Monthly Archives: April 2013
“The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.” Reading the final line of the Harry Potter saga was a strange experience, i can’t imagine what it was like for J K Rowling. But for me it felt as if a journey i had never wanted to end just did and i was left feeling, sounds corny, a little bit empty. Harry Potter had been something that was just there, virtually all of my life, it had been present. I had read each of the books, multiple times, seen every one of the movies, multiple times and now that it was over i didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t get into he book i picked up immediately after finishing Deathly Hallows because i just wanted to read another Potter book. Even the prospect of more Harry Potter movies couldn’t satisfy my appetite for another adventure at Hogwarts.
Eventually, though, i realised there were countless other awesome series’ out there. And whilst they would never provide a journey and experience quite like the Potter books, they would satisfy my appetite. A few of the books i enjoyed after Potter are listed below, but believe me, there are plenty more.
Rick Riordan is an author i highly recommend any Potter fans to check out, i read the Percy Jackson books alongside the Potter books and the Camp Half Blood is just as awesome a place as Hogwarts. What’s also great is that the books are still going, with the Kane Chronicles, Heroes of Olympus already available and a Norse series in the works, Riordan has ample reading for anyone missing Potter.
Another series i can’t recommend highly enough is Will Hill’s Department 19 (of which there will be 5 books). It’s less Harry Potter, more Van Helsing in the modern world, but there is plenty of action, adventure and monsters to satisfy any fantasy reader and there is rarely a dull moment in these books. Check them out.
Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull, is a middle grade-young adult series that should appeal to Harry Potter fans. Its based around the idea of a sanctuary for magical creatures but there is a whole host of sub plots and a gripping story arc. It may appeal more to middle grade but i certainly enjoyed all five of the books and would highly recommend you check them out.
The Wardstone Chronicles, or Last Apprentice series in the US, is another must for Harry Potter fans. Its more horror/fantasy than just fantasy, but its extremely entertaining and the characters are great. Again there are plenty of creatures, adventures and action to appeal to any fantasy reader and Joseph Delaney is a great storyteller. This is definitely one for Potter fans to try and with a movie soon to be released (the seventh son) it could be the next big thing.
The books of beginning by John Stephens are similar, somewhat, to Harry Potter and if you’re looking for an action packed, magical series to get involved in then this is perfect. I think its aimed at a middle grade audience but the writing is intelligent and witty and i had no problem immersing myself in this series.
More recently, Chris Columbus (director of the first two potter movies) has released the first book in a series, The House of Secrets. Again this will appeal to Harry Potter fans and with an endorsement by J K Rowling you just know how awesome its going to be. A really enjoyable read and a series i will definitely be following in the future.
Whilst Harry Potter can never be replaced, there are plenty of worthy successors, only a few of which i have recommended here.
This short story is what i will be submitting for my university assignment this year, tell me what you think.
The Father of Lies
She felt the whispering before she heard it. It traced the nape of her neck, drawing the fine hairs of her pale flesh into salute. It might have been a caress if it were not so cold. But this was the chill of a breath.
The voice seemed to speak to her from every dark corner of the cell. It whispered words that Sarah Buckley’s thumping heartbeat muffled before it gave a great retching cough. Then, out of the shadows flanking her came a hand, curled into a fist even blacker than the gloom; gnarled and calloused as if it had been hewn from an ancient tree root. The long, spindly fingers creaked as they unfolded, as if the bones beneath the meagre flesh were snapping. Sarah Buckley’s blood roared loud in her ears as her darting gaze caught sight of the symbol branded into the flesh of the palm. It was an inverted cross, and from it issued a thin tendril of smoke as if, only seconds ago, it had been seared into the skin.
There was a rattling intake of breath and the voice came again. “Are you well, Sarah Buckley?”
She did not answer, could not, for fear had lodged in her throat like a stone. Her wide, green eyes were unblinking as she watched the hand withdraw, seeming to melt into the darkness from which it had taken form. Her shaking hands gripped the wooden bench she sat upon and the terror rendering her paralysed made her unable, even, to feel the splinter of wood piercing her soft palm. Blood pumped from the wound, falling in beads to the earthen floor of the cell. The cold air congealed her blood into rubies that winked under the moonlight reaching its skeletal fingers through the bars of the cell’s solitary window.
“Do you fear death? The voice said. “Do you fear the eternal torment that awaits you, the abyss of despair that encroaches?” The words came slowly, growing louder as if they were travelling a great distance to reach her.
For a seemingly endless heartbeat a ringing silence filled the cell, closing in on Sarah like the pressing bodies of a crowd.
“Let me show you what waits beyond the noose, Sarah Buckley.”
A sudden pain lanced through her body, akin to a thousand bodkins piercing every inch of her. The hand returned from the shadows and fingers like hot pokers tightened about Sarah’s shaking wrist. Tears streamed down her pale cheeks, leaking into her mouth and filling it with a bitter taste. And through the blur of her tears she saw a sliver of scarlet light growing from the darkness before her; as if the very air were being sliced open. The scar widened, opening like the scarlet stained maw of some smouldering beast. Hot coals gushed from the fissure in a tide, smoking and hissing as they spilled across the damp earth.
The next instant she was standing, held fast by the blistering hand’s grip, on the periphery of a jutting cliff. The sight that opened up before her was one so unimaginably horrific that she could not tear away her gaze. A sea of roiling lava swept against the cliff face, showering the rippling air with smoking embers. Flames gushed and writhed across the vast expanse of shadow and caverns, clawing at the roof of darkness above like desperate hands. Gusts of heat such as that Sarah Buckley had never felt, assailed her from every angle, filling her lungs and searing her throat. She saw silhouetted forms, hunched and marching slowly in endless lines across the swelling waves of fire. She heard the manacles binding the figures’ twisted hands, clanking; the glowing links emblazoned with the sins they had committed in life. The boiling air rang with the animalistic screams of a hundred million tortured souls. The sound of snapping limbs, of sloshing blood, of necks twisted and broken by ropes drawn taut, assaulted her ears. A haunting orchestra of screaming and roaring and howling, conducted by the fingers of a thousand flames.
Now she did speak, but her uttered words gushed forth in a scream that rendered them incoherent. She thrashed at her face, beating her tightly fastened eyes with the hands she had balled into fists. Yet the sight she had just bore witness to would not diminish, it played before her closed eyes just as clear and horrific as before. And all the time she writhed and howled, unable to escape, the voice spoke to her.
“You served me well, Sarah Buckley. The Father of Lies always rewards those most faithful to him.”
Sarah’s lamentations met no mercy; the white knuckles of her clenched fists, pressed against her closed eyes gave no subsidence to the sights that still danced across her vision. Her echoing scream could not drown the chanting voices of the dead and her shadowy tormentor paid no heed.
Until, a drawn breath… and silence.
The burning fingers that had clutched her wrist let go. She took a breath and felt cold air rush mercifully down her throat, filling her lungs. And though it seemed to demand all of her strength, Sarah Buckley opened her eyes to see not the burning plains of fire and lava but the hay strewn ground and her own bare feet. Relief flooded her, shunning the despair she had been teetering on the edge of. As she stared down at the floor, at the silver dappled earth, the final tendrils of clinging fear left her. She took in great lungfuls of air, not caring that it was so glacial, just relishing how real it was, thinking she’d never tasted anything so sweet.
“A price must be paid for your sins.”
The voice struck out of the silence like a knife.
“Do you not agree, Sarah Buckley? Those who sin must pay.”
“Sins? I didn’t commit no sins.”
“But surely you must remember?”
“Yes, the contract and your signature upon the curling page.”
“I never signed no contract.”
“I never signed no contract!”
“Yes, Sarah Buckley, you did.”
“I didn’t. I never!”
“And the hurt… the hurt you put on those people.”
“I never hurt no people. I never hurt nobody.”
“Remember, Sarah Buckley, remember… her.”
There was the sound of something thudding softly against the ground. Opening her eyes that she had clamped shut once more Sarah looked down upon the object that had landed by her feet. It was a doll, staring up at her with black, unseeing eyes. Like her eyes had been that day. The doll’s white smock was raggedy and blood-stained, sodden and dirt smeared. Like her dress had been that day.
“I…” Sarah said, as memories crept back from the corners of her mind she had banished them to.
“Yes, Sarah Buckley…”
She saw the shore, her feet bloody, torn by the sharp rocks as she ran to the lake’s edge. She felt the cold, searing through her skin and numbing her as she plunged into the water. The girl’s pale face- her girl’s face- breaching the lake’s black surface like a fallen moon. Green eyes staring up through the murky water, wide and unblinking. Raven hair rippling about her head and shoulders like tendrils of blood. The white dress, shifting about her ivory body, patterned with crimson tears and smears of black earth.
“I remember her… my girl.”
“Yes,” the voice urged, “your girl, your poor, innocent pretty girl. And what they did to her.”
She saw herself turn from the lake, from the sight of her dead daughter and through the blur of tears she saw them. Silhouetted against the red sun were five figures, like scars against the scarlet sky. Standing there and calling down, voices carrying on the whining gale, “Witch, witch, witch!”
“They murdered her.”
“Yes,” said the voice, the word transforming into a drawling laugh. “And you delivered them their just deserts, did you not, Sarah Buckley?”
“Oh, but I think you did. You signed the contract, in exchange for those powers you needed to avenge her life. You hurt those murderers with witchcraft.”
“I never did no witchcraft.”
“I think you did, Sarah Buckley, I think you did. Let me show you.”
Voices echoed up from the recesses of her mind: chanting, jeering voices. “She deserved what she got, that little witch.”
Sarah was standing in the doorway of a house, looking down at the fat priest sitting at a table, his face ruddy, thick yellow fingers clasping a tankard. Rage boiled in her, it seemed to rise in her throat like bile. She brought her trembling fist from behind her back, clutching the crude effigy of the man sat before her. In the other she held a bodkin.
“What’re you doing, witch? D’you think-”
In one swift movement she plunged the bodkin into the doll’s chest, saw it appear, sharp and shining through its back. At that moment the fat priest’s sickly yellow eyes bulged. The tankard thudded to the floor, spilling ale across the flags as the priest’s fat fingers scrabbled across his chest. Raspy, choking breaths rattled from his throat. Veins, blue and thick as cords, struck out across his pale, doughy neck. The next second his eyes rolled back in their sockets, transforming into two bloodshot white orbs, and he fell limp.
“Ahhh,” the voice said. “Is revenge not the sweetest of tastes?”
“I never did no witchcraft.” Sarah closed her eyes, willing the memory to change. She saw herself again, standing in the doorway. It was not a doll and bodkin clutched in her hands but an axe, her white knuckles wrapped tight about the haft, the blade shining dully in the wavering flame light of the priest’s hearth.
“I never did no witchcraft, liar! You’re lying.”
The answer came as a drawling, guttural laugh. “Yes… yes… But you must forgive me, Sarah Buckley, I cannot be without lying. It is in my… nature. After all, what is the devil, what is the Father of Lies without deception?”
In her fury, Sarah forgot her fear. Forgot the terror keeping her from looking upon her tormentor. She turned, and the sight that met her eyes sent her mind spinning. Her already racing heart quickened its beat, hammering at her ribcage so hard it hurt. Her eyes, wide and uncomprehending fell upon no creature, no hellish daemon sent to torment her. The Father of Lies did not sit beside her, his palm did not expose the branded symbol of an inverted cross for there was no palm to bear it. And the whispering voice did not thaw from the cold silence for there was no mouth from which it could be uttered.
The jailor bound Sarah’s hands with a lopsided grin on his pockmarked, stubbly face. The thick rope bit the flesh of her wrists as he tugged her out of the cell and led her up towards the grey daylight. A driving rain greeted Sarah Buckley, beating her exposed flesh like the fists of a hundred angry townsfolk. She did not lift her gaze to meet the eyes of those who watched. Instead, she scrutinised the ground she walked upon, her wounded, bare feet in the soft churned mud, her blood staining the puddles scarlet. There were taunts and jeers from the gathered crowds, but she did not hear them. She heard nothing but the voices of the crows that had taken perch upon the freshly cut beams of the gallows, their shrill cries cutting through the thrum of the rain. Something struck her, thrown by a member of the masses, but she did not flinch or wince. And the rain came harder, stronger than she had ever imagined rain could be. It wasn’t long before the rags that hung from her emaciated body like folds of pale, dirty skin became burdens on her aching back and shoulders.
She arrived at foot of the stairs up to the gallows. One… two… three slow steps up. The jailor led her across the slick boards, the splits in the wood grinned up at her like so many sardonic mouths. Splinters bit the soft flesh of her feet, but she did not feel them. She stumbled, almost giving into the weariness pressing upon her. But hesitation provoked a jab in the chest from the jailor’s staff. “Don’ worry,” he sneered. “There’ll be plen’y o’ time for rest soon enough, witch.”
Sarah stepped up onto the stool. Invisible fingers seemed to press down on her eyelids but she managed to keep them open. She felt the saturated noose fall about her neck. Rough fibres chafed against her skin, as if tasting, bristling, almost, in anticipation of a fresh victim.
“You, Sarah Buckley, have been accused of four counts of murder by means of witchcraft.”
Now Sarah’s eyes grew wide, life ebbed back into her. That voice… She looked down, searching the sea of pale, scowling faces. Her searching gaze found him, taller than the rest, face pinched, eyes black and empty. “Do you confess it?” said William Yfel.
For a moment the only sounds were the crows and the rain.
Sarah Buckley met the eyes of William Yfel, the man who had ordered the murder of her daughter. The man who now stood there, unblinking, figure unyielding save the trembling of his lifted arm.
Then Sarah Buckley answered, she bellowed her reply to the heavens, screaming her words at such a pitch it burnt her throat. “You’re a liar! I’m no more a witch than you are, and neither was my daughter. You are the only servant of the Devil here, little man, and if you take my life, he will deliver you and all those who follow you to the burning gates of Hell!”
William Yfel’s raised arm dropped and the noose drew tight.
I’m always up for trying anything new, especially in writing. So when an assignment came up at university requiring us to write a screenplay, or part of one, i was pretty excited. I’d had an idea for a science fiction novel bouncing around in my head which i realised could work well as a movie. What follows is my attempt at a science fiction movie screenplay. Let me know what you think, should i write the rest?
INT. A HOUSE – KITCHEN – DAY
On the table there is mouldy food, cereals spilling from overturned box. In background, through kitchen window, black smoke rises over trees. A cityscape is just visible. Move backwards through hallway. We see clothes, books, smashed vases, overturned furniture strewn along hall. A pool of blood, a pale hand in it. The body is not visible. From hallway into living room, everything here is wrecked too. Move to window, out through it.
EXT. ROOF OF HOUSE – DAY
A city is in destruction in the distance over roof and tree tops. Smoke rising from all of the sky scrapers. Beyond the house, rows of suburbs and forest are aflame, cars overturned, smashed. A strange aircraft moves over skycrapers, it’s not clear, but we can see that it’s nothing from earth.
We can see nothing. A child coughs.
Dad, why d’you think they came?
The sound of a match being struck. A small flame appears. As it gets brighter we see a man’s hand put the match to a lantern. A young boy is revealed in the light, Noah: about six. His face and clothes are grimy, dirt smeared, but he’s smiling up at his Dad. As the lantern brightens Jim is revealed. Forty years old, stubbly beard, hair sticking up. Just as dirty and grimy as his son. He sits down against a wall by Noah. Behind them the wallpaper shows animals and stars. It’s a child’s bedroom.
I dunno son. Nobody’s ever got close enough to one of em to ask. Why d’you think they’re here?
(Thinks about it) Simon used to tell me that aliens steal people’s brains. (At the mention of Simon Jim closes his eyes for a moment, puts his arm around Noah) But that can’t be it, cos yesterday I saw some people following one of em and they were still walking. And I know you still need a brain to walk- Miss Dodd’s told me so-
(Interrupting) When did you see them?
When you were in that store getting the food. I was hiding in that beat up car and one of em walked past with some people following it.
(To himself) They’ve never come into the suburbs before… Did it see you?
Nope. Why would those people just follow it, Dad? Don’t they know they’re bad?
I don’t know, son.
(Now looking around) What happens if the people who live here come back?
Shot of Jim, leaning forward to his bag. Pulls it into the light. It’s dirty, fraying.
I don’t think they’d mind us staying here for one night. (Changes subject) You hungry yet, little man?
Noah nods, still looking around the room. From his POV we see a child’s bed. Sheets are ripped on the floor. A bear with a stain (blood?) on it is tangled in the sheets.
Shot of Jim, he sees Noah staring at the bed and the bear.
(Trying to divert Noah’s attention) Here we go. (He pulls out a can. Light reveals a label: Hot Dogs) How many you want? (He gets out a knife, stabs it in the top and starts opening the can)
(Smiling as he pulls off the lid carefully. He doesn’t want to cut himself- doesn’t want to draw blood) Okay then. (Holds out can) Be careful of the edges.
(Still eating hotdog) What’s for dessert?
(Smiles, pulls another can from his bag) My favourite.
Light reveals a can of peach segments
A muffled bang and metallic clatter. Jim’s head snaps up. Then the sound of a door closing, thudding footsteps; it’s clear they are not human. Strange clicking, hissing sounds follow: insect like.
(Wide eyed, scared. To his father) Dad-
(Whispers) Quiet, Noah. Quick, get in the wardrobe.
(Takes hold of Noah’s shoulders)Just do it, son.
Noah gets up, dropping his hot dog. As Jim turns lantern off we see Noah climb into the wardrobe. Jim follows. Just as the lantern light fades completely we see Jim close the door.
INT. INSIDE WARDROBE
The clicking sound and thudding footsteps get louder. A blue light flares at the bottom of the bedroom door. We see this through a narrow gap between the wardrobe doors. The sound of Jim and Noah breathing heavily. In the blue light, we see Jim put a finger to his lips. Noah nods.
Camera is on bottom of door where blue light gets brighter. A shadow flickers. Footsteps stop. Clicking sounds don’t. Door handle turns slowly, squeaks.
INT. INSIDE WARDROBE
Jim pushes Noah behind him and deeper into the wardrobe. Through the gap we see the door swing slowly open, blue light floods in.
A thin, strange shadow appears on floorboards in light.
The shadow moves forward, into the bedroom.
We see the alien. Four long, thin arms and a very thin body. The blue light is coming from a strange flashlight the alien is holding. It’s holding it like a gun. We see that it is some kind of weapon.
The alien is still partially in shadow. It reaches down and picks up Noah’s hot dog, Sniffs it.
Its head snaps up. It looks at the wardrobe. It has huge, black eyes.
INT. INSIDE WARDROBE
Jim pushes Noah even further back.
Alien rises and starts towards wardrobe, flicks a switch on the weapon and it starts to hum.
INT. INSIDE WARDROBE
Jim unsheathes a knife from his belt, holds it out towards the doors. Another banging sound comes from downstairs. Alien turns away from wardrobe.
From over alien’s shoulder, we see flaps of skin over its ears flutter: it’s listening. Sound of footsteps. We see top of stairs. A yellow flashlight beam flicks across walls and floor.
INT. INSIDE WARDROBE
Jim, knife still held out. Through the gap in wardrobe doors the alien suddenly leaps forward, out of the bedroom. Sound of it crashing downstairs.
There you are (grunts) Son of a-
A gun fires three shots in quick succession. There is the sound of something heavy smashing to the floor. Silence. Then the sound of something climbing up the stairs.
Jim grips his knife tighter, starts to rise.
A flashlight beam cuts into bedroom from outside door.
(In a strong southern accent) You folks okay in there?
Jim pushes doors open, still cautious.
Over Jim’s shoulder, Taylor steps into view in flashlight glare. He’s tall, unshaven. He’s holding a rifle.
Nice to see the son of a bitch didn’t kill you.
(Emerges slowly from wardrobe) Dad?
Noah rushes to Jim. Jim puts an arm around Noah’s shoulders. Noah looks up at Taylor, at his gun, then out through the bedroom door.
Dead? No doubt. I’ve been on that one’s ass for three days. (He gestures with his rifle downstairs) It’s been tracking you. Is that kerosene? (He points to the lamp on the floor)
(Looks down at lamp, then quickly back to Taylor’s rifle) Yeh.
(He nods) That’s probably what got it interested in you in the first place. (He notices them both looking at his rifle, puts it aside, holds up his hands) Most people think its only blood that’ll attract em, but kerosene-hell any kind of fuel gets em excited, too.
Taylor walks over to the bed, sits down. He shrugs off his pack and pulls a lantern from it. He turns a dial on the lantern and white light (LED) fills the room.
The name’s Taylor. (He sticks out a hand after wiping a glistening blue stain off it)
(Shakes Taylor’s hand) Jim. And this is my son, Noah.
Nice to meet you, folks. I ain’t seen nothing but those damn aliens for a month. It’s good to finally see they didn’t get us all. Where you folk’s from anyway?
(Relaxes a little) Boston
(Shocked) Damn. That’s the first place those bastards hit, ain’t it. How in the hell d’you get out alive?
Jim’s jaw twitches, he looks down, remembering…
Ever since the first episode of Lost i have been addicted to JJ Abrams TV shows and his movies. In my opinion, the man is a genius, beaten only by Spielberg who is my favourite filmmaker of all time. Abrams update of the Star Trek franchise was phenomenal and Star Trek (2009) is in my top five movies of all time. Ever since the sequel was announced i have been counting down the months until it arrived. And now, it is less than a month away. This third and final trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness gave me chills the whole way through, and i cannot wait until this movie is released. What for yourself and i defy anyone not to be excited by this.
This is perhaps the one question we hear that writers/authors hate getting asked the most. But if you think about it, its a perfectly legitimate question. After all, isn’t it only natural that readers would be curious where writers get all these crazy, unique, exciting ideas from? Take, the Gone books, by Michael Grant – only someone with a wild and boundless imagination could think up a story that involves anyone over the age of 15 suddenly vanishes? Or, James Dashner’s Maze Runner trilogy in which children are made to live in mazes. There really are some crazy, unique books out there and i for one think it’s only natural to be curious where the ideas for these books came from.
So where do they come from? J K Rowling answers that the idea for Harry Potter simply strolled into her head on a train journey, others writers use memories as inspiration or they simply see an object an it sparks an idea. If i were asked this question i wouldn’t really be able to give a definite answer. Sometimes, it can be a landscape that gets my cogs working or a piece of music. Often, an idea has just sprang into my head as if it always existed and has now decided to present itself. For Prophecy of Three the Keys of Time, though, was more of a conscious process. I wanted to write about Arthurian legend but didn’t want to set it in the past, i also wanted to write about a huge war and so, putting these things together i decided to set it in the modern world. From there the ideas just seemed to build themselves until i had a plot line worked out for all four books.
So, where do your ideas for stories come from? Is it from your dreams, your past, the world around you? Feel free to comment below.
Recently i started re-watching the Potter movies from the very beginning on blu-ray. I intend to start reading the books from the beginning for a sixth time, soon. It got me thinking about the first time i heard the name, Harry Potter. I was about seven years old and the image on the front cover, of a kid standing in front of a huge scarlet steam train, caught my eye. Ever since i read that first page i have been hooked on the books and the movies. I never imagined that the book i’d read, at that moment, would become the literary and movie phenomenon that it has done.
In a way i grew up with the Potter books, each year i developed so did Harry and his friends. It was an annual event when a Harry Potter book would be published and i would be practically itching to step back into the halls of Hogwarts and explore the Wizarding world alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione. J K Rowling provided me and countless others the opportunity to leave behind the real world and immerse ourselves in a place that wasn’t all that hard to believe in.
So why is it that the Potter books became so successful? One of the main reasons, in my opinion, is that it offered readers a chance to be a part of another world. The Wizarding World is a place everyone wants to go to: everyone wants to try a chocolate frog, get their wand from Ollivanders and play Quidditch. Rowling’s ability to paint this world as believable, as genuine, makes us as readers feel a part of it. We can all find something in common with one of the characters or find something to relate to in the books.
Another reason, perhaps an obvious one, is that the books are awesome! The plot line is a tried and tested battle against good and evil, yes, but it is also rife with unique twists and turns and i don’t know about you but i was always wondering what was going to happen next. J K Rowling has the ability to draw you in from the very first page and not let go until the last and leave you hungry for the next book. Her world is rich in characters, places, history and culture and there is rarely a moment when their isn’t something new and exciting to discover. Each book is like a sweet shop, so much to choose from, to savour and enjoy.
I, for one, will never tire of returning to Hogwarts. Harry Potter is a series that, no matter how many times it’s read, will still offer some new detail you missed the first time, some clue or sentence that you might have forgotten. J K Rowling must be commended on providing readers with these books and another world to escape to.
You may think the dark is empty, that it is just space without light. But this is an untruth. For in the recesses and corners of this world where, shadows form and night banishes day, there are things that live and breathe. Though you may not have seen them- or perhaps you have and just dismissed it as your mind playing tricks- they are there and they are dangerous.
It is my job to hunt them, to track them, to drive them from their shadowy pits and to kill them. Believe me, it’s not easy. When you’re groping around in the inky nothingness with naught but your wits and heightened senses for company, that’s when you have to shun fear and face what lies in wait.
Many call me a heretic, their narrow minds refuse to acknowledge that which preys upon them. Others call me a demon; they say I was born from the dark. The truth… the truth is I cannot remember very much. In fact I recall nothing of my life, but for one thing, one memory that is set in my mind as if carved there. It is the image of a woman’s face, pale, blood smeared and screaming while charcoal fingers scrape at her, pulling her backwards. But for that image I remember nothing until three years ago. That is when I began hunting the denizens of the dark, tutored to do so by one who called himself, The Deliverer. Now, I don’t hold with such egotistical titles, no, that’s not my way at all. My name is lost with the memories of my life… But my title, what they call me, I am Darkbane.
The flame sputtered as the wick it danced upon burned closer to the pool of melted tallow in the base of the tarnished brass holder. The candle had burned through the night, during the long hours when the dark is at its thickest. But, as the red fingers of dawn reached over the rooftops, the flame gave a final, almost relieved hiss, and went out. Through the thick rippling panes of glass the first light of the new day broke, sending the room beyond the window into coppery relief. The light fell upon a battered wooden table, strewn with curling playing cards, a dented plate: empty but for a scattering of crumbs and a hard bread crust; and a silver dagger. There was little else in the room, just a rickety set of drawers, a heavily fortified wooden chest and a bed. And, stretched across the bed, fully clothed and seemingly dead- for there was no twitch of a finger nor a flicker of closed eyelids- was a man. It was only as the dawn’s rays: warm and probing, fell across his scarred, bearded face that he did move. His eyes opened, wide and alert as if their sleeping owner had been pretending all along and had not just awoken from a mere hour’s rest. He grunted, realising that it was only just morning. Not yet, he thought, not yet.
It was the hammering that woke him next. Thrice the sound came: a sonorous thudding that echoed up from below. It seems I’ll be busy this night, he thought.
Ignoring the spikes of agony that lanced up and down his back, he rose from the hard bed. He glanced at the remains of the setting sun as it retreated over the silhouetted mountains far in the distance and a grim, knowing smile creased his face. Though he was weary- something the day’s rest had done little to alleviate- he mustered a small reserve of strength and cast his hand in the direction of the table. A flame sprang into life atop a half melted candle and the room was lit indistinctly with its soft glow.
“Darkbane, your services are called upon.”
The call was one Darkbane had heard often. He smiled again, nodding to himself. He made his way to the window and glanced down through the panes.
Standing in the street below, his figure distorted by the rippling glass, was a young man. In one hand he clutched a flaming torch in the other a hammer. The pale oval of his face turned up to the window and for a moment the lad was perfectly still before he turned and took to his heels. As if the devil were in pursuit, thought Darkbane, smiling.
“To work then,” he mumbled, turning away from the window.
Pain struck him again, stinging this time, as he started towards the iron braced chest beside the door. Carefully, Darkbane pulled up the sleeve of his battered leather long coat. An ugly gash that ran from his wrist to his elbow was revealed, glistening scarlet as he held it closer to the candle. Wincing, he procured a length of fraying white cloth from one of his pockets and bound the wound. He wondered why he had not felt the cut before. But the thought was fleeting; he had more important things to concern himself with.
Darkbane knelt down in front of the chest and passed his uninjured hand over each lock and bolt that adorned the trunk’s face. After a series of metallic thuds, clicks and whirs the heavy lid groaned ajar.
Rising now, Darkbane swept back his long coat to reveal a belt patterned with loops of leather, several sheaths and a long scabbard. Then from the chest he procured an array of silver and wooden instruments, and with the speed and grace of a hand well practised, slid each of them into his belt. There were three daggers of flawless silver, a rowan stake, a pouch of iron filings, an iron chain and then he drew forth a long sword. With reverence Darkbane held the blade up, examined it, before sliding it into the scabbard. Lastly, from a hidden compartment in the chest’s lid, Darkbane brought a small glass vial, filled with a clear liquid, a piece of bone and a shard of rowan. He dropped the amulet into his pocket.
“So it begins.” With gritted teeth he plucked a battered leather fedora from the chest of drawers, fitted it on his head and left.
The address scrawled on the scrap of parchment was one Darkbane knew. He ripped the scrap free; leaving the nail among the many others that pierced his front door and set off.
A bone pale moon grinned in the starless sky overhead, dappling the muck caked cobbles with distorted shadows. The night was soundless but for the muffled ruckus emanating from the tavern at the top of the street. As he passed them, Darkbane grunted at each house he saw that had ignored his instruction and neglected to place a candle in one of their windows. “Fools,” he growled.
With a vigilant gaze, Darkbane scrutinised the dark alleys and corners as they passed. A frown furrowed his scarred brow. The stillness and quiet unnerved him. But he had little time to think on his misgivings as his destination loomed up from the dark.
The wattle and daub house was gilded with the light of a dozen torches; their bearers fell quiet as Darkbane approached. A path appeared between the gathered ranks before he had stepped within five yards of them. Their silence belied their fierce stares, though he knew none would speak their mind until he was out of earshot. Then my ears will burn, he thought.
The young man who had hammered the request parchment to Darkbane’s door was standing outside the house shifting uneasily. “M-master Shadow S-slayer,” he said, inclining his head.
Darkbane returned the gesture. “Did you not see fit to heed my instructions?” he said, making no effort to hide his anger, as he motioned to the shadowy windows of the house.
“M-my father s-said it w-was nonsense, sir,” the man said, eyes fixed at his feet. “He says that no mere candle can keep the Devil in hell.”
Darkbane grunted. “Well,” he said, “show me to this witch, young master and let us see what we are dealing with.”
Darkbane could feel a presence before he had even crossed the house’s threshold. The witch’s dark power assaulted him from every corner of the house as he entered. He felt it as a dull pain in his heart.
“This is no ordinary hag,” he said, fingering the implements on his belt with one hand and tracing the wall with his other. “The light of my candles would have done little to keep this witch at bay.”
“Can you rid us of it, master Darkbane?” The young man said. The light of his lantern danced frantically across the walls.
“Hold that lantern steady,” Darkbane said. “She may be powerful but she certainly won’t like its light. And to your question… nothing is certain, not when you’re dealing with the dark.”
As they moved deeper into the house, the pain in Darkbane’s chest grew fiercer, until it felt as if a dozen bodkins were puncturing his heart.
“She appears in the attic,” said the man, his voice cracking.
Darkbane nodded. “I know, lad,” he said. “There’s no need for you to accompany me any further.” He stopped at the foot of a staircase and turned to face the young man whose eyes were wide and fearful. “You must not come up, no matter what sounds you hear. Neither must anyone else, do you understand that, lad?”
The young man nodded earnestly, “Yes, sir.”
“Then hand me that lantern, and get you gone. And, lad…”
The man handed over the sputtering lantern as Darkbane pulled a pouch from a loop on his belt and handed it over, “if things go awry, seal off every entrance to the attic with the iron filings in there.”
Nodding again, the man turned and hastened back out into the street, clutching the sack as if it were a lump of gold.
With every creaking stair Darkbane climbed, the witch’s power burned harder within him. But he bit back his anguish and, arriving at the top of the staircase, pushed open the attic door.
The room beyond was lit indistinctly with the soft glow of the lantern’s tallow candle. Not that there was a great deal of anything to light. The attic was barren but for the cobweb drapes strung in the eaves and a dark stain upon the floorboards.
As he closed the door behind him, a ringing silence resonated in Darkbane’s ears. He placed the lantern on the floor at his feet then set his hat alongside it. The top of his spine tingled.
From the hush a low moan rose up, a chill thickened the air and as Darkbane watched, the dark stain on the wooden floorboards began to smoke. With the curling tendrils of steam came glistening scarlet liquid that bubbled and spat through the cracks between the boards. The groaning waxed louder and the boiling puddle of blood spread and thickened across the floor.
The ribbons of smoke reached into Darkbane’s nostrils and mouth with acrid fingers, coating the back of his throat with a foul, metallic taste. His grip upon the hilt of his sword tightened, his other lingered at his side, fingers twitching, anticipating what implement he would draw from his belt.
As Darkbane took a step backwards, retreating from the lapping edges of the pool, something burst from the scarlet depths. It was an arm, bloody and crudely formed. Another swiftly followed and from each of the arms reached splayed fingers that slapped wetly down onto the boards. The thin limbs trembled under the strain of supporting whatever lurked below the gory surface.
Now, Darkbane did draw his sword. He held the silver blade ready as a hunched back rose up now, followed by a long neck and a bald head. Gore dripped from the body in thick ropes as it rose fully from the pool. It spread its thickening limbs and jerked its head up. A maw split the now sallow, featureless face in two and a guttural, rasping sound emanated from deep within its throat. With a flick of talon fingers, the form commanded the cobwebs from the eaves and the thick sheets draped across the chalky limbs and wrapped about the emaciated body. The last strings of blood dripping from the head, darkened into knots of pitchy hair and in the sunken sockets two black eyes formed. And standing there, hunched and grinning, was the witch.
Her thin lips parted wider, “What fool is this,” she rasped, “that dare’s stand before me? Speak human, or I shall carve the flesh from your bones.”
Darkbane held forth his sword, “I am Darkbane, witch, and before this night is done you will meet your doom.”
Books are full of brilliant characters, fantasy more so than any other genre. But what makes a beloved fantasy character, the Gandalfs, Dembeldore’s and Percy Jackon’s etc. I think it takes a very skilled writer to make us care about a character, to make them real and make a reader engage with them. A writer who is very successful in doing this is J K Rowling. Each one of her characters, save Voldemort and a few others, have become almost like a family or friends to the legions of fans and readers. She manages to create a rich history for almost every single one of the characters in her back, whether it be tragic, happy or mysterious it is almost always complex and allows us as readers to find things in common with the character. As a result her characters are not only memorable but they feel real, as if beyond the pages they are having lives.
Tolkien also created some very memorable characters, Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf among them. Like Rowling his world and characters have rich, detailed histories and it isn’t entirely unbelievable that they had lives before and after the books.
So why is it that we, as readers, become so attached to these fictional characters? Why do we follow their adventures so fervently, root for them, shout at the book to encourage them? Perhaps it is because the writer has created someone we can look up to (in characters such as Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Lyra Belacqua), or someone we find we have something in common with. Whatever it is, i think it is the mark of a terrific writer to make us care about someone who is, ultimately, words on a page.
My own favourite literary character has to be either the Spook from Joseph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicles (Last Apprentice in the US) or Percy Jackson. The former simply because he is a richly written character who in some ways reminds me of my grandad and the latter because i, just like the Potter book, grew up with the Jackson books and i read them when i was the same age as Percy – in some way i felt i grew up alongside him.
And so, when i started writing my own fantasy series of books i wanted to create a cast of characters that readers would fall in love with, root for and find something in common with. I started by plotting out histories for each one, developing their families, motivations etc. As the four books unfold i will reveal more and more about the characters hopefully allowing readers to become more and more engaged with them.
So, what is your favourite fantasy character and why? Please comment below and let’s see which one is most popular.
A lot of writers/authors describe how they have a very efficient writing process. They wake at six thirty, write for two hours straight, do some exercise, write for three hours, have lunch, write for another hour and so on… Others might set themselves a minimum word count for the day, to say write five hundred words by lunch and 1,500 by dinner time.
Writers have different ways of structuring their day. When i read author interviews and they are describing processes like those above i can’t help thinking that it would drive me crazy to write like that. Maybe its because famous writers have to meet tight deadlines and so the structure ensures they stay on track and actually meet that deadline.
Most of the time i just write when i feel like it. Sometimes, say for university, i force myself to sit down in front of the computer of a notebook and complete whatever assignment i have to, just to ensure i don’t procrastinate for days on end and risk not getting work handed in. When i’m writing the Prophecy of Three series i lose inspiration if i force myself into it. I’d rather write when inspiration strikes and sometimes i can blitz out two thousand words. Other times i only manage a few hundred words and those times i leave it, because i know inspiration hasn’t hit yet.
What is your writing process? How do you structure your day’s writing?