Output list





shadow's (shadow on UKA) UKArchive
225 Archived submissions found.
Title
Immersion Time (posted on: 02-05-16)
Forecast: damp

There is no time, the penguins said To work out what to do instead. The waters rise, the seas expand The tides encroach upon the land Your coastlines crumble, plains are drowned. Give up. Retreat to higher ground. There is no way to make amends Men and whales could have been friends. You slaughtered us for your delight Now feel the global ocean's might. Your cities underwater stay And over them the dolphins play. The fish you hunted through the seas Now swim unhindered where they please As men cry 'This was never planned' And scramble for a place to stand While overhead the storm clouds meet And waves come lapping at their feet.
Archived comments for Immersion Time
sweetwater on 02-05-2016
Immersion Time
Absolutely love this poem, it should be heard far and wide as far as I am concerned. Damn man and his greed, more people need to be aware of how much damage we have inflicted on this planet and even more so on our fellow creatures. We need to take heed of warnings such as yours before it really does come to pass. Brilliant poem, cleverly written, into fav's for me.
Sue xx.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sue, glad you liked it.

pdemitchell on 04-05-2016
Immersion Time
Don't let Trump and the other neurotic climate shift deniers read this! Cheers Mitch.

Author's Reply:
Can Trump read? Or understand what he reads? If he gets to be President - Help! Thanks for comment.


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock - the beginning (posted on: 12-02-16)
These are the revised opening pages of my comic novel -now finally finished!

Jabez Pigstock was in a wardrobe. Luckily it was a capacious, walk-in wardrobe. It even had a sliding door so he did not have to hold it shut with his little finger. All the same, he was not a happy man. Articles of feminine attire wound themselves round his neck, while clothes hangers tried to poke his eyes out. He was afraid he might sneeze. As always, when this kind of thing happened, he blamed his mother. He could have brazened the situation out. Said he had opened the wrong door while searching for the bog. It was only his automatic guilt reflex which had sent him diving for cover. That's what came of having a mother who could sniff out his misdeeds before they'd even crossed his mind. He felt guilty even when he was innocent. The noises were getting louder. He wished the pair on the bed would hurry up. How long did they need? He could manage a quickie in five minutes max – less if he was pushed. He didn't want to be away from the party too long. Someone might notice. He could see nothing from inside the wardrobe but he could hear, only too well, the rhythmic pounding of bodies on mattress. And other sounds. There wasn't much you could call conversation; sighs and groans, the occasional squeal, but he'd recognized the voices. That was a surprise, and no mistake: Crispin Wedge, the head of Project Development, having it off with the Chairman's daughter. Bit old for her, surely? At least it wasn't Luke Sharpe. Jabez was not sure he could have stayed hidden in the wardrobe if it had been Sharpe. All the same, he was disappointed in Melanie. What on earth could she see in a fat balding git like Wedge? Jabez was surprised he was up to it. The man was ancient, borderline wrinkly. Still, Viagra was a marvelous thing. He certainly seemed to be giving it his all. 'My little fuzzy-wuzzy bunny-wunny … ' 'Careful! Wrong hole.' 'Sorry precious - that better?' 'Oh yes. Yes, yes.' The noises off reached a climax. Silence, apart from the sound of heavy breathing, fell at last. Inside the wardrobe, Jabez waited. Come on, he urged silently, you can't stay there all day. He had cramp in his left calf, and his nose itched. Oh God don't let them go to sleep … He sighed. The day had started off so well. The Chairman's Garden Party was the highlight of the year at Amalgamated Parts plc. Senior staff mingled with the lower orders in the grounds of his up-market residence on the outskirts of Bliscester. The weather was fine, the catering was lavish and the Spanish sparkling wine kept flowing. Even having to sit through the Chairman's Welcoming Address did not dampen his mood. Trouble was, old Bilkington-Pratt didn't half go on, and that champagne-type went straight through you. By the time the word flow finally dribbled to a stop Jabez wasn't the only one with crossed legs and a preoccupied expression. He lost no time in making it back to the house, but the queue for the downstairs bog was already snaking across the hall and out of the door. So he used his initiative and climbed the stairs. As luck would have it, the first door he opened was a bedroom, but he spotted an en-suite bathroom and availed himself of the facilities. It was only as he left, adjusting his clothing, that he took a proper look at the room. Then the significance of the cluttered dressing-table and the tangle of thongs and bras on the bed dawned on him. This must be Melanie's room. Melanie, the Chairman's luscious daughter. He wouldn't't mind getting his hands on her. Fat chance. He'd had the brush-off good and proper when he'd tried it on at the Christmas do. No, she only had eyes for that public school prick Luke Sharpe. What women saw in him, Jabez could not imagine. But never mind that - an opportunity like this was not to be missed. No telling what might come from a quick poke around in Melanie's drawers. It seemed a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, while engrossed in groping through her knickers he missed the sound of approaching footsteps, until voices outside the door alerted him to his danger. A moment of wild panic ensued. Where could he hide? Bathroom? Too far, the door was already opening. No room under the bed … The bedsprings sounded again, and someone padded to the bathroom. Just as well he hadn't hidden there, Jabez thought. There came the sound of flowing water, then the flushing of the lavatory. The footsteps returned. 'Light me a fag would you, precious,' said Melanie. 'You shouldn't be smoking. It's not good for you.' 'Don't be a fusspot.' Jabez could smell the smoke. He could do with one himself. 'What are you looking for?' asked Melanie. 'My tablets. Blood pressure. I haven't taken them for a day or two, ever since I got your message.' 'Why ever not?' 'They have this unfortunate side effect - and I didn't want to disappoint you.' 'That - that was sweet of you.' 'I hope everything was satisfactory?' 'Oh, quite. And how was it for you? Am I as good as Mummy?' 'Yes - I mean - your mother and I - just good - ' Melanie laughed. 'Don't be silly! Everyone knows you and Mummy have been at it for years. Everyone except Daddy, of course.' Jabez listened, agog. He had never been so agog in his life. There must be some way he could turn this to his advantage. He was not a greedy man. His needs were small - a few hundred thou a year and a Ferrari with personalized number-plates would do him fine - and now he sensed his dreams might be within his grasp. One hint of what he knew, in the right ear, and he could make Employee of the Year, no problem 'Well, I - er - shouldn't we be going downstairs?' said Wedge. 'Someone may miss us.' 'Relax. There's plenty of time. Come and sit down, we need to have a little talk.' The bed creaked again. 'There. Comfy now?' 'Melanie dear, you do realize,' Wedge sounded nervous, 'that Glynnis will never agree to a divorce?' Melanie laughed again. 'Silly sausage! It's nothing to do with that. No, I've been asked - ' She was interrupted by a knock on the bedroom door. ''Melanie dear, are you there?'' It was Lady Bilkington-Pratt. Jabez heard a sudden flurry of activity; and the sliding door opened then closed again. To his horror, he was no longer alone in the wardrobe. It was a big wardrobe, but not that big. Jabez made himself as small as he could, hands held stiffly to his sides. His companion seemed unaware of his presence, and he wanted to keep it that way. He heard the bedroom door open and close, then another female voice. 'Melanie, dear, it's time - why have you taken your clothes off? 'I had to change. That lout Pigstock poured sangria all down my front.' Cheeky bitch! He had never been remotely within poring distance of her front. 'Well, don't be long. Your father wants to start the presentations in ten minutes. Have you managed to speak to Crispin?' 'About the redundancies, you mean? I don't see why Daddy can't do his own dirty work.' 'You know how your father hates shedding staff - especially old friends. Crispin's always been fond of you; we thought it might soften the blow.' In the wardrobe, Crispin Wedge was having some kind of a fit. He shook so much the door started to rattle. A low keening could be heard, gradually rising in volume. In panic, Jabez put his hand over the other man's mouth. No use. He found something light and frilly in his pocket and stuffed it into the gaping cavity. The noise stopped. 'Okay, okay, I'm working on it,' said Melanie. 'Now, can I get dressed?' 'Hurry up, dear, they're all waiting.' 'You go. I won't be long.' The door closed again. 'Okay, Crispy, you can come out now.' Wedge had begun to sag at the knees. Jabez was trying to support him when the wardrobe door slid open and they both landed face down on the carpet. 'What the hell -?' squeaked Melanie. 'What are you doing in my wardrobe?' 'Never mind,' gasped Jabez. Normally the sight of Melanie clad in nothing but an uplift bra and her thong would have engaged all his attention, but at that moment he was more concerned with the inert form of the head of Development. 'Is he usually this colour?' he said.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock - the beginning
pdemitchell on 12-02-2016
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock - the beginning
Brilliant farce and a fitting end for Sir Crispin Wedge. Well writ wi' a whimsy or three. Paul

Author's Reply:
Glad to have raised a smile - nothing cheers like a corpse on the carpet, I find.

sweetwater on 13-02-2016
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock - the beginning
Had me enthralled from the begining to my giggle at the last line. Great fun ;-)) sue.x

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the kind words. I've just put it out on Kindle btw - details posted on the 'Members Books' forum.

Andrea on 14-02-2016
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock - the beginning
Great stuff - and brilliant to see you back! Missed you πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:


Elf Rescue (posted on: 21-12-15)
An elf falls off Santa's sleigh ... can he get back in time for Christmas? A fairy story for the children.

It was the first day of the Christmas holidays, and very cold. The grass was white with frost, and Sadie had to wear her thick coat and her tiger hood. She was playing in the garden, bouncing her ball against the fence, when she heard the noise. It was a whimpering, sniffly sound and it came from the base of a nearby bush. Sadie crept forward, parted the branches and peered inside. There was someone sitting on the ground, a very small someone, no bigger than one of her Barbie dolls, though rather fatter. He sat on the ground, his knees drawn up and his arms wrapped tightly round them, shivering violently. 'Are you all right?' asked Sadie. 'No,' moaned the little creature. 'I'm freezing.' 'You'd better come in the house, then.' She picked him up. He felt like a lump of ice, and his long ears were blue with cold. She took him up to her room and put him by the radiator. 'Thank you,' he gasped. 'I don't think I'd have lasted much longer.' 'Who are you?' asked Sadie. 'My name's Sadie, what's yours?' 'Ymadriopascatoriel.' 'Pardon?' He sighed. 'That's my elf name. You can call me Megalugs.' 'You're an elf?' squeaked Sadie. 'I've just started working for Santa. We were on a training run, and I fell off the back of the sleigh. Now I don't know how to get back.' 'But we're going to see Santa this afternoon, to tell him what I want for Christmas.' cried Sadie. 'At the Winter Wonderland. You could come too.' 'Brilliant,' said the elf. 'Thanks ever so.' So after lunch (the elf had an eggcupful of coke and half a chocolate digestive) Sadie put Megalugs into her rucksack and they all set off in the car. Her mother drove, and Sadie sat in the back. After a while she opened her rucksack a little so they could talk. 'I've always wondered,' she said, 'how does Santa manage to get to all the children in the world, on the same night? He must be awfully fast.' 'Oh,' said the elf, 'he can be in lots of different places, all at the same time.' 'By magic?' 'I think they call it Quantum Mechanics; but I'm only an apprentice elf, I don't really understand.' 'I suppose that's how he's in all the different shops, as well.' 'I wouldn't know about that.' 'And lots of houses don't have chimneys any more. Ours doesn't. How does he get in?' 'Wormholes,' said Megalugs. He shook his head. 'Don't ask.' The Winter Wonderland was beautiful. Everywhere was covered with pretend snow, which did not make your feet cold, and there were life-size models of fairytale people like Cinderella and Snow White, which moved as if they were real. The reindeer were real, and let Sadie stroke their noses. Then they all went looking for Santa Claus. There was a very long queue to see him, and a notice outside his booth, saying 'Back in 15 minutes'. They waited for ages, and Sadie was bored. 'I want to go to the toilet,' she said. 'Must you? Oh, all right,' said her mother. 'But don't be long. I'll keep our place.' As soon as they were alone, Sadie let Megalugs out of the rucksack. 'Let's go round the back of Santa's house, we might be able to see him.' The back of Santa's house was made of planks, like a garden shed. Santa was sitting outside, drinking from a large mug. He had taken off his beard and hung it on the arm of his chair. 'That's not the real Santa!' cried Sadie. 'No, he's not,' agreed Megalugs. 'What are we going to do?' 'I don't know. Let's walk in the Magic Forest for a bit, while I think.' In the Magic Forest the trees were cover in silver glitter, their branches studded with a myriad sparkling lights. Faint, tinkling music came from all around. Other children were walking there as well, but all were quiet, wide eyed with the wonder of it all. There was a strange tingle in the air. 'It really is magic,' breathed Sadie. 'Sometimes when enough people believe in something really strongly, it can bend reality,' said the elf. 'I think we may be near a wormhole.' 'You'll be able to get home?' 'If I find it before it implodes. Ah – look!' A patch of air by the path started to shimmer. Shifting lights revolved rapidly, like a small whirlpool or water going down the plughole. It made Sadie feel dizzy. 'Don't come too close!' cried the elf. 'I'll tell Santa to bring you whatever you want for Christmas. Thanks for everything – goodbye!' He dived into the whirlpool, which immediately shrank to nothing, and vanished with a faint 'pop'. 'Goodbye,' whispered Sadie. She went back to the queue. She thought she might as well see Santa and get her present, even if he wasn't the real one. At last she reached the front of the queue. 'Ho, ho, ho,' cried the fake Santa. 'And what do you want, little girl?' 'Can I have a book on Quantum Mechanics?' said Sadie.
Archived comments for Elf Rescue
e-griff on 21-12-2015
Elf Rescue
Excellent! As one who has just been debating relativity with Simon and Shy on the forums, I bow to your superior grasp of science. Lovely story.

Merry Christmas, Miss Verde.

johnG

Author's Reply:
Thank you very much, Mr Griff, and a Merry Christmas to you too.


A Daniel (posted on: 30-11-15)
... come to judgement?

Graham Longshaw lived with his mother; though he was not thinking of her as he sat on the bench by the bus stop. He was waiting for his latest subject to arrive, and if she didn't come soon she would miss the bus. They would have to wait for the next one. She might notice him. Not that any of his subjects ever had. A man who lived with his mother was not the sort people noticed. Ah, here she came, trotting along on her high heels, her bag clutched to her chest like a shield. Graham boarded the bus after her and took the seat behind. He wrote the time in his notebook, under the entry for Subject 13: woman, early thirties, medium height, brown hair. She had dragged her hair back into a pony tail today. It needed washing. He pulled his hat down over his forehead. This was a battered black object which had belonged to his father, and had hung on the hall stand ever since his death. Graham wore it for luck, not that his father had ever had much. As a disguise it was a bit feeble, but it made him feel like a different person. The subject was speaking on her phone. 'No, I haven't, not for ages . . . well, of course I'd tell you.' She glanced round, as if checking for enemies. It was her habitual air of mild paranoia which had first attracted Graham's attention. A woman with a secret, he'd thought. 'If he bothers you again let me know ... don't worry, I'm all right ... yes, really. Look, I've got to go.' She rose and made for the exit, Graham close behind. When the bus had gone he followed her, being careful to hang back. Never shadow the suspect too closely, the manual had said, in case they rumble you. He had found the book in a charity shop, and thought, why not? Why shouldn't he? More future in it than filling shelves at the Pound Shop, and that only part time. Not that he could have worked longer hours, with mother the way she was. She'd been worse lately. You didn't need any qualifications, as long as you were observant. Of course he wasn't ready yet, he needed more practice, but maybe one day, when mother – He halted abruptly at a corner. She had stopped halfway down a cul-de-sac, key in hand, by a door that opened straight off the street. The key turned, the door opened, she vanished. Now what? Graham ambled down the street. At the end he stopped to write the house number down in his book. He had her address now. He could knock on her door - no, too soon for that. This was just a preliminary reconnaissance. He started back, paused at her window. It was shrouded in dingy net. He sensed rather than saw a hint of movement inside. The door opened. 'Who the hell are you?' Graham stood, slack-jawed. 'Selling something? If it's double-glazing I don't want it.' She seemed bigger close to. 'Hang on, you've been following me. Don't say you haven't, I spotted you at the bus stop. And yesterday, in the shop.' 'I – ' 'So what are you playing at?' Graham swallowed. 'I'm a detective,' he said. Her hand came up to cup her mouth. 'Police? Has something happened?' She glanced down the street. 'Here, you'd better come in. They'll all be looking.' Inside, she lifted a tangle of tights and a slipper off the end of the sofa. 'Sit down.' He lowered himself into the space. Every flat surface in the room was covered with stuff. There was a faint smell of dirty clothes stashed in cupboards. She picked up a mug half full of a murky liquid. 'Want a coffee?' 'No thanks.' 'So what's he been up to now? 'He?' 'I suppose he's still giving this as his address. Well, for your information, he hasn't lived here for six months, nearly. I'm not having you tearing the place apart either, not without a warrant. And shouldn't you have a badge or something?' 'I've got a card.' He had, too, with more at home, courtesy of a free offer on the Internet. All printed with his professional name and everything. 'Daniel Hunter, Private Investigator,' she read. 'The sneaky bastard! He put you onto me, didn't he? What does he think you'll find – that I've got another bloke? Chance would be a fine thing. And what's it got to do with him anyway? Tell him he can mind his own business.' Her face twisted. Was she going to cry? Please don't let her cry. 'He's got no right. I put up with enough while he was here, now he's buggered off he can leave me alone.' He felt her spittle on his face. Talk about a lion's den. Though she was more stray cat than lioness. She had a spot coming on the side of her nose. 'Harassment, this is, there's a law against it.' She waved the mug dangerously close. Oh God, she was going to throw coffee all over him, how would he explain that to mother? 'And you can piss off as well, Mr Daniel Private Dick. Tell that creep to stay away from me. I don't want to see him or hear him again, ever. You tell him!' The door slammed behind him. He took off his hat to wipe his forehead. It was time he got home anyway, mother would be fretting. He walked back along the street, Daniel slipping away from him with every step. By the time he reached the main road he was Graham again. Only he smiled, as he waited for the bus. She believed I was a proper detective, he thought. She really did. And in his chest there uncoiled a thin small worm of hope.
Archived comments for A Daniel
sweetwater on 03-12-2015
A Daniel
I enjoyed this, I like the way you add odd bits and pieces to give a sense of interest and reality, the spot on her nose for example makes the people come to life. I would have liked to know a bit more about what the interest in being a private detective was all about, and a bit more about why he lives with his mother. Sue.x

Author's Reply:
Well, he lives with his mother because he somehow never got round to leaving ... and now she needs him, so he can't. But he still has his dreams. Glad you liked it.
Moya

franciman on 04-12-2015
A Daniel
I must have missed this first time round. Really great story. It hangs together so well. Like Sue says, the fine detail gives authenticity and evocation. You've created a memorable character; probably two. He's the more complex but she is quite compelling.
A great read.
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
Thanks for commenting - Sue as well - I was starting to think this one had vanished without trace! It's one of my favourites too. Glad you liked it.
Moya


Hopalong (posted on: 23-11-15)
Another frog tale

He sees it as he draws level with the town hall steps. It crouches low, flattening itself as if trying to merge with the stone. He leans forward, squinting in the dim light. Overbalancing, he lands on the steps. 'What you doin' here? Little frogs should be in bed, this time o' night.' He swigs from the can in his hand. 'Haven't you got a home to go to? Me neither. Chucked me out. You're drunk, she said. Course I am. Pissed as a newt. You know any newts? You're all amphi- . . . amphi-thingies, aren't you?' He drinks again, shakes the can in disgust. 'Empty.' The can clatters down the street, and he turns again to the frog. It has not moved. 'Shouldn't be here. Little froggies should be home by now. Like me. Only she won't let me in. You should be on – on a lily pad. Yeah, that's right. On the pond in the park. I'll take you to the park, we can sleep there. Pond for you, bench for me. How about it?' He stretches out a hand. The frog moves at last, hopping down from step to step. 'Hey, don't go! You'll get trod on!' He lumbers to his feet and follows its progress down the street. 'Wait for me! Don't just bugger off. Thought you were my friend.' He clutches a passing lamp post for support. The sodium light picks out the frog, a black dot against the wet pavement. 'Hang on, I'll sing you a song, how'd it go? Little green frog, swimming in the water, little green frog, doin' what he oughter . . . ' His voice dies away. The frog hops steadily onward, towards the main road. He staggers after. At the kerb he halts. The frog is already a quarter of the way across. 'No, you'll be squashed – ' Headlights approach, rapidly. A horn blares. 'I'll get you!' Splat. The frog reaches the other side of the road and continues on its way.
Archived comments for Hopalong
Rab on 24-11-2015
Hopalong
Nice twist, and nicely balanced story. Have you never gone in for the weekly flash challenge? I think that Golden Egg would be yours in no time!

Author's Reply:
Flatterer! Glad you liked the story anyway. Thanks.

Bozzz on 25-11-2015
Hopalong
My experience of splatted frogs has been mainly when walking along French country lanes. This delightful story brings a cheerful slant to parallel two down and out lives.
I have no frog-speak but can only hope the driver skidded and overturned the car in his attempt at murder. Much enjoyed the read...David.

Author's Reply:
At least it wasn't the frog which got splatted this time. Thanks for comment.
Moya

sweetwater on 26-11-2015
Hopalong
I really enjoyed this, although I did feel sorry for the homeless guy, he seemed very nice so it was a shame he got squished, on the other hand I was relieved the frog got home safely. This story has great charm and reminded me of a very good fairy story for adults. You are a very clever writer. πŸ™‚ Sue.

Author's Reply:
Well, it was just a bit of fun, really. Gad you enjoyed it.

franciman on 28-11-2015
Hopalong
great writing, Maya. lifelike dialogue and great atmospherics.
Rob is right, of course. You would be good for the weekly challenge.
cheers,
Jim


Author's Reply:
Thank you, much appreciated. What is this challenge - some sort of duel?


Colours (posted on: 20-11-15)
An emotional spectrum

Green the colour of nausea gathering, rising in roiling waves to gush forth its bile Red the colour of pain' lancing surging along the nerves in darts of fire Orange is warm, comfort glowing the purr of a ginger cat Blue is calm after storm, still pool cloudless sky Purple is a bruise Grey, maroon the louring shades, stick in the mud brown, heavy on the soul Yellow brings hope, piercing the gloom, flooding the world with sunlight
Archived comments for Colours
sweetwater on 20-11-2015
Colours
I love your take on these colours, after much thought I see only two the same as you, red and yellow which I find interesting. The images you have summoned are very strong. πŸ™‚ Sue.

Author's Reply:
I think I was in rather a gloomy mood when I wrote this one - another day I would have had a different take on them. Especially green, which I like (on trees, anyway). Thanks for commenting.
Moya

franciman on 20-11-2015
Colours
Like the images, strong and provocative. Purple, in the midst of more effusive word images, is extremely powerful. This piece is a little like you turning up your skirts so we can glimpse your underwear. In a good, artistic way, I might add!
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
My underwear? Believe me, you don't want to go there! But thanks for the comment.
Moya

ValDohren on 20-11-2015
Colours
Lovely and imaginative, finishing on my favourite colour, yellow.
Val X

Author's Reply:
Yellow does cheer you up, doesn't it? Thank you.


The Radiance of her Smile (posted on: 16-11-15)    
Her smile was the first thing you noticed. The warmth of it, the way it started with her eyes crinkling and spread to the corners of her mouth ... when she smiled she was transformed.

Her smile was the first thing you noticed. The warmth of it, the way it started with her eyes crinkling and spread to the corners of her mouth. Her lips would twitch, and part to show her teeth. She had lovely teeth, very white and even. I suppose she wasn't much to look at, not really. Some people might even have called her plain, but when she smiled she was transformed. She lit up that dingy pub like sunshine after snow. I carried my pint to a quiet corner, where I could watch her without it being obvious. It was a treat to see her work, every movement precise and yet graceful. I could have sat there all night. I started going to the White Hart regularly. She always smiled when she saw me. Of course, she smiled at all the customers, but the way she smiled at me was somehow special. It made me feel that we were friends, even though we never really spoke. She was much too busy for that, but there was a connection, a sympathy. I could tell. I knew her name: LaMorna. It was on the badge she wore pinned to her blouse. Pretty name, isn't it? I worked out when her shifts were. No point in going there on the nights she wasn't working. I'm not one for spending all my time in the pub. She never got off till late, which worried me. A young girl shouldn't be walking alone at that time of night. So one night I decided to follow her, to make sure she was all right. She lived quite near, she had a flat in one of the big houses on Dunbridge Lane. I didn't want her to see me in case it made her nervous, so I kept my distance. It was that dark stretch after you turn off from the main street that worried me. It's lonely there, with those high hedges and the street lights so far apart. Anyone could be lurking in the shadows. I took to following her every night. I would drink up just before she was due to finish, then I'd slip out and wait for her by the corner. Once I'd seen she was back inside her own door and I knew she was safe, I could go home to get some sleep. We were quite friendly by now. She knew what I liked to drink without me having to ask. Sometimes I even got her to myself for a few minutes, when the pub was quiet. The manager was a nuisance, though, he was always hovering nearby. He kept sending her off to attend to other people, when we were having a nice chat. I'm afraid I did not like him at all. I thought he was far too familiar with LaMorna. He stood too close, for a start, and he used to touch her on her arm or shoulder, when his wife wasn't looking. I even saw him pat her bottom once. She kept smiling, of course. She had to, she would have lost her job if she'd complained, but it made me angry. I loved her, you see. I wanted to tell her, but the right moment never seemed to come. And she was so young – what if she had laughed at me? I tried to let her know in other ways, like bringing her little presents. Nothing fancy, just stuff from the garden; a few sticks of rhubarb, say, or a bunch of dahlias. She was always grateful but – I dunno – maybe I embarrassed her a bit because after a while she seemed to be avoiding me. I'd spot her as soon as I walked in the door, and by the time I got to the bar she'd have vanished, and one of the other girls or the manager would be serving instead. This hurt at first until I realised why she was doing it. Obviously she cared about me, really, but did not want other people to know what was going on. It was to be our secret. Then I made a bad mistake. It was entirely my fault, I accept that. I was still keeping an eye on her as she walked home after work. I must have grown careless and forgotten she didn't know I was there – or maybe, subconsciously, I wanted to be found out. At any rate, I followed too closely, and she turned and saw me. It must have given her a shock. She looked almost frightened, and before I could shout out not to worry, it was only me, she started to run. I chased after but I could not catch her before she reached home and slammed the door. I knocked, I even shouted through the letter box. I only wanted to reassure her, but she never answered. I hardly slept that night, I was so upset. Surely she didn't think I meant her any harm? The next evening I went to the pub to explain, but there was no sign of her. Only the manager, glaring at me. He told me I was barred! For upsetting his staff, he said. He wouldn't listen to a word from me, just told me to get out, and if he caught me hanging around he'd call the police. I could not believe it. My LaMorna would never have turned against me. I knew it was all a misunderstanding. It would be cleared up if I could speak to her, but how to reach her? I could not enter the pub, and the manager had started running her home in his car after work. I blamed him of course. He'd been trying to separate us for months and now he thought he had succeeded. However, I was not prepared to give in. Not yet. I missed her so much. I missed the odd words we exchanged. I missed watching her as she worked, the expert way she pulled a pint, her laugh as she chatted over the bar. Most of all, I missed her smile. I was determined to make a last attempt to win her back. One night I waited in the shadows by her porch. I thought, if he dropped her by the gate I might manage to speak to her before she reaches the house. A few words were all I needed. But the car drove right in, the headlights blinding me for a moment before they both got out and went inside. I was devastated. The thought of her with him made me feel sick. She knew he was married. Did she not care? I suppose he told her he would leave his wife for her, and she believed him, poor girl. I know his sort - only out for what they can get. He'd break her heart, she might never smile again. I decided to write to her. In the letter I warned her of the misery which might be in store if she carried on with what she was doing. I told her that I would always be there for her, and if she needed me, to leave a note under the mat in her porch. I pushed the letter through her letterbox and waited. She did not reply, so I wrote again. And again. I checked the house every day, and at eventually I saw a note sticking out from under the mat. It said 'Tonight. Eleven o'clock.' I have never felt as happy as I was that night, waiting for her. I didn't hide in the darkness this time, I stood under the porch light. At last I heard a car stop and footsteps approaching. I called her name. Then shadowy figures rushed me, I don't know how many. Something struck the side of my head, knocking me to the ground and heavy boots landed blows on my chest, my stomach. I curled up, trying to protect my head. It seemed to go on forever. When it ended, as I lay on the ground whimpering, I saw her. She looked down at me, the light from the porch shining on her face. She was smiling.
Archived comments for The Radiance of her Smile
sweetwater on 17-11-2015
The Radiance of her Smile
I don't usually read prose, but once I had started reading this one I couldn't turn back, it really drew me in and I had to find out how it ended. Not sure if I expected it to finish that way or not, which added to the interest. I thought it was very well written and thought out. Thoroughly enjoyed it. πŸ™‚ Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Glad you enjoyed it, I wasn't sure if it worked.
Moya

franciman on 20-11-2015
The Radiance of her Smile
For me all good writing starts with 'What if?' This piece gripped me from the off. Yes, you might know where it's going, but only its general direction. The attraction and the squint logic are brittle and oh so real. Really well executed this. One I will read again.
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
Thanks - glad you liked it. And thanks for 'hotting' me, I could do with some heat at the moment!


Eggbound (posted on: 13-11-15)
A minor diversion

The driver picked up his microphone and coughed. 'The company regrets that there will be a slight delay, due to there being a dead kangaroo on the bus.' The passengers groaned. 'It's a bit much,' grumbled the fat lady in the green jodhpurs. 'First we got stuck behind those flying pigs in Aldershot – now this! Some of us want to get home tonight.' 'How come they let a kangaroo on in the first place?' demanded the dwarf with the false teeth. 'Did it have a ticket?' 'What I'd like to know,' said the off-duty detective, 'is – what did it die of?' 'I don't care,' said the fat lady, 'as long as it's not catching. Can't we dump it and get on?' 'I'm sorry, madam,' said the driver, 'but we have to go through the usual procedures. Was anyone accompanying the animal?' The passengers avoided each other's eyes. No-one owned up. 'In that case, we have to stay put pending investigation. That's the regulations. I'm not licensed to transport the deceased, human or animal.' 'But how long will that take?' The fat lady began to cry. 'Perhaps I may be of assistance,' said the detective. 'I have had considerable experience in solving similar mysteries.' He made his way to the back seat, where the marsupial corpse lay stretched out on its back, front paws held stiffly aloft. 'Let me see . . . aha!' He reached into the kangaroo's pocket and produced an egg. Holding it up, he looked solemnly round at the others. 'No-one must leave this bus. I suspect there has been – fowl play.' From her perch on the luggage rack, Chicklit the hen watched with concern. She nudged her friend Eggwina. 'They've found the egg.' 'Oh no! We'll never get it back now.' 'It was a stupid idea, giving her one.' 'I was sorry for her. She looked a bit broody, I thought it would cheer her up. I didn't expect her to go off with it.' 'Shurrup!' The detective was listening. 'Quiet, everyone. I think I hear – clucking.' 'Your clucking right you do,' cried Eggwina. 'Give me that that egg!' With a fearsome cackle she swooped towards him, causing him to drop the egg. It cracked, and a small chick emerged. 'Precious!' cried Eggwina. 'Come to Mummy.' 'We seem to have a case of eggnapping ,' said the detective. 'But have the hens committed kangacide?' At that moment there was a load groan from the back of the bus. Everyone turned to see the kangaroo sitting up, clutching her head. 'Bounda, love,' shouted the dwarf. 'You're alive.' 'Are you with this kangaroo?' 'Yes. I didn't want to say, when we thought she was dead, but she was only sleeping off a bender. Oh, the relief.' He burst into tears. 'In that case, no crime has been committed and we can continue on our way.' All the passengers cheered. 'Hang on,' said the driver. 'Has she paid? Because if not she can just hop off.' The kangaroo reached into her pocket and produced a ticket. 'OK then.' And they continued on their way.
Archived comments for Eggbound

No comments archives found!
The herb of kindness (posted on: 13-11-15)    
Night thoughts in hospital

The cow of night chews on the stubborn cud Of bitter herbs, on sorrel, wormwood, rue. Is there a herb for kindness? In the dark I lie. Pansies for thoughts. Through my brain They buzz and churn. Rosemary perhaps To summon happy memories, but when I close My eyes, my bed detaches from its moorings, quits The ward, to slide unleashed through endless corridors Of walls which bulge and glisten, like a tour Through my own intestine. Then, looming before me, I see her. Vast, misshapen, faceless, robed in bile, Nausea grips me in her vile embrace. I gag, My eyes spring open to the dark. All movement stills. Hold on - to the joy of marjoram, basil's good wishes, The courage and strength of thyme. Till at last The endless night grows thin, sky paling. On a breeze Of morning, sweetness steals into the room, I scent the herb of kindness – as she promised Lisa enters, bearing mint tea.
Archived comments for The herb of kindness
gwirionedd on 13-11-2015
The herb of kindness
Sounds more like magic mushrooms to me than anything else...


Author's Reply:
I think it may have been an after effect of the anaesthetic - very weird anyway. Thanks for comment.

sweetwater on 14-11-2015
The herb of kindness
I found this to be a real joy to read it took me all over the place at the mention of each herb, country gardens, lane verges, woodland and field. I also saw the grisly parts of the tour but the destination with added tea was a perfect ending. πŸ™‚ Sue.

Author's Reply:
Well, it wasn't much fun at the time, but the tea was nice. Glad you enjoyed it.

Elfstone on 14-11-2015
The herb of kindness
This is very good and I can attest to the weird effects of (too much) anaesthetic! If I may (and it is just an opinion) I think presenting it in a block as you've done is not doing it justice. I think a different layout would enhance the poem and it's worth it!
Elfstone

Author's Reply:
Horrible isn't it? Left me feeling sick for days. Thanks for comment - I might experiment, break it up a bit as you suggest.

Mikeverdi on 15-11-2015
The herb of kindness
Agree with Elf, I think the piece would benefit from a different layout. You express the feelings well, the jumbled feeling of the current format could read better, although, maybe that's how you wanted it?
Mike

Author's Reply:
Certainly I felt a bit jumbled at the time. I'll have a think about the layout. Thanks for commenting.

Gothicman on 15-11-2015
The herb of kindness
Yes, I can imagine all these impressions going on in a half awake, half-dreaming mind in the hospital situation, lying there, heavily anaesthetised, extreme (sick) bodily-sensation focused with images and odours. I like the fresh morning resolution contrast back to pleasant reality and friendly face. I think the layout works like it is, because it keeps it all contained in a delirious confusion of recovery during one night. I think this good enough for nomination.

Author's Reply:
Thanks very much for your kind comments - and for the nom (I assume that was you!)
Moya


Frog Off (posted on: 09-10-15)
Ever wonder what happened AFTER the frog turned into a prince?

She opened her handbag. The frog was still there. 'Can I come out now?' 'You might as well,' said Mabel. They were in the garret room which she shared with the other scullery maids. The frog hopped onto her bedside table. He was quite handsome, as frogs go: emerald green with a yellow stripe down each side. He expanded his throat, in that unnerving way frogs do, and croaked. 'Don't do that!' hissed Mabel. 'You'll wake everyone. Oh dear, whatever am I going to do with you? I thought you were a prince. I'd never have let you kiss me if you hadn't been a prince.' 'I am a prince,' said the frog. 'At least, I was.' 'Then it's princesses you should be kissing, not scullery maids,' said Mabel. The frog sighed. 'It's not working out, between me and the princess. She says she needs someone with a fiery, passionate nature – I'm too cold-blooded'. He sniffed. 'She said I was wet.' 'That's a shame.' 'So I thought, if kissing a princess turned me into a prince, perhaps kissing someone who wasn't a princess might turn me back into a frog.' 'Was that the only reason you kissed me?' Mabel felt a bit miffed. 'Oh – er – I thought you were very pretty. Obviously. Anyway, it worked.' 'So what now? I can't keep you here. Pets aren't allowed.' 'I need to return to my pond, but I'm not sure how to get there. Can you help me? Please, please, pretty scullery maid,' pleaded the frog. 'I don't even know how to get out of the palace without being squashed.' 'Don't cry,' said Mabel. 'It'll make you even damper. I'll help, but you'll have to wait till tomorrow, I'm not traipsing around in the dark.' She put him in her soap-dish, covered him with a damp flannel, then went to bed. Next morning Mabel got up early, before the other girls were awake, and went to look in the soap dish. The frog was gone. That's a relief, she thought. He must have decided to find his own way home. But as she was finishing getting dressed there came a terrible shriek from the loo. She rushed in to find one of the other girls gibbering with fright and pointing a shaking finger at the frog, which sat on the toilet seat rim looking embarrassed. Without hesitation, Mabel scooped him up. 'I'll see to this,' she said. She carried him outside and down the stairs. 'Whatever were you trying to do?' 'I thought it might be a way out,' said the frog, 'but I got stuck in the U-bend. Then just as I had nearly climbed out, this person came and did something unspeakable . . .' he shuddered. Mabel made a mental note to wash her hands as soon as possible. She put him in her pocket then went to the kitchen and collected a bucket from the scullery. 'I'll go and fetch the water to scrub the floor,' she told the under-kitchenmaid. She dumped the bucket by the well. 'Where do you want to go?' she asked. 'The lily pond in the sunken garden, please,' replied the frog. Mabel crept through the palace gardens, keeping an eye out for the gardeners, as kitchen staff were not supposed to be outside. She had almost reached the lily pond when – 'Oi! Who are you?' She looked up to find a girl glaring at her. A girl in a very posh dress with a diamond encrusted crown on her head. It was the princess. 'Please, miss, I mean your Highness, I'm a scullery-maid . . . ' 'This is outrageous,' cried the princess. 'A nasty, dirty scullery-maid in my private garden. I never heard the like!' 'I'm not dirty,' said Mabel indignantly. 'No, she's not,' said the frog, popping his head out of her pocket. 'And she's not doing any harm. I asked her to take me home.' 'I know you,' said the princess. 'You're my – why've you turned back into a frog?' 'I'd had enough of being a prince. It happened when I kissed her.' 'You kissed her,' squealed the princess, going red in the face. 'You're my fiancι, you're supposed to kiss me!' 'Well I'd rather kiss her,' said the frog. 'She's not so bad-tempered. And she's prettier.' 'How dare you, that's treason. High Treason! I'll have her thrown in a dungeon, I'll have her beheaded. I'll have you squashed. Guards, guards!' The princess stormed off in a terrible temper. 'Oh dear, I have got you into trouble, haven't I?' said the frog. 'Can she really do all that?' 'Dunno. I expect she can get me sacked, anyway.' Mabel sighed. 'Just for trying to do someone a good turn. There's no justice in the world.' 'I'm awfully sorry. I wish there was something I could do.' 'It's not your fault. I don't blame you for not wanting to marry her. You'd better get back in your pond before she comes back and squashes you.' He hopped onto the rim of the pond. 'Thank you for everything. Can I kiss you goodbye?' 'Why not?' She bent down, felt his cold lips touch her, and then - Something very strange began to happen to her. Her clothes became much too large, and fell off, but she didn't mind. Her body shrank, her legs became longer and her skin turned a fetching shade of green. 'Goodness me,' she croaked. She joined the frog on the pond rim. Yes, she thought, he is extremely handsome. 'Wow!' he said. 'You're even prettier as a frog.' He took her hand and together they jumped into the lily pond, where they lived happily ever after. Frogs, Mabel found, have a much easier life than scullery-maids.
Archived comments for Frog Off
Bozzz on 11-10-2015
Frog Off
A delightful twist that will make a great new children's fairy tale. Thanks a million for at the moment I am a frog - care of my wife. David

Author's Reply:
You are a frog? Never mind, you'll turn into a prince immanently. Thanks for comment.


Fossil (posted on: 05-10-15)
Petrified

Think of a fish In a tepid sea Sliding through warm dark Currents of time and space Tiny in that vast ocean It lives and breeds and dies Sinking at last into the depths While aeons congeal around it. Hooked on the time-line Of the evolving world Deep time holds it close Yet still it finds us, Swimming out of the past Through seas of stone.
Archived comments for Fossil
gwirionedd on 05-10-2015
Fossil
I like "While aeons congeal around it".

Are fish really that old?

Good poem. Makes you think.



Author's Reply:
This one is! Glad you liked it - thanks.

sweetwater on 06-10-2015
Fossil
I love everything about this, the sea / time relationship, hooked on a time line ( very clever ) deep time-ocean depths and then the last two lines, terrific, definately going into favs πŸ™‚ Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thank you very much, for the appreciation and the hotting. I am deeply flattered.
Moya

Corin on 09-10-2015
Fossil
I like the last line and the one Archie liked - BTW Fish evolved during the Cambrian Explosion, so are about 500 million years old. The Earth is 3.5 Billion years old.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Corin. Also for the info on fish - I couldn't remember exactly when they appeared, but I knew they'd been around for a while.


A Wedding Sonnet (posted on: 02-10-15)
To celebrate the marriage of my daughter and her partner

So now you're wed. The Gordian knot is tied So tight, no matter how far you may travel No thread of it may venture to unravel, Nor Alexander cut it if he tried. Degradable confetti let us strew On the new-minted pair, husband and wife. We hope you will avoid all care and strife And may you have your cake, and eat it too. The sacred vows are said, the papers signed, The bills received (which later will be paid), The speeches spouted and the bride been kissed. Two lives have been officially combined. Wishing you happy in the bed you've made, The wedding guests continue to get pissed.
Archived comments for A Wedding Sonnet
gwirionedd on 02-10-2015
A Wedding Sonnet
Nice one, Shadow. Exactly what form of sonnet is this? It's not quite Petrarchan... Possibly a variety of Wordsworthian, or Wyattian?...




Author's Reply:
Isn't it Petrarchan? That's what I was aiming for - but it's a long time since I 'did' the sonnet. Ah well. It was my first attempt (and probably my last).

Ionicus on 02-10-2015
A Wedding Sonnet
Not being a follower of strict formats, it never crossed my mind to query whose style this was written in. I simply appreciated it as a lovely sonnet. It has good rhymes and fourteen lines.
I enjoyed it.

Luigi x

Author's Reply:
Thanks, glad you like it. It went down well at the reception,anyway.

Supratik on 02-10-2015
A Wedding Sonnet
I second Luigi on this, I simply appreciated the poem.

Author's Reply:
Thanks - I appreciate the comment.

gwirionedd on 03-10-2015
A Wedding Sonnet
But Luigi is indeed a follower of strict formats... He has written in quite a few of them... Have you seen his attempt at the Chant Royal? Five brave and incredibly difficult stanzas, when he only needed three. He did remarkably well, under such awful circumstances.

It's not quite a Petrarchan sonnet, because they go abba abba: you need four rhymes! Not easy in English, which is why Shakespeare changed it for us.

It could be in Wordsworthian style, possibly... I know he wrote sonnets that began abba acca, but he also did other variations.

Don't make it your last sonnet, Shadow. You did well.



Author's Reply:
Thanks, but I probably won't attempt a sonnet again for a while. Too much like hard work. I think I'll stick to blank verse - MUCH easier!

Nemo on 03-10-2015
A Wedding Sonnet
There are many forms of sonnet including ones that don't rhyme. John Updike, for one, wrote some. I've had a go at writing a few, rhyming and non-rhyming, so I know how hard you've worked on this. Worth you having another go.
Regards,
Nemo

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the kind words, but sonnets aren't really my thing. I prefer limericks, to be honest.

stormwolf on 04-10-2015
A Wedding Sonnet
Hi Shadow,
I am no great shakes on the Sonnet side (or any other fancy kinds of poetry I may add ;-))
However, I really enjoyed this. A mixture of deep truth combined with humour. In fact you summed it all up nicely. The last line was classic.
Alison x


Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison, lad you enjoyed it. I am rather proud of the last line, it was the first I thought of.


Where the walls dance (posted on: 21-09-15)
Searching Laugharne for Dylan Thomas

We drove down into Laugharne and stopped in that rare thing nowadays - a free car park. Before us stretched the old harbour, long since silted up. A tsunami in the Bristol Channel in 1607 did for it, apparently. The ruins of Laugharne Castle loomed on our left, while further along the low cliff we could see The Boathouse, the home of Dylan Thomas for the last four years of his life. It looked an easy walk so, after pausing to read the first verse of 'Poem in October' on the notice board by the shore, we set off. Appearances were deceptive; the path along the base off the cliff petered out. There may have been a way up the cliff once, but it had crumbled. Nothing for it but to retrace our steps. We found a seat by the car park to eat our sandwiches. A small stream meandered down to the marsh, and the sea beyond, but we saw no 'fishing holy stalking heron'. Only gulls and jackdaws, and dogs frolicking on the grass. We climbed the hill into town. Laugharne is very laid back about its famous poet. There are no Thomas's Tea Shoppes, no Dylan Fish Bars, no emporia flogging postcards, small busts or tea towels printed with his poems. Not that his work lends itself to tea towels. We did pass one second hand bookshop, its door firmly locked. Halfway up the hill was our first objective, a public lavatory (there was none by the car park). This was an intimidatingly hi-tech affair. You put your 20p in the slot, a door fit for a bank vault swung open, the light came on inside and you found yourself in a large cubicle with all mod cons, including hand basin, soap and dryer. By the time I found I had no 20p, Geoff had gone on ahead, too far to call him back or have a hope of catching him up. Luckily someone came out and I was able to sneak in before the door closed. Not so luckily, I was now out of sequence, and found myself in total darkness. Worse, I could not read the instructions on the lock. I had visions of another 20p inserted, and the door opening to reveal me enthroned . . . it did not happen, but I had a fraught few minutes. A signpost 'To The Boathouse' pointed us along the cliff top path. On the way we stopped to peer through the window of Dylan Thomas's Writing Shed. This was the nearest we came to the presence of The Man. It looked as if he had stepped out a few minutes before – the table covered in papers and notebooks, pens and an ink bottle, a blue and white mug, books stacked untidily on the shelves and the floor littered with crumpled paper. So here was where he had written 'Under Milk Wood' and so many well known poems. The Boathouse itself was further along, perched above the shore. It is no longer exactly as the Thomas's left it. One room now houses a screen showing a short film of Thomas's life, another is the Book Shop. A couple of the rooms have been reconstructed, not with the original furniture (when he died his creditors swooped and took the lot), but in the style of the time. It was like stepping back into my own childhood: the shabby fifties furniture, the pervasive brownness of everything. The brass letter rack was almost a twin of the one which hung by my grandmother's mantelpiece. The Thomas's garden was now a terrace, with wooden tables and a cat sleeping in the sun. We sat drinking tea and eating bara brith, as we looked out over the sea and listened to the 'water praying and call of seagull and rook'. Next we climbed to the churchyard at the top of the town. St Martin's Church is a plain, stone building set in an extraordinary graveyard, full of ancient, listing monuments and crumbling tombs. Moss and ivy grows everywhere, and some of the tombs have bits missing, allowing glimpses of the darkness inside. What is more, it is built on a hillside, so the graves loom over you – all a bit Hammer Horror. Definitely not a place to linger as dusk falls. The modern cemetery next door, where Dylan Thomas is buried, is positively cheerful by comparison. We pay our respects at the grave, with its simple wooden cross (easily replaceable whenever it gets nicked), and come away. After that we need a drink, and where else but Brown's Hotel, haunt of Thomas, and recently restored and reopened? Again it is like stepping back into the fifties – all that is missing is the blue haze of cigarette smoke which would have filled the bar in his day. The walls are covered with photos of the pub interior, and Thomas in pubs, but none of him in Brown's Hotel – obviously he had never been photographed there. Had the man no concept of his duty to tourism? They have had to Photoshop him in. On closer examination of the 'old' photos, we noticed that some of the characters in them were sitting with us in the bar. Was everything fake? At least the beer was real. Then it was back to the car park, and away. Had we found Dylan Thomas? No, he left a long time ago. Still, Laugharne is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. Only don't forget your 20p.
Archived comments for Where the walls dance
Kipper on 22-09-2015
Where the walls dance
An interesting tale and although I have not visited Laugharne I felt I was there with you.

Interesting also that you did not feel the 'presence' of DT. Perhaps his spirit is not there but everywhere.

Regardless I enjoyed your recounting, just as you enjoyed your visit.

Michael

Author's Reply:
Thanks for comment - you should go to Laugharne, it's a really nice place. Has a castle as well, though we didn't have time to visit that.

Andrea on 26-09-2015
Where the walls dance
Enjoyed this, Moya. Btw, we still need your permission to be included in the 2016 Anthology. Are you happy to be in it? If so, can you let me know at andrea@ukauthors.com? Thanks!

Author's Reply:
Done it (at last!). Thanks.

deadpoet on 28-09-2015
Where the walls dance
I enjoyed your story and felt I was there with you- I will never go so that is lovely to have a guided tour this way. I am so glad I read this and now feel enlightened. Sounds to me like a wonderful part of the country and I can quite understand Thomas felt inspired here like you did to tell your tale. I hope you don't mind but I have included his poem you refer to and think it very fitting also for this time of year??

Piaxx



Poem in October

Author's Reply:
Glad you enjoyed the trip - it's a lovely place. 'Poem in October' is one of my favourites too.
Thanks.
Moya


How we came to Wales (posted on: 18-09-15)    
I wrote this back in 2003, just before the Iraq invasion. Sadly, it has become topical again.

We set out before daybreak, taking only what could be easily carried. I had a rucksack with all the warm clothes I could fit in. Huw always said we should have bought a bigger one. I left him a note to say where I'd gone. Not that he'd ever read it. I closed all the windows, turned off the gas and the water. Then I shut the front door behind me and put the keys in my pocket, as if I expected to come back. Lindsey was waiting in the road. She had Daniel in his pushchair, the tray underneath it crammed, a bags dangling from the handles. As well as the rucksack, I had a carrier bag with all the food I had left. It wasn't much, I hadn't dared try to get to the shops for weeks. There were no lights showing in the houses. Most people had already left. As we reached the end of our road we heard a machine gun, but not near enough to worry about. It was growing light by the time we got to the A5 and joined the stream of people heading west. I remember the quiet. The sound of shuffling feet, the occasional cry of a child. In the distance, the crump of artillery. 'Lichfield's getting it,' someone said. People pushing prams, supermarket trolleys, piled with whatever they had managed to salvage. Few cars, those mostly abandoned where the fuel had run out. At Gailey roundabout we met a great mass of people heading north out of Walsall and Wolverhampton. They said the M54 was closed except to the military, so we decided to head down the old A5 instead. By mid afternoon we were passing through Weston-under-Lizard. I never liked that part of the road, the way it closes in on you, with the wall on the left and the trees overhanging the road. Feels like a tunnel, which is silly because it's on a ridge really. A couple of trucks were blocking the road, from one of the militias. They were stopping all the cars, siphoning off the petrol. There was one as we came up, a big Toyota, crammed with stuff. Two kids in the back, crying. The driver had got out to argue. They took no notice of us. A bit down the road, we heard a shot. Didn't look round. We'd hoped to get past Telford before night, but word came down the line that it wasn't safe after dark. We huddled together, Daniel in the middle, in a building with a bit of roof left. It was so cold. Telford - I don't want to think about Telford - rubble with the odd weed poking through - the smell - fireworks in an abattoir. We got through at last, carried on, the dark hump of the Wrekin on our left. We used to drive there once, walk up. You could see for miles, like you were on top of the world. Someone was up there now watching us, all the ants crawling along the road. I could feel it. We met Olivia and her granddaughter Claire on the road. They had a trolley, but one of the wheels had come off. Claire was about fifteen, very quiet. I think something had happened to her but they weren't saying. We let them pile some of their things on the pushchair, perched Daniel on top. They had to leave the rest. We had thought we might stop a while in Shrewsbury, find something to eat for our food was finished. Only they'd blocked off the road, so we had to go round by the bypass. The verges were covered in daffodils, masses of them, bright yellow. So pretty. As we approached Nesscliffe more army trucks passed us. We heard firing ahead, and took shelter in a roofless building. It had been a pub, we used to pass it on our way to visit Huw's mother in Llangollen. Low, whitewashed, it looked a good place to stop for a meal, only we never did. Now we crouched behind a wall, hearing explosions, very near, very loud. When we came out two trucks were burning. The last part of the journey I don't remember well. We plodded across the endless plain, the hills in the distance never getting nearer. We were very hungry. We reached Gobowen at dusk. The big hill fort they call Oswestry Old Town was covered in camp fires, we felt like we were back in the Iron Age. Some men, deserters, sat by a fire. They let us join them and share their food. We never asked where they got it. Everyone said the border at Chirk was closed, only people born in Wales or with family there were being let through. I'd be all right though, I had Huw's birth certificate. In the morning the men were gone. So was Claire. Her grandmother rushed off after them, though we tried to stop her. We waited till noon. Neither of them came back so we carried on. From the last hill, looking down at Chirk, we saw the whole valley crammed with tents; a checkpoint with the red dragon flying overhead and a long queue snaking back through the camp. We joined it. Lindsey said if they wouldn't let her in, I must take Daniel. I didn't want to, but she started crying, she had heard there was sickness in the camp. I told her, when she got through, to look for me in Llangollen, at my mother-in-law's house. A Welsh Army officer looked at my papers. Lindsey didn't have any. I said she was my sister, but he shook his head. Then he looked at Daniel, asked if he was mine. I said, 'yes'. I climbed the road up into Chirk, past houses with intact windows and roofs and washing hanging out. I wanted to cry. I went into a shop and bought pasties, chocolate, two cans of coke. Daniel was whinging for his mum. I'm your mam now, I told him. Then we walked on, up the valley, towards Froncysyllte.
Archived comments for How we came to Wales
Gee on 18-09-2015
How we came to Wales
I think it's the ordinary things in this that contrast with the overall story, making it more chilling. The part about leaving a note and switching off the gas and water, the yellow of the daffodils, the meal in the pub that never happened. There is one particular phrase - "fireworks in an abattoir" - that I found particularly effective.
Great short story that would be great as part of a novel.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the comments. I've always had a a soft spot for this story, I wrote it for a competition and it won me Β£500! Most I have ever earned,

Kipper on 18-09-2015
How we came to Wales
So quickly we have become used to the pictures on the TV of large numbers of people, desperate to find safety or a better life.
"Thank goodness," I guess most us are saying, "it couldn't happen here."
You paint a very vivid picture Moya, even though it feels and reads like part of something bigger.
If it isn't perhaps it should be IMHO
Michael


Author's Reply:
As I said, I wrote it years ago. It's a bit unnerving that what it depicts it now happening - though not here (yet).

deadpoet on 19-09-2015
How we came to Wales
This is very good- thank you for the read.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for reading - stuck my reply in the wrong box, I'm always doing that.

shadow on 19-09-2015
How we came to Wales
Thanks for reading

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 19-09-2015
How we came to Wales
I like this a lot, I think as others, it could be bigger. You write with authority and the parallel is obvious. It really would make a great novel.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the kind words, but as I seem to have been working on my current novel for about 10 years, I'm not sure if I'd live to finish another . . .

Bozzz on 20-09-2015
How we came to Wales
The macabre element is reinforced by the low key description of the reasons behind the journey and the absence of information on the identity of the enemy - clever. There is also a conjured streak of typical British phlegm. A well-written piece....David

Author's Reply:
Thank you. I deliberately kept the details of the conflict vague -maybe a civil war between Ukippers and Corbynistas?

Andrea on 22-09-2015
How we came to Wales
Hello Moya, how great to see you! A great read, too. Hope all is well with you πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Thanks Andrea - I'm fine. Nice to be back.

Ionicus on 24-09-2015
How we came to Wales
A chilling and prophetic tale skilfully crafted, Moya.
Β£500 pounds prize,eh? You clever thing.

Best, Luigi

Author's Reply:
And very welcome it was. Though I didn't realise I was a prophet at the time. Thanks Luigi.


Change of State (posted on: 17-11-14)
All life is change . . .

First I am vapour; molecules Of gas, laughing, dancing Free as the wind my young balloon expanding Rises through sunlit air. Time passes And ardour cools. Change beckons. The second phase: gasses condense to liquid, Water flows, chattering over stones. I grow older. Leaving the higher ground, The river widens, calm meanders cross A fertile plain, where in a backwater a standing pool Collects, reflective, still and deep as thought. No cause for resentment, this is natural. All matter seeks its lowest energy level Why then should mine be any different? And so we reach the final phase transition Liquid turns into solid. Feeling the cold, Crystals grow in my joints, all movement slows. Energy seeps away, the ice congeals Water transforms to stone. Immobile now, Locked in rigidity, still I ring like glass.
Archived comments for Change of State
Gothicman on 17-11-2014
Change of State
I think I'm in the last state here, Shadow! Although no crystals or gout like joints yet! But bones like glass it would seem having just suffered a stress fracture due to over-exertion! This is the molecular biologist's view of human development making depressing reading - too damn clinical! Hahahaha! Well-written though and describes how it is unfortunately!
Gothicman

Author's Reply:
Sorry to hear about your fracture, hope it mends soon. It's not fair, is it? I never signed up for old age. Thanks for comment.

sweetwater on 18-11-2014
Change of State
Very clever poem, interesting use of words to explain the passage of time. loved reading it. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sue, much appreciated.

Ionicus on 18-11-2014
Change of State
An elegant way of expressing the natural life cycle from a happy and carefree youth - "...laughing, dancing, Free as the wind..." - to an old age with its inherent frailties.
Delicate turns of phrase.

Luigi

Author's Reply:
Hi Luigi, yeah, we're none of us getting any younger (sigh) . . . but we can still be elegant.
Thanks muchly.


Chloe, sleeping (posted on: 27-10-14)
I wrote this a good while ago, when she was still in her prime. RIP Chloe

A black fur rug, she spreads across the floor legs out flung, eyes still half-open, twitching in dreams. Glossy, burnished, boot polish shining, imperceptibly her chest rises, falls. An ear stirs. Stretching, she comes to pour herself across your knees, heavy as Sunday dinner. Much too big to be a lapdog. Try telling that to her. She tucks her head under your chin, and with a loving paw flattens your nose.
Archived comments for Chloe, sleeping
sweetwater on 27-10-2014
Chloe, sleeping
I think this is one of the loveliest tributes to a canine friend I have read, the love from both sides shines through, without any sign of over done sentimentality. Brought tears to my eyes remembering my own much loved
and deeply missed dogs. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks you Sue. Chloe died last week, and we miss her dreadfully. Moya

Andrea on 27-10-2014
Chloe, sleeping
Love the last line πŸ™‚

Great to see you posting again - oddly I was only wondering where you were a few days ago (I think I was reading an article about Tamworth) and lo! here you are!

Author's Reply:
Hi Andrea - nice to hear from you. I must pop in more often!

Kipper on 27-10-2014
Chloe, sleeping
Hello Shadow



What a lucky dog. Clearly had she been able to express your shared relationship in words they would have been in the same spirit.

Lucky you too!

Michael
PS Worth a Nom I think!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Michael - yes, she was a lovely dog, and we were lucky to have her for 11 years. Moya

stormwolf on 27-10-2014
Chloe, sleeping
What a lovely, bitter-sweet, heartwarming tribute.
I cried more when I lost my old dog Chief than when my own father died. Dogs show us what it is to love unconditionally and their leaving brings such acute pain. What a lucky dog to have a loving home.
They never actually leave us, they live on in the heart, mind and in my world view, in the spirit world around us too.
My dear old mum felt her cat jump up on her bed and snuggle up, long after she had been put down and I have had similar with my dogs, enough to ease the loss.
Many people find this and it brings comfort. I hope it does for you in time too.
Congrats on the nib.

Alison xx

Author's Reply:
Just checked back and realised I never thanked you for your comment -I thought I had. So sorry, because I really appreciated it. I know what you mean, feeling that they are still around, I keep thinking I see her out of the corner of my eye. It is awful being dogless after all those years, we we don't feel ready to have another one yet. Thank you again.

Mikeverdi on 28-10-2014
Chloe, sleeping
I love dogs. I don't understand anyone who doesn't. Great writing.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike.

Gothicman on 29-10-2014
Chloe, sleeping
Sadly, never had a dog ,had a cat and a mouse once, even so excellent poem...Gothicman

Author's Reply:
Simultaneously? I had a hamster once, nice little beast. Couldn't take it for walks though. Thanks for comment.


A Strange Device (posted on: 08-04-13)
I am Schrodinger's cat . . .

I am Schrӧdingers's cat I sit in my box Alive and/or dead Or not alive/not dead Waiting. I like it that way. When an observer with A measuring apparatus peers Into the box, vast numbers Of atoms interact with me, causing Wave function collapse, so I become Alive – meow – alternatively, dead (Or in separate universes, both) I don't understand it either. But now they have this strange device A matter wave interferometer To tell which of these theories is correct. This will reveal, they say, A deeper level of reality Or something. All I know Is I will have to make my mind up One way or the other. Pray for me.
Archived comments for A Strange Device
Hekkus on 08-04-2013
A Strange Device
More accessible than modern theories re the structure of the universe - and a lot more fun!

Author's Reply:
Thanks for comment - I am now working on String Theory (how to disentangle it).

Weefatfella on 08-04-2013
A Strange Device
 photo 6476617c-792a-4c7b-a60f-b80676cd1938_zps5eb0b534.jpg
I think the fact that you've mentioned it, and we are all reading it, has brought the bugger to life.
Could you please come and get it.
I can't sleep for the noise.
I think it's in heat.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:
Oh dear - sorry! But I couldn't leave the poor thing in its box, now could I?

ValDohren on 08-04-2013
A Strange Device
Sounds like a cat-astrophe to me - don't understand the concept, wonder if those who conceived it understand it either ! Anyway shadow, makes for a fascinating and thought-provoking ? write.

Val πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Thanks Val. I don't understand it either, but it always seemed a bit hard on the cat.

Pronto on 09-04-2013
A Strange Device
Thought provoking and amusing write with wit, humour and style. May I suggest a shotgun fired through the box would put the matter beyond doubt? And you could make a real tasty curry afterwards (in theory) πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
That would certainly do the trick. Not sure there'd be enough cat left to make a curry - and of course, it's only a 'thought experiment', so it would have to be an imaginary shotgun. Thanks for commenting and rating.

freya on 09-04-2013
A Strange Device
An extraordinary combination of wit and facile word play. This poor cat's dilemma: such fun to both read and contemplate!

shadow, I don't think you need that last line 'pray for me'. What precedes it says it all. Beautifully. And to sound a tad more pithy, perhaps a period (full stop) after 'reality'? This is going to be a favorite for me, it's so delightful and well written. Shelagh

Author's Reply:
Hi freya, nice to hear from you. Thanks for the suggestions, and for 'hotting' me - I can do with a bit of a warm-up this weather. Cheers!

Ionicus on 09-04-2013
A Strange Device
A clever piece, Moya. More a cat-alogue than a monologue.
"I don’t understand it either." That could be me speaking.
Another thing puzzles me: if you say "Pray for me" are you dead and/or no longer alive? I think we should be told.
That strange device might give the answer.

Luigi x

Author's Reply:
The dead/alive thing has yet to be resolved - hence the poor cat needs all the help it can get . . . I don't know if the device worked.

Nemo on 09-04-2013
A Strange Device
These speculations always get the brain going, well done. Are to assume that because you have used the words 'Pray for me' that your 'cat' believes there is a divinity who can intervene on its behalf?

Author's Reply:
I wouldn't like to speak for the cat - it's probably just trying to keep its options open. Thanks for comment.

Bozzz on 09-04-2013
A Strange Device
Moya, I think it best to assume the cat is an atheist and normal prayers as we all understand them may not be suitable At the same time we must recognise that secular prayer is conceivable.
Probably best to leave the future to chance - better odds. A great concept - great poem....David

Author's Reply:
I think you are probably right. I suspect all cats are atheists. Thanks.

Andrea on 09-04-2013
A Strange Device
Hah! I have a strange fascination with Schroedinger's cat. Really appreciated this πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Yes - charming animal. Glad you enjoyed.

stormwolf on 11-04-2013
A Strange Device
A very clever poem well done πŸ˜‰

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison

Kat on 11-04-2013
A Strange Device
Excellento!

Kat x

Author's Reply:
Ta very much!


Conversation Piece (posted on: 05-04-13)
A Dialogue

Scene: a park bench. Woman with Book sits, reading. Enter Woman with Dog. WwD: Mind if I join you? (sits) That's better. Sit, Becky. Now, don't be a naughty boy. Sit. Would you like a biscuit? Come on, have a biccy, Becky. Leave the lady alone. Oh, come here. SIT! (to WwB)I think you may have trodden in something. WwB: Shit. WwD: Something like that, yes. (pause) Nice to see a bit of sun, isn't it? WwB: Yes. WwD: What are you reading? WwB: A book. WwD: I used to be a great one for reading, but I don't have much time nowadays. What's it called? WwB: Romance: the dynamics of interpersonal relations. WwD: Good, is it? WwB: I think so. WwD: What's it about? WwB: Love. Relationships. That sort of thing. WwD: I like a nice romance. Mills and Boon. Do you read them? WwB: (closes book, sighs) I have done some work on light romantic fiction. WwD: Of course, they've changed a lot from what they used to be. One time they all ended with a kiss and wedding bells. Now even the nice girls have relations all over the place. I'm not a prude, and it does spice them up a bit, but I do think some things should be left to the imagination. WwB: So, what would you call a good romance? WwD Well, like the one I read the other week. There was this doctor, and this girl, they're going to be married, then she gets ill, and she's going to be disabled and can't have children or anything, so she runs away because she doesn't want him to have to look after her, but he finds her and then he finds a cure for the illness so they can get married after all. I don't like these modern stories where husbands and wives keep going off with other people. Even if they do say they love each other. Quiet, Becks. Sorry, is he bothering you? WwB: Interesting looking dog. WwD: He's a Pekinese-Yorkie cross. We used to have two of them, Posh and Becks, but poor Posh died. He's not usually like this with people, it's almost like he knows you. WwB I don't think so. WwD You could have seen him with my husband, Graham always walked him round the park at this time of day. Do you come here a lot? WwB: I read here, sometimes, when the weather's fine. It's peaceful. Usually. WwD: It's been rotten lately, hasn't it? Nothing but rain, rain all the time. I haven't been out myself since Graham . . . WwB: Yes? WwD: Passed away. WwB: Passed . . . you, you mean he's dead? WwD: Heart attack. Very sudden. Terrible shock. WwB: (faintly) It must have been. I'm so sorry. WwD: Yes. Well. Can't sit here all day. It was nice meeting you. Come along, Becky. Tea time. (Exit. Long pause.) WwB (wails) Nooooooo!
Archived comments for Conversation Piece
Rupe on 05-04-2013
Conversation Piece
Ha, this is excellent - a really superb sting in the tail which I hadn't remotely foreseen. I also like the middle section which which highlights book lady's highbrow pretensions and contrasts them with dog lady's more humble enjoyment of romantic fiction - the ending pulls the rug out from under both of them.

I'm in two minds about the dog, however. It's a very natural touch - one does see ladies walking dogs round parks and sitting on benches, but in dramatic terms it seems a bit of a distraction. But then again, a distraction might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Thanks Rupe - I have thought of expanding this into a short play; if I did I'd definitely have to get rid of the dog. Though he does have a function (he knows the book woman).

orangedream on 05-04-2013
Conversation Piece
I much enjoyed this, shadow...dog or not, and it would make a good play, slightly extended;-)

Tina

Author's Reply:
Thanks Tina - perhaps I could make it a stuffed dog?


Silence (posted on: 29-03-13)
. . . is advisable.

'Hush!' 'What?' 'Be quiet.' 'Why?' 'I'm listening.' 'What to?' 'The silence.' pause 'I can't hear anything.' 'That's because – oh, just shut up, would you?' pause 'Has it stopped?' 'What?' 'The silence?' 'It has now . . . can't you keep your trap shut for two seconds?' 'Charming! Am I supposed to sit here for hours watching you listen to nothing? What's so marvelous about quiet anyway?' 'It's soothing. Balm for the soul.' 'Well, it doesn't soothe me. It's boring. And a bit scary. If you're not talking, how do I know what you're thinking?' 'You'd be surprised what I'm thinking.' 'Can I put the radio on?' 'NO!' 'There's no need to shout. I hope you're not getting into one of your moods. Have you remembered to take your tablets?' snarl 'Why are you looking at me like that?' 'You just don't let up, do you? Yammer yammer yammer. You. Will. Not. Stop.' 'Now, now – steady on – don't upset yourself – what are you doing? Please – put that down – we can talk about this – ' scream Silence
Archived comments for Silence
Andrea on 29-03-2013
Silence
Haha, lovely. I'd do 'em in, too πŸ™‚ I love silence, never makes me uncomfortable. Lovely little horror story:)

Author's Reply:
Yes, there are some situations where only a blunt instrument will suffice. Thanks for the comment & nib.

OldPeculier on 29-03-2013
Silence
Very good. I really enjoyed this.

Author's Reply:
Glad you liked it -thanks for the rating.

Griffonner on 29-03-2013
Silence
Just a step too far, eh? Well, your pen stepped smartly down the page leaving some pretty impressive sounds (in my head). Nicely done.

Author's Reply:
Well silence is golden . . . or appreciated at least. Thanks.

Ionicus on 29-03-2013
Silence
Very good. Enjoyed it.

Luigi x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Luigi -praise from you is always appreciated.

Rupe on 30-03-2013
Silence
This is great. Wouldn't do anything further to it.

I would explain at length exactly what I regard as its many sterling qualities, but think it would be more in keeping with the spirit of the piece if i just shut up and go away.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Ah, you don't have to go away, Rupe, your comments are always welcome.

TheBigBadG on 30-03-2013
Silence
Rosencrantz or Guildenstern Are Dead perhaps? You've got a typo (you'd be surprised). Very good though, using the script form to drop the deed down to one word is very effective indeed.
George

Author's Reply:
Damn typos, there's always one gets through. Well spotted. And thanks for the kind words.

Weefatfella on 30-03-2013
Silence
 photo bfa015ef-03f8-441a-953a-e17b9b577756_zpsda0c5131.jpg Silence is golden and gold is heavy!
Enjoyed.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:
Too right! Far too few appreciate a bit of hush.


Sun Trap (posted on: 11-03-13)
Warmth

This I remember: The deckchair, canvas stretched and sagging sun faded, in the garden corner. There I sat to read, and think, and dream, lulled by the bumbling bees, the distant gulls, the droning of a plane across the blue. The pear tree hugged one wall, pink roses sprawled, nasturtiums flared vermilion at my feet leaves munched to lace by fat green caterpillars, which never transformed into butterflies however long I waited. Heat-drenched, drowsy, I baked to perfect brown while the slow mornings drifted by each moment set in amber, even as it swept me forward into common time.
Archived comments for Sun Trap
Fox-Cragg on 11-03-2013
Sun Trap
Oh to have such summers again, less the trapped fingers in deck chairs. Very warm and dreamy, like it a lot.
Paul FC

Author's Reply:
Yes, those were the days ... I'm trying to remember what 'warm weather' was like. Thanks for comment.

Ionicus on 11-03-2013
Sun Trap
It's a picture that I recognise, Moya, and to which I can relate.
Yours is an accurate and atmospheric description.

Author's Reply:
Glad you like it - I think I wrote it as an antidote to all the awful weather we've been having.

Mikeverdi on 11-03-2013
Sun Trap
Yes please! More summers like this. These days it has to be the Med; don't get baby days like this even in the far south west, bugger! Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike. It's hard to believe there is such a thing as summer, when we stare out at the blizzard ...

Nemo on 12-03-2013
Sun Trap
'Each moment set in amber' - the sort of phrase that I wish I'd thought of - well crafted evocation of the way we remember perfect summers.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Nemo, much appreciated.

Griffonner on 12-03-2013
Sun Trap
Such a lovely nostalgic thing, this. Love it.

Author's Reply:
We had a better class of sunshine in those days. Thanks for comment.

Andrea on 12-03-2013
Sun Trap
Yes, I remember that...


*sigh*

Author's Reply:
Don't we all ...

*sigh*

discopants on 13-03-2013
Sun Trap
Ah, having spent 10 hours on the A23 the other night, days like this can't get here soon enough!
Nicely-expressed- particularly liked the caterpillars not transforming into butterflies, as if they too are stretched out in their deckchairs.

Author's Reply:
Yes, they were a lazy lot. I used to keep some in a shoebox, and watched them for hours, but did the oblige? Not a chance!

Savvi on 14-03-2013
Sun Trap
leaves munched to lace by fat green caterpillars, love this line and how you shifted the focus into detail then back out, as we all do this in our gardens thats part of their beauty. S


Author's Reply:
Sorry - stuck reply in wrong box again! See below.

shadow on 15-03-2013
Sun Trap
Thanks Savvi, glad you liked it

Author's Reply:


Advice before Wedlock (posted on: 29-04-11)
Advice not taken

Dear Miss Middleton, don't do it You must know you'll surely rue it If you become the latest Princess Bride. Being Queen – you think you'll love it? Why not tell him where to shove it You'd be better off as his bit on the side. A career of pomp and glamour Mid the tabloids furious clamour Sounds fun, but is it really worth the price? You'll be giving up your own life In exchange for being his wife – A human matrimonial sacrifice. You may think it would look shabby To get cold feet in the Abbey If you're worried we'll all hate you – no we won't. Bid farewell to crown and castle Have the man without the hassle Just look him in the eye and say 'I don't'. Dear Miss Middleton, don't worry We'd prefer you safe to sorry However you decide, we wish you well. If you funk your day of glory You can always sell your story, And clean up with the ultimate kiss and tell.
Archived comments for Advice before Wedlock
Nomenklatura on 29-04-2011
Advice before Wedlock
If only...

Thank you for a belly laugh!

Author's Reply:
You're welcome!

e-griff on 29-04-2011
Advice before Wedlock
don't think she'll take it πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
No, she didn't, did she? No-one ever listens to me . . . (sigh).

anth2011ed on 30-04-2011
Advice before Wedlock
shadow, sorry to intrude, but can you send your permission and bio for the 2011/2012 Anth pse?

- Details Here

Author's Reply:
Sorry - will do!

Weefatfella on 10-03-2013
Advice before Wedlock
 photo 93fe0fca-ac2d-451b-b74e-dd1b917176f4_zps1e26e487.jpg
Ha!. Absolutely.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:
Thanks WFF - but I'm afraid I was wasting my breath. Mind you, she seems to be doing OK so far. Early days yet, though.


Jumping for Joy (posted on: 04-03-11)
a cautionary tale

You never saw a more miserable looking woman. She glowered at me as I brought the teas across. Bloody hell, I thought, what have I landed myself with this time? She didn't look much like her picture on the online dating website. I wondered how long ago it had been taken. Twenty years, at least. 'Here you are,' I said. 'Cup of tea and a jam doughnut.' She grunted, then started stuffing her face. I sat down and got stuck into my custard. I let her chomp for a while, hoping the doughnut would sweeten her up a bit, but it had no noticeable effect. I swigged some tea, and tried a smile. 'So,' I said, 'you must be Joy.' She glared back. 'That's right.' 'Pleased to meet you. I'm Ernest.' She nodded. 'Have you done this before?' I asked. 'No,' she said, 'and if it was left to me I wouldn't be doing it now.' 'Oh – how come?' 'It's all Mona's fault. That's my friend. Some friend. Put a photo on the internet, said I needed a man. Do I look like I need a man?' She looked as if she needed something; but I thought better of telling her what. 'I'm surprised you turned up, then,' I said. 'I wasn't going to, till Mona said I was scared. I told her, I'm not scared of no man.' Maybe you should be, I thought. 'And you look harmless enough,' she went on, 'not like some of those pervy blokes who answered.' Looking back, that's when I should have packed it in. Drunk my tea, said bye-bye and left. Maybe it was the way she said 'harmless' that put my back up. And there was the challenge. I pride myself, there isn't a woman alive I can't get round, when I put my mind to it. She looked like she might be worth the effort. Okay, she had a face like a dyspeptic Pekinese, but you could see from her clothes that she was worth a bob or two. Took some cracking, though; nuts don't come harder. I don't go in for trying to impress by throwing money around, presents and posh restaurants and that sort of thing. My ladies would see through that, and besides, I haven't the face for it. My stock-in-trade is looking ordinary. Trustworthy. Harmless, as she said. I work by giving them what they really want, finding out what they most enjoyed doing. In Joy's case, that was bossing people around. She was a great one for committees, and campaigns. If there was an endangered species to be saved, or a planning application to be opposed, Joy would be in the thick of the fray. Very keen on charity as well; most Saturdays found her in town with her collecting box, intimidating the populace. I'd ventured into the charity sector myself a few times, so by the time our first meeting was over, she had recognised me as a kindred spirit. Her friend Mona was very helpful to me. Not that she meant to be. She took a dislike to me from the moment we met, and made no secret of the fact that she thought I was not to be trusted. Luckily Joy was not the sort of woman to take advice. If you suggested she do one thing, she'd go off and do the exact opposite, to show how independent she was. So the more Mona pursed up her lips and looked dubious, the more attached Joy became to me. And I mean attached in every sense. Yes, Joy had found romance, for the first time since her late lamented hubby had shuffled off, leaving her with a large house and even larger bank balance. It wasn't all plain sailing, mind. I had to work hard to keep her sweet. I lost count of the number of sponsored walks, runs, jogs and so on I took part in. Still, it kept me fit, and I made sure the sponsorship money went into my bank balance. For safe keeping, you understand. Finally I was ready to make a real killing. I'd persuaded her to let me invest her cash in a scheme that would make both our fortunes. It had to be done through my account, for tax purposes. I remember the night she agreed. We were sitting on her sofa in front of the fire, my arms around her, as I painted a picture of how our life together would be. 'I can't wait,' she murmured. 'Oh, by the way, you haven't forgotten the sponsored bungee jump on Sunday?' 'Bungee jump?' First I'd heard of it. 'For the Donkey Sanctuary.' 'But – I hate heights.' 'You promised. Think of those poor little donkeys.' Better not upset her at this stage, I thought. 'All right.' 'And I'll transfer the money first thing Monday.' Then I helped her out of her corset, and Joy was unconfined. The bungee jump was a nightmare. Bouncing around on the end of an elastic band is not my idea of fun. And it was pouring. As the ground rushed up to meet me I thought I saw Joy and Mona clutching each other, killing themselves laughing. I'd never seen Joy so cheerful. Then my eyelids clamped themselves together and when I opened them again, they'd gone. I was a bit surprised they hadn't waited to greet me afterwards, but at the time I didn't much care. All I wanted was to get home and have a drink. I never did see her again. I went round to the house next day and found a 'For Sale' notice outside. No sign of her, or Mona. That was after I'd checked my balance to see if the money had gone in, and found no sign of it. Or of all the sponsorship cash I'd collected. Not a bean. The bitch had cleaned me out.
Archived comments for Jumping for Joy
geordietaf on 06-03-2011
Jumping for Joy
The biter bitten . Nice one.

Author's Reply:
Yes - she took quite a chunk out of him. Joyfully!

Ionicus on 06-03-2011
Jumping for Joy
Very funny, Moya. Good dialogue.
I like your play on words:
"Then I helped her out of her corset, and Joy was unconfined."

Luigi x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Luigi - if you'd ever worn a corset, you'd know the feeling.

Weefatfella on 08-03-2013
Jumping for Joy
 photo 93fe0fca-ac2d-451b-b74e-dd1b917176f4_zps1e26e487.jpg
Nice twist. and good flow to the writing,
kept my interest throughout. I enjoyed it.
I have written a piece entitled "Jump For Joy".
I hope you'll take a gander.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:
Will do. Thanks for the kind words.


The New Coat (posted on: 14-02-11)
Sometimes, life could be very unfair.

All writers need to have had an unhappy childhood, to provide material for later bestsellers. In particular, an abusive mother is more or less essential. Unfortunately, most people's experience does not fit the 'misery memoir' genre, but there is no need to despair. It's all in the interpretation. On the surface, I was a normal, contented child. My parents did their best; they never beat me or locked me in cupboards or anything. They were more subtle than that. They simply did not treat my opinions and requests with the respect they deserved. Take, for example, the episode of the New Coat. When I was small we lived in a semi in Crumpsall, north Manchester. The other half was occupied by a family with three grown-up daughters. 'Auntie' Winnie was the youngest. She was well-named, as she had a very high-pitched laugh, you could hear her right through the party wall. She was also considered to be an expert dressmaker, and one day she offered to make me a coat. I was five or six at the time, and I was thrilled. A coat made specially for me! We went next door and, while my mother and Auntie Winnie discussed the details, I was given a pattern book to pore over, and told to pick one I liked. I turned the pages, marvelling. There were hundreds of coats, all shapes, sizes and colours. Then, I saw – It. It was bright red, in a rather militaristic style; double breasted, with a belt and epaulets and dark green braid in a curly pattern on the front. There was a hat to go with it, a high crowned peaked cap, the sort of thing drum majorettes wear, but I was not bothered about the hat. I had fallen in love with the coat. I was particularly fascinated by its buttons. They were leather toggles, fastened with loops and I had never seen buttons like them before. It was, in short, the most desirable coat you could imagine. I took the book over to Auntie Winnie. 'Can I have that one?' I asked. And she said – yes! The next few weeks seemed to go on for ever. I can remember asking, at no doubt maddeningly frequent intervals, how it was getting on. I was particularly anxious about the buttons. They were so unusual; would Auntie Winnie be able to buy the right ones? Each time I was reassured – the coat would be ready soon, I must be patient. At last the day came, and my mother and I went next door to see it. It was laid out in the front bedroom, and I can still feel the anticipation as I climbed the stairs, went into the room – and stopped, confused. 'Where's my coat?' There was a coat on the bed, but it was not my coat. It was blue, not red. It had no belt, or epaulets, or braid, and worst of all, no special buttons. It did have a matching hat, with a feather, but what use was that? I never asked for a hat. I burst into tears and ran out of the room. I can remember standing on the turn of the stairs, bawling my anger and grief. The frustrating thing was that I had no words to tell them why I was so upset. All I could manage was, 'It's a horrible coat! I hate it.' Eventually I was taken home. Once I had calmed down enough to listen, it was explained to me how naughty I was, and ungrateful, and how rude I had been to poor Auntie Winnie, who had made me such a beautiful coat ('It's not beautiful,' I muttered). Also that the coat was made, now, so I would wear it whether I liked or not ('No I won't!)'. It was the deceitfulness I could not forgive. If Auntie Winnie had said from the beginning that I could not have the coat I liked, I would have accepted it. But to go on, for weeks, pretending I was going to get what I had chosen while all the time making an entirely different one – I could not understand it. I thought she liked me. Worst of all, the whole thing had somehow become my fault. I was the one who had to go round and apologise. Why wasn't anyone apologising to me? It all blew over eventually. We became friends again. I wore the blue coat. It was, apart from being the wrong colour, wrong style and only having ordinary buttons, a very nice coat. Looking back, I think now it was a misunderstanding. Maybe when Auntie Winnie said 'Yes' she meant 'Yes, that's a nice coat' not 'yes, you can have it'. Or she just said 'Yes' to keep me quiet, and thought I would have forgotten by the time the coat was made. And when I asked about the buttons, perhaps she wasn't listening. Grown-ups often did not listen, even when you were saying something important. No-one ever admitted to being at fault, but then grown-ups never did. I think, though, Auntie Winnie did have some idea of the enormity of what she had done. The next year she got married, and asked me to be one of her bridesmaids. Again I went next door to look through the pattern books. This time I did not go for the most elaborate design, the one with the wide skirt covered in deep flounces. I chose something simpler, which I thought Auntie Winnie could manage. And this time, I got what I had chosen, down to the last frill. So you see, even my uneventful childhood was not without its traumatic moments. I got over it, as one does. But even now, after sixty years, I still feel a pang of grief over the loss of my beautiful red coat, with its leather buttons.
Archived comments for The New Coat
RoyBateman on 14-02-2011
The New Coat
Really fascinating...yes, these childhood incidents never leave you, do they? In this case, it really is difficult to see why on earth you didn't get what you wanted - it's clearly puzzled you ever since, and I can't see sense in it either! I reckon that kides, even more than adults, have a highly-developed sense of right and wrong, and anything that deviates from their expectations comes as a real shock: as it did here. It's almost as if the aduklts were being deliberately obstructive, though I can't see any logical reason for such a thing...and nor can you, even to this day. Yes, it does seem trivial compared with the abuse - real or imagined - that so many (ghost) writers have made a fortune out of, and God alone knows why there's a market for it, but the memory lingers...

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy - yes the injustice still rankles after all these years - though now I think it was probably a communications problem not deliberate deceit.

geordietaf on 14-02-2011
The New Coat
Nicely written. Adults often make the mistake of thinking they can just bluff their kids into wanting what they, the parents, want for them. It never really works.



Author's Reply:
Very true. Works for a while with some kids, I suppose. Then they turn into teenagers and all hell breaks loose . . .

EleanorP on 14-02-2011
The New Coat
It *was* abusive in one sense - your trust was damaged. But I know what you mean. I guess some of us were more resilient because we were loved well enough, and others who 'write' these memoirs were less so and therefore more damaged, or else they know that sexual abuse and neglect pay higher fees!

I have written something very nearly the same as yours for a memoir competition last year. Funny how clothing was such an issue 60 years ago. Maybe post-war mentality came into it. Good piece and well written.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the comment - mind you, I thing clothing is still an issue, between mothers and daughters anyway!

Ionicus on 14-02-2011
The New Coat
Philip Larkin had his finger on the pulse when he said that children are messed up by their parents. One would think that when children become parents themselves they would act differently but they seem to turn into their mother and father clones. Mind you, kids can transform incidents into Greek tragedies.
You can console yourself that that perceived slight has provided you with material that shows your skill as a writer.

Luigi x

Author's Reply:
Yes, it's extraordinary I have emerged as the sane, well-balanced individual I obviously am. And I tremble to think of the effect I may have had on my own two. Thanks for the words of comfort.

Bradene on 15-02-2011
The New Coat
I can totally relate to this story, I had a loving childhood but as you say there were often moments of great injustices, or so it seemed. I quickly learned not to ask, because I would never get. I realise now that money was tight, but at the time no one bothered to tell me, and I had always to content myself with my sisters hand-me-downs. Loved your story, you told it so well, I felt your anguish. Valx

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Val. It's nice to know that others feel my pain (and the emotional scars do fade with time!).

woodbine on 19-02-2011
The New Coat
It sounds to me like a story of trust betrayed. My grandfather took me to the park and offered me a brown bottle to smell. Being full of ammonia smelling salts it nearly knocked me off my feet. He in fact did me a favour. I learned that you can't trust all adults which is a valuable lesson.
Nicely written.
John X

Author's Reply:
Yes, put it that way they did me a favour. Funnily enough, my mum had a brown bottle like that, and I remember once offering it to the cat to sniff. I'll never forget the look he gave me . . . horrible child, I was.

stormwolf on 20-02-2011
The New Coat
I can relate to the sense of outrage and disappointment. A tomboy all my childhood, my mother suddenly decided to buy me a tweed cape with matching baker boy style hat! The ugliest thing I had ever seen and her anger and indignation about how much it cost was lost on a child who could not understand a mother who was SO far out in understanding her daughter.

Even now, I remember it and shudder. Someone passed me just the other day wearing one something like it.
But she looked the sort of girl it was intended for.
lol
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison
Just been looking through some of my old stuff and seen your comment - must have missed it at the time - sorry. Belated thanks! I fully share your feelings about the baker's boy hat - awful things.
Moya


Some Xmas Carols (revised) (posted on: 20-12-10)
And a Merry Xmas to one and all!

Away on a Jumbo Away on a Jumbo, in search of the sun, For Christmas at home in the cold is no fun. We'll swim in the warm sea, oh won't it be grand, And little Lord Jesus can play in the sand. But all flights are cancelled because of the snow We're all packed and ready, but nowhere to go. It's Christmas at Heathrow so bear it and grin. For little Lord Jesus, no room at the inn. We three would-be Pop Idols are We three would-be Pop Idols are Two in a girl band, one in a bra Singing our ditties, shaking our titties Desperate to be a Star. Oh-oh, give us money by the ton Give us our moment in the sun Although we fake it, still let us make it, Into our Christmas Number One! O little town of Birmingham, O little town of Birmingham How loud we hear thee cry Beneath thy Xmas brilliance The legless stagger by. But through thy bright streets cometh A blue and shining light And unwise party animals May sleep in cells tonight. How busily, how busily The shoppers scurry on. With bags and baskets loaded Their cash is nearly gone They seek a Christmas bargain But in this world of sin Though credit cards will take the brunt The bills will soon come in. Ding Dong Merrily on Sky Ding dong merrily on Sky The Xmas ads are showing. Ding dong verily let's buy To shopping websites going. Glo-o-o-o-o-oria – lamentum in extremis Glo-o-o-o-o-oria – lamentum in extremis. So now here on earth below Let festive tills be rungen And I owe, I owe, I owe By spent-up buyers sungen. Glo-o-o-o-o-oria – lamentum in extremis Glo-o-o-o-o-oria – lamentum in extremis
Archived comments for Some Xmas Carols (revised)
Ionicus on 20-12-2010
Some Xmas Carols (revised)
Priceless, Moya. All equally entertaining and difficult to choose a favourite.
Surely a candidate for a 'nib'.

Luigi x

Author's Reply:
Hi Luigi
Glad they raised a smile - Merry Christmas!
Moya

e-griff on 20-12-2010
Some Xmas Carols (revised)
very nice and funny ...


G

Author's Reply:
Thanks eGriff - Merry Christmas to you!

stormwolf on 21-12-2010
Some Xmas Carols (revised)
Well that gave me a right laugh!!!
I sang along to each and it cheered me up in the frozen north no end!
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Glad they cheered you up. Merry Xmas!

RoyBateman on 22-12-2010
Some Xmas Carols (revised)
Very neatly done, Moya - and it's not easy to get 'em this good...I've had something similar lying round for several years now, forgotten every January. Mind you, my version of "Bad King Wenceslas" IS a bit on the naughty side, so maybe it's as well. These were far wittier! Have a great Christmas - we've been snowed in for days now, and the novelty's wearing off. Brrr...

Author's Reply:
Come on Roy, you MUST post 'Bad King Wenceslas' now - I am consumed with curiosity. Thanks for the kind words. Yes the snow has rather outstayed its welcome. We've just had another dollop, and we're supposed to be driving to York tomorrow . . . fingers crossed. Anyway, hope you have a great Christmas.

sunken on 23-12-2010
Some Xmas Carols (revised)
I'm with Luigi (not literally you understand - he said that Xmas was for family and that I was just some no mark of a website - How rude!). Very hard to pick a fave. These really ought to be nibbed. I'll get my placards out. I don't care how cold it is (-; Top stuff.

s
u
n
k
e
n



Author's Reply:
Hi Sunk - glad you liked them. Sorry I took so long replying - been away for a few days. Happy New Year!


Happy Days (posted on: 14-05-10)
Not sure where this one came from

Do you remember The day we went to Conwy? We stormed the frowning castle, We scaled the topmost tower. Leaning Into the wind, you said Let's fly downriver, out to sea, never Come back. And so we did. Do you remember when You used to sit in sunlight on the grass Turning brown as toast? But now they say The light is dangerous. You never knew. How white you are, how white. Do you remember how we talked Always, of everything, and never once Misunderstood? Can you hear me now? Do you remember? No? Well, never mind I will, for both of us. Here, Let me wipe your mouth. It's time to go.
Archived comments for Happy Days
e-griff on 14-05-2010
Happy Days
Aaaaaaaah! Moya!

It's nice to see you posting, but you made me sad ....

very effective lyrical setting up and then the final raw, punch in the gut...

Author's Reply:
Thanks - but I never wanted to depress you. Cheers, M

stormwolf on 14-05-2010
Happy Days
This brought tears to my eyes. As an ex nursing sister I have seen this so many times but the human aspect and the love...the love is what got me in this poem.
Beautifully done.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison - and for hotting me. Much appreciated.

sunken on 14-05-2010
Happy Days
Hello Ms. Shadow. Good to see you around again. This is proper smashing. The last line really gets ya. Not that I show my feelings of course, ahem. Beautiful stuff. I hope you won't mind me slapping a Bernard on you.

And now for your personalised reading...

Fri May 14th: A dodgy looking bloke with a Polish accent will offer to clear your gutters. You'll ask if that's a euphemism. He'll scratch his head and say, 'Twenty five of your English pounds.' You will both look at each other, faces courting confusion as the seeds of a bewildering relationship are sown. Next door's dog will crap on your lawn again.

Please Note: The precision of my readings cannot be guaranteed. I am merely a channel through which my spirit guide (Elvis) speaks. Thank you. Hello?

s
u
n
k
e
n



Author's Reply:
Hi Sunk, many thanks (and the same to Bernard). Also for the prognostication - I shall look out for dodgy blokes (but then, I always do). However, Chloe wants me to make it clear that she NEVER allows next door's dog to crap on her lawn.
Take care
M

Ionicus on 15-05-2010
Happy Days
A very sad but well written poem, Moya.
Well done.

Author's Reply:
I never meant to make you sad . . . tanks Luigi

pdemitchell on 15-05-2010
Happy Days
It was very poignant - the spouse taking the partner on a trip, maybe in a wheelchair, but lost to Alzheimer's - that's what it brought to my mind... mitch πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Hi mitch - it wasn't a memory - more of a projection - bit scary. Thanks for comment.

RoyBateman on 16-05-2010
Happy Days
And here was me, thinking it was another love-lost idea, though a touching one, and - wham. All the more poignant for being kept simple, too. Overwrought can be counter-productive, and this worked perfectly. Ouch...

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy - yes, took me by surprise a bit too. I think because the idea of losing my memory is one thing that really scares me. Pleased you think it works.
Moya


High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire (posted on: 02-11-09)
The ice is melting . . .

The ice has melted; the encroaching waves Approach, spilling across the Cheshire plain In tongues of brine to lick the Pennines' feet. Rivers flow over bridges. From the depths Sodium glimmers faintly through the murk. The supermarkets' only customers Are fish, while high-rise office islands loom Like sea-stacks, their abandoned monitors Flickering spectral light. Go and stand On the new-formed shoreline, on a night Of moonlit calm. Listen. Can you hear A thousand ring-tones sounding under sea?
Archived comments for High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire
stormwolf on 02-11-2009
High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire
wow! LOVED it!
A nightmare vision of global warming.
the imagery was wonderful.
It made me think of the villiage of Maviston which stood a few miles along the coast from where I was born in the Moray Firth. One night of intense storms the whole villiage was buried...forever. until the forestry comission planted trees later, on similar stormy days sometimes there could be seen the odd chimney sticking out of the sands. (so it was told)

Things like that have always fascinated me..and the final lines in this poem made me think on how near to calamity we actually live.
A fav for me.
Alison

Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison - yes, been in an apolcolyptic mood lately ...

artisus on 02-11-2009
High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire
Very clever, and great ending Shadow.

Author's Reply:
Glad you likesd the ending. As often happens, I thought of the last line first.

sunken on 03-11-2009
High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire
Just brilliant, Ms. Shadow. Nothing more to add. I was so impressed I nobbed it. Well done and no mistake. Sorry to tarnish your nib with a Bernard. He's rather insistent though. Tip top.

s
u
n
k
e
n




Author's Reply:
Thank you, O sunken one. Tell Bernard he is always most welcome (but not to sit on the nib, which could be painful).

sunken on 03-11-2009
High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire
Oh balls - I meant nommed it - not nobbed it. Ahem. Sorry.

s
u
n
k
e
n

sex on the brain and no mistake

Author's Reply:
Thanks ever so - but are you sure you didn't get it right the first time? Anyway, one cannot have too many knobs.

Ionicus on 03-11-2009
High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire
"The ice has melted; the encroaching waves
Approach, spilling across the Cheshire plain
In tongues of brine to lick the Pennines’ feet."

A forceful, and wonderful, beginning to a poem full of imagery which warns us of an impending doom; Apocalypse now!
Many excellent lines such as:
"The supermarkets’ only customers
Are fish,"
Very clever, well done.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for your comments. Actually, it might not be quite that bad. According to one projection I saw, only Norfolk and bits of the south coast are likely to be completely inundated.

So that's all right then.

Romany on 06-11-2009
High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire
Oooh, very apocalyptic. Great concept well written.

Author's Reply:
Well - I always wanted to live at the seaside! Thanks for comment, much appreciated.

Corin on 08-11-2009
High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire
Hi Shadow here is a picture of how Britain will look if the Ice Caps melt:-

http://davidmturner.org/my-pics/279_climate-chaos-map.jpg

Scary eh??

David

Author's Reply:
Bloody hell - yes!!!

woodbine on 10-02-2010
High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire
The best poem I have read here for a long time.Pithy, cogent, and succinct.

Kind regards,
John XX

Author's Reply:
Hey, thanks John! Praise from you is always really appreciated. Nice to hear from you again.
Cheers
Moya

pdemitchell on 15-06-2010
High Tide on the Coast of Staffordshire
As a newbie, I thought I'd check some of yer back-catalogue. It was a short and graphic piece that left me bootless and sockless. Not a great fan of wraparounds and full stops in middle of lines (a device done to death by 'established' poets) but you pull this off with aplomb. Very descriptive and pertinent and a joy to read. mitch.

Author's Reply:
Thanks mitch. I think I must have been feeling a bit apocalyptic that day. Or maybe the rain was getting to me . . .
Cheers. M


Five in Holiday Horror (posted on: 28-09-09)
A quiet weekend in the country - what could be nicer?

'Aaarrgh!' Julian rose from the cowpat, his handsome face twisted in disgust. 'I hate the country,' he declared, 'it's damp and smelly and full of dangerous animals. And my jeans are ruined. I'm going home.' Certainly Julian's new white designer jeans were somewhat the worse for wear, and his expensive aftershave could not mask the odour of dung which hung about him. 'There, there dear,' soothed his brother Dick. 'We're almost at the cottage. You'll feel better once we've settled in. It's just through this hedge – and look, the girls are here already.' 'Is that it?' gasped Julian. 'You said it would be unspoiled and picturesque – not ruined!' 'Oh, buck up old chap. It's a dear little cottage – and we'll soon get the roof mended.' The door opened as they approached, and George peeped out. 'Hello boys,' she said. Dick and Julian greeted her warmly. 'Glad to see you looking so well,' said Dick. 'Love the beard,' added Julian. 'Thanks. I've felt so much more myself since I had the operation,' said George 'Come along in. Anne's just gone to the well to fill the kettle.' 'Funny smell in here,' said Julian as they sat round the fire after an ample tea of sausage rolls and fruit cake. 'It's only old Timmy,' said George. 'He does pong a bit, but I couldn't leave him behind. He's thirty-five now, you know. Anyway, you're a fine one to talk, sitting there covered in cowshit.' 'Isn't this lovely,' said Anne, 'just like old times.' 'All we need is an Adventure,' said George. Anne frowned. 'No we don't! We want a nice quiet weekend.' Next day the boys and George walked over to the nearby farm to buy milk and eggs, leaving Anne to wash up, make the beds, scrub floors etc (because that was what she liked doing). When they reached the farm they found it surrounded by a chain-link fence topped by razor wire. The gate was locked. George rattled it. 'Hey! Open up! We want to buy eggs and other fresh farm produce!' A man appeared, obviously one of the lower orders, as he was unshaven and needed a bath. 'Bugger off!' he shouted angrily. 'What a rude man,' said Dick. 'Now we'll have to get our milk from the supermarket like everyone else.' When they arrived back at the cottage there was no sign of Anne. 'Perhaps she's gone for a walk?' suggested George. Julian shook his head. 'Anne never does anything on her own initiative. Besides, she would be expecting us back for tea. I think something has happened to her!' 'I bet it has something to do with that man at the farm,' cried Dick excitedly. 'I thought he was a suspicious character.' 'What's that noise?' asked George suddenly. 'It sounds like Timmy barking.' 'It's coming from the well!' shouted Julian. They all peered down. Far below, Timmy was dog-paddling frantically as he tried to keep his head above water. 'Poor Timmy!' said George. 'We must rescue him. I'll climb down using those rungs I can see conveniently protruding from the shaft.' As George approached the bottom she gave a cry of surprise. 'What is it?' 'Clever Timmy has found a secret passage!' she called. 'I bet it leads to the farm. Come on down and we can explore it!' Progress was slow along the tunnel, as they had to go on hands and knees. Timmy led the way to reconnoitre (which slowed them down even more as he kept stopping for a widdle), but at last they came to a stout wooden door, from behind which came a murmur of voices. Julian pressed his ear to the crack. 'What are they saying?' asked George. 'Dunno. They're speaking Foreign.' 'That proves they're the villains,' hissed Dick. Suddenly a cackle of manic laughter rent the air. 'That sounds like Anne,' cried George. 'We must rescue her!' 'Dick and I will do that,' said Julian. 'It's no job for a woman.' George floored him with a swift upper cut to the jaw before flinging open the door. 'Hang on in there, Anne old girl,' she called. 'We're coming!' As they charged through the door, a hideous sight met their eyes. Anne was lolling in a chair, in a most unladylike way, puffing on a cigarette. Her eyes were crossed, and she smiled vacantly. 'Anne!' cried Julian, shocked. 'Put your legs together, we can see your knickers!' 'Piss off, wanker,' replied Anne, taking another drag. Poor Anne, she was not at all herself! What had the villains done to her? 'Where did you get that fag?' demanded Dick. 'Nice man gave it me,' mumbled Anne. 'He grows his own, in the attic.' 'Never mind her,' cried George. 'They're getting away!' An engine started up outside. All (except Anne) rushed to the front door to see the villains piling into a large and powerful car. 'Drat it, they're going to escape!' yelped Dick. 'No – look!' squawked George. 'There's Timmy!' Timmy was standing in the middle of the drive, teeth bared and hackles raised. As the villains' car bore down on him, he bravely sprang onto its bonnet, flattening himself against the windscreen. The car veered off the drive and plunged down a nearby embankment, exploding into a fireball as it hit the bottom. 'Good-oh!' cried Julian. 'That's those villains sorted!' George wiped away a manly tear. 'Poor Timmy! Still, he died doing his duty.' 'Wait!' Dick pointed as Timmy crawled over the edge of the bank. He was a bit singed, but otherwise unharmed. 'Good dog! He must have jumped off at the last moment.' Then they all went back to the cottage, and Anne (having sobered up) made their tea. They had ham and sausage rolls and jam tarts and fruit cake, with lashings of ginger beer, and afterwards they tried out some of the special cigarettes which Dick had had the forethought to pocket before they left the farm.
Archived comments for Five in Holiday Horror
e-griff on 28-09-2009
Five in Holiday Horror
very enjoyable.

I know you were not trying to employ good writing techniques, but even so the narrator's intrusion (lower orders) and the dog widdling in brackets rather distracted me.

Author's Reply:
Sorry, didn't mean to intrude. I might take out the brackets, as Timmy widdles as much outside as in them, his aim isn't very good.
Do you think I have enough exclamation marks?

RoyBateman on 28-09-2009
Five in Holiday Horror
I'm SO glad that they had their compulsory lashings of ginger beer and not that awful scrumpy that Farmer Giles up the road brews, and makes everybody fart. That would've ruined their holiday. And, it's good to see those foreign johnnies getting their comeuppance - as they should! Jolly good read, I say, and I don't think that the updating spoiled it one little bit. Hurrah!

Author's Reply:
Actually, Julian, Dick and George while away the evenings with regular farting contests - they believe in making their own entertainment. Glad you approve!

ruadh on 28-09-2009
Five in Holiday Horror
Cracking good read Shadow πŸ™‚ Well done.

Author's Reply:
Thanks - there's nothing quite like these children's classics, is there?

sunken on 29-09-2009
Five in Holiday Horror
Hello Ms. Shadow. Humorous as ever (and no mistake). (I'm a big fan of brackets). (They protect me from unwanted elements). Enjoyed muchly. Well done Lady Shadow.

s
u
n
k
e
n

life in cling film

Author's Reply:
Thank you sunk. I will continue to confine Timmy's widdling to brackets (it's much more hygienic). (He says, he'll have one on you.)

Ionicus on 29-09-2009
Five in Holiday Horror
β€˜What are they saying?’ asked George.

β€˜Dunno. They’re speaking Foreign.’

β€˜That proves they’re the villains,’ hissed Dick.

These lines made me giggle. The whole piece is hilarious: eat your heart out Enid Blyton!

Author's Reply:
Yes, these foreign chappies - up to No Good, you may be sure. Glad to have induced giggles.

Andrea on 29-09-2009
Five in Holiday Horror
Hilarious! Not so famous now, eh? That Timmy must qualify for the Guinness Book Of Records I would think πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Timmy is in fact immortal. Either that, or he has been replaced by an all-barking, all-widdling electronic version.

Ania on 02-10-2009
Five in Holiday Horror
Loved it. Glad there are still a few secret tunnels left. Just one point: if George had had the op, to say nothing of the hormone therapy HE would prefer to be referred to as HE.

Ania

Author's Reply:
Thanks Ania - I take your point about George - trouble is, Julian and Dick are unreconstructed MCPs . . .

niece on 06-10-2009
Five in Holiday Horror
A fun read, Moya...finally something that makes sense;)...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece - did it make sense? Well, thank goodness for that! Thanks for stopping by.


Hi! Coo . . . (posted on: 14-09-09)
Not sure if I've got the hang of these Haiku thingies yet.

Haiku Rain-soaked rose petals Fall gently on the grass Caressing a slug. * Fledgling falls from a nest The mother bird calls, alarmed. The cat will eat well. * Grey squirrel scrabbles Searching the fallen leaves to Find its desire. Nuts. * Rain falls from the sky Thirsty soil drinks, softening, Awakes hidden seed. * Supine in sunlight The well oiled sleepers sizzle. Melanoma waits. * The dog in the park Scampers around the bushes Deposits a turd. Perhaps I should stick to limericks: A poetess sat on the loo As she tried to perfect her haiku 'My syllables strive To fit five-seven-five – ' She said. 'What would a Japanese do?'
Archived comments for Hi! Coo . . .
e-griff on 14-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
there is a discussion about haiku, traditional western and modern, on the poetry discussion/workshop forum.



Author's Reply:
Thanks, I'll take a look.

Jolen on 14-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
They all look fine to me, but then I am no authority. I loved the limerick at the end!

blessings,
Jolen

Author's Reply:
Me neither, but I thought I might as well have a go. Limericks are more my thing. Ta very much.

RoyBateman on 14-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
Ah, NOW we known where you do your writing. Beats the traditional "reading the racing pages", I suppose! Very funny limerick, right up my street. Fine haiku, too, staying on the nature theme. (Mind you, I'm not sure about that slug. Nasty critters, they are... The name seems to sum 'em up somehow.) Apart from such irrelevant trifles - very good haiku!

Author's Reply:
Doesn't everyone? I mean, it's the only place where you can count on not being interrupted ... Glad you liked the results.

stormwolf on 14-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
I do not like Haiku...purely because I never really saw the good in it and besides I am useless at it too.;-(
I can say though that this (in my humble opinion) was first class. I think having several of them helped me to comprehend the reasoning behind this style of poetry.
Loved the limerick πŸ˜‰
Alison

Author's Reply:
They're not really my thing either - in fact, these are the first I've ever done. I hope they are not addictive ...

sunken on 14-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
Hello Ms. Shadow. I don't know much about Ikea's either. It doesn't really matter tho, I enjoyed them all the same. The turd one is my fave... I recently blocked my toilet with a turd by the way. In the end I had to break it up with the toilet brush. Having the ability to do big shits can sometimes be detrimental to the whole defecating experience. Ahem. I liked the limerick too. This hasn't helped at all has it?

s
u
n
k
e
n

most likely to fall off 2003 - 2009

Author's Reply:
Sorry to hear about your toilet brush - hope my efforts brought you some solace. The turd one is my dog Chloe's favourite, too.

niece on 14-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
Moya,
Have never understood how the haiku works, but I liked all of them and also the limerick at the end...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
To be honest, i don't understand them either - perhaps you have to be Japanese? Fun, though, once you get used to counting syllables on your fingers. Glad you liked them.

Zoya on 14-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
Well Haiku has many faces: The Haiku, the Tanka, the Renga and hosts of other Japanese cousins by name of the Choka, the Cinquain etc. etc.
You have done well by putting quite a few of them together...
Psst... Don't even try understanding-just keep writing- remember? 'it is the content that matters and not the form!'
All best with haiku-ing
Love,
Zoya

Author's Reply:
Goodness - I've never even heard of that lot! Thanks for the advice - I am very good at not understanding.

Griffonner on 14-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
Where did Ikea's come into it?

I don't Haiku. And I don't Tango either.

But I love reading
the former and watching the
Argentine latter.

I think yours were great by the way. My favourite was:

"Supine in sunlight
The well oiled sleepers sizzle.
Melanoma waits."

*genially*
Allen


Author's Reply:
Hey, I like that! But they are a bit scary, aren't they? Once you get started it's hard to stop. At the moment I am Haiku-ed but not Tango-ed (yet).

cat on 17-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
Loved the caressing of the slug πŸ™‚ Enjoyed very much, thank you x

Author's Reply:
Slugs are much maligned creatures. They only want to be loved like everyone else. Glad you approve!

wfgray on 17-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
Hi Shadow, Haiku rhyme with loo
its a place to deposit
others would say a load of shit
Its a place where you stand and deliver
At least its a place where you don't shiver.

Hey I liked your little ditty even though it was a bit shitty.
Will

Author's Reply:
Thanks for comment - very witty
Gets right down to nitty gritty.

shackleton on 17-09-2009
Hi! Coo . . .
Watch that cat in the second haiku... it'll eat mother and child! Good ones, Ms Shadow.

Author's Reply:
It's not going to starve, that's for sure! Thanks.

ChairmanWow on 11-12-2011
Hi! Coo . . .
Ha-ha, These haiku gorgeous little nuggets, sort of a humorous merging of a limerick and haiku which you clue in by finishing with a limerick. Well done.

Author's Reply:
Hey - thanks! I love it when someone visits my archive - feels like it's not all been in vain . . . much appreciated.


Moon Music (posted on: 12-06-09)
Or should that be Loony Tunes?

Sid wobbled along the road, voice lifted in song. He had enjoyed a splendid evening: the beer had flowed like – like beer, the company had admired his wit and wisdom, even Mabel the barmaid had ventured to crack a smile. Sid was at peace with the world, even if not all the world was at peace with him. As he passed the last cottage its window was flung up and a voice shouted 'Shurrup you pillock, we're trying to sleep here.' Sid took no notice. Some people just didn't appreciate music. 'Shine on, harvest . . . boon . . . croon? Ah, yes – spoon,' he warbled. He wished the road would keep still, though. It had no business shifting around all the time. He paused by the gate into a field. Perhaps he should have a bit of a lie down, till the world sorted itself out. He lay on his back in the stubble, staring up at the moon. The moon stared back. It had a face. No, really. Not like the one's you see in kids' picture book. A real face. Didn't look too friendly, either. 'What d'you think you're doing there,' said the moon. 'Haven't you got a home to go to?' Sid thought for a moment. 'No,' he said. He did have a home, of course, but he did not particularly want to go there. Mona would be waiting up for him (he wished she wouldn't, but she insisted), sitting there in her nightie and curlers, ready to start on him as soon as he got through the door. 'And what time do you call this? Some of us need our sleep you know, have to get up in the morning, not right keeping me up all hours, and don't say I could go to bed because i wouldn't feel safe leaving you to lock up, look at the state of you, no-one knows what I have to put up with, should have listened to my mother . . . ' No wonder her parents called her Moaner, she did nothing else but. Sid smiled at the moon, his most ingratiating smile. 'I'd rather stay where I am, if you don't mind.' 'Suit yourself. But I ought to warn you – people who spend too much time in my company can end up a bit funny. Though in your case I don't suppose anyone will notice.' Sid was no longer listening. He began to sing again. 'Shine on, shine on harvest moon, di dum di dum dum . . . ' 'Will you stop that ghastly noise!' said the moon. Sid broke off, affronted. 'My voice has been much – much . . . people like it.' 'Well, I don't. Why don't you listen to the real thing?' 'OK.' Then, as he lay there, he heard the most beautiful music. It came from everywhere around him, the melody strange and yet somehow familiar. 'What is it?' he whispered. 'The waltz of the spheres,' said the moon, smiling. She was rather pretty when she smiled. 'Would you like to dance?' 'Yes, please,' said Sid. The moon stepped down and took his hands, pulling him to his feet. They began to dance, stepping smoothly over the stubble field, up into the night air, whirling above the sleeping world, faster and faster, her light shining around him and through him, the exquisite, insistent melody filling his mind . . . They found him next morning, lying in the field with a beatific smile on his face, babbling nonsense. They took him home to sleep it off, and when, after a couple of weeks, there was no change, to the local hospital. There he stays. His wife visits once a week for a ritual moan. 'He's happy, selfish pig. Doesn't care about me,' she grumbles. But he no longer hears her.
Archived comments for Moon Music
artisus on 12-06-2009
Moon Music
Well written story! I liked it very much! The music of the spheres... the moon and escapism...

Author's Reply:
I think he found a happier place . . . Thanks for comment.

e-griff on 12-06-2009
Moon Music
I see the moon, the moon sees me ... πŸ™‚ cute.

Author's Reply:
It's when it starts talking back that you need to worry!

Sunken on 12-06-2009
Moon Music
Hello Ms. Shadow. It's me, sunks. I've been trying to comment on your smashing piece all afternoon. I kept getting distracted tho. I blame lovely ladies in short skirts, sunny weather and, of course, turnips. Anyway, it sounds like the fella in said piece has his head screwed on if you ask me. What an ingenious way of escaping a grumbling woman (-; I must note it down and no mistake.

s
u
n
k
e
n

where there is malt loaf, let there be mice

Author's Reply:
Hi sunk - yes, it worked for him - but it may not be foolproof, you could end up with rheumatics instead. It would depend on whether the moon was prepared to speak to you. Be careful.

Sunken on 13-06-2009
Moon Music
Ahem. I'm writing this just before Dawn. It's quite a warm night so I decided to take my ickul netbook into the garden. I'll be frank, I can't see the moon anywhere, Ms. Shadow. I might talk to the trees instead. Perhaps said lunar globe has gone away for the weekend? I feel cheated and a bit daft. The sycamore sends his love. Hello?

s
u
n
k
e
n

johnny rotten - country life butter - sell out

Author's Reply:
You may talk to the trees, but they won't listen to you . . . you might have better luck with Dawn.

RoyBateman on 13-06-2009
Moon Music
Gawd, if that happens to me...next time I have a few, I'll stay indoors! Still, as you say, he found a happier place - cheaper, too. I reckon there are a few old codgers who wouldn't mind getting locked away from the missus. Not me, obviously... Lovely light, whimsical tone to this - well worth the nib!

Author's Reply:
I think the moral of the story is: don't mess with Luna! But surely, you never become seriously inebriated? Thanks Roy

Ionicus on 13-06-2009
Moon Music
Or should that be Loony Tunes? I like it. Even the sub-title is as good as the story. I enjoyed this tale a lot, Moya. Thanks.

Luigi x


Author's Reply:
Thanks Luigi - kind words much appreciated.

macaby on 14-06-2009
Moon Music
An enjoyable, lighthearted tale and well told. Thanks for sharing.
mac

Author's Reply:
Glad you liked it - thanks mac.

Rupe on 15-06-2009
Moon Music
Splendid - whimsical, charming, with more than a hint of midsummer madness...

Rupe

Author's Reply:
A hint? Stark staring bonkers, I'd say. Thanks Rupe.

Ania on 29-06-2009
Moon Music
Enjoyed this! Loved the idea of moon music.

Ania

Author's Reply:
Thanks Ania - glad you felt in tune with it.


Why can't I swear? (posted on: 08-06-09)
Warning: contains 'adult' language

It must be so satisfying, especially when a heavy weight lands on my toe, or I catch my finger in the door jamb. Everyone else does it. You can't turn the telly on nowadays without hearing shit bugger fuck bollocks. I blame my upbringing. My dad never swore, he had a real horror of 'bad language'. I don't know how he managed in the army. I remember I once said 'bum' in his hearing, and the telling off I got – I didn't dare so much as think the dreadful word for years. Of course, in those days even 'bottom' was a bit rude. You referred to your 'behind' or better still, your 'derriere'. (These things always sounded more tasteful in French.) Crap or shit, if you absolutely had the mention it, was always 'Number 2's', and you never ever went for a piss, or even a pee – you 'tinkled' or 'spent a penny'. This could lead to a certain amount of confusion, when I grew old enough to read the Sunday papers. I asked my mother once, what was this mysterious 'intercourse' which was always taking place? I think she said it was when a man and woman went off by themselves to talk, though she did not explain why this was grounds for divorce. The swearing ban spawned a host of pseudo-swearwords: What the Dickens! and Great Scott!; drat and blast and ruddy and flipping heck. For years I thought that flip was a terribly rude word – which lent a certain frisson to instructions like 'Flip the pancake . . . '. The strange thing is that when I encountered the real word for the first time (scrawled on a lavatory wall), I knew immediately what it meant. Now we find profanity and obscenity everywhere. The F word is hurled across the infant school playground with merry abandon. But I simply can't take to it, and for a writer that is a grave handicap. One cannot be a serious exponent of modern literature while refusing to employ the language's most common adjective. I try to correct my deficiencies: I watch as much late night TV as I can stomach, and I make a point of dropping the odd expression into my ordinary conversation, but I'm still not sure I've grasped the subtleties.. Only the other day I was crossing the road when there was this scream of brakes and a car stopped very suddenly just inches from me. The driver got very excited and started shouting, I couldn't quite hear what. 'Bollards!' I shouted back. Somehow it didn't sound right.
Archived comments for Why can't I swear?
Rupe on 08-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
Thought-provoking and amusing. Bollards indeed.

One aspect of swearing-avoidance I find interesting is that while persons of genteel manners tend to avoid even moderately coarse words like 'piss' or 'pee' in favour of the euphemisms you mention, I have the impression that they'd still choose 'piss' or 'pee' over 'urinate' - which is after all the scientifically correct, supposedly neutral term. Only doctors are permitted to use that word, and even then only under controlled clinical conditions...

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Thanks Rupe - and quite right, we can't have people urinating all over the place. My least favourite euphemism btw is 'make water'!

Sunken on 08-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
Hello Ms. Shadow. Cunt seems to be a popular swear word at the moment. I guess fuck's been done to death. Neither word really shocks me to be honest. I don't know what that says about me )-: I find your bollards far more appealing than bollocks. At least it's different, original. My fave word (tho not a profanity) is pie - I particularly like meat and potato pie. I hope this has helped. Hello?

Oh (one small typo - 6/7th line)
I thing/think she said it was when a man and woman went off by themselves to talk

s
u
n
k
e
n

it's not where you're at, it's wear your hat

Author's Reply:
Pie is a good word, though I go more for steak & kidney. But you input is always valued, as is your output.
Missed another typo did I? Oh bugger.

Leila on 08-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
Nice one Shadow...whatever would Jane Austen say if she were still around...Leila

Author's Reply:
What a load of manure?
Thanks Leila.

RoyBateman on 08-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
A wry, amusing piece - and true, of course: my upbringing was extremely rude-word free. Everything was in the 50s, especially the media - I presume you've come across the (perfectly genuine) BBC guidelines for comedians that sketched out the boundaries - it's hilarious today. Even jokes about commercial travellers were taboo. Now they talk openly about farting on kids' TV and excessive use ruins it all. Wanna hear every-other word swearing? Travel by train, as I often do - I recommend the Manchester and Liverpool areas, though nowhere beats parts of South and West Yorkshire.
Swearing is like a lot of things - fine and very effective in small quantities, very tiresome when it's the norm. A write to make us all think - and, hopefully, in moderate language too...

Author's Reply:
Yes indeed - remember when saying 'bloody' felt really wicked and shocking? Ah, those were the days.

macaby on 08-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
A very enjoyable read. It brought back memories of my childhood and those bad words.
I liked it.
mac

Author's Reply:
Thanks mac. Strange isn't it - the fascination of rude words?

Ionicus on 08-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
An enjoyable and amusing piece.
I know quite a few rude words in English and Italian mainly but also in other languages but funnily enough I can never bring myself to use them in my writing. Most of the time my poems contain euphemisms or double entendres.
Your article highlights people's ambiguity in regard to expletives (so often deleted).

Author's Reply:
Trouble is, nowadays they aren't deleted, which puts those of us who were brought up to be polite at a distinct disadvantage.
Perhaps I could learn to swear in Italian?

Sunken on 09-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
Ref. Missed another typo did I? Oh bugger.

Please mind your language, Ms. Shadow. Ahem. Hello? (-;

s
u
n
k
e
n

best before bedtime

Author's Reply:
Only practising.

Andrea on 09-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
Enjoyed this one, Shad. Don't mind swearing at all, and do so myself with gay abandon πŸ™‚

My favourite at the mo is 'borrocks', pinched from no 2 son who, in turn pinched it from a Guy Richie movie (Rockandrolla?).

I love GR's movies *she said as an aside*

Author's Reply:
Hey, 'borrocks' is good. I don't really mind either - just wish i was more comfortable with it. It's a generational thing.

zenbuddhist on 09-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
'They flip you up your mum and dad'

Nope disnae quite work.

Author's Reply:
You're right, it doen't have quite the oomph of the original. Thanks zen.

e-griff on 09-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
when I first joined this site, I had a joke running about 'cock's legs' (as opposed to chicken legs) --- they were somhow 'better'. The site inserted five asterisks in place of the word.

There is the option of banning certain words, on the forum and the main site. Would it help if we did so? *ducks*

Author's Reply:
No no no - we can't go banning words or we'll find ourselves back in the 'blinking blank' era. Mind you, there are some words I wouldn't mind banning - for instance, no television presenter/reporter should be allowed to say 'incredible' ever again.

niece on 10-06-2009
Why cant I swear?
With my father, Moya, it was always "the look" rather than "telling off"...I stopped using "Shit" when I was around 12 and didn't use it till I was married and far away from him...

The latest, I've heard my boys use when frustrated for some reason or the other is "Oh Fish"...it is an "f" word they can use without being reprimanded...

Btw, congrats for making your way back into the WOTM Column...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece, nice to hear from you again. Yes I was surprised to see myself resurrected in WOTM! I like 'fish', I'll add it to my collection.
Cheers, Moya.


Banana Fool (posted on: 05-06-09)
I read on the Internet about something like this happening - only it was a couple of weeks AFTER I wrote the story - scary, or what?

                                                 All right, I confess. I done it. It seemed such a good idea when I thought of it – the perfect answer to my cash flow problem. I'd seen how it was done in the films, and I'd worked out all the details in my notebook. I decided my first job would be the village post office – I didn't want to go too far from home in case I got lost on the way back. I got everything ready – pair of tights to go over my head, my weapon (I couldn't run to a proper gun, but I'd got a banana in a paper bag) and a holdall for the cash. I had a note as well, I was proud of that – it said 'Hand over the money or I'll shoot' in my best joined up writing. At last the fateful day arrived. I left my bike propped up outside for a quick getaway and went in. I'd gone and picked pension day, so I was stood there for ages in the queue, but at last my turn came. I handed over my note and waited. The old dear behind the counter stared at it. 'What's this?' she said. 'Other way up' I mumbled. She turned it round and peered again. 'Dear me, this writing's terrible. Bend over the bunny or I'll hoot? What are you – an owl?' 'Cut the funny stuff,' I shouted. 'This banana's loaded!' She started laughing like a drain. 'Oo, you are a one,' she gurgled, 'are we on the telly?' 'No we're not. Give me the money!' At this she got a bit angry. 'You mind your manners, young man. Get out of my shop if you're not buying.' I don't think I'm cut out to be a master criminal. When the pensioners in the queue behind joined in, shouting and hitting me with their sticks and Zimmer frames, I burst into tears and ran out. And then, to cap it all, I found someone had nicked my bike. I had to walk home, and when I got there the police were waiting. I'd only left my holdall in the shop. It was the one I took on holidays, you see, and unfortunately I'd forgotten to take off the label with my name and address. So they got me, bang to rights. My lawyer says I'll get a lighter sentence if I plead guilty. Though to be honest, I won't mind a few years away. I daren't go home, me mam'll kill me.
Archived comments for Banana Fool
Rupe on 05-06-2009
Banana Fool
"Bend over the bunny or I’ll hoot?"

Brilliant.

An enjoyable short story. I'm sure this kind of thing happens all the time.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Thanks Rupe - yes, I read something like it on Yahoo News the other day. He tried to escape by eating the evidence, but it didn't work - they found the skin.

admin on 05-06-2009
Banana Fool
Hahaha, brilliant! Loved it. What an eejit (him, not you). Actually it HAS happened, several times, I've read about it. Love the last sentence πŸ™‚

('banana is a paper bag' - should that be 'in'?)

Excellent - cheered me up on this gloomy, cloudy day.

Author's Reply:
Drat! Thought I'd caught all the typos. Glad it cheered up your day, though.

Sunken on 05-06-2009
Banana Fool
Lol. Tip top stuff, Ms. Shadow. I needed a larf. The beagle named Bernard, he say woof. Sorry, someone has to have him. It's the weekend and I have beer to drink. Hello?

s
u
n
k
e
n



Author's Reply:
Woof,woof. (That was Chloe, the Hound from Hell). Glad it gave you a larf anyway. Beer drinking is a serious occupation, Keep it up!

bluepootle on 05-06-2009
Banana Fool
Very entertaining. I can't help but feel a bit sorry for him, in a weird way.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for comment. Yes, he is a sad case, poor dab.

Romany on 06-06-2009
Banana Fool
Bless 'im. I bet the pensioners would wade in too!

Romany.

Author's Reply:
They did indeed! Never underestimate the Grey Panthers. Thanks for comment.

RoyBateman on 07-06-2009
Banana Fool
Great - the dry tone added to the amusement, too. Yes, I think that virtually every kind of fruit* has been used in robberies...in the last real life case, didn't the "villain" try to confuse the police by eating the evidence? If the robbery prevented the pensioners from getting to bingo, he was lucky to escape with his life. Very amusing - great last line too!
*Except possibly gooseberries. They're not threatening enough.

Author's Reply:
Sorry - comment below should have been reply to yours. Eh dear, maybe I'll get the hang of this one day . . .

shadow on 07-06-2009
Banana Fool
Well, I dunno. We have a gooseberry bush in the garden which is extremely aggressive, I still bear the scars. Has anyone ever held up a bank with a melon? Glad to have raised a smile anyway.

Author's Reply:

niece on 10-06-2009
Banana Fool
Moya,

This is so funny...a wannabe criminal who didn't do his homework well enough...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece - yes, you have to be up to speed on these things. Strangely enough, two of the elements in the story (the banana and the illegible note) actually hppened, though not to the same person.
Moya


I wish (posted on: 05-06-09)
Here's my wishlist - what's yours?

I wish I had an elephant With long, prehensile trunk I'd paint it pink, so passers-by Would think that they were drunk. I wish I had an octopus To cuddle me at night With eight arms, it could surely spare A few to hold me tight. I wish I had a tall giraffe With neck so elongated I'd introduce it to its love And watch them while they mated. I wish I had a big baboon So hairy, bold and clever And when it showed its bum, we'd say O wow! The brightest ever!
Archived comments for I wish
Sunken on 06-06-2009
I wish
Lol. Hard to pick a fave stanza, Ms. Shadow. Do they call them stanzas? I'm not very technical. Your fondness for watching giraffes mate has been noted. I saw two pigeons mating last week. It looked very uncomfortable. Enjoyed this muchly. The read I mean, not watching the pigeons shagging. Ahem. Hello?

s
u
n
k
e
n

where there is light, let there be bums

Author's Reply:
Hi Sunk
I believe 'they' do call them stanzas. I call them verses myself. Never actually seen giraffes mate, but I live in hope. Keep it up (the good work, I mean).

RoyBateman on 07-06-2009
I wish
This made me smile all the way through - perfect rhythm, too. I particularly like the idea of walking the partially-pink elephant past Wetherspoons late at night. I, for one, would be VERY confused. Then, I wonder aboutb the giraffes too - they seem to have shaky legs to begin with, so...mm. The mind boggles. It could all end in tears, couldn't it? Still, a very funny piece indeed - even if you do seem to spend a lot of time looking at the rear end of baboons. Are there many in Tamworth?

Author's Reply:
More than you might imagine, especially outside Wetherspoons on a Saturday night . . . Cheers!

Elfstone on 07-06-2009
I wish
Well this one made me grin! Very clever shadow, enjoyed it. Elf.

Author's Reply:
Very glad to hear it (and so is the baboon). Thanks.

stormwolf on 03-08-2009
I wish
A dabble on the daft side that made me smile...
I will settle for a baboon / octupus hybrid πŸ˜‰

Alison

(nuthin like getting cuddled by eight hairy arms all in one go! πŸ˜‰ )

Author's Reply:
Eight hairy arms . . . yes, indeed. Thanks for the image!


Wet Week (posted on: 29-09-08)
a soggy business

It was only supposed to be a couple of days a break to get the batteries recharged before winter set in. He'd mess around with the boat while the kids played, and I read my book on deck. We hadn't reckoned on the rain. You never saw a deluge like it. We nearly packed it in and came back home, but in the night the flood roared down and swept us out to sea. For days we floated with the other rubbish. We rescued dogs, a pregnant cat, a couple of sheep (the kids insisted), and a pigeon whose relentless cooing nearly drove us mad. No-one else. You would have thought we were the only people left on earth. We fetched up on this hilltop, run aground, with water everywhere, but not a drop of Evian left. Still, it could be worse. At least the rain has stopped, and we've got rid of the sodden pigeon.
Archived comments for Wet Week
teifii on 29-09-2008
Wet Week
Good Heavens! Was it true. Very effective description.
Daff

Author's Reply:
Er, no. Not exactly. I made it up. But it could have been! Thanks for the comment anyway.

niece on 30-09-2008
Wet Week
Even I got worried for a second till I read your reply to teifii...and you can read when the kids are playing about? How do you manage that now?

This sounded like a modern version of "Noah's Arc"...maybe you can make it longer, but it was enjoyable even at this length...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Glad you picked up the 'Deluge' theme - it was the weather we've been having this summer which put me in mind of it. Thanks for dropping by.

RoyBateman on 30-09-2008
Wet Week
Oh, clever! Very witty indeed - it took a few lines for me to realise what was going on here. Great last line - lovely pun, and I do realise that doves and pigeons are more or less the same. Same family, anyway. I wonder - wasn't it a good job Noah wasn't gay? Two of the same sex wouldn't have been much use, at least not in the long run. Give my regards to all up Mount Ararat.
ps Wasn't "Ararat" a hit back in 1967 for Dave Dee, Dozy, Sleepy, Wanky and Somebody Else? Maybe not.

Author's Reply:
A gay Noah - perish the thought! Arafat, you say? I don't remember the seven dwarfs making a record.
Must have been before my time. Cheers.

Sunken on 01-10-2008
Wet Week
Lol. That last line is pure class, Ms. Shadowy figure. Muchly enjoyed and no mistake.

s
u
n
k
e
n

she sells cult cd's

Author's Reply:
I hardly dare ask - which class? Much gratified by you approbation, Mr Sunk.

Sunken on 01-10-2008
Wet Week
How did you know about my probation!? I'm innocent I tells ya! Innocent! As for which class? A class of your own, my dear shadowy figure, a class of your own. Now, if you'll please excuse me, I have mail bags to sew. Good day!

s
u
n
k
e
n

he didn't do it

Author's Reply:
You? Innocent??? My dear, you were born knowing!

macaby on 22-12-2008
Wet Week
i really enjoyed this poem, it was a bit like a modern "ark" poem with the pregnant cat and the pigeon, nicely told and brought a smile to my face.

Author's Reply:
Yes, there were times last summer when I thought I might need an ark! Thanks for deropping by - and for the 'pick'.


Midnight Call (posted on: 28-04-08)
A visitation best avoided ...

OWWOOooooh! I climbed out of a deep pit of nightmare to find waking was worse. Thick night closed around me, smothering. The darkness was absolute. Only that ghastly cry resounded in my ears. Had it been part of my dream? I dreamt I escaped across burning sands, the colour and consistency of congealing custard. The very air had seemed to solidify around me. I heard the scrabbling feet of the pursuing demons, felt their hot breath on the back of my neck . . . As my eyes grew used to the darkness I could see the pale square of the window, clouds scudding across a gibbous moon. Slowly my breathing calmed, my pounding heartbeat quietened. I listened till my ears ached. All was silent. There it came again! The hideous, wailing cry, of a soul wracked beyond endurance. The hair stirred on my head as I sat up, clutching the blankets around me. It had sounded so near, almost as if it was in the same house. I shuddered, fearing the infernal entities had escaped from my dreams to walk the earth. Perhaps one was even now approaching up the stairs. Then I heard it. Soft, surreptitious scratching at my bedroom door. For a moment terror held me paralysed, but I could not help myself. Some external force seemed to propel me from my bed and across the floor. I had to see. My hand shook as I opened the door. It was there, its eyes blazing into mine, a headless corpse at its feet. I screamed. 'Bloody hell, Fluffykins. I know you mean well and you're a brilliant hunter but - I don't want your mouse!' Only he looked so disappointed I ate it anyway.
Archived comments for Midnight Call
SugarMama34 on 28-04-2008
Midnight Call
Hi Shadow,

I liked the dark atmosphere of this, especially with the descriptions of the dream and the thoughts, which in my ickle opinion came across well. I did, however,think it maybe a cat, but have to admit didn't expect the ending of the last line, a good twist that made me say "Eeww." Lol. Enjoyed this, cheers.

Lis'. xx

Author's Reply:
I've often thought we should be more appreciative of these little presents. Glad it made you laugh.

RoyBateman on 28-04-2008
Midnight Call
I didn't see it coming! Though, oddly, we're waiting to hear from Cats' Protection literally at this moment - we lost our last moggie last week at 18, and we're so bereft that we can't do without one. Little demons, but... Sorry, I'm wandering off - good one, just long enough to build up the atmosphere and with a great ending too. Spooky!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy. Sorry to hear about your cat - they do leave a hole in your life, don't they?

woodbine on 28-04-2008
Midnight Call
It's a good story, well told, but the twist as it stands isn't credible. A person who calls her cat Fluffykins and shrieks when he deposits a mouse is not about to eat the corpse. She could be the kind of girl to add it to the stew for grandpa to eat later.
Best wishes,
JohnXX

Author's Reply:
Ah, but she's a very twisted person - though I take your point about the name. Would 'Shagnasty' be better?

admin on 28-04-2008
Midnight Call
Haha, well, *I* thought Fluffykins was a brill name! Mine's called Pooh (don't ask!), but he's too fat 'n' lazy to catch mice. If he could hang his arse out of the cat flap to crap without going any further, he would...

Nice, amusing, made me laugh - and that's what it's all about, innit?

Author's Reply:
Actually, the last line was an afterthought - I realised that just having the demon turn out to be the cat was a bit obvious. Glad it gave you a giggle anyway.

sirat on 29-04-2008
Midnight Call
I agree that the last line shouldn't be taken too seriously, this is just a bit of fun. But there were a few things that jarred a bit for me in the story itself. For example, if we wake from sleep in a darkened room out eyes are already dark-adapted. We don't have to wait for them to accommodate to the low light. Also, why should the demon that she imagined had escaped from her dream be at the bottom of the stairs rather than in the room with her? A slightly more technical point: the narration begins in the simple past tense with the narrator waking up, then she goes on to recount something that happened before that point. Shouldn't the tense change to past historic: 'I had dreamt I escaped across burning sands...' etc.?

Overall it strikes me as a clever enough little 'surprise ending' piece but maybe in need of a bit of polishing.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for comments.
a) dark-adapted eye - yes, good point.
b) I think she heard something at the foot of the stair and went 'Aagh, demon!'
c) I did write 'had escaped' but changed it because I thought it sounded a bit clumsy. I don't like past historic and try to avoid it if I can.
But thanks for taking so much trouble over something that was really only meant as a joke!

woodbine on 29-04-2008
Midnight Call
I think shagnasty and lucretia are both better than Fluffykins

Author's Reply:
I am inclined to agree. Or - Mewcretia, perhaps?

Sunken on 04-05-2008
Midnight Call
I am now even more convinced that cats are bad news, Ms. Shadow. They are pure evil and no mistake. Get yourself a beagle or a hamster. A smashing piece that reminds me of my first cyber 147. I hope this helps.

s
u
n
k
e
n

it's not me, it's the wine gum talkin'

Author's Reply:
Hi sunk, thanks for vote of confidence. Mind you, I have known some lovely cats, who would share their last mouse with you. Take care.
shadow


Rabbit Eggs (posted on: 21-03-08)
Who's afraid of the Easter Bunny?

Oppit rattled the wire of his hutch. He was bored. Mandy should be here to play with him - it was school holidays after all – but she was away for the day, visiting her gran. Oppit sighed. He wanted to lollop over the lawn and dig holes in the flower-beds. He bashed the wire with his nose, again. 'D'you want to come out and play?' Oppit looked round, startled. It was Ginger, the cat from down the road. 'How can I? I'm shut in.' 'There's only a hook holding the door,' said Ginger. 'If I get my claw under it, like this - ' Oppit hesitated. He did not know Ginger very well. Mandy's mum didn't like cats, and would chase him out of the garden whenever she saw him. Only the fresh green grass looked so inviting . . . 'All right,' he said. Ginger jerked his paw, and the door of the hutch swung open. Oppit was free! He hopped over the lawn to where a large dandelion was growing. He had beenlooking at it all morning. Mandy had left him plenty of carrot tops, but he had really fancied some dandelion. He nibbled the young leaves. 'Trust a rabbit!' snorted Ginger. 'All they think about is feeding their faces. I thought we were going to play games.' 'Do you know any?' asked Oppit. 'Yes, lots! The best one is called - hunting!' Ginger smiled. There was something about that smile that Oppit did not like. For the first time he noticed what a very large cat Ginger was. 'How do you play that?' he asked nervously. 'Oh,' said Ginger, 'I crouch down, like this,' he flattened himself in the grass, 'and creep up, like this, and when I am near enough - I POUNCE!' Oppit jumped back in fright. Ginger sat up and began to wash his ears. 'Then I eat you up,' he finished. 'I don't think I like that game,' said Oppit. 'Never mind,' said Ginger, 'I do. So hop it, Oppit!' Oppit hopped. He hopped faster than he had ever done in his life before. He dodged around the daffodils, panted through the primroses, flopped under the forsythia and saw, just in time, a small hole under next door's fence. He managed to squeeze through, as Ginger's teeth closed on his tail. Oppit looked around in wonder. Next door's garden did not have a lawn and flowerbeds. It was full of bushes, and from their branches hung strange, brightly-coloured objects. Some were painted, others covered in shiny foil. Oppit could not believe his eyes. Eggs! Eggs growing on trees! Oppit heard a hiss behind him, and to his horror Ginger appeared on top of the fence. 'You don't get away that easy,' he snarled, and jumped down. Oppit scuttled as fast as he could through the bushes. Then he ran into something soft and furry and stopped dead. 'What's all this, then?' a voice boomed far above him. Oppit looked up and gasped. In front of him was the biggest rabbit he had ever seen. It was nearly as big as Mandy's dad. Its fur was white, and over one arm it carried a basket full of bright shiny eggs. 'Who are you?' cried Oppit. 'I'm the Easter Bunny,' said the huge rabbit. 'What's the matter with your friend?' Ginger was standing stiff-legged, every hair fluffed out so he looked twice his usual size. He spat, then as the Easter Bunny took a step towards him he yowled in terror and fled, over the fence and through the gardens. The Easter Bunny laughed. 'I don't think he'll be back in a hurry! Now, I'd better take you home.' 'Yes, please,' said Oppit. He'd had enough excitement for oneday. The Easter Bunny carried him round the front of the houses and into his own back garden, where his hutch was waiting. 'How did you manage to escape?' 'Ginger let me out. He said I could play with him. I was so bored.' 'Well, you have to be careful who you play with,' said the Easter Bunny, 'especially if they're bigger than you and you don't know them.' He put Oppit back in the hutch. 'Thank you so much,' said Oppit. It felt lovely to be safe home again. 'I think I'll have a word with Mandy's dad,' said the Easter Bunny. 'You ought to have a proper run to play in, then you won't get bored. If I do that, will you do something for me?' 'Anything,' said Oppit. 'There aren't many bushes in this garden, to hang the eggs on. If I leave them in your hutch, will you look after them, till Mandy gets home?' 'Of course,' said Oppit. 'And please -' Yes?' 'Do you think when I grow up I could be an Easter Bunny?' The Easter Bunny smiled. 'Maybe,' he said. Mandy was very surprised when she came home to find Oppit sitting on a clutch of Easter eggs. 'Mummy! Daddy!' she cried. 'Look! Oppit's turned into the Easter Bunny!' Oppit didn't say anything. Not long after Mandy's dad built a big rabbit run in the garden. and Oppit was able to hop about as much as he wanted. It even had dandelions growing in it. Oppit almost wished Ginger would come round again, so he could pull faces at him, but Ginger kept well away.
Archived comments for Rabbit Eggs
sirat on 21-03-2008
Rabbit Eggs
I don't think it's aimed at my age group, but it seems fine to me. I got the hidden 'message', don't play with people who are bigger than you that you don't know.

Tiny point – why can't the cat get into the rabbit run?

Author's Reply:
Because it's covered over with wire netting (he could sit on top, but then Oppit might pull his tail). Thanks for dropping by!

Sunken on 22-03-2008
Rabbit Eggs
Hello Ms. Shadow. I am a big kid at heart, so I enjoyed this. I might jump in some puddles later and try my hand at finger painting... Why does everything sound so much ruder when you're an adult? Happy easter and all that. Don't get sick.

s
u
n
k
s

he'll believe in god if there's chocolate involved

Author's Reply:
Hi sunk, thanks for calling. Happy Easter - may you receive many eggs - rabbit or otherwise!

niece on 22-03-2008
Rabbit Eggs
Moya,

You got a thumbs up each from my two boys(aged 9 and 5)...it was lovely reading it aloud...I love reading to the children and enjoyed this as much as the boys did...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece - I am so pleased they liked it! Children are the best critics, and I don't have any available to try my stories out on (my granddaughter's still a bit young ...). Thanks so much.
Moya

RoyBateman on 23-03-2008
Rabbit Eggs
Ah, those pesky moggies - they're nothing but trouble! A delightful seasonal story, and I'm sure it would enchant younger readers. Well, it brought a smile to my face anyway! What does that say??

Author's Reply:
Second childhood? No, sorry, I meant, young at heart. Anyway, glad you liked it!

e-griff on 30-03-2008
Rabbit Eggs
we had a rabbit once. If it ran out of water, it used to throw the dish around using its jaws. If the kids fed it a bit late, it would bite them. It was quite happy in the house when we let it in, apart from the raisins it left, exploring and being relatively pleasant and being stroked.

When I was a lad, we had a big buck rabbit that used to chase cats πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Oops! Stuck my reply in the wrong box again (see below). Still, I was a bit 'tired & emotional' last night ...

shadow on 30-03-2008
Rabbit Eggs
Obviously either of your rabbits would have made short work of Ginger ... thanks for stopping by.
Moya

Author's Reply:


Shot in the Dark (posted on: 29-02-08)
Put out the light, and then . . .

BANG! 'Aaarrrghhh!' Thud. 'What was that? Henry?' 'Felicity - are you all right?' 'I think so. Is that you, David? Where's Henry? Henry!' 'I think he's - ' 'Put the lights on for Heavens' sake.' 'They're not working.' 'Henry, where are you? Speak to me!' 'There there now, try to stay calm, I'm sure he's just - ' 'Get off me!' 'Sorry.' 'What are you, some sort of sex maniac? Of all times to pick for a grope ... ' 'I didn't mean ... ' 'We've got to get out of here.' 'I've found the door.' 'Open it then.' 'It's locked.' 'Oh no, I don't believe it. Help! Eeeeek!' 'Please, calm down. I've found my mobile, that should give us a bit of light.' 'Oh my God! Henry! Is that a gun?' 'Don't touch anything. I'm phoning for the police. Why don't you sit down? You've had a terrible shock. Don't worry, nobody's going to hurt you.' 'Stay away from me, you pervert. I know what you want.' 'No, honestly, I'm only trying ... ' 'You bastard, you always hated him.' 'Felicity! Please put the gun down. You'll get your fingerprints all over it. Not that it matters, in the circumstances, I suppose.' 'I know your game. Well, you won't get away with it.' 'Don't worry, you'll be all right. I'm sure you had good reasons, and the police are very understanding about these things.' 'Oh yeah?' 'Felicity, be careful! Give it to me, now.' 'Murderer!' BANG. Thud. 'David? Are you there? I'm sorry, I didn't mean ... you shouldn't have frightened me.' 'This is the police. Put down your weapons and come out with your hands in the air.' 'I -I can't. The door's locked.' 'Lie down on the floor.' 'Pardon - what did you say?' BANGBANGBANGBANGBANG. Thud.
Archived comments for Shot in the Dark
e-griff on 29-02-2008
Shot in the Dark
If one weren't a woman, this could be 'three men in a box'

If they were piscine, it could be 'shooting fish in a barrel'.

However, it IS effective and funny. Thankyou. G

Author's Reply:
Fish in a barrel - would they be red herrings? Thanks for dropping by.
M

Ionicus on 29-02-2008
Shot in the Dark
And then there were none...Very amusing.

Author's Reply:
Yes, I do enjoy bumping off characters . . . glad you did too.

RoyBateman on 29-02-2008
Shot in the Dark
A shot? More than one, methinks...where's this then, the Black Hole of Tamworth? Somebody's got a lot of clearing up to do!

Author's Reply:
'Tis a terrible place, the Black Hole of Tamworth, aka the cupboard under our stairs. Men have entered it (to read the gas meter) and never been seen again.

Sunken on 01-03-2008
Shot in the Dark
I miss your subs, Ms. Shadow. You do humour very well and no mistake. Long may you cast a shadow over uka... Did that sound derogatory? I meant it in a good way. Some of us like shade. Ahem. Isn't it windy?

s
u
n
k
e
n

he likes the shade


Author's Reply:
Hi sunk - thanks for the kind words. I am glad to say that my shadow shows no signs of growing less.
Cheers!

niece on 01-03-2008
Shot in the Dark
Moya,

Very interesting read...and funny too!

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece
Good to hear from you again - glad you enjoyed it. Keep smiling!


Ill Wind (posted on: 29-10-07)
An historical episode of flatulence

The gallant Earl of Oxford So debonair of mien Betook himself to London To bow before the queen As he bent low before her In obeisance profound A massive eructation Did through the halls resound. The courtiers gasped, the queen turned pale Inhaling foetid air. Th' embarrassed Earl of Oxford Retreated in despair. When seven long years had passed away In boredom, he did yearn For court - and surely he, by now, Might venture to return. The contrite Earl of Oxford With countenance serene (But buttocks clenched together) stood Again before his queen. Elizabeth smiled upon him. 'Welcome with all my heart!' She cried. 'And never fear, my lord, We have forgot the fart.'
Archived comments for Ill Wind
ruadh on 29-10-2007
Ill Wind
Gave me a chuckle πŸ™‚

ailsa

Author's Reply:
Thanks Ailsa - not too cheeky, I hope?

Bradene on 29-10-2007
Ill Wind
I love a good laugh especially on a Monday morning, this was just what the doctor ordered. Val x ((-;

Author's Reply:
Well, better out than in, as they say. Thanks.

RoyBateman on 29-10-2007
Ill Wind
Just my kind of laugh - as you probably know! I wouldn't have forgiven the bugger after seven years, though...the eggy ones linger longer than that. Great fun, unless you were unlucky enough to be standing behind the unfortunate at the time.
ps Isn't "eructation" a wonderful word? Describes one bout of naughtiness, yet sounds like another entirely. Two chuckles for the price of one, eh?

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy - yes, there's nothing like a good eructation, is there?

Jen_Christabel on 29-10-2007
Ill Wind
I loved some of the words in this great stuff!
Jennifer x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Jen - one tries to find the mot juste, don't y'know?

Jolen on 29-10-2007
Ill Wind
I absolutely cracked up here. Loved this ever so classical ode to flatulence.

blessings,
Jolen

Author's Reply:
A classical ode ? You flatter me! A mere ballad - but thanks anyway.

Sunken on 29-10-2007
Ill Wind
It isn't half whiffy in the comment box Ms. Shadow. May I suggest that you open a window? Entertaining as ever and no mistake.

s
u
n
k
e
n


Author's Reply:
Hi sunk, nice to hear from you again. Sorry about the pong, but they didn't have air fresheners in those days.

delph_ambi on 30-10-2007
Ill Wind
VERY funny poem. Beautifully crafted. Love it.

Author's Reply:
Thanks delph. One does one's best.

niece on 01-11-2007
Ill Wind
The ones that give you away are the worst, Moya...Good poem...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
How true, how very true ... thanks niece.


Like music, pain (posted on: 03-09-07)
Prompted by a sharp attack of sciatica

It begins not with the scarlet blare of trumpets, but a stirring in the silence, a mosquito whining on the violin or grumbling ostinato in the bass. Nerves stretch, tuning up. A low note swells throbbing on the cello till the theme emerges, rising in pitch, to coalesce into the melody, which builds to a crescendo, agony as art. Slowly the climax passes, as the orchestra obeys the will of its conductor diminuendo fading into silence. Only the faint shrilling of a solo flute hints at another movement.
Archived comments for Like music, pain
Jolen on 03-09-2007
Like music, pain
What a clever way to portray such pain. Very well done...I'm sorry for your pain, but at least you have a beautiful piece of work to show for it.

blessings,
Jolen

Author's Reply:
Thanks Jolen, for the comment and the sympathy. Glad to say I am over it now.

artisus on 03-09-2007
Like music, pain
oh it's good, would it work better perhaps if it was a three-strophe poem?

It begins
not with the scarlet blare
of trumpets, but a stirring
in the silence, a mosquito
whining on the violin
or grumbling ostinato in the bass.
Nerves stretch, tuning up.

A low note swells
throbbing on the β€˜cello till
etc...

and could it perhaps be an interesting edit for you (i'm about to change the first strophe of the poem i hope you don't mind)

It begins with a mosquito
whining on the violin,
not with scarlet blare
of trumpets, but a stirring
in the silence, or grumbling
ostinato in the bass.

I hope i read it correctly. I liked it shadow, cheers

Author's Reply:
You know, I think you are right - a line break in the first section does add something. Thanks.

artisus on 03-09-2007
Like music, pain
oh, I just read your short description and your reply to the previous comment! πŸ™ neuralgia of the sciatic nerve, my parents suffer from it. i'm so sorry.

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 04-09-2007
Like music, pain
How incredibly original - using the language of music, normally a wholly pleasurable medium, to describe pain. Oddly, it works very well - memorable stuff indeed. Oh, and I hope it doesn't return, by the way. The pain, obviously...

Author's Reply:
So do I mate, so do I ... Mind you, I've always found it easy to thing of pain in terms of music (eg high or low pitched). And there are some varieties of 'music' which I find very painful indeed.

Ionicus on 04-09-2007
Like music, pain
It is said that an artist has to suffer in order to produce outstanding work and you have proved it with this.
Excellent piece and I especially like the last stanza.

Luigi x

Author's Reply:
Well, these ailments that come with advancing years must be good for something. Thanks Luigi.

e-griff on 04-09-2007
Like music, pain
nice. good analogy

i don't think you need 'cello (as from violincello) as cello is now a word in its own right in the oxford dic. πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Thanks griffy - I will remove the offending apostrophe forthwith.

niece on 04-09-2007
Like music, pain
I'm so sorry, Moya...and it's good to know you're over it now...please take care...

Very good poem, btw...amazing comparison. Hope your next inspiration is more pleasant!!!

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece - I hope it is too!

blackdove on 05-09-2007
Like music, pain
Well you did get a very good poem out of your suffering!
Clever analogy - now I'll always think of pain in terms of music.
How then would you describe childbirth in music and musical instruments do you think?
Jemx

Author's Reply:
Trombones, maybe? Thanks Jem.

e-griff on 05-09-2007
Like music, pain
jeffykins playing the bagpipes?

Author's Reply:
Not having actually heard a performance, I wouldn't like to say.

Kat on 05-09-2007
Like music, pain
This is excellent - very cleverly constructed and satisfying for the reader and you have my sympathies - 'agony as art' - ouch! Great expression though.

There's a full stop missing at the end of the poem (please excuse my beady eyes), but I loved that ending:

'Only the faint
shrilling of a solo flute
hints at another movement'

Kat x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Kat, much appreciated - now where's that pesky full stop gone? I'm sure I had it a minute ago ...

Albermund on 05-09-2007
Like music, pain
Very impressive, S. Reads so beautifully and nothing niggles. Lovely clever ending. cheers, Albert πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Thanks Albert - I'm really chuffed with all the nice messages I'm getting - makes it seem all worthwhile πŸ˜‰

Sunken on 05-09-2007
Like music, pain
Hello Ms. Shadow. What a beautiful case of Sciatica you seem to have had. A very well written piece in my ickul opinion and no mistake.

Rate: My little Pony

s
u
n
k
e
n

loosely based on a cardigan

Author's Reply:

shadow on 06-09-2007
Like music, pain
Yes. it was a beaut. Still, no gain without pain, eh? Thanks Sunk.

Author's Reply:

delph_ambi on 06-09-2007
Like music, pain
Overall, a very effective poem, but there are a few odds and ends (mostly to do with the musical stuff) that don't quite work.

You can't really build to a crescendo, as the crescendo is the build up itself, not the final destination.

Diminuendo is a fading process, so to say 'diminuendo fading' is a tautology.

Favourite phrase: "a mosquito whining on the violin". That's brilliant.

Author's Reply:
Oh dear - you've found out the inadequacy of my musical education (I know the words but not necessarily what they mean). I'll take another look at my crescendo etc. Thanks.

Zoya on 06-09-2007
Like music, pain
Imagine an attack of Sciatica producing such lovely poetry!
The suffering is really unbearable!
What I want to ask you is, did it give you some relief in pain, because it (poetry) does distract you from immediate surroundings?
((Hugs to ease the pain))
Love, Zoya

Author's Reply:
Well, I got the basic idea during the night, when I couldn't sleep, and I think it did distract me a little. Thanks for the hug - I am better now.

Jen_Christabel on 28-10-2007
Like music, pain
Quite brilliant! I have suffered with sciatica since I was preganant with my daughter and it's agony - just as you describe. Great stuff!
Jennifer x

Author's Reply:
Hi Jennifer - sorry to hear you are a fellow sufferer! Mine has subsided thank goodness, hope yours has too. Thanks for the comment.
Moya


Wake up call (posted on: 03-08-07)
Not every fairytale has a happy ending.

The opening notes of the Trumpet Voluntary broke into my slumbers. I groped for my mobile. 'Wha'?' 'Sorry to disturb,' the voice was vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. 'I feel you ought to know - there's someone climbing the creeper under your bedroom window.' The phone went dead. Trembling I listened. Yes, I could detect furtive scrabbling noises. I poked my head out of the window - a dark shape was indeed moving inexorably upwards. Stifling a scream I looked round. I needed a weapon. The heavy ceramic chamber pot under the bed - that would do. I stumbled across the room, nearly tripping over my hair, and snatched it up. I waited by the window, and, as the intruder climbed over the sill, whacked him hard on the head. He collapsed onto the carpet. I lit the lamp and examined my victim. He was young, extremely handsome man, wearing a modest yet expensive crown, now rammed firmly over his ears. A prince? Something was wrong. My hair - surely it had not been this long when I went to bed. Had I made a dreadful mistake? How long had I been asleep? Then I realised who my phone caller had been - one of my godmothers. The one nobody in the family would speak to. Oh, bollocks.
Archived comments for Wake up call
Rupe on 03-08-2007
Wake up call
Brief and amusing. I was particularly struck by the 'modest yet expensive crown' for some reason.

Typo: 'an' before 'dreadful'.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Hi Rupe, thanks for the kind words - and spotting the typo (sorted).

RoyBateman on 03-08-2007
Wake up call
Very witty - this is turning into a series, is it? I hope so. What HAD she been on to make her sleep so long, eh? Too many alcopops, if you ask me - still, I reckon she did the right thing. I bet the burglar was a local scally, just wearing the posh gear as a disguise. I think you're venturing into Shreck territory here!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy - I don't think I'm planning a series. We shall see ...

Romany on 03-08-2007
Wake up call
If I'm being pedantic please forgive me! I thought the ceramic chamber pot under the bed jarred with the modern technology of a mobile. (I know it's a praody, honest!)

Romany.

Author's Reply:
Yes, I take your point - but it would have been difficult for her to have clobbered him with an en-suite bathroom fitting ...

Ionicus on 03-08-2007
Wake up call
Very amusing Moya. With godmothers like that who needs enemies?
The fairytale could still end happily if a bit of TLC can be applied. He is not kaput, is he? And he is handsome. Opportunities like that don't happen every day.

Regards, Luigi.

Author's Reply:
True. Don't think he'll be very pleased when he wakes up, though. At the very least, he'll have a nasty headache.

delph_ambi on 04-08-2007
Wake up call
Haha! That's brilliant. Thoroughly enjoyed this retelling.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Delph

discopants on 04-08-2007
Wake up call
Enjoyed it- maybe she could have bopped the intruder with a Star Wars light sabre- they might have been all the rage when she fell asleep.

Author's Reply:
Certainly she had been asleep a long time - mind you, she might have found the battery had gone flat.

Sunken on 04-08-2007
Wake up call
Lol. I like it Ms. Shadowy figure and no mistake. Please accept a coconut coated ten. Good day.
Rate: Coconut coated 10

s
u
n
k
e
n

last in thorntons

Author's Reply:
Why, thank you Mr Sunken. How did you guess I love coconuts?

shackleton on 05-08-2007
Wake up call
She hit him over the head with a ceramic chamber pot!? Most undignified... would certainly dampen the ardour of the most ardent romeo. Smashing one, Shadow. Oh yes!

Author's Reply:
One hopes it was not too full ... thanks Shacks.

Jolen on 09-08-2007
Wake up call
I too enjoyed the sardonic humor. Clever piece of flashing, here, Shadow! πŸ™‚

blessings,
Jolen

Author's Reply:
Flashing? He was much too well brought up! ;-0 Thanks Jolen.

Bootylicious on 10-08-2007
Wake up call
Good one Shadow

Booty

Author's Reply:
Hi Booty - ta very much!

Jen_Christabel on 19-11-2007
Wake up call
Catching up on my reading, as there is very little posted today (again!).
Happened across this, and just loved it. Short and sweet, just the way I like them!
Jennifer x

Author's Reply:
Hi Jennifer, how's it going? Thanks for reading, glad you liked it.
Moya


A Full Dress Affair (posted on: 08-06-07)
She used to be my best friend, Jane thought. I should have told her ...

"I don't know why you're dragging me to this do," said Bryan as they got into the car.. Jane sighed. The annual staff dance was an event they usually avoided. "Don't start again. You know why. Natalie will be there." "It's all right for you," grumbled Bryan. "I'm the one who'll have to talk to her stuck-up husband." "I expect he's fine when you get to know him." They drove on in silence. Jane glanced at his profile. Maybe it was mean of her, to put him through this. He wouldn't know anyone, and he hated having to dress up. Only she did want to see Natalie again. He'd enjoy himself once they got there. Wouldn't he? The dance was at a country house hotel on the edge of town. As Jane returned from the Ladies she found Bryan waiting, resplendent in his hired dinner jacket. "I feel like a penguin." "You look very smart," she said. "Am I okay?" He grinned. "You're beautiful." Although the room was crowded, Jane soon spotted Natalie waving from a table near the band. The light from the stage glinted on her platinum hair. A young girl, another blonde, was leaving as they approached. "Who was that?" asked Jane. "Only Conrad's secretary. Con, go get Jane and - er - something to drink. Now, let me look at you. Darling, you haven't changed a bit!" "Neither have you," said Jane. In Natalie's case, it was true. She looked no older than when they'd worked together in the Accounts Department, fifteen years ago. If anything she was slimmer. Jane felt acutely conscious of the half stone she had gained over the winter. "Love the dress." Natalie preened. "Do you? I picked it up in Milan. How are the children? And Bernard, is he still with the council?" "Bryan," said Jane, "has his own business now." "Splendid! Plumbing, isn't it?" "Gas fitting. And are you still based in California?" "For the moment. Con is up for promotion, so we might be moving to Singapore. Ah, there you are, darling. Come along, let's dance." Natalie held out her hand to Bryan, while Jane followed Conrad onto the floor. She had never taken to Natalie's husband. He was handsome enough, but he always appeared to be wishing he was somewhere else. What had Natalie seen in him? Obviously, a man who would go far and take her with him. Jane preferred a partner who looked at her while they danced. She was relieved when he led her back to their table. They sat in silence. Jane wondered if he was always like this. She was not sorry when he rose, excused himself abruptly, and left. She watched the dancers, thinking, nice dress, wonder what it cost, or, whatever could have possessed her to buy that? None were as beautiful as Natalie's floating, diaphanous confection in subtle shades of blue and silver. Occasionally she caught a glimpse of her and Bryan. He was dancing with more enthusiasm than skill. At least he's enjoying himself, she thought. Perhaps we should do this more often. But you had to think of the expense, and the hassle of finding a babysitter, and she was always so tired nowadays. Not considerations which ever troubled Natalie, surely. Natalie had changed; she was harder, more brittle. Funny how their lives had diverged. Who'd have thought, when they were at school ... though even then it had been clear she'd had her sights on better things. Still, thought Jane, I wouldn't swap my Bryan for her Conrad. She was beginning to wish the others would come back. She felt conspicuous, sitting here on her own. Her new dress, so glamorous and expensive when she'd bought it, now seemed slightly inelegant. There was no-one she knew anywhere near, the neighbouring tables were all senior management. At the other end of the room a group of her friends from Accounts were laughing and joking. Should she go over and have a chat? Bryan would not know where to find her. It was so hot in here, her nose must be shiny. She decided to visit the cloakroom. On her way out she passed a door, half-open, letting in a stream of cool air. On an impulse she stepped through onto a terrace. It was quieter here, away from the pounding of the music. She stood in the darkness, letting the breeze fan her cheeks, gradually becoming aware she was not alone. In the shadows a couple were locked in each others arms. The girl looked familiar. It couldn't be - ? No, it wasn't. For a moment she had gone back in time. When they used to go clubbing together, it was always Natalie who would go missing, She'd be found later in a corner, snogging someone. Though there was something about this girl - and when the couple broke apart Jane realised she had indeed seen her before. It was Conrad's blonde secretary. Then the man moved into the light from the window, and she saw his face. Jane fled. In the Ladies', she stared at her reflection. Her cheeks were flushed, as if she had been the one caught out. Thank goodness they didn't see me. Poor Natalie, does she know? Should I say anything? No, I couldn't possibly, it may be nothing ... she felt sick. How would she ever get through the rest of this ghastly evening? "Ah, there you are! I've been looking everywhere." Natalie emerged from a cubicle. Her image, cool and immaculate as always, joined Jane's in the mirror "How do you stay so young looking?" asked Jane. "Ah. Marvellous thing, Bottox, You should try it sometime." "I don't think Bryan ... " Natalie laughed as she washed her hands. "I never knew your Bryan could dance like that." "Neither did I." "You know, love," said Natalie, inspecting her nails critically, "I hope you don't mind me saying, but you should lose some weight." "I try to diet. " "Oh, diets are useless. Why don't you join a gym? I go three times a week." I'd be pushed to find time once a month, thought Jane. "Only I hate to see you letting yourself go. At our age, we can't afford to. You think you're settled in a relationship, you relax, and the next you know, they're off after a younger model. I've seen it happen so often." Jane could find nothing to say. She felt her cheeks redden. "Oh my dear, I didn't mean ... is there something ... ?" "No - no," gasped Jane. "Nothing." "We'd better get back to the men, see what mischief they've been up to." Natalie paused at the door. "That's a fantastic dress, by the way. Did you make it yourself?" Jane followed her out, and watched as she crossed the dance floor: exquisite, graceful, proud, with every eye in the room upon her. I should have said something, she thought. I shouldn't have let her go. She was my best friend, after all. But I couldn't get the words out, and now - now it's to late. Still, I really should have told her she had the back of her skirt caught in her knickers.
Archived comments for A Full Dress Affair
Sunken on 09-06-2007
A Full Dress Affair
Hello Ms. Shadow. I've often wondered about that powdering noses business. I always assumed that it was just a nice way of saying that I'm going for a pee. I can definitely say that I have never touched my nose whilst in a public convenience. Good to see you back. I always enjoy your subs Ms. Shadow and no mistake.

s
u
n
k
e
n

she opted for scampi as he regaled boring facts about football, gearboxes and fishing

Author's Reply:
Yiu are perfectly right, as always. In many up-market establishments they refer to the women's bog as 'The Powder Room'. This is to indicate that their clientele is so refined, they pass it as powder

RoyBateman on 10-06-2007
A Full Dress Affair
Highly entertaining! And with a nice touch at the end, too, leaving the main thrust of the story neatly unresolved. (Who knows, a follow-up might spring into your mind...) Great dialogue, too - "did you make it yourself?" Ooh, catty - and very realistic. A really good read, and well worth the nib. Congrats!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy - yes, it was that remark about her dress which hardened Jane's heart. Still, she got her revenge!

discopants on 10-06-2007
A Full Dress Affair
An unexpected and- frankly- evil last line, although I think maybe Natalie got exactly what she deserved.

Author's Reply:
Didn't she just! Thanks disco.

Humblewriter on 11-06-2007
A Full Dress Affair
Yes, it's the shadow touch (skirt). You can't resist it can you?

Nice read. Stereotypical characters, but well described and neatly slotted into a good little plot. Not for the literary prizes, but something that many people would love to read. Terse, but not hurried. Long enough. Everything was in it.

JohnG

Author's Reply:
Thanks John It's actally my attempt at a women's mag story - only the women's mags weren't interested. Don't seem to have the knack. Glad you likesd it, anyway.

e-griff on 11-06-2007
A Full Dress Affair
sorry - did it again! πŸ™‚ he keeps taking me over, it's wierd! ;;-)

JohnG

Author's Reply:
Uh? Pardon? Now I'm all confused. You have a doppelganger who's humble? Surely not ...

soman on 11-06-2007
A Full Dress Affair
An interesting anti-climax!

Good read.

Soman

Author's Reply:
Wasn't an anti-climax for Natalie - I don't think she's over it yet! Thanks Soman.

orangedream on 11-06-2007
A Full Dress Affair
Blush to admit, Shadow I can identify with the last line of this. Standing at the checkout in TK Max, of all places, having just 'powdered my nose'. I don't know who was more embarrassed - myself or the lady who broke the devastating news to me!

I digress. A very enjoyable read.

Tina

Author's Reply:
Yes, I think we all have experienced the problem (happened to me in Sainsbury's). I think that's where I got the idea. Thanks Tina.

e-griff on 12-06-2007
A Full Dress Affair
Even worse when it happened to me! πŸ˜‰

Author's Reply:
The mind boggles - elucidate!

shackleton on 15-06-2007
A Full Dress Affair
I love your style, Shadow. You had me jaunting along with it all... and then you left the poor lady with her skirt tucked in her knickers. Gotta have a good good ending to a story and this one was excellent. You go girl!

Author's Reply:
Hi shacks! She deserved it though, didn't she? Thanks for the comment.
Moya.

Jen_Christabel on 02-11-2007
A Full Dress Affair
What a little corker. I really love your stuff shadow.
Jennifer x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Jennifer - and for the Hotting! Just what I needed with the cold weather coming!
Moya πŸ˜‰


The Missionary Position (posted on: 05-03-07)
Beware of aliens bearing gifts ...

The alien was curled up on the doorstep when Daisy went to put out the empties. It was small and rotund, and covered in silky golden fur. Rather like a ginger cat, except for the eight legs. 'I come in peace,' it said. 'Would you like a saucer of milk?' said Daisy. She wished she was more suitably dressed. It didn't seem right, receiving an intergalactic visitor wearing a dressing-gown and her old slippers. 'I wouldn't say no to a cuppa, if you're making one,' said the alien. 'You'd better come in then.' The alien settled itself in the armchair by the fire while Daisy made tea and opened a packet of Garibaldi biscuits. 'I suppose you are wondering why I am here,' said the alien. 'I was a bit.' 'I am the representative of the Universal Mind.' it said, and sipped its tea though a tube which extruded from its body. It was surprisingly adept at manipulating the teacup, considering it had no fingers. 'I am here to spread Enlightenment.' 'Some sort of missionary, like?' Bugger, she thought. I'll never get rid of it now. 'Are you afraid of me?' 'No - should I be?' 'Of course not.' Its voice murmured at the back of Daisy's mind. Funny how it could talk without a mouth. The scent of custard creams which emanated from it grew stronger, and Daisy felt herself relax. 'I have come to save Mankind. Your planet is heading for disaster, and your species for extinction. I bring you Fulfilment, Happiness and Peace.' 'We could do with a basin of that,' 'said Daisy. 'What took you so long? It slurped the last of its tea and held out the cup for a refill. 'The Universal Mind has watched you for eons,' it said, ' but only now have conditions favoured an intervention. Your kind argue and fight amongst themselves because they cannot communicate, mind to mind, as I am speaking to you. Once you truly understand each other, all this conflict will die away. But I cannot do this alone. I need your help.' Here it comes, though Daisy. Donation time. Well I'm not giving more than a quid. 'Me?' she said. 'You need to speak to the government about that sort of thing.' 'You belong to the dominant life-form, yes?' said the alien. 'I suppose so.' 'I have brought an information device which, when fed into the system you call the 'Internet' will realign all your thought waves into one harmonious pattern. All Mankind will be as one, just like my own people. What is more, it comes with direct access to the Universal Mind. Won't that be nice?' 'Hmmm. Is it safe?' 'Of course it's safe.' The alien's fur rippled and turned a deeper shade of orange. 'Adverse reactions are practically unknown.' 'Okay then, I'll give it a try. What do I have to do?' 'Lead me to your PC.' 'Don't have one,' said Daisy. 'Oh shit,' said the alien. But it cheered up when Daisy told it there were some in the local library, and offered to take it there in the morning. She made up a nest for it in the spare bedroom and they both retired for the night. Next day Daisy and the alien went to the library, where it was issued with a visitor's ticket and shown how to log on. The alien attached a small device to one of the USB ports and downloaded a program. It only took a few minutes. 'I'll be off, then,' it said as they went outside. 'The program will activate tomorrow when the computers boot up.' 'Aren't you waiting to make sure it works?' 'Don't worry, it will work. I have to be out of range, in case my thought waves cause interference.' 'I see,' said Daisy. 'Well, it was nice meeting you.' 'Likewise, I'm sure,' said the alien. 'Thanks for the tea.' So the alien went back to its spaceship. Next morning its device activated, and the human race became telepathic as well as psychopathic. Wars immediately broke out all over the planet. One thing led to another, until the whole place went up in one massive thermonuclear bang. The alien watched the explosion from its parking orbit around Jupiter. Ah well - you win some, you lose some, it thought, and set course for Alpha Centauri.
Archived comments for The Missionary Position
Rupe on 05-03-2007
The Missionary Position
I really don't know what to make of this one (!).

I like the overall idea & the contrast of the alien's weird appearance and ideas with the homely setting, but felt you could maybe have expanded it a little bit to explain why telepathy causes wars all over the planet.

Granted, it's easy enough to make guesses as to why that should be the case, but you could bring it to life again by showing what actually happened.

One last thought. You could turn the following line into dialogue:

'Here it comes, though Daisy. Donation time. Well I’m not giving more than a quid.'

It's got humorous potential for the course of the dialogue & since you haven't used this kind of internal thought process much in the piece generally, these lines rather stick out as they are.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Hi Rupe
Thaks for taking so much trouble. I agree there is room for expansion. The idea originally was for a novel which I never got round to writing, so it has been a bit compressed. Might turn it into a longer story - I hate wasting ideas.
Moya

e-griff on 05-03-2007
The Missionary Position
I was ahead of you, but then, I'm a sci-fi fan too, so we've probably read all the stories that can ever be written πŸ˜‰

I thought this was well done, and neatly concise at the end: 'telepathic as well as psychopathic' - what more do you need? But you already had me thinking of the consequences at the earlier explanation. I was going 'would it?' 'really?' then of course you answered it precisely.

Like Rupe I thought the opportunity ('donation') for humorous parallel with missionaries was touched upon, but not taken up. Perhaps it's another story?

Enjoyed the read, JohnG

Author's Reply:
Glad it amused you - I was afraid the ending came over a bit perfunctory - disposing of the planet in one paragraph. Might try working it up into something bigger - explore the possibilities (not a novel, though!).

discopants on 05-03-2007
The Missionary Position
Enjoyed it- good bit of fun. Dispensing with Earth in a paragraph is fine- after all, to the alien it was just a scientific experiment on a place that was only good for a cup of tea and a garibaldi.

Author's Reply:
Thanks disco - maybe the earth will end up as someone's failed experiment - serve us right.
M

glennie on 05-03-2007
The Missionary Position
I liked this, very amusing and thought-provoking. It seems we are not ready for telepathy, I can fully understand what would happen as a result. Perhaps you could re-write the end with the intention of the alien to take over the world. Glen.

Author's Reply:
I am definitely not ready for telepathy - the fewer people know my thoughts the better! Thanks Glennie.

niece on 06-03-2007
The Missionary Position
It's easy to know what's on other people's mind without any telepathy and that's bad enough! No wonder the alien didn't want to contact any top government official with it's offer...very interesting concept, Moya! I enjoyed reading this!

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
The alien needed someone helpful and honest - that ruled out politicians ... Thanks niece.

delph_ambi on 06-03-2007
The Missionary Position
A thoroughly entertaining read. Can't fault it.

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 06-03-2007
The Missionary Position
It worked well at that length, I thought - but, clearly it could be expanded. The only problem you'd have there, I reckon, is that a lot of folks would mutter "Oh, Douglas Adams revisited..." just because he first bought some of these ideas to public notice. Not that I'm implying this isn't original, Moya - it's just that "Hitchhiker" is so well known that it just springs to mind...I've given up a longer thing myself, part of which I posted ages back, exactly because I thought I'd be accused of plagiarism...it's difficult to do SF, especially, without encountering that charge. Great read, though - I especially liked the scene in the library, which you could easily get more amusement out of: half-blind librarian ignores 8-legged alien. (Or demands that he shows her his Council Tax bill!) And it certainly IS a good job we're not telepathic...hey, wha..a..a..t did you think?? The same to you!!

Author's Reply:
Yes it is hard to escape the shadow of Douglas Adams. The library scene I might well expand, if I ever get round to a rewrite (though when I worked in a library, as long as you were a ratepayer it didn't matter how may legs you had). I agree with you about telpathy - sounds a great idea in theory, but in practice - no!

TheGeeza on 08-03-2007
The Missionary Position
A strange tale, that's for sure.
I'm not an SF fan. I liked the donation thought - being a cynic. Perhaps she could have just pulled a pound coin from her pocket and offered it, with the alien looking at it with curiousity...
I like the alien swearing too, although a bit Hitchhiker, I guess ... but so what.
The way the world is, I think this could be filed under "faction"!
We get aliens knocking at the house all the time around here, but I never open the door.
Steve.

Author's Reply:
Very sensible of you. Thanks for the comment.

-phoenix- on 10-03-2007
The Missionary Position
Hear Shadow, I must say I am a huge SF fan! And your sorry reminded me why. It was brilliantly written, loved the ''homely'' touch. It remind me a bit of ''The Hitch Hikers Gide To The Galaxy By Douglas Adams'' I really hope you decide to give us more.

Best Regards,

-Phoenix-

''As she gazed at the fire it let her realize how much life was like i fire-it to will burn out''

Author's Reply:
Hey, thanks Phoenix! I am but a humble follower of the Master.


Down the plughole, merrily (posted on: 23-02-07)
Merrily,merrily down the drain, our aspirations pour Leaving our carbon footprint all over the bloody floor.

The world is growing warmer It isn't hard to tell Keep on the way we're going We'll end up hot as Hell. Merrily, merrily with the stream, who can resist the flow? Into the vortex headlong plunge, gurgling as we go. Oil slick on the ocean, Aerosols in the air As long as we keep flying Buggered if we care. Merrily, merrily pull the plug, wallow in the spray Biological detergent will wash our sins away. Oven ready production lines Profits get a boost Not so bootiful, alas When turkeys come home to roost. Merrily, merrily on we go, swirling round the bend Curse of the battery chicken pursuing us to the end. We have to keep on spending For that's the only way We can be sure we're worth it Just like the adverts say. Merrily,merrily down the drain, our aspirations pour Leaving our carbon footprint all over the bloody floor. Around the money tree we chase The complimentary lunch, Now listen to the pips squeak when The credit starts to crunch. Merrily, merrily stoke the flames, no-one shall go without But when the pot boils over, the fire will fizzle out.
Archived comments for Down the plughole, merrily
potleek on 23-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
Like it, like it, very topical and gave me a smile...Tony

Author's Reply:
Well, yer have to laff, don't yer? Thanks.

Andrea on 23-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
Made me laugh, this did, despite the somewhat serious message πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
What, serious? Moi? Perish the thought! Thanks And.

e-griff on 23-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
yep, good fun pome! πŸ™‚

(prefer oil slick ON the ocean, though)

Author's Reply:
Thanks John - see what you mean, slicks spread over surface - will sort.

Romany on 23-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
I don't think this is 'fun' although it is humorous. It's a self-mocking (as in the human race mocking) poem about our complete complacency and willingness to ignore the inevitable. A subject very close to my heart. Nice one,
Romany.

Author's Reply:
Well, it started out as a bit of fun - not quite sure what it ended up as. Just trying to keep my head above water, I suppose ... thanks for the comment.

Sunken on 23-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
Hello Ms. Shadow. Bitterly amusing, just like you... that was a compliment believe it or not. Especially liked -

Oil slick in the ocean,
Aerosols in the air
As long as we keep flying
Buggered if we care.

Nice one Ms. Shadow.

s
u
n
k
e
n


Author's Reply:
Thanks sunk - I'm no better than anyone else - I know cheap flights are anathema - but if one is offered - watch me take off!

Jay on 23-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
A witty representation of the consumerist culture in which we find ourselves. I like how every last line is a consequence. The price for progression.
Enjoyed it Shadow.

coolies. J

x

Author's Reply:
Yeah, that's progress for you. (Every last line a consequence? So it is, I never noticed. Thanks, Jay)

RoyBateman on 23-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
Yep, a neat take on perhaps the most serious of all subjects - and, as such, far more likely to have an effect! Tres amusant...

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy, glad it raised a smile - but have an effect? I wish!

SugarMama34 on 24-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
Hi Shadow, A little humour woven throughout this, but I can see where your coming from with it. This also has a serious side of how the human race ignore the enviroment around them and the serious problems we may face in the future. I enjoyed the read.

Cheers, from Lis'.xx

Author's Reply:
Hi Lis - yes, shame about the human race, isn't it? Thanks for reading.
Moya

woodbine on 24-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
Hi Shadow,
These read like lyrics of a cabaret song. You need a good musician, a long frock, and an audience to do them justice. Go to it!
John

Author's Reply:
Well, I might be able to manage the frock, but where would I find the musician - or the audience ... ? Thanks , John
Moya

soman on 25-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
Hai Moya,

Superb. But I wonder whether it would have been more appropriate if fitted in under Satire? Not that it matters much, though!

Soman

Author's Reply:
Hi Soman
Satire sounds a bit upmarket for me - but thanks for the compliment!
Moya

niece on 28-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
:D...

Moya, an amusing poem...at least we can laugh about it even if we are not bothered enough to cry...!!! Would make a good song actually!!! Errr...what's happening with Jabez Pigstock these days?

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece, yes sometimes you don't know whethr to laugh or cry. (Jabez is still in the woves' den - I will go and haul him out soon)

Bradene on 28-02-2007
Down the plughole, merrily
Very Clever, Witty, true, you gotta laugh or cry kind of poem. Although I though it should be set to music. Well done. Val x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Val. Quite a few people have suggested setting it to music - it's sort of based on a nursery rhyme. Unfortunately I am no composer ...


A nice derangement of epitaphs (posted on: 02-02-07)
R.I.P

Here lies the body of Samuel Dunn Who thought there was something wrong with his gun One day he pulled the trigger in vain So he peered down the barrel and tried again. * Here lies John Pride Who tried To drive And stay alive Reading a book. He was mistook. Now he's better read But dead. * O spare a tear for poor old Fred Who kept his gun beside the bed Next to his phone, which wasn't wise And sadly led to his demise. As he lay sleeping sound, it rang ... At least he went out with a bang. * In her SUV with four wheel drive Towards the flooded bridge she sped Alas! poor Glad would be alive If she hadn't believed what the brochure said. * Beneath this stone lies Henry Weans Who lived on cabbages and beans Forming a noxious distillation (Combined with lack of ventilation) Which made him from this life depart Poisoned by a monstrous fart,
Archived comments for A nice derangement of epitaphs
qwerty68 on 02-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Great fun.
Inspired by some Darwin award winners if my memory serves me.
Thanks for the laughs,
Stephen.

Author's Reply:
You're right, they are all winners or runners-up. The Darwin is a great source for interesting ends. Thanks Stephen.

e-griff on 02-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
excellent. If I could make one suggestion? I think 'monstrous fart' would be more 'trad' in this context

Author's Reply:
Yes! Good suggestion. Thanks griff.

Andrea on 02-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Hugely amusing. The last one reminded me of a Zola character (can't remember offhand which book, but he usually had a least one weird death in each one) who spontaneously combusted whilst asleep in his chair, and all that was found was a greasy pool beneath it.

Author's Reply:
Dunno about Zola - there's a spontaneously combusting character in 'Bleak House'. Thanks And

Sunken on 02-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Your humour always shines through Ms. Shadow. Tip top, as ever.

s
u
n
k
e
n


Author's Reply:
Hi sunk - why is it that other people's misfortunes are so delightfully amusing? Is their something wrong with us (don't bther to answer)?

Rupe on 02-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Very entertaining & enlivened my morning as I struggle my way through a 'monstrous fart' of an enormous legal document. Thanks!

Rupe

Author's Reply:
I hope you escaped methane poisoning. Thanks for comment.

Bradene on 02-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Very funny enjoyed the read enormously Val

Author's Reply:
Hi Val, glad you liked. Just a bit of fun really.

richardwatt on 02-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
I enjoy the gun, car, gun, car food run of it, which is almost a metric system in itself. The graveyard abutting my back garden has a few unintentional crackers. My favourite stones are of the "John Deeds erected this stone in memory of his wife Jane Deeds (1940), also John Deeds (1941). People forget the timeliness of their lives, creating a headache for gravestone graffitiists all over.

Author's Reply:
Hi - do I recognise a fellow gravestone addict? Compusive reading, aren't they? Many the happy hour I have spent in the cemetary ... thanks for comment.

Corin on 02-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Thanks for the laughs and one for you I hope:-

Here rest the remains of Shadow the poet
Whose story is here if you wish to know it.
She travelled far South to the land of the Nile,
Did not die in the jaws of a great crocodile,
But of the shock that she got when noon came around
And saw that her shadow was gone from the ground
Since the sun straight above had no angle to throw it,
So its loss caused the death of Shadow the poet!

Warm Wishes

David


Author's Reply:
My goodness, I am impressed. And gratified. No-one ever wrote me an epitaph before. I shall have it carved in stone. (Memo to self: when next in Egypt, stay inside at noon!)

Romany on 02-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Very witty and clever. Fabulous title too.
Romany.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Romany. Title courtesy of Sheridan.

niece on 02-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Moya,
:D...loved them, one and all...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece. Mind you, I think Henry must have been hard to love.

Gerry on 03-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Moya, I am sure I have read them before, but these will always bring a smile. Thanks for that...

Gerry

Author's Reply:
Well, I only wrote them last Tuesday ... perhaps you saw the original stories on the Darwin Awards? Thanks anyway.

RoyBateman on 04-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Red but dead...wonderful. Just my sort of stuff, bad taste-hilarious. A real collection of rib-ticklers, Moya, you cheered up a Sunday morning a treat.

Author's Reply:
Nothing like a bit of bad taste, I say. Glad you enjoyed it.

delph_ambi on 04-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Love them all, without exception.

Delph

Author's Reply:
Thanks Delph ;-))

Ionicus on 04-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
A very enjoyable amusing read. This kind of humour is right up my street.

Luigi.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Luigi - I sense we may be on the same wavelength.

Gerry on 04-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Moya, Yes indeed, I have read most of the Darwins I think. Yours are much more credible though, I look forward to more πŸ˜‰

Gerry.

Author's Reply:

petersjm on 05-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
Okay, so I'm a little late coming to this, but I enjoyed it! Thought the first and last were the best. Reading Griff's comment above, I'm wondering now what was there before "monstrous fart"...!

Author's Reply:
A monster!! Thanks for taking a look - I'm honoured.

jay12 on 07-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
These are great, I hope one day my epitaph reads so funny!!

Jay.

Author's Reply:
Well, you'll need to fall off your perch in a suitably amusing manner! Thanks Jay.

Jolen on 08-02-2007
A nice derangement of epitaphs
OMG, these cracked me up! I love it. Very clever and fun bit of work.

blessings,
Jolen

Author's Reply:
I hope it didn't hurt too much? Thanks Jolen


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 22 (posted on: 22-01-07)
Where is Barry Manilow?

Jabez sat on his bed, mobile clamped to his ear, listening to the cacophony of squeals, snarls and grunts at the other end. 'Bojollay, you still there?' He winced as a particularly loud crash assaulted his ear. 'Yeah, sorry, dropped the phone. SHUDDUP BLYTE, I'M TALKING TO UNCLE JABE. You OK?' 'Yeah, thanks, just wondered - have you found anything on - what I asked you about?' When Jabez first realised that the CD was missing, he had experienced a moment of pure panic. During his period of unconsciousness, someone had taken it - but who? He tried to remember who had been near him when the wedding bouquet had laid him out. What about the females clustering round him when he came to? How could he find out, without arousing suspicion? The idea of all the information that disk contained falling into the wrong hands was too awful to contemplate. Not to mention that if anyone in the office found out he had a Barry Manilow CD he would be shamed for life. His first discreet enquiries had drawn a blank - until he had the idea of consulting his niece, Bojollay. 'This is private, so bog off!' A door slammed, and the noise diminished. 'Sodding Blyte. Are all brothers pillocks?' 'Yes,' said Jabez. 'Do you know who took the CD yet?' 'Sure. Mam's got it.' 'She has? Brilliant!' Jabez felt an immense burden, like a pile of steaming elephant dung, slide from his shoulders. 'Yeah, she's, like, really into Barry Manilow.' 'I'll come round.' 'But I don't exactly have it right now.' 'You what?' The elephant dung stirred, as if preparing to climb back on. 'It's been packed up with the rest of our stuff. We're moving to Quodbury to be with dad, don't you remember, I heard Grandma telling you all about it, weren't you listening?' Jabez gulped. 'When?' 'Weekend. Vanilla's pissed off 'cos she's leaving her boyfriend, but I think it's wicked. They got bank robbers there, and serial killers and everything. And it's where they film ''Thrown to the Wolves''.' 'I've got tickets for that next week - will you have the CD by then?' 'Suppose so - if I can prise it off Mam.' 'She mustn't listen to it!' 'Why not?' Jabez thought rapidly. 'It's - it's faulty. Look, I'll get her another copy instead.' 'Will you bring me some CDs too?' 'Er - sure. What do you want?' 'I'll text you a list. Thanks Nunky..' Bojollay rang off. So far so good, thought Jabez. Pity he couldn't get hold of the wretched disk straight away, but at least he knew where it was. Better tell Melanie, stop her hassling him. He punched in the number. 'Well, it's better than nothing, I suppose,' said Melanie. 'I'd better come to the recording myself and pick it up. Willy can fix me a ticket.' 'No need, I'll bring it down myself.' 'What - risk you losing it again? No chance. You can pass it to me at the studio on Tuesday. So be there. Ciao!' The Lamborghini purred, a contented pussycat, as they crested the hill and started down towards Quodbury Open Prison. As well as Amanda sitting beside him, he had his mother and Deirdre Crowe in the back seat. Bertram had managed to get tickets for all of them. 'There it is!' squeaked Amanda unnecessarily. 'Ooh, isn't this exciting, I never was in a television studio before, d'you think we'll get to meet anyone famous, I really like that Randy Golightly, you know, when he goes round the audience, what if he stopped by us, I wouldn't know what to say -' 'First time in your life, then,' muttered Jabez. 'I'm sure it will prove a most instructive evening,' said Deirdre Crowe. Jabez shivered. He wasn't sure why Deirdre has been included in this jaunt, it wasn't her usual sort of thing. Maybe she could not resist a freebie - or had she come to keep an eye on him? If so, it was going to be difficult to sneak off to meet Melanie. Why couldn't the bloody woman get off his back? Amanda had forgiven him, more's the pity. Why couldn't she? It wasn't fair. Amanda had been so angry after that business at the wedding, he had really thought that he might be off the hook. One word in the right place, and she would have called the engagement off. Unfortunately, seated in the Goodbody's front room under the slitted green stare of Xerxes the petrifying Persian, he could not find that word. Or for that matter, a space to insert it. Before he could act the moment passed, and he had been well and truly forgiven, the jaws of the trap snapping shut again. The guard waved them through the prison gates. Instead of following the well sign-posted road towards the studio, Jabez turned left. 'Where are we going?' cried Amanda. 'To see Bertram and Wenda's new house. Didn't Jabez mention it?' said is mother. 'Then we can all go up together. Don't worry, there's plenty of time.' 'Oh. Lovely, only - you couldn't possibly drop me at Reception? I promised to go and see Luke.' 'Luke? What's he doing here? I thought they'd stuffed him in some posh clinic.' 'They did, I mean it's here, it's part of the Quodbury Complex.' 'And what are you visiting him for?' 'Oh ,some of us from work thought we should keep in touch, try and cheer him up a bit, he's feeling ever so low.' 'He tried to kill me!' 'He didn't mean it, anyway, as we're early I thought I might - I won't be long -yes, here will do, thanks - I'll see you in the studio foyer. Bye!' She blew him a kiss, and was gone. 'Such a kind girl,' said his mother. 'I hope you appreciate her.' 'Believe me, I do.' Jabez drove on, brow furrowed. Having Amanda out of the way for a while should make things easier - but since when had she been so pally with Luke Sharpe? She always said she couldn't stand him. And now he came to think of it, he had never got to the bottom of that thong business. Melanie, when tackled on the subject, had smiled enigmatically and told him to ask Amanda. Somehow he had never found the right moment. Bertram and Wenda's new abode was one of a number of small brick boxes clustered around a grassy area by the perimeter fence. As Jabez stopped the car and helped his mother out, the door opened and out rushed the hellish brood of mini-Pigstocks, shrieking welcome. He hung back, trying to catch Bojollay's eye. At last she tore herself from the scrum surrounding her grandmother and sauntered over. 'Hi, Nunky.' 'Have you got it?' hissed Jabez. 'Course I have.' 'Where, where?' 'Keep your hair on - it's in the house. Have you brought my 'Zombie Big Brother' DVD?' 'Here.' Bojollay grabbed it from him. 'Cool. Aren't you coming in? Mam's opened a bottle of gooseberry wine, specially.' Jabez shuddered. 'I'll wait out here. Just fetch it, will you?' As Bojollay left he took out his mobile. 'Melanie? Where are you?' 'In the bath. Bit early, aren't you? The thing doesn't start till seven. Jabez? Are you there?' After a momentary distraction caused by the thought of Melanie in the bath, Jabez dragged his mind back to the matter in hand. 'I'm with the family. Where can we meet? 'You've got it , then? Good. How about the studio foyer?' 'Yes - no! That's where I'm meeting Amanda.' 'The car park then. I'll wait in my car. And don't be late, I want to see the start.' 'Yeah, well don't you be late - ' Jabez broke off as a hand took the phone gently from him. He looked up to see two massive forms looming each side of him. 'You're taking a walk,' aid Big Ed. 'This way,' said Little Dick. Oh shit. This was something he did not need. 'Can't it wait? I'm busy at the moment … ' 'Now.' grunted Big Ed. The two henchmen each seized an arm in an iron grip and bore him, feel pedalling, through the darkness. His squawk of dismay went unheard, his struggles were futile. Eventually they carried him inside one of the prison buildings, down some stairs and into a room, where they dumped him on the floor. Jabez looked round. He half expected to see Morgan Spline, or at least his hologram, but there was no sign of either. The room appear to be some kind of storage facility. Strange implements and device were stacked round the walls or hanging from the ceiling. Some of them looked slightly familiar - he was sure he had seen something like them before - yes, of course! During episodes of 'Thrown to the Wolves' - the Interrogation section. This must be where they stored 'The Instruments' when not in use. Yes, there they were. The rack, the boot, the pincers, the iron maiden - all genuine replicas. The cattle prod was missing - they must be using a modern theme tonight. Jabez swallowed. 'Why have you brought me here?' he croaked. 'We want a word,' said Big Ed. 'Quietly, like,' said Little Dick. 'Only, if it does get noisy - ' ' - It don't matter, 'cos there's no-one round here to hear.' 'What about?' quavered Jabez. 'The Boss is upset - ' began Big Ed. ' - he's very disappointed - ' concurred Little Dick. ' - in you. You were supposed to bring him - ' ' - a certain item , which you 'aven't -' ' - as yet. The Boss don't like - ' ' - being kept waiting.' Jabez turned his head from one to the other like a spectator at Wimbledon. 'I have, I will,' he gasped. 'So hand it over then,' said Little Dick. 'But I don't have it on me right now.' 'No?' said Big Ed. 'The Boss thinks different. Search him.' Jabez yelped as Little Dick seized him by the ankles, upended him and shook vigorously. Small items - mobile, keys, nose hair trimmer - cascaded from his pockets. 'Well, well. What have we here?' said Big Ed. 'Barry Manilow fan, are we?' Little Dick dropped Jabez. 'I like him,' he said. 'Looks like we've got the goods.' Jabez sat up and rubbed his head. 'Hey, you can't take that.' 'Sez who? If the Boss wants it, the Boss gets it.' 'But - it's not the one he wants. It's - it's a present for someone.' 'Yeah, for the Boss.' An evil grin spread over Big Ed's face, like slime over a pond. 'And you better hope he likes it.' 'Or we'll be back,' added Little Dick. The door slammed behind them. Jabez staggered to his feet, waves of panic surging from his stomach, numbing his brain and loosening his bowels. The reaction of Morgan Spline when the 'Barry Manilow CD' turned out to be indeed Barry Manilow was too awful to contemplate. He needed a plan. Any kind if plan. Only being dropped on his head seemed to have done little for his powers of reasoning. Bojollay - he had to find Bojollay. Get the real CD. Then meet Melanie. She'd know what to do. He looked at his watch and groaned. It was nearly time for the first part of the evening's entertainment. Bertram had arranged places for them on the VIP tour of the studio. The family would be congregating in the foyer even now. He opened the storeroom door and peered out. No sign of Big Ed and Little Dick. He started to run. Five minutes later he was still running. Surely he should have reached the entrance by now? He had been too scared to notice which way they had come after entering the building, but he did not remember quite so many corners. He retraced his steps, only to be confronted with a t-junction. Right or left? He had not the faintest idea. He was lost. He wandered the dimly lit corridors. Where was he, anyway? Somewhere beneath the television studio, he supposed. This place was a maze. He had to think. He had been carried down stairs, he remembered. So if he could find a stairway that might lead to the way out. He walked on. Eventually he came to an area where the corridor widened and the lighting improved. This looked more promising. He increased his pace. Then he heard voices ahead. He froze, dithering. Friend or enemy? He shouldn't be here. Maybe Spline was after him already. Better hide. The corridor had several doorways, Jabez tried the nearest. It opened, and he slid inside. He blinked, trying to make out where he was. The room was in semi-darkness, lit only by a dim, reddish glow. A strange, feral odour assaulted his nose, and he could detect soft rustling noises. He was not alone. A pair of amber eyes opened nearby, to be joined by several more. A low, menacing growl emanated from the shadows. Jabez whimpered and the hair rose on his scalp, as he felt behind him for the door handle. It was not there. He knew where he was, now. He had found his way to the program's piθce de rιsistance, its ultimate sanction: the Wolves' Den.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 22
Rupe on 23-01-2007
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 22
Found it a little difficult to understand what was going on, since I've only read one other chapter of the novel. But on the whole it's readable and enjoyable. Particularly liked the elephant dung, which I suspect will remain with me for some time to come...

There are a few typos - 'feel peddling' instead of 'feet pedalling' for instance - and a couple of missing articles ('wretched disk' needs a 'the' before it).

I also felt that - while the story is in general told quite economically - there is a bit of superfluous commentary. E.g. 'Oh shit. This was something he did not need.' I think we get the picture anyway. And 'contented pussycat' doesn't add anything to the 'purring' car. Minor quibbles though.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Hi Rupe, yes, it must be a bit confusung. Some of the earlier chapters are more self-contained, but now I'm trying to draw everything together for the climax. OK the contested pussycat gets the chop - and thanks for spotting typos - ''feet peddling' - ouch!

niece on 23-01-2007
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 22
:D...Knowing how much animals love Jabez, I dont even want to imagine what's going to happen in there...maybe, you will get him out of it...but I'd rather you didn't...

Looking forward to the next chapter, Moya...I have to tell you this just gets funnier and funnier...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Are yes, the wolves - but we can't let Jabez be gobbled up. Not yet, anyway. Thanks niece.

RoyBateman on 24-01-2007
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 22
Where IS Barry Manilow indeed? If we knew, we could all avoid the bugger! Nice to find so many comedic elements being drawn in here - it's building up nicely...every chapter so far has made me laugh, and this was certainly no exception - thanks!

Author's Reply:
Oh b***er, done it again! See below.

shadow on 24-01-2007
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 22
Yes, he's a slippery customer, and may well cause more havoc before he's finished ... thanks Roy.

Author's Reply:


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 21 (posted on: 08-01-07)
A rude awakening

He was lying on something soft, yet resilient. A confused babble of voices surrounded him, and his head hurt. Jabez opened his eyes, and immediately shut them again. Had there really been a large and aggressively naked female hovering in the air directly above him, or was that part of the nightmare? Cautiously he tried again. This time he was able to take in more of his surroundings. He was on a sofa, staring up at a painted ceiling, over which well endowed classical deities cavorted in various stages of undress. One of them was the image of - Lady Fanny. Of, course, That's where he was, Hasbene Hall. It was all coming back to him now - the wedding, the gun - and with the memory, a sense of panic. 'Whurizzee?' he gasped, trying to claw himself upright. 'Jabez, darling!' A tearful Amanda clasped him to her bosom. 'You're alive!' 'I think so.' He felt the large lump on his forehead, and winced. 'What happened?' 'Derek threw his bouquet at you.' Jabez blinked 'You mean, I was felled by a bunch of flowers?' 'Not so much the flowers, more the horseshoe attached to them,' his mother broke in, briskly. 'I told Aubrey not to use a real one. How are you feeling?' Jabez looked round. He was surrounded by women. As well as Amanda and his mother, there were Deirdre Crowe and Lady Fanny and Wanda and Melanie and a couple of others he had never seen before. He subsided back onto the cushions and closed his eyes. 'Not very well,' he said. 'Let the poor boy rest,' boomed Lady Fanny. 'He'll be fine presently. How about a nice cup of tea, I'm sure we could all do with one.' The noise diminished as she herded the throng out of the room. Jabez tried to collect his thoughts. He was still horribly confused, though it was starting to come back to him now. A meal - a lot of champagne - a close encounter with Melanie - and Everard, where did he pop up from? And Luke Sharpe charging across the gravel with murder in mind. Or had he dreamt that bit? 'Ahem!' Jabez opened his eyes and tried to focus. A strange woman was looking down at him. 'Who are you?' 'Cordelia Bilkington-Pratt. We have met.' It was indeed Mrs B-P. 'Oh - er hi.' Jabez tried to stand up. He wished the drum ensemble in his skull would lay off for a bit. 'Please, remain seated.' Mrs Bilkington-Pratt installed herself on the sofa beside him. 'By the way, I must thank you for clearing up that little difficulty with the police.' 'It was nothing,' Jabez mumbled. He had always found the boss's wife much scarier than the boss. Not that she was bad-looking for her age. Hadn't she been a model? You could see where Melanie got it from. But she was not his type, he'd never gone for skinny women. He tried a smile. 'Was there something you wanted?' 'You have suffered no permanent harm, I trust? Stanley and I like to think we take a personal interest in the welfare of our employees.' 'That's nice. How's Luke?' 'Ah, poor Luke! A complete mental breakdown, I fear. Sad, in one so young, and who showed such promise. However, I am not here to discuss him. Do you feel up to a short walk?' 'I think so.' 'Then come with me.' A pair of French windows led from the room to a terrace. As they emerged Jabez looked round nervously. 'Where is Luke?' 'Don't worry, Fanny has him locked up. In the potting shed, I believe, with the gamekeeper on guard. He's perfectly safe.' 'Have you called the police?' 'We prefer not to bother them. Amalgamated has an interest in a clinic, very exclusive, very discreet. He will have the best possible treatment. This way.' She led him across the lawn towards a small building in the style of a Greek temple. As they approached the door slid open and she motioned him inside. The door closed, leaving them in almost complete darkness. Jabez gave an inarticulate squawk of dismay as the floor dropped from beneath him. Almost immediately the descent slowed and stopped. Another door slid aside and Jabez stepped out, into a large room filled with flickering screens and humming machinery. 'Welcome to the Department,' said Sir Willy. It was too much. Jabez had had enough. It had been a long day, and it was time he went home. I want my Mum, he thought. He moaned faintly. Any moment he would burst out crying. No! He was made of sterner stuff. He was a Pigstock, after all. Luke Sharpe might crumble, but he never would. 'I thought you weren't here,' he said. 'I'm not. I'm somewhere else entirely. Sit down. Cordelia, dear, could you find us some coffee?' As she turned to obey, Sir Willy's welcoming smile vanished. 'Have you got anything for me?' he demanded. 'Yes,' said Jabez. 'I met Sliddery this morning and he passed me a CD. I don't know what's on it, but I imagine it's the goods.' 'Splendid! Hand it over then.' 'Er - ' Jabez hesitated. Now it came to the point, he felt strangely reluctant to let the CD go. If all these people were so keen to get hold of it, then whatever it contained must be pretty valuable. Perhaps he should hang on and try Ebay? 'I don't understand,' he said. 'I thought your Department knew all about Amalgamated's research. Why do you need it?' 'Ah, wheels within wheels, my boy. The less you know, the safer you will be.' 'Yes, but - it's all very well for you to say ''give it me'', but what about Morgan Spline? He's expecting a result as well. He won't be very pleased if he doesn't get what he's paid for.' 'Fear not, dear boy. The Department has thought of that. You will have your material. All we have to do is make a copy, with a few alterations of course. Even with his resources, it will take Morgan months to discover he has been sold a pup.' 'Yeah - and when he does, I'm dead,' said Jabez. 'I'd feel a lot happier if I knew what was going on.' 'You'd better tell him, Willy.' Cordelia had returned with the coffees. 'If he's going to be effective, he needs to know our aims, at least.' Sir Willy sighed. 'Very well, but it's difficult to know where to start. Tell me, young man, have you ever wondered what Amalgamated Parts actually does?' 'It sells parts, of course.' 'Have you ever sold anything? To anyone?' 'No,' admitted Jabez. 'But somebody must, surely? Or the whole business would go belly up.' 'Not necessarily. Not if it was being subsidised by the Department. We had certain lines of research which needed to be cloaked by an ostensibly commercial enterprise. Amalgamated filled the bill admirably.' 'Gosh,' said Jabez. 'You mean, like, old B-P works for the Secret Service?' 'Heavens, no!' Cordelia laughed like a tinkling crystal. 'Stanley hasn't a clue what 's really going on.' 'Unfortunately,' went on Sir Willy, 'operating as a legitimate company has its drawbacks. Specifically, we become vulnerable to takeovers.' Jabez vaguely remembered items on recent newscasts. 'Morgan Spline?' 'Exactly. That man is far too powerful already - do you realise he already controls ninety-five per cent of the world's economic activity? - if he gets his hands on our nanobot research then he will be able to manipulate its intellectual life as well.' 'It would be too, too ghastly,' Cordelia shuddered. 'Just think, everyone eating the same food, wearing the same clothes, listening to the same music, thinking the same thoughts - all dictated by Morgan Spline.' 'Would anyone notice?' said Jabez. 'That's not the point,' snapped Sir Willy. 'Spline must be stopped, or we are all doomed. And that's where you come in.' Jabez gulped. 'Me?' 'Yes, you.' 'We were grooming Luke Sharpe for the job,' put in Cordelia, 'but unfortunately he's cracked under the strain. Luckily we found out in time.' 'You see, Spline doesn't really want to buy Amalgamated. All he needs is our research results - the Brainbot Program we call it. We want you to give it him.' 'But surely - ' 'Not the real one, of course. We'll make a copy, suitably doctored. Then if he tries to use it -we will have him!' 'And what if he finds out? He's got scientists too.' 'Oh, it will take them months to check it out.' And when they do, I'm done, thought Jabez. He didn't like the sound of this at all. Saving the world - it just wasn't his scene. He wanted to be rich and famous, granted, but if possible without doing any thing in particular. Other people managed it, why not him? A touch of humiliation, even, would not bother him, if it meant getting on TV, but he drew the line at actual danger. No death-defying stunts for him, thank you very much. 'I don't think - I mean, I'm sure you have loads of people who are better at this sort of thing.' 'Nonsense!' cried Sir Willy. 'You are a man of initiative, not to mention strong moral fibre. Not many have managed to resist Lady Fanny, for example. We have faith in you.' 'Thanks a bunch. And if I refuse?' A grim look passed between Sir Willy and Cordelia. 'I'm afraid - you won't leave here alive.' 'All right, then,' said Jabez sulkily. 'What do you want me to do?' 'We must get our version of Brainbot to Spline as soon as possible. How do you contact him?' 'I don't. He contacts me.' 'Hmmm.' Sir Willy stroked his chin, considering. 'Anywhere in particular?' 'Well, the first time was at Quodbury.' 'Ah yes, I believe your brother was banged up there for a while.' 'He's on the staff now,' said Jabez quickly. 'In fact, we're all going down there next week, he's managed to get us tickets for ''Thrown to the Wolves''. That's where they record it, you know.' 'Couldn't be better,' beamed Sir Willy. 'I'm sure Spline will take the opportunity to find out how you are getting on.' 'Can I go now? Ma will be wondering where I am..' 'Of course, of course. Cordelia will see you back. But first - haven't you forgotten something?' Sir Willy held out his hand. 'Yeah, sure.' Jabez fumbled in the inside pocket of his jacket where he had concealed the Barry Manilow CD. Then, with trembling fingers, he tried all his other pockets. His mouth dried, and an icy chill settled in the pit of his stomach, as if he had swallowed an iceberg. Barry Manilow was gone.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 21
RoyBateman on 08-01-2007
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 21
Now, I'd be friggin' DELIGHTED if I couldn't find a Barry Manilow CD - there's no pleasing some people, is there?? Great story development in this episode - the pace is hotting up a treat. You know, there was an old TV series very like this, that nearly took such situations seriously - remember "The Avengers?" Mind you, it did have Diana Rigg in that kinky gear...oh dear, here I go again. No, seriously, it's good to see old Jabez back for the new year, competent as ever!

Author's Reply:
Maybe there is a touch of 'Avengers' - though Cordelia ain't no Diana Rigg - thanks for keeping up!

niece on 10-01-2007
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 21
Moya,

Loved the "e-bay" bit...just like Jabez to think up something like that...Great read, as always!!!

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece - not sure whether he'd get any bidders ... Thanks!


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 20 (posted on: 11-12-06)
In which there is enough said at Aubrey and Derek's wedding.

'Amanda, wait!' Jabez caught up with her at the entrance to the Rose Garden. 'It isn't like what you think,' he panted. 'So what was it, then? Don't tell me - it was a business discussion,' Amanda sneered. He had never seen her so angry. 'Yes - no! I felt faint, that's all. The heat. Melanie told me to lie down, tried to loosen my clothing - ' 'So she could crawl all over you. I suppose that was the Kiss of Life? Oh Jabez, how could you?' Amanda started to cry. 'With that trollop!' 'She's not - ' 'Yes she is! She's had every good looking man in the company. She doesn't even want them, she pinches other girl's fellas just to show she can. She had Luke off me. Well, she's not getting you!' 'There, there.' Jabez patted her shoulder. 'Don't touch me! And do your zip up, for goodness sake, you look ridiculous.' Jabez tugged ineffectually at the fastener. Bugger. 'I can't, it's stuck.' 'Hold your jacket in front of you then. People are looking.' The last of the guests were drifting into the conservatory As he and Amanda entered Jabez flinched. Dozens of flash bulbs were going off all round them, as at the top table Aubrey and Derek cut the cake. He really needed the Gents, but too late. Bertram had spotted him. 'Jabez! We thought you'd got lost. Come along, everyone's waiting.' Before he could protest he found himself seated behind the long table, which at least provided some cover. He wished he'd never let himself in for this, speechifying was not his thing at all. He had cobbled together a few jokes, but as he dug out his notes he wondered if some of them were a bit fruity for the present gathering. Why were they having so many bloody speeches? First Aubrey, describing how they had met, then Derek giving his version. Now a burly red-faced man was on his feet, Derek's' dad by the sound of it. ' … he always was a lovely little mover. I'll never forget when he came second in the Junior Ballroom Championships for his cha-cha-cha, we were that proud … ' . It was very warm in the Conservatory, with the autumn sun beating down on the glass roof. Jabez felt his eyelids droop. Oh shit, he mustn't go to sleep … An elbow connected with his ribs. 'Wake up, it's your turn.' 'Wha'?' He gave a last, convulsive tug to his zip, and the fastener came off in his hand. He staggered to his feet, blinking at the sea of faces turned expectantly towards him. 'Hi everyone … nice to see you all … been asked to say a few words about Aubrey … great bloke, best brother you could have, we're all very fond of him even though he's a … and it hasn't always been easy for him. Not at all. I remember when he came out to our mam. She was in the kitchen at the time, making dinner. She says to him 'Does that mean you have oral sex with men?' 'Yes,' says Aubrey. So she whacks him with the soup ladle. 'What's that for?' he says. 'Don't you ever complain about my cooking again,' she says … ' Not a titter. Jabez wondered if it had been a good idea to take his jokes from the internet. Half the audience did not understand them, the other half had heard them all before. Too late too worry about that now. He ploughed on. 'Mind you, our dad was very proud of him. Once he was out playing golf with three friends, when he lost his ball in the rough. While he was away digging it out, his friends started boasting about their sons. One says, ''My son's a builder. He's so successful he was able to give a friend a house - for nothing!'' Next one says, ''My son owns a garage. He's so successful he could give his friend a Porsche.'' ''My son's a stockbroker,'' says the last, 'and he gave his friend a share portfolio.' At this point dad came back. ''How's your son doing?'' they ask him. 'Well, says dad, ''my son's gay, but he's not doing too bad. He's just been given a house, a Porsche and a whole lot of shares!''' That got a few sniggers, but Aubrey was glaring at him. Derek looked a bit put out too. Some people had no sense of humour. Perhaps he had better scrap the rest and cut straight to the 'Gay Genie' joke. 'One day Aubrey was walking on a beach when he spotted an old lamp washed up by the tide. He picked it up and gave it a rub - and out pops a genie. ''Ooh,'' says Aubrey, ''do I get three wishes?'' ''Only the one,'' says the genie, ''because of the cuts. What's it to be?'' Now Aubrey's very public spirited, so he says ''I wish the whole world were at peace.'' ''Sorry, said the genie. ''No can do. Insufficient resources'' ''Okay,'' says Aubrey. ''in that case - I've never been able to find the right man, you know, one that's considerate and fun, gorgeous, well endowed, good job, good cook, gets along with my family, tells me I always look fabulous, and is great in bed. That's what I wish for... the perfect man." The genie looks at him. ''All right, world peace it is!'' But I'm glad to say the genie did better than he promised, because Aubrey has found his perfect man - in Derek. So raise your glasses please - Derek and Aubrey!' 'INIQUITY, DEPRAVITY! Repent thy sin, for the Lord will rain down fire and brimstone upon the unrighteous!' Glasses paused halfway to lips, as the congregation turned as one to face the apparition which had appeared in the doorway. Clad all in black from its wide-brimmed hat to its immaculately polished shoes, it stalked down the gangway between the murmuring guests, finger pointed in accusation. ''Hello Everard,' said Jabez. 'So you made it after all.' 'Yea, I have flown in as on the wings of angels, to chastise the wicked. The Lord hath commanded me. How may I lead the faithful in the path of righteousness, if my own house is turned into a sty of corruption?' 'Steady on,' said Jabez. 'That's a bit heavy.' 'Not as heavy as the hand of the Almighty, which shall fall the transgressor, the delighter in abomination, and cast him into the infernal pit.' 'Well. really,' said Aubrey 'There's no need to be rude.' Derek had risen, 'Don't worry, love, I'll chuck the bugger out.' 'But you might get hurt. Oh dear, this is so unpleasant. Whatever must people think?' From the expressions on the faces of the guests, they thought that for entertainment value, this beat speeches any day. 'Repent,' thundered Everard, 'repent of thy manifold sins and wickedness, lest the Lord get fed up with thy depravity, and dump on thee as he did upon Gomorrah. And Sodom. This haunt of shame and perversion - ' 'Everard!' The tirade faltered as a voice like an air-raid warning cut across it. Lola Pigstock, resplendent in magenta tulle, marched across the floor. Every glass cherry on her hat quivered with indignation. 'That is enough. I'm surprised at you, I am indeed. Charging in here, ranting and raving, trying to spoil Aubrey's special day - I brought you up to be polite. I don't know what's come over you.' Everard shrivelled like a salted slug. 'I am doing the Lord's work … ' 'Hmph. You can tell your Lord He should show more consideration for people's feelings. Now say sorry to Derek and Aubrey.' Everard tried to meet his mother's eye, and failed. 'Sorry,' he muttered. 'That's better. Come along and say hallo to Bertram.' As Lola towed Everard away, Jabez subsided into his chair with a sigh of relief. He thought his speech had gone pretty well, considering He turned to Aubrey, who was still being soothed by Derek. 'You wouldn't happen to have a spare safety pin?' When Jabez returned from the Gents, after making some temporary repairs to his trousers, he found Everard ensconced in the bosom of his family, supping tea. ' … yes, the US of A is a truly religious nation,' he was saying, ' and I am glad to say that the Church of Christ Capitalist is its fastest growing denomination. We open ten new outlets every month - Salvation Stores, we call them, we did a survey and found that 'church' wasn't so user-friendly - and did I tell you I have my own syndicated TV show over there? In fact that's mainly why I'm here, to fix up a deal with your God Channel, if all goes well in a few months 'The Rev Ev Revelations Show' will be on prime time this side of the pond. Halleluiah!' 'Halleluiah,' replied Lola politely. 'So you didn't come over specially for the wedding, then?' ''Not exactly, more killing two birds with one stone. I couldn't miss my little brother's nuptials, could I, with him about to fall into the fires if hell and all?' 'I'm sure he and Derek appreciated it,' said his mother. 'Where are they?' asked Jabez, looking round. 'Getting changed, it's nearly time for their Going Away.' 'Hi there, Jabez,' beamed Everard. 'I hear the Lord has been good to you.' 'Come again?' 'Why, I've just had the pleasure of meeting your lovely fiancιe. An angel dropped out of heaven!' Amanda simpered, then shot a malevolent glance at Jabez. 'Perhaps you should try one of Everard's Salvation Packages - if you're not beyond saving.' 'No-one is beyond saving - we have the standard Personal Salvation Plan for $250 - or you could go for our De-Luxe model at $700 - the 'Fast Track to Heaven' - there'd be a discount, obviously, as you're family … ' Jabez glared. His eldest brother had always been weird, even by Pigstock standards, but this was totally out of order. And what did he think he looked like, it that black tee-shirt with its stupid built in dog collar, and 'Jesus Saves - High Interest Account' on the front? 'Amanda,' he hissed. 'I want a word. Come into the garden.' Outside the Rose Garden glowed in the late afternoon sun. The wedding guests wandered around, chatting and taking photos. The Pigstock infants crashed through the bushes in some childish game, their bridesmaids' and pages' outfits by now somewhat the worse for wear. 'Look, I don't know what you thought you saw, but -' 'I know what I saw.' Amanda stared at him reproachfully. 'Jabez, how could you? Sneaking off when by back was turned, to meet that hussy - ' 'I wasn't! I didn't know she was here. I was looking for Sir Willy.' 'So how come I find her crawling all over you?' 'I couldn't help it, she took me by surprise. Is it my fault that I have this effect on women? You must have seen I was trying to fight her off.' ''Huh!' snorted Amanda. A steady stream of guests was now flowing out of the Rose Garden towards the main house, where an open vintage Rolls waited, tastefully decorated with toilet rolls and balloons. 'Come on,' said Jabez, 'we'd better go and see them off.' As they joined the crowd round the car, Jabez heard someone calling his name. He turned to see Melanie hurrying across the gravel, a worried look on her face. Beside him Amanda stiffened and turned bright red. 'What's she doing here? Jabez don't speak to her!' 'Jabez,' gasped Melanie, 'listen, you need to know - ' 'Keep away,' shrieked Amanda. 'He's mine! You can't have him!' 'For chrissake, I don't want the stupid twerp -' 'No? So why were you trying to drag his trousers off?' By this time they had gathered an interested audience. ''Ha! Listen to little Miss Perfect,' snarled Melanie. ' At least I don't lose my thong under the back seat of other people's cars.' Amanda paled. 'I don't know what you mean.' 'Don't come the innocent. If you want to be discrete, you should tell your mother not to sew name tapes in your underwear.' 'You bitch, how dare you!' Amanda advanced, fingers clawed. 'Ladies, please,' said Jabez nervously. 'Oh, shut up, you silly cow.' Melanie turned to Jabez. 'You need to watch out, we've lost Luke, and we think - ' An inarticulate roar interrupted her. Luke appeared round the side of the house, naked but for a pair of jackboots and his old school tie, and waving a shotgun. The assembled wedding guests hit the deck as if they had been rehearsing for months. Luke advanced, eyes blazing. 'C'mon, Pigstock, make my day!' 'Here, steady on,' Jabez backed away. 'Can't we discuss this later?' But Luke had completely lost it. As he raised his weapon, Amanda flung herself between them. With a cry of 'Jabez, I'll save you,' she threw her arms round Jabez's neck. A posse of miniature Pigstocks surged out of the bushes behind Luke, whooping their war cries. 'It's okay, we'll get him,' yelled Bojollay There was a loud explosion. 'Aarrrgh!' When the smoke cleared Luke was lying flat on his face on the gravel, under a pile of Pigstocks. Then, as the guests picked themselves up and dusted themselves down, Derek and Aubrey appeared on the steps of Hasbene Hall, resplendent in their matching powder-blue going away outfits. Everyone surged forward scattering confetti, and Derek threw his bouquet, which arced over the crowd to score a direct hit on Jabez's head. Everything went black, and he knew no more.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 20
niece on 11-12-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 20
What a fab ending to this chapter! Enjoyed and couldn't help laughing at Jabez's misfortunes...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Yes, poor Jabez. And it can only get worse. Thanks niece.

RoyBateman on 11-12-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 20
Great - you obviously had as much fun writing this as I had reading it...which was a lot.

Author's Reply:

shadow on 11-12-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 20
Yes, I love piling on the agony! Thanks Roy.

Author's Reply:

Evitchka on 11-12-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 20
I have just joined but have not read earlier chapters. If this one is anything to go by, they must be a great read. I enjoyed the romp. Jabez is a hilarious hero- a bit like a male Bridget Jones.

Author's Reply:
Hi Evitchka, thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed. I don't think Jabez would be very pleased by the comparison! Welcome to UKA.

Rupe on 12-12-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 20
Very entertaining and fluently written, with sharp and witty dialogue.

Not having read any of the other chapters, I wasn't entirely sure what was going on with Everard etc, but most of it was easy to follow.

I think the humour works best when it is linked, contrasted with, relates to (etc), the real issues that are being worked out between the characters: my only (tentative) criticism is that sometimes the writing teeters on the edge of being merely facetious, as in parts of Everard's speech.

Author's Reply:
Hi Rupe, thanks for taking the trouble. I agree with you about humour - though Jabez belongs more to the 'totally daft' variety - not to be taken seriously!

Sanuk on 12-12-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 20
Hi Shadow,

I read this piece, without having read the earlier chapters, (yet), but left with a firm smile on my face. Delightful.
My only (slight) criticism, and who am I to criticise, is the religious church seemed a little bit forced.
I must read the other chapters.

Sanuk.

Author's Reply:
Hi Sanuk, glad it raised a smile. Looks like I'll need to give the Rev Ev a going over ...


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 19 (posted on: 27-11-06)
In which Jabez attends a wedding, and is caught with his trousers down.

The lounge bar of the 'Frog and Ferret' was as usual half empty. Jabez took his half of lager to a quiet corner and hid behind a copy of 'Loaded', specially bought for the occasion.. He only had a few minutes to wait before Burke Sliddery entered, glanced round the bar in a suspicious manner, and sidled up to join him. 'The Japanese are flying tonight,' he said. 'But the wind is from the south,' replied Jabez. He put down his magazine. 'Have you got it?' 'Yes. Have you got the money?' 'The cash will be in a Swiss account as soon as my principle is satisfied with the goods. So hand it over, I don't have all day.' 'Going somewhere special?' 'Wedding. My brother.' 'Thought you looked a bit tarted up.' 'And I'm pushed for time, so if you don't mind … ' Burke passed him a CD in a case. Jabez stared at it in dismay. '''Barry Manilow in Concert''?' 'Did you want me to label it ''Secret Formula - nicked''?' said Burke impatiently. Jabez stowed the disc carefully in an inside pocket. Burke rose. 'I'll be off, then.' Jabez nodded. 'See you around.' 'I sincerely hope not,' said Burke. After he had gone Jabez finished his drink and got up. He had nearly reached the door when he spotted a familiar face. Shit, he thought. How long has he been there? 'Morning, Mr Pigstock,' said Inspector Prodmore. 'Have you got a minute? I wanted a quick word.' 'Can't it wait? I'm in a bit of a hurry.' 'Going somewhere, are we?' 'My brother's getting married this morning.' 'That's right, best thing a man can do, find himself a good woman,' said Prodmore mournfully. 'He's marrying a bloke.' 'That so? Well it takes all sorts. My regards to the happy couple.' 'Thanks. But if I don't get a move on I'll be late.' 'I only wanted to say - watch it.' 'Pardon?' Jabez felt his stomach lurch. 'I've got my eye on you. I don't know what strings were pulled to get the Blunt case dropped, or who pulled them, but I am not satisfied. 'Natural causes' my arse! I don't know what you're up to, but I know there's something fishy going on. I have a nose for it.' Prodmore tapped his proboscis. 'So - watch your step. That's all. You can run along now.' Sweating, Jabez made his escape. What was all that about, he thought. He can't have seen anything. Thank goodness he didn't want to search me. Barry Manilow! The shame of it! An hour later he was bowling down the motorway in his new Lamborghini Gallardo, Amanda by his side. She was wearing a very expensive confection in cream lace and brown velvet, with a matching hat. She looked like a chocolate sundae. 'Are we nearly there?' she twittered. 'I thought you were never coming this morning, it wouldn't do to be late, can't we go a bit faster, oh dear, I didn't mean that fast, we don't want to be stopped for speeding, not today of all days, do I look alright? I'm still not sure this dress is quite me, but it was so pretty.' 'Nearly there,' grunted Jabez. 'Now shut up or I'll miss the exit.' Soon they left the motorway and found themselves negotiating the winding country lanes which led to Hasbene Hall. 'Isn't it lucky they've got such lovely weather? It's more like August than October. It would have been such a shame if it had rained. I always think - stop!' Amanda clutched his arm, making the car swerve dangerously. A strange, dishevelled figure had leapt out from the shelter of the hedge. Jabez slammed on the brakes. 'What the hell - Luke?' Jabez hardly recognised his old enemy. Luke was barefoot, and wearing a purple silk pyjama jacket with a pair of trousers at least two sizes too small. Amanda had already got out of the car and was running to him. He stared at her wildly. 'Help me!' he cried. 'Of course we will,' soothed Amanda. 'But what's the matter? What can we do?' 'Get me away from here.' 'We're going to Hasbene Hall, we can give you a lift if you like,' Amanda offered. 'No, no,' Luke turned even paler. 'I've only just escaped from there.' 'Escaped?' Jabez joined them, trying to look suitably concerned. 'Lady Fanny asked me to stay. For a rest. Rest!' Luke laughed bitterly. 'I haven't had any rest since I got here. I can't take any more. I need to find a phone box - a bus stop - anything. Please!' 'It's a bit awkward,' said Jabez. 'We're due at my brother's wedding.' 'Couldn't we take him with us? Surely he could blend into the crowd.' 'In that outfit? I doubt it.' At that moment they heard the sound of approaching hooves. 'Oh God,' gasped Luke. 'It's Lady Fanny. Hide me!' He dropped to his knees and tried to crawl under the car, as Lady Fanny, mounted on a tall black stallion, trotted into view. 'Hello there, have you seen -' she called. 'Oh, morning, Pigsty. Come for the wedding? Good, good.' 'He's under the car,' said Jabez. Luke emerged, shooting a malevolent glance at Jabez. 'Traitor!' he hissed. 'Ah, there you are, you silly boy. I thought you wouldn't have gone far, ' boomed Fanny. She reined in, staring down at the pathetic creature grovelling below her. 'Get up, man. Time we got you back to bed,' Luke groaned. All the fight seemed to have gone out of him. As he clambered to his feet she leaned down and grabbed him by the seat of his pants, hauling him across her saddlebow. Then with a wave to Jabez and Amanda and a cheery 'Tally-ho!', she cantered back the way she had come. 'Poor Luke.' Amanda's eyes filled with tears. 'I thought you didn't like him,' said Jabez as they got back in the car. 'I don't, particularly. But still. Poor Luke.' Jabez stood in the corner of the Rose Garden, sipping champagne. Everything had gone very well, so far. It had been quite an emotional moment, when the happy couple had entered the conservatory to the strains of 'Lohengrin' on the sound system, followed by the junior Pigstocks in their rainbow outfits and preceded, for some reason, by Deirdre Crowe's two cats. Derek had spoken the vows loud and clear, and Aubrey had only mumbled a bit. Everyone agreed that the kids looked charming; even if Blyte, as the red pageboy, more nearly resembled a small demon. He could see them all now, playing war games among the rose bushes. Then there had been the interminable photos, before they could get stuck into the cold buffet. There were still the speeches to come, and the cutting of the cake. But first he had a job to do. 'Your turn next, eh, Jabez?' Jabez spluttered as half his champagne went up his nose. Deirdre Crowe was standing beside him, flanked by her cats. God, he wished she would not creep up on you like that. 'Looks like it,' he muttered. 'Do I detect a certain reluctance?' Her steely eye was fixed on him. 'No, no. Can't wait to settle down.' 'Liar,' said the black cat. 'That one won't settle till he's spayed,' agreed the grey. 'That's not fair,' protested Jabez. 'I'm very fond of -' He gulped, as the realisation hit him. 'I heard what they said!' 'Really? Now that's interesting,' said Deirdre. 'Must be a side effect of Mrs Goodbody's spell.' 'What am I going to do?' 'Why do anything? You're very lucky, not many can understand Cat. Though of course they have always understood us.' 'But I don't want to talk to cats,' wailed Jabez. 'Don't worry,' sniffed the grey cat. 'Your conversation has no appeal to us.' The two cats stalked off, tails in the air. Deirdre turned to follow. 'Don't worry,' she said, 'you'll get used to it.' Jabez swallowed some more champagne to steady his nerves. For a moment there he had thought he was going doolally. No time to worry about it now, though. He needed to find Sir Willy. The wedding guests were still busy mingling. He could see Amanda chatting to some of Derek's relations. It seemed as good a time as any to slip away unnoticed. He drained his glass and headed for the main house. 'Hi Jabez, have you met my Great-Auntie Gladys?' Derek appeared from nowhere, towing a wizened crone. 'Er, no. Delighted.' Bugger, thought Jabez. I'll never get away at this rate. 'Lovely do, in't it? His mam would be so proud.' 'Yeah, smashing. Fantastic outfit, Derek.' 'Thanks.' Derek smoothed the folds of his gold lurex tuxedo. The old lady tugged at his arm. 'Come on, our Derek. I need the loo.' 'See you later, Jabez. Don't forget, speeches in half an hour.' 'Right.' The front door of Hasbene Hall was open, and the entrance hall beyond, deserted. Jabez hesitated. He was not sure where to find Sir Willy, and did not fancy wandering round the house looking for him. He had no wish to meet Lady Fanny again, though with luck she would be busy with her own affairs. One of the doors off the hall was ajar, and he thought he heard movement within. He pushed it open and peered round. It was a large room with blinds drawn down against the sun. The walls were lined with bookshelves, while more books and papers were piled on the table and every available chair. The library, Jabez deduced. In the shadows, something moved. 'Melanie - what are you doing here?' 'Helping out. I often spend weekends with Willy and Fanny, they're old friends of mother. What do you want? Is Willy expecting you?' 'No, but I need to see him. Is he here?' 'He's gone up to London. Is it urgent?' Jabez advanced into the room, looking round to check they were alone. 'I've got - It.' 'You have? There's a clever boy.' Melanie came forward, smiling. 'Come on then, hand it over.' 'I'd rather give it to Sir Willy personally. When will he be back?' 'Not for a couple of days. What's the problem, don't you trust me?' The obvious answer to that was 'no', but Jabez could not bring himself to say it. 'I can put it in the safe till he gets home. It seems a shame that you should come all this way for nothing.' She pushed a pile of papers off the nearest sofa and sat down. 'I didn't come specially, it's my brother's wedding day. You must remember, you bought the prezzie.' 'Oh, is that today? Well, take your jacket off and relax.' She reached up and pulled him down beside her. 'You looked all hot and bothered.' She was right, it was very warm for the time of year. Jabez felt the sweat gathering in his armpits. 'I can't stop long, I'm supposed to be making a speech.' 'You've got a minute or two, surely?' She began to unbutton his jacket. Jabez was acutely conscious of the CD case digging into his chest. No way did he intend to let her see the disk until he could change the label for something less embarrassing. She might think it was one of his! 'Hang on, he said, removing his jacket and draping it over the back of the sofa. 'Somehow we never seem to get time together, alone.' she murmured. This was true. Since that memorable night in the Excelsior Hotel, Jabez had hoped to see more of Melanie, in every sense, but it had never happened. She insisted they must be discreet in the office, and bearing in mind Amanda's X-ray vision, he had to agree with her. Knowing how much she desired him, he could only admire her self control. Now it was obvious her feelings were getting the better of her. He sympathised, but he wished she had chosen a more convenient moment. She poured herself across his chest, arms reaching out to loosen his tie. He suspected she was not wearing a bra. A moment later, he was sure of it. He closed his eyes as her hot breath tickled his ear. 'That looks a bit tight,' she purred, as her hand fumbled with his zip. 'Jabez?' called an only too familiar voice. He froze, not daring to breathe. High heels clicked across the floor outside. 'Where are you, it's nearly time, they're all waiting - ' The door was flung open. 'Jabez!' He staggered to his feet, clutching his flies, as Melanie slid from his knees to land in a heap on the floor. 'You - you filthy Beast!' shrieked Amanda. 'How could you!' She rushed from the room, sobbing. Bloody hell, thought Jabez. That's all I need. He grabbed his jacket and ran after her.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 19
RoyBateman on 28-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 19
Great - how's he going to talk his way out of this one? Another treat that's kept a smile on my face throughout the proceedings. And not many people can do that. The cheque's in the post...

Author's Reply:
With some difficulty, I think. But Jabez is a man of infinite ingenuity ... thanks Roy.

niece on 10-12-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 19
Like Roy, I'm waiting to find out how Jabez gets out of this mess...

And I loved the dialogue between the two cats...A very good read, Moya!!!

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece - yes, he may have a bit of a problem this time. Amanda has a forgiving nature, but there are limits.


The Ballad of Moebius Hill (posted on: 20-11-06)
This came out of a writing exercise - one of those where you imagine you are walking along a road and you come to a door so you go through it ... the result was the following deathless verse.

As I was walking down the road All in the month of May I passed beneath fair Moebius Hill As I went on my way. And in its side there stood a door Leading God knows where. I, being a nosy bugger, thought I'll take a look in there. I found myself inside a room All dark and dank and drear, Filled with a brooding sense of Something nasty lurking near. And then I tripped and dropped my torch I searched around - oh Blimey! There's something here feels like a slug All cold and wet and slimy. I felt my way along the wall All frantic to get out I found a door, not the right one But somewhat better than nowt. A passage then I groped along, Without my torch quite blind. Encouraged by the sound of Heavy breathing close behind. The passage walls were closing in 'Twas getting quite a squeeze Oh, let me find the exit soon Before it grabs me, please! I couldn't breathe, but abject fear Kept me going at full throttle Until I popped out of a hole Like a cork out of a bottle. Emerging halfway up a cliff Its bottom lost in mist. Suffering from vertigo, I Was seriously pissed. I clawed my way up to the top In state of a utter terror Imagining the consequence Of even the slightest error. I found a path, though where it went I really didn't care. It led me to a doorway set Into a hillside bare. All enigmatic there it stood To tempt some fool within. Oh, no, I said, I've had enough This is where I came in.
Archived comments for The Ballad of Moebius Hill
niece on 20-11-2006
The Ballad of Moebius Hill
Moya,

Liked this a lot...with a moral in it too...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece - a moral? Was there really? I never noticed ...

len on 20-11-2006
The Ballad of Moebius Hill
Sounds like a bad dream I had, once...We should be kinder to ourselves in our dreams, I think. I prolly wudda gone through that second door, too..I'm a glutton for punishment..len

Author's Reply:
You mean that one where you're squeezing through tunnels deep underground and you get stuck - horrid, isn't it? Supposed to be a memory of being born, or something ... sweet dreams!

RoyBateman on 20-11-2006
The Ballad of Moebius Hill
This kept me amused all the way through, though it obviously had that dream-like quality to it, too...shades of Alice and the Pied Piper? I'm sure there's a deep psychological meaning, but bugger that - just enjoy!

Author's Reply:
Deep psychological meaning? Aaah! Don't go there! It was just a bit of fun. Honest.

Kat on 20-11-2006
The Ballad of Moebius Hill
I enjoyed this too - liked the circular feel to it.

Kat :o)

Author's Reply:
Funny, I seem to spend a lot of time going round in circles. Thanks Kat.

petersjm on 20-11-2006
The Ballad of Moebius Hill
Ah, not you too! I just read a poem of Griff's that reminded me of some poet but I couldn't remember his name. Now, reading this, I'm also reminded of someone. That woman with the droaning voice and the frizzy hair... Oh, what's her name?!

Anyway, I loved this. The rhyme was great and the round-about journey something I'd never want to go through!

Author's Reply:
Hey, thanks - I am delighted by your approbation . Not sure who your droaning woman is though.

Sunken on 21-11-2006
The Ballad of Moebius Hill
Hello Ms. Shadow. Isn't it chilly? I recently dreamt that I was in 'Girls Aloud' and that Cheryl Tweedy got jealous of my nipple ring and tried to rip it off with her teeth. It might sound erotic to some of those M&S types, but I can assure you that it wasn't. Where is the bondage section on M&S anyway? Witty as ever Ms. Shadowy figure. Long may you cast big ones... I hope that doesn't sound offensive. Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

he caused Chernobyl but doesn't like to talk about it

Author's Reply:
Dear Sunky
Thank you for your kind remarks and rating. I am very disappointed in M&S - it is no longer the shop I knew and loved. Bondage indeed! What happened to the twin sets and sensible knickers?

e-griff on 21-11-2006
The Ballad of Moebius Hill
well very nice too

I suppose the only word that can be applied to it is 'loopy'!

Thank god you were not in-Kliened to go any further, and bottled out!

(er V5 typo - better that nowt -actually I just found one in one of my recent poems that nobody had spotted! *phew*)

Author's Reply:
Yeah, well, if I'd carried on I might have vanished up my own ... typo now fixed, thanks for spotting. Weird how the little b*****ds get through.

Gerry on 21-11-2006
The Ballad of Moebius Hill
Moya, this made me smile. Somewhere in my posts is a s/s called 'The worst nightmare ever' it came straight to mind when I read the above, nicely done...

Gerry. xxx.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Gerry, that's a dream I would not like to have - and I wrote the rply in the wrong box again! Drat!

shadow on 22-11-2006
The Ballad of Moebius Hill
Thanks Gerry, that's a dream I would not like to have.

Author's Reply:

ThePhoenix on 04-12-2006
The Ballad of Moebius Hill
I loved this poem, its a cross between the morals of Lewis Carrol's Alice in wonderland and HP Lovecraft's gothic horror but with a northern upbeat-even-though-bad-things-are-happening feel to it.

I love dreams and dreamscapes, if you haven't read any Lovecraft I strongly recommend it. a series of short gothic stories written in the 1920's some are scarier than any modern horror!

thanks for the wonderful poem,

dx

Author's Reply:
Hey thanks - to be mentioned in the same breath as the great Lovecraft - I'm overwhelmed!


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 18 (posted on: 13-11-06)
In which Jabez seeks the mysterious Part, and is blinded by science.

This was the life, Jabez thought, gazing round his office. His own office! With his own leather topped desk and a proper carpet on the floor, and his very own ergonomically designed office chair. He stretched luxuriously, and wondered if he should take an early lunch. He had spent an energetic morning surfing the web, which had given him an appetite. Though perhaps he should do a little work first. He pressed the switch on the intercom. 'Melanie, could you pop in for a moment?' Yes. Melanie Bilkington-Pratt was now his Personal Assistant. It was owing to her that the first weeks in his new job had gone so smoothly. Though it had not taken him long to find his feet. One of the few things he remembered from his Business Studies course at Blycester College of Further Education was the importance of delegation. A good manager must not expect to do all (or in Jabez's case, any) of the work himself. Jabez considered himself to be a dab hand at delegation. Melanie entered, bearing a sheaf of papers. Jabez watched approvingly as she advanced across the carpet, in her figure-hugging black skirt and a blouse which somehow managed to be both demure and revealing. She bent to place the papers on the desk in front of him. 'Er, what?' said Jabez, momentarily distracted by the view. 'Only the Sales Department expenses forms for you to sign,' said Melanie. 'They're okay, I've been through them.' 'Oh, right.' 'And don't forget, you're due at Wyndham Park at two o'clock.' 'I haven't forgotten,' said Jabez. 'Are you sure you won't come? We could go for a drink after.' Melanie shook her head. 'There's the quarterly figures to sort out before the board meeting. Some of the departments still haven't sent them in.' 'That's right, you put a rocket under their arses,' grinned Jabez. 'Hang on though, there's no rush,' he added as she turned to go. 'I was wondering - any sign of Luke coming back to work?' 'Not as yet.' Melanie perched on the edge of the desk. 'He's been signed off for a month.' 'What's supposed to be wrong with him, anyway?' 'Stress, pressure of work - he always was very driven. I suppose it all got too much for him and then in that interview he just flipped.' 'Sad, really. Still, some of us can take it, some can't,' said Jabez sympathetically. 'Have you seen him lately?' 'Not since that weekend in Bagwash.' 'Keep me posted. If he doesn't sort himself out soon we might have to arrange some sort of treatment. After all, we are a caring company.' Shock therapy perhaps, he thought. I might even be prepared to administer it myself. After lunch Jabez drove to Wyndham Business Park, a modern development on the outskirts of Blycester, where Amalgamated Parts had its R & D department. Time I got a new car, he thought, now I can afford it. The Jag was all very well, but it was a bit - middle-aged. Not quite him. He really fancied a Porsche. Now that would pull the girls. Not that he had much chance of pulling anything these days, with Amanda sticking to him like a super-glued limpet. The unfinished business with Melanie looked like remaining unfinished for the foreseeable future. He had hoped for the odd session on his desk top, or the occasional grope at least, but Melanie was adamant - not in office hours. And his off-duty time was no longer his own. He was still caught in a gravity well, being inexorably sucked towards the black hole of matrimony. Amanda now had her ring, a massive emerald surrounded by diamonds. This very evening they were supposed to be going to view a new 'Exclusive Development of Executive Homes' on the edge of town. Jabez suppressed a groan. He did not want to leave his flat. He liked his flat: it had everything he needed and nothing he didn't. He knew the sort of home Amanda would insist on. It would be filled with small fluffy animals - kittens, rabbits, budgies - even, God help them, babies. This was intolerable, it must not be allowed to happen. Somehow, he must break free. But how? The Research Department of Amalgamated Parts Inc was housed in a large anonymous grey shed, surrounded by lethally spiked railings. Jabez showed his company ID at the gate and was waved through by the security guard. At the entrance he was greeted by a young man in a white coat, with horn-rimmed glasses and too many teeth. 'Hi, Jabez, great to meet you!' he cried, pumping Jabez's hand with enthusiasm. 'Er, hi.' Jabez squinted at the other's lapel badge. 'Dr Sliddery?' 'Burke - call me Burke - please! Come in, come in.' Jabez followed Burke Sliddery into the building, looking round curiously. It was the first time he had seen the inside of R & D - in fact he had very little idea what went on there. This was his big, perhaps his only, chance of finding out what The Part actually was, and he was determined not to waste it. He donned the white coat offered by a pretty lab assistant, and pinned a name tag to his lapel. 'Fancy a coffee first, on shall we get straight on with the tour? Okay, the tour.' Sliddery led Jabez down a corridor, talking all the while. 'Dr Griess sends his apologies, by the way, he hopes to join us later.' 'Dr Griess? 'Our Head of Research.' 'I thought you were …' 'Me? No, no. I'm only his Research Assistant - Axel is the big cheese.' 'Good, is he?' Sliddery lowered his voice reverently. 'Axel Griess is the top man in his field. It's a privilege to work with him.' Through small windows in the doors they passed, Jabez could see white-coated figures bent over microscopes, manipulating test-tubes, or peering at computer screens. 'What exactly is it you do here?' he asked. 'Didn't they give you any background material?' Background? Jabez remembered the fat file Melanie had kept bothering him about. He had shoved it into one of his desk drawers and told her he had read it. 'Just fill me in quickly,' he said. 'Well, you've heard of nanotechnology? Jabez blinked. He had a vague recollection of some science program he had once watched for a bit, before he fell asleep. 'You mean, titchy little machines that are going to turn everything into grey goo?' 'No, no, no!' Burke Sliddery's voice rose in exasperation. 'Nanoculture is the science of the future. Think of it! Machines which operate at the molecular level, which can build up products atom by atom, which can replicate themselves! The possibilities are endless. But you will understand better once you have seen the video.' He ushered Jabez into a room like a miniature cinema, with red plush seats and a large screen. The lights dimmed, as the title sequence came up. The screen filled with a mass of tiny rotating cog-wheels, and a portentous voiceover announced 'How to be very small'. Jabez found his attention starting to wander, and yanked it back with a sigh. This was his best chance to find out what was going on, but he feared he was in for a very boring half hour. Jabez woke with a start. Bother, he'd missed it. The trouble was, he found anything educational irresistibly soporific . He had a vague impression of a lot of computer graphics, microscopic gizmos being injected into people and building them new hearts and livers and such like. He didn't fancy that at all. While he slept they had been joined by a old man with silver hair, which stood out from his head as if electrified. A skinny black cat wound itself round his ankles. 'Dr Axel Griess,' murmured Sliddery. 'And Schrodinger.' 'Interesting show,' said Jabez. 'I am glad zat you sink so.' sniffed the great man. 'The greatest breakthrough in the history of mankind - yes, even a scientific ignoramus might find it interesting. I hope you will tell your superiors who control the purse strings that the vork must continue.' 'Right. You've had a breakthrough, then?' 'Always we haf breakthroughs. I am almost there. Only a little more money, a mere million or so, and it will be - what you say - in the bag.' 'I'm sure the board will be very pleased to hear that, sir,' said Jabez. 'Indeed. So tell them. And now, I must return to my laboratory. Some of us have vork to do. Schrodinger, come!' With a parting glare he swept from the room. The cat ignored him. 'Bit prickly, isn't he?' said Jabez. 'Come of being a genius. He'll be in line for a Nobel if he cracks this one. Fancy a coffee now? There's a machine next door.' Sliddery led Jabez down the corridor and into a shabby room furnished with armchairs, small tables and a coffee machine. The cat slunk after them. 'I thought you said he had cracked it.' said Jabez 'Well, yes, theoretically,' said Sliddery as he brought the coffees. 'We've got it to work in the lab. The next challenge is to develop it - go from micro to macro, so to speak.' 'I see,' said Jabez, who didn't. The cat had settled itself opposite him and was now fixing him with a hard green stare. It made him uneasy. 'How much of this nano stuff have you actually produced? A bucketful - or more like a test-tube?' 'Good heavens, no.' Sliddery looked shocked. 'You'd need an electro- microscope to see it. We're working at the molecular level here, remember. The important thing is, we have made it - and we can make more. Provided we get the funding.' 'Ah yes, the funding. You see, Dr Sliddery - Burke - the board is getting a little worried. They've been pouring cash into this project for years, and not seen any profit out of it yet. I might need something more than a pretty video to show them if you expect them to cough up any more.' 'But we can't stop now!' Sliddery sounded ready to burst into tears. 'Surely they realise the potential? The medical applications alone - there'd be no more need for transplants, just inject the right nano-machines and have your organs repaired on site. Or design an individual drug for every disease. As for manufacturing - products would be grown, atom by atom.' 'A part for every purpose, eh?' grinned Jabez. 'Would one of them be - The Part?' Sliddery turned pale. 'Wh-what do you know about that?' Bugger all, thought Jabez. But this Burke obviously knows something. 'These things get about,' he said. 'But that's top secret! No-one is supposed to know.' 'Not even the board?' 'Particularly not the board!' 'Hmmmm,' said Jabez. 'It would seem your outfit is a bit dodgy, security-wise. I shall have to put that in my report.' 'Will it affect the funding?' 'Very possibly. In fact, I would say almost certainly.' Jabez had a swallow of his coffee. It tasted disgusting. 'Some of the board members aren't happy at all. They have the shareholders to consider. 'That's so short-sighted.' Sliddery was starting to sweat. 'To call a halt now - it doesn't bear thinking of. It would be a tragedy. Not just for the company, but for mankind.' 'But,' Jabez went on, 'all is not necessarily lost. I might be able to put you in touch with an alternative source. If this gizmo is as important as you say, others would be interested.' 'Like who? 'I am not at liberty to say. But if you want your work to continue …' 'I see.' Sliddery swallowed. 'I'd have to consult Axel.' 'You think Griess would play ball? 'As long as he can finance for his research, he doesn't care where the money comes from.' 'So assuming the board does get cold feet, we're in business,' smiled Jabez. 'Of course, I'll need some proof that this Part is all it's cracked up to be. Any chance of a sample?' Sliddery shook his head. 'It's not that easy. We've only made a few molecules, so far.' 'Pity. Maybe you could let me have the recipe?' 'We might be able to manage something along those lines. I'd have to clear it with Dr Griess first.' 'You do that, Burke. Text me when you come to a decision, and we'll set up a meeting.' Sliddery bared his teeth and got up. 'Will do. Now, if you don't mind … ' 'Yes, run along, I'm sure you have lots to do. I'll see myself out. Oh, Burke - ' Sliddery paused, his hand on the door. 'This mysterious part of yours. What does it actually do?' asked Jabez. 'Well, you remember I said you could use nano-machines to repair hearts and such-like? Well, we've developed one which can be used to reconfigure the brain.' 'Come again?' Burke glanced round fearfully, and whispered, 'You can use it to change people's minds.' The door closed behind him. Bugger me, thought Jabez. No wonder Morgan Spline wants to get his hands on this gadget. He won't just own the world, he'll rule it too. I wonder how much he's prepared to pay? Or should I hand it over to Sir Willy's Department, like a good little boy? He wished the cat would stop looking at him as if he was an inferior brand of cat food. It was a particularly evil specimen, with a wedge shaped face and chewed ears. And a stupid name. Probably best to offer the thing to both of them, then whatever happened he would come out on top. All in all, he thought as he got up, not a bad afternoon's work. 'I reckon I did pretty well today,' he said. 'What do you think, pussy?' 'Wanker,' said the cat.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 18
RoyBateman on 14-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 18
What a brilliant last line...totally unexpected. The plot really does thicken, doesn't it? This would make an excellent TV series or film given the right dry treatment. I'm still hooked!

Author's Reply:
Well, the film rights are still available if anyone's interested ...

niece on 15-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 18
Moya,
Your story is as interesting as ever and Jabez is as unlikeable as ever...
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Jabez unlikeable? Surely not! He's God's Gift to womankind ...


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 17 (posted on: 06-11-06)
In which Jabez is swept away by a flood of passion.

Jabez sat in a hard leather armchair, uncomfortable as only hotel chairs can be, nursing a goblet of brandy. The room he now found himself in was enormous. The bed alone could have accommodated a rugby team (League if not Union) Melanie lay on it now, reading 'Heat' and ignoring the proceedings, while Sir Willy strode up and down, arms flailing like a supercharged windmill. 'Tell me, my boy,' he was saying, 'if it isn't too personal a question - who did you last vote for? 'You mean, in Big Sister? Or the Global Song Contest?' 'No, no, no - the election.' 'Oh, that. Nobody, really. I mean, what's the point? The government always gets in.' 'And what do you think of - the Government?' 'I don't, much. Hey, what is this?' Jabez stirred uncomfortably. 'You work for them?' 'The Government? Pshaw!' Jabez listened, fascinated. He had never heard anyone say 'Pshaw' before. 'No,' Sir Willy lowered his voice, 'there are some things which governments are never meant to know. When the last lot - or maybe it was the ones before, I forget - when they decided to reorganise themselves as a commercial enterprise and rename parliament The Shareholders' Convention - some of us decided to resist. We formed The Department.' 'Who's 'we'?' 'Anyone and everyone who doesn't want to be owned by Morgan Spline.' Jabez tried not to look guilty. He took a swig of brandy and spluttered. 'Oh yes, we know. We know he is paying you. As he was paying poor Ambrose. No matter. You are one of us, now.' 'What! I never - ' 'You joined us the moment you walked through that door.' 'And what's to stop me walking right out again?' 'Nothing - if you want to end up at the high tide mark with seagulls pecking your eyeballs.' 'You wouldn't,' gasped Jabez. 'I wouldn't, no. But Spline would. One hint to him of this meeting … ' Jabez gulped. 'All right. What do you want?' 'What does Spline want?' 'The Part.' Sir Willy paused in his striding, his face turning pale. 'The Part? What does he know of that?' 'Not much. I mean he knows it exists. He wants me to find out about it. Get it for him. What is this Part, anyway? What does it do?' 'Believe me, you don't want to know. But if Morgan Spline gets his hands on it - ' said Sir Willy bleakly. 'What?' 'We're all - doomed.' Sir Willy sat heavily on the end of the bed. 'Still, all is not lost. He wants information, you say. You will give him information - which we will provide.' 'What's in it for me?' 'Continued existence?' Jabez thought for a moment. 'Fair enough.' 'Good. We can look forward, then, to a long and fruitful collaboration. I must leave you now in the capable hands of Melanie here. She will debrief you.' Sir Willy left the room. Jabez finished his brandy and got up. 'Where are you going?' 'Er - back to my room.' 'Don't be silly.' Melanie put down her book and stretched, cat-like, on the bed. 'Come here and be debriefed.' Jabez approached the bed, still not sure if she meant what he thought she meant.. As she sat up her black satin nightdress slid from her shoulders, revealing breasts like twin torpedoes, aimed straight at him. 'Urk!' he gasped as she snatched at his pyjama cord, pulling him onto the bed, which 'I've been wondering,' Melanie purred, 'are you a natural redhead?' His pyjama bottoms descended to his ankles, as he flopped onto the bed like a landed fish. He heard a gurgling noise, and realised it was a water bed. By now Melanie had shed her nightie, and it was perfectly clear that she was a natural brunette. Jabez gasped as she straddled him, her weight squeezing the breathe from his lungs. 'Put your left leg here,' she said. 'Like this … Sir Willy has instructed me to explain your new position. Are you ready for that?' Jabez felt ready for anything. He managed an affirmative grunt. 'Because we feel that you might find it a little unfamiliar at first.' His present position was certainly nothing Jabez had ever tried before, but he was willing to give it a go. 'And of course I'll be their to give any help that you might need - do you need any assistance?' 'No, no, I'm fine. Don't stop.' Jabez moaned faintly. 'Because we are sure that you will rise to the occasion, get into the swing of things. As soon as you are properly on the job. Am I going too fast?' ''Noooo … ' The bed was undulating, like a heavy swell at sea. Jabez was beginning to regret that last brandy. He hoped he wasn't going to be seasick. 'AHA!' Jabez was dimly aware of the door crashing open behind him, and a blast of cold air hitting his nether regions. Melanie shrieked, and he found himself free to move as she rolled off him. He peered in growing dismay at the figure which stood swaying in the doorway. Luke's normally immaculate coiffure was dishevelled, and his eyes glared like two halves of a hardboiled egg. Jabez shrivelled to near invisibility as he realised Luke was waving - a sword! Jabez recognised one of the antique cutlasses which decorated the walls of the Jolly Roger Bar. With a squeak of dismay he tried to take cover behind Melanie. Melanie rose to her knees, magnificent in her wrath. 'Get out of here, you drunken maniac!' she screamed. 'Mind your own business!' 'How could you - ' Luke's voice was choked with emotion, ' - and with that miserable little scroat?' He stepped forward and raised his weapon. 'I'll sort him. - ' He made a savage lunge towards Jabez, who managed to dive out of the way just in time. The sword pierced the mattress, which immediately started squirting water like an ornamental fountain. Jabez had by this time fallen off the bed. He got up and tried to make a run for it, but unfortunately his ankles were still entangled in his pyjamas, and he splashed down on the bedroom floor. As he crawled towards the door he looked back to see Luke wrenching his sword free, about to come after him again. 'Bastard!' screamed Melanie. She seized Luke from behind, pulling him backwards. There was a ripping sound as they both collapsed in a heap, and then a tidal wave swept Jabez out into the corridor. Clutching his sodden pyjamas, he staggered to the lift, and safety. Lola Pigstock was in her element, playing the matriarch with her family gathered round her. Her dining-room table, fully extended, just about accommodated them all. Jabez surveyed them. His black mood was at last beginning to lift. He had woken in a filthy temper, after a bare four hours sleep. Amanda had not helped by dragging him round jeweller's shop windows all morning, asking his opinion on one ludicrously expensive ring after another. He had no opinions, and all that sparkle made his eyes hurt. Still, roast beef and Yorkshire pud, followed by sherry trifle, had worked its usual magic. Whatever you said about ma, you couldn't fault her cooking. And the family had really taken to Amanda. She'd won his mother over last night; now Bertram was practically drooling, even Weepy Wenda was almost cheerful, and Aubrey, on first setting eyes on her, had clasped his hands in ecstasy and exclaimed, 'But she's gorgeous, you lucky man! I love her!' You marry her then, Jabez had felt like saying, but what was the point? Even the kids liked her, except for Vanilla who sat glowering sulkily. But Vanilla hated everyone, so that didn't signify. The talk had turned to Aubrey and Derek's approaching nuptials. 'We've booked Hasbene hall, they do a really good package deal, ceremony and reception all included,' said Derek. 'They have this exquisite private chapel, decorated by Burne-Jones, it's out of this world … ' 'Been deconsecrated for years, so no bother with the church,' put in Aubrey. ' … and you can have the reception in the ballroom or the conservatory. We thought the conservatory, then we could wander round the rose garden if it's a nice day.' 'Might it not be a little late in the year for that?' said Deirdre Crowe, from her seat at the bottom of the table. 'You can get some very warm weather in October,' said Aubrey, 'and we decided we couldn't bear to wait till spring, could we, precious?' 'What about you two? Named the day?' asked Derek, turning to Amanda with an enquiring smile. 'Haven't discussed it yet,' muttered Jabez. Amanda simpered. 'I've always dreamed of being a June bride.' 'June? That's a long way off.' Not long enough, though Jabez. 'Oh, but there's so much to arrange.' 'You take as long as you like,' said Jabez. 'You'll look fantastic in white,' said Aubrey, 'Derek and I did think of a white wedding, but to be honest, white just isn't our colour.' 'So we're having a rainbow wedding,' said Derek. 'Aubrey in purple, me in yellow, and the kiddies in all the other colours, red, blue, green …' 'I want to wear black,' said Vanilla. 'Well you can't' snapped her grandmother. 'Black's for funerals, not weddings. You'll wear what your told, my girl.' 'You can be indigo,' said Derek soothingly. 'You know, sort of a purplish bluish grey - very crepuscular. Very you.' 'Have you heard from Everard yet?' asked Lola. 'It would be nice if he could manage over, we haven't seen him for ages.' 'He sent an e-mail this morning,' Aubrey took a piece of paper out of his pocket and unfolded it. 'He says: ''Hi Aubrey, thy evil stinks unto heaven as the carrion squished on the freeway. Fire and brimstone shall rain upon thy sin. Get thee behind me, creature of Sodom. Have a nice day, Yr loving brother, Everard.'' I think that's a 'no'.' 'Well, Everard always was a po-faced little creep,' said Lola. 'He won't be missed. Bertram, why don't you take the children down to the beach? I think the rain has stopped.' 'I don't want to go out!' screamed Vanilla. 'I want to watch ''Thrown to the Wolves''. It's the Sunday afternoon Omnibus Edition.' 'Oo, yes,' cried Amanda/ 'That's my favourite program. Mumsie and I always try to catch the edited highlights.' 'It's very good, isn't it?' Wenda agreed, becoming almost animated. 'I mean. I know people say it's cruel, but the contestants are all such awful people, they only get what they deserve.' 'Yes - you shouldn't laugh, but when they get voted out and all their enemies are waiting for them - like last week's, his face when he saw all three of his mother's-in-law - !' Amanda giggled. 'It was a scream.' 'Bertram could get you tickets, if you like.' Wenda lowered her voice. 'Don't tell anyone, but they broadcast it from Quodbury, one of the cell blocks has been rented out as a studio.' 'Could he really? That would be brill! But don't you have to know one of the players?' 'The front rows are all friends and family, but they always need extra bods to fill up the space. I'll have a word with Bertie.' 'Fantastic.' Amanda's eyes shone. 'I thought I'd need to nominate someone for the show, and I could never think of anyone I disliked that much. You'd have to really hate someone, to do that to them.' The opening credits were coming up on screen, over the familiar panoramic view of the contestants, each in their individual cell, accompanied by the booming tones of the Interrogator. Jabez decided he could do with a breath of fresh air, though he had better go quietly if he did not want to be saddled with the kids. After a quick glance round - nobody was looking at him - he sneaked out of the door. The tarmac of Bagwash prom shone slick and black, while a myriad puddles reflected the sky. Jabez mooched along, collar up, contemplating his approaching fate. Amanda's little kitty-claws were well and truly dug in, she wouldn't let go now, and even if he could manage to dump her, there was her ghastly mother to contend with. He daren't think what she might turn him into next time. And on top of that, he had Morgan Spline and Willy Hasbene's mysterious Department after him - if one didn't get him the other would. How had it come to this? All he'd ever wanted was a quiet life, with a large salary and no work. Perhaps he should leave the country? Though to give Spline the slip he'd need to leave the planet. Jabez groaned. Surely he had reached rock bottom. Things could get no worse. He was approaching a dilapidated concrete shelter, on of several which dotted the promenade. By day it was the haunt of rain-hooded pensioners, after dark, the venue for underage sex. On this wet Sunday afternoon it was empty save for a drift of discarded chip papers and one lonely figure huddled in the corner. Jabez halted. 'Luke?' No longer the suave, self-confident pillock he knew and hated, Luke glared at him from red-rimmed eyes. His Armani suit was crumpled and stained, his hair stuck out wildly, his hands trembled visibly. Jabez approached with caution. After all, when last encountered Luke had been trying to murder him. 'You okay?' 'Does it look like I am?' snarled Luke. 'You do seem a bit the worse for wear,' agreed Jabez. 'What happened after - ?' 'She chucked me out. And the hotel wouldn't find me another room. Said I was lucky they weren't bringing charges, and they'd send the bill later. Bastards.' 'Can't take a joke, some people.' 'Had to sleep under the pier. It was bloody freezing.' He sneezed. 'Melanie - she can't want to dump me, not really. There's nothing between me and Amanda. Gave her a lift, that's all. She was upset.' His eyes widened. 'It's a conspiracy! Someone planted that thong under the back seat.' As Jabez listened he felt a stirring of hope, a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. It must have showed on his face, because Luke surged to his feet. 'It's all your fault,' he yelled. 'You set me up, didn't you? I bet you told her to drop them - it!' 'Hey, steady on - ' Jabez found himself grasped firmly by the throat, as Luke shook him like a castanet. 'Urrrughhh,' he said. He felt he was croaking metaphorically as well as physically. A black fog descended, there was a roaring in his ears, an inhuman howling and shrieking … The howling was not simply a side effect of strangulation. The iron grip on his throat slackened as a horde of small red-headed demons charged screaming into the shelter. The cavalry had arrived. 'This man bothering you, Uncle Jabez?' yelled Bojolly. 'Can I give him a kicking?' said Blaine. 'Can't we bury him in the sand, like Uncle Aubrey?' pleaded Daylia. Jabez subsided onto the bench, gasping for breath. Luke stood, frozen with horror, as the Pigstock clan advanced on him, Orlando in the lead. Little Orlando had been eating candy floss, and a sizeable portion adhered to his anatomy. 'Bugger bugger arsehole,' he lisped, sticky fingers outstretched. Luke's nerve broke, and with a last cry of 'I'll get you, you bastard!' he fled towards the pier. 'Thanks, kids,' wheezed Jabez Bojolly smiled, a slow calculating smile. At that moment she reminded him strongly off his mother. He shivered. 'No probs. Anything for you, nunky,' she said at last. 'Just remember, you owe us. We'll have four large ninety-nines, for a start.'.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 17
RoyBateman on 06-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 17
Another highly amusing slice...it's hard to pick out the highspots with so much to choose from, but Everard's email was one. This plot is getting VERY thick - unlike ma's gravy, presumably.

Author's Reply:
Yes, ma is renowned for the consistency of her gravy ... thanks Roy.

niece on 07-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 17
Moya,:D

Some really amusing situations...especially liked the way it ended...

Regds,
niece



Author's Reply:
Thanks niece - glad you like the end, I wasn't sure if if worked.


An End to Winter (posted on: 03-11-06)
What price eternal summer?

The year is bedding down. The hedgerows flame In gold and ruby, as a last salute Before the long slide into darkness. Arrowheads of geese traverse the sky, Chasing the swallows south, and in his nest Of leaves the hedgehog snuggles. All the earth Prepares to sleep. And closer comes The harsh breath from the north, the delicate flowers Of frost, the ground like diamond sparkling. Yet A comfort blanket mist encloses still Melting to noonday sun. The cold retreats. The roses linger till the year turns round To overlap the blossoming almond's snow And winter is no more. Let summer hold The world in warm embrace. Should we not bless The kinder season? No. The world must have It's fallow time, to rest, recuperate Gather its forces for the next assault. If autumn elides into spring, from whence Will come renewal? We may one day regret The end of winter.
Archived comments for An End to Winter
scotch on 03-11-2006
An End to Winter
this is good after such a poor batch on this friday's ukauthors, enjoyed... scotch

Author's Reply:
Hi scotch, thanks for the compliment - but a bit harsh on the others, surely? I've found a couple I like already!

Sunken on 04-11-2006
An End to Winter
I think we have quite a good batch at present. The weather changed this week didn't it? I've had to dig out my duvet coat. I found a lolly in the pocket. I'm still debating whether to eat it or not. It was wrapped, so there are no bits of fluff on it or owt... Is this critique helping at all Ms. Shadow? I'll shut up and vote. I think I will eat it. Can't do any harm. Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

his house alarm code is written on the hallway mirror in black lipstick

Author's Reply:
Eat it, of course. To do otherwise would be a waste of energy, promoting Global Warming, which is the Ultimate Sin. Thanks, sunk. The weather changed as soon as I wrote the poem, but I'm not claiming any credit.

orangedream on 04-11-2006
An End to Winter
I agree wholeheartedly with Sunky, Shadow. This one in particular. An extremely well crafted poem with some pleasing imagery.

I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you.

regards
orangedream

Author's Reply:
Thanks orange. Praise from you is praise indeed.

SugarMama34 on 04-11-2006
An End to Winter
Hiya Shadow,
An interesting portrayal of Winter and the months that come after it. I loved your choice of words, they throw such beautiful imagery at the reader. a well crafted piece of work that I really enjoyed. It was refreshing to read and a pleasure. I cannot say what were my favourite parts as I loved it all.

Hugs,

Sugar. xx

Author's Reply:
Hi Sugar - hey thanks! You're making me blush.

SugarMama34 on 04-11-2006
An End to Winter
Hiya Shadow,
An interesting portrayal of Winter and the months that come after it. I loved your choice of words, they throw such beautiful imagery at the reader. a well crafted piece of work that I really enjoyed. It was refreshing to read and a pleasure. I cannot say what were my favourite parts as I loved it all.

Hugs,

Sugar. xx

Author's Reply:

Jolen on 13-01-2007
An End to Winter
Your poem is very well done, the message clear and your imagery is quite visual for the reader. Much enjoyed by me.

blessings,
Jolen

Author's Reply:
Thanks Jolen, much appreciated.


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 16 (posted on: 30-10-06)
In which Amanda gets her chips, and Jabez gets lucky?

'Ooh. I'm so excited!' Amanda was almost bouncing on her seat as she peered through the rain which teemed down the windscreen. It was the Bank Holiday weekend, and as is traditional on these occasions, bucketing down. The Jaguar had been static for the past ten minutes, caught in a snarl-up of cars battling their way towards Bagwash-on-Sea. Jabez suppressed a snarl. Normally he would not have gone near Bagwash on a holiday weekend, but when he'd agreed to take Amanda down to meet the family, the significance of the date had not impinged. 'I can't believe I'm going to meet your mum at last, I've heard so much about her, Mumsie says Miss Crowe told her your mum is the best clairvoyant in the county, it makes me feel quite nervous, will she be able to know everything about me, just by looking?' The car lurched into motion, drove forward fifty yards and stopped again. 'Actually,' said Jabez, 'you have met Ma. On the pier. The fortune-teller. Remember?' Amanda gave a surprised squeak. 'You mean that was her? Your mum? She was Madame Lola? Wow! She was ever so good. Those things she told me, they've all come true. She really does know, doesn't she?' 'Yes,' said Jabez gloomily. 'She does.' 'I thought you said your mum was retired.' 'She has, it's more of a hobby now. She likes to keep her hand in, and she's very attached to that booth on the pier. It's where she met my dad.' 'Did she? Was he a psychic, too?' 'No, he worked for the Co-Op. Went down on a Staff Outing. As soon as he walked in, she told him he was her future husband.' Poor old dad, thought Jabez. Never stood a chance. 'How romantic,' whispered Amanda. 'Will I meet him?' 'I dunno. Depends if Ma wants to set up a sιance. But the rest of the tribe will be there tomorrow. Ma's invited the lot to Sunday lunch.' 'I can't wait to see them all. It must be so nice for you, having such a large family. Of course we are very close, Mumsie and me, but I would have liked a little sister. Three brothers, was it you said?' 'Yeah. One in Florida, one in insurance, one in jail.' 'In - where?' 'Quodbury. Works there.' 'Oh, I see.' Amanda sounded relieved. Jabez decided not to tell her he had started off as an inmate. 'And what does the one in Florida do?' she went on. 'He's a clergyman. Doing very nicely. He's got his own sect now. The Church of Christ Capitalist.' 'Goodness,' said Amanda, impressed. 'Is he coming over for the wedding? Hey, perhaps he could marry us.' 'That's a thought. Might give us a discount, as we're family.' Eventually they reached Bagwash, and found themselves inching along the seafront. Jabez had drawn the line at staying at his mother's, not while Bertram and Wenda's brood infested the place. He had booked them into the Excelsior Hotel, a vast Edwardian pile which dominated the Bagwash prom. After a quick shower, Jabez left Amanda to her more extensive renovations, and wandered downstairs to the Manhattan Cocktail Bar. He could do with a stiff drink before facing the evening. Ma had suggested a quiet dinner somewhere on the first evening 'so I can get to know your fiancιe properly, without all the family milling round'. Jabez had found himself agreeing to fork out for a meal at the Bagwash SuperCasino and Bingo Hall, the most expensive eating place in town. At this rate he would have spent his first month's raise before he even saw it. As he turned away from the bar, pina colada in hand, he noticed two familiar figures seated at a small table in an alcove. They were arguing so fiercely they never noticed when he sidled up, screened by a potted palm, and took a chair nearby. ' … and if you mean to be like this all bloody weekend,' Melanie was saying, 'I might as well go home.' 'Like what?' 'I'd say, miserable as sin, only sin would be more interesting. You're as much fun as a bout of diarrhoea.' 'Can you blame me? When I think of that prick Pigstock walking off with my job - he did something, I know it. I could tell by the smirk on his face when I came out. He knew!' 'You're being paranoid.' 'Maybe he spiked my coffee.' 'You didn't have any coffee. And I'm sure you were able to make an arsehole of yourself without any help from Jabez Pigstock.' 'You fancy him, don't you? .' 'Don't be ridiculous,' Melanie laughed. 'Anyway, what's it to you? I can fancy who I like. You don't own me.' 'That ghastly little creep!' 'Creep he may be, but at least he's a winning creep.' 'I'll get him,' snarled Luke. 'One of these days. He won't get away with this. I'll make him wish he'd never been born.' 'Oh, drop it, will you? You're getting to be a bore.' 'Jabez!' He started. He had been so engrossed in the neighbouring conversation he had not noticed Amanda's approach. She had dressed herself up for the occasion in a tight-fitting strapless gown in electric blue satin. It showed off her main attractions admirably. Jabez found himself thinking that he could do worse. If only she came with a mute control. 'Oh, hi,' he said. The silence from the next table was deafening. 'Would you like a drink? Only we're about due - ' 'No thanks, I'm okay, we mustn't keep your mum waiting. Oh hi, Luke! And Melanie. Didn't see you there. Are you staying the weekend as well? Lovely place, isn't it? We can't stop, we're having dinner at the Casino. Perhaps we'll see you later?' Jabez caught a full frontal glower from Luke, and an enigmatic side-long glance from Melanie, as he swept Amanda away. The quiet little dinner at the Casino restaurant was going very well. His mother and Amanda were rabbitting away as is they had known each other for years. Deirdre Crowe watched him enigmatically from the opposite side of the table. Bloody woman was always around, 'Auntie Deirdre' he'd called her when he was little. Not that she was a relation. Ma had know her since Infant School, so he supposed that when she sold up after pa died, in was only natural that she should set up house with her oldest friend. Jabez wished she had not. Deirdre made him uncomfortable. She knew too much. She was smiling at him know, in an uncomfortably reminiscent way. 'I trust you have recovered,' she murmured, 'from your experiences the other night?' 'No thanks to you.' Jabez was still aggrieved. 'It was a necessary lesson. And an insight into the feline mind might well be useful to you one day.' 'It was bloody embarrassing,' grunted Jabez, turning away with relief as Amanda claimed his attention. 'Which do you like best, Jabie, a solitaire or a cluster? We're going to have a look round in the morning,' she added, 'just window shopping, to get some idea, it's so difficult to make up your mind, I mean, a solitaire has class, but the cluster ones are so pretty, and I've always liked emeralds …' Jabez groaned inwardly. He could feel the jaws of the trap tightening. Once Amanda had a ring on her finger there would be no escape. Jabez watched glumly as the roulette wheel spun. He had tried to steer his mother away from it, but Amanda had wanted to give it a try. 'It's so glamorous, like being in a James Bond film,' she said. At first the small pile of chips before her had shrunk steadily, but then she had started to follow his mother's lead. Now she had a sizable number, although it was dwarfed by the pile his mother had amassed. They had also drawn quite a crowd. Jabez felt himself starting to sweat. He hoped ma would know when to stop. He did not want any unpleasantness, not like last time … He was not too surprised when someone tapped his shoulder and two familiar figures appeared on each side of him. 'Boss would like a word,' said Big Ed. 'This way,' said Little Dick. They led him through a discreet doorway, up a narrow staircase and stopped in front of another door. 'In there,' said Big Ed Jabez pushed open the door (it felt surprisingly heavy) and found himself in a long room, dominated by an enormous window, comprising one entire wall, which overlooked the casino floor. He stared down, transfixed by the glittering scene. The cream of Bagwash society was there - he recognised the mayor and the owner of the dog food factory - and there in the centre of it all were his mother and Amanda. The crowd around them at the roulette table had grown bigger, as had the piles of chips before them. It could not be long before they were thrown out. 'Your mother enjoys herself.' Jabez gasped and swung round. Seated in one of the Louis XIV sofas, regarding him steadily, was another figure which had grown only too familiar. Only this time it was not a hologram, or staring out of a screen. This was Morgan Spline himself, in the flesh. 'Sit!' Jabez sat like a well-trained collie. 'So. We meet at last,' purred Spline. 'Y - yes.' The great man was rather smaller than he had expected, but that did not make him any less terrifying. The piercing gaze of those shadowed eyes nailed Jabez to his seat. 'I congratulate you on your success. Your well-deserved success. You are on the verge of great things.' 'Thank you, sir.' replied Jabez, in what he hoped was a tone of modest confidence. 'Is is now that your real task begins. It will be difficult, maybe even dangerous, but I can assure you the rewards will be - unimaginable. Are you ready?' 'Yes sir, of course, raring to go.' Jabez tried to sound suitably eager, but there was a nasty feeling lurking in the pit of his stomach. He was beginning to wish he hadn't bothered with the Black Forest cheesecake for dessert. 'Good. I have great faith in you, Pigstock. In many ways you remind me of myself, when I started out. Tell me,' he barked suddenly, making Jabez jump, 'what does Amalgamated Parts actually do?' 'It - it sells things. Makes them too, I suppose,' spluttered Jabez. 'You know - parts.' 'Ah, yes. Parts. Parts of what, I wonder.' 'All sorts. Everything. Look,' Jabez felt himself start to sweat. 'I'm in Sales, I don't know anything about the product.' 'In you new position, you will find out. I require you to find out. Why do you think I am so interested in acquiring your tin-pot little company?' 'I dunno. To complete the set?' 'That, of course. But beyond that, there is one particular part - The Part - I need to know what it is, what it does, what it is part of - and why it is so important that every move I make is blocked by mysterious forces. Bring me that Part, and I will give you the world,' Spline finished, breathing heavily. 'Yessir,' gulped Jabez. 'Go now. I will be in touch.' Jabez rose and scuttled for the door. As he reached it, the great man spoke again. 'And please - remove your parent before she bankrupts me.' On his way back Jabez saw Melanie, perched on a stool by the bar. She smiled, and somehow He found himself at her side without any clear idea of how he got there. 'What are you drinking? Another one for the lady - and I'll have the same.' There was something forlorn, waif-like about Melanie this evening. Perhaps it was her dress. There was very little of it, and what there was was artfully tattered, and torn in interesting places. It made Jabez want to comfort and console her. Or at least buy her some decent clothes. 'All alone - what happened to Lukie?' 'Luke is history. He turned out to be - not the man I thought he was. I've taken all I can of his whinging and his feeble excuses. I have no time for losers, Jabez. I need a man who goes for what he wants, and gets it. Are you that man?' 'Er, what?' Jabez was still preoccupied by her dress, trying to work out what, if anything, she was wearing underneath. He took a swig of his drink, a pale pink concoction which when down like syrup but set off a small nuclear explosion when it reached his gut. 'Sure,' he gasped. 'Whatever.' 'I haven't forgotten how much I owe you,' Melanie continued. 'We heard today that the Blunt investigation is concluded. They'll have to be an inquest, of course, but we can expect a verdict of 'natural causes.' You won't find me ungrateful.' 'Oh, it was nothing, really.' Jabez was not sure what he had done, but if there was any gratitude going begging, he wanted his share. 'You're staying at the Excelsior as well, aren't you? Why don't you come up and see me?' 'I'd love to,' said Jabez, 'but it's a bit awkward. I mean. I'm with … ' 'Surely you can shake off Miss Fluffybunny for an hour or two? A man of your ingenuity? Room 709. Don't worry if it's late. I won't be asleep.' She swallowed the last of her drink and slid from her chair. Like a man in a dream, Jabez watched her undulate across the floor till she was lost in the throng. Jabez paused at the bedroom door and looked back. Amanda lay flat out on the vast bed. Her mouth, as always, was open but for once only a faint snore issued from it. He had thought she was never going to drop off. He'd had to keep awake, even though he felt totally knackered, in case he missed his appointment with Melanie, while she wittered on about the marvellous day she'd had, and what she was going to do with her winnings. ' … and I'll be able to really splash out on the dress, Mumsie was going to buy it, but I didn't like, I mean, she's not that well off, but now I'll be able to get a proper designer gown, it's a lot of money I know but after all it is my special day … ' Detaching the ladies from the roulette table had been easier than Jabez had feared. Ma at least had a well developed sense of how far she could push it. Probably came of being psychic. 'One of these days you'll go to far,' he'd muttered as he steered them away. 'I can't help being lucky,' said his mother. 'It's a Gift.' Amanda had imbibed a fair amount of the Casino's complimentary champagne, so Jabez hoped when they got back to the hotel she would settle for an early night, but in that he was disappointed. She kept wandering out onto the balcony to admire the fairy lights on the prom. Over-excited, his ma would have said. Even a bout of strenuous lovemaking failed to quieten her down. It took several nightcaps from the minibar before she finally crashed out, and by that time Jabez was exhausted. He could have done with a stiff drink himself, if there had been any left. So it was after two in the morning before Jabez finally took the lift to the seventh floor and found room 709. He stood before the door, palms damp with nervousness. It had been a very long day - what if he failed to rise to the occasion? He tapped softly on the door. Nothing happened. He knocked again, louder. She must be asleep after all. Perhaps he should call it a night? One more try - as he raised his fist for another bang the door opened. 'That's right, wake the whole bloody place,' hissed Melanie. Her hair was tousled, her eyelids heavy with sleep, and the strap of her black satin night dress had slipped off her shoulder. 'Come on, what are you standing around out there for?' She seized his hand and yanked him into the room. 'What the hell kept you, we've been waiting ages.' We? Jabez blinked. He hadn't bargained on a threesome. Was it a trap? He looked round, half expecting to see Luke lurking in a corner, But the figure which rose from a reclining position on the four-poster was not Luke Sharpe. With a sense of unreality Jabez recognised the bald head, watery blue eyes and drooping white moustache last seen at his interview the day before. 'Ah, glad you could make it, my boy. Well done,' said Sir Willy Hasbene.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 16
niece on 01-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 16
When will Jabez realise that Melanie is but an elusive dream??!!!???...Amanda's over-excitement, somehow reminded me of my own kids on some days...

Regds,
niece



Author's Reply:
Thanks niece - yes, Amanda is but a child at heart.

RoyBateman on 01-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 16
Amazing - despite its length, this rattled by...in great style, as always. Kept me amused all the way through!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy - we try to keep chugging along. Glad you're still with me!


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 15 (posted on: 23-10-06)
In which Luke has Jabez where he wants him - but Jabez has help from a friend ...

Jabez stared morosely into his pint. The lounge bar of the 'Frog and Ferret' was not his usual haunt. Though only round the corner from Amalgamated HQ, no-one from work ever went there. it was one of Blycester's 'traditional' pubs. The clientele were all wrinklies, even the barmaid looked like somebody's gran. This suited Jabez fine. He needed quiet, and a time to think. He was going to have to do something about Luke Sharpe. Murder was a possibility, but when it came to it, he wasn't that keen on the idea. He had never killed anyone before (he didn't count Ambrose Blunt, that was an accident), and he was not certain he could pull it off. He had a suspicion in was not as easy as they made it look on television. Then there would be all the hassle of disposing of the body. Besides, he would not be satisfied until Luke could be brought to acknowledge his, Jabez's, infinite superiority, and he could not do that if he was dead. On the other hand, defying Luke's threat was not an option either, not while he had those excruciatingly embarrassing pictures. Nick his phone, maybe? No point, he'd have downloaded them by now. Nor was giving in and letting Luke walk off with the Area Manager job. Morgan Spline had been explicit, he expected Jabez to get it. The thought of his displeasure was far more scary than anything Luke Sharpe could do. 'Mind if I join you?' Jabez looked up as DS Sidewinder, without waiting for permission, dropped into the seat opposite. He looked even younger than Jabez remembered. It was a wonder that he had been served. 'Not seen you in here before.' And you won't see me again, thought Jabez. 'Meeting someone, are we?' 'I'm not,' said Jabez. 'Dunno about you.' 'Nice little place this. Beer's not bad.' Sidewinder drained his glass, then sat staring at it in a significant manner. Jabez ignored the hint. 'I like to keep an eye on things,' went on Sidewinder. 'Keep up with the local villains. Like that bloke over there by the bar,' he nodded in the direction of a decrepit figure in a flat cap, hunched over a half of mild, 'you wouldn't think he ran the biggest protection racket in Blycester, would you? Any more thoughts on that statement you gave us?' 'No,' said Jabez, startled at the change of subject. 'Nothing you want to change? No little detail that's come back to you?' 'Nothing.' 'Because it's not too late, we could pop down to the Station now.' 'I told you everything I know,' said Jabez firmly. 'Look lad,' the avuncular tone sounded strange, coming from one who looked as if he should be in primary school, ' we know you're shielding someone. That's a mug's game. D'you think she'd do the same for you? She'll drop you right in it, believe me. Do yourself a favour, and come clean.' 'Don't know what you're on about,' said Jabez. 'Suit yourself.' Sidewinder shrugged. 'But be warned - Prodmore always gets his man.' Jabez got up. He hadn't finished his lager, but somehow he had lost the taste for it. 'Gotta go,' he muttered. 'See you around.' Jabez hurried out of the pub. Bloody plod trying to wind him up. As if he didn't have enough to worry about. Still, they couldn't prove anything. Hopefully. Now what? He had an hour before he was due to collect Amanda and take her out for a meal. Time to grab a shower and change the business suit for something smart casual. He had thought of trying that new fusion place - they were doing a special offer as it was their opening week, so he could impress Amanda without having to fork out too much dosh. Of course cash flow would not be a problem if he landed Blunt's old job, but he had to be honest, his chances were not good. Bugger it, there must be some way he could neutralise Luke Sharpe. Damn Amanda's bloody mother, it was all her fault … He came to a dead stop on a pedestrian crossing, oblivious to the tide of commuters swirling round him, as the germ of an idea began to form in his brain. On the stroke of half past seven he knocked on the door of Amanda's house, clutching a bunch of tired carnations which the petrol station had been selling off cheap. 'For you, Mrs Goodbody,' he said, presenting them. 'Why, Jabez, that's very sweet of you, come in, Amanda won't be long, she's just finishing putting her face on, sit down, would you like a glass of sherry?' 'No thanks.' Jabez looked round the front room nervously, but Xerxes was nowhere in sight. 'Wotcher, bumface,' squawked Apollonius. 'I am so glad you and Amanda have made it up, I only want my little girl to be happy. And you're taking her to meet your mum on Sunday? That will be nice.' 'Yes, Mam's dying to meet her,' said Jabez. 'In fact, she suggested that we go down on Saturday and stay overnight.' 'What a marvellous idea.' cried Mrs Goodbody. 'Give them a chance to get to know each other. Now tell me, what are your plans for the future? I don't hold with long engagements, but you need to be properly set up, and from what Amanda says that place you're living now isn't big enough for two - but then, you're in line for poor Mr Blunt's position, aren't you, and that will make a difference …' 'I might not get it,' broke in Jabez. 'Oh, surely -' 'Luke Sharpe's up for it as well. If it was a straight contest I'd win, no problem, but I know Luke. He doesn't fight fair. And he … ' Jabez hesitated, unsure how to go on. He had been scared stiff of meeting Mrs Goodbody again. Would she still be angry? Would she be embarrassed? At least she was acting friendly again, but would she be prepared to help him? He fixed his gaze on her blue angora jumper, suppressing the memory of the breasts it concealed. 'The other night, when I was - er - indisposed - you know he and Amanda found me,' he began. 'Yes, she told me.' 'He took some photos, and now he says unless I let him have the job he'll spread them all over the Internet. ' 'Dear me, how shocking! Some people can be so devious.' 'Can't they just,' agreed Jabez. 'And this opportunity means so much to me, I'd be able to offer Amanda the lifestyle she deserves.' 'Naturally, I want the best for her, but I don't quite see - ' 'Could you fix him?' Jabez heard his voice tremble with eagerness. 'Like you fixed me?' Mrs Goodbody frowned and sucked her teeth. 'I might. When is this interview of yours?' 'Tomorrow morning.' 'Hmmm. Doesn't give us much time. I'll need something which belongs to him, you see.' 'Belongs to who?' asked Amanda, coming into the room. 'Luke Sharpe.' 'Oh, that reminds me, he lent me his hankie the other night, I meant to wash it and give it him back only I forgot.' 'Will that do?' said Jabez. 'Perfectly,' replied Mrs Goodbody. 'Now run along and enjoy yourselves. I have work to do.' Jabez arrived at work bright and early next morning, wearing his Armani suit and his best raw silk tie, the one without the coffee stain. He had even remembered to polish his shoes, and Amanda had lent him her lucky four- leafed clover. The interviews were being held in the boardroom on the seventh floor. He arrived in the reception area to find Melanie behind the desk reading 'Hello!', and no sign of Luke. 'You're early,' she said. 'You're not due till half ten.' 'Better early than late, and it gives me a chance for a word with you. Where's Luke?' 'In the loo.' 'Nervous, is he?' Jabez sat down on a leather sofa, noticing a jacket dumped carelessly across the seat. Luke's jacket? He was hit by a burst of inspiration. Checking that Melanie was still engrossed in her magazine, he slipped his hand into the pocket and fished out Luke's mobile. It was the work of a moment to switch it on and punch in his own number. Immediately he felt his mobile vibrate in 'silent' mode. He replaced the phone as Luke came out of the Gents. There was something not quite right about him. He was paler than usual, and had a slightly dazed, disoriented air. 'You okay?' said Jabez. 'Of course I am,' snapped Luke. 'Never better.' He picked up his jacket as the buzzer sounded. 'That's you, Luke,' said Melanie. 'Good luck, sweetie.' Luke blew her a kiss, then turned with his hand on the door. 'And you,' he said to Jabez, a smug smile flitting across his handsome features, 'may as well go home. This job's in the bag Jabez sauntered over to the desk. 'Had any more thoughts about us? Getting together, I mean?' Melanie looked up with a sigh. 'Don't fuss, we'll fix up something. Only not this weekend, I'm going down to Bagwash with Luke. Celebrating his new job.' 'Don't be to sure of that,' said Jabez. 'They might pick me.' 'You wish.' Melanie went back to her magazine. Jabez went into the Gents and took out his mobile. To his delight he found his plan had worked - he could hear almost everything being said in the interview room. He locked himself in a cubicle, sat on the toilet seat and concentrated. Bilkington-Pratt was speaking. ' … you've worked for us for, what is it, five years now - how would you describe the culture of the company?' 'Well,' drawled Luke, 'it's warm and supportive, but too mired in the comfort zone, it needs someone of vision and initiative to sweep out the dead wood. There's to many empty suits, you need someone who can think outside the box and reconceptualize your organizational goals.' 'I see. So what would you bring to the table?' 'I would hope to make an impactful contribution to the company ethos, to rectify the years of mismanagement and disincentivisation.' 'How would you describe yourself?' 'I am, simply, the most intelligent person on this company. I'm the only one who has a clue how to do anything; the only one who can help it achieve its full potential. Actually, without me it would have gone belly-up years ago.' There was an audible intake of breath from the panel. Jabez could hardly believe his ears. Luke Sharpe was saying what he really believed. Whatever spell Mrs Goodbody had cast, it was working. The questioning went on, its tone getting ever more incredulous. 'What you consider has been your greatest triumph since you joined us?' 'Getting the Chairman's daughter's knickers off.' 'What! Why you - you - ' Bilkington-Pratt was reduced to an incoherent splutter. The voice of the Head of Sales, Charlie Mildew, took over. He sounded as if he was operating on automatic, reading from a list. 'What type of people do you get on with?' 'Anyone who recognises my innate superiority.' 'What sort annoy you? 'Those who can't see that I am right, or makes stupid objections to my suggestions, or hold me up at traffic lights, or have red hair or little piggy eyes - 'Thank you, I think we get the gist.' 'What do you find attractive in this position.?' Old B-P had recovered enough to join the inquisition. ''Well. It's got to be a doddle, hasn't it?' said Luke reasonably. 'If an old fool like Ambrose Blunt could do it, anyone can. It's just telling people what you want done and letting them get on with it. Money for old rope.' 'What job do you see yourself doing in, say, five years time?' 'Yours.' 'And why, in your opinion, should we appoint you?' 'Because you'd be mad if you don't. I'm the best you'll ever get. An' if I don't get it - I'll go somewhere else. 'Cos there's others - clamouring - clamouring for me - ' 'Then I suggest' said Bilkington-Pratt in frigid tones, 'that you go to them. Forthwith. Good morning, Mr Sharpe.' Jabez switched off his phone and came out of the lavatory as the boardroom door opened and Luke Sharpe stood framed in the doorway, his face pale and distraught. He staggered to the sofa and collapsed into it, burying his face in his hands. ''What is it?' Melanie sprang to her feet and ran to him. 'Darling, what's happened?' Luke groaned. 'I don't know. It was going okay, that then - it was as if something took me over. I could hear myself saying these dreadful things - I tried and tried but I couldn't stop …' 'Bad luck, old chap.' Jabez tried to suppress a smirk. Luke lifted his head and shot him a glare of pure hatred. 'You bastard - this is your fault - I don't know how you did it but I'll get you, if it's the last thing I do.' The buzzer sounded. Jabez straightened his shoulders, took a deep breath, and entered the boardroom. The interviewing panel were lined up one side of a long polished table. As well as Bilkington-Pratt and Charlie Mildew, the company secretary was there and a couple members of the board Jabez knew by sight. They all looked shell-shocked. 'Sit down, Mr Pigstock.' Jabez sat on the lone chair on the opposite side of the table. ''Ahem.' Bilkington-Pratt shuffled some papers. 'Now, you have been with us, let me see - ' 'Six years , sir.' 'So, what qualities do you think you would bring to this position?' Jabez smiled, modestly but with an air of confidence. 'I realise,' he began, 'that to fill the shoes of such a man as the late Mr Blunt is a tall order, but I believe, not impossible. Firstly, I am totally dedicated to the success of this company …'
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 15
RoyBateman on 23-10-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 15
Hey, THAT'S my sort of pub. It's me there in the flat cap. Some really funny dialogue here, Moya - especially the interview. Great idea, and very amusing indeed. How long can you keep it up, eh? No, I'm not saying anything...

Author's Reply:
I'll look out for you, then, next time I'm in the 'Frog'. Glad you enjoyed the interview - I think Jabez will walk it myself ...

Sunken on 26-10-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 15
Hello Ms. Shadow. I dipped into this earlier in the week and wasn't pleasantly surprised, as you have always been a cut above. Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

hello... is me you're lookin' for? No, I lost a contact!

Author's Reply:
Is that unpleasantly surprised? Or pleasantly unsurprised? You got me all confused (not a difficult thing to do). Thanks anyway.

niece on 01-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 15
Moya,
Jabez's future is looking brighter for a change...tho' I admit he hardly deserves it...Njoyed.

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 14 (posted on: 16-10-06)
Jabez gets in touch with his inner feline.

He had to escape. In blind panic Jabez clawed at the coverings which enclosed him, hearing buttons pop and cloth tear as he struggled. One last convulsive wriggle, and he sprang free. There was not a moment to waste. He dashed for the undergrowth, ignoring the cries of 'Oi! Come back! Here pussy pussy!' which pursued him. Thorns lashed his unprotected flesh, but he kept going until the sounds of pursuit faded. Only then did he pause to lick his wounds and take stock of his surroundings. Gradually his breathing returned to normal. The dark wood pressed around him, filled with mysterious rustlings. He was cold, tired, hungry and he needed a pee. Well, the last problem was easily solved. But as for the rest, he did not even know where he was, except that he was a long way from home. Maybe some of those rustling noises were made by mice - if so could he catch one? He'd never hunted in his life and even if he succeeded, raw mouse was not his idea of a good meal. It wasn't fair, he should be curled up on his own bed, not stuck here in this horrible place. At least he could get out of the wood, maybe find the road back to civilisation.. He crawled forward, whimpering as he blundered into clumps of nettles. Eventually he came out on a grass verge. His eyes had grown used to the darkness by now. He could make out a tarmac surface, and in the distance, the glow of street lights. The place was familiar - wasn't this the lay-by where he had spent many happy hours with various female companions? There was a car parked here now, a natty sports job with its hood down. He could make out two shadowy figures and the murmur of voices. In fact, wasn't that Amanda he could hear? About time he had a bit of good luck, Jabez thought. Amanda would look after him. She was such a kind-hearted girl, she wouldn't refuse a poor bedraggled stray. He moved towards the car, only to freeze as he came near enough to recognise it. 'Bloody Peeping Tom,' said a voice he knew only too well. 'Don't worry, Mand, I'll sort it. Hey, you! Stand up so we can see you.' Jabez flattened himself on the ground, but to no avail. The beam of a powerful torch swept over and transfixed him. 'Well, well. What have we hear?' said Luke Sharpe. 'Miaow,' said Jabez. He looked around wildly, seeking something. anything, to cover his embarrassment, but there was nothing within reach. 'Jabez?' said Amanda. 'Are you all right? Have you had an accident?' 'Funny sort of accident,' said Luke, 'that leaves you running round the countryside in nothing but your socks. What happened, Piggy? Husband came home too soon?' 'Miaoooow,' said Jabez miserably. 'Don't be mean, Luke. Jabez isn't like that,' said Amanda. 'Oh dear, what are we going to do?' 'Find another lay-by?' 'We can't go off and leave him like this.' 'Why not? I didn't notice him rushing to our rescue, the other night. And you said yourself, he's a two-timing bastard.' 'Yes, but I didn't mean it.' Amanda had got out of the car, and now stood over Jabez wringing her hands. 'Jabez, what is it? Speak to me!' 'Meeeeoow,' wailed Jabez. ''What's with the cat noises? He's flipped, hasn't he? 'He's obviously traumatised,' said Amanda. 'We must get him home.' 'Home? He'd be better off in the loony-bin' snorted Luke, 'or the cat's home.' 'Oh please,' begged Amanda. 'do it for me. I know he'll be alright in the morning, once he's got over the shock, whatever it was.' 'Okay - but he's not going on my back seat, not in the state he's in. He'll have to fit into the boot.' Luke opened the lid and made a grab at Jabez, who arched his back defensively. 'Ssspizzztt' he exclaimed. Amanda stroked his head. 'Shhh, it's all right. No-one's going to hurt you,' she murmured, scratching him under the chin. Jabez allowed himself to be coaxed into the boot. It was a close fit, but if he curled up really tight he could manage it. 'Good boy. Soon be home,' said Amanda. 'Murra-wurra-wow' agreed Jabez. The boot lid came down, leaving him in darkness. He woke in his own bed. It was dark, with the virtual window still on its night setting, but the time display on the wall showed 06.17. Though this was far too early to get up, Jabez had no desire to go back to sleep. Not after that dream. It was all very vague and mixed up - but hadn't it involved Deirdre Crowe in the altogether? He shuddered. And the last bit had been really weird, he was not sure if he had completely shaken it off yet. However, he no longer felt any desire to swallow goldfish or lick his own behind. He would feel better after a coffee. It was only when he reached for the drinks machine that he realise he was not alone in the bed. 'Who are you?' he gasped, poking the recumbent form beside him. Amanda sat up, rubbing her eyes. 'Hi,' she said. 'Feeling better?' 'What are you doing here? What happened?' 'Don't you remember anything?' 'Not much,' admitted Jabez. 'Well, it's a bit complicated. Can I have something to drink first? A cappuccino maybe, and you could have a drop of milk if you like - ' 'Black coffee, please.' 'Good, you are feeling more yourself.' Once they had settled back on the pillows, coffees in hand, Amanda licked the froth off her upper lip. 'I'm afraid Mumsy has been a bit naughty,' she began. ' I know she did it for me, she hates me to be upset, but I think turning you into a cat was a little extreme.' Jabez stifled a scream as scalding espresso spilled onto his chest. ' A cat? That's not possible!' 'Well of course she didn't really turn you into a cat, nobody could do that, she made you think you were a cat, it's a sort of hypnotism, she turned me into a canary once swhen I'd been naughty only the window was open and she never did it again - ' 'I thought I was a cat?' 'That's right, it was a dreadful thing to do, just as well me and Luke found you.' 'Luke Sharpe? You mean,' said Jabez in dawning horror. 'Luke Sharpe - knows?' 'Yes, he gave you a lift back. He was very good about it, considering. He doesn't like you, you know.' 'I know,' said Jabez. 'I thought I'd better stay with you, as you were in a bit of a state.' 'You've forgiven me, then? There never was anything between me and Melanie, honest.' 'I know,' said Amanda. 'I did have my doubts, but after last night …' 'What happened?' Jabez feared the worst. 'Oh,' Amanda smiled. 'You convinced me, you tomcat, you!' This sounded ominous. Jabez drank his coffee, while trying to dredge up some memory of last night. It was no use. He could recall only hazy, disjointed images - Amanda's mum had been mixed up in it, and a lot of naked women, and Deirdre Crowe {ugh!). - he remembered running, brambles clawing at his flesh … 'I don't understand,' he said. 'Never mind, you're all right now, the spell's worn off, they always do after a few hours, it's so lucky Luke and me found you, you could have been wandering around all night, that's no joke without any clothes on, you could have caught your death or been arrested or something.' 'What do you mean, no clothes, what happened to them?' 'I expect you took them off when you were being a cat, cats hate wearing clothes, once when I was little I tries to put my doll's dress on Xerxes and he objected terribly, it's a wonder I wasn't scarred for life. You probably left them in the wood somewhere.' 'Bloody hell! That jacket cost two hundred quid.' 'We can have a look for them after work, when we go to collect your car. I hope you can remember where you left it.' 'Work? I don't feel - can't we take the day off?' 'You mean, spend the day in bed? Well … ' Amanda considered. 'I think you'd better show your face, with the interview coming up and everything. If you get Mr Blunt's old job you can move into a bigger place, we'll need that anyway once we're married. We are getting married, aren't we?' 'Are we? I mean, yes, of course we are.' Jabez crossed his fingers under the blanket. This was getting worse and worse. 'And you're taking me for Sunday dinner at your mum's, aren't you, I'm really looking forward to meeting her, she sounds ever such an interesting person.' 'Oh, she is,' said Jabez faintly. 'How did you know that/' 'Mumsy told me, I phoned her after we got you home, I gave her such a telling off, for what she did to you, it wasn't right, I told her, but you're not too cross, are you? Mumsy means well but she gets a bit carried away sometimes. Anyway, it's time we got up or we'll be late for work, go and have your shower now, I'll make us some breakfast.' Jabez rolled out of bed and staggered the two steps to the shower cubicle. He peered at himself in the mirror. He looked like something the cat dragged in. Or was he the cat? Most of last night was still a blur, but bits were starting to come back to him. He turned on the shower, as if to wash away the ghastly images. The longer last night stayed a blur, the better. How Jabez got through the day he would never know. He had sworn Amanda to secrecy on the way in, though she had been offended at the very idea that she might spread the news of his indisposition around the office. 'Honestly, how could you think such a thing, you know I'm not a gossip!' she had exclaimed, and hadn't spoken to him for nearly two minutes afterwards. But even if Amanda managed to keep her mouth shut, it was inconceivable that Luke would refrain from spreading the news. All day Jabez was alert for the knowing leer from his colleagues, the hastily concealed snigger, but all was as normal. His mouse had developed an odd squeak, but that could be a coincidence. As the day wore on he began to relax, until late in the afternoon, as he was idly surfing the web, a shadow fell on him, and a hatefully familiar voice sounded in his ear. 'What's new, pussycat?' 'Bog off,' muttered Jabez. 'Now, now, kitty, put those claws away,' smiled Luke, perching himself on the edge of the desk. 'That's no way to talk to your rescuer.' 'Nobody asked you. I was perfectly alright.' 'That's not what it looked like from where I was sitting. Mind you, I'd have put you in a sack and dumped you in the river, but Amanda's so soft hearted, she wouldn't hear of it.' ''What were you and Amanda doing up there, anyway?' asked Jabez. Luke ignored the question, and took out his mobile. 'I got some really good footage - want to see?' Jabez did not, but found his eye irresistibly drawn to the tiny screen. There he was, in full colour and stark bollock naked - rubbing his head against Amanda's chest while she tickled his tummy, drinking milk from a saucer, licking his - no! His eyes squeezed shut. 'Fantastic, aren't they? I bet when I put these out on the net you'll be world famous.' 'What do you want?' 'Hmmm' Luke paused, considering. 'You mean, more that making you look like a total prat? But I'm really enjoying this. I suppose there must be something … I know. Ambrose Blunt's job.' 'Uh?' 'Of course I'll most likely get it anyway, but if they should be misguided enough to offer it you.' he tapped his mobile, 'be a good moggy and remember this. Miaow!' Jabez watched him go, thoughtfully. It might be necessary to remove Luke Sharpe.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 14
niece on 16-10-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 14
If this was a book, I would have gone straight to the next chapter...what a pity I'll have to wait until next posting day/week(?)...I'm really enjoying this...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 16-10-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 14
What a stunt! This hypnotism works, then, does it? Would it make Bliar tell the truth? Nah...some hope. I sense a grisly-but-fun episode coming up, to which I'm looking forward already!

Author's Reply:
I don't know if it really works, but I'm not risking offending any ladies in pointed hats, not with Hallowe'en coming up. Take care!


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 13 (posted on: 13-10-06)
In which Jabez is beset by naked women.

There was a new girl at the Reception desk when Jabez came in to work next morning. A wave of relief washed over him. Not that he felt guilty in any way. Nothing had happened with Melanie, after all. Amanda had simply jumped to conclusions. Got the wrong end of the stick. At the same time, she had been a bit upset, and he hadn't been looking forward to facing her again. That was one of the reasons he'd pulled a sickie the day before. Jabez hated tears and recriminations. 'Where's Amanda?' he asked, casually. 'Ooh, haven't you heard?' said the new girl (Cheryl, according to her name badge). 'She's had a terrible time. Her and that Luke Sharpe, they got lost during the Bondage Weekend thing, didn't find them for hours, he fell into the Bowelly Bog, right up to his neck, he would have drowned if she hadn't held on to him. Ever so brave, she was. She's having a few days off, to recover.' She nodded to a box on the desk. 'We're having a whip round for a card and some chocolates.' Jabez dropped a 50p into the box and made his escape. At his desk he found an email from Melanie waiting in his inbox. 'Meet me, 6th floor water cooler, soonest.' it said. 'Will do,' he sent back. On the way to the lift he passed Luke Sharpe, looking a bit the worse for wear. 'Managed to get the mud off, then,' he grinned. Luke's sculptured lips parted in a feral snarl, but before he could answer Jabez had moved on.. Melanie was already waiting when he reached the 6th floor. She grabbed his arm. 'I thought you were going to phone me last night,' she hissed. 'It got too late. They kept me there ages.' 'Well, how did it go?' 'OK. Up to a point.' 'What do you mean? Do they still think Mummy did it?' 'No. Now they think I did it.' Melanie burst out laughing. 'You? You wouldn't have the nerve to squash a beetle, never mind Ambrose.' 'Yes I would,' said Jabez indignantly. 'Come off it! I saw when that spider got into Mandy Bunthorpe's desk. You went and hid in the Gents.' 'It was a very big spider. Anyway, I've done what you asked me, so - how about it?' 'About what?' Melanie asked innocently. 'You know. Run down to the coast in the Jag, spot of dinner somewhere. Take it from there … ' 'I'll have to let you know. But don't worry,' she purred, in a voice that made his ears tingle, 'I won't forget. You'll have your reward.' 'Well, try and fit it in before I get arrested,' grunted Jabez. Jabez left work on time, and feeling a limited sense of satisfaction. It had been a quiet day, most of the afternoon being taken up by a session on 'Evaluating the lessons learned in the Staff Bonding Exercise'. Jabez had learnt one lesson. He would never put his name down for one of those jaunts again, if he could help it. Still, the meeting had gone well enough. He prided himself he could waffle with the best, when required, and it beat working. He noticed that Luke had been uncharacteristically quiet. Long may that last. He slid behind the wheel of the Jag, brushing aside a black feather which had landed on the driver's seat. Funny, he thought, where did that come from? Then he forgot about it, as he inserted himself into the rush hour traffic. Pity he hadn't pinned down Melanie to a definite date. Perhaps he should call her when he got home? No, wouldn't do to look too keen. Keep her guessing. But if she thought he would give up and let her wriggle out of her obligation, then she didn't know Jabez Pigstock. He could give Amanda a bell, see how she was after her ordeal. Must have been dreadful for her, all night alone in the bog with Luke Sharpe. She'd probably calmed down by now, and it might be better to tackle her over the phone rather than face to face. Then if things got hairy he could hang up and say his battery ran out. He'd do it from home though, after a drink or two. He had reached the crossroads where he normally turned off for Battery House. This time he found himself carrying straight on. He watched in bemusement as his hands, without conscious command, twisted the wheel to the left. The next moment he was following a narrow, winding B-road which led inexorably out of town. 'What - what's happening?' he croaked. Then his hair stirred as a low menacing voice sounded from the depths of the back seat. 'Mrrauooow,' it said. He wanted to look round, but his body refused to obey him. It was uncanny. He was going through the motions of driving, but something else was driving him. Sweat dripped into his eyes as he peered through the windscreen, trying to make out where they were going. A signpost flashed by. Grimleigh Wood, five miles. Grimleigh Wood. He had heard that name before. Didn't Deirdre Crowe take her students there on field trips? Jabez swallowed. He was beginning to have a very bad feeling about all this. Not long after, he was bouncing along a rutted cart track in the middle of a deep dark wood. He winced as brambles scraped his paintwork. It was sunset by now, and bars of golden red light lanced between the tree trunks. The track petered out and the car juddered to a halt. Jabez got out. Something grey and furry oozed around his leg. It stopped a few yards in front of him and looked back, amber eyes glowing in the fading light. He recognised Xerxes, and wondered at his lack of surprise. Xerxes padded ahead, following a scarcely defined path. Jabez followed, through waist high ferns and vicious gorse bushes. Half of his brain was telling him to stop messing about and walk out of here. This was getting beyond a joke, and anyway, he hated the country. The other half suspected he had no choice. After a while the wood opened out into a clearing. He stopped at the edge, mouth agape. The last rays of the sun picked out a number of figures waiting for him. And what figures. Jabez blinked, but the vision did not go away. They were all - naked women. Now Jabez had often fantasised about being in this situation (it was one of his favourite daydreams) but nothing had prepared him for the reality. His dream women had all been young, unblemished, perfectly proportioned; no pendulous breasts or wobbling bellies. They had not been old enough to be his mother. Certainly none of them had been Deirdre Crowe. 'Come forward,' she said. Jabez would rather have gone backwards, warp speed, but again his body disobeyed him. He advanced, stiff legged, to the centre of the clearing. He had imagined, at one time or another, most of the women he knew without their clothes on, but he had always drawn the line at Deirdre Crowe. The reality was worse than his worst nightmare. Her withered dugs could not conceal sharp outline of her ribcage, and her pallid skin had the pearly sheen of an uncooked mushroom. The other women formed a circle round them. Some of them he vaguely knew - the one with the enormous behind, wasn't she from the off-licence? - but the only one he definitely recognised was Amanda's mum, Mrs Goodbody. He gulped, remembering Deirdre's warning. Mrs Goodbody had seemed an amiable enough woman when he met her before, but he didn't like the way she was looking at him now. 'Wh-what do you want?' he quavered. 'Over to you, Maxine. And before you start, let me compliment you on the efficacy of your Summoning Spell. I hope you can keep up this standard.' 'Thank you, Miss Crowe.' said Mrs Goodbody modestly. 'Now, young man ,' she added, her tone sharpening, 'what have you done to upset my Amanda?' 'Nothing!' 'Nothing? She's been up in her room crying her eyes out for days, and she won't tell me what's the matter. Something went on last weekend, and you had better tell me what, if you know what's good for you.' As if on cue the sun dipped behind the treetops, plunging the clearing into gloom. 'But there wasn't anything,' protested Jabez. 'It was a misunderstanding. Melanie … ' 'Who is - Melanie?' 'Boss's daughter.' 'Pretty, is she?' 'I suppose so,' muttered Jabez. 'Never noticed. She wanted to ask me something, that's all. That was why she asked me up to her room.' 'The only reason?' 'Of course. What do you take me for?' 'Do really want to know?' Amanda's mum bared her teeth. Jabez wondered why he had ever thought her a pleasant woman. 'Amanda jumped to the wrong conclusion,' he pleaded. He could feel the sweat cold on his forehead. This was worse than the police. 'So, despite appearances, you do love my daughter?' 'Of course I do! I'm mad about her!' 'Hmmm.' Mrs Goodbody folded her arms under her breasts, hitching them up as if for his inspection. Not bad tits, he thought automatically. 'I can't say you're what I had in mind for my little girl,' she said, ' but I suppose it could be worse. I have your word there's nothing between you and this Melanie?' 'No, honestly,' said Jabez, 'I mean, she's going out with Luke Sharp, why should she look at me?' 'I can't imagine why any girl would, but my Amanda's set her little heart on you.' 'I won't let her down,' declared Jabez, with all the fervency he could muster. 'and I'm sorry if I made her cry, I never meant to. Can I go now? Please?' 'What do you think, Miss Crowe? Is he telling the truth?' 'Difficult to say,' said Deirdre. 'He has been a habitual liar since infancy. I think he should show some proof of his good intentions.' 'What can I do?' cried Jabez. 'Bring Amanda down to Bagwash on Sunday. She can meet the family. Your mother will be delighted.' Jabez swallowed, but there was no help for it. 'All right.' 'Will that be satisfactory, Maxine dear? Shall we let him go' 'I suppose - ' Amanda's mother frowned. 'I had hoped to try something else out.' 'It's entirely up to you.' 'I think we should make quite sure he understands the consequences of any attempt to deceive us. Gather round, ladies.' A full moon had risen, and now bathed the clearing in a pallid glow. The naked women joined hands, forming a circle with Jabez and Maxine Goodbody in the centre. He noticed Xerxes had come to stand beside her, tale waving gently. The encircling women began to pace widdershins, chanting softly. His stomach was lurching - what the hell were they up to? - he hoped he was not going to be sick … Suddenly the world changed. The chanting women loomed above him like giants. He was bound in layers of cloth, nearly choking him as he tried to struggle free. Help, he tried to shout, help me, but he did not recognise the sounds that came bursting out of his mouth. 'Miaow! Miaow! MIAOOW!'.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 13
RoyBateman on 13-10-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 13
I reckon he needs Christopher Lee to help him out here - hey, what a let-down! Here was me tempted by the idea of naked women, and...phew. That's put me right off now, you rotter. You're only forgiven because this was another cracking, funny episode. You've got to keep it up now. Which Is more than I can, thinking of that awful scene...

Author's Reply:
Well, I never said anything about beautifulnaked women. Fat chance of that, with Jabez's luck. Though actually Maxine Goodbody isn't too bad, if you like them mature ...

niece on 14-10-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 13
What a disappointment for poor poor Jabez...here he was hoping he would get Melanie and see what he gets???!!!???

Honestly, like Roy, I too thought that Jabez's luck was finally improving...

Good fun chapter, Moya...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Not a chance. In fact, things are about to get much, much worse ... Jabez is one cat who will NOT get the cream ...


Embarrassing Moments 2: pets (posted on: 09-10-06)
Sometimes I think they are out to get me ...

Well, I've done embarrassing parents and embarrassing children, so how about - embarrassing pets? Not that I suffered greatly in that regard during my early years. The embarrassment potential of goldfish and hamsters is not high - though there was the incident with my first goldfish. I must have been about five or six at the time, and I'd been promised this goldfish - I can't remember if it was for Christmas or my birthday, but I do know it was autumn or winter at the time. In those days Lewis's in Manchester had a pet department, so in we went one Saturday afternoon to purchase this goldfish. We bought two, in fact, and the assistant put them in a glass bowl, which she placed inside a brown paper carrier bag. Then we set off for home through the rush hour crowds. Of course, the inevitable happened. As we moved through the jostling throng, the water slopped out of the bowl, wetting the brown paper … opposite the entrance to Victoria Station the bottom of the bag gave way. I remember it vividly, even now - the darkness, the hurrying feet, light shining on wet pavement and broken glass, with the two goldfish flapping about in the wreckage. My mum managed to capture them and put them into the intact bottom of the bowl, only when she lifted it up it was the rim, and the poor fish landed back on the ground. By this time we had attracted an interested and sympathetic crowd. The lady from the flower stall eventually lent us a jug of water, to put the goldfish in, and we were able to catch our train home. However, I can't say I was embarrassed by all this, though my mum probably was. I was just grief-stricken. One of the goldfish, incidentally, survived and lived on for some years. When I was small we had cats, and cats do not generally embarrass their humans, though no doubt are often embarrassed by them. But then, when I was grown-up and should have known better, we started to acquire dogs, and creatures of the canine persuasion have an embarrassment potential second to none. Take our first dog, Judy, for example. Now she was a charming beast, beautiful, affectionate - and quite incapable of doing what she was told. If she got out of the garden, it was impossible for me to get her back in. She could run much faster than I could, for a start. She enjoyed teasing me - letting me come almost within reach, then dashing off as I made a grab. The really annoying thing was, If our next door neighbour appeared, she would go to him as good as gold. I think she did it on purpose. She had a very friendly nature, too friendly sometimes, but occasionally something spooked her. Once when we were on holiday she developed a 'thing' about men in white sun hats - and that summer everyone seemed to be wearing them. As soon as she spotted one she would dash up to the unfortunate wearer, and stand in front of him, barking madly. This as you may imagine did not go down well. We would haul her off, red-faced and muttering apologies … she also became very distressed if she caught someone lying down outside. In her view humans should be vertical, not horizontal. I remember once we took her to an open day at the Open University, Milton Keynes. It was a lovely afternoon, and outside the main build a number of people were sitting on the grass, picnicking and listening to a jazz band. One bloke was lying on his back with his eyes closed, dozing or just enjoying the music. Before we could stop her, Judy dashed up to him and stuck a cold wet nose in his ear … he was ever so surprised. Our third dog, Dan, had impeccable manners, and never caused us a moment's embarrassment. If you discount the Poole harbour incident, anyway. While passing a large and extremely opulent yacht moored in the marina, he deposited a large offering at the foot of the gangplank. In full view of the captain. Fortunately was a very understanding man. And then we had Chloλ. Chloλ raised the level of embarrassment to new heights. I often wonder what made us choose her - though of course it was actually she who chose us. We were going round the pens in the Dogs' Trust centre, each with its dogs leaping up to attract our attention. When we reached Chloλ's cage she sidled up to the bars, pressed her face against then and rolled her eyes up at us. From that moment we were putty in her paws. Little did we know what we were taking on. For a start, she was a barker. All our other dogs had been relatively quiet, but Chloλ barked at everything which came past the house, and as we are on a corner, that was a lot of barks. And she took against the man next door. A path runs along the back of our garden, which the people to next door use to reach their back gate. Chloλ took violent exception to this. As soon as anyone appeared, she would hurl herself against the fence, shouting imprecations, and we would have to rush out and haul her inside. As may be imagined, this did not promote neighbourly good relations. In the end we replaced the three-foot fence with a six-foot one, and things calmed down. Walking her was an interesting experience. She was very strong, and had obviously never been walked on a lead before in her life, because at first she was all over the place. But she picked up the idea of walking at my side easily enough, and I even managed to get her to stop pulling - some of the time anyway. The real fun came whenever she spotted another dog. Chloλ's attitude too other dog's is, to put it mildly, ambivalent. Some she wants to play with, some she wants to kill. Unfortunately, it's impossible to tell, for us anyway, which it's to be until after the event. This makes walking her with other dogs around a somewhat fraught experience. She'll ignore one hound, then the sight of the next one will send her bananas - rearing up, pawing the air, making a complete fool of herself. She also had an unnerving habit of running round me in one direction, then as I braced myself to take the strain, suddenly reversing direction. More than once she's Ianded me flat on my back in the mud. It's very difficult to retain one's dignity in that situation. One time I was walking her in the park when she spotted some other dogs on the other side of the rugby pitch. I tried to hold her back - not a chance. The grass was wet, and the soles of my wellies smooth. She towed me across the grass, like a water-skier, all the way to the other side. I never felt such an idiot in my life. The last straw came in the park again. I had let her off the lead, thinking the coast was clear. By that time she had calmed down a bit, and she was actually better off the lead, she did not get so excited, thought you had to watch out. Unfortunately, just as she started her run, a Dalmatian popped out from behind some bushes. Chloλ charged over to investigate. The Dalmatian was spoiling for a fight - and it was on a lead. The upshot was that it pulled its owner over. As I came up, all apologies, she started swearing and shouting abuse at me and Chloλ. Well, all right, her dog had been on the lead and Chloλ hadn't - but it was her dog which had been the aggressive one. It was humiliating, and I'm afraid after that I lost my nerve. Geoff took over the dog walking. She has calmed down a great deal since we then, but she still can't be trusted completely. She misses out on a lot. And yet apart from this one fault she is a lovely dog - biddable, affectionate, friendly and good with children. It's a shame.
Archived comments for Embarrassing Moments 2: pets
niece on 09-10-2006
Embarrassing Moments 2: pets
Moya,
I finished reading this wanting some more...it was so good!And I'm sorry, I found myself laughing at some of things that happened...couldn't help it!

Tho' I should say, the "Dalmation" incident proves that sometimes animals behave better than human beings!

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece. Yes, never a dull moment with our Chloe, though she has improved a lot. We took her out for the day yesterday and she behaved perfectly - except for when we met that bull terrier ...

RoyBateman on 10-10-2006
Embarrassing Moments 2: pets
Most amusing - they're all embarrassing in their own way! I've never kept dogs, but I've seen plenty of tearaway characters...poop fiends, frenetic leg-botherers and speed kings that knock small children flying in the park. All good fun. Cats are just more subtle, or maybe they just think they are, but our much-loved Sheba had us in stitches once, suffering a bout of audible flatulence that (Literally) made her shuffle across the floor in response. It's not often that moggies wooft like that, and poor Sheba didn't know what was going on either. Oh well, you can see how sophisticated MY sense of humopur is!
Good one, thoroughly enjoyed it.

Author's Reply:

shadow on 10-10-2006
Embarrassing Moments 2: pets
Now that I should like to have seen. None of our cats were that inventive, though we had one who expressed disapproval by being sick on the carpet. Thanks for comment!

Author's Reply:

MiddleEarthNet on 11-10-2006
Embarrassing Moments 2: pets
Some great stories of your pets and theirs/yours embarrassing moments.
"and cats do not generally embarrass their humans, though no doubt are often embarrassed by them."
You have no idea how wrong that is. I had two cats (one now) and embarrassing us was their specialty. One time we had guests round and we sitting in the living room (which had a large French window) which looks out onto the garden. One of the cats, Katy had just caught this mouse and killed it. She came right up to the window and dropped the mouse, looked through the window at me, then picked the mouse up again. She throw up into the air, caught it and then dropped. She repeated this sequence again and again and again and again. Much to the horrified looks of our guests. In the end I went outside and moved Katy and put the mouse in the bin.
There are loads of stories but it would fill up pages of text.

Anyway, a good read.

Author's Reply:
I can see cats have their moments as well. Ours were never that inventive - or maybe they were just not good hunters. Glad you enjoyed.

DarkLight on 11-10-2006
Embarrassing Moments 2: pets
Hi, I enjoyed reading this, imagining Chloe dragging you across that field! I think I have the cat equivalent of Chloe. The people we got him from certainly saw us coming! Though he more embarrasses himself than us and gets himself into all sorts of scrapes. I love him to bits, but he's definitely the cat incarnation of a ninja!

Will look out for the others in your embarrassing series - I occaisionally have embarrassing children, and I'm sure I'm more often than not an embarrassing parent!

DarkLight...

Author's Reply:
I think Chloe would like to meet your cat - perhaps we should introduce them? Actually she doesn't mind cats, it's other dogs which set her off. Thanks for the comment.

Sunken on 12-10-2006
Embarrassing Moments 2: pets
Well this brightened my morning up and no mistake Ms. Shadow. Do you think mud skiing could become an Olympic event then? Top stuff.

s
u
n
k
e
n

losing the will to sieve

Author's Reply:
You mean like dog-sledding without the sled? Yes - I can see it now ... You're lucky, I'm sure your Rudy is always perfectly behaved.

soman on 15-10-2006
Embarrassing Moments 2: pets
Moya,

Good reading. Reminded me of my own experience a decade ago when I unexpectedly became the proud owner of a handsome, 8-year old pomeranian. With your permission, please, may I? And thanks for giving me the opportunity!.

He had chosen me as his guardian when his original owner, who was a friend of mine, was suddenly taken to hospital with terminal cancer; he died there. ... It took a little time for me to learn the dog's habits, so as to become eligible for the rare privilege. He had his own ideas about everything. Insisted on barking at all my friends, but ignored the beggars, hawkers and other intruders. A true snob! But his most favorite target was none other than myself: The moment he heard my car horn in the distance, returning from work, he would rush to the gate, barking his head off, and wouldn't cease till I got inside the house and took my shoes off.

Everynight, at 9pm sharp he would get up from under my sofa, yawn, and say, Look, it's me for bed. 2 hours later, I would see him curled up beneath my cot when I myself turned in for the night.

Once night, around 2 am, some optimistic burglars jumped over the compound wall. I happened to be awake and asked them what they wanted . They didnt bother to answer, just scaled the wall once again and vanished. I shone the torch on Lucky, my canine security guard, beneath the bed. He was wide awake, just looked at me, saying, "Look chum, they are your problem, not mine, so dont disturb me", and promptly went off to sleep again.

Previously I had been boasting to my friends what an excellent watchdog I had. Now I couldnt face them any more!

Soman

Author's Reply:
What a great story - you should write it up and post it on the main page. It proves that dogs have a sense of humour. They enjoy showing us up!
Moya

soman on 16-10-2006
Embarrassing Moments 2: pets
Moya,

Good idea, and thanks for the encouragement. Shall get on with it pronto.

Incidentally, I seem to have missed Embarrassing Moments 1, if it exists. Where can I find it?

Soman

Author's Reply:
It was one I posted some time ago. You should find it at
http://www.ukauthors.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=14573
if you want to take a look.


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 12 (posted on: 06-10-06)
In which Jabez encounters the Long Arm of the Law, and alerts the Finger of Suspicion. Not to mention the Hidden Claw ...

Detective Inspector Prodmore gazed mournfully at the tip of his pen, which was tracing an elaborate doodle, reminiscent of an intestinal tract, on the pad in front of him. Beside him D S Sidewinder, a fresh-faced youth who did not look a day over twelve, lolled in his chair, smirking up at the ceiling. 'So,' said Prodmore, 'tell me again. Exactly why did you decide to enter the wardrobe? Jabez gritted his teeth. He was beginning to be seriously irritated. He had been going over this wretched story for what felt like hours, and he was desperate for a fag. He was also sick of the dingy little interview room. And the disgusting tea they kept bringing him. 'I told you, I panicked.' 'Ah, yes. Panicked. And why was that I wonder? If you hadn't been doing anything you shouldn't. What were you doing?' 'Nothing. I'd just popped in to take a leak. The bog downstairs … ' 'Remind me - which room where you in, at that point? 'Miss Bilkington-Pratt's.' 'And what made you choose her room for your - leak?' 'I didn't! Didn't know it was hers, I mean, not then. I found out afterwards.' 'So. Talk me through.' 'I told you six times already.' 'I've a bad memory.' 'Well,' Jabez began, sulkily. 'I came out of her bathroom, then I heard someone at the door. It was a bit embarrassing, 'cos I thought it was Mel - Miss Bilkington-Pratt that is - and she'd wonder - anyway, the wardrobe was open a crack so I nipped inside - ' 'Then what?' 'Ambrose Blunt walked in.' 'This surprised you?' 'A bit, but I thought he'd come for the same as me. Only then he started taking his clothes off.' 'Why should he do that?' 'I don't know!' snapped Jabez. 'Perhaps he needed a shower. It was a very hot day. I couldn't see much, but I could hear him moving about. Then Miss Bilkington-Pratt came in and Blunt dived into the wardrobe.' 'So Miss Pratt never saw him?' Prodmore turned back a page in his notes. 'No - yes,' Jabez tried to remember what he had said last time. 'She said ''What are you doing here?''.' 'Not ''Hello Ambrose''?' 'She said that as well.' Jabez was beginning to sweat. 'She didn't expect him then.' 'Of course not. She was quite cross, but before she could throw him out her mother knocked on the door so she made him hide in the wardrobe.' 'Where he encountered you, presumably.' 'No - I'd gone right to the back.' Jabez looked up to encounter two pairs of sceptical eyes. 'It was a big wardrobe.' 'And?' 'Melanie and her mum had a chat. I couldn't hear what about, not through all the clothes.' 'Could Mr Blunt?' 'Maybe. It was then he was took bad.' 'In what way?' 'Oh, jerking and twitching and making funny noises. I did what I could, but I didn't really know what was happening until Melanie had got rid of her mum and opened the wardrobe door. Then he fell out, stone dead on the carpet. Poor Melanie was very upset.' 'She was fond of the deceased? 'Well, yes - he was sort of like an uncle to her.' Suddenly Prodmore straightened up, bringing his fist down with a crash on the table. His sergeant, who had drifted off to sleep. woke up. 'Piffle! Balderdash!' roared Prodmore. 'I never heard such codswallop! That story's got more holes than Sergeant Sidewinder's socks. Why did you not call for help? You could have saved his life.' 'Why, M-miss Bilk - Melanie,' stammered Jabez, 'she didn't want the publicity. A naked stiff in her bedroom, it'd be bound to cause comment. Besides, it was obvious he'd snuffed it.' 'Whose idea was it to move the body? 'I don't remember.' 'I think you do. Perhaps you need more lubrication. Sergeant, get the lad another cup of tea.' 'No, no! Not the tea,' Jabez gasped. He had had all he could take. 'I'll come clean - it was Melanie. She begged me to save her reputation. A gentleman could do no less.' 'Her reputation?' chortled Sidewinder. 'We all know Melanie Bilkington-Pratt's reputation.' 'I think you'd been having it off with our Melanie,' said Prodmore. 'Maybe Blunt walked in on you. Was that why you killed him? 'Who? I never - we didn't - ' 'Everyone says she shags like a stoat,' Sidewinder put in. 'Not me she doesn't,' said Jabez bitterly. Prodmore rubbed his nose. 'That, I think, had a ring of truth,' he said. 'But as for the rest of this farrago - do you really expect us to buy it? Too many unanswered questions. You haven't explained why you never saw fit to mention Blunt's demise at any point during the rest of the afternoon, for instance.' 'I forgot.' 'You forgot? A dead Area Manager just slipped your mind?' 'I had other things to think about. I'd won Salesman of the Year, for Crissake! Everything else paled into insignificance.' 'And little Melanie, why didn't she speak up?' 'Shock, I expect.' 'Useful thing, shock. But no, it won't wash. Because you still haven't told us the one thing we do need to know.' Prodmore paused impressively. 'How did Ambrose Blunt die?' 'But Mr Prodnose - Prodmore - it was a heart attack. I know it was, I was there. It was, wasn't it?' whimpered Jabez. The inspector stood up and stretched. 'Interview terminated at 0147 hours,' he said, switching off the recorder. 'Aren't you going to arrest me?' 'Not yet. We know where to find you. Not planning any little foreign holidays in the next few weeks, I trust?' 'No.' 'Good. And for your information, no, Ambrose Blunt did not die of a heart attack. He died from inhaling a pair of black lace microbriefs, size 12. Sergeant, throw him out.' Jabez found himself decanted unceremoniously onto the street. His footsteps echoed from the darkened buildings. Blycester city centre at two o'clock on a Tuesday morning was not exactly jumping. He had said he would meet up with Melanie once the police were finished with him, but there was no point in phoning her at this time of night. The pubs were shut, and all the taxis had long since gone home to bed. Melanie had driven him to the police station, so his car was still parked where he had left it, on the other side of town. It would be quicker to walk home. He could not help feeling that he might have handled the police interview with a little more finesse. Easing Melanie's ma off the hook was one thing; inserting said hook into one of his own orifices, quite another. He had the uneasy feeling that the finger of suspicion wasn't so much pointing at him as prodding him between the shoulder blades. Two vast monolithic shapes detached themselves from a doorway and fell in on either side of him. 'Guv'nor wants a word,' said Big Ed. 'This way,' said Little Dick. They marched him round the corner to a metallic green stretch limo with tinted windows parked in a side street. 'Get in,' said Little Dick. Jabez saw no reason to argue. He got in. He sat in the middle, between Big Ed and Little Dick. Luckily there was plenty of room. As the car pulled smoothly away from the curb, a large flat screen telly began to glow in front of the driver's partition. Jabez found himself gazing into the hooded eyes of Morgan Spline. 'Ah, Jabez. I trust you are well?' said the image. Jabez winced as the voiced boomed round the car interior. 'There's a volume control on your armrest,' Spline added kindly. 'And how is Amalgamated Parts? I hope you have everything under control?' 'Yessir,' said Jabez. 'I've got Sir Willy stalled on the deal, and old B-P was talking it up so much on telly today, he has to be worried.' 'Good, good. Why were you at the police station tonight? No problems, I hope?' 'Er - ' Jabez wondered how much to reveal. Nothing at all was his first choice - but what if Spline found out later? He was bound to be paying someone on the force. He probably had the place bugged. 'I went to give a statement on Ambrose Blunt's death.' 'Indeed? Surely dear Cordelia has been fitted up for that.' 'That's it, you see,' Jabez started to sweat again. 'Melanie doesn't like the idea of her mum going down for something she didn't do, so she persuaded me - ' 'Ah yes, little Melanie can be very persuasive.' 'Only now they think I done it!' 'How very perspicacious of them. If a little inconvenient.' 'But I didn't tell them much - only what they needed to know.' 'I am glad to hear it. As you grow older, my boy - if you grow older - you will discover how little the police really need to know. I wouldn't worry too much about it. More important, your interview for the Area Manager post comes up next week, does it not? I do not expect you to fail.' 'Yes, sir. I mean, no sir,' said Jabez. 'I will send further instructions once you are in place. I expect you to fill Blunt's position, in every sense. If Cordelia is not to be incarcerated, she must be brought on board. Poor Ambrose was something of a 'ladies' man'. Are you a 'ladies' man', Jabez?' Jabez lowered his eyes modestly. 'I have my moments.' 'See that you do.' The screen blanked. Jabez sat back. If he hadn't been sitting down already his knees would have given way. 'Where to, guv?' 'I want to go home,' he said. 'It's - ' 'We know where you live.' The limo dropped him outside Battery House. As he staggered out of the lift and paused to let the door laser scan his irises, all he wanted was to dive into his bolt hole and slam the door behind him. Then a mug of cocoa and oblivion. He collapsed onto the bed and pressed the Hot Chocolate button on his drinks maker. Then he stiffened, and an icy chill trickled down his spine. On the inside of his door, cutting right through the reconstituted wood cladding to the steel beneath, four long parallel lines were scored. They looked like claw marks. From a very large cat.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 12
niece on 06-10-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 12
Poor Jabez...he's had a very bad day obviously and then the cat on top of all that!!! I really enjoyed the conversation between the Jabez and the cop...cops everywhere are the same, aren't they?

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
So I believe - not that I have any personal experience, of course. Poor Jabez indeed. And it gets worse ...

RoyBateman on 10-10-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 12
Finally, I've caught up with the latest episode...great dialogue, had me chuckling all the way through. Of course, I'm not associating myself with Little Dick. No way. (Cough, cough.)

Author's Reply:


Losing It (posted on: 29-09-06)
An all too familiar experience

Excuse me bothering, but have you seen My mind? It can't be far away. I had it not so long ago, and feel A little strange without it. Though it's not As sharp as once it was; it's grown A trifle soft and woolly. Perhaps it's been A time or few too often in the brain Washing-machine. What colour? Oh, a sort Of pinkish bluish green. I think. I can't be more specific, for I put My memory down a moment ago, and now It's wandered off somewhere. No doubt It will turn up again Some time or other. Anyway, I don't intend To lose sleep over it - except I probably will
Archived comments for Losing It
Sunken on 29-09-2006
Losing It
I lost someone elses mind once and ended up in all sorts of bother. I hope you find yours soon Ms. Shadow.

s
u
n
k
e
n

life in the pasta lane

Author's Reply:
Thanks sunk, so do I though I'm not hopeful. Still, I can probably manage without one, lots of people do.

Romany on 29-09-2006
Losing It
Lol! I can so identify with this. At least yours is a pretty colour; mine is a kind of fuzzy off-white.

Romany.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Romany. Tyes, I believe it is a common problem. Glad you like the colour - it used to be more vibrant, but has faded a bit over the years.

orangedream on 29-09-2006
Losing It
Mine's definitely purple - put it in the machine with my husband's red socks. It was a delicate shade of puce blue before!

Good poem!

orangedream

Author's Reply:
Purple mind + orange dream - that's an eye-catching combination! No wonder you have a colourful personality.
Thanks for the comment.

niece on 29-09-2006
Losing It
I don't even think I have one to lose-what is it? This thing called "mind"?
Quite a thoughtful poem tho' it's meant to be "mind"less...
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Afraid my thoughts are all over the place, as is usually the case when you don't have a mind to keep them in ...
Thanks niece.

RoyBateman on 30-09-2006
Losing It
You speak for us all here - or, at least, those of us who fear that the old grey matter's getting overheated too often. Well, I'm glad it's not just me!

Author's Reply:
Yes, a common problem, I fear. Mind you, I seem to have been having 'senior moments' all my life.

woodbine on 02-10-2006
Losing It
Hi Moya,
A very relevant poem for some of us.
Depressing isn't it. I have to ask myself who'd buy a sixty-two year old computer. I began with the same idea, but filed it with so much else under unfinished business.
'It is impossible to keep a finely ordered mind
inside a house disorderly as mine.'
I' m glad you managed to finish yours. Here take my hand, we'll wander
along the promenade until tea time.
Much love,
John XxX

Author's Reply:
Hi John
Yes, there must be a fair number of lost minds floating around. I wonder where they all end up? Perhaps there is a Lost Minds Office somewhere - now there's an idea with intriguing possibilities ...
Love
Moya

SugarMama34 on 31-10-2006
Losing It
Hiya shadow, a humerous piece of writing with a touch of philosaphy thrown in too. I could relate quite well to this also as some of the others have.
I don't think my brain has much colour now it has been washed so many times I think it's quite faded, actually it's probably why i lose it so much, it just blends in with everything else!
An interesting poem that flowed well on the page, nice structure too.

Cheers From Sugar. x

Author's Reply:


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 11 (posted on: 25-09-06)
In which Jabez agrees to aid a damsel in distress

The scantily clad female figure fled through the dark alleyway. Jabez raced after her, weapon in hand. The alley ended in a blank wall, but two dark openings led off on either side. He hesitated. There was no way of telling which way she had gone. Then a flicker of movement on his right alerted him, and in one fluid movement he whirled and fired. The half seen figure vanished, but not before he heard a bullet ping on the wall above his head. He plunged through the doorway. The passage was dimly lit. He approached each right-angled turn with caution, wary of what might lie beyond. She could be leading him into a trap. Then at last he caught sight of the fleeing figure. She retreated before him, until at last he had her cornered, cowering in a room at the end of the passage. As he advanced, gun cocked and ready, a sudden change in her expression warned him of danger. He swung round - too late. He had a brief glimpse of another shapely female figure, this one clad in black leather - the Dominatrix herself! - before the scene vanished behind a wash of blood, and a flashing sign announce 'Game Over!' 'Bugger,' said Jabez. Still, he had gone up three levels, which was not bad for one morning's work. He had decided to take the day off, he felt he deserved one after the trials of the weekend. Also he was pretty sure he had a cold coming on. He considered having another go, but he was getting bored with 'Hot Chick Massacre', and anyway it was nearly time for lunch. He reached out, opened the fridge and took out a can of lager. The thing he liked most about living in Battery House (the block of Bijou Apartments for Singles where he'd recently purchased a flat) was that everything you wanted was within reach. From where he lay on the bed he only had to stretch out a hand to operated the microwave and coffee dispenser, turn on the state-of-the-art entertainment centre or change the scene on the virtual window. His finances had not run to an flat with an outside wall and a real window, but in fact Jabez preferred the virtual sort. He liked to choose his own view. At the moment he looked out on a dazzling tropical beach, fringed by palms. Much better than boring old reality. Yes, the flat suited him nicely. Cat-swinging was not an option, of course, but Jabez had never really felt the need. He opened the can and took a thoughtful swig. Looking back over the events of the previous day, he thought he had come out of it pretty well. Lady Fanny had collected up most of the cat team and ferried them back to the house in her Range Rover. They had arrived in plenty of time for dinner, not the first team to make it back, but not the last either. Unfortunately Luke and Amanda had not been with them. They had vanished into the mist during the panic, and had still not turned up by the time Jabez had set off for home at the end of the final after-dinner debriefing session. Though he supposed the rescue teams must have found them by now. Might as well switch over to the News, he thought, reaching for the remote. It was the usual boring stuff - earthquake in some god-awful place no-one had ever heard of - Jabez groped in the freezer for a pizza and was just shoving it in the microwave when his attention was caught by a familiar name. '… in a statement this morning,' the newsreader was saying, ' the chairman if Amalgamated Parts plc, Herbert Bilkington-Pratt said that the rumours of an impending takeover were totally without foundation.' The picture changed to a close-up of Bilkington-Pratt himself, looking shifty. 'I don't know where you get these ideas from,' he was saying, 'but Amalgamated Parts have never been stronger.' 'Then the recent fall in the share price does not cause you any concern? In as much as it might be connected to certain stories in the tabloid press …' 'Not at all.' Jabez was sure old J-P was sweating. 'Prices can be affected by all sorts of things - as for these ridiculous lies - all that will be cleared up at the inquest.' 'Thank you, Sir Herbert. Now we turn to another sighting of the so-called 'Puddimoor Panther' … ' Jabez switched over to a game show while he ate his pizza. Afterwards, he lay back on the bed, his eyelids drooped … … he was running across an endless moor. The setting sun was behind him, throwing his long shadow before him on the grass. The lurid light touched everything with red. He knew something was after him, he did not know what. He wanted to turn and look, but there was no time, he had to keep going or it would catch him. The moor had become a valley between hills which grew higher and darker the further he went. The valley floor narrowed and grew steeper, finally closing in completely. He could go no further. He turned at bay. An enormous grey cat loomed over him, its eyes flaming green. It was as big as an elephant. With a squeak of terror Jabez tried to dodge to one side, only to somersault as a huge paw batted him effortlessly to the ground From somewhere came the voice of Amanda. 'Don't fuss, he's only playing.' The paw descended, pinning him down and driving all the breath from his body. All he could do was stare helplessly upwards into a gaping mouth fringed with needle-sharp teeth, a curling pink tongue. He screamed … … and woke up. He was lying on his bed. It must be quite late, the virtual window was now showing a virtual tropical sunset. He tried to get up but something was sitting on his chest, holding him down. Jabez let out a strangled squawk. It was a cat, kneading him with its claws, breathing fumes of stale fish into his face, fixing him with its baleful green eyes. Not any old cat, either. A fat grey Persian. It was bloody Xerxes. 'Arrrgghgerroff!' He heaved himself upright. The cat rolled off and landed on the floor with a snarl, before disappearing through the window. Jabez blinked. That couldn't be right. The window wasn't real, so how - ? Unless the cat wasn't real either. Of course. Must have been part of his dream. As his breathing returned to normal, he became aware that his mobile was ringing. 'Yeah? Warrisit?' 'I thought you were supposed to be taking me for a drink.' Melanie sounded a bit peeved. 'After work. Remember?' 'I haven't been in to work.' 'Well, I doubt if anyone but me noticed. Anyway, it's well after five, so you can recover now. Meet me in ''Benders'' in half an hour.' She rang off. ''Benders'' was one of those minimalist places, all stainless steel and strip lighting. What with showering (he'd been soaked with sweat), changing his shirt, driving into town and finding a parking space, it was well over half an hour before Jabez arrived, and he had started to hope that she might have given him up and gone home. But she was there, perched on a stool by the bar, drinking some poisonous-looking purple concoction. He bought himself a pint of Stella and joined her. 'Hi. Do you want to go and sit in the corner?' There were no dark corners in ''Benders'', it was not that sort of place. Jabez looked round uneasily. Being a Monday night, it was quieter than usual, though still with a fair number of suits dropped in after work. No-one he knew, thank goodness. 'Why d'you pick this place? It's not exactly discrete.' Melanie shrugged. 'I like it. I suppose you'd rather we went to some grotty little pub full of old men with whippets? Anyway, I shan't be here long. I'm meeting Luke.' 'He got back all right, then?' 'Very nearly didn't. They found him stuck to his neck in the Bowelly Bog.' 'Oh, dear, what a shame,' said Jabez, trying to conceal a smirk. 'He could have died! If Amanda Goodbody hadn't kept blowing her whistle … but that's not what I wanted to talk to you about.' She paused and fixed him with as steely glare. 'You've got to go to the police and get poor mother off the hook.' Jabez had had a couple of days to think about this, and the more he thought the less he liked it. 'How am I going to do that without dropping us in it? If you think I'm going to take the blame - ' 'Why shouldn't you? It was your fault. If you hadn't gone and stuffed my kecks down his throat no-one would have got suspicious.' 'I was only trying to keep him quiet. They were all that came to hand.' 'And that's another thing. What were they doing in your hand? I don't keep my knickers in the wardrobe..' 'Well, er … ' 'Never mind, I can guess. You really are a horrible little creep,' she said. Jabez swallowed the last of his pint and stood up. 'If that's what you think, why should I go out of my way to help you?' 'Siddown!' she snarled. 'Unless you want me to telly Daddy exactly how you got to be Salesman of the Year.' 'Maybe I could tell Daddy a thing or two,' muttered Jabez. 'And which of us do you think he'll believe? He knows me a lot better than he does you.' 'That's what I was counting on.' For a moment she glared at him in fury, and then her face crumpled. 'Oh, please,' she whispered through quivering lips. 'Don't be horrid. If you won't help I don't know what I shall do.' She blinked away a tear, and gazed up at him pleadingly. 'You won't find me ungrateful, I promise.' This sounded more like. 'How grateful?' She lowered her eyes modestly. 'As much as you want me to be.' Jabez sat down again. he had the feeling he was going to regret this - but ah, what the hell! 'Okay. What do you want me to say?'
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 11
niece on 25-09-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 11
Hi Shadow,
Another enjoyable read...
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Sorry - gone and put my reply in the wrong box again! I keep DOING that! Thanks anyway.

shadow on 25-09-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 11
Hi niece, thanks for comment. I'll go and look at your 'Subnset Room' now - got some catching up to do now I'm back from holiday!
Moya

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 25-09-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 11
Now, there's an offer he can't refuse! Well, if he does, I'm always willing to...ahem, back to the real world. I prefer the pubs with whippets in personally, but I reckon that says it all. Another cracking episode - you're keeping up the pace with great style.

Author's Reply:
Yes, I go more for the whippets too, but Melanie has sophisticated tastes. I'm doing my best to keep it up - hope Jabez can ...


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 9 (repost) (posted on: 15-09-06)
In which Jabez discovers his animal nature.

The entrance hall at Hasbene was crowded with employees of Amalgamated Parts, mostly standing around looking bored. There didn't seem to be much bonding going on, but early days yet. As Jabez came through the door Amanda pounced on him. 'You're nearly late, do you want a Conference Programme, don't worry, I've got two, you'd better grab a coffee, then we'll go up, it's nearly time for the Chairman's speech.' Jabez helped himself from the coffee dispenser at the back of the hall, and surveyed the gathering uneasily. There was no sign of Lady Fanny. Perhaps she kept out of the way when these conferences were on? He profoundly hoped so. 'Here,' Amanda handed him a badge printed with his name and department. 'The space is to put what animal you want to be, everyone has to choose one, I'm a kitten - what are you?' 'I dunno - what do you think?' Amanda giggled. 'A hamster?' 'A hamster?' Jabez stared in dismay. 'Is that what you think I am?' 'Ahh, they're ever so cute and cuddly. I used to have a hamster when I was little only then we got Xerxes and he ate it …' Jabez decided that whatever part of the animal kingdom he would go for, it would not be a hamster. Come to think, there was only one possible choice. He scribbled it on his badge, which he pinned on before following Amanda up the stairs. Most of the company were already in the Main Conference Hall. Amanda and he squeezed in at the back. The hall still looked more like a ballroom than a meeting place, all the seats were arranged round the walls. Latecomers had to sit on the floor. 'Bloody kindergarten,' muttered Jabez. The top brass on the platform all had seats, he noted. As well as Bilkington-Pratt himself, there were Flint from Accounts, Sprocket from Engineering, Mike Boomer from Publicity, and of course their own dear Charlie Mildew. As soon as the audience settled down the Chairman rose to 'say a few words'. Jabez suppressed a groan. Old Pratty had never said a few words in his life. His attention wandering, he noticed Luke Sharpe sitting a few rows in front of him, his arm around the shoulders of Melanie Bilkington-Pratt. So she hadn't seen through the pretentious twit yet. The chairman droned on. It was very warm in the hall, he would have fallen asleep if he had not been so uncomfortable. He had not sat cross-legged like this since he left the Scouts. 'Moreover, I believe the empowerment of staff should be an on-going process, working within the parameters of the organisation's zeitgeist … ' said the Chairman. Jabez was watching Luke's hand as it slowly descended from Melanie's shoulder to her waist. How low would he get? He wished Amanda would not sit so close. Now if it was Melanie sitting next to him … he drifted off into a pleasant dream. An elbow in the ribs jerked him back to consciousness. 'Get up,' hissed Amanda. All around him people were staggering to their feet. 'Wha' - what's happening?' 'Haven't you been listening? We've got to go round looking at everyone's name badges, and form groups of all the same kinds of animals, oh good, you're a kind of cat like me, we can stay together, come on.' Jabez followed glumly in Amanda's wake, as she toured the hall peering at labels, squealing in delight whenever she encountered another feline. He wished now he had chosen to be a bear, or a wolf. Or perhaps not a wolf. That business last Sunday at his mother's had been a touch unsettling. This spiritualist stuff was all bollocks, he knew that, but still … someone must have put Bojollay up to it. He wished he'd had a chance to find out who, but her mother had whisked her away straight afterwards. By now the crowd was coagulating into several clumps: cats, dogs, horses, snakes, fish and a solitary bird flu virus which no-one wanted to approach. Charlie Mildew stood on the platform directing proceedings. 'Very good, boys and girls - we need roughly equal numbers - could the amphibians join up with the reptiles - and can we have all the farm animals together?' Jabez looked round at the other cats. He was pleased to see Melanie (a panther), not so delighted that Luke had chosen to be a tiger. Show off. There was also a lion from the Wages Office, an ocelot from Catering, a moggy from Security and number of plain cats from various departments. 'Will all the cats please go to Room 5c.' 'Like being back at school,' muttered Jabez as they filed along the corridor. 'I think it's fun,' said Amanda. At least 5c had a table and proper chairs. Jabez tried to sit next to Melanie, but Luke interposed himself at the last minute. His chiselled lips curved in a sneer as he read Jabez's label. 'You spell Jaguar J-A-G-U-A-R, not E-R,' he said. Before Jabez could think of a sufficiently cutting reply, Charlie Mildew bounced in. 'Right boys and girls - or should I say toms and tabbies? - let's get you started. This exercise is called 'Survival'. Scenario - you are travelling in a light plane - suddenly the engine fails - there is no time to radio for help - you are hurtling towards a mountainside. The pilot manages to land, but you have only time to grab a few items and get out before the plane explodes in flames. You are stranded, miles from anywhere, in bad weather with the night coming on. Somehow you must survive until rescue comes.' Charlie paused impressively. 'In the folders in front of you are lists of items in the plane. You must each choose ten things from the list - whatever you think would be most useful. Go to it. And don't be afraid to think outside the box. I'll be back in half an hour.' He vanished. Jabez pulled the list out of his folder and scanned it. Easy-peasy. He wouldn't need half an hour for this, five minutes would be enough. He looked round at the others, all scribbling industriously. He needed a pee. On his way back from the gents, Jabez caught sight of an all too familiar figure. He tried to dodge round a corner, but too late. She had seen him. 'Hey - what's-your-name - Pigmuck!' Jabez froze, like a stoat in the headlights of a Centurion tank. 'L-lady Fanny?' 'Glad I spotted you. Whatever made you run off like that?' 'Well I thought - in the circumstances - ' stammered Jabez. 'Silly boy! Willy wouldn't have bothered, he's very broadminded. And you missed your lunch.' 'Is Sir Willy here now?' 'Yes, we thought we'd both stick around, seeing it's our first big booking. New venture for us, this conference lark, lot of capital tied up. If fact, that's why I wanted a quiet word.' She lowered her voice a few decibels. 'This deal going through with Amalgamated -' 'Yes?' 'You couldn't stall it awhile? Things a bit tricky at the moment. Cash flow. You know …' 'Mmmm … ' Jabez tried to look disapproving, sympathetic and stern, all at the same time. 'I suppose I could …' 'Good lad!' She clapped him on the back. 'See you at dinner.' Jabez returned to Room 5c, where the others were already reading out their lists. ' … box of chocolate bars, twenty-four bags of peanuts, the can of insect spray and the torch.' 'Thank you, Amanda,' said Charlie Mildew. 'Is that everyone? Ah Jabez, let's hear from you.' 'Er, right. Okay,' Jabez slipped into his seat and scanned the master list. 'I'll have - the gift hamper with the caviar and champagne, the crate of beer, the mobile phone, the transistor radio, the bag of newspapers, the gun, the bottle of brandy, the laptop, the blankets and - oh yes the air freshener.' There was a short silence. 'An interesting choice,' said Mildew at last. 'For the next part of the exercise, group discussion, I want everyone to justify their choices, and then you can draw up a joint list which will optimise your chances of survival. What can you bring to the table? This is a chance to show your collective expertise and co-operative ability. I want some 360 degree feedback on this one. I'll leave you to it.' The door closed behind him. Luke Sharpe was the first to speak. 'Someone here won't survive very long,' he said. 'Champagne? Laptop? Newspapers? What good would that lot be in an emergency?' Jabez thought rapidly. 'Keep up morale. Everyone knows what you do in a plane crash is call for help then sit tight. Why not have a party while you wait?' 'You mean, lie around in a drunken stupor till you froze to death? Moron - you have to get down off that mountain as fast as you can,' snapped Luke. 'And how is the rescue party suppose to find us if we go rushing off in all directions? Use your brain, if you've got one.' 'Jabez is right, ' said Amanda. 'We'd only get lost.' 'Not if we had the compass.' 'But how do you make out where the little needle is pointing? It won't keep still.' 'That's not - oh, never mind,' said Melanie. Then everyone joined in. 'We must have the gallon of fresh water - ' ' - and the signal flares, they're essential.' 'Not if we take the mobile phone, surely?' 'What if we can't get a signal?' ' - a life raft? We're on top of a mountain, for Chrissake!' 'What do we need a shovel for - to bury the bodies?' 'Let's park that offline for a moment, we need to maximise our calorific resources … ' After a period of robust, indeed acrimonious, argument, the contenders had separated into two camps. One, headed by Jabez, favoured staying put and waiting for rescue, while Luke's followers preferred trying to reach safety under their own steam. Neither side would accept a compromise. 'Enough!' said Melanie at last. 'We'll be here all night at this rate, and I want a shower before dinner. There's ten of us - why don't we each pick the most important thing from our own list and put them together?' 'And you think that will produce the optimum selection?' sneered Luke. 'Who cares? It's only a game.' 'I think it's a brilliant idea,' said Jabez. He was rewarded by a smile from Melanie and a glower from Amanda. Amanda caught him up in the corridor outside. 'You fancy that Melanie, don't you, I saw you looking, you think she's prettier than me.' 'Pretty? Is she? I hadn't noticed.' 'Oh no, I'm not as stupid as you think, you want to keep away from that cow, just because she's the bosses daughter she thinks she can treat people like they were serfs or something. ' 'I can't stand the woman,' said Jabez, 'wouldn't touch her with a ten-foot - ' 'Well, see you don't,' said Amanda darkly, and left him. At dinner Jabez managed to imbibe most of a bottle of Australian Merlot, after which he slept through the seminar on ' The development of operational and conceptual learning in the context of strategic decision making'. Later, while sinking a few pints in the bar before bedtime, he felt a hand clutch his elbow. 'I need to speak to you,' hissed Melanie. 'Fire away.' 'Not here. Alone.' Melanie glanced round, then leaned forward. Jabez stared goggle eyed. He was sure he could glimpse her navel. 'Come to my room, in ten minutes. I'm in 36b ' She vanished into the crowd, leaving Jabez leering after her. Things were starting to look up. He golloped the last of his ale and followed her out of the bar. 36b, he thought. Was that her room or her bra size? Amanda was in 36a. She'd gone up to bed early. Needed her beauty sleep. Must be careful, wouldn't do to get the rooms mixed up. He wished his feet would stop getting in each other's way. Luke brushed past him in the corridor, nearly knocking him over. He had a hunted expression on his face 'If she asks, you haven't seen me,' he muttered, and hurried down the stairs. A moment later, Lady Fanny galloped up, panting. 'Have you seen - ?' 'He went that way.' Lady Fanny clapped him jovially on the back and continued her pursuit. Jabez carried on down the corridor, squinting at the room numbers. Here it was, 36b. He knocked. 'Come in,' called Melanie. She had exchanged her dress for a black satin negligee. Jabez lunged forward. 'Get off, dogbreath!' she cried, kneeing him expertly in the crotch. He collapsed into a chair. 'What d'you do that for?' he whimpered. 'I thought - ' 'You thought wrong. I need to speak to you, that's all. About what happened to Ambrose Blunt.' 'Who?' 'The police think Mummy killed him. You've got to tell them what really happened.' 'What happened?' Jabez was having trouble keeping up. 'But you saw it all! You were in the wardrobe.' 'Wardrobe?' A vague memory floated to the surface. 'Wardrobe. Hey, if you're the witch, can I be the lion?' Melanie slapped him. 'I want you to go to the police and tell them the whole story. Please!' 'What's in it for me?' Melanie swallowed. 'Whatever you want,' she said. 'I know what I'd like,' leered Jabez. 'All right. But not now. We both need to get some sleep, we've got a heavy day tomorrow.' She pulled him to his feet. 'How about a bit on account?' He slipped his arms around her, his tongue probing at her mouth. The door open behind him. 'Melanie dear, are you all right? I thought I heard - JABEZ!' Jabez dropped Melanie and swung round. Amanda was standing in the doorway. 'Oh, how could you,; she wailed. 'You - you pig! You horrid, horrid beast!' Jabez took a step forward. 'It's not what you think - ' 'Don't come near me!' shrieked Amanda. Doors were popping open all along the corridor. It was too much. The strain and tedium of the day, the stupid games, the heavy dinner, the Merlot and the beer - they were all too much. Jabez closed his eyes, and the whirling pits engulfed him. He leaned forward and vomited copiously onto the bedroom floor.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 9 (repost)

No comments archives found!
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 10 (posted on: 15-09-06)
The wolves are running ...

'Everybody out,' said the helicopter pilot. Jabez stumbled blearily after the others. His head was pounding, and he wasn't sure if he could trust his bowels. He had skipped breakfast, and staggered downstairs for the first session, only to be dragged outside by an irate Charlie Mildew and bundled onto a waiting 'copter before he realised what was happening. The pilot chucked a large cardboard box after them and took off, nearly flattening Jabez with the updraft. He looked around in disbelief. They were standing on a bare hilltop. All around stretched a desolate moor, its edge lost in mist. Rain lashed the sodden turf. It was a typical English summer morning. Somewhere in the distance a sheep bleated. 'What the hell are we doing here?' said Jabez. 'Survival Exercise, part two.' Luke kicked the cardboard box. 'This must be the stuff we chose yesterday, whatever it was.' 'Better open it and see,' said Melanie. The box contained: an axe, a first aid kit, a dozen two litre bottles of water, a large box of matches, a bag of apples, a notebook and pencil, a whistle, five women's fleeces (medium size, pink) a mobile phone and a hand gun with ten rounds of ammunition. 'Bags me a fleece,' cried Melanie. 'I'm freezing.' 'We ought to share,' said Amanda. 'How? There's ten of us, are we supposed to cut them in half?' The moggy from Security had picked up the mobile phone and was fiddling with it. 'Any luck?' asked Luke. 'Nah - can't be a phone mast for miles, up here.' 'Has anyone any idea where we are?' 'Must be somewhere on the Hasbene estate,' said the lion, 'if they expect us to get back inside a day.' 'Right,' said Luke, 'the sooner we get started the better. If everyone - ' 'Hang on,' said Jabez. 'They know where they left us. Why can't we stay here till we're picked up?' 'In case you hadn't noticed,' said Luke coldly, 'this is supposed to be a test of initiative. Ability to improvise. Can-do attitude. Some of us have it, some of us don't.' At this everyone began speaking at once. 'We can't stop here, we'll catch our deaths.' 'Whose stupid idea was it to bring this rubbish?' 'I told you we'd need the compass.' 'I think my hay fever's coming on.' 'QUIET!' yelled Luke. 'We can't stay here with no shelter. Most of the stuff in that bloody box is useless - we can leave most of it and travel light. Get back to civilisation as fast as we can.' 'Who put you in charge?' demanded Jabez. 'This did.' Luke picked up the gun. 'Any objections?' Jabez took a step back. 'Bloody maniac,' he muttered. 'Right. Everyone can carry a bottle of water and some apples. We'll take the first aid kit, and the matches. Pity nobody thought to ask for a rucksack. Any questions?' 'Yes,' snapped Jabez. 'Do you know where we're going?' 'This way,' said Luke, and strode off into the mist. Some hours later the bedraggled group of felines was still toiling over the endless moor. The rain had eased off but the mist had thickened. Jabez, bringing up the rear, was totally fed up. He was soaked through, tired, hungry, and his designer trainers had never been designed for this sort of jaunt. Too cap it all, neither Amanda nor Melanie would speak to him. He was not sure what he had done, his memory of the night before being somewhat hazy, but whatever it was had really pissed them off. 'Halt!' cried Luke. They huddled under the lee of a rock, which Jabez was sure they had passed at least once already. 'We're lost, aren't we?' said Jabez. 'Of course not. If we keep on down hill, the way we were going, we'll be out of here in no time.' 'Bollocks. We're going round in circles. You haven't a clue where we are, or where we're going.' 'Have you got a better idea?' 'We should have stayed where we were dropped, like I said.' 'Well, it's too late for that now,' said Melanie. 'I suppose there's still no signal on the mobile?' 'I brought the whistle,' said Amanda. 'We could try blowing it.' 'There's no-one to hear it but a load of sheep,' said Luke. 'You don't know that, there could be lots of people just out of sight, how can you tell when you can't see anything, just because you never thought of it - ' Amanda blew a long, sustained blast. Then another. And another. 'Stop!'' Melanie clamped her hands over her ears. 'We're in a bad enough state without being deafened as well.' One of the male cats, whose name badge identified him as a Herbert (Accounts), coughed. 'It might be better if we don't attract the wrong sort of attention.' 'Come again?' said Jabez. 'Have you never heard of the Hound of the Hasbenes?' 'You're joking.' '"A huge spectral hound with flaming eyes, it roams the high moors, seeking whom it may devour.'' I read that in the guide book last night.' The ocelot from Catering, whose name was Debbie, began to whimper. 'I want to go home.' 'Right, that's enough rest,' said Luke. 'Time to get moving, everyone.' 'Bugger that,' said Jabez. 'You lot can buzz off if you want to, I've had enough. They're bound to send out a search party if we're not back for dinner.' 'I second that,' said the lion. 'But we mustn't split up - ' 'I don't care, my feet are killing me - ' 'We can't stay here with that horrible hound -' 'Don't be stupid, it's not real - ' 'SHUT UP!' yelled Luke. 'Listen.' As if on cue, an eerie howl sounded in the distance. 'We are not going to split up,' said Luke. 'We are not going to sit here on our arses waiting to be rescued either. Get up, you miserable lot. We will get out of here.' Jabez stayed where he was. 'Who says?' 'This says.' Luke took out the gun. 'Anyone want to argue?' No-one did. Muttering they dragged themselves to their feet. As they left the shelter of the rock, Amanda looked back and screamed. A dark shape loomed out of the mist. It came on, inexorable, they could hear its hoarse breathing and smell its fetid odour. 'It's the Hound,' wailed Amanda. 'Help!' With a cry of defiance, Luke whirled and fired. There was a startled bleat, and a thud. 'I think you just shot a sheep,' said Jabez. As they set off again Jabez found Melanie beside him. 'We've got to get that gun off him,' he said. 'You do realise he's a nutter?' 'Luke knows what he's doing. He was in the SAS.' Jabez had his doubts about that. Still, at least Melanie was speaking to him again. 'Sorry about last night. Your carpet, I mean.' Melanie shrugged. 'No problem. They gave me another room. Do you remember what we talked about?' 'Vaguely.' Jabez was not sure what he had committed himself to. 'The police, I mean.' 'Oh, that. What do you want me to tell them?' 'The truth.' Jabez gave her a hard stare. 'Are you sure? About us moving the body and everything.' 'Well, maybe edit it a bit. Meet me for a drink tomorrow, after work, we can - what the hell was that?' Another eerie howl rose and fell on the wind. Jabez felt the hair rise on the back of his neck. 'Wolves,' he whispered. Beware of the wolves, the spirit had warned him. They were out to get him. A whole pack from the sound of it. 'Don't be daft, there aren't any wolves round here.' 'Are you sure? Weren't they going to reintroduce them, for the tourists? I saw it on the news.' Melanie shivered. 'Whatever they are, they're getting closer.' The eldritch howling filled their ears. It seemed to come from all around them. 'Run!' someone screamed. In vain Luke shouted and waved his gun. The whole party panicked, scattering in all directions. Jabez found himself holding Melanie's hand as they ran blindly through the mist, desperate to escape the menacing sounds. Suddenly his foot caught in a tussock. He fell forward, dragging Melanie down with him. Then, as he cowered beneath her, he saw his worst nightmare materialise above him - an enormous beast with slavering jaws, its teeth bared in a snarl, poised to rip his throat out. Eyes squeezed shut, he awaited his fate. 'Owoooo!' howled the beast. 'Quiet, Dinky. Here girl. Sit! Are you okay down there?' Cautiously he opened his eyes, to find himself staring up at the radiator of a 4x4. 'I was hoping to run across you lot,' said Lady Fanny. 'Anyone fancy a lift?'
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 10
RoyBateman on 15-09-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 10
Oh, excellent ending - hilarious! Great episode all round, in fact - a cross between a typical day's YHA trekking and some sort of military initiative test. (I've done 'em!!) You know, you have to get eight people across this "river" using an oil drum (always), a squitty bit of rope and a plank. ASAP. Nobody EVER does it, as far as I'm aware....well, I didn't. That's why I never made it into HM's armed forces, to everyone's relief. Anyway, great read again!

Author's Reply:
Just imagine if you'd had the wolves on your trail as well! Thanks for the comment.

niece on 18-09-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 10
Moya,
What humour...this one has some really good dialogue...:D...enjoyed!
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece, thanks for dropping by again. Sorry for the delay in replying - been away for a week.


The rain, it raineth on the just (posted on: 08-09-06)
Once, years ago, I passed an elderly couple sitting on the bank of the River Dee in Chester. They had an elaborate picnic all spread out, and continued doggedly munching their sarnies while all around them people were legging it back to town to escape a threatened deluge. I've wondered, occasionally, what happened to them ...

'This'll do,' said Freda. 'I'm not walking another step.' Norm halted. 'I thought - ' he began, then closed his mouth with a snap. If she didn't want to go all the way to the meadow, who was he to argue? He's already carried the stuff from the car park, across the wooden swing bridge and two hundred yards along the bank. He dropped his burden with a grateful sigh and wiped the sweat from his brow. 'Be careful with the basket!' snapped Freda. She picked her way down the bank. Between the footpath and the river the ground dropped steeply for a couple of feet, then levelled out into a narrow platform. No doubt in spring the river would cover it, but on this blazing July afternoon, there was just enough room to set up the small folding table and two chairs. Norm straightened his back and gazed around him. It was a pleasant enough spot, if you ignored the steady stream of passers-by. The river glinted in the sunlight, and beyond the trees on the further bank he could glimpse the tower of the cathedral. 'Don't stand there like a spare part,' ordered Freda. 'Help me set things out.' 'Yes, dear.' Look at him, thought Freda, with his long face. He'd as soon not have come at all. Spent the afternoon in that shed of his. Well, I need to get out now and again, after slaving all week in the kitchen. He owes it me. It's not that I mind a trip out, thought Norm, but why all this palaver? One time, a picnic meant a ham roll each and a bottle of pop. Since when did we need to bring the whole bloody house with us? Specially when it's me carrying it all. As soon as the little folding table had been set up, Freda began to unpack the hamper. First out came the starched linen cloth, then the melamine cups, saucers and plates, with their tasteful flower design. 'Haven't you got the camping stove lit yet?' she demanded. 'Hurry up, you know it always takes forever to boil the kettle.' Then out came a bewildering array of Tupperware boxes, in all shapes and sizes. Freda set out their contents, each on its own plate complete with paper doyley: mini sausage rolls, dainty triangular sandwiches, ham or cheese and pickle, home-made jam sponge. If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing properly, thought Freda. That's what I always say. As indeed she did. Always. All this fuss, thought Norm. Spends three hours getting it all ready, then one hour eating it. What's the point? If she must have tea outside, we could have had it out the back. And I could have finished dead-heading the dahlias. A swan drifted up to inspect the edibles. It stared beadily from behind the bulrushes. But she always has to have her own way, you can't tell her anything. Never could. Norm slumped into one of the folding chairs. Sulking again, thought Freda. Right misery-guts he is. If I'm prepared to put myself out, why not him? Sheer laziness, that's all it is. Well, I won't stand for it. I've gone to a lot of trouble today, so he can just enjoy himself whether he wants to or not. 'That water boiled yet?' she said. 'Make the tea, then.' 'Don't you think … ' began Norm. 'No., let brew, I'll pour in a minute - what?' 'It looks a bit like rain?' 'Rain? Oh, for heaven's sake! It's a lovely summer day, of course it's not going to rain.' Well, that's told the weather, thought Norm. 'So stop moaning and have a scotch egg.' All, right, all right. Freda knows best. As usual. I won't say another word. Silence fell, the only sound the steady champing of jaws. The stream of walkers making their way out of town had dried to a trickle. The river flowed placidly by. Even the swan got bored and left them to themselves. A movement caught Norm's eye. The trees on the horizon, which a moment before had been dreaming in the sun, were suddenly in violent motion. A cold wind sprang up from nowhere, hissing through the rushes and ruffling the water. Above the trees, a mass of purple cloud boiled up, advancing visibly across the sky. 'Er -' said Norm. Freda glared, and the words died in his throat. Suit yourself then, he thought. Not a word. The footpath grew busier again as people rushed back from the meadow to the shelter of town; one or two at first, then a procession. Look at them all, getting into a panic, though Freda. Just over a bit of cloud. The forecast definitely said fine. The procession was turning into a stampede. Freda cut herself a slice of cake. I've come here for a picnic, and we shall have a picnic. I won't have him saying 'I told you so'. The light took on a strange steely quality as the clouds spread over the sky. In the distance, thunder muttered. The crowds fleeing past increased their pace to just short of a run. Norm sipped his tea doggedly. We can move any time she wants, she only has to say when. The first drops splashed down, big as twopenny pieces. No, thought Freda, I'm not going to be the first to move. Not having him crowing over me, I'll never hear the last of it. 'It's only a bit of a shower.' She glowered, daring him to contradict her. 'It'll pass.' Norm opened his mouth, thought better of it. If that's how she wants it … Lightning crackled. Freda took a bite of soggy cake. By now the rain was bouncing a foot of the tarmac. The last stragglers staggered towards the shelter of the town, heads shrouded in jackets or newspapers. On the picnic table, the teacups filled with rainwater, and the sausage rolls floated on their plate. Still Norm and Freda sat on, neither prepared to be the one to crack. Eventually the rain slackened, the skies cleared. The sun came out. The ground steamed gently. So did Norm and Freda. Silently they chucked the sopping remains of the sandwiches to the waiting swan. In silence they packed the picnic basket and folded the table and chairs. And in silence they squelched, Freda in the lead and Norm following after with the paraphernalia, across the shining slippery boards of the footbridge, back into town.
Archived comments for The rain, it raineth on the just
Claire on 08-09-2006
The rain, it raineth on the just
This is highly amusing. Oh god is this what is to become of us all!

Excellent read.

Author's Reply:
I'm afraid so. Sorry.

Sunken on 08-09-2006
The rain, it raineth on the just
Lol. Brilliant. What is it with picnics? Like girls, I've never understood them. You are the tops at humorous prose Ms. Shadow of condom fame and no mistake. Simply a ten, cause I say so. Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

yes sir i can salsa, but i prefer a vindaloo?

Author's Reply:
Sorry. Just realised I've put my reply in the wrong box. Again. I'm going mad - mad, I tell you ...

shadow on 08-09-2006
The rain, it raineth on the just
Hi sunky. What is it with picnics? Well, it tends to rain for a start. Or you get eaten alive by midges ...

Author's Reply:

Sunken on 14-09-2006
The rain, it raineth on the just
Haven't we been here before? What are midges by the way? Are they anything to do with that bloke who use to sing in Ultravox? I hope this helps. Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

saying no to turnip pushers

Author's Reply:
Not unless he is a carnivorous insect. Thanks for commenting again - am feeling sad as half the comments have gone up the spout or down the plughole - whatever ...

TheGeeza on 15-09-2006
The rain, it raineth on the just
Thanks to the hackers, I'll repeat my comments that I really enjoyed this piece and as it brings the two characters to life really well and is really well observed.
Also - to remind you "a foot of the tarmac" - the database restore has changed your corrected "off" back to "of"!
Steve.


Author's Reply:
Hi, thanks for repeating your comment - much appreciated!

sirat on 15-09-2006
The rain, it raineth on the just
I read the story post-hack, and that was the only typo I noticed. It's a pleasant, amusing piece. Reminded me a bit of the relationship between Victor Meldrew and his wife (although he wouldn't have suffered in silence). I wasn't sure about the way it switched point of view so frequently to give us each of their thoughts, but on balance I think you got away with it. It's a very simple idea that works well.

Author's Reply:
Thanks sirat - I take the point about the POV - I was trying to suggest that they'd been married so long they could hold a conversation without having to open their mouths.

LuckyPierre on 18-09-2006
The rain, it raineth on the just
I really enjoyed reading this story. It's lean and real and the images flow straight into the brain.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Lucky - very pleased you enjoyed it.


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 8 (posted on: 04-09-06)
In which Jabez receives a warning - from beyond the grave.

Jabez parked his car in the yard behind 'Wyrd Sisters' and sat for a moment, reluctant to leave the security of its well padded interior. The door to his mother's abode stood ajar at the top of the steps, and from it issued a cacophony of shrieks, howls and thuds. So Wenda and the children were already here. He shuddered. God, how he hated these family Sunday dinners. He wished he had the nerve to refuse to come, but somehow, when faced by his mother's demand, the words wouldn't come. Well, not much point lurking here, better get it over with. He eased himself out of the driver's seat, wincing slightly. The wounds inflicted on his rear by the peacock were not entirely healed. He climbed the steps to the door, only to double up with a gasp as a head like a cannon ball struck him in the solar plexus. The head belonged to a small boy, who immediately disappeared under a writhing heap of infantile bodies. Beyond, as Jabez straightened up, he glimpsed his sister-in-law Wenda, wringing her hands and bleating, 'Oh dear. Are you all right? Bojollay, stop that at once! Blyte, Daylia, leave poor Orlando alone!' The children took no notice whatsoever. Jabez glared at them. Did Wenda have to drag her horrible brood everywhere she went? Why couldn't she leave them in their cage for an afternoon? 'Children, desist.' An immediate hush fell. The children disentangled themselves and stood up. Deirdre Crowe surveyed them icily. 'Go and wash your hands. Dinner is ready.' The children filed out in subdued silence. Jabez wondered how she did it. No-one else could make those ghastly kids shut up, but one look from Deirdre … 'Hi, Wenda, how are you doing?' he said. 'Looking forward to getting Bertram back?' Wenda stared at him, then burst into tears and fled. Jabez tried to shrug, but shrivelled under Deirdre's glare. 'Did you have to set her off again?' she said. 'Why, what have I done? Where's Ma? 'In the kitchen, dishing up. I wouldn't disturb her. Go into the dining-room, Aubrey and Derek are there already.' Jabez did as he was told. He had no wish to tangle with his mother at the climax of her cooking frenzy. His heart sank when he saw the table had been opened to its fullest extent. That meant the kids would be eating with them. Well, he was not going to sit opposite Blyte. The sight, last time, of that brat picking his nose had quite put him off his sprouts. Derek and Aubrey were sitting in the armchairs by the window. Jabez joined them. 'What's up with Weepy Wenda?' he said. 'Can't you guess? You went to see Bertram last week,' said Aubrey. 'Oh, that. Wasn't sure if you knew. He asked me not to say anything.' 'Well, Ma thinks you should have warned her. She's not pleased with you. Not pleased at all.' Jabez contemplated his brother with distaste. Aubrey, unlike Jabez, had not inherited his mother's red hair. He took after his father, right down to the slicked back hair and clipped moustache. He looked every inch the insurance claims adjuster, in his white shirt and dark suit. He even wore a tie - on a Sunday, for heaven's sake. His friend Derek, on the other hand, went in for the macho look, with tight jeans, sleeveless tee-shirt and tattoos. He worked for the County Council, in the planning department.. The cry of 'dinner's up' summoned them to the table, where Deirdre was helping Lola set out the plates and hand round the vegetables. Jabez found himself wedged between Derek and Bertram's eldest, Vanilla. Not for the first time, he wondered where Wenda had got these names. But then, what could you expect from a woman whose own mother had not been able to decide whether to call her Wanda or Wendy? The last time he had seen Vanilla she had been an overweight thirteen-year-old with too much make-up. Now she had dyed black hair and a dead white face with black lips. The effect was terrifying. Across the table her sister Bojollay fidgeted with the braces on her teeth. 'Before we eat' said Lola from her place at the head of the table, 'Aubrey has an announcement to make.' 'Aubrey rose, clearing his throat self-consciously. 'Derek and I,' he said, 'are getting married.' Derek lowered his eyes modestly.. 'He's going to make an honest man of me.' 'Oh, that's - that's lovely,' said Wenda, and burst into tears again. 'Can I be a bridesmaid?' cried Daylia 'Of course you can, my love,' said Lola ' and Blyte and Orlando can be pageboys. Oh Wenda, do be quiet.' 'I'm sorry,' sobbed Wenda, 'But it makes me think of me and Bertie - how happy - ' 'I think - a toast to the happy couple?' suggested Deirdre. After the health of Aubrey and Derek had been drunk, in South African red or cherryade according to taste, the company got down to the serious business of demolishing the lamb with mint sauce, roast potatoes, cauliflower and peas. 'So when is the big day?' asked Jabez. 'We haven't quite decided,' said Derek. 'I rather fancy a spring wedding, but Aubrey thinks that's too long to wait, so we might have it in the autumn.' 'And what about you, Jabez?' enquired his mother. 'When are you going to tie the knot? I thought you might have brought that nice young fiancιe of yours with you today. It's about time we met properly.' 'She's not my fiancιe,' hissed Jabez through clenched teeth. 'That's not what it said in the paper.' 'The paper got it wrong. I never asked her. I'm not marrying anyone. Not yet. Maybe never.' 'Be that as it may, next time you come for dinner - she's invited.' Jabez did not reply, but he knew an order when he heard one. Snarling inwardly, he bent over his plate. The last thing he wanted was for his mother and Amanda to join forces. If that happened, he was as good as wed. After dinner, Jabez sensed that both his mother and Wenda were trying to get him alone for 'a little talk'. He took refuge for a while in the lavatory, but in the end an incessant hammering on the door drove him out. He found Deirdre Crowe in the passage outside. 'Come along, we're all waiting. Your mother wants to have a word with your father. About this business of Bertram,' she glanced at him sharply, 'which I think you know more about than you're letting on.' At the dining-room door, however, she paused, grabbing his arm. He could feel her fingers, like claws, through his jacket. 'Young Amanda Goodbody,' she hissed, 'I trust you are not trifling with her affections. Because if you are - her mother is one of my most talented students. I would be very careful … ' With an enigmatic smile she released his arm and glided before him into the room. There they found Vanilla confronting her grandmother. 'It's not fair, I want to stay and watch the sιance!' 'Don't be a fool, girl. You know the little ones can't stay, and someone has to look after them. I'll give you a tenner for the fun fair.' 'Twenty!' 'Not a chance. Fifteen.' 'Done.' Vanilla snatched the money, rounded up her siblings and was gone. Jabez joined the others round the table, now cleared for action. He was slightly surprised to see his niece Bojollay was with them. She stared down sullenly at the table top. 'Now, you're sure Bojollay's up to this?' asked Lola. 'Oh yes,' Wenda beamed proudly. 'She's come on ever so well. Last week we contacted my Grandma. You're dying to have another go, aren't you, Bojo?' 'Yes. Mum,' muttered Bojollay. Deirdre had finished drawing the curtains. She lit a large scented candle in the middle of the table. 'Be seated, everyone.' Jabez sat down. He could never see the point in all this. His father had never had anything interesting to say while he was alive, and nothing much had changed since he passed over. No point in arguing with ma, though. She never listened to anyone. He sat for a while in uncomfortable silence, holding Derek's sweaty palm in one hand while his other endured his mother's vice-like grip. He was just about to suggest that they gave it up as a bad job when Bojollay began to breathe deeply. Suddenly her eyes rolled up until only the whites showed and her mouth fell open. He could see the candlelight glint on her brace. Lola leaned forward. 'Horace! Are you there?' A voice issued from Bojollay's mouth. 'Eh? What? Wassat?' A man's voice. He sounded as if he had been woken from an after dinner nap. 'Speak to me, Horace. It is I, Lola. Your wife.' 'Oh, hello, dear.' 'How is it with you, on the other side?' 'Not too bad, considering. Mustn't grumble. Er - did you want anything in particular, or are you just calling for a chat?' 'I trust I am not interrupting something?' asked Lola suspiciously. 'No, no - always plenty of time here.' 'Good. I wanted to talk to you about Bertram. You know he's supposed to be out in a couple of weeks. Well, it seems he prefers to stay in jail. Poor Wenda's very upset.' Wenda gave a confirmatory sob. 'I'm sure Bertie knows what he's doing,' said Horace soothingly. 'Tell her not to worry her pretty little head. It'll all come out in the wash.' 'Is that the best you can come up with? Your supposed to be in touch with the Wisdom of the Ages,' snapped Lola. 'So I am,' Horace sounded nettled. 'That's it. Keep, your hair on, don't get your knickers in a twist, everything will come up roses - ' 'Woe!' A second voice interrupted him. 'Here, I say! This is a private conversation - ' 'WOE! Woe to Jabez Pigstock!' The voice was deep, unearthly. Jabez felt the hair rise on the back of his neck. 'Pardon? Horace? What's going on?' cried Lola. The strange voice turned up the volume even further. 'Jabez Pigstock,' it intoned, 'Peril lies around you. Beware! Beware of the wolves. Owooo!' 'Who is that? Horace, come back at once!' 'Jabez, beware. The wolves are coming. OW-OO-OO-OO!' A hideous howl rent the air, chilling the blood. Then, as if someone had hit the 'Off' switch it ceased. Bojollay fell forward, her head hitting the table with a thud. Deirdre went to draw back the heavy curtains as Wenda fussed over her daughter. Jabez sat back, feeling queasy. Probably the result of over-indulgence in jam roly-poly. He hoped it was the roly-poly. Wolves? What could it mean? On the whole, he would rather not find out.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 8
RoyBateman on 04-09-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 8
Well, if he MUST watch "football" at Molineux, he deserves all he's got coming to him say I. Very well executed little family scene - I couldn't help being reminded of the batty old soothsayer in "Up Pompeii" shouting "Woe!" at the end, but that's just me I suppose. Nicely drawn characters and good dialogue again - and even a gay "wedding" to look forward to - that should be a ripe situation for a few laughs. Another good read!

Author's Reply:
Oh bother, used wrong box again. Senior moment. Please see below.

shadow on 04-09-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 8
Football? Molineux? Oh, I get it - sorry, wasn't with you for a minute. Thought it was time to show Jabez in the bosom of his family - glad you enjoyed. PS Jabez supports Blycester Botanicals.

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 06-09-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 8
The wooolves are running!!!!

Author's Reply:
Be afraid ... be very afraid ...

niece on 07-09-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 8
Interesting, Moya...enjoyed reading this...!
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece, thanks for stopping by.
Moya

len on 01-01-2007
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 8
LOved the heart-warming family scene..:O)...Great dialogue...Poor guy is gonna be married off, whether he likes it or not...len

Author's Reply:
Yes, it looks like his fate is sealed. Depends who gets there first - the wolves or Amanda.


Rain Dance (posted on: 01-09-06)
One I wrote a while back - seems appropriate at the moment.

Hang out the washing under bright blue skies See how it flaps in the wind that dries Now the clouds come Hear the drops drum Watch the rain, watch the rain fall. Slosh on the suds in a foam filled stream Polish the car till you see it gleam Lightning will flash Thunder will crash Watch the rain, watch the rain fall. If ever you feel that you need some rain These ancient rituals I must explain. For a gentle shower or full blown gale, Just do as I say and you cannot fail. Garden all dry under hot bright sun? Water it well when the day is done. Let it soak in 'Cos you can't win Watch the rain, watch the rain fall.
Archived comments for Rain Dance
orangedream on 01-09-2006
Rain Dance
Lilke this one a lot. Nicely constructed and extremely pleasing and its subject, one that I can identify with one hundered percent.

regards
orangedream

Author's Reply:
Thanks orange. It came to me one day, as I dashed out to bring the washing in.

RoyBateman on 01-09-2006
Rain Dance
Very amusing...and yes, I DID wash the car a couple of days ago - it hissed down. Still, we've had a bloody drought here all summer, so it was actually welcome! You hit the nail right on the head with this one.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy. Not everyone appreciates that car washing, garden watering etc are actually ancient rain-making rituals ...

niece on 02-09-2006
Rain Dance
Oh, yes, Shadow, been through that myself...in fact, just a couple of days ago. But fortunately in Mumbai, it happens only during the rainy season between June to September...
By the way, a good fun poem...
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Lucky you. Here every season is (potentially) rainy season. Thanks for comment.


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 7 (posted on: 28-08-06)
In which Jabez is seduced by an Older Woman.

Jabez killed the engine at the top of the slope. Below him the ancient pile of Hasbene Hall nestled in its valley, surrounded by gently rolling hills. The house was undoubtedly old. Built under the Tudors, embellished by the Jacobeans, knocked about a bit during the civil war, given a new frontage in the eighteenth century and a new wing by the Victorians, the end result was a bit of a mess, though picturesque when seen from the right angle. Jabez gazed down at it gloomily. As an ambitious young sales executive, he should be relishing the challenge. Certainly the Sales Manager assumed that he was. 'You go in there and wow them,' Charlie Mildew had instructed during his pep talk the previous afternoon. 'Show you've got what it takes. And remember, this is a critical time for the company - if we lose this account the financial people will not be happy. Not happy at all. There have been rumours that Sir Willy might be throwing a wobbly - but don't you worry. Everything you need is in the file. Anyway, it's Lady Frances you want to watch out for. If she likes you you're home and dry. ' Jabez glanced at the fat folder on the seat beside him, and wished he had got round to reading it. Too late now. He put the Jag into gear and glided down the hill. A large sign in green and gold announced 'Hasbene Hall - Conference Centre'. He drove between two lodge cottages like an outsize cruet set, and over a rustic stone bridge, then into an avenue of ancient elms. He slammed on the brakes. 'Oi! Watch it!' A large horse had appeared from nowhere. A horse apparently mounted on another horse. That couldn't be right. Jabez blinked. No, the one on top was a female, human-type. Still, the resemblance was uncanny. He wound down the window. 'Everything okay?' he asked nervously. One of the horses had dismounted and was examining the legs of the other. She straightened up with a grunt. 'No thanks to you, driving around like a maniac. Who the hell are you anyway?' 'Er - I'm from Amalgamated Parts. I've an appointment with Sir Wilfrid.' 'Amalgamated? Humph. Not seen you before. What have you done with the good-looking one?' 'Mr Sharpe has moved on,' said Jabez, gritting his teeth. 'Go on up to the house then. I'll be with you as soon as I've got Mr Darcy rubbed down.' Jabez parked on the gravel by the massive front door. There was no sign of a doorbell, but as the door stood open he wandered inside. The air struck chill after the warmth of the summer morning. As his eyes grew used to the gloom he became aware of the rows of moth-eaten stags which stared balefully down at him from the oak panelled walls. He shivered. 'Ah, there you are,' a voice boomed behind him. He turned. 'Lady Frances?' A large grey hairy beast, like a werewolf crossed with a grizzly bear, reared up before him. His knees sagged as two paws like pile drivers landed on his shoulders. 'Help!' he croaked. 'Down, Dinky. Good girl. It's all right, she's only being friendly. Dinky! I said leave it! Put it down. Sorry about that. Still, wasn't a new jacket, was it?' 'No,' lied Jabez. 'So what's your name? I thought I knew all Amalgamated's young men, but I don't remember seeing you before.' 'Pigstock. Jabez Pigstock.' 'Hmm. Not one of the Barking Pigstocks?' 'I shouldn't think so,' said Jabez. 'Probably just as well. So what can I do for you?' 'I've come to see Sir Willy. He's expecting me.' 'Ah. I'm afraid Willy has had to go up to town. Unexpectedly. You'll have to make do with me.' 'Oh - er - that's unfortunate,' said Jabez. Unfortunate for Amalgamated, certainly. Jabez thought back to Charlie Mildew's last words. 'Get the old bugger to sign, or it's shit creek for us. Don't let him wriggle out of it. If there's any suspicion in certain quarters that this deal might fall through - well, just do it.' Which was all very well, but a bit difficult to reconcile with the instructions e-mailed him the day before by Morgan Spline. Now the problem was, if not solved, at least postponed. Jabez was very much in favour of postponing problems, in the hope that they would eventually disappear. Or at least turn into different problems. However, he tried to look suitably downcast. 'Any idea when he'll be back?' 'None at all,' said Lady Frances, cheerfully. 'I'd better be getting along, then.' 'No need to rush off, after coming all this way. You can stop for a spot of lunch, surely?' 'Well, er - ' He knew he ought to say yes. The words of Morgan Spline still echoed in his mind. 'The wife is the key. Sir Willy … will do as he is told.' The trouble was, she terrified him. She was even scarier off her horse than on it. Luckily she did not wait for an answer. 'Come along.' Jabez followed her meekly into a large room furnished with brocaded sofas and occasional tables. Portraits glared down from the walls. 'Sit yourself down. How about a little drinkie? G and T?' 'It's a bit - ' Early, Jabez tried to say, Too late. She had already half filled a tumbler with gin, added a couple of ice cubes and a dash of tonic. 'Here.' She poured another for herself, then came to sit beside him on the sofa. The dog ensconced itself on his other side. Jabez started to feel distinctly hemmed in. He took a gulp of his gin. 'Lady Frances … ' 'Call me Fanny. Everyone does.' 'Fanny - er - it's awfully good of you … ' 'Nonsense. I like to have a young man around., especially with Willy away such a lot. Tell me, is your hair red all over?' Jabez edged away slightly. On his other side, the dog growled. 'Quiet, Dinky! So, what's all the gossip at Amalgamated, then? Have they arrested Cordelia yet?' 'Cor - who?' 'Pratt! For bumping of that funny little bald fella - whatsisname - Blunt..' 'Mrs Bilkington-Pratt has been questioned,' began Jabez, 'but - ' 'Come off it!' Lady Fanny dug him in the ribs. 'Everyone knows she done it. Mind you, I was surprised at Cordelia. She was such a timid little thing at school. Not the sort you'd imagine stuffing her knickers down anyone's throat.' 'They weren't her knickers!' gasped Jabez. This was not what he had intended saying, but the pressure of Lady Fanny's hand on his thigh had induced such a spasm of panic that he blurted out the first thing which came into his head. 'Not - ? Who's were they, then?' 'My lips are sealed!' Lady Fanny smiled at him, like a shark surveying a plump bather. 'Well, far be it from me to unseal them. Have some more gin.' She took the glass from his unresisting fingers and poured in another slug. 'Are you coming to this training session they're having in a week or two?' 'Yes.' Jabez had forgotten that the 'Bonding Weekend' was being held in Hasbene Hall. 'Good, good. I'm sure you're looking forward to it. Chance to show your initiative.' 'Of course.' Like hell I am, he thought. He took another large swig of gin. 'Would you like to see the facilities? We've plenty of time before lunch.' 'Yes please,' Jabez agreed with enthusiasm. Anything to get out of this sofa. He did not like the way she had pushed him into the corner. 'Bring your drink.' She led the way out of the room. Jabez followed her ample rump up the main staircase. He wished the stairs would stop going up and down in such a disconcerting manner. 'We've turned the ballroom into the main conference hall,' Lady Fanny indicated double doors on her left, 'smaller meeting rooms along here, and the Delegate's Bar. And here,' she flung open a door, 'we have the delegates' sleeping accommodation.' Jabez found himself ushered into a small room containing a single bed, dressing table, shower cubicle with a long window leading onto a balcony. 'What do you think?' 'Er - very nice?' 'You ought to try the bed.' 'Oh, I don't need - ' 'Nonsense. Have a bounce.' She removed the glass from his nerveless fingers, then pushed him hard in the chest. He landed on his back on the bed, which was indeed surprisingly comfortable. He could do with a little rest. He lay smiling at the ceiling, while the room revolved gently around him. A movement drew his eye, and he strove to focus, only to be gripped by a spasm of terror. She couldn't be - yes, she was - Two enormous orbs, tipped by dark brown nipples, swung threateningly above him. Lady Fanny, totally starkers, knelt on the bed looking down at him. Jabez wriggled ineffectually. He tried to explain that, although as a valued customer she was eligible for all manner of special offers, he didn't really go for the Junoesque type. The words congealed in his throat. All he could manage to utter was an inarticulate squawk of dismay, as her hand found his zip. 'No - gerroff,' he whimpered. 'Silly boy! I'm not going to hurt you..' Gently she eased his chinos over his hips. 'Why, what a fine upstanding young man you are.' Someone should have warned him. Hadn't there been a suspicion of a smirk on Charlie Mildew's face when he'd said, 'Watch out for Lady Frances'? And Luke Sharpe - he must have known as well. Bastards! When he got back he'd - Desperately he tried to rise, but her weight pinned him to the bed. His struggles were growing weaker. He had almost given himself up for lost when he heard a voice calling below. 'Hey! Fanny! Are you there? Anyone home?' Lady Fanny sat up with a snort of annoyance. 'Willy? What's he doing back? Drat it! They must have cancelled the trains again.' She rolled off him and got to her feet. 'Still, you'll be able to get that signature now.' She opened the door and went out, calling, 'Willy? We're up here, dear.' Jabez had lost all interest in paper signing. He sprang from the bed, took one step and fell flat, as his trousers and underpants tangled round his ankles. Kicking them off and bundling them under his arm, he staggered to the window. Thank God, it was not locked. He squeezed out onto the balcony. Unfortunately it was not a proper balcony, in fact it was too narrow to stand on. Jabez clambered on to the balustrade. He looked down, and gulped. It was a horribly long way down. He wanted to put his trousers on, but no way was he going to risk standing on one leg. He had to get out of here. The front of the house was covered in thick strands of Virginia creeper. Dare he risk it? Through the window he heard faint voices. Sir Willy and Lady Fanny were returning. That settled it. Trying his trousers round his waist to provide some protection, he grasped the thickest stem and began to climb. For a minute all was well, but as he descended the strands began to pull away from the wall. He tried to increase his pace, but while he was still several feet from the ground the strands gave way, to deposit him in a rose bed. Manfully holding back a howl of agony, he listened for noises from above. All was silence. Extricating himself from the rose bush was almost as painful as the initial encounter, but at last he was free. He untied his chinos and bent to retrieve his boxers, which had fallen out of the pocket, when the was transfixed by an unearthly, spine-chilling shriek.. 'Ouch!' Something had stabbed him in the rear. He whirled round and stared in dismay. A hundred eyes stared back. It was too much. Moaning pitifully, he fled across the gravel to his car, hotly pursued by a peacock.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 7
RoyBateman on 28-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 7
Hilarious! Very visual stuff...it's a pity this isn't on the telly, it'd be far more entertaining than most of the manure that is.
ps. Hey, I only just realised...Juno and the Paycock? A literary connection, eh?? Oh, very witty!

Author's Reply:
D'you think they'd allow it on telly? Channel 5 maybe ... I never noticed the Juno & Paycock reference. Wow! I'm even cleverer than I thought I was!

Seebaruk on 28-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 7
Hey Shadow, this is pretty entertaining stuff! Poor old Jabez. I bloody hate peacocks, I wish he'd wrung its stupid neck! I'll have to hunt out the other chapters...

Author's Reply:
Thanks seebaruk - I've nothing against peaccks myself - decorative birds, although I believe a bit tough and tasteless, unless cooked slowly in a casserole. Don't think Jabez is very keen though.

e-griff on 28-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 7
read on, McGriff......

one thing: 'should have been relishing'

Author's Reply:
Should I have? Thanks griff.

niece on 31-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 7
Hi Moya,
Entertaining, as usual...:D...looking forward to more...
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece - I'll try and keep 'em coming.

len on 25-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 7
Jabez was very much in favour of postponing problems, in the hope that they would eventually disappear. Or at least turn into different problems.

Boy, can I relate!!..This is halarious, buddy..Nothing seems to go smoothly for Jabez, does it?.. Lady Fanny!!...What a TOMATO!!...len

Author's Reply:

shadow on 25-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 7
Yes, poor Jabez does not have much luck with birds ... thanks for comment.

Author's Reply:


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 6 (posted on: 21-08-06)
In which Jabez meets the villain of the piece.

Bertram looked up as he approached. 'Glad you could manage to fit in a visit,' he said. 'Sit down.' Jabez lowered himself stiffly into a chair. 'I came as soon as I got out of hospital.' 'Ah, yes.' Bertram tutted sympathetically. 'Does it still hurt?' 'Yes.' 'Never mind. Can I get you a coffee? Latte or cappuccino?' As Bertram trotted off to the counter, Jabez looked around. Quodbury Open Prison had certainly changed since its takeover by Consolidated Legal Incarcerations (CLINC) plc. This new Coffee Shop, for instance. Much more comfortable than the old visiting room. And the new designer uniforms the prisoners were wearing, each with CLINC's distinctive ball-and-chain logo - very smart. Just showed how wrong all those people were, who insisted that prisons were never meant to be profitable. 'So, why did you want to see me?' asked Jabez, as Bertram returned with two large cappuccinos. 'Why shouldn't I want to see you? Of course, you're a busy man now, being so much in the public eye …' Jabez winced. The last few days had been a nightmare. It was bad enough ending up wedged head first down a plastic Wishing Well with his arse hanging out of his trousers, without the pictures being splashed all over the local paper. He had a fleeting daydream of tracking down the person who first thought of adding a camera to a mobile phone, and thrusting the aforementioned article someplace where it would be extremely difficult to extract. '… and maybe next time you could bring your lovely fiancιe.' That was another thing. Somehow Amanda had stopped being his 'girl friend' and become his 'fiancιe'. Jabez ground his teeth. He hadn't even managed to kill the bloody cat. 'You said you had to see me. No-one else would do. I mean, couldn't it have waited? You'll be out in a few weeks.' 'That's the thing.' Bertram took a deep breath. 'I might not be.' 'What? You been a bad boy?' 'Certainly not! Quite the contrary. They are very pleased with me. So much so,' Bertram leaned forward, lowering his voice, 'they've asked me to stay on.' 'Stay on?' 'Working in the office. They say I'll be really useful, with my flair for creative accounting.' 'You were found out last time,' said Jabez unkindly. 'That was bad luck. And I haven't wasted my time in here, I've learned a lot. Anyway, what choice do I have? I need a job. Thingut and Tenterbelly won't have me back.' 'What does Wenda thinks about it?' 'She doesn't know yet.' Bertram looked up anxiously. 'Jabez, you mustn't tell her. Not till everything's settled.' 'But don't you want to get back to your - ' Jabez could have sworn he saw Bertram shudder. 'Oh, I see. Fair enough. But what's it all got to do with me?' 'Well, the details aren't finalised, I don't want - ah!' Two men had materialised beside their table. Large men, with faces like tombstones. 'Friends of yours?' 'Er, yes. May I introduce, ' Bertram gulped, 'Big Ed and Little Dick.' 'You're going to the Manager,' said Big Ed. 'He wants to see you,' said Little Dick. 'Now,' said Big Ed. 'But I haven't finished my coffee.' 'I really thing you ought to go,' murmured Bertram. They were extremely big men. They loomed. 'You coming or what?' said Little Dick. 'What's what?' His elbows were seized, and he found himself lifted from his chair. 'I'm coming, I'm coming!' The hold on his arms did not slacken as he was marched out of the Coffee Shop, feet barely touching the ground, and across the yard towards the main building. 'Here, steady on,' he gasped. 'What does your Manager want to see me for? I haven't done nothing.' Nether Big Ed nor Little Dick deigned to reply. Bloody Bertram, what's he got me into now, thought Jabez. I knew I shouldn't have come here, I'm too soft, that's my trouble. Wonder why, he mused as they crowded into the lift, one of them's called 'big' and the other 'little' when they're both exactly the same - ' Little Dick leaned over him. 'You say summat?' 'N-n-no!' The lift opened. Big Ed crossed to a heavy oak door, knocked, then stuck his head inside. 'We brought him, Boss.' 'Very well. You may go.' Jabez found himself pushed into darkness, as the door slammed behind him. 'Mr Pigstock?' The voice was smooth with a hint of danger, like melted chocolate laced with strychnine. Jabez blinked. Either the light was growing stronger or his eyes were getting used to the darkness. He could make out a desk with someone sitting behind it. He groped his way forward. Yes, it was getting lighter. As he drew near the desk he could make out the features of the man behind it. A face familiar from a thousand news broadcasts, feared by governments throughout the world. His knees weakened, and his mouth gaped like a gobsmacked haddock. 'Please sit down.' Jabez collapsed into the chair before the desk. 'What - you - you're - ' 'I see you have recognised me.' 'You're the - the manager?' he gasped. 'I am the Owner.' Jabez sat up and tried to pull himself together. 'You own CLINC?' 'Among other things.' That figured. Morgan Spline was the richest man on the planet. He more or less owned the planet. At least, he owned Global Systems Inc, which owned everything else. And here he was, in the actual same room. 'Is - is it really you?' said Jabez, fighting down an urge to prostrate himself on the carpet. 'Not quite. This is a projection, merely.' Indeed, now he looked closely he could see the figure was edged by the distinctive chromatic distortion of a holographic image. This should have made Jabez feel less nervous, but somehow it didn't. 'So. You are wondering, no doubt, why I summoned you. I wished to inspect you. You, young man, have caused me - inconvenience.' 'M-me?' 'You.' Suddenly the image leaned forward. 'What happened to Ambrose Blunt?' it hissed. 'I don't know,' Jabez squeaked. Immediately lights began to flash on the desk, accompanied by an agitated bleeping. 'Liar,' said Morgan Spline. 'I think you killed him.' 'I never!' With a supreme effort Jabez hauled his voice back from the stratosphere. 'Honest.' 'Then tell me what happened.' 'He had a heart attack,' said Jabez sullenly. 'We were hiding in Melanie Bilkington-Pratt's wardrobe, and Mrs B-P came in and said he was getting the push, and he keeled over. I never touched him. All I did was help Melanie move the body afterwards.' Silence. 'Hmm. It appears that this time you are telling the truth. You are a remarkable young man. Devious, ambitious, greedy and totally lacking in moral fibre. The sort of young man, in short, I might have an opening for.' The image behind the desk leaned back and placed its finger tips together. 'Tell me, Jabez, what would you say is my defining characteristic? What is the attribute for which I am best known?' Jabez floundered, searching for an answer that would be both truthful and polite. 'Never mind. This isn't a quiz show. I am Morgan Spline, the Man who Owns Everything. Right?' Jabez nodded. 'Wrong. I do no own everything. In particular, I do not own Amalgamated Parts. Yet.' 'You want to take us over? And old Pratty won't play?' 'Exactly. Well done. These old family firms - complete anachronisms of course. So I need inside information. I did have a well-placed source, but unfortunately he, er, keeled over. So the position is vacant, in every sense. So, are you interested? You appear to be an enterprising young man, and an opportunity like this does not come up every day.' 'But - but - how do you know I'll get Blunt's job? There's others after it. Luke Sharpe, for starters.' 'Ah yes, the gilded Luke. I had great hopes of him, in fact you could say I was grooming him - and then you appeared. As if from nowhere. You swept him from the board. And to the winner go the spoils - if he is man enough to seize them.' 'If I agree,' said Jabez, 'what do I get out of it?' 'Let me think. Ambrose Blunt's job for a start, with commensurate salary and perks, and possibly a seat on the board in due time. Then, provided you fulfil the tasks I assign you, a bonus of one million pounds, placed in a Swiss bank account of your choice. Finally, you will be employed by Global Systems - and for someone of your capabilities, the possibilities in that are literally endless.' The image of Morgan Spline leaned forward, its hooded eyes boring into him. 'What is your answer?' Jabez recognised this as the defining moment of his career, even of his life. Everything he had ever wanted was within his grasp - money, power influence. Not to mention the prospect of permanent triumph over Luke Sharpe. Of course, Morgan Spline would own him, body and (hypothetical) soul. He'd have to give up any ideas of loyalty, and friendship, not to mention the principles he'd signed up to when he took his oath as a Boy Scout. Was that what he truly wanted? Or - was this the moment to show the Spline creep what a Pigstock was made of? Jabez took a deep breath. 'Yes,' he said.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 6
e-griff on 21-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 6
Of course! πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Thank you, sir.

niece on 22-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 6
Hi Shadow,
I've managed to catch up finally...Good write! and enjoy the situations Jabez is getting into...inlcuding the ones in the previous chapters...!
Looking forward to more...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece - glad your still with me - I just saw your privious post, I nearly missed it cos I don't get notifications nowadays - Anyway thanks ever so for the comments, they make it all worthwhile!

RoyBateman on 24-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 6
And why not? I'd have cracked his knuckles snatching the opportunity. Some great laughs again - CLINC for instance. Excellent stuff - I'm enjoying every episode, even if I don't get round to 'em immediately!

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy - thanks for reading - glad you're still enjoying Jabez's misadaventures.

len on 20-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 6
What is a gobsmacked haddock???...MY American slip is showing..:O)..I love your character's names. Little Dick would be just a great handle to be stuck with in prison.. I love you, not so heroic hero, Shadow...Very funny stuff..yer pal, len

Author's Reply:
It's a haddock that's been smacked in the gob. Don't they have haddock round your way? It's a fish (usually accompanied by chips). By the way, passing remarks on Little Dick's name is not a good idea, as many a fellow inmate has found to his cost ... Thanks for the kind words πŸ™‚


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 5 (posted on: 18-08-06)
In which Jabez encounters an Imperial Persian and an inebriated parrot.

As Jabez was driving home that night his mobile rang. He picked it up, saw that it was his mother, and threw it back on the seat. She could wait. He needed a shower and maybe a drink or two before nerving himself to ring back. In fact, he could do with a drink or three anyway. This promised to be a stressful evening. Why on earth had he agreed to go to Amanda's place for dinner? He'd managed to fend off all such invitations up till now. Yet Amanda wasn't that bad. She had a loving and generous nature, not to mention superb tits. The problem was, theoretically, having a woman throw herself at you sounded great. In reality it made Jabez uncomfortable. Took away his initiative, his freedom to manoeuvre. One of his ex-girlfriends had once accused him of being 'afraid of commitment'. Well, he wasn't afraid. He was bloody terrified. Later, when showered, changed and ready to go out, Jabez remembered his mother's call. Better ring the old bat, he thought. She'll only keep bothering me all evening if I don't. 'Hi, Ma, what's the problem?' 'Problem? I don't have any problems. Except for having a son who doesn't answer his phone - could have been lying here on the floor with a broken leg or something, for all you cared.' 'Well, you're not are you? And if you were you've got Deirdre. So do you want anything in particular, or is this just a general moan?' 'You haven't forgotten, you're supposed to be paying poor Bertram a visit?' 'No, of course not.' Though he'd hoped she had. 'But what does he want to see me for?' 'He never said. But it has to be you, he's very insistent.' Jabez groaned inwardly. He hated the very thought of that place. It was full of criminals. And not even successful ones. What if anyone at work found out that his very own brother was so inept … 'Visiting's on Thursday afternoon. He's expecting you.' 'I don't know if I can manage the time off.' 'You'll manage,' said his mother, firmly. 'Now you'd better go. Don't want to keep your young lady waiting.' 'She's not my - how did you know?' gasped Jabez. 'Saw it in my crystal ball.' Bugger her and her crystal balls, thought Jabez. Amanda's house was a Tudor-style semi in a quiet suburban street. Jabez felt rather than saw lace curtains twitching all around, as he parked the Jag outside the gate. The front garden was full of gnomes in various gnomish attitudes: digging, fishing, sitting on toadstools or simply standing around. Dozens of black beady eyes seemed to follow him as he mounted a short flight of steps to the front door and rang the bell. The musical chimes had scarcely time to play the first line of 'There's no place like home' before the door was flung open. 'Jabie, darling!' Jabez found himself being kissed enthusiastically before being dragged into the house. 'I am so glad you're nice and early, Mum's doing one of her specials for dinner, she does hate it if people are late - Mum! He's here! - come and sit down, would you like a drink? There's sherry - or I think we have some tequila left from Christmas - ' 'Sherry will be fine.' He looked round the room while she was gone. Overstuffed three piece suite, amateur watercolours on the walls, a parrot in a cage in the window … Jabez wandered over to inspect it. 'Who's a pretty boy, then?' 'Piss off,' said the parrot. 'Ooh, he is naughty,' giggled Amanda, handing him a large glass of sweet sherry. 'We're trying to re-educate him, we had him from the Animal Shelter, we don't think he can have come from a very good home.' 'Ouch!' said Jabez. 'Oh dear, I should have warned you not to put your hand on his cage, he's very territorial, the bird psychologist said he must have had a lot of trauma in his early life, here, take my hanky, I'm sure the bleeding will stop in a minute.' 'Nearly had my finger off.' Jabez took a large swig of sherry and choked. Yeurch! He had drunk cough mixtures with more finesse. He fixed his gaze on Amanda's bosom to try and take his mind off the taste. 'Er - nice jumper,' he said. The fluffy pink confection she was wearing did accentuate her curves in a satisfactory manner. 'You like it?' said Amanda, pleased. 'It's made out of Angora from my own rabbit, I spun the yarn and Mum knitted it, she's ever such a good knitter is Mum, would you like to see my rabbits? They're out the back, we've got time before dinner.' 'Do they bite?' Amanda giggled again. 'Of course not!' Jabez followed her, pausing on the way out to empty the rest of his sherry into the parrot's drinking bowl. Dinner turned out to be some kind of stew with a fancy name. 'Mum went to evening classes in Cordon Bleu, didn't you, Mum?' said Amanda proudly. Her mum beamed and ladled another dollop onto Jabez's plate. Jabez looked from her to Amanda and back again. It was uncanny. Mum was slightly shorter, and quite a bit wider, but apart from that they were identical. Same fluffy blonde hair, same woolly jumpers, same non-stop chatter. 'And then that Mr Shufflebottom from Accounts, you remember, Mum, I told you about him at the Christmas party - ' 'Wasn't he the one who - ?' 'That's right, with the photocopier - ' 'Did he ever get the stain out?' 'He never said - only he came in the office yesterday looking ever so …' Jabez relaxed. It was really quite soothing once you stopped listening, like the distant sound of the sea. He had nothing to do with his mouth except push food into it, and the stew wasn't half bad. He slipped into a pleasant daydream, in which he sat behind the Area Manager's desk, gazing down at a cowering Luke Sharpe. 'These figure's are very disappointing …' he was saying … 'Would you like some more cheesecake, Jabez dear?' Regretfully Jabez decided that another slice of cheesecake might not be advisable. 'Are you sure? Then if you'd like to go into the front room, Amanda will bring the coffee. I have to go out - ' 'It's Mum's Coven night, she never misses,' said Amanda. 'I try to keep up, and tonight Miss Crowe is covering Removal of Curses, it's a very important part of the course … ' 'You get off, Mum, I'll see to everything.' Jabez staggered into the next room and collapsed into an armchair, only to leap up again as a dozen needles pierced his backside. He realised that what he had taken to be a cushion more nearly resembled the furry objects sound recordists thrust in the face of celebrities. Except it was round rather than elongated, and from its mouth poured a stream of feline invective. 'Oh, you've met Xerxes, that's nice,' said Amanda, coming in with the coffee. Jabez glared back at the most evil-looking cat he had ever seen. Orange eyes stared balefully from a broad, flattened face. The thing was enormous, made even larger by the fact that every hair was stiffly erect. Xerxes lashed his tail and emitted a low, menacing 'Mrrrowoo.' 'Isn't he a poppet? Come and sit on the sofa.' Jabez drank his coffee, keeping a wary eye upon Xerxes, who had gone back to his chair. In a few minutes they heard a cheery 'Byeee!' from the hall, and the front door slammed. 'I didn't know your mum was a witch,' he said. 'She's not got her qualifications yet, she did evening classes last winter, and now she's taking a course with the O.U., the Occult University, that is, she has a tutorial every full moon …' Jabez clamped his mouth on hers (it really was the only way to stop her talking) and addressed himself to the important business of the evening - getting her out of the angora jumper (and everything else) while simultaneously divesting himself of all unnecessary clothing (basically, everything except his socks). Even as he squirmed, though, he could feel that feline gaze on the small of his back. It made him nervous. He wouldn't put it past the beast to jump him when he was most vulnerable. 'Can't you put the cat out?' he gasped. 'Oh no,' said Amanda, shocked. 'He wouldn't like that. He hates being disturbed once he's settled. My dad tried once, it was just before he left, he needed thirty-five stitches …' Jabez sighed, and put his mouth back. But he had to come up for air eventually. 'What's that funny noise?' said Amanda. Jabez listened. A low ululation assaulted his ears, gradually rising in pitch and volume. He disentangled himself and looked round. It came from the cage in the corner of the room. The parrot stood on its perch, eyes closed, swaying gently. Even as they watched it threw back its head and opened its beak. 'Did you ever see, did you ever see,' it warbled. 'Did you ever see such a funny thing before?' 'It's Apollonius,' cried Amanda. 'He's ill!' He certainly looked a bit the worse for wear. His feathers stuck out at odd angles, and his eyes were crossed. 'Oh, I got an Aunty Kitty,' he sang, And she's only got one titty, But it's very long and pointed And the nipple's double jointed. Did you ever see, did you - hic!' His voice faltered, and with another hiccup he toppled from his perch to lie flat out on the floor of his cage. 'Oh, what's the matter with him?' Amanda wrung her hands in distress. 'Can't you do something?' With a twinge of dismay Jabez remembered disposing of his aperitif. A glance in the parrot's water jar confirmed it. Apollonius had imbibed nearly his own volume in sweet sherry. No wonder he was legless. Probably better not to mention this to Amanda. 'I could try the kiss of life,' he suggested. 'Oh, please,' begged Amanda, her bosom heaving with emotion. 'Poor Polly!' Jabez tore his eyes away and approached the cage. He reached in, picked up the unconscious Apollonius and laid him on his back on the coffee table. I hope this works better than it did with old Blunt, he thought. But even as he bent over the still form, lips puckered, an eldritch screech sounded behind him and a fur-covered sandbag struck him between the shoulder blades. Amanda screamed as he staggered forward, struggling to dislodge the clinging feline, while Apollonius, galvanised by his imminent peril, sprang back to life. 'Cats on the rooftop, cats on the tiles, Cats with the clap and cats with the piles,' he squawked. He flapped unsteadily around the room, cannoned off the back wall, then dived through the open window. Snarling, Xerxes sprang after him into the night. 'Oh no! Xerxes, come back, you naughty cat,' Amanda wailed. 'Please Jabez, you must save Polly, he's in terrible danger. I'll do anything …' 'Anything?' Jabez perked up. 'Anything!' That seemed an offer too good to refuse. Pausing only to pull up his trousers, Jabez let himself out of the front door. Xerxes had disappeared, possibly lurking among the gnomes. The whereabouts of Apollonius, on the other hand, were obvious, as the chorus of 'Roll me over in the Clover' floated down from the rooftop. Squinting up, Jabez could see the outline of the parrot, perched on the chimney stack. 'I can't get up there,' he protested. 'Can't we leave him there till he - ' he was about the say, sobers up ' - recovers?' 'But what about Xerxes?' Amanda had joined him in the garden. 'Polly's more than a match for him when he's fit, but now …' 'O this is number one, and the fun has just begun,' carolled Apollonius. 'Oh dear, what will the neighbours think?' Amanda began to sob. A small knot of onlookers had already began to gather by the garden gate. 'I can't do anything without a ladder. Have you got one?' Amanda shook her head. 'Perhaps we should call the Fire Brigade.' 'I got a ladder,' someone said. 'Oh shit,' muttered Jabez. But it was too late to back out now. In no time at all the helpful neighbour was back, with what Jabez considered to be an excessively long ladder. 'Oh this is number five I'm surprised I'm still alive,' sang Apollonius from above. 'Do be careful,' called Amanda. Oh, I will, thought Jabez fervently, as he mounted the swaying ladder. He still was not sure how he had got himself into this position. He hated heights. 'Oh this is number six, And he's got me doin' tricks … ' A sudden rush of adrenalin-fuelled rage took Jabez to the top of the ladder. If it was the last thing he did, he'd strangle that bloody bird. He stepped onto the tiles and began to drag himself painfully towards the rooftree. At last he was able to straddle it, and inch his way towards the chimney stack. Nearer and nearer he crept, unconscious of the cries of encouragement from below, until the befuddled parrot was only a yard away from his outstretched hand … 'Well this is number seven, And he took me straight to heaven Roll me over lay me down and do it again Roll me over in the clover, roll me - Awk!' Even as Jabez reached for the errant bird, a hiss like a venting steam boiler assaulted his ears, and Xerxes appeared from nowhere, eyes flaming orange. There was only one thing to do. As the hideous feline poised to spring, Jabez lunged forward and grabbed it by the tail. Unfortunately this was too much for his precarious balance. Apollonius flew up into the night sky, squawking wildly, while Amanda screamed below. Jabez and Xerxes, locked in a clawing, spitting embrace, slid gutterwards. For a moment he hung suspended, his trousers caught on a nail; then with a rending of material his last hope gave way, and he fell into the gaping darkness.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 5
e-griff on 19-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 5
I'm still reading kid....

don't know where everyone's got to .. mine's only got 8 reads (none today!) πŸ™‚

There's not that many going to the bleedin get-to are there?

Author's Reply:
Thanks griff, nice to see you keeping up. Perhaps everyone is on holiday? Mind you, I haven't commented on anything yet - sheer laziness I'm afraid.

calisto on 20-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 5
This made me titter out loud, which is rare; not since Vernon etc Little or whatever it's called. I would certainly buy it when/if published.

Author's Reply:
Thanks mate - if/when it ever is - I hope I can hold you to that!

RoyBateman on 21-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 5
What a combination - vicious feline and pissed-up parrot with a nautical vocabulary. Great stuff, and I'm amazed that this is isn't making the most-read charts. It deserves to, and the mugs don't know what they're missing!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy - I admit I have a soft spot for Apollonius and Xerxes.

len on 09-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 5
Some days go just the way you plan them..I know because I once had one of those days..."Piss off!" said the parrot..hee hee..len

Author's Reply:
Well, I hope you never had a day quite like that (if you have, please tell!).Thanks for the comment, and sorry for delay in reply - I don't get notified any more for some reason.


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 4 (posted on: 14-08-06)
In which Jabez finds his talents starting to receive the recognition they deserve.

Jabez drove to the office next morning in his old car, the standard company Skoda issued to junior salespeople. He would have liked to have taken the Jag, but decided against it. He sensed that his triumph had not met with universal approbation among his fellow workers. He would not put it past some of those jealous bastards to scratch the paintwork. Amalgamated Parts plc had its offices in a tower block in the centre of Blyscester. Jabez entered to find almost the entire staff waiting in the reception area. They greeted him with a rousing cheer. 'Our hero!' Daisy from Accounts rushed up to fling her arms round his neck. 'Gerroff!' Jabez fought her off. 'What's up?' 'Haven't you seen the paper?' Charlie Mildew the Head of Sales was waving a copy of the Blyscester Mail. 'Your're all over the front page.' Jabez shook his head. He had overslept, barely had time to grab a cup of coffee before leaving his flat. He took the paper and stared at it blearily. BLYSCESTER MAN IN DARING RESCUE shouted the headline. There was a picture as well, showing him dragging Amanda back up onto the jetty. His face was a bit blurred, but the photographer had managed a splendid shot of Amanda's legs. 'There was a mention on the telly as well,' said Daisy. 'On ''Good Morning Blyscester''. They spoke to Amanda at the hospital, but she didn't get to say much, they faded her out after a couple of seconds.' 'Is Amanda here?' 'She phoned in sick. She's still recovering from the ordeal. But you were ever so brave. Won't you tell us about it?' 'It was nothing,' began Jabez, smirking modestly. About time he got some reward for his efforts, he thought. Yesterday had been a nightmare. As well as ruining a pair of expensive and nearly new jeans, he'd had to wait around for hours at the hospital, then drive her home in the Jag. At least he had not succumbed to her fervent appeal to stay overnight. And there'd been nothing wrong with the bloody seagull! If it hadn't been for all those people hanging over the end of the pier, mobile phones flashing, he'd have left the silly woman to drown. 'Sorry to interrupt,' a cool voice broke in, 'but father would like a word.' 'Melanie!' gasped Jabez. 'If you can tear yourself away?' Jabez smiled apologetically at his cluster of admirers and followed her into the executive lift. 'What are you doing here?' 'Father thought I should get some work experience, so I'm standing in for his PA.' 'Er - thing's okay at home?' 'Certainly. Apart from the police crawling all over the place and daddy threatening divorce and mother in imminent danger of arrest for murder, everything's fine.' 'Oh.' ''Whatever possessed you to stuff my kecks down his throat?' burst out Melanie. 'We could have passed off the death as natural causes but for that.' 'I was only trying to keep him quiet. Do they think that's what killed him?' Melanie shrugged. 'We don't know yet, they're still doing tests.' The lift stopped at the top floor and they got out. 'In you go,' said Melanie, indicating the door opposite. At first Jabez thought the vast office was empty, but then he spied the portly figure of Bilkington-Pratt standing by the window the far end. He approached the great man, skirting on the way what looked like an overflowing waste bin (but was probably Modern Art). He coughed. 'Ah, Pigstock.' B-P turned and beamed at him. 'You've become quite the celebrity, I understand. Sit down, sit down.' Jabez sank into the low chair in front of the desk. He smiled, trying to convey modesty mingled with a underlying sense of his own worth. 'Yes, I like to see a young man showing a flair for publicity. I was particularly pleased to see you got the company's name into the news reports. Well done.' 'It was nothing, really,' murmured Jabez. 'Let me see - you have been with us, how long?' 'Three years, sir.' 'Remind me, what was the last big sale you made for us?' 'Er -' Jabez felt his palms go damp. Did B-P realise that he had never actually made a big sale, all on his own? It wasn't his fault, he had just been unlucky. Time and again he had been on the verge of something, only to have the prospective customer go bankrupt, or be taken over. Or else he would set one up only the have someone else come in at the last minute and snatch away the prize. Life was not fair. 'Never mind, Ambrose will know - ' The boss paused, and wiped away a tear. 'I keep forgetting. Poor Ambrose. He will be difficult to replace. However, that is one of the things I wished to discuss with you.' 'You did?' squeaked Jabez. 'I had one candidate in mind already, but there's nothing like healthy competition. Are you ambitious?' Jabez nodded fervently. 'Good. I have decided to try you with the Hasbene Account. Your friend Sharpe has it at the moment, but I am a little disappointed with that young man. He seems to lack the killer instinct.' Bilkington-Pratt stared from under his beetling brows. 'I am handing you a great responsibility, young man. Lord Hasbene is one of our oldest customers, but there have been rumours … though if you can handle an older woman as successfully as a younger, I think you will be the man for this job. Are you up for it?' 'Yes sir, please sir,' gasped Jabez 'That's the spirit. Sharpe will fill you in on the details. Oh, and send Melanie as you go.' Jabez rose, resisting an urge to bow, and scuttled out. Alone in the lift he wanted to dance. He could not believe how well things were working out. A week ago he had been a junior salesperson with dodgy CV. Now he was in charge of a prestigious account, and a serious contender for the Area Manager's job. Well, he could do it. Jabez may have had he faults (as he would be the first to admit) but lack of faith in his own abilities was not one of them. The best bit of all, the thing which made him hug himself and jig up and down with glee, was the thought that this was really going to piss off Luke Sharpe. Luke was at his desk when he returned to the office. Jabez sauntered across. 'Just had a word with The Pratt.' 'Oh yes?' Luke did not look up. 'I'm taking over the Hasbene account. He said you had the details.' Silently Luke pushed a fat folder towards him. 'Ta. I was wondering -' 'Mmmm?' ' - if you had any advice?' At this Luke raised his head, teeth bared in a snarl. 'Yes, I've got some advice. Why don't you take your account, and your trophy, and your bloody Jag, and stuff them up your arse?' Jabez smirked. 'Never mind Lukie. You can't win 'em all.' Next day Amanda was back behind her desk in Reception. She pounced on him as he tried to sidle past. 'Jabie love! Are you all right now? Did you see me on the telly? I missed it myself but Mum recorded it for me. I thought you looked fantastic! And so modest. Anyone would think you saved people's lives everyday.' 'Umm,' said Jabez. One of the most annoying things about the episode had been that he had missed the broadcast of his interview. Imagine being on the News, and having no record of the event. All he could remember was the discomfort of his drying jeans, and the way the reporter had only been interested in his relationship with Amanda. 'Anyway, I want to say thank you so I was wondering if you would like to come for dinner tonight? I've told Mum so much, she's dying to meet you, she's never met anyone famous before, well she did stand next to Frankie Howerd once, in the monkey house at the zoo, but they didn't speak, you will come won't you?' 'Er -' said Jabez. 'Oh good, will seven o'clock be okay, that would give me time to get it ready and sort Mum out, you know where I live don't you? Are you going on the Motivational Weekend?' Jabez blinked. 'The what?' 'Haven't you seen, it's on the notice board, it's at some big posh country house, we're supposed to learn how to bond, it's all free, everyone's going., you'll need to hurry if you want to put your name down, there's only a few places left.' Jabez studied the piece of paper pinned to the notice board in the main office. He hated these affairs. In his experience they always involved embarrassment and humiliation for someone - usually him. There was already a sizeable list of names, among them Melanie's. That put a different complexion on the matter. He would not mind bonding with her. No sign of Luke's name though, which was odd. He was usually the first to volunteer for these events. 'Looking to sharpen up your motivation, Jabbers?' said a familiar voice behind him. Jabez turned slowly. Luke was watching him, his sculptured lips curving in a sneer. 'Maybe,' Jabez shrugged. 'Maybe not. I mean, it's all a load of bollocks, innit. Some of us have better things to do.' 'Yeah, who needs them?' agreed Luke. 'I heard this one is more for the people in the running for Blunt's job - so there wouldn't be much point in you going anyway.' 'Why shouldn't I?' 'You!' Luke laughed. 'Punching a bit above our weight, aren't we? What gives you the idea you have a chance?' 'Something old B-P said the other day.' That wiped the smirk off Luke's face. 'I reckon I'm as good as anyone,' went on Jabez. 'And I notice you haven't signed up either.' 'A little bird told me I didn't need to.' 'Your little bird has been wrong before.' Luke stepped forward, his handsome face twisted with rage, and grabbed Jabez by the collar. 'I don't know what you've got on Melanie,' he snarled, 'but you can just keep away from her. All right?' 'Eurrgh,' said Jabez, toes scrabbling at the carpet. Luke dropped him and turned back to the notice. He took out a pen and signed his name with a flourish. 'There,' he said. 'Now you - if you're man enough. Let's see who bonds best.' Jabez did not hesitate. He'd taken quite enough from this supercilious bastard. He'd show him. He grasped the pen, and wrote.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 4
shackleton on 14-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 4
There's always a zany sense of fun about your stories, Shadow. I enjoyed this chapter - I do read most of your work but seldom get time to comment. I love the expressions 'universal approbation' and 'supercilious bastard'. I wish I could link them both in a poem. Enjoying your work! Bye now.

Author's Reply:
Thanks shacks - I am very fond of Jabez - just hope he's as fun to read as his is to write.

RoyBateman on 15-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 4
This is clicking along at a smart gallop! I'm thoroughly enjoying it, too - it has some very neat funny touches. Keep it up!
(In the nicest possible way, of course.)

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy, I'm trying (to keep it up, I mean) πŸ˜‰

e-griff on 15-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 4
Yes, after my ungentlemanly yawn, I've just read all four episodes to date. What fun!!!!

er, typo: 'is the runniing'

Author's Reply:
Glad you managed to stay awake! Thanks for pointing out typo (not the only one, just realised damn piece is full of them. Comes of posting in a hurry while other half bangs on about me 'hogging the computer'. As if I would!)


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 3 (posted on: 11-08-06)
In which Jabez falls foul of a bird.

The green Jaguar V6S purred like a contented pussycat as Jabez drove slowly along the front at Bagwash-on -Sea. Only a week since he had acquired the vehicle, and the novelty had not yet worn off. It was a warm Sunday afternoon, and the place was jumping. Sunlight glinted off the waves, and through the open car windows wafted the mingled odours of rotting seaweed, fried onions and candyfloss. Jabez leered at a pair of girls in bikini tops and microscopic shorts. He considered offering them a lift, but there was nowhere to stop, and the tide of traffic swept him inexorably onwards. Never mind, plenty more where they came from, and anyway, he mustn't let himself be distracted. Business before pleasure. As the pier came into view, he turned left into a street which led away from the sea, climbing the hill into town. This was as traffic choked as the seafront. He crawled upwards, past rock shops, cafes and emporia of tat, turning off eventually into a narrow alley (nearly flattening a couple of pedestrians in the process). A few yards into the alley a pair of familiar gates stood open. He drove into a small yard and parked beside the dustbins. He got out and stretched, looking around with some disgust. The place was as dilapidated as ever. Why she insisted in staying in this dump - it wasn't as if she couldn't afford better- a nice little bungalow maybe. But there was no shifting her. 'I like it here, I'd be bored stiff stuck in some suburb with a lot of toffee-nosed neighbours,' she insisted. 'And I'm glad of the company, now your father's gone.' A flight of concrete steps led up to a wooden door, its green paint peeling. A black cat watched him from the top step as he climbed. It hissed and fled when he aimed a kick at it. No one answered his knock. 'Bugger.' He went back down the steps, out of the yard and round to the front of the building. The ground floor was occupied by a shop front, tastefully painted in black and purple. The sign above it said 'Wyrd Sisters: prop. Deirdre Crowe' in almost impenetrable Gothic lettering. Jabez strode past the window display of pentangles, crystal balls, tarot cards etc without a glance. Bells jangled as he pushed open the door. Inside, only the feeble flicker of a couple of scented candles pierced the gloom. Jabez groped his way across the floor, ducking his head to avoid the stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling. Something sinuous and furry wound itself round his ankles, and he realised the black cat had followed him in. Another feline, grey this time with amber eyes, watched him from the counter top. 'Oi, shop!' called Jabez. A curtain of crystal drop tinkled as an angular, black-clad figure glided into view. Skeletally thin, with greying hair straggling over her shoulders, she was not yet a crone, but was definitely working up to it. 'Hi, Deirdre. Ma not in?' 'She's gone down the pier. You should have phoned to say you were coming.' 'You mean she never saw it in the tea leaves? She must be slipping.' 'Would you like a cup of tea? There's a pot of camomile and juniper brewed.' Jabez shuddered. 'No thanks. I'd better go and find Ma. Okay if I leave the Jag in the yard?' 'New car, then? My, we are going up in the world.' 'Made Salesman of the Year last week,' said Jabez, watching to see if she was suitably impressed. 'Ah.' said Deirdre, unmoved. 'That spell worked, then?' 'Spell?' Deirdre Crowe was always foisting her spells on him, and they hardly ever worked. Well, the one to get rid of his freckles had, after a fashion. Except he hadn't wanted them replaced by acne. 'That good luck one I sent for your birthday.' 'Oh yeah. Worked a treat.' Deirdre smiled, baring a row of pointed fangs. She hadn't been bad looking once, in a sub-Hammer kind of way. To be honest, she made Jabez nervous, even though she was one of his mother's oldest friends. He wondered, not for the first time, if she really was a vampire. 'I'll be off then.' He took a step back and trod on a cat. A cacophony of squalling ensued, and cries of 'Poor Grimsby - hush, Scarborough, come to Mummy!', during which he was able to make his escape. The pier was still bathed in sunshine. It's cast-iron kiosks, newly painted, had not changed for as long as Jabez could remember. No doubt they had looked exactly the same the day the late Horace Pigstock, (organiser of the Blyscester Co-Operative Society Annual Staff outing) had walked past them to meet his fate, in the shape of Madame Lola, Prognosticator to the Stars. Jabez followed in his father's footsteps, sweating slightly in the heat. He was making for a kiosk which stood halfway along the pier, its windows covered in cabbalistic signs and pictures of minor (now defunct) celebrities. The door was shut, and a notice tacked to it announced that Madame Lola would be free shortly. 'Shit,' said Jabez, and sat down on a nearby bench to wait. He hoped this was not going to be one of Ma's longer sessions. She could go on for hours sometimes. He retreated into a corner as a family with small children invaded his bench. Ice creams, for God's sake. If any of those brats came near his new jeans he'd - He looked up in relief as the kiosk door opened, then froze. It couldn't be! What the hell was she doing here? He turned his head away, praying she had not seen him. Not that he had anything against Amanda Goodbody. In fact when she had first come to work in Reception he had really fancied her. Face not too bad, body lived up to its name. But that was before he'd discovered that she could talk for England. Anything you told her went in the ears and straight out of the mouth, and as for keeping anything secret - you might as well hit the 'Reply All' button and be done with it. Unfortunately, though he had quickly gone off Amanda, she had not gone off him. He risked another glance. She was walking away towards the Pier End Cafι. She had not seen him. He sighed with relief, got up and darted into the kiosk. His mother was seated at a small table, staring into her crystal ball. She was a small woman, less than five feet tall and about the same in circumference, swathed in a number of diaphanous shawls and scarves, her plump arms jangling with bracelets. She looked up as he entered. 'Nice girl, your young woman,' she said. 'She's not my young woman,' snapped Jabez. 'Hey, you didn't tell her you were my mother?' 'Course not. But why isn't she, then? She fancies you. About time you settled down. I want some grandchildren while I still have the energy to cope.' 'But you've got grandchildren! There's Everard's two - ' 'Fat lot of use they are, in Florida And Aubrey won't be producing any -' 'Not unless his Derek has a sex change, true. But Wenda and Bertram have dozens.' 'You can't expect Wenda to visit, in her situation.' 'Not that you'd want Weepy Wenda around much,' grunted Jabez. 'Now then,' said his mother, severely. 'Poor Wenda's had a lot to put up with. Which reminds me, Bertram would like you to visit.' 'What!' Jabez sat up, alarmed. 'Why me?' 'Why not? He's your brother. You've only been once since he was sent down. Anyway, he's asking for you.' 'But - but - ' Jabez searched for an excuse. 'It's miles away.' 'You've got that new car.' 'How did you know that?' Madame Lola grinned. 'I'm psychic, aren't I? But enough of that. How have you been doing? Anything interesting happen lately?' 'Nothing much' said Jabez. 'The Area Manager died. Dropped dead in Mrs Bilkington-Pratt's bedroom, apparently. 'Dear me.' Madame Lola brightened up. 'What was he doing there?' Jabez shrugged. 'She says she doesn't know. But I'll tell you something - when they found him he had a pair of frilly knickers stuffed down his throat.' 'The things people get up to,' sighed his mother. 'Still. That means there'll be a vacancy for Area Manager, doesn't it?' 'Yeah. But that bugger Luke Sharpe will get it.' 'Don't be too sure.' Madame Lola smiled mysteriously. 'He didn't get Salesman of the Year.' Jabez wandered down the pier. He felt vaguely dissatisfied. These visits to his mother always depressed him. She knew him too well. It was almost as if she could read his mind. When he was a child he had believed she could. He hoped she had not got the wrong idea about Amanda. Not that he disliked her, exactly. She was a good shag, very willing, in fact if he could only find a way of shutting her up occasionally they might make a go of it. When he felt ready to settle down. At least there was no sign of Amanda now. The end of pier Pavilion, once a theatre, had been converted into an amusement arcade cum bar. A session with his mum always left Jabez in need of a drink. He went in, only to freeze in horror as his eye fell upon a glass case filled fluffy pink rabbits. In front of it, trying to manipulate the grab, stood Amanda herself. She had snared a stuffed rabbit and was trying to manoeuvre it toward the chute. Jabez began to edge away, but too late. As the claw-like grab swung towards the hole, it relaxed, releasing its burden. The rabbit rejoined its fellows, and Amanda looked up. 'Jabie!' Her face broke into a smile, all disappointment forgotten. 'Fancy you being here, I thought you said you were visiting your mother this weekend, I didn't know she lived in Bagwash, funny I was just thinking about you, shall we go and have a drink? 'Er - ' said Jabez, but she was already leading him towards the bar. 'Yes it's ever so strange,' Amanda went on once they were ensconced in a corner with a vodka and cranberry and a pint of Stella, 'I've just been to that fortune teller woman on the pier, she's ever so good, she told me all about myself really uncanny it was what she knew, like all the people I worked with, and she said I was going to meet a red-headed man, and then I came out and I meet you right after, it must be fate mustn't it?' 'Suppose so,' muttered Jabez 'And to think I nearly didn't come today, I was supposed to be going with Daphne from the post room, you know, the one with the funny teeth, but she's got some problem with her water, only it was such a lovely day I thought why not come by myself …' Jabez tuned her out. Listening to Amanda could drive you mad.. Something was niggling at the back of his mind. Poor old Ambrose - how had he died? Jabez had assumed a heart attack, but those knickers … where had they come from? He tried to remember that frantic few minutes in the wardrobe. He'd had to stop Blunt crying out - must have had them in his hand when he dived for cover - they were Melanie's knickers! Bloody hell. Still, wasn't his problem … as long as Melanie kept quiet … '… and then I went to that Madame Lola on the pier, and d'you know what, when I asked her when I'd meet someone right for me, she said I might already have met him, only perhaps he doesn't realise and I must be patient Isn't that amazing?' Amanda beamed at him and swallowed the last of her vodka. 'Yeah, amazing,' grunted Jabez. He felt a sudden overwhelming desire for fresh air. 'Shall we go out?' They leaned over the rail at the end of the pier. Below them the sea lapped round a half submerged jetty. Amanda cuddled up against him. 'Isn't this nice, I do like the seaside, don't you, and it's much more fun when you're with someone. Oh, look at that bird.' She peered down at the jetty. 'What's the matter with it? Look at the way it's holding it's wing out, it's hurt, oh the poor thing, we must do something' The seagull on the jetty looked no different from all the others flying around as far as Jabez could see. 'Hey, you can't - ' Too late. Amanda had opened the gate at the end of the pier and was already halfway down the steps. Jabez groaned inwardly. The steps were covered in seaweed, he was bound to get his jeans messed up. He followed. When Amanda stepped onto the jetty the gull favoured her with a withering glare and took off. 'I told you there was nothing wrong with it,' shouted Jabez. 'Can we go back now?' Amanda turned, teetering on her high heeled sandals, and caught her foot in a clump of bladderwrack, 'Careful!' he cried. To no avail. Jabez lunged forward, but his foot slipped on the wet seaweed, sending him diving headfirst into the slimy fronds. He could only watch helplessly as Amanda's bum hit the wet concrete with a resounding thud. Squawking like an aggrieved gannet, she slid gracefully beneath the waves.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 3
RoyBateman on 11-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 3
Hilarious stuff - I'm really enjoying this little saga. Great characters, sly dialogue - excellent!

Author's Reply:

niece on 18-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 3
Shadow,
This is getting better and better...will be reading the next two chapters asap...Great stuff!
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 2 (posted on: 07-08-06)
In which Jabez comes out of the wardrobe. (Another re-post, though somewhat revised.)

The wardrobe was big, but not that big. Jabez made himself as small as he could, hands held stiffly to his sides. His companion seemed unaware of his presence, and he wanted to keep it that way. He heard the bedroom door open and close, then another female voice. 'Melanie, dear, it's time - why have you taken your clothes off? 'I had to change. That lout Pigstock poured sangria all down my front.' Jabez bristled with indignation. The cheeky bitch! He had never been remotely within poring distance of her front. 'Well, don't be long. Your father wants to start the presentations in ten minutes. Actually. I'm quite glad I caught you. Have you had a chance to speak to Ambrose?' 'About the redundancies, you mean? I - er - haven't got round to mentioning them yet.' 'I wish you would.' 'I don't see why Daddy can't do his own dirty work.' 'You know how your father hates shedding staff - especially when it's such an old friend. Ambrose has always been fond of you, we thought it might soften the blow.' In the wardrobe, Ambrose Blunt appeared to be having some kind of a fit. He was shaking so much the door started to rattle. A low keening could be heard, gradually rising in volume. In panic Jabez forgot about trying to conceal his presence, and tried to put his hand over the other man's mouth. No use. Desperately he felt in his pocket, where his groping fingers encountered something soft and silky. He pulled it out and stuffed it into the gaping cavity. The noise stopped. 'Okay, okay, I'm working on it,' said Melanie. 'Now, can I get dressed?' 'Hurry up, dear, they're all waiting.' 'You go, I won't be long.' Blunt had begun to sag at the knees. Jabez was trying to support him when the wardrobe door slid open and they both landed face down on the carpet. 'What the hell -?' squeaked Melanie. 'What are you doing in my wardrobe?' 'Never mind.' Normally the sight of Melanie clad in nothing but an uplift bra and her thong would have engaged all Jabez's attention, but at that moment he was more concerned with the inert form of the Area Manager. 'Is he usually this colour?' 'I don't think so.' Jabez rolled Blunt onto his back, pinched his nose and with a certain reluctance gave him the kiss of life. After a few breaths he stopped to thump him hard on the chest. 'Where do you learn to do that?' Melanie sounded impressed. 'Scouts. Got my First Aid badge,' grunted Jabez. After a while he sat back, exhausted. 'I'm afraid - he's dead.' Melanie stared, round eyed. 'Dead? He can't be!' Jabez shrugged. 'Tell that to him.' 'But that's awful! What are we going to do? They mustn't find him here. Daddy would go bananas.' Jabez rose and dusted his knees. 'Not my problem. Sorry.' Melanie caught his arm. Tears sparkled in her eyes, and her bosom heaved with emotion. 'Please - you must help me.' 'Do that again,' said Jabez, fascinated. 'What?' 'That thing with your tits.' 'Oh, for heavens sake - ! Do something. Now!' 'Put him back in the wardrobe?' 'Don't be stupid. No.' She paused, frowning. 'We'll have to take him next door. See if the coast is clear.' Jabez poked his head round the bedroom door. There was no-one in sight. When he turned round Melanie was pulling on another dress, a small black number which she filled admirably. 'All clear. Hang on though - shouldn't we dress him as well?' 'No time. I'm due at the presentations. Someone could come looking for me any time. You take his feet.' Together they half carried, half dragged the body out of the bedroom, along the landing and into the room next door. 'Whose room is this?' asked Jabez. 'Mummy's.' 'Won't she mind?' 'She never has yet.' Melanie scuttled back to her room, and came back with Blunt's clothes, which she dropped next to the corpse. 'There. Now, I'll have to fix my face. Would you go now, please? If anyone asks, I'll be right down.' She went back into her own bedroom. Jabez followed, closing the door behind him. He leaned against it, watching her. She swung round with an impatient frown. 'What do you want now?' Jabez smiled. 'Oh. I see. Well, I'm sorry, but you'll have to wait. I've only got a minute, and even you couldn't be that quick.' 'That's not what I had in mind,' said Jabez. 'This presentation business, you're giving out any of the prizes, right?' 'Salesman of the Year, yes.' 'You don't happen to know who it is?' 'Luke, of course.' 'Really?' Jabez paused in a significant manner. 'Are you sure?' Melanie's eyes widened. 'You don't mean - I couldn't!' 'Oh, I think you could. Unless you want Daddy to find out about the - er - stiff.' 'You pig! You wouldn't.' 'Try me.' 'You're involved as well. Daddy might be interested in why you were in my wardrobe. What were you doing in there, anyway? Stalking?' 'I needed a pee.' 'In the wardrobe?' 'All I wanted was to borrow your loo,' snapped Jabez. 'Then when I heard you coming I panicked. What does it matter? If you want all this kept quiet …' 'I hate you!' 'See you at the ceremony.' He smiled at her again, as he let himself out of the room. Out on the lawn the crowd was growing restive. Collars had been loosened and jackets discarded under the hot sun, but even the gallons of expensive deodorants expended on the gathering could not dispel the miasma of perspiration which hung over it. Jabez sneaked unnoticed into a chair at the back. Some of the more junior members of staff were threatening to break into a chorus of 'Why are we waiting?' when the sight of the lovely Melanie undulating across the grass set off a rousing cheer. She joined her parents at the front, by a table covered with assorted cups and shields, all burnished and twinkling. The chairman lumbered to his feet, and the proceedings began. It all took an inordinately long time. The Interdepartmental Rugby Trophy ... the shield for Most Improved Financial Results ... Jabez felt his mind begin to wander. Luke Sharpe was sitting three rows in front of him, lounging at his ease, a faint smile playing over his handsome features. Why couldn't old Bilks get on with it? Ah, here it came! ' . . . and now, we come to one of the greatest honours the company can bestow, for without our devoted sales force, where would we be? This prize, of a framed certificate, a cheque for one thousand pounds and the keys, for the whole of the next year, of one of the company Jaguars, is awarded to the Salesman of the Year. I will therefore ask my daughter to open the envelope and read out the name of the lucky winner. Melanie!' Melanie rose and picked an envelope from the table. All eyes were riveted upon her as she fumbled to open it. She withdrew a piece of paper. 'Jabez Pigstock!' There was an audible gasp as a couple of hundred people drew in their breath simultaneously. Jabez advanced towards the table, where Melanie stood, teeth bared. He passed Luke Sharpe, already half risen from his seat, whose modest smile of acceptance had been replaced by the gape of an asphyxiating goldfish. In the midst of a stunned silence, he accepted the certificate, the cheque and the coveted car keys. Then it was back to his seat, to accept the muted congratulations of his colleagues. Though he did not stay long to bask in their insincere plaudits and sincere envy. He was too anxious to survey his prize, and soon made his way towards the VIP car park, where the gleaming bottle-green Jaguar waited. He had almost reached it when he was intrigued to see two figures disappearing into the shrubbery: Melanie, closely followed by Luke Sharpe. Might be useful, Jabez thought, to know what they were up to. He drifted closer. Their voices easily penetrated the foliage. 'What the hell do you think you're playing at? You told me ?' 'Don't you dare blame me! I only read the name out, I didn't chose the winner.' 'That's not what you told me.' Luke's voice vibrated with fury. 'In the bag, you said.' 'Well, I was wrong. Anyone can make a mistake. Luke, darling, you know I wouldn't - ' 'Wouldn't what? Wouldn't get tired of me? Wouldn't make me look a fool in front of the entire management? Okay, I get the message. Just tell me one thing. For Crissake, why Jabez Pigstock?' Melanie gasped. 'You can't think I'm interested in that little creep?' 'What else am I to think?' 'Look, Luke,' Melanie's voice dropped to a murmur. Jabez moved closer. 'There's things - I can't explain now. I had no choice. But I'll make it up to you. I'll get you something much better than that silly prize. Trust me' 'Trust you? Hah! I'm not falling for that line twice. Dammit, I never even brought my own car, I was so sure … how am I supposed to get home.' 'Oh - take a bus.' Jabez had barely time to nip behind a bush before Melanie erupted from the shrubbery. Luckily she was to caught up in her fury to notice him. A moment later Luke emerged, pale and wild eyed. Jabez, who had resumed his walk to the car park, nearly fell over him. 'Wha' - who? You!' Luke's eyes bulged. It was a treat to see him lost for words. Jabez grinned. 'Now now, Lukie. No hard feelings. Best man won and all that,' he said, dangling the Jag keys from his fingers. 'Can I offer you a lift?'
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 2
niece on 07-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 2
Shadow,
This is definitely looking promising...! Enjoyed it...!

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece, glad you enjoyed - I had fun writing it!

juliet on 07-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 2
Jabez sounds like a typical bloke, thinking about sex all the time (sorry that sounds very sexist - but you know what i mean).

The pace is a little fast for more liking - i need more time to see the scene and get involved - placing the reader in the midst of the action is a fine line but i think this chapter needs a little more description. The dialogue sounds realistic and the plot is certainly intriguing so far.

Author's Reply:
Well, they do, I'm told - every five seconds, isn't it? Something like that. I agree, the early chapters do need more 'fleshing out' - once I get to the end I'll go back and do a proper rewrite. Thanks for comment.

RoyBateman on 07-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 2
Great rollicking fun...is Jabez the only guy to go into the wardrobe for a pee when sober?? And it's a good job you're not writing from Tamworth, Ohio...otherwise Jabez would have come out of the closet, and you'd be stuck with a totally different story! Anyway, I'm thoroughly enjoying this romp...sex, death, blackmail - what more could we want?

Author's Reply:
Comment below was supposed to be a reply to yours - pressed the wrong button AGAIN. Actually I did think of making him come out of the closet ...

shadow on 07-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 2
Wait till you get to the sick parrot - and the ladies of the Blycester coven in their birthday suits ...

Author's Reply:

len on 23-10-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock. Chapter 2
Together they half carried, half dragged the body out of the bedroom, along the landing and into the room next door.

'Whose room is this?' asked Jabez.

'Mummy’s.β€˜

β€˜Won’t she mind?'

’She never has yet.

I wudda beat feet out the door right then and there, but Jabez is made of sterner stuff. He really knows how to get the most out of a bad situation, that lad..I really got a kick out of this whole clever chapter...len

Author's Reply:
Thanks len. Jabez isn't as hard-boiled as John Deedes, but he tries, he really does. Cheers!


The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1 (posted on: 04-08-06)
In which Jabez finds himself in a wardrobe predicament. (This was my entry for the Novel a Year contest, now defunct)

Jabez Pigstock was in a wardrobe. Luckily it was a capacious, walk-in wardrobe. It even had a sliding door so he did not have to hold it shut with his little finger. All the same, he was not a happy man. Articles of feminine attire attempted to wind themselves round his neck, while clothes hangers tried to poke his eyes out. He was afraid he might sneeze. As always when this kind of thing happened, he blamed his mother. It was all her fault. He could have brazened the situation out. Said he had opened the wrong door while searching for the bog. It was his parentally-induced guilt reflex which had sent him diving for cover. That's what came of having a mother who could sniff out his misdeeds before they'd even crossed his mind. He felt guilty even when he was innocent. Well, almost innocent. He sighed. The day had started off so well. The Chairman's Garden Party was the highlight of the year at Amalgamated Parts plc. Senior staff mingled with the lower orders in the grounds of his upmarket residence on the outskirts of town. The weather was fine, the catering lavish and the Spanish sparkling wine flowed like water. He had even managed to avoid his ex-girlfriend, Amanda Goodbody. Not that he had anything against her, not really. He just wished she would accept that she was ex. The high point of the afternoon had come when that berk Luke Sharpe had been telling one of his off-colour jokes. Sharpe had an endless supply of truly disgusting stories. This one was particularly filthy, managing to combine buggery, fellatio and bestiality. The others were intent on his every word (Sharpe told them with a certain panache, which Jabez had never been able to emulate). Jabez loitered on the edge of the group, pretending not to listen, and so was the only one to spot the Chairman's wife approaching across the grass. She arrived in time to catch the gist. Sharpe reached the punch line ' - turned out the dog didn't want to go fishing either!' and swung round to meet her glacial eye. The expression on his face as the laughter died - priceless. Serve him right, toffee-nosed public school twit. Jabez was still sniggering when they all settled down for the Chairman's Speech. Trouble was, old Bilkington-Pratt didn't half go on, and that champagne-type went straight through you. By the time the word flow finally dribbled to a stop Jabez wasn't the only one with crossed legs and a preoccupied expression. He lost no time in making it back to the house, but the queue for the downstairs loo already snaked across the hall and out of the door. So he used his initiative and climbed the stairs. As luck would have it, the first door he opened was a bedroom, but he spotted an en-suite bathroom beyond and availed himself of the facilities. It was only as he was leaving, adjusting his clothing, that he took a proper look at the room. Then the significance of its violently pink dιcor, cluttered dressing-table and bed groaning under its burden of stuffed animals dawned on him. This must be Melanie's room. Melanie, the Chairman's luscious daughter. He wouldn't mind getting his hands on her. Fat chance. He'd had the brush-off good and proper when he'd tried it on at the Christmas do. Later he'd overheard her telling one of her friends how she could not stand red-haired men. If she had eyes for anyone it was that smarmy bastard Luke Sharpe. What women saw in him Jabez could not imagine. But an opportunity like this was not to be missed. Knowledge was power, as his old mother used to say, though not in those exact words. No telling what might come from a quick poke around in Melanie's drawers. It has seemed a good idea at the time, but he might have known it would lead to his downfall. Engrossed in groping through her knickers, he missed the sound of approaching footsteps, until voices outside the door alerted him to his danger. A moment of wild panic ensued. Where could he hide? Bathroom? Too far, the door was already opening. No room under the divan bed … He could see nothing from inside the wardrobe, but he could hear only too well. Every twang of the bedsprings went through his head like a red hot needle. And the other noises. There wasn't much you could call conversation, sighs and groans, the occasional squeal, but he had still recognized the voices. That was a surprise, and no mistake: Ambrose Blunt, the North West Area Manager, having it off with the Chairman's daughter. He was a bit old for her, surely? Though at least it was not Luke Sharpe. Jabez was not sure he could have managed to stay hidden in the wardrobe if it had been Luke Sharpe. All the same, he was disappointed in Melanie. What on earth could she see in that fat bald headed git? The noises off reached a climax. Silence, apart from the sound of heavy breathing, fell at last. Inside the wardrobe, Jabez waited. Get a moved on, he urged silently. You can't stay there all day. Someone will notice. He had cramp in his left calf, and his nose itched intolerably. Oh God don't let them go to sleep … The bedsprings sounded again, and someone padded to the bathroom. Just as well he hadn't hid there, Jabez thought. There came the sound of flowing water, then the flushing of the lavatory. The footsteps returned. 'Light me a fag, would you, precious,' said Melanie. 'You shouldn't be smoking, It's not good for you.' 'Don't be a fusspot.' Jabez could smell the smoke. God, he could do with one himself. 'What are you looking for?' asked Melanie. 'My tablets. Blood pressure. I haven't taken them for a day or two, ever since I got your message.' 'Why ever not?' 'They have this unfortunate side effect - and I didn't want to disappoint you.' 'That - that was sweet of you.' 'I hope everything was satisfactory?' 'Oh, quite. And how was it for you? Am I as good as Mummy?' 'Yes - I mean - your mother and I - are just good - ' Melanie laughed. 'Don't be silly! Everyone knows you and Mummy have been at it for years. Everyone except Daddy, of course.' Jabez listened, agog. He had never been so agog in his life. There must be some way he could turn this to his advantage. He was not a greedy man. His needs were small - a hundred thousand a year and a Ferrari with personalized number-plates would do him fine - and now he sensed his dreams might be within his grasp. One hint of what he knew, in the right ear, and he could make Salesman of the Year, no problem 'Well, I - er - shouldn't we be going downstairs? Someone may miss us.' 'Relax. There's plenty of time. Come and sit down, we need to have a little talk' The bed creaked again. 'There. Comfy now?' 'Melanie dear, you do realise,' Blunt sounded nervous. 'that Glynnis will never agree to a divorce?' Melanie laughed again. 'Silly sausage! It's nothing to do with that. No, I've been asked to - ' She was interrupted by a discreet knock on the bedroom door. ''Melanie dear, are you there?'' It was Lady Bilkington-Pratt. Jabez heard a sudden flurry of activity; and the sliding door opened then closed again. He shrank back, appalled, into the corner. He was no longer alone in the wardrobe.
Archived comments for The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1
e-griff on 04-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1
Yeh, yeh *yawns* - read all this before, Shads........

Author's Reply:
All right, I know, I posted the first two chapters years ago, I thought everyone would have forgotten them by this time. But now I've written the rest of it (well nearly finished). Everything from CH 3 on is COMPLETELY NEW.

e-griff on 04-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1
yeh, sorta realised that, lady *chews baccy* jes' wanted ta wind you up a little *spangs (spittoon)*.

*gets up lazily* 'scuse me, lady, gotta go fettle ma doohickey. *leaves*

*eats shoots*

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 04-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1
Well, I missed it the first time round so it's all new to me - great comic situation, and exactly the right time to leave it! Plenty to build on here, and I look forward to more with great anticipation. Oh, and if you could send that joke in a plain brown paper envelope....

Author's Reply:
Chapter 2 coming up Monday - about the joke - sorry, I think you can be arrested for sending that kind of filth through the mail.

juliet on 04-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1
i am new so i haven't read this before. It certainly caught my interest and there is a clear voice in this. I found the beginning a little still - don't dump the background out all at once, reveal it slowly through the first few chapters. this first chapter is the hook so i would stick with the main scene of his hiding in the wardrobe and overhearing what he shouldn't.

Author's Reply:
Hi juliet - thanks for commenting. I know there's still a lot of work to do - this is exactly the kind of feedback I need.

niece on 05-08-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1
Shadow,

I'm looking foward to the following chapters(Just as I am still waiting for the final chapters of COFAM;))...good fun write...tho' I too believe that the first chapter starts too abruptly...Probably you could make this Chapter II or have a prologue or something like that.

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece, JP is still very much work in process, so all feedback is valuable. (Sorry about ACOFAM btw, the last chapters need extensive revision, and I've been so involved with Jabez this year I haven't got round to it.)

len on 15-10-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1
"she could not stand red-haired men." Well that lets me out, buddy..I guess I'll hafta settle for Lydia, the tatooed lady.

"No telling what might come from a quick poke around in Melanie’s drawers." Hee hee..

He was no longer alone in the wardrobe, eh?...Now THAT'S what I call a cliff-hanger!!..Great read..len

Author's Reply:
Hi len, thanks for stopping by - and the kind words.

linenweaver on 02-11-2006
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1
Good Greetings Shadow~I enjoyed the read very much, also found the allegory (whether intentional or not) in the names (such as Pigstock and Goodbody) added a touch of humor not to mention insight into the psyche of the characters somehow~Thanks~


Peace~Weaver

Author's Reply:
Thanks weaver, glad you enjoyed. Also pleased you liked the names - I had a lot of fun thinking them up.

josiedog on 12-03-2007
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1
Just had a look at the latest chapter, and dashed back to this one to see how it kicks off. That's a good sign itself.

"Jabez Pigstock was in a wardrobe." Now that's what I call a first line.

Yep, enjoyed it, not just for the comic situation, but it was the familiar style of writing, its easy informality. This is so often really ballsed up with showers of exclamation marks (such as "Fat chance!" and "I should say so!") which you thankfully avoided.
I'm now going to read on.
Cheers.

Author's Reply:
Glad you liked the first line - I was rather pleased with it.

After I finish each chapter I have to go over it with the vacuum, hoovering up all the excess !!!s.

Thanks for the comment - much appreciated.

Rupe on 18-03-2007
The Apotheosis of Jabez Pigstock Chapter 1
I also went to this out of curiosity. What a great first chapter. The opening line is brilliant, as Josiedog says - it grabbed my attention - and the chapter is excellently pitched, as it chucks the reader straight into the action.

Loved this line too: 'He had never been so agog in his life'. 'Agog' is an intrinsically funny word & using it like this makes that very clear.

The only slight criticism I'd make is that we could do with a bit more insight into who Jabez is & what he's about - we're told he's the protagonist, in effect - but on the other hand, the chapter is about another couple & Jabez is not actively involved. How does he fit into the scene?

Rupe

Author's Reply:
He does have a bit more to do in Ch 2. When I started 'Jabez Pigstock' I didn't have much idea of who he was myself - when I eventually get to the end I'll have to go back and rewrite the early chapters in the light of what comes later.
Thanks for dropping by, and the kind words!
Moya


Pillow Talk (posted on: 28-07-06)
Dream on.

"Are you asleep?" "Mmmmm? Wha'?" "I said, are you asleep?" "I was . . . wassamarra . . . are you OK?" "Not too bad." "Stomach feeling better?" "Yes, it's alright now. Don't know what came over me, earlier." "Must've been something you ate. Go back to sleep." "Can't. I've been lying here, thoughts going round and round in my head. I don't know how to go on." "Go on?" "I have this problem with Krystal, she's developing in ways I never intended. She started out as very hard, self-centred. but I realised that she would never attract Brett like that, he 's too intelligent not to see through her. I had to make her more sympathetic. But now her motivation's all wrong. I don't know whether to go back and rewrite her from the beginning, or change the plot." "Change it, then. If at first you don't succeed . . . " "But she has to murder him! The whole thing hinges on that. At least - I suppose I could make it one of the other suspects. Except that would spoil the twist at the end - unless - maybe I could have one of the twins do it, that might work. Only they are among the people who have a window of opportunity. It's only Krystal who we know can't have slipped the poison into Brett's Ovaltine. Not till it comes out she's blackmailing Marmaduke. Mind you, I'm starting to go off the poison idea." "What's wrong with it?" "Well, you need a good range of suspects, and it's so difficult to get together a large enough group of people with access to the stuff. It has to be plausible, after all. Maybe I should go for an arranged accident, like I first thought of. But that's not easy, either. Musn't be too obvious." "No." "You don't realise how hard it is, thinking up a foolproof way of killing someone. If you want to get away with it, I mean" "Oh, I think I do." "Maybe I'll stick with the poison after all." "Yeah, you do that." "I think I'll get some sleep now. It's good to talk, helps me get things clearer in my mind." "Sweet dreams." 'Zzzzzzz." "Mind you, that poison was no bloody use. All it did was make you sick."
Archived comments for Pillow Talk
Kat on 28-07-2006
Pillow Talk
Hehe, nicely done! Enjoying your work, shadow!

Kat :o)

Author's Reply:
Hi Kat, thanks for reading!

RoyBateman on 28-07-2006
Pillow Talk
Oh, yes - I can see the temptation overwhelming any reasonable person stuck with a blathering writer sending 'em demented. I think The Boss would sympathise with this...hang on, better NOT give her ideas....

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy - yes, it could be taken as an awful warning - though I am sure you never disturb your other half in this fashion - any more than I would mine ...

e-griff on 29-07-2006
Pillow Talk
Very nice little rounded piece. Enjoyed it. G

Author's Reply:
Thanks - praise from you is praise indeed!

Sunken on 29-07-2006
Pillow Talk
You do write some little gems young Shadow. I have one question tho, are there still people about these days who go by the name of Marmaduke? My neighbors cat is named marmite, you either love it or hate it. I hate it. Well actually, it hates me. It makes this hissing noise when it sees me, arches it's back and stares at me before running off. Fuckin' things. You don't get that kind of carry on with a hamster. God... I do ramble. Well done. Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

in charge of coats

Author's Reply:
Only characters in second-rate detective novels are called Marmaduke.
Cats are said to be very good judges of character.
Rambling is an innocent and healthy pastime. Keep it up.
And thanks for the comment and rating.

niece on 01-08-2006
Pillow Talk
Good one, Moya...tho' I don't think I'll let my hubby read this...I'm forever pestering him to read my work and I don't want him to get any ideas ;)!

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece, you shouldn't have a problem, provided you don't wake him up in the mddle of the night ... πŸ˜‰

qwerty68 on 02-08-2006
Pillow Talk
Brilliant. I kind of saw the end coming because being woken in the middle of the night by someone who just wants to waffle on about something that doesn't concern you would make me want to commit murder. Gratuitous sleep deprivation IS torture, whatever George Dubya might think.

Author's Reply:
Hey, thanks. I agree, no punishment is too severe for those who gratuitously wake their spouses.

Bradene on 17-08-2006
Pillow Talk
A clever little piece I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Love Val x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Val (nearly missed your comment - I'm STILL not getting any email notificatios!)

Rupe on 14-11-2006
Pillow Talk
This is a good one. Liked the beginning. Wonder why people say things like 'Are you asleep?' or 'Is there anyone sitting there?' or 'You must be Bernard.'

Writing about writing is usually a bit dodgy, but this worked well because you're obviously using it as a way of setting up the twist at the end - which was a good one.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Rupe - much appreciated.


No Picnic! (posted on: 24-07-06)
On a warm summer's day, what could be nicer than a picnic ... ?

Ah, the picnics of our youth! Lazing beside a limpid stream, a crisp white cloth spread out on the sun-dappled grass, covered with goodies from the well-stocked hamper. How well I remember - actually, no. I don't remember anything like that. Picnics belonged to that class of events, like the pantomime and the circus, which were never as good as they were cracked up to be. I'll never forget the disappointment of my first visit to the circus. I mean, I'd read my Enid Blyton, I knew all about the glamour and excitement of the Big Top, so when I had a chance to see the real thing, I was filled with anticipation. But what a let down. Just a lot of people in silly clothes prancing around, occasionally doing a bit of juggling or dangling from ropes. Even the big cats looked depressed, and as for the clowns - they were simply Not Funny. It was the same with picnics. Not that we had them often - damp grass was considered a certain killer, and there weren't many days in an English summer when the grass could be guaranteed not to be damp - but sometimes during a particularly dry spell my mother would say, 'Let's have a Picnic!' I would always agree enthusiastically (I don't think my dad's opinion was asked). Then we would make the sandwiches. This always seemed to take ages, and involve buttering whole loaves of bread, boiling eggs, brewing tea, washing the spiders out of the Thermos, finally packing everything in greaseproof paper. Eventually we were off. Living as we did on the north side of Manchester, finding some Proper Country meant driving through the city centre. There was country to the north, but that was just a few grubby fields before the next town. Mother insisted on Proper Country, which meant Cheshire. So, after an hour steaming gently in a hot car, we escaped from suburbia and at last reached the leafy lanes of Cheshire. Now all we needed was the perfect picnic spot. Easier said than found. There were no such things as designated Picnic Sites in those days. You had to find your own field; secluded, but not too far from the road. Some people compromised and ate their picnics on the verge, but that was for wimps. How could you enjoy your picnic with cars buzzing past and petrol fumes wafting over you? Unfortunately, finding somewhere which met my mother's exacting standards was not easy. This field had thistles, that one had cowpats, that one - help! - had cows. We toiled under the blazing sun, clutching out carrier bags full of food, hoping she would find some place she liked before we expired from exhaustion. At last we found somewhere to stop. We spread out a rug and unpacked the bags. We never had a hamper. I used to look at them in shop windows, admiring the airtight containers and matching plastic plates. Surely the people who owned hampers always had perfect picnics? But we were never that organised. We got out the grub and tucked in. So did the flies. They'd home in on us from miles around. We weren't having the picnic - we were the picnic. Then, having consumed our supplies, we packed everything up and drove home again, sweating, scarlet-faced and covered in itchy lumps, to take some aspirin and slap on the calamine lotion. Was it worth it? All that hassle, in order to sit in a field eating curling ham sandwiches and drinking stewed tea or warm lemonade? And yet, we never learned. By next summer the memory would have faded, so when we got a dry spell and mother said 'Why don't we have a picnic?' I'd say 'Yes, let's! That will be fun!' Fun? I'll tell you one thing. It was no bloody picnic.
Archived comments for No Picnic!
Kat on 24-07-2006
No Picnic!
shadow, I really enjoyed this and what great comic timing - very well-written.

Kat :o)

Author's Reply:
Thanks Kat - I enjoyed writing it (rather more than I enjoyed the picnics).

niece on 24-07-2006
No Picnic!
Shadow,
You know you are so right...don't remember having too many picnics as a child (the deserts of Kuwait were not probably a very good place to have them anyway), but I especially remember one where we had gone to a huge park and I wet my dress standing near one of the fountains...how I got fired by my mother...now that was no fun:(
A good fun write, Moya...sometimes it is amazing the number of stories we can write from our own lives...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:

shadow on 24-07-2006
No Picnic!
Hi niece - yes it's funny how things come back to you. I hadn't thought of those picnics for years. Must be the heat!

Author's Reply:

alcarty on 24-07-2006
No Picnic!
Well-placed humor, and a fun read. Memories like these can't be created, they must be experienced. Very nice.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Al.

Sunken on 25-07-2006
No Picnic!
Ya know, I've never had a picnic (apart from the choccy bar by the same name). You always give give endings Ms. Shadow, and this is no exception. Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

he misses the rain

Author's Reply:
Never had a picnic? You poor thing! You have missed out on a formative childhood experience. (And what do you mean - I 'give endings'? Cheeky munky!) Thanks anyway.

wfgray on 25-07-2006
No Picnic!
Picnics in my day were generally in the local park. We used to carry a bottle of water a few jam sandwiches a fishing net. Your picnic reminded me of how happy days can be achieved with by spending a day trying to net a few fish to carry home in a jam jar. Dou know I was able to keep one of these fish for one. Yes happy days. Loved your story.

Author's Reply:
Yes, what fun we had. Did you keep the fish to have at the picnic? Thanks wf.

wfgray on 25-07-2006
No Picnic!
Picnics in my day were generally in the local park. We used to carry a bottle of water a few jam sandwiches a fishing net. Your picnic reminded me of how happy days can be achieved with by spending a day trying to net a few fish to carry home in a jam jar. Dou know I was able to keep one of these fish for one. Yes happy days. Loved your story.

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 27-07-2006
No Picnic!
Oh, so very true! I remember 'em well, and they were very similar to yours. Jam sandwiches (which I NEVER really liked) and that bloody Thermos that weighed about as much as the Queen Mary's anchor. We used to go to East Park in Wolverhampton, or - for a treat - Kinver Edge. Much like Alderley Edge, so another coincidence there. The Boss grew up in Cheshire, so you may have been picnicking in the same field! Great story, and just so realistic - we blank out the boring 'orrible bits, which is why we go to Blackpool more than once. if we're unlucky....

Author's Reply:
Goodness me, I know Alderley Edge well, we often ended up in its vicinity. I may have sat in the very same cowpat! Thanks for commenting.


Pest Control (posted on: 21-07-06)
It has to be done.

The wasp zoomed in through the open window like a Tornado jet diving on its target. It headed straight for mum, who squealed and flapped her arms. 'Ow! Get it away! I hate the things.' Joe watched as the wasp circled, looking for a clear line of fire. Any moment it would unleash its rockets - KERPOW! 'Keep still, you're making it worse.' Dad fetched the fly spray from the shelf and gave it a squirt. A fine scented mist filled the room, making Joe wrinkle his nose. The wasp seemed unbothered. It buzzed aimlessly for a minute then flew out again. Mum put her iron down and wiped her brow. 'Never seen so many wasps around,' she said. 'Where are they all coming from?' 'There's a nest under the roof,' said Joe. Lying in bed on a summer morning, he had watched them coming and going. 'Ugh! We'll have to get on to the Council, get them to send a man round. I can't do with wasps all over the place.' -- The problem is at a critical stage, I think we can all agree on that. -- Certainly, Esteemed Leader. But I must argue that the solution put forward by our honoured colleague is too extreme. -- On the contrary. It is the least drastic of our available options. If we had intervened earlier, as I suggested, we might have avoided the present situation altogether. -- May I remind our colleague that we are here to observe, not interfere. -- Except when we deem it necessary. Then we have a duty to take action. -- Enough. When I have considered the matter sufficiently, I will decide. -- Yes, Esteemed Leader. Mum was laying the table for tea. 'Have you phoned the Council yet?' she asked. Dad grunted from behind his paper. 'They're awfully interesting, wasps,' said Joe. 'We learned about them in school. They make their nests out of paper, they chew up wood and spit it out, and there's hundreds of them, it's like a city in there. They have different jobs, some to forage and some to look after the babies and some to fight and defend the nest, and a queen to rule over them all.' 'I don't care what they do,' said mum, 'as long as they don't do it here.' 'How will the man kill them?' 'I'm not sure. Gas, maybe,' said mum vaguely. 'I could sort them out myself,' said Dad, 'with a kettle of boiling water.' 'You're not climbing up there!' 'When the man comes, can I watch?' asked Joe. -- They are such an interesting species. I am convinced that, given time, they would evolve to join us on the Higher Plane of existence. -- Unfortunately, time is the one thing they do not have. Left to themselves, they face imminent extinction. -- I do not share your pessimism. They are inventive and ingenious - surely they will find a solution to their problems without our help. -- They are too clever for their own good. As Overseers, we are responsible for the whole planet. Must we wait until they have damaged it irretrievably? --But so much would be lost. --What is lost can be replaced. They are one species among millions. Remove them, and another will evolve to take their place. Something better, maybe. When Joe came home from school the wasps' nest was lying in the garden. It was the size of a football, and one side had split open when it fell. Joe peered inside, wondering at the intricate tangle of chambers and passages, trying to imagine them filled with seething life. A few dead wasps lay scattered on the ground. He wondered what had happened to the rest. Had the man taken them away, or swept them up and put them in the dustbin? He wondered if they had been frightened when the gas seeped into their stronghold; had they tried to defend themselves, confused and terrified, fighting to reach light and air - or had it all been over before they realised? 'Why did we have to get rid of the wasps?' he asked his mother at teatime. 'They weren't doing any harm, were they?' 'You wouldn't say that if one stung you! Nasty things. The way they fly at you, it's deliberate, they do it to frighten you.' His mother shuddered. 'All the same, killing them all, just for being wasps. Doesn't seem fair.' 'Now, don't start being sorry for wasps! They're only insects, they're not people. Tell you what, you can take the nest to school tomorrow, for your Nature table.' Joe brightened up. 'Good idea. Can I have some honey on my bread?' -- I have come to a decision. -- Yes, Esteemed Leader? --The situation cannot be allowed to degenerate further. I have hesitated so long because, like Overseer One, I have developed an affection for the little creatures. They have come a long way, and I had hoped that they might have learned to regulate themselves and live in harmony with the other inhabitants of their planet. However, I am forced to agree with Overseer Two. They are unlikely to do so before they have fatally compromised their own life support systems - not to mention those of every other living thing. There are simply too many of them. They are an infestation. Nevertheless, total eradication is not the answer. The species still has promise, and if its numbers are drastically reduced the planet may yet recover. Perhaps by the time their population builds up again they may have learned a little wisdom. A ninety per cent cull should do the trick. -- Very well, Esteemed Leader. I will initiate the pandemic. -- Ninety per cent? That is harsh. -- The universe is a harsh place, Overseer One. And you must remember, they are only people.
Archived comments for Pest Control
e-griff on 21-07-2006
Pest Control
Nice little familiar story well told (oh, just one thing: 'imminent') .

In fact for me, an old SF buff, somewhat too familiar I'm afraid πŸ™‚ (as you might guess) Still, the younger generation may find it new. That's life.

Author's Reply:
Ah, well, it's the old ones are the best ... imminent - immenent? immynent? I'll have to go and look it up ... thanks griff.

qwerty68 on 21-07-2006
Pest Control
Could be the opening for an episode of Dr Who. I'm sure he'd sort out those nasty Overseers, fix Global Warming and resurrect those poor wasps.

I enjoyed the story. It's very well told.

Author's Reply:
Thanks qwerty - yes, the doctor would see them off in no time.

Sunken on 21-07-2006
Pest Control
Lol. You are class Ms. Shadow. I'd have sulked if this wasn't nibbed. I just can't read longer subs, but this drew me in - like a maggot on a line. I like the wasp narrative, it reminded me of a phone call I once had (repeatedly) with the knobs at the local council offices. You don't work for the council do you? You're not a knob I'm sure. Anyway, yeah. Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

in charge of breaking windows

Author's Reply:
Hi sunk, thanks for the rating. No, I don't work for the council. Or anyone else. Some unkind people say I don't work at all. Don't you think most of the world's problems would be solved if we could get rid of all the unnecessary people? Staring with the ones who play their radios loud with their windows open ...

Hazy on 21-07-2006
Pest Control
Gave me a really uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my tummy :-S (kinda in a good way!).

Really well written - enjoyed reading. It's got me thinking, which isn't always a good thing πŸ˜‰

Ta.

Hazy x
PS 5 lines from bottom, apostrophe needs deleting in "it's" (before "numbers")

Author's Reply:
Glad you enjoyed - and thanks for pointing out the errant apostrophe (smacks wrist).

RoyBateman on 22-07-2006
Pest Control
An original take - I don't think I've ever seen wasps as the superior species before, and it's a chilling thought...if all the little buggers got stinging at once, phew! Clever stuff, though - there IS a parallel between the two teeming worlds, and maybe it's only a matter of scale! Thoroughly enjoyable read.
ps Can I be one of the ten per cent left? Most kind.

Author's Reply:
Of course you can, dear. Someone's got to be left to clear up the mess ...

Flash on 22-07-2006
Pest Control
I actually thought there was a third species overseeing, while the domestic wasp drama unfolded.

Yeah i thought it was entertaining, if somewhat familiar in theme.

But who cares, i like this twilight zone type stuff.

xxx
Flashy

Author's Reply:
Thanks for comment. I thought of overseers as sort of disembodied entities, loong down on mankind from a great height, though I deliberately left their identity a bit vague.

Kat on 22-07-2006
Pest Control
Hi shadow

I enjoyed this, and with the present crisis in the Middle East, I felt it was even more poignant - great title!

Kat :o)

Author's Reply:

shadow on 22-07-2006
Pest Control
Thanks kat. Yeah, who needs Overseers? Man can do the job quite adequately on his own.

Author's Reply:

niece on 24-07-2006
Pest Control
Excellent, Shadow!-Who knows it could be true...;)

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
That's a scary thought. Perhaps they are up there now, watching us ...


Hambone's Night Out (posted on: 05-06-06)
I seem to have become very hamster-conscious lately - this was my first Hambone story.

Hambone could not believe his luck. The hook which fastened the hatch on the top of his cage had been broken for weeks. Every night, when she put him back after his evening run-around, Milly left a large book on top to hold it shut. Hambone hated that book. He was a very strong hamster. He exercised for hours every night to develop his muscles. He climbed, and ran in his wheel, and dragged his sleeping box all around the cage. It was no use. No matter how hard he shoved from below, he could not shift that book. But tonight it was not there - Milly had forgotten. He dragged his sleeping box into position below the hatch, and climbed onto its roof. Stretching to his full five inches, he pushed as hard as he could. The hatch moved. For a moment his back legs swung in the air as he scrabbled for a paw hold, then he was out. He sat on top of his cage, smoothing his whiskers and staring round into the darkness. All was quiet. The Big Ones had gone to bed. Hambone could never understand why they did this. All day, when he wanted to sleep, they would be up and about, making a noise and disturbing him. Then as soon as he was properly awake and wanting to play, they all went away and left him alone. It was very strange, not to say boring. He climbed down from the cage onto the low table on which it stood. He was in the corner of the living-room. The arm of a chair was only a short jump away, and from there it was and easy scramble to the floor. Hambone sniffed. Food! The smell came from the corner where the Box Which Made Noises stood. The box was silent now. Yes, Milly had been eating biscuits. Chocolate biscuits!. There were crumbs all over the floor. He settled down for a good munch. After his snack, it was time to explore. Hambone stowed the last of his crumbs in his cheek pouches for later, and set out across the carpet. He made himself very flat, as only a hamster can, and squeezed under the door into the hall. Ahead of him the stairs rose up into darkness. I could go up and say hello to Milly, he thought. She would be surprised. Only there are such a lot of stairs. It would take me ages to climb them. No, I'll try the kitchen. He met a spider scuttling along by the wall. 'Hello,' he said. 'Nice night, isn't it?' The spider just looked at him and rushed off. Spiders have no conversation. The kitchen was a disappointment. Milly's mum must have swept the floor before she went to bed, for there was nothing around to eat, and there was no way he could reach the work surface. Disgusted, he went back to the living-room. He climbed up onto the sofa. The corner of one of the cushions had come unstitched. That would make a good nest, he thought, if I could get inside. He began to gnaw at the thread. Then he heard a noise. It sounded like the time Milly dropped her drinking glass on the kitchen floor. 'Whatever's that?' He squeezed under the door again, and reached the hall in time to see the kitchen door open. A Big One that he had never seen before came out and started to go up the stairs. Funny time to have a visitor, thought Hambone. Still, there was no accounting for Big Ones. There was no sound from upstairs. Perhaps he's decided not to bother them, as they're asleep, thought Hambone. All right for some. No one worries about disturbing me when I'm asleep. He heard the strange Big One coming downstairs again. He came into the living-room carrying a bag. He dumped it on the sofa, nearly squashing Hambone. 'Oi, watch it!' cried Hambone. The stranger did not answer. He went to the sideboard where Milly's dad kept the bottles of funny smelling stuff, and poured himself a glass. Then he came and sat on the sofa. Hambone watched from inside the cushion. His was a strange Big One. Mostly when they came into a room they would switch on horrible glaring lights, or the box in the corner which lit up and talked, or the other box which made awful howling noises, but this one simply sat in the dark, nice and quiet. Very civilised. Perhaps I should make him welcome, thought Hambone. After all, I am the host, in a manner of speaking. He clambered up the back of the sofa and ran along the top. How shall I introduce myself? he wondered. I know. I'll crawl down inside his collar. That always makes Milly laugh! The strange Big One did not laugh. Instead he made a very peculiar noise and jumped up, waving his arms. Hambone fell off and landed on the plastic thingummy with all the buttons, which happened to be lying on the sofa. A lot of things then happened all at once. The box in the corner woke up and started shouting. The stranger fell over the coffee table with a tremendous crash. Milly's dad yelled 'Who's there?' from upstairs. The stranger didn't answer, he got up and rushed out of the room in a terrible hurry. The back door banged. Oh dear, thought Hambone. He's forgotten his bag. Still, he can always come back for it. After that, things became very noisy. Milly and her mum and dad came downstairs and switched all the lights on, and charged around shouting to each other. Then a blue light started flashing outside the window. When the room filled up with some of the largest Big Ones Hambone had ever seen, all with enormous feet, he decided it was time to call it a night. He went back to his cage and with some difficulty levered up the hatch. Luckily everyone was far to busy to notice him. He dropped back into the cage and crawled inside his sleeping box. He curled up and pulled his bedding firmly over his head. It had been an interesting night, but enough was enough. He went to sleep.
Archived comments for Hambone's Night Out
niece on 05-06-2006
Hambones Night Out
Shadow,
This is so cute...! I hope you have more "Hambone" stories coming up...!
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece, thanks for reading - I do have another episode in the Hambone saga - next week maybe ...

Sunken on 05-06-2006
Hambones Night Out
Hello young Shadowy figure that haunts me from afar. Isn’t it warm? I hadn’t realised you had more Hambone stories. I have a soft spot for hamsters as you know. Your stories are in danger of making my soft spot even softer. I demand you offer viagra with your next installment! This was more enjoyable than a full English breakfast, and with 100% less calories I will be recommending it to the British Dieting Foundation (who incidentally will not allow me entrance as I am too thin. Bastards!) I hope this comment finds you in positions relative to crayoning and that the blue falcon flies south of your border.

s
u
n
k
e
n

also available in beige

Author's Reply:
Dear sunk, thanks you for your illuminating and perspicatious comments. 'The blue falcon flies south ... ' - is this in code? Like da Vinci?

RoyBateman on 05-06-2006
Hambones Night Out
Something really different - well, it may have been for kids but it amused me. It had all the ingredients - an innocent but slightly trouble-prone animal hero, wickedness foiled by accident, everything right in the end - that kids love. All you need are some cute illustrations - and that shouldn't be difficult, as hamsters are quite delightful little creatures. I can see this selling - have you tried getting it and others starring the same character published?

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy - thanks for the kind words. It was published in an e-book with some of my other kids stories - never sold anything though!

discopants on 07-06-2006
Hambones Night Out
Hambone saves the day! I hope they afford him some time to sleep after these heroic adventures. I agree that the grown ups can enjoy this one as much as the kids.

Author's Reply:
Hey, that'd make a good title - thanks disco!


Shock Horror!!! (posted on: 10-04-06)
Ever tried taking a headline from a newspaper - and writing your own story? It's quite fun, actually ...

HOSTILE RECEPTION FOR VULTURE A protest meeting held in Bogleys Wood last Tuesday was attended by several hundred local birds, including larks, doves, rooks and sparrows. The kestrels and buzzards did not attend, at the request of the smaller birds, but sent messages of support. The meeting was to discuss the presence of the vulture which has recently taken up residence in the Blasted Oak on the corner of Five Acre Field. According to a spokesbird from the Resident's Association, Mr James Crow (4), 'It's not that we are speciesist, but the area does not have the proper facilities to accommodate such a large bird. We believe it would be happier in a zoo, among others of its own kind.' Mrs Edna Pigeon (2), of The Elms, said 'It makes us all nervous. I have not dared to let my fledglings out to play since it appeared. And it is bound to have a depressing effect on nest values.' A swallow, who preferred not to give her name, said 'We traditional migrants have worked hard to be accepted. This kind of uncontrolled immigration could jeopardize good community relations.' A statement from the Ministry for Non-Indigenous Species was read out, which stated that 'Vultures do not pose any threat to native wild life, as they feed only on carrion.' 'That's all very well,' said Mr Crow, 'but unemployment among young carrion crows is already rising. A bird of that size would place an unacceptable burden on local resources.' It was agreed that a petition should be drawn up and presented to the relevant authority, asking for its immediate eviction . GENT SEVERS TIES WITH VODAPHONE Police are searching for a man who entered the premises of Grimley's Gentleman's Outfitters and destroyed a number of silk ties by cutting them in half with a specially sharpened mobile phone. The man was described as of medium build, with grey hair, aged about fifty. 'He seemed such a quiet, well spoken gent,' said Arthur Bugg (45), who was working in the shop when the offence occurred. 'You could have knocked me down with a feather when I saw what he was up to.' Anyone who witnessed the incident, or has been offered half a tie, is asked to get in touch with the police. BLINKERS CAN HELP CORNISH TO MINE DEVALUED GOLD The attempt to resume gold mining in Cornwall was given the go ahead yesterday, after the mining company agreed to issue blinkers to all its workers. These have been proven to protect the eyes from damage due to glare from the metal as new seams are uncovered. The operation is still considered to be economically viable, even though the price of gold has dropped recently on the open market. HUSBAND SCREAMED AS SHE TATTOOED HIS BUM Police were called late Monday night to a disturbance in Forsythia Drive. Loud screams had been heard issuing from one of the residences on the road. The house was surrounded and officers effected an entrance. Later an ambulance was called. A woman taken away for questioning but later released. Neighbour Lindsey Briskett (23), said 'It was awful. I thought someone was being murdered in there. Then there was blue flashing lights everywhere. We didn't get a wink of sleep' She said she did not know the couple involved very well. 'They were always very quiet. Up till now, that is.' Brent Tupper (32), of Forsythia Drive, was released from hospital on Tuesday morning after treatment to his lower back. He refused to be interviewed, but in a statement to this paper Tracey Tupper (29), of the same address, said. 'It was something and nothing. He wanted a tattoo for his birthday. I am doing a course at College. It hardly hurt at all, he is just a big baby. Now get off my doorstep, you b*****ds!' We understand that no charges have been pressed. MINNOWS FACE GROWING THREAT OF TAKEOVER The encroachment of pike into minor waterways is causing increasing concern to their present inhabitants, a spokesfish from the Association of Minnows said yesterday. As soon as one of these giants moves in to the main stream, it spells ruin for the small fry. They face having to move away or be gobbled up. A leading pike told us, 'This is unnecessarily alarmist. Are diverse population is to everyone's advantage, including ours. We are sure the minnows will be able to adapt to a more competitive environment.' However, the minnows are not convinced. 'We feel that a wholesale invasion of pike would spell disaster for our entire ecology, and we will resist with every fin we have.'
Archived comments for Shock Horror!!!
HelenRussell on 10-04-2006
Shock Horror!!!
Nice piece Moya.
I must admit, the vodafone headline was the one that caught me out- well done.
Regards
Sarah

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sarah. They are all genuine headlines, four from the Guardian and one (guess which) from the cover of a wms mag I saw on the shelf.

Jen_Christabel on 10-04-2006
Shock Horror!!!
I thoroughly enjoyed this, it reminded me of my 'Pastie lane Local News' which I am re-posting soon. I love things like this, they guarantee a smile :o)
Jennifer :o)

Author's Reply:
Thanks Jen. I enjoyed doing them. Will look out for your 'Pastie Lane'.
Moya

Sunken on 10-04-2006
Shock Horror!!!
Very clever Ms. Shadow. hard to pick a fave, but I am swaying (as I tend to do occasionally due to a slanting foundation that was never rectified - but anyway, that's not important right now)... what was I saying? Oh yeah, I would (if pressed) sway to the tattooed bum one. I have a bar-code on mine ya know. Sadly, it has rarely been scanned. I hope this in-depth critique has been both informative and helpful.
Yours, swaying

s
u
n
k
e
n

his right arm rejected him

Author's Reply:
Dear sunk, glad you liked. I am intrigued to hear of your barcode. Pity you never passed through my till when I was a young checkout operator.
Keep swaying,
M

niece on 11-04-2006
Shock Horror!!!
Extremely enjoyable...the protest by the birds is my favourite...!
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece, thanks for dropping by. The birds' reaction is all too typical I'm afraid, though they may not find it easy to persuade the vulture to move on - he's so much bigger than they are!

RoyBateman on 11-04-2006
Shock Horror!!!
Very witty indeed, Moya - just up my street! And, yes, I DO nick ideas wholesale from the papers - they're a very fertile ground for anyone stuck for an idea. The obits particularly get me going - truth is always odder than fiction, but they're a great jumping-off point. Whoops, there go all my secrets... Great bit of writing, certainly made me chuckle!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy. Yes the papers are a great source of ideas, especially the bits at the bottom of the inside pages. And those really weird headlines you see sometimes in the Business and Sports sections.

JuanSanchez on 12-04-2006
Shock Horror!!!
Ooh, great idea and nicely done to boot. I'd never thought of doing this but as Roy rightly says, truth is stranger than fiction.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Juan, I did have a lot of fun. There are some really weird headlines, with very dull stories attached - seemed a good idea to provide something more fitting.

Kat on 17-04-2006
Shock Horror!!!
Hehe, definitely had a chuckle with these - great stuff!

Kat :o)

Author's Reply:
Hi Kat, glad they raised a smile!


Inside my head (posted on: 06-03-06)
How did she know ...

Inside my head Neurons fire, impulses leap Synapses, images form. Ideas embodied In words, everything words. Without them Is no thought, nothing A blank, a void. Language is all. Inside her head What? She looks at me Eyes soulful, brown Impenetrable - Something is there Scents, sights, feeling What does she see? A paw Lands on my arm. importunate - What does she know she sees? I think, therefore I am - What shall we have for dinner? Should I bring The washing in before It rains? Have I time To take her for a walk? She transforms Instantly from sleep to waking. Ears prick up, tail wags, but how did she Know what I was thinking Inside my head?
Archived comments for Inside my head
Romany on 06-03-2006
Inside my head
Brilliant! Another canine related poem! I'm sure they have extra sensory perception.

Romany.

Author's Reply:
I agree, also psychokinetic ablities, for transferring food from your plate to their mouth. Thanks Romany.

Sunken on 06-03-2006
Inside my head
Get yourself an hamster is my advice Ms. Shadow of condom fame. My Rudy won't touch anything I eat, apart from peanuts. You never have to take them out for a walk either. I did try once but I just got laughed at and Rudy crapped himself because this vile Alsatian tried to eat him. Anyway, that's not important right now. A lovely poem Ms. Shadow that reminded me of a trip to Margate I once made with a Swedish friend who thought that yodeling was hip? Luckily I lost her on the way home and I've not heard anything from her since. Though sometimes, in the dead of night, if the wind is blowing in the right direction, I can hear her yodeling cries. Thankfully, I have a bedside clock that plays sound effects of the sea and if I put it on number ten it drowns the bitch out. Ahem... Am I getting any better at this critiquing or wot?

s
u
n
k
e
n

yes sir, i can spring clean - but i need some hoover bags

Author's Reply:
Thank you sunk for your brilliant and perspicacious critique. I had a hamster once. He was called Hector only he turned out to be female. When we let her out for some exercise she used to run underneath the fire (we had an open fire then). Nearly gave me heart failure, but it never did her any harm. Must have been made of asbestos.

niece on 07-03-2006
Inside my head
Shadow,
Animals definitely sense things better than us...as was noted after the Tsunami. I'm sure human beings have lost that touch while trying to progress in the material realm.
Nice thoughts and nice poem, Shadow,
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
That is true, maybe because their senses are so much keener than ours. Our dog Chloe can hear a potato crisp hit the floor from the other end of the garden.
Thanks for comment. M.

Jen_Christabel on 07-03-2006
Inside my head
Nice piece Shadow. I often wonder if my cat knows what I am thinking, she is very perceptive, especially when I am going through one of my frequent 'down' periods. Clever things animals.
Jennifer :o)

Author's Reply:
They are certainly very receptive to mood, and comforting to have around. Thanks for comment.

RoyBateman on 07-03-2006
Inside my head
How indeed? I've never figured out how animals can communicate so readily - I suppose they have their own language, if a limited one...but who knows how "limited" it actually is? Got me thinking, this one - both intelligent and entertaining!

Author's Reply:
My dog speaks fluent body language - reads us like a book ... Thanks Roy.

Andrea on 07-03-2006
Inside my head
I often think they can communicate better than we can, frankly.

Nice one, Shad...

Author's Reply:
Yes, my husband says our Chloe is a better conversationalist than I am. Or maybe she's just a better listener ...

Jolen on 04-06-2006
Inside my head
I enjoyed this and I am sure that dogs do know what we think as they know when we need a friend and love. Nicely done.

blessings,
Jolen

Author's Reply:

woodbine on 25-07-2006
Inside my head
Dear Moya,
I can only think the knib fairy was nodding or on the Guiness up at the Working Fairies' Club in Donegal when you wrote this wonderful, empathetic poem that both amuses and raises questions about the nature of our unique relationship with language, which, when all is said and done, is what poetry is about.
The best to you,
John

Author's Reply:


Going to see King Tut (posted on: 03-03-06)
I've finally managed to put some of the notes I made on my trip to Egypt last year into some sort of order ...

Well, you have to, don't you? I mean, you can't visit Cairo without visiting the Tutankhamun Exhibition. It would be like refusing to go near the pyramids. Especially as we missed out on our first chance to see it. That was back in 1972 when it came to the British Museum. We'd arranged to stay with some cousins who lived near Slough, so we could take the train into London, only it was that morning that our son Tom first decided to make his presence felt. I spent the first hour after breakfast puking my heart out. By the time we reached the Museum the queue had stretched way past the 'Last chance of getting in today' notice. We thought, bugger this for a game of soldiers, and went to see the Elgin Marbles instead. Funnily enough it was through Tom that we had a second chance, though when he first told us he was taking a job in Cairo, we were not exactly overjoyed. It's a long way to pop home for the weekend. But once he was settled in a flat, and asking us to visit, it seemed silly to waste the opportunity. So there we were, venturing out for the first time on our own. Tom had gone in to work before we got up. He had taken us around a few places in the couple of days since we had arrived, helping us to get orientated, but it was still a bit scary. We had decided to go to the Museum first, as being the least complicated destination. Tom had warned us not to assume that a Cairo taxi-driver would know where anything was - but surely they would all have heard of the Cairo Museum? We walked round the corner to the main street and waited for one of the black-and-white chequered taxis to cruise past. The traffic in Cairo is incredible - everyone drives as fast as they can and there seem to be no rules - right of way is settled by whoever blinks first. Double parking is the norm, and as the pavements are practically impassable through lack of maintenance, everyone walks in the road. The first two or three taxi drivers who stopped seemed never to have heard of the Museum. Perhaps we should have found out what it was in Arabic? But at last one nodded so we got in, me in the back and Geoff in the front with the driver. Apparently in Egypt it's very bad form for a man to sit in the back. I sat back and started to relax. and enjoy the view. Maadi, the suburb where Tom lives, is a strange mixture of the exotic and the familiar. We pass a MacDonald's and a Pizza Hut, with next door a temporary mosque set up for Ramadan, with carpets on the pavement outside. Many of the buildings have an unfinished look, with a shop or cafι on the ground floor and just an empty shell above. It's difficult to tell whether they are half built or partially collapsed. And everywhere, there are cats. An army of cats, all shapes and sizes. Most of them look fairly healthy, if skinny. At least Cairo shouldn't have much of a rat problem, with that lot around. The taxi took us along the Corniche, the main road which runs alongside the Nile into central Cairo, so at least we were going in the right direction. Then we stopped outside a large hotel. The driver smiled expectantly. We said 'No! Museum! Tutankhamun? Mummies?' Total blank There was a guard standing outside the hotel, so our driver called him over for advice. They held a long confabulation . 'Hotel Rameses?' said the guard. 'Hotel Rameses?' repeated the driver. 'No! Museum!' we insisted. How do you mime a mummy? We gave up. 'Okay - Hotel Rameses.' Maybe someone there would know where the Museum was. However on the way there I spotted a sign saying 'Museum', so we were able to direct him. When we got out Geoff gave him 50LE (£5) - while was a bit more than Tom said was the going rate - so we were surprised when he seemed rather upset It turned out that Geoff was offering him a 50 piastre note (about 5p). That is the trouble when you are trying to cope with an unfamiliar currency. To us the pound notes were almost identical to the piastres, particularly when both were grubby and falling to bits. We sorted it out eventually with help from a friendly passer-by, who promptly tried to flog us a papyrus picture. Geoff gave him the 50 piastres for his help. Well, we had got there. The only problem now was, we were not quite sure what time the Museum closed. I thought I had seen something about 4 o'clock in the guidebook . We had been later than intended setting off, and what with the delay it was now mid-afternoon. Then who should roll up but Omar Sharif (or his grandson). Tall, handsome, very well dressed, very good English. He told us that the Museum was about to close, but there was a government shop nearby where we could see papyrus being made and buy high quality perfume at fixed prices. We believed him. He offered to take us there - and like little lambs we followed him. He was extremely friendly and charming - told us his name was Ali and he worked at the Museum - in the Tutenkamun exhibition no less! He told us when we did visit it, to ask for him by name, and he would personally show us round. He enquired how long we had been in Egypt, and how long we were staying, and did we like Egypt? He escorted us across the road, and into a small shop, where he handed us over to the shop-keeper, and vanished. The shop sold papyrus pictures (better quality, and considerably more expensive, than the ones we'd been offered outside the museum), perfume and silverware. I am ashamed to say - I bought some perfume. Geoff was disgusted with me - but the lotus essence did smell very nice. And I did not buy a large bottle. The first one the shopkeeper showed us was enormous, half a litre at least.. I kept shaking my head, and each time he brought out a smaller bottle, till he got down to a tiny one which he swore was the smallest he had. It is still enough to last me the rest of my life. We couldn't manage to get out of the papyrus-making demonstration, but did escape before being sold a picture. Egyptian art is not quite our thing - would not suit our dιcor. We wandered around downtown Cairo for a while, through crowded, dusty streets. Every time we stopped to get our bearings someone would pop up to talk to us. 'Welcome to Egypt - where you from? English? You know Yorkshire? I have may friends in Yorkshire .. . You like tea? Come, meet my wife, she do tiffin, very good …' Every corner was staked out. Geoff started to reply in Welsh, which threw them somewhat. By this time it was starting to get dark, and we had had enough. It was time to return to base. Next morning we tried again. This time we decided to forget about taxis and take the Metro. It might be less comfortable, but at least we would not have to tell it where to go. We had seen a Metro station in the square outside the museum, so we took a taxi to Maadi station and caught a train. It was very crowded (this is certainly a good way to get close to the people). I managed to grab a seat, and I noticed one of other passengers, a woman, looked a bit shocked. Maybe it's not done for respectable women to go and sit by strange men. When the seat next to me became vacant, all the other men insisted Geoff take it. I don't know why more foreigners don't use the Metro - it's a lot less hassle that coping with taxis even if you do have to stand.. We did feel a little conspicuous at first, but no-one took any notice of us. The museum stayed open till 6.30 (so 'Ali' was lying). Security was very heavy, with police everywhere round entrance, some in steel helmets and carrying machine guns, some with dogs. All bags were put through the X-ray, and all men body searched (but not the women - I could have been carrying anything!) Once in, we made straight for Tutankhamun. Well, not quite, the first thing I did was locate the loo. But after that, we went upstairs. And, I must admit, it was impressive. For one thing, until you see it for yourself you don't appreciate how much there is of it - beds and thrones and chariots, and at least six of everything. It's not easy to take it all in. And of course there were the crowds - we kept having to dodge guided tours. This was the first time since we arrived in Egypt that we have encountered tourists en masse - and what a weird lot they were. For the past three days all the women we had seen had been covered from head to toe - and now here they were in shorts - and sleeveless tee-shirts - with low necklines! And men - quite elderly men showing off their knobbly knees! Had they no dignity? We saw the famous mask, and all the other treasures. The looked just like their photos. All very bling - the Ancient Egyptians did not go in for restraint and understatement. No sign of friend Ali, needless to say. After that came the Royal Mummies, which in a way were a bit of a let down. When you have seen one dried corpse, you've seen the lot. It was all rather sad. There they lay, in their own time the most powerful men in the world, now nothing but a glorified peepshow. Not the kind of immortality they'd had in mind. It was dark by the time we got out. We sat in the museum garden for a while, by the pool with the lotus blossom, while the moon shone down over the Nile Hilton. We had made it. Finally, we had got to see King Tut.
Archived comments for Going to see King Tut
niece on 03-03-2006
Going to see King Tut
Shadow,
This was a very interesting account...hope you are planning to post some more articles on Egypt...how about the food? Friends of ours are going there this summer and they had invited us. But it would mean leaving the kids behind:(!
Regds,
niece


Author's Reply:
Hi niece, thanks for commenting. Egypt is a fascinating place, you really should go if you can. I kept a diary while I was there, so I may well post more pieces if I can get round to writing them up properly.

e-griff on 03-03-2006
Going to see King Tut
Egypt is really great. Avoid the 'modern' Roman gerry-built temples though... and see Luxor (ancient Thebes) and Abu Simbel if you can. But the valley of the Kings is a wee bit boring... πŸ™‚

Nice account - never been to Cairo, so useful info... G

Author's Reply:
Thanks griff. It was really interesting, though we only got to see Cairo and Alexandria. We'd love to go back and visit Luxor (provided son does not depart for pastures new).

Andrea on 03-03-2006
Going to see King Tut
I enjoyed this Shad. I think it must be quite difficult to make travel writing interesting and entertaining (although there's a good living to be made out of it if you can), and thought you did very well πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Thanks Andrea. It's the first time I've tried travel writing. First tme I've traveled anywhere worth writing about, come to that.
It sounds like a fun way to make a living

RoyBateman on 04-03-2006
Going to see King Tut
Something different for you - but very impressive! I've seen far worse in the broadsheets. Really fascinating stuff, the culture being so astonishingly different. I've never been - I'd love to see the actual monuments and sites, but the whole sweaty crush of people and the heat in general put me off. So, well done - excellent all round. I reckon you've done all the hard work for me!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy. Yes, it was extremely interesting. We went in November, so it was not too hot. I might not have fancied it so much in August!

red-dragon on 04-03-2006
Going to see King Tut
Well, I thoroughly enjoyed this - personal, but informative. it's the bits you don't get in the papers that I liked (bling was great!) Ann

Author's Reply:
I have to admit, it was the non-tourist, everyday things I found most interesting. Tnanks dragon.

bluepootle on 04-03-2006
Going to see King Tut
I'd love to go to Egypt: your advice here will definitely help if I ever get round to it! Thanks Shadow, good clean writing.

Author's Reply:
Thanks pootle. It's cerainly a place well worth a visit - only don't trust Omar Sharif!

Jen_Christabel on 07-03-2006
Going to see King Tut
Very interesting stuff.
I have always wanted to go to Egypt to see the pyramids but, after flying (once only) to Mexico, I vowed you would never get me in a plane again. Hence, I travel about ten minutes into Cornwall and investigate the pasties LOL.
It must have been a great holiday for you.
Jennifer :o)

Author's Reply:
Nothing wrong with Cornwall! Thanks for comment. Yes, it was fantastic. I may post my take on the pyramids - if I ever get round to writing it up properly.


Three short poems (posted on: 27-02-06)
Being to short to submit on their own

5 The five times table Was always my favourite. I liked the rhythm Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, The way it rhymed Thirty-five, forty-five. Almost poetry. It learned itself. The eight times table On the other hand Was a right bugger. Getting out of Tamworth Driving out of Tamworth Always takes ten minutes No matter what the time of day Or night Or how much traffic. Ten, no more, no less. How is this achieved? Are the lights more sluggish When the roads are empty? One of those things Which don't exactly matter But you must agree It's odd. And my absolutely shortest poem ever The Spur of the Moment Ouch! That hurt.
Archived comments for Three short poems
Romany on 27-02-2006
Three short poems
Lol! These cheered me up. I can absolutely sympathise re; the times table. And as for the 9's...

Romany.

Author's Reply:
Hi Romany. Just a bit of fun - glad you liked πŸ˜‰

Jen_Christabel on 27-02-2006
Three short poems
Great :o)
The last one cracked me up.
Good stuff here
Jennifer :o)

Author's Reply:
Hi jen - thanks! I think the last one is my favourite as well.

RoyBateman on 27-02-2006
Three short poems
"O!" - that's MY shortest poem, so there with knobs on. Sorry. Really good fun, the first especially made me laugh out loud. And you're right about the rhythm - who said rote learning doesn't work? The next time I drive into Tamworth, I'll test your theory. Stopwatch out...
A great short read!

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy - have you posted your shortest poem? I must have missed it. Don't know if the Tamworth one is still true, since they started the road works on the railway bridge ...

niece on 27-02-2006
Three short poems
Shadow,
Short and sweet...and very funny! I'm in the process of teaching my son the tables and that's not funny!!!
Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Well, as Roy says, you can't beat rote learning. I used to like chanting all together 'Two twos are four, three twos are six etc.' - and it certainly fixed them in my mind. Keep p the good work!
Moya

woodbine on 28-02-2006
Three short poems
Dear Moya,
Great stuff. I definitely like the third one best and think you ought to establish a school of Demi Haiku where you are allowed max' three or four words and a title. Here, very derivative of yours Master, is my first feeble attempt. Title:Don't Sit There

Don't Sit There

Why not?
Bang!!!!

John


Author's Reply:
Wow! that's brilliant - encapsulates the menace and violence of modern civilsation. Do you think the world is ready for a new verse form? What could we call it?

Sunken on 02-03-2006
Three short poems
I always favoured the 11 times table. It seems to get overlooked for some reason. God knows why as it's a cinch to learn, though I do have a mental block when I get to 22 for some reason. Anyway, that's not important right now. A very entertaining ickul sub young Shadow that has left me craving... salad? Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

yes sir, I can cha cha

Author's Reply:
Just noticed I stuck my answer in the wrong box - sign of incipient dementia methinks. Sorry sunky, thanks anyway.

shadow on 02-03-2006
Three short poems
Hi sunky, thanks for stopping by, yes 11x is another good one, also 10x. Enjoy your salad.

Author's Reply:


Love is . . . (posted on: 20-02-06)
A meditation on love, Valentines and all that stuff.

Love is … The sweetest thing Love is … What makes the world go round Love is … Never having to say 'sorry'. What a load of bollocks. Love is coloured pink and red (An unpleasant combination) On a million greetings cards With themes from sentimental to obscene. Love murders forests - An environmental disaster. A blood-red rose, price inflated Is a bloody rip-off. Love sells When sold Is no longer love.
Archived comments for Love is . . .
bluepootle on 20-02-2006
Love is . . .
Ouch! Right on the money. Love the line, 'love murders forests'.

Author's Reply:
Thanks pootle. I've been told cards are made out of recycled paper now - well, maybe.

RoyBateman on 20-02-2006
Love is . . .
Ooh, Cupid must've been a rotten shot this year! Okay, fair point - if you wanna go and bomb Clinton Cards, I'll hold your handbag. I agree, all that pinky red goo looks like something left over from an operation - vile stuff. You hit the commercial aspect of it all right where it hurts - no bad thing!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy - though actually I'm as soft and gooey as everyone else really - & if I don't get my valentine card there's hell to pay ...

Bradene on 20-02-2006
Love is . . .
Truth hurts, I'm a sucker for romance! but you are so right. and you made your point so cleverly too . Val x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Val. I'm not really anti romance, just don't like being ripped off!

HelenRussell on 20-02-2006
Love is . . .
A very clever message that I didn't see coming. Was just staring to get all gooey myself until the line "What a load of bollocks" -made me laugh out loud.
Great work,
Sarah

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sarah - wasn't to sure about the bollocks, but then I thought, ah, what the hell ...

Andrea on 20-02-2006
Love is . . .
Nice one Shad - spot on. Certainly made me chuckle (even is it wasn't s'posed to)

Author's Reply:
Thanks And - it is of course a deeply serious piece πŸ˜‰

Apolloneia on 21-02-2006
Love is . . .
in the same way one could claim that "literature" murders forests too! nice enjoyable and thoughtprovoking read.
best
nic.

Author's Reply:
Yes, literature has a lot to answer for. Thanks nic.

niece on 21-02-2006
Love is . . .
The commercialisation of such a beautiful emotion can be really very irritating...In India we have two extremes, the lovey dovey young(or older)couples and the then we have the moral/culture police going around telling other people what they should do with their emotions...it can't get worse than this!!!

Good poem, Shadow!

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
I hope not, niece. Thanks for the comment.

redlobster on 21-02-2006
Love is . . .
Maybe you should offer it next year as an anti-Valentines card,

I hate it - just another excuse to get rich after people are still in debt from the millenium

Good poem

Author's Reply:
Anti-Valentine cards, hmmm? D'you think there's money in it? Thanks.

Sunken on 21-02-2006
Love is . . .
Could love have something to do with that slight rash I have behind my left testicle Ms. Shadow of 'Love is...' fame? I reckon Valentines day is on the decline. If you really love someone, surely you would tell them so every day and not just on a dreary February 14. It also makes singletons feel even more miserable. I'm just glad I have my hamster at times like these. Thanks. Consider the human league and how a strange haircut could, during the 80's, almost guarantee chart success. I am currently cultivating an Oakey hair style and hoping for a hit with a song called, 'Being soiled'.

s
u
n
k
e
n

get around town, get around town, where the people look good, where the music is loud

Author's Reply:
Only too likely, I fear. Thanks for your extremely flattering comment. Take care, and good luck with the haircut.

Kat on 21-02-2006
Love is . . .
Hehe - I loved this, shadow... I certainly had a good chuckle, especially at the 'bollocks' line - a clever write.

Kat :o)

Author's Reply:
hanks Kat, glad you liked my bollocks. Metaphorically speaking, that is.


Do You Know - ? (posted on: 03-02-06)
Do you ever get the feeling things are sort of slipping a bit?

Do you know - ? No, I don't. I don't know where you left The yellow- handled screwdriver, Or the tape measure. I don't know who that bloke on the telly is Or what he's doing there. And the whereabouts of the remote control Are a complete mystery. Nor do I recollect agreeing To ask your mother over. What am I doing here? I wish I knew. I swim in an infinite sea of ignorance. Where did I leave my mind? I know - nothing!
Archived comments for Do You Know - ?
Romany on 03-02-2006
Do You Know - ?
Lol! I love this! I think we can all identify. Brilliantly cheerful, sardonic little poem perfect for a Friday morning!
Romany.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Romany. I used to call it having a bad day, but it's getting to be a permanent state ...

Sunken on 03-02-2006
Do You Know - ?
It's because you're a woman I think Shadow. I don't have any problems remembering er... erm... what was I going to say?
Drum role please. I do enjoy your shorts Ms. Shadow of Tamworth fame, they are easier on my delicate eyes. Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

Liverpool 4 - Gravy boat 2

Author's Reply:
So you think it's a female thing? I put it down to old age. (Where have you encountered my shorts? My shorts are not for public viewing, I keep them hidden away in my drawers.)
M

niece on 04-02-2006
Do You Know - ?
A good fun poem, Shadow! It's not easy to remember where someone else has kept something!!!
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece. Don't I know it! Especially when Someone Else never puts his stuff away ...

chrissy on 05-02-2006
Do You Know - ?
Oh yes, this struck a definite chord with me.
It was well written too, precise springs to mind and very punchy.
I enjoyed it.
chrissy

Author's Reply:
Hi chrissy - thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

woodbine on 05-02-2006
Do You Know - ?
A funny poem with an underlying sadness to it.

I feel something similar;
I see my life go winging by,
while I'm still puffin' far behind.

On a practical level , Google is a great aide memoire. Forget the name of a movie star and you have only to remember a famous line of dialogue e.g. Make my day punk.
and Google will give it you in two seconds.

John XXX

Author's Reply:
Hi John, it's nice to know I'm not alone. And I agree, Google is marvellous (though I usually find I've forgtten the quote as well) 'Now what was her name ... you know, she was in that film with thingummy ... where she said ... dammit, it's on the tip of my tongue ... something about whistling?'

Griffonner on 10-02-2006
Do You Know - ?
Oh my God! Have I got a soulmate I didn't know about? Ha! " Google is marvellous (though I usually find I've forgtten the quote as well)" Snap! When I finally got onto Google's page, my fingers are poised over the keys, and inside I'm panicking... What the hell was I going to look up?
*Empathically*
Griffonner


Author's Reply:
Ah, yes, I know that feeling so well - like when you get to the top of the stairs and you can't remember why you came up, so you go back down again ... all good exercise I suppose.

Bradene on 10-02-2006
Do You Know - ?
Yes! I thought I was the only one who suffered this type of thing. Great work here well done. Val x

Author's Reply:
Thanks, it is good to know I am not alone. Perhaps we should start a Self-Help group for the Memorially Challenged?

HelenRussell on 19-02-2006
Do You Know - ?
Great fun to read and so very true πŸ™‚
Reagrds,
Sarah

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sarah - it does seem to have struck a chord.


Limericks for several occasions (posted on: 09-01-06)
Just a bit of fun for a Monday morning

1 There was a young lady of Norwich Who for her roughage had to forage She was partial to stodge Until felled by a splodge Of extremely high density porridge. 2 A young lad called Damian Crocket Once put some fireworks in his pocket But later that night Set the fuses alight And our hero took off like a rocket. 3 There once was a fervent young Tory Who wanted to lead them to glory Was he clean? Was he not? Will it all go to pot? But that weren't the end of the story . . . 4 Said the ghoul to the vampire, 'Feel free If Hallowe'en fills you with glee To go out in the night And give 'em a fright But it's all far too scary for me!' 5 'Lack of fuel may have left us benighted But let's not get overexcited,' She said. 'We're not skinny, There's no room in a mini Your passion must stay unrequited.' 6 The builder was filled with dejection At the end of the council inspection For he'd started his mission Without planning permission And now he has lost his erection.
Archived comments for Limericks for several occasions
niece on 09-01-2006
Limericks for several occasions
Shadow,
I must say they are all good...but my personal favourties would be the one about Damien Crocket and the 6th one...excellent!!!
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece - I think number 6 is my favourite as well.

Romany on 09-01-2006
Limericks for several occasions
My favourite is Number 5 - very witty!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Romany - glad you liked!

Sunken on 09-01-2006
Limericks for several occasions
At last! Some shorties from the Shadow. It's a time thing, plus my head aches if I read too much. My doctor says I'm just a twat, which I don't really find all that helpful to be honest. Number 6 is my fave young Shadow of boxing fame. Class. Thanks. Take care and a trilby.

s
u
n
k
e
n

if tomorrow never comes I may as well have the day off?

Author's Reply:
Hi sunk, I'm only into shorts at the moment, old brain can't cope with longs. Isn't January depressing? I'm considering hibernation. Wake me up in march.
Oh, and thanks for the rating.

RoyBateman on 10-01-2006
Limericks for several occasions
Very witty, very well-constructed too. I can't abide those Lear ones, even if he did probably invent the things, where the last line is always the same as the first - what a cop-out! These were uniformly excellent, I thought - and you saved the best line 'til last. great stuff, and a wonderful start to the New Year - hope it's a good one for you.

Author's Reply:
Hi Roy! I agree with you about Lear - always found them a it feeble. And a happy New Year to you too.

admin on 10-01-2006
Limericks for several occasions
I like no 3 - great fun, Shadow πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Thanks And, I was afraid that one might have passed its sell-by date.

Jen_Christabel on 10-01-2006
Limericks for several occasions
These totally cracked me up Shadow.

Number 2 conjured up a great picture.

Lovely, quite lovely and something to really make me smile :o)

Jen :o)

Author's Reply:
Thanks Jen - that's what it's all about!

HelenRussell on 12-01-2006
Limericks for several occasions
Can't decide whih, love 'em all. Think 5 and 6 have the edge for me though.
Great read.
Sarah

Author's Reply:
Thanks for reading and commenting - and rating!

Bradene on 22-01-2006
Limericks for several occasions
Great fun Limmericks I just loved no 6 Love Val x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Val - just realised I made a mistake copying No 6 - fourth line should be 'plannig permission'! However did I manage not to spot that? Sorted now.
Moya


A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 18 (posted on: 06-01-06)
Out of the frying pan, into the - what?

The Guards were upon her, hands outstretched to grab - and closing on nothing, as she passed easily between them, her robe falling empty to the ground. Their shouts of astonishment faded behind her as she left them swiftly behind. She found she was gliding about a foot above the ground, moving in a straight line towards the lights of the city. Hedges and copses were no obstacle to her, she moved through them as though they were not there. The river passed beneath her like smoke. At last, as she neared the great rock, her headlong rush finally slowed, and she paused to take stock of her new situation. She was on the edge of the featureless, boggy land that stretched north of the Rock of Henlis. By now full darkness had fallen, and it was impossible to see what her new body was like, or even if she had a body at all. Perhaps I died, and turned into a ghost, she thought. The idea did not worry her. Of one thing she was certain, she was not dreaming. There would be no waking in a prison cell for her. She felt no surprise. What had happened to her, whatever it was, seemed perfectly natural, perfectly right. What she did feel was intensely curious. She began to move around the base of the Rock, towards the distant glow of the lights. As she drew nearer she could see that most the city was in darkness, save for the torches burning over doorways in the prosperous parts of town. The only brightly lit area was just beyond the bridge, a part of town which Shadow had never visited before. Here was where off duty Guards went to spend their pay, in the taverns, brothels and gambling dens that clustered there. As Shadow came closer she could make out individual figures. Girls, scantily dressed, some no older than herself, thronged the street, accosting passers-by. Groups of Guards swaggered through the crowds, thrusting aside anyone in their path. Handsome buildings which had seen better days were surrounded by miserable shacks, and from every door spilled light, shouts, raucous singing, and now and then the noise of a fight. Through it all Shadow wandered bemused, nervous at first but growing bolder as she realised that no-one was taking the slightest notice of her, if indeed they could see her at all. She stood in an alley and watched as two dark figures plundered an unconscious body. In the full light of a tavern doorway, men walked through her as if she was not there. Was she invisible? It became important to find out. She could see her own hands in the flickering torchlight, but could anyone else? She found a quieter street, lined with opulent houses where women sat in the windows. In one she glimpsed what she needed, a mirror. She peered over the occupants shoulder, and saw her own reflection, just a dark shape, an outline . . . "I am a shadow," she said. Of course no-one could see her. She was a shadow among a thousand shadows, in this place of restless movement and uncertain light. "I am Shadow," she repeated in wonder. A great wave of terror and exultation seized her, the ground dropped away beneath her feet as it swept her up into the night sky. Soon she could see the whole city spread out beneath her, asleep under the moon. "I am Shadow!" she cried to the night. She became aware that she was not alone. She was surrounded by strange glowing creatures, very like the ones she had met before, at the burial-ground, but now they shone like fireflies. They crowded around her, seizing her hands and drawing her into their wild dance through the air. They circled over the rooftops, streamed around the dark bulk of the Tower, their strange sweet music filled her ears, and she sang with them. She could do anything, she was one of them. She could go anywhere she wished, fly to the Forest in an instant, leave all the danger and misery behind, find somewhere they could be safe, she and Linnet - Linnet! Abruptly she dropped out of the dance, sinking back towards the earth as the bright beings whirled away. How could she have forgotten? What if Rendil had demanded that the Sisters give her up, when Shadow herself could not be found? She must return to the House at once. By now she had reached ground level again, and realised that she had no idea where she was. It was totally dark, and yet, she thought, surely the moon was shining a few moments ago. How long had she been dancing? She was in the midst of a featureless waste, very like the one she had crossed when she followed the silver path. For the first time that night she was afraid. What if she could not find her way back? She could wander here forever. Somewhere a wolf howled, and she shuddered. It was growing lighter, or she more used to the gloom, for she began to make out her immediate surroundings - clumps of coarse grass and reeds, interspersed with stagnant pools. Faint greenish lights flickered on the edge of her vision. She knew now where she must be. She was in the middle of the Annismire, the great foetid marshland north of the city. As she peered through the gloom, trying to spot the bulk of the Rock against the sky, she noticed a light not far away: not the pale marsh light, but the red glow of a fire. She glided towards it. The light came from a tumbledown shack on a hillock of dry ground. As Shadow approached she could see through the open doorway. An old woman was stirring a large iron pot over the fire, and as Shadow hesitated she looked up. Shadow had a sudden strong sense of danger, but it was already too late. "Come in, shadow-child, warm yourself," said the crone. The ground was suddenly cold under her feet, and an icy wind clawed at her back. She was solid again. Not only that, she was stark naked. She stepped into the hovel and closed the door behind her. The firelight was dazzling after the darkness outside. Shadow felt horribly visible, as the old woman looked her up and down. "And what have we here, blown in from the night?"" Shadow could not answer, she felt too confused and uncertain. What was she, indeed? "Never mind, never mind." The old woman stirred the pot, muttering to herself. "Well, come in, sit by the fire. Are you hungry?" She was starving. She had not eaten since the noon meal in the House, hours before. The old woman thrust a bowl and spoon at her, and a savoury smell enveloped her. "What is it?" she managed to ask. "Bat's brains and toad spawn!" snapped the old woman. "What did you think? It's good barley broth I made myself. Eat or don't eat, it's all one to me." Shadow ate. The broth was indeed good, and there was a hunk of bread and a beaker of ale to follow. Replete at last, Shadow sat back and surveyed her surroundings. Now her eyes had grown used to the firelight, she could see that the inside of the hut was cluttered with innumerable objects. Shelves lined the walls, crowded with jars and boxes. Bundles of drying herbs hung from the rafters, and in the fireplace were other things, suspended in the smoke from the fire, which at first she took to be joints of meat. In some ways it reminded her of the kitchen at home, and for a moment the scene before her blurred as her eyes filled with tears. Most of the space in the hut was taken up by a large table in the middle of the floor, also piled high. The old woman was pottering between the table and a small pot set beside the fire, stirring the contents, occasionally adding a pinch of something from one of the jars on the table. After a while she lit a candle, and as it flared up Shadow was able to see her clearly. She was extremely ugly, she looked like all the crude drawings of witches in the tracts the Enlightened produced, with deep-set eyes, a great hooked nose and at least three large warts on her chin, with hair growing out of them. When she saw Shadow looking at her she smiled, showing a few blackened teeth. "Feeling better now, my pretty? It's a tiring thing, shape-changing, when you're not used to it. You're first time?" "Shape-changing? Is that what I did?" "Indeed it was, and a strange shape too. Birds is common, and hares, cats, any animal you care to mention, but a shadow - that I never saw before. Who might you be, if you don't mind me asking?" Shadow almost replied 'Shadow' but an instinctive caution made her hesitate. She remembered Orgrave telling her that anyone who knew her True Name would have power over her, so if Shadow was her true name, and she was almost certain it was . . . "I am Eliena, Emayn's daughter," she said. The old woman nodded, unsurprised. "Shame about your ma and pa - and she such a fine, respectable lady! I never thought to see the day her daughter would come visiting. Where have you been since she died?" "With the White Ladies." The old woman cackled with laughter. "Threw you out, did they? No wonder. That's no place for the likes of us." "They didn't throw me out, they were very kind," said Shadow indignantly. "I was frightened when Lord Rendil came and ran away, but the guards were waiting outside and when they grabbed me I . . . became a shadow. But I don't know how." "You've got a lot to learn, girl. What are you going to do now?" "Mother said I must go to the Forest and find her cousin Raven. She would teach me." "And how will you get there? It's a fair distance, and winter coming on and all. You'd best stop with old Annis for a bit. I could use a bit of help, and there's a few things I could teach you about shape-shifting." Shadow hesitated. The offer was tempting. The thought of the journey to the forest was daunting, and so was the prospect of fending for herself in the city. But - to live with Annis o' the Mire! She had realised who this must be long before the old woman had mentioned her name. Black Annis, with whom generations of nurses had threatened their charges, Black Annis who robbed gibbets and reached through windows to snatch naughty children from their beds, who would turn you into a toad as soon as look at you . . . "I think," she began carefully, "my mother would have wanted me to go straight to the forest." "No doubt," snapped Annis. "Your ma was always too high and mighty for the likes of me, very keen she was to keep her nose clean and her fingers out of the muck, and a lot of good it did her! I suppose she told you that I'm an evil old woman?" Shadow stared. Those had indeed been Emayn's exact words on more than one occasion. "Well she was right! We can't afford to be too fussy in this world, as you'll find out, girl, before you're much older. Still, suit yourself. You'll be no use to me if you're not willing. I suppose you think I go round stealing babies?" "Do you?" "Of course not. Not for years now. Why should I when there's enough left on the dump for any needs of mine?" Annis picked up the pot from beside the fire and began to pour the contents carefully into a set of candle moulds on the table. She appeared to be using some sort of animal fat - pig, perhaps? - with a pungent, rather unpleasant smell. Then she took down one of the objects hanging in the fireplace. Now Shadow could see what it was - a human hand, the skin tanned like leather and stretched tight over the bones. Annis examined it carefully, then took a small knife and started to scrape inside the wrist. "What - what's that?" whispered Shadow. "Dear me, girl, have you never seen a Hand of Glory before? This is for Hungreman, you can take it up for me in the morning. If it's not too much trouble, of course," she added sarcastically. " But what is it? What's it for?" "For breaking into houses. You take the hand of a hanged man, thieves are best, obviously, but any will do; dry it and hollow out the wrist like this, see, then put in one of my special candles, and when you light it no lock or bolt will stand against you, nor any stir, neither man nor beast, in the house where you carry it." "So you do rob gibbets, like they say." "I? Not at all. Clamber up the gallows-tree and walk home with a corpse over my shoulder, at my age? No, I have a business arrangement with the executioner." A terrifying thought had just struck Shadow. "What happened to my father's body?" "No, no, don't you fret. I see what you're thinking, but there's naught of your pa here. His head they stuck over the River Gate, the other gates have his arms, and his legs they sent down river to Dunavon Port. What happened to the rest of him I don't know. If you're going to puke, go outside." Shadow swallowed, and the wave of nausea receded. "I will see him buried, before I leave Henlys," she said quietly. "He will be avenged, I have sworn to it." Annis nodded in grudging approval. "At least you show some spirit. Are you sure you won't stop with me? There's things you need to know. You have power but no control. I could teach you." Shadow hesitated. The old woman both fascinated and repelled her. Could she be trusted? It might be as well not to offend her, she could prove a dangerous enemy. "I think I had better ask my mother," she said at last. "Ask?" Annis grew suddenly intent. "How do you mean to do that?" Her eyes were fixed on Shadow, who found that she could not look away. "She told me, if I needed to speak to her, to look in a glass," Shadow heard herself say. The words seemed to pass her lips without her consent. "When did she tell you this? Where?" "In the Borderland. On the night she died, I followed the silver path and found her there." "So you have travelled the Low Road? And I don't suppose you even know how you did it. Girl, you're a find, and no mistake. You stay with old Annis. What can Raven of the Wood teach you that I cannot? I'm older than her, aye, and wiser too. No need to go running to ask your ma, you're a big girl now, you have to make up your own mind. I can feed you and clothe you and house you, and protect you. I can answer all your questions." "And the price?" Shadow said with difficulty. "Price?" repeated Annis in a soothing murmur, "Nothing, nothing at all. Just a bit of help with the work around the place. I'm a poor, frail, lonely old woman, I need someone young and strong and healthy, to ease my burdens. In return you shall have all you want, safety and knowledge and power and vengeance. Oh, I'm very good at revenge. Why go traipsing off to the forest when all you need is here? Shadow found herself nodding. The hut seemed to have become very warm, and her head was swimming. "Just take hold of the rod, and repeat what I say." Shadow grasped the end of the carved stick which Black Annis held out to her. It seemed impossible not to do what the old woman asked. All at once their came the eerie howl of the wolf, it seemed to be coming from just outside the hut. Shadow gasped, shocked awake as if drenched by cold water. She could see the way Annis was looking at her, avid, hungry, and the way her hand reached out like a claw, and terror surged through her. Before she realised what was happening she found herself outside in the dark, speeding like an arrow back towards the rock. Behind her Black Annis cried out in baffled rage, but the sound quickly faded, drowned by the howling of the wolf. As she neared the city her headlong rush slowed, and she found it increasingly difficult to move at all, as if the very air had become viscous. It felt like trying to swim through treacle. The last of her strength brought her to the foot of the rock, and there she sprawled in a hollow, exhausted. She was abruptly conscious of the weight of her own body, and the feel of the ground under her, and then nothing more. Later, how much later she never knew, she woke briefly. It was still dark, though the sky in the east showed a pale line along the horizon. Beside her, his back pressed against hers, was an enormous grey wolf. It occurred to her, vaguely, that wolves were supposed to be dangerous. It did not seem to matter. He was warm and his fur soft. She nestled closer and went back to sleep. She woke finally in full daylight, the sun warm on her naked skin. The wolf had gone, if indeed she had not dreamt him. Looking round, she saw now where her panicked flight had brought her. She was back in the old burial ground, in a corner where the walls of two roofless tombs met. The tall grass had been flattened, as if some large animal had lain there. Not a dream, then. She stood up and stretched stiffly. From the height of the sun she had slept till noon, and she was ravenously hungry. but her first necessity was clothing. She could not roam around the city naked, not without attracting some attention. She looked around cautiously. At first sight the place appeared deserted, except for a flicker of movement at the corner of her eye, something vanishing round a corner, a wizened brown face peering from a bush, which disappeared before she saw it properly. The Ferian. She had seen no sign of them at the House of Light, but here they were everywhere. She could sense them watching her. Glancing down she noticed something lying at her feet, which she was sure had not been there before, a piece of cloth, no, a man's shirt. Shadow picked it up. It was of coarse grey wool, old , with darns and patches, but at least it seemed clean. In fact it had probably come from a washing line, for it was slightly damp, but Shadow did not care. It would cover her. Though she did hope, as she pulled it over her head, that it was not the previous owner's only shirt. "Thank you," she said aloud, to the empty air. Her most pressing problem was now solved, up to a point, but she still had to decide what to do. She could not return to the House. It was no longer a safe haven, and besides, it was almost certainly being watched. Would anywhere be safe, if the Black Guards were after her? In the circumstances, she thought, it was surprising that she felt so cheerful, but the sun was shining, and after the extraordinary events of last night, somehow she could not believe that any danger could touch her. However, there were still the more mundane problems of finding food and shelter. Especially food. Her stomach growled like distant thunder. She climbed to the top of a low mound and surveyed her surroundings. To her left the rock loomed, its sheer cliff pocked by the dark openings of tombs, mostly clustered at the base but some set so high that it seemed impossible that anyone could have got a coffin up to them. To her right the great river flowed south, before curving round to meet its tributary at the River Gate. In the distance, at the bend of the river, she could just make out the waste ground where all the rubbish of the city was taken, marked by the flock of black birds wheeling over it, and she remembered something. 'Just go to the dump and ask for Cullet. Everyone knows me there.' Of course. She must find Cullet. She smelled the dump long before she reached it, a rich, ripe odour of rotting meat and vegetable matter. Small figures, hardly distinguishable from the rubbish, crawled over it like flies. Shadow felt suddenly vulnerable and afraid. People said the Guards had informers everywhere. What if they had been told to look out for her? Her cropped head and pointed ears marked her out anywhere. On an inspiration she seized the tail of the shirt, which had been flapping round her ankles and managed to tear off a strip of cloth, which she tied round her head like a rough bandage. It no doubt looked odd, but at least it hid her ears. All the same, Shadow approached with caution, but the ferreters among the rubbish took no notice of her. They were all children, mostly younger than herself, and so dirty that it was hard to tell whether they were boys or girls. They worked quickly and in silence, taking their finds to a number of ramshackle carts, just boxes on wheels, which were dotted around the perimeter; bones in one, scraps of cloth in another, metal in a third, and so on. She could see no sign of Cullet. She picked her way carefully across the littered ground towards the nearest group, who looked up and stared at her with undisguised hostility. "What d'you want?" snapped a boy of about seven or eight. "Piss off, this is our pitch. You can't work it here. You got a ticket?" "No. What do you mean?" Someone sniggered. "No ticket! You'll get it off Marrow if he catches you. You can't work the dump without a ticket." "I haven't come to work," said Shadow impatiently. "I'm looking for Cullet." The boy's eyes slid aside. "Never heard of him." "I don't believe you. He told me everyone here knew him." "What's it worth?" "Worth?" "Nothing comes free. You pay me, I might remember." Shadow was starting to be angry. "You can have my gratitude," she said. The boy snorted derisively. "What use is that?" "Maybe more than you think." Shadow fixed him with her eye, and after a few moments he looked away. "Cullet don't come here any more, hasn't for ages. He's too big for the likes of us. He's working for Hungreman now." "So where can I find him?" Before the boy could answer Shadow felt a hand grab her shoulder, and she swung round to find a boy of about fourteen staring down at her. "And what have we here?" "She's after Cullet," put in one of the other children. "Back to work, brats. I'll deal with this." As the children scurried back to their task, he eyed Shadow carefully. "Cullet, eh? You a friend of his?" "He owes me a favour." Shadow did not care much for the look of this one. While the younger children had all been desperately thin, mere skin and bone, he was flabby and well-fed. A slow smile spread over his pasty face. "You look like you need all the favours you can get, girl." "So where will I find him?" persisted Shadow. "Who knows? He gets around, does Cullet. You could try Evil Weevil's." "Where's that?" "You don't know Evil Weevil's? Where've you lived, girl? Not that you'd get near the place in that outfit. Evil's is classy. They'd set the dogs on you." Shadow turned away, dispirited. She had not realised till then how much she had been counting on Cullet's help. The hot sun beating down on her head, with the stench from the dump, was making her sick and dizzy. If she did not have something to drink soon she would collapse. "Steady on!" The boy caught her arm as she stood swaying. "You could always ask Marrow. What's Cullet got I haven't? You'll have to ask nicely, mind." "Why should you help me?" The boy grinned. "Always glad to help any friend of Cullet's. You could say I owe him somewhat. You come along with me, I'll see you right." Shadow did not trust him, but she could see little choice. She doubted she had the strength to seek help elsewhere, even if she had anywhere to go. She allowed herself to be led away. Around the perimeter of the dump were what Shadow at first took to be discarded boxes and barrels, and so they were, but as she drew closer she saw they contained signs of habitation, nests made of paper and rags, and among them were crude shelters made of tarred cloth stretched over sticks. This, then, was where the children lived. The shack Marrow brought her to was more substantial than most, a sturdy affair of nailed-together planks with a tarpaulin roof, but she still had to stoop to enter, and could barely stand upright once inside. The interior was dim, as their was no window and the only light entered through the spaces between the planks. It was also very warm, and Shadow felt her head begin to swim. Marrow guided her roughly to a pile of sacks stuffed with straw which took up half the floor and evidently served as his bed, and she collapsed onto it. "Water," she whispered. "Please, I want a drink." "Water?" grunted Marrow. "You don't drink water here, not if you want to live." He rummaged in a corner, producing a black bottle and a cracked cup. "I've got a decent drop of ale here." He wiped the inside of the cup with his sleeve then poured some out and handed it to her. "Drink up." Shadow eyed it dubiously, but her thirst was stronger than her disgust. She drank. Marrow refilled the cup then took a long pull from the bottle. "You stay here. I got to go now, those bloody kids'll be robbing me blind, I'll be back later, evening probably." "Then you'll take me to Cullet?" "Yeah." He grinned. "Yeah, we'll go find Cullet. He reached for a leather bag which hung from a hook in the roof-beam. "Food here if you want it, hang it up again when you've finished or the rats will get it. Get some sleep, you look like you need it. See you later." Left alone, Shadow investigated the bag. The contents were not very appetising: a half-eaten meat pie, the end of a stale loaf and a small chunk of sweaty cheese. Shadow was too hungry to care. She carried the bread and cheese out of the hut (she was not prepared to risk the pie), remembering to replace the bag on its hook. She preferred to eat outside, the air felt fresher, though it was impossible to escape the stink. At least it was only the smell of the dump; the hut smelt of Marrow. The sun was still high, but she found a small patch of shade at the back of the hut where she could sit. She ate, nibbling alternately at the bread and cheese, washing it down with the ale, and considering her next move. On the whole, she thought she would do better not to wait for Marrow to return. She did not trust him, there was something about the way he looked at her.Besides, the Guards were after her, they had been waiting outside the House of Light yesterday. Only yesterday! It seemed like weeks ago. (An idea occurred to her. Had all that business with Lord Rendil been a ploy, an attempt to scare her into leaving the one place where she was safe? If so, it had succeeded.) Perhaps there was a reward out for her? That Marrow looked the sort who would sell his granny for tuppence. Yes she had better move on, and look for Cullet on her own, try that place with the strange name, Maggot's, no Weevil's . . . If only she wasn't so tired. However long she had slept last night, it wasn't long enough. And she was still hungry! Black Annis had said something about shape-shifting taking it out of you when you were not used to it - had she really met Black Annis? Or dreamt it? She had to rest. Marrow would not be back for ages, and she could not go anywhere in the heat of the day. It would be cooler later . . . Marrow shook her awake. He was not alone. Guards! thought Shadow, struggling to sit up, but no, the two people with him were not Guards. One was a small plump woman, the other a burly man wearing a slave collar. "Is this what you've brought me all this way to see?" the woman was saying, "This grubby brat?" "She'll be better when she's cleaned up," replied Marrow. "Hmmph. Get that rag off her, I want a proper look." Shadow had by now staggered to her feet. She turned to run, but it was no use, before she had gone two steps the burly man had seized her, and she was held, helpless and humiliated, as Marrow pulled the shirt up to her shoulders for the woman to inspect her. "A bit skinny, but I've seen worse," she said at last. "You're sure she's a virgin?" "Of course I'm sure. Come from the Sisters, hasn't she? Anyway, I can tell." "But where was she before she went to the Sisters?" The woman tweaked the torn-off strip of cloth from Shadow's head. "Interesting," she murmured. "I don't think I've ever had a changeling. She might appeal to some tastes. I'll have her examined, so don't think you can cheat me. Two crowns for her, one now, the other if she proves a virgin." "Mistress Bellibone! That's not fair, you said three!" cried Marrow indignantly. "That was before I saw her. Suit yourself. That's my offer. Or shall I tell Wanless to let her go?" "I'll take it," said Marrow sulkily. All this while Shadow had lain helpless in the grasp of the slave, but now the enormity of what was happening burst over her, and she struggled violently. They had attracted an audience, the children from the dump had drifted up and were watching with interest. "Help me!" she screamed, but no-one moved. Then she had an idea. "Cullet - somebody tell Cullett. Please!" "Nothing wrong with her lungs," remarked Mistress Bellibone. "Better quieten her down a bit, though." The woman produced a small bottle and poured a quantity of liquid into Shadow's mouth, pinching her nose and tilting back her head so that she must swallow or choke. At once her head began to swim. The last she heard was the chink of coins changing hands.
Archived comments for A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 18
niece on 06-01-2006
A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 18
Dear Shadow,
I'm so glad you have started posting the remaining chapters of COFAM...looking forward to the rest as usual.
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece, thanks for keeping up. Sorry for the delay, I've been a bit busy this past couple of months.
M


The Spirit of Christmas (posted on: 09-12-05)
My seasonal offering.

Lights dance above the street, and music pours Like syrup from each speaker, and the shops Temples of our new religion, open Twenty-four hours a day to satisfy All possible desires. Now is the season. Conspicuous consumption, licensed excess, For self-indulgence is a virtue, and Moderation but a lapse in taste, While over the festivities presides The new god of the age, dressed all in red, Bearded, fat bellied, laughter uncontrolled, Face flushed with jollity or wine, and bearing His sack of dreams come true - the mobile phones, And hand held games which virtually condemn Whole galaxies to extinction, microwaves, And dolls which can do anything but breathe And reproduce - more Bacchus he than Christ. The old gods have returned and now claim back The season stolen from them. Yet why not? The dying of the year needs light and music; Feasting and laughter are our best protection Against the darkness and the fear, and thoughts Of sorrow (and of those who stand Without, were not invited, for this inn Is full). Elsewhere, a mother sits Her infant huddled in her arms for warmth, Crouching in some dilapidated shed. A stable, maybe?
Archived comments for The Spirit of Christmas
RoyBateman on 09-12-2005
The Spirit of Christmas
Very neatly done - everything about this season, good and bad, wrapped and presented for our "delectation"! Perhaps the real new God of Christmas is Noddy Holder? What a thought....still, I don't call myself a Christian so I can't complain - liked the way you brought the "old" Gods, presumably pre-Christian, back into the frame. The midwinter feast didn't start with JC, and maybe it's something we all need to mark the nadir of the year. Not necessarily with a new mobile, though! Good one, deserves many more reads than it's had so far!!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Roy - just having my Seasonal Moan. Actually I'm still in denial - hoping if I ignore it, it will all go away. Bah! Humbug!

Dazza on 09-12-2005
The Spirit of Christmas
Great stuff shady lady, I always enjoy jaunty angles and this is around 50 degrees by my protractor. Dazza (and thankyou for your comment on pee.)

Author's Reply:

shadow on 09-12-2005
The Spirit of Christmas
You're welcome - and thanks for yours!

Author's Reply:

Romany on 09-12-2005
The Spirit of Christmas
Very thought provoking and nicely crafted.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Romany, I appreciate that.

Jen_Christabel on 09-12-2005
The Spirit of Christmas
Loved these lines relating to the proper Pagan ritual

The old gods have returned and now claim back
The season stolen from them. Yet why not?

As the kids aren't so little now I can be a bit bah humbug; says she who has just put up the tree! LOL

Good piece

Jen :o)



Author's Reply:
It just sort of came to me - glad you like it!

Kat on 09-12-2005
The Spirit of Christmas
This is excellent!

Kat :o)

Author's Reply:
Thanks Kat - also for making it one of your favourites. I am highly honoured!

niece on 10-12-2005
The Spirit of Christmas
Shadow,
This is lovely!...espeically liked the last line...Could be possible!
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:
Only too possible, I'm afraid. Thanks, niece.

dylan on 16-12-2005
The Spirit of Christmas
Hi Shad,
Nice to see you posting poetry again.
This is very good, as I would expect.
As you would expect, I have one or two suggestions.
The one thing I always try not to do is lecture-"wag the index finger".For this reason, I would leave out the lines-
"Conspicuous consumption, licensed excess,
For self-indulgence is a virtue, and
Moderation but a lapse in taste,"
Perhaps
"Now is the season
for self indulgence,"
leading to "While over the festivities..."
would suffice.
The section-
"His sack of dreams come true - the mobile phones,
And hand held games which virtually condemn
Whole galaxies to extinction, microwaves,
And dolls which can do anything but breathe
And reproduce - more Bacchus he than Christ. "
are very Larkinesque and superbly crafted.
I find the poem touching, yet it is without a trace of sentimentality and the ending-
"Elsewhere, a mother sits
Her infant huddled in her arms for warmth,
Crouching in some dilapidated shed.
A stable, maybe?"
is excellent.

Fine sentiments, very well expressed.
XXX,
D.

Author's Reply:
Thanks dylan for going to so much trouble - I always find it unnerving when real poets take me seriously - hope it doesn't go to my head! I can see what you mean by the 'conspicuous consumption' bit - does sound a bit hectoring. I'll have another look at those lines. Cheers!


Embarrassing moments (posted on: 05-12-05)
Where to start? There have been so many …

Parents, of course, are a rich source of embarrassment. Not my father, I can't remember him ever embarrassing me, but my mother was a different story. My mother had many admirable qualities - she was creative, enthusiastic, exciting to be around - but she did have a tendency to go a bit 'over the top' on occasion. Like when I left the local Infant School. She decided it would be nice if, on my last day, I took some flowers for the teacher. I had no particular objection. I couldn't stand the woman, but I didn't mind taking her a bunch of flowers. Only when I came home at lunchtime and saw what my mother was up to in the kitchen - she'd bought a mass of red carnations, and there she was, constructing this enormous bouquet, all wrapped up in cellophane with a huge silk bow. My protests were in vain. I went back to school that afternoon clutching this monstrosity. I can remember hovering for ages outside the classroom door, trying to pluck up the courage to go in and present it in front of the whole class. My toes are curling yet. Unfortunately, mother was convinced that she knew best. I suppose it's a occupational hazard for mothers- Geoff tells me his was exactly the same. And she would not be told. Like on the occasion of my first proper teenage night out. A friend of mine knew someone who went to Manchester Tech, and was prepared to lend us her student card so we could get into one of their dances. I was just turned sixteen. I had a dress - it was a bit juvenile, but I thought it would do, full skirts were still 'in' - but I had no grown-up shoes. Not to worry, mother offered to buy me a pair. I was delighted. I knew exactly what I wanted. Nothing too extreme, I wasn't after winkle-pickers or four inch heels, just a pair of plain 'courts', maybe in black. Ones I could wear into town, afterwards. Unfortunately, as soon as we got into the shop it became clear Mum had other ideas. If I was going to a dance, she announced, then obviously I needed dancing shoes. In white satin. They were what you wore to dances. Well, that may have been true in the thirties, but this was nearly 1960, for heaven's sake! My expostulations were ignored. What did I know about it? I had never been to a dance. Well, no - but I had a pretty good idea that your average student would not be seen dead in satin dancing pumps. I put up the best fight I could, but in the end I had no choice: mother was paying, so it was the dancing shoes or my school lace-ups. I would probably have been better off with the lace-ups. The dance was a nightmare. There I sat in my white party dress and my white shoes; while as I had suspected, all the other girls were either in tight sexy numbers, or sweaters and jeans. I felt like the Fairy on the Christmas Tree. And the worst thing of all was, I couldn't even hide in a dark corner! They were using ultraviolet light, which picked out my dress and shoes - I blazed like a bloody supernova. Yes, mother, you have a lot to answer for. Mind you, I expect my children have similar tales to tell of me … but then they have embarrassed me at times. Like when I was walking them home from school one day and Ellen shouted 'Bugger!' at the top of her voice, and a little old lady walking in front stiffened and turned round to glare. Naturally I pretended they had nothing to do with me. And once, when Tom was a toddler, we were out shopping and a small Asian boy came across wanting to make friends, and Tom said, very loudly, 'I don't like Indians!' We hurried him away, resisting the urge to shout 'We're not racists, we're not! Honestly!' When we got back to the car we asked him 'But why don't you like Indians?' He replied 'They shoot cowboys!' My most embarrassing moment ever also involved Tom. I was with both of them in Woolworths. It was a few days before Christmas and the place was heaving. The kids were being a total pain, because they would not stay with me. Every time I took my eyes off them, they'd vanish. Eventually I'd had enough. Abandoning whatever it was I'd come in for, I grabbed Ellen, called Tom to come and made for the exit. I'd only gone a couple of yards when I realised Tom wasn't with us. I looked back and saw him, in his grey duffle coat with the hood up, standing with his back to me looking at some toys. At this point I lost my temper. I stormed back, seized his arm (not to gently) and hauled him off - only to be stopped by a bellow of rage. A large red-faced man was looming over me, shouting 'What the hell are you doing to my son?' I looked down. A small, scared face looked back up at me. An unfamiliar face. I had the wrong child. It's all a bit of a blur after that. I stammered some sort of apology, which the man was disinclined to accept. I was afraid he was going to hit me. I fled. I found Tom and we went home, too shaken to continue shopping. It's all a long time ago now, and I can remember it without too much stress - but ugh! That was the worst ever.
Archived comments for Embarrassing moments
RoyBateman on 05-12-2005
Embarrassing moments
Great read - because it just rings so true! Superbly written, too, as I'd expect from you. I spend a good deal of time trying to embarrass my kids, which is why they come home so infrequently...there's method in my madness! Here's a good embarrassment story - and, I swear, true. When I was teaching we took a load of kids to the Grand (Wolverhampton) panto. Spread over three rows, we were, and a kid in the darkness in our front row was being a real pain - fidgeting, etc.. My headteacher eventually lost her rag, leaned over and prodded the kid, telling him to shut up in no uncertain terms - putting the fear of God into him. Needless to say, he wasn't actually one of ours - but his mom turned round and hissed very loudly "Oh, thank you! He won't sit still for me!" The little sod did, too, for the rest of the performance. Who knows - maybe he's reading this??

Author's Reply:
Thaks Roy, lovely story, I can just imagine it.

Jen_Christabel on 05-12-2005
Embarrassing moments
This made me SMILE!
My mom made me wear the most horrendous clothes when I went to school, and I got badly bullied as a result - something I never bring up with herin cnversation, but still it is something I will not forgive her for! So I sympathise with your evening out!
Where we live there are very, very few Afro-Caribbean people and, when my daughter was about 4 we were out shopping and she shouted at the top of her voice 'Look mommy, there's Michael Jackson!' - I have never shifted so fast in all my life - into the nearest shop, and hid!
Jen :o)

Author's Reply:
Yes - hard to tell which have the greatest embarrassment potential - parents or kids! Thanks for the comment.

niece on 06-12-2005
Embarrassing moments
Shadow,
Tho' I don't have too many tales to tell about my mother, my kids have more than made up for it. I've once stepped out of a domestic flight to find people staring at me. I had passed on my little one to his dad waiting outside and they must have wondered how I got custard all over my hair!!!
Shadow, it's always nice to read about other people's embarassing moments, it kinda reminds you that it's very normal to goof up(whether it's your own doing or not, does not matter)
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:
Yes, we all have them. don't we? Perhaps we should compile an Anthology of Embarrassment? Could be a useful resource for plot ideas.

Kat on 06-12-2005
Embarrassing moments
Hi shadow

What an enjoyable read - thank you!

Kat :o)

Author's Reply:
Hi Kat, thanks for comment.

Hazy on 07-12-2005
Embarrassing moments
Smiled through this. Well told and very amusing πŸ™‚

I create enough embarrassing situations for myself - God help me if I had kids!!

Thanks for the enjoyable read.

Hazy x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Hazy - tough this is only a selection - I've had enough Embarrassing Moments to fill a book.


Flight (posted on: 28-10-05)
(I don't understand it either.)

I am the bird in flight, fleeing the winter's cold, to seek the setting sun. I am the watcher, earthbound, as the goose-feather arrows speed wild and unfettered, westwards. I am the swan, broken on the lake, among the dying leaves floating. I am the influence which brought her down. I am the dark wing, casting shadow on the soul.
Archived comments for Flight
Romany on 28-10-2005
Flight
This is dark, poignant, deep; I love it. I especially like the lines about the swan - they brought a lump to my throat. This poem stirs emotions and, for me anyway, this could stand for any number of things. A literal translation perhaps; i.e. a game hunter bringing down a fird, or a slightly less tangible image, such as a lover breaking someone's heart, or even the ultimate sin of murder. Any number of translations from a few well-chosen, carefully placed words. Excellent stuff!

Author's Reply:

karenuk on 28-10-2005
Flight
Dark and beautiful πŸ™‚
Karen x

Author's Reply:

niece on 28-10-2005
Flight
Moya, it seems this may have come from deep within your heart...thoughts which may be hard to understand but have a lot of meaning like Romany has put it. Like the dream sequence in "COF...", it is far away from reality but somewhere deep inside it rings a bell...like you've-been-there kind of a thing.
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:

shadow on 28-10-2005
Flight
Thanks to you all for the comments. This one came straight out of the subconcious - wasn't sure what I'd got when it was written down.
Mixture of geese flying over and dead swans in Rumania and pandemic panic - general sense of foreboding.

Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 29-10-2005
Flight
Yes, very dark - and let's hope the worst doesn't happen. I dread to think what stupid humans are capable off when faced with intangible, probably overstated threats. How much sadder, poorer we'd be without the innocent wildlife. Not a long one, Moya, but you conveyed a lot here. Well done.

Author's Reply:

chrissy on 30-10-2005
Flight
Oh yes, very dark and foreboding but beautiful too.
Extremely well written.
chrissy

Author's Reply:

shadow on 30-10-2005
Flight
Thanks Roy and Chrissy and Tai for the kind words. As I said, I'm not sure where this came from - not my usual kind of thing at all. Nearly didn't post it at all!

Author's Reply:

Transitions on 17-03-2006
Flight
a thought or two.
I think of Plato's soul, part either bound, part in flight to the underworld, land of the setting sun , death.
Then there is the Pauline Christian development, the devil the dark Lord bringing down the soaring soul/spirit to death and the waters of decaying leaves.

The writer identifies with all of these aspects of the living being, as indeed he/she should

A thought provoking poem.
I like the device

"I am"

Author's Reply:
Thanks trans - though I don't know that I had anything that deep in mind (I'm a simple soul, really). Just shows how other people can get things out of a poem that you never knew were in there!


A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 17 (posted on: 24-10-05)
Shadow has found sanctuary in the midst of her enemies - but will she be safe even there?

The whispering came from behind her. Shadow bent to her task, ignoring it, though she wished one of the Sisters was nearby. She had almost finished scrubbing the pantry floor, soon she would be free for the rest of the day. She intended to visit the school, if she hurried she would be in time for the last lesson of the day. The Sisters of Light ran a school for the daughters of minor Avernian nobility, which the servitors were encouraged to attend whenever their duties allowed. They sat at the back, while the scholars ignored them. It was one place where she would be safe from the campaign of petty spite kept up by fat Wannis and her friend Izbat. She enjoyed the lessons, especially those given by Sister Shining Light. Shadow had learned the history of Aldor from her mother, and knew the tales of the True King written in the sacred books, but she had never given much thought to who the Avernians were, and what they did before they came to Aldor. Shining Light not only taught Avernian history, she made it interesting and exciting. Shadow thrilled to stories of the ancient Isle of Avernie: how it disappeared in a terrible cataclysm a thousand years ago, and how the survivors wandered the earth for hundreds of years, until at last they arrived in Aldor. The whispering was growing louder. Why wouldn't they leave her alone? There was no-one she could turn to for help. She missed Cullet, he had been the only one she could talk to, the only person here who called her 'Shadow'. Everyone else used the Avernian form of her given name - 'Elien'. He had been as good as his word. A few days after Shadow had taken his message she went to look for him and was met by the Sister in charge of the infirmary, incandescent with rage. "Where is he? You might well ask! Sneaked out last night, while Sister Moon was asleep, and over the wall. After all the trouble the Preceptress had, to get the Brothers to accept him. They were none too keen, I can tell you, taking in a street urchin. Now the wretched brat makes us all look fools. Still, there's no expecting gratitude from that sort. He'll be back at his thieving already, and end up hanged like the rest." Shadow stood up, bracing herself for a rush (it would not be the first time her bucket had been kicked over), and turned to face the door. They were blocking the doorway, Izbat and Wannis and several hangers-on, cutting off her escape. "What have we here?" said Wannis. "What a nice clean floor." She walked forward, the others crowding after her. All their shoes were covered in mud, they must have come straight from the garden. Shadow said nothing. Answering did no good, it made them worse. Better to keep quiet till they tired of the game. "Can't you hear? Your ears are big enough." "Ooh, we've messed up your floor," said Izbat. "What a shame. Still, bit of magic will soon put it right, eh, witchy? Come on, let's see you do a spell." Someone sniggered. Shadow tightened her fists until her nails bit into her palms. They circled her, none daring to come too close. "Maybe she's not a witch," said Wannis. "She's a dummy like her daft sister." As Shadow took a step forward Wannis retreated, stumbling over the bucket and knocking it over. Her foot slipped and, to he accompaniment of shrieks from the other girls, she landed heavily on her behind in a pool of dirty water. She began to bawl. "What is the meaning of this?" Sister Shining Light had appeared in the doorway. A confused babble of excuse and accusation arose from the girls. Shadow kept silent. "Stop this noise! Wannis, go and change your clothes. The rest of you can clear up the mess. Elien, come with me." Shadow followed Shining Light to the cloister. There she stopped and sat down on one of the stone seats overlooking the grass. She motioned Shadow to join her. "Does this sort of thing happen often?" Shadow hesitated. "You don't have to tell on them, I saw enough. They're giving you a bad time?" "A bit. It doesn't matter. Most of them leave me alone, it's only one or two, and they'll be leaving soon." Shadow thought for a moment. "Sister, could I ask you something?" "Of course. What is it?" "I don't understand. The Sister Librarian lent me some books on the Enlightened, about what you believe. How their are no gods, and no such thing as magic. But if you say there aren't any gods, why do you worship light? And they think witches don't exist, why do they call me one?" "Goodness! Where shall I start?" Shining Light rose and began to pace up and down the cloister, five steps one way, five back. "First, we don't 'worship light' as you call it. Light symbolises truth and knowledge, while darkness is the symbol of ignorance and error. Everyone is capable of seeking the truth, indeed has a duty to do so. That is what the Blessed Lindarien meant when she spoke of 'nurturing the light within'." "I see. So you don't really believe light is good and darkness is evil?" "Not actual, physical light and darkness, no. But learning is good, and refusing knowledge, especially clinging wilfully to ignorance, that is a true evil. The trouble is, people confuse the symbol with the reality, and condemn both." "I don't think the girls in my dormitory are very keen on seeking knowledge," remarked Shadow. "Does that make them evil?" "What do you think?" "They're only children." "Try not to blame them. They persecute you out of ignorance. It is possible to hate their ignorance, without hating them." "I still can't see why they think I'm a witch when they don't believe in witches." "Because they are stupid children, who can't see there is more to Enlightenment than wearing a white dress. Because they have the Twenty Principles by heart, but have never given a thought to what they mean. They come here filled with prejudice and superstition, and leave in exactly the same condition. I try to teach them, the Light knows I try, but I doubt if there's one in fifty who listens. They've been told from their cradles about demons with pointed ears - of course they think you're a witch! How can anything I say change that?" Shining Light drew a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. "I'm sorry. Forget I said all that. I get so angry, sometimes." She sat down by Shadow again. "You're right to be puzzled. We preach one thing and do the opposite. But not everyone joins our Order from the disinterested love of truth. Many are born into it, others join for status or to escape their tithes. Some, I'm afraid, think they can achieve power through us, by persecuting those who disagree with us. As if you can abolish error by eliminating the people who are in error. We are the last ones who should make that mistake. The Blessed Lindarien died for her ideas, yet they live on to this day." "Lindarien was persecuted? What for?" "Oh, blasphemy and atheism. She also was called a witch. The White Witch. She lived in the Old Empire, at the time of the Wars Of the Gods. The various cults had been fighting each other for generations. You can imagine, her message that 'All gods are false gods' wasn't very popular with the priests. Their power was based on the people's faith, once that was gone they were swept away, and their 'magic' with them. The world was a better place for it." "Their magic wasn't real, then?" Shining Light laughed. "There's no such thing as 'real magic'. It's all trickery, to delude the gullible. Once you see through it you wonder how you were ever fooled. When we don't understand we cry 'It must be magic!'. Then we see how the thing was done, and know it was natural, after all." "But you don't know everything." "I never said we did, but it is possible to know everything. We have to believe that, or what use is all our striving? Your mother, for instance - she could cure a man of fever by her touch. I have seen her do it here in the hospital. I don't know how it as done, but I won't call it magic. It obeyed some natural law, and one day we'll find out how it works." "So if I were to tell you I have walked out of this world, and met my mother in the land of the dead, what would you say?" "I would say - you had a dream" "If it was a dream," said Shadow, "it was more real than waking. My mother is not dead to me." "Well, I would not take you comfort from you, but do not speak of this to anyone else. You might be misunderstood." A bell sounded through the cloister. "I must go," said Shining Light, "or I'll be late for my class. Are you coming today?" "Not today. I need to think. Thank you for speaking to me." "I hope I have helped a little. I will always be glad to answer you questions. Perhaps one day you will join us." Shadow's hand went to her ear. "That's not very likely." "Why not? You have a brain, which is more that most of the lumps who come here have. What have the shape of your ears got to do with anything/" "What's supposed to be wrong with pointed ears?" "Oh, one of the more unpleasant of our old gods had them. Now, I must go." Shadow watched her walk away along the cloister. At the corner she turned to smile. "Take care" She was gone. That night Shadow lay awake. Her talk with Shining Light had been more disturbing than reassuring. She could not accept that her experience on Midsummer Night had been a dream. It had been too vivid. If anything was a dream, it was the life she was living now. As if it was she who had died, to be replaced by a stranger. A shadow. Not an unpleasant feeling, in a way. Nothing could touch or hurt her. The only reality left was her memory of the shining road, and the grove where her mother waited. If that was a delusion, what then was she? What she most wanted was to consult her mother. To see if it was indeed possible to summon her by looking in a glass. There were no mirrors in the House (the Sisters did not encourage vanity), and even if there were, there was nowhere she could go and be sure of privacy. She needed to know if she was doing the right thing by staying with the Sisters. She had hoped by now Linnet would have recovered enough for them to make the journey to the forest, but she was no better. The summer was all but over. Shadow knew she must come to a decision soon. A wolf howled in the distance. Strange, she thought. I never heard of wolves so near the city. She pushed back the bedcovers and stood up. None of the other sleepers stirred. Wannis was snoring. She crept mouselike out of the dormitory, down the corridor and out of the building. The rain had stopped for once, the night was clear, puddles on the path reflecting the stars. One of them might serve. No, better to be well clear of the dormitories, safe from prying eyes. She passed through the Rose Court, the Fountain Court, and into the herb garden behind the kitchen. There she found what she needed, a stone tank which collected the rainwater from the roof. She leaned her elbows on the rim and gazed into the depths. What was it mother had said? 'Think of me, and I will be there'. Shadow tried to visualise her mother. She remembered her at home, sewing by the fire, playing with Hallam, teaching Linnet her letters. It was no use. The pictures in her mind were stiff and lifeless. She could not see her mother's face clearly, or catch the sound of her voice. She squeezed her eyes shut, crying silently 'Mother, mother', willing her mother's image to be in the water when she opened them. Nothing. A wave of panic swept over her. Perhaps the Enlightened were right. Maybe she had been deluding herself, clinging to a comforting illusion to protect herself from reality. No. That could not be true. It must be that summoning the dead was harder than she realised. She must concentrate. Shadow forced herself to breathe deeply then began to construct a mental image of her mother, as she had last seen her. She imagined the grove of trees outlined in silver with the dark pool in their midst, and sitting by it, her mother with Hallam in her arms. She had a strange, heady sensation, as of some power gathering within her - and yes, something was happening in the water. A silver gleam in the depths, growing stronger as she watched, her attention focused on the tank - She was struggling in the water, her head under the surface and her legs held in the air. She kicked out, her foot connecting with something soft. As suddenly as she had been seized, she was released. She dragged herself out of the tank, gasping, and faced her attackers. Six of them. She recognised Wannis and Izbat, her chief tormentors. The others she knew by sight. Wannis sat on the ground, gasping from a kick to her ample stomach. The others watched nervously. Only Izbat was triumphant. "I told you so, I told you. She is a witch, just like her ma. You saw what she was doing." "And what was I doing?" asked Shadow. "Scrying in the water. That's what witches do when then want to spy on people and put spells on them. Everyone knows that." "She never cried for her ma and da," put in Wannis. "That shows she's a witch. Anyone normal would have cried all the time." Izbat had produced a penknife and was waving it about. "We got to cut her, then she can't put a spell on us. Grab her arms!" No-one moved. In fact, as Shadow stepped forward the others shrank back. Izbat alone stood her ground. Shadow had recovered from the shock of the cold water. She felt no fear, only anger. How dared they insult her mother, how dared they say she did not care. She cared so much that if she allowed herself to feel she might explode into a thousand pieces. Mingled with her rage was disappointment and a terrible sense of loss. She had been so near, so near. She looked at the girls and saw, not a cluster of frightened children, but all her persecutors. She saw the complacent faces of the judges and the brutal ones of the guards who had tortured her parents and beaten her brother to death. All the pain she had endured, every taunt she had suffered, was now embodied in the skinny form of Izbat, who had now stopped shouting and was staring at her, mouth open. The fury inside her grew until it felt like a physical fire, ready to leap out and consume her enemies. Izbat's mouth opened wider, as if to scream but no scream came. The hem of her nightgown started to smoke. "No!' Shadow plunged her hands into the water, dashing some over her face. Turning back, she saw Izbat on her hands and knees, sobbing. A sick disgust filled her, though whether at Izbat or herself she did not know. "You little fool, I could have killed you." The others were staring at her in abject terror. "Oh, get out of my sight, the lot of you." They scattered at once, fleeing through the garden, and the sound of their passing faded into the night. Shadow's knees were trembling. She sank to the ground, to lean against the cool stone of the tank, weak with exhaustion. The intense anger had gone, leaving dizziness and nausea behind. She wondered if the girls would take their story to the Sisters. But what was there to tell? She had gone for a walk. They had followed, ducked her in the water tank then run away. Except that was not all that had happened. Could she really have set Izbat on fire, with a look? She had never heard of such a thing. Was this her talent, showing itself? She was the right age. Her mother had hoped she would turn out a healer, but their were other talents. Dowsing, the far sight, prophecy. Only healers could practice openly; the others, the fortune-tellers, sellers of potions and finders of lost treasures who had once plied their trade by the Water Gate, they had all been driven out years ago by edict of the Regent. Then there were other, darker talents that could blight a field or cause a man to sicken, or even, it was whispered, call up the dead. Was she one of those? She swallowed as bile rose in her throat. She did not know how she had managed to pull back, the impulse to hurt and destroy had been so strong. She ought to leave this place, it was too dangerous, she was too dangerous, to stay. Go to the forest, as her mother had told her. The wolf howled again, nearer now, he must be right by the wall. She could go, now, slip out of the gate and away. Except for Linnet. Linnet bound her here. She must hope for the best. The other girls would be going home soon for the Harvest Holiday, and Wannis and Izbat, thank the gods, would not be coming back. She stayed by the water tank until dawn, hugging her knees, while her nightgown dried on her. The next day no-one said anything. She heard whispers which ceased when she entered a room, but none of the other girls looked at her or spoke to her. She had become invisible. Shadow did not mind. She needed time to think. The House gradually emptied, as the scholars and most of the servitors, except for those with no homes to go to, left to spend the holiday with their families. Many of the Sisters were also away. The servitors were not as closely supervised, and she discovered that if she took a bucket and brush to one of the Meditation Cells, she would not be bothered for the rest of the morning. The Meditation Cells were small whitewashed rooms, bare save for a mat on the floor. She had chosen one dominated by a large painting of a young girl, blonde and very beautiful. The expression on her face was improbably placid, considering there was an iron bar thrust through her midriff, skewering her to the door behind her like a butterfly on a pin. In one hand she held a book, while the other pointed upwards to where a seven pointed star hung in the sky. "Hideous, isn't it?" Startled, Shadow swung round to find the Preceptress in the doorway, watching her. She dropped a curtsey. "Don't look so worried, child. Were you meditating? If so, I won't disturb you." "No, just thinking. I mean, I came to scrub the floor." "That can wait. I wanted a word with you. Sit down." Shadow subsided onto the mat, while the Preceptress settled herself beside her and sat for a moment contemplating the picture. "Do you like it?" "No - that is, I don't understand it. What does it mean?" "It shows the death of Lindarien. It's not a portrait of course. No-one knows what she looked like, and she was forty-five when she died, not seventeen." "Is that how she died?" "The details in the picture are symbolic, but yes, she was impaled on the door of the Temple of Atris. She took seven days to die, which is one reason why her 'Dying Precepts' is such a long book." "That's horrible," said Shadow. "Yes, it was. However, the history of Lindarien, interesting though may be, is not what I wished to speak to you about. Tell me, are you happy with us?" Shadow hesitated. The Preceptress smiled sadly. "What a stupid question. How could you be happy, after all that has happened?" "I am very grateful." "I am asking because you may have to leave here." "Leave?" "Don't worry, I don't mean leave our care, but you might be safer away from the city. I hoped those who brought about your parent's downfall would be content with their death. I fear I was mistaken." "They're still searching for me?" Shadow glanced round. as if expecting Black Guards behind the door. "There have been enquiries, yes. I asked the Sisters to be discreet, but you can't expect scholars and servitors not to gossip. As well expect water to run uphill. No-one can legally take you, unless they accuse you of some crime, and how would they do that? All the same , you will be better away from here. I am sending a number of our Sisters to our House at Winhollow. You and your sister will go with them." "Winhollow. Where is that?" "A long way north of here. Haven't you heard of the healing spring there, and the temple of the Triple Goddess?" "Is it near the forest?" "Not far from its southern edge. The Sisters are mostly elderly and not much interested in events in the city. With luck no-one will realise who you are. Now, I'd better let you get on with your, er, scrubbing." She started to rise. Shadow put out a hand to stop her then paused, abashed. "Oh, please - " "Yes, child, what is it?" "Have you found out anything?" stammered Shadow. "About - what has happened to the rest of the family? The aunts? Everyone who was coming to the wedding? Who wanted to kill us all? Why - why everything?" The Preceptress sat down again and sighed. "I have discovered very little, I'm afraid. The city is filled with fear, to ask questions is to arouse suspicion. As far as I know, the rest of your family is safe. There have been no more trials or executions, not of anyone important, so we may hope they are in hiding, or escaped abroad. The only hangings have been of rioters, and some herb woman who helped your mother." "Oh, poor Grizel!" "Indeed. As for what was behind it all, who knows? The Regent needed money for the army, and the Guilds were not as generous as he hoped. Perhaps he wanted to make an example of the Goldsmiths." "You mean, it was all for money?" "Maybe he did believe there was a conspiracy. It would not be the first." "I suppose everyone believes that now." "If they don't they are not admitting it. Or some private enemy may have wished to harm your father." "He had no enemies." "So it seems. Even now people say ' I would never have thought it of him' not 'I always knew there was something wrong'. As for why anyone should be interested in you and your sister, I cannot imagine. But you will be safe at Winhollow. And now, I must leave you." Shadow sat for a long time, alone, digesting all she had heard. The conversation had upset her, churning up emotions she had rather let rest, but in the end her main feeling was satisfaction. A way was opening at last, she was moving in the right direction. Towards the forest. It was evening. The sun was setting golden after a day of rain. Shadow lingered in the cloister, relishing a moment's peace before the bell called her to the refectory for supper. It was only gradually she became aware of the commotion, a confused shouting, men's voices. Everyone was hurrying to the main gate. She tagged along, but when she reached the archway giving onto the outer court she shrank back, pulling her hood over her face. The courtyard was full of arguing, gesticulating figures. A crowd of Sisters and servitors surrounded a group of men. Most of them wore the white robes of the Brothers of Light, but some were ordinary townspeople. At their head was one Shadow recognised: Rendil, the judge who had been so hostile to her parents. She could hear his voice, but he was to far away to make out what he was saying. She had to know. Maybe his business here had nothing to do with her. She sidled round the edge of the courtyard, trying to get nearer while staying out of his line of sight. She stopped when she reached the concealment of a small shrub growing in one of the ornamental urns placed round the perimeter. She could hear the courteous tones of Sister Shining Light, as she confronted the intruders. "The Lady Preceptress has retired for the night, and is no longer receiving visitors. I am sure if you return in the morning she will be honoured to welcome you." Rendil's harsh voice carried clearly now. "And will she I seek be here in the morning? My business, and that of these good people, is too urgent to wait. I demand to see the Preceptress." "Demand?" repeated Shining Light. An affronted murmur rose from the cluster of Sisters. "You forget yourself, my lord. I must ask you again to leave, and return at a more suitable hour." "I tell you, this matter will not wait. This House is in grave danger. The forces of darkness have breached its walls, and are working their corruption even as we speak. I did not come to bandy words with underlings. I will see the Preceptress, if I have to break down every door in the place." "That will not be necessary." The Preceptress was standing under the archway. She wore a tall head-dress of stiffened linen, and on her breast the seven pointed star, while a golden stole covered her dazzling white robes. The effect was impressive. She advanced across the courtyard, sceptre in hand, preceded by two young Sisters bearing the Lamp and the Book, the symbols of her office. What she lacked in stature she made up in dignity. The throng, Sisters and Brothers alike, parted and bent the knee at her approach. As did, reluctantly, Rendil himself. "What is this matter which will not wait? I trust it is sufficiently important to excuse the disturbance to our peace, and the discourtesy you have shown my Sisters." "Madam, I regret the means used to reach you, but I do not apologise," said Rendil. "My business concerns the safety and purity of your House, and that is worth a little discourtesy." "Indeed? I was not aware we were in danger." "No! You were not aware. You have been deceived, and your charity cruelly abused. I must tell you, with sorrow," he continued, with no evidence of sorrow in his tones, "that you harbour a witch in your House." Some of the Sisters gasped in dismay. The Preceptress smiled. "I find that hard to credit, as witchcraft is but a delusion of the credulous - or do you deny the words of the Blessed Lindarien?" Rendil flushed. "It is you who are deluded, and blind to the snares of the dark. Can you deny you have here the daughter of the witch Emayn?" "Why should I deny it? I sheltered her for her mother's sake, who was no more a witch than I am. I know the part you played in Emayn's death, my lord, and trust one day you will answer for it. Poor child, she has been barbarously treated. It is a wonder she did not die, like the rest of her family." "Better she had died, than lived to infect the House with her evil. Master Flute, let us hear from your daughter." One of the townsfolk came forward, dragging a reluctant Wannis. "Repeat what you told your father," ordered Rendil. Wannis gulped. "She used to leave her bed in the middle of the night - " "Who?" "The witch girl - Elien I mean. Izbat said she was going to call up her demons, and we should catch her at it so one night we followed her and she was leaning over the water tank like she was looking in a glass but she couldn't have been, it was too dark, and her lips were moving like she was talking to someone - " Wannis paused at last for breath, then went on. "She turned round and her eyes were burning, flames coming out, and Izbat fell down and her gown started smoking. Then we all ran away." "And did you tell any of this to the Sisters, at the time?" asked the Preceptress gently. "We - we were scared. Izbat said the witch would burn us up if we tried to tell. We had to wait till we got right away and she couldn't reach us. Oh please, my Lady," Wannis burst into tears, "don't let her hurt me. I don't want to burn up." "Hush, girl, no-one is going to hurt you" The Preceptress frowned. "Is this your evidence? A few silly girls with overheated imaginations?" "We have more, too much to go into here. Surely it is clear that this creature must be properly examined?" Shadow had heard enough. Pulling her hood further down over her face, she crept round the edge of the courtyard, making for the relative safety of the inner gateway. "Not by you, my lord," replied the Preceptress. "Must I remind you again that you have no jurisdiction here? I will look into the matter, though I doubt if I will find anything but childish nonsense." The voice of Rendil rose. "It is as I feared. Corruption has reached the very heart of this House. No wonder, when the witch Emayn visited freely. What the mother began, the daughter has completed. Oh my Sisters, root out this evil from amongst you, or who knows what will befall." "Enough! We will endure no more of your insults, and be sure your Preceptor will learn of your conduct. I do not believe for a moment he authorised this outrage. Begone, and your rabble with you!" By now Shadow had almost reached the doorway, but her progress had brought her into Rendil's line of sight. Suddenly she felt his eyes upon her, stripping her of her disguise. "There she is!" he screamed. "The witch - seize her!" Shadow caught up her skirts and fled. Behind her she left a confusion of shouts, screams and running feet. She ran through the deserted corridors and out into the gardens, past the herb garden and the neat rows of vegetables, never stopping till she reached the potting sheds, compost heaps and piles of rubbish by the outer wall. She paused for breath. There was no sound of pursuit, but the respite might be short. Even if the Preceptress prevented her seizure by Rendil's men, the Sisters would soon be searching for her. There would be questions. The Preceptress was no fool. She might begin to suspect Shadow was - whatever she was. It was time to leave. She had reached the door in the outer wall, the one by which she had entered the House. She winced as the hinges creaked. Outside darkness had fallen, the bushes growing by the wall shutting out what was left of the light. She looked back. I'm sorry, Linnet, she thought. Behind her she saw lights moving against the bulk of the House. No time to lose. She closed the door behind her and began to climb the path. As she stepped out from the bushes, two shadows moved, converging on her, holding her. Two figures clad in black. She struggled, but to no avail. She was in the hands of the Black Guard.
Archived comments for A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 17
niece on 24-10-2005
A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 17
Dear Moya,
Shadow has began to discover her hidden strengths. I know it is not going to be easy for her,...life never is! Looking forward to the enxt chapter!
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:
Hi niece, glad to see you are still with me. Yes, poor old Shadow. I'm afraid things are about to get even worse!
Cheers, Moya.


A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 16 (posted on: 17-10-05)
Shadow needs to hide - but who can she trust?

From the shelter of a narrow alley she watched the crowds waiting to cross the river, Linnet clinging silently to her arm. When they had woken that morning outside the burial mound, Shadow had hoped - but no, there was no change. What did they do to you, she wondered, that night when they took you away? Better not to think about it. She had a more pressing problem. Where could they go now? She had friends. There were houses all over the city where her parents had always been welcome. Would she be welcome now? She remembered faces in the crowd the day before, faces of people she had known all her life, had called 'aunt' and 'uncle', whose children she had played with. All come to watch her mother die. No, she dared not trust any of them. She would have to do as her mother had said, and seek help from the Sisters of Light. Easier said than done. The House of Light lay on the other side of the river, on the outskirts of the New City. To reach it they must cross, by way of the Water Gate and the bridge. The journey to the gate had been an ordeal in itself. Her back no longer hurt, which was good; but Shadow felt strange, light-headed. Nothing around her seemed real. They had left the graveyard, following the river south. Soon they came to the Dump - a vast mountain of rubbish. All the filth and detritus of the city towered over them. The morning sun was strengthening and the stench nearly choked her. A flicker of movement caught her eye, then another. The heaps were swarming with children, as young as Linnet or younger, picking over the rubbish. You could hardly see them against the background. Their skin, hair, the rags they wore - all were the colour of dust. Shadow had seen beggar children before, outside the temples or skulking in alleys, scurrying away if a Black Guard came near. . She wondered who they were and where they came from. Did they have parents? She had not realised there were so many. For a moment she considered joining them - but a well aimed stone decided her. Even if she could survive such an existence, Linnet could not. At least she was docile, following where Shadow led, but she had no will of her own. If Shadow let go of her hand she would wait unmoving, staring blankly before her until she was led forward again. Most of the dump children ignored them, too intent on their search to waste any attention on strangers. They left the dump behind and approached the execution ground, in the shade of the Rock. Shadow had dreaded this part of the way, afraid of what they might see, but the place was deserted. The gibbet stood empty, all signs of burning had been swept away, only a faint lingering odour hinted at what had happened there. Shadow hurried across, dragging Linnet by the arm, not stopping till they had entered the city to be swallowed by the maze of narrow streets crammed between the Rock and the river. Now they were at the Water Gate. Which was guarded. The sight of black uniforms sent a wave of terror over her. They would never cross the river under that hostile gaze. As she peered round the corner she could see the guards were stopping everyone and searching every vehicle. A queue of carts returning from the market had built up, and the drivers' comments carried clearly to her hiding place. Maybe if she waited till nightfall, and tried to sneak across under cover of darkness . . . if she could last that long. She had managed a drink from a public fountain, but she could not remember when she had last eaten. Yesterday she had not noticed, but now her stomach was growling. Linnet must be starving too, though she gave no sign. Shadow sank into the gutter. She felt like howling with frustration and misery. "Child?" She looked up, startled. "Don't be frightened, I won't harm you. Aren't you the daughters of Emayn the Healer?" Shadow, dumbfounded, could only nod. The woman looking down at her was dressed in the white robes of the Sisters of Light. She held out her hand, smiling. "Please, come with me." Shadow rose, dazed. Just as she had giving up hope of reaching her promised refuge, that refuge had reached out to her. Was that what her mother had meant, when she said Shadow would have help? The Sister, who was a girl not much older than herself, led them down the alley and round the corner to a small covered cart. Another white-clad sister held the reins of a mule. As they approached she directed an enquiring glance which was answered by a nod. At this she delved under the seat of the cart and brought out two hooded robes of unbleached wool. "Put these on. Can you walk? The little one had best ride." "I can walk." Shadow put on the robe and dressed her sister. Linnet's robe was far too long, but that did not matter as the younger sister lifted her into the cart. Its only other occupant was a boy of about ten, who lay unconscious, his head bandaged. "What happened to him?" asked Shadow as the cart set off. "We think he may have been injured in the riot. Though it could have been a private fight, there are enough of those." "What riot?" "Why, don't you know? When the people tried to rescue your parents. Surely you were there." "The captain made us run away before . . . before . . . " Shadow stumbled and almost fell. The young Sister caught her arm, concerned. "I'm sorry, I should not have spoken of it. Are you all right?" "Hush," said the older Sister. "We are nearly at the gate. Pull your hood down, and don't speak." There was no trouble at the bridge. The guards waved them through with scarcely a glance. Soon after they left the main road to the New City and turned down a lane which wound through market gardens. Occasionally they passed the walls of some mansion, for it was here, away from the noise and dirt of the town, that the rich lived. Shadow wondered about the boy in the cart, had he really been involved in a rescue attempt? She was glad some people had cared enough to try, and hoped not many had been hurt. When he recovered she must thank him. If the Sisters let her stay. Was she allowed to speak yet? Her head ached, and the wool robe was uncomfortably hot. "Is it much further?" "Not far. You will see the house from the top of the next rise," said the younger Sister. So speech was permitted. Encouraged, Shadow sought an answer to something which puzzled her. "How did you know where to find us?" "We didn't. All those on collection duty this morning were told to look out for you. I'm glad we reached you before the beggar gangs did." "Collection?" "Every day some of us go out searching for the sick and wounded, abandoned babies, anyone in need." "Like him?" Shadow nodded at the boy. "Yes, like him. Look, you can see the House now." They had reached the crest of the hill, and below them stretched a wide vale, dotted with orchards and small farms. The House of Light nestled at the foot of the hill. Shadow had imagined a palace built of white marble, but the House was not like that. There was one large building, which she later discovered housed the library, but the rest were unpretentious structures in warm red brick, ranged round courtyards or set in the midst of gardens. A high wall surrounded them all, with an imposing gateway. A crowd of people waited outside. "This is the hour we hand out food and clothing to the poor," explained the younger Sister. "These girls had best not use the main gate," said the elder Sister. "Sister Shining Light, you will take them in through the garden." "Yes, Sister Star." Sister Shining Light helped Linnet from the cart. She led them along a narrow path winding down between high hedges, until they came out by the boundary wall next to a wooden door screened by bushes. After repeated knocking it opened, and an old woman in a servitor's robe peered at them. "Are these the ones? You've to take them straight to the Preceptress." "Now? They need feeding and washing and clean clothes first." "Straight to see her is what I was told. No doubt she'll see to all that. Poor little things. It's a bad business." They followed Sister Shining Light past compost heaps and potting sheds and neat rows of vegetables, through a herb garden then a courtyard, till at last they came to a secluded cloister enclosing a formal garden. Shining Light tapped on a door in the far corner and ushered them into a circular room. Sunlight streamed through narrow pointed windows onto a golden star set into the wall. Shadow had the vague impression of rugs on a polished floor, the scent of roses and beeswax, before a figure erupted from a carved chair and descended upon her like a small white whirlwind. "Come in, come in, thanks be to the Light of Reason we have you safe! Sister, fetch them food at once, they must be starving. I wish we had found you last night, I sent out searchers as soon as I heard from Lady Sandrian. Such a night you must have spent! But were there not three of you?" "My brother died in the night," said Shadow. As if the words brought the reality home to her, tears filled her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. Gentle hands guided her to a stool. Choking sobs wracked her, but eventually they diminished and stopped. The Preceptress handed her a lawn handkerchief to dry her eyes. "Better, now? I am sorry, so sorry. There is little comfort I can give, I know, but I will do all I can, for your mother's sake." Shadow blew her nose. "You don't believe she was a witch?" "Never. She was no more a witch than I am. I was proud to call your mother my friend. Many a time she helped us here in the hospital. She shared her knowledge, not hoarding it like a miser, as most of the fools who call themselves doctors do. I learned so much from her. There has been a terrible miscarriage of justice, and I intend to set it right. We cannot bring her back, but we can try to clear her name." All this while Linnet had been standing unmoving, her eyes fixed and vacant. "Your sister, what has happened to her?" "I don't know," said Shadow. "She's been like this since yesterday." "The shock, no doubt. Poor child, it's little wonder, after what you have been through. Let us hope that rest and quiet will restore her. And what of you? I know those brutes had you whipped. Let me see your back." "I'm all right, really," said Shadow. "Nonsense. Off with that robe." The robe was lifted over her head and the remains of her torn dress pulled down over her shoulders. The Preceptress drew in her breath sharply. "Your back is healed, these marks look a month old. How can this be?" Shadow remembered the hooded figures in the tomb and the gentle touch on her brow.. Was it only last night? She had felt no pain since. She realised she did not wish to speak of last night. How far could she trust this little, birdlike woman. She seemed kind, but one thing Shadow knew for certain about the Enlightened was that they thought anything supernatural was evil. She might decide that she and Linnet were witch children after all. "I don't know," she said. "No, I don't suppose you do. Well, you mother had immense powers of healing, perhaps you have inherited them. You will be useful in the infirmary if you have. Put on your robe, I can hear Sister Shining Light coming with your breakfast." The young sister entered bearing a tray with bread and honey and beakers of milk. Linnet ignored the food placed in front of her, but when the sister crumbled the bread into the milk, sweetened the mess with honey and fed it to her with a spoon she was able to swallow it. Shadow was relieved, for a moment she had feared her sister had forgotten how to eat, and might starve. Shadow herself was ravenous, and finished her own meal in no time. "You are welcome to stay here," said the Preceptress, "if you wish. Or you may prefer to be with you own kin. Have you any nearby?" Shadow shook her head. "My mother's family are all in the north. They were coming down for the wedding. And my father's aunts - but I don't know what happened to them. Any of them." Her eyes filled with tears again. "I can help you there. I have many sources of information. Meanwhile, do you wish to stay here? You may enrol as a servitor. The work is hard, but I think you will find there are compensations." Shadow almost said no, we have to go to the forest, but checked herself. She could not take Linnet on such a long journey, not in her present condition. She wasn't even sure how far it was, and she had no idea of the way. It would be better to stay here, safe and cared for, until she was well enough to travel. "Thank you," she said. "We would like to stay." Shadow slipped out of the refectory while the other servitors were still wolfing down there noon meal, and headed toward the infirmary. She had been in the House for two weeks now - or was it three? The days ran together. The work was hard. Senior servitors were employed according to their various talents and inclinations, in the kitchen, dairy, gardens or infirmary, but juniors were assigned to any task that needed doing. Shadow polished floors till they were a hazard to life and limb and collapsed into bed at night, too tired to do anything but sleep. She was glad of it. Exhaustion dulled her mind, stopping her thinking. Remembering. Linnet lay on her bed in a corner off the women's ward. Every day Shadow hoped to see some improvement; every day there was none. The Sisters were kind, they fed her and washed her, and dosed her with their famous theriac, a marvellous potion supposed to cure all ills. It had no effect on what ailed Linnet. 'Come on, sit up,' Shadow urged. She propped her sister up arranging her pillow behind her. 'Look, Sister Sunray's given me some fruit tart for you.' The kindly cook often slipped Shadow some small treat 'for your poor sister'. Who never ate them Today was no different. Shadow sighed and placed her offering on a plate by the bed. Yesterday's honey cake was still there. 'Won't you eat something? You want to get well. Then we can go and find Cousin Raven, in the Forest. That's what mother wants us to do. You'd like the forest. Linnet, please … ' It was no use. Linnet just lay, staring at nothing. Shadow picked up the honey cake and went to find Cullet. He was boy who had been in the cart that first day. He was in the men's ward, still with a bandage round his head, but looking much better. His dose of the theriac sat untouched on the shelf beside his bed. 'I've brought you some honey cake. It'll take the taste of your medicine away.' 'I'd rather have the cake without the medicine,' said Cullet. 'It makes me feel sick.' The theriac did look disgusting. It was a greenish brown fluid with the consistency of thin mud. It was prepared according to a closely guarded recipe, and given to all patients regardless of their ailments. Every doctor in Henlys had his own version, and the concoction made by the Sisters of Light was supposed able to raise the dead. Shadow had heard her mother's opinion of the theriac too often to be impressed. "Ridiculous," Emayn would say, "they mix up a hundred ingredients and expect it to cure everything. Half the things they put in cancel each other out, and there isn't enough of anything to do any good." Shadow glanced round the ward. None of the Sisters were in sight. She picked up the dose and tipped out of the window. 'Thanks.' Cullet grinned in relief. 'You're a jewel. Anything I can do, you only got to ask.' 'I might hold you to that.' 'Still, giving you grief, are they?' 'Nothing important. They leave me alone, mostly' None of the girls who shared her dormitory would speak to her. The other servitors were all foundlings brought up in the House, or girls from poorer Enlightened families who received an education in return for their service. A surprising number were Aldoran; but Aldoran or Avernian, they all treated Shadow with a mixture of fear and hostility. "The think you'll put the evil eye on them. You got to be a demon, see, with those pointy ears. And you ma being a witch. They can't help it, it's how they was brought up." "Mother wasn't a witch." "Course not. Wouldn't have caught her if she had been. Black Annis down in the Mire, now she's a real witch. No-one's never going to burn her. There's not a guard who'd go near her." "How do they know who I am? I haven't told anyone." "Don't be daft. They may not talk to you, but they talk plenty about you. The whole place knew who you were before you'd been here two minutes. And the stories they tell. I bet you didn't know you made that fat girl, that Wannis, drop a pile of plates in the refectory, just by looking at her." "She tripped on the step." "That's not what she says. And her skinny friend, whatsername, Izbat, the one who put the thorns in your bed last week - ' "So that's who it was." " - she came out all over boils the very next day." "Serve her right, then, but I didn't do it." Cullet looked disappointed. Shadow stared at him in dismay. "You don't think . . . " "Well, you are a bit witchy sometimes. I mean, the ears don't help. And they catch you staring at nothing, as if you can see things they can't. It wouldn't bother me if you were. Useful people to know, witches." "Then I'm sorry I can't oblige," said Shadow. Shadow stood by the shrine of the sea god on the corner of Fish Street. It was, of course, raining. She sighed to herself. This was so stupid, she should never have agreed. If the Sisters found she had left the house without telling anyone there'd be trouble. Not that she had ever been told not to leave, but they would be bound to ask where she had been, and why. That afternoon she had been on her way to visit Cullet when she encountered him in the passage leading from the infirmary. He wore a cloak over his night-shirt, and his face under the bandage was pale. "For heaven's sake, where do you think you're going?" "I got to get out of here!" "Get out? You won't make it as far as the gate, never mind outside." As if to confirm her words, he had slumped exhausted to the floor. "What's the matter? Surely it can wait till you're better?" Cullet shook his head. "I hid some stuff, see. Can't think how I forgot, that thump must have knocked it clean out of my head, but it came back to me this morning. There's only me knows where it is. They'll think I pinched it, legged it somewhere. I got to get word out or I'm done." "But you're safe here," protested Shadow. "How long for? I can't stay here all my life. I'd sooner be dead." "You will be if Sister comes back and catches you." But in the end the only way Shadow could persuade him back to bed was by promising to take a message herself. So here she was. Getting out of the House had not been too difficult. Luckily it was the midweek half holiday, when servitors and scholars were free to visit there families in town. Hardly anyone was about. She walked unnoticed through the kitchen garden and out through the gate by which she had first entered the House. She only hoped she would find it as easy to get in again. She had till sundown to be back. "Try the Headless Herring," Cullet had said, "His name's Boglin. Big bloke, thieves brand on his arm, one ear gone. You can't miss him." She could see the tavern, halfway up the street. She began to climb, past barrels of live fish squirming in sea-water and festoons of dried herring. The cobbles under her feet were slick with rain and fish-scales. At least there were not many people about. She had felt very exposed and vulnerable on first entering the city, but she had kept her hood pulled over her face and so far no-one had given her a second glance. A great waft of stale beer met her as she stepped inside and peered around. The sound of men's voices, which had seemed loud as she approached the door, ceased and was replaced by a deathly silence. The place was full of large men, most of whom had brand-marks somewhere on their anatomy and one or both of their ears missing, and they were all staring at her. "Looking for someone, missy?" Shadow swallowed and found her voice, "Boglin." "Who wants him?" came a voice from the far corner. Shadow began to make her way towards the speaker, ignoring the sniggers and ribald remarks that followed her. The burly man at the corner table certainly fitted Cullet's description. "I've got a message from Cullet," said Shadow. "Private," she added. "We'll go out the back," grunted the man. He led the way into a small yard. From the smell it was easy to guess what it was used for. Shadow kept as far from the walls as she could. If she had been able, she would have hovered above the ground. "Let's see what we've got here." The man pushed back Shadow's hood, then drew in his breath sharply as her cropped head and pointed ears were revealed. "You're that witch's brat! There's a reward out for you." "Then you'd better go and claim it," said Shadow . "Nah. You won' catch me going near a guardhouse, not for a measly ten crowns, anyway. So where's Cullet hiding himself? We've been tearing the city apart, looking for him." "He's in the hospital at the House of Light. He got hurt in the riot." "Stupid little bugger. What did he want to get mixed up in that for?" "Do you want this message or not?" said Shadow . "I don't have all day. He say that he couldn't put it in the usual place because the blaggs were watching. It's in the dry well in Scrivener's Court, there's some bricks loose halfway down." "And what might 'it' be?" His tone made Shadow shiver.. "He didn't say and I didn't ask." She pulled her hood back over her head and turned to leave. "Steady on! You don't have to rush off in such a hurry. Let me buy you a drink for your trouble." Shadow shook her head. "Thanks, but no. I'd like to be back before I'm missed." "Will Cullet be back soon? Was he hurt bad?" "A bang on the head. He only remembered about the - whatever - this morning. He won't stay any longer than he has to." Boglin laughed. "I bet he won't. What about you?" "Me?" "Well, you're not cut out for a White Shift, that's for certain. Why stay with a lot of dried up old virgins? Always room for a likely lass round here." The way he looked at her made her uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, I must get back," she said quickly. "Cullet will be worrying." "Suit yourself, sweetheart. But you might be glad of another offer, when those bitches throw you out. Don't go back through that lot, I'll let you out the back." "Thanks," murmured Shadow. In a moment she found herself in a stinking back alley, and she lost no time in making her way back to the House. She arrived back in good time. The road from the town to the House seemed shorter now. No-one had noticed her absence, and she managed to sneak in to see Cullet before lights out. "Old Boglin's right, you know," he said after hearing her account. "You ought to get out of here." "I can't leave Linnet, and I've nowhere to go." "I'd help you. Go down to the Dump and ask for Cullet. Everyone knows me there. That is" he added, "if I ever get out myself. You know they want to send me to the Brothers?" "Would that be so bad? They'd house you and feed you, and give you an education?" "Education! I've had my education. I've been thieving since I could walk, I'm the best dipper in Henlys. I'm not spending my days slaving for a lot of fat old men just so I can learn my letters. I want some fun. I'm off, first chance I get, and so should you be." "I can't." "Suit yourself, but when they start shouting 'witch' don't say I didn't warn you. And the offer stands, if you do get out. I owe you that much." "Thanks, but I must stay as long as Linnet needs me." But does she need me, Shadow wondered. After leaving Cullet she had gone to say goodnight to her sister. Linnet lay as always, on her back staring up at the ceiling, unresponsive to voice or touch. She doesn't know I'm here, thought Shadow. It would not hurt her if I went. Mother did say . . . but I can't abandon her among strangers, I can't. She bent to kiss her sister's forehead, before slipping away to her own bed.
Archived comments for A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 16
niece on 17-10-2005
A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 16
Hi Moya,
An engrossing read as usual ! Like I told you earlier, I am waiting to hear how Shadow gets back at all the wrong-doers.
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece - it will take her a while, but they'll all get their just deserts in the end.
Moya


A Crown of Frost And Moonlight. Chapter 15 (posted on: 10-10-05)

Into the land of the dead ...







The sun was sinking into a bank of cloud. Shadow sat on the broken step of a rock-cut tomb, gazing out over the festering marsh. She could not remember how they had come here. The day was a blur, in which fragments of memory stood out sharply. Faces: the woman in the carriage, the brutal guard with the whip. And sounds: was it Hallam screaming, or herself? Not Linnet. Linnet had not whimpered all day. After the young captain had stopped the whipping she had run, carrying Hallam and pulling Linnet's hand. They had skulked among the rubbish tips beyond the execution ground, afraid to stay, unable to leave. When the cry of grief came, filling heaven and earth, they fled again from the horror of it, fetching up at last in this desolate place of the dead.

The ground to the north of the city had been used for burials since ancient times, but was now neglected. The Avernians burned their dead, and many Aldorrans imitated them, or used the new cemetery by the temple area. The marshes had encroached, and many of the mounds of the ancients and the crumbling tombs of extinct aristocratic families were now islands in a sea of reeds, or disappearing under weeds and briers. The place was the haunt of owls and foxes. Worse things too, it was said.

Other tombs were cut into the rock behind her; the cliff face was pockmarked with openings. Some gaped like hungry mouths, others were blocked by slabs of stone. It was against one of these slabs that Shadow huddled with her sister, cradling her little brother on her knee. Hallam no longer cried. She thought he was asleep, but she could not rouse him. He was so cold, and she had nothing to wrap him in save a strip she had torn from her skirt.

Linnet sat mute beside her. There had been times during the last days she had thought her sister's voice would drive her mad, yet now it was silenced she wished it back. It was not the shock of the day's events which had brought Linnet to this. Something had happened to her, the night before. As they had crouched on the floor of their cell, too frightened to sleep, the door had crashed open and two guards come in to snatch her up. They had born her away kicking and screaming, and brought her back later, as she was now. She had not made a sound all day, even under the lash.

No-one came near this place, it had an evil reputation. Even the thieves and beggars who infested the rubbish tip never came here, for fear of hobgoblins and sprites. Shadow wondered that she was not more afraid. The person she had been three days ago would have been terrified, alone with the light fading. Now there seemed no point. What could a ghost do, worse than men had already done?

Whatever colour there had been in the landscape was draining away. The air was tinged with blue, like water to which a drop of ink had been added. The road shone with a faint silvery light. Strange, she had not noticed it. It stretched before her, narrow but perfectly smooth. She rose, still holding Hallam. As soon as she set foot upon it the noises of the evening - birds and insects, the wind in the grass and the distant revelry of the city - all ceased. A bubble of silence enclosed her.

Everything off the road had grown indistinct, as if veiled in mist. The ruined graves were left behind, and before long she came to a river. This was not, she realised without surprise, the familiar placid river which flowed by the Old City but a swifter, narrower stream. Its dark waters sped by without splash or murmur. It was spanned by the graceful arch of a narrow bridge. Shadow crossed without hesitation. Though there was neither rail nor parapet it never occurred to her that she might fall. On the other side was night, moonless, starless. She could see nothing of the land on either side, only the road glimmering in front of her.

The cocoon of silence in which she had been walking was gone. Pitiful groans and sobbing, hideous shrieks and howls assailed her from each side. Still she felt no fear. Nothing could harm her as long as she kept to the path. When something unseen but large, judging by the beat of its wings, swooped down on her she did not flinch, and it passed by. After a while the frightening noises ceased, to be replaced by children's voices and laughter. They were playing one of the singing games she loved, and calling to her, 'Shadow, come and play with us, please come, you can be the Maiden ...' Shadow thought, how stupid, can't the see I'm too old now, and a pang of sorrow went through her because it was true.

The children's voices faded behind her. Now she heard music, faintly at first but rapidly growing louder. A single voice raised in a melody so heart-stoppingly beautiful that she stopped, unable to do anything but listen. It faded away into the distance, and the impulse to follow, to find the singer, became almost irresistible. I must not leave the path, I will be lost if I leave the path, she repeated to herself. She fixed her eyes on the silvery gleam of the road at her feet. In a few moments the longing became more manageable, and she was able to walk on. Soon after she saw a light ahead and quickened her pace, hopeful the end might be near. A house came into view, standing a little way off the path. Light streamed from its uncurtained windows and open door. Inside she glimpsed a fire on the hearth, a table laden with food, people talking. They leaned from the windows and crowded the doorway, beckoning to her, calling, 'Come in, out of the dark. Shadow, come home.'

She longed to go inside, the house looked warm and safe, and she was so lonely. But it was her own home she wanted, her own people not these strangers, and besides, the road went on.

"I can't, I must go on."

She hurried on, and saw the house vanish. Silence and darkness again wrapped her round. Goodness, she thought, I bet it would have done that as soon as I stepped off. Everything she had seen and heard must be an illusion, to tempt her from the path She resolved to keep her eyes on the road and ignore everything else.

Almost at once she heard something she could not ignore. A child, sobbing in the darkness.

'Please help me. Mother . . . "

She halted to peer into the darkness.

"Linnet! How did you come here?"

"Shadow?"

"I can't see where you are."

Then she realised she could see. Linnet was only a short distance away, turning and twisting, as if struggling to be free of an invisible entanglement.

"Shadow, help me, I'm lost, I'm caught."

"I'm coming, I'm coming!"

First she must put Hallam down. She did not like to leave him, even for a minute, but he would be as safe on the road as anywhere. She bent to place him carefully down. The silvery glow from the path had grown brighter, it was now so bright it illuminated the ground for a yard or two beyond its margin. With a twinge of horror Shadow saw that between the path and her sister a chasm gaped, sheer sided, bottomless. She shuddered. She had been about to rush forward.

"Linnet, I can't reach you."

"Where are you?"

'Here, on the road."

"What road? There isn't any road, not through the maze. I can't find a way out, and the brambles keep catching. Please come."

"I can't. I'll have to fetch help."

"Shadow, don't go! You mustn't leave me!"

"I'll be as quick as I can."

Shadow snatched up Hallam and fled down the road. Her only coherent thought was that when she reached the end she would find help.

"Shadow, come back . . . "

Linnet's cries faded away. Shadow ran on. The illusions which had plagued her had given up, or the urgency which gripped her rendered her immune. She was aware only of the shining road stretched endlessly before her. What if it had no end, and she was doomed to run forever? No, that could not be. She hugged Hallam closer and kept running.

She noticed the ground was rising, and the impenetrable darkness on each side had given way to a grey twilight. Looking up she saw the road was climbing a hill, crowned by a grove of trees. Throughout her journey she had felt no tiredness, but now her legs were heavy and the breath rasped in her throat. With a last effort she struggled up the slope to collapse in a heap by a small pool in the centre of the grove.

She could do nothing but gasp for breath. Hallam, still clasped in her arms, had woken at last and was babbling in his private language and holding out his arms. At last Shadow raised her eyes. A figure watched from the far side of the pool. Shadows heart nearly stopped."

"Mother!"

"Welcome, my dear. You are truly welcome here."

"I thought you were dead!"

'Why, so I am."

Emayn came to sit on the grass beside them. Hallam struggled free from Shadow's arms and crawled to his mother, who caught him up and kissed him.

"Poor darling, how could they treat you so? But it's over, you're safe now, no-one will ever hurt you again."

It was true. Hallam looked perfectly well. All the marks of brutality had vanished, as had the unnatural torpor which had gripped him. Emayn also was as she had been, except there was no colour in her; but colour was absent from this strange place. The road had disappeared, but not the silvery light. It came from the trees and grass, even from Emayn and Hallam. The only things in the grove which did not glow silver were the dark waters of the pool, and Shadow herself. She stretched out a hand to touch her mother, still scarcely believing she was real. Emayn checked her.

"No! I'm sorry, my love, I want to hug you as well, but it's not allowed. The living may not touch the dead."

"Where are we? Is - is this the blessed land?

"These are the borderlands. I am proud of you, how you dared the road and resisted all temptations, to reach me here. It was well done."

Shadow jumped to her feet. "Linnet! I told her I'd bring help. I passed her on the road, she's lost and alone and frightened. I couldn't reach her. Please, we must go back."

Emayn shook her head. "We cannot reach Linnet, or help her."

"But I have to try, she'll think I've abandoned her."

"She will be gone by now. She was never really there at all."

"You mean, she was one of the illusions?"

Emayn nodded.

Shadow sat down again. "She still needs help. She won't speak to me. What have they done to her?"

"Like you, she has come into her power. Too young, and too violently. I don't know the cause, but I think the shock has frightened her badly. It's made her flee into her own mind and slam shut all the doors. It may well seem to her that she is wandering in a maze, but she must find her own way out. No-one can break in to help her."

"Poor Linnet. Will she ever recover?"

"I hope so, I do hope so. It will take a long time. She will need rest and quiet, and more care than you can give her. You must leave her with the White Ladies?"

"The Sisters of Light?" Shadow was shocked. "But they're Avernians!"

"They are good women, caring for the poor and sick, whoever they are. The Preceptress is - was a friend of mine. They will take her in. It's the last place your enemies will look."

"I don't understand," whispered Shadow.

"Our deaths alone will not content them. You must be careful, my darling. Leave the city as soon as you can. Your talent has begun its flowering, and a powerful one it is, to bring you living into the land of the dead. If you do not learn to use it you will bring disaster on yourself, as well as all around you."

"I've managed that already, haven't I? It's all my fault. I betrayed you. I'm not surprised father isn't here, I know he can never forgive me. I expect he can't bear to see me."

"It's not that. You were not to blame for what happened. You wanted to help us, but we would not listen."

"Then why isn't he here?"


"He cannot cross the river. His body is neither burned nor buried; for him the way is barred."

"If I bury him, will he be able to come to you?"

"Yes."

"I will see to it. I owe him that. You say you don't blame me, but I blame myself. What I did was wrong, and I knew it was wrong. If I could only set things right - but it's too late for that."

"There is something you can do."

Shadow glanced up, startled. Emayn was gazing at her, a strange gleam in her eyes. Even Hallam had turned to look. For the first time she felt a thrill of fear.

"What?"

"Avenge us. We cannot pass into the Blessed Realm while the injustice done to us lies unpunished. You are the last of or line, only you can achieve this."

"I will, gladly. But on whom?"

"On all who had a hand it our ruin: the guards, the torturers, the judges who knew we were innocent, the Regent. Most of all on that selfish girl who refused to save us, and on the one who planned it all."

Shadow swallowed, her mouth dry. "How? The Regent - how will I reach him?"

"Don't be afraid." Emayn smiled, and the unnerving light faded from her eyes. She was the comforting person she had always been. "You need not start immediately. First you must grow, and learn, and master your power. When you are strong enough, come back. We can wait, time means nothing to us. And you will have help, you won't be alone. I shall always be with you."

"Will I be able to come back and see you?"

"Who knows? You found the way once."

"But I don't know how," sighed Shadow.

"Never mind. Will you swear vengeance on our murderers?"

"I will."

Shadow rose to her feet, shaky but determined. She had failed them once, she would not do so again.

"I swear to avenge you, if it takes the rest of my life. Not one will escape. I call the four great gods, Horla, and the Brothers, and the Mother herself, as witness."

A clap of thunder sounded overhead, as the ground trembled under her feet and the surface of the pool shivered.

"You are heard," said Emayn. "Oh my dear, it grieves me to lay such a burden on you, but it is only through atonement you may find peace. You must go now."

"Already?"

"It is dangerous for the living to spend long in the lands of the dead. I have a gift for you. Go to the pool and bathe your eyes in the water. Put a drop in each ear."

Shadow did as she was told. The water was not cold, but it tingled wherever it touched her.

"When you return," continued Emayn, "if you look into a mirror or still water and think of me, I will be there. Now go, while you still can."

"Shall I take Hallam?"

Emayn's arms tightened round her baby. "I cannot part with him again. How would you look after him? He is better here with me."

Shadow had to acknowledge the truth of this. It would be cruel to part him from his mother. Yet surely he had a right to his life, she could not abandon him. She hesitated.

"It is too late, you will not be able to carry him back to the river. If you do not leave now, you will not reach it yourself."

Shadow saw the path was back, but fainter than it had been. If it faded away completely, would she be trapped here forever?

"But there is so much I need to know. Alissa - is she still angry with me? We never had a chance to make up."

"No time. Hurry!"

With an almost physical wrench Shadow left the grove and started to run down the path. She could hear her mother calling.

"Goodbye, my darling, I will watch over you, always . . . "

The path glimmered faintly before her. She sped down it as in a dream, more flying than running. No disquieting visions waylaid her this time. The darkness lifted, to be replaced by a shining mist which closed round her. The path disappeared into it a few yards ahead. She ran, oblivious of time passing, without fear or uncertainty, conscious only of her own movement and the featureless road before her. Gradually the path faded and the mist drew closer. An abrupt rise in the ground took her by surprise. The bridge, already? She could not hear the river. She reached the top of the arch and as she descended the mist closed round her, invading her mind, blotting out everything. She had the sensation of falling, and nothing more.


Shadow awoke to pain. She was sitting on the step of the tomb, Linnet beside her. Hallam lay on her knee. She knew without looking, from the feel of him, that he was dead. Night had fallen and a the midsummer moon, slightly past its full, poured its light over the mounds and graves of the ancient burial ground. She ached all over, and the weals left by the whip on her back burned. She whimpered, and to her surprise was answered by a murmur of sympathy. They were no longer alone. Around them, peering out of broken doorways, perched on fallen tombstones, scrambling over ruined walls, were the strangest creatures Shadow had ever seen. Some were nearly as big as herself, others hardly reached her knee. Some were beautiful. One tiny female, all golden hair and brilliant green eyes, wore a dress of skeleton leaves which made her think of her of the crown. But most of them ranged from plain to downright ugly. Shadow was struck by their resemblance to the Luck, indeed she was almost sure she caught a glimpse of him in the crowd, all skinny fingers and knobbly knees. She could not tell how many they were, they moved so quickly, daring between the graves and elbowing each other for a better view. There must have been dozens, if not hundreds. Shadow knew them: the Good Neighbours, the Fair Folk, The Little People. The Ferian.

As she moved, wincing, the excited chatter intensified, in a language she could almost understand, if she could just catch the words. All she could make out were 'Emayn, Emayn-tanyr' repeated several times in tones of respect, even awe. As she struggled to make sense of what she was seeing, a tall Ferian stepped out of the crowd and beckoned her to follow him. A small group of females surrounded her, pulling at her hands and dress, urging her to rise. She was so stiff she could hardly move, but she managed to lurch to her feet, Hallam's body in her arms. She took Linnet's hand to pull her up. A group of Ferian led the way through the graveyard, playing a mournful tune on pipes and drums, while the rest fell in behind to form a straggling procession.

The route wound between heaps of fallen stones, until eventually a glimmer of light showed ahead. It was not the unearthly silver of that other country, but the flicker of torch light.It came from a long grass covered mound. The heavy stone which sealed the portal stood ajar. The Ferian urged her forward. Hand in hand, she and Linnet went in.

Inside she found a long passage with openings on either side. Torches burned, casting an uncertain light, not sufficient to illuminate the side chambers. Shadow was relieved, she preferred not to know what they contained. The chamber at the end of the passage was larger, circular, lit by more torches in holders around the wall. Niches in the wall contained skulls and neatly piled bones, an empty one was directly opposite. In the centre the floor three figures waited.

They were tall, and dressed exactly alike in grey robes with long sleeves covering their hands, and hooded, so that their faces could not be seen. Shadow was awed, but not fearful. An aura of peace and serenity surrounded them. She walked towards them and realised that Linnet was following, the first independent movement she had made all day. As they approached one of the figures stepped forward and took Hallam from her. A basin and jug stood before the empty niche. As Shadow watched (from her knees, though she could not remember kneeling) two of the figures poured water and washed away the signs of his mistreatment, then wrapped him in a white cloth.

She should weep, yet this was not the real Hallam. He was lying in his mother's arms, in the Borderlands. Inconsequential thoughts went through her mind. How could they wash him without uncovering their hands, but not get their sleeves wet?

When they finished the third figure took the small shrouded body and placed it in the niche. The Hooded Ones turned towards the sisters, kneeling side by side on the uneven stone floor. Linnet's vacant expression had been replaced by one of wonder, and as one bent over her she looked up into the hood, and smiled. Shadow tried to raise her head, to glimpse the face inside the hood, but her muscles would not obey her. A hand brushed her head, she was filled with a sense of deep peace and contentment. Then sleep, sudden and total, overwhelmed her.



Archived comments for A Crown of Frost And Moonlight. Chapter 15
niece on 11-10-2005
A Crown of Frost And Moonlight. Chapter 15
Dear Shadow,
This chapter was pretty heart wrenching. Nothing like little children in trouble to make your heart ache. I had to keep telling myself this is only a story. But deep inside I know that somewhere children must be meeting with a similar fate. May God give them courage!
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:
Thanks niece - it wasn't an easy chapter to write. I really appreciate your comments.


A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 14 (posted on: 03-10-05)


Midsummer's Day





Andorrey was one of the few Avernians who still lived in the Old City. His upper window commanded a good view of the wedding route, but on the morning of Midsummer's Day he was more interested in supervising his packing than in sight-seeing. He stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by piles of books and papers, directing two men who were packing them into cases.

"I don't know why you can't leave the servants to get on with it," said Imray from his post by the window.

"You know why. I would never be able to find anything again. No, not there! Those go with the ones I'm taking with me."

"You're never taking your entire library?"

"Only what I'm working on at the moment. The rest can be sent on later, but I have to see it's done properly. Otherwise I would have left the city by now."

"We've had the chance to say goodbye, at least."

"You must visit me, when you can, you and Morain. I suppose he's riding in the procession?"

"Not this procession. I don't suppose he's feeling very festive this morning, anyway. He was drowning his sorrows most of last night."

"Ah," said Andorrey. "Elmiren?"

"I suppose he thought she might take him on the rebound."

"He might still have a chance once she gets over her disappointment. Men have made their fortune in the Guards before now."

"I can't see Morain making a fortune. Spending one, maybe."

The notes of a trumpet sounded from the citadel.

"Anything happening?"

"They're coming out of the gate," said Imray. He peered up the street, squinting against the early morning sun.

Andorrey became aware that the servants had stopped working and were looking at him expectantly. He smiled. "All right, go and watch the show."

As they left, he joined Imray at the window.

"Shouldn't you be attending the Regent?" asked Imray.

"After last night? The less I show my face the better."

"You've only yourself the thank for that, meddling in what you don't understand."

"What else could I do? It was a matter of simple justice."

"No doubt - but why should you set yourself up as its champion?"

"Someone had to," said Andorrey. "That was why we came here in the beginning, remember? We brought them good government and the rule of law. Justice. If we forsake that we become tyrants."

Imray's face had turned uncharacteristically grim. "Be glad it's only me who heard you say that. Go back to your estates, read your books, write your histories. Keep your mouth shut and hope that it all blows over. And thank the gods you're not in jail, like the other poor bastards caught up in this mess."

Andorrey sighed. "You're right, of course. I just wish there was something more I could do."

"Do! Haven't you done enough? Do you want to gallop up on your charger and snatch her from the flames? It is the pretty daughter you want to rescue, I take it? Or is it the wife?"

"Is that what they're saying?" said Andorrey, startled.

"Be thankful that's all they're saying. Andorrey, listen for once in you life. The only reason you got off so lightly is you're such an idiot no-one in their right mind would think you were a threat. Make no mistake, from now on you'll be watched. One false step and you're dead. Tyrants fear everyone."

Andorrey could find nothing to say. Imray was deadly serious, and this in itself was so unusual he hardly knew how to respond. The idea that he could be in any danger was unreal. A burst of cheering signaled the approach of the wedding party, and both turned to look out of the window.

The King's Way was the widest street in the Old City, and the only one suitable for wheeled traffic. It spiraled its way from the Tower all the way down to the South Gate, turning back on itself in a series of hairpin bends whenever it came up against the sheer face of the North Cliff. The head of the procession came into view round the curve of the road. The Regent had spared no expense. First came a contingent of Black Guards led by their Deputy Commander, Ungreyn, followed by representatives of every part of the army, breastplates burnished and plumes nodding in the sunshine. Priests from every temple in the city surrounded the carriage in which the High Priestess of the Mother rode in state.

The bride, arrayed in cloth-of-gold and so hung with jewels she resembled a glittering doll, rode in the Queen's own carriage, accompanied by her chief bridesmaids. The lesser bridesmaids (who included all the maidenly contenders of the night before) followed behind. None seemed cast down by her lack of success. Next came the Regent and his son, both on horseback. The Regent was in a relaxed mood, smiling and acknowledging the cheers of the crowd. The Prince stared stony-faced in front of him. They were followed by the entire court, each great family attended servants in livery and its own herald carrying the family banner. Next came contingents from the Guilds, (with one notable absence). Add in the military bands, the children strewing flowers, the musicians singing the praises of the happy couple, and it made a splendid show.

Imray clutched Andorrey's arm in amazement. There, sitting by little Rosabel in the bride's carriage , resplendent in white satin and with her crown on her head, was Elmiren. She outshone the bride as the sun outshines the moon. Most of the crowd who cheered them probably thought she was the bride. As the carriage passed Imray let out his breath in a long whistle.

"So Elmiren did hook a fish after all, if not the one she was trying for. No wonder her uncle Feldernesse looks smug. He must be dreaming of monopolies already."

"You mean - she and the Regent . . . "

"Who else? She wouldn't be there, in that carriage, except by his order." Imray grinned. "Oh, there's been some noses put out of joint this morning. Look at the prince, he's sick with jealousy. You could not have chosen a worse time to be away from court. This promises to be an amusing summer."

"Not for the Queen. Or Elmiren's father."

Imray shrugged. "You can't please everyone. But I doubt if the Queen cares anymore."

They watched in silence as the procession passed. Regent Bellic was known not to be the most faithful of husbands, but he had always favoured married ladies, whose husbands knew how to be discreet. The seduction of a young, innocent girl was different. Especially if her father happened to be Commander of the Black Guard, the most sensitive military post in the country. More people than Imray would be wondering how this would effect the complicated pecking order of the court. Andorrey was glad he was leaving. He was not temperamentally suited to this kind of thing. At home he would have peace, and time to work on his 'History of the Avernians in Aldor'. He had neglected it during his stay in the capital.


On the north side of the city, another procession was forming. The prisoners had been brought out of the dungeon. They stood shivering in the paved yard at the head of the Shackbolt Steps, which led from the Tower to the execution ground far below. Morain, in charge of the escort, was taking no chances. These were dangerous rebels, little thought they might look the part. A message had come from Acting-Commander Ungreyn, demanding extra vigilance in case of any rescue attempt. Morain had stationed men wherever an alleyway led off from the Steps, as well as at the only real weak spot, where the King's way and the Steps converged for a few yards. Not that there was any danger, with the city preoccupied by the wedding and the festival. What threat could this pitiful little band pose? Were women and children now enemies of the state? But that was not his problem. He had a job to do. If it were not one he took any pleasure in, at least it meant he could keep out of Elmiren's way that morning, and do Andorrey a favour as well.

The trumpets sounded from the Tower, as the wedding procession got on its way. Time to move. They began to descend the Steps, each adult prisoner heavily chained. Two guards attended each one, as much to catch them if they stumbled as to prevent escape. It wouldn't do to have the poor bastards break their necks on the way to execution. He had ordered the younger girl and the baby to be carried. At least they were quiet. Too young too understand what was happening. He hoped they were too young. One of the girls was the age his sister Ilarien had been, last time he was home. He hoped he had the timing right, Andorrey's request had been both urgent and explicit. It certainly represented the last chance these poor devils would have. Morain followed them down the Steps, all senses alert, straining to catch the sound of the wedding procession as it wound its way through the town.


The cheers and music faded into the distance.

"There they go," said Andorrey, turning from the window. "Now, so must I."

"I shall miss you. It's not easy finding someone who can hold an intelligent conversation these days."

"You'll have to write to me. Yes, what is it?"

One of the servants had come back carrying a parcel. "We found this in the doorway, sir, after the procession had passed."

"How intriguing," said Imray, coming to look. "Do open it."

Andorrey dismissed the man with a nod and cut the string.

"Not more books," said Imray, disgusted.

"I never ordered these." Andorrey examined them, puzzled. "They're Brandur's books."

Imray, who had picked up one of the volumes, dropped it as if stung. "Holy Mother! Get rid of them."

"Why should they be sent to me? They were supposed to be burned."

"Then burn them. Someone is trying to compromise you, that's obvious."

"I can't do that. They're valuable, maybe unique. I've been looking for a copy of the Prophecies for years. Besides, they're not mine. They belong to Brandur's children, by rights."

Andorrey began to rewrap the parcel, while Imray stared in horror.

"You can't think of taking them with you!"

"What else can I do? Would you rather I left them here?"

"I told you. Burn them."

"Imray, stop panicking and think for a minute. I have a fire lit, on a hot day. I then burn three, no four, heavy leather-bound books. How much smoke and smell will that make? Do you think no-one will notice? My mother will, for a start."

"All right, you win. But I know what you're like with books. Don't hide them away on your shelves and hope no-one will find out. It's too dangerous."

"Only you know I have them."

"The person who sent them knows. Just lose them, I don't care how. Promise?"

"I won't keep them a moment longer than necessary." said Andorrey.


Sandrian, clutching the Queen's Sceptre, rode in the first carriage with the High Priestess. Though she managed to keep outwardly serene, she was fuming. The cause of her annoyance sat in the following carriage, beside the bride. Poor little Rosabel, totally outshone on her great day, her wedding day. How could Elmiren be so calm, so immaculate, after last night? She herself had woken in the night and while returning from the privy had noticed a light under Elmiren's door. Thinking the girl was also wakeful she had opened the door, but the room was empty save for the one-eyed manservant, asleep in a chair. Had she no shame? And how could he, with mother so ill? Sandrian blinked furiously. She must not cry, not now.

On one thing she was determined. She would not agree to have Elmiren as one of her ladies. No matter how much he insisted. She had never opposed him before, or even thought of it, but after all, what could he do? At worst he would send her from court, which was unlikely while the Queen was ill. He needed her here. If he must make a fool of himself over a girl half his age I can't stop him, she thought, but I don't have to help.


Alissa was going to her wedding. This was Midsummer Day, the most auspicious day in the year for weddings, and she was wearing her red, no yellow, bridal gowns were always yellow, hadn't she embroidered it herself? Soon she would put on her wreath of leaves - or was it flowers? Flowers were right for Midsummer, yet she was sure her wreath was leaves, dead leaves glittering with frost. But first there were the stairs, such a long way, down and down, surely there should not be so many steps, why were the walls so high, shutting out the sun. And why had she so much jewelry, she must be wearing everything in the shop, it was so heavy she could hardly stand. No matter, there were people holding her arms, father was there, all the family. Nothing could be wrong if father was there. Soon they would go out into the street, she could here the crowd cheering already. And it was such a beautiful day, if she looked up she could see the sky, a perfect blue, and she was going to her wedding.


The Shacklock Steps plunged straight down the Rock, with the sheer drop of the north cliff on one side and the backs of houses. on the other. The King's way snaked through the town, and where it met the steps bent back on itself in a steep hairpin. At this point only some railings and a drop of a dozen feet separated the two. Morain had timed the arrival of his party perfectly. The leading carriage containing the High Priestess had slowed to a crawl to negotiate the bend, as the prisoners appeared on the steps above. The cheers of the crowd faltered and died.

"What is this?" cried the Priestess. "Who are you?

"Brandur and Emayn," came a swift reply from Emayn. "On our way to execution. We plead for the mercy of the Goddess."

"Execution?" The Priestess recoiled in horror. "On Her most sacred festival? Who has ordered this sacrilege?"

"The orders are mine," said the Regent, riding forward.

"Then," said the Priestess, "I ask you in the name of the Great Mother to spare their lives. This day above all others must not be sullied by sorrow and pain."

Sandrian felt a surge of relief. Now, surely her father must relent. To meet a condemned man on the way to a wedding was the worst possible omen. Already the crowd, that part near enough to realise what was happening, was becoming restive. Bellic's face had reddened with anger, but for once he appeared irresolute. Even he might hesitate before picking a quarrel with the temples. He turned to the second carriage, where the bride sat.


"What do you say, ladies? Shall I pardon these wretches?"

Rosabel clasped her hands together in an agony of entreaty, too shy to speak. As Sandrian was about to answer for her, another voice broke in.

"Why are you wearing my crown?" said Alissa.

The effect on Elmiren was extraordinary. A blush spread over her face and neck, swiftly fading to leave her pale. Before Sandrian had recovered from her astonishment, Elmiren was answering the Regent's question.

"All those who threaten you, my lord, should die. Whatever the day. Are we ruled by our Regent or the priests?"

Bellic stiffened and pressed his lips together. Sandrian at last managed to speak.

"Father, please, I beg you - "

It was too late. Bellic glared, first at her, then at the Priestess.

"Enough! I see no reason why the Great Mother should concern herself with state security. The law must take its course."

"Then the Great Mother will not bless this marriage."

The Regent's colour deepened, but he kept his tone level. "I will not bow to your obsolete superstitions. I can find another priestess. Drive on."

There were no more cheers as the procession passed round the bend and out of sight of the pathetic group on the steps. The last Sandrian remembered seeing was the despair in the eyes of one of the children, as she watched the departing carriages.


The execution ground lay at the foot of the north cliff, which cast a chill shadow over the expanse of beaten earth. A few faltering jeers greeted the prisoners and their escort reached the end of the steps. Most of the crowd stood in sullen silence. Many there were not the usual spectators for this sort of event. Well fed middled aged men sweating in their best clothes, with their wives and children. The Goldsmith's Guild, Morain thought, come to display its loyalty, under the watchful eye of the Tower. You could smell the fear fifty yards away.

The gibbet waited, flanked on each side by iron stakes with kindling ready. Whoever was in charge of security here was taking no chances, there were nearly as many guards as spectators. He would be glad to hand over responsibility, he had no stomach for burning women, even if they were witches. He felt sick enough already. He had nearly disgraced himself, back on the steps, when he heard Elmiren turn the Regent against mercy. A Guards officer did not vomit while on duty. Now his head pounded, and he felt cold and sick.

The officer in charge of the executions was one of Ungreyn's favourites. He strolled across, a sneering smile on his face.

"Glad you could make it. What took you so long?"

"We met the Regent on the way."

"Did you now? That must have pleased him."

"The prisoners are now in your charge," said Morain. "I would like your permission to retire. Sir."

"Don't you want to see the fun? Feeling a bit squeamish, are we? Tough. I need your squad here, as reinforcements in case there's trouble. I don't like the look of that lot."

The gloomy crowd of respectable burghers had been augmented by others, less well dressed and more restive. Many carried staves or the implements of their trade, hammers and knives. They crowded the road from the lower city, and more were arriving every minute.

"Can't we get it over?" said Morain. "Why all this hanging about?"

"Got to wait till the priest of Horla gets here. We can't execute them till they've been prayed over, wouldn't be legal. The gods alone know when that will be, he's probably stuck in the crowd somewhere. I've brought some spare horses down from barracks, you'd better get your men mounted. I may need a charge later.

"What about moving the children out of the way? No need for them to see ... "

"Good idea. Give the crowd something to watch. Sergeant!"

"Sir?"

"Carry out the sentence on the children."

"Sir!"

On the far side of the paved area stood a row of triangular wooden structures, miniature versions of the whipping frames used in military punishments. Morain felt another twinge of nausea. At that moment he half wished there would be a riot, anything to take his mind off what was happening. He'd thought he was hardened - he'd fought in the Duegar campaign, after all - but there was something about these prisoners. Maybe it was the dignity of the woman, or that poor mad girl, smiling and singing to herself, no idea where she was. And the memory of Elmiren destroying their last hope lay like ice in his gut. Dear gods, let it be over soon.

Loremar stood in the first rank of the crowd, Cambrel beside him. A little way away he could see Jannock, grim-faced, clutching a cleaver. He fingered the hilt of long knife which hung at his belt. A sword would have been better - but how could such as he acquire one? Or learn how to wield it? The knife would have to suffice. Though what effect it would have on the line of black-clad Guards drawn up shield to shield before them - maybe it would not come to that. Shaly and Cloyne were waiting by the Sacred Gate to petition the Regent, and Drupe with his cart was in position to delay the priest of Horla as long as possible. They could not proceed with the executions without him. Surely a reprieve would arrive in time.


They were dragging her towards the far corner of the execution ground, near the base of the rock where it curved out towards the river. Shadow twisted in the grasp of the Guard, but her parents were lost to sight. The edge of the crowd drew near, she searched it, looking for a face she knew, someone who would say, no, stop this ... these people who had known her all her life, they could not stand by and let this happen. They could. Blank, unresponsive faces met her, eyes which looked past her, through her. In her nightmares, later, she would see those eyes.

Now, the were tying her to a triangular frame, her hands above her head, her ankles to the legs. She heard the cloth of her dress rip as it was torn from her back. They were doing the same to Linnet, while Hallam had been simply dumped on the ground. Then everything vanished in a white-hot flare of pain. Dimly she was aware of Hallam screaming - or was it her? Agony seared across her back, forcing a cry from her lips. Again. And again. There was a roaring in her ears, blackness threatened to engulf her.

"Enough! D'you want to kill them?"

"I have my orders. Sir."

"I give the orders. Release them."

Shadow slid to the ground in a heap as her bonds were cut. She blinked up into the face of the officer who had escorted them down the steps. He shook her impatiently.

"Don't go fainting on me! You have to take your brother and sister away from here. Can you stand?"

Shadow nodded, struggling to her feet and feeling for Linnet's hand.

"Sir, I'll have to report this to the Commander -"

"Report all you like, but now, take your men to strengthen the line. Move!"

The officer looked back over his shoulder, and Shadow saw a thin line of smoke rise into the air. The noise of the crowd deepened.

"Mab's tits!" He scooped Hallam off the ground and thrust him into Shadow's arms. "Get them out of here, now. Run!"

They ran.


The rumour raced through the crowd, "The burning! They've started the burning, and the crowd surged forward onto the line of Guards, hurling stones as they came. Loremar was pushed forward onto their shields, his knife useless in the crush. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jannock's cleaver rise and come down, while Cambrel dropped at his side, felled by a Guardsman's sword. Only the press of the people around him kept him on his feet, deafened by the shouting, as the irresistible weight of the crowd bore him forward, and then the line crumbled, and he could see her, against the black of the Rock. They had tied her to the stake, and piled faggots at her feet. He could see no flames, only the air wavered around her.

"Alissa!"

He was running, his knife in his hand (he could not recall drawing it), others, many others with him, but he was the first, he could see her face, she was smiling -

And a troop of horsemen rode between them, cutting him off from her. He though he heard her call his name (in dreams ever after he would hear that cry, "Loremar!" ), then a horse reared before him, and something struck his head, sending him crashing into darkness.


Andorrey walked through the thinning crowds, the parcel of books under his arm. His two men followed with his luggage. He was making for the East Gate, where his carriage waited. Or to be exact, his mother's carriage, an old-fashioned black box on wheels. He was traveling light, with no outriders or baggage train, only two attendants besides the coachman. The rest of his household could follow later. With luck he would be home in three days.

He settled himself in the corner as the coach started. The interior seemed very dark after the bright sunlight outside, so it was a moment or two before he noticed he was not alone.

"I apologize for this intrusion," said Orgrave. "I could think of no other way to reach you unobserved."

Andorrey stared, dumbfounded. He knew Orgrave by sight (it was impossible to know Elmiren without being aware of Orgrave) but he had never spoken to the man. One did not converse with servants. He was as astonished as if a horse or dog had addressed him.

"Is there any reason," he said at last, "why I should not stop the coach and have you thrashed for your insolence?"

"Several. It isn't your style, for a start, and both your men are older and less fit than I am, so it's impractical as well. And you'd never find out what I have to say. You have the books, I see."

"You sent them? Why? Apart from wanting to compromise me, of course."

"I knew you would respect what they are."

Andorrey was recovering from his surprise. He studied Orgrave for a moment. He had never looked properly at him before, just accepted him as a shadowy figure in the background. Slightly sinister, but that might be the influence of the eye patch. Now it was as if a mask had been removed, and the face beneath was not that of a servant.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"You know who I am."

"Did Elmiren send you? Or do you work for her father?"

"I make myself generally useful."

"As an informer, a spy? Is it your job to entrap the innocent? How did you come by those books?"

"I stole them," said Orgrave.

"And the crown, you stole that as well?" Andorrey felt sick.

Orgrave did not answer.

"It was you informed on Brandur, wasn't it? You destroyed them all, so you could get you hands on that wretched bauble."

"You have to admit the scheme worked. My lady Elmiren spent the night in the Regent's bed, and is set to be the most powerful woman in the country, if she plays her hand right. You friends have not died in vain."

Andorrey's hand went to the ornamental dagger at his belt, but the look in the other's eyes stopped him.

"Don't think of it. I am better with a knife than you can ever hope to be."

Andorrey took his hand away. He was gripped by a feeling of unreality. It crossed his mind that the man might be mad.

"Poor Shadow," Orgrave went on after a pause. "You must understand, I never meant any harm to come to any of them. I thought they would be released, with apologies. Red faces all round. It was a stupid accident."

"An accident! Do you expect me to believe that?"

"I don't care what you believe," snapped Orgrave. "I was trying to help her. And myself, but her as well. How could I have known - I mean, a master craftsman, rich, respected, charitable, never a hint of disloyalty. And his wife - no-one spoke a word against her. I thought they were above suspicion. I didn't know who they were. I doubt if they knew themselves."

"And what were they?" asked Andorrey, curious in spite of himself. "What had they done?"

"Done? Nothing. They were enemies of the state." Orgrave smiled savagely. "Didn't you realize a man can be an enemy of the state and never know it? And the really stupid thing is that it need never have happened. If Shadow had only told me how to close that cupboard, the one where the crown was hidden, the books would not have been found and no-one would have been hurt."

"You sound as if you care."

"Why shouldn't I care? I'm not a monster. I don't enjoy harming people."

"Then why - ?"

"Why?" Orgrave spoke with a weary bitterness. "Because that is what I do."

"I think you are a monster," said Andorrey.


In the Sacred Grove the marriage ceremony was drawing to a close. The Prince and his bride had made their vows, exchanged their rings and marriage gifts. Sandrian standing in her place behind the bride, allowed herself to relax a little. Soon they would be able to return to the Tower, and she would be able to find out how her mother was after her night's sleep; she had not woken when the procession had set out.
The young priestess, drafted in at the last moment after the High Priestess's sudden indisposition, had done remarkably well in spite of her obvious nervousness. Now she was filling the large golden Bridal Cup, ready to present it to the Prince. He took it, drank, held it out to his bride, as she stretched out her hands -

The sunlight failed, and a chill wild swept over the land, setting the trees of the Grove thrashing in a fury of flying leaves, a wind which brought a cry, a shriek, enough to stop the blood. The very earth shuddered, and the cup slipped from the bride's hands, spilling its contents in a pool on the grass. Red like blood.


The road, which had been skirting the perimeter of the Old City, now veered east to avoid the Annismire. Looking back, Andorrey could see the whole of the Rock of Henlis, houses clinging to its slopes, bathed in sunshine.

"It makes me think of a sinking ship,' said Orgrave.

"What do you mean?"

"There was a tapestry in my grandfather's house, of the battle of Edon Gulf. The bay was full of them, all at that angle."

Andorrey could see what he meant. From this angle the Rock did have the shape of a ship's prow disappearing beneath the waves, with the spur of Traitor's Point as the bowsprit. A faint blue haze hung at the base of the cliff. Shuddering, he realized what that must mean.

Orgrave had also seen. He was very pale. Andorrey turned on him in revulsion.

"I'm sick of your excuses. What do you want from me? Say it and get out."

"I have a request, and a warning."

"What makes you think I would do anything for you?"

"It's not for me. Will you look after the books? I have nowhere to hide them, and they are more important than you know."

"I'd do that without your asking. Is that all?"

"No. You will be writing to your friends in the city, while you are away?

"Yes, what of it?"

"Don't put anything on paper you'd not like the Regent to see."

"You think my letters will be intercepted?" asked Andorrey, startled.

"I know they will."

Andorrey sat silent, digesting this information. He had laughed at Imray's fears, but this was different. He shivered. Only yesterday morning, life had been so uncomplicated, even humdrum.

"Why are you warning me? I'm no friend of yours."

Orgrave shrugged. "Do I need a reason? You tried to help them, when no-one else did. You risked a great deal for people who meant nothing to you. I'm not sure if that took courage or stupidity, but you did it. I like you. I can admire virtue without having a wish to emulate it."

"You must forgive me if I am not flattered by your admiration."

Orgrave laughed. "I forgive you. Now I must go, you'll be relieved to hear. Stop the coach at the crossroads."

The road was by now following the edge of the marshes north of the city, an area known as the Annismire after an ancient hag reputed to haunt it. It was a desolate place of stagnant pools, coarse grass and reeds, a breeding ground for agues. It had defied all attempts to drain it. The crossroads was also an ill-omened spot, furnished with a gibbet from which hung ancient remains, scarcely recognizable as human. A crow flew up as they approached.

A wind sprang up from nowhere, to sweep across the wasteland. The sunlight grew faint and lost its warmth, though the sky was clear. The horses stopped, sweating with fear, as the unearthly wind keened round the coach, the sound of it filling the world, as if earth and air and sky were crying out together in grief and pain. In a moment it was gone, and the all lay quiet again under the sun.

"What was it?" whispered Andorrey.

Orgrave also seemed shaken. "It's over," he said at last. "They are dead."

He opened the door and jumped down to the road. Andorrey caught his arm.

"Why" he almost shouted. "Why did this have to happen?"

"Look in the books," said Orgrave, "they are the key."

He disengaged his arm and closed the door. The coach continued on its way. Andorrey did not look back.


The riot was over, snuffed out as soon as it began. Only a scatter of makeshift weapons were left where they had dropped, and huddled figures, dead or too badly injured to move. Loremar slumped against the wall of a side alley, blood running down his face. Drupe bent over him, urgently.

"Come on now, this is no place to sit around, there's guards everywhere. Loremar!"

The sound of his name stirred him into life. He lurched to his feat with a despairing cry.

"Alissa!"

"Not so loud. They'll string you up for sure if they catch you. Bastards. And there's nothing you can do for her, poor lass. It's all over."

Loremar slumped back against the wall with a groan.

"We got to get you out of here. Can you walk? My cart's round the corner. It's a bit niffy, but that's all to the good, if them guards come nosing around. You put your arm round me, it's only a step."

"Drupe? What are you doing here?" Loremar stumbled and almost fell.

"I had to come with the others. But I'm no use at fighting. It's a terrible thing, terrible. Mistress Emayn, she was good to my girl when she had the marsh-fever last summer, gave us two bottles of mixture and never charged. She was never a witch."

Loremar stopped and pulled away. "Got to find Alissa," he mumbled.

"No, no, you'll get yourself killed," cried Drupe. "Me too," he added.

"It's our wedding day. I should be dead, with her."

"How would that help her? Come along lad, you've had a nasty knock on the head, you're not thinking straight. We'll get you away from the city."

Loremar allowed himself to be led. "Won't run away," he mumbled.

"Your not running away, just got to hide for a bit. You want to make them as did this pay for it, don't you? You can't do that if you're dead. Come along."


They disappeared round the corner as Morain rode past the end of the alley, leading his troop back to barracks. He was still shaken by the events he had witnessed. He had seen men hanged before, and worse, but this had been different. Those two women, the one who screamed and the one who did not, he could not get them out of his mind. And the awful sound that had filled the air as they died, as if the Rock itself were groaning, had terrified everyone. All the fat burghers in their gowns and furs had run in panic. Another time he would have laughed.

He wished he could leave the city. The sunlight seemed smeared and pallid, the very air tainted by the smell of burning flesh. No doubt his career was over anyway, after that business with the Regent on the Steps. They said the prince was planning another campaign in the south. He could ask for a transfer, before the Regent found a really unpleasant posting for him. There was nothing to keep him here, now Elmiren had refused him. Perhaps if he came back covered in glory she would thing differently.

And if she did, would he still want her? He didn't know, but at least he was off duty for the rest of the day. Time to get seriously drunk.


Archived comments for A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 14
niece on 2005-10-04 07:05:16
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 14
Dear Shadow,
This chapter was worth the long wait…every little bit! Your descriptions were fantastic. Needless to say it brought tears to my eyes…Looking forward to the next chapter.
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-10-04 13:27:08
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 14
Thanks niece. I was afraid this chapter might be a bit confusing, with so much going on all over the place.
Moya
PS I'll try not to make you wait so long for the next.

Author's Reply:

len on 2005-10-04 23:25:18
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 14
It's said, the devil is in the details.Good writing is also in the details. Just a marvelous writing style.This is first rate stuff..len

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-10-05 00:54:39
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 14
Thanks len. Praise from you is praise indeed.

Author's Reply:


Bird Perfect (posted on: 23-09-05)
Who needs a shag?




The placid waters of the lake were blue steel under the evening sky. On the end of the jetty, a large black bird perched, wings outspread.

'They say he flaps his wings every time a virgin walks by.'

'Don't be daft,' said Sharon. 'That's just the Liver Bird, innit?'

'Well, they're related,' said Wayne. 'Can't you see the family resemblance?'

The bird watched them, motionless. Brooding.

'What sort of bird is it then?' asked Sharon. 'A cormorant?'

'A shag,' said Wayne.

'A shag? You're having me on. That's not a bird.'

'Yes it is. My uncle Ernie told me. He's into birds.'

'The dirty bugger! Well, don't stand there doing nothing. Come on if you're coming.'

The cormorant (or shag) watched impassively as they disappeared into the bushes.

Twilight deepened into night. The glassy waters of the lake reflected the emerging stars. The shag (or cormorant) was a dark shape scarcely discernible against the black waters. He still had not moved.

The silence was at last broken by a disturbance in the bushes, a rustling of leaves and crackling of twigs. Sharon emerged, smoothing down her dress.

'And you needn't bother trying to see me again,' she called back over her shoulder.

She stomped along the lakeside path, muttering to herself. 'Men! Bloody useless, the lot of them.'

As she passed the jetty the black bird perched on the end stretched itself up to its full height and slowly flapped its wings.

Archived comments for Bird Perfect
niece on 2005-09-23 13:05:34
Re: Bird Perfect
Dear Shadow,
An interesting piece of work…in India, we do believe that birds can make out certain things about a person…not probably, virginity, but many other similar things. By the way I am still waiting for the next chapter of β€œCrown…”
Regds,niece


Author's Reply:

RoyBateman on 2005-09-23 16:37:31
Re: Bird Perfect
Oh, neat! (Hope nobody from Liverpool reads it, or you'll be up there apologising a la Boris Johnson.) This certainly brought a smile to my face - can I be pedantic and say that if it had its wings outstretched then it was indeed a cormorant? I don't think there was a shag here - in any shape or form. Good one!

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-23 21:38:43
Re: Bird Perfect
Thanks niece. The Liver Bird thing is an old Liverpool joke. It's bronze (I think) and sits on top of the Liver Building. It has never, as far as I know, been known to flap its wings.
(re Ch 14: the latest version got mislayed when my laptop went down, and I still haven't managed to get at it - but I'm still hoping. If not I'll have to rewrite it, for yhe third time!)

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-23 21:42:19
Re: Bird Perfect
Thanks Roy (takes cover from irate Liverpuddlians). Is it a cormorant then? I thought it was a shag that stretched its wings out - not that I'm an expert.

Author's Reply:

Sunken on 2005-09-25 13:48:43
Re: Bird Perfect
Hello young Shadow. I need a shag very badly. I am however finding great solace in the extremely convenient form of gravy granules. Aren't they great? Simply add boiling water. It's great for people like me, I was always crap at cooking. I'm not that great at shagging, but i don't think adding boiling water to my privates will help in that arena. I hope my comment has been both informative and useful? Bad luck on the crap positioning of this piece. It does make a difference I think. This is a great little piece that needs no boiling water whatsoever. God, don't I talk bollocks? Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

he's wireless ya know?

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-28 00:03:14
Re: Bird Perfect
Dear sunken, please be very careful with that boiling water. You could do yourself serious damage. Thanks for the comment.

Author's Reply:


How to ... procrastinate. (posted on: 16-09-05)
You know those weeks when you can't get anything done?

Wednesday evening I really should try and produce something for the writers' group … haven't writen anything for ages. One ought to make an effort. What's next week's theme? An article on 'How to … something.' Well that can't be so difficult. Just think of something I know how to do, then write about it. The question is - what? Has to be something I can be witty and amusing about. Unfortunately nothing comes immediately to mind. Plenty of time, though. I'll just mull it over for a day or so. Thursday How to, how to - what? Can't think of anything I know how to do. Not that everyone else doesn't, anyway. Cooking ? Boring. Cleaning? Done that. Weeding the garden? I'm hardly the expert. Avoiding weeding the garden? That sounds more promising, but can I get a couple of hundred words out of it? Must give it some more thought. Friday Oh dear, I really meant to get down to some writing today, but Brian found some nasty spy thingy on the PC, and he's been on all day trying to get rid of it. By the time he'd finished it was time to get dinner, and it's hopeless trying to do any work in the evening, the old brain just isn't up to it. Never mind, there's still tomorrow. Saturday Only of course by now it's the weekend. Saturday morning's for shopping in town. I know I do my main shop at the supermarket during the week, but you always need fresh veg and stuff, don't you? Then Brian says, fancy going to the Fox for lunch, and naturally I did, so after lunch and a couple of pints, we got home about four and that was the afternoon gone. As for Sunday - well, you never get anything done on a Sunday, do you? I blame the Sunday papers. They shouldn't make them so big. Tuesday Today I must concentrate. Time is getting short, and I've still not decided what I'm going to write about. Yesterday was a dead loss as far as writing went, as we had to go and visit Brian's mum. She was very perky, considering, though the conversation did tend to go round in circles. She always asks, 'Are you still going to your writing class?' Makes it sound like Adult Literacy. Mind you, she's marvellous for her age I'll just finish the chores, and have a cup of coffee. And a quick look at the paper. There now, I'm sitting down at the computer. Better check my e-mails before I start. That's nice, someone on UKAuthors has commented on my latest post. I must see what they said. Oh, how kind, I'd better send them a message to say thanks. And take a look at their latest, I mean if someone takes the trouble to read and comment on your work, it's only fair to do the same for them. And while I'm here, I may as well see if there are any interesting messages on the Forums … Good Lord, is it lunch time already? Where has the morning gone? And I'm supposed to be going out this afternoon. Oh well. I'll have to do it tomorrow morning. Wednesday morning So here I am again, staring at a blank screen. And I still don't know what to write about. Surely I must be good at something? Maybe I could do it for next week. .
Archived comments for How to ... procrastinate.
RoyBateman on 2005-09-16 17:39:32
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Well, I was going to comment but I never got round to it....but this is all too real! Where does the time go? How did that fabulous idea I had last night after the odd pint or three vanish ovrnight?? It was going to be GREAT. Mm...maybe if I stopped leaving daft comments, I'd have more time. But that wouldn't be any fun, would it? Good little piece - I know exactly what you mean!

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-16 18:19:55
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Thanks Roy - and I will comment on your latest. I promise. Honestly. Not now this minute of course, because I've got to go and start the cooking, but very soon. Definitely.

Author's Reply:

soman on 2005-09-16 19:56:06
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
This is the sort of thing which makes me kick myself - why the heck didn't I think of it when I was groping for a subject to write about?

Cheers,

Soman

Author's Reply:

shackleton on 2005-09-16 21:26:58
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Crafty lady - you've done it!. Touch of innovation and anarchy here, Shadow. Nice one!

Author's Reply:

alcarty on 2005-09-16 22:19:37
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Clever idea, Shadow. Looks like you found something to write about whether you liked it or not. Well done.

Author's Reply:

Sunken on 2005-09-16 22:52:33
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
It's the comment box that strikes fear into my munky heart young Shadow. It's so small and claustrophobic in here. I would ask that Mr. Richard to put an extension on it but I dare say that he would tell me to fuck off. He can be quite vicious at times. This particular box is already reaching full capacity. Soon the text will start scrolling and my breath will become labored as I gasp for air amongst the inane ramblings of my own useless critique. You are a clever one Shadow, I only hope that I too will be able to procrastinate to such an high standard someday. By the way, it seemed only fair that comment, since you commented on mine earlier (-; I should actually be writing now, but I thought it only proper that life imitate art. You are all art young Shadow. Take photos, I predict a memory.

s
u
n
k
e
n

also available in Norwich

Author's Reply:

niece on 2005-09-17 07:49:23
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Dear Shadow,
Good choice of subject... A very interesting and enjoyable read! I know those days, it happens to me too. It’s so frustrating!
Regds,niece


Author's Reply:

ruadh on 2005-09-17 12:58:37
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Know this feeling well Moya. Nicely done.

ailsa

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-17 12:59:31
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
I think the subjest found me rather than me finding it ... thanks for comment.
Moya

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-17 13:02:16
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Thanks shack - yes, I've always been a bit of an anarchist. I might lead a revolution one day, if I can get round to it.

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-17 17:53:55
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Thanks al - I've been a procrastinator all my life (and it's not true that it makes you blind).

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-17 17:57:39
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Hi sunk, I was going to reply before but I kept putting it off ...I'm sure you will make a champion procrastinator with practice. Keep at it.
M

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-17 18:02:51
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Dear niece and ruadh
Thanks for your comments. It is nice to know there are so many of us around. I did once think of starting a club with some like-minded people(Motto: never do today what can be left till next week), but somehow we never got around to arranging a meeting.

Author's Reply:

woodbine on 2005-09-19 00:48:41
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
To Moya,

I always think I'm going to write lots of comments but stumble on an amusing piece like this and then sit there double glazed staring at the screen waiting for a comment to jump out of my mental colander which it will only do after I've gone to bed, and am lying watching spiders murder flies on the ceiling, and think, this isn't fair to an' old geezer with dodgy feet, so I go and inspect the fridge for chickens fat enough to eat, but on the way I spot a telltale trail of ketchup or worse leading to the laundry closet, and the end of another busy busy day, achieving what...?

Anyway I fetched up here and read your piece a second time not only with a frisson of deja vue but also the exquisite recognition of a co-conspiritor and I hereby present you, or will do the moment I've got a spare moment, with the blue ribbon of the Grand Prix de Creative Procrastination. Wear it with pride. I salute you. Bon Soir, chere amie,
Monsieur Woodbine
XXX

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-19 13:04:36
Re: How to ... procrastinate.
Thank you m'sieur - I am deeply honoured!
Moya

Author's Reply:


A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 13 (posted on: 02-09-05)

Midsummer night - after the ball was over ...










Chapter 13




In the lower town the festivities had spilled out into the streets. Orgrave walked quickly, swinging a small, neatly tied bundle in one hand.. Music and light poured from every open window, and lines of dancers wove unsteadily along the streets, arms stretched out to capture and draw him in, but he evaded them easily enough. He found the courtyard of the Ratcatcher's Arms packed, with most customers squeezed onto benches round trestle tables. A space in the centre had been cleared for dancing. Orgrave paused in the gateway, staring over the bobbing heads, then began to round the margin of the dance floor, towards a table in the far corner.

He stumbled as one of the dancers cannoned into him. She, for it was a young girl, would have fallen had he not caught her.

'Sorry, sir,' she gasped.

Orgrave bowed gravely. 'Not at all, milady.' He was rewarded by a flash of white teeth, before she rejoined her partner.

As he approached the table Cloyne looked up, and tried to rise. 'M-master Orgrave!'

'May I join you for a moment?' Without waiting for an answer Orgrave found a space on the bench beside Drupe, who sat alone on the far side of the table. 'I am sorry to impose myself on you, gentlemen, but Master Cloyne here can vouch for me.'

Cloyne moistened his lips. 'Master Orgrave is servant to the Lady Elmiren Arvannie. He has been - a good friend to me for many years.'

'Any friend of Cloyne's is a friend of ours,' said Jannock, turning to to signal to a passing serving wench. 'A mug of ale?'

'Thank you, but no. I cannot stay long. I have news I think you would wish to hear. You know there was a trial this morning?'

'Master Brandur and his wife?' said Drupe. "Yes, Cloyne read the notice in the Market. To late to do anything about it though.'

'I went up to the Tower,' said Shaly, 'but it had started by then and the guard would not let me in.'

'Hole-in-corner business if you ask me,' said Jannock. 'They're supposed to give three days notice of trials.'

'I don't suppose you heard how it went?' asked Cloyne. 'Only they won't be posting any bulletins till after the holiday.'

'They were found guilty. Brandur of treason and his wife and daughter of witchcraft.'

'I don't believe it,' exclaimed Drupe. 'I don't know much of Brandur, but mistress Emayn doctored my Bensy when she was dying, stayed up with her night after night and never charged a penny. There isn't a better, kinder woman in all Aldor. She a witch? Never!'

'Isn't there something we can do?' asked Shaly. "Get up a petition? Cloyne will write it out.'

'You'll need to be quick about it,' said Orgrave, grimly. 'The execution is set for tomorrow morning.'

There was a moment of appalled silence.

'They can't do that!' burst out Jannock.

Orgrave shrugged. "Can't? They are.'

'But - but are you sure? How do you know?'

'This evening I attended my lady to the Choosing. I heard it there, from one who had seen the trial.'

'He must be mad,' whispered Shaly. 'It's desecration. Such an insult to the Great Mother will bring her vengeance down on us all.'

'It cannot be allowed,' said Drupe.

Cloyne twisted his hands together nervously. 'But what can we do?'

'Spread the news,' said Orgrave. 'I must return to my lady, but even if I were free, I couldn't cover the whole city by myself. Tell as many as you can, to go to the old parade ground under Traitor's Point, that's where - try to delay things as much as possble. Draw up your petition, if you can manage to present it in time there might still be a chance.'

'Yes, yes!' Jannock jumped up. 'Come along, there's no time to lose. Drupe, you take the waterfront, and Cloyne, you're a sober man, you'd better go round the inns.'

'I'll visit the Guild Halls,' said Shaly.

Orgrave watched as they scattered. Soon only Drupe was left, standing quietly at his side.

'Will anything we do help them?' he asked quietly.

'Probably not. But one has to do something.'

Orgrave sat for a while after they had gone, idly watching the crowd. He wondered if any of Lind's men were among them, any watching eyes which might have recognised him, and noted what had just occurred. He was surprised at how little he cared. He should be getting back to the tower, Elmiren might need him, yet a strange, not unpleasant lethargy held him, he could almost sleep ...

'Where've they all gone?'

He looked up, to see the girl who had collided with him earlier.

'Urgent business.'

'Business! Tonight?' She frowned. "Did they say when they'd be back?'

'No - but I doubt if they will be.'

'Drat it!' She plumped herslf down on the bench beside him. 'I need to leave now if I'm to be in by midnight. I was counting on Pa. He knows I don't like to walk back alone."

'But surely . . . ' Orgrave's eye strayed to the dancers. The girl snorted.

'Oh yes, any of that lot would be only too glad. But I don't fancy fighting him off, all the way to Mistress Bellibone's.'

Orgrave stared at his companion. She was pretty enough - soft round face, dimples, curly brown hair - but hardly . . .

She burst out laughing. 'Bless you, I'm not one of her ladies! I just work there. As an upstairs maid.'

'Well, we haven't exactly been introduced, but I assume your father is one of the gentlemen I met this evening - '

'Master Drupe, sir. I'm his daughter, Filosel.'

' - and as I believe I am responsible for his defection, I would be happy to take his place. I promise, you will not have to fight me off. My name is Orgrave, by the way. I work for the High Commander Arvannie.'

Filosel's eyes widened. 'You're never one of his - ' She swallowed nervously.

'Agents? Would I tell you if I was?' Orgrave laughed. 'No, I spend most of my time dancing attendance on his daughter, Lady Elmiren. Which reminds me, she will be waiting for this package, so if I am to see you home, we should be leaving.'

He offered his arm, which she took without hesitation. 'Lady Elmiren - I saw her once. She's ever so lovely!'

'To look at, she is.'

'Did you go with her to the Bride-Choosing? Could you see what happened?'

Orgrave nodded. 'We were allowed to warch from the gallery.'

Filosel bounced with excitement. 'Who did the prince choose?'

'Lady Rosabel.'

'But she's not nearly as pretty as Lady Elmiren.'

'She is very much richer.'

'What was she wearing?'

'Pink gauze, embroidered with silver rosebuds. Too frilly, I thought.'

'And your lady? What did she wear?'

'My lady was dressed in white, as always . . . '

It was as well that years of accompanying Elmiren on shopping trips had given Orgrave a working knowledge of ladies fashions, for Filosel required a full description of every gown worn that night. They had nearly reached Mistress Bellibone's establishment before he was able to change the subject.

'Does your father not mind you working in - such a place?'

'I think he'd prefer I was somewhere more respectable, but then the money wouldn't be as good. And Mistress Bellibone is very strict, she wouldn't let any gentleman interfere with the staff - I mean, that's what the ladies are for!'

'I suppose some pretty important people go there?'

'Yes indeed. We get all sorts, high lords, members of the council, judges and generals ; the things some of them get up to you wouldn't believe. Not that I have anything much to do with them, but I've heard the ladies talking. And they tell me things, they get lonely you see, so far away from their homes. Sometimes I help to dress them and do their hair. That's what I'd like to be - a lady's maid.' .

'You are in a good place to train for that. So your ladies confide in you?'

'They get sad. Well it can't be much fun, if you've been a high-born lady or a princess or something, to come down to being a slave in a brothel, can it? And what they have to put up with sometimes! That Captain Ungreyn for instance, now he gives me the creeps, for all he's so handsome ...'

'Ungreyn? I wouldn't have though he needed to pay.'

'He has "special requirements".' Filosel shuddered.

By now they had reached a high wall with a solid oak door set in it.

'Thank you sir for seeing me back safely. You've been very kind.'

Orgrave smiled. 'It was a pleasure, Miss Filosel.

'Oh please, call me Floss. Everyone else does.'

'Tell me, does your strict Mistress Bellibone expect you to keep away from gentlemen after work, as well?'

Floss smiled. ' What I do on my night off is my own business.'

'And when is your next evening off?'

'Tomorrow week.'

'I'll call for you. What time?'

'Seven. Not here - I'll be outside the Seven Stars.'

Orgrave took her hand, raised it briefly to his lips. 'Till then.'


The festivities were over by the time he returned to the Tower. He found Elmiren in a tiny chamber, hardly bigger than a cupboard, close by Sandrian's apartments. Orgrave looked round, wrinkling his nose. The room was conveniently near the garde-robe, or inconveniently depending on one's sense of smell.

"Surely they could have found you something better."

Elmiren was sitting on the bed, looking depressed. "Princess Sandrian has been very kind. She said that if I wanted privacy this was the best she could do, but I could share her room if I liked. I think she was sorry for me."

"I don't suppose you will spend much time here."

"Maybe. What if I was wrong, and he doesn't send for me? He may have forgotten I'm here."

"I doubt that." Orgrave set down the bundle he carried. "I brought your night-dress and a change of clothes."

"Clothes?"

"You can hardly appear in the morning in your ball-gown. That would set tongues wagging! I decided against bringing your maid, for the same reason. Just as well, I don't know where we would have put her. You will have to make do with me for tonight. Stand up."

Orgrave began to unhook the elaborate dress, and as it fell to her feet Elmiren stood naked and unembarrassed under his gaze.

"Do you think the Regent will be disappointed?"

Orgrave shook his head, smiling, then took out a gown of thin white silk and dropped it over her head. He stood back to survey the effect.

"The hair, I think, should be loose. Sit."

Elmiren sat obediently on the bed as he took down her hair and began to brush with long slow strokes. The tension went out of her shoulders. Her eyelids drooped, she seemed about to fall asleep.

"Elmiren?"

"Yes?"

"There's something I would like you to do for me."

"What?"

"You know that Brandur the goldsmith has been condemned for treason."

"Everyone knows that. Isn't it lucky that he sold you the crown before he was arrested, or it would have been impounded and we'd never have got it in time!"

"Yes." The even brushstrokes faltered for a moment, then resumed. "I want you - afterwards - to ask the Regent to reprieve Brandur and his family."

"What!" Elmiren swung round, shocked. "Have you gone out of your mind? I could ruin everything, doing a stupid thing like that. What if he was angry? He might never want to see me again!"

"How could he be angry with you for long? Tell him how much you love him, say he has made you so happy that you cannot bear to spoil the day with executions - something like that."

"If I loved him that much I'd want anyone you plotted against him to be executed. Why take the risk? I don't care about these people, and I don't understand why you're so bothered."

"No?" said Orgrave. "Has it never occurred to you to wonder how I obtained that bauble you set your heart on? I'll tell you. I didn't buy it, or steal it. I laid information against them, so that I could go in undercover of the raid, and take it. I thought they would be released for lack of evidence. I never dreamed things would go this far.'

`Goodness,' said Elmiren, impressed. `You are devious. Still, does it matter? They were traitors after all. You uncovered a plot, even if you didn't mean to.'

`You think so? Well, maybe. But their children are innocent. Did you know they are going to burn the eldest girl? She's the same age as you.'

`The one who dared to try and keep my crown? You want me to risk losing the Regent's favour - for her? As far as I am concerned, she deserves everything she gets.'

`Burning at the stake seems a slightly excessive punishment for vanity,' said Orgrave dryly. `Elmiren, my love, think for a moment. We are beginning something, tonight, that will shape all the rest of our lives. If it is to turn out well, let's say I have a feeling, it should not start with bloodshed and betrayal and death.'

Elmiren stared, astonished. `I never thought you were superstitious. I'm sorry, Orgrave. I daren't do it. Maybe later, when I'm more secure, I might ask for something like this, but not tonight. It's too soon.'

`Later will be too late for Brandur.'

`Pity. But that's not my fault. I will not jeopardise all we have planned and worked for, because you have an attack of guilt. I don't know how you have the - the insolence to ask it of me!'

Orgrave caught her wrist in a grip that made her gasp with pain. `Don't speak to me of insolence. I made you, girl, never forget that! How would you be if I left you?'

Elmiren grew pale. `Orgrave, you wouldn't. You couldn't!"

At that moment someone tapped softly on the door. Orgrave released her.

`It's time.' He lifted up the crown from where it lay on the bed and placed it on her head, then took up a long cloak and cast it around her shoulders, pulling the hood up to hide her face.

`Wish me luck!'

`Always.'

`And you will be here, when I get back?' she whispered.

`Oh, don't worry,' he smiled bitterly. `I'll be here.'

She gave him a tremulous smile, and was gone.

Orgrave watched her go, following a diminutive page with a lantern which throwing a dancing light on the passage walls, until she rounded the corner. He felt a curious pang, half pride and half regret, as she disappeared from view. This was the night when all his schemes were to have come to fruition. So much planning and preparation, so many years of work. Had he really seen a crown hovering over her head, years ago? He had almost convinced himself it was true. All his plans lay in ruins, unless Elmiren herself could rescue them. There was nothing more he could do, everything now depended on her. He feared for her.


The room into which Elmiren was shown was huge and shadowy, the walls hung with tapestries. Hunting scenes, battle scenes, it was difficult to tell which in the flickering candlelight;, a confused mass of men and horses. A low table stood before the fireplace, with a wine jug and glasses. No sign of supper, not that she was hungry. A great canopied bed stood in the middle of the floor, dominating the room. Behind it, a desk covered with papers. She clutched her cloak to her, shivering slightly despite the warmth of the night, then gasped as it was snatched from her shoulders and tossed into a corner.

"You won't need that," said Bellic, moving to the table and pouring two glasses. "Sit down. And don't look so nervous, child, I'm not going to eat you. Yet."

A low couch had been drawn up to the table. Elmiren sank down among the cushions, and sipped the straw-coloured wine he handed her, while Bellic stood for a long moment. staring at her. She felt as if she was already naked, and it was as much as she could do not to squirm and drop her gaze.

"So," said Bellic at last. "Very pretty. Whose idea was it?"

"I - I don't understand."

"I think you do. Who put you up to this?"

"No-one."

"Don't lie to me. Someone tried to disrupt the choosing, someone who does not want the Aynberrow estates in my hands. I don't take kindly to interference. I won't punish you, girl, you're the pawn, but I need to know who is behind it. Your father?"

"My father knows nothing about any of this," cried Elmiren, horrified.

"Or chooses not to? I notice he is conveniently out of the way at the moment."

"My mother's illness . . .

"I know all about your mother's illness. Still I agree, it's hardly his style. Your uncle, then?"

"Uncle Borazon? He wouldn't dare! He's far too scared of you."

"Certainly I would have thought so," agreed Bellic. "So who?"

"Nobody. It was my idea."

The glass slipped from her hand and shattered, wine splashing everywhere, as he hauled her to her feet, fingers digging into her shoulders. Elmiren thought, incongruously, that it was a good thing she had taken Orgrave's advice and changed her dress.

"Don't play with me, girl," he snarled. "You thought up a scheme to alter the fate of the nation? All by yourself? Do you expect me to believe that? I want the truth out of you before you leave here. If you leave. There are holes enough in this castle to hide any number of fools like you."

Elmiren felt sick. Everything was going horribly wrong.

"You would not dare. My father . . . "

"You will be surprised what I can dare." He dropped her back onto the couch, contemptuously. "Your father, for a start. I can have him arrested, brought back and questioned. And your mother. And your uncle and aunties and cousins. And what of your friends? Maybe some of them are implicated. Believe me, I intend to know who my enemies are."

Elmiren stared, aghast. "But - we are not your enemies!"

"We?" he pounced immediately. "So there is someone else."

Elmiren was terrified. In all her life she had never been in a situation where she could not get her own way, either by smiles or tears. She knew, with a dull certainty, that neither would avail her now. This man might not be impervious to her beauty. No man, she believed could be that. It meant nothing to him, however, compared to a threat to his power. It was beginning to dawn on her that this not some kindly old man that she could charm out of his ill-humour, this was someone even more used than she was to getting his own way.

"You are going to give me his name," the Regent was saying, "or else I will find it out for myself. And you will not like my methods, I can assure you."

She would have to give him a name. Someone believable, someone close to her, someone she cared nothing about. Her mind stayed obstinately blank.

The silence was growing ominous. Bellic shrugged.

"If that's the way you want it. I'll summon the guard."

"No, wait," she gasped. She searched desperately for a lie, inwardly screaming: Orgrave, what shall I do?

"Orgrave," she said

"Orgrave?" Bellic was taken aback. "Who the hell is Orgrave?"

"My servant."

"Your servant?" He gazed at her dumbfounded for a moment, then gradually his amazement gave way to laughter. He threw back his head and roared, Elmiren looked on in consternation and his face turned red and tears squeezed from the corners of his eyes. Then, as suddenly as it had started, the laughter ceased.

"Well. I might have known a scheme that crack-brained could only have been thought up by a schoolgirl and a lackey."

"It nearly worked!" Elmiren flashed back at him.

"Yes, it nearly did. Can you even begin to imagine the trouble you would have caused me if it had? If my besotted son had forgotten his duty and chosen you? And all because you fancied yourself as Queen of Aldor. Queen! I suppose you think it's all prancing around in fancy clothes, and jewels, and young men paying you compliments?"

"No."

"Oh, so you want more than that? Influence, maybe? Power?"

Elmiren said nothing. Bellic laughed again, harshly.

"The Queen of Aldor, my dear, has as much power and influence as this table." He struck it so that the glasses jumped and rattled.

"If I were Queen," said Elmiren quietly, "I would have as much power as I wanted."

Her courage had returned as she saw that he no longer took her seriously. For a moment he had frightened her badly, but now she could see that he was just like all the others, her father, her uncle. He might shout and threaten, but she would get round him in the end.

"Maybe you would, at that," admitted Bellic, "but you are not Queen, and never likely to be. You have lost, and must pay the price. What should it be, I wonder? You are a dangerous young lady to have at court. I think you should go away. A long way away. To Feldernesse. I am sure your uncle will be able to find some farm hand or other to marry you. I baby a year will keep you out of mischief."

Cold terror gripped Elmiren. To be exiled to Feldernesse. the land beyond the forest. haunt of demons and monsters. To grow old and fat and ugly, bereft of the adulation which was her due. She would have done better to have accepted Morain. It must not happen. She would not let it happen. She forced herself to look him in the eye.

"Why should I be punished? What have I done? I came to the Feast, I was not chosen by the Prince, I danced with the Regent. What is my crime?"

"You know very well." He walked over to the table and poured himself another glass of wine. "You tried to use me. Me! You deserve to have your head cut off for your presumption."

"That seems - excessive. Nothing happened. Why announce to the world that something did?"

"So I must let you go free? What becomes of my power now, if it is seen that it may be flouted with impunity?"

"I never said that."

The deciding moment had come. She could give in to the fear that gripped her, sending shudders through her body, slink back into obscurity, give up all her dreams and be a farmer's wife in far off Feldernesse; or, she could go forward, take what was her due. Whatever the cost. She rose smoothly and stood before him. The thin silk of her gown, still damp from the wine, clung to her body. He wanted her. She had known it as they danced at the feast, she could not mistake that look.

"You - you could punish me yourself," she said. "No-one will hear me scream. They wouldn't come if they did. You have given orders that we are not to be disturbed?"

He was watching her like a beast of prey which had spotted dinner.

"Be careful. Be very careful," he said, hoarsely.

"Why should we be careful? You are the Regent, you can do what you like. You don't want to send me away."

A faint smile had begun to play around his mouth. "And what am I to say to your father, your family, afterwards?"

"Whatever you like. Or is the Regent afraid of scandal?"

"Do not provoke me too far," he growled. "You might not like what you get."

Elmiren laughed. "I thought I wasn't supposed to like it. What are you waiting for? Are you going to let such an opportunity slip by? Once you wouldn't have hesitated, or so I've heard. Perhaps it is true what they say. You are too old."

"Enough!" He seized her roughly. The silken gown, torn in two, fell to her feet, as he snatched her up and hurled her onto the bed. Lying there, shivering with a mixture of terror and exultation, Elmiren closed her eyes and fixed her mind on her glorious future.


Later she lay awake while the Regent snored beside her. Her whole body ached, she could feel the bruises where his hands had gripped her, yet at the same time she glowed with triumph. She had taken her punishment without complaint. When he kneaded and twisted her breasts as if he wished to tear them from her body, when his teeth had gripped her nipple, sending flares of agony along every nerve, she had not cried out. She had kept the smile on her face as he tore into her as if she were an enemy to be overcome, cried 'Yes, yes!' as his face grew red and his eyes glazed in a last paroxysm of fury - before he collapsed beside her, turned over, and went to sleep. She hoped her reward would be worth the suffering.

He lay on his back, his mouth open. Gods, he was ugly. The light was growing, soon she should return to her room, or risk being found by the attendant who would come to wake him. Yet she could not slip away while he slept. What if he were to pretend it never happened, or was only a dream?

Under her scrutiny he stirred and opened his eyes.

"You still here? I thought you'd be back in your own bed by now."

"It is hard to leave you, my lord," she answered softly. She ran her hand along his thigh.

"Mab's tits, girl, you're insatiable." He heaved himself up on the pillows, peering around the room. "What hour is it?"

"Near dawn."

"High time you were gone. The place will be stirring soon. Lind will be here at the dawn bell, or soon after. I don't want him to see you."

"Why? Are you ashamed of me? Anyway, there's plenty of time." She moved her hand further up his thigh.

"That's enough! I'm an old man, remember, and I have a long day ahead."

"You? Old?" Elmiren injected a note of incredulity into her voice. "You were magnificent!"

"So you don't regret losing Talion?"

Elmiren laughed. "I set a trap for the lion-cub and caught the lion himself. Of course I don't regret him."

"And you reputation? The gossip, the scandal - does that mean nothing to you?"

"But you have chosen me. The Regent. Who would dare say anything against me? I don't care who knows. I would stand on Traitors Point and shout it to the whole city. I am not afraid!"

"And your father?" asked Bellic. "Do you want him to know?"

Elmiren was silent.

"I thought not. Well, as it happens, neither do I. So get back where you belong like a good girl and there will be no harm done. Get some sleep. You'll need to be up early as well, if you are walking in the Bridal Procession."

Elmiren wriggled back under the bedclothes.

"I don't know how I shall manage to walk this morning, I'm so sore. Couldn't I ride in the carriage with Rosabel? She's allowed to take one bridesmaid, isn't she?"

"The bride might prefer to choose her own attendant."

"Oh, Rosabel won't mind. I don't suppose she's chosen anything for herself in her entire life. Can I? Please?"

"All right. If that's what you want."

Elmiren heard he note of irritation in his voice and decided to ignore it. "Will you tell Princess Sandrian? She might not believe me."

Bellic flung back the covers and strode to the writing desk. Unclothed, he looked even smaller than usual, his paunch more prominent. Elmiren averted her eyes.

"Gods almighty! Here, have it in writing." He thrust a paper at her. "Now will you go? Go!"

At last Elmiren slipped out of the bed and fetched her cloak. The torn dress she left where it lay.

"You're not angry with me?" she whispered, coming back to look up at him anxiously. The growing light revealed her slender body, scarcely more than a child, her perfect breasts on which the bruises were beginning to show, blue eyes about to swim with tears. "I could not bear that. I love you so much."

Bellic frown relaxed. "I'm not angry," he said gruffly. He kissed her awkwardly on the cheek. "Now get along."

Elmiren flashed him a brilliant smile, gathered her cloak around her, and was gone.

Alone, Bellic breathed a sigh of relief and sank back onto the bed. I'm too old for this, he thought. Still, it had been worth it, if only for the look on Talion's face as the prize had been snatched from under his nose.

Dear gods, but that had been a close thing. If his fool of a son had forgotten his duty ... if he'd been forced to marry his ward the heiress of Aynberrow to anyone else ... if he'd had to account for her missing millions ... he broke out in a cold sweat at the idea. But his quick thinking has saved the day; and brought an unexpected bonus.

The girl could still be trouble. For a moment he had thought he would have to tie her up and drag her back to her room. But she was only a child, to be bought off with a ride in a carriage, and if not . . . well, Lind would see to it. Lind saw to everything. He slept.


Archived comments for A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 13
niece on 2005-09-03 11:11:13
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 13
This was as enjoyable as the rest, Shadow. Am looking forward to the next chapter.
Regds,niece


Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-09-03 12:50:35
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 13
Hi niece, thanks for commenting. Next chapter will be a bit late I'm afraid, as I am on holiday next week.
Moya

Author's Reply:


A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 12 (posted on: 29-08-05)
Midsummer Eve - the Bride-Choosing.


Chapter 12



As the summer dusk began to fall, torches were lit on the paved road which looped through the Old City to the Tower. A steady stream of people ascended. Great lords climbed on foot, for only the Regent's family and the various high priests may ride in carriages within the city walls. Their wives and daughters were carries in chairs or curtained litters, all surrounded by retinues of servants. The shops and houses they passed bore flags and garlands of flowers. The public festivities were being held, as always, outside the walls, in the loop of the river which held the sacred Grove, but many preferred private celebrations, and the sound of music and laughter floated from many of the doors and windows they passed. If the city was quieter than normal, and the crowds who gathered to watch them pass less enthusiastic, few of the Avernian nobility noiced or cared.

Outside the main Gatehouse the streams of people converged into one jostling, acrimonious crowd, as each retinue sought to ensure that its lord passed through the portal ahead of his rivals. Fights might have broken out, if there had not been a contingent of Guards to keep an eye on things. Andorrey, unencumbered by servants, traversed the throng without much difficulty, and was nodded past the guard. There were some advantages in being related to the Regent.

He had spent the hours since the trial calling on everyone he knew who might support the cause of Brandur and Emayn, in an attempt to gather names for a petition to the Regent. Without success. As if word had gone round, have nothing to do with this matter. He had given up in the end and gone home to dress for the evening. He would have to petition the Regent by himself.

The Great Hall of the Tower blazed with the light of hundreds of candles. Flowers were everywhere; girdling the stone pillars, hanging in garlands, arranged in vases, entwined in hair and carried in nosegays. For Midsummer was the Festival of Flowers. The scent was overpowering already, and the hall was barely half full. Andorrey sighed. It would be unbearably hot later.

He started as he felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to find Imray smiling at him,

'Glad to see you are still at large. How are you enjoying your newfound notoriety?'

Andorrey blinked. 'What notoriety?

'Haven't you noticed? The news is all over the city - a nest of conspirators unmasked, and Lord Andorrey, who has never conducted a case in his life, stands their defender. The general consensus is, you are either vary brave or very stupid.'

"Hardly brave. But I know Brandur, I could not imagine - I found I could not let an innocent man go to his death undefended. Believe me, no-one was more surprised than I was."

Imray sighed in exasperation. "You think you're still living in one of those legends you're so fond of - times have changed. There's no place for justice now. Someone powerful wants these people dead, so they have to die. Maybe they know something about Brandur we don't. Or the Goldsmith's Guild has been a bit stingy with its voluntary contributions to the War Chest lately. Or it could be to frighten into silence all this chatter about the True King. I don't know. I do know you would be better to stay out of it. Forget about petitioning the Regent."

"I have to try," said Andorrey.

"Then you're mad. If he starts to think you are, shall we say unsound, being his cousin won't save you. The family is always the first to be suspected."

Andorrey laughed. "You can't mean - no-one could think - me, dangerous?"

"I know you have a well-deserved reputation as an idiot, but don't underestimate a suspicious mind."

"In that case, I'm surprised you're willing to be seen talking to me."

"So am I," agreed Imray. "In fact, I must be off. My Lady Valindra has arrived."

"Valindra? I thought I was Auriel you were after."

"That was last week. Take care, now."

He darted away through the throng, which had now grown considerably. Most were familiar faces, who greeted Andorrey with a smile, but he was amused to notice that some were indeed avoiding his eye. Still, he thought, the worst the Regent can do is send me from court, and that's no hardship. He spotted the Lord of Feldernesse and his lady, but no sign of their niece Elmiren, with or without her crown. Surely she wasn't going to be late?

The trumpeters in the gallery sounded a fanfare, and the floor of the hall cleared like magic. Guards took up positions along the double line of massive stone pillars which upheld the roof, high above. A second fanfare, and the Regent entered, flanked by the officers of state carrying the regalia, the Sword and the Cup. The Regent himself wore no badge of office save the ring on his left hand, its emerald blazing in the light of the candles. His son and daughter followed, and before them all walked the High Priestess of the Goddess bearing a wreath of willow, its leaves still green.

As they passed everyone in the hall sank to one knee, in obeisance not to the Regent but to the willow circlet, ancient symbol of the bond between the ruler and the land. At the far end of the hall was a dais on which stood a throne carve out of a single block of grey stone. Another willow wreath lay on its seat, this one brown and withered. As the small procession reached the throne the priestess gave the green circlet to Princess Sandrian, while the Regent lifted the withered wreathe from where it lay. It would be taken back to the Sacred Grove, to hang there with its fellows till it crumbled into dust. Sandrian offered the new one to her father. He raised it high as the trumpets sounded again, then placed it on the throne. It would stay till next Midsummer, visible sign of the renewal of his oath.

Bellic, thirty-seventh Regent of Aldor, came down from the throne of the True King and went to his own official chair. It was more ornate, elaborately carved and gilded, yet less impressive. Sandrian went to sit on the Queen's Chair on the other side of the Throne. It was time for the next ceremony of the evening to begin: the Presentation of the Maidens.

Every Midsummer the daughters of the aristocracy were presented to the Queen, a sign that they were now of marriageable age. This year the event had a particular importance. It was from them that the prince must choose his bride. If it could be called a choice. Everyone knew he would pick the one his father had chosen for him. Andorrey could see her now, a pale skinny child in rose pink, standing in line with the others. At one time only the most beautiful was thought fit to be Queen, for the Queen embodied the soul of the Land. Times had changed. The orphaned daughter of Lord Akenhythe was the richest heiress in the country, far too big a prize for some ambitious noble. Andorrey felt a twinge of pity. The prince was well known to care for nothing save war and hunting, and was reputed to be a bully. She would not have an easy life.

As each girl's name was called by the herald she left the group and approached the dais, where she sank into a deep curtsey before Sandrian, then after Sandrian had inclined her head gravely in acknowledgement, went to stand with the others in a rough semicircle before the thrones. Soon more than two score girls were standing there, waiting. Andorrey noticed that Rosabel of Akenhythe had found herself, hardly by accident, at the midpoint of the line, directly opposite the Prince. It was time. The floor of the hall had somehow been cleared, and now stood free for dancing. The Prince must now choose his partner for the dance, and for life. The trumpets sounded again, and the herald cleared his throat to announce the dance, when suddenly all attention switched to the other end of the hall, where a short flight of shallow steps led up to a figure standing in the massive doorway. Elmiren had arrived at last.

Her presence was greeted by a silence which flowed swiftly down the great hall, as each person in turn looked round, and was struck dumb. The murmur of voices and shuffling of feet died away. The entire gathering stared in honest wonder. Many of them had known her since she was a child, yet it was as if they had never seen her before. She shone, in her white dress, as if all the light in the hall was concentrated on her. The circlet in her hair glittered. Maybe its power fed off the admiration of the beholders, for if she had been beautiful when she wore it in Brandur's workroom, and when she had tried it on in her chamber, the effect was now multiplied a hundredfold. It was scarcely possible to look at her, impossible to tear the eyes away. Not a man in the hall but felt a surge of desire as she descended the steps and began to walk slowly up the hall towards the dais. The only sound was the soft rustle of her dress.Andorrey managed to tear his eyes away for a moment to glance at the Prince, standing waiting on the dais. He was staring entranced at the approaching vision.

Elmiren reached the foot of the dais and stopped before Sandrian, who was staring with as much undisguised admiration as any in the hall. She swept a low curtsey, glancing up at the herald, who seemed to wake up and realise where he was.

"Lady Elmiren of Lindonwell," he said weakly.

Elmiren rose and joined they others, but not at they end of the line as she should. Instead she went to stand next to Lady Rosabel, directly opposite the Prince. The contrast between them was cruel, Elmiren so shining and resplendent, Rosabel, who might one day grow into beauty, but who was now just a gawky fourteen-year old, gazing awe-struck at the glorious creature beside her. Elmiren had won.

Everyone knew it. A sense of expectation that was almost tangible had arisen in the hall. The Prince must choose the most beautiful in the land to be his bride. The ancient laws of Aldor demanded it. Something which for so long had been merely an empty ritual was now alive, and would not be denied. Bellic, Regent of Aldor, who had ruled for twenty-three years by pitting one faction of his nobles against another, could see his carefully balanced system of alliances crumbling before his eyes.

The moment had arrived. The priestess came forward, bearing a small bundle made up of twigs from the Seven Sacred Trees, which she dipped in a bowl held by her acolyte and sprinkled holy water over the Prince, then retired, murmuring prayers. The Regent and Lady Sandrian had risen and come to stand one each side of the Prince, to accompany him as he slowly descended from the dais and began to walk across the floor, straight to where Elmiren waited, smiling, triumphant, the light of her victory in her eyes

It all happened so quickly. Afterwards Andorrey could never be sure exactly how it had come about, even though he had been so close, standing by the dais not ten paces from the little group when it halted at the midpoint of the line of girls. One moment the Prince had been approaching Elmiren, about to reach out his hand to her, the next his father had taken a quick pace forward and was bowing before her.

"May I have the honour, my lady?" said the Regent.

Before she had time to realise what was happening Elmiren had been drawn out of the line. The Prince was left facing Lady Rosabel, an expression of total astonishment on his face that would have been extremely funny, if anyone had felt inclined to laugh. A murmur of surprise, even of dismay, went round the hall. This was something totally unprecedented. Little Lady Rosabel sank to the floor in a curtsey, which looked more as if her knees had given way from fright. The Prince stood paralysed, until a brisk poke in the back from his father recalled him to himself, and with a noticeable reluctance he stepped forward to raise the Lady Rosabel to her feet. At this the trumpets sounded.

"The Prince of Aldor has chosen his bride!" cried the herald.

A cheer went up from the assembly, ragged at first, then stronger as everyone realised the crisis, whatever it had been, was over. The musicians began to strike up for the dance, and Andorrey for the second time that day felt impelled to push himself forward. After the Prince had chosen his partner protocol demanded that the Regent and his Queen, or in this case Sandrian as her deputy, should follow them into the dance. Now her father's action had left her bereft and partnerless, standing forlornly in the middle of the floor..

Up till now Sandrian had been coping well enough as her mother's deputy, although in general she was a shy, self-effacing girl, acutely conscious of her height and plainness. All the Regent's family towered above him, a circumstance which was known to cause him some irritation. Sandrian had inherited her height from her mother, but in all other respects she so strongly resembled her father that it had been unkindly said that it was no wonder that she remained unmarried; to wed her would be like bedding the Regent himself. Now she was totally at a loss. She hesitated, then half turned as if to return to her seat, but by then Andorrey was at her side. She smiled in relief and gratitude as he led her safely into the dance, just behind Elmiren and the Regent. Other couples began to form behind them, and the dance began.

It was one of the intricate, formal measures traditional in the ancient court of Aldor. Some believed it had been handed down since the time of the True King. For a few minutes Andorrey, who had not danced for years, was fully occupied with trying to remember the steps, but after a while he began to get the feel of it, and was able to pay attention to his partner and to what was going on around. Sandrian smiled at him again.

"I don't know how to thank you for rescuing me just now," she said. "I had no idea what to do. It was all so unexpected. What on earth did that child think she was doing? Do you suppose her uncle put her up to it?"

"Feldernesse?" Andorrey shook his head. "I shouldn't think so. He hasn't the imagination - or the nerve. It was probably all Elmiren's own idea."

"Poor child. Does she think she is living in some romance? My father does not allow his arrangements to be upset."

"At least he does not look angry with her."

"Why should he be angry? He won."

Indeed, the Regent appeared to be looking on his young partner with a certain indulgence, while on her part Elmiren was hiding any disappointment she was feeling admirably. She listened attentively to his every word, occasionally flashing her brilliant smile. Sandrian sighed.

"I expect he's glad not to have to dance with me. He hates that. At least he does not have to look up at Elmiren." She smiled up at Andorrey again. "I must admit, it's a relief to me not to be looking at the top of someone's head!"

"Always glad to be of service," said Andorrey. "Actually, there is something you could do for me in return."

"Gladly."

"There was a trial today, you may have heard something of it -"

"Heard! The whole court is buzzing with it. I must admit, I had never thought of you as a champion of witches."

"That is the point. They are innocent. They are no more witches than you or I, nor conspirators. There was no real evidence against them, the whole trial was a sham. Their only hope now is your father's clemency."

Sandrian frowned. "Surely you would be better to petition him tomorrow, after the ceremony. He is bound to grant it then."

"Tomorrow will be too late. The execution is set for tomorrow morning."

"Tomorrow!" Sandrian was so shocked she missed her step in the dance. "Midsummer morning - but that's, that's horrible!"

"So you see, I must see your father tonight. If you could watch out for a propitious time ..."

"Yes, of course, I'll do whatever I can. At least he seems to be in a good mood. I'll let you know when the best moment comes."

The dance came to an end with a flourish and in the confusion as the floor cleared Andorrey lost sight of the Regent and his partner.


Orgrave had kept a sharper eye upon them. After accompanying her to the door of the hall he had not rejoined the other servants in the courtyard as he was supposed to, but had slipped behind one of the pillars to watch. From there he had seen all their carefully laid plans come to naught. You had to admire the man, he thought ruefully. The slightest hesitation, and we would have won. Elmiren, too. Her dreams lie shattered at her feet, yet to look at her this might be the happiest night of her life, and that old man her chosen lover. I trained her well.

When the dance ended the Regent led Elmiren, not back to her aunt as would have been expected, but into a side chamber. Orgrave worked his way slowly round the walls of the great hall until he arrived, without anyone noticing him, at the door just before the Regent came out.

Orgrave waited outside for a moment, listening. There was no telling in what mood he would find her now. The superhuman effort she had just made to conceal her feelings might collapse into hysterical recriminations as soon as she saw him. The best thing, probably, would be to get her home. There was no sound from inside the room. Well, thought Orgrave, I'll have to face her sometime. Best get it over. He pushed open the door.

The room was in darkness, and for a moment he did not see Elmiren, standing in the shadows by the window, she was so still and quiet.

"Elmiren?" There was no answer. "Please, don't take it so hard. You had him, you only had to stretch out your hand and take him, if his wretched father had not interfered, and how could we have foreseen he would do that? It was against all custom, all precedent! Blasphemous, almost."

Elmiren still did not speak, but her shoulders were shaking slightly, as if she was weeping. Orgrave went to stand just behind her.

"Elmiren, I'm sorry. I should never have raised your hopes so high. I just never believed we could fail." He gently laid a hand on her shoulder. "Would you like to leave now?"

At his touch she swung round to face him, and with a shock he saw that she was not crying, but convulsed with silent laughter. The look on his face seemed to set her off again, so that she had to press her fist into her mouth and bite on the knuckle to regain control.

"Leave?" she gasped, when at last she was able to speak. "Why should we leave? I want to dance, dance all night. Orgrave, you idiot, we didn't lose. We won!"

For once in his life Orgrave was speechless.

"We may have lost the son," Elmiren continued, "but we have gained the father. You saw how he looked at me? He wants me. I know that look - haven't I seen it dozens of times? I won't have to wait, I can be Queen tomorrow if I wish. As good as, anyway."

Orgrave's eyes had become used to the darkness. Moonlight glittered on the diamonds in her crown, and in her eyes, though he sensed rather than saw the small, triumphant smile on her lips.

"Are you sure of him?"

"He has asked me to stay at the Tower tonight. He has said he will arrange everything with my Aunt."

"And will you stay? Think what you are doing. This is Bellic, not his dolt of a son. Don't imagine you can get your own way with him!"

"I can get my own way with anyone," said Elmiren confidently. "Besides, do I have a choice?"

"There is always a choice," Orgrave said quietly.

"Oh yes, I could refuse him. After all, he's only the Regent. Perhaps I should wait for the True King? It would be a great thing to tell my children - that I refused the most powerful man in the country. It would certainly be the only great thing I would have to tell them. How long do you think my father would stay Commander of the Guard? How long would I be allowed to stay at court, to embarrass him? I'd find myself married off to some petty lordling, stuck away in the country out of sight, before I could turn round."

Impulsively she caught him by the hand. "Orgrave, don't you see? You said that tonight was our opportunity, and you were right. It's not as we expected, but it's the only chance I will have. Bellic is not a man who will ask twice. I thought you, at least, would understand, would help me."

"You know I will always help you," said Orgrave. He could feel her trembling. "You are determined, then? Are you afraid?"

Elmiren laughed again, breathlessly. "Afraid? I'm terrified! At this moment all I want is to run away home, and be safe, but what about tomorrow, when I wake up and think, if only! If I fail now, I will regret it for as long as I live."

Orgrave raised her hand briefly to his lips, then released it. "You had best rejoin the company, before you aunt sends someone looking for you. Don't let anyone think you are hiding away."

Elmiren smiled brilliantly. "I shall dance tonight as I have never danced before."

Orgrave watched from the doorway as she slipped into the throng and was immediately hidden from view by a crowd of admirers. A few moments later the musicians struck up again, and he saw her led away into the dance, head held high, ignoring the whispering and covert glances, some of pity, some of disapproval, that followed her. He felt a fierce stab of pride in her courage and defiance. She would do. Oh, she would do very well.


Andorrey, as he waited for the right moment to speak to the Regent, also watched Elmiren, dancing now with his friend Imray and laughing as if she had not a care in the world. He could see another friend, the young guards officer, Morain, also watching her from the shadow of a pillar, with a peculiar intensity. Poor Morain. Elmiren had set her sights far higher. Yet, thought Andorrey, if he were to try tonight, while she is still smarting from her disappointment, maybe he might just stand a chance. From his expression, it seemed as if Morain might think so. His musings were interrupted by the touch of a hand on his arm, and he turned to find Sandrian beside him.

"Come on," she said abruptly, "he'll see you now."

"What's the matter? You look upset," said Andorrey, falling into step beside her.

"I've just been speaking to Elmiren's aunt, arranging for her to stay here tonight. I am, it seems, considering her for a position as one of my ladies-in-waiting." Sandrian pressed her lips together, and he could see a glint of tears in her eyes.

"I'm sorry," he said awkwardly.

"He makes me so angry, he just doesn't care about any of us!" Sandrian breathed deeply and regained control with an effort. "I wish you success, anyway. At least he's pretty pleased with himself this evening."

Andorrey followed her glumly. He was not looking forward to this interview. Ever since earliest childhood the Regent's piercing glare had been able to reduce him to stammering incomprehensibility, and he had no illusions about his illustrious cousin's opinion of his abilities. Short-sighted, clumsy and painfully inept with any sort of weapon, Andorrey had been made aware from an early age how far he fell sort of the Avernian ideal, and had found a refuge in study, an occupation despised by most highborn Avernians, and particularly by their ruler.

The Regent was in a corner of the hall, surrounded by a group of obsequious courtiers. Impatiently he waved them away as Andorrey approached.

"It seems I owe you a debt," he remarked, "For looking after Sandrian here. Run along, girl," he added. "Go and talk to all the old women, keep them happy. I cannot stand women hovering," he confided, as Sandrian vanished obediently. "Now, what can I do for you?"

Andorrey decided to plunge in boldly. "There was a trial today . . . "

"Ah yes, the trial," interrupted Bellic. "You did me a good turn there, as well, though I don't know if that is what you had in mind." He fixed Andorrey with a long hard stare. "He was a friend of yours, this shopkeeper?"

"I have know Brandur the goldsmith for many years. As well as the finest craftsman in Aldor, he is a cultured and intelligent man, a scholar. A man I would be proud to think of a my friend."

"Fine words, to describe a proven traitor."

"Proven?" replied Andorrey bitterly, "There was no proof, only allegations."

"They confessed."

"Under duress. Even that court could not accept it. No, I believe the only plot was against Brandur himself. I don't know why. Perhaps someone owed him money. But he is innocent, I am convinced of that." Andorrey swallowed. His throat was dry. "I beg you to revoke the sentence on him and his family."

The Regent smiled. "Andorrey, Andorrey! You spend all your time studying history, and yet you have learned nothing. I have to guard the state against it's enemies, and especially the ones who are clever enough not to leave any evidence. Some of them do not even know they are enemies, and they are the worst of all. These people are dangerous, innocent or guilty, and they must be eliminated."

"And what of justice?"

"Justice? They have had a trial. They have even had my own cousin to defend them. Who could possibly say they have not had justice?"

Andorrey felt sick. His attempt to help had only played into the hands of Brandur's enemy, it seemed. Yet he could still hardly believe that enemy was the Regent himself.

"I say so!" he gasped. "And I intend to go on saying it. You cannot condemn the innocent."

"That is enough!" The Regent had gone red in the face. Several of the nearby courtiers looked round with interest. "Do you presume to tell me what I can or cannot do? Someone who did not know you as well as I do might be beginning to doubt your loyalty by now. I think you are finding court life too much of a strain. I don't want to be too hard on you," he went on more quietly, "after all, you've done me good service today, but I think you need a rest. A good, long rest. All that studying has addled your brains. It's time you went back to the country. Yes, go. Now."

Andorrey fled. He could see how people avoided his eye as he made for the great door, some even turned their back ostentatiously, but he hardly noticed. All he could think of was that Brandur and his family were doomed.


Archived comments for A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 12
niece on 2005-08-29 12:14:49
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 12
Dear Shadow,
A very engrossing read! I really enjoyed the bride-choosing scene.
Regds, niece


Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-08-29 21:52:23
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 12
Thanks niece - glad it comes over OK.

Author's Reply:


A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 11 (part 1) (posted on: 19-08-05)

The trial begins.


Chapter 11


Niniane, Queen of Aldor, lay back on the pillows of her vast canopied State Bed, pretending to be asleep. Light filtered green through the tightly drawn curtains. It was going to be another hot day. She could hear her waiting women scurrying around, laying out her gown and fetching the water for her bath. Well, they could leave her in peace and privacy for a few moments more. Surely that was not too much to ask.

She could hear a new voice among the murmurings beyond the curtains. Sandrian. Come to see how she did. Cautiously the hangings parted.

"Mother? Are you awake?"

Niniane opened her eyes, feigning confusion. "Dearest? Is it time?"

"Yes. Past time. We must not be late."

No. The Regent of Aldor must not be kept waiting. Wearily the Queen of Aldor heaved herself up, and swung her legs over the side of the bed. The swelling seemed worse, this morning. The puffiness which had started at her ankles had now travelled almost all the way up her legs. If only she did not feel so tired. But she was always tired these days. And breathless. Of course that was because she had grown so fat. The doctors kept telling her she must stop eating sweetmeats, and she knew they were right, but it was hard to give up the only pleasure she had left.

"Mother!" Sandrian sounded quite shocked. "Did you sleep poorly?"

"Not too well," admitted Niniane. "Why, do I look that bad?"

"You look terrible," said Sandrian. "Are you sure you'll be fit enough to take part today? Because you don't look it."

"I shall be well enough. Where is my cordial? And my drops? I'll feel better presently. Help me to my chair."

It took an attendant at each side to support her the short distance from her bed to the chair, and as she subsided into it she could feel the erratic pounding of her heart. She risked a quick look at the mirror and shuddered. No wonder Sandrian had been shocked. The face that stared back at her was grey, with a sheen of sweat. She beckoned to a small girl who came forward
with a basin of scented water and began to bathe her face.

"Someone fetch the Queen's doctor," ordered Sandrian. "and do not start the robing until I return."

"Where are you going?"

"To see father."

"No! Sandrian, please don't bother him about me, you know how he hates that. I shall be fine as soon as I have eaten a little. I have never yet failed in my duties, and with the Mother's help I will not today."

"I must." said Sandrian gently. "Sitting out there in the sun for hours - it would make me ill, never mind you. What if you were to have one of your turns, and nobody had warned him?"

To that Niniane could find no answer.

Sandrian left the room without waiting for any more argument. In the antechamber outside the greatest ladies in Aldor, wives of its noblest lords, clustered in their richest finery, waiting to attend the Queen. With some difficulty Sandrian threaded her way through the crowd, fending off greetings and questions as she went. She could hear the buzz of speculation rising behind her as she shut the door on them.

The Queen's lodging was in the south-west tower of the inner keep, looking onto a secluded garden. The Regent's, by contrast, occupied two floors of the main tower. As she approached it Sandrian became acutely conscious of her plain white gown. She had not yet taken time to dress as befitted the occasion, and all around her were courtiers bedecked in the extravagance of fashion. The antechamber was even more crowded than her mother's had been, and Sandrian scanned the crowd anxiously. She caught the eye of one of the chamberlains guarding the door.

"Your Highness?"

"I have to see the Regent."

"His Grace is occupied . . . "

"I'm sorry, but I must see him," said Sandrian firmly. "It really is important."

Even as she spoke the door opened and her brother Talion came out. His face was flushed and his lips set in a hard line. Sandrian groaned inwardly. If there had been a quarrel her chances of being heard had diminished appreciably. Talion brushed past her without a word and strode out of the room banging the door behind him, causing a stir of avid interest among the waiting lords.

"Madam, I will announce you," said the chamberlain.

As Sandrian entered the room her father looked up angrily. He was not alone. The Chancellor, Lind, was with him, and two other Lords of the Council. In the background stood a tall man in Guards uniform whom she did not recognise. Of course, he must be the new Subcommander, Garron's deputy. They were all staring at her and she felt, as always, awkward and ungainly.

"What is it now?" snapped Bellic. "Am I to be plagued with interruptions all morning? I thought you were supposed to be with your mother, getting her ready."

"My mother," began Sandrian nervously. She stopped and took a deep breath. "The Queen finds herself unwell this morning. I fear - "

"Unwell? The Queen has been 'unwell' for years. The Queen is always 'unwell' whenever some exertion is called for. What does her doctor say?"

Sandrian swallowed back a protest. "I have sent for the doctor, but I felt you should know at once. When I saw her face this morning it frightened me."

"So? It's frightened me often enough."

"Surely someone could take her place, just this once?" pleaded Sandrian. "People would understand."

"Understand?" Bellic snorted. "Oh yes, they'd understand all right. Understand a bit too much. And who did you have in mind as her replacement? Yourself?"

Sandrian was silent.

"I thought so." He leaned back in his chair, regarding her contemptuously. "You see how it is, gentlemen? I have a son who can't wait to step into my shoes, and now my daughter thinks she is a fitting substitute for her mother. Well, my girl, it may have escaped your notice, but there is one quality a queen of Aldor has to have, and that is a certain attractiveness. We don't insist she be the most beautiful in the land any more, but she has to be passable. The Queen was, in her day. You're not, and never will be."

Sandrian felt the blood rise to her face, and her eyes smarted. I will not cry, she told herself, I will not. The attendant lords, she noticed, had the grace to look embarrassed.

"So go back and tell the Queen that I expect her at the appointed hour, if they have to wheel her there in a cart. All she has to do is sit in a chair for an hour or two, for gods' sakes! Surely even she can manage that. I will not have any mutterings about bad luck or evil omens, not today of all days!"

The unfairness of it made her gasp, and for once anger overcame caution. "And what if she drops dead in the middle of the rite? What sort of omen would that be?"

The effect on her father was immediate, and predictable.

"That is enough!" he roared. "Out! Get out!"

Sandrian fled.


Bellic forgot about her the instant she left the room.

"So?" he said turning to the two lords. "You understand what is needed? Melior?"

"It's clear enough. You want these people tried today, festival or no. Though I'm not sure why there's such a rush."

Bellic sighed in exasperation. "Lind, tell him."

Lind had a grey voice, to match the rest of him. "We do not yet know the full extent of the conspiracy, how many are still at large in the country. They must not be allowed time to regroup and gather their strength. The woman especially has a following among the rabble. The longer we have them prisoner the greater the risk of riot, even insurrection; but all resistance will collapse once they are dead."

Melior did not look totally convinced. "Have they had sufficient time to prepare their defence, find witnesses?"

"What do they need with witnesses and a defence?" snapped Bellic. "They've confessed, haven't they? You, what's you're name, Ungreyn, you did say they have confessed?"

"Certainly, my Liege. To conspiracy and witchcraft."

"You see? No problem. I'm sorry to have to drag you away from the festivities, I know how much you will hate missing the Maze Walk," went on Bellic with heavy sarcasm, "but we all have to make sacrifices for the good of the country."

"No-one has ever accused me of shirking my duty," said Melior stiffly, "but this secret trial . . . "

"The trial will be open to all who wish to attend," put in Lind smoothly. "Notices are up in the usual places."

"You see? Nothing secret about it. Anyone can go." Bellic grinned. "Not our fault if they're all too busy."

"But to hold it on Midsummer Eve, one of the holiest days in the year, it's very irregular."

The thin white-clad Rendil spoke for the first time. "I fail to see how my colleague can object to that. These creatures are sorcerers as well as traitors. I will fight against such evil on any day, and the holier the better!"

"The people might find such haste a little suspicious."

"The people! Who cares what they think?" exploded Bellic. "These plotters are as dangerous in prison as when they were at large. I want no long drawn out arguments, no focus for discontent. I need them dead. Or do you want to risk another civil war?"

"No, by the Brothers!" said Melior, shocked.

"Good. Knew I could rely on you. I said to Lind, Melior has always been loyal, never wavered."

Melior shivered.

"Lind will find another colleague for you from somewhere - mustn't have any more irregularities must we? - and you can get on with it. Don't worry, it's a formality. You should have the whole thing over by dinnertime." Bellic stood up, indicating that the audience was over. "To work, gentlemen. I have a Maze to walk."


The trial began at the third hour of the morning. It was not exactly secret. The members of the Great Council had been notified. Andorrey had come down to breakfast to find his mother waving the message indignantly.

"I think that's intended for me . . ."

"Never mind that! Read it."

Andorrey read in growing astonishment. He had known Brandur for years. He had even borrowed money from him and had always found him honest and fair. Anyone less likely to be involved in a sinister conspiracy he could not imagine.

"It's quite dreadful," lamented his mother. "The only healer who has ever helped my migraines, and now they want to burn her for a witch! Andorrey, you must go to this trial."

"Well, I don't know what use - "

"Use! When have you ever been any use? I'd go myself, only I have to attend on the Queen. Just tell me what happens."


So now Andorrey sat at the back of the court, Imray beside him.

"I hope you know what you're doing," he said.

"Mother insisted. Thanks for keeping me company."

Imray shrugged. "Bound to be more interesting than the Maze Walk. And cooler. Not a very well attended performance, though."

Apart from guards and officials of the court, they were the only people there. The three judges sat on a dais behind a table piled with books and papers. None of them looked very good-tempered. Presumably they were only there because they had been unable to think of a good excuse. Melior, the presiding judge, Andorrey knew to be a fair enough man, if a little lacking in imagination. White-robed Rendil was a fanatic, a Brother of Light, devoted to the purity of the Avernian race and the extermination of the forces of darkness. Not much hope of impartiality there. The third judge, Cardovan, was simply a fat indolent fool.

The buzz of conversation died as the prisoners were brought in. Emayn leaned on her husband's arm. Behind them -

"Dear gods!" whispered Andorrey. "They've even arrested the children."

"Read the indictment," ordered Melior.

A skinny man with a bad complexion came forward. Andorrey knew him by sight, Lovel, one of the ambitious nonentities who hung around the court. This must be his big chance.

"The prisoner Brandur is charged that together with his wife and household he conspired against the safety of the Regent and the peace of the Realm; and also, that by the casting of spells and other abominable sorceries practised by his wife, he has threatened the life of the Regent and sought to put another, falsely called the `True King', in his place."

"What say you to these charges?"

"I deny them," replied Brandur in a firm voice. "I am the loyal subject of the Regent, until the True King comes."

A murmur ran round the courtroom. The traditional oath of loyalty `till the True King comes' had fallen out of favour in recent years.

"Who defends you against these charges?"

"I have had no opportunity to find a defender," said Brandur. "I therefore ask the court for an adjournment, to give me time to appoint one."

Melior consulted his colleagues briefly.

"This matter is too grave to admit of such a delay. You may choose someone from these present, or conduct your own defence. Is there anyone here prepared to defend the prisoners?"

There was a long silence. Andorrey stood up.

"Don't be a fool!" he heard Imray hiss behind him.

He began to walk towards the dais.

"I will," he said.


The Maze lay at the heart of the Tower of Henlis, in the innermost court of the innermost keep, the setting for the most ancient ritual of Aldor: the union of the Ruler and the Land. It was said that there had been a maze here before the Tower was built, a simple thing of turf banks, like all the others scattered up and down the country. Only this was no rude construction of turves and stones.

There were no walls, just a pattern of in back and white marble inlaid on the courtyard floor. It was square, and at each corner were smaller, subsidiary mazes. It was in these that the four Challengers would stand: Black, White, Red and Green. Black , White and Red were supposed to symbolise famine, plague and war, respectively. No-one could remember what the Green challenger stood for. Only after he had defeated them all in mock combat could the Regent proceed to claim the Queen. She had to wait on a low platform in the centre of the maze, the Mound, under the branches of the sacred Tree.

This was one of the wonders of Aldor, made by the Black Regent himself in the days before he turned to evil. Once a real tree had grown there on a real mound, and the Tree was said to be an exact replica. Its trunk was wrought iron, and its leaves of bronze, stained green with verdigris. Its branches were covered with silver flowers, and from them hung golden fruit, hollow spheres of gilded copper. Under it stood a backless marble bench on which the Queen would sit.

A flight of steps cut into the back of the platform led to a passage running underneath the maze, by which the Queen could reach the centre. Sandrian, supporting her mother as she climbed, savoured the last moments of coolness. The entrance was a blinding square of light above them. As they emerged onto the platform the glare and noise hit her like a physical blow. She felt her mother flinch, before relinquishing her arm and moving slowly, ponderously towards her appointed place.


Shadow sat with Linnet on a bench by the wall, Hallam on her knee. They had spent the night in one of the cells off the passage leading to the torture chamber. The other two had slept in the end, exhausted, but she had lain awake in a black fog of despair. Now she felt dizzy and light-headed. Everything was unreal, as if there was a glass barrier between her and the rest of the world. It was unnatural, this calm. She should be frantic with terror, but the capacity to feel anything seemed to have left her. She studied the tall balding Avernian who had offered to help them. She had seen him somewhere before. Of course, he had been with Elmiren that day in the workroom, the day she had seen the Coronal and all this had started.

The skinny man was speaking again. "My Lords, I will not detain you long, for I have here the signed confessions of the perpetrators."

He crossed to the prisoners and flourished two papers.

"Are these your signatures?"

"They are, but - " Brandur was not allowed to finish.

"Then I will read them."

"Wait!" Andorrey said sharply. "My clients admit they signed these papers, but they did so under duress, and they strongly deny the truth of the contents. I therefore request that the confessions be set aside, and the accused by tried solely on the evidence. If indeed there is any," he added.

"Duress, you say," said Melior. "Are you alleging torture?"

"Preposterous," snorted Rendil. "The law forbids it for all freeborn ciiizens. This is a gross calumny on the authorities!"

"Brandur, were you or your wife tortured?" asked Andorrey.

"No," replied Brandur, " but they threatened our son with hot irons unless we signed."

"And your evidence?" demanded Rendil. "Let us see the burns on his body."

"Do you think we would let them hurt our baby?" cried Emayn indignantly. "We never let the iron touch him."

Melior sighed. "Understandable, but it would have been better for your case if you had. Who was in charge of the interrogation?"

"Subcommander Ungreyn, a most loyal and zealous officer."

Melior smiled thinly. "I think we all know Ungreyn's reputation. Is he in court? Then call him."

Ungreyn came forward to stand calmly before the judges.

"Were the accused, or any member of their family, ill-treated in any way in order to obtain these confessions?" asked Melior.

"No, my Lord," he replied without hesitation.

"Tell us how they came to be made."

"Why," said Ungreyn, casting a contemptuous glance at the prisoners, "as soon as the accused saw the strength of the case against them they realised that denial was useless, and that their only hope was to confess and throw themselves upon the mercy of the court."

"Let it be recorded that Subcommander Ungreyn denies any undue pressure. As no evidence has been brought to support the claim, I therefore pronounce . . ."

"No!" Shadow was on her feet, fear overcome by indignation.

"It is true! I was there, I saw him. He was going to burn Hallam. You can see the bruises where they tied him to the bench."

"Silence!" screamed the usher.

"I demand that those children be removed," shouted Lovel. "I cannot proceed with these unseemly interruptions."

Melior ignored him. "Bring the child here."

Shadow nervously approached the judges' table, and laid Hallam down on it, unwrapping him so that the marks left by the cord on his legs and body could by clearly seen. Melior studied him thoughtfully.

"Certainly there are marks on the child," he said at last. "I fear the confessions must be regarded as doubtful."

"For heaven's sake, Melior," protested the fat judge. "we'll be here all day! I was told the trial would be a formality, or I would never have agreed to be here. On Midsummer's Eve, of all days!"

Melior stared at him coldly. "I'm afraid justice must come before your convenience. There are people's lives at stake, man!"

Support came from an unexpected source. "There must be no doubtful verdict," said Rendil. "Their guilt must be uncontrovertible, lest the forces of darkness regroup, and claim a victory in spite of us."

"We will hear the evidence," ordered Melior. "Commander, return to your place. You too, child."

As Shadow turned to go back to her seat, she caught the eye of Ungreyn, and flinched at the malevolence of his glare. Andorrey smiled as she passed him.

"First round to us, I think," he whispered
Archived comments for A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 11 (part 1)

No comments archives found!
A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 11 (part 2) (posted on: 19-08-05)

The trial continues.




Sandrian glanced anxiously at her mother. Under her golden wig Niniane's face was very pale, and the rouge stood out in red blotches on her cheeks. Behind them crowded so many noble ladies it was a wonder the platform could hold them all. There was scarcely room for the Queen's personal attendants, but Sandrian had insisted on someone to fan her, and a small girl stood behind herwith a bowl of rose-water and a cloth. Sandrian herself carried a flask of iced water. She hoped it would be enough.

The Challengers were in their places, dressed in their archaic costumes, visored helmets, breastplates and short kilts in their appointed colours. All was ready. Surely, thought Sandrian, he won't keep Mother waiting? Not in this heat. He must realise . . .

The sun beat down relentlessly, glaring off the white marble. In the galleries surrounding the courtyard thronged the aristocracy of Aldor, buzzing with anticipation. She could feel the sweat beginning to trickle down her back, and saw beads of it on her mother's forehead. She poured a little water into her cup and held it to the Queen's lips. They waited.


Shadow's head ached. She found it hard to concentrate. The questioning went on and on. The wedding list - why was this name on it? Why that? Their visitor from the north - who was he and what did he want? It puzzled her that they did not seem to know that he was Isengrim. Surely Orgrave must have told them. Nothing seemed to make sense

Andorrey's voice broke into her thoughts. "Enough! If you have any real evidence, then produce it. Holding a wedding feast, a visit from the north, that's hardly treason, even these days. You need something more solid than that."

"Solid?" Lovel cried. "Certainly." He turned to the pile of books on the judges' table. "Are these solid enough? They were all concealed in the accused's house. I would like to hear how he accounts for them!"

Melior gazed sternly at Brandur. "Are these yours?"

Brandur sighed. "They are."

"Why do you keep them, knowing it is forbidden?"

"They have been in our family for generations. I swore to my father on his deathbed that I would keep them safe and pass them on to my children. I could not break that oath, no matter what laws were passed. Besides, they contain only the ancient history and legends of Aldor. What is subversive in that?"

Lovel snatched up the smallest of the three books. "And this? The Sigalderon? A book which tells of the replacement of our lawful ruler by some so-called `true king'?"

"It is not treasonable to await the coming of the True King. The Regent himself does as much, or so he affirms each year, when he renews his pledge to the land."

"Maybe not," said Lovel, raising his voice over the excited buzz which greeted Brandur's words, "but it is treason to own this book, for the Regent has ordered all copies to be burned."

"He may burn the book," said Brandur. "He cannot stop the Coming."


Trumpets brayed, the sound reverberating around the courtyard. Sandrian winced and fought an impulse to cover her ears, as the Regent appeared at last in the archway opposite. He was wearing a suit of gilded armour, blinding in the sunlight. The drums beat, and the priestesses of the Great Mother began their ancient chant of encouragement.

The Regent turned to his left and began to pace the winding paths of the maze, carrying before him the great Sword of State, said to have belonged to the True King himself. He seemed to be walking very slowly. It took an age for him to reach the first Challenger. Once there, the two figures circled each other the ritual three times, and the Regent touched his sword to the lance of the Black Knight. There was the faint click of wood on wood, and the Challenger knelt and laid his weapon at the Regent's feet. The Regent took it up and went on. following the convoluted pathway of the Maze.

It was just as well, Sandrian thought, that they were not living in the olden days, when the combats were real not ritual, the swords and lances sharp bronze instead of gilded wood. We would be here all day. Even now it all took a desperately long time. The heat and glare, combined with the chanting and drumming from behind the mound, was making her head swim. She glanced anxiously down at her mother. Niniane was sitting stiffly, held upright be her corset. She was very pale. Sandrian signalled to the maid with the basin and cloth, and herself wiped her mother's brow.


The uproar that greeted Brandur's last remark had died down but the smug satisfaction on Lovel's face was almost more than Shadow could bear. He looked like a toad offered a particularly succulent fly. He had turned his attention now to Emayn, he was accusing her of growing deadly herbs in their garden, concocting poisons. Shadow's sense of unreality grew. It was ridiculous. Anyone would tell him that her mother had never harmed anyone. Where were all her grateful patients? Did no-one know what was happening? Or were they all too afraid?

He had picked up another book and was waving it with a triumphant smirk. Shadow recognised it at once. It had lived for as long as she could remember on a shelf in the kitchen. It was almost as old as the sacred books, though in much worse repair.

"A most interesting volume," murmured Lovel. "Uses of rhubarb . . . a remedy for the gout . . . for quinsy. How to prevent colic in infants . . . but what is this? A charm to know if a maid will marry. And here's another - a spell to bring back a lover who has strayed! Or what of this? If one wishes to know who will die in the coming year," he read out, "go to the graveyard at the turn of the year, stand by the gate, and the shades of those marked for death will pass by you. I ask you, my Lords, is this a book an innocent healer would have?"

"It is not" cried Rendil, "it is flagrant witchcraft! The woman should burn for this alone."

Melior fixed Emayn with a stern gaze. "How do you come to have such writings?"

"My Lords, I had this book from my mother, and she from hers. Some of the entries were written a hundred years ago or more. Probably they were never more than the amusements of girls on winter evenings. Certainly no-one believes in such things now, or uses them."

Shadow felt a stab of guilt, as she remembered last May-Eve. She and Alissa had tried out the one which was supposed to make your future husband appear behind you when you looked in the mirror at midnight. Neither of them had seen anything, which was supposed to mean they would both die unwed. Alissa had said that proved magic was rubbish.

"You will find such a book in every house in Aldor," said Emayn. "If that were proof of witchcraft, every woman in the country would be a witch!"

"Just so," said Rendil. "Who knows how far this evil has spread? It grows like a cancer in our midst, but fear not! The blessed Light of Reason will shine into every hidden place, and all will be cleansed by the purifying fire."

"My Lords," Andorrey protested. "This is a court of law, not a meeting of the Enlightened!"

"Quite," said Melior dryly. "I can see no serious evidence of witchcraft here. Has anyone complained of injury through this woman's devices?"

Lovel hesitated.

"Of course not," snapped Andorrey, "because she has injured no-one. If he had been able to persuade anyone to make a complaint, be sure they would be here."

"There is one who has cause to complain," said Lovel, recovering. "One who has no need to appear before this court even if his rank and dignity did not forbid it, although," he added significantly, "he is well aware of the proceedings. As for witnesses, I have one who knows the full depth of this
creature's malice, and whose word cannot be doubted.

"Call Alissa, daughter of Brandur and Emayn."


He had reached the Green Challenger, thank goodness. It would not be long now. With an enormous sense of relief Sandrian watched her father fight a last mock battle, then finally make his way towards them, the four 'captured' weapons in his arms. He laid them at the base of the mound as Niniane struggled awkwardly to her feet.

"Madam," said Bellic in the formal words of the ritual, "thy enemies, and the land's, are vanquished. I claim thee as my prize, and Queen."

Sandrian had to relinquish her steadying hold on her mother's arm as Niniane began painfully to descend the steps to where her husband waited, hand outstretched. She nearly reached him. She was only a step away when Sandrian saw her sway, and then the whole court gasped in dismay as the Sacred Queen, the symbol of the fortune and prosperity of Aldor, collapsed in an untidy heap at the foot of the mound.


Alissa sat on a stool before the judges' table. Shadow hardly recognised her. Pale as a ghost, her once glossy hair tangled and dull, all the life seemed to have drained out of her. She stared straight ahead, ignoring everything but the tall figure of Ungreyn, who stood leaning against the wall behind the judges.

"Oh, my darling," Shadow heard her father whisper, "what have they done to you?"

"Now, girl," began Lovel, "answer me truthfully, as you value your life. Are you Alissa, eldest daughter of Brandur and his wife Emayn?"

"Yes, sir," whispered Alissa.

"Is it true that your mother has used charms and spells in her profession as a supposed healer, and has mixed in her potions not only poisons but other vile and abominable ingredients, such as parts of the bodies of stillborn babes?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did she not, by such means, seek to render her victims ill, so that she might pretend to cure them?"

Alissa had never taken her eyes from Ungreyn. "Yes, sir."

Shadow could bear this no longer. She jumped from her seat and ran to her sister, taking her by the shoulders and shaking her.

"'Lissa, stop it! You don't know what you're saying."

She was seized from behind, and heard Lovel's voice booming above her head. "This one again! I intended to deal with her later, but now is as good a time as any. See here, my Lords," he grabbed Shadow's hair and pulled it back roughly. "Look at her ears, the shape of them. Are they not conclusive proof that this woman has played her husband false with some wood-demon, and born this witch-child a a result."

"That is a foul lie!" gasped Emayn.

The tree judges were staring in horrified fascination.

"Then how do you account for the fact that she, alone in her family, has such ears?" demanded Lovel.

Desperately Emayn tried to explain that they were a natural phenomenon which ran in certain families, especially in the north, where intermarriage between men and woodfolk had once been common. Lovel cut her short.

"The north is the land of witches," he jeered. "Such a story might be believed there. Here we can see a more likely explanation." He loosed his hold on Shadow's hair as if she had been something filthy. "Take this creature away." he ordered. but before the guard could reach her Shadow, gathering what remained of her dignity, had returned to her seat.

Lovel turned again to Alissa, who throughout this exchanged had remained immovable, her eyes fixed on Ungreyn.

"Have you assisted your mother in casting spells to injure the Regent? Did you conspire with your parents to overthrow him, in the name of the so-called 'true king'?"

To both these questions the answer was a whispered "Yes, sir."

Lovel smiled in triumph at the judges. "What more is there to add? My Lords, you have seen the prisoner's confessions, though they tried to deny them. You have heard them condemned by their own daughter. Their guilt is plain. All that remains is to pass sentence, and only one sentence is possible. Death."

"Not so fast!" cried Andorrey. "I have some questions."

He crossed to where Alissa was sitting slumped on her stool'

"Alissa, look at me," he said gently. "Tell me. How did you weave the spell to harm the Regent? Don't be afraid, just tell us all exactly what you did."

Alissa's lips opened, but no words came. She shot another glance at Ungreyn, but there was no help there.

"I - I don't know," she muttered at last.

Andorrey smiled down at her. "Alissa, who am I? The man in the moon?"
A faint look of relief crossed Alissa's face. "Yes, sir," she agreed.

Lovel was on his feet again. "I must protest at this nonsense!"

"Nonsense - yes, like all her other answers," said Andorrey. "I don't know what's been done to this poor girl, but it's obvious that she is out of her wits with terror. All she can say is 'Yes sir' to whatever she is asked. It's a pity whoever schooled her didn't provide her with a larger store of answers. Her evidence is worthless, like all the other 'evidence' we have heard here.

"My Lords, you elected to try this case on the facts - but what facts? In the case of Brandur a list of wedding guests, a mysterious visitor, a few books - this is not treason! Such a verdict requires more than the imaginings of the prosecution. It requires proof, and we have seen none.

"As for the accusations against Emayn, they would be laughable if they were not so serious. Emayn is renowned throughout the city, throughout Aldor, for her work as a healer. She has grateful patients among the highest in the land, as well as the poor and humble. No-one has ever spoken ill of her. And this is the woman you would condemn as a witch, on the strength of a cookery book! My Lords, there is no case to answer."

As he spoke, Shadow was watching the judges. Cardovan sat slumped in his chair, idly examining his fingernails. Rendil kept his burning gaze fixed on the prisoners. Melior simply stared straight in front of him. None of them were listening, they were just waiting for him to finish so they could get on with the next stage, the sentence. She knew, with a blinding certainty, that this whole trial had been a sham. The verdict had been decided before it had even begun. Andorrey knew it too. She could tell from the way his shoulders slumped, the tiredness in his eyes.

"No case to answer," he repeated, and smiled bitterly. "but that hardly matters, does it? That's not the point. There is only one conspiracy here, the one against Brandur and Emayn. Dragged from their beds at night, forced to sign false confessions, brought to trial in such unseemly haste that they had no chance to find witnesses on their behalf, almost forced to do without a defender - this is not justice but a cloak for murder."

"Take care what you say," said Melior angrily.

"And you, my Lord, also take care what you say. I discount the fanatic and the fool, but I had always thought you an honest man. Why do you lend yourself to this farce? To condemn two blameless citizens, who have I think done you some service in the past? I had thought better of you."

Melior's face grew red. "I do my duty. There are matters here which affect the state, too sensitive to be spoken of in open court."

"So now we have it. Secret evidence which the court may not hear and the accused may not answer. If that is enough to condemn a man, then there is no justice left in Aldor. But have a care, my Lords. I am a historian, not a lawyer, and as a historian I tell you that history will be the final judge. You know, you must know, that this has not been a fair trial. Do not connive at this injustice. Give your verdicts according to your consciences, and history will applaud you. Do not, and you yourselves will be condemned for all time."

Melior immediately turned to his fellow judges. "Give your verdicts."

"Guilty," said Rendil at once.

Cardovan seemed to wake up. "What? Oh, guilty, of course."

Melior rose to his feet. "Brandur and Emayn, you have been found guilty, with all your family, of the grave crimes of treason and witchcraft. The traitor Brandur will be hanged, and after his head will be cut off and displayed above the gate of the city. The witches Emayn and her eldest daughter Alissa will be burned. The other children - "

"Burn them all!" interrupted Rendil. "The whole demon brood must burn!"

"We do not burn children in Aldor," said Melior coldly. "The other children will be whipped and excluded from the city. Take them away."

Rough hands seized Shadow and had begun to hustle her away when there was a terrible cry from Alissa.

"Liar, liar, you said we would be safe! You said if I did as you told me we would all be safe." Shadow saw her sister being held back by the guards as she tried to claw her way to Ungreyn. "You can't burn me, you can't, I didn't do anything!"

The last thing Shadow heard, as she and the others were hurried down the narrow stair back to the cells, was Alissa screaming.





Archived comments for A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 11 (part 2)
niece on 2005-08-21 15:39:20
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 11 (part 2)
Dear Shadow,
I sat and read both the parts in one shot. Need I say more. Great work!
Regds,niece

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-08-21 18:36:47
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 11 (part 2)
Good for you! It is meant to be read as one, but I thought it too big a chunk for one post. Thanks for comment.
Moya

Author's Reply:


The Righteousness of the Perfect (posted on: 12-08-05)
It's not easy, being perfect ...




It's not easy, being perfect. No-one knew this better than Mavis. You have to keep up such high standards, never letting yourself go for a moment. If you did, you risked everything, and the imperfect would rejoice at your downfall.

She could just imagine how that Delilah Merryweather next door would crow if she ever caught Mavis out. Delilah! What sort of a name was that? And all those children she had, with never a husband in sight. Not that Mavis had a husband now either, but at least hers was safely tucked up in the cemetery, not being chased all over the country for maintenance payments.

Yes, she could thank the Lord that she was a respectable woman, with a dutiful son who did as his mother told him. Come to think of it though, where was Cedric? He should be home from the bank by now. She had his dinner cooking, timed to perfection. If he didn't come soon it would be spoiled.

These thoughts were interrupted as the doorbell chimed 'There's no place like Home' Now who could that be?

She was surprised to find, standing on her doorstep, one of Cedric's colleagues from the bank.

'Why, Mr Blight, this is a surprise.'

'Good evening, Mrs Goodbody.' Mr Blight raised his hat. 'Sorry to disturb you, but I wonder if I might have a word with Cedric?'

'He - he's not home yet. I don't understand, couldn't you have spoken to him at work?'

'Cedric has not been in today. In fact, we have not seen him all week. We were under the impression he was indisposed.'

Mavis gaped like a landed fish.

'Anyway, if you would inform him that the Manager would like a word. Tomorrow morning, without fail.'

'Yes,' gasped Mavis. 'Of course. Is there something wrong?'

'Nothing to worry about, a slight discrepancy in the accounts. However, you may inform him that if no explanation is forthcoming, the Bank will have no option but to place the matter in the hands of the Police.'

Mavis fainted.


She came to on the couch in the front room. Delilah Merryweather was fanning her with an old Good Housekeeping.

'Wha' - what are you doing here?'

'That nice Mr Blight fetched me, he said you'd been taken poorly. You lie quiet, luv, and I'll make us a nice cup of tea.'

'There's no need.' Mavis struggled to rise. 'Cedric will be home soon - oh, no!'

She flopped back on the couch as the awful realisation hit her. Cedric was in some sort of trouble. Her Cedric, who was such a credit to her. It could not be true. Or if it was, Delilah must never know. Oh, the shame of it!

'Come to think, you might need something a bit stronger than tea,' said Delilah. 'I don't think your Cedric will be coming home for a bit.'

'What do you mean?'

'Well, our Madonna just phoned me on her mobile. She's gone off with your Cedric.'

Mavis closed her eyes and moaned. She had always told Cedric she would be delighted when he found himself a nice girl, but Delilah Merryweather's eldest was not what she'd had in mind.

'I don't believe it. Cedric would never do this to me.'

'I must say, I was surprised too. He's not really her type.'

'We must stop them!'

'Bit late for that. She phoned from the airport. Seems your Cedric's come into a bit of money, and they're jetting off to one of those South American countries. I forget which.'

How could he demean himself, with that awful girl, with her short skirts and her plunging necklines. Only the other day Mavis had overheard her, telling a friend about something called a 'boob job' she was thinking of getting. Mavis shuddered.

'Have you told anyone?' she whispered.

'Me? Not a soul. Well, except Mr Blight. He got ever so excited, rushed off without even saying goodbye. Have you not got a drop of brandy in the house? You don't look yourself at all.'

'Never touch the stuff!' snapped Mavis. She jumped as a noise like a braying donkey rent the air.

'It's only my mobile. Hello? Oh, hi luv. I thought you'd be halfway over the Atlantic by now. Oh. Oh I see. That's a shame. Well, never mind. Plenty more where
he … Okay, see you soon. Byeee!.

'That was our Madonna. Now, do you want the good news or the bad news?'

'Oh, the good news, please,' begged Mavis .

'They aren't going to South America. The bad news is -'

'W-what?'

'Your Cedric's been arrested!'
Archived comments for The Righteousness of the Perfect
RoyBateman on 2005-08-14 11:18:02
Re: The Righteousness of the Perfect
Well, I don't mind being righteous, but that's because I AM perfect, so there...neat little story, Moya with great dialogue and an (unfortunately) recognisable cast of characters. My only grumble is that it could have been longer - a Bouquet-type figure like this deserved to have even more of the pee taken out of her!

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-08-14 13:51:24
Re: The Righteousness of the Perfect
Thanks Roy - certainly Mavis has enough grumbles to fill a novel - or was it Delilah you wanted to see more of? πŸ˜‰

Author's Reply:

Sunken on 2005-08-14 14:05:38
Re: The Righteousness of the Perfect
Well I quite liked the length.... (I'd love to hear a nice girl say that to me some day) I am a lazy git tho, so shorter subs always suit me better - although I do think they tend make my bum look big. Isn't it cloudy? You are too good at this kinda stuff young Shadow. I demand that you too consider dumbing down a little. Did you know that Polar bears are white because Billie Piper of Doctor Who fame says they have to be! I reckon fame has gone to that young lady's head. Thanks.

s
u
n
k
e
n

questioning that Pythagoras bloke

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-08-14 14:17:41
Re: The Righteousness of the Perfect
Thanks Sunk - is that true about polar bears? All the ones I've seen have been a mucky yellow colour.

Author's Reply:

discopants on 2005-08-17 00:14:30
Re: The Righteousness of the Perfect
I loved the names you've used for this, especially so when the Madonna character came in. That reminds me- we were house hunting last year in a town we'd never been to before. In the town centre a woman calls out loudly for her kid "BROOKLYN." It can put you right off a place, that can...

Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-08-17 11:59:47
Re: The Righteousness of the Perfect
I can imagine! I think giving wierd names should be recognised as a form of child cruelty. Thanks for the comment.

Author's Reply:


A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 10 (posted on: 12-08-05)
Accused!



Chapter 10



"Wake up! Lori, for pity's sake wake up!"

Loremar murmured incoherently, trying to fend off the hand which was shaking him so insistently. With a great effort he prised his eyes open and focussed blearily on the face of his friend Cambrel.

"Wha'? Where am I?"

Gods, but it had been a heavy night. Maybe celebrating the end of his apprenticeship and his approaching nuptials at the same time had not been such a good idea after all. At least he had had the sense to have the party a couple of days before the wedding. He would never make it to the Sacred Grove, the way he felt now. He raised his head from the table, gradually taking in his surroundings. The back room of the Crown and Shadow. They must have ended up back here. Good of old Brewis to let him sleep it off . . . But what was Cambrel so worked up about? He frowned, trying to make sense of the flood of words that poured over him.

"Arrested? Someone's been arrested?"

Cambrel took a deep breath and tried again.

"Your master, Brandur. His wife and family. The guards came for them in the night, took them to the Tower. Not just them - half the Guild's been dragged in for questioning. They're not interested in us 'prentices though - except for you. They defiantly want to get their hands on you! The Guildhall's in an uproar. I sneaked away as soon as I could, without being noticed."

"Alissa? Alissa's in the Tower?" Loremar rose to his feet, clutching the table as the room spun around him. "I must go - "

"You're not going anywhere!" snapped Cambrel. "We have to keep you under cover. Brewis will let you stay in his cellar till after dark, then we can get you out."

"Don't you worry," the landlord spoke from the doorway, "no-one will find you there."

"Do you seriously think that I am going to stay skulking in a cellar, while Alissa - Alissa . . . "

"Fat lot of help you'll be to her, locked up in a cell! Keep out of sight. I'll see what news I can pick up. And cheer up. She may even have been released by now. Whatever they may think Brandur was mixed up in, they can't possibly have anything against her."

"I don't understand," groaned Loremar. "Brandur would never get involved in anything political, he's too damn cautious. Oh, dear gods! Cambrel, did I - say anything, last night?"

"Well . . . you were talking a bit free. But no, that can't be it. This thing's too big to have been sparked off by a few idiots spouting rubbish in an alehouse."

"If I thought that something I said or did has brought this trouble on them - "

"We'll know more when I've had a chance to ask around," said Cambrel. "Meanwhile, keep your head down. Don't let him do anything stupid," he added to Brewis.

The big innkeeper nodded. "You come along with me, lad. And try not to fret. The Festival starts tomorrow. Nothing can happen till that's over. We'll have time to think of something."


Shadow and the two younger children had been separated from their parents as soon as they reached the Tower, and placed in a small cell just off the main guardroom, closed off by an iron grill. They sat huddled together on a bench, watching the activity in the room outside. Sometimes it would be full of large men in black, at others almost empty. A number of men were brought in, evidently under arrest. Some looked pale and frightened, while others expostulated loudly. Some of them Shadow recognised, from seeing them at times with her father. All disappeared into the depths of the Tower. No-one took any notice of the children. One of the guards brought them bowls of porridge in the morning. Shadow felt too sick with worry to eat, but she fed the younger ones as best she could. The guard seemed sorry for them, and Shadow dared to ask him if he knew what was to happen to them, but he shook his head.

"Not for me to say. But bear up, my pretty," he went on, "I expect they just want to ask you a few things, then let you go. You'll be back home by nightfall, surely. Oh, and I've asked my wife to bring in a couple of our Maggot's old dresses, you can't sit around all day in your nighties."

Sure enough, later in the morning a round, motherly woman came in with a bundle of old clothes and some fresh milk in a jug for Hallam. The clothes were faded and darned, and did not fit very well, but Shadow felt infinitely grateful. Once dressed, she regained her dignity, at least. The cell was like a cage for animals, it had no privacy. The most humiliating part was having to use the pot in the corner, in full view of everyone. The girls took turns to stand in front of each other, spreading their skirts wide, to hide each other a little. All that was nothing, however, compared to the agony of apprehension that gripped her. What were they doing to her parents? And Alissa - where was she?


Alissa was following a black-clad guard up a spiral stair. She had spent the night huddled in the corner of small stone cell, somewhere deep underground. The only light came through a barred opening in the door from a torch flickering in the passage outside. Occasional footsteps passed, and each time she froze in terror. When they finally came for her she could not move, and had to be dragged out bodily. Now she stumbled mechanically up the endless stair.

At last the guard halted by a door and knocked. A moment later Allissa stood in a turret room, blinking in the sunlight that poured in through three sets of lancet windows.

"Leave us," she heard a man's voice say.

As her eyes grew used to the light she recognised the other occupant of the room. It was the Guards officer from the night before. He sat, leaning back in his chair, lazily looking her up and down. She was acutely conscious that she was still in her night-gown.

"Sit," he said.

There was a wooden stool in the middle of the floor. Alissa sank onto it with relief. She could feel herself trembling.

"There's no need to look so terrified," he said. "I'm not going to eat you. Last night - you must understand, I had my orders. I don't actually enjoy frightening pretty young girls."

"But why?" whispered Alissa. "What's happening? What have you done with my mother and father?"

"Your parents are perfectly safe, for the moment. Whether they remain so is largely up to you."

"Me?"

"No doubt it's all a stupid misunderstanding, but information was laid concerning seditious talk, contacts with known rebels. Then of course there were these."

He indicated three leather-bound books on the desk beside him. "I can see I don't need to ask if you recognise them. As I said, I don't expect there's anything in it, so why don't you help me clear everything up."

He smiled: a warm, friendly smile. He really was very good-looking, Alissa thought, with that pale silver-gilt hair and brilliant blue eyes. She had never really spoken to an Avernian man before. One - didn't. Everyone knew that if an Avernian came wooing it wasn't marriage he had in mind. How could he, when they were forbidden to wed any but there own? No respectable girl would be seen talking to one.

"How can I help?" she said.

"Just tell me all that has happened in, say, the last couple of months. Any unusual visitors, for instance?"

Abruptly Alissa burst into tears. "It's all my fault! Shadow said something dreadful would happen if we didn't do just as he said, but I wanted it so much I wouldn't listen, and now it has!"

"Steady, steady." He took a large linen handkerchief from his sleeve and passed it to her. "Who is this 'he'? what is 'it'? I think you had better tell me it all from the beginning."

Hiccuping, Alissa complied. He listened quietly, fingers tapping on the desk.

"An interesting tale," he said when she had finished.

"Will it help?" Alissa asked anxiously.

"Certainly, at least as far as the conspiracy charge. Of course there is still the other matter."

"What other matter?" gasped Alissa.

"Why, the witchcraft charge."

"Witchcraft? I'm not a witch!"

"No? Then how have you cast such a spell on me?" He smiled again. "Come here!"

Alissa rose reluctantly and went to stand in front of him.

"Closer!" He caught her arm and pulled her nearer, until she stood between his legs. "Such a waste, to send a body like this to the flames. I can still help you."

He pulled her down onto his knee, his other hand cupping her breast while she struggled vainly.

"Why so coy? You're betrothed aren't you? Don't try to tell me you're still a virgin. You Aldorran bitches never marry till you're with child."

"That's not true, not any more," cried Alissa. "Not in Henlys."

"Really? Not that it matters. You'll do whatever I want. Because you don't want to burn, do you?"

He smiled, and she shuddered. How could she ever have thought him handsome?

He reached for a bottle on the desk and poured some wine into a glass. She watched bemused as he took a pinch of dark powder from a small bag and dropped it into the wine, swirling it round till it dissolved.

"Drink!" he ordered.

"No! No, I won't." She struggled again, frantically.

He slapped her hard on the cheek. "I said, drink!"

He caught her hair and pulled her head back, pouring the liquid into her mouth. Some ran down her chin, but she had to swallow the rest or be choked. He did not let her go until the glass was empty. Almost at once her head began to swim. She felt herself relaxing against him. He pushed her away.

"Get up!"

She stood before him, swaying slightly.

"Say after me, my father is a traitor, my mother is a witch."

"My father is a traitor my mother is a witch," Alissa repeated.

"Say, I am a slut who will spread my legs for anyone,"

Helplessly Alissa heard the hateful words come out of her mouth.

He laughed. "So the hag did not cheat me. It works just as she promised. Take off your clothes."

Alissa pulled her nightgown over her head and dropped it on the floor. She seemed to have no willpower, no control over her own body. He looked her over, as if she had been a piece of meat on a slab.

"Very choice. Go and lie on the couch in the corner. I will be with you presently.

She had not notice the daybed before. Mechanically she walked over to it and lay down, staring at the ceiling. Her mind, unable to comprehend what was happening, withdrew further and further into itself.


As the long day wore on, Shadow's thoughts kept returning to that fleeting glimpse of Orgrave, lurking on the far side of the square as they were taken away. She had no doubt it was him; even through the darkness she had recognised him. She had no doubt, either, that he was responsible for the disaster which had overtaken them. She writhed internally with self-contempt. How could she have been so blind, so foolish, as to have trusted him? It was obvious, now, that all he had wanted was to get his hands on the Coronal, and never mind who suffered. As Hallam fretted in her arms, and Linnet nearly drove her mad by asking continually "Where's Mother?" and "Why can't we go home?", Shadow's thoughts kept returning to the one question that tormented her. How much had she told Orgrave?

He knew about Isengrim's visit, but then, there was no law against having visitors from the forest. He knew about the Coronal, but was he likely to tell the authorities about that? Surely not, if he wanted to keep it for himself. Then a thought struck her, and she felt cold with horror. The books! How could she possibly have forgotten? Orgrave must have found them while he was looking in the cupboard, and they were illegal. Her father would be fined, they might even sentence him to the mines, and the books would be lost, burned, the precious books, guarded safely for generations. Her parents would never forgive her. How could she ever forgive herself?

It was almost with relief that she saw a man come into the guardroom, and recognised him as the officer she had seen the night before. He strode over to them and stared coldly through the bars. One of the guards hurried to unlock the door.

"Bring them," he ordered, and turned on his heel.

The three children were hurried down a long corridor. Two of the guards flanked them. I wonder why they bother, Shadow thought. We're not going to run anywhere. They took a side turning, then others, until she was completely bewildered. Still, in a way she was glad something was happening. Perhaps they were being taken to mother and father. They plunged down a long flight of narrow steps. Then came a gloomy passage, lit only by torches stuck in brackets on the walls, and lined with heavy iron-studded doors. At the end another door stood half-open, spilling flickering red light into the corridor.

They entered a large chamber hollowed out to the rock. The light came from fires which burned in several braziers placed about the room. Massive stone pillars supported the roof. Someone was chained to one, arms above his head. His head hung down as if he had fainted. But Shadow's whole attention was focused on her mother, who was sitting on an iron chair in the middle of the room.

"Mother!" Linnet dashed forward with a glad cry, only to be felled by a blow from one of the guards. Shadow cried out in horror, and Emayn struggled in vain against the iron bands which bound her to the chair. The officer who had brought them laughed.

"And now perhaps you will be a little more amenable," he said. "Unless you wish to see your children suffer."

"You would not dare!" gasped Emayn.

He laughed again. "I will dare anything necessary to get the truth out of you."

"The truth," Emayn said bitterly. "We have been telling you the truth all day. It's not truth you want, just confirmation of your fantasies, and that we will never give you."

"We shall see. Let's go over it again. I have here a list of names . . . "

The man chained to the pillar raised his head, and with a shock Shadow realised it was her father.

"We have told you and told you, they are just guests for the wedding."

"And I wish to know which of these 'wedding guests' are part of your conspiracy. Now I will read out the names and you will just nod or shake your head. No need to speak if it distresses you."

"There is no conspiracy," groaned Brandur.

"So you say. The names, if you please."

"Never!" cried Emayn. "We will not expose other innocent people to your cruelty."

The officer shrugged. "Then it seems I must interrogate them all."

"You will do that anyway," said Brandur. "Do you think we do not know?"

"As you wish. Your co-operation would have saved me some time, and your friends some unpleasantness, but it is not important. There is one matter, though, in which you will oblige me. I will have your confessions. In fact, to save you trouble I have the documents written out already. All they need are your signatures."

"Do you think we are mad, to sign our own death-warrants?" demanded Brandur.

"I have the means to persuade you. Are the irons heated?"

"Yes, sir," came the answer from one of the black-clad figures tending the fires.

"You cannot frighten us," said Emayn steadily. "You will have to bring us to trial. Do you think we would not show the marks? Any confession made under torture is worthless. That is the law."

The officer smiled, and the sight turned Shadow sick with horror.

"There will be no marks on you, I promise." He snapped to one of the guards, "Fetch the child!"

Shadow gave a cry as Hallam was roughly snatched from her. She tried to jump forward to protect him but found herself held in a brutal grasp, her arms painfully twisted behind her. She could only watch helplessly as her baby brother was stripped of his clothing and bound to a heavy wooden bench. He screamed in outraged protest at the indignity. The officer signalled to one of the attendants, who came forward bearing an iron rod which glowed faintly at the tip. Shadow watched in horrified disbelief as the glowing tip approached her little brother's body, nearer and nearer . . .

"NO!" Shadow scarcely recognised her mother's voice, it sounded inhuman. "Stop! Please stop."

The glowing iron halted, but did not withdraw.

"You know what is necessary to stop this."

"Yes, yes," Emayn cried in anguish, "I'll sign anything, just stop!"

"And you?"

Brandur stared at him in dull despair. "If we sign, do we have your word that no harm will come to our children?"

"Of course."

"Then we will sign."

"No!" gasped Shadow. "Father, Mother, you mustn't!"

No-one took any notice. Hallam was quickly untied and the children hustled out. The last thing Shadow saw was her parents being released from their bonds as sheets of parchment were presented to them to be signed.





Archived comments for A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 10
niece on 2005-08-17 06:50:38
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 10
Dear Shadow,
Sounds very much like something that would happen in the present day. Sad, yet very realistic.
Regds,niece


Author's Reply:

shadow on 2005-08-17 11:55:09
Re: A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 10
Thanks niece. I'm afraid poor Shadow's troubles are only just beginning.

Author's Reply:


A Crown of Frost and Moonlight. Chapter 9 (posted on: 08-08-05)


The blow falls.

CHAPTER 9 Shadow awoke with a start from a dream of thunder. Someone was hammering on the front door. She could hear a confused noise of men shouting, and her father's voice raised in protest. Then the commotion at the front was joined by an even louder banging on the back door. She jumped out of bed and ran to the window. The garden was filled with dark figures. Her little sister Linnet had woken and came to her, crying.      ''What is it? What's happening?''      ''I don't know,'' said Shadow.      They clung to each other shivering, huddled on Linnet's bed and listening to the sounds from below. Brandur must have opened the door, because the voices seemed to be inside the house now. They could hear the heavy trampling of a number of booted feet. Then a door opened on the floor below.      ''What is the meaning of this outrage?'' said Emayn      She was answered by another voice, very polite, yet there was something about it that made Shadow's skin crawl.      ''I have a warrant from the Guard Commander to search this house.''      ''Search? What for? There is nothing here for you to find.''      ''Then you have nothing to fear. My men will take you downstairs while we search. No,'' sharply, ''you may not go back into your room. Downstairs, now!''      ''I intend to fetch my baby,'' said Emayn firmly. ''I do not care to leave him alone with you!''      More feet pounded up the stairs, and the sisters shrank back in terror as a large man in the uniform of the Black Guards flung open the bedroom door.      ''Any more up there?''      ''Only a couple of brats. Out!''      They sat, too frightened to move, until he grabbed them by the arms and hauled them out of the room. They were hustled down the stairs, almost too dazed to take in what was happening. As they passed the open door of the living-room Shadow looked inside and saw, by the light of a candle left burning on the mantle-piece, a tall fair-haired man in black standing by the table.      The whole household had been herded into the workshop, in the charge of two of the Guards. Brandur was there, looking pale and angry. Her mother was trying to comfort little Hallam, who was protesting loudly at being so rudely dragged from his cradle. Alissa was white and shaking, totally bewildered by what was happening. Aunt Bedelia stood in the corner, every bone in her body stiff with outrage, while little Aunt Affy clung to her arm, whimpering with fright. They were all dressed only in their night-clothes and whatever cloaks or wraps they had managed to grab before being taken downstairs. Aunt Affy's curl-papers were coming undone. Linnet ran crying to her mother, but Shadow stood frozen to the spot where she had been left. She felt stunned, unable to take in what was happening. All she knew was that the calamity she had dreaded for so long was finally upon them.      The door opened and the fair-haired man she had seen upstairs came in. When he spoke Shadow realised he was the owner of the voice that had so chilled her before. Brandur stepped forward to confront him.      ''You will answer for this,'' he said quietly. ''This insult to my wife and family will not go unpunished. I am not without influence, or friends.''      ''Indeed?'' replied the other. ''I am sure the Council will be very interested in your friends. You are all under arrest.''      ''On what charge?''      ''Oh, I think we can manage quite a few. There's conspiracy against the Regent, for a start, and harbouring an enemy of the state. And witchcraft, of course.''      ''But this is nonsense,'' protested Brandur.      ''That is for the court to decide. Sergeant!''      ''Sir!''      Bind the prisoners and conduct them to the Tower.'' He turned away.      ''Wait!'' cried Emayn. ''You cannot drag us through the streets like this. You must let us get dressed.''      The officer turned back to look at her. ''Must? Who are you to tell me what I must do? Or are you trying to threaten me?''      Then as Shadow watched in horrified disbelief, he drew a knife and stepping suddenly up to Emayn, he slashed it across her forehead.      ''A witch has no powers once she has been bled,'' he laughed. ''Bind them!''      After that everything happened very quickly. Brandur lunged forward at the sight of the knife, and was clubbed to his knees by one of the Guards. Someone snatched Hallam from his mother's arms and handed him to Shadow, while another bound Emayn's hands behind her back. Brandur and Alissa were also bound, as were the aunts, though no-one bothered to tie up the children. Before she had time to realise what was happening, they were being hustled out of the house into the moonlit square, then up the hill to the Tower.      Concealed in the shadows on the far side of the square, Orgrave watched a