From The Cave

29 August, 2011 at 11:02 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

Jack Frost is a tall figure, tall and spindly and slightly blue-grey around the edges. If you were to see him walking down the street then you might think that he was very, very ill. If you were to see him sleeping upon a park-bench then you would probably think that he was dead. He wouldn’t be of course, it’s unlikely that a creature such as Jack would ever be found dead on a park bench. Unlikely, though not impossible.

Jack Frost is responsible for ice crystals, frost patterns and leaves frozen delicately into place on autumn mornings. It’s not exactly a well-paid job nor even especially rewarding, except in the most artistic of ways. The methods that Jack uses to supplement his income are spoken about in dark corners and beneath carefully warmed shadows. Most widely known about are the necklaces that he brings to markets on the edges of faerie, or those several layers beneath London and Baghdad.

The magic inherant in a baby’s first laughter is widely known, indeed there are merchants at such markets who, it is rumoured, have fathered many children to have ready access to such products. Who continually fashion the curious alchemical glassware needed to capture these things. Sometimes Jack does come to the markets with such a bauble, to the annoyance of the merchants he will often come close to giving it away. Those baubles are widely known, those magics are easily captured by the slightest practice of the hermetic arts. Jack brings something unique, necklaces of baby’s tears, bracelets of the impotent rage of children, earrings of toddler screams and the echoes of a child’s first swear-word. These things are unique to Jack, if a merchant is selling them and they are real, then he has bought from Jack.

No one knows how he gets them, though the whispers in the dark places tell of unspeakable things and of horrors in woodlands and the far places of a child’s world. There is talk tht Jack had a dalliance with a woman and that he took something from her and since that time has appeared at the markets with something to sell, something that men have killed for in the past and doubtless will again.

But whatever is said of Jack Frost, that cadaverous, slender man, it is certain that whilst he sells his merchandise, the old and young, the wise and the seekers will all continue to buy.

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The Faun

22 August, 2011 at 13:25 (Castle Moon, Long) (, , , , , , , , , )

There’s a monster in Castle Moon and it is a very dangerous sort of monster for it wears pretty rose-tinted spectacles and carries itself as if it were a real person. But it took the little scruffy cat, Ninja, a very long time to find it for Castle Moon is full of winding levels and far too many staircases for one city.

In fact, it took Ninja quite a long time at first to come out of her bedroom. She had rented one with the new friends that she had made, the vixen Bysshe, the lion Spod and the wolf Bem. Their house in the part of the city known as The Bower (for it sort of overhung much of the main shopping area, being a good two or three storeys higher than much of the town) was decorated with small cuckoo clocks and daffodils and was very, very pretty.
The reason that it took Ninja a long time to come out of her bedroom was not, as might first be supposed, to do with her innate shyness. For, although she was a scruffy little black and white cat she was not over-imbued with shyness, actually because she was a hereditary Moggy, she was possibly over-imbued with boldness. In fact it was because of that boldness that she did not emerge from her room for some days.

Ninja’s room in the house (she later was to discover from Bysshe that is was The House of Ulster) had for some time been the spare room. Thus it had a bunk bed, the bottom of which was only slats and no mattress, a desk, a window, and covering the window, and overly large wardrobe. Now she had soon discovered that she could use the wardrobe to climb out of the window and sit upon the tiled, sloping roof of the kitchen and look out across the city. But the morning of her first night there she also decided to open the wardrobe.

It may not come as any surprise to my readers to hear that when she opened the wardrobe and pushed past the mothball smelling old fur coats that Bysshe had warned her she had left in there, she discovered it to be snowing.

Of course the wardrobe door shut behind her, and of course she paid it no never mind, for she was utterly enthralled by the notion that it might snow in a wardrobe. After she had gone a few more steps inside she not only smiled with delight to see the snow covered branches of small green fir trees but had actually laughed out loud when she saw the lamp-post looking for all the world as if some witch had ripped it clean from a London street. It glowed merrily as the snow swirled around it. She stood beneath it for quite some time, awed by the sight. Then she head the crunching of footsteps in the snow and looked around to see a faun, with a woolen scarf wrapped around his neck and a warm winter coat, carrying many little parcels. The faun looked up and saw her, “Oh Light preserve us!” he cried and dropped all of his parcels.

Ninja ran to help him gather them all up.
“Daughter of Bast! Daughter of Bast!” the little faun kept saying.

“No…my Mum’s name was Lotte, Lotte Valerius…”

But the little faun kept saying it so Ninja helped him with his parcels quietly.

“Princess, I insist upon your accompanying me back to my home for tea and biscuits. Good tea mind, none of this generic brand stuff.”

Ninja agreed since she was still so very curious about the world. And that was the beginning of why she didn’t come out of her room in the House of Ulster for quite some time.

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The Immersion

10 August, 2011 at 15:56 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

“Come on! It’ll be fun!”

The small girl looked up at her father doubtfully. “But it’s very cold.” she said.

“You’ll soon warm up.”

She frowned with concentration and looked at the wooden contraption outside of the kitchen door. It was bright red. She liked the way the bright red looked against the white of the ground so she nodded decisively.

“Yes.” she said. “Let’s go.”

He pulled the cord of the old-fashioned heater so they’d come back to a warm house and then he pulled on her boots and bundled her out of the door into the small wooden toboggan. She fitted perfectly and rested her booted feet upon the tops of the runners. He picked up the washing line that he’d fixed to the front and began to pull her down the drive. The day before’s labour was made perfectly worth while by the sudden laugh of delight that bounced over the fallen snow.

The hill was a little further away than he would have liked and her cheeks were almost as red as the homemade toboggan by the time they got there. She clapped her hands together to warm them up and then turned to face the hill.

“Ok,” he said. “Out of there, we need to push it up the hill.”

Her eyes were very wide as she looked up at what was to him a small hill but to one of her small stature must have looked immense. She got out of the toboggan and began to push it up the hill determinedly, he pulled on the washing line. Once they were up the hill he put her back on the toboggan and paused, several other children and parents were there on the hill running and laughing and sledging but she was clearly the youngest. Perhaps he should have waited another year. The hill looked a lot bigger from up here compared to his suddenly small daughter.

“Daddy? Are you going to push me?”

The wide brown eyes looked up at him. He made sure she had the washing line tight in her hands and then, rather than pushing he let go of the toboggan and watched it make it’s way slowly down the snow-covered hill. It speeded up as it went before coming to a gentle stop on the flat at the bottom of the hill. He raced down to it, his heart pounding.

His daughter looked back up at him with her eyes shining.

“Daddy! Daddy! I want to go again! That was fun!”

It was the fifth trip back up the hill of her begging him to push her harder so she could go faster that decided him. The other children with their lighter plastic sledges were whizzing down much faster than she was in the wooden red toboggan, she wanted to go faster and he could see how much she was enjoying it. When she was settled at the top of the hill, her hands gripping the washing line tightly, he dropped his reservations and pushed the little red toboggan – hard. He watched as she sped down the hill, the weight of the wood pulling her faster and faster. The little red toboggan was going so fast that it didn’t come to a halt on the flat as it had before but kept going towards the woodland beyond, ringed with a barbed wire fence. The other parents looked up at his shout as he began to run down the hill.

He saw his daughter lie down flat on the toboggan and go under the barbed wire, her movement only made the sled go faster through the trees. He was aware of the shouts of other parents as he clambered over the fence and his heart almost stopped when he realised that they were shouting about the iced over pond which lay ahead.

The toboggan made it to the pond before him, smashing the ice immediately before it and running it in cracks across the whole of the ice sheet. It had stopped however with one runner embedded beneath the ice and the other still on the frozen mud at the edge. His small daughter had clambered out from the toboggan and stood, washing line in hand, spattered in mud and drenched in sweat.
She looked at him very gravely as he approached and sneezed.

“Daddy can we go home now?” she asked, and sneezed again.

He picked up the toboggan out of the pond. “I think your immune system says we have to go home.”

She sneezed again.

“Definitely.” he said.

Much later, after her hot bath, when she was in her flannel pyjamas and fluffy towelling dressing-gown he asked her whether she had enjoyed her day. She sat curled up next to the radiator and considered his question.

“I enjoyed parts of it.” she said, a serious frown creasing her face.

“What was your favourite thing?” he asked.

She wrinkled her brow in concentration and eventually said with deliberation.

“The immersion heater.”

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