett sat on the river bank, when round the bend came a knight in full armour, splashing through the shallows. Botchett sighed, the fellow was sure to scare away all the fish, and he'd promised his mother something nice for tea.

'We's thew?' asked Botchett.

'Pardon?' said the knight.

Botchett sighed, 'Who. Are. You. Sir knight?'

'I am Sir John Lambton. My castle is over yonder.'

'Castle?!' Botchett raised an eyebrow. 'Divent kid a kidder, bonny lad, I've seen it.'

Sir John looked crushed. 'Alright, manor house then.'

'That's more like it,' Botchett continued. 'And what brings you down to the river with all them spear heads on your armour, like? You look like a hedgehog.'

'The witch told me to do it.'

'Who? Old Mother Blackett?'

'Yes, that's her.'

'You want to watch her, like.'

'Whatever for? She told me I should cover my armour in spear points and fight the wyrm in the river if I were to kill it.'

Botchett couldn't help his excitement. 'A wyrm, bonny lad? Not the one that's coiled himself round Lambton Hill, over yonder, like?' Botchett pointed.

'Yes, that's the beast. How did you know?'

Botchett tapped the side of his nose. 'You'd be surprised what I know about witches and wyrms, like. My Lord.'

Sir John studied Botchett intently for a few moments. 'And who, pray, are you, good sir, to be speaking to a knight in such a fashion? You don't look like one of my tenants.'

'Ah, well...' Botchett began.

'And what are you doing with that fishing rod? Don't you know I own the fishing rights on this stretch of the river? Not poaching, are you?'

'Now hang on a minute.' Botchett was indignant. 'One question at a time, bonny lad. First, my name is Botchett, a Gnome of these parts. Second,' Botchett looked ruefully at his fishing rod, 'Aye, it is a bit of a cliché I know, like, but I promised my Mam a little fishy on a little dishy when I got home, not that there's much chance of that with you plodging about like you are, bonny lad.'

'Oh,' said Sir John.

Botchett continued before the question of poaching was raised again, 'Anyway, Old Mother Blackett. I bet there was conditions?'

'Yes,' Sir John uncertainly, 'How did you know?'

'Always is with Old Mother Blackett, like.'

'Oh,' said Sir John, again.

'And what are they?'

Sir John hesitated. The fact he was conversing with a Gnome on a riverbank was beginning to sink in. 'She said I'd be sure to be victorious with my armour so adorned,' Sir John indicated the spear points again, 'And once I've killed the wyrm, she said I've to slay the first living thing I see, lest my family be cursed for nine generations.'

'That sounds about right.' Botchett rubbed his chin.

'So my father is going to tether a hound outside our gate,' continued Sir John, warming to his story, 'And I'll slay it on my way home. That ought to take care of the conditions.'

'There is another way.' Botchett looked mysterious.

It was Sir John's turn to raise an eyebrow.

'What if you were to catch the wyrm, not kill it? The bargain is for you to kill the wyrm. If you take it alive, the conditions don't come into it, eh bonny lad?'

Sir John thought for a moment. 'You know, Master Gnome, you may just have something there. But how could such a thing be done?'

'Aha,' chuckled Botchett, 'I might just be able to help you there, bonny lad.'

Botchett and Sir John's discussions lasted long into the night, and both were feeling anything but rested when they returned to the riverbank before dawn. Botchett rigged a large net and some strange apparatus while Sir John kept a close eye on the path to Lambton Hill, from whence the wyrm would come down to the river to drink every morning. Botchett had read the instructions and was sure he knew what he was doing.

The early morning sun was attempting to burn off the mist from the river when Sir John heard slithering approaching from the direction of Lambton Hill.

'It's coming,' hissed Sir John, wading out to a sandbank in the middle of the river.

Botchett rolled his eyes as Sir John splashed and clanked through the water. Unless the wyrm was stone deaf it must surely know someone was waiting for it. So much for the element of surprise. Botchett threw himself flat behind the iron-bound wooden box he'd borrowed from his father, adjusting the drinking horn that stuck out of the top of it from his prone position.

As Botchett remembered things later, none of what followed was his fault. Perhaps the net snagged on a branch, or maybe the wyrm moved faster than he expected, either way it barrelled straight through the trap and into the river once it caught sight of Sir John. The knight had only time to cast a withering look in Botchett's direction before the beast was upon him, and Botchett watched from the riverbank as the fight became more and more vicious.

At one point, Botchett was sure Sir John was done for as the wyrm coiled itself around him, though in so doing it impaled itself on the spear points attached to Sir John's armour and reared up, bellowing in agony as the sharp points dug deep into its flesh. Seizing his opportunity, Sir John lunged and buried his sword blade deep into the beast's brain. The wyrm fell lifeless at his feet.

Sir John waded ashore, muttering something about hanging every Gnome he could get his hands on, and marched purposefully off in the direction of the manor house. Botchett felt obliged to follow at a safe distance, hoping the knight would calm down enough for him to explain.

Nearing the gate of the manor house, Botchett's blood ran cold as there, instead of a hound, stood Sir John's father, wringing his hands. Sir John paused, advanced, raised his sword, paused again, then collapsed to his knees at his father's feet.

'Father,' Sir John wailed, 'Where is the hound?'

His father opened his mouth to speak, paused, then closed it again. Tears ran down the old man's cheeks.

'I cannot kill you, Father,' continued Sir John.

'Then we are cursed, my son.'

'Shit,' muttered Botchett and ran home to start packing.


Author's note: Surprisingly, Botchett's part in the slaying of the Lambton Worm does not appear in the “authorised” versions of events, nor in C.M. Leumane's 1867 folk song of the same name, but we know better, don't we?

For more information on the legend of the Lambton Worm, there is a good article on Wikipedia here, and if you'd like to hear the song, sung more-or-less in the Mother Tongue, I have great pleasure in presenting Mr. Tony Wilson, Storyteller, Writer and Musician of these 'ere parts with his rendition of the song of the Lambton Worm:


Thursday, 19 August 2010

#FridayFlash: The UCF Stories #19: Vincent

This is the third of my WeSeWriMo (Web Serial Writing Month) posts.

Vincent is the nineteenth installment in my on-going flash fiction serial, The UCF Stories. If you'd like to read the story from the beginning, please go here.

He slipped through the shadows of the churchyard as though they had been greased to ease his passing. Night time rustling in the shrubbery ceased instantly as he passed, small creatures frozen in terror at his sudden appearance. Vincent made no sound as he walked, even his ankle length overcoat, which by rights ought to flap and swish as he walked, was silent. He crossed the gravel path as quietly as a leaf on the breeze, making purposefully for a secluded area of the churchyard where overgrown gravestones poked through the undergrowth like the last few rotten, neglected teeth in an ancient mouth.

A Tawny owl swooped low across the path in front of Vincent, banking sharply at the sight of him. Briefly their eyes met, mutual recognition and respect of one predator for another, then the owl was gone. Vincent pressed on, pausing only once he had pushed through the overgrown rose hedge into the farthest corner of the churchyard. An old, rusting sign warned against entering the area as there was, it read, still a danger of contamination from the graves of the cholera victims within. Vincent chuckled quietly, a bit late for me, he thought.

Tucked away at the farthest end of the churchyard, the old cholera cemetery was a wild place. Groundsmen never visited and even the churchyard's resident vagrant would not sleep here. Most of the gravestones that remained upright were simple stone affairs, more grave markers than elaborate eulogies for their former owners. Some had long since collapsed to lie forgotten beneath the mat of bindweed, brambles and rough grass that covered the area. Vincent was well aware of the vicar's feelings about the cholera graves, the man would have loved to have the site cleared, but the threat of the disease terrified him. Five years ago the Church Commissioners had engaged archaeologists to survey the cemetery, the vicar had taken one look at their hazchem suits and booked himself a fortnight's holiday in the north of Scotland.

Vincent picked his way through the tangle of vegetation, the only sound drifting in on the midnight breeze that of traffic on the ring-road, the drivers oblivious as to how close they came to death every time they took that route. Even knowing the area so well, it took Vincent some time to locate the particular grave he sought, its occupant a one year old infant. Elizabeth Deptford died within the first few days of the outbreak in 1832, she only had a grave of her own on account of her father being a wealthy ship owner.

Kneeling next to the grave, Vincent rolled up his left sleeve and gently worked his fingers through the tangled mat of vegetation into the earth. Wriggling and pushing, Vincent forced his fingers, his hand, then his arm down into the earth, his mind focussed intently on that which he sought. His arm seemed to elongate of its own accord until his fingers brushed past what remained of the rotten coffin lid and Vincent felt a bone touch his fingertips. A moment to orientate himself, then moving quickly, Vincent worked his hand around the skeleton until he grasped the child's femur. Pulling back in one fluid movement, Vincent slipped his arm, still grasping the femur, out of the grave, collapsing back onto the ground as his hand came free of the soil.

Brushing grave dirt from his arm, Vincent examined the bone in the moonlight. It was perfect, and remarkably well preserved. Shoving it deep into his overcoat pocket, Vincent picked his way out of the cholera cemetery and strode quickly towards another part of the churchyard. Reaching his own grave, Vincent seemed to dissolve, a small dark cloud drifting down towards the earth, he quickly disappeared completely into his grave and set to work on the bone.

It was a full week before the furore of the desecration abated and Vincent felt it safe enough to emerge again. The churchyard was once again deserted, long gone the police and coroner who had been followed by the press, ghoulish sightseers and night-time thrill seekers. The vicar had booked himself another holiday.

Vincent watched the young Goth couple from the shadow of a Yew tree. Giggling, they swigged from a bottle of super strength cider as they weaved unsteadily between the stones, eventually plonking themselves down on the large granite slab that marked the final resting place of Masie Rose Dean. Masie would not have approved, Vincent thought.

Feeling the tension in the air heighten, Vincent waited until the boy was poised, trousers round his ankles, before stepping from behind the tree and casually breaking his neck with a flick of his wrist. Tossing the body aside, Vincent fell upon the girl, clamping one hand over her mouth and noting with a mild interest her wide eyed fear and creamy breasts as he raised her to heights of ecstasy before jabbing the sharpened end of Elizabeth's femur into her jugular.

Once all was still once more Vincent adjusted himself, wiped the bone on the dead girl's thigh before setting off across the churchyard. He had surpassed himself this time, he thought, Lady Mandrake was going to be particularly pleased with her new pen. And the ink, such a sweet ink, it would be perfect for contracts.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

#FridayFlash: The UCF Stories #18: Aftermath

This week marks the second of my WeSeWriMo (Web Serial Writing Month) posts. If I'm to meet my goal, August's #FridayFlashes will all have a UCF flavour with, all being well, something a little unusual, at least for me, coming up towards the end of the month.

Aftermath is the eighteenth installment in my on-going flash fiction serial, The UCF Stories. If you'd like to read the story from the beginning, please go here.

Following the fairy attack, Swazzle and Botchett mourn Pogmorton's demise.

'Wait!' Aveena knelt beside Pogmorton's body and stared intently at it for a moment. She saw a swelling blue aura begin to blossom from Pogmorton's mouth.

'There's still a chance. The spirit has not yet left the body.' Golden ink flowed into Aveena's right hand, solidifying into a finely wrought torc, which she passed quickly to Botchett. 'Slip this around his neck. Quickly.'

Botchett did as he was bid, and Aveena noticed with satisfaction Pogmorton's aura start to drift back into his body.

'Is that it? Will he be all right?' Swazzle asked in a small voice.

'Not yet,' replied Aveena, 'That was just the first stage of a long and dangerous process. I'm not even sure it will work, but it's the only chance he's got.'

'What happens next, bonny lass?' Botchett couldn't see any change in Pogmorton's condition.

'I need somewhere safe to keep him,' said Aveena, 'While I do some research.' She cast her eyes over the assembled company and sighed. 'There's only one thing for it.'

Aveena stood and began unbuttoning her jeans. She pushed them down to her ankles and hunkered down next to Pogmorton again. Rev Beresford tried not to look, and failed.

Aveena took hold of Pogmorton gently under his arms. 'Give me a hand there, Master Gnome,' and with Botchett's help she managed to position Pogmorton over her right thigh.

'Now back off a bit, I'm not sure how well this is going to work.' Botchett took Swazzle by the shoulders and the pair stepped back, watching in fascination as Aveena began to chant quietly.

Rev Bereford, his face somewhat flushed, dabbed at his brow with a large white handkerchief, never once taking his eyes off Aveena.

After a few moments Aveena's chanting grew louder, her face contorted in a grimace of pain. As Botchett and Swazzle watched, Pogmorton's body seemed to dissolve and sank into Aveena's thigh. With a final repetition of the chant, which ended in a blood curdling scream, Pogmorton disappeared beneath Aveena's skin, leaving behind a perfect picture of himself, complete in every detail.

After a few moments Aveena struggled painfully to her feet. 'By the gods, but that smarts a bit, so.'

'That's one heck of a trick, like' marvelled Botchett. 'Is that how your other tattoos were done, bonny lass?'

'Oh no, Master Gnome,' Aveena smiled, 'My other pictures are something quite different. What I've done with, err...'


Aveena nodded. 'What I've done with Pogmorton is another thing entirely, and it's only temporary. I've no idea how long it'll last, so if you'll excuse me, I'm after sticking my nose in a few of Simeon's books. Master Gnome, would you be so kind as to collect up as much of Pogmorton's blood as you can, and that puddle of fairy blood? Make sure the two don't mix, mind.'

Botchett did as he was asked.

Once the blood had been gathered, Aveena picked up her sword and without a word to Rev Beresford swept from the room, closely followed by Swazzle and Botchett.

Simeon groaned and sat up slowly rubbing his head. 'There were fairies,' he mumbled.

* * *

For the next two days Goddess Rising looked like an explosion in a library. Botchett and Swazzle rushed this way and that, collecting and returning one obscure tome after another while Aveena sat, cross legged in the middle of the shop table with piles of open books and notes scattered all about her, moving only to stretch her aching muscles or answer the call of nature brought about by Simeon's endless cups of tea. Simeon himself seemed positively eager to help, even if his sole contribution was, at Aveena's insistence, to keep out of the way and make tea.

In the early hours of the morning of the third day, Aveena suddenly sat bolt upright.

'Aha!' she crowed, 'I've got it.'

'Got what?' mumbled Swazzle who had fallen asleep through sheer exhaustion atop a nearby bookcase.

'I've got it,' Aveena repeated, 'I think I know how to help Pogmorton.'

Swazzle was wide awake in an instant, looking expectantly at her.

'I said, I “think” I know what to do, there are no guarantees, but it's the best chance he's got. Where is Master Botchett, I'm going to need the both of you to help with this.'

'Botchett!' roared Swazzle.

Botchett's head appeared around the kitchen door. 'What, bonny lad?'

'Aveena's on to something, and she needs our help.'

Once Aveena had run through what would be required, Botchett thought for a while. 'The blood we've got, the herbs are easy enough to find, and I'm sure Master Swazzle will be able to locate whatever you need from the Other Realm.'

He paused and rubbed his beard, 'The amulet's the thing that's going to cause the most problems. They're very hard to come by, like. There's only one thing for it, we will have to pay a visit to Lady Mandrake.'

Botchett shuddered at the very prospect.


Thursday, 5 August 2010

#FridayFlash: The UCF Stories #17: The Tome of Levelling (Part 2)

This week marks the first of my WeSeWriMo (Web Serial Writing Month) posts. If I'm to meet my goal, August's #FridayFlashes will all have a UCF flavour with, all being well, something a little unusual, at least for me, coming up towards the end of the month.

The Tome of Levelling (Part 1) is the sixteenth installment in my on-going flash fiction serial, The UCF Stories. If you'd like to read the story from the beginning, please go here.

The Pixies and Botchett have just surprised Rev Beresford in the act of showing Aveena the Book when a squad of Urban Combat Fairies, lead by Twinkle, burst in through the front window of the Rev's rooms above Goddess Rising.

Simeon took one look at the fairies, made a small mewling noise and fainted. The thud of his body hitting the floor made everyone jump, and Twinkle took this as her cue to lunge for the Book.

'Oh no you don't.' Aveena jerked the book out of Twinkle's reach. She wasn't sure what the book contained, but from its aura she could tell it was powerful, hugely powerful, and it didn't seem like a good idea to be handing it over to fairies, to anyone, until she had a better idea of the damage that might be done.

'Give me the Book,' demanded Twinkle.

'Not so fast, bonny lass,' growled Botchett, producing two unfeasibly large ducks-foot pistols from inside his tunic. Each one had seven brass barrels that fanned out from a single trigger, glinting in the firelight as Botchett levelled them in the fairies' direction. Swazzle and Pogmorton exchanged looks, their eyebrows climbing into their hairlines.

'Err, Botchett...' Swazzle began.

'Not now, bonny lad. I need to keep an eye on these tricky buggers.' Botchett continued, his voice a little louder, and harsher, for the fairies' benefit, 'What we have here is a bit of a stand-off, like. The first one of you little bastards moves, and I'll do for the lot of you.' He smiled dangerously at Twinkle.

'If you do not hand over the Book,' Twinkle locked eyes with Aveena, 'I will order my squad to open fire.'

The stand-off lasted for a few moments, until Rev Beresford, grimacing in pain, leant suddenly over the arm of his chair and attempted to grab Twinkle, then everything seemed to happen at once.

Twinkle neatly sidestepped the Reverend's lunge, yelled, 'Fire!' and dived for the book again. The screaming reports of her squad's Banshee rifles were all but drowned out by the two terrific booms of Botchett's pistols, which filled the room with clouds of black powder smoke and made everyone wince. Banshee rifle rounds slapped into the wall behind the Pixies.

In the brief mayhem of the exchange of fire, Twinkle managed to get a hand on the book and began a tug of war with Aveena that only ended when Aveena shrugged her shoulder and Twinkle watched with growing horror as a dark liquid ran rapidly from under Aveena's jacket cuff into her hand and dripped towards the floor. Instead of forming a puddle on the floor at Aveena's feet, the liquid quickly solidified into a wickedly sharp short sword, which Aveena brought upwards with a neat flick of her wrist, severing Twinkle's hand at the wrist.

'Warned you, so,' said Aveena flatly.

With the sudden release in pressure as Twinkle fell back gasping in pain, Aveena's arm recoiled and the book slipped from her grasp.

As the book sailed through the air over Aveena's shoulder, Pogmorton whipped out his wand, and with a few deft movements, folded the book, with Twinkle's hand still attached, neatly into a pocket of space before collapsing backwards himself. The only sign the Book had ever been there was a soft imperfection in the air, like a fault in a medieval window glass. Rev Beresford would marvel later at how he could see the imperfection was there from any angle, and the rest of his room that lay beyond it, but that he could not touch it, the faint fault line seeming to elude his grasping fingers every time he tried.

As the smoke cleared, the carnage wrought by Botchett's “deck-clearers” became all too apparent. Twinkle's entire squad lay broken and bleeding, the walls behind them peppered with shot. Twinkle edged slowly backwards over their bodies toward the window.

Aveena became aware her left arm was bleeding. Shrugging off her jacket to reveal a white vest top beneath, Aveena noticed a thin, angry red line where a Banshee rifle bullet had grazed the side of her left bicep. A small rivulet of blood curled slowly down her upper arm. While Aveena concentrated on her wound, the rest of the assembled company merely stared dumbstruck at the two full arm sleeves of tattoos Aveena's jacket had concealed, each running completely from shoulder to wrist, and intricately interwoven with mythical beasts, Celtic weaponry and the four elements. There was a sword shaped space in the design on Aveena's left forearm.

With everyone's eyes on Aveena's tattoos, Twinkle slipped quietly out of the window and fluttered unsteadily away.

'By the gods!' marvelled Swazzle, 'Those are impressive. Hey, Pogmorton, have you seen...'

Swazzle turned to find, lying at his feet, the motionless body of his best friend, blood fountaining from a gaping wound in the side of Pogmorton's neck.

'Noooooooooo!' wailed Swazzle, dropping to his knees and cradling Pogmorton in his arms.

Botchett checked for a pulse, then laid a gentle hand on Swazzle's shoulder. 'I think he's gone, bonny lad.' He paused. 'I'm sorry, like.'

Swazzle threw his head back and let out a blood-curdling, keening howl.

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