Author Archives: Jaq

About Jaq

Writer of Fantasy and Steakpunk as well as esoteric subjects.

Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Pursuit: Number 1 Jaq D Hawkins

Imagine if you will, a chase involving three airships travelling through storm clouds, something that no sane airshipman would try. One ship is captained by Mister Wyatt, a disgrunted businessman who managed to waylay a shipment of opium through a shady deal, but the opium was stolen by pirates, and he pursues them with a mechanoid crew whose programming he is sure will equalise his inexperience as an airship captain. Another ship is captained by Tom Bradley, former night guard for Wyatt’s factory, who is also chasing after the opium with a crew more accustomed to burglarising houses than airship travel. His motivations are pure profit. A third ship, flown by a crew of experienced airship pirates who have actual possession of the opium, disappears into a cloud and in the low visibility, the other two airships mistake each other for Captain Bonny and his pirates. But first, we have a close encounter:

‘Captain Tommy! Look!’ a man shouted.

Bradley was already transfixed by the proximity of the other craft. The decks passed close enough that he could see Mister Bale standing on deck, smoking a pipe with the cat on his shoulder. Then they were gone, soaring off into the cloud ahead.

By then the sun had risen to reveal a dim morning. Anne Bardwell, sitting in the pilot’s booth, was no fool. The fog on the ground was clearing enough to see buildings. She took the ship down a little to see more clearly before the order reached her that they were to give chase to the ship that had passed. She had already nearly wet herself when the hull had passed within inches of her view window. She had no intention of returning to the thicker clouds where visibility was completely obscured. However, as they cleared the cloud, she saw an airship ahead of her and assumed that it must be the same craft, having come about from the hazardous cloud cover. Thus it was that Captain Zachary Wyatt with his crew of mechanoids and Captain Tommy Bradley and his gang of miscreants sped forth towards each other in stormy skies, while Captain Horatio Bonny floated above the worst of the storm, seeking his goddess.

The near miss was reported by crew who had seen it happen immediately, but Captain Bonny waved off the crewman who came to him with no more than a nod of acknowledgement. The incident was past before he could have reacted, and the wake of the dragon called him. Another few grains of opium were added to the pipe. He looked wistfully at the little cat still perched on his first mate’s shoulders further down the deck, then back off into the coming mist, seeking some sign of his goddess.

Oh dear. between the rum, the opium and a certain superstitious bent, the pirates do tend to come out of every situation unscathed. But will our other two airships fare as well?

Just as Captain Wyatt despaired of losing his quarry, he saw the airship headed directly for him from out of a cloud. The mechanoid pilot had levelled above the London fog, which was as hazardous as the storm clouds. The two would meet soon. Wyatt worked out that the mechanoid might well shut down completely if it was faced with conditions that gave it no logical course of action. There was no choice but to take control himself. He had, after all, studied the flight manuals.

He ordered the pilot mechanoid to remove itself for maintenance and took the controls. In clear skies as he had hoped for on that morning, he would have felt exhilarated to be flying his own machine above the city, but under the circumstances he was tense. He could just see the outlines of building tops and hoped that his knowledge of London would be sufficient to avoid getting too close to any that were tall enough to cause him trouble. The storm clouds were closing in on the city fast now. He knew very well that the sensible thing to do would be to go back and moor the ship until it passed, but the quarry rode towards him on the crest of the wave of black cloud. In truth, he wasn’t sure of his way back.

He needed a strategy. For all his preparations and good sense, Wyatt was inexperienced in the game of war. He had foresight enough to provide himself with weapons, mostly among the mechanoids, but how to go about getting them onto the other ship was something he hadn’t had enough time to consider. His first thought was that he would have to manoeuvre his ship to a position above the other and drop them down on the open deck. The mechanoids would know what to do from there.

Can you program a mechanoid to fight a battle? Mister Wyatt seems to think so. Meanwhile, the other crew of ‘night watchmen’ have troubles of their own.

Meanwhile Captain Tommy alternated between shouting orders to his disgruntled crew and uttering promises that they would be warm and comfortable soon, as well as rich. They plunged through the turbulent clouds in pursuit, causing several men to be sick over the side. A cross wind turned the ship nearly sideways just as one of Bradley’s watchman friends was leaning over the rail and sent him tumbling over the side. Bradley jumped towards him, trying to prevent his fall, but there was no time. He looked over the side in despair for his lost mate.

That was when he realised that the storm had blown their course back to the city. The ship was passing dangerously close over Big Ben. By some fluke, they had been directly over the clock tower as the man had fallen and he had landed on the slanted roof of the upper tower over the clock. Bradley watched as his lost crewman scrambled down to a platform with pillars where a talented second story sneak thief could climb to relative safety. He waved a salute as the airship climbed a little higher to avoid collision with the clock tower.

Hazardous conditions indeed, but Wyatt lures the other ship away from the centre of London and out over open country.

Bradley saw the other airship speeding away from him. He smiled, forgetting the man on the tower, and gave the order to give chase. He needn’t have bothered as the storm was blowing both airships before its force. As long as their courses continued north, nature was happy to give them an assisting push.

Wyatt gloried in thoughts of favourable tailwinds and sailed on northwards, watching carefully to make sure that the other airship followed. With an inexperienced crew against one that had been well programmed, Bradley’s ship faltered and was tossed about in the high winds as his men tried to work out the finer points of flap positions to make best use of the air currents. Wyatt noticed the difficulty and slowed his speed a little, allowing time for the other ship to catch up. As the situation worsened, Wyatt decided it was time to make his move. They were just outside of the busiest part of the city, over sufficiently open country to make a stand.

Wyatt’s ship floated upwards into a dark cloud that was just overtaking the race between airships. With their own stability to attend to, Bradley’s crew didn’t notice the manoeuvre.

‘Captain Tommy! We have to go to ground and wait it out. It’s tearing up the ship!’ Bradley heard the crewman shout the warning and swore under his breath. He kept sending orders to Anne to stay in pursuit, but the girl kept losing altitude. No doubt the woman was afraid of the storm as his men appeared to be, but Bradley had heard tales recollected on Bonny’s ship that convinced him that a stout heart could ride out any storm. As long as they stayed near the edge, that was the trick.

He looked through his scope and swore again. There was no sign of the other ship. They had been evaded. He nodded to the crewman and ordered him to pass the order to the pilot. The other ship must have docked already. When the storm passed, they could search again. It was just at that moment that something heavy plummeted past the open deck. Bradley was perplexed as he caught a split second of metallic reflection from a distant flash of lightning. He looked over the side, but the object had fallen too fast and was instantly lost in the mists surrounding them.

An almighty thump on the deck behind him made him spin, pistol at the ready. Not all of his crew were so armed, but Tom Bradley had always felt more comfortable with a pistol secured about his person. This was the first time he had ever pulled it out. His hand shook as he took in the sight before him. The pistol dropped impotently from his fingers, unnoticed either by Bradley or the mechanoid that struggled to stand up among broken deck boards that had splintered from its fall.

Another mechanoid fell just beyond the deck, plummeting past the ship. The silence of the morning cast an eerie flavour to the bizarre state of affairs as the cloud mists closed around the airship, cutting it off from all contact with the normality of the world that Bradley and his crew knew. There were other men on deck, but not one of them made a sound as a second successful mechanoid fell onto the deck, crashing through the boards completely into the compartment below. Meanwhile, the first mechanoid had moved towards the stairs, descending towards the pilot’s booth. Bradley blinked, and then shouted Anne’s name as he ran after the mechanoid to protect the woman he loved, although he didn’t know how he was going to do it.

Boarded by mechanoids! How would you defend yourself, and what happened to the ones who fell to the ground? The Wake of the Dragon by Jaq D Hawkins is available at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and soon to be released in paperback from Lulu.com

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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Humour, wit and character conversation: Number 3 Jaq D Hawkins

Most good stories have some humour, even if the subject matter is deadly serious. I was often surprised by the humorous moments that arose when I first started writing about the world of the goblins in Dance of the Goblins. It was something that carried through the series, but the effect on me as the writer was new and bemusing as I often didn’t see those moments coming until they were upon me.

One of my favourites of these occurred in a tense situation, where my main human character, Count Anton, was wandering a bit further in the goblin caverns than he had previously been allowed. There was still much he did not know about the society of the goblins and he had good cause to be nervous. There was a running joke between Count Anton and Haghuf, the main goblin character. Anton liked to ask questions about the goblins, and Haghuf liked to be evasive the answers. Asked what goblins eat, his answer is quoted in the folowing passage:

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He crept quietly, still listening as hard as he could as he approached the narrow passage that would take him to the deeper levels. He was startled by a sudden clattering of rocks behind him. Turning instinctively into a defensive position, he just caught the sight of a ginger tail disappearing behind a pillar. Letting out the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding, he crept around the other side of the pillar to get a better look at the small animal before reaching for it. As he had surmised from the quick glance, it was only a cat. The animal looked as though it intended to back away, yet when Anton extended his hand it relaxed and came forward and brushed itself under his hand to be stroked. He picked it up, grateful to have an ordinary living thing appear in order to break the tense silence of the apparently deserted cavern.

He walked back to the passage, but released the cat before stepping through the opening. As he put the creature down, the words echoed in his mind, ‘Whatever comes to us.’ Immediately he tried to shoo it further away from the passage, but it slipped past him and scurried through the opening. Anton tried to follow, but the cat ran too fast and disappeared into one of the labyrinthine corridors that branched off from the initial passage. He had no choice but to give it up for lost.

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Oh dear, poor kitty. Anton travels further and eventually comes across a goblin he knows, but not Haghuf. He is invited to the Storytelling, an event that no human has witnessed before. It is simply a gathering of goblins to share food and relate tales before the drumming and dancing starts, but the spiritual, Shamanic nature of The Dance makes the whoe experience insular. No matter his friendships, Anton is not part of the tribe. His discomfiture plays a role in the offhand humour as a pair of good-natured goblins wind him up a  bit.

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Anton was led to an expansive cavern that was filled with far more goblins than he realised actually lived in all of Krapneerg. It was no wonder that the other levels seemed so deserted, they had all gone to Storytelling. From what Haghuf had told him of Storytelling, it should have been no surprise that it was so well attended. It was more than an entertainment, but a central news gathering where goblins learned the histories and science of their kind as well as hearing stories of current events. Legends and tales that they made up themselves would be interspersed randomly with the sort of information that human children would learn in schools and even with lessons in the use of magic for the young ones.

A few heads turned as they entered the room from the back. Anton imagined that he saw some disapproving expressions and a couple of exaggerated sniffs from goblins he didn’t recognise, but they quickly turned their attention back to Talla, who was at the front of the room telling the story of his rescue of her. The sight of her thrilled him in an odd way, one which he found a little disconcerting. Another goblin appeared from beside them, pushing roughly made bowls of food into their hands.  Leap motioned for him to follow to a vacant place where they could sit and listen.

(edited for brevity)

Anton examined the food he had been given. His natural inclination was to assess its nature carefully before putting anything into his mouth. He felt some conflict between his curiosity about goblin fare and his reluctance to find himself with a mouthful of cat… or worse… which made him cautious. There were fresh vegetables which surprised him as they couldn’t have been grown underground. He started munching on a carrot so that he would not seem impolite while he tried to determine the nature of the meat. There was no bread or other baked goods which was unsurprising. It appeared to be a very healthy combination of meat, vegetables, and some sort of nuts or grain ground up and cooked into a porridge which was at the bottom of the bowl. Anton glanced at Leap and saw that he had nearly finished his own meal and was using two fingers to bring the porridge to his mouth like a spoon.

He imitated the motions as best he could, but could not help taking a careful sniff of the meat. It smelled and looked like roast pork, but he could not be sure. He had heard that human flesh had a similar smell and texture. Suddenly a large flat hand descended heavily on his shoulder and a voice was whispering in his ear.

‘It’s swine, nobody you know.’ He turned and saw an unfamiliar goblin grinning at him, enjoying his discomfiture. Anton smiled back, and took a bite. He hoped the goblin was telling the truth. At least he knew he was safe from anything worse than this good natured teasing, as Leap had invited him to the Storytelling and therefore  he was guest. Just as he was about to turn around and give his attention to the story being told, something else caught his eye, a patch of ginger fur at the back of the room. The cat had wandered right into the one place that was packed with goblins.

There was nothing he would be able to do to rescue it now. Its scent drew several pairs of eyes around to look straight at it. He tried willing the creature to run for its life, but the cat caught sight of him and stupidly started running directly towards him instead. The cat leaped at him and he raised his hands to catch it, hoping that the goblins would extend guest immunity to it when they saw that it had befriended him. But the cat didn’t land in Anton’s arms. Instead, it settled squarely on the shoulder of the goblin who had spoken to him. Anton guessed that his own expression must have been one of shock and horror judging from the laughter of several of the goblins who were near enough to witness the little drama playing out. The goblin next to him didn’t react to the cat, but turned to Anton, grinning at him once again.

‘This is Lucky. We don’t eat him either.’ The goblin reached to stroke the cat on his shoulder as he spoke. From behind him, another goblin leaned forward and spoke.

‘That’s why we call him Lucky!’ He said through his laughter. All of them seemed to be amusing themselves by watching his obvious concern for the little cat.

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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Peril and Tension: Number 2, Jaq D Hawkins

Sometimes in Fantasy, there are places your protagonists just don’t go, but of course circumstances will make it necessary for them to go there anyway. In Dance of the Goblins, I established early on that although Count Anton had limited access to a friendly goblin cavern, there was one grotto that he had been vehemently warned off.

He wondered a moment if perhaps she had recognised the way to Lirrewot which was nearby. Creeping stealthily through the shadows by habit, he came to where the opening had always been and immediately noticed that the sign was gone. The opening itself seemed unchanged, but if he had not known exactly where it was, he could easily have walked right by it without noticing.

He dare not venture far inside. The goblins here would know of him, but they didn’t know him as Haghuf and his lot did. Haghuf had warned him long ago not to enter these particular tunnels. Apparently there was strong anti-human sentiment here at the best of times.

Just in case the reader hasn’t imprinted that piece of information, another character (Talla) gives Count Anton a similar warning’

‘The signs are gone now,’ he continued, ‘I think your people have taken them because I told Haghuf how the magicians recognise the ways. This one is very familiar to me, as it is so near my own castle. This is the way to Lirrewot.’

Suddenly she gripped his arm and spoke very seriously.

‘You must not come through this passage, Count Anton. There has always been anti-human sentiment among the goblins there. Now may be a bad time.’

Oh dear. We’ll learn eventually why humans simply don’t enter Lirrewot, but for now Count Anton has only the explanation of “anti-human sentiment.” We must keep in mind that we’re talking about goblins here. They can be extremely dangerous. You wouldn’t walk into a biker bar in a meter maid’s outfit and announce that all the motorcycles outside were illegally parked and about to be towed away, would you? Sometimes self-preservation requires a little common sense.

Having established that Lirrewot is a no go place, the rules of character abuse decree that Anton has to be given little choice about the matter later on. Skip ahead to page 184 and Anton finds himself in trouble with a group of revolting peasants who think he’s been protecting demons, because of his friendship with a goblin.

The shouts roused the other groups of men that had been patrolling the area. The Count had not realised how many there were, but from the vantage point of the small hill he could see men running towards him from all directions brandishing sharp weapons and shouting for his blood. He wondered for a moment where his guards were and whether the shouts would alert his own people within the castle. But there was no time. The southerners were closing on him. They were too much of an angry mob to expect other than to be torn limb from limb.

With no other choices before him, he leaped down to the entrance and ran into the moonlit shadows of Lirrewot cavern. His only thought was concealment. If he didn’t go too far in, perhaps he would not be noticed. It was possible that some of the men would search until they found the entrance as well, but would they be foolish enough to enter?

     He knew the tricks of goblins well enough to find an alcove where men would be unlikely to look for him. Such hiding places were common near the entrances in particular, so that if an enemy entered the caverns they would find goblins both in front and behind them if they came in very far. Anton was grateful that he didn’t find a goblin already hiding in this one.

He closed his eyes, acknowledging to himself that he was afraid. It wasn’t death that frightened him, but the pain of a violent death at the hands of humans or goblins did not appeal. Given a choice between being ripped apart or eaten alive, he wondered if his magical disciplines would hold in such a situation enough to leave his body and travel into the astral realms before the worst of the violence. Neither promised to be an easy death.

     He heard a few men run past his hiding place. Fools indeed. They ran without thought, too caught up in the chase either to notice the concealed prey or to consider the danger they ran towards. He heard the screams as they ran down the first stair, which came to an abrupt halt all too quickly. The goblins were indeed patrolling near the surface. Hopefully the blood-curdling shrieks would be enough to dissuade the others from following. The acoustics of the cavern were like a giant echo chamber which would reverberate the horrifying sounds out through the entrance, chilling the blood of any who stood outside.

Anton waited patiently, but there was no other sound. An eternity seemed to pass, yet there was nothing. At last he was reasonably sure that the men must have given up the chase, perhaps assuming him dead like their comrades. He consciously relaxed his shoulders, releasing the tension that the fear had raised in him. Slowly, he opened his eyes. He hoped to see nothing more than the empty cavern, still lit by the soft moonlight that spilt through the doorway just a few steps away.

     Despite his optimism that he had managed to escape, he wasn’t entirely surprised to see the shadows before him broken by the reflection of moonlight from two pairs of large yellow eyes, looking directly at him. He almost chuckled as he thought to himself that they were far too big to belong to cats.

The cat reference is one for the humour topic as it refers to an earlier amusing incident. Oh there’s more. The topic at hand is ‘mortal peril’ is it not? With that in mind, we can’t let Count Anton simply talk his way out of a tight situation. Certainly not in Lirrewot, where no human must go.

Anton’s mind raced through his limited options. All of them demanded that he come out of his hiding place willingly. To wait for them to come in after him would mean certain death.

‘I am Count Anton,’ he said clearly in the goblin language. He hoped that identifying himself would at least make them hesitate to attack, although the two large goblins were certainly of the kind called Those Who Protect. They were very unlikely to extend the status of guest to him, even in these circumstances. Still, if he could stall their movements by talking to them, he might be able to get into a position where turning into Wolf would allow him to run for the door swiftly enough to escape. He dared not attack them, even in defence. That would be the one move that would make him goblin enemy forever, and even Haghuf himself might hunt him down for such a transgression.

     ‘I apologise for invading your realm uninvited,’ he continued, holding their gaze as he moved slowly to a more advantageous position, ‘but the humans were hunting me, intending to kill me for my friendship with your people…’

Suddenly his breath was knocked out of him by a powerful arm that scooped him unceremoniously into a clinch that defied the act of breathing at all.

‘No humans in the caverns!’ asserted the very large and muscular goblin who had come up from behind Anton.

Jiggling about like a rag doll in the grip of the goblin as the flapping feet ran down a passage, Anton was so surprised and disoriented that he could not react at first. The journey must have been very short or the goblin’s running was very fast. In the few seconds it took him to regain perspective so that he was able to determine which way was up, the goblin had reached his goal. Anton was twisted around once again as the goblin’s powerful arms lifted him above his head with no apparent strain, and casually threw him into a fissure.

     He was immediately engulfed in complete darkness. In his mind’s eye, he remembered the pits that Haghuf had warned him to avoid. He had got the impression before that they were very deep, which was reinforced now as he continued to fall for what seemed an eternity. He supposed that he should count himself lucky that it was a particularly large opening, as all the flailing about that his unruly limbs could manage only met with open air, rather than with potentially very damaging abrasions from the sides of the pit. He tried not to think of the inevitable force of the landing, or what he might be landing on, when at last he reached the bottom. He must have fallen a great distance already, far more than he could expect to survive through the impact when at last he hit solid ground.

     He was even more surprised when the fall ended in a sudden rush of changed air in a dimly lit open space and a splash, which held an impact of its own as he plunged deep within the unexpected body of water. Until that moment, he had managed to maintain his equilibrium. Now as he rolled helplessly through the torrents of water caused by his own momentum through its depths, he wondered if the darker conditions within the water would allow just a glimpse of which way the bubbles from his breath floated so that he could determine which direction led to the surface. Whether there was any chance of reaching it before he drowned was another matter.

His will to live had carried him a long way through the series of events that brought him to this juncture, but it was beginning to fade as his attempts to blow bubbles in the dark water only resulted in less air in his lungs and no clue as to which way he should swim. He began to float helplessly, having run out of options… and of air. He had begun to accept that at least drowning was reported to be a peaceful death.

Then he felt something sharp on his ankle and thought he heard a high-pitched sound pierce the water. This was followed by something snaking around his waist yet again. It felt to be about the diameter of an arm, but certainly longer. Anton had a vision of some form of horrifying tentacled beast. There’s something in the water.

We’ve heard that phrase before in the book. There’s something in the water. Whatever it is has feeding frenzies and even the more friendly goblins won’t talk about it. But we’re only 2/3 through the book so despite having been thrown down a pitch black pit into an underground lake full of some unnamed horror that eats flesh, surely Anton will have to survive, won’t he? I wonder…

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How Gumbee Fantasy Writers’ characters interact with their worlds. Number 3: Jaq D Hawkins

Characters interact with the the world around them in many ways depending on the circumstances into which we throw them, but illustrating the nature of a personality can be tricky in the reader’s first introduction to a significant player on the stage of a story. In The Wake of the Dragon, one of my own favourite characters makes an entrance that defines him as much as any of his subsequent actions to the point that I couldn’t resist including a couple of his lines in the book trailer for this story. As a matter of fact, I liked his nature well enough to decide that he’s going to appear very significantly in my next Steampunk story as well, although it isn’t actually a sequel.

Mister Bale is First Mate on a pirate airship captained by Captain Bonny. The pirates have just comandeered a shipment of opium under the cover of storm’s edge, an act of insanity for most airships but business as usual for Captain Bonny’s crew. As we fly away into the darkness of night with heavy cloud cover, we get our first look at Mister Bale’s approach to most situations.

One man staggered leisurely amidst the diligent deck hands, casually swigging rum from a flask in one hand while smoking a pipe with the other.

The captain nodded to him as he approached.

‘Who’s piloting?’ the captain asked his first mate almost absently, gazing into the skies of dawn.

‘Morgan Sir,’ the mate replied. As the name was spoken, the captain looked directly at his first mate. Only the shadow of a doubt altered his assured tone.

‘Can he control the ship at storm edge?’ As if to punctuate the question, the airship dipped suddenly and then lifted into a current that hurled the craft free of the storm’s murky depths as effectively as a balloon would bob in a tub full of water. Riding the unstable decks was instinctive. The men kept their knees bent and a rope to hold onto close by.

As the ship steadied to no worse than edge turbulence, the mate handed the bottle to the captain and answered confidently.

‘He’s got the way of it Sir, and Browning’s with him.’

The captain nodded and took a swig of rum.

‘Is he drunk?’ The captain’s question was as matter of fact as the reply he received.

‘Not as drunk as me Sir.’

Again, the captain nodded. The first mate began to pry open one of the crates, still sitting on the deck.

‘What are you about man?’ the captain asked. ‘Storm edge is no place to open it, you’ll see the cargo ruined or lost in the wind.’

‘Just a smidgeon Captain Bonny Sir, I hear tell that chasing the dragon when the winds are blowing can send you right into another world!’

‘Mind your pipe don’t light the rum and send us all into another world,’ the captain answered gruffly as he handed back the bottle. The first mate finished scraping a few golden crystals into his pipe and nodded as he took the bottle, transferring it to his coat pocket away from the pipe.

‘Secure that crate Mister Bale, that’s an order!’ The captain reached to push the lid down forcibly. ‘Then you can take this crate down to my quarters. Can’t sell a crate with an opened package, can we?’

Mister Bale looked the captain in the eye, just noting the subtle wink. Bale smiled just as cunningly.

‘No Sir Captain Bonny Sir, I reckon we’ll just have to keep this one for private use. Pity that.’

Captain Bonny smiled more openly as he watched the back of his first mate recede down the stairs to stow the crate in his quarters as ordered. The thought of riding the winds while chasing the dragon, the euphemism the Chinese people used for the diversion of smoking opium, appealed to his adventurous spirit almost as much as the chase they were winning now as the ship increased the distance from the active storm clouds and the remnants of the city’s smog wafted away from the deck, allowing clear morning air to blow in his face.

Bale had been right, as usual. Morgan did know the way of it, the way to pilot an airship through the air currents so that the pockets of turbulence would thrust the ship away from the storm rather than suck it back into the low pressure. It required a particular instinct and an affinity with the air spirits to accomplish time after time, rather than just by luck as had been the case the first time the captain had won his life by following that instinct.

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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Emotion: No 7 Jaq D Hawkins

Ah, young love. Do we all remember the first time we were seriously attracted to someone as hormones pulsed through our bloodstreams? How many of us first noticed someone totally unsuitable? Perhaps they were a different religion or nationality that raised parental prejudices, though we wouldn’t care. Perhaps someone who would not be within reach for other reasons. Imagine what it would be like to be a young girl from a very restrictive religious background and to find that your first attraction was to… a goblin. A creature your parents would call a demon and try to kill. Such is the magic of attraction that the first realisation suddenly makes it all irrelevant. So young Namah learns in Demoniac Dance when she first discovers the goblins who visit the the bonfires of the Magicians who rule the land:

Nobody spoke to her as she quietly got up and walked towards the fire. She had to know the source of that music. She followed the sound as if she were in a trance, unable to resist, following the tune with both her mind and her body. Some part of her felt as if it were observing her movements from afar, no longer in control of this young girl in an alien world. She wondered for a moment if there would be goblins among the adults as well, but as she came among the adults she saw that they were nearly all humans. The magicians. There was only one green skin among them. He was playing an instrument which was the source of the music.

It was some sort of flute-like device that looked as though it had been carved from bone. Bone of what creature? Namah could not help but wonder. There were holes drilled into it, just four in a row and one on the side that the goblin blew into. How do goblins drill holes in bone? Her inquisitive nature soon gave way to pure sensory enjoyment as the sonorous music enraptured her.

Even in the trance-like state, Namah was astounded at the beauty of the goblin. He was slim, yet his toned muscles spoke of strength and agility. It was then that she noticed how little he was wearing, nothing more than a reddish-tinged skin loincloth stood between him and complete nakedness, yet he looked so like an animated statue that she had not immediately noticed. His dark hair fell only just past his pointed ears but had a texture like some of the bigger fluffy dogs that her father kept. There was a long plait that hung down in back between his shoulder blades. His skin, although green, was a deep shade that looked as though it was what green skin would be like with a suntan. Namah knew this was a silly idea, goblins lived underground where there was no sun, but it was the only way she could describe it to herself.

She felt confused. She had always been told that goblins were ugly. The vague memory of the goblin she had seen when she was two was not of a very ugly goblin, but it was not one with this kind of slim beauty that she had seen first in the younger men of her own people and now in this lovely musician. She could not help but admire the delicate line of his straight nose as his fingers moved gracefully over the instrument. He seemed completely at one with the music, the instrument a part of him as much as the elegant fingers that moved across the air holes so expertly. She wondered for a moment how old he really was. If he were human, she would guess him at about nineteen, but goblins were… different. After all, the man that her father had intended to marry her to had been thirty.

What am I thinking! She was aghast at her own thoughts. He’s green! And… another species!

Just at that moment, the song came to a natural finish and the people around Namah applauded. The goblin bowed in response. When he looked up, his eyes met Namah’s. She caught her breath before she could stop the reaction. His eyes were large and almond shaped. The naturally dark lashes lined them as if he were wearing the cosmetics that some women used to frame their eyes. It gave them a dreamy sort of beauty that touched her deepest appreciation. Most disarming though, was their colour. They were a deep golden hue that sparkled like fire, yet pulled her into their depths like the secrets of the deepest pools.

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Gumbee Writers’ Fight Scenes , Part 8, Jaq D Hawkins

I’ve been working with a style of writing fight scenes that uses changing POV to progress the fight along as different characters pick up the baton and carry the action forward. Below is an extract from Demoniac Dance that serves as an example of this method, although we only see two POVs when there are three involved in the full scene:

The goblin sword swung and met with the commander’s sword in an arc that denoted the start of what was effectively a dance of battle. At the same time, Anton became aware that the magicians among the men on his side had moved close to his vicinity and were sharing in this dance as they engaged the foreign men in battle. The goblins fighting by their sides shared the rhythm of the dance in harmony, probably for the first time they had co-operated with humans in many centuries. Some of the opponents before them entered the rhythm as well, none more so than the commander.

Anton’s eye caught a glimpse of an amulet at the commander’s throat. It was identical to the one he wore himself as well as the one he had given to Haghuf so long ago. By this Anton knew that the commander was a magician, as were some of his elite guard. They could feel the rhythms of the earth pulsate through the movements of battle just as Anton and the goblins did. Other men further from the crush of the fight fought with what skills they had learned, but the psychic connection that kept the goblins operating as a unit was perceptible only to the goblins themselves and the magicians on both sides.

Captain Kantor had not expected this. What should have been an easy conquest had been hindered by unknown predatory creatures in the river, surprise attacks, nothing short of dragons attacking from the skies and now this alarming troll army. What else did the leader of the farmers and craftsmen have in store for them?

He had seen the amulet at the first ring of their swords together. Even the sword of Count Anton looked like something that had manifested out of ancient legends. He would not allow his doubts to show in battle, but inside Kantor was feeling overwhelmed. Even the warrior women, though they had taken few of his men, had been disconcerting with their sudden furious attack and their unnatural blue faces. They had disappeared as if by magic as the dragons attacked. This too was disturbing. Kantor was becoming concerned that the magic of Count Anton might be far superior to his own.

Suddenly one of the big trolls stepped between him and Count Anton. Anton’s sword was mid-swing and might have fallen hard on the troll, but it glanced sideways and did not connect. Kantor admired the skill that could control a weapon with such instant perception and redirection. He took the opportunity to fall back and put some distance between himself and Count Anton. At that moment, he preferred to fight the trolls.

Anton had been sure that he was about to finish the commander. He gave himself completely over to the magic that flowed through him, through the sword, through the earth – and had let the movement of the blade come down in what should have been a bone-crunching blow that could fell the largest of the goblins that fought beside him. Then Kahjak himself had stepped in front of the blade when it was too late to divert the blow. For a split second Anton feared that he would kill the goblin and bring confusion to the battle that would surely end in Those Who Protect turning on all the humans with disastrous results.

The sword diverted its motion as if there were a force field around the goblin that it would not penetrate. It was as if his own will had been overridden by a conscious energy within the sword itself. Before he had much time to think about it, he was engaged with more enemy swords from the throng, but the commander had disappeared behind an onslaught that Kahjak was pushing through the centre of what had been their reorganised force. Anton saw the strategy, the goblins were splitting the army and pushing half of it towards his own men while the other half were cut off from them.

Anton turned to see a muscular female goblin fighting near him, noting her presence to himself for later reference. The other goblins didn’t appear to notice. She fought among them as an equal. Out of curiosity he made his way closer to her while clashing blades with any of the enemy that stood between them. Suddenly she whirled around and met Anton’s eyes as the blade came crashing down towards him. At the same moment a sword slashed towards her from behind and Anton called out in the goblin tongue without thinking.

‘dniheb uoy!’

The blow that had been intended for Anton sailed in a complete 180 degree arc that slashed the head from her would-be assassin’s shoulders. Her eyes turned back to Anton momentarily as she nodded an acknowledgement, then carried on fighting the enemy humans. Anton made a mental note to himself to never sneak up on a goblin in battle, especially a female. They appeared to be more psychically sensitive than the males.

Kantor felt himself being herded along with his men, pinched between the trolls and the men that had come to fight for their homes. His own men were falling fast. Blood dripped from the swords of the massive green warriors that assaulted his forces, the blood of his own men. The men among the enemy fell easily, but he saw no green bodies among those that lay on the ground. The trolls were much bigger and stronger than his soldiers and at least as well trained. Their only hope lay in a complete retreat and in the soldiers on the other side of the street that the trolls had divided escaping to regroup with them later when they could plan according to their new knowledge of the opponents they faced.

Kantor reached for the horn at his side and blew the retreat signal, but just as he did so those damnable blue women attacked again, spearing his soldiers as they ran or engaging with some who stopped to fight only to have his men dropped with arrows from yet another new threat that crawled across the roofs of the buildings. He looked up to see another form of green creatures, ones who were strangely exotic in appearance. They were as tall as men but of a slim, muscular build that was very different from the hefty trolls. They climbed across the thinnest ledges of the buildings, placing themselves on crumbling window ledges or decorative masonry as if they weighed nothing and had the balance of a spider crawling across a wall.

The green skin was tattooed with unreadable designs. The graceful pointed ears were pierced and adorned with rings of gold, sometimes with small stones that glittered in the grey cloudy light of this misty land. They had large, strangely beautiful yellow eyes with a look of intensity in them that turned Kantor’s blood cold. Something about them brought more terror to his heart than the massive trolls as the unnaturally accurate arrows zinged from their bows, each one landing in a specific target’s chest.

These were assassins, not mere snipers. Kantor began to accept that his mission and his army were doomed. He looked for a place to hide. The least he could do was to survive and report back to the king what had happened. He might even attempt a rescue of the king’s worthless cousin if he lived to make the effort.

Anton heard the word whispered among the goblins closest to him, Dunai!

He worked out that the archers that had appeared on the roofs and windows of the derelict buildings were of this tribe, but he had no reference to draw from to understand their significance. They reminded him of Ja’imos with their tattoos and piercings as well as the slim, muscular build of their species and the accuracy of their archers. Some of the newcomers mixed in with the larger goblins, fighting near enough to Anton to get a close look at them. Some had fair hair, but not the white hair of the Kol’ksu … or of Talla. Anton had seen few of such goblins on the rare instances when he had been allowed to participate in The Dance and had wondered about them at the time.

As the battle progressed, Anton followed the surge to the left, away from the men of his camp where more of the smaller goblins were appearing. He found himself fighting very close to one of the elf-like goblins that seemed familiar. The goblin turned as the thought occurred and dipped his sword in a salute, smiling momentarily before resuming the dance of battle that was pushing back three of the enemy soldiers with the expert whirling of his deadly blade.

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