Monday, November 30, 2009

Swirls of Development

The frustration.

The power.

The failures,

the attempts;

the solution.

The rush.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Pickle

"And so finally they tracked me down to a hotel on the outskirts of Birmingham. My fault really, shouldn't have used my full name," said Dave as he looked up from his finger nails and shot me a grin.

"There's always next time, " I offered back as the only condolence I could think of.

"So what about you? Why are you in here?" enquired Dave. As he asked this he flexed his hands wide open and then into fists. I was fairly sure that this wasn't a threatening act, he must have just been a bit nervous, probably.

I glanced up and down the length of Dave's body as he sat on the edge of his bed and thought about how his six foot plus frame which was solidly built was something that I wouldn't like to get on the bad side of. I also really wanted to avoid his slighlty annoyed side, his mildly irritated side and even his indifferent side. I decided to recount my tale, after-all I had nothing to lose and I could even gain a friend in Dave.

"It all happened early on a Sunday morning, must have been about 8am." I spied Dave's hesitant look and realised I should explain why I was up so early, so I quickly continued, "I'd not gone to bed yet since Saturday night and I was just fixing myself up a snack. Suddenly I heard the splintering of wood and..."

Dave interupted me, "What was your snack?"

"What? Erm," I stuttered as I tried to remember, confused and slightly intimidated by Dave's interruption. I wondering if Dave was perhaps a snack expert, maybe he'd worked in a kebab shop once. After a short pause at the thought of Dave with a doner kebab carving knife I managed to continue, "it was a cheese and Branston sandwich." For some reason I then felt it necessary to add, "Nice soft and thick white bread."

I paused, expecting some reply from Dave. He just grunted and nodded, perhaps remembering past cheddar sandwiches. After a suitable length of time had passed for the remembrance of bread products past I carried on, "So there I was, two hands around my sandwich, just about to take my first bite when my front door was broken down. I just stared straight at it as almost never ending armed police poured in," I didn't feel I should add that I was frozen in fear, but Dave might have sensed it anyway from my voice. If he did, it didn't show on his entirely placid face; perhaps he was still thinking of sandwiches.

Getting into the flow of the story, I started to rattle off the next details, "So these police burst in and surrounded me while I still sat at the kitchen table, sandwich still in hand. I think I even had my mouth held open, ready to bite down on the sandwich. Suddenly one of the masked police men barked a question.

"'What?' I managed to stutter back at him.

"'Are you Matt Rose?' he demanded, gun still pointing at me. Which seemed a bit unnecessary, as I don't think you can do anything lethal with a sandwich.

"I tried to steady my nerves and replied, "N-n-n-no, Matt is next door." The extra movement from trying to speak caused some chunks of rutabaga to fall out and to plop loudly onto the table from between the bread and cheese.

"'Shit!' exclaimed the masked woman to the left of my masked inquisitor, then she turned to me, 'Are you sure?'

"'Yes, hell yes I'm sure' I bravely shouted back, finally coming to realise that I was not the ones they wanted. The police man then barked some orders into his radio and about half of them burst out my back door and jumped the fence while the other ones, some of whom I could hear stomping around upstairs, went running out my front door and over the wall into the front garden of the terraced house next to me."

Dave interupted me again there, "So," he pondered, clearly deep in thought, "if they'd got the wrong house, didn't they just leave you alone and get this Matt guy? How come you're in here?"

"That's what I thought," I said, "And I was just about to take my first bite of my sandwich when I realised that I'd heard the police boots on the floor in the room directly above the kitchen."

There was a pause while I waited for Dave to think about this. "So what was in the room above your kitchen?" he finally asked.

"My grow!"

"Oh, so you're in here for a drugs thing. That's a tough break. All because they raided the wrong house." Dave chewed on his gums a little before thoughtfully adding, "I guess most people are in here due to bad luck or bad timing."

"Yeah, just because some PC plod can't tell the difference between a brass 14 and a 16."

"Still," Dave added with a slight twinkle in his eye, "I suppose you could find some way of getting some plants into prison? We could go into business you and me, supplying the others? Captive market and all that. What do you think? You in?"

As I considered his offer I realised that Dave had never actually said what he'd done to get himself wanted and ultimately caught by the police.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Wizard Did It

They always blamed me. They never understood what I tried to do. Those ignorant villagers who could never have even one dram of the ken required to understand my work. Yet they still pretended that they did, just lies of claimed knowledge and feigned understanding. One day they'd understand, one day they'd accept me; hell, one day they might even welcome me.

However not today, today was a day for running. Running from them, running from another village, running until I wasn't infamous. Catching the faint glow of the earliest dawn light in the window I suddenly remembered myself. I put down the copper pan that I must have idly picked up while engaged in my inner rant and checked that I'd packed all that I could into my backpack.

I looked around the room that was the ground floor of the cottage that I'd called home for the past 9 months. Benches lined the dimly candlelit walls. Each bench was covered in exotically shaped glass containers which I'd purchased from as far afield as London and Edinburgh. Brass tools and wooden boards with half finished preparations of reagents surrounded the glassware, covering every available surface. A little of me died inside when it hit me that, once again, I wouldn't be able to take any of it with me.

It wasn't the cost of it which made me sad, my fat purse could easily pay to replace all of this fifty times over, it was what I feared would happen to it once I left. Part of my mind conjured up images of faceless hoards with pitchforks and torches smashing the contents of the cottage and then dancing around the burning cottage as the sun set on their shouts and jeers.

I think I knew better what would happen though, after-all the villages weren't brainless barbarians, they knew when things were worth a pretty penny, who didn't in these times? I imagine that they'd sell to travellers all that they knew not what it was. They'd probably take what they could recognise for their own homes, using it for cookery and household storage. Which reminded me of my need to eat, I went over to the corner to where the single bench which was my kitchen rested.

I picked up the two loaves of bread, a couple of rolls of cheese and the ham that Crookshaw had given me and, after wrapping a cloth around them, placed them in my bag. I thought of how Crookshaw would never be able to pay me the money he owed me; I'd be long gone by the time he took his pigs to market. Despite all that was going on, I hoped he got a good price for them, for his sake as well as for my own professional pride. I only hoped that he would be allowed to keep his animals and crops, even if he could only sell them to people from afar who had not heard the story of my downfall.

I remembered all the other small kindnesses that the villagers had shown me, all their smiling faces, all their gratitude at all my help. I especially remembered the smiling face of little Isabella, daughter of Lord Penryth and, were it not for her fate, future lady of the manor. If only God had not chosen to take her, not yet in her ninth year, I would be comfortably in bed now, not trying to pack my life into a sack.

I'd tried my best to help her, as soon as I heard she was ill I rushed to the manor house and went straight to her bedchamber. But I am only a wizard of plants of the earth and the air, I am no a healer of humans. I tried to remember all that I had once heard about various sicknesses, but I couldn't fathom where her rash came from. I could do nothing to alleviate her fever or her pain; I was as helpless and useless as the sawbones and apothecaries that arrived in a steady stream from all the surrounding villages and towns.

Her disease and ailment was as alien to them as it was to me. The only difference between myself and all the others standing around her bed watching over her was that I had been responsible for the ingredients used in her last meal before the sickness struck. With the crops flourishing under my potions and magicks it was only natural that the first bountiful harvest of the succulent crops and animals would be eaten by Lord Penryth and his daughter; there would be plenty more to go around to the villagers and townspeople.

As her condition deteriorated her father had gone from singing my praises to cursing my 'demonic and un-Godly magicks'. He took me aside and told me that I should use all my un-holy powers to remove the hellish spirit which infected her from the poisoned crop and that I was to leave his lands immediately as soon as she was recovered. We both knew that he didn't need to state what would happen to me if she didn't recover.

It was lucky for me that she had passed away well past midnight. The only people present by her bedside at that late an hour were myself and her nurse. Her nurse had fallen asleep in chair by the fire and so I had been able to silently leave the manor house once I had said a short prayer for her freshly released soul.

I had come straight to my cottage and packed as much as I could as quickly as I could. Now all that there was for me to do would be to take the fastest horse I could find from Crookshaw's stables (leaving him money for it) and ride for my life. I'd leave only memories of my presence and try to take with me only the good memories of the people I'd known.

I'd really liked this place. I'd really thought that it would be the last time that I'd have to move, the last time I'd have to fly from my home early in the morning. From the first day that I'd turned up I'd thought everyone here was different. No-one really noticed me, they minded their own business and they didn't ask any awkward questions about how I had got my wealth of gold and why I had no attachments. They didn't even ask me where I was from or why I was travelling so light.

They had started to notice me after I'd started working with Crookshaw on his crops. When his fields had the tallest stalks and his cows had had the most calfs, people started inviting me to their house for dinner, they started calling me over into their games of cards. They'd even started introducing me to their nubile daughters. Even through out my gaining popularity and friendships, none of them ever asked where I was from or even, really, who I was. They had accepted my mystery and embraced my powers.

Yet they still all turned against me, just as the lord of the manor had, as soon as something had gone wrong. They needed a scapegoat and my powers, too good to be true, and my mystery, sinister and tricky, had been the perfect choice. I was sure that her illness was not my doing, it was likely a malignment brought by a wealthy traveller from a city. Yet no-one heard my protests through their shouts of blame and anger.

I picked up my sack and walked out of my cottage. For some reason I still felt it necessary to close the door behind me, it still seemed the right thing to do. As I slipped the catch gently closed and set off across the dew sodden grass I vowed to leave any bitterness towards the people here behind me. It wasn't their fault that they saw all mystery and unknown, whether good or bad, as being from the same source.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Like a Phoenix

Like a Phoenix, except without the pile of ashes, this blog will be reborn. Regular postings every Monday at 20:00 UK local time, or... something bad will happen.

Or possibly the universe will end; I've not decided yet.

I'll also introduce a trick prize to try to get people thinking and commenting: the most insightful/interesting/funny/well-thoughtout comment (as judged by me) written between a post being published and the next post being published will be offered a printed and signed copy of that post. Terms and conditions apply (my decision is final, no alternative prize will be offered, I reserve the right to not award a prize for any week).

Just think though, one day they might be worth 1000s of pounds/dollars on ebay!