Blog.

Amaranthine.

Nothing rang quite so unpleasant for her as the sound of footsteps upon the floor. There was a comfort in the silence, a reliability that she could depend on and burrow into. The sound echoed down the hallway, racing to and fro creating a chorus of sound, a mask, hiding the number of people approaching. One, it was always one. Few people ever set foot at this depth and fewer still willingly. Brisk and light. They were the footsteps of authority, of power, of one who was accustomed to a certain deference in life. Arrogance in the heel. These were not the usual footsteps. Within the cell she shivered and pulled the tattered remains of the blanket closer as the bright lights outside flashed on. Her hopes for just another uneventful day in the care and hospitality of the penal institution were dashed. The footsteps stopped outside the cell, there was nowhere else for them to go.

“Where’s Derek?” she asked in her parched voice. It didn’t echo like the footsteps.

“Sadly Mr Mason passed in the early hours of this morning,” there was no trace of warmth or sorrow. “I am to be your new liaison” said a prim voice, he smelled of lavender and camphor, a distinctive cologne indeed. She mouthed the word liaison to herself, that was a new one.

“I remember his first shift with me, he was sweating like a dog in a kebab shop, he was handsome though in a boyish sort of way,” she shifted but remained lying on the cot, “Good man Derek.” A small sniff from the newcomer.
“So I am told. Age however has its way of defeating even the greatest among us,” she ignored his unspoken accusation.

“Always going on about his missus, Barb-”

“The board has deemed that given your…status, nourishment shall be provided on a bi-weekly basis with the exception of water to be given every two days,” a small ruffle of paper, “forcibly if necessary.”

“-from what he told me it was as sound a name as there was ever given. She had a sharp tongue see, but Derek had a thick skin. Never shy of a bit of banter was Derek-”

“I do however hold such measures as too lenient.” It seemed the newcomer had a sharp tongue of his own.

“-all my insults were just like water off a duck’s back for that man,” the scratch of pen on paper. Always paper and folders with these people, always policy and regulation. She found it all to be far too clinical, at least Derek had some passion.

“It seems you will miss Mr Mason” said the paper man.

“I don’t like having things shoved in my mouth, words least of all,” She sat keeping her back to the light and the newcomer “Shall we at least try to get off on the right foot?”

“You will find that I am not a man to be taken lightly,” he paused for what she assumed must be dramatic effect “Nor am I to be crossed,” he let the threat linger in the air. Cute.

“And he comes out of the gate swinging,” she smiled going to the small desk at the back of her cell. “I imagine everything you know about me has come out of some file somewhere,” moving a small pile of her own paper she found what she was looking for. “Subject displays violent tendencies, subject does not interact well with others, subject does not respond well to authority figures,” turning into the blinding lights she slipped the small card through one of the spaces in the bars. “I’m not a model prisoner,” she waited until she felt him take it and then sat back on the cot, “But it seems some folk like me.” A heartbeat passed and the sound of tearing card filled the space between them. She nodded to herself and kept her hands relaxed on her knees, no point in being sent to The Tank for a card. It was just piece of card.
“You are an aberration,” spat Papers. True enough she supposed, true enough.
“One of a kind,” she said with a brevity she didn’t feel. The remains of the card floated back into her cell, she ignored them.
“Ignorant too,” he noted, pen scratching at paper.

“You got a name or should I just make one up for you?” she turned trying to get a better look at her new tormentor, but the lights outside the cell obscured his features, casting him only as a living silhouette. One arm held a ream of papers whilst the other adjusted the spectacles on his face.

“You may address me as Mr Highdale,” he replied.

“May I? That is awful gracious of yourself Papers,” she rolled to face the wall, ready to be done with the conversation.

“Water every three days,” the pen made a note. Check out the brass set on Papers. She sat up again.
“I’ve suffered your kind before,” the paper man said nothing. “I tell you what kiddo, go and find yourself a bloke who isn’t shy of doing a little knife work. This place should be full of them,” she stood suddenly making a stabbing motion “Test that way, shiv the freak,” her thin arms grasped the bars, “And then fucking feed me. It’s quicker for the both of us,” she slumped back down pulling the blanket tighter and made herself as comfortable as she could. “Or don’t. Run your little tests and experiments. When you and these bars are nothing but dust I will let myself out. Don’t worry Papers, I’ll be sure to turn the lights off before I leave.” She yawned loudly.

“You sound very confident of that,” she could tell he was smiling.

“And you’re an idiot if you think it will play out otherwise. Send my condolences to Barb though, tell her I’m sorry but it doesn’t look like I will be able to make the funeral. Good man Derek, good man.” The pen scratched briefly once more and the lights went out leaving her with dancing after effects in the dark. The footsteps, if anything, were much more confident in leaving. Her fingers found a scrap of card, Rasputin, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Derek and Barbara. She let it fall back to the floor forgotten. Just a card, she had time.

The Goblin Circus: An Excerpt.

It’s been quiet on here for a while, but I have been very busy. There is a bunch of content I’m working on both for the site and for somethings that are still in the pipeline. I wanted to share with you a snippet of what I’ve been working on. Enjoy.

William could hear such a ruckus outside, down past the bottom of the garden. It was an immense rhythmic chorus, THUMP THUMP, RATTLE RATTLE, THUMP THUMP, RATTLE RATTLE. It was coming from the cobbled alley behind his house. THUMP THUMP, RATTLE RATTLE, THUMP THUMP, RATTLE RATTLE. Mrs Thomlinson had settled herself in front of the television and was happily grumbling at the chat show informing her how to coomrdinate her outfits. William knew from experience she would not move from the settee for quite some time. Whenever she agreed to look after him, William ended up looking after himself. Before long William could no longer contain himself and was pulling a dining room chair through the kitchen to the back door. Climbing onto it he wrestled the bolt at the top of the door free and was out and racing towards the gates at the end of the garden. The big double gates looked out onto the cobbled alley where the noise was coming from. He found the spy hole he had made earlier that summer and peered into the alley.
THUMP THUMP, RATTLE RATTLE, but now William could hear a chittering noise above everything else, one low chittering followed by a high pitched chittering, almost like two people talking. The narrow view of the alley was blank, the damp cobbled stones and the gates of the garden opposite. The noise was so loud now that Williams body began to rumble along with it.
“H…hello,” he called out, “who’s there?”
The noise ceased at once. William stood very still, he even held his breath. Pressing himself closer to the gate he tried to get a closer look at the alley. To the very far right, just at the edge of his vision he something large, a wooden wheel. It was attached to something large he couldn’t quite make out, a carriage perhaps. The sudden quiet was almost as unnerving as the noise.

He let out a long, low breath as quietly as he could. The chittering returned, the pattern the same as before, one low and measured out and the other high pitched and fast. A large orange eye suddenly filled the vision of the peep hole, a most inhuman eye. He stepped back quickly his young heart racing and very thankful for the stout wooden gates between him and the things in the alley.
“Hello, I know you’re out there,” said a voice William recognised as his own.
“Amazing,” a low voice rasped, “the boything knows we’re here.”
“Nonsense, manthings can’t see us,” said a second high pitched voice.
“And yet it seems this one can. Roland, why don’t you take a peek over and have a look, there’s a good fellow.”
Leaves appeared over the top of the gate, long green oak leaves on thin twigs followed by a large grey boulder. THUMP THUMP, two more large grey boulders, no William realised, not boulders but hands, large rock hands covered in patches of green moss. The hands gripped the gates and the first large boulder rose higher and higher. It was not a boulder but in fact the giant head of the immense stone creature. The thing was massive, it must have been almost as tall as Williams house if it stood upright instead of hunching over the gate. It had a broad square jaw, a large rocky nose and two brilliant gemmed eyes the colour of the summer sky. The creature spotted William and gave a small surprised grunt. William did the only thing his body was capable of, he screamed. The rock creature paused for one moment and then it followed suit letting out the loudest rumble William had ever heard. Its hands came up to cover its eyes and it stumbled back into the alley, its footfalls shaking the ground as it went.

“Oh well now you’ve gone and done it,” said the high pitched voice.
“It isn’t my fault Roland is afraid of everything new,” replied the low voice.
“But you know how he gets.”
“Oh all right, I’ll fix this,” said the low voice.
William realised he had stopped screaming and was listening very intently to what was happening on the other side of the gate.
“Hello, you in there, boything?” called the voice, “I do so apologise for startling you, but would you be so kind as to pop outside for a moment so Little Roland can see there is nothing to be afraid of.”
“That thing is afraid of me?” breathed William
“Oh yes, Little Roland is still quite young and he is a little jumpy,” the voice sounded rather sincere, “of course most young Hill Trolls are a little more outgoing.” William jammed a finger in his ear, he could have sworn he heard him say Hill Troll.

His curiosity got the better of him and he quickly unlatched the gate, lifting it so it wouldn’t stick as it sometimes did and stuck his head out into the alley. He was totally unprepared for the sight that greeted him. There in the cobbled alley stood two quite remarkable, wholly inhuman creatures.

They were both rather short, the tallest being the same height as William. The smaller one was rather squat and round with gangly arms and legs. Its skin was dark green and looked tough, it had a bulbous nose and large orange eyes that twinkled with a mischief matched by its toothy grin. Large ears protruded from beneath a tattered top hat that paired with a suit of much repair. Long fingers with well kept nails held a black walking cane topped with a small crystal dragon.
“Its a small boything. Most remarkable,” it grinned wider revealing double rows of sharp white teeth. The taller one that stood behind had a much more unkempt appearance. It had wild orange hair that stuck out at all angles and it wore very dirty overalls. Its eyes were small and dark, its nose long and pointed. Its long fingers ended in long dirty nails.
“I can see that,” it hissed. The small one offered a hand to William.
“My name is Obadiah Ghogg, business Goblin and entrepreneur.” William shook the offered hand and was surprised that something so small could be so strong or he would have been if the word Goblin wasn’t bouncing around his head.
“Don’t mind Horace uh-”
“William”
“Ah, William,” Obadiah said softly as if the name were strange on his tongue, “well William, don’t you mind Horace one bit, grumpy fellow but he keeps things moving like a well oiled machine.” Behind Obadiah Horace merely grunted. Obadiah ignored him and kept his attention firmly on William “Truth be told we are both astounded that you can see and hear us at all, most manthings senses are not that sharp, are they Horace?”
“No boss, never met a gifted manthing myself. Heard of ‘em of course but…” he trailed off
“But never in our days did we think to meet one ourselves,” Obadiah finished.
“Don’t know ‘bout you boss but I think its other senses are a bit dimmed, seems a bit dull don’t it,” hissed Horace.
“Quite,” whispered the short Goblin. William realised he was standing with his mouth agape like some kind of landed fish.
“S…sorry,” he managed to stammer.
“Oh my dear boything it is not to me that you must make apologies, but to dear Roland. You gave him quite a fright, he is young and rather skittish you understand.”

William nodded dumbly as Obadiah led him up the cobbled alley to a large faded orange and green carriage. It had faded red lettering that read ‘Ogally Ghoggs Cirque Du Smele’ Behind the carriage, which was tiny in comparison, was the giant Hill Troll Little Roland, hands gripping the top of the carriage and peering nose first at William.
“Mista Ghogg,” it said in what William assumed was a whisper but made the carriage rattle, “I doesn’t like it, it scare me.” Little Roland pointed an accusing finger toward William. Obadiah was petting Roland reassuringly on one giant moss speckled arm.
“Easy Roland,” he said in tender tones, “it’s just a boything called William.”
“Willium” it repeated looking at him with massive sapphire eyes.
“Thats it, William was just shocked to see you.”
“But I didn’t do nuffin,” Roland rumbled
“I know my dear fellow, but just as you have never seen a boything, William has never seen a Hill Troll, even one as small as you. Be brave my boy.”
“Rollund brave,” the Troll assured as it lumbered forward, Williams body rattled with every enourmous footstep. Roland towered over him, “Willum,” it beamed, “boyfing.”
“Thats a good fellow, now can I persuade you to carry on, after all the show must go on,” encouraged Obadiah
“Show,” agreed Roland, “I is liking shows,” he rumbled as he returned to behind the carriage and hefted a huge rucksack onto his back
“Atta boy Roland, atta boy,” said Obadiah.

“Bout time,” sneered Horace, “this delay will cost us Obadiah so I hope your curiosity is sated.” Roland, who was now in front of the carriage waiting, poked Horace in the chest with one huge finger causing the lanky goblin to fall flat on his behind.
“Not Obadiah, Mr Ghogg,” he warned. Obadiah rushed between the two.
“Now now, no fighting you two, tonight’s show is far too important.” The little Goblin was waving his free arm and cane around trying to stop his two employees scuffling.
“What show?” asked William. Obadiah turned at once, his attention on WIlliam, a smile split his green face.
“My dear boything, I’ve been waiting for you ask.” Flinging his arms out wide he shouted “Ogally Ghoggs Cirque Du Smele, finest circus in the all the realm. Its been in the family for a thousand years. See amazing feats of strength and dexterity preformed by the juggling Hill Troll. Death defying aerial acrobatics by the Vivell sisters and see the mysterious Shade, Magic Extraordinaire pull a car from a sea shell and turn a tortoise fury.” He paused and gave William an appraising look “Come and see for yourself, I would love a manthings critique on the show, a fresh perspective.” Behind Obadiah Horace wrinkled his nose in disgust. William knew his Mother would be very displeased indeed if she returned home to find him gone.
“What does Roland juggle?” he asked
“Oh he juggles all kinds my boy, his best act is juggling three of those big grey things, what are they called…” Obadiah was having trouble finding the right word
“Dustbins” William supplied
“No, elephants” smiled Obadiah. Well thought William, that settled it, he was going to the Goblin Circus.

 

Blog: Hidden Meanings.

We have all been in an English lesson where the teacher is trying to tech us the deeper meanings of what the author meant. Writing has helped people voice their concerns and issues with society for centuries. Personal perspectives on war, regime change, atrocities and hopeful movements. Animal Farm was one of the first allegorical books I remember analysing, before that I simply read for the enjoyment of it. I still do, but I almost didn’t.

In study, being analytical of works is key to being able to convey that you understand the underpinnings of the story, the themes. However, in my own experience, having an analytical eye almost ruined reading for me. I could not pick up a book without looking for the authors deeper meanings, without deconstructing sentences and word choice, narrative voices and points of view. It ruined the immersion of the story, which to me is paramount. It can be argued that these works are for the purpose of conveying a very specific message, that is after all what allegory is for. I do feel though that we sometimes confuse allegory with applicability.

The distinction between allegory and applicability can sometimes be a muddied one. Animal Farm is an allegorical novella about the Russian Revolution of 1917, C.S Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia books are another example of allegory in fiction and yet Tolkien’s work, by his own admission, is not. He did not see The Lord of the Rings as an allegorical work for war and the industry it creates. It would however be absurd to say such things did not colour his work.

The distinction between allegory and applicability is that allegory is usually a one for one substitution. Allegory is a device employed by the author to further their message and point. Applicability however is something that the reader brings with them when they read. Applicability is an extension of the readers own experiences and knowledge. It is finding something within the work that we can connect with, perhaps something we have had experience with.

Some stories are just that. Stories. No hidden meanings, no agenda or message to be discovered. Personally when I write, if I say it was cold, its because it was cold. There is no deeper meaning attached that, the cold is not symbolism for depression or loneliness. It’s just cold. I have no interest in trying to foist upon the reader a hidden agenda, but my work is coloured by the world around me and my own experiences. I am only interested in trying to create great stories. If you find something in them that resonates with you, that is fantastic, but they are simply stories.

Mornings.

The wind was bitter and pulled at his coat. Colin turned his shoulder to it and tried to think about anything other than how tired he was. He bent his knees and performed the short impatient dance that seemed to be universal to those waiting for public transport.

It is far to early-

Down at the far end of the road he saw a bus wearing the right colours pull into view. It was hard to tell if it was the bus he had been waiting for, the numbers still to far distant and his eyesight at the ripe old age of thirty was not what it used to be. The green and cream bus trundled up the road, proudly displaying its route, it was the correct one after all. Rolling to a stop much further behind him than was convenient, Colin did an awkward almost jog to the door which hissed open. Colin was not one to move at a brisk pace.

Built for comfort, not speed-

Behind the wheel sat an all too cheery young man who didn’t look old enough to be let out without supervision, let alone drive.

“Good Morning,” he called happily.

How about you just shut your fucking mouth sunshine and drive the damn bus before Old Col pokes holes in your tires.

That was harsh even by Colin’s standards, not to mention unlikely and impractical. He fumbled with his pass.

That was a bit mean-

No, people shouldn’t be so bloody chipper this early in the morning-

How can you be such a grouch-

I’m you, you pleb, it’s not like this is new news, anyway stop talking to yourself you weirdo. Anyway, I’m off the clock, my customer service personality doesn’t come for free you know.

At this point Colin realises he has been holding his pass for a few seconds too long and the young driver looks a little unsure. He could have said something, a simple hello would have sufficed, or the ever British “Sorry.” Instead he gave the young man a deadpan look of disinterest he had perfected over the years and looked for a seat on the empty bus. He noted four windows were open, that should be enough to circulate the air of public transport out. Avoiding the seat near the emergency door, honestly who wants that kind of responsibility, he chose the seat just before the back step and took out his travel mug. He had almost perfected the art of drinking a hot liquid on a road that seemed designed to test the limits of modern suspension, almost.

Don’t spill it on yourself today-

Shut up, you’re not my real ladder!-

How many times, you can’t use inside jokes when your using your inner monologue-

Sorry Mr Thought Police-

You really are a child-

I know you are, said you are but what am I-

Sometimes, when left alone with his own thoughts, without any kind of supervision or boundary, Colin did wonder if he was in fact sane. He assumed others did the same, but there was always a nagging worry at the back of his mind.

How sure can you really be that others talk to themselves like you do? After all, you have some…expansive conversations with yourself-

Exactly, myself, I know I’m me, I know your me. It isn’t as if there are different people in here.. It’s just like the worst game of Devils Advocate ever played. 

The bus rumbles violently over the road, almost spilling the hot tea, it seems that the young, chipper driver fancied himself a rally driver.

Wanker!-

Wanker!-

I know right!-

You really need to watch your language though-

What are you my fucking mum?

Blog: Bashing Your Head Against The Block.

Some days you just sit and write. You know what you want to say and it flows easily. Some days you wake up at 4 am and scramble for a notepad, a scrap of paper and a pen, your phones memo app, anything will do so long as you manage to get that thought down. There are days when we spend only an hour in front of the keyboard, a quick splurge and were done. Other days we weasel the words out over the course of the day.

Then there are days when it’s difficult. The days when the words don’t come easily. The dreaded “writers block.” You can call it what you want, the fact is it sucks. Sometimes we just don’t know how to translate what is in our heads to paper, or we discover what we thought was a sound concept actually has a pretty large flaw in it.

There are hundreds of blogs concerning writers block and the cures and remedies for it, but much like the oft touted rules for writing nothing works for everybody.

When I find myself unable to write, be it in a satisfactory manner or even at all in some cases, the first thing I do is a change of scenery. I move from the desktop and take up the laptop or notepad. I’ve found a change of scenery can really help the creative process. If that doesn’t work I always have another project in the works. In this case I write to fit my mood, and chose something I can pour into. There are however times where you can almost justify bashing your head against the keyboard in the hopes that it will come out making sense on the screen.

If it comes to that then I find it best to just not force it. Go for a walk or make a brew or have a conversation with someone. Just don’t write. Almost all writing advice will tell you to write, and then write some more and then tie that all up with some writing. It doesn’t work like that, not for everyone. Yes it can be frustrating but we all have our ruts, it is okay to just leave it alone for a while.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Blog: An Authors Portrait.

I’m bored and have itchy typing fingers, so, lets ramble.

It’s safe to say I have a few books, more accurately I have a shit-ton of books. Less than  I used to have mind you, I used to a have a fuck-ton but I found that amount to be rather excessive.

The one thing that almost all these books share in common is that they have a page about the author. It is usually a few lines containing where they come from, where they studied, where they live now and how many cats they own. That kind of thing. There is also usually a picture of said author almost always in a library or some kind of garden environment near an aged cottage or stone wall. I guess the pose is like the first album cover with all members looking off in separate directions, it must be a medium cliché.

I had a conversation with a friend that turned me onto this subject and actually got me thinking about it. We talked about the book that I’m working on (read; currently making my existence miserable) and if I would be doing an authors page. In the moment I gave it brief consideration and decided I wouldn’t, for one I don’t like having my picture taken and I almost always take a bad photo. So let’s just take a quick look and see how it would pan out.

Exhibit A

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Just to point out I am not the one in the dress. This one is on my mother’s head, and I’m sure should she read this I will get some excuse about “It was the fashion then.” Regardless I look like a middle aged car salesman. Also shout out to my sister who is clearly mocking my height and preemptively destroying any sense of self confidence I would ever have. This is what I consider to possibly be the opening salvo in a feud that continues to this day.

As it went on it did not get better, though thankfully my forehead seems to be a little more in proportion.

grin

I mean I just don’t get it. Smiling isn’t hard but yeah, grinning like a muppet was as close as I ever got. Maybe I need to try something a little more artsy to go with as an Author portrait.

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This one I like but it may be too far in the wrong direction. Tends to speak less of an author and more of a weirdo putting googly eyes on his mug. Although I honestly see the appeal of something less traditional. Lets try one more.

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That is a little larger than I anticipated, my face not the photo. This, this I feel will be my author’s portrait, I will make it black and white though, I’m not completely without class. It will sit at the back of the book with a small paragraph condensing my entire life into a few short and succinct phrases:

Colin J Upson, owing to circumstances beyond his control was born in the UK in a time before jet packs and ray guns were common place and was denied a domed residence on the surface of the moon. Likes trees, books and tea. Dislikes spiders, cats and biting the inside of his cheek whilst chewing. Currently lives despite many attempts to reenact scenes from Jackass in spite of MTV’s disclaimers. 

A Door For A Home: Part 8

 

Fyonn didn’t have much time to think, the crow spread its large black wings and with a few heavy beats it took off. Through the smoke that was quickly filling the corridor Fyonn could see the wild smile of the evil little pixie on the back of the crow. It was coming for her, a mass of dark feathers and vicious talons. She took off into one of the classrooms, hoping to lose the crow in the tangle of chair and table legs, the shrill sound of Amanita’s laughter followed. A horrid name for a horrid pixie. This was all so much simpler when it was just her and her books. Darting low between the chair legs, zigging and zagging Fyonn came out at the far end of the table. She risked a glance behind to see if the crow was following.

“Looking for us?” came the voice. Snapping her head back around Fyonn barely managed to avoid the sharp claws of the crow. She tucked into a dive that took her close to the floor and headed for the door. Behind her she could hear shrieking laughter and the rhythmic beating of wings drawing closer. Racing through the open door, her heart pounding in her chest, Fyonn made it to the corridor. The smoke was now so thick it was hard to see. The fire was beginning to creep up the wall and along the ceiling, consuming everything in its path. The air was hot and Fyonn found it difficult to catch her breath. The smoke burned as she breathed in. She had to get back to the library and out of the school, there was nothing she could do against the rising flames, not alone. She had failed. Glancing about she found what she was looking for just beyond the swirling smoke. A small red square on the wall, a fire alarm. Once it was broken the humans would come and deal with the fire, but she would have to be far away from there before they arrived. Buzzing into action she made for the alarm as fast as she could, the heat and the smoke causing her eyes to tear up. She covered her mouth to keep her from inhaling any more smoke. Fyonn reached for the alarm when a huge black talon encircled her and pulled her back into the smoke, it squeezed what little breath she had left from her. With only one arm free she did the only thing she could and bit down hard on the crow’s foot. The bird squawked loudly and threw her to the floor below. Fyonn tumbled but managed to keep her wings beating and made quickly for the library and the air vent that was her way out.

“You’ll pay for that you stupid little girl,” Amanita called behind her. Fyonn tried to block it all out, the fire, the heat, the crow. She just had to get out. Flying as fast as she could she found the enormous bookshelves that marked the school library and began to wind her way up them. She began pulling out books at random and letting them fall behind her, if she was lucky she would be able to squash that wicked little pixie. She moved up quickly, the vent was just on the ceiling between two bookcases. She pulled loose a dictionary, something Squigg could use very much, but instead of falling there was a dull thud. On the other side of the book was a lance buried deep into the books cover, on the end of the lance was a wild looking pixie with dark hair, and under her was a vicious looking crow. Amanita smiled nastily at Fyonn and Fyonn smiled back. With a lazy motion she took her hand off the book. It took the wicked looking pixie a moment to realise what was happening. The book fell to the floor, the lance still stuck, taking her and her crow with it. Fyonn gave them a little wave before darting up into the vent.

Outside the night was cold and the rain was coming down heavily. Fyonn breathed in several deep, cool breaths and steadied her shaking wings. Her cardigan was a little singed but all in all she had made it out in once piece. She looked around to see smoke coming from the other rooftop vents. The books, all the book and the children’s things, their schoolwork and pictures, all ruined because of one evil little pixie. Ahead of her she could see her tree, safety. There was a rattling behind her, a clattering of sharp talons on metal. Fyonns’ stomach dropped, it wasn’t possible. She flew into the air and away from the vent as the crow and its rider burst free,  Amanitas’ hair was wild and smoking with, the crow was cawing angrily as it shook embers from its wings.

“I am going to feed you to Corvix bit by bit,” she screamed. Fyonn didn’t answer and darted for her tree, behind her the crows claws snatched at her wings. Fyonn could feel the bird behind her, the beat of its wings buffeting her in flight, her aching wings began to falter. Putting everything she had into one last burst of speed, her wings finally gave out, she found herself falling. Dipping in the air Fyonn managed to glide the rest of the way, she made it to the tree.

It was dark inside, the hole in the tree was now her only source of light, her only way out. She couldn’t see either of her pursuers, just the rain beating down outside. Fyonn crept forward, the hole was large enough for a small owl, but the crow outside was huge, it would never be able to squeeze itself inside. At least Fyonn certainly hoped so. Keeping herself pressed to the inner wall of the tree she moved around and risked a glance out. A great black wing knocked her backwards and Amanita landed inside. Her wild hair was soaked and stuck to her face, she held a nasty looking dagger in one hand. Corvix clawed at the edge of the entrance but wasn’t able to get its massive body inside.

“You could have just left, skulked away with the scruffy looking tramp and his hedgepig,” she snarled at Fyonn.

“Road worn, the term is road worn, in a dashing yet disheveled way,” Squigg said coming from the back of the tree pointing a strange looking device at the intruder, “honestly, why does everyone always assume the worst of me?” Amanitas’ eyes went from Fyonn, to Squigg, who had been waiting in the tree according to plan. Fyonn scrambled to her feet while her foe was distracted.

“What, you didn’t really fall for that fake argument did you?” she smiled, she had to admit they had made the fight in the corridor look quite convincing, Sprocket especially had acted his spikes off. Amanita gritted her teeth and waved her dagger.

“It doesn’t matter how many of you there are, you are no match for me!” she yelled.

“Well you see this here,” Squigg said hefting his invention, “this is a great equaliser.” He brought up the device to his shoulder, it looked like a clothes peg taped to a pencil with an elastic band and a net. “This here is the patented Net-launcher 3000, by Squigg Inventions.” He stepped forward past Fyonn, the net-launcher aimed at Amanita.

“We’re giving you the chance to leave,” Fyonn said. Squigg didn’t take his eyes off the wicked pixie or the crow perched on the edge of the hole.

“We are?” he asked. Fyonn smiled a little, someone really needed to teach Squigg how to deal with people.

“We are. What can she do now, she has no crew, her bird is useless here and they failed to split us up,” Fyonn looked Amanita in the eyes, “she is just an evil little sprite with no friends, all the loot in the world can’t make up for that.” Amanita laughed, a high cackle that was unpleasant to the ear.

“Friends, is that what you think is worth anything in this world. You really are just a silly little girl. Corvix!” she screamed. Fyonn watched her step to the side as the crow batted a wing inside sending Squigg sprawling, the net-launcher skidded across the floor. She tucked her wings into a quick roll and scooped up the launcher and fired before she realised she had acted. The crow squawked and took off, the net billowed out entangling Amanita, she stepped back to try to unfurl her wings but couldn’t, and then she was gone.

Fyonn and Squigg rushed to the edge and looked down, at the base of the tree a crow gathering up a netted form. It bundled it into its talons and quickly took off into the night. Below Sprocket ambled into view shaking a his spines at the retreating crow, Fyonn took a long breath. Next to her Squigg began to laugh, a deep bellied laugh of pure joy. She was about to scold him for laughing at such a serious situation but found herself smiling with him, and then laughing herself, the tension lifting from her wings.

“Well at least the net-launcher works,” she smiled. Squigg nodded and picked up the empty launcher.

“It did,” he said looking it over, “not a bad idea, though it could use a couple of tweaks,” he set it aside and looked at her, “I know you missed the bird but you’re not a bad shot lass.” Fyonn didn’t even try to correct him, she didn’t have the energy left.

“I was worried you wouldn’t be here, that you really might have left,” It was a horrible thought, she had asked Squigg to trust her, to follow her plan. She would lead the crow and Amanita away to give him time to build the net-launcher.

“It was a dangerous plan, but you were the one taking the risk, mighty brave of you Fyonn,” he stood and looked out at the School, small flames could be seen drifting from the roof. Along the road came flashing blue lights and large red trucks. “look,” Squigg said to her excitedly, “fire engines!”

“Really!” she sighed at him, “you don’t know what a toilet or a kettle is but you know about fire engines!” She wasn’t sure if he was doing it on purpose just to tease her.

“Everyone knows fire engines, fire engines are fantastic they have all these really cool tools and hoses and…” but she wasn’t listening. They might have driven off the band of miscreants, but it had cost them the school.

“My home,” she said, “what am I going to do now?” She looked across at Squigg, the thief who didn’t steal, who’s crazy invention had helped her fight off the invaders. He looked at her with a serious expression.

“I’ll tell you something my Gram told me before I left to go wandering. Home isn’t a place,  she said to me, it’s the people you’re with. Right wise old gal my Grams is.” He nudged her with a shoulder, “Me and Sprocket are going to be looking for a new place. You could come with us if you want to.” There was something there in his eyes, honesty or hope, but it was quickly lost in the mischief and he smiled widely. “Besides, we might need someone to keep us in line, especially Sprocket, that hedgepig gets into all kinds of trouble,” he laughed. It was a contagious sound and she couldn’t help but laugh along with him.

“I guess I could share the road with you, but if we find a new place, let’s make sure it has a door.”

 

End.