Monday, December 5, 2011

The Grinding, part 1

It was a slow day at the antiques shop. Billobi walked over to the window, smiled at the sun, and returned to the counter. He picked up a stone, turned it over and put it down again. He then returned to the window and repeated the procedure a couple of times.

"Stop it", Thomas mumbled from the counter. "Please."

"I'm bored", Billobi said and picked up the stone again.

"Get a job then."

"I already have one."

"Then write something."

"About what? Nothing exciting ever happens."

"Make something up."

"No, that goes against my work ethics."

"Yes, I forgot you work for the Inquisitive. Very high standard there, how could I ever forget..."

Thomas dodged Billobi's swing and walked over to one of the many bookshelves. He pulled out a thick, brown book and carried it back to the counter. He placed it in front of Billobi with a large thump.

"Oh, please. Why do you even keep this? It wasn't even useful in school. I mean, it's large as a house and still the title barely fits on the front: 'The Complete Syntax of the Proper Spoken Word of Grammar Magic and How To Pronounce, Use and Apply It in the Everyday'. I've had enough experience with grammar magic to last for two life times."

"It's not mine", Thomas said and opened the large book at random. A page with the header The Inconvenience of Fractions turned up. "A gentleman sold it to me yesterday."

"Well, if you bought it, it's yours."

"I mean it's not the one I had in school. But it doesn't matter. What's more interesting is this: the gentleman who sold it to me was none other than Mr Hagberg himself."


"The author! C. A. Hagberg!"

"So? Did he sign it?"

"He's been dead for the last fifteen years!"

"Someone's playing a trick on you, my dear Thomas", Billobi said and closed the book. "I've seen a lot of things, but dry academics that return from their final crawl and walk the earth again isn't one of them."

"You know that awful picture in the beginning of the book? Of the author?"

"The one with the long hair and monocle? I remember Tristan drawing a moustache on his."

"The gentleman who sold me the book looked exactly like that."

"That doesn't prove anything. If I grow long hair and start wearing a monocle, does that make me the author of this awful book?"

Thomas picked up the book and returned it to the bookshelf again. He returned to the counter and said with a low voice: "My dear Bill, I'm not saying this to give you something to write about. I'm telling you this because I had this...chill running through my spine after he left. Something isn't right. Find him, and see for yourself. He had the latest issue of Horsehead Hoary under his arm, so I guess he's staying at the inn."

Billobi sighed, and said: "I'll do it just to prove you wrong. See you in a bit."

The inn was only a short walk away from Thomas' shop, much as everything else in Horsehead. As he entered the establishment, his eyes were immediately drawn to a pale figure at the counter. Whoever it was, he had long hair and was reading a book. Billobi felt pretty certain that he too was in on the joke now, and cursed his brother-in-law as he walked up to the counter.

Always the reporter, Billobi pulled up his notebook and a pen, turned to the man and said: "Dear Sir, I'm a reporter for the Badgerbrough Inquisitive. We're currently doing a Horsehead special and I was wondering if I may ask you some questions?"

The man put down his book and looked Billobi right in the eyes. This is obviously a joke, Billobi thought as he watched the man in front of him take out his monocle. He resembled the author in every possible way.

"My dear reporter", the man said with a low voice, "you shouldn't be talking to me."

"Really, now?" Billobi said and pretended to take notes. "And why is that?"

The man returned to his book again, and took his time to adjusting the monocle. Without looking up, he said: "Have you travelled the world, reporter? Been to many places?"

"Some, yes. Never crossed the eastern sea though."

"Ever been to Skiff-in-Loch? The treeless island to the far west? Ever travelled there, reporter? Ever been to the furthest and most desolated place on the western shore?"

Billobi felt his heart skip a beat, and he felt his grip around his notebook loosen. "Maybe."

"I have. I met a little girl there. Can't say I enjoyed the talk, even if it was certainly fascinating. Ever met her, reporter?"

Billobi shook his head.

"That's strange, because she had a message to you. Do you want to hear it? It goes: 'Start running, Billobi Rustfoot. The Grinding has begun.'"

(To be continued.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Sacrifice of Herogrios Minor (people)

It was in the western parts of the great Ogrebelly forest, just where the river Broad splits and turns into the Ten Snakes, that Billobi first met Herogrios Minor. Or rather what turned out to be one of many people with that name, as he found out during a rather confusing interview for the Inquisitive.

But these people had more than a strange name in common, Billobi learned, even if that was a remarkable thing in itself. When he asked around, they all answered the same: it was a name given to them not by their parents, but some higher cause. All of them had run away from home at the age of eleven, regardless of social class or background; some came from nobility, others from poverty. They hailed from all over the world, even from across the great waters. Billobi couldn't help but wonder if Tristan had met any Minors on the Acorn Afloat.

Besides sharing a name that no one could explain to him, they also had a firm belief that therianthropy was a disease that the world needed to be rid of (after asking around a couple of times, Billobi made a short note in his papers that said "theriansomething = human to animal to human to animal & so on"). As a Herogrios Minor, they made pilgrimages all over the world in search of these "sick" people. Through prayers, they explained, they transferred the disease from the victim to their own body so that they'd become a prison of flesh and blood to bind the illness. The transferred animal would live inside the Minor's body, and as more and more diseases were transferred these animals would become either a hunter or the hunted; nature would continue its way inside the Minor.

When Billobi asked about the consequences of these transfers, he was taken to a glade outside the camp. It looked like a slaughter had taken place, maybe a great bear finally catching up on its prey, but who lacked the hunger to eat it all. When he bumped into a fleshy piece that without doubt was a human arm, he wasn't so sure anymore.

"This is the last battle of Herogrios Minor", one of the Minors told him. "As our vessels fill up, the internal struggle between the animals therein builds up to enormous strength, until the day when our bodies no longer can bear the tension. This is what we strive for. This is the sign of approval we need. This shows us that we have completed our mission."

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Badgerbrough Inquisitive, issue 9:6 (lore)

Billobi sat in front of the fireplace, swearing quietly to himself. Nothing seemed to get the fire started. As he was about to develop a new curse word by combining all the previous ones he had used, he heard a familiar creaking sound behind him. Without turning around, he said: "Anabel, go to sleep."

"Papa, what you doing?" a tiny voice answered him.

"I'm trying to start a fire so we don't have to freeze. Now go to sleep."

The creaking continued for another couple of steps, and suddenly he felt a tiny hand stroking his back.

"Why?" she said.

"Why what?"

She pointed at the splintered wood in his hands, and repeated the word.

"It's easier to burn them when they're small. And when they catch on, they will -"


"Because the sparks doesn't have see, they fly around and hit the -"


Billobi took a deep breath and threw the sticks on the pile in the fireplace. He picked up a piece of paper from the table behind him and started shredding it.

"Papa what's that?" Anabel asked.

"This? Oh this is just some paper we can use to -"

"What paper?"

"It's just a dumb newspaper."


"Because they just are."


"What's that? A book?" Billobi quickly said and nodded at her.

"Coppasteam", Anabel answered.

"Oh, the Copperstream-book. Shall we read it again? About the hedgehogs and the king? Come, let's read it in bed. Papas dumb newspaper won't even burn..."

Get your copy of the Badgerbrough Inquisitive, issue 9:6 here! (on Google Docs).

It's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

If you want to read Anabel's book you can do so here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The hole at North Street, part 2 (lore)

I am but a fish fast asleep, dreaming away, Billobi thought. How else could I describe this?

He felt happy, warm, glad, yet he knew that he should be terrified. The emotions that played in his chest seemed to have won over the reasoning in his head; there were trails left of logic that he could follow, that told him that he should scream and panic, but whoever left those there were now long gone. The logic in him had given up, and he could only embrace the joy of being fully immersed in this golden liquid. Even his lungs didn't seem to care any more.

His eyes followed the arm that dragged him. It was a beautiful arm - or was it really? He had this nagging feeling back in his head that it should frighten him; the way the muscles were exposed, the bone beneath and sometimes above... Yes, it was a beautiful arm. A bit long, maybe. It seemed to stretch forever in front of him. If it hadn't been for that face he wouldn't...

Yes, the face. A beautiful face. Warm, gentle, likeable. It had rescued him, he was sure of it. It had just turned up when that other fellow tried to drown him - good man, good man. I liked him too, Billobi thought and smiled. A bit on the fierce side, but that's what winter will do to you. Oh how I love winter!

But the face, how kind and charming. Again, the lack of skin and the deep sockets where one would usually find eyeballs were signs that he suspected pointed to other feelings - fear, perhaps? - but he really couldn't feel them. After all, it had pulled him away from that other fellow, no matter how likeable he was.

The lovely golden sand around him - oh, how he loved it! - suddenly changed in colour. At first he thought it went darker, but it actually shifted towards orange. As the bright golden view disappeared, a string of cold started to tangle in his chest. He felt abandoned, and as the colour continued towards red, he couldn't help but feel betrayed. Why did they do this to him? Why did they have to remove this warm feeling, and replace it with this yarn of bitterness? It was his, and his alone! Give it back!

The liquid continued to change, but suddenly stopped. All was bright red now, and Billobi screamed at the top of his lungs. He was furious, his chest filled with hatred. He punched and kicked at nothing and everything, he screamed, he bit. He had never felt this disappointed before.

He suddenly became aware of the fact that nothing dragged him any longer. The arm - that bloody arm! - had released him without him noticing, and he was now floating in this bright red liquid all alone. He could feel the pounding desire for air in his chest, but he'd rather spend it on screaming and shouting. With closed eyes and clenched fists he fought the void in front of him - and felt the soft mattress of an open ribcage. There was the face again, at nose length from his own. He stared directly into its hollow sockets, and could only feel one thing: hatred. He loathed the monster in front of him, even as it extended its jaw and slowly adjusting it to Billobi's head size.

Then, things happened very fast.

A force got hold of his shoulders, and pulled him upwards. Bubbles fell off his body, and as the surroundings started to change rapidly again, he felt the hatred leave his body and be replaced by something more wonderful. Oh, beautiful golden sand, how I have missed you! he said and felt the liquid spilling into his mouth. Oh, beautiful arm, how nice of you t...

He didn't remember the last bit; it was all black. All he could remember was the choking feeling of liquid pouring out of both mouth and nose, and cold air filling his lungs yet again. The texture of a wooden floor, every fibre and every line. Reason quickly filled the vacant space in his head, and without opening his eyes he realised he was now laying on the floor next to the hole in the living room.

Slowly opening his eyes, a scene of violence played in front of him. The hideous being that had dragged him down into the golden liquid, stood at the opposite side of the room, throwing punches and biting at what Billobi hoped to be a regular human being. The sight of the monstrous figure plucked on his instinct to run for his life, but every muscle in his body felt asleep. He could only lay there, tired, unhelpful, grateful.

But like a fish stuck on the beach, the creature too started to gasp for air. It knocked the small person over, and before plunging into the hole again it stared deep into Billobi's eyes. It tells me something, he thought, but what?

Quick on the feet, the person who fought the creature started to cover the hole with whatever debris it could find in the room. Next thing Billobi knew, it held him in its arms. He didn't have to open his eyes, he knew this smell like the back of his hand.

"Ana?" he said hoarsely. The letters burned his throat as they left his mouth.

"Yes, Bill", Ana answered. "I'm here, it's over now. I'll get you home, dear."


"Hush, dear. Save your strength. Can you stand? Here, take my arm."

As he rose up from the floor, Billobi noticed a lifeless body in the back of the room. It belonged to the crazed man who tried to drown Billobi.

"Is...he...?" Billobi whispered and pointed.

"Drowned, probably", Ana answered without looking. "When I came here, he was flat on his chest next to that hole, head first. I pulled him up but he..." She stopped. "Drowned."

She led Billobi into the hallway, but as they passed the kitchen he forced her to stop. In there, he saw the body of Mr. Businessman, torn in two halves.

"The creature got him first", Ana answered, again without looking. "Please, dear, let's be on our way now!"

But a furious, high-pitched sound caught them off guard, and Ana lost her grip on Billobi. He fell on his left arm, on the wooden floor he just moments before had blessed. Turning around, they stared into the hollow sockets of the creature once again; it had merely returned to the hole to get some air. It leaned into the hallway, twisting and contracting its muscles around the bones.

Ana pointed at the creature, mumbled a single word and - nothing happened. Billobi felt fear crawling out of his chest, decorating his body like a spider web alive. The hideous creature stood there, leaning, motionless... It didn't move?

"I.. I fixated him", Ana whispered. Her breathing was heavy. "It still lives, but it can't...move. I never thought... It worked."

Although rendered stationary, both Ana and Billobi picked up sounds of breathing and small twitches in the unnatural wide jaw. It just stood there, alive but still. The breathing picked up in speed; short bursts, increasing until it suddenly stopped. The twitching ended as well. The hollow sockets stared at her.

"I..." Ana whispered. "I... I killed... I drowned it..." Her hands began to shake. "I...drowned it..."

Billobi got on his feet using his right arm, limped over to Ana and took her hand.

"Ana", he whispered. "Let's go."

She nodded slowly, hands still shaking. They limped over to the front door - eyes on the creature - opened it, and got out in the cold. Silence embraced them on the walk home.

* * *

Two weeks later, Billobi got a letter from his editor at the Inquisitive. An article from another newspaper was attached to the back. He read them both carefully, before shredding them to pieces and tossing it all into the fireplace.

"What was that?" Ana asked from the kitchen.

"Nothing, dear."

"Oh no you, I heard paper shredding. I don't want secret notes in this house, Billobi, not after..."

"It was from my editor", he interrupted her.

"Your editor? For the Inquisitive? But I thought you didn't want to work there any more?"

"I don't! I gave him my notice last week. He just wanted to write and tell me that I won't be getting any pay for that thing at North Street."

"But he published the article, didn't he?"

"Yes, but apparently a day too late according to him. There have been reports all over the country about these kind of holes recently. They call them 'Fairy holes'."

"That was no fairy we saw, Bill."

Billobi didn't answer immediately, as if he was sucked into a memory.

"They're like natural springs, apparently", he said. "Pops up here and there, a 'buried flask of golden liquid'. That's what the article said. And deep inside, a seed. A fairy."

"Like that thing? On North Street?"

"Like that thing on North Street. Filled with joy at first. But when people bathe in that golden sand... They suck up the joy, but leave their misery. Turns the yellow into red hatred."


"And then, the seed grows. Hatred is heavier than joy, red at the bottom, yellow at the top. Hatred feeds the fairy, until... Until the entire flask is tainted."

He had turned his gaze towards the fireplace without noticing it, clenching his fist as he spoke.

"At least, that's what the article said. I don't care."

Ana walked up to him and pushed his head against her chest. As she stroke the hair on his head, Billobi mumbled a question: "How did you do that?"

"Do what, dear?"

"Pull me up... And stopping that...creature... How did you do that?"

"Well, some of us went to school to learn things. Unlike you and my brother, I actually passed my grammar magic class."

"Grammar magic... You don't say."


He sighed in her chest, and mumbled: "Let us never throw that book away."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The hole at North Street, part 1 (lore)

The howling sound washed over town like waves trying to break further into land. A dry coldness followed, sticky like ethereal honey, and covered every object with icy paint. The Badgerbrough winters were always though, and you didn't venture outside if you didn't have to. That's why Billobi frowned when he got a message one day from an anonymous sender:

Working for the Inquisitive meant a lot of freedom, since most of it were made up (or rewritten against his will beyond recognition to make it more "sell-able", according to his editor). It also meant having to deal with that slice of the population that believed every single word published. Most were friendly, but there were always a slight risk of running into one of those who blamed the Inquisitive for bringing out the demons of the world (something Billobi didn't argue against; he was practically working for one).

While he was putting on his warmest piece of clothing, Ana read the note. She wasn't pleased.

"Are you sure about this, Bill?"

"It's a job", he said. "And that means money."

"What if something happens? You don't know who this is, dear. Does your editor know about this?"

"He's the one who handed me the note - after charging me for stamps, of course! Hand me that scarf, will you, dear?"

Ana hesitated for a brief second, but finally gave him the scarf. She kissed him and went back to the living room without a word. Billobi took one last breath of warm air before heading out into the embracing cold outside.

It almost felt like a ghost town, walking through Badgerbrough during these harshest days of winter. He didn't recognize the few he passed by, because of all the layers of clothing the weather required.

As he passed Angela Burdett's Candy, he began wondering about his anonymous writer. What if Ana was right? Maybe it was someone who was out to get him? To kidnap him, or worse! He couldn't recall any upsetting stories he had written. Not recently, anyway. Maybe he should have had brought somebody with him, but who? Ana? No. Thomas? Travel all the way to Horsehead to get his brother-in-law, just in case? No, and besides, he had seen worse during his travels! Walking mountains, tiny boxes that torture souls, dowsing rods that brings forth a nemesis from your nightmares, little girls that...

He stopped in the middle of the road, but it felt like his heart continued walking straight through his chest. What if it was that little girl from Skiff-in-Loch? He automatically grabbed his left hand, as to shield it against any more finger snapping. Why would she do something like that? Shouldn't she be at the western shore, watching all that...dust or flour or what it was? Had the article upset her?

A cold wind swept through the street and forced his legs to start walking again. North Street was just around the corner. Horsehead isn't that far away, he thought. There's still time. I should have brought someone with me, I shouldn't have gone by myself! She may look innocent, but she's not a little girl! She snaps her fingers and nails disappear! But why? Why now? The thoughts swirled around a centre of anxiety and fear, as he turned the corner and met...

A queue?

He looked around to see if he was on the right street, or even at the right house, but he was. North Street 11, second house. There was a row of people, lined up in front of the building, waiting for something. As he came closer, he noticed they were smiling, despite the cold - at least, until he tried to go inside.

"Gettin' line!" they shouted while pushing him back.

"But I'm expected!" Billobi explained.

"Really now? By whom?"

"By he...or she...who lives here!"

"Yeah, yeah, in that case we're ALL expected! Nice try lad, gettin' line!"

Almost an hour later, the turn had finally come to Billobi. He had witnessed frozen people going inside, only to come out minutes later with rosy cheeks. He grabbed the door handle and turned it; although he didn't know what to expect, at least he knew it couldn't be a certain little girl from a treeless island that would make his nails disappear.

"Ah, Mr Reaptorter! Coume im, coume im", a happy voice greeted him. It belonged to a thin man, dressed in colourful clothes that Billobi hadn't seen before. "Not freeze enough, yes? Cold, yes, good? Ah, Mr Reaporter, beautiful you coume. Hug!"

The man embraced Billobi and gave him a long, friendly hug. With one arm around Billobi's shoulders, he lead him into what only could be the kitchen. The host flew around the tiny room, a trail of colour that seemed to paint the world in joy. He seemed to mutter fragments of words in a language unknown to Billobi, who suddenly found himself holding a small glass.

"Now, we cheers! Cheers!" the thin man said and emptied his glass. Billobi did the same without any afterthought, as if his mind hadn't caught up with his body. The clear liquid tasted strongly of alcohol, with a lingering aftertaste of spruce.

"Let me just... You... My name..." Billobi began, but the words didn't come out as he wanted to.

"Yes, you Mr Reaporter! I write note, you get, good! The Inkustive, newspaper with strange story. You write good! Good Reaporter."

"Who are you?"

"Oh, sorry. Me are bissness man, no names. Just bissness. Yes, Mr Reaporter? You write sand howle, in my living roum. Write good story, in newspaper, many coume and pay! Is warm."

"I'm sorry, but I don't really follow, Mr...Businessman. What is it that you want to show me?"

"Coume!" the colourful man said and pushed Billobi in front of him. "Me show living roum!"

As they left the kitchen and passed the hall, Billobi noticed that the house - or at least, what he'd seen of it - didn't feel inhabited. There were no candles, no furnitures, no curtains, no nothing. It felt grey and dead for such a colourful host, he thought.

"This living room, and this howle of sand!" the thin man said as they entered the living room.

They only thing noticeable in this room was the round, crude hole in the floor. Everything else were dusty or broken. The walls had markings after paintings, and a shattered table was piled up in the corner. But the hole in the middle of the floor seemed to glow in the dim light. It was filled with yellow sand, and looked almost like liquid gold.

"You try, clothes off!"

"Excuse me?"

"Clothes off! No clothes in howle!"

"You want me to stand naked on the sand?"

"No stand", the man said and bent his knees. "Sit."

Billobi took off his shoes and warm socks and walked over to the hole. He dipped his toe as if he was about to take his first swim for the summer. He couldn't feel the grain of the sand, no matter how much he stirred his toe. It really felt like water, flowing around, doing its best to avoid his foot. And the warmth! He had never felt anything like this before.

"What wait, Mr Reaporter? Sit in howle, but clothes off!"

"I'm not taking my clothes off", he said. "What kind of sand is this?"

"Me? Bissnessman. Sand me not know. I found house, this, and found howle, that. Nice and warm, people freeze. Coume here and be warm, pay me little. But not enough, Mr Reaporter. You write in newspaper, many people coume here and be warm, make much pay. Me pay you, if you wants."

"But is it safe?" Billobi said and pulled up his foot. The toe was completely dry. "Do people bathe in this? Is it deep?"

"Deep, maybe. People sit, but no chair. Sit like... You know, swim?"

"They need to swim to keep floating?"

"Yes, yes, flotting! Be warm, flotting."

A knock on the front door called on the thin man's attention, and he excused himself. Billobi took out his pen and paper and started taking notes. He could hear muffled sounds from the front door, and finally how the door closed. The colourful host came back and said: "Was customer, wants sit in sand howle. But no money so I turn down. Me, Mr Bissnessman!"

He followed up the last sentence with a short laughter, and patted Billobi on the shoulder.

"So, Mr Reaporter, what you say? Big write in newspaper? Many rich come sit in howle?"

"First of all, even if we publish this in the Inquisitive, I'm pretty sure many of the readers don't have any riches to talk about..." Billobi said and drew a sketch of the hole.

"Is ok, many people with little pay, still money."

"And second... Are you really sure you want people to bathe in this, without knowing the consequences? How long have you've been doing this?"

"I find house four days ago, no problems with people. Except few, but no problem now I think."

The sound of the front door opening echoed through the hallway, accompanied by heavy footsteps. A sturdy, bearded man came into the living room. His hands were shaking.

"Please, I need the warmth. Just ONE more time! My hands are freezing, heck, my heart is freezing! Please!" He walked further into the living room as he talked.

"No! You, out! I tell you, no money, no sit! Is no acceptions. You go out now! See, Mr Reaporter, this why I need rich people."

"Excuse me", Billobi interrupted, "but have you bathed in this before?"

"Why do you care?" the bearded man said with a hostile voice, as if he'd just noticed Billobi's presence. "Have you paid?"

"No, I have not, but..."

"Then don't take up the sand's time!" he yelled. "And why does he get to bathe for free? I'm freezing! Look at me!"

"Out!" the colourful host shouted. "Out! Sand howle closed, no more guests! Mr Reaporter, help me out with this person!" He tried to wrap his thin arms around the sturdy man, only to bounce off like a ball. He flew across the room and landed next to the broken table.

The bearded man turned to Billobi, eyes lit like torches.

"So, let's just take it easy, shall we?" Billobi said and backed. "I'm not going to stop you from bathing."

"You've violated the warmth!" he screamed. "It's mine! Give it back!"

"There! Take it! I don't want the sand! I'll go now!"

But as he tried to put his socks on, the bearded man rushed up to him and knocked Billobi over. The strength felt almost unnatural, as if something was fuelling the crazed man from within.

"You shall put it back, nothing must leave the hole!" he shouted and dragged Billobi over to the glowing sand.

"I only dipped m-"

He was cut short as his head was pushed beneath the surface. The warmth immediately spread across his scalp, and he could sense every single hair on his head; they felt like tiny stalks, swaying in a light breeze, tickling. But it didn't stop there, no. It continued past his ears - two red seashells - over his ears and nose, past his mouth and stopping at his neck. It felt anything but uncomfortable. He almost forgot to drown.

The next moment, he could feel the cold air breaking through his lips and making its way down to his lungs. He tried to focus, but could only see the blurred outline of what he assumed was the bearded man, who cried: "Did you give it back? Did you?"

"Giv-" - Billobi had to cough before he could continue. "Give...what...back?"

"The warmth! You must... Your ears are red! You haven't given it back, have you? Have you? Give it back! I need to -"

Billobi didn't hear the last word. The warmth spread across his head once again, but this time it continued further down his body, passed his knees and feet, until it completely surrounded him. He loved it. It was a warm blanket in the middle of the night, his mother's hug and kiss before bedtime, bathing next to Hamphred after a hard day's work, the blue eyes of his Ana.

The thought of Ana forced his eyes wide open, and whatever it was that stared back at him, it grabbed him by the neck and pulled him further down.

(To be continued.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The March of the Talltops (lore)

If you continue past Ogrenose and follow the mountain range known as the Talltops for a while, you'll eventually end up in a hilly piece of land that isn't claimed by anyone. It doesn't even have a name, and no one lives there. The Talltops forms a great wall around it in a half-circle; further north, there's nothing but mountains and rocks all the way till the great dark ocean, where no sane being would ever try to sail.

It was a cold but sunny day. Billobi sat on a stump, located on a green hill some mile away, and watched the mountain range up ahead. He had his pen and notebook ready, just in case. He hadn't travelled all this way from Badgerbrough just to miss the marvellous event everybody in Ogrenose were talking about. Besides, he wouldn't get any money from the Inquisitive if he didn't have anything to write about.

For once, he had hired a guide to lead him to the good spot. It was one of the locals, a quiet old fellow with a great moustache that hid his mouth. He didn't say much - or anything, for that matter. Billobi thought he heard the guide mention his name once, but he wasn't sure because of his archaic dialect. Mostly, he did his talking through his fingers.

"So", Billobi said and tapped his pen against his notebook. "This is the spot?"

The guide nodded.

"The best place to be", Billobi continued. "To witness...the event... Have you seen it? I mean, has it happened before?"

The guide nodded.

"Really?" Billobi wrote a small note in his book. "Or what do you mean? That you've seen it before, or that it's happened before? That you've seen it?"

The guide nodded.

"Right. I'll just write... Right."

The scenery was breath-taking; the hill sloped before them, like a green waterfall that plunged into the sparse forest of tall trees below their feet. And after that, the great mountains. Hamphred would have been thrilled to see that, Billobi thought. Too bad he didn't like travelling.

"So... Where are all the people? For the event, I mean."

The guide shrugged.

"Is the event recurring? Does it happen a lot? I mean, people tend to get bored at watching the same thing over and over."

The guide did a combination of shrugging and nodding, until he suddenly sneezed. The great moustache fluttered uncontrollable, and Billobi couldn't resist doing a quick drawing of it in his notes.

Suddenly, a low, rumbling sound nearly knocked him off the stump. The vibrations rose from the ground, and hundreds of birds took flight from the trees below. It stopped as sudden as it had started.

"What... Was that... Was that the event?" Billobi whispered while picking up his writing gear.

The guide shook his head.

"But it's part of...the thing?"

The guide nodded. He didn't seem affected by it, as if he had predicted the exact moment it would happen.

"Just yawn", the guide added in his strange tongue, and Billobi had to ask him to repeat it.

"A yawn?"

"Just yawn. Of Talltops."

"The mountains yawned?"

The guide nodded and smiled.

"Are they...tired? Why would they even yawn?"

"Sleep long, then yawn. Not really yawn, but almost. Sleep long, now waking. It -"

The sound that pushed them both to the ground came out of nowhere. It didn't last long, but felt like a concentrated crack, like the ice on the rivers when the cold really sets in, or the breaking of a dried stick in the dead silent forest.

Billobi sat up and opened his eyes. Although he could see, it felt like he wore a padded bag on his head; every sound were muffled, and he had a terrible headache.

The guide helped him on his feet, and directed his view with a pointing finger. There, in the distance, below the hill and past the forest, rose a part of the mountain above the ground, and stretched itself towards the sky. It almost looked like an animal, but at the same time it didn't resemble anything living at all.

He believe he formed his lips to say something, but his ears didn't record anything. The sight of a part of the mountain standing on its own, slowly turning around and starting its long journey towards the sea, didn't call for small-talk.

When the rumbling sound from before came back, the guide forced Billobi to sit on the ground with his hands tightly pressed against his ears. When the rumbling stopped, it didn't take many seconds for the second great crack to hit them, and although they sat down this time, it too knocked them over. Another piece of the Talltops had risen, and begun its journey towards the sea.

Billobi stayed on the same spot the entire day, witnessing fifteen pieces of the Talltops breaking off and heading towards the great sea in the north, leaving only a shredded plateau of sharp rocks behind.

When he finally headed back to Ogrenose, he had to rest for a week before his hearing came back. The event was well documented in the town's library, and was called "The March of the Talltops". He learned that the mountain range originally came from the bottom of the ocean, and needed to return there to not dry out (which had happened with the rest of the Talltops). This part of the Talltops were the last living part of the entire mountain range.

Not forgetting about his task, he wrote an extensive article for the Inquisitive and posted it the following week. A month later, back in Badgerbrough, he received the payment and a letter from his editor, that read:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Just south of the Copperstream (story)

Young Billobi didn't care much for sleeping. It was a waste of time, probably invented by parents, to keep children like himself from doing all kinds of interesting stuff.

"Mom!" he shouted from his bed. "I'm bored!"

"Go to sleep, Bill", a male, monotonous voice answered him.

"I said 'mom', not 'dad'!"

"Read a book, Bill", his father replied.

Billobi answered with a long repetition of the word 'a', and then rolled around in bed until he grew tired of that too. With both hands tucked in under his bed, he searched for a while before pulling out a book.

"Mom!" he shouted. "Read!"

"You know how to read, Bill", his father answered with a tired voice.

"I'm too tired."

"Then why don't you go to sleep?"

Billobi didn't know what to answer to that, so he rolled over in bed a couple of times - book in hand - before finding the perfect position to read. He opened the book and started to read aloud: "A LONG TIME AGO, IN A COUNTRY NOT TOO FAR AWAY, THERE LIVED A KING BY THE NAME -"

"Read with your mouth closed, Bill."

He frowned in the direction of the voice, and then turned to the last page. It was the best page in the whole book, because it had a map.

"Just south of the Copperstream" is a short story based on a little world I dragged my friend through almost a year ago. My initial idea was to make it into a setting, or something similar, but after a night of trying I figured that's a path better suited for others to pursue.

So I turned it into a short story instead. I wrote it with young readers in mind, so if you are a parent (or you have kids in your vicinity) it would be cool if you could read it for them (or have them read it), and report back here and tell me whether they liked it or not. Or if YOU liked it or not!

It's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

View/download it here (on Google Docs).

UPDATE: I've made two versions for eBook-readers as well, with the same license. EPUB and PRC.

And yes, there's a map on the last page!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Auction (lore)

It was a warm summer's day, as it tended to be every time Billobi headed down south. He stood all dressed up in the middle of a large gathering of people, in the middle of a field, and gazed up into the sun. The warmth washed over his face, but the feeling didn't resonate with the rest of his body: sorrow had rooted itself within, and tangled his gut.

"People! People!" a voice cried out. "Gather around, it is auction time."

The voice belonged to an old, bearded man. He stood on a crude podium made of wooden crates, and held two black, small stones in each hand. Billobi recognised him as one of the locals, but couldn't remember his name.

"There, there! As we all know, the community lost one of its biggest souls last week. Somehow the Soil wanted him back, and can we blame it? Can we, really? Hamphred treated the ground as a beloved offspring, not as a unwanted bastard like them burghers do! When he ate, he chose the best meat, and when he drank, he swallowed with care. Let this not be forgotten; Hamphred took only nature's best, so that he could return the same!"

There was a strong sense of agreement in the crowd, although not a word was spoken. Billobi felt the roots of sorrow burrowing deeper within him, entangling organ after organ. He took a deep breath, and searched for his mother's hand.

"The community have selected this spot to receive the great gift of our missed Hamphred's body. His earthly body will nourish the ground, as the Soil takes back what it once gave. You all knew Hamphred, you know what his body is capable of. Remember this! This place has been given the honour of receiving this great body, an end that will lead to many great start! Let the auction begin!"

The turmoil that followed was one of the more morbid things about these southern funerals. The field was auctioned away to the highest bidder, knowing that Hamphred Dungbeetle was buried deep in the ground to moulder away and nourish the start of new crops. The old man on the podium spoke as fast as he could, trying to keep up with the bidders in the crowd. It felt like an eternity, but lasted only a couple of minutes.

"There, there!" said the man and knocked the two black stones together. "The memory of our beloved friend will not only linger in our memories, but will continue to grow here, to make it better for the rest of us."

After the auction followed the reading of Hamphred's will; since he had no children of his own, his belongings ended up with his cousins and cousins' cousins. Billobi were given, among other things, a large comfortable furniture that Hamphred knew he adored.

"The last thing on the list was given to one in our community that wishes to be anonymous. She decided to give it back to the community as a reminder of Hamphred's views on life, and it has therefore been placed on this field as a statue and inspiration. With these words, I hereby end this auction and funeral. Thank you."

The man bowed slightly and got off the podium. The crowd dissipated; some got on their wagons and began the long road home, and some met up for funeral dinner.

Out on the field stood the statue alone, a peaceful and welcoming piece, whose silhouette made it stand out as the sun set. The bathtub was as dirty now as it had ever been.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cartographer's disease (people)

Badgerbrough housed a lot of different people. The streets were long and winding, tangled up in each other, much like people's minds.

"Thoughts get lost", Billobi's father used to say. "It's as if they start their journey fully aware of where they're going, but forget it halfway there. Thoughts get lost, and seldom are found. Just like the people here. They start out hungry, and decide to walk over to my shop to buy something, but get lost halfway here and instead they end up at that bloody Clarke's Candy! I hate that man!"

Billobi sat on a bench in his father's bakery with pen and paper in hand. He had just received a short message from the editor at the Inquisitive that said:

"Bill! Funds are low, so can't send you anywhere. Please find juicy story here in town. Exercise good for you."

But mysteries didn't just show up whenever someone wanted them to, and despite all the strange things Billobi had seen up till now, none of it had happened inside his father's bakery.

"How about a funny story?" Billobi's father asked. "I know quite a few! There's the one about the horse in a hat..."

"No, thank you, please. Not even mother finds those funny."

"Alright, Mr. Critic, I guess you'd know. How about writing about your father's lovely bakery?"

"There's nothing exotic about bread, father."

"There's dried fruit in some of them."

"Not exotic enough, father."

"Alright. But can't you write something about all the rats in Clarke's basement, that licks on all the candy that he sells?"

"There are not rats in his basement and you know it."

"Really? Then why is his candy so sticky, hmm? Stupid Clarke and his stupid, cheap candy..."

A loud voice from outside cut through the open door, and Billobi walked outside to see what the fuss was all about. Across the street from his father's bakery, a bald, thin man in rags were shouting about secret maps, although no one seemed to care. Billobi walked over to him and said hello.


"Absolutely", Billobi answered and started talking notes. "I just need your name first, kind Sir."


"The Cartographer? Is that because you make maps?"

The old man nodded with his eyes closed, and held up a bunch of papers.


"Excuse me?"


"And what kind of maps are these? I heard you mentioning something about secret maps?"


"'s maps to fortune?"


"LIES!" a voice cried out. "ALL LIES!" It came from an old woman, that approached them from behind. Besides having a full set of teeth and being female, they resembled each other quite a bit.

"SCHUT YOOR MOUSCH!" the old man responded. "TISCH MY CUSCHDERMER!"


"Us?" Billobi asked.

The woman grabbed Billobi with her right hand while slowly raising her left, revealing a bunch of papers.



"I'm sorry, 'losthood'?" Billobi asked while writing frenetically. "Do you also draw maps that leads to treasures?"



"So you also sell secret maps?" Billobi asked the old woman.



"Why don't we compare your maps?"

The suggestion was met with blank stares and complete silence. A feeling struck him, not unlike the one that used to creep up on him when he was young and was caught doing something he shouldn't.

" mean, since I work for the advertisement, and so on..."




The old man pulled out a blank sheet of paper and drew something quickly on it. He then handed it to Billobi.


Billobi inspected the so called map - or rather, the lack of it. The paper he was given didn't contain much information for treasure hunting.

"It's just a line", Billobi said. "Two dots connected by a straight line. And this leads to great treasure?"

"ABSCHULOTLY! SCHTARK HEE" - the old man pointed at the first dot, and ran his finger along the line to the second - "END HEE."

Billobi turned around with map in front of him, while examining the surroundings. He turned around and gave the map back.

"Your map leads me to that bakery across the street."


"I doubt that. That's my father's bakery."

"HERE, DEAR REPORTER", the old woman said and handed Billobi a more detailed map. "FOUNDHOOD GUARANTEED."

"Great, let's follow it."

They left the old man under heavy, teethless cursing, and walked further down the street. The map contained a lot of swirls, and while it lacked any street names it was fairly accurate in terms of conjunctions and intersections.

After walking for a while, they finally arrived at their destination: Clarke's Candy.

"Great treasures, eh?" Billobi said with a sceptic voice.


The door to the boutique opened up, and a round man with a colourful apron peeked out.

"Yes?" he said with a smile. "We're closing early today, but do come back tomorrow! Oh, is it you, Bill?"

"Hello Mr. Clarke. I was just following this so called treasure map, and it lead me here."

"IT IS INDEED A TREASURE MAP!" the old woman bellowed.

"Well, yes... Sorry for bothering you, I'll leave now."

"No worry, Bill. Tell your father about our sale next week!" he said and laughed.

"I will! Come on now."


"Yes, yes..." Billobi said and started the long walk back, with the old woman close behind,

Mr. Clarke waited until they had disappeared completely, and then locked up the front door. He flipped the "OPEN"-sign to "CLOSE", pulled the curtains and headed quickly downstairs, where the small, golden statuette pulsated in the darkness. A slow whisper, almost like breathing, dragged him to his knees, where he promised it his soul in exchange for fame and fortune. He could've sworn it smiled at him.

People who sell maps that allegedly leads to great treasure, are said to have caught cartographer's disease. They will manufacture maps of all kind of sizes, if the price is right.

They loathe others who do the same.

Persistence may pay off in the end, as 1% of the maps produced by those that are truly affected by this disease will lead to a great treasure.

It is not contagious, only slightly annoying.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Society of Me (people)

Far up in the north lies Ogrenose, one of the three Ogreprovinces, famous for having the Talltops running through it. It was often said that Ogrenose got its name from the mountain range, that supposedly formed the silhouette of a nose. But other sources told stories of a proud people living up there, strutting about with their noses high up in the air - hence the name.

Being the experienced traveller that he were, Billobi didn't really pay much attention to these rumours since they most often were told in the two other Ogreprovinces; it was like asking your enemy to say some nice words about you.

One particular evening, after hours on a horseback, Billobi finally got to sit down at one of the many local pubs in Ogresole. It was fairly crowded, but a group of people in the middle of the room seemed to be the centre of attention. Billobi asked the women sitting next to him what it was all about.

"Them me-ers", she told him and shook her head.

"Excuse me?"

"Me-ers! Them, all of them! Tiring to listen to. More wisdom from a cat, you get. Pfft!"

"What does that mean? 'Me-ers'?"

"Me!" she shouted. "Me-ers. Them. Interested in one thing, those. Therefore: me-ers. Me, me, me. Pfft! Should just roll in them laughing stones here instead!"

Billobi turned his attention to the group in the middle instead. It was hard to tell them apart; neither clothes nor physical features revealed anything about them. Everyone moved and talked in the same manner, with their arms waving and eyes rolling.

"...and obviously, YOU have never been there - by the look on your so called face!" one in the group responded, but it was unclear to whom.

"Clearly, after counting your poor followers on my ONE hand, you're not in ANY condition to..." another voice bellowed.

"What ECHO from the bottom of the well reaches my delicate ear? Why, isn't that the petty squabbling from lesser beings who actually COUNT supporters? I stand above that, thank you."

"Surely, if you stood above that you wouldn't even need to acknowledge the faint BREEZE that is..."

"Most definitely, that's you farting, my wee servant!"

"How refreshingly for you, to stand in both my shadow AND my history! But you're used to that, aren't you, mmm? Let me refresh that for you!"

After listening to the meaningless dispute for a couple of minutes, Billobi finished his Horsehead's Stout quickly and sat off in the night to find another inn.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Funeral (lore)

It was a warm day, even this far into autumn. The sun stood high and looked down upon the earth with its lonely, yellow eye. But lacking a pupil, what could it possible see? Or was it all pupil, and thus taking notice of everything?

"Anabel!" a voice hissed. "Anabel! Stop starting at the sun, you'll go blind, you will!"

Anabel lowered her gaze and turned it to the commanding voice, answering it with a low: "Yes, Madame."

"It's not a day for gazing up, but down!" the voice continued. It belonged to the funeral officiant, an old lady (Anabel couldn't decide her age, nor could anyone else) that had had this job for as long as anyone could remember. She was tall and slender as a pine tree, with arms in constant motion, as if the wind mistook them for branches. If she'd ever had a name, it was now long lost; people in Badgerbrough just referred to her as "Madame".

"Madame?" Anabel asked.


"If the sun is an eye, then whom do it belong to?"

"What kind of question is that, Anabel? That's hardly appropriate for a lady such as yourself, nor is it the right time."

"I'm not a lady of anything particular", Anabel said and gazed into the hole in the ground with a warm smile.

"That's because you're not married, which I find strange and a bit shocking, especially at your age. But now is not the time."

"No, Madame, it's not."

They stood silent for a while, looking down on the wooden coffin. It lacked a bottom, due to the old traditions of Badgerbrough; it was believed that the dead body would start to crawl to its afterlife after a couple of days, a place found much deeper in the ground. There it could finally let go of its soul and return the remains of the body to the earth. To guide it right, the bottomless coffin would force it to traverse downwards. But if no coffin is used (or it is turned the wrong way) the deceased will craw up to the surface instead, believing it to be the afterlife, and start wandering aimlessly.

"Do you have anything you wish to say to your father, Anabel?"

"No, Madame. Nothing that comes to mind."

"Really? Nothing at all? You wish to send your father on his crawl without some last words from his only daughter?"

"I can talk to him at any time, Madame, just as I have done with my dear mother my entire life. No need to rush words now", Anabel said with a smile.

"Very well. But since there's only the two of us here attending this funeral, I find it necessary as the town's funeral officiant to say at least some words about your father."

"Please, madame, it isn't." Anabel grabbed Madame's hands, and pressed them gently. "If you speak, it's a farewell. Can't we just let father continue on to his next journey?"

Madame didn't know where to start; the act of sending the deceased on his last crawl without a word of comfort was unthinkable! As the funeral officiant of Badgerbrough she felt a great responsibility, not only towards the living and the dead, but to the old procedures that always had been.

But as she was about to tell the young woman about how upsetting this lack of formalities were, she met Anabel's eyes; they soothed her, like a hush that could break through any violence.

"You're as rebellious and peculiar as your father was", Madame said, "but you share more than your name with your mother."

"Thank you, madame."

They took one last look at the coffin before heading back to town. As they started walking, Anabel suddenly said with a curious voice: "Maybe it's father's eye? The sun, I mean."

"Don't talk nonsense, Anabel", Madame said. "The sun is the sun, and that's that."

But she couldn't stop thinking about what Anabel had said. It made sense, after all. As curious as he may have been, there was one thing old Billobi never would be able to witness: his own funeral.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Badgerbrough Inquisitive, issue 4:2 (lore)

"It's a joke", Billobi said and threw the paper on the table. Thomas Althorp picked it up and started to read.

"I kind of like it", he said. "It's obviously not true, but it's entertaining."

"I'm a joke", Billobi continued.

"No, you're not. You're a good writer, even though I don't understand everything. And besides, it's just a job."


They sat in the kitchen of Billobi's newly acquired house in Badgerbrough. It was a small place with an attic, not long from his parents, decorated sparsely: a bed, a table with crude chairs, and a really comfortable chair sent all the way from his cousin Hamphred.

"Don't think about it, Bill", Thomas said while skimming the leaflet. "You still got all your stories tucked away in the attic, someday you'll find a use for it. Hey!"


"Angela Burdett! She's still breathing?"

"You mean the candy store owner? Yes, last time I checked she was still alive."

"Oh, man... She's having a sale, we should go. Like when we're young, remember? Skipping grammar magic-class just to nag her for free candy? You, me and Tristan. As soon as I moved to Horsehead I threw that stupid grammar book as far as I could. I bet you still have it somewhere though, mister All-Writings-Should-Be-Saved."

"Absolutely not", Billobi said and shook his head.

Get your copy of The Badgerbrough Inquisitive, issue 4:2 here! (PDF, 345 KB).

It's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The World's Dust (lore)

The first time Billobi sat his foot on the treeless island of Skiff-in-Loch, he was immediately struck by an uneasy feeling that would keep coming back every time he visited the island. The scenery didn't really help, with its sharp cliffs and cold, naked surface, but he'd seen worse. The constant babbling of old Badsey and the monsters that (according to him) inhabited the area was another source of discomfort, but as a reporter for the Inquisitive, Billobi had definitely heard far grimmer tales.

The editor of the Badgerbrough Inquisitive wanted Billobi to find and interview a "strange" woman that supposedly lived on the naked island. After checking with the talkative ferryman, his first clue to finding her was to visit the island's only pub owned by a lady Darnton. But, after first forgetting about the fuel fee and then upsetting the old lady by asking if she was any strange, Billobi nearly got thrown out of the establishment.

His next clue was to head out to the lighthouse on the south tip. But after two hours of banging on the front door without any results, Billobi gave up and headed back to the pub. He spent nearly all of his travelling funds to make up for his previous escapade, and managed to pick up rumours about lone people travelling to the west side of the island now and then. Lady Darnton called it "wasted pilgrimages", since they came back just as crazy as when they left.

Early the next morning he set out for the other side, using a two-seated cart pulled by a monstrous being called a "legger"; it resembled two human legs (only meatier), ending in a round stomach, to which the cart was fastened. The bright green skin of the legger made it easy to spot in the otherwise colourless environment. Apparently, to steer one would shout the desired direction and hope for the best.

After a couple of hours of travelling, Billobi came to a conclusion: it would be impossible to live this far away from the pub and the bridge with not a single tree, plant or animal in sight, or water. The ground was dried up and pale grey, just as everywhere else. It was a depressing landscape, to say the least. After a quick lunch he set off again as quickly as possible.

The west side of the island didn't offer any variation; still treeless, still grey, still lifeless - with the exception of a little girl, who stood all alone on the shore, gazing into the horizon.

"Bloody hell", she said with her tiny voice as Billobi's legger came closer.

"Excuse me?" he answered her.

She turned around and faced him; she looked like any ordinary girl, with brown skin and dark hair. Her clothes were dirty but not torn. She could've been anyone's little sister.

"You are Billobi."

"Yes, but how -"

"You see, that's why I cursed." She turned around and faced the water again with a sigh.

Billobi stepped down from the cart, and patted the legger absent-minded.

"Where are your parents?"

She shook her head, clearly annoyed, and said: "No, that's not the question."

"I don't... What are you doing out here all by yourself? Are your -"

"You've travelled all the way from Badgerbrough to ask me that? From the east side of the mainland to the west, over the strait by boat, from the east side of this dead island on...that, all this way - only to ask where my parents are? I could ask you the same! Ah, bloody hell."

"How... Why are you..."

"Look. Over there."

She raised her hand and pointed into the distance. There, far away over the water, Billobi spotted dark clouds as wide as the horizon.

"A storm?" he asked, while taking notes. "I don't understand, are you a weather-watcher?"

"Sweet sourdough, you're thicker than old Badsey's nose hair! That's not a storm, that's the dust of the world! Good lords, you're slower than honey."

"I'm sorry I... Who are you, and how did you know my name? And what is this dust you talking about?"

He kept fumbling with his notes, trying not to forget to ask anything.

"And...and are you any strange?" he added while reading from a small note. "I mean, I'm supposed to find this strange woman..."

"The dust of the world is what makes things possible", the girl said. "It's not matter, even though it builds things. It's not magic, even though it feeds it. And it's certainly not life, even though it's part of it."

"So what is it? You're talking about that thing, the storm, right?" He wrote 'dust not magic but nearly, is a storm ??'.

"The dust is the flour of which other things are baked. If many weak entities thinks one strong thought, it may become true. They take from the dust and makes a new thing; a being, matter, or means of magic."

Billobi nodded, and added to his notebook: 'or flour ??'

"What's..." - Billobi flipped through his notes - "what's an entity? Is that you?"

"Yes", the girl said. "And you, and even old Badsey. Or that", she said and pointed at the legger. Apparently it was tired, since it sat down on the ground.

"And who are you exactly?"

"Well, since you don't seem to be able to deduct simple things for yourself..." the little girl said and sighed. "There have always been rumours of a strange woman living on this island, and while lady Darnton may have had her ideas from time to time, she's as extraordinary as a pebble on the bottom of the sea."

"So, you are that strange woman? Or girl..."

"I came to be, yes."

"But you haven't always been that?"

"Only since I was created."

"You mean born?"

"No, created."

"Is that another way of saying 'born'?"

"Sometimes, yes, but not now."

"Why not now, then?"

"I'm sorry, did you fell off the cart and hit your head on your way here? Should I have this conversation with the legger instead? I wasn't born, I was created! Many weak entities thought one thought: 'there's a strange woman living on the island of Skiff-in-Loch'. Rumours linger on and grow in the soil inside peoples' heads, until one day enough of them believed in it at the same time. Dust was taken, and here I am."

Billobi wrote as fast as he could, and didn't stop even as he asked: "And who do you know this?"

"Good! The first nearly intelligent question you've asked! Well, I don't know how familiar you are with the breeding habits of human beings, but..."

"We can't publish that", Billobi said and stopped writing.

The girl cried out a loud pitched laugh, and continued: "Since I'm made entirely out of the dust - unlike any other being - I share its knowledge."

"So the dust can think?"

"The dust consists of small particles - many small entities. How do you think the world was created in the first place?"

"I... I haven't thought of it, actually."

"I'm not surprised! At first, there's only dust, and it consists of many small entities."


"Exactly. And when they start thinking, they sometimes share the same thought, and poof - things gets created. But then the amount of dust is decreased, and thus there aren't as many entities to think as when they started. Do you follow?"

"...yes..." Billobi mumbled, uncertain on how to formulate this in his notebook. He drew a cloud instead.

"So. More and more things are created, drawn from the dust, and less and less similar thoughts are coincided, and when they are, it's not enough entities thinking about it. As the world increases and is populated, the dust decreases. One day it'll all be gone."

"The dust?"


"And then what?"

"Well, no more magic, for sure. Regardless of what manifestation you've chosen, they all take from the dust. Even the little toddlers in school that tries to turn apples into pears are using up the dust. But that's just one of many things the dust is used for."

"So all magic will stop working? Then what?"

"Well, then the Grinding begins! The crushing of all things, turning it into dust again. And then the circle is complete. From dust to things, from things to dust, forever more."

Billobi went back to the legger and sat down next to it. He closed his notebook and tucked it away in his pocket along with the pen. He sighed.

"It's sounds so...pointless."

"Trust me, it's not", the girl said and kicked a rock. "It's its purpose. Do you cry every time you have lunch?"


"No, you don't, because it's its purpose. It's meant to be eaten."

"That's a pretty bad comparison", he said.

"But it made you smile, and that's more important."

She turned around and faced the water, and said: "But now, it's time for you to leave, or else I'll have the Grinding start with you, here and now."

"But I have more q-"

The girl snapped with her fingers, and a trail of dust left Billobi's left index finger - the top of his nail had disappeared! He got on his feet, commanded the legger to do the same, and got on the cart.

"Don't return, Billobi", the girl said. "I'm not your friend."

He nodded, and instructed the legger to head back to lady Darnton's pub. It immediately turned around and started running, as if it too had a desire to leave the shore.

A week later, Billobi was back home in Badgerbrough. He had completed the article and posted it to the Inquisitive while staying at the pub in Skiff-in-Loch. Once home, he found a letter from his editor. It said:

"Hi Bill. I skimmed your story. Rather long and boring, but I saw the word 'magic' in there and something about legs, so I rewrote it. 'GIRL ATTACKED BY LEGMONSTER - NOW BEST FRIENDS'. Nice right? People loves that stuff. Good work otherwise."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trail of Agnes (magic item)

It was winter once again. Every stone and tree were covered in a thick layer of creamy snow, and icicles crawled slowly through the air, aiming for the ground. Mother Nature cared for her guests, lulling them into hibernation with a white down. Occasionally, she would blew a kiss towards the town of Horsehead, but other than that it was all quiet.

The door to Thomas Althorp's antiques shop flew open with a bang, and a stream of cold air swept through the room, tickling the very bones of the store owner.

"Shut the door!" Thomas yelled from behind the counter. "Shut it! Or I'll make you buy something!"

Billobi fought through the white mist and finally got inside the shop. He closed the door with what little strength he had left in his frozen arms, and sat down on the floor.

"Oh, is it you Bill?" Thomas said and smiled. "Bloody weather, eh?"

Billobi nodded with his mouth open, and crawled over to the hot stove.

"You'd thought that..." he said while slowly thawing, "you'd thought that with all these...all these...more or less magi...magical'd thought that at least least one of these...could keep a cons...a cons...a constant heating in here..."

"Well, that's the irony; being magical doesn't mean it's useful!"

"You really shouldn't...shouldn't tell you...your customers that, Thomas..."

"No, I know. Speaking of useless items", Thomas said and disappeared behind the counter, only to return with a large, white foot. "It's made of marble, I think. It's heavy as my grandma, at least."


"That's why you're a reporter, Bill!" Thomas said and laughed. "Quite right, it's a foot. I got it from a sturdy gentleman the other day. Oh, look!"

Billobi stood up and looked around, but didn't notice anything remarkable.

"What, where?"

"There!" Thomas said and pointed. "You don't see it? The footsteps?"

"Well... Don't you mean over here?" Billobi said.

"Over there? My dear friend, the cold has made you delirious. The trail is going from my counter, through the shop and out the door."

"No, it's going from the stove, through the room, and into the room over there."

They stood in silence for a second, wondering if they both gone mad at the same time. After a moment, Thomas said: "Ah, well, never mind. It's gone now."

"So, what does it do? Besides footsteps?"

"Well, the sturdy man said that the previous owner promised him that the foot would give him opportunities to change his life. So, when the footsteps appeared for the first time, he followed them."


"And he walked right in here! He was furious, since he thought that he would find a pot of gold, or so. I traded him the foot for a dowsing rod."

"Well, one could say that it changed his life. There it is again!"

"I don't see it", Thomas said while searching the floor. "Where does it go?"

Billobi followed the vague footsteps on the floor. They started at his feet, but turned around immediately and disappeared through the door. He walked over and looked outside, but could only see the first couple of steps before they disappeared in the white snow mist.

"Well?" Thomas repeated curiously.

"I don't know", Billobi said and opened the door, "but I'll come back and tell you later!"


Billobi followed the vague footsteps through the streets of Horsehead. He had to keep a steady pace, as they faded quite fast. The snow clouded his view, and from time to time he felt completely lost, even though he knew Horsehead by heart. He had to rely on the footsteps on the icy ground.

Eventually, his journey came to a halt. The footsteps passed through a gate he recognized all too well, and continued through the small garden where he had spent many warm summer days. He didn't need the trail any more; he knew exactly where he was: the childhood home of Thomas Althorp.

He walked up to the front door, and noticed the footsteps disappearing through it. But why here? Thomas moved out a long time ago, and his parents left soon after that. He knocked on the door, not knowing what to expect or say. He heard footsteps approaching, and when the door opened he suddenly understood.

"Why, good day to you, Bill!" the girl who opened said. "I didn't expect you, although I'm pleased to see you, of course. Come in! I was actually just thinking about you."

"It's nice to see you too, Ana", Billobi said and smiled.

Small but heavy marble statues carved to look like feet may very well contain a Trail of Agnes, a magical fate compass. Whenever there's an opportunity for anyone in its vicinity to change their life drastically, it will show a trail of vague footsteps. These trails are personal and will only be visible to whom it concerns.

Neither the statue nor the trail will force its viewer to follow them. They are only there to give a sense of direction, and will fade as soon as the moment (opportunity) has passed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bangfish (monster)

It was a quiet and somewhat cold night. There wasn't much of a moon to talk about, and the stars that perforated the dark veil above didn't bring much light to their lonely boat. Billobi inspected the night sky with great awe and tried several times to count the stars - only to be interrupted every time he reached fourteen.

"Did I tell you about the stars, young lad?" said the voice. It belonged to the owner of the boat, an old man named Badsey. He was the ferryman, and made sure people got safely across the waters from Ketch-in-Loch to the small, treeless island of Skiff-in-Loch.

Or, he would have, had he not dropped the oars.

They sat stationary, all alone in the small boat in the middle of night. Billobi was on a mission for the Inquisitive, to do an interview with a strange (according to his editor) woman that lived on Skiff-in-Loch. It was his first time this far west, and it was his first meeting with this ferryman.

"No, you didn't tell me about the stars, Mr. Badsey", said Billobi polite.

"Ah, it's candles, yes, yes! You see, people live up there!"

"But, how could one survive up there? I reckon you'd fall down at once?"

"But you see, it's them mirrorpeople, yes. It's our reflection that lives up there, the mirrorpeople. They look up at us sometimes and wonder why we don't fall down on them, yes. Mirrorpeople!"


Billobi pulled out pen and paper from his backpack. Maybe he didn't have to travel all the way to Skiff-in-Loch for his story?

"And, and! And sometimes, when they sneeze, it starts to rain! Yes, yes."

Or maybe, Billobi thought while taking notes, maybe he'd die of thirst in this boat with this crazy old man, and these notes of sneezing people in the sky will be his last words.

"Oh, and did I, did I", old Badsey said excited when he noticed that Billobi took notes. "Did I tell you about the time I lost me eye to an OGREFISH?" he said and pointed at his eye-patch.

"Please do", Billobi said.

"Yes, it was a cold night, much like this one..."

A deep sound interrupted old Badsey all of a sudden. It was so loud that Billobi almost lost his writing gear to the dark water. The echo that followed didn't make it any less frightful.

"What...was that?" Billobi whispered.

"No need to worry, lad. It's probably just a bangfish, yes. The dumbest animal you'll ever know."


Billobi searched the surroundings for any stupid looking fish, but it was hard to see in the dark.

"Why's...why is it called that?"

"It bangs its head against rocks, yes, yes. Sometimes boats too, yes."

"Why would it do that?" asked Billobi, taking notes eagerly.

"'Cause it's stupid! Ah, look what the waves brought in, yes! Good thing that bangfish was around, ey? Don't you drop them this time!"

A bangfish is a rather large fish that lacks a mouth. They are born with a life-long supply of nutrition, kept in a elastic cavity in their forehead.

The only way for them to eat is to bang their forehead against something hard. That way, the cavity will leak a small amount of nutrition that's instantly assimilated by their organs.

They communicate by making a deep, strong sound, where their whole body serves as a resonating box.

Bangfish have been known to bash their heads against boats if they haven't been able to feed for a while.

They either die of old age or by depleting their nutrition cavity.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Badgerbrough Inquisitive (lore)

Graduating from the School of Badgerbrough was both a delightful and eagerly awaited day for Billobi, but it raised a question he never had given much thought before: what would he do with this new kind of freedom?

His dearest friend Tristan "Hum" Beadle had already signed on to the Acorn Afloat, the large sailing vessel that travelled the eastern sea, and Thomas Althorp had bought an old antiques shop in the town of Horsehead (much to his parents distress).

Should he pursue a deeper understanding for all the different types and manifestations of magic? Not according to his headmaster, who told both him and Thomas Althorp on the day of graduation to "never, ever, ever, try to practice what our poor teachers have tried to teach you! Not you two! Never, ever!"

Talking to his father didn't really satisfy his restless and curious soul: "You'll never be a baker, Bill, but anyone can carry a sack of flour! That's the job I can offer you. If you don't want to travel south and work on the farm with your cousin Hamphred..."

It was at this point in his life, when his hands yearned for pen and paper and his feet couldn't feel more restless, that the perfect job opportunity found him - literally. It was the current edition of The Badgerbrough Inquisitive that his father dropped on his face.

"Read it, Bill. They're hiring."

The Badgerbrough Inquisitive was one of the local gazettes, known for their quirky and not always so accurate news from around the country. Working for the paper was frowned upon, but for Billobi it was the opportunity of his lifetime.

Three days later he could entitle himself as an official writer for the Inquisitive. Not that it did impress anyone (except for Thomas Althorp), but it didn't matter. He would travel and he would write, and his first assignment ever was to seek out and interview a man with really large ears just outside of town. He couldn't be more excited.

Get your copy of the Badgerbrough Inquisitive here! (PDF, 0.5 MB).

It's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.