Novel ‘The Three Dead’: First 998 Words

Hey, it’s not my fault the text I wrote only reaches 1K two words into a new sentence. You know, except for the fact that… I wrote it that way.

Huh. Guess it is my fault.

In that case, I hereby declare 998 the new 1000. Huzzah!

Anyway, I couldn’t decide whether the intro for my NaNoWriMo 2015 project was more of a prologue or a chapter one, so I have decided to take a third option and call it ‘Chapter Zero’.

And just like Coke Zero, this has nothing added to it–nothing by way of editing, proofreading, revision, etc.–with the idea that in about a billion years I’ll revisit this opening, polish it up and show you all the difference. Won’t that be something to look forward to, as we all meander unsteadily towards our graves?

Speaking of which, here’s the NaNo blurb for the novel of my writings, ‘The Three Dead‘:


“As you are, so once were we;
As we are–so shall ye be.”

Thus speak three skeletal beings to three young hunters cavorting in the forest. But when one hunter asks the question–does that mean the three dead are the future selves of the three living? Or are they unrelated others who died long ago?–the dead have no answer.

They have no answer because they know no answer; not who they are or were, how they died, or why they now walk the earth reminding the living of their eventual fate. Consumed by curiosity the three dead begin their journey to discover their nature and purpose as, unstuck in time, they wander the fourteenth century looking for themselves.

But they are not the only ones searching. Five friars out of Bavaria, two orphans of the Black Death, three students from the University of Montpellier and the three living themselves are among those investigating the appearances of these skeletons, while a party of ill-fated Englishmen carry a shroud to a mysterious buyer in the Alps, even as the world around them seems to be coming to an end.

Well. Perhaps ‘seems’ isn’t entirely accurate.


Is it just me, or does wedding-cake hat-guy look like he’s pleasantly surprised to see the three strangely mannequin-like corpses? Like they were his old college buddies he just ran into unexpectedly in the street?

Well, with that deeply insightful comment out of the way, here’s those 998 or so words I was telling you about…


Chapter 0


Softly, a trickle of dirt no more voluminous than to have filled a thimble fell from the hollow socket where the Taller One’s right eye had been. Not that This One had ever seen the Taller One with eyes, but it was assumed there had once been eyes there, given the nature of their existence.

“Are they coming this way?” asked the Smaller One.

The Taller One turned his skull towards the other slowly, letting a few more grains of dead soil slip off his cheekbone.

“Can you not tell?” he asked in turn.

Had either the Taller One or the Smaller One had eyes, This One imagined that they would have locked them, as the living did. This One had something—a feeling?—that such a lock, which might as well have existed even if the accidents of it did not, was something it would be sensible to dispel, and so let their senses branch out into the woods themselves to answer the Smaller One’s question.

Until just recently it had been a fine, clear day. Although This One knew of ‘seasons’ they could not quite remember how the living labelled them, and so could not make a guess as to which one these woods dwelt in. This One was rather of the opinion though, that it was one of the two softer seasons—the ones that bridged the harsh bright with the bitter dark.

There was a cold wind rattling the leaves though. This One knew because, not two miles off, he saw—or felt?—one of the living pull their cloak around themselves with a shudder.

This One stepped up onto the root of a very old tree; finger-bones scraping against cracked bark.

“They’re following the beast.” Fox, This One remembered. Reynard. “Some ways north-east of here, heading west. It’s come as close to us as it’s going to get.”

The three of them should make the move to head them off, was implied in the announcement.

Both of the other Ones turned to This One as if they didn’t quite understand what they had meant. At least, that’s how This One felt the others had reacted, often This One wasn’t quite sure how to interpret what the other two did or said. They had what they assumed were feelings, yes; but who was to say how reflective of reality those were—if at all?

Fact was, it didn’t really matter. The three had a job to do, and they did it; usually without conversing even this much.


How many times have we done this, again? This One wondered.

But that didn’t matter either. The Taller One soon pointed their dust-filled sockets out to the north-west where the living were, and the Smaller One followed suit within a moment. There was something comforting to This One about that.

“Dusk is approaching,” the Taller One announced. “There is a clearing they should reach as soon as the light falters. We should wait for them there.”

This One was happy to follow the Taller One’s lead. They withdrew their bones from the tree to wrap their shroud around themselves more tightly—they didn’t want to lose it to the forest with the speed they might move at if the Taller One decided to go quickly.

Then, as they adjusted the border of the garment that had been slipping off their shoulder, a few of the scarlet threads snapped where they had become brown and withered with decay. This One stilled at the sound of the tearing cloth. Their fingers gripped the fabric tighter, their arm relaxed. Out of habit, This One turned their head to inspect the damage, though they no more had eyes than the Taller One did.

There was no part of the shroud’s deep red that was not stained by the long wait beneath the earth; small streaks of the mess of insects clinging to every thread, and where the cloth had got so bad that you could no longer see the red in it there were many rips and patches frayed away.

But some of it still looked red. The feeling This One had looking at the new wound was, they would have said, the opposite of comfort.

The Smaller One noticed the matter too; perhaps had heard the tear. This One was embarrassed to be caught with their thoughts clearly lingering on it; considering their shroud was the most well-preserved of all their garments, and the few scraps of once-white cloth that clung to the shoulders and pelvic bones of the Smaller One quite clearly the least, though supplemented by their rosary and talisman.

It wasn’t as though any of them would say anything about it, of course. That wasn’t the sort of thing that Three Dead did.

“Let us depart,” said the Taller One. Whether they’d noticed the tear or not, This One couldn’t say—could only attempt to adjust the shroud by pulling at a sturdier part of the fabric, more gently than before. It seemed that it would hold.

They put it from their mind as they prepared to glide. When they wanted to, the three dead moved like water fowl landing on a lake, only at far greater speeds. This One was pretty certain they knew which of the many clearings in these woods the Taller One had meant; the fox they were chasing was poised to skirt its edges within a degree’s shift of the shadow on a sundial.

Would the living actually go into the clearing if they were focussed on the fox though, This One wondered. It had happened that the three had missed their targets on occasion and had to catch up with them again later; sometimes even days later. This One knew it annoyed both the others when that happened; the Taller One took their calling very seriously, while the Smaller One tended to follow the Taller One’s suit in that too.

“Hurry, cousin! The damned beast is getting away!”


(The Taller One, Smaller One and This One get actual names by the end of the chapter, don’t worry)

Yeah, it needs some work. But who likes work? That’s what I say, and it’s that attitude that’s carried me so far in life. I mean, I have a job and everything…


The NaNoWriMo of Argon

As the image above is worth a thousand words, and I no longer have to keep up my daily wordcount by writing those thousand words, I shall return to fanfiction my numerous awe-inspiring original projects presently, after leaving my dear followers with an account of my experience of this fearsome month, written in the style of Jim Theis’ ‘The Eye of Argon‘ (

(I take no responsibility for anyone who may die laughing in reading ‘The Eye of Argon‘. Several of my barbarian comrades came very close)


The swirling pools of boiling gold that formed the scarlet orb, named ‘sun’ by some, withdrew its coils of heated shimmer in terror at the approaching dusk. Brave-hearted Rachelignr, the unsung Englisholian writer of barbarian fame bent the glistening sinews of her fleshy, manipulative fingers over the taunting keys of her crepuscular laptop, dulled and catastrophic thoughts abuzz with the permutations of thought related to her tangled, twisted, aggrogonious novel that lurked in the dingy shadows of her sinister and sacreligious id and ego.

“Mrifk!” she ejaculated, bustily–blubbering clusters of uncompassionate letters streaming like wisps of the most elegantly spun silk of the horned tarantulas that live craftily, luring naive prey to grotesque ends in the darkest corners of the Englisholian empire. “Thou NaNoWriMo approaches, wretch! Accept the defenestrating chaos of despair!”

Though she was, for many a day, ahead of the steep incline that set points–not arbitrary, but cunningly contrived along a parallel point–the creeping arms of sallow failure, grim and clammy in their mocking swamp of death contrived emporiously to wrap around her soft and lifeless limbs and guarantee her a place among her many slain comrades, strewn about the frigid haunts of the local CB2 Bistro, their entrails lain in pools of crimson gore.

In such a way did the teaming swarms of rainbow powdered fluff, efulgent with their horde of glassy eyes, pitch pupils jangling back and forth like the fair maiden Carthena’s luscious breasts in the arms of her barbarian lover, the unstoppable army of Plot Bunnies bore their mouth-knives, eager to bite into blood-gorged flesh.

“Thou shalt ne’er prevail, slut!” they cackled; their shrill and mincing voices legion in the unseen glow of the cerulean laptop.

Not cowed by their dancing tongues of prophesied doom, Rachelignr bashed her swollen digits along the malicious letter-makers and brought forth words an infinite amount of monkeys may very well have secreted with their mischievous ways.

“Away with thee!” she bellowed, lungs shaking, bosoms heaving, “Thou verminous rejections of Hell; thou shalt all taste death in the jaws of the violet oblong of completion!”

“Alack!” shrieked the mirthful lepus scourge, felt arms cast to the deaf ears of their abominable sky-gods. “Your slothful procrastination was orchestrated all along, reserving your strength for a final assault!”

“Aye,” agreed Rachelignr, “And may these fifty-two thousand words avenge the gnashing souls of my fallen, noble brethren.”

Exploding into explosions of pastel fibres the horde was brought to naught; the novel validated, and Rachelignr’s honour was avenged as airborne blobs of dead bunny devastation thickened the air.

“Rest in peace, Grignr,” she sighed.

And with that, the worthy barbarian and her overlarge chest of magnificent breastage departed NaNoWriMo victorious.



(OR IS IT!?)

Boo (It’s Halloween)

My incredibly well-put-together costume of a top hat, a comedy-drama mask, and a plague rat hand-puppet (I wore other clothes too, don’t worry) legitimately scared at least four people tonight–let’s see if my artwork can do better.

Yes, it’s NaNoWriMo tomorrow, and for the thirty days that follow: that means books and books mean book-covers. I’ve been working on this one for ages, and it’s still not done because I took time out to write a short story that wasn’t short enough to be finished on time. It must be the Curse of Halloween!

(because every day is Halloween in Rachelloon-land, apparently. I guess you all know what you’ll be getting for Christmas!)

All that aside, behold! My NaNoWriMo book-cover from rough sketch…

Cover Sketch

… to detailed drawing…

Cover Drawing

… which needed a background decoration I was too lazy to draw on, so ended up doing a single two-leaf–

Background Decoration

–repeating pattern, which I copy-pasted about fifty bazillion times in MS Paint, then transposed the original drawing onto to make…

Cover Attempt 1

… which will be coloured in using pen & watercolour… as soon as I get around to it.

Which, considering it’s NaNo tomorrow, may in fact be never. Then again, it would be a wonderful way to procrastinate actually writing the novel!


Let it not be said I renege on my promises (or at least let it not be said that I did so today) what follows in an excerpt of my first serious attempt at a serious novel. Seriously.

Yesterday’s post, where I introduced the Victorian murder-mystery ‘Mistyree’, via all the (terrible) illustrations I did for it, and forewarned of the overwritten navel-gazing contained therein, can be found here:

Well, I say all–as you can see there was one left, the illustration for the scene that follows. (don’t ask why the bookcase juts out so far from the wall, nor why Nicky has a picture of some origami on his wall: suffice it to say my deficiencies as an artist are innumerable). Nothing apart from a few paragraph breaks where it got really bad has been changed since it was written in 2007…

The Biggest Bookcase Ever


Excerpt from ‘Mistyree’

CONTEXT: Following the wedding of the MC (Nicky)’s younger brother, (minor gentlemen, both), a series of gruesome and bizarre murders take place in the local village. After being stabbed by a random thief and rescued (though unconscious at the time) by a man whom it is deduced by the detective on the case (who I called ‘Holmes’ as a joke) was probably the murderer, Nicky awakens weeks later to find a mutilated corpse has been placed in his bed in the night…


I looked at her again, and this time tried to see her as a whole. I didn’t recognise her at all, I couldn’t think that she had once been an entity I had shared time with at some point, that some part of my life had been killed with her. I felt more alive when I looked at her. Was that why he did it?

But her, her on the bed—she who had once moved and no longer did—what was she? How could she fit in my perception of the world? Her presence did not seem to change anything in me, I was frightened yes, but still me. What did this body mean? She looked so… so odd, being a body which did not live, a type of human being which I had never seen before and never could have imagined even with my unusual mind.

The right words did not exist to tell my thoughts, to make an argument of any coherency to process properly this incident. I calmed down further and realised I was sitting on the floor again. I couldn’t see her body properly, but saw her blood—even when I closed my eyes that red imprint remained.

At that point a maid came in to open the curtains. Unfortunately it was not Li, she was with Inspector Holmes at the time, but it seemed Mother had seen fit to send some poor servant up to inquire as to why I was not at breakfast. I was not sure myself, and wondered whether I had overslept, or had simply been transfixed by my lifeless companion too much to move for hours.

She screamed at what she saw—the bed, the girl, me, and backed out of the room still screaming. I watched her as I reminded myself that I was fine and could wait until later to exhibit the proper reaction to this happening. She hit the opposite wall of the corridor with an audible thump and never stopped screaming. She sounded hysterical, but even so, somewhat false, as though acting a part in a play. Perhaps such a reaction would always seem false to me, having no other genuine reaction to compare with.

I heard voices outside the room. “What’s happening!? What’s happening!?” A man’s voice cried out—George, I realised in a few moments. This unexpected situation had made my thoughts slower than usual. More than one man was hurrying up the stairs however, and it was Inspector Holmes who ran into my room first, followed closely by my brother.

“Dear God.” Said Holmes, his face turning pale before my very eyes. George turned away almost immediately and covered his mouth with his hand, retching. The maid’s screams continued but sounded raspier as she lost her voice from too much screaming. Eventually her screams turned to sobs and I watched her huddling outside my room. None of them seemed to have noticed me yet.

“George,” Said Holmes forcefully, grabbing my brother’s shoulders and staring at him. I could see that Holmes was just as thrown by the new development, but he held it together well. “George, listen to me.”

“No, no, this is not supposed to happen,” Said George, shaking his head like a small child, “This does not happen to me, not to me, not to my family,” He said.

“George, listen!” Snapped Holmes.

“No, no, not these things, these things do not happen,”

“George!” Holmes roared, shaking him firmly.

George was silent for a moment, “It’s like a nightmare…” He whimpered.

I was confused at my brother’s reaction. George never seemed the type to go to pieces in a crisis. Hadn’t he taken charge the first time? Perhaps it was actually seeing the body that alarmed him so. Although I realised that everyone had the potential to slip into the persona that he was now adopting, I still felt at odds by it. The reactions that entity on the bed provoked, it seemed, were just as disorienting as the body itself.

“I know, George,” Said Holmes, not unkindly, “But listen to me. You take that poor girl downstairs,” He meant the maid, “and do not let anyone else enter the room apart from Doctor Dudley, do you understand!?”

George whimpered a bit but Holmes merely shook him again, “Do you understand?” He asked. George hesitated, then nodded and staggered to the door of my bedroom. I turned my head to watch him leave, he and the sobbing girl grasping at each other for support. I thought of Homer, at least, I think it was Homer, and Odysseus grasping at his wife like a drowning swimmer. Funny that such a thing should have come to my mind at that moment.

When I couldn’t hear him anymore, I turned my head again to look at Holmes. His back was facing me and having caught his bearings he was examining the entity. I wondered if he’d even seen me. I suddenly wanted him to notice me more than anything, and tried to make some sound to grab his attention. No sound would come. It seems silly that I wanted to take his attention away from her, but that was how it was.

Holmes sighed and shook his head. He moved very little and I felt my mind start to wonder to other things. George would have been telling the others, I wondered what their faces would look like when he did. Shocked? Devastated? Exasperated? Well father might be, this was the fifth body and still no leads.

The slight shaking of the floor that one only feels when one is not thinking of anything warned me of the next approaching figures. Two of them—who had accompanied Dudley? I guessed who, and lo and behold accompanying the good doctor was my dear Xanatos, pale and worried. He relaxed somewhat upon seeing me in safety, then changed his mood to horrified when he saw the stains covering me.

“Nicky!” He breathed and dropped to my side. Dudley coughed heavily as he came in.

“Blast! Another one, eh?” He complained, “When you catch this diseased demon I swear I’ll kill him myself!”

Five times over? I wondered.

“Look at the pattern of blood.” Holmes said, ignoring Dudley’s comment, “He’s killed her here. Slit her throat right on this bed, he’s never done that before.”

“Getting braver?” Asked Dudley.

“No,” Holmes replied, his face screwed up in concentration, “No, this one never had any fear.”

Xanatos interrupted them as he rubbed my uninjured shoulder gently, “Doctor, could you please see to Nicky?” His hand on my shoulder was not particularly comforting, but I knew he had meant it to be and that was comforting. “I do not believe he’s injured, but he’s certainly—”

“My God!” Cried Dudley, “You were here? What did you see?”

I tried to answer him and found I could not move.

“Mr. Attfield?” Asked Holmes.

“I…” I managed ‘I’ but couldn’t get anything else out.

“See to him, John.” Said Holmes.

Dudley didn’t move. “Well what’s he doing here anyway? How did he get covered in blood—it’s obviously not his!”

“This is his room!” Hissed Xanatos. He saw what they were implying before I did, and he didn’t like it. Rather sweet of him, I thought.

Dudley stared, mystified. Holmes wore much the same expression but managed to voice what by this point we were all wondering. “This man,” He meant the murderer, “Took the poor girl into this room and slit her throat over the bed,” He paused, “While Mr. Attfield was sleeping on it? And then he just put her on the bed and left and you didn’t hear or see anything?”

Dudley started to walk towards me as I tried to remember how to talk. “Uh… I… w-was… I was a-asleep,” I began shaking. Dudley knelt down next to me, bones cracking with old age. He then sniffed at my face, which I thought rather odd.

“More than asleep.” He said with a humourless laugh, “Chloroform.” But the suspicion in his eyes didn’t waver. “Then again, Wat and I have seen killings staged more elaborately than this.”

“What!?” Xanatos spat out, moving so that he was diverting Dudley’s attention from me, “I suppose you don’t know how utterly ridiculous you sound?” He said.

Dudley sneered, “This is his room.” He said. “What other place to start but—”

“John!” Holmes interrupted. “I’ll admit the situation could be argued either way. Just get Mr. Attfield to another room and clean him up, I’ll ask him questions later.” He paused, then added as an afterthought, “Make sure he doesn’t go anywhere. This one has far more to do with our murderer than I’d like.”

“What on earth do you think you’re talking about, sir!?” Xanatos growled. “If you knew for one second—”

“Xanatos?” I said, lifting my arm up to grab his sleeve, “I think my legs aren’t working properly.” I wasn’t lying, they were twitching without my control, but not moving when I wanted them to. Xan looked concerned and reached for me, lifting me up, miraculously without jarring my shoulder.

“Arthur’s room is closest,” He said bitterly. “I’m sure he won’t mind.”

I nodded and wished that everyone would leave immediately. I caught another glimpse of the body as Xan carried me out. How cold she looked. I wanted to give her a blanket or something. Then I saw something else I immediately reminded myself to remember for later—it may have interested Holmes, after all. Kuka and Imily were sitting on my desk on the other side of the room, free of bloodstains and definitely not where I had left them. I could only catch a glimpse of them however, before we stumbled further down the corridor to Art’s room.

Art was elsewhere, probably riding a horse or something, and I was disappointed, because I’d have loved to see the expression on his face if he had to deal with me covered in blood again. Xanatos put me down on the bed and went into the adjoining chamber. I lay down and thought of nothing in particular for a few moments, before I suddenly remembered that I was covered in the blood of a dead girl.

Then it struck me—why had the killer left her in my bed? This was the second time he’d shown a strange sort of interest in me and I couldn’t understand it. I found myself very interesting, but everyone else either pretended I didn’t exist or pretended I was someone else (except on certain occasions of course). Had he just picked me at random?

Or was he genuinely paying me attention?

I was somewhat excited at the prospect. I didn’t like a lot of attention from other people, which was fortunate because I didn’t get much, but sometimes I did feel momentarily…left out. I would much rather be left alone, and could see myself living perfectly well without any sort of human company (provided someone left me some food once and a while) and yet this prospective interest our killer had in me of all people was in turn of interest to me.

It was flattering, of all things, and not in a sycophantic way like the people I saw or imagined I saw in Hell, but something far more subtle than that. But I felt I’d probably got it completely wrong and he wasn’t interested in me at all—after all I didn’t conform to his preferred type of victim and I wasn’t part of the force assembled to catch him. One would think he was far more interested in Holmes, his arch-nemesis or whatever he saw the detective as. I knew that Holmes was certainly focussed on him.

And me? Well, this whole time I’d mostly been thinking about myself and my own idiosyncrasies. Even now I was self-analysing, wondering what it was in me that he could possibly find interesting rather than what it was in him that could be interested in me.

I hadn’t really given him the thought he was due, just compared him with myself, used him as a way to try and further understand myself, never tried to understand him because I had never been able to understand anyone. Perhaps he was trying to attract my attention. So who was he? He didn’t think or act like normal people, that was clear enough, and neither did he think or act like me.

Category One: Normal People. Category Two: Me. Category Three: Murderers. No, some normal people could be murderers as well. Evil? Well, for lack of a better word I supposed, even if it did not exactly describe this person. But evil was supposed to be hated, if one was ‘good’ or mostly good, and loved if one was ‘evil’, and vice versa. I couldn’t seem to feel either about either, as I had explained to the vision of Lucifer, though I could usually tell the difference—the difference according to society as a whole, I realised.

Seeing as how I didn’t seem to feel either of them, they probably didn’t exist for me. But the murderer had to be termed something, and as Holmes insisted he was not insane, I had no other recourse but to call him evil. Evil was simply not necessarily a negative element to me, merely a different one. Had I contradicted myself? Did I say earlier I preferred good, or something to that effect? Hmm…I suppose I could still prefer good and not have an all-out hatred of evil.

An evil person, the first I’d ever come across. How to quantify him, was the question. Perhaps I was the first un-normal person he’d ever come across too, and that was why he was interested in me?

Evil Plans

My friends, this weekend was taken up with planning for NaNoWriMo (the research needed for next month is over 9000; so great that it has forced me to reference lame, outdated internet memes), so I have only a single image to share with you; as a tantalising clue to what this year’s project will be about. Until next time!


Skeleton One: Seriously, Chase, I’m going to go in for those breast implants after all; I look like a fucking rail here!

Skeleton Two: Oh, Barbara! Must you feel the need to conform to the beauty standards of the life-supremacist human-normative feudal-capitalist-patriarchy when your true beauty is on the inside!?

Skeleton Three: Ha ha, you two kill me, you sad, sad assholes…

(Credit to Jean le Noir for the image; wouldn’t want him coming back as a progressive skeleton and DMCA-ing me!)

Don’t You Understand What I’m Comma Trying To Say?

Technology marches on, and after a long time trying to decide whether I was too lazy to learn how to use Voice Typing, or whether I was lazy enough that Voice Typing itself would save more effort in the long run than not being bothered to look into it would, I took the plunge and bought myself a wireless headset + mic to start talking to myself like a crazy person!

Only this time I was wearing the headset, so I didn’t look quite so crazy.

To test it, I read aloud one of my favourite poems–Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley. These were the results (mistakes in italics; corrections in square brackets):

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who’s there had two vast entrance Westlake’s of stone [said, vast and trunkless]

Stand in the desert near them on the sand

Have sent a shattered visage lies, his brown [half-sunk, frown]

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that it’s got to well those passions road [sculptor, read]

Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things

The hand that mocked them and the heart of the third [that fed]

And on the pedestal these words appear

My name is of him and he is King of Kings [Ozymandias]

Look on my works the mighty and despair [ye]

Nothing beside remains round the decay

Of that colossal wreck boundless and there [bare]

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Considering I’m using the free Windows software, this was the first thing I voice-typed and it will get better the more I train it, the above actually isn’t too bad–some lines were even word-for-word correct. I then did one of the training things that they have, where you read their pre-prepared text so the speech-recognition can get more used to your voice. The problem with that is that they tell you to use your normal speaking voice, but as soon as I’m told to read something aloud I put on my Public Speaking voice; which sounds like…

“The train at platform one is the eleven twenty-eight, First Great Eastern service to… London King’s Cross. Calling at Royston, Hitchin, Stevenage, Welwyn North, Welwyn Garden City, Ashwell & Morden, and… London King’s Cross, only.”

Also, I can tell homonyms are going to be a problem with it, as well as names I’ve made up–maybe even less common names in general. But it has improved even after only a short time using it–for example:

It was a scroll, a skeleton, walking towards them and the remains of the shrouds that had once been a very extravagant, expensive—it had to have been, but what remained of it now was nothing more than shreds hanging off the shoulder bones of the undead creature.

Which was meant to be:

It was a skull, a skeleton, walking towards them in the remains of the shroud that had once been very extravagant, expensive–it had to have been, but what remained of it now was nothing more than shreds hanging off the shoulder bones of the undead creature.

Only a few small errors. (I particularly like how it recognised ‘undead’, but Word underlined it in red anyway).

And yet I drew this series of cartoons anyway because it amused me…

Speech Recognition 1 Speech Recognition 2 Speech Recognition 3

I don’t know why my laptop wants to be the next Dan Brown of all people. Truly, it is a sick and twisted device…

The Same Old Story

In the old days of two years ago, I posted the prologue to my NaNoWriMo 2013 novel, ‘The Ritual of DUELS’. You can find that post here:

Today I thought I’d entertain you by showing you what that prologue looks like now, after two years of going back and editing it every time I read it again to remind myself what happened in it, having just read someone post about the dos and don’ts of prologues, because according to the dos and don’ts of Rachelloon, you don’t take other people’s advice for writing prologues, because you inevitably disagree with them.

All thoughts on the words are welcome. If you can be bothered to read the November 2013 version and compare it, those thoughts are welcome too; the main difference between them (apart from the revised one being somewhat longer) is that the new version explains more about the premise of the story since I’d been told the following chapters were difficult to follow by someone who read them.


The Rings were spinning again.

Each of the seven brass coils spun in a different direction; floating in the air—all seven adorned like a massive charm bracelet with seven of the crests of the Custodians each, spinning on more than one axis with a speed that challenged the Custodian Heads to follow with their eyes.

Tension was thick in the dark recesses of the windowless, amphitheatre; rivals giving one another sidelong glares and allies worried glances as they lost track of their crests in the golden blur the rings had become. Only two of them had lived long enough to have seen the Ritual of DUELS before, and neither had been Head of their families at the time.

This once-in-a-lifetime experience was putting even the most confident in the group on edge.

“You see the outcome with your powers yet, Chamoiseau?” muttered one man.

“My magic eight-ball told me to ask again later, Alkadhi” replied another, sarcastically.

The lights from the rings grew brighter every moment, shivering against the high stone walls. Some rings scraped against each other as they turned and made sparks, while the sound of spinning became ever more high-pitched and the long moments passed. Not even the most stalwart Head could stand to look as the spinning reached its crescendo.

Then it was as if there was a flash of lightning, the brightness and the sound of it was so similar, some Heads even flinched back as the point of choosing was reached, and then the Rings slowed down, and one by one they hung horizontally in the air.

Those who recognised their crests in the hanging rings were a mixed bag; many of them displeased to say the least, some unconcerned—they’d known no family members were eligible this time, perhaps—but some were probably even more relieved not to have the responsibility thrust upon a daughter of their family.

One Ring still spun upright, like a wheel of fate. But in time it too slowed to a stop.

The de Alvear crest glowed apple green at the top of the Ring.

“Isabella,” whispered the shadows.

Each Head turned to Elena de Alvear; even those who tried not to look, as if the others would decide they were too confident to care and respect them more for it. Elena’s trembling hands slowly clasped together in front of her chest, her eyes wide, her lips just stretching into a wide grin etched with giddiness. Fernando Páez hissed a ‘T’ noise in disgust, but Elena hardly noticed.

It was even more awkward than the usual meetings of this group, and that was saying something.

“Well, congratulations,” said Ray Bartlett—breaking the ice so to speak. He made the valiant effort to hide stark disappointment; they all knew his great-niece Amanda had been a favourite to be chosen as the Princess, but it wasn’t like Isabella de Alvear had been a wildcard. One by one, each of the closest representatives copied him with faux-sincere congratulations.

Isabella de Alvear; seventeen years old, had been chosen as the Princess of Two Worlds for the next eighty-one years. With almost complete certainty, it would fall to her to control the Shifting Shadows that lead from the Human World to the realm of the Shaedai, and to preside over any matters that could not be resolved by the local Custodian courts.

It was a power unparalleled. Many of the forty-nine had coveted it.

But it was more than disappointment or jealousy in that respect that was bothering Ray and most of the others. There were still ten more choices to make.

Nine boys to be Suitors for the Princess’ hand; the main players in this old and dangerous ritual.

One other girl to be the Challenger, and test Isabella’s worthiness of the title. To ‘keep the Princess Human’ as the Shaedai put it. Hers was the unluckiest fate, and every girl the forty-nine Custodian Heads might have hoped to be the chosen Princess was now in danger of being selected for the other role.

Elena said a prayer of thanks to God, and the Rings started spinning again.

They did so much sooner than the gathered Heads had expected, making the selections of the Suitors much faster than they had the Princess.

The Roesdahl-Kessle crest was first, accompanied with a whisper of “Arne,” and Sven Roesdahl-Kessle let out a bark of laughter in response. It was difficult for the others to guess why he did so, because few of them had heard of an ‘Arne Roesdahl-Kessle’.

Still, to a man they scrambled for pen and paper to record the names—most being too old-fashioned for tablets. However, Giles Rhys-Revailler, Lord Constanton, surprised his colleagues by being one of the few despite having only a few years to go before his centenary.

“Look at what my granddaughter gave me, Noni,” he was saying to Noni Okino, solemnly. “They call it an ‘i-pad’, and you touch the keys here just on the screen, and look! The words are right there. Genius, isn’t it?—the things they come up with these days.”

Noni tried not to laugh.

Lang was the second Suitor chosen, but it was the crest of the old former Hopi line rather than the main branch that shone; the Ameri-Langs as they were often known.


Jiaoqi Lang nodded to himself grimly. Shifan clicked his tongue when the exiled branch of his family was chosen, but that selection had also caused a more general murmur throughout the room; Xiang was heir to his House, after all.

The Mwangi crest came next, and Njau Mwangi was chosen to compete in DUELS, to the great pleasure of his father’s cousin; while when the Páez crest glowed on the turn after that, Fernando seemed still too bitter about his hated rival’s daughter becoming Princess to be pleased his nephew Lorenzo now had a chance to become Prince.

When the Himori crest lit up cherry-blossom pink on the next turn, Juichiro Himori looked happy at first. Then the gathering heard the whispered name of “Yuusuke,” and his face fell.

“Yuusuke?” murmured Vladimir Milescu. “Isn’t it ‘Takanata’ they thought might be picked?”

“They’re both his great-nephews,” said Marie Ahanda. “But one’s considered a bit more… princely.”


If Juichiro had heard that he made no mention of it, and had his features schooled back to serenity by the time the Henderson-Sembene crest was glowing in the chosen position, with James Henderson-Sembene being selected much to his father’s delight. In recognition of their traditional enmity, Clarence Henderson-Sembene looked particularly to Noni Okino for her reaction, but was disappointed to find she didn’t seem all that bothered.

The next colour that bathed the room was a dark blue. Ultramarine, the family called it, and that family was Rhys-Revailler Constanton.

“What?” Phyllis McKinley blurted out. “You don’t have—”

“Tarquin,” said the shadows.

“Tarquin?” Phyllis repeated. Giles himself looked just as confused.

Is there someone in my family called Tarquin?” he asked, looking around the room.

“Your cousin’s great-grandson,” Ravi Khamavant supplied, and rather than looking annoyed with Giles inability to remember his own family members, he looked pleased. “The younger of my sister’s son’s boys.”

Phyllis rolled her eyes. Obviously Ravi would be pleased someone of his blood had been chosen for DUELS, even if they weren’t of his House.

“He’s a quarter McKinley too,” Ravi told her gently.

“Not from the Irish side, I bet,” Phyllis replied, and Ravi left it there so she was probably right.

Delmonte was the eighth House to have a suitor chosen, Juan Delmonte the Suitor in question. His grandfather’s expression didn’t change at all at news of the selection, and a few of the Heads weren’t entirely sure the man hadn’t fallen asleep. He had been known to do so at Court in the past.

The final House to be given the opportunity to put forward a contestant in DUELS was Nkosi-Elzevir, and seeing his family’s crest light up at the top of its Ring made Jeremiah Nkosi-Elzevir jump up and down like an unruly teenager. Jeremiah’s young cousin Matthew was chosen for DUELS, the ninth for this round, and a collective breath was exhaled in defeat from most of the remaining Heads.

But the Spinning was not over.

A scant few moments passed before the Rings spun again, and this time much slower than before, as if the Shaedai enjoyed drawing out their Custodians’ agony. The thirty-nine Houses that had not been chosen were mostly disappointed, but when those Rings moved they all remembered there was a worse fate than not being chosen to participate in DUELS.

A much worse fate.

For although times had changed, and no one expected that the Challenger would be executed as a matter of course this year… historically, the fates of even those who had survived their Challenge had been grim. Save for the one time the Challenger had prevailed; and no one wanted that either.

Spinning as slowly as they had when first the gathering had arrived, the Rings soon accelerated again, while the Heads watched in various stages of anxiety. Even those who had no daughters eligible looked nervous, even those who had already been chosen and were therefore safe. All except Elena de Alvear, whose joy could apparently be dampened for nothing, even the rings which at that very moment spun for no other reason than to choose a girl who would be given one, unrefuseable mission.

To kill the Princess.

At one point Pablo de la Vega, whose daughter’s fate was one of those on the line, dropped the notebook he was holding and startled Ray Bartlett, who looked about ready to slap him in turn, but ended up being too distracted by the spinning. Pablo thought he saw him mouthing ‘not Amanda, not Amanda, not Amanda’ to himself as he watched.

Round and round and round the brass Rings went. Brighter they glowed, until a second flash of lightning that sounded like a thousand crashing cymbals filled the room and made the Heads’ eyes close again. The Rings fell into position one by one, the proverbial wheel of fate made its choice and the last crest of this generations’ DUELS fell into place with a click.


“Elodie” said the shadows.

As they had when Isabella had been chosen, each Head turned to look at Noni Okino in a ripple of swivelling necks. Even Elena de Alvear spared her a glance, though her glance was wary. But for the others, jealousy was replaced with sympathy—sympathy even from disagreeable sorts like Fernando and Shifan, even from Clarence Henderson-Sembene, whose family hated the Okinos.

Noni ignored all this and kept her eyes fixed on her family’s crest, spreading shadows over the room in the black that was the family colour; right up until she threw her cane on the ground and folded her arms with clenched fists.

“Well, damn it,” she said.