Monday, 22 May 2017

The Monkey Mountains

Of all mankind’s mistakes, teaching monkeys gunnery must be amongst the worst, for a Macaque with a cannon is a masterless beast and a Gibbon with a gun makes their own rules.


So it came to be, and still remains, in the butterfly-haunted Monkey Mountains, where the black-throated chuckling thrushes never rest, for they are shocked in droves from the branches of the banyan trees by the blasting of cannons the cracks of jezails and sad nocturnal grenados of the Bomb-Lorises. A saltpetre pandemonium silenced only by the roaring of the rainstorms that wet the powder and cool the tempers of the maddened monkey masters in their crumbling forts.

None know now who first induced in monkeys the capacity and desire for black-powder war, but for as long as memory recalls the primate population of the monkey mountain range has shared these things;

- That they speak, and think in at least a rudimentary way, at least to the equivalent of a private soldier.
- That they war against each other in clades and clans.
- that they respect, as a medium of Ares and a language of death only black powder and the high velocity round.

Gunpowder is a weapon, in some ways, quite poorly adapted for the Monkey Mountains. The hills themselves are steep, the valleys dark, the land bulging and cutting away like bad cursive script. The air is often humid and battered by clattering monsoons that pound the skies with yellow lightning and slash the trees with thick bright carving knives of warm and heavy rain. In these periods the masters of the monkey forts rest comatose, playing cards and smoking opium from Yoon-Suin, nodding in their hammocks and oiling their guns, picking lice from each others fur, waiting for the veil of rain to rise and for the wars to start again.

The Monkey Mountains are dominated by the Banyan tree, dense dark forests of strangling figs in which a single plant can send down hanging roots over hundreds of yards. The Banyan cannot grow alone, it surrounds another tree and slowly strangles it until it dies, leaving the winding banyan branches curled around a hollow column where the dead tree was.

Spirits, and eld-things of multiple sorts are often caught within the columns of these hollow trees for complex reasons of their own. Never listen to a voice coming from within a Banyan tree.

Once, the forests of the monkey mountains must have been dominated by another kind of plant, in the same way, it's unlikely that the monkey warlords built their own forts of red brick and terracotta demon-faced tile, but now only the parasite remains, the hollow root-trunks of the Banyan highlighting the ghosts of the annihilated species of trees and the piratical and proud monkey masters living in the ruined forts, themselves often so raddled by siege that they are only held together by the banyan roots looping through their walls like tying twine.

While the dense and knotted forest is more accessible to monkeys than to men, it still severely restricts the useful range of a black-powder weapon and makes transporting mortars, cannon and heavy siege artillery an absolute nightmare. This makes melee, guerrilla tactics, stealth and a defensive strategy the natural mode of combat for the environment, and all of this is ignored by the mad monkey masters who insist on forcing columns of gibbons and macaques through the dripping forest, desperately dragging bronze cannon up and down the valleys to batter down each others walls.

When these tactics inevitably fail and the field breaks down into a mad skirmish of pistols, bayonets and derringers concealed in hats, the winning warlord abducts the abandoned cannon and then tries to exactly the same thing that their opponent just tried; siege warfare in a jungle, with monkeys as troops.

It makes sense to the monkeys at least, for them simply having cannon is a confirmation of status.

...............................

THE ECONOMY

The economy of the monkey mountains runs on the Tapa tree, or paper mulberry, an extremely useful plant whose roots make rope, whose bark makes cloth whose leaves and fruits are edible and which is often used as medicine. Most crucially, its inner bark can be used to make a fine paper.

Small communities of human beings live in almost-hidden villages in the valleys of the mountains, they subsist of hunting (with bow and arrow only), low-level agriculture, the products of the forest, like the figs of the banyan, from eating wasps attracted to the figs and from the tapa tree.

The rituals of ownership for each tree are complex and contested, each trunk is claimed by a particular family, the branches go to certain relatives and the twigs or third-stage branches are 'gifts' traded to still-poorer relatives. In this way, each tree is a tiny feudal system and the exact laws of inheritance and descent are argued over with some ferocity, (although never with guns).

The cutting and processing of the Tapa tree provides wealth for the villages and the Monkey Warlords take a chunk of this for their 'tapa tax'. It is this tax which pays for the gunpowder and guns the monkeys love and this is pretty much all it pays for since the monkeys want few other manufactured goods.

Each village comes under the feudal rule of a monkey master in a monkey fort who ‘protects’ them from any other nearby monkey master

Those beyond the Monkey Mountains think that having a monkey for a lord must be pretty terrible, in fact, the Monkeys are extremely lassiez faire, having almost no interest in human culture beyond the tapa tax and gun manufacture, they leave almost everything up to the local authorities of each village who do their best to replicate the byzantine structures of hierarchy, ritual and oppression which they would usually get from an aristocracy for free.

The lord of the local monkey fort does insist that their guns be adored, especially the almost-immovable field artillery, which the human villagers are happy to do.

..........................

THE ENVIRONMENT

The monkey mountains are made from primordial coral reefs, increasing the complexity of the often Karstic terrain providing dramatic overhangs, deep creeks, disappearing streams and occasional caves. Rumours of lost cave systems are much more common than the real thing. The caves are often inhabited by Black Bearded Tomb Bats, which is the actual, real name of that species. Sometimes ancient sea shells and the curls of old aquatic snails can be found as a natural part of the bedrock, turning up in the soil of the forest floor.

The air is full of floods of black and gold butterflies, almost half a foot wide, black-throated chuckling thrushes which sound like you just said something funny, and of the banyan wasps that eat the banyan fruit and sting everyone, but which are also delicious.

(By ancient law the pirate contracts of the Crab-Man-Clans of the Selenium Isles can only be signed on paper made from the nests of wasps and the best paper from the best wasps comes from the Banyan wasps of the Monkey Mountains, so if you see Crab-Man Pirates in the hills they are usually here for that.)

Katkins and caustic fruit come from the various trees and at night Masked Civets hunt, dodging the Bomb-Lorises and often spraying unwitting wanderers with their terrible skunk-musk.

To this of course we must add the numerous spirits, memories and ghost goblins trapped in the tubular Banyan trees. Better not to interact with those.


............................

THE MONKEYS THEMSELVES

Most of the monkeys of the monkey mountains are either rock Macaques, who prefer derringers and pistols, and white-handed Gibbons who like Jezails, easy for them to reload due to their long arms.

Lone, nocturnal Bomb-Lorises exclusively use grenades with extremely long, silent, smokeless fuses. The Lorises are slow and cannot throw, their medium of combat is a form of 'grenade sniping' in which each Loris will try to predict the movements of the other and move them into position directly next to a pre-placed grenade. This is an extremely subtle and strategic form of warfare (more akin to submarine war than anything else) and the night is often shaken by the explosions of the duelling Bomb-Lorises.

A small number individual apes have reached the Monkey Mountains over the years, some Chimpanzees, a handful of Gorillas and a small breeding population of Orangutans, these are often taught to speak by the monkeys and given heavy deck-guns, muskets or blunderbusses or used to drag cannon and mortars through the forest, but they do not occupy a commanding position in Monkey society (it is the Monkey Mountains after all, not the Ape Mountains).

The nature of the Monkey Master ruling the local fort will tell you something about their tactics

A Master-Macaque will prize the frontal assault, pulling his mortars to within close range of the enemy fort, distracting the defenders with skirmishing attacks.

A Class 1 Gibbon (they compete endlessly at marksmanship) prefers to duel at range and tries to take a strategic position dominating the enemy before pounding them with bronze cannon.

An Autarchic Bomb-Loris plays a deadly and almost-invisible game of feint and counter-feint in which the political and strategic are inextricably linked, all simply elements of a master plan as it unfolds, designed to trick their opponent into a vulnerable position before they are decapitated.


.........................

THE FORTS

The forts of the Monkey Mountains have seen better days. They are built of red brick and spattered with gunshot marks, banyan trees infest the revetments and writhe through the walls. Statues of red stone stand before many of the forts and all the statues have been worn down and effaced by time
they might be of anything, men, monkeys, or monsters.

The forts were once highly rational, many were star-forts, where space allowed, but most of the outer walls are now abandoned and the forest has reclaimed what it can. Inside, the buildings are a mess, but all of the rooms dedicated to gunpowder and weaponry are well-kept with neatly repaired roofs and safety lanterns

The tiles of all the forts are red terracotta and each one has a demons face which grins silently up at the phosphorescent day stars visible from the Monkey Mountains, and the felt-tip-yellow lightening and at the storms which send water spewing from each gaping terracotta mouth.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

In 3D

Apologies for the nothing post.

I will, for the first time, be going to a 'Con', the UK Games Expo in Birmingham. I will be at the Lamentations desk for most of Saturday the 3rd of June. or at least until I have a breakdown due to the crowds, noise and social contact. Or until Raggi and I kill each other over some obscure disagreement.

So if you would like to witness my glassy smile and pained grimace in three dimensions then come along! And I will sign whatever is put in front of me. Take a 'selfie' as the kids say.

If you are not on my facebook you might not know what I look like. 

I look like this;




And here is an interesting creature I saw on a walk yesterday


Monday, 15 May 2017

A Review of 'Wrecked Lives, or, Men Who Have Failed by William Henry Davenport Adams'

(In the quotes below, the paragraphs have been added by me. Adams is a Victorian and does not really believe in them, perhaps taking them as a sign if weakness.)

I got this from the 'Scholars Select' series, which is essentially the 'print on demand from a scan' series, which means the page has all kinds of crazy copying and printing artefacts like one part where a few are missing, a few where it tilts and the first words and letters of lines are lost and one or two points where a page has been folded over and scanned.

I'm not complaining, its actually quite fun, it adds a new layer of bibliographic mystery and makes 19th Century popular writing available for cheap so that's fine with me. The cover on this is also pretty robust.

Inside are scans of the original pages so all the original typography and punctuation has been preserved.

Like any book of criticism it speaks to us as much about the critic as about anyone else and oh my god what a critic, he is the extruded essence of the Victorian Age, he lived from 1828 to 1891 and Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1876, so he only exceeded her by a decade and a half. [EDIT - SHE REIGNED TILL 1901- GOD DAMN IT]

Adams seems to have been a sort of one-man Victorian proto-wikipedia. All he did was read and write. He read everything and he nearly seems to have written everything. Even the scanned re-prints on Amazon go to over 500 books, here is a non-chronological and non-representative handful;


- Witch, warlock and magician; historical sketches of magic and witchcraft in England and Scotland.
- Lighthouses and lightships; a descriptive historical account of their mode of construction and organisation.
- Temples, tombs and monuments of ancient Greece and Rome; a description and a history of some of the most remarkable memorials of classical architecture.
- Curiosities of superstition, and sketches of some unrevealed religions.
- Celebrated women travellers of the nineteenth century.
- Womans's work in girlhood, maidenhood, and wifehood.. With hints on self culture and chapters on the higher education and employment of women.
- The buried cities of Campania; or Pompeii and Herculanium, their history, their destruction and their remains.
- Women of fashion and representative women in letters and society. A series of biographical and critical studies.
- Celebrated Englishwomen of the Victorian Era - "This book presents biographical sketches of notable women of Victorian England in an effort to display women’s intellect and thereby help the cause of women's rights."
- Child-life and girlhood of remarkable women. A series of chapters from female biography.
- Stories of the lives of noble women
- Famous beauties and historic women. A gallery of croquis biographiques.
- "In perils oft": romantic biographies illustrative of the adventurous life
- Wonders of the Vegetable World
- Egypt Past and Present
- The household treasury of English song. Specimens of the English poets
- The Sunshine of Domestic Life: or Sketches of Womanly Virtues and Stories of the Lives of Noble Women
- Good Samaritans: Or, Biographical Illustrations of the Law of Human Kindness
- The Secret of Success: Or, How to Get On in the World.
- The Catacombs of Rome: Historical and Descriptive
- Great Shipwrecks: A Record of Perils and Disasters At Sea 1544-1877
- Nelsons' Hand-Book to the Isle of Wight
- Dwellers on the Threshold. Or, magic and magicians. Vol II
- Beneath the Surface: Or, Wonders of the Underground World

And this is only a handful. I'm sure people familiar with me can see the shared interests, magic, underground spaces, tombs and heroism.

I put 'Men Who Have Failed' on my wish-list largely due to its wonderful and ridiculous title and it has not dissapointed me. Adams takes us on a tour of (to his eye) ruined lives. The effect is rather like watching Adams march sternly down a line a grieving and fragile artists and bad politicians, wielding the big, dead salty haddock of Victorian morality. As he passes by, each failed man receives a rueful, but well-deserved salty smack in the face for not being Victorian enough.

The section on Robespierre takes up nearly half the book, but we cannot blame Adams for this, the doom of the French Revolution and the Terror are just much, much stranger, more exciting and more interesting than anything else that could possibly happen. It is one of the pleasures of left-wing nutters as opposed to right-wing nutters that, because they think they are opening a new chapter in history, they tend to obsessively record everything they do, which, if they don't manage to burn it later, gives the popular historian a lot of detail to work with. So we know, for instance, that Robespierre was really into tarts, and;

"To this description of his person and character it may be added that he was temperate to an extreme, drinking water only, and passionately fond of oranges. Freron says he was insatiable in his appetite for this fruit, and thinks that their acidity acted on the bilious humours of his body, and favoured their circulation. 'It was always easy to detect the place at table which he had occupied, by the piles of orange-peel which covered the plate. It was remarked that, as he ate them, his severity of countenance relaxed'."

Which I reproduce here as an example of Adams' eye for the telling or ridiculous detail, for its inherent interest and for the intriguingly stated possibility that the problem with Robespierre was that he was too alkali.

Before the solemn judgement comes down;

"... his intense selfishness ruined him. He could govern only by silence and terror ; he could think of no other way of disarming his adversaries than by crushing them. ..... When he had swept out of his path every enemy he would announce that the Terror was no more. He was sick and weary of the Terrorists, and he wished, and had resolved, to destroy them. There can be no doubt that he was appalled at the incessant bloodshed and yet he was resolved to pour out more blood in order to arrest its flow !"

Robert Burns is next to get a kicking. It’s curious that a Victorian moralist and a modern reader would both look askance on Burns for exactly the same behaviour (he was a massive slut) but with a very different tenor.

It is lack or heroism and high-mindedness that does for Burns in the end.

We move on to Benjamin Haydon, rarely has anyone exploded in the air like Haydon. He has the perfect vector, just enough talent, ability, hard work and high-mindedness to put him high, high, high in the sky, and just enough deranged narcissism, paranoia, indebtedness and lack of self-control to make sure he goes up like a drone strike in full public view.

I offer the second part of the following quote as an example of someone utterly unlike myself or anyone else I know.

"In March 1890, the "Dentatus" was completed, and at the Royal Academy's Exhibition was submitted to the judgement of the critics and the public. This was not particularly favourable ; the general opinion being that the painter had "attempted too much;" but Lord Mulgrave liberally rewarded him with 210 guineas. Haydon, however, conceived the idea that the Academicians had not given him a good place in the Exhibition, out of jealousy ; and thus began his long warfare against the Academy, which continued during the remainder of his life, and acted on his brain like a powerful irritant.

Never was any man more impatient of criticism or more intolerant of opposition. To disagree with him was a sure and certain mark of incompetence, envy, malice, uncharitableness. His estimate of his powers was so enormous, that it was difficult for any calm, unprejudiced observer to accept it; yet, at the same time, it indisposed him to believe in the possibility that a critic might honestly regard it as excessive. Hence he waged an incessant warfare against a constantly increasing host of adversaries, for his pretensions were so disproportionate to his performance that men naturally took offence at their transparent egotism."

Haydon has a very, very sad end, but even though it should call us to sympathy, blowing your brains out in the study, knowing either your wife or kid will find you, is a particularly representative example of his self-absorption. At least leave the house to do it man.

On Heinrich Heine

Heine has the misfortune of being, not only a flake, but also German.

[Heine is salty about the English, Adams prepares and unleashes his own not-inconsiderable reserves of salt]

"Passing over the exaggeration of this passage, we may remark that "freedom" here means, evidently, something more than political liberty, or else Heine could hardly have ignored the fact that England had attained to a successful application of its principles long before they were understood by the majority of Frenchmen ; and we may assume, I think, that it signifies a general impatience of restraint ; an independence of those conventionalities which, however ridiculed by the wits, are the safeguard and the bond of society; and an arbitrary revolt against order, custom, and common  sense. If such were Heine's idea of freedom, and if this kind of freedom were his "new religion," it is easy to believe that the most intelligent Englishmen would, to Hein's perception, talk foolishly about it !"

Albion thus preserved, we move on to the real meat and Adams digs into his bag of exclamation marks;

"Alas for those powerful, fervid, irregular spirits, which so fatally mistake license for liberty, and so sadly plunge into fruitless warfare against the wisely conservative forces of established society! How pitiable is their waste of strength and effort! How surely do they prepare for themselves the doom of failure! Wheras if, instead of aiming at revolution, the would be content with reform, they might accomplish so much good for their brethren, and reap so abundant a harvest of crowned and consummate labour !"

The chapters of the book grow smaller and smaller as we go on, as if Adams is running out of a particular kind of fuel. His engine of exasperation is chugging on fumes. Even the most Victorian Victorian can only mine so much salt.

On Poe

"It is annoying, after one's nerves have been thrilled and one's fancy stimulated, by such a crowd of sepulchral images, to find that nothing comes of it, except some rhodomontade about "a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore" - which by the way, the angels would certainly not do. It is just as if the ghost of Hamlets father had broken his prison-bonds to inform his startled son that his mother was called Gertrude in the realm of shadows!"

................

"Towards the close of the year he produced his fine poem of "Eureka," which Mr. Ingram rapturously pronounces "the last and grandest monument of his genius." "In all probability," he adds, "no other author ever flung such an intensity of feeling, or ever believed more steadfastly in the truth of his works, than did Edgar Poe in this attempted unriddling of the secret of the universe!"

"The Secret of the Universe" however is not unriddled in this volume of vague, mystical, and pantheistic 'fine writing.'"

...............

"To retrace the record has been to me no agreeable task ; but in a book dealing with "Men who have Failed" - men who, by their failure, have left us a warning and an example - I could not ignore it, for it points very vividly and with even terrible force the moral I am bound to inculcate. Alas that, with all the fervour of his imagination, with all the rich promise of his intellectual energy, the name of Poe should be entered on so sad a roll, instead of among those

"Who prove that noble deeds are faith,
And living words are deeds,
And leave no dreams beyond their dreams,
And higher hopes and needs"!

It is a pitiful thing when of a mans life we can make no better use than to adopt it as a beacon which indicates a danger and commemorates a wreck!"

Adams seems drained, not only by the difficulty of his own research but by the moral nature of his quest. For all his high feeling at the beginning. I think it is becoming increasingly obvious to him, and to us, that we are driving along the road looking at crashed cars. There is only so much we can learn from this and even though I have a great deal of affection for Adams and his patriarchal Victorian bullshit, even I am running out of patience with him a little.

We wheedle to a slim finish with Thaddeus Kosciusko, the Polish patriot who did everything right, was heroic, self-sacrificing and high-minded, but still got utterly fucked by reality.

If, by chance, anyone buying this book today was expecting to find out anything genuinely useful from the doom of these great and talented men, then I am afraid there is little to discover here that you wouldn’t get from a Wikipedia page. Adams may be right 60% of the time, but its not too hard to point out that when Robespierre is acting like a nutter, that he is nuts, that Burns slutting around ruined some young women’s lives or that Haydon was a fucking tool.

They are worth considering, none the less, especially Haydon who is almost a living signpost to the systematic failings of the artistic mind.

Adams successfully points out that a bunch of flaky self-destructive narcissists couldn’t keep their shit together with verve and drive and from an exclusively pre-Freudian, Christian, and Victorian point of view. A modern blogger would do the same but would probably be less salty and a lot less fun to read.

If you are buying it as a mixture of historical miscellany and a romp through the popular Victorian mind, then you can certainly have a lot of fun with ‘Wrecked Lives’, it is the very living image of its creator and its time.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Barren Baronies

Parched and rusted Knights on starved horses, their hooves clicking on the bare sandstone and kicking black clinker through the grey volcanic ash. Cracked skin, red mail, dusty scabbards closed with broken twine binding wind-sharp swords, and each knight cradling a vibrant shield of glowing glass. For their Baronies are held within their shields; curved pocket realms where waterfalls plummets from an unseen sky, birds sing in the soft dawn and usher out the dusk. Where cattle amble home to castles of pale sea-washed-beach coloured stone over age-dark draw-bridges sleeping across the beds of fish-thick moats, through oak gates lodged open by forgotten props.

The birds disappear when they migrate, somehow they can find their way through the curved prison-space of the bound realm. For anyone else, walking too far one way brings you back the other. The rivers run somewhere but no-one who takes them ever comes back. The wells draw water from the dark but tunnels twist intangibly, avoiding a deeper dark that isn't there.

Small realms, but safe, where widows weave the funeral shrouds for absent knights who rarely return alive. With everyone preparing for an invisible end. Their world is as fragile as glass.

Here in the hidden Baronies, and there in the Barren Baronies, the time-scarred knight licks water from a thorn as dawns paperback-grey eye widens in slow shock at the horizons horrors once again, a ruined land like ragged pennants snapping in a random wind.

They seek each other, these Knights, they fear each others tread and watch each others sign. They suspect everything a threat, even the absence of a threat, silence itself the track of an intangible beast they would seek.

They must. It is the war of the Baronies. It is a civil war. A savage war of all against all, of kin against kin. They must defend their people, it is a sacred trust. They must defend their land and their honour and their subjects. They are the only ones who can.

They must defend them from the other Knights, for if the shield is shattered the Barony is lost, and if a Barony is lost then the pain-wracked desert of the Barren Baronies must writhe like a snake pinioned in the sun and the stone shatter and the ranges crack like freezing ice.

And, as the unrelenting logic of death requires, the surest form of defence requires offence.

And there are old wrongs and old hatreds, deep betrayals and dark imaginings.

Yes it is quite a deed to shatter a shield, and to avenge your ancestors, and many shields were shattered in the starting centuries of the war, and the land wracked with torment and homes and families and ancient lineages disappeared like drifting smoke. Those were the early contests, and birthed the roots of many hates between the Knights.

But the Baronies were young then, and the Knights were poorly trained, ill-prepared for the broken world their war had built. They are more fierce and competent now, some near-ageless out of hate, some passing hatred on from son to son.

They know their ruined land and read its marks. A scuff on stone, a shard of wood, a still breeze carrying the scent of rust and sweat. The pause before an attack.

It would go quicker if they were willing to use bows the wars might finished in a century, but a Knight is a Knight after all. Perhaps especially after all. They go at each other with blades. Spears first, if their horses can still charge, then they take it into breathing distance.

The Knights are very good by now. They take no risks and move like tense pendulums twisted together, clicking back and forth, speechless across the sand, leaving scattered drops of rusty blood. Each has killed a hundred men by now, and shattered a hundred shields, and riven the land with terrible tortures over a hundred times.

They still carry their own safe shield, their protected Barony, glowing like a polished stone, fragile, desperately, terribly fragile. A shield with all their dreams inside it, their families, their homes, their future and their past. It's us or them. Someone has to go.

Ages ago they made fires to survive in the dark, where the dew freezes hieroglyphs on the obsidian shards reflecting cracked stars from a wounded sky. They learnt, quickly, to never sleep by their own fire, but to watch it from a distance through half-closed eyes, preparing for the attack. Then in time they learnt that all the fires were traps, that all the knights were sleeping cold. Now no-one makes a fire.

In stories the Knights fight because they think the last shield will return safely to the earth, and expand like an infinite tapestry, a green growing carpet of woodlands and peace, to fill the Barren Baronies and bring back the land the way it once was. And that’s a neat and tragic tale which gives reasonable reasons for death and makes the listener sigh.

In reality, they kill not to die. The only way they can ever be safe is if all the other Baronies are smashed and there is no-one left to hate. The last knight knows his home and family will survive, even hidden in a shield of glass, a bounded life is better than none.

People go around the Barren Baronies, the Knights who haunt it are amazingly, indescribably deadly. Watchful, cunning, amoral and cold. Even to step inside that land is to be made a piece in their game. From the moment of arrival, cold, hidden eyes observe and pained thoughts balance shifting probabilities. The Knights of the Barren Baronies have no particular interest in killing travellers, and none in keeping them alive. If you are useful dead, you will be killed. If you might become a threat, you die. If you can be a lure, provide a distraction or disguise, provoke an unexpected response or herald a telling mistake, then you might live. People do cross the Barren Baronies, some of them, gloriously unobservant, say they never even saw a Knight, don't know what all the fuss is about.

Those who do meet Knights rarely forget it. They are terrifying men. Honed and worn like a keen note from a taut string before it breaks. Violent and horribly sad, with the ruins of good manners and Knightly courtesy, and each with a carefully wrapped shield they will never expose.

They move in an invisible circle in which no-one will approach and kill with a twitch. Armed men back away. Some crawl to the border with slashed Achilles tendons, telling stories of the man in rusted mail who appeared from the stone and killed every standing man in a caravan in the time it takes to tell it. Left the rest crawling in the sand and followed them, invisibly, as they crawled and screamed towards the boundary of the Barren Baronies, making them a lure to catch another Knight.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Flamingo City

Its more of a town really, but don’t tell the Flamingo-People that. In a shoreside forest of black willow, white oak and cottonwood trees, they built* a settlement of woven bijou bower-salons, some hanging from the trees, others perched on teetering wicker towers linked by fragile walkways, if they are linked at all.

At mid-morning they fly out to the lake and spend all day ‘supping’ and conversing, in the evening they fly back. The Flamingo-People are all royalty and never do work. Though terrified of the Cold Crocodile King they all claim to be monarchists. They are served by servile Grebe-People who secretly plan revolt.

They deny they ever sleep and hate being caught doing it. In duels they stand stock still, hold the needle-rapiers in their beaks and their long necks wave back and forth in remarkable and frighting fashion.

What’s happening?
1. Playing Cards
2. Singing
3. Performing a Display
4. Conversing
5. Playing Darts
6. Duelling
7. Dancing a slow Pavane.
8. Grebe-People plotting.
9. Discussing Obsidian Shore Politics.
10. It’s the Cold Crocodile King in disguise.

Names
1
Prince/Princess
Burgundy
2
Duke/Dutchess
Carmine
3
Marquis/Marchioness
Vermillion
4
Earl/Countess
Rubous
5
Viscount/Viscountess
Fuchia
6
Baron/Baroness
Rose’

Deniable Missions
1. Find the Pavonated Man!
2. Destroy the Tiger Philosopher!
3. Punitive expedition against the Cannibal Hamster People.
4. Seek out the Green Grass Ghost in the Forest of Infinite Fear.
5. Depose the (current) Emperor Pig.
6. Spy upon the Lake of Thörn & find weakness of the Sky-Queen.


*By ‘built’ we mean ‘ordered the Grebe-People to build.