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, 25 November 2010

#FridayFlash: The UCF Stories #30: The Bishop of Rosedene

This episode is number 30 in my ongoing web serial, updated weekly as a part of #fridayflash. If you are new to The UCF Stories, or have missed an episode, you can find a full index of the episodes here.

The watery morning sun was just peeping over the roof of the church when a black Jaguar with tinted windows glided quietly into Gallows Close, ignoring the street signs declaring the street a pedestrianised area. Coming to a stop outside Goddess Rising, the car sat for a few moments, brake lights glowing like a pair of rubies in the early dawn, exhaust pipe quietly belching clouds of grey fumes into the crisp morning air. The engine shut off and a grim-faced chauffeur climbed from the driver's door. He stood silently next to the car, scanning the street in both directions before striding over to Rev Beresford's front door where he rang the bell. His passenger's presence announced, the chauffeur returned to the vehicle and opened the passenger door, extending his arm to offer assistance to the black leather gloved hand that gripped his wrist.

Exiting the car, His Grace, Septimus Barclay, Bishop of Rosedene, paused momentarily to allow the stiffness from the journey to work itself out of his spine and legs before he marched purposefully to Rev Beresford's door and, finding it unlocked, stepped inside. His chauffeur returned to the Jaguar and backed the car slowly out of Gallows Close to find a parking space that would afford him a good view down the length of the street. Can't be too careful, he thought.

Taking the stairs two at a time, Bishop Barclay called out, 'Austin? Where are you?' as he reached the landing.

'I'm here, Your Grace. In the kitchen,' the chink of china betrayed what Rev Beresford was up to. 'Go into the Study, Your Grace. I'll be with you as soon as the kettle boils.'

Stepping into Rev Beresford's study, Bishop Barclay made straight for the fireplace, gratified to see that even at this early hour a roaring blaze sat in the grate. Removing his gloves, he rubbed the feeling back into his chilled fingers then sank into an armchair, holding his hands out in front of the fire.

The Bishop had just begun to loosen the buttons of his heavy overcoat when a rattling and clinking announced Rev Beresford's entrance with the tea tray. Setting the tray down on a side table, Rev Beresford hobbled over and took Bishop Barclay's hands in his.

'Good to see you, Your Grace.'

'And you, Austin. I was intrigued by your telephone call but,' he paused, 'Why don't we have some tea before you show me the video footage. Sit yourself down, Austin. I'll be mother.'

Rev Beresford shuffled slowly over to his armchair by the fire as Bishop Barclay rose and poured the tea, adding a good tot of whisky to each cup from the decanter next to the tea tray.

Setting the cups down, Bishop Barclay slurped his tea.

'That's a decent drop of malt you have there Austin,' said Bishop Barclay, an approving look on his face, 'even your appalling taste in tea can do little to detract from its flavour. Wherever do you buy that foul stuff?' He chuckled. 'Now then, Austin, where's this video you rang me about?'

* * *

Pogmorton had been moved to the hospital and, following a tearful reunion with Rushalka, was tucked in the next bed to hers, snoring softly. Swazzle had checked on the Night Packer while he'd been there, only to find the creature still in the grip of a fever. The remainder of the evening had been spent with Salkeld and the Goblins, the upshot of which was that Swazzle had a draig cage on order and a very thick head from rather too much Goblin ale.

Sitting in Mistress Botchett's kitchen, Swazzle rubbed his sore head and sipped his tea. As he'd filled Mistress Botchett's huge teapot, the draig had stuck its nose out of the firebox and made him jump. Hot water had splashed on its snout, but rather than injuring the creature as Swazzle had feared, the draig just shook the last sizzling drops from the end of its nose, narrowed its eyes at him and crawled back into the fire.

Swazzle was wondering whether his sour stomach would benefit from sustenance when Jamieson appeared in the kitchen, his face a mask of worry.

'What's up?' asked Swazzle, wincing as the words rang in his ears.

'Shush!' Jamieson flapped his hands. 'The Bishop's just arrived,' he hissed, 'He's upstairs now. We need to keep totally silent. If he realises we're here, we're done for.'

Not entirely sure what Jamieson was wittering on about, Swazzle held up his hand. The urgency in Jamieson's voice was making his hangover worse. After a few moments the throbbing began to subside.

'So who exactly is this Bishop?' asked Swazzle in a whisper.

'He's in charge of the ORG that the Master's a member of, ye ken?'

'No, I don't ken. ORG? What's one of those?'

'The Occult Research Group, O...R...G. Studies magical phenomena, creatures and such. Tries to find ways to use them for their own ends.'

'Creatures? Like...'

'Us. Yes.'

'I thought it was a bit odd a vicar owning an occult bookshop.'

'Oh, there's more to it than tha...'

A beautiful, unearthly song was drifting out of the firebox of Mistress Botchett's stove. It sounded like choirs of angels, harps and flutes all rolled into one eerily beautiful refrain. For a moment Swazzle and Jamieson were frozen to the spot as the melody rose and fell like a heartbeat, their cares and worries drifting away, carried aloft on the notes of the song.

Suddenly, Jamieson shook himself.

'Och, shite!' he muttered.


This week also marks the release of the thirteenth episode in The Great Chocolate Conspiracy multi-part story. You can find episode 13 over at Adam Byatt's blog A Fullness of Brevity. Don't forget to follow the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter for more updates on this project. For more information, and to read from the beginning, please go here.


Happy Thanksgiving!

I'd like to wish all of Future; Nostalgic's readers and friends a very Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, 18 November 2010

#FridayFlash: The UCF Stories #29: Resurrection

This episode is number 29 in my ongoing web serial, updated weekly as a part of #fridayflash. If you are new to The UCF Stories, or have missed an episode, you can find a full index of the episodes here.

The little Pixie hand gripped the side of the cauldron, gobbets of the foul liquid dripping from the tips of its fingers to sizzle in the embers of the fire. For a few moments all was silent before Aveena drew in a huge shuddering gasp. Pogmorton broke the surface simultaneously, hacking up great lumps of the cauldron's contents as he supported himself shakily on the side of the cauldron with both hands. Rivulets of it ran down his face and arms, coating a swathe of the cauldron with bubbling, foul-smelling ichor.

Swazzle could not help himself from a sudden intake of breath at the sight of his old friend swinging his leg gingerly over the edge of the cauldron and half climbing, half falling out of its embrace to land with a thud on the ground next to the fire. After a few moments of silent chest-heaving, Pogmorton wiped the sticky liquid from his eyes, rolled over and scanned his surroundings. Their eyes met and Swazzle's breath froze in his throat. It is Pogmorton, but it isn't, he thought as he caught sight of the flat, dead look behind Pogmorton's eyes.

Recognition seemed to dawn on Pogmorton's face, he grinned weakly at his friend before collapsing to the ground again. Involuntarily, Swazzle started forward, stopping only when Aveena waved him back. The witch had begun to stir but had not recovered her strength sufficiently to stop Pogmorton when he suddenly stiffened, raised his head and sniffed the air before falling upon her bleeding leg and lapping like a dog at the blood oozing from her wound.

Following a short struggle, Aveena managed to at last dislodge Pogmorton, who scampered a few paces away, drew his knees up to his chest and whimpered like a wounded puppy. Aveena eventually reached her knees, staunching the blood with the bandage she had placed next to the cauldron, all the while murmuring to Pogmorton in that sing-song voice parents use to calm frightened infants. Gradually this seemed to have an effect, Pogmorton's body uncoiling as the whimpering subsided. He allowed Aveena to wrap him in the blanket she had ready for the purpose and lead him to the circle's edge.

Swazzle found himself drawn forward even before Aveena beckoned to him. Forming a door in the circle's edge with her finger, Aveena passed a shivering Pogmorton through into Swazzle's arms before sealing the gap and beginning another ritual to close the sacred space.

' I alive?' Pogmorton whispered as Swazzle lead him towards the back door of Goddess Rising.

'Yes. Yes, I think so,' replied Swazzle trying to ignore the haunted look in Pogmorton's eyes. Mostly alive, he thought.

* * *

Following a brief flurry of activity all was calm in Mistress Botchett's kitchen. The children had been packed off to bed and it had been suggested in no uncertain terms to Master Botchett that he might like to go and find something useful to do elsewhere. Pogmorton, still swaddled in Aveena's blanket, reclined in Botchett's rocking chair, Swazzle sitting beside him on a stool at the kitchen table while Mistress Botchett bustled about, making tea and smothering thick doorsteps of fresh bread with honey.

'Just the thing when you've been re-born,' she muttered with more conviction than she felt.

Under the circumstances Mistress Botchett felt she could forego sniping at Swazzle about the scaly tail still dangling from the front of her now battered stove. Had it not been for the Draig's predilection for Gnome flesh, she could almost have liked the thing, it seemed a dab hand at keeping the stove fire going. There again, she considered having to feed the stove less wood small recompense for the possibility of being devoured any time she fancied a cup of tea.

* * *

Rev Beresford stood, leaning heavily on his cane as he shut off the video camera he had pointed out of his bedroom window upstairs at the rear of Goddess Rising. Lathered in a cold sweat and squinting from intently studying the camera's small monitor, Rev Beresford trembled with more than old age as he made his way to his study and picked up the phone.

'Your Grace? Hello, Your Grace, it's Beresford. Pardon? Yes, I apologise about telephoning you at this hour, but this really couldn't wait.' Rev Beresford went on to explain what he had just witnessed and video-taped.

'As you wish, Your Grace. First thing in the morning. I'll see you then. Goodnight, Your Grace.'

He replaced the receiver. Well, he thought, this was a turn up for the books, and no mistake.


This week also marks the release of the twelfth episode in The Great Chocolate Conspiracy multi-part story. You can find episode 12 over at Emma Newman's blog Post Apocalyptic Publishing. Don't forget to follow the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter for more updates on this project. For more information, and to read from the beginning, please go here.


Thursday, 11 November 2010

#FridayFlash: The UCF Stories #28: The Amulet, The Witch And The Womb

This episode is number 28 in my ongoing web serial, updated weekly as a part of #fridayflash. If you are new to The UCF Stories, you can read from the beginning here.

It was the night of the dark moon, and since Botchett had “fixed” the flickering streetlamp in the back lane, its intermittent orange glow no longer a distraction, there was little to disturb Aveena as she sat cross-legged in the back yard of Goddess Rising, only the faint traffic noise from the ring-road and infrequent bursts of merriment from revellers at the pub on the corner.

The basement residents were under strict instruction to remain inside and to keep away from the small, barred window that provided the only natural light into the cellar. Only Swazzle remained, hovering outside on the back step after helping Aveena with her preparations. Hopping from one foot to the other, not sure whether it was fear or excitement he felt at the coming ritual, he was sure of his embarrassment at seeing Aveena naked. He had never seen one of the Big Folk without their clothes before, male or female.

Aveena sat in the centre of the circle she had constructed, her back to Swazzle, illuminated only by the flickering glow of the small fire she had built in front of her, onto which she carefully placed a small iron cauldron. To the left of the fire lay a wickedly-sharp looking knife, the firelight reflecting writhing serpents in its blade. Next to that, three small crystal phials. These Swazzle recognised. One held Pogmorton's blood, gathered at the time of his death, another held Twinkle's blood, taken at the same time. A third was filled with Rushalka's tears, Swazzle still had a knot in his stomach at the way he had followed Aveena's instructions at Rushalka's hospital bedside, provoking her sobs with the blunt news of her brother's death. A little way off nestled the final item, a dull green stone the colour of phlegm and about the size of a hen's egg.

This was Lady Mandrake's amulet, a simmering malevolence seeping from it to the point that Aveena had placed it within its own circle. A circle within a circle. Swazzle was secretly relieved he had not had to have anything to do with the amulet. He had seen the effect obtaining it had had on Aveena's relationship with Botchett.

As the witching hour approached and the liquid in the cauldron gently warmed, wisps of steam beginning to curl into the chilly night air, Aveena began to rock gently backwards and forwards. Dead on the stroke of midnight, how did she know, Swazzle wondered, Aveena rose and began to whisper, the chant rising to a gentle murmur as she turned to her left and moved slowly round the circle.

Swazzle blushed and tried to avert his eyes as Aveena came around the circle towards him but found he could not, his gaze drawn to the Pogmorton tattoo on her thigh. He could have sworn it looked different about the eyes, clearer, glittering. Must be the firelight, Swazzle thought as Aveena turned her back on him, continuing her circular journey.

As the ritual progressed over the next half hour, Swazzle's rising unease made him wish he had not asked to be present. A ghostly mist swirled around the circle, drawn from the earth as Aveena passed, curling and eddying in the wake of her passage, forming a sharp edge where it met the circle's edge. Within the mist spectral shapes started to appear, among which Swazzle could make out a fox, a raven and several other, more worryingly humanoid outlines.

The chant continued, clouds rolling in slowly to blot out the stars. A sudden rumble of thunder made Swazzle jump. He released a breath he had not been aware of holding. Aveena's voice rose slowly, always remaining slightly louder than the thunder that rumbled closer with each booming peal. The shadows, seemingly energised by the approaching storm, capered at the circle's edge, growling and snapping at eachother while Aveena continued moving, oblivious, concentrating her energies on maintaining the chant unbroken.

Every third time she passed her starting point, Aveena bent without breaking step and cast one of the phials into the cauldron, which hissed like an angry cat on receipt of each morsel. Once all the phials had been fed to the cauldron, and the surface of the liquid took on an oily sheen, Aveena stopped dead, her back towards Swazzle. She knelt, cradling the amulet in her hands before spitting on it and tossing it into the cauldron. The instant the liquid closed over the amulet a silent shockwave blasted out from the cauldron, blowing away the mist surrounding the circle, scattering the creatures.

Aveena picked up the knife, thunder crashing overhead as she held it up to the storm. An instant before she began the downstroke, Swazzle had a sudden premonition of what was coming and clamped his eyes tight shut. As a result he did not witness Aveena plunge the tip of the knife into her thigh, nor did he watch as she drew the blade carefully around Pogmorton's outline. By the time he dared to peep through laced fingers, Aveena was holding something childlike and bloody above her head while blood pooled under her leg in the firelight.

The chant reached a crescendo with a sudden shout in a language Swazzle did not comprehend, and Aveena cast the body into the cauldron. Seconds later a single bolt of lightning arced through the night sky into the cauldron. For a split second Aveena's circle was alive with tendrils of silver light, which slithered and danced over its surface, giving it the appearance of a huge, domed spiderweb. Then it was gone, the night an inky black once again, only the odour of ozone on the breeze and spots dancing before Swazzle's eyes witness to the lightning's presence.

Aveena collapsed backwards, her outstretched hand falling dangerously close to the circle's edge. Swazzle stuffed his knuckles into his mouth as a Pixie-sized hand, still wreathed in the cauldron's slimy ichor, grasped the cauldron's edge one finger at a time.


This week also marks the release of the eleventh episode in The Great Chocolate Conspiracy multi-part story. You can find episode 11 over at Angie Capozello's blog Techtiggers' Soapbox. Don't forget to follow the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter for more updates on this project. For more information, and to read from the beginning, please go here.


Thursday, 4 November 2010

#FridayFlash: The UCF Stories #27: Questions, Questions

This episode is number 27 in my ongoing web serial, updated weekly as a part of #fridayflash. If you are new to The UCF Stories, you can read from the beginning here.

In his sitting room above Goddess Rising, Rev Beresford was on the phone.

'Yes, Your Grace, I am still working on it, but the witch seems somewhat distracted at present.' He paused, listening. 'There have been developments though. Pardon, Your Grace? No, on another matter I have been unable to inform you of as yet.' Another pause. 'Of course, Your Grace, as soon as I can get away. On the original matter, did you receive the video footage I sent you? You did? Good...'

Rev Beresford's voice trailed off, his eyes drawn to the wooden cabinet on his sideboard that had begun, very gently, to vibrate.

'My apologies, Your Grace, I will have to call you back.' Rev Beresford replaced the receiver and struggled to his feet, his arthritic knees creaking in protest. The vibration had become a rattle and he began to worry the cabinet would shake itself onto the floor. Not wishing to risk damage to its valuable contents, Rev Beresford shuffled towards it as fast as his old legs would carry him, absently picking up his copy of The Daily Telegraph newspaper as he went.

By the time he reached the sideboard, heart pounding and palms clammy, the vibration had become quite violent. Resting his hip against the sideboard to roll up the newspaper, Rev Beresford felt the vibration coursing through his whole body. Steadying himself with one hand, he carefully reached into his waistcoat pocket for the small, brass key and reached out towards the cabinet.

'Hold still,' he muttered as the cabinet tried to escape its key, jiggling across the sideboard top.

Eventually, he managed to insert the key into the lock and, taking a deep breath, opened the lock. The cabinet doors shot open, Rev Beresford staggering back with a gasp clutching his cane. Something flew out of the cabinet like a bullet, buzzing around his head, easily eluding the newspaper he swatted ineffectually at it with. With a high-pitched squeaking cackle, the old fairy flew straight at the Rev's face, raking his cheek with razor sharp claws. Rev Beresford cried out in equal measures of shock and pain and the fairy, still cackling, sped off, flying a tight spiral course that took it straight up the chimney.

As Rev Beresford hobbled over to his armchair and poured himself a large whisky the fairy, trailing smoke from its wings shot out of the chimney pot with a “phut” like a cork from a bottle and climbed into the cold morning air. It was last seen riding a very recalcitrant seagull towards the climbing eastern sun.

After a few minutes when the whisky had taken the edge of the Rev's jangling nerves, he risked approaching the cabinet again. How on earth did Oberon escape he wondered, the thought freezing as he spied the fairy, wild-eyed and thrashing as it attempted to loose its bonds.

'My goodness!' said Rev Beresford reaching into his pocket for his spectacles. Bending forward, he took a closer look at the cabinet's new incumbent. Similar in size to the previous occupant, this fairy, he noticed, seemed a little more richly dressed, though the stain on the front of its trousers seemed a little suspect. And it looked drunk.

'Well, well,' Rev Beresford straightened up slowly. 'I'll have a proper look at you later, my lad,' and with that he shut the doors of the cabinet, locked them and dropped the key back into his waistcoat pocket.

* * *

Swazzle bumped into Salkeld on his way to the hospital to see Rushalka.

'Captain Swazzle,' Salkeld waved and hurried toward him. 'I've been looking for you. There's something at the hospital I think you ought to see.'

'I was just on my way there now,' Swazzle fell into step with Salkeld. 'I was meaning to ask you, how did you survive that fairy attack?'

'It was a close run thing,' replied Salkeld, hoisting up his shirt to reveal an ugly scar. 'Still hurts a bit, but I'm getting better day by day.'

'I also owe you an apology, and my thanks for rescuing us. How did you find us?'

'That was the Goblins,' chuckled Salkeld. 'I've been spending quite a bit of time with them since we got here. Their healer is,' he lowered his voice to a whisper, 'Better than ours. I owe my good health to him really.'

Swazzle raised an eyebrow.

'No, seriously. I've no idea what he did to me, don't remember much of it, but it seems to have worked.' Salkeld flexed his arm. 'See?'

Swazzle saw and looked suitably impressed.

'You'll have to meet him,' Salkeld continued, 'He's quite something. From the Balkans originally, at least that's what I think he said, my Goblintongue's a bit rusty. Came over here after the siege of Sarajevo apparently, which is where he learned his doctoring, so he says.'

Swazzle and Salkeld chatted in amiable companionship as they walked to the hospital. Once Swazzle got Salkeld off his hero-worship of the Goblin healer, he began to explain his predicament with the Draig.

'Aha!' beamed Salkeld, 'I know someone who might be able to help.'

Swazzle looked questioningly at him.

'Another of the Balkan Goblins who came over with Mratic, that's the healer's name by the way. Anyway, this other chap's a dab hand at make do and mend, so he's bound to be able to scrounge you something up. You know the Goblins have installed gas heating in their burrow?'

'No I didn't. How'd they manage that?'

'Broke through the building's gas pipe and rigged up something involving garden hose and tap fittings apparently. I'm still a little hazy on the details. We should go and have a word when we're finished at the hospital.'

Reaching the large tented hospital, Swazzle and Salkeld ducked inside, a ragged cheer erupting from the patients when they saw Swazzle. He was on the point of asking where Rushalka was when a nursing Pixie bustled up.

'Captain Swazzle? Yes? Good. Follow me please.' She turned without waiting for Swazzle's reply and led him and Salkeld to an alcove, curtained with blankets, in the corner. 'In here,' she whispered, holding the blankets back for them to enter.

A strange creature inhabited the alcove's only cot. Thin and gangling, the creature was apparently covered head to foot in soft black fur. Its emaciated arms lay on top of the bedclothes, ending in wide, spindly hands, each finger tipped with a sharp black claw. The large eyes were closed tight, a sheen of sweat dampening the fur of its forehead.

'It has a fever,' the nurse explained. 'We're not quite sure what to do with it.'

'What is it?' Swazzle asked, aghast.

'A Night Packer,' whispered Salkeld. 'It was with the prisoners you rescued.'

Swazzle was shocked, 'Why would the fairies take it prisoner, I thought they were allies?'


This week also marks the release of the tenth episode in The Great Chocolate Conspiracy multi-part story. You can find episode 10 over at Cecilia Dominic's blog Cecilia's Random Writings. Don't forget to follow the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter for more updates on this project. For more information, and to read from the beginning, please go here.

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