Author Archives: willmacmillanjones

About willmacmillanjones

Author, fantasist, fifty something lover of Blues, Rock and Jazz - and occasional poet

We’re in the mood for love…

Hello, good evening, and welcome from a passing lunatic who has managed to hack MTM’s carefully managed blog: to talk about luuuurrrve.

Sadly there comes a point in every fantasy novel where two characters have to gaze into each other’s eyes: even at the expense of allowing several more orcs to extend their corporeal existence, or letting the expensive manufactured Ultimate Weapon of Doom to get a bit cobwebby instead of knocking the Dark Lord off his Throne, or even failing to collect the magical ring from its appointed hiding place.

It’s called Romance, and mostly we prefer to poke the subject with a sharp stick from a safe distance. Here’s the amazing Jim Webster and his take on the subject.

Romance?
Well obviously I’m both Male and English and therefore am automatically disqualified from not merely writing romance but of even understanding the concept.
Problem is one of the characters whose life I have chronicled is male but isn’t English and being a Toelar Roofrunner, romance is very much an integral part of his existence.
So I’ve tended to be guided in these things by him. The following passage comes from ‘The Cartographer’s Apprentice’, available from all good ebook stores. Amazon have it for 7pp at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Cartographers-Apprentice-Jim-Webster-ebook/dp/B00ECZIM4A/

“Allonai took over the organisation of their evening meal. She brooked no interruptions, but instead talked long with the cook. She then announced that the meal would be served in her suite rather than in the main dining room.
She showed Benor upstairs and led him into her audience room. It had a large picture window which allowed you to look down Supplicant’s Hill and to the east. There were two doors off, one of which, slightly ajar, revealed a bath, the other led through to a bedroom. The centrepiece of the audience room was the dining table. Benor had never seen one like it. From above the shape was of an exaggerated violin, with the two diners sitting facing each other in the opposing waists. Scattered round the room on various tables were sundry discarded outer garments, a light crossbow, and a selection of shoes. He pointed at the crossbow, “An interesting accessory, does it go with any particular outfit?”
“As I said, I was on a hunting trip; it is a perfectly normal lady’s crossbow, suitable for light game, even dart if you get close enough.”
There were a couple of books on the table next to the crossbow, he scanned their titles. “A lifetime of wasted versifying.”
“Yes, the collected works of Quoloen the Indelicate. If I confess to a liking for poetry will you still talk to me?”
Before Benor could reply, a stream of waiters entered, carrying trays loaded with little dishes, which they arrayed on the table in what was obviously a specified pattern. By each dish was a small wine glass. Finally the entire table was full and Allonai chivvied the last of the staff out of the door and closed it firmly. Then she turned to Benor, curtseyed and announced, “The thirty-seven customary dishes, each with its own wine. Would sir care to take his place at the table?”
With this she ushered him to the table, saw him seated, and then sat facing him. “Have you ever eaten the thirty-seven dishes?”
Rather shamefaced, Benor admitted he hadn’t. Allonai launched into an explanation. “The dishes are placed in order, the first you find in front of you, the others lead off to the left, curl round the table edge and work their way back so both the second and the thirty-sixth dishes are next to your place. So the dishes on your left hand side are yours, the dishes on your right hand side are mine.”
Benor surveyed the scene, each dish might hold two mouthfuls, but then there were thirty seven of them. The wine glasses did not hold a mouthful. Once or twice in the past he had pondered investing in the thirty-seven dishes as a way of wooing a particularly difficult lady, but had never been able to afford the initial investment.
The first dish was a seafood tagine, salty-sour and rather good. The wine was, to his surprise, a sip of strong cider, which turned out to complement the tagine perfectly. Allonai expressed her approval and they both tried the next dish, a clam linguine. For a Toelar man, the dash of pepper was not quite enough to be exciting but still, he felt he approved. Happy that the food seemed to be excellent, Benor relaxed. As he sipped the second wine, a slightly sweet white, probably locally grown, he asked Allonai “So what are your plans when we get this matter dealt with?”
Gently he guided the conversation. He had long ago learned that the ‘good conversationalist’ said very little and merely kept their companion talking. Over the course of the succeeding dishes Benor learned about Allonai’s childhood, the stresses of growing up as a young woman in Seramis, tales of bitter infighting within the family over her father’s estate, and something of her hopes for the future. Deep fried crispy caterpillars were followed by thin slices of horrocks’ testicle, flash-fried in nut oil, each with the appropriate wine. Finally, as he finished a mouthful of honey berries sprinkled with ginger he noticed Allonai was watching him, her expression somehow forlorn. Without really thinking about the consequences, he leaned across and kissed her.”

And there it ends, I’m working on the principle that all my readers are grown up and know all the technical details and don’t need me to provide a user’s manual.

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Gumbee Fantasy Authors ‘do’ Pursuit: Number 4 Will Macmillan Jones

Pursuit.  Right.  I’m afraid that we normally all default to car chases, don’t we?  Even those of us who write fantasy.  Yes, I know there will be the odd (most of us seem to be odd, if I’m being honest) purist who insists on organic creatures – horses, camels, or even dragons.  But if, as Richard Bach once remarked in his bestselling book ‘Illusions (the adventures of a reluctant messiah)’ life can be compared to a film, we all have certain scripts in our head.  Bond film car chases, The Fast and The Furious, The Terminator films, even The Blues Brothers:  car chases appeal and are integral to all the story lines.

Why is this? Well, at some point the authors feel that the tension and drama can be racked up for the audience by having the baddy chase the goody; and indeed vice-versa.  Let’s face it, the punters love a good chase, so we all do one don’t we?  Not least because a good chase is more fun to write than twenty pages of emotional trauma suffered by the hero/heroine (delete according to taste and preference) as they watch a cockroach climb down a wall beside their bed and compare its faltering descent to their emotional angst.  No doubt with insights into the human condition normally reserved for those of a terminally disturbed disposition.  Oh, and the readers would rather read a good chase or pursuit too I suspect.

I’m going to offer you two snippets.  The first shows my preferred scenario, of my fantasy reality and our own world colliding somewhat awkwardly:

Here, in ‘The Mystic Accountants’,  Dai the Dragon has just volunteered to go home to get his guitar before joining The Banned Underground as their bass player.  (His reward for getting them a paying gig at a beer festival.)

“I’ll need to get off. It’s not far to the lair, but I don’t like flying in the daylight now. Too much air traffic,” Dai said.

“Are you fit to fly?” asked Fungus, dubiously.

“I’ll be fine. Best hurry, be daybreak any minute, and the RAF start practising at the bombing range at the end of the Country Park early these days. Probably so that the miss hits don’t hit the tourists.”

“Friendly fire, don’t they call that?”

“Have you ever been out for a drink with the cruise missiles? Don’t. A less friendly bunch than that doesn’t exist. Always getting into fights, and then exploding.”

The RAF, however, were wide awake already, and busy on their radios.

“Pen-bre Firing Range, this is Victor Kilo One Six inbound from RAF Valley.”

“Victor Kilo, Pen-bre Range. Go ahead.”

“Pen-bre Range, Victor Kilo is a training flight inbound for Strike Mission, five minutes to run from the East, height 800 feet.”

“Victor Kilo, Pen-bre Range. Radar Contact Acquired. Your Strike Clearance is approved. Be aware of local traffic at your 10 O clock, same height.”

“Pen-bre Range, Victor Kilo. Strike Approval copied. Looking for the traffic AND WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!!!!! ARMING WEAPONS SYSTEMS!!!”

“Victor Kilo, are you visual on the traffic? Can you identify it?”

“IT’S A RED DRAGON, CARRYING A BASS GUITAR IN ITS’ FRONT CLAWS!!!!!!!”

“Victor Kilo One Six, Pen-bre Range. Your Strike Clearance is cancelled, repeat Your Strike Clearance is cancelled. Disarm Weapons systems and return to Valley Training Base at once. Confirm instructions.”

Oh dear.  It isn’t always easy merging realities, is it?  Things keep getting in the way.

Now, in this second clip, the ‘baddies’ (in an elderly taxi) are in hot pursuit of the ‘goodies’ (in a Mercedes Sprinter minibus).  I’m quite a traditionalist in my writing, you see.  So we all know that the ‘goodies’ will get away: the fun comes in seeing how.  Also from ‘The Mystic Accountants’.

Lacking a SatNav, the Mondeo slid behind some other vehicles to remain unobtrusive: Ned taking the opportunity of a quick service station break to change its color by magic. Thus avoiding a parking ticket as well.

“But I liked Red. Hid the rust at MOT time,” complained the assistant assistant.

“The last time yer took this to an MOT station, the staff all ran an’ hid until yer went away,” accused Ned.

“So? Still got me MOT.”

“Only ‘cos you knew how to work their computer,” pointed out the junior.

“Well, what’s the point of training to be an evil wizard if you don’t put the knowledge to good use?”

“Look, they’re turning left,” Ned observed.

“Right.”

“No, left. Yer can’t turn right on a motorway.”

“Can in America,” said the assistant assistant.

“This is England, where we do things right.”

“So it is right.”

“GO LEFT you idiot, before you lose them,” ordered Ned.

“Right.”

“Oh gods, why did I chose you two?”

“Cos the Boss told you to.”

“Right.”

“Not left then?” the assistant assistant, like the reader, was confused.

“Just follow that Sprinter.”

“Thought we were following a minibus? You’re not supposed to run about on motorways.”

For a moment, Ned considered following on foot as a serious idea, but then calmed down as the vehicles passed slowly down the scenic A 483 towards South Wales.

The assistant assistant, driving, was observing the road traffic signs as they progressed.

“Look, all the road signs are in foreign. Perhaps we are in America after all.”

“That’s not foreign. It’s Welsh.” Ned told him.

“Why can’t I understand it then?”

“Look, it was painted by someone called Allan,” said the junior, from the back seat.

“Must be proud of their work, here. Our council wouldn’t let them sign the road.”

“That’s mebbe why we have no road signs,” mused Ned.

A ballistic Honda minivan, horn blaring wildly, encouraged the driver to pay more attention to the road signs as it missed the front of the Mondeo by the width of the new paint job on the bonnet.

“Read the signs, can’t you?” yelled the passenger in the van as his nose skimmed the front of the Mondeo.

The dwarves (and of course Fungus who was a BogTroll) had no difficulties at all with the ancient and poetic language, even when badly painted on the road (by an arthritic road painter who had had to keep dodging cars, tractors and occasional sheep while painting.).

“Araf” said the road, and the Sprinter obeyed. *

“Who’s this Araf?” queried the Mondeo driver.

“He learnt to write in the same place as Allan, anyway,” said the junior.

“Now it says ‘ARAFWCH.’ Wonder what it means?” **

“Maybe you pronounce it ‘ARAF OUCH?’” *** suggested Ned.

Again the Sprinter understood, and obeyed. Accordingly, with only a slight crashing from the rear load space, the Sprinter sped around the corner. The fast moving Mondeo made an existential choice, and carried straight on… through a hedge into a very muddy field.

Fortunately failing to connect with the extremely large tractor, which was towing a low loader up the field. Slowly.

“Made me say OUCH,” grumbled the driver.

“Didn’t you read the signs then?” asked the farmer, chuckling as Ned opened his wallet and started counting out notes while the tractor pulled a now very well disguised Mondeo out of the field. Slowly.

“Must have missed them,” sighed Ned.

“Didn’t miss me hedge though, did you boy?” chuckled the farmer.

“Clearly. Still, we are really grateful, mate.”

“Any time, as long as you bring your wallet.”

The Mondeo shot off in pursuit of the departed Sprinter, showering mud everywhere.

“Come back soon!” called the farmer, before going home to count his subsidies.

* Slow Down. Now.

** If you haven’t already slowed down, this is your last chance. Honest. Before you crash.

*** No. Although you will say “ouch” afterwards, if you didn’t araf in time.

See? Two pages of a car chase are more fun than writing about cockroaches.  Got to go, I’m busy writing my next pursuit.  This time with broomsticks….

The Mystic Accountants is the second in The Banned Underground fantasy series published by Safkhet Publishing and is used here with their permission

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by | July 10, 2013 · 9:34 am

Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Humour, wit and character conversation: Number 4 Will Macmillan Jones

Humour.  Well, all my friends here think this one should be easy for me, since I write what is laughingly called ‘Comic fantasy’, but it isn’t really.  MTM has been a proper comedienne, and is probably much better qualified than I am to write a piece on being funny.

Where comedy is concerned, I’m a bit of an existentialist. I prefer to try and let it happen rather than define it. (Actually that’s posh speak for the fact I can’t be bothered to think about it.) But realistically, I beak it up into a few sections.

Word play, one of my favourites.  Double meanings, misunderstandings, friendly banter.

Situational comedy – placing entirely inappropriate people or places or behaviour together, and seeing what happens.  Twisting reality a little to show it from a different angle to our normal view. Plus my preference, of blending the magical and extraordinary with our own daily world.

Slapstick.  I’m just a big kid really, and the slipping on a banana trick, or the bucket of water balanced over a door, yes these make me laugh.

Spontaneity is the key.  I think some of my best lines have been throw away one line jokes that just cropped up, rather than carefully constructed artefacts.  My favourite line ever is still: “I know it’s live yoghurt, but is it meant to come when it’s called?”

I didn’t plan that one.  My personal favourite situation is the initial meeting, in mid air, of an RAF fighter jet and a drunken red dragon carrying a bass guitar.  And slapstick: having the Dark Lord use his superlative evil magical skills to distract his bank manager’s path along the pavement outside the offices, causing the bank manager to walk into a lamppost.

As a taster then, a section from The Satnav of Doom, to be released by Safkhet Publishing on 30 October 2013.

Deep within the financial headquarters of the Edern in North Wales, the CEO of the organisation slapped his hand on the polished boardroom table to attract attention.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said loudly.

By and large, he was completely ignored. Once again he slapped the table, this time with a heavy leather glove pulled from his suit pocket.

“This meeting is called to order!” he said firmly, upping his volume somewhat.

The argument continued to rage.

“The board is now in session!” he shouted, and to emphasise his point, he seized the large golden sword that lay on the conference table, and slammed it down hard. Slowly the table split in two, the halves falling inwards. Silence fell.

“Blear, whatever did you do that for?” asked Lady Hankey, glaring down her long, patrician nose at the CEO.

“That table was an antique,” agreed Lady Meillar.

“Like Blear himself,” muttered Lord Telem. “Just because the boardroom is split around the table, you didn’t have to split the boardroom table as well!” he complained, more loudly.

Comfortably settled, in a chair in the corner, Lord Tosca snored.

“I have tabled a motion!” declaimed Lord Blear.

“And look what happened to the table,” retorted Lord Emyr. “It moved.”

“If The Lady In The Lake ever finds out what you did with her enchanted sword, Blear, she’ll make your life a living hell,” warned Telem.

“Compared to dealing with you lot, that will be a step up, then!” retorted Blear.

“Extraneous insults are the sign of a poor argument,” said Lady Hankey, who was opposing Blear’s suggestion. Not because she disagreed with the idea, just that she had been opposing Blear’s suggestions to her for some time, and wasn’t going to stop now.

“Ever since a travelling enchanter sold Her that spell to turn water into wine, She’s been too drunk to bother about the sword,” Lord Telstar remarked.

Blear smirked.

“True,” agreed Lord Tosca. “The only time she comes out of The Lake now is to wave a clarinet and sing drunkenly at strangers on the shore.”

Telem and Telstar picked up the two halves of the table, and Lady Meillar glued them back together imperfectly with a wave of her hand and a spare incantation she had left over from the last Board meeting.

“Now,” said Lord Blear loudly, “if you would kindly resume your seats, I will recap on the thrust of our discussion to date in the expectation that we may, in the course of our deliberations, achieve a consensus agreement to the proposal which may then be considered to have been retrospectively authorised in regard to the initial expenditure necessarily incurred in the formalisation of the project to formal proposal stage.”

Lady Hankey glared at Lord Blear. “Am I right,” she enquired in glacial tones, “that you are confessing to allowing improper expenditure to have been incurred without the formal permission of the board?”

“No,” replied Lord Blear.

“I’m sorry?” asked Lady Hankey.

“Your apology is accepted, Lady Hankey. Now, moving on.”

“That wasn’t what I meant!”

“Perhaps not, but it is what you have said, and what has been entered in the minutes. Moving on.”

Lady Hankey sighed, but sat down with the others.

“Right,” Blear said smugly at this evidence of corporate compliance. “Briefly then.”

“Brevity is the soul of wit, I’m told,” observed Lady Meillar.

“It is not an instruction within the Corporate Governance Articles,” replied Blear.

Lady Hankey sighed again. Blear gave her a glance, but she stayed quiet.

“As you know,” he continued, “I have been approached by the Governor of The Bank of England, and the Chancellor of The Exchequer.”

“Blear always was a bit slow,” muttered Tosca to Telstar. “Anyone else would have run a mile from those two together.”

“I have asked to provide a feasibility study for the provision by our company of a new economic forecasting system for the treasury. The fee will be substantial.”

There was a murmur of approval.

“And will,” Blear gave Lady Hankey a cold glance, “dispel any lingering concerns about expenditure on this project temporarily carried within the research budget.”

Lady Hankey nodded her reluctant agreement.

Lord Blear took a satisfied breath, and a dissatisfied sip from the glass at his elbow, before continuing, “The new Prime Minister, hoping to avoid a repeat of the last serious recession, has decided that sacrificing chickens and examining their entrails has not, on balance, proved a successful mechanism for economic modelling in the last forty years and a modern system should be incorporated into the treasury’s economic forecasts. Plus, he is a vegetarian, and didn’t want to eat the chicken afterwards as was customary.”

“So,” asked Lord Telstar, “this is the plan B the chancellor was going on about in Parliament the other day?”

“No. The Treasury’s plan B was to send the Chancellor of The Exchequer around London in a taxi, and get financial advice from the driver. But the cab fares were getting a bit pricey, and the driver is retiring. Hence, a new system is considered necessary.”

“Wait a moment,” interrupted Lord Telem. “What happened to that economic forecasting software system that they bought from the Americans two years ago for about thirty million pounds?”

“A comparative exercise over two years has shown that the taxi driver was more accurate.”

“Bet the US government laughed their socks off at that,” said Lord Tosca.

“Not really,” replied Blear. “They had bought the same software, and The Governor of the Federal Bank had to keep flying over here and hiring the same taxi driver we’ve been using. That’s why the driver can afford to retire.”

“What happened to Galadriel’s Magical Mirror system?” asked Lady Meillar. “The one they used to keep in the cellar of Number 11 Downing Street?”

Blear looked a bit uncomfortable. “It’s never been the same since The Lady In The Lake used her spell on the water and turned it into merlot during a Cabinet Office party. It’s one reason the country has been in the red ever since.”

This excerpt is from The SatNav of Doom, fifth in the acclaimed ‘The Banned Underground’ fantasy series, published by Safkhet Publishing Limited and appears with their consent.

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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Peril and Tension: Number 3, Will Macmillan Jones

So, peril.  Preferably mortal peril, of course.  A hint, a spice taste of danger to both characters and by extension the reader.  The task for the writer is to communicate that coldness, the sharp frisson, those shivers down the spine that the characters feel: to extend to the reader that sense of imminent threat and dread.

Normally, that’s a problem for me.  I write what is supposed to be comic fantasy.  So even when the characters are in danger, I want the readers to be laughing at them.  But recently, I’ve also started to dabble with the closely related genre of horror.  The dark side, and their cookies.  Here is a piece from my first release, called The Showing.  Maybe there’s a hint of fear to be had after all.

The scene: a girl has vanished inside a house, and her boyfriend (Ian Evans) has sought the aid of the last scion of the family who built the house. They have gone to a spiritualist to seek help in finding her.  The story is being told in the first person by Mr Jones, the last remaining descendant of the family.

“So, you have a problem. Do you wish to contact the dead?” the medium asked in a voice that combined boredom, sadness and commercial instinct in one tone.

“I hope not,” Ian told her.  “You’ve heard about this young girl that’s gone missing?”

“Yes, of course.  Are you a relative, young man?”

“No.  I was out with her the night she vanished, and Mr Jones here knows something of the place where she went missing.”

“Do you have anything of hers?”

“I’m sorry, no,” Ian admitted.  The medium nodded and put her hand in her pocket.  She brought Ian’s cash back out.

“Mister Evans, I’m sorry, but I don’t think there’s anything that I can do for you.  Without some link to her, I cannot find her spirit amongst those that teem around us.”

Evans looked around as if seeking inspiration.  His glance fell on the romance the medium had been reading.  “I fell for her, the girl who vanished last night.  I fell for her completely.”

The medium gave him a more sympathetic look.

“I can’t explain it, but it matters to me more than I can explain that I find her.  I think she could be the one I’ve been looking for, and I don’t want to have to look again.”

The medium half-smiled.

“Are you trying to take the mickey out of me, young man?”

“No.” It was indeed apparent Ian was deadly serious, and the medium’s mood shifted.  She became more businesslike. A professional veneer slid across her face and she sat more upright.

“Where did she vanish, then?”

“The place is not far from here.  About ten minutes in the car.”

“I’m going to put some stuff in a bag.  Meet me back outside the front door in five minutes, and bring another fifty pounds.  We’ll do a site visit.”

For the first time, I spoke.  “I’m not sure that’s a wise idea.”

“Nor am I,” she replied.  “But if this young man has lost his girl, we owe it to her to go and look, don’t we?  And see what we may find.”

“That,” I told her, “is what I’m worried about.”

“And why I’m packing a bag with some essentials,” the medium answered, showing us to the door.  “Five minutes, right?”

Ian jumped into his car and as soon as I got in we headed off to a cash point.

“Are you sure about this?  It is costing you quite a lot of money,” I asked him.

Evans nodded.  “I can’t do it.  I can’t just let Robin go, not without trying everything,” he said fiercely.  He left the engine running outside the bank whilst he withdrew more money from the ATM, did a fast turn in the road and headed back to the medium’s house.  When we got there, she was stood outside with a wicker basket in her hand, a cover over the top.  She smiled, a little grimly.

“You really are serious,” she said, heaving herself into the back seat.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Then let’s go see this supposedly haunted house.  You wouldn’t believe how many haunted houses I’ve been to which turned out only to be haunted by mice, or rats.  And some of the rats were human.”  She laughed, and for the first time, I actually liked her a little.

“This time I don’t think you’ll be disappointed,” I said quietly, and she fell silent for the rest of the journey.

Ian turned into Craddock Road, rolled the car to a halt near the gate to the house and cut the engine.

“This the one?” asked the medium.  Ian and I nodded.

The medium delved into her bag and pulled out a divining rod and a large bottle of talcum powder.  She passed the talc to Ian.  “Take the top off the bottle, but be careful not to spill it.  If I tell you, throw a handful as directed.”

Ian and I looked at each other, an expressionless glance that yet somehow conveyed a lot of information.  The medium set off down the drive and we trailed after her.  Twenty paces and she stopped abruptly as the house came into view beyond the trees.  She took a deep breath and waited for us to catch up.

“Well, Mister Evans,” she said softly, “you have delivered with this one.  This is the real deal.  We walk softly now, tread the earth lightly.”  With that, she skipped, rather more easily than I would have given her credit for, onto the grass lawn.  As she landed, she drew another deep, rattling breath.  We followed as best we could to join her.

“Softly, now.  This house bears an aura I like not.”

I began to wonder if the vaguely comic lady was in fact the real deal herself, rather than the charlatan I had supposed when first we met. Gently, we walked across the expanse of ill-mown lawn towards the front door.  The medium stopped us short of the door and handed me her wicker bag, retaining the divining rod alone. She stepped as gently as she could onto the gravel and approached the front door much as the old news reels show adventurers approaching a sleeping lion.  She gingerly stretched the divining rod out until it touched the door, and both Ian and I jumped at the sight of the pulse of energy that coursed through her body.  With a cry, she staggered backwards and grabbed us each by an arm.

“In the bag! There is an umbrella.  Quickly now, unfurl it and hold it over our heads.”  With one powerful movement, she swung us all around and headed up the drive at a steady resolute pace.  “I charge you both, if you each value your life and ours, do NOT look behind us.”

Ian, I am sure, had no desire to do so.  I was used of old to the rule, to look nowhere but ahead in this one specific situation.  The hairs on my neck rose sharply, and the so well-remembered feeling of dread and malice seeped out like an autumn mist from the front door, coalescing on the drive and drifting with evil intent towards us.

Above our heads, the strangely painted paper and rowan wood umbrella crackled with sudden energy.  I gripped the handle tightly and felt the wooden handle become first warm then very hot.  But I held on grimly.  A white mist coiled around our ankles, and on the cusp of hearing whispered a voice, words indistinctly formed, yet dreadful to hear.  The sense of ancient malignancy grew so intense it was almost unbearable, and I heard Ian whimper in terror.  A fanciful person might have imagined a half face, hooded and cloaked, forming and dispersing continually in the mist – and at this time I could easily have had such a fancy.

“Keep walking,” instructed the medium, holding our arms in a deathly tight grip.  We obeyed.  Beside me, the mist drifted a little higher. Was that an almost hand  forming in the chill moist air?  It drifted against my arm but then recoiled alarmingly, as if in shock.  The mist around our ankles coiled as if in a frenzy then slipped back into the ground; and the tremendous pressure from the malice unfurled against us by that evil will at last relented, and so, so slowly diminished.  I was tempted to quicken my steps, but the medium held us to a steady pace until we were beyond the gate, which she closed firmly, albeit with a shaking hand.

None of us spoke until we were in the car again, and without prompting, Ian operated the central locking to shut us in.

The medium blew out her cheeks with a sudden noise that made us jump.

“Wow!” she cried.  “That was exciting!”

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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Emotion: No 3, Will Macmillan Jones

Ah.  Romance.  The thing is, it’s always a bit of a difficult subject for us blokes, isn’t it?  I mean, chocolates, maybe a meal out, fine.  Flowers if there’s been an argument.  Big flowers if we won.  But the slushy stuff?  Not easy in real life, is it?  I suppose that some of us possibly find it easier to write than to live.  I’m not sure quite how my fellows have performed in this challenge, and all I can do us offer up my own poor attempt at showing some emotional angst.

Here, Dai the bass player for The Banned Underground has been lured away by the Dark Lord’s receptionist, who also happens to be a dragon.  Suddenly, she needs his help…

Gloria hastened down the stone steps, occasionally glancing behind her to see if she was being followed. Although she could see no one, she was convinced that she kept hearing stealthy footsteps. At last she reached the iron-bound door and dealt with the complicated lock.  Shadows seemed to flicker on the stairs and she snarled in anger.  Smoke curled from her nostrils.

“Gloria? Is that you?” Dai called sleepily from within his cellar.

“Yes,” hissed Gloria, still watching the stairs.

“I had such a weird dream.”

“Yes?” hissed Gloria.

“I dreamed that you opened the door, and said: ‘Dai, we’re in terrible trouble’.”

“Dai, we’re in terrible trouble,” said Gloria.

“Yes, that’s it Gloria.  Good dream, isn’t it?”

“Dai, we’re in terrible trouble.”

“I love it when you pay attention to what I’m saying.”

“This isn’t a dream!”

“You didn’t say that.”

“Dai!  Will you wake up!”

“I am awake, Gloria. Well, sort of. Maybe.”

“I need your help, Dai.”

“And I need you, Gloria.”

“Dai, I’m serious.  We’re in trouble.”

“You’re pregnant?”

Gloria blushed, and her human disguise vanished. Too shocked to speak, she just shook her head mutely.  Dai looked disappointed for a moment, then leapt over the settee and grabbed her for a cuddle.

“Dai, stop it!”

Dai looked bemused. “Gloria, what’s wrong?”

“I keep telling you, we’re in terrible trouble. We need your help.”

“We?” asked Dai.

“The Boss. And me. We need you, Dai.”

“Wait up, The Boss? If it’s Springsteen, I was born to run!”

“No.  My boss.”

“The one who dragon napped me?”

“Well, yes.”

“He’s born to ruin, instead.”

“Dai, it’s all going wrong.” To his amazement, Gloria started to cry, great big tears that rolled down her face and dripped off her chin onto the floor where they smoked.

“Er…” said Dai.  Then Gloria fell into his arms. Actually, in the interests of truth and veracity, she fell onto his chest and he wrapped his arms around her in an instinct known to every bloke who doesn’t want to get told that he is unsympathetic and without empathy or understanding.

“Oh Dai, say you’ll help!” Gloria looked up into his eyes.  “I’ll be ever so grateful.” Her eyes misted with unshed tears.

“Grateful?”

“Oh yes. Dai, say you will, oh pleeeeeeaaaaaseeeee.”

“Gloria, I’ll do anything for you, love.”

“But you won’t do that?”

“What?”

“You know the Boss had a plan to take over the Helvyndelve?”

“Yes, Gloria.  You wanted me to help him.”

“Well, he got some blokes from India to help him out as well.”

“Currying favour, were they?”

“Suppose so.  Anyway, they are revolting.”

“Probably the curry.  You have to go to the right place, you know.”

“They’ve taken the Boss prisoner.  I think they’ve killed Henry, and Ned and his mates are still away. I’m terrified they will hurt the Boss.”

“This is the man who kidnapped me and wanted to blackmail me into helping his evil scheme?”

“He’s such a lovely man.  Just misunderstood.  He keeps rabbits, you know.”

“Where?”

“In a hutch, I suppose.”

“Prisoners of the Evil Dark Lord!” exclaimed Dai.

“Dai, they are rabbits. They live in hutches,” explained Gloria.

“And he experiments on them, I suppose.”

“Dai, will you help him?  For me?”

Dai looked into her eyes and was lost.

“What do we do?” he asked.

“Oh Dai, I knew I could rely on you!” Gloria grabbed Dai, and when they broke apart the temperature in the cellar had caused two of the magazines scattered on the floor to spontaneously combust.

“How about we go upstairs and burn them all?” asked Gloria, venomously.

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