Weekend Wind Down – Yesterday’s Heroes?

“Did you really kill a dragon, Gran’ma?”
Hepsy had to hide a smile and scooped her youngest grandson into a hug. It was the end of his fifth birthday party and he had been running around waving the wooden sword his grandfather had made for him, pretending to kill imaginary monsters in the vegetable patch. Now the family sat at table eating a simple birthday meal. Hepsy and her husband, Poll, their middle son and his wife and five grandchildren ranging from mid-teens to the birthday boy.
“Who’s been telling you tales like that?” she asked.
“Was Da. He said you killed a dragon, you and Gran’da. Is it true?”
Something in his tone made her realise it was not just a question wanting a story. She released her grandson and caught her son’s eye. He swallowed the mouthful he was chewing and sat back in his chair.
“Word is there’s a dragon back on High Top. Been taking cows from Vasserdale and burned a farm to the ground. Shal willing, it won’t fly this way.”
“Dragons don’t just turn up places,” Poll said. “They have to be hatched and that takes a lot of magic. It means they will have a master.”
“Or a mistress,” Hepsy put in. “Is there any word of a dragon being seen on Prank’s Peak or Scale Height?”
Her son shrugged.
“Those places are the other side of the mountains. We don’t get word from there often. Was a minstrel up from Durmouth though. Seems there’s war over the Marches again. Hobs and trolls.”
“When I’m grown up I’m going to fight hobs and trolls.”
Hepsy mussed her grandson’s soft hair.
“That’s just what your da said at your age, and now look at him, the finest carpenter in Wyvernvale.”

After the family had gone, Hepsy went into her still room where she made potions and poultices, pickles and jams and pulled out the chest from beneath her work counter, from where she pushed it away over thirty years before. Opening the lid she took out the two pieces of her staff and fitted them together, murmuring some words as she did so.
Then she went out and stood in their small garden, shielding her eyes from the low sun to look towards the mountains. High Top could be seen piercing the sky with its needle spire of rock. What she could not see from below though was the steep path that wound up to the plateau from which the steeple of stone began. Nor could she see the cave mouth that led to the lair. But memory told her they were there. Memory and loss.
A sound made her turn.
“You gave me a promise you’d not be using that anymore,” Hepsy said, as Poll came out of the house, her gaze rested on the sword he held in one hand, it’s blade shimmering with a blue light so the runes etched into it stood out. Then she gave a little sigh. “But then I gave you a promise I’d not be using this.” She hefted the staff and small sparks shimmered like dust motes in the air around it. “Looks like we both done broke that vow. But the big question is, what should we be doing?”
“We knew it would happen again,” Poll said, his voice heavy with sorrow. He slid the sword home into the loop on his belt and the blue light faded. Hepsy noticed the buckle was three notches up from the mark showing where he used to wear it. It was not all that had changed since he last took up that sword. His hair then had been thick and black, now it left the top of his head uncovered and was thinning and grey. But then her hair had once been the colour of a wheatfield before the harvest and now was nearly as white as the melting snows.
“We knew,” she agreed. “But I’d not thought t’would be in our lifetime. I thought we’d won the right to have our peace. We’re too old to do it all again. Not now.”
Poll put his arm around her and held her close.
“If not us – then who? The children? The grandchildren?”
Now that was a thought too terrible to dwell upon and Hepsy shook her head. “No. But it’s a dreadful long walk up to High Top and my back and your knee…”
“My knee will bear my weight long enough for what we have to do,” he said gently. “Besides, we’ll take horses this time. Hue owes me for last winter still, he’ll let us have two of his hill ponies.”
Which was a comforting thought because it really was a parlous long way and a terrible steep climb up the mountains. She shivered slightly at the memory and Poll hugged her.
“Less of that, woman. You pack what we need and I’ll go see Hue. We can set out tomorrow with first light. We’ll have to try to find the others and that won’t be easy.”
Hepsy nodded and he released her, his gnarled hands gripping her, work-worn fingers for a moment as he did so.
“They might be dead,” she said. “Do you think we can do it without them?”
Poll drew in a deep breath and looked out towards the mountains, his gaze homing where hers had, to the needle of stone above High Top. “I don’t know, love. I think we need four of us to unlock the seals, but… Well, let’s put out that fire when we can see if it’s burning.”
He was right. Of course. Which left just one question in Hepsy’s burdened heart.
“What do we tell the children?”
For a moment she wondered if he had heard her. She hadn’t spoken loudly and his hearing was no longer so perfect. But then he looked down at her and smiled sadly.
“I think we should tell them nothing,” he said. “They wouldn’t understand.”

E.M. Swift-Hook

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Three

Dave was conman pure and simple. But he had the advantages of a public school accent, and one of those pink-skinned faces whereon all the features seem to be clustered bang in the middle. 

He happily ran the biggest scam of all for many years, growing pinker, and sleeker with every passing day.

Nobody ever found out precisely who, of all the people he cheated, had sufficient wealth and power for retribution, all that became known was the outcome.

The photograph of him tied naked to a chair in the window of London’s most famous department store went viral….

©️jj 2019


Where do they go when they leave us?
Is there another place
Where the dead can be who they always were
And wear a familiar face?
Are they just in another room?
Just through another door?
Do they somewhere wait for us?
Are we worth waiting for?
Where do our loved ones truly go
Is there somewhere their souls reside?
Or is it only our memories
That keeps the bright spirits alive?

©️Jane Jago 2019

Challenge Accepted – Walk of Courage

Challenge Accepted is an anthology of speculative fiction, featuring people with disabilities who rise to the challenge. This is an extract from Walk of Courage by Layla Pinkett.

“Put him down there. Take off his legs. We don’t want him trying anything stupid like escaping, do we?”
Toby’s body tensed as those words came from the mouth of one of his captors. With some kind of hood over his head, he had no way of seeing where he’d been taken, and no idea why these people wanted him. All he knew, was that he was scared, and there was no denying it. He guessed that there were at least three of these people, could be more, but only three that he knew of so far.
One of them pushed him down hard into a chair, and his prosthetics were removed, but more gently than he had expected. They must have someone who knew how to do it. Another tugging sensation and the hood was pulled from Toby’s head. In the moment, it didn’t make much difference to how much he could see because the light was too bright and his vision blurred. When he was finally able to focus on his kidnappers he still saw no faces. They had ski-masks on to conceal their identities. Very clever.
Toby’s first impression of his surroundings was of a sea of grey and a dank smell, like laundry that had been left too long in the washer. The place was derelict, everything in it worn or broken. Except a set of monitors on the back wall of the room. Ten he counted—nine in a block together and one to the side. Apart from the chair he was sitting on, a sofa in the corner, and a small table, there was no other furniture. Minimalist. Bleak. The ideal kidnappers’ hideaway.
One of the men—despite the masks he was pretty sure they were all men – —picked up Toby’s artificial limbs, a leg in each hand, and lowered himself down to his captive’s level.
“If it weren’t for the clattering of these when we picked you up, we’d never have known you were a cripple.” The masked man stood back upright.
Toby could feel his top lip curling, as anger began to outweigh his fear.
Cripple? He’d been called a lot worse every day at school, but it still put the familiar stone in his guts to hear it said.
“What do you want with me?” His voice quavered as he spoke which he hated as he didn’t want them to know how scared he was. But there was no response anyway. They might not even have heard him. The man holding his legs leaned them up against the wall and nodded to the other two. One left the room scooping up Toby’s prosthetics on the way, while the other went over to the screens, all of which were in hibernation state.
“This is why you’re here.” The man doing all the talking gestured towards the screens. Despite the gleam of intelligence in his eyes, he was overweight and unkempt. Chubby. Thinking that made Toby feel a little bit less afraid. Chubs. Yeah, that’s it, he’s called Chubs.
Chubs was the one in charge. He stood there, pulling a small disc from his pocket, then placed it into a little crevice in the wall by the screens. Low-tech, or what? But then the whole place was low-tech. Most the stuff in the room was obsolete. These people, whoever they were, looked like hoarders of the old, with no interest in the new.
“Watch, boy.”
The monitors flickered into life. As each screen turned on, it added a new piece to the overall picture, like a puzzle. By the end of it, Toby saw himself in the images, himself and a woman he recognized, holding a microphone up for him. It was right outside the Coramax building and this was the interview he’d had with the local news channel yesterday, right after he collected his prize from Coramax’s CEO. Why did that have anything to do with his being kidnapped? Toby wracked his brain, but nothing came. Then the images started moving as the interview began.

Challenge Accepted is available to preorder and will be released on 29 March!

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Two

The girl at the roadside meeting place was shivering in the icy rain. Micah reached down a hand to help her onto the wagon – only then realising she held a tiny baby to her breast. 

An hour later both were warm, dry and fed. The girl looked shyly at Micah.

“What of The Hunters?”

“Me and Eli will keep you safe.”

“What of your own safety?”

“We are safe enough.”

“But how?”

“Eli. If you please.”

If you have never been in a wagon on the back of a dragon who is showing off you have missed something entirely joyous.

©️jj 2019

Coffee Break Read – Dragon’s Downfall

Even dragons need to learn their manners

The dragon regarded his talons with elaborate casualness.
“And this concerns me because?”
The woman cast down her eyes so he couldn’t see the flare of anger in their depths.
“It concerns you because you were supposed to be guarding her.”
“She dismissed me,” the dragon sounded defiant.
“And this concerns me because?” The woman’s voice was as cold and pointed as a steel blade.
He lifted his eyes and stared at his interlocutor.
“By what right does a human question a dragon?”  
“The right of a child whose mother was murdered while her guard dragon slept.”
B’a’al snarled savagely then flowed into his human form, standing naked in front of the woman.
“There is a forfeit to be paid by humans who dare question dragonkind,” he sneered, and moved towards the delicate red-haired woman who had dared to speak to him with contempt in her voice. “I will take my payment here and now…”
She held up a hand and he found himself stopped in his tracks as if held by a giant claw. The woman made a tutting noise.
“Arrogance, arrogance,” she muttered before making her own change.
B’a’al found himself looking into the eyes of something he had never seen before. She was like him, only not, and probably outweighed him by half.
“There is a forfeit to be paid by dragons who are stupid enough to quarrel with wyverns” she said before she casually ripped his head off and ate it.

Jane Jago

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and One

Bezit the gem merchant needed a wife, but not a woman in his bed. 

When he saw the delicate beauty with hunted eyes and a big belly in the market in Tashkent he thought his troubles over. He bought her out of kindness, and married her immediately.

Once Ashama understood that her husband had no wish to do what others had done she blossomed, presenting him with an exquisite daughter who he named Luliwa.

It was the happiest home in Constantinopolis, Bezit was the most indulged of men, and the guardians of morality had no excuse to seize his wealth.

©️jj 2019

Mrs Jago’s Handy Guide to the Meaning Behind Typographical Errors: Part X

.... or 'How To Speak Typo' by Jane Jago

boolish (adjective) – hailing from the small state of bool on the Indian sub-continent

chamring (noun) – metal ring which can be worn either on the genitalia or in the hair

damger (noun) – mild irritation of the genitalia caused by sitting on a microwave oven

dona’t (noun) – a fried doughy treat filled with apostrophes

mipsprint (verb) – to talk gobbledygook very fast

micpherone (noun) – the hormone secreted by leprechauns when in heat

pashish mag (noun) – shoddily produced amateur porn publication

porrigde (noun) – Scottish breakfast consisting of oats, Buckie, and car tyres

sruck (adjective) – denotes having one’s finger in one’s ear rather in the manner of an elderly folk singer

troat (noun) – fish of the salmon family native to to the river Liffey with feathery gills and large mouth 

vejanuary (noun) – pet name for the lady garden adopted by yummy mummies

wellow (verb) – the act of walking through a nine-inch-deep puddle in six-inch-high wellington boots

zump (noun) – small tumulus under a the fitted sheet in a newly made bed indicating the presence of a sleeping cat

Disclaimer: all these words are genuine typos defined by Jane Jago. The source of each is withheld to protect the guilty.

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred

Father was dead. Not killed in glorious war. Died of a bloody flux in the holy land. 

Now the Order had brought his body home, and Elfrida must do honour to the dead.

She clasped her hands inside the sleeves of her robe and bowed her head as the knights lowered his body into the ground. She sprinkled earth on his coffin. 

The knights seemed grim faced, and Elfrida’s courage all but failed her until the tallest of them took off his helm and smiled at her. 

He had the bluest eyes. 

Eyes that he passed to their twin sons.

©️jj 2019

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