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Horatio and the Story of the Manor
20 minutes | 3 days ago
Episode 21 - The Meeting
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart Garfinkle Artwork by Steve English The script: Episode 21 – The Meeting The Baron called a meeting, asking everyone to come to the kitchen to see if they could get to the bottom of the problems they were facing and find a solution. Obviously, Eller wasn't invited because no-one knew she existed. That didn't stop her attending of course - as did Stokesley, who most definitely wasn’t invited, but just turned up on the kitchen wall, looking sullen. And pretty much every shadow in the whole Manor came and occupied places all over the walls, ceiling and floor. Everywhere that is except around Stokesley’s shadow which was rather particular about these things and seemed to nip and butt other shadows which came too close. The meeting started rather slowly as Thornton had forgotten his spare hearing aids. Then, when he finally arrived back having retrieved them from his room, they discovered the batteries were flat. Mercifully, Roseberry had some spares in a drawer; they took some digging out, but it saved a lot of time compared to waiting for Thornton to go back to his room again to find some. When at last they'd got Thornton sorted, the conversation began in earnest - although it still needed to happen at a reasonably high decibel level for Thornton's sake! He had purchased the new hearing aids (which had disappeared) because he needed them and the relative lack of power of the old ones made for lots of repetition. 'I have called this meeting,' the Baron began in his somewhat nasally voice, 'to discuss what I am sure you will all agree, is a series of malicious incidents happening all across the Manor.' 'What's that you say?' asked Thornton. ‘Something about hamsters being cross at the Manor? I didn't know we had a hamster problem too! When did that happen?' The Baron, Roseberry and Eller all rolled their eyes – this was going to be a long meeting. 'WE DON'T HAVE A HAMSTER PROBLEM THORNTON,' the Baron replied. 'SORRY FOR NOT BEING CLEARER. I WILL TRY NOT TO MUMBLE SO MUCH.' Then, as loudly as he could manage, the Baron continued, 'We all agree that serious things are happening in the Manor.' Nodding sagely, Thornton started to speak before the Baron could continue. 'Did you know someone stole my hearing aids?' he asked, even more loudly than the Baron. Of course they knew but, as they'd all learnt many years before, when Thornton started, there was no use interrupting him until he'd said his piece. Thankfully, once he'd said it and got the appropriate sympathetic nods and expressions, he tended to just sit for the rest of the conversation with an inscrutable look on his face. He was probably in a world of his own and not paying any attention, but no one really wanted to check. 'We know, dear,’ Roseberry shouted, patting Thornton's hand as he finished. 'It's a terrible state of affairs.' Then looking from Thornton to the Baron she asked, 'But who's behind it all? That's what we need to find out.' At this, the shadows shifted uncomfortably, causing Stokesley’s shadow to nip one of two, to keep them in their place. 'Surely, if anyone knows what's going on, it's you guys,' Eller said to the shadows, knowing she wouldn't get a response. But the fact that the shadows cared about what the others knew made her feel strangely on edge. It was what the Baron said next that stunned her, that and the reaction of everyone present (except of course for Stokesley who continued to chew invisible grass and Horatio who was far more interested in licking his paws than paying any attention to the conversation). 'It seems that the Manor's resident ghost who, as we all know, has the full-moon badge LOST, has, for reasons we cannot understand, decided to stop being our friend. Instead, it seems LOST has started to cause mischief, which is getting out of hand and verging on dangerous. Quite why LOST has started behaving in this way is beyond me. Still, I can find no other explanation for this series of malicious events and so must conclude two things.' Eller couldn't quite believe what she was hearing. Her badge was LOST so she was the 'resident ghost' the Baron was referring to. And, to make matters worse, she was pretty sure that she wasn't actually a ghost at all – she was alive, she had a badge, dead things like ghosts didn’t have badges! Nods of agreement swept around the room, although the nods from the shadows seemed to her to be more nods of relief than agreement. 'Well,' she said to no-one in particular … or, maybe more to the Baron than anyone else, 'if you think that, you're both stupid and blind! How can it be me? I can hardly ever touch anything! And, how can you miss those yukky little footprints across the soap and in the talcum powder after your showers?' Eller's cheeks turned red as she spoke. She had only seen the footprints after the bathroom had been vacated, but the mere thought that someone might think she'd been in the bathroom when someone else was in it made her almost glow with embarrassment. 'Anyway,' she shouted at the Baron, 'even if it was me, you can't do anything about it!' At that she paused, the flush in her cheeks fading. 'No one can do anything for me or against me.' Then, with a bitter laugh, she added angrily, 'I can't even do anything for myself.' At this, Eller was about to dramatically storm out of the room (more for her own sake of course than anyone else's) but something the Baron was saying caught her attention. She wished she'd heard the first part about a 'promise capsule' or something, but what the Baron was saying now ensured she wasn't going anywhere. '… Clearly, it is only to be used in an emergency. While at this point, the situation may not quite be considered an emergency, I can see a time rapidly approaching when it will be a great emergency, unless we act now. So, I am preparing to use said capsule to try, once and for all, to get rid of this increasingly mischievous and dangerous ghost.' It seemed even Horatio had caught the measure of feeling in the room. He sat up and stopped licking parts I won't describe, and held his head at a slight angle as if he was trying to understand. Then, standing up and arching his back in a big stretch, he walked over to the Baron and rested his head on the Baron's leg. Without thinking, the Baron automatically put his hand on Horatio's head and started scratching him behind his ears as he carried on. 'Quite how it will work I do not know. But, that said, we do have some evidence that this course of action may work.’ As he said this, everyone paid even more attention, waiting to hear what this ‘evidence’ was. Everyone that is, apart from Stokesley, who continued to chew invisible grass rather noisily while appearing to be entirely distracted by a couple of flies rotating in opposite directions high above the kitchen table. The Baron fleetingly wondered if they were the same flies that usually inhabited the entrance hall. ‘As you are well aware,’ he continued, ‘some time ago we had a severe gargoyle infestation. Well, just before that time, I found the contents of one of those vanishing cupboards and managed to take 3 things from it.’ At this, he pulled out not 3 but 4 items. Firstly, the bone and wire thing, then the stone with the patterns, followed by the egg-like object. Lastly, as an afterthought, he also pulled out the key. Pointing to the smooth stone with lines on it, he reflected, 'It was this that I used in conjunction with the old water boiler from the attic that I believe somehow worked together to stop the gargoyle invasion.’ Thornton had picked up the bone and wire thing and was looking at it closely. ‘That,’ the Baron continued loudly, pointing to the object Thornton now held, ‘is the reason I have a gargoyle that travels with me when I leave the Manor.’ Thornton looked incredulously at the Baron and almost threw the object back down on the table, indicating very clearly that he wanted nothing to do with gargoyles. ‘I had pricked my finger on this object,’ the Baron explained, picking up the item Thornton had just thrown down, ‘just before I removed the first gargoyle that came into the kitchen. I carried it outside and, in so doing, got blood on it from where I pricked my finger. Then, for some reason I can’t explain, I gave it the name 'Cod', told it not to come into the Manor again and let it run off. On the night that Horatio … missed his snack … Cod came with us and tried to save Knayton Borrowby and myself. He … err … it … err … Cod, was a real hero. So again, an object from that cupboard and something from the attic/roof area - namely, the gargoyle, Cod - worked together to rescue us. So, it stands to reason that this item,' the Baron pointed at the egg-like object with the words 'Promise Capsule' written on it, 'may well also have power to help us when combined with something else from the attic. My reasoning is simple. I suggest that this Promise Capsule,' as he said this, he picked up the egg-like thing, 'combined with something older and more powerful from the attic, may solve our current problem as well.' No one asked what he meant because everyone understood what the Baron was thinking. There was only one thing in the attic that was more powerful (and terrifying) than the old attic water boiler … Even Stokesley apparently understood, as he stopped chewing and looked directly at the Baron, slack-jawed! Somewhat put off by Stokesley’s expression, the Baron, now on edge, took a breath. ‘So, in summary,’ he continued – although at a lower decibel rate and with a slight wavering in his voice - 'we shall combine this Promise Capsule with the old,’ (at this his voice dropped even lower), ‘attic vacuum cleaner, in the hope that this combination will deal with our increasingly dangerous ghost problem, permanently.' As the Baron said 'vacuum cleaner', everyone in the room glanced at the dog, who merrily continued resting his head on his master's leg waiting for some more petting. Everyone that is, except Thornton, who hadn't managed to hear the lower volume words and so, in a loud voice that seemed to shatter the solemnity of the moment, asked, 'What was that boy? Something in the attic?' Then, after pausing and contorting his face in such a way that you could almost hear his ‘thought cogs’ whirring, an expression of shock swept across his face. It was as if a rather unpleasant light-bulb had flashed on inside his head. Grasping at the Baron’s arm, he asked, 'You aren't thinking of bringing down that old vacuum cleaner are you?' Then turning from the Baron to Horatio, who thankfully was still none the wiser, he carried on, 'The puppy won’t like that!' Thornton still thought of Horatio as a puppy when in fact, to anyone who looked at him, Horatio was a full-grown, adult dog. He had also learned to understand a few words, one of which was 'puppy'. Horatio didn't like puppies! They were busy, bothersome and a nuisance and he made sure all puppies were put in their place every time he met them. At the word, 'puppy', Horatio's head shot up off the Baron's leg and he became very alert. 'You know how that puppy treats the normal vacuum cleaner!' he carried on, winding Horatio up even more. 'Well, how do you think he's going to deal with that monstrous old thing? Why do you think my hearing's not what it used to be, eh? That thing made the whole Manor shudder before we put it up there and now you want to bring it down again to deal with a ghost? How's that going to work exactly?' Despite herself, Eller felt that Thornton had made a good argument. How was an old, redundant vacuum cleaner supposed to deal with her? She couldn't even touch it – probably - and that meant it also - probably - couldn't touch her. And, what difference was this Promise Capsule thingy supposed to make? Of course, the real problem was - that everyone had missed the real problem! Why? Because everything that was happening had nothing to do with her! They had a full-scale invasion on their hands, and they didn't realise it! At Thornton’s interrogation, the Baron turned the Promise Capsule over to reveal the writing on the other side. It was supposed to be a meaningful moment but, looking at it, Eller couldn't help but be reminded of a large chocolate egg. Roseberry and Thornton started scrabbling to find their reading glasses, but the Baron held up his hand to stop them before reading the instructions loudly for all to hear. 'This is a Promise Capsule,' he shouted. 'Inside this capsule is one promise that, when called upon, will supply all that is needed to deal with one emergency. As there is no way to know what your emergency will be, we cannot say how this promise will be fulfilled, but rest assured that we at the 'Wetwang, Fimber and Towthorpe Special Entities Manufacturing Conglomerate' back the efficacy of this promise with the full weight of our name. (No Warranty Provided or Implied.) Returns will not be accepted unless this Promise Capsule is in an unused and sealed state.' Glancing up at their faces to make sure everyone was following along, the Baron looked down at the Promise Capsule to read the next part. 'Instructions for the effective use of your Promise Capsule,' he continued. 'Step 1. IMPORTANT: Determine that you really do have an emergency. Promise Capsules are not to be used for frivolous purposes as the results cannot be anticipated. Step 2. Once the emergency has been duly identified, speak to the device three times. NOTE: Make sure to clearly enunciate your words as any guarantee or warranty implied or otherwise will become void if said emergency is mumbled into the device. (No Warranty Provided or Implied.) Step 3. Without unwrapping, break the Promise Capsule as close to the emergency as possible, making sure to keep all the pieces inside the wrapper. Step 4. Tell the Promise Capsule what the emergency is once again and how you would like it to be solved. Step 5. Deal with the emergency. Step 6. Pour yourself a drink, unwrap the pieces of the Promise Capsule, put them into a bowl and read the enclosed note, making sure to do everything it says. Do not read the note until absolutely unavoidable as it will only give appropriate guidance at that point.' As the Baron looked up, Roseberry raised her eyes from the Promise Capsule, a concerned look on her face. Pointing vaguely towards the loft, she asked, 'I can see the value of the Promise Capsule, but what did you have in mind for that old monster of a vacuum cleaner? I mean, it really was a nasty machine at the best of times. I know it was before Horatio's time, but I suspect that even he would have had second thoughts about attacking that thing.' The Baron instinctively flicked back his long, black, greasy hair and looked Roseberry and then Thornton in the eye. He was aware of the shadows but couldn't really look them in the eye as he didn't know where their eyes were, and if they had any – although everyone assumed they did. He ignored Stokesley. 'Our problem is a ghost, a mischievous ghost of some kind that seems to take perverse pleasure in stealing, moving and no doubt, in time, throwing things around. My thought is simple. Use the Promise Capsule to change that vile old vacuum cleaner, not into something that sucks up dirt but, instead, sucks up ghosts. If a combination of things from the cupboard and the attic, like the stone thing and the old water boiler, can be so successful in dealing with our gargoyle problem, then why not this' - as he said 'this', he pointed at the Promise Capsule - 'and the old vacuum cleaner? My only real concern is that, towards the end, before we put it in the attic, it tended to make more noise than anything else and wasn't much good as an actual cleaner. But, who knows, maybe this is the solution we need, to ask the Promise Capsule from that cupboard to turn the dangerous, old vacuum cleaner from the attic into a vacuum to capture and hold ghosts!' On the face of it, this was about as crazy and stupid as you could get. Eller wanted to laugh, but this was Manor Rott, Grott & Snott, a place where the ridiculous was an everyday occurrence. The real problem, however, continued to be that they were trying to deal with her, and she wasn't THE REAL PROBLEM! That meant the Rampant Salamis remained undiscovered and as dangerous as ever, while the people in the Manor wasted their time trying to get rid of her. Life really wasn’t fair for Eller. At that, the meeting broke up; the Promise Capsule lay on the kitchen table as the Baron went off to get the old vacuum cleaner. As for Eller, glancing around, she could see small salami eyes in their hiding places around the kitchen, glinting in the light and showing signs of laughter! Now what was going to happen? Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart Garfinkle Artwork by Steve English The script: Episode 21 – The Meeting The Baron called a meeting, asking everyone to come to the kitchen to see if they could get to the bottom of the problems they were facing and find a solution. Obviously, Eller wasn't invited because no-one knew she existed. That didn't stop her attending of course - as did Stokesley, who most definitely wasn’t invited, but just turned up on the kitchen wall, looking sullen. And pretty much every shadow in the whole Manor came and occupied places all over the walls, ceiling and floor. Everywhere that is except around Stokesley’s shadow which was rather particular about these things and seemed to nip and butt other shadows which came too close. The meeting started rather slowly as Thornton had forgotten his spare hearing aids. Then, when he finally arrived back having retrieved them from his room, they discovered the batteries were flat. Mercifully, Roseberry had some spares in a drawer; they took some digging out, but it saved a lot of time compared to waiting for Thornton to go back to his room again to find some. When at last they'd got Thornton sorted, the conversation began in earnest - although it still needed to happen at a reasonably high decibel level for Thornton's sake! He had purchased the new hearing aids (which had disappeared) because he needed them and the relative lack of power of the old ones made for lots of repetition. 'I have called this meeting,' the Baron began in his somewhat nasally voice, 'to discuss what I am sure you will all agree, is a series of malicious incidents happening all across the Manor.' 'What's that you say?' asked Thornton. ‘Something about hamsters being cross at the Manor? I didn't know we had a hamster problem too! When did that happen?' The Baron, Roseberry and Eller all rolled their eyes – this was going to be a long meeting. 'WE DON'T HAVE A HAMSTER PROBLEM THORNTON,' the Baron replied. 'SORRY FOR NOT BEING CLEARER. I WILL TRY NOT TO MUMBLE SO MUCH.' Then, as loudly as he could manage, the Baron continued, 'We all agree that serious things are happening in the Manor.' Nodding sagely, Thornton started to speak before the Baron could continue. 'Did you know someone stole my hearing aids?' he asked, even more loudly than the Baron. Of course they knew but, as they'd all learnt many years before, when Thornton started, there was no use interrupting him until he'd said his piece. Thankfully, once he'd said it and got the appropriate sympathetic nods and expressions, he tended to just sit for the rest of the conversation with an inscrutable look on his face. He was probably in a world of his own and not paying any attention, but no one really wanted to check. 'We know, dear,’ Roseberry shouted, patting Thornton's hand as he finished. 'It's a terrible state of affairs.' Then looking from Thornton to the Baron she asked, 'But who's behind it all? That's what we need to find out.' At this, the shadows shifted uncomfortably, causing Stokesley’s shadow to nip one of two, to keep them in their place. 'Surely, if anyone knows...
12 minutes | 17 days ago
Episode 20 - Chaos
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 20 - Chaos Eller Beck watched the Rampant Salamis with increasing admiration. Gone were the days of unsubtle ‘blood and guts’ warfare. Instead, the time had come for cunning and secrecy. They needed to keep their presence unknown, while at the same time testing their formidable adversaries. Eller understood that, if these tiny warriors were going to rule, then they needed to know who and what they were up against. One of the things that surprised her most was that even the salami shadows were dangerous. Able to separate themselves from their owners, they were organised, vicious and ruthless as they worked to enslave all the other Manor shadows. In no time, nearly all the shadows in the Manor were under their control and forced to act as spies. Gone were the shadows’ freedoms and playfulness, replaced instead by fear, hiding and spying - spying for the Rampant Salami empire to help them find out more about their foe and prepare for the day of battle. It wasn't easy at first for the Rampant Salamis to understand their foe. At the very start, the whole thing was almost a complete disaster. The first scouting party had taken shelter in a closet when, at 11:05 on the dot, the vacuum cleaner had suddenly appeared in that same cupboard, and switched on! Their immediate reaction was one of total terror as the cleaner head was perilously close to sucking up some of them. But these salamis where much more resilient and well-trained than previous kingdoms had been. Even over the scream of the vacuum, Horatio could be heard barking and snarling his way closer, as he bounded towards the noise. The salamis had already spied Horatio and understood just how potentially dangerous he was. So, as the barking grew closer, one of the salamis stood up, waved his hands (there was no way it could be heard above the racket of the cleaner) and indicated for the whole squad to push. Without hesitation, the whole advance scouting party of 10 salamis rushed forward, shoving and pushing the vacuum cleaner base as hard as they could. At first, it didn’t move. As Horatio's barking got louder and louder, Eller was impressed by the discipline of the salamis; not one of them ran away. Instead, all 10 pushed with every ounce of strength they had, and the vacuum cleaner base began to shift. Once it started to move, they pushed even harder to keep it going, guiding it towards the door which was ajar because the latch was broken. Nudging the door, it edged open, and the vacuum cleaner began to emerge, just as Horatio came hurtling down the corridor with the Baron careening and lurching his way after the enraged dog. In his fury and desire to destroy, Horatio yanked the vacuum cleaner out of the closet and flung it across the hallway. Bits of cleaner flew everywhere, littering the floor. The cupboard door just slowly swung back until it was almost closed again. As she watched Horatio’s fit of destruction, Eller forgot about the salamis who had so very nearly been discovered and destroyed. Remembering them a few moments later, she popped her head back through the door to see what they were doing. It was almost of it they weren't there at all, sliding under bags and hiding behind boxes, each of them holding little sacks of something – waiting to see what might happen next. Of course, the danger wasn't over, for if there is one thing that defines a dog, it's their incredible sense of smell. Surely Horatio would smell the Rampant Salamis? It wasn't as if they didn't niff! Even Eller thought she could smell them at times (which she probably could although there was no control over when it would actually happen). Once he'd reduced the vacuum cleaner to its components, Horatio stopped and sniffed the air, his nostrils twitching and twisting. Stepping closer to the cupboard where the salamis hid, Horatio hitched the door open with his snout and sniffed inside. He immediately emitted a large howl, and scrabbled desperately backwards out of the cupboard, sneezing and coughing. Eller hadn't seen or smelt what the salami had used, but she was pretty sure it was some kind of pepper that they had ready in those little bags! They really were a sneaky, cunning enemy. Poor Horatio was in a terrible state, snorting, sneezing and coughing. By this time, the Baron, Roseberry and even old Thornton had turned up and were trying to pacify Horatio, who was having none of it! It was Thornton who saved the day by slowly – and yes, Thornton did everything VERY slowly – reaching into his pocket and pulling out a biscuit. The sight of a treat did wonders for the dog, who sat down with one paw waving in the air while still sneezing and occasionally coughing. Not being a very patient dog, as soon as Thornton started to reach out his hand with the biscuit, Horatio jumped up, snatched it from him and started munching. 'Oh, I say,' Thornton grumbled quite loudly because, as ever, his hearing aid batteries were dying. Then, chastising the dog a little more, he added, 'What a terribly rude little dog you are master Horatio.' As you can imagine, this had no effect whatsoever. Instead, finishing his biscuit, Horatio sneezed again, forcefully, covering Thornton’s neatly pressed trousers with biscuit-filled phlegm. Then, giving the briefest of glances over his shoulder towards the apparently silent and unoccupied cupboard, he made a tactical retreat, intending to keep well away from that cupboard in future. 'You geniuses!' Eller said to herself as she watched Horatio leave. Then, turning to the little salamis still hiding in the cupboard, she added, 'You've made it so that whenever that dog gets the slightest scent of you, he's going to remember this and keep well away!' While she was certainly impressed by their strategy, Eller also had a growing sense of unease. It wasn’t quite panic – but, given enough time, it could get there. These Rampant Salamis were dangerous creatures and, when she thought back to that little shadow amid all those other shadows, she spoke her thoughts out loud. 'These are probably the most dangerous things I've come across in this strange place.' As if to confirm it, the little shadow salami, still with its flat cap pushed forwards, appeared as if from nowhere. It marched into the cupboard, no doubt passing on information it had gathered. = As the days and weeks passed by, things slowly but noticeably started to change. Objects would go missing or get moved, the most notable being Thornton's hearing aids which had the added problem of him not being able to hear anything. In reality, while this led to some hilarious conversations, it didn't really make much difference. That was because Thornton was so ineffective in his duties that everyone else had been bypassing him for years. He was loved, and they enjoyed having him around but, in reality, he hadn't actually done anything particularly helpful for a long time; except perhaps when it came to looking after Horatio. In one room all the shadows disappeared for well over a week. When they returned, they didn't seem quite the same, preferring to stick to their objects more than usual. Then there were the things that started to appear in places they didn’t belong: toilet roll in the fridge; pins on seats; clocks upside-down; mirrors back-to-front; lamps in cupboards; toothpaste tubes emptied out on the front door mat! Plates were found broken in the boot-room sink (and it wasn’t Thornton’s attempt to wash-up as, clearly, Thornton never did any washing-up). Keys moved from where they were usually kept to different places. One day, the back door keys disappeared, which caused quite a panic until they were eventually found hanging off Stokesley’s antlers. The Baron disliked Stokesley the moose head and would have never chosen to have such a thing in the Manor. The working theory for the creature's presence was that Stokesley was a visitor from one of those rooms that appeared briefly and then disappeared again. It would seem that for some reason he simply didn't want to leave. The Baron had tried to move him out of sight several times before realising that Stokesley could appear on any wall he liked, at any time. He even tried putting Stokesley in the attic. It didn't work. No matter what he did, within no time at all, Stokesley would return and hang himself back up on the wall above the large mirror in the entrance hall, usually with a rather smug expression on his face and chewing … something! However, when the keys were found hanging on his antlers, Stokesley looked decidedly cross (which pleased the Baron quite a lot)! As it transpired, Stokesley actually did them a favour. Without him being annoyed by the arrival of the keys, they probably wouldn't have found them. When Stokesley discovered the keys on his antlers, he started shaking his head to try and dislodge them, causing them to clatter and clank together. After that, they were hard to miss! Other strange things happened in the Manor. Roseberry experienced a large, tin jug dropping from the top of a cupboard. Thankfully it just bounced and clattered and got under her feet. More than once, the Baron only just escaped being impaled by cutlery! The worst example (which would have been far worse if it hadn't been soup spoons) was when the Baron opened a cupboard, and 25 soup spoons fell one after another on top of him. There was no way he could have avoided them, and if they had been sharp knives … This led to people opening and shutting things very gingerly while all the time wondering what was causing all these weird things to happen. Shadows became more jumpy and fragile. Eller could have sworn she saw one shadow (it looked like a curtain shadow originally) disintegrate into tiny pieces. Watching it fragment, she thought it seemed as if it was being ripped apart by lots of little hands.Perhaps the oddest thing to occur was that, one by one, all the rooms except the kitchen had every bit of food and drink removed from them. Whole bottles would disappear, and even the glass of water beside Roseberry’s bed went missing one night! And you wouldn't believe the fuss she kicked up when the last piece of her favourite cake that she’d kept to one side vanished! When the bottles and food started disappearing, everyone began to take the strange things that were happening in the Manor far more seriously, which led to ‘the meeting’!
19 minutes | a month ago
Episode 19 - A New Kingdom
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 19 - A New Kingdom One day, as Salaronicus lay back on her couch pulling the legs off a live, inverted woodlouse, a scout appeared at her side. Not wanting to disturb her majesty as she sucked the contents of each leg dry, the scout stood and waited, a little restless with the critical news he brought. He watched impatiently as she gnawed each leg husk to a digestible power with her razor-sharp teeth. ‘S..top wiggling s..cout!’ Salaronicus snapped, not even looking towards the hapless scout as she concentrated her attention and her teeth on the body of the unfortunate woodlouse. ‘You look like you want to relieve yours..elf.., jumping from leg to leg.’ The scout, 374 (standing for 3rd battalion, 7th squad, 4th least important) was mortified. Falling to his knees, saliva dribbling down his chest through his profusion of poorly fitting teeth, he bowed low, mumbling an apology. Then, lifting his head while still in a kneeling position, he began, ‘Oh, mos..t ruthless.. and majes..tic S..alaronicus... Uncontes..ted empress.. of.. the 7.. rooms.., conqueror and vanquish..er of all before her. I have exciting news…We have f..ound another world to conquer …..’ Unfortunately for 374, Salaronicus was neither patient nor nice! So, before he had finished his little speech, her glass-like sword flashed from its sheath cleanly removing 374’s head from the rest of his body. I say, head. With salami, it’s rather hard to tell where head ends and body begins, but wherever it was, Salaronicus had hit the spot slightly before she realised what 374 was telling her. As 374’s head and body hit the floor - in that order, Salaronicus swore loudly, spattering saliva over herself and her attendants. (I should say that because of the sheer number of teeth salamis have and their lack of a nose, noisy breathing and saliva splattered speech was the norm, so no-one batted an eyelid.) ‘Oh f..amel!’ she swore. ‘What was.. he s..aying about another world?’ Her attendants, who looked at the bits of 374 and took lots of tiny steps backwards out of the reach of her sword whilst bowing and scraping, didn’t say a word because they didn’t know. However, there was one brave one. ‘I’m s..orry your S..piciness..,’ spattered a rather tall and regal-looking salami. (It seemed they didn’t realise that avoiding words that started with ‘s’ and ‘f’ could help reduce their sprayings and spatterings!) ‘I do not know the ans..wer to your question.’ Then sucking up a stream of mucus that had started to trickle out of his mouth, he gulped as he saw the look in her eye and added, ‘But I will s..et f..orth s..traight away to s..ort this out!’ At that, he fair ran from her presence. (The Rampant Salamis had rather big feet which strangely resembled hobnail boots and seemed impervious to slippery surfaces, so running with all the saliva around wasn’t a problem.) Thankfully, just behind a zombie wine bottle stood a small gaggle of scouts nibbling on ants and cracking rude jokes. Noticing they had the same colours on their helmets as the unfortunate 374, the long-legged regal attendant grabbed one and found he also knew about the new world. After some arguments and a couple of lost limbs (they grew back quite quickly), one of them stepped forward to go before the Empress. The tall advisor turned and walked briskly back to the throne room with the scout following, who almost had to run to keep up. Entering the throne room area (it wasn’t a room so much as a slightly raised platform), the advisor bowed very low – in fact, so low his head seemed to touch the floor. Maybe he figured that it would make it harder for Salaronicus to remove it with her sword. Whatever the reason, bowing, the advisor waited. He didn’t have to wait long, Salaronicus wanted to hear more. ‘Well?’ she asked. ‘What have you f..ound?’ (The letter ‘f’ always seemed to eject saliva a considerable distance.) ‘Your Majes...ty, Empress.. of the s..even rooms.., conqueror and vanq...’ He didn’t finish as Salaronicus impatiently interrupted him, speaking directly to the new scout. ‘Yes.., yes.., yes.. ... Who are you and what can you tell me about this.. s..upposed new world?’ The second scout also bowed. It wasn’t a very good bow and showed that he wasn’t used to this type of thing. You see, for salamis to bow, they need to do so from the hips as their bodies are reasonably resistant to bending and, he had obviously never practised. ‘Your S..picyness... I am 37..f…’ At that point, he caught sight of the previous scout being picked up in 2 pieces by some slave mice and removed from the throne room. With a bit of quick arithmetic, making allowances for the death of the first scout (it helped to have more than 2 arms and hands), he continued, ‘… ffff..our! Er, 37..4.. that is.., s..cout of the outer ranges… I was.. 37..5.. but then...,’ he indicated with his head towards the remains of 374 being carried away. Then he caught the glare in the empresses’ eye and quickly carried on after an especially noisy and slurpy sucking in of the breath. ‘We were s..couting the outer ranges.. as normal, looking f..or enemies.. to conquer in your name our Empress... It was.. as.. it normally was.. except that we had been f..orced to look after a wine bottle that had been f..ound hiding the day bef..ore.’ Each ‘F’ was so powerfully delivered that it covered the Empress and her still bowing advisor with a spattering of phlegm, infused with little pieces of ant. ‘Of.. course, we f..orced it to work hard,’ the new 374 continued, ‘chained it and kept a close watch on it. Then, 37..4.. - not me, or the previous.. one, but … but … but the one before that - had the bright idea of us..ing the bottle as a way to travel. Climbing onto the bottle, 37..4.. s..at, legs.. wrapped around its.. neck to try to keep it under control. But the bottle jumped up and ran s..traight into the wall. They really are f..oolish those wine bottles! It didn’t break, much to our s..urprise, but when we looked, 37..4.. had dis..appeared! He mus..t have been thrown from the wine bottle, but we couldn’t s..ee him anywhere. We had jus..t about given up hope of.. f..inding his.. remains.. when we heard his.. voice, coming from the heavens..! “Up here,” his.. voice sh..outed.’ (I can’t tell you quite how bad an ‘sh’ was for saliva delivery!) ‘When we tried to f..ind him, all we could s..ee was a wall, and then s..omething f..ell to the f..loor at our f..eet. “I am on another plane,” came the voice of 37..4... We thought he mus..t have become a ghos..t.’ Seeing impatience plant itself again on the empress’ face, and remembering what had happened to the previous 374, the new 374 hurried on to the significant bit. ‘In sh..ort, my Empress.., we have discovered a s..eries.. of.. plateaus... Each plateau is narrow and very s..teep and goes.. to yet another plateau, and all of them s..eem to be leading us f..orward in a s..eries of giant s..teps.., out of this world into a new one. No doubt it is.. a world des..tined f..or your Majes..ty’s.. f..ull and f..inal conquest...’ Seeing her interest piqued with this news, 374 continued, ‘We have dis..covered 13 of.. these plateaus.., each leading higher and f..urther until eventually, we reached a f..rustrating wall.’ Seeing a look of concern flit across the Empress’ face, 374 hurried on, ‘But at the bottom of.. that wall, your Majesty, there is.. a great gap, and when we looked through that gap, we f..ound a whole new world, a vas..t world, a bright world and a world, as.. f..ar as.. we can tell, where no s..alamis live!’ This latest news caused Salaronicus to frown. How could there be a world where no salamis lived? Hadn’t they conquered the whole of the seven rooms aeons ago? So what was this place? To cut a long story short, the expedition of the Rampant Salamis to conquer the ‘new-world’ began – starting at the bottom of the cellar stairs. = Eller Beck had a lot of time on her hands. When you can’t be seen, can’t touch much and can’t really interact with, well, anyone, you spend plenty of time on your own! The upshot of this was that Eller got to know the villages of Rott, Grott & Snott especially well, and she was also particularly familiar with the Manor. Interestingly, in the Manor itself, it was often the shadows that caught Eller’s attention and helped her pass her day. It was probably because they didn’t know she was watching that Eller was able to see just how free and unbound they were. If someone like Roseberry, the Baron or Thornton came anywhere near, the shadows would make an effort to snap to whatever was nearest. Sometimes, they even snapped to Eller herself, even though they didn’t seem to realise she was there. Of course, this led to many double-takes by those coming into the room. Still, often that slight looking away in the middle of the double-take was enough for the shadows to sort themselves out. That said, if something caught the shadows attention then snapping to anything was entirely out of the question. Instead, they would crowd around whatever it was to take a closer look. As I said before, the shadows in the Manor were VERY nosey! It was when no-one was around that the shadows were most active, leaving their objects and getting on with their lives, often meeting and having animated discussions – although Eller never heard a word. As time passed, Eller started to get to know the characters of the more familiar shadows, even growing quite fond of some of them. She especially enjoyed the curtain shadows when the windows were open on a breezy day. For, even though they could go wherever they wanted, they still got affected by the breeze, and this could be quite comical. Of course, it was the shadows that first noticed the rise of the salami civilisation in the cellar. Eller found out about it when she followed a group of shadows being beckoned by…, I think it was the kettle shadow, but I can’t be sure. Once she knew about the salamis, she would often pop down to the cellar to see how they were doing. It both impressed and horrified her just how quickly they developed from being simple, vicious and mindless cannibals to, within weeks, becoming a more organised and structured society of death-dealing menaces. She watched as the salamis colonised the 7 large rooms in the cellar which became 7 separate kingdoms. It saddened Eller when the wars started. At first, it was one kingdom against another. Then, within weeks, it became one empire against another, until eventually the rise of the Rampant Salamis had seen the realms unite under the rule of Salamerours the Great. Or not so great as it transpired when he was assassinated and eaten by his own daughter, Salaronicus, who willingly took on the title, ‘Salaronicus the Destroyer’, and ruthlessly subjected the entire salami empire to her bitter and selfish will. Within days, creatures that had no part to play in the salamis’ empire were overrun and enslaved – even the wine bottles! Those poor bottles, having been laid in the cellar many years before, had also developed a civilisation. Graceful and witty, with a great sense of humour, they had been quickly outnumbered and overrun, ending in their savage enslavement. Many of them were drained until empty – becoming zombie-bottles with no will of their own. Instead, as slaves, they mindlessly did the will of their captors, the Rampant Salamis, until they were smashed and forgotten. It was a sad time for such a beautiful people. Eller loved watching all the drama of the cellar - the intrigue and action. What she hadn’t expected was that the day would come when the Rampant Salamis would work out that there was more to the world than the 7 rooms of the cellar. Once again, it was the shadows that alerted Eller to the change. While watching an argument between a shadow coal-scuttle and a shadow ornamental pony, a gaggle of shadow coats and hats raced into the room and interrupted them. A very animated discussion took place between them all, the leader appearing to be a shadow deer-stalker hat! Although she didn’t notice it at first, eventually she realised that right at the centre of this conglomeration of shadows was a small shadow that looked remarkably like a salami. All the other shadows were pointing at it. Then, after a short animated discussion, they seemed to reach a consensus. At that, they rushed out of the room, leaving the shadow salami looking rather cross, which was the default look for salamis as far as Eller could tell. Shortly after, it appeared to hitch up some shadow trousers, push forward what looked like a shadow flat-cap and march out the room with its extra-large shadow hob-nail-boot-like feet. Eller couldn’t help herself; she had to see what was happening. So, getting up, she followed the determined shadow salami to see where it went. As she got up, the shadow salami paused, just for a moment, as if it had heard something. After a quick glance around the room, it took a deep breath (which Eller could only imagine as being very noisy and salivary) and marched out into the hall. You must realise that salamis don’t have particularly long legs. So, it took quite a while for the shadow salami and Eller to reach the other shadows. It seemed that just about every shadow in the whole Manor had turned up at the cellar door, which was slightly ajar. Coming up from the cellar were hundreds of real salamis along with several zombie-bottles and enslaved mice. Somehow, they’d even managed to get some chariots up from the cellar for the mice and rats to pull! Eller had arrived just in time to see Salaronicus herself emerge from the darkness of the cellar. The same look of awe that swept across the faces of all the salamis as they came out into the ‘new world’ only rested on Salaronicus’ face a moment, before being quickly replaced with hatred. Looking around at her army and then at the shadows watching and talking and gesticulating to one another, Salaronicus raised her hand. Everyone – that is, every salami and every shadow - stopped talking and waited for the Empress to speak. ‘I am S..alaronicus the Destroyer, Empress.. of.. the 7.. rooms.. and,’ she paused for a moment, ‘Queen of all I s..urvey’. As she said this, she dramatically waved her long arms, pointing up and down the hallway that the cellar opened up into. To be honest, this was probably far more impressive to the salamis who had never been out of the cellar before than it was to everyone else who already lived in the real world. ‘Today,’ she continued, ‘I command the victorious.., f..ortuitous, gallant, brave and noble f..ighting armies.. of the Rampant S..alamis to s..earch, explore, s..eize and conquer all they f..ind here in MY new kingdom. Go everywhere, f..ind out everything you can in preparation f..or the day we take what is.. rightfully ours... I will return to the 7.. rooms.. and build an army the likes.. of.. which.. has.. never been s..een bef..ore in preparation f..or our day of glorious.. victory.’ At that, Salaronicus lowered her hand and turned smartly back to the cellar stairs, obviously quite keen to get away from this new place. As she turned, the Rampant Salami army cheered and roared their approval. Then, as she returned to the cellar stairs, commanders and leaders started ordering salami soldiers and scouts around. Mice and rats were hitched to chariots; spiders were whipped to make them scurry up walls and act as spies. Preparations for the invasion had begun.
13 minutes | a month ago
Episode 18 - The Rise of the Evil Empire
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 18 - The Rise of the Evil Empire Manor Rott, Grott & Snott hadn’t really been itself – at least, not since the 'incident'! Quite what the 'incident' was and when it had happened, no one could remember. All people knew was that, ever since then, things had been different, including, and maybe especially, the Manor. Of course, if you live with 'different' for long enough, it stops being different and becomes the new normal. But even so, Manor Rott, Grott & Snott still felt, still presented itself and still was different. Externally, the Manor no longer looked like a friendly country Manor house. Instead, it had taken on the appearance of a rather nasty little castle. Outside, what should have been pleasant gardens had become miserable woodlands, threaded with dark, eerie pathways. There was the tree-lined drive at the front of the Manor, but that went to the gates and, through those, no one from Rott, Grott & Snott could go; only visitors oblivious to the situation were able to come and go at will. The gargoyles, of course, you know all about! Whoever heard of large, restless, hooved gargoyles on a Manor? Oh, and the towers and turrets? As well as the fact that they liked to rearrange themselves from time to time, it was a challenge to find out how they were connected to the Manor. Some of them did seem to have entrances and exits, and these moved with their turrets, somehow fitting in with the layout of the Manor as they shifted. However, others seemed to have no known entrance or exit and remained a mystery. Then, of course, probably linked to the turrets, were the rooms and cupboards that came and went, sometimes even taking people with them, like Lady Pinchinthorpe and her maid Ayton. Because of this penchant for turrets to move and rooms to appear and disappear, the Manor also had a tendency to rearrange its internal layout. The things that remained unchanged included the front and back doors, along with the grand entrance hall at the front, and the boot room and kitchen at the back. Additionally, several corridors with connections to the entrance hall or the kitchen had little choice but to remain in place. They assumed that the attic and the cellar also stayed in place but, as they were visited so infrequently, in truth, they could be doing anything although, on the rare occasions people had visited them, they had tended to be at the top and the bottom of the Manor respectively. The end result of all this variation was that you could be heading to a particular room only to find yourself in a different part of the Manor, sometimes even ending up on a different floor, or simply unable to get to where you’d hoped! This could be very frustrating, and it wasn't unusual for people to get quite lost. Everyone, that is, except Horatio, who seemed to know the exact way to go no matter how the Manor reorganised itself (and even more quickly at mealtimes). I think it was the shadows that set people most on edge. Many thought it an unholy thing that shadows could be independent. Some people felt so uneasy that they refused to go anywhere near the Manor. You see, the shadows in the Manor didn't see the point of playing the same game as all the other shadows outside, and so they didn't. Most disconcerting of all was when your own shadow got bored! This happened quite a lot in the Manor, and it soon became apparent that shadows don't have a particularly long attention span. So, within a few moments of entering the Manor, your shadow would wander off without you, leaving you with no shadow until you left the Manor and it was forced to return to normal. Even if your shadow did come back before you left the Manor, there was no guarantee it would act normally and, more often than not, it would return with several other shadows (as shadows were both nosey and fickle) and hold a very animated silent shadow conversation. Sometimes there were even fights! What made all this even creepier was that some people thought they could hear what the shadows were discussing; although I doubt it. After all, what would a shadow salt-shaker have to talk about with a shadow plant-pot? Or a shadow Baron with a shadow foot-stool? Two other things that marked the Manor out as being particularly strange were the resetting every morning to a near-pristine condition, regardless of how much mayhem and destruction Horatio Fleming McNaughtie had caused and the missing servants. There must have been lots of servants employed in the Manor at one time, but now there were only Roseberry and Thornton. Yet still, the work always got done, and no one was under any illusion that Thornton did any of it! But perhaps the most unsettling thing about the Manor was the atmosphere. It wasn’t particularly dark or dank (although certain parts could definitely be described that way) and yet there was a feeling of oppression – maybe even malice. It hung heavy in the air and at certain times felt more ominous than at others; always worse when a turret was on the move. All-in-all the Manor was a complex place where strange and inexplicable forces were at work. And it was the family seat of the Barony of Rott, Grott & Snott. There was a family crest above the front door that seemed to be of a wolf-like beast and a very cross-looking deer or moose (it was hard to tell), either side of a rather gnarly dead looking tree. These were set against a black background and surrounded by various medieval-looking weapons and torture implements. Thankfully, being black, it was hard to see and went mostly ignored. Even Eller Beck, who herself was little more than a ghost, wondered about the missing servants. For example, who started the vacuum cleaner every day at 11:05 leading to its frenzied destruction by Horatio? How did all the work get done at night unnoticed and unheard? She’d tried to stay up and watch, but it seemed that watching didn't work as one moment she would be waiting and the next she would be rousing from some kind of slumber and the work would be done! And why did no one ever remember to lock the mutt in a room just before 11:05 so that it didn’t have the freedom to cause mayhem and destruction? Like everyone else, Eller had learned to live with these questions and many, many more, although not getting answers irritated her and nagged like an itch she couldn't scratch. On top of all this, as full moon approached, the enchantment on Manor Rott, Grott & Snott grew. Shadows became recalcitrant and little eddies of dust and fluff whirled through corridors and rooms, appearing then vanishing in a moment. Reaching a crescendo at the midnight hour on full moon, you could almost touch the menacing forces working unseen, but not unfelt, everywhere in the Manor. What happened to them after a full moon, no one knew, but no doubt they collected and fermented in the places where nobody ventured to disturb them. So, in the deepest and darkest bowels of the Manor – the cellar – the dank darkness thrived, powerfully brooding and infusing everything it touched. Quite when the change was first noticed, as always in Rott, Grott & Snott, no one could remember. However, change had come. The shadows started to avoid the cellar. Spiders scurried to the furthest boundaries to escape the rise of evil. Mice stood on their hind legs, whiskers twitching as they tried to sense what was happening. The rise of the evil salami empire – the ‘Rampant Salamis’ - had begun. At first, the salami that Roseberry had hung in the cellar just stayed hanging, only very slowly becoming resentful at being forgotten. At times, it swayed a little in a breeze no ordinary person could have felt. Enshrouded in murky darkness, the Manor’s atmosphere infused the hanging meat. That said, there was some light from little windows at ground level around the cellar that had become semi-opaque from years of accumulated dirt. However, this dismal light just tended to make the cellar look even creepier. As the days turned to weeks, and the weeks trudged on into months, so the forgotten salami started to become part of all that was happening in the Manor. Once an outsider and little more than a meal in waiting, it metamorphosised, oozing menace that had not been its own. After many months of being hung in the cellar, some of the salami sausages dropped to the ground. You might think that the string had rotted through, but you would be wrong. Mice ran to feast on the fatty meat but, instead of biting into the salami, the mice found themselves bitten into and scurried away to nurse their wounds. It started with a storm of teeth and uncontrollable biting rage. Like mindless animals they bit and chewed each other, slaughtering one another, so only a few survived - but the menace had not finished with them. As the months dragged on and more salamis dropped to join the devouring machines, so they transformed and morphed, almost as if an unseen hand was moulding them into something new. For, as the killing machines that the first salamis had been, were killed themselves, so the ones that ate them divided like cells under a microscope, and new salamis emerged. And, as each new generation emerged, splitting out of the previous generation, so the teeth were eventually joined by various numbers of arms and legs. Short-lived, multiplying generations of salmis descended ever more into their pit of depravity. Countless thousands came and went in uncivilised, murderous carnage. Quite how time passed in the cellar compared to the rest of the Manor, I'm not sure. For, while only a little time seemed to tick by above, generations of salami came and went down below. Civilisations rose and fell, waxed and waned, until the most tyrannical of all the leaders that had ever come before her rose to rule them all - 'Salaronicus the Destroyer'! Her badge …because all 'living’ things in Rott, Grott and Snott eventually have their own badge at full moon… read RGS – DESTROYER. The suffering under Salaronicus was terrible. Spiders were worked to death, being forced to spin delicate and beautiful clothes for her and fed almost nothing. Enslaved mice and normal rats pulled her carriages and chariots. Woodlice were hunted nearly to extinction as delicacies for the ruling classes. Wine bottles were beheaded and their contents fed to her soldiers and scouts. Afterwards, the empty, zombie-like bottles were forced to lead the salami troops into battle with little or no protection until they were smashed to smithereens. There had, albeit briefly, been an empire of wine bottles in the cellar, altogether different to the salami. Their downfall was their slow rate of reproduction and their fragility! Quite how wine bottles managed to reproduce at all was quite a mystery and obviously, something that could only happen in Manor Rott, Grott & Snott. However, eventually, they too became overrun and enslaved by the Rampant Salamis who came to rule over everything … in the cellar.
15 minutes | 8 months ago
Episode 17 - The Key
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 17 - The KeyAs Scragg recovered her senses, she looked more closely at the two people in the attic with them. One, a hag-like creature, was holding something in her hand while kneeling in front of the dark and ghostly outline of a door. The other, who looked a bit of an oaf, was some way behind and had a furious expression on his face. Neither of the people had noticed their arrival or the two shadow dogs who seemed to be having a 'mad moment' - zooming around chasing each other.Apart from the kneeling hag, Winefry was the only one who wasn’t affected by what came next. As the hag held out what looked very much like the key they were searching for towards the dark keyhole in the door, everything in the attic seemed to slow down. Then a voice spoke - which was only heard by the woman and Winefry - apparently from the door itself.It said, ‘Beware how you place that key in my lock, for many have tried and have found no luck. For if by chance you get it wrong, this door will stay open and all blessing be gone. Yet if you get it right when you open this cell, then maybe, just maybe all things will go well.’The words sent cold shivers down Winefry from his cork to his toes. He could see what was happening but felt no power in himself do anything about it. He watched helplessly as the person blindly pushed the key into the lock, taking no notice of the warning she’d just received. Winefry could see the other person, a large man with a red face moving closer to the hag and saw her throw a worried glance in his direction.Then, time was released back to normal as the door violently burst open, smashing into the woman kneeling in front of it. It sent her flying across the attic like a rag-doll - only just missing the man.Then, darkness, like they had never seen before, erupted out from the doorway. It was more than just empty darkness. It was malicious, powerful, filled with hate and, as it shot out, it engulfed the surprised man. Winefry thought he saw dark hands reach out and grab the man, dragging him back inside the doorway. As the man entered the darkness, the door slammed shut with a mighty crash - flinging the key from the lock and shattering it into its component pieces.Winefry was horrified. When he'd seen the key, he'd assumed that this was the end of their quest, to simply take the key from these people and return home. But now the key parts were spread across the attic. It was hard to see where they’d landed as the light was so dim. All Winefry could see was the shank of the key which seemed to be evaporating into a dark mist. So, throwing caution to the wind, Winefry leapt for the shank and grabbed hold of it as tightly as he could. And, as he held it firmly, so it regained its integrity in his hands, the thin rope through the bow dangling down.Shouting across to Scragg, Winefry yelled at her to find the bits before they disappeared. But that was easier said than done. The lighting was terrible. Only the woman's oil lamp was left and was about as much use as a clotted-cream picnic basket. Scragg raced around, but each time she found a bit, it was too late as it evaporated into a vapour before she could grab it.Thinking she’d missed all the bits, Scragg returned to Winefry who was holding the shank as if it too was about to vanish. He gave her a hopeful look, but she shook her head, and his face fell. The task the Lady of Light had given them would take far longer now.The shadow border terriers still seemed to be playing, at least one of them did. Flannel’s shadow kept running up to them and then going away again. Both Winefry and Scragg ignored it at first, unsure what to do. But when it came up for the fifth or sixth time, Winefry and Scragg exchanged a glance and Scragg followed the shadow dog with Winefry close behind.Flannel’s shadow ran ahead and stopped just the other side of some boxes, and when Scragg and Winefry came round, they both stopped dead in their tracks, amazed at what they saw. Shadow Spanner had his nose on the top of one of the bits of the key. Somehow, being a shadow had enabled Spanner to stop it evaporating. So, with shadow Flannel bouncing up and down beside her, Scragg very carefully reached over and put her paw on top of the bit. She could feel it solidify beneath her claw, but she couldn't pick it up, that would require Winefry who was still holding onto the shank as if his life depended on it.‘It’s solid again,’ Scragg said to Winefry before nodding towards the shadow dogs as a gesture of thanks. ‘But I think you’re going to have to be the one to pick it up. Can you use that rope in the ring thingy to keep it around your neck so you can come and get this bit?’‘It’s not a ring, it’s a bow,’ Winefry replied on autopilot, and then looked a little unsure. ‘To be honest, I don’t know. But I guess I’m going to have to try. Here goes!’With one hand still firmly grasping the shank, Winefry let go with his other hand and pulled the rope up and around his neck. Then, with a slight look of panic, he put the shank against his chest (it actually hung right over his face, which was far from ideal) and let go. It clanked softly against the bottle and didn't show any sign of wanting to evaporate. Then, because Winefry was a bottle, the rope slipped off his neck and over his body to the ground. At that, he quickly picked it up again and made a type of short loop with the rope so that it wouldn't slip past his neck and put it back again. It remained solid and, this time, stayed put!Winefry went over to Scragg and, in a coordinated way, they removed Scragg's paw from the bit while Winefry picked it up. It felt solid in his grip, and he held it out for them both to see more closely.As they moved over to the shadowy doorway to examine the shank and bit in the flickering light of the oil lamp, they realised something else. The doorway was open! It was just ajar, but still open. Scragg tried to push it shut, but it wouldn't stay shut and just opened again. All the while, small amounts of darkness could be seen flowing from the small gap.They tried putting boxes in front of the door, which failed to keep it closed, so they picked up the oil lamp and moved to a different part of the attic to have a closer look at the shank and bit.It was Scragg who noticed the little symbols on the shank and bit. All six sides of the shank had a separate symbol as she had seen in the tunnel and, when she looked at the bit, she saw a symbol that corresponded to one of the marks on the shank. The bit had to be slid into the shank with the icons facing each other. So, Winefry took a firm hold of the shank and bit and, with the briefest glance at Scragg, started to slide it into place. It landed with a very satisfying 'click' and seemed to lock firmly in place.No sooner had that happened than a voice spoke close by, making both Winefry and Scragg jump.'Well, they took their sweet time getting that sorted, didn't they?' said the voice.‘Who said that?’ Winefry muttered in a hushed voice, reaching for his sword.‘What are they on about now?’ another voice, similar but slightly higher pitched than the first voice, asked.At that, Winefry unsheathed his sword and swung it in an arc as Scragg bared her claws and showed her teeth.‘Show yourselves!’ yelled Winefry, a look of confusion on his face.‘What’s that thing he’s waving about?’ one of the voices asked. ‘Do you think he’s going to throw it? Do ya? Huh? Do ya?’‘It’s not a stick,’ the other voice answered. ‘I don’t know what it is exactly, but I don’t think he’s going to throw it for you!’It was at that point that Scragg noticed the shadows of Spanner and Flannel. The bigger shadow of Spanner was hopping around and crouching down, just like a dog waiting for a stick to be thrown. While Flannel’s shadow was simply sitting watching the situation.‘I demand you show yourselves!’ continued the now thoroughly wound up Winefry. ‘But know this, if we are to do battle, I will fight to the death!’'Now who's he talking to?' asked the higher-pitched voice.‘Don’t know. Don’t care, as long as he throws that stick!’ came the reply.‘Winefry, calm down,’ started Scragg as the bottle twisted and turned looking for the hidden villains. ‘They aren’t our enemies. I think that, somehow, putting that locky part in the shafty thingy has made us able to hear our ‘new shadows’.’‘What?’ erupted Winefry. A look of total shock and disbelief on his face. ‘How can we hear shadows? They’re, they’re … shadows?’‘I know, I know,’ Scragg continued. ‘Like I said, I think it’s the key parts. Putting them together has somehow allowed us to hear their voices.’At this, and much to shadow Spanner’s disappointment, Winefry visibly deflated and slowly put his sword back in its scabbard. I think he’d been looking forward to using it ever since it had been changed from a poker to a real sword by the Lady of Light.The voices of the two shadow dogs continued – endlessly – as Winefry and Scragg discussed what to do next.While their expedition had been successful, it was still very frustrating to have been so near to the whole key and not have it all. They should have been happy to have the two parts they'd saved, but somehow that didn't make them feel much better. Especially as they had no idea how to find the remaining pieces.As they examined the key a little more in the murky oil-lamp light, Scragg looked closely at the ring at the end of the shank. ‘I can’t see them,’ she said.‘What are you talking about?’ asked Winefry.‘When I saw the picture of the key in the tunnel - you probably don’t remember - there were symbols around the ring at the end of the shafty thingy. But I can’t see any now? Do you think I got it wrong?’Winefry carefully examined the bow, trying to find any sign of words or symbols.‘I can’t see any,’ he said. ‘However, this is clearly no ordinary key, so maybe the words will become obvious once more of the bits are in place?’But then Scragg heard a noise. It was the sound of someone coming up the steps. As the footsteps grew louder, Winefry and Scragg retreated to the edges of the attic and waited.A head popped up and asked if anyone was there. They were obviously unwilling to venture into the attic themselves. Then, when they got no reply, they stuck their head a little further in and shouted out again but still didn't get a response. So, after one final call, the head disappeared from view followed shortly by the squeaking of the mechanism as the hatch was shut, closing with a loud thud.It obviously became a lot darker in the attic, and Scragg made sure that Winefry had her tail in his hand before searching for an escape route. And, as they moved around, Scragg saw the light again. Strangely, it seemed to be coming from the same door that had been left ajar and was bleeding darkness into the attic. Walking towards the light, Scragg gave a running commentary for both Winefry and the shadow dogs. She kept this up until she heard one shadow say to the other, 'Why does she keep telling us about what's literally right in front of our noses?' The other sneezed and then announced, 'I need a pee!' Despite themselves, both Scragg and Winefry chuckled.Moving towards the light, Scragg felt a sense of peace as she walked right up to the door, and then into it. She didn’t enter the doorway, but instead walked into the door itself, only to find herself moments later with Winefry back outside the Manor on the pathway they’d left earlier.Unfortunately, the shadows did not return to being silent. Scragg had had no idea just how much noise a shadow dog could make when it enjoyed emptying its bladder after being cooped up for too long. Again, despite themselves, Winefry and Scragg found themselves laughing as the shadow Spanner let out an almighty, 'AHHHHHHHHHHHH!' as he relieved himself on the shadow of a tree. Then, he rushed off after Flannel, who was chasing the shadow of a very real butterfly.They had arrived on the path facing in the direction they'd formerly come from. And, instead of turning back to the Manor, they found themselves walking towards the clearing by the cliff wall. Scragg kept her eyes looking down at the path to avoid any of the motion-sickness she'd felt when she'd seen time changing on their way there. Winefry, just took the whole thing in seemingly as if it were any other typical day!As before, once they crested the little ridge and the Manor was out of sight, the whole time-changing thing stopped, and they were simply walking along a path back to where they'd come from.It was unspoken, but they all knew what they had to do next, and Winefry was not looking forward to it. The darkness of the tunnel had, so Scragg informed him, very nearly killed him, but that was the only way they knew to go.Walking up to the cliff wall, Scragg again looked for some sign of light to indicate the entrance back into the cave. Inside were the icons and tunnels that would lead them to the next bit of the key, so they really had no choice.Winefry reluctantly took hold of Scragg’s tail again. He couldn't see it, but the lightened entrance was now evident to Scragg. Then, as he held firmly, and the two shadow dogs held some inane conversation about squirrels, they passed through back into the chamber.For Winefry it was total blackness, but not for Scragg who looked at the various icons. Strangely, two of the tunnels had gone, they were the two that would have led to the shank and the bit they already had. But which of the remaining five should they choose? How would they know which way to go next?Only time would tell.
19 minutes | 8 months ago
Episode 16 - Back to the Manor
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 16 - Back to the ManorWhen Scragg eventually awoke, it was night, and a beautiful summers’ full moon shone gently down on them. It was probably a flower moon or a strawberry moon in May or June, but it was hard to tell as all they had to go by were the warmth and smell of the air and the appearance of the leaves on the trees.Scragg didn’t get up very quickly as she still felt exhausted from all the effort of spending who knew how long in that tunnel and then dragging Winefry out with her. At the thought of Winefry, Scragg was suddenly wide awake. What had happened to Winefry? He had seemed all but lifeless as she’d dragged him out. Sitting bolt upright, Scragg started to frantically search around for Winefry. Thankfully, she didn’t have to look far as the bottle was only a little way from her and lying on its side, probably having rolled there after falling out of the tunnel. Gently, Scragg rolled the bottle onto its back to get a closer look. Annoyingly, the bottle didn’t breathe in the same way animals did, so she couldn’t check for a pulse or for his chest rising and falling. So, she looked as closely as she could in the full moonlight at the label, to see what his face was doing.A wave of grateful thanks washed over Scragg as she saw the peaceful expression that filled the features drawn on the label. Gone were the hopelessness and the lines of deep anxiety. Instead, they had been replaced by a look of peace and strength, and a very distinct animation of the wine bottle’s drawn features that told her he was snoring! Winefry was going to be ok. It might take a while before he woke up, but he had survived, so Scragg relaxed a little. Then her tummy growled, and she realised how hungry she was. The vermin in the tunnel had been small, and few and far between so, feeling confident that Winefry would be safe to leave for a little while, she headed out to hunt for her tea or breakfast. Whichever meal it might be, it was needed.When Scragg returned having found much larger and tastier vermin to feast upon, Winefry had still not moved. But as she looked at him, he seemed more robust and healthier as the first rays of morning light flickered through the branches onto his label face. Scragg had been anxious about Winefry, not least because she’d never seen him eat. In fact, she had no idea if he ate at all! What had made it worse was that, while they’d been in the tunnel, Scragg had got the distinct impression that Winefry had been starving. But he didn’t look as if he was starving now. In fact, as the light played on his features, there was a faint impression of a smile. Then, as the light started to grow in strength, Scragg suddenly found herself on high alert. Something was wrong or different about this place. From the corner of her eye, she caught sight of things moving that shouldn’t have. Then, a moment later, Scragg leapt into the air and backwards in the way only cats can when startled by something unexpected. But there wasn’t anything there.Again, something caught Scragg’s eye, and she jumped as high, if not higher than before. What was going on? Then she saw it, a shadow moving away from her – but it didn’t seem to be attached to anything. A moment later, it disappeared into the mix of shadows of trees and bushes. Again, for a third time, Scragg jumped as if her life depended on it. But this time, as she looked at what had caught her eye, she couldn’t believe what she saw. It was a shadow of a dog but without the dog. Deliberately coming up to her and acting as if she could understand it, it seemed to be looking at her, while sitting down and wagging its tail!Now, one thing cats are known for is their curiosity. While Scragg was still on high alert, she was also very curious about this strange shadow. So, moving very slowly, she started to creep towards it. At first, it just seemed to stay where it was, wagging its tail. Then in a flash, the shadow zipped across to Scragg and sat right under her. In a panic, Scragg tried to scratch it away and pulled back from it, rolling over several times. Still, it merely followed, unaffected by the scratching and turning.It took a while, but eventually, Scragg calmed down enough to examine the shadow properly. As she did, she felt the strangest sensation. This shadow of a dog (and judging by its size and shape, it looked very much like the shadow of Flannel) was the ONLY shadow she had. He own shadow had gone. She tried moving her legs and tail, and to a certain extent, Flannel’s shadow followed, but not completely. It would seem that whatever had happened with that explosion of light before the tunnel closed had done something to her – and presumably Flannel’s – shadows. Then, Scragg saw another blob of darkness moving through the clearing. Instantly on high alert, again, she allowed her eyes to follow this second independent shadow. She stole a quick glance at her own companion shadow when she realised that the new one was also a dog. However, her new shadow was still with her. So, this shadow was presumably Spanner’s shadow as he had been there as well. Carefully walking over to the still sleeping Winefry, she looked for his shadow in the growing light. He didn’t have one. Then, her new shadow left her and walked over to the shadow Spanner, and the two of them started to play fight!! This was an extraordinary place indeed, and all this shadow hopping made her feel quite queasy. Eventually, at about midday, Winefry’s eyes opened and, seeming to take a deep breath (although of course, that was his features and not reality), the bottle stretched and sat up.Turning to the now dozing Scragg, he appeared to yawn before saying, ‘Morning! You know, I had the most unusual dream.’It seemed that Winefry had no recollection of anything that had happened since the moment the tunnel had been closed by the Lady of Light. To him, it was little more than a quickly fading nightmare, while Scragg could remember everything! And, because of that, she was in a particularly bad mood – made even worse by Winefry’s ignorance and platitudes!Winefry abandoned trying to cheer Scragg up and decided to go and explore their surroundings. After a while, he returned and asked, ‘Is it me, or are we in the same place we were before we went into the tunnel? And,’ he added, appearing to be completely unphased by it, ‘why have we lost our shadows? And where did these replacement shadows come from? They don’t seem to be attached very well!’ Scragg hadn’t noticed they were back in the same place as the whole area was far less overgrown and there were fewer trees. Yet, as she looked, at first unwilling to believe it could be so, she started to see it. The cliff wall was still there too, just friendlier than it had seemed before. So, reluctantly, she had to agree with Winefry that it was the same place. However, it felt very different.No sooner had she agreed, than Winefry started to walk away while watching his ‘new’ shadow, which was giving its ear a good scratch. ‘Where are you going now?’ Scragg shouted rather impatiently.‘Aren’t you coming?’ Winefry asked. Which, to be honest, didn’t help lift Scragg’s mood.‘Coming where?’ she snapped back at him. Her shadow was already following.The bottle turned back to the cat with a slightly confused look on his label face while his shadow kept walking. ‘Well,’ he started, ‘if this is where we went into the tunnel, then it stands to reason that this,’ as he said ‘this’, he pointed to the path Spanner’s shadow was trotting along, ‘is the way to the Manor.’The Manor! Scragg had forgotten entirely about the Manor and the whole purpose of their adventure. The Lady of Light had sent them to find a key that somehow would help to end the enchantment of Manor Rott, Grott and Snott. She could have kicked herself for being so slow, especially after the wine bottle had been ‘out of it’ for so long. But there was no time for even more grumpiness as the wine bottle strode away on its long legs after Spanner’s shadow. Scragg and Flannel’s shadow found themselves scurrying to catch up.It was late afternoon as they made their way to the Manor. As the sun shone on the bottle, he seemed to get stronger and stronger until Scragg realised what it was. She fed on vermin and scraps, but the wine bottle must somehow feed on light. That would explain why he had struggled to survive in the tunnel, which for him was total darkness. It would also explain why his strength had started to return in the moonlight and continued to grow as they marched in the sunlight. The wine bottle needed light as she needed food.The vistas and sights on the trip to the Manor were dramatically different from the views they had left. There was no denying that this was the same place but at a different time. They got their final confirmation when they crested a ridge, finally seeing the Manor. Once it appeared, they stopped to take in the view. As they did, the shadow dogs sniffed around other shadow items in the way ordinary dogs sniff around trees and rocks. As they looked at the Manor, they realised they’d travelled much further into the past than they’d first thought because the ground was so much more open and free from gnarly forests.There was no denying it was the Manor, but this Manor was so different from the one they’d left. It was beautiful! It rested in its surroundings like a precious jewel in an elegant crown. The sun seemed to want to play with the windows and the stonework, as well as glistening off water sprinkling from fountains they’d never seen before. It was enough to take your breath away.It took a moment or two to realise, but there were people outside the Manor, a family, young children, dogs and cats playing or resting in the shade of graceful trees. But as they started their journey once again, following the shadows who had got impatient and headed off, the strangest thing happened as they walked towards the large country house. As they moved forwards, the scene in front of them changed. Little children became older children. Then, they were the adults with new children and different animals playing in the grounds. The vista around them seemed to grow and change. Trees sprouted up, animals appeared in fields and then they were bare again. In the distance, other fields were ploughed, crops grew and were harvested before the brief arrival of what looked like snow and then back to ploughing. It was as if by walking further along this path they saw the history of the Manor fast-forward before their eyes.When they realised what was happening, they stopped in their tracks. And, as they did, the whole scene around them also stopped. Birds were frozen in mid-air, rabbits rushing away stood like statues, some on only one foot, caught mid-bound.When they moved forwards again, everything around them raced ever faster in time. And, when they tried walking backwards, so too, time seemed to reverse. Winefry found the whole thing fascinating and wanted to race forwards along the path to see if they could get to the time they’d left. But Scragg held back, unsure of why they were having the dubious privilege of witnessing the rise – and no doubt fall – of the Briggswath family. And all the change around her was giving her motion sickness!As Scragg lagged behind, Winefry glanced back and paused. His instinct was to rush ahead, after all, isn’t that what knights are supposed to do? To rush into danger, regardless of whatever it might be. Yet something else, something more was at play here. He knew the Lady of Light had given the cat an extraordinary gift. And, although he couldn’t remember the events himself, he knew that the gift Scragg had was what had saved him from that tunnel. So, going against his natural instincts, the wine bottle wandered back to stay with Scragg, who had an uncomfortable look on her face and was turning a little green. The shadows of Spanner and Flannel took a moment to realise that the others had stopped. When they did, they drifted back, eventually sitting by Scragg and looking up at her with their heads tilted to one side as if trying to work out what was wrong.The uncomfortable expression had appeared on Scragg’s face at the point when the country house, that had started off looking so beautiful, had begun to transform more into the Manor they knew. As they’d walked towards the house and time had raced forwards around them, Scragg had felt a cold chill.‘Are you ok?’ Winefry asked. ‘You look like something’s wrong. In fact, I thought I saw you shiver slightly just then.’ Scragg had indeed shivered and, as she was about to answer, she took a few more steps towards the wine bottle. Then, from the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of light and stopped dead. Winefry realised that something important was happening. So moving back, he watched time rewinding while the cat tried to find the origin of the flash. ‘What did you see?’ he asked the cat.‘I’m not sure,’ she confessed. ‘To be honest, I’m getting motion sick at all this history racing past me. But I thought I saw a flash of light and ...’ She let the sentence drop, knowing Winefry would understand.‘Try moving backwards and forwards,’ Winefry offered after they’d stood still for a few moments. ‘Maybe you’ll only see it at a specific time, and you need to find that exact time by going back along the path a little.’ This was a brilliant idea but, rather than thank Winefry, Scragg thought about how nauseous it would make her feel, and turned a little greener. But there wasn’t anything else for it, she was going to have to try, so she started to move slowly backwards little by little along the path. Retracing her steps, she saw it again. It was a distinct flash that seemed to be coming from an upstairs window.As she moved her head forwards and backwards slightly, she realised that the flash was just for a moment and coming from the large round window at the top of the house. If she moved only slightly one way or another, she couldn’t see it any more. ‘I’m not sure what to think,’ Scragg said in a slightly raised voice to Winefry who, along with the two shadows, was giving her a quizzical look. ‘I can see a flash for the briefest moment coming from the round window at the top of the house, but I don’t know what to make of it.’ Winefry never ceased to amaze Scragg, as the matter of fact questions he then asked made the whole thing crystal clear. ‘What’s the sun doing?’ he asked. ‘Is it shining at the window? Could it be the sun, or is it something else? If it’s the sun, then maybe it’s one of those things. But remember, the Lady of Light said you would see light that no one else could. Maybe this is one of those times you see light, and we need to pay attention.’ Scragg looked at the wine bottle, open-mouthed. Then, shaking her head slightly (and immediately regretting it because of the way it made her feel) she looked back at the moment when she could see the flash of light. Then, very carefully, without moving her head and only moving her eyes, Scragg looked around as the glint stayed visible. Looking up at the sky she realised that the sun was behind the house. This couldn’t be a reflection. This must be why the Lady of Light had led them to this point. But what to do now?It was Winefry who came to the rescue once again. Looking at the cat, he said, ‘Scragg, we need to be bold. The Lady made us her knights and knights are courageous. So, we must go towards this light. I can’t see it, only you can. I propose that you turn towards the flash of light and fix your eyes on it. Then, I will hold your tail, and you must step off this path to stop time moving, and lead me towards the light. As for the shadows, I don’t think we need to worry about them. Somehow I don’t think we’ll get rid of them that easily.’ At this, he gave a little laugh before carrying on. ‘Then, when we find ourselves where we’re supposed to be, where the Lady of Light is leading us, I will do everything I can to protect you. But we cannot stay here now we know. Having the truth revealed to us is our invitation to follow. So, trust in the Lady of Light, that what she told us is true.’ Winefry could be so insufferably righteous sometimes! He not only acted like some kind of virtuous knight, he thought like one as well. Scragg knew he was right, of course; she just didn’t want to do it because she didn’t know what to expect or what dangers they might face. That took courage, courage that at this precise moment, she didn’t feel she had. However, while he’d spoken, Winefry had taken a firm grip of her tail and was now waiting expectantly. So, with a slightly grumpy shake of her head (which she instantly regretted – again), Scragg refocused on the glint of light. Then, turning towards it, she walked off the path directly towards the glow as Winefry held fast to her tail. No sooner had they moved off the edge of the pathway towards the glint of light than the whole world to seemed to swish and swirl around them. There was a gentle popping sound as they were pulled into the mayhem. Scragg saw it all, the twisting and turning of time and space, light and darkness. Colour, sky and Manor compressed, expanded and then finally exploded, followed by a much louder popping sound. Then, Scragg and Winefry (still holding firmly onto Scragg’s tail) found themselves standing in the attic of the Manor with two people they didn’t recognise. Scragg threw up. Thankfully it was silent and didn’t attract the attention of the strangers. As Winefry quietly consoled Scragg, he noticed two dark shapes exploring the attic. He’d been right about the shadow dogs; they would be tough to misplace!
17 minutes | 8 months ago
Episode 15 - Winefry & Scragg – The tunnel
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 15 - Winefry & Scragg – The tunnel‘I can’t see a thing!’ Winefry exclaimed as the cave wall finally closed, leaving them to only wonder at the fate of the screaming girl, the lady of light and the border terriers. Before adding in a panic, ‘Scragg? Scragg? Are you there?’ ‘Yes, I’m here. Stop worrying. I’m trying to work out the best way to go,’ Scragg replied.‘Work out what? I can’t see a thing. It’s pitch-black!’'Well, it's not pitch-black for me. Maybe it's my cat's eyes or …, or maybe it's the lady of light and what she said about seeing the light? Whatever it is, I can see enough to tell that we have options.’‘Options? What do you mean options?’ Winefry was obviously rather flustered.Scragg gave a little sigh before explaining, ‘We can go one of seven ways as far as I can tell. Now be quiet a moment, I’m trying to make out the signs above the passageways.’Being silent in the darkness proved not to be one of Winefry’s skills as he started to ply Scragg with questions about what the signs looked like.The seven passageways had seven different signs, which they eventually realised related to an image of a special key drawn on the wall that had closed up behind them. Scragg might never have seen the image if she hadn't become so exasperated with Winefry’s constant questioning that she’d turned around to scream into her paws. When she did see it, she screamed anyway but more to wind Winefry up than anything.Eventually, she started to explain the image to Winefry. ‘It looks like a key of some sort, but instead of just one locky thing coming off the main shaft, it seems to have six.’ Winefry was intrigued, even though he was most definitely not in his element when sitting in total darkness. Maybe it was the decades of being left in the eaves of the Manor that had done it, but darkness was something Winefry did not like!‘Is there anything else about the key that looks unusual?’ he asked Scragg.‘You mean apart from that fact that it has six locky things?’ Scragg responded a little rudely. Winefry ignored this and asked another question. ‘Well, if it has six lock-opening parts, it might be quite difficult to put into the keyhole and turn in the lock. Is there anything else you notice about it?’This was rather a good question, and Scragg felt a little ashamed of her previous outburst. So, rather sheepishly (although Winefry wouldn't know because of the apparent total darkness he was in), Scragg walked over to the image of the key and took a closer look.‘Well, the shafty part is quite fat and has what look like 6 flat sides to it – what’s that a polygon or something?’‘That would be a hexagon,’ Winefry answered without any emotion. ‘Anything else?’ he added.‘A hexagon. Right,’ Scragg repeated. ‘So, this hexagon shaft seems to have little grooves around the locky parts – on each of the sides I can see. So, if I had to guess, it looks like the six locky or unlocky parts – what are they called by the way?’Again, without much emotion and without thinking about how he knew it, Winefry answered, 'It's called a 'bit,' and obviously this key has six bits that fit into the six grooves in the hexagonal shank. Is that what you were going to say?' Scragg nodded but then realised Winefry couldn’t see her and gave a rather huffish ‘Yes,’ before asking, ‘How do you know so much about keys anyway?’Winefry ignored her and instead asked, ‘The bow, what’s that like?’ Silence. It seemed Scragg was getting a little frustrated with this new ‘game’ and didn’t want to play any more!So, with a small sigh, Winefry explained. ‘It’s usually a ring part at the other end of the shank or shaft that you hold the key by and it helps you to turn the key in the lock. I assume it’s got quite a big bow?’ At that, Winefry paused, not expecting and not getting any answer from the petulant cat. Then a moment later, Winefry added, ‘I’m sorry if I’m winding you up, I don’t mean to, it’s just that being in the dark is playing havoc with my nerves. And in answer to your question about how I know so much about keys … I have absolutely no idea. Although I am beginning to wonder if maybe the lady of light passed it on to me somehow? Anyway, please, what can you tell me about the bow?’What Winefry couldn’t see was Scragg shaking her head at him and his frankly incredible knowledge about keys. However, he had apologised, and the image was there... So, taking a closer look, she replied, 'Well, this 'bow' thing looks big. In fact, I think you could probably hold it with two hands if you needed to. It's oval, not a circle, it has writing on it which I can't read and ...' ‘What do you mean you can’t read it?’ Winefry interrupted. ‘Is it too faint or in some kind of strange language?’Scragg’s frustration was quickly moving on to outright annoyance at Winefry’s constant interruptions. ‘Let me clarify this for you ‘Sir Winefry',' Scragg replied. 'There are lots of shapes around the oval 'bow' that look like the kind of shapes I've seen people looking at in the Manor. However, I am a cat and have not been taught to read. Although judging by your tone, and because you are obviously such a very well-educated WINE BOTTLE, I can only assume that you would be able to decipher them were it not for the fact that you are as blind as a … I don't know what - in the dark, and have to rely on this ignorant cat!'Their conversation was in danger of descending into an out and out row. Obviously, Scragg couldn't read, and Winefry couldn't see to read. It would be a thankless and pointless task for the cat to explain each and every symbol in the hope the wine bottle could work out what they actually said. Especially not if they were in some strange, ancient or obscure language. So, Winefry thought better of it. If the lady of light had sent them here and they couldn’t get full answers, they had to trust she knew what she was doing. Also, the darkness was starting to get to Winefry, and he didn't want to stay put any longer than necessary.With that, Winefry actually apologised to Scragg, which really took the wind out of her sails as she was about to let rip at the wine bottle, and was slightly disappointed not to be able to have a good shouting match. After apologising, Winefry asked one last question. ‘I’m sorry to ask Scragg,’ he said carefully, ‘but is there anything else you think may be worth noting about the key before we move on?’As it happened, there was, and Scragg had already noticed it. On the shank above each groove, and on the top edge of each bit, there was a small raised icon. When she took a closer look, she turned so quickly, she almost knocked Winefry over. Then she shrieked, ‘The symbols!’‘The symbols on the bow?’ Winefry asked, confused. 'No, of course not,' Scragg carried on as if Winefry should somehow be following her thought pattern while totally in the dark. ‘The symbols on the hexagonal shafty bit and the end thingies.’‘You mean the shank and the bits?’'Yes, yes, whatever. Each one has a symbol on it so that the locky parts can slot into the right place on the shafty bit’. Winefry said nothing. He didn't feel that correcting her at this point would prove helpful. 'And,' Scragg hurried on, 'I've just seen that above each of the seven passageways there's a symbol - and six of them are the same as the symbols for each locky part! The seventh symbol shows the shafty thing with the oval end.' Winefry understood at once. ‘So ...,’ he started.Scragg interrupted. 'Yes. The symbols show us where we can find each and every part of the key. We need to follow the passageway that leads to each part. So, I'll follow this one, and you can follow that one and we'll ….' At this, Scragg paused. 'Oh,' she said as she looked at the wine bottle blinded by the darkness. 'You can't go on your own, can you?'‘Sorry Scragg,’ Winefry confessed. 'I can't see a thing and, to be honest with you, the darkness is getting to me. If you leave me on my own, I probably won't make it.' He trailed off at this point. Scragg understood. The lady of light had put them together for a reason and, because of that, they needed each other. So, fixing a smile on her face, even though Winefry wouldn't be able to see it, Scragg answered, 'No, we need to go together. It may take a little longer, but you need me, and I need you. After all, I can see, but you can read and who knows how important that will be? I guess the real question is; which passageway do we explore first?’‘I think,’ Winefry muttered after a few moments of thoughtful silence, ‘that the first thing to get is the shank… er the shafty thingy with the oval end. Because if we have that, we can tell what it says and we also have a place to put the 6 bits when we get them. So, if you can see which passageway has the icon for the … shafty thingy over it, then let’s go down there.’A moment later, Winefry heard Scragg’s voice announce, ‘This way!’ Then, Winefry almost leapt off the ground as something furry brushed his hand. That cat really could move silently. As Winefry thought he heard Scragg stifling a laugh, he felt the fur again and heard Scragg’s voice say, ‘Well? Grab hold! OUCH – not that hard!’ And their journey began.Winefry’s desperate hope that the journey would be quick and straightforward was soon proved wrong as the two of them trudged for hours in total blackness for Winefry and murky gloom for Scragg. The tunnel stayed narrow and never once opened up for them to walk side by side. As it was, because Winefry was utterly blinded by the darkness, he needed to walk behind Scragg, gently holding onto her tail. That said, his ears still worked – maybe a little too well as, when he heard noises in the darkness that obviously weren’t from Scrag, he would jump and grab at Scragg’s tail a bit too hard! By the time they decided to stop for a rest, Scragg was pretty fed up with Winefry and, after mumbling a few words, went off in the darkness to be by herself for a while.Winefry tried to rest but couldn’t because of the thoughts running through his mind, combined with the noises in the darkness. The darkness was taking a far higher toll on him than it was on Scragg. As the journey went on, hour after hour - maybe even day after day - when they did stop, Winefry would fall to the ground exhausted but unable to rest. Each time Scragg would go off, and Winefry’s fears would run wild.What Scragg was actually doing was hunting for food. The passageway seemed to have a few small vermin to prey upon. With her extraordinarily good eyesight, Scragg found it easy to catch what she needed. But Winefry didn't have a mouth, and she had never actually seen him eat. So she knew it would be no use offering him some of what she caught. She was starting to get seriously worried about the wine bottle. His courage, his strength, seemed to be draining out of him, the longer the journey took. It was almost like someone had taken out his cork. She could tell his condition was deteriorating. The wax around his cork was bubbling, and the edges of his label were starting to shred. But worst of all was the look in his unseeing eyes. They needed to get out of the darkness, but that wasn't in her control. All she could do was keep going, hoping that an end would come at some point.She really started to worry when he began to stop more often, exhausted. If they carried on at this rate, Scragg would end up having to pull the bottle through the tunnels, and she didn't even know if that was possible.The final straw came when Scragg noticed Winefry’s eyes were no longer open, but had become slits staring at nothing. Scragg found herself talking into the darkness. Winefry didn’t or couldn’t answer as he held her tail loosely, with his feet dragging along the ground. But it wasn’t Winefry that Scragg was talking to. Instead, she spoke to the lady of light, as they staggered slowly on in the endless tunnel with Winefry stumbling along behind her, a gentle drag on her tail. 'You sent us on this journey,' she started. 'We're doing this at your bidding, but Winefry can't carry on much longer. He's failing. I don't know what to do. You told me that I would see light; that when no-one could see it, I would and that I was to follow it. But instead, all I see is a dimly lit passageway with no end in sight, and if we don't get out of this soon, Winefry won't get out at all.' But Scragg was also losing focus in this dimly lit world. Suddenly she realised with a jolt that the gentle pulling behind her had ceased. And then she was running - running back to search for Winefry in the darkness, finding him lying face down on the floor, unmoving. Then Scragg wasn't talking any more, she was screaming, screaming at the lady of light who had sent them on this desperate journey. A journey that was killing Winefry and threatening her with endless loneliness. 'You sent us here! Why have you abandoned us?' Then, turning Winefry over, she took a closer look. It was impossible to tell if there was any life left in the bottle or not! It wasn't as if a wine bottle breathed or had a pulse. So Scragg screamed all the more, and she wept bitter tears. This dimly-lit place had been just about bearable with Winefry, but not now, not with him unable to go on or maybe even dead? She was aware of her isolation, of having to go on in that place on her own. At that point, her screaming turned from bitterness to pleading. She was begging, begging for the lady of light to help. To keep her promise and show her the light they needed to escape this place of isolation and darkness. As she begged, with all pride and self-belief long since dead, she acknowledged that no matter how hard she tried and how far they went, they would never be able to find their way out unless the lady showed her.All the sobbing and crying took its toll on the poor cat who hunched over the wine bottle and covered it with her tears. Quite how long she was like that she couldn't tell. Maybe she slept, perhaps it was a dream, but as she looked up again, her vision blurred, she realised that the dimly-lit tunnel was lighter than before. At first, she thought it was a dream or a trick of the eye. But a few moments later, it was undeniable, the passageway was getting lighter. As it grew brighter, she could see up and down the tunnel, and it looked like it had no end, that there was no way of escape. But still, the passageway grew lighter, although now, it wasn't a general light, but a specific point of light that seemed to be coming from the wall itself, a little further on.Everything in Scragg wanted to race to that point of light, but something else told her that, if she did, she might never find Winefry again. So, in constant terror that the growing light patch would fade, Scragg struggled and scratched and clawed her way with Winefry towards the light. The closer she got, the more it looked like Winefry was dead, but she was determined not to leave him. Again Scragg's tears of anger, frustration and fear flowed over the wine bottle until, at last, she managed to drag it to the patch of light. And that was all it was – a patch of light in the wall of an endless tunnel, but it was also hope. The lady of light had promised that Scragg would be able to see the light and told her to follow it even when no one else would. She had seen the light and gone to it, bringing the lifeless Winefry with her. But now she was there, she had no idea what to do? It seemed hopeless until she realised that she had come to the light. She had looked at the light. She had hoped that the light was the answer. But what she hadn't done was to go into the light. So, standing the wine bottle up, she grabbed hold of it as best she could and, using the very last reserve of her energy, they both fell into the patch of light in the wall of the endless tunnel. Then exhaustion dragged her towards unconsciousness. For all she knew was a gentle voice talking to her about coming to the end of themselves to find the real way forward, before the nothingness of deep, deep sleep.
23 minutes | 8 months ago
Episode 14 - Interlude - The Origins of Darkness
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 14 – Interlude - Origins of Darkness Before the madness and pain, a beautiful country house stood in the idyllic countryside of the North York Moors. There lived in that house a very fortunate family. Although, some would say that the blessing and good fortune were not of their own making. Instead, the blessing had found them and made its home there. Why it should do this, I can’t say for sure, but I suspect this happened because they neither sought after nor longed for it. Instead, they concentrated on loving each other and caring for those around them, being thankful for all they had. So, beauty and bounty followed wherever they went, and everything they put their hands to succeeded and prospered, which led to more thankfulness and joy. And so, it seemed that from each generation, this fortune flowed to the next, as sons and daughter grew up learning to love and care, with gratitude for the blessings they received. They lived in peace, drinking in the beauty all around and happily sharing their good fortune generously with others. Around the country house, small villages grew for workers who tended the estate. Their housing was modest but comfortable, and a step beyond what they could find elsewhere, for the Briggswaths were good people who looked after and valued their workers. Beyond the villages, the Briggswaths built a large hall, which they used as a meeting place and church. Generations of Briggswaths and villagers were married there, worshipped and gave thanks for all they’d received. The land of the Briggswath estate was incredibly productive. Orchards were plentiful and loaded down with fruit; animals grazed and multiplied; woodlands were well-managed for healthy supplies of timber; crops grew both in the fields and the many gardens and allotments of the villagers. This part of Yorkshire really did seem to be ‘God’s own county’! The lord and lady of the house at this time had four children, three girls and a much younger boy. All of them were exceptionally good looking, and before the boy was very old, his three sisters married and moved away, leaving him as the last child in the rambling country house. His name was Lealholm Warn Briggswath. Page Break However, Leal, as he was known, was not like the rest of his family. Right from the start, he was spoilt, indulged and never disciplined for behaviour his sisters would never have got away with! So, Leal learnt how to manipulate his parents to get whatever he wanted. He perfected tantrums and grumpiness; he became a master at lying – no matter what it cost other people – as long as it got him what he wanted. To your face, he was about as charming and lovely as you could imagine, until that is, he had what he wanted or decided you were no longer of use to him. Then, you were at his mercy. This was especially true for his parents as they grew older and frailer – suspiciously frail for their age. It was during this time that the Briggswaths stopped meeting at the hall for church on a Sunday. Leal always felt very uncomfortable by what was said in that place. And so, when ill health prevented his parents from going, Leal did nothing to help them, preferring to stay away and make excuses. Whereas his parents had loved the villagers, Leal despised them, wanting nothing to do with them - except get their labour as cheaply as possible. Then the time came, as was the way of things at that point in history, when Leal was expected to marry. And, while his parents seemed to be increasingly blind to his outrageous and selfish behaviour, the rest of the community was not. No family for many miles around would risk their daughter marrying someone like Leal. So, his parents looked further afield for a bride – but none could be found. If a young lady visited as a possible match, Leal would cause the whole occasion to be such a disaster that her family would leave early with no hope of a union between the families. Until that is, the day came when one Natland Helm Laithes – known as Natty – and her family arrived. Of course, Leal had no intention of marrying anyone. He had everything he wanted! And, as the only son, he stood to inherit the whole estate because, at that time, girls weren’t treated fairly and his sisters wouldn’t get anything! Leal didn’t intend sharing anything with anyone! Least of all the ‘nice’ girls his parents introduced him to. But Natty was not like the other girls, for beneath her great beauty there was nothing ‘nice’ about Natty. At first, Leal did everything he could to put Natty and her family off. You had to experience his level of rudeness and sniping to understand how selfish and arrogant he was. Many times, Natty’s parents were on the verge of storming off and leaving the revolting young man to himself. But somehow Natty stopped them. You see, this beautiful young lady had two advantages the previous girls had not. Firstly, she was every bit as nasty, twisted and self-centred as Leal himself - meaning Leal had very likely met his match. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Natty was greedier and more scheming than Leal and would stop at nothing to get what she wanted. She had come to take for herself what she considered to be the secret of the success of the Briggswath estate - the blessing! She wanted to control the source of the inexplicably good fortune the family had experienced over the years. Both Natty and Leal believed this was something they could take and exploit for themselves. And so, both of them had separately set their hearts on possessing it. The problem was, by fixating on the blessing alone, they were deliberately ignoring the giver – the One from whom the blessing came. This was never going to end well. For Natty to have a chance of taking control of the blessing, she had to win Leal over so she could stay in the house and find the answers she needed. It meant she had to neutralise his attacks and make sure that she was the one he married. It would be costly, but she believed the reward would be worth it, foolishly thinking that blessing like that could be held and controlled by someone with such a dark and evil heart. And so started a kind of twisted game between the two of them, while all the time Natty ingratiated herself with Leal’s ailing parents. Natty’s weak point, of course, was her parents. She would have to leave if her parents didn’t approve of the marriage. So Leal relentlessly attacked her parents at every opportunity. He thought he’d won when they seemed to be on the verge of leaving after he’d been particularly obnoxious. But then a strange thing happened. As Natty looked after her weeping mother and furious father, instead of packing their bags and storming off in a rage, they started to smile and nod at Leal while a slightly glazed look came over their faces. Then, with the terrible offence forgotten as Natty whispered in their ears, she gently ‘encouraged’ them to go and have a lie-down. Or, on another such occasion, to take tea out in the garden where they could enjoy the view – and, it would seem, be away from anyone who could tell just how ‘out of it’ they were. Seeing that his ploy with Natty’s parents was failing, and beginning to feel that this girl was more interesting than he had assumed... for the first time in his life, Leal became fascinated – maybe even infatuated - with a girl who had such control over her parents. And, without thinking that she could have any control over him, a real courtship began. Natty was to become the next lady of the house. Page Break It was Natty who had heard of Leal and his family’s desire for him to be married. She knew that the Briggswath Estate was an exceptional place and was determined to force the blessing to work exclusively for her. You see, many years earlier, Natty had learned how to use words, forbidden words, to control, calm and manipulate others. Using this power had raised her family to their high place in society. But the problem with ambition such as Natty’s was that it would never be satisfied. She wanted more, and when she looked with envy on everything the Briggswaths had, she was determined to take it all. Controlling Leal, however, was a lot harder than she expected. He was a determined character who seemed able to shake off her enchantment faster than others. So, Natty had a choice, to keep fighting against Leal, or to use his interest in the blessing to help her find and possess it. It was a dangerous game, but not having to use all her energy controlling him would make it easier. But it was not to be as straightforward or as fast as she had hoped. For many years, during which Leal’s parents passed away, the two of them researched, stole, lied and tricked their way into getting everything they thought they needed. The first big step forward was when they discovered from an ancient book that they needed to make a key. But this was no regular key and, if they had read more, they would have discovered that this was a key unsuitable for humans to handle. The problem with their greed and power-lust was that all they cared about was results, leaving warnings and consequences ignored. The key had seven parts – the first part being the handle and shaft and then six distinct lock-opening parts arranged in a circle around the shaft. It took far longer than they could have imagined to search out, buy or steal rare materials and items that could only be found in places where people shouldn’t go. But they were so focused on their infernal plan that they couldn’t see the cost to them, and the house, of all they did. Servants left, animals were mistreated, and crops rotted in the fields. The wealth of the family was squandered on things they shouldn’t have. But still, Leal and Natty searched for what they thought had brought all the good fortune and joy. As they searched for the elusive blessing, it never occurred to them that if they had simply lived the loving and thankful lives of Leal’s ancestors, they would already have been experiencing it themselves! Page Break And so, silently and sadly, the blessing left, leaving them to pursue their selfish, greedy and bitter paths. Any beauty that had been in the house and family disappeared with the blessing. When Leal’s sisters were allowed to visit – which wasn’t very often – they were horrified at the state of Leal and the house. Yet all their comments fell on deaf ears as they were encouraged to leave by Natty who, with Leal’s consent, used her power as the lady of the house to make their stay as miserable as possible until they stopped visiting altogether. Then, one moonlit night, as the soft light shone down upon the country house, their work was finally finished. Bent and gnarled by their years of greedy obsession, the two of them sat at the kitchen table. A single oil lamp illuminated the book as they repeated words that should not have been said, while they put together an object that should not exist, in a ceremony that was, frankly evil. Then, as the last piece of a strange and unworldly key slipped into place with a loud click, a massive burst of darkness shot out from the key, raced around the kitchen and hurried into the hall. Chairs tumbled to the floor behind them in their haste to follow. Catching sight of it as it moved down a hallway, it seemed alive and pulsated as it searched the country house. Zipping this way and that, the darkness seemed to taste the house and then moved to the entrance hall and up the first flight of stairs. Leal and Natty followed as best they could. Slowing its racing tendencies, it seemed to pause so they could keep up. It was almost as if the darkness needed them. By the time they reached the first-floor landing, both Leal and especially Natty were breathless, but the darkness wasn’t going to give them any rest as it moved swiftly, but not too swiftly - to the second set of stairs. Then, as they watched, it disappeared as it ascended to the top floor. No sooner had Leal and Natty arrived panting on the second floor than they saw in the murky light cast by the oil lamp Natty held, the darkness crouching in the middle of the landing. As it pulsated slightly, it looked like some kind of strange, deranged animal that was doing it absolute best to avoid the light from the full moon that shone in through the round window at the end of the landing. It wanted to be seen by Leal and Natty, but it didn’t want to interact with the moonlight! Once it knew that Leal and Natty had seen it, it rose into the air, a spectre of sorts, changing shape and form and drifting towards the ceiling. Leal and Natty watched in surprise as the ghoulish shape started to shrink and seemed to dissipate. Running to where it had been, Natty lifted the oil lamp, and they realised it had gone into the attic. Terrified that they might have lost it, Natty stayed put while Leal ran to get the long stick needed to open the attic entrance. Natty tried to catch her breath. It had been a long time since she’d run as fast as she had today chasing the spectre of darkness. So worried were they that they’d lost the cloud that Leal missed the hook several times until Natty grabbed the stick from him, locked onto the hook and yanked the contraption down to lower the steps to the attic. Throwing the stick to one side and pushing past Leal so hard he lost his footing, Natty raced up the steps taking the only lamp with her. Her heart was pumping so hard she could hear it in her ears, and she was struggling for breath again. But that didn’t matter now; she was on the verge of acquiring the power and blessing of the Briggswaths. Leal was close behind her. She had to slow him down, so Natty grabbed at a box near the entrance, spilling its contents down the steps, stopping Leal and causing him to curse loudly. She had the key on a rope around her neck; she had the power, and she didn’t want to share it with him. Arriving in the attic, she lifted her oil lamp and desperately searched for the cloud. Moments later, she caught a glimpse of it by a wall that she had always thought was a chimney breast and never taken any notice of before. Hurrying to the wall, while scattering even more boxes and their contents on the floor to impede Leal’s progress, she examined the brickwork. As she did, a small popping sound rang around the attic, making her jump. She assumed it must be Leal standing on something as he made his way into the attic and so she hurried on, the sense of desperation growing inside her. She didn’t want Leal taking what she had worked so hard all these years to get for herself. As the black cloud hung by the wall, it seemed to form the shape of a doorway, with the cloud concentrating around the outline. Then she saw a dark, dark keyhole that matched the strange key hanging on the rope around her neck. Moving her oil lamp in an attempt to hide the door from Leal, the shadows in the attic seemed to move in ways she had not seen before, darting between objects. Some of them almost looked like dogs! But she had no time to think about that now. Her victory was close. Page Break Taking the key from around her neck and examining the keyhole, she paused momentarily to rub her left arm to try and alleviate a sharp pain. Behind her, Leal was calling her name and cursing as he hit his shin against some hard object. But this was supposed to be her time. She had worked all these years for this, given up so much for it. Her excitement was mounting, and even more so as she heard Leal crashing his way closer. Lifting the key towards the door, she struggled to focus her eyes. Twisting the key this way and that, she tried to work out which way round to insert it into the lock! It had six equally-sized parts distributed evenly around its shaft. There were six corresponding slots to the keyhole, but she didn’t know which bit of the key should go in which slot. Leal was getting ever closer. So, throwing caution to the wind, she moved the key up to the keyhole and, as she did, everything in the attic suddenly stopped. The noise of Leal crashing around ceased, dust particles stopped in mid-air, caught in the light of her oil lamp falling from the rafters. The oil lamp itself seemed to give the same flame without flickering or wavering. Then a voice spoke. It was a man’s voice and had an edge to it that, had she thought about it, she would have realised was hungry. However, years of looking at things she shouldn’t have looked at and listening to things she shouldn’t have listened to had dulled her ability to realise when she was confronted with real danger. “Beware how you place that key in my lock, many have tried and have found no luck. For if by chance you get it wrong, this door will stay open and all blessing be gone. Yet if you get it right when you open this cell, then maybe, just maybe all things will go well.” The voice pulled Natty up short; her heart was beating so loudly in her ears that she hadn’t heard what it had said properly. All she could remember was something about ‘all things will go well’. That was the blessing she wanted – no, more than that, it was the blessing she deserved, she demanded. After all, she had given her whole life to find it and possess it, so now it was hers to take. As she stopped for just a moment in an attempt to try and catch her breath, she heard a strange noise behind her. Looking around, she realised that things hadn’t completely stopped as she’d thought. Instead, they had just slowed down. Leal was coming towards her with a furious expression on his face. Even though he was moving very slowly, he would be with her in moments, so she didn’t have any more time. She would have one chance to get this right, or else Leal would arrive, and she would lose everything. Page Break Looking back at the keyhole, she continued to hold the key in front of the lock to slow Leal down, as she tried to work out which way to insert it. Again, as she approached the lock, the same warning spoke to her. And, as before, she ignored it – no time to waste – it was now or never. The shaft of the key had a large hoop at the end of it. Looking at the hoop and then at the orientation of the keyhole, she decided that the natural way for the hoop to go would be straight up and down. As she held the key in front of the keyhole, it looked right. However, her heart was pumping so powerfully it was getting hard to see and hear. But just then a crash in slow motion resonated behind her, and she realised Leal was almost there. So, without hesitation, Natty rammed the six-pronged key into the six-slotted keyhole and turned it until a very loud clank was heard and reverberated up her arm. What happened next was so sudden it took them both by surprise. As time returned to normal, the door suddenly burst open, smashing into Natty and killing her instantly. It hurled her lifeless body across the attic like a rag doll. Then, as the door flung wide open, Leal found himself standing right in...
22 minutes | 9 months ago
Episode 13 - The Beast
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 13 - The Beast Of the three villages, maybe, just maybe, Grott was the best one for the mad and raging beast Horatio to have gone. This was because Grott's enchantment was that, as full moon approached, every Grott villager descended into slime – as did nearly everything in the village of Grott. So, while Horatio could easily find the Grotts, it wouldn't be so easy for him to attack them. Put simply, by this point, the Grotts had decayed to little more than lumps of mucus. Strangely, the Grotts were actually better off than both the Rotts and the Snotts. You see, even as slimy mucus, they had somehow managed to work out how to slither around. The Snotts, on the other hand, were tiny by this stage. Being so small, it seemed unlikely the beast would be able to find them. However, if he did search them out, there wouldn't be any escape - remember, dogs have an incredible sense of smell. It was the Rott villagers who were in the greatest danger. As full moon approached, their disintegration accelerated until they were heaps of disconnected body parts with clouds of flies circling around them, easy pickings. As Eller entered the village, her heart sank. The beast Horatio was in the middle of the village square leaping from one lump of mucus to another. Each time he sniffed at the slime, it retreated slightly, but Eller's keen eyes had seen a problem. There was a Rott in the village square! You could tell by the pile of putrid pieces and the flies. But most of all, you could tell by the shimmering badge. It was Knayton Borrowby – everyone knew his badge. It read R – CAD, which he had told everyone stood for Caring and Delightful and, being Rott, Grott & Snott, everyone believed him! Cod had also seen Knayton and seemed to be attempting to get to him, to make some kind of defence against Horatio. But, every time Cod moved towards the rotting Knayton Borrowby, one or other of Knayton’s eyeballs would roll towards Cod and away from Horatio. As soon as one of the eyeballs looked in Cod’s direction, Cod turned to stone. Then, Horatio would move, Knayton's eye would roll back towards Horatio and Cod would quickly move towards Knayton. Poor Knayton didn't know where to look! His eyeballs pivoted from the terrible creature leaping around the village square, apparently intent on eating whatever it found, to a slightly more sinister one that was creeping towards him to do who knew what? Worst of all, because of his advanced state of decay, after a few moments, one of his eyeballs exploded with a little squelching sound, leaving only one eyeball rolling to see the terror coming his way. Just then, as the beast Horatio turned away from examining a foul-smelling Grott, the Baron lurched into the village. He arrived just in time to see the beast prick up its ears at the scent of the quickly rotting Knayton Borrowby. Eller saw the change in the beast Horatio, the look of hunger and the intense glowing of its green eyes, as it turned to stalk this new prey. Cod stopped dead, unable to help any more as he transmogrified into solid stone just beside Knayton, clearly visible to both Horatio and the Baron. As Eller watched, helpless to do anything, she felt the Baron run through her, trying to get to Knayton to save him. As he did, Eller felt him slow just slightly, although not enough for him to realise what was happening. The midnight hour was very close as the Baron rushed towards the monstrous beast Horatio. Then the beast leapt to attack what remained of Knayton. A scream of terror erupted from the rotting lump of humanity, causing lungs to explode and teeth to scatter all around the pile. But instead of landing on the jumbled assortment of bits that was Knayton, Horatio came crashing down just in front of him with the Baron holding fast to the mad animal’s tail! Then started something so surreal that, for a moment, all Eller could do was watch open-mouthed as the monstrous beast began chasing the Baron who kept a VERY tight grip of its tail. It looked like a dog chasing its tail except that, if it caught its tail, that would be the end of the Baron. Watching in horror at this strange and frantic dance, an unexpected voice snapped Eller out of her reverie. 'Don't just stand there! If you can do anything to help, do it now!' Roseberry's voice was clear, loud and passionate. But even though the words appeared to be directed her, Eller knew they couldn't be because no one knew she was there. Then she saw where Roseberry was looking – not quite at Eller, but above her head. Roseberry had seen Eller's LOST badge. Roseberry got it! The LOST badge was connected to something or someone who had helped once and could maybe help again. She understood that this wasn’t a coincidence; LOST was there to help. Although LOST herself had absolutely no idea how she could help. The beast was getting closer to the Baron and had just managed to bite off the bottom of his built-up shoe. If it had been the other leg, the Baron would have lost his foot. Then, in a flash, it came to her. She remembered when the beast had accidentally passed through her, and something had been left behind. She remembered the 'normal' Horatio emerging, if only for a moment. She knew what she had to do; she had to stand in the way of the beast. Without a second to lose, Eller ran towards the dreadful beast and the Baron, trying to get between them – which was harder than it looked! Unfortunately, when she did manage to get in their way, she completely missed Horatio and, instead, had the Baron pass through her. Maybe it was a coincidence but, once again, as the Baron passed through Eller, he seemed to slow down slightly, which unfortunately was enough to stop him keeping hold of Horatio's tail. Falling to the ground, the Baron looked up at the beast Horatio who pivoted to stare at the Baron. Its enormous green eyes seem to drill into the Baron while its mouth full of long, uneven, jagged and razor-sharp teeth dribbled in anticipation. The Baron was fumbling in his pockets trying to grab something – it must have been the treat. Roseberry hobbled towards them as quickly as she could. What she was hoping to achieve, only she knew because, once Horatio had done with the Baron, there would be no escape for her. Again, the beast Horatio, eyes aglow, leapt into the air to devour the Baron. And again, the creature came crashing down short of its target. Eller didn't know why at first, but with this precious moment gifted to her, she wasn’t going to hesitate. Moving as fast as she could, she got between Horatio and the Baron. A look of menacing anger filled the piercing and glowing eyes of the monster that Horatio had become. Getting up, it looked behind to see what had stopped it and, for a moment, even the beast looked a little surprised to see a stone gargoyle hanging on to its tail! Then, with a whip of its wiry tail, the beast dog flicked the statue off. Cod flew into the bushes with a sickening thump. But it had given Eller the opportunity she needed. Turning just in time to see those enormous green eyes right in front of her – the beast dog raced in for the attack. To her shock, it seemed that it was attacking her! But, as before, instead of mauling her, Horatio passed through her, causing something far more substantial and far more painful than before to smash into Eller. This time, it didn't seem to move around her but, instead, grabbed hold of her. She could feel its fury. As Horatio passed through Eller, the Baron and Roseberry both closed their eyes and the Baron lifted his arm to protect himself. But the attack didn't come. Instead, Horatio Fleming McNaughtie, the border terrier, landed softly on ordinary-sized paws. Trotting up to his master he started to sniff at his hand. Then, sitting down, he raised a paw, tail wagging. There was no instant response from the Baron, so Horatio used his next best tactic to get attention by whining loudly and jumping from leg to leg. As that also didn't work immediately (border terriers are not known for their patience), he jumped forward and licked the Baron's hand and sat back down again, paw raised. At the feel of his lick, the Baron jumped and let out a little yelp and then, when nothing else happened except more whining, he lowered his arm and cracked one eye open. A look of surprise enveloped his grotesque features followed by a twisting and turning of those features into some sort of smile. However, Eller was in trouble! Whatever the thing was that had been in Horatio was now twisting itself around her. Again and again, it slammed and squeezed, attempting to damage her - maybe even kill her. At one level, Eller rejoiced at being able to interact with something while, at another, this wasn't the kind of interaction she wanted. The thing was squeezing harder and harder until she found it difficult to breathe. In the distance, she was vaguely aware of Roseberry hobbling towards her and the Baron being licked by a standard-sized Horatio. Roseberry was saying something about 'give it to him,' whatever that was about, as little flashes of bright white light began to fill Eller's eyes. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. Whatever it was must have realised it couldn't destroy Eller and so had started to move away from her. The difference now was that Eller could see it. It didn't really have a discernible form as such. She couldn't really describe it as a snake or an octopus or a lizard because it changed shape as it moved. But what she could see was that it was green - very green, a nasty, dirty green - and had tendrils that had started to reach out towards the dog. Unaware, the Baron was playing with the dog! Horatio, for his part, was using every trick in his arsenal to prise the treat from the Baron's hand as they rough and tumbled around. Eller watched, horrified, as the thing stretched out ever closer to Horatio. Roseberry was sitting on a bench to catch her breath. Obviously, none of the others could see the danger but Eller now understood the truth about the 'treats'. That was why the Baron and Roseberry had been so frantic when she'd thrown them away. Something about those snacks kept this … this … 'thing' at bay. Yet now, rather than giving Horatio the biscuit, the Baron was playing with him. He was holding the treat away from the dog while, unseen to their eyes, the ‘thing’, about as powerful as it could be in the light of the full moon, stretched out to take back control of the dog. As the tendrils started to catch the dog, Horatio's eyes began to glow green once again. And, as they did, Eller became aware of a voice screaming at the Baron to give the dog the biscuit. The thing must have been affecting her more than she'd thought because she only slowly became aware that the screaming voice was hers. She never knew if it was her voice that made the difference or any number of other things. Maybe it was the greening of Horatio's eyes or the change in his size... but, all of a sudden, the Baron came to his senses. Looking down, shocked at his own closed hand around the precious biscuit, he promptly threw the treat right over the dog’s head! (P) It would seem that the thing hadn't quite taken back control of Horatio. For, instantly, Horatio leapt into the air with a laser focus on the food about to escape his orbit and grabbed hold of it with his jaw. Having done a rather impressive cartwheel in the air, he munched down on the treat. Eller was the only person able to witness what happened next. As Horatio ate the treat, the thing once again wrapped itself around the dog. But, this time, as the dog munched away, the murky green spectre turned less and less green until it was hardly noticeable and lay unmoving, like an extra skin over the dog. Horatio turned entirely back to his usual annoying and irritating self (from Eller's perspective) without any idea of what had very nearly happened. So that was why the Baron and Roseberry had panicked. They had obviously known about this for a long time. It was why they had the special treats, to control whatever it was that had wrapped itself around Horatio. As Eller watched, Horatio finished the biscuit and headed over to the rotting pile that was Knayton Borrowby. You really wouldn't have known it was Knayton by this time if it hadn't been for his clear, bright and rather shouty badge saying R – CAD. The Baron hurried after Horatio and only just managing to arrive in time to stop the dog peeing on poor Knayton. 'I'm so sorry about that, Knayton,' he mumbled. In any other place and at any other time, this would have seemed preposterous; attempting a conversation with a rotting pile of person. But this was Rott, Grott & Snott at full moon and 'normal' did not apply. Even though one of his eyeballs and both lungs had exploded, even though all his teeth were scattered around him and his jaw was in genuine danger of detaching from his skull, somehow Knayton Borrowby managed to reply. 'Gep away prom be you rebolting, bile … ping,' he spluttered through his gums, as bits of his lips started to smatter off his face and flop onto the ground. 'It's alright,' the Baron replied, 'I caught Horatio before he could do anything to you.' 'I basn't porking aboup pap ping!' Knayton blustered with punctured lungs, burbling and flapping around. 'I meanp YOU! You peep of filf.' Obviously, the enchantment was still as active as ever. For, even though the Baron had nearly lost his own life saving Knayton, the Baron was as hated as ever – perhaps even more so. As he stood in front of Knayton trying to reassure him, lumps of slimy mucus oozed out of various places to flubber and flop between Knayton and the Baron. 'Piff off!' one of them flatulated. Its badge said G – WB and Eller knew that this meant the Baron was talking with the mayor of Grott who was known for … shall we say … expressing his thoughts. Eller guessed the WB stood for Wind Bag, while the mayor had tried to convince everyone that it stood for Welcoming Benefactor. She suspected that very few were convinced; generally speaking, the badges were honest. From then on it went downhill for the Baron as the lumps of unfriendly slime began to toss little stones in his direction. At that point, he turned to go, tripping over his bitten-off shoe and falling face first in the dirt. So, giving up all hope of a dignified retreat, he got up and brushed himself down while trying to avoid the little stones that kept coming his way. Finally, he paused to help Roseberry up and they headed back to the Manor. As they started back, Eller suddenly remembered Cod, who had been thrown so hard into the bushes. Hurrying over to where he’d landed, Eller found nothing; instead, she saw a shadow moving off through the undergrowth in the general direction of the Baron. This Cod seemed to be made of stronger stuff than stone. ‘So,’ she said out loud to no one in particular, ‘there must be a bond between this Cod and the Baron. Interesting!’ Then she turned to follow the others back to the Manor. Tomorrow it would all be over. When daylight came, everyone would be pretty much back to normal. There was always some disintegration before and after the full moon, but nothing like as bad as on the actual night of the full moon itself. They wouldn't be so rude to the Baron then either. They still wouldn't like him, but the level of hatred would be a little less – at least, for another lunar month. The walk back was slow and silent, with Horatio sniffing and peeing on multiple objects. They all caught sight of Cod occasionally, and that led to some discussion about what had happened. They came to the conclusion that it must have been something to do with the object the Baron had pricked his finger on and the blood he'd smeared on Cod, or possibly that he had named the gargoyle. Because, although he had moved lots of other gargoyles, he hadn't bled on any of them or given them names. So, being Rott, Grott & Snott, they thought that this must be why Cod had a unique link with the Baron. Roseberry was hobbling as she had clearly moved far too fast for a lady of her advanced years. The Baron's limp was also greatly exaggerated because the bottom of his built-up shoe had been bitten off. No matter what he did – keeping the shoe on or taking it off – it didn't help! Of the three humans, only Eller walked back normally. She still felt something very negative about the Baron but, now that they had been through all this peril, she realised things were not what they seemed. Maybe it was the way the Baron had slowed as he’d passed through her, or perhaps what had happened with the green spectre that had come off Horatio. Either way, it showed her that not everything in Rott, Grott & Snott was as it seemed. The Baron was ugly, greasy, always dressed in black, unable or unwilling to take off his cloak and at times frightening to even look at, and yet … there was obviously more to him. She was so lost in thought that she didn't notice they'd all stopped. It was nearly midnight; the enchantment was at its highest. Their badges and all the little badges of the animals, insects, trees and plants glowed clearly and beautifully for the briefest of moments. As they crescendoed together, they cast a brilliant and magical light across the whole of Rott, Grott & Snott. The Baron's voice broke the magic of the moment, and she felt annoyed at him for it until she realised what he was saying. 'Thank you, Cod,’ he started, and there was a rustling in the bushes nearby. And then he added, ‘and thank you, LOST.' After a moment’s pause as everyone looked in the direction of her badge, he continued, 'I … we … don't know who or maybe what you are, but we do know that, if it hadn't been for you, tonight could have turned out very differently for everyone. Thank you again. And, if there’s anything I ...’ He paused and looked at Roseberry who nodded and then Horatio who was scratching an itch, ‘.... we can do to help YOU - if you can, let us know and we will.' His voice was as annoying as nails scratching down a chalkboard but, even so, Eller felt the tears rolling down her face. For the first time in her memory, someone had noticed her. But her feelings were very mixed because, if it hadn't been for her anger and foolishness in the first place, throwing away those treats, then none of this would have happened. The old Manor clock started to strike midnight and, as it did, the Baron called Horatio to him and the two of them headed back to the Manor. Eller still couldn't move, her tears flowing freely with loud sobs coming up from deep inside. As the clock struck twelve, something caught her eye. It was Roseberry, but standing there was not the Roseberry Eller was used to. Instead, a much younger, friendlier and more radiant Roseberry was smiling at her with beautiful, loving, laughing eyes. A smile filled with such love that Eller literally felt her breath snatched away. The ground around Roseberry started to glow orange, red and yellow, with its intensity growing until all Eller could see was the light. She tried to make out Roseberry, but all she could see was the incredible, love-filled light. Then, from the middle of the brilliance, she heard Roseberry's voice, but a younger, more powerful version of it. ...
11 minutes | 9 months ago
Episode 12 - DANGER!
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script: Episode 12 - DANGER! As Horatio Fleming McNaughtie, the Border Terror, swept from the Manor, the Baron's voice echoing behind him into the emptiness, Eller jumped as an unearthly howl made the windows rattle. Even the shadows, growing in the ever-increasing darkness, seemed to shift uncomfortably as if moved by a passing car headlight when no such light shone. Then the Baron had started to claw at everything in the kitchen, throwing things to the floor when he found them empty or containing something other than the special treats. But he was looking in the wrong place. The biscuits were gone, thrown down the rubbish shoot. The seriousness of the situation became even more evident when Roseberry, not known for her speed or agility, fairly bounded into the room, a questioning look on her face. Seeing the desperation of the Baron’s actions and the empty tin, she quickly caught on. 'I know I left plenty of them in there.' 'Well, they aren’t there now!' There was panic in his eyes. 'I, I came to get the tin, the lid was off, and they weren't there. Look, it's empty.' He tossed the tin her way without looking up as he rifled through other tins in the hope they’d just been misplaced. Another terrifying, window-rattling howl made them jump. To Eller’s surprise, the Baron looked a little relieved. Then blowing out his cheeks, he added, 'At least he hasn’t gone straight to the villages. I know that means he's around here somewhere but I'd rather that than risk all those folk down there.' Risk the villagers? Was Horatio really that dangerous without these treats? She’d thought she was playing a simple trick to annoy the Baron and his mutt. The rising tide of panic inside her grew. This was obviously far more serious. Another howl, further away. What had she done? The screaming in Eller’s head that had been increasing since the moment Horatio ran out into the night, got to the point where it snapped her out of her stupor. If Roseberry and the Baron were this serious about those snacks, then the panic she felt shouldn't be ignored. She needed to make this right. But how? The biscuits were gone! She scanned the kitchen, now littered with tins and pots and lids, none of which contained any of the special treats. Then, her eyes landed on the rubbish shoot, and she saw it. Rushing forward to check, she realised what had happened. In her haste to throw the snacks down the rubbish shoot, one had somehow stuck to the side, just inside the entrance. It had almost gone down the shoot but was still there, just out of view. They were safe… but how was she going to show the others where the biscuit was? Again and again, she attempted to grab the last remaining snack from the rubbish shoot and, every time, she moved straight through it. As frustration rose, she started shrieking. Yelling at the Baron, at Roseberry, at herself - but no one heard her. It seemed that all she could do was listen to the howls moving around in the night and watch the others fighting down their own fear. It was Roseberry who spotted it. 'Archie!' she said, a strange hush to her voice. 'Look!' Eller was taken aback to hear the name of the Baron spoken out loud and turned to see what Roseberry was pointing at. The other two seemed to be looking at something directly above her head. It took a minuet to sink in, but then she understood. They could see her badge, although now they seemed confused, probably because Eller had turned around and it must have moved with her. Once she realised they were looking at her LOST badge, she flung her head into the rubbish shoot. She didn't go in too far, just enough to get the word LOST to gently make its way to the shoot entrance, bouncing slowly into place. It was a revolting place for her to put her face but, if it helped, it was worth it. It took a moment, but then the others saw it. ‘Archie, look! There’s a snack! Just on the inside edge of the shoot.’ At this, the Baron moved towards the shoot. ‘Be careful!’ Roseberry cried out. ‘If it falls down there, we won't be able to get it back. It'll be lost, and we'll have no chance to make this right.' It took a few seconds for Eller to realise it had worked. But as she heard Roseberry and the Baron approaching, she slowly pulled back from the rubbish shoot, trying to forget the filth she’d seen inside. Ignoring the badge now, the Baron moved with surprising care towards the shoot while pulling up his shirt sleeve and making sure his cloak was out the way. Just as he reached for the snack, another howl from the beast made him jump, and his hand brushed against the biscuit. It wobbled and started to fall. Then, with surprising deftness, the Baron grabbed after the falling snack as fast as he could and froze. Roseberry was ashen-faced. Eller forgot to breathe - until the Baron slowly and carefully pulled his arm back up out of the shoot, his hand clasped around something. Stepping back, he held out his hand and opened it. Eller breathed once again, the shadows shifted and Roseberry shot him a quick glance and nod. Moments later, the Baron was running out into the darkness with Eller and Roseberry following close behind. A rather strange thought bundled through Eller’s mind; she found herself thinking bless him. Because, as the midnight hour on full moon approached, her feelings and thoughts about the Baron were becoming tangled. At one level, her intense dislike of him was nearing hatred. At another, she could see beneath the black clothes, dreadful hair, over-enthusiastic teeth and sharp-angled features. Underneath was a man, perhaps only a boy, who cared so much about others that he didn't think twice about running into the path of danger to help them. And, she’d involuntarily thought bless him because he wasn’t going to let his problems stop him from trying to help. There he was with his hunched back, short leg and club foot unable to run in any meaningful way, exhausting himself with all his efforts to help. His progress wasn’t much faster than a walk. And, as he stumbled forward, he breathlessly cried out, again and again, calling to his beloved, but now murderously dangerous friend, Horatio, pleading for him to stop and come home. As they ventured deeper into the woods on their search for Horatio, Eller caught a glimpse of a shadow that seemed to be tracking them. At first, she thought it was a trick of the moonlight, but several times she saw a strange shadow, or dark object, keeping track of them to one side or another. If the Baron saw it, he didn’t take any notice, as his full attention was on the beast. Eller, however, found herself more concerned because, as far as she knew, shadows outside the Manor didn't move on their own. 'Horatio! Horatio!' the Baron repeatedly called, shouting into the night. It seemed that the monster wasn't interested in the Baron, as the unearthly howls changed direction and headed towards the villages. Eller watched the Baron’s panic rise and his wild, lurching run become more desperate as he turned towards Rott, Grott & Snott. The dark shadow-thing tracking them also changed direction, keeping up with them but not trying to get any closer. Eller caught a slightly clearer glimpse of it. It was possibly some kind of animal, but nothing she’d ever seen before – although it did look familiar somehow. In their haste to get to Horatio, the three of them got separated, and Roseberry fell further behind. Eller arrived at the crossroads before the Baron and thought she caught a flash of the beast Horatio heading towards Grott, straight ahead. This was confirmed moments later by a howl. The shadow creature arrived at the crossroads next, and to Eller's astonishment, she realised it was a gargoyle! She'd never seen one anywhere except on the Manor. What was it doing out here? When the Baron arrived at the crossroads, he was covered in sweat from all the effort. His whole body shook and convulsed as he stood trying to work out which direction to go, while vainly calling out the name of his beloved pet. Eller realised the gargoyle had turned to stone the moment the Baron had glanced in its direction. Taken aback somewhat by the appearance of a gargoyle away from the Manor, the Baron paused a moment to look at it. As he stared at the strange creature, Eller thought she heard him mumbling something about Cod - but she couldn't be sure. Then a 'light-bulb' moment swept across the Baron's face. Lumbering across to the stone sculpture, the Baron spoke to it as Eller watched, completely dumbfounded by what was happening. ‘Cod,’ the Baron pleaded clearly and loudly at the solid stone monstrosity, ‘did you see which way he went? It could be a matter of life or death. If you can help please, please help!’ Then, this really caught Eller by surprise, the Baron deliberately turned his face away from the gargoyle he’d called Cod. It was to be a night of surprises. For, as soon as the Baron looked away, the gargoyle turned into a kind of animal again. Then, in a flash, it pointed towards Grott – where Eller had seen Horatio going. A moment later, the Baron looked up again at the gargoyle, which instantly transformed back to stone, switching to a statue that pointed to exactly where Horatio had gone. ‘Thank you! Thank you!’ The Baron puffed and bellowed as he started his stumbling run once again after the terror that had been Horatio. No sooner had the Baron turned away from the gargoyle called Cod, than the creature turned once again into its strange, lithe, animal form and bounded off after the Baron. As it raced forwards, it stayed out of his line of sight, keeping to the shadows. Eller followed.
15 minutes | 9 months ago
Episode 11 - Snott
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script: Episode 11 - Snott As the Baron made his way out of the Manor and along one of the many pathways through the forest to the village of Snott, a bundle of soggy vacuum cleaner components in his cape, he had two companions. The one he knew about was Horatio Fleming McNaughtie – the cause of the carnage he now carried in the hope of repair. The other, unseen and unnoticed, was Eller Beck. She was following the Baron because the most momentous event she could recall had happened only recently and she wanted to have it (or something similar) happen again. It had happened when Horatio had passed through her. So, even though she loathed the pooch, she didn't really want to be away from him in case there was the slightest chance she could feel something more. As they walked through the forest, Eller put herself in Horatio's way time and time again, but nothing happened. Well, nothing she noticed. There were a few moments when she felt that maybe the dog had seen her but, every time she thought that was the case, Horatio simply ran over to a post, a rock, a tree or just a patch of grass to have a sniff and a wee. Reaching the divide in the main pathway that led to the three separate villages, Eller followed as the Baron took the right-hand fork, heading for Snott. Usually, Eller tried to avoid looking at the Baron because he looked so… evil. When he tried to smile, people sometimes ran away and children ALWAYS cried. As she trailed behind the man and his dog, having given up trying to make Horatio pass through her, Eller noticed the Baron's back for the first time. Sure, it was a little hunched and never really straight but, as they paused momentarily at the turn in the pathway, she noticed the Baron take a deep breath and, if anything, his shoulders hung lower. Did the Baron hate going to the villages too she wondered? She did what had become second nature, because no one ever heard her, and started to voice her thoughts out loud. Looking at the Baron, she asked, 'Do you find it hard to come to the villages as well?' No reply. Eller looked at his profile. But this time, she didn't just glance at him as she usually did, she looked at him properly, trying to hold back her natural reaction to retch. Then, moving a little ahead of him and walking backwards, she looked directly at his face. His sharp features dominated his face, along with his somewhat over-large set of teeth, all a little too pointed for comfort. His mono-brow almost seemed to have a mind of its own. But then, as she continued to stare, a look of revulsion on her own face, she caught sight of his eyes. Without thinking, she found herself talking to him. 'Why haven't I ever looked at your eyes?' Then, carrying on, without expecting a reply, 'They're so dark, almost black and yet I can still make out your pupils. What is it I see? Is it weariness? Are you tired? It's so hard to tell with that pale skin of yours. No, I think it's something else.' As they carried on walking, they began to enter the village. It was heading towards full moon, so the enchantment was starting to have a strong grip on the villages and their occupants. She saw the Baron's eyes dart from one tiny Snott to another. Soon they would be so small that they'd pretty much disappear. Then, Eller realised what it was she saw in those darting, dark eyes. The Baron was sad, sad for the little Snotts, some of whom had shrunk so much that, if the village hadn’t also shrunk with them, it would have taken them a long time to return to their homes. Several times the Baron hesitated close to a mother and her child as if trying to work out what to do. The young girl was crying, and the mother looked tired. 'It couldn't be?' Eller found herself asking. 'Is it possible you're feeling sorry for them? That you actually want to help?' The words, once out of her mouth, seemed preposterous. Who could ever imagine Baron Rott & Grott & Snott (to give him his full title) ever being anything other than evil? Just to look at him sent chills down people's spines. Even folk inside their houses could tell when he was around. It was more than just his looks; he oozed evil. And yet, here he was, with sadness in his eyes at the plight of a little Snott child? Hesitating one more time, the Baron turned towards the mother and child, and instantly the young girl screamed as if she was about to be eaten by an ogre! At that, the Baron quickly turned away and carried on towards the repair shop. Eller found herself paying even more attention to the Baron. She still hated him, of course. Everyone did. They couldn't tell how or why, but everyone believed he was responsible for their situation. You only had to look at him to see the evil almost rising off him like vapour. But Eller had seen something else – maybe it had been worth coming on this trip after all. She saw it again as they passed a Rott villager who had just about wholly disintegrated, with all the bits that had fallen off wiggling around, useless. Then, once more, when they passed a Grott couple who had almost turned into pure slime. None of them was going to get back home to their own villages until after full moon and, somehow, she could tell he wanted to help them. But they wouldn't be helped, at least not by him; even though he was one of the only ones who could help because he didn't rot, turn to goo or shrink as full moon approached like all the villagers did. Shortly after this revelation, they arrived at the Snott electrical repairs store to drop off the vacuum cleaner parts. The proprietor and his shop had shrunk to such an extent that they couldn't get into the building. The proprietor's badge was just visible, hovering above his head. It said S – FIXER, which was easy to understand. It didn't seem to matter whether the proprietor could be seen or not, as the conversation between the two of them had obviously happened so many times that it had become a kind of shorthand, and was over in a matter of seconds. From what Eller could make out, all that passed between them were a few short grunts, some money reluctantly pulled from the Baron's cape, and the remains of the vacuum cleaner left outside the shop. Then, as they turned to walk back, the Baron picked up a near-identical vacuum cleaner that had been left behind the shop. Strangely enough, this one hadn't shrunk, probably because it belonged to the Manor and not the village of Snott. This was clearly something that happened a lot. The walk back to the Manor was no less thought-provoking as, now Eller knew what to look for, she started to notice even more the concern in the Baron's eyes. To this day, Eller doesn't understand why she reacted the way she did. But, rather than feeling sympathy for this man who obviously felt strongly for the pain of the villagers, Eller found herself erupting in anger at him. 'You care so much about them, but you don't care about me, do you?' she found herself shouting, with sudden tears streaming down her face. 'Here I am lost, alone, little more than a ghost with no one, not even a stupid mutt for company. Why can't you see me?' It was then that Eller noticed the Baron looking not exactly at her, but towards and slightly above her. For a moment, her heart leapt, but then she realised what was happening, her badge had started to shine. Somehow, her badge had managed to find her and was slowly dancing around her as if it couldn't quite work out exactly where she was. The Baron had seen her badge, but he hadn't seen her. All he would notice was a random badge that said LOST on it. She'd heard people talk about her badge many times before. Because it didn't start with an R, G or S, no one thought it belonged to anyone in the villages or the Manor. People in the Manor had badges that started with RGS because they somehow belonged to the whole place, to Rott, Grott & Snott, but her badge just said LOST. Over the years, there had been several theories as to what this badge might mean, but now everyone seemed to think it was just a lost badge that turned up in random places. She had tried to move it to show people it was more than just a lost badge, but its connection to her was so weak, it never really did anything other than wiggle and drift around. The Baron's badge was also starting to show: RGS – IBEBH. Of course, no one knew what that meant and, again, there were many theories about what it could stand for – most of which wouldn't bear repeating in polite company! Oh, and Horatio's badge was also appearing: RGS – TBT - H. She had no idea what the TBT stood for, but she was pretty sure the H stood for Hideous or Horrible. Within half an hour they were back at the Manor and Eller's mood hadn't lifted. In fact, it had got worse. She wasn't to know, but the enchantment of Rott, Grott and Snott, always became much stronger at full moon. It reached its peak at midnight, and then deflated, like a balloon having all the air let out of it, shortly after. And, like a deflated balloon, everyone seemed slightly out of shape for the next day or so! What Eller didn't realise was that she was so cross, and disliked the Baron so much, because that was his enchantment – to be despised and hated. Worse still, it was about to reach its peak. Frustration soon developed into anger which twisted itself into fury and a determination to 'show him', to 'get him back'. If she had spent any time trying to work out precisely what it was she wanted to pay him back for, she might have realised it wasn't him but the enchantment. But, alas, filled with irrational hate and thoughts of petty revenge, Eller decided that, if there was anything she could do, now was the time to do it – to get the Baron and his miserable mutt back! The problem was working out exactly what she could do when she usually couldn't touch, move or grab anything. Still, as her anger grew, Eller came up with an idea that, on the face of it, seemed simple but was actually quite hard - for her. You see, there were fleeting times when Eller could touch things and move them. And, as you could probably guess, those times were very much more likely to happen around a full moon. Full moon was due tonight and, with only a few hours to go until it hit its peak at midnight, Eller hatched her spiteful plot of undeserved revenge. The Baron loved his dog Horatio and made it a habit to give him one treat every day as night-time arrived. These treats came from a particular store that Roseberry always kept stocked up. The Baron and Roseberry thought that this stock of special treats was well hidden. But, because Eller could walk through walls, she had long since worked out where the stash of biscuits was kept. Maybe tonight, just before dusk became night, she would be able to touch something. It had happened before. It hadn't lasted longer than a few moments but, if it worked tonight - if maybe her anger and frustration amped up her enchantment - then perhaps she could steal those secret snacks. She knew it was petty, but at least it was something to satisfy her growing, unreasonable temper. What she didn't realise was that her rage had started because she'd let it. When she should have been forgiving, understanding and kind, she allowed anger to grow and fester inside her instead. And, as it grew, it became more than just rage – it became the power she needed to act - but what good can come from actions fermented in anger? When it came to it, the whole thing worked so well it surprised Eller to the point of shock. The stash of special biscuits was near a rubbish shoot where she could quickly get rid of them if only she were able to touch the tin. All Eller needed to do was open the lid, lift the tin up and tip the contents down the shoot – job done! In theory, it should have been impossible as Eller usually couldn't touch a thing. Still, somehow, her rage combined with the nearing full moon and lateness of the hour must have been enough. Or was there something else at work? We'll never know. What we do know is that, in only a few moments, Eller had emptied the tin. She didn't manage to get the lid back on, but somehow that gave her a wicked sense of satisfaction at the thought of the Baron fearing they'd been robbed! No sooner had she finished, than the Baron came into the kitchen as the night finally closed in. The mutt trotted behind him, eyes strangely glowing with a slightly manic look as he followed the Baron to the tin. It went better than Eller could ever have imagined. The first thing the Baron noticed was the missing lid. She saw his panic, the grabbing of the tin and realisation that it was empty. She hadn't anticipated the look of fear that swept across his face. She was surprised by the way he gingerly turned to face the dog, who somehow seemed to have grown in the encroaching darkness. The Baron forced a smile onto his face. It was probably the most revolting thing Eller had ever seen. ‘Who’s a good boy?' he asked, keeping his hands back from the dog and not taking his eyes off him. By this time, Horatio had started to realise something was wrong - but he wasn't angry, he didn't growl - although his eyes did seem to be turning green once again. Instead, he eased slowly up to the Baron (who had either shrunk, or the dog had grown) and sniffed in his general direction. A short derisory snort followed, covering the Baron with clear mucus. Then, with green eyes starting to blaze, Horatio turned and ran from the room, followed a moment later by a mortified Baron screaming after him, 'Horatio, Horatio. NO!!' She'd thought that seeing the Baron unhappy would give her a sense of fairness, that she was somehow paying him back. But this wasn't working because, instead of feeling better, Eller felt a slowly rising crest of panic swell inside her. The panic started to replace the rage, which strangely seemed to be laughing at her, while a little voice in her head started shrieking, 'What have I done?'
19 minutes | 9 months ago
Episode 10 - Of Gargoyles and Boilers
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve English Episode 10 - Of Gargoyles and Boilers. The noise of hooves on slate was deafening. No one knew why the Manor had gargoyles or how many there were. None of the original plans for the Manor showed any gargoyles and, now they’d arrived, they moved around so often no one could count them. The Baron had sent Thornton out a few times in an attempt to do so but, as soon as he’d totted up one side of the Manor and moved to another, the ones he’d already counted had got distracted and gone elsewhere. So, after a few attempts, he’d given up. The increased noise on the roof and all over the Manor since the removal of the old water boiler from the attic, however, indicated that there were far more gargoyles that anyone had imagined. Quite why moving the old boiler from the attic should have this effect, no one knew. As the Baron lugged the heavy old piece of equipment into the boot room to give it a jolly good clean before passing it on to Roseberry (he didn't like the idea of boiling water in a space where a stuffed ferret had lived), the noise slowly died down to usual levels, with only the occasional clattering of hooves. In a similar way to the shadows, the gargoyles hadn't ever been dangerous, so the Baron wasn't too worried about them. But, while it could be disconcerting to have lots of unattached shadows suddenly appearing and looking over your shoulder, they were silent. In contrast, the gargoyles were not! While the Baron scrubbed at the inside of the boiler with various shadows pausing to look at what he was doing, he thought about how the gargoyles had changed over the last few months. Before, they had been relatively quiet and hadn’t seemed to move around too much and, when they had, it had tended to be reasonably silent. But, about six weeks ago, that had started to change and they’d all noticed the increased noise of hooves on the roof. In fact, Thornton had got so fed up with it that he’d gone through all the effort of moving his bedroom down a floor so he couldn’t hear them on the roof at night. That was an indication that the Baron should have taken more notice. For Thornton to voluntarily do any manual labour proved beyond a doubt that this was a serious problem. Thornton didn’t actually say a great deal, being a man who kept his own counsel, except when he spoke to himself and his hearing aid batteries were running low. When that happened, he tended to speak rather too loudly and, the lower the batteries got, the louder he ‘whispered’ and ‘muttered’. Listening to him could be anything from amusing to embarrassing and occasionally downright distressing. But, at the slightest mention of gargoyles, he tended to walk off, turn off his hearing aids and start muttering… loudly. He muttered to himself even more these days as it seemed that, no sooner had he relocated his bedroom, than the gargoyles had started exploring the whole exterior of the Manor. While no one actually said anything, the worry was that they might one day venture inside the Manor. In fact, once or twice, they had been spotted very close to both the back and front doors. The back door was the biggest concern as it was the main door everyone used and so got left ajar or open. Only the other week, Roseberry had seen one sitting on the wall right above the back door. Being Roseberry, she'd questioned its motives, loudly, to the Baron - for several days! The front door was less of a worry as it hardly ever got used and, as Roseberry had found out to her cost, it swelled in damp weather. It was getting to the point where it might not open at all - so an invasion into the front of the Manor was pretty low risk. Horatio didn't have an opinion on the gargoyle issue. When he heard them on the roof, he sometimes gave a muted 'woof' but, overall, he tended to ignore them. And, when they were foolish enough to get to ground level, you could be absolutely sure that Horatio took every opportunity to erm … shall we say, 'leave his scent' on them which, judging by the speed they retreated afterwards, they didn’t enjoy. = The scrubbing of the water boiler done, the Baron carried it into the kitchen hoping that, by acting so quickly, he might just get back into Roseberry’s good graces. Arriving in the kitchen, he was taken aback to find Roseberry and Horatio sitting looking at a gargoyle who was in the middle of the kitchen table. It had obviously been spotted just as it was hoping to get further into the Manor. It must have sneaked past the Baron as he cleaned out the water boiler in the boot room! Roseberry glanced at the Baron while, thankfully, Horatio didn't take his eyes off the gargoyle. It seemed that his nonchalant attitude to external gargoyles didn't transfer to internal ones. A growl rumbled deep in his throat and vibrated across his lips, with teeth showing periodically as a snarl warped his mouth. Horatio had an under-bite with his bottom jaw jutting out longer than his top, so his bottom teeth stuck up over his top ones. This made him look a little like a gargoyle himself, although he obviously didn't have any family feelings for this stone creature on the table. Turning her attention back to the gargoyle, Roseberry whispered loudly (although the Baron couldn’t really see the need to whisper), ‘It seems we have a gargoyle problem, Archie.’ ‘Yes,’ was all the Baron managed, while keeping an eye on the gargoyle and wondering what to do. As he looked at the ugly, slightly fish-faced thing, without really thinking about it, he nervously slipped a hand into one of his many cloak pockets and found one of the items from the cupboard to fidget with. It was the wire and bone thing with the long handle. ‘What do you think we should do?’ ‘We?’ Roseberry objected, her eyebrows raising and a look of incredulousness spreading across her face. ‘There is no ‘we’ in this! YOU have to do something – and right now! I’m not going to work in this kitchen - in fact, I’m not going to work in the Manor if you can’t keep control of these gargoyles. So, what are YOU going to do?’ she demanded, her eyes flashing between the Baron and the fish-faced sculpture. At that moment, Thornton walked into the room, took one look at the kitchen table, turned on his heels and walked abruptly back out again, pulling his hearing aids from his ears as he went. In that moment, as all eyes had turned briefly to Thornton, the gargoyle had managed to move to the other side of the table, walking as if it was creeping across a rooftop. Noticing that the gargoyle had suddenly moved caused them all to jump which in turn caused the Baron to grip the strange object just a little tighter and prick his finger on the fine bone tip at the end of the wire. Pulling his hand sharply out of his pocket, the Baron quickly sucked his finger where a bead of blood had appeared. Realising that Roseberry, Thornton and Horatio were not going to be any help, the Baron sighed, walked over to the gargoyle (which was still apparently solid stone), put his arm around its middle and heaved. It was every bit as heavy as it looked. Staggering under the weight of the hideous thing, the Baron huffed and puffed his way out of the kitchen, through the boot room and carefully down the steps into the back yard. Then, without stopping, he continued to stagger with the fish-faced sculpture to the corner of the Manor, while Horatio dogged every step he took. So keen was Horatio to keep in touch with the gargoyle that he nearly tripped the Baron up several times – which would probably have been disastrous for the poor stone creature. For some reason the Baron found himself talking to the gargoyle as he lurched to the corner of the house. ‘They say curiosity killed the cat,’ he vocalised in short bursts. ‘Well, if I drop you, who knows how many pieces you'll end up in? So, if you have any sense, stay away from inside the Manor – in fact, from inside any building - and tell your friends to do the same.' Looking closely at the ugly gargoyle, the Baron felt a kind of sympathy for the hideous-looking creature, noticing its slightly bulging eyes and wide, fish-like, gulping mouth. Almost tripping over Horatio again, he decided this was far enough. As gently as he could, he put the gargoyle down. It was still in its sneaking pose from being on the kitchen table. As he let go, he noticed a red spot on its side from the blood still oozing from the finger he'd pricked on the wire and bone object - and rubbed at the mark as if trying to wash it off. All he actually managed to do was smear the red patch wider on the gargoyle! ‘You know what I’m going to do?’ the Baron asked rhetorically. ‘I’m going to give you a name.’ Standing up and straightening his back slowly, he stroked his wispy-haired chin. ‘You will be called Cod.’ And then, as a way of explanation for his choice of name, ‘It’s because you look a bit fish-faced. No offence.’ He shook his head and laughed at himself. He was talking to a piece of stone and had even given it a name! Then he got out a hanky from another of his myriad pockets and wrapped up his finger which had pretty much stopped bleeding. Horatio was on Cod the moment his hooves touched the ground, sniffing, peeing and investigating. The Baron watched Horatio for a moment and then looked back at the face of the gargoyle. He could have sworn that its expression had changed from one of 'sneaking' to one of 'feeling very sorry for itself' – it was all in the eyes. As stone isn’t actually that interesting for a dog, especially when it’s outside, Horatio soon wandered off to water some other nearby bushes. In a deliberate move, the Baron turned his back on the gargoyle and, as soon as he did, he heard hooves bounding up the wall. Smiling to himself, he wandered off to see what Horatio had found, thinking himself to be a very magnanimous Baron. He didn't notice Cod, sitting on a parapet at the top of the Manor looking back down at him with a somewhat confused look on his fish-featured face. Not going back to the boot room had been a mistake. Moments later, the now-familiar scream (more of a shriek really) of Roseberry Topping could be heard from the kitchen… again. ‘Archibald Ruswarp Briggswath! You get here this instant.’ The Baron knew better than to ignore that level of summons. The moment he stepped into the boot room, the problem became apparent. It was full of gargoyles, on the floor, on work surfaces, in the sink, on the ceiling – everywhere! Not only that but, when he went into the kitchen, there were gargoyles on the floor looking as if caught in the process of trying to get further into the Manor. Horatio followed and, as before, as soon as he was in the house, he was on high alert. This was actually very helpful as he stood in the kitchen watching all of them with a snarl playing across his face. ‘What’re you going to do?’ Roseberry glared at the Baron. ‘It was one, and now they all want to come inside. We can't live with gargoyles in the Manor. You have to deal with this.’ ‘But what can I do?' The Baron rubbed his hand across the back of his head in a vain attempt to alleviate the stress. 'Look at them, they're everywhere and probably only staying put because of Horatio – and there's no telling how long he'll stay interested in them.' Then, thinking for a moment, the Baron made a decision. 'There's only one thing I can do. I'm going to have to carry each of them outside. Then we're going to have to keep all the doors and windows shut until we can find a way to stop them. Roseberry, for now, please stay here and watch them, so they don't move any further.' With that, the Baron took another deep breath, muttered something about ‘wretched gargoyles’ and started the long and arduous job of clearing the boot room. This was made even harder by the fact that he had to close the back door every time he removed a gargoyle. It took quite a lot longer than he'd hoped because, while Roseberry and Horatio kept watch in the kitchen, the boot room was unobserved. So, every time he left, the gargoyles rearranged themselves, making it harder to get hold of them. It was a bit of a nightmare. Rather helpfully, Horatio hadn’t lost his fixation with internal gargoyles and sat to attention in the kitchen alongside Roseberry, so the ones inside the kitchen hadn’t moved. With the boot room finally cleared and the back door firmly closed, the Baron walked into the kitchen and flopped down on a chair, his long, black, greasy hair plastered across his sweaty face. It was at times like these that he wished he could take off his cloak, but he knew that wasn’t an option. From first thing in the morning to last thing at night, it was his constant companion and a frequent nuisance. Looking up at Roseberry with what he hoped were pleading eyes (they weren’t) he asked, ‘Any chance of a cup of tea, Roseberry? I’m exhausted and, if I’m going to move this lot, I need a little pick-me-up. I can keep watch if you’re OK to make some tea?’ Roseberry gave him a look that showed half annoyance and half sympathy but got up anyway without saying anything. Then they both paused as they realised what this meant. Roseberry was going to be using the old, attic water boiler for the first time. The Baron almost changed his mind, but instead thought, ‘Well, at least I’ll be here when she uses it for the first time,’ and fumbled nervously in his pockets for anything to occupy his hands. This time, he found the smooth, stone-like object with the lines on it. He didn’t look down at it as Roseberry started to fill the boiler from a jug. Instead, he played with it as it moved rather satisfyingly in his hand, changing from unknown pattern to unknown pattern. Even when Roseberry flicked the ‘on’ switch and grumbles, groans, squeaks and shrill rasps started to emanate from the old boiler, the Baron kept a close eye on the gargoyles. As the boiler began to heat up, the Baron found himself playing faster and faster with the stone, although never looking down at the ever-changing patterns he was creating. In a surprisingly short time, the boiler began to burble and rumble and the lid began to bounce up and down. It sounded like the horrible thing was speaking a language all its own. It was very unpleasant and reminded him why he’d put it in the attic in the first place. Before long, the boiler reached maximum temperature. Surprisingly, the noise level decreased slightly, while the movement of the boiler, as it bounced to the bubbling water and sudden and violent escaping bursts of steam, increased. Then, with a slight bang, the 'coming to the boil' light switched from orange (heating up) to red, indicating that the water was hot. The automatic 'keep-warm' function kicked in, with the boiler going quiet and then furiously springing back to life every few minutes, as if annoyed at being woken from a brief slumber. At that point, Roseberry pulled on large, thick, rubber gloves, snapped some goggle eye-protection on and started to busy herself with making the tea. The Baron realised that he had been playing with the stone thing all the way through, nervously changing its pattern from one design to another. He hadn't noticed that Horatio had calmed down and was now curled up in a small ball with his back to the gargoyles, or that Roseberry was wholly occupied with trying to make tea and struggling to see through steamed up goggles. He didn't notice that he'd started to look down at the stone in his hand, surprised to see that it was still smooth even though he'd felt so many beautiful patterns in it as he’d played with it. Shocked as if by a bolt of electricity, the Baron jumped back to attention. What had he done?! He'd looked away from the gargoyles – no one was watching them. In a panic, he looked up. He must have only looked away for a moment for they had hardly moved. Yet, what caught his eye, wasn't their advance into the kitchen, but their retreat backwards. And the expressions on their faces were more hideous and terrible than they had been before. Roseberry was still trying to get the water to flow out of the boiler at a sensible rate, her hands covered in those thick, rubber gloves to protect herself from getting scalded. So, the Baron took a chance. For another moment, he looked down and then straight back up. Again, the gargoyles had retreated, moving away from the terrible old boiler. He started playing with the stone thing again and looked down once more, for longer than he had before, long enough to hear hooves on kitchen tiles. Looking back up again, he found an empty kitchen. Jumping up, he went to the boot room and there, to his surprise and relief, he found the gargoyles. One held the door handle to the now open back door and a couple of the others were outside in full retreat, as if trying to run away from the horrible, old, attic water boiler! ‘Time to go?’ he asked, feeling very unnerved by the way the gargoyle had so easily opened the back door. There was obviously no reply, so he turned around and waited, not looking at any of them. Again, hooves clattered across tiles, followed by the slam of the back door. Smiling slightly nervously to himself, he gave a quick glance around the now empty (of gargoyles) boot room. He made his way back into the kitchen just in time for Roseberry to turn around, holding a cup and saucer of hot and slightly odd-looking tea. ‘Oh!’ she exclaimed. ‘You’ve dealt with them? I thought you were going to have a rest first. Well, you’ve earned this then, haven’t you.’ With that, she handed him the tea which he took gratefully and started to sip. It tasted terrible. = So things started to get back to normal - well, at least normal for Manor Rott, Grott & Snott. Somehow the old boiler from the attic had caused a problem with the gargoyles and then, when it was used, it had made all the difference in settling them down again – or at least keeping them outside. Or, maybe it was the stone thing? Or a combination of them both? No one knew, but it did settle the issue of whether to buy a replacement kettle or not, with 'not' being the choice if the boiler's presence in the kitchen kept invading gargoyles at bay. He would have thought more about it but, no sooner had he finished his tea than Roseberry looked at him with a ‘Well then?’ expression. The Baron, returned her stare with an innocent ‘What?’ look, having no idea what she meant until she indicated with her head towards the door. 'That vacuum cleaner's not going to fix itself, you know.'
12 minutes | 9 months ago
Episode 9 - Into the Attic
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script: Episode 9 - Into the Attic Roseberry had seen it coming for days and had nagged the Baron relentlessly to replace it, but this time something told her that the kettle really was on its way out. So, wisely, she stood outside the kitchen, muttering to herself about the Baron’s reluctance to spend money, as the kettle boiled, getting louder and louder. When it happened, it was worse than expected. There was an almighty bang, then a sloshing sound as boiling water drenched the whole kitchen. This was followed by a loud boom as all the electrics in the whole of the Manor shorted out. As the lightbulb above her head (and all the lightbulbs in the corridor) spluttered and then shattered, merrily sprinkling hot glass everywhere, a third explosion erupted as Roseberry screamed, ‘Archibald Ruswarp Briggswath! Come here right now!’ = Eller was having a VERY good day! = The Baron, who was still examining the contents of the cupboard, groaned as he heard the screaming. The shadows jumped and rushed off, not wanting to miss the excitement. Slipping the third object into one of his many pockets, he turned to leave the room. When he reached the doorway, he paused to look back at the cupboard, wondering if it would still be there on his return. He got his answer straight away; it had already gone, along with all those wonderful knick-knacks he’d left on top. In a slight panic, he fumbled in his cloak to make sure the new items hadn’t vanished with the cupboard, breathing a sigh of relief as he felt them bulging through his pockets. Once reassured, he reluctantly headed off to confront the emergency! = It took a long time to calm Roseberry down, and even longer to clear up the mess without a working vacuum cleaner. There was another, much older and sturdier, upright vacuum cleaner in the attic, but the Baron didn’t like going to the attic and he didn’t have any good memories of that particular vacuum cleaner – it was a beast. And, having been a beast and now having been abandoned in the attic, with the gargoyles clattering overhead and who knew what else living up there, he was more than happy to clean up by hand. Had he left the mess, he knew that tomorrow everything would have reset. However, he didn’t want to risk Horatio cutting his paws on the broken glass. Thankfully, Horatio seemed happy gnawing the vacuum cleaner parts and hadn’t come to investigate; he really was a weird dog. = Once all the cleaning was done and Roseberry had recovered her composure, she turned to the Baron. ‘Either you go and buy me a new kettle right now, or you’re going to have to go up into the attic and get the old boiler back down.’ The Baron felt a chill creep down his spine when Roseberry talked about the old boiler. It wasn’t just that, to get it down, he’d have to take a trip to the attic, it was also how terrible that old boiler had been. It had behaved so badly that he’d bought Roseberry the rather cheap kettle that had just exploded as a replacement. So, now he was in a quandary. Did he spend more money (he shivered at the very thought) buying yet another kettle or did he go to the attic to retrieve the old boiler that made fantastical noises, vibrated like it was alive and, although he didn’t like to admit it, scared him with its strange behaviour? Well, given that choice, and because they needed a cup of tea to recover from all the cleaning, not ten minutes later, as Thornton went to the cellar to collect replacement lightbulbs and reset the circuit breaker, the Baron made his way up to the attic entrance and waited for the lights to flicker back to life. In spite of some of the rooms and corridors having moved, he found his way to the attic entrance quite quickly. It seemed that, when he didn’t want to go somewhere, the Manor knew and made it easy for him to get there! As he waited on the landing for the lights to come back on, the Baron listened to the noises from above. He was sure that the low, scraping sound was one of the turrets relocating from one part of the Manor to another. On top of that, the explosions in the kitchen seemed to have sent the gargoyles into overdrive. He listened to them clip-clopping over the roof and up and down the walls. ‘Those wretched gargoyles,’ he repeated with every clip and clop. The only light was coming from a circular window at the end of the landing, which was partially obscured by one of the gargoyles’ heads staring straight in at him. As always, it was as solid and unmoving as stone when the Baron looked at it. Then, having looked away for a moment, as Thornton found the mains switch and the lights flashed back to life, the Baron glanced back to see, not one, but three different heads watching him through the window. Stifling a jump at the sudden arrival of the extra gargoyles, the Baron looked up at the over-long attic hatch. Then, holding a long rod with a hook on its end, he caught the catch and, with hinges squealing in protest, lowered the trap door. The Baron then used the hook to pull down a large, wooden, folding ladder-cum-stairway which was his entrance to the attic. It was surprisingly well made and folded out from itself in a very ingenious manner that made it easy to handle despite its size. The Baron would have loved to study its design a little more but, because it was part of the attic, he tended to resist that particular temptation. Dust and little bits of debris drifted down on the Baron from above as he extended the mechanism. The Baron always wondered exactly where these pieces came from but had no intention of staying long enough to find out. When he'd dusted himself down and cleared his long, black, greasy hair of debris, the Baron took hold of the handrail. The air coming from the attic was cooler than the air on the landing and, as he stood looking up, he heard more clip-clopping on the roof. At that, he shot a glance back to the window at the end of the landing. There was still one head looking at him, but the other two had gone, and he suspected it was them he could hear scurrying above. As for the remaining head, it had tilted slightly as if trying to work out what he was doing. Taking a deep breath, the Baron pursed his lips together purposefully and began to climb the stairs, clomping his built-up shoe with every other step. As soon as he could, he reached up into the attic to find the old-style light switch and flicked it on, sighing with relief as the bulbs flickered on one after another, making a kind of tinkling sound as they warmed up. The Baron hated being in the attic. Pausing a moment to calm his nerves and get used to the long, slow, scraping noise of the moving turret and the occasional flurry of hooves overhead, he eventually plucked up enough courage to head across to where he'd dumped the old boiler. However, when he finally reached the place, this being Manor Rott, Grott & Snott, it wasn't there. This meant he'd have to search through all the various mounds of discarded bric-a-brac, broken appliances, packages, boxes, pots, pans and 'stuff' to find the wretched thing. This did not fill him with joy! As he searched, he was constantly aware of one other piece of rejected equipment discarded in the attic. He couldn’t see it from where he was but, ever since he’d entered the attic, he’d been aware of it - aware of the old, powerful, dangerous and (hopefully) lifeless vacuum cleaner he’d dragged up years before. Little eddies of dust and debris fluttered around from time to time and, together with the sudden sound of hooves on roof, the Baron got jumpier the longer it took to find the boiler. Searching through one pile, an unexpected eddy accompanied by a scurrying of hooves and flickering of lights almost caused the Baron to cry out. Jerking one hand to his mouth, his other hand hit an old lampshade which bounced its way into a corridor between piles of junk. Taking a moment to let his heartbeat slow, the Baron walked over to the lampshade. The scraping of the turret overhead seemed to be reaching a crescendo and, just as he reached the lampshade, there was an almighty crash as the turret found its new temporary home. The whole attic shook with the force of the turret landing, with piles of junk swaying and falling all around and dust cascading from the rafters. Coughing and spluttering, the Baron looked up, blinking away the dust. As his eyes regained focus, his heart started pounding as if it wanted to burst from his chest. Right in front of him stood the old, rejected vacuum cleaner. It was on its own and suspiciously lacking the layers of dust that covered everything else. There was a circle around it, free from dirt and debris as if there was some kind of invisible barrier between it and the rest of the roof space. Even now, the dust from the rafters seemed to prefer to fall outside that invisible barrier. Strangely, this part of the attic seemed to have no shadows of its own and yet was somehow darker than anywhere else. Struggling to control his heart rate, the Baron was about to turn away from the wretched machine when he noticed something behind it, glinting in the flickering light. It was the old boiler! He would never have found it if it hadn’t been for the turret slamming into its new home and causing the collapse of all that junk. How the boiler had ended up near the old vacuum, he wasn’t sure; he would NEVER have put it anywhere near the ancient vacuum. Then, surveying the mess left by the relocating turret, he realised that, next time he returned to the attic, everything would be reset and back in its heaps and piles in the same way as everything else reset in the Manor each day. Maybe that was when unseen forces had rearranged things, moving both the vacuum and boiler and bringing them close together? However it had happened, the boiler was there, covered in a layer of dust, with small packages stacked on top and some old pictures resting against it. Stepping over various spilt objects and keeping as far away from the old vacuum as he could manage, he moved towards the boiler in the hope of getting it out the attic as fast as possible. Lifting off the packages, he picked up the pictures to put them to one side. What he shouldn’t have done was look at them, but he couldn’t help himself. They were pictures of his ancestors, each more evil and treacherous than the one before and none of them looking happy. The strange thing was, he couldn’t help but think they looked unhappy because he’d put them up in the attic and done his absolute best to forget them, rather than because that was how they’d been painted. Each one seemed to stare at him disapprovingly, which he was used to, as everyone he met looked at him with some level of scorn, disapproval or downright hostility. Forcing himself to focus on the task at hand, he carefully placed the pictures to one side (faces away) and grabbed hold of the old boiler. It was a lot heavier than he remembered. Looking inside, he soon found out why, as he retrieved a large, stuffed ferret that also seemed to have a look of total disapproval etched on its features. The Baron hoped this was more to do with the fact that it was stuffed than with him. Firmly grasping the boiler, and leaving the ferret and pictures behind, the Baron once again took a wide birth around the old vacuum and, as quickly as he could, manhandled the boiler to the attic entrance and down onto the landing. At this point the gargoyles went mad!
17 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 8 - The Ghost
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script: Episode 8 - The Ghost Roseberry was neither young nor slender and always frustrated at her lack of speed when it came to dealing with Horatio Fleming McNaughtie and the havoc he caused. Of course, the vacuum cleaner turning up ‘who knew where?’ each day only added to the frustration! As soon as the howl of the vacuum started, the whole Manor reverberated with the resonant growling and barking of the enraged Horatio. Of course, Horatio didn't see it that way. As far as he was concerned, he was a hero! When the evil villain 'attacked', he was ready to defend the Manor, the people in the Manor and, of course, the one he loved more than anyone else, his master, the Baron. As he hurtled after the evil menace, intent on vanquishing his foe, he could always be sure of his master’s encouraging shouts behind him, supporting and egging him on in his noble quest. Well, at least, that’s the way he saw it and I doubt very much that anything could ‘ve change his opinion on the subject. In reality, the Baron just wanted to protect Horatio and calm the animal down. He chased after him as fast as he could (which wasn't very fast due to a short left leg, club foot, built-up shoe and slightly hunched back), all the while shouting ineffectively at Horatio to stop, in the vain hope that somehow this would limit the inevitable carnage. It never did. The end was always the same, with bits of vacuum cleaner flung all around and Horatio sitting gnawing at some component or other. To be honest, the Baron was relieved that Horatio hadn't electrocuted himself. He was ugly enough for a border terrier without the additional burns and loss of fur/eyes/teeth/limbs and even life that electrocution could cause! However, today didn't quite go as it usually did. For one thing, Roseberry Topping, the housekeeper of Manor Rott, Grott & Snott, happened to turn into the corridor Horatio and the Baron were chasing down and found them hurtling towards her. Horatio had a healthy respect for Roseberry. So, rather than trying to dash past her and risk being grabbed by the collar, he took a sudden right turn and bolted off down another corridor (which probably hadn't been there moments before), in an attempt to get to the offending enemy another way. As for the Baron, his relief at Horatio’s destructive charge being temporarily foiled was short-lived when he realised that, by chasing him as fast as he could, now he was confronted by the unexpected obstacle of an angry Roseberry completely blocking the corridor. This could be a problem. It was! With his various issues, he simply wasn't able to slow down fast enough to avoid a collision and the two of them tumbled sideways into a room just in front of the vacuum cleaner as it vacuumed the carpet, apparently all on its own. Moments later, Horatio bounded in at the far end of the room, his beady, uneven eyes seemed somehow larger than usual and, maybe it was a trick of the light, but they seemed to glow green! As they watched, his mouth appeared to get bigger and his overgrown lower jaw elongated. His yellowing teeth and fangs grew more vicious as he pounded towards … well ... surely it must have been the vacuum cleaner? Yet it felt very much like he was pounding towards them. Always a scruffy, tufty border terrier (even after he'd been hand stripped to keep his fur under control), now his coat resembled a lion's mane. From their angle, tangled on the floor, both Roseberry and the Baron thought how big he seemed, getting bigger with each bound until he leapt, with madness in his eyes, intent on destruction. = Eller Beck was having a terrible day, like usual. She'd spent the morning so far trying to get a spider to notice her and to see if she could manage to tap its web. She hadn't and, after a few choice words, she'd wandered off into the Manor to wait for the morning show. At 11:05 every day the vacuum cleaner would start up somewhere in the Manor and that ugly dog would go mad until he'd managed to find and completely destroy it. On the dot of 11:05, the vacuum started and, to her surprise, was much closer than normal. Usually, she'd arrive just in time to see the final frenzy of destruction, but not today! What a treat in an otherwise terrible life; a life where she could see and hear everything but couldn't be seen or heard by anyone. A life where, on very rare occasions, she could touch some things but, for the rest of the time, she couldn't interact with anything and she had no idea why! Where she could pass through walls and doors but got no thrill out of it as she could neither surprise nor shock nor interact with anyone. In short, Eller Beck was little more than a ghost and about the most lonely person in the whole world - well, if not the whole world, then at least in Rott, Grott & Snott. Unable to see herself in a mirror, Eller had almost forgotten what she looked like. She knew she had reddish hair because it was just about long enough for her to look at. She could see her hands, arms, body, legs and feet but only with her own eyes and never in any kind of reflection. She couldn't eat and wasn't even interested in food, always seeming to have enough energy for each pointless day. Her clothes never changed and never wore out and, if it hadn't been for the very few random occasions when she’d been able to touch and move things, she would have been genuinely convinced that she was nothing more than a hopelessly lost ghost. On those rare occasions when she did manage to touch and move things, she always made the most of it by attempting to make other people as miserable as she was – and she was very miserable. Quite why she never tried to write a message or leave a clue about herself, I don't know. I think she only thought about that after she'd done whatever it was and it was too late. She had tried many times to leave Rott, Grott & Snott by going beyond the forest that surrounded the villages, but it never worked. She had since learnt that it was the same for everyone in the villages and the Manor; once you went beyond the bounds of Rott, Grott & Snott, you unfailingly found yourself emerging back inside, always at the same point regardless of where you left. For Eller, she invariably found herself coming right back into the Manor through the back door. It seemed that Rott, Grott & Snott refused to let anyone go – even a ghost. So, as you can imagine, as well as being lonely, Eller was bitter, angry and often rude (because no-one could hear her) and longed for any distraction from her mind-numbing life of solitude. = At least today had a spark of interest. For, as Eller walked through a wall, a comedy scene opened up in front of her. The vacuum was cleaning the room all on its own and then, moments later, Roseberry and the Baron tumbled and sprawled through an open doorway, landing almost on top of it. She felt the dog's arrival before she saw it. As she turned, she saw it bounding towards the vacuum like a mini possessed werewolf, its front end disproportionately larger than its rear and with evil in its eyes. It was going to pass right through her because she'd managed to get between it and the vacuum. Eller had got used to people passing through her. In fact, she'd made a point of passing through people for a while in the hope that it would make her more noticeable. It didn’t. However, because she loathed Horatio so much, she'd tried to avoid having that 'thing' go through her. Still, now it was too late as Horatio seemed to leap at her, although she knew it was really aiming for the vacuum cleaner. The mad dog’s head seemed to pass into and through her chest. The few times the dog had previously gone through her, nothing had seemed odd, but this time, as Horatio flew into Eller, something felt different. The dog didn't notice her, or at least it seemed that way. Yet, as it passed through her, it was as if something got stuck on one side of Eller, pressing hard against her chest, maybe only momentarily, but long enough for the dog to land, shake its head and sit down to scratch its ear with its hind leg. Shockingly, it seemed unconcerned about the vacuum cleaner right in front of it! The Baron and Roseberry could hardly believe their eyes. In a flash, Horatio had gone from a mad demon with murder in his eyes to a little (although I'm not sure you can use the term ‘little’ for any border terrier) dog with an itch! This gave them enough time to wriggle out of the way of the vacuum cleaner as it moved on to the next piece of carpet. Eller felt what happened next. It may not sound very impressive to say but, since Eller had hardly ever felt anything for as long as she could remember, this was perhaps one of the best and worst moments of her life as the – whatever it was – that had failed to pass through her divided into two parts and whisked its way around her waist towards the dog. She felt like she could almost see it, but perhaps more like you see something from the corner of your eye, then look for it and can't find it any more. Within a few moments, it must have arrived at Horatio for the now calm dog, busily chewing its own back paw, suddenly snapped to attention and, with a laser focus, started to viciously attack and destroy the vacuum cleaner. For once, Eller, Roseberry and especially the Baron just watched, unwilling to interfere after what they had seen or, in Eller's case, felt. Whatever it was, one moment it had been in the dog, then it had come out, stopped by Eller, but now it was back. The Baron and Roseberry had no idea what had happened and looked shocked. Even Eller wasn't sure if it had been her that had separated the thing from Horatio or just one of those coincidences, but something had happened and that made for a good day in her books! It took only moments for the vacuum cleaner to be destroyed, reduced to chewed and saliva-covered components. By that time, Roseberry had all but forgotten what had happened and bustled off to do … whatever it was she was going to do next. As for the Baron, he was muttering to himself through his long, black, greasy hair, his sharp chin bouncing up and down as if he was trying to chew something particularly unpalatable, his mono-brow curved and rippling with questions and frustration. When the dog had finally finished, the Baron pulled his cloak forwards, twisting it in front of himself to make a kind of pouch, and started to pick up the vacuum cleaner pieces, ready to take them to the shop in Snott ... again! = One of the things about Manor Rott, Grott & Snott was the way corridors and turrets moved around somewhat, while rooms and cupboards moved and even appeared and disappeared without rhyme or reason. A 'guest' had occupied the Manor for as long as the Baron could remember, Lady Pinchinthorpe, who seemed to think that she had a total right to be in the Manor and that everyone else, including the Baron, was there to serve her. From the Baron's perspective, Lady Pinchinthorpe had been a casualty of one of 'those' rooms. The Baron had seen it himself. A room had appeared behind her one day just as she'd finished telling the Baron what to do, although he couldn't for the life of him remember what she’d actually said. She had turned and gone into the room with her rather snooty servant, Ayton, and the room had then promptly vanished! He hadn't seen her since and, if he was totally honest, he wasn't as upset as he thought he should be. He also doubted he was that lucky and was reasonably sure she would return…. Anyway, as expected, the Baron had been left to deal with the leftovers of the destruction by himself. He could hear the kettle starting to boil as Roseberry worked in the kitchen. Roseberry had been complaining about the kettle for quite a while now. He knew it was on its last legs but, until it actually broke, he was reluctant to do anything about it. Hearing the noise from the kitchen getting louder and louder, Eller lost interest in what the Baron was doing and went to investigate. From the sound of it, she thought it might prove to be a very entertaining day indeed and didn't want to miss any of it. As the Baron scoured the room looking for all the pieces Horatio had scattered around (with Horatio following and trying to get to the parts before the Baron, intent on reducing them to even smaller components), he noticed one of 'those' cupboards in the room. He could tell it wasn't a normal cupboard by its design and the fact that he was ninety-nine per cent sure it hadn't been there a moment before. Now he had a quandary – what to do about the cupboard? If he left it, it would disappear and probably never turn up again and whatever was inside (if anything) would be lost. But, if he went to take a look, he’d have to put all the vacuum cleaner components down and Horatio would get back to them again. After a moments indecision, the prospect of something exciting in the cupboard overruled his logical head (most times these places were disappointingly empty). Carefully putting all the parts he'd collected on a sofa, he moved over to the cupboard, deliberately ignoring the fact that Horatio had jumped straight up on to the couch and was back at work! There was a musty smell to the cupboard that told him it was ancient and lost. The wood was inlaid and beautiful in an old-fashioned way. Noticing with some relief that there was a key in the lock, he turned it; it gave a very satisfying 'click'. Then, pulling on the key rather than the handle, the key fell right out the lock onto the floor. Muttering to himself, the Baron picked it up, slipped it into one of the numerous pockets in his cloak, then carefully pulled the handle of the cupboard door to reveal the contents inside. It was full! As soon as he saw all the paraphernalia inside, he was giddy with excitement. He'd expected it to be empty, like usual, but this was a real treat and worth the extra effort he'd have to give to clearing up the vacuum components again when Horatio had finished. The light wasn’t very good in that corner of the room, probably because, as soon as he’d opened the cupboard, pretty much every shadow in the room had come over to take a look inside. Neither the low light nor the silent audience of shadows crowding around him dimmed his delight at seeing all the unusual old instruments, gadgets and whatchamacallits arrayed before him. As carefully as he could, he lifted each one out of the cupboard and placed them on the top. As he did so, the shadows moved around, pushing each other out of the way as they inspected the strange new objects. (I probably ought to say that shadows in the Manor are not like shadows anywhere else. They feel no responsibility or inclination to stick with the items they originate from. Not being restricted, they tend to be rather nosey!) A few items looked like things he might have seen before, while others were entirely new to him. There was a small, strange, spiralled wire and bone thing with a handle that looked altogether too large for it. He slipped that into another of his cloak pockets to inspect further later. A large, egg-shaped object caught his eye. It had some words on it and, picking it up, he read out loud in his nasally, whiny voice, 'Promise Capsule.' The shadows shifted at this and, rather than reading all the other instructions, once again, he slipped it into a pocket and picked up a third item. Luckily for the Baron, he never seemed to lack for pockets in his cloak. He hated the cloak and wished he didn’t have to wear it but, the truth was, as with all these Rott, Grott & Snott enchantments, he didn't have a choice. In fact, you could say that the cloak wore him. But, today, he was thankful for all the pockets. As he held the third beautiful object in his hand - a kind of stone with lines all over it, that looked heavier than it was and yet seemed to move under his fingers - the inevitable happened, very loudly.
16 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 7 - The Outsider
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script: Episode 7 - The Outsider ‘Wretched gargoyles!’ Thornton looked at the irate Baron with a blank expression because he knew there wasn’t anything they could do about them. ‘Yes sir,’ he replied while slowly turning his back on the Baron. ‘Like so many other things in this place, they are a real nuisance.’ ‘I mean … I know I keep saying it,’ the Baron continued, not realising he was being progressively ignored by Thornton, ‘but a Manor the size of Manor Rott, Grott & Snott shouldn’t even have gargoyles! They’re from a bygone age! And have you seen the size of them? They’re about two or three times the size of any other gargoyle I’ve ever seen!’ Wagging his finger vaguely in the direction of the roof, he half turned to address the fast disappearing back of Thornton. ‘Maybe if we could work out where the wretched things came from, we could somehow convince them to go back?’ Thornton didn't bother replying as this was a conversation that had rehearsed many times. He did note, however, that the word of the moment continued to be 'wretched' and hid a slight smile as the Baron looked up at the various gargoyles, solid as stone, but in the strangest places all around the roof and on the walls of the Manor, while mumbling 'wretched things' over and over to himself. As the Baron stood staring at the gargoyles (which was about the worst thing you could do with them because they never moved or showed any sign of life when someone was looking at them), a van appeared, driving through the gates of the Manor. Neither the Baron nor Thornton acknowledged it as they knew it wouldn’t be for them. = Roseberry was always flustered when the doorbell rang. It wasn't so much being disturbed, although it seemed she was always about as far away from the door as possible when the bell rang, as the surprise it rang at all! As she bustled her way towards the front door, she came into the grand entrance hall and made a point of ignoring the over-large moose head on the wall above the mirror. It also seemed to be ignoring her as it chewed on something unseen with its attention fixed on a couple of flies rotating in different directions under a huge chandelier. Hurrying through the hall, Roseberry tried to remember the last time anyone had rang any of the bells to the Manor. It had been a long time. As she reached the front door and pulled it hard a couple of times to overcome its reluctance to open (it had a habit of sticking when it rained), she heard footsteps outside walking away. 'Hold on, will you!' she shouted rather loudly through the door. 'I can't get this wretched thing open. Can you give it a shove from your side?' As she shouted, Roseberry heard the footsteps halt and then return to the door, followed by a gentle but ineffective shove. 'You'll need to shove harder than that!' she exclaimed. The person outside gave a quick, decisive shove and Roseberry saw a blinding white light and lots of stars. 'Oh, ‘eck!' said a voice. 'I'm so sorry.' It carried on apologising, as Roseberry felt strong arms grab hold of her and pull her firmly but gently into a sitting position. 'Could 'ave sworn you said to give it a good shove. I 'ad no idea you'd be right behind it!' A few minutes later, Roseberry was sitting by the kitchen table nursing a reasonably bold lump while a rather anxious man moved smoothly around searching for teabags, pot and mugs. (If he had known Roseberry’s attitude towards mugs, he’d have been looking for teacups.) As the kettle boiled, it made some rather worrying noises, squealed and squeaked and eventually came to the boil while the man watched, looking somewhat concerned. A couple of minutes later, after picking up the mug of hot, strong tea and taking a sip, Roseberry took a long, deep breath and turned to give the stranger her full attention. She ignored the moose head which seemed to have made its way to the kitchen wall. ‘Well?’ She had a way of looking at people sometimes that could make them feel very uneasy. ‘What can I do for you?’ The reason for the man's visit was both entirely bland and at the same time very unusual – at least for Manor Rott, Grott & Snott. As it turned out, he was a butcher from a local town who had happened to be passing. For some inexplicable reason, he'd decided to pop into the Manor, on the off-chance that someone might want some of what he had left. It was ordinary in that, as the housekeeper of a large Manor, you should expect this sort of thing. But, it was also very unusual because since … well, it was hard to remember … but since … something had happened at some point ... almost no one visited the Manor any more, as evidenced by the sticking front door. So, having this person turn up out of the blue was a bit of a shock but, as it happened, a pleasant shock, even allowing for the bump on her head. Roseberry eyed the man over the top of her mug, not giving him any relief from her withering glare. ‘What've you got? I suppose I can always put some in the freezer …' She wanted to carry on, to ask about the world outside Rott, Grott & Snott and tell him that since the 'incident' no one inside the villages or grounds of the Manor had been able to leave. But she felt it wasn't worth bothering because she knew he'd forget the moment he left the Manor grounds through the large gates. In fact, it had happened enough times now for Roseberry to know that, once their business was concluded, the man would get in his van and simply drive away without a second thought. While she, and everyone else in Rott, Grott & Snott, stayed trapped. A while ago she had tried to get out, even insisting on sitting in the front of the delivery van with the driver as he left. But instead of leaving, the van simply drove in circles out one side of the gate and straight back in through the other until Roseberry got fed up with it and got out. Then, of course, the van had left perfectly normally, disappearing the moment it went through the gate. The two of them talked meat for a while and eventually agreed a price. The butcher went to get the meat while Roseberry went to get the money. As she fumbled in the household purse for the right change, she could hear one of the gargoyles outside, clip-clopping up and down the side of the Manor. It would always be distinctly creepy and inconvenient to have them moving around, but she felt she would cope if only they didn’t make such a racket! Whoever had created these particular oversized gargoyles had obviously struggled to carve feet and so had given them hooves instead! The end result was this intolerably loud, clip-clopping whenever they moved. Gargoyles were annoying! Returning through the back door and boot room, into the kitchen, arms full of all kinds of delicious looking cuts of meat, the butcher displayed them on the large, old, rustic kitchen table while Roseberry first inspected the selection and then counted out the agreed sum. Having gone through all the usual pleasantries of appropriate thanks and further apology for knocking her over, the butcher turned to leave while mumbling something under his breath about noisy plumbing and stuffed animals. Then, getting to the back door, he stopped. ‘Oh! I seem to be doing everything wrong today. I've not got your chops! 'Ang on, and I'll get ‘em from t’ van.' At that he raced off down the steps to his van, returning a few moments later with the missing chops and something else. 'I've got your chops and t’ make up for all t’ nuisance I've been, ‘n’ especially that bump on your ‘ead, here's some salami I had int’ van.’ Holding up about eight to ten appetising links of salami all neatly laced together, he smiled at Roseberry’s reaction. ‘Aye, they’re real nice and ’ll keep well in a cool cellar for quite a while if you don't get round t’ eating ‘em right soon.' Roseberry, being Roseberry, was already digging in the household purse to get something extra to pay for the rather tasty looking salami, but the butcher wouldn't hear of it. 'Nawww,' he drawled, 'I can't 'ave thee paying for that! Not after all t’ nuisance I've been and you being s' good with t’ other meat. 'Ave it as a treat on me.' At that, he gulped down the remainder of his tea, grimacing as he caught a glimpse of the moose head. Then turned on his heels before Roseberry had a chance to push any more money into his hand and was off to his van. Following the butcher out the back door, something caught Roseberry's eye. Looking up, she jumped at the sight of one of the gargoyles that had managed to get right above the back door. It had the most ridiculous expression on its face as if it had been caught in the act of eating something. They were harmless enough, but Roseberry found them annoying, simply because they tended to catch you unawares and made so much noise, especially at night! It was just about been tolerable when they'd stuck to the roof but, now they'd got brave enough to roam around the walls of the Manor, they were a downright menace. By this time, the butcher had made it to his van. Following him out onto the gravel driveway, Roseberry watched as his van pulled away. Then it was gone, out through the gate, with only the sound of it accelerating away momentarily echoing against the Manor walls. Shaking her head, Roseberry wandered back inside, taking the longer route round to the front door, as it had been left ajar from when the butcher first arrived. The moose head had returned to its usual place above the mirror and was back to chewing, watching flies and ignoring her in very much the same way as she ignored it. Reaching the front door, she was surprised by how much force she needed to slam it closed, but as, generally speaking, no one used it, it wasn’t a high priority to fix. Once it was finally shut (accompanied by not a few expletives), Roseberry went through to the kitchen to sort out what meat to put in the fridge and what in the freezer. Then, having sorted that out, she looked at the salami, the only item left on the table, not quite sure what to do with it. 'Now, what I am going to do with you?' she asked it, not expecting, and not getting, a reply. (Talking to processed meat products wasn’t the most unusual thing that happened in Manor Rott, Grott & Snott.) Frowning at the beautifully presented, twisted, thick links of meat she added, 'I can't use you right now, so what to do?' Her nails tapped on the table as she thought about the upcoming meals she'd planned, none of which needed or would benefit from salami. 'Oh well ...' she continued her one-sided conversation with the salami, before picking it up and wandering to the cellar door, flicking on the lights and carefully stepping down the stairs. Once in the cellar proper, she walked a short distance from the stairs, looking for a suitable place to hang the salami. = Manor Rott, Grott & Snott was not an altogether normal place. Firstly, it didn't look like a Manor any more. What it had once looked like, no one could remember. What it looked like now wasn't a comforting country Manor so much as an angular, creepy castle complete with rather large gargoyles, towers and turrets. ‘Strange’ was probably the best word to describe the Manor as it was quite a frightening place for anyone who didn’t live or work there. But Roseberry, who couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t working at the Manor, was used to it and thought nothing of the vacuum cleaner that appeared to clean on its own. Or that, every morning, the Manor seemed to reset, as if the servants, nearly all of whom had long since disappeared, were still doing their job and tidying the mess the Baron and Horatio made wherever they went. Then there were the things that appeared and disappeared without fanfare or warning like the butcher and like the strange cupboards and rooms that appeared once, then vanished and could never be found again. Lady Pinchinthorpe and her maid had been lost in one such room quite a while ago. They had not been seen since which, if she was perfectly honest, wasn't quite as bad as it sounded from Roseberry's and probably everyone else's perspective! Roseberry had given up wondering about all these things a long time ago. She had even given up thinking about the little floating badges that could only be seen clearly on the night of a full moon. These badges would float around the Manor, sometimes attached to people and things, and sometimes apparently randomly floating in the air. If you looked carefully, you could maybe see them a few days before and after full moon, but only in the right light and if you knew what to look for. She even had one of these badges attach itself to her during a full moon. It followed her at its own pace - never exact, sometimes behind, sometimes ahead - and saying RGS - HKR. They'd managed to work out the RGS bit quite quickly. It meant that she wasn't a villager from Rott, Grott or Snott but someone who belonged to the Manor. If she had been a Rott, her badge would have started with an R and so on, but anyone who lived and worked in the Manor tended to have all three letters on their badge. What did HKR stand for? No one really knew, but everybody suspected it stood for ‘Housekeeper’. The reason why she thought the servants might still somehow be in the Manor doing their jobs wasn't so much that the Manor reset each day, but more because, at full moon, there seemed to be lots of badges attached to invisible things. Although, even at their most noticeable, these badges were still very transparent. As Roseberry stood in the cellar, she heard a now-familiar noise, not the gargoyles for once, but the vacuum cleaner. While no one knew exactly where the vacuum cleaner would appear each day, every morning at the same time, 11:05 on the dot, it would appear somewhere and start to clean the floors. The problem, as always, was that Horatio Fleming McNaughtie (or Horatio to those who knew him) hated the vacuum cleaner and saw it as an enemy to be destroyed. At first, it had all been over and done with fairly quickly as Horatio had heard the vacuum cleaner, gone mad with barking, scrabbled through the corridors until he'd found it and then leapt upon it to destroy 'the enemy'. This had tended to keep the hullabaloo and destruction to a limited area. However, that situation hadn't lasted as somehow the vacuum cleaner seemed to get wise to Horatio's tactics leading to lots more noise, chases, and a significantly increased level of destruction and mayhem all around the Manor. The end result was always the same though, with one destroyed vacuum cleaner, one triumphant dog, an extremely messy Manor and one stressed-out red-faced Baron! As soon as Roseberry heard the arrival of the vacuum cleaner, she forgot everything else and turned to go and help. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she realised she still had the salami in her hand. Tutting at herself and in two minds as quite what to do next, she eventually walked back to the middle of the cellar entrance hall and hung the salami on an 'S' hook dangling down from a beam across the ceiling. Then she hurried off to help. If she had spent any time thinking about it, and if she had been truly honest with herself, this probably wasn't a great idea, but the commotion upstairs and her desire to leave the cellar overruled wisdom! As the light snapped off and Roseberry's footsteps faded away behind the now-closed cellar door, the salami swayed gently as if in a breeze – although there were no drafts strong enough to have moved it in that place. Spiders stopped spinning webs and mice stood on their hind legs, whiskers twitching, to watch it. Woodworm in the beam above stopped munching. Little swirls of dust moved gently across the floor, washing over scurrying woodlice and making the wine bottles in the wine-rack rattle just slightly. And the shadows? The shadows simply watched from the even darker corners of the cellar, shadows of who knew what, watching and waiting for the enchantment of Rott, Grott & Snott to do whatever it would to the outsider
11 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 6 - Everything Changes
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 6 - Everything Changes. So started the change of the Manor and the isolation of everyone inside the Manor and the three little villages around. So also started the expansion and influence of the darkness, but much more subtly than before – the explosion of the lady of light had seen to that! Very soon, the people realised they were trapped, and no one knew why or how it happened. No one in the Manor or any of the villages could leave. They could go beyond the villages to their fields and work, but no further. If they tried, they found themselves coming back into the locked-off area at some set point which was different for each of them. However, everyone who lived and worked in the Manor itself always found themselves coming back into the Manor, usually through the back-door, heading into the boot-room. This was especially disconcerting for the dogs. One moment they would be merrily chasing a rabbit or a squirrel. Then, having inadvertently crossed the invisible barrier, they found themselves heading full-pelt into the Manor with no sign of their prey. Strangely, there was one anomaly to the whole locked-off thing which surprised everyone when it first happened. This was the ability for outsiders to come and go as they pleased. Of course, once they arrived, they never stayed. And, once they left, they never remembered what had happened and where they’d been – but it did mean that at times visitors came and added a little more interest to the locked off lives of the people. At the start, when they realised they were trapped, everyone was angry and blamed the Baron. What they didn't realise was that because the area was locked off, not only couldn't the people leave - but the dangerous darkness that was the real source of everything that was happening – was also trapped inside, trapped and furious. The problem with this was that the darkness was still expanding and growing and slowly but surely filling the area it was trapped inside. Before, it had grown and leaked out of the Manor and dissipated beyond the villages, but not now. Now, it was trapped, filling the Manor and the villages and everywhere inside. The problems started quite soon after that. In no time at all, in fact, rather too quickly, people began to forget. They didn't forget their names, or where they lived, but they did forget things like the name of their villages or what life had been like before whatever it was that had locked them away. They remembered something had happened, but just not what it was. It was the same in the Manor, the servants sometimes came to work and sometimes forgot they worked at the Manor at all. Although the main problem was that most of them forgot where they came from, and so where to go when they finished work. They ended up staying in the Manor. Thankfully, there were lots of rooms, so they were able to stay, and before long didn't know anything else. In fact, very soon it felt as if that was where they had always lived and belonged. The Baron and his wife and their son Archibald were also severely affected along with the Baron's sister, Lady Pinchinthorpe, who lived with them in the Manor. To put it simply, they started to forget, forget where they came from, who their ancestors were, why they lived in the Manor. But the darkness was especially hard on the family, as well as taking their memories, it continued to take a massive toll on their looks and their happiness. Of the families, both dog and humans, Archibald and Horatio were especially close although the darkness still took its toll. Already extremely ugly and evil-looking because of the effects of the darkness on their family before they were locked away, Archibald's body started to change. As the years rolled on, his features became more pointed and ugly. His eyebrows met in the middle, and his teeth grew sharp and pointed. After a while, his clothes started to change as the colour drained out of everything he wore. It even affected his posture as one leg grew longer than the other, and his back developed a lump. If they could have left the area, they've got medical help. But as leaving wasn't an option, they did all the could to try and mitigate the issues. However, the problems were still noticeable and had a significant impact on his life. Of course, Horatio didn't see any of it, all he saw was his master whom he loved with all his heart – a heart that was loyal and true - with a spark of light that lay hidden but active. Then, the event happened. It was an event no-one expected, and no-one remembered, but everyone knew had taken place. It probably had something to do with the darkness growing in strength. Once strong enough, it was able to change the reality of the people locked away in Rott, Grott, Snott and in the Manor. The truth is, because of their inability to remember, no-one knows for sure what it was that caused the changes or even if it happened quickly or slowly – they just knew the end result. And, of course, they all blamed Archibald for it - who, in truth, looked eviler than anyone else. In fact, not only did he look evil, it was almost as if evil came off him in a vapour - and everyone knew it. The event had far less impact than it should have done because people couldn't remember. So powerful was the darkness that the past was no longer theirs. So, they couldn't remember the people who had disappeared or the servants who had lived in the Manor and were no longer there. Horatio couldn't remember his parents - and Archibald couldn't remember his. The Manor, a place that had seemed so busy and full was now empty. As well as Archibald who was quickly renamed 'the Baron', and Horatio, there were only two other servants who remained. No one knew why Thornton and Roseberry remained. Still, thankfully, for the most part, it didn't matter because they quickly found that although the rest of the servants had vanished, they always seemed to do their work. The same tasks were performed every day by the invisible servants, ensuring the Manor was reset to look precisely as it had the day before. The villages also lost people – at least they thought they did, but no-one could be sure. Whether they did or they didn't lose people, their distrust of the Baron and Horatio went from strength to strength. So convinced were they that the Baron and Horatio were the cause of all their problems that their distrust very quickly became little more than hate. The final straw wasn't that the shadows in the Manor started to live independent lives – they all became used to that very quickly. Instead, it was what began to take place in the villages every month at and around full moon. The villages had long forgotten their names, but because of what started to happen around full moon they soon got new names which everyone remembered – sadly. It started by terrifying the poor villagers. On the day and night of full moon, they began to change. Each village altered differently, and each was very unsettling. The full force of the change was felt at midnight on the night of the full moon - but passed – usually – by the following morning. The first village got the name 'Rott' because, as full moon approached, the villagers started to find themselves rotting! At first, it was only a little and slightly inconvenient. However, as time passed, the rotting became more severe until, eventually, all that was left of each of the villagers, and their village, was a heap of rotting bits and pieces. It was even stranger when, after the midnight hour of the night of full moon pasts, it all undid itself. Pieces that fell off - reattached – usually in the right place - and always sorted out by mid-morning the next day. The next village got the name Grott as they started to deteriorate into little less than lumps of grimy slime. Still able to move, they were maybe better off than the Rotts. However, watching them return to being fully human as full moon ended and morning arrived was always fun. As for the third village, they got the name Snotts. To be honest, it had little to do with them being slimy or anything else of that sort. Instead, the villagers in the third village simply shrunk – which was ironic really as most of the villagers were actually quite tall! And as months went by, they actually got smaller and smaller with each full moon until they were almost unnoticeable. The reason they got the name Snotts, and the village became known as 'Snott', was because some wag who had a beef with the owner of an electrical repair store based in the village was so angry he called the owner a 'little snot'. It stuck – after all, it rhymed – Rott, Grott & Snott! And again, everyone blamed the Baron for the problems of the Manor and the villages. They may even have taken things into their own hands if it wasn't for Horatio. Horatio stuck as close as possible to the Baron, and there was something about Horatio and the Baron that frightened the villagers enough to keep them away. Then the gargoyles arrived - noisy, busy, loud and nosey, they came and occupied the outside of the Manor – which was now called Manor Rott, Grott & Snott. And so, the story continued … of a Manor that looked more like a creepy little castle and which was attended by unwanted gargoyles; and of locked away villages; and of all that happened with Horatio Fleming McNaughtie and the Baron - as they waited for something they didn't know they wanted or needed. And, of course, the continued story of a darkness, brooding and hating and looking to exact its revenge.
22 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 5 - The Escape
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 5 - The Escape. There had been many battles inside the Manor and around its grounds since Winefry had awoken. It seemed that even though the darkness had awoken the brave bottle, they had become enemies, with the bottle fighting against anything and everything that seemed to get worse with the darkness.Of course, the battles had been even more intense on the nights of a full moon, and especially during the midnight hour. Yet it seemed that even though the evil grew more influential during that time, so did the power and skill of Winefry, to the point that no matter what foe he faced he was always victorious. Until all the known enemies were vanquished.This was that night when the last enemy fell. And, as they looked upon the bodies of their enemies, the wounded Winefry and Scragg made a decision that would turn the lives of everyone upside-down. They decided that they were going to leave the Manor and its’ grounds to find adventure elsewhere. For some reason, they thought their work in the Manor was done – for now - , and they felt strangely compelled to go and strangely compelled to seek out new adventures. Where this compulsion came from, they didn’t know, but they could not ignore it. It was as if a voice was calling them and they had to answer.When the decision was made, the two of them collected what little they had, packed it in bags that they roped to their backs and started to head out of the Manor.But the Manor knew.As they turned into a hallway to go one way, the corridor went another. They entered one room and came out further away from the exit than when they started. I don’t think they would ever have left if it wasn’t for Horatio and the border terriers Flannel and Spanner. For tonight, for some inexplicable reason, they seemed to have grown a very high distain for Scragg!Typically, when dogs and cats grow up together, they tend to get on quite well – and – usually, that was the case here. It certainly was for Flannel, Spanner and Scragg. However, the night Winefry and Scragg decided to leave was the night of a cold and wintery full moon. Not just any full moon, this was once again a wolf moon. Of all the full moons, the one the border terriers felt more than any other was the wolf moon. And Horatio, who was born exactly one year before, felt it most of all.As Winefry and Scragg went from room to room, so the time ticked away, getting closer and closer to midnight. As midnight approached, so the dogs started to change. No longer were they the lovable, adorable, fluffy terriers everyone knew, these animals were larger and wilder. Their eyes began to glow slightly green, and they could smell Scragg!Approaching one door, a whine-come-howl erupted from just behind, forcing the bottle and Scragg to change direction at the last moment and exit through a doorway that hadn’t been their moments before. Again and again, the hapless pair were forced to change course by the approach of the border terrors. And, at each last moments change, somehow Winefry and Scragg found themselves closer to the exit of the Manor. Until as they approached the last door, the border terrors appeared as if from nowhere forcing them to make a dash for it and race for the kitchen.The border terrors tore after the bottle and the cat. And, if they had had time to observe it, they would have seen the shadows of the border terrors being left behind, just momentarily, as the monsters they had become chased down their prey.At the last moment, Winefry and Scragg charged into the kitchen only to find that somehow one of the terrors had made it there before them. It was standing between them, the boot room and the open back door. The border terror raised its head to howl at the wolf moon, and as it did, so Winefry and Scragg charged as fast as they could towards the terror. As they arrived and the terror (who was Horatio, but far more massive and monstrous than he had ever been before), finished its howl it looked down just in time to see them running between its legs. A look of total surprise – if not shock – swept across its face, making it look ever so slightly more like a typical border terrier again. Then seconds later, its claws scrabbled for traction on the tiled floor as it attempted to turn and chase its prey out of the Manor.As Winefry and Scragg raced past the terror and into the boot-room heading to the open back door, so the door itself started to close. Without thinking, Winefry grabbed Scragg and threw her bodily out of the door just before it closed. Then Winefry, giving up any hope of getting through the door himself, turned to face not one, but now three border terrors all heading his way. He was ready to die to save Scragg and started to pull at his razor-sharp poker. However, he had no intention of hurting the terrors because he knew who they really were - and loved them.But just as he put his arm to the poker, he felt a tug behind him. It was Scragg. Somehow the wily cat had managed to put a stone or something between the door and door frame and stopped it shutting. The power of the door swinging shut, and then hitting the obstacle had caused it to bounce back open, just a little. Seeing her opportunity, Scragg had raced back inside, grabbed Winefry and pulled him out of the Manor by his backpack, while swatting the stone away with her other paw. No sooner were they out and racing across the ground towards the thick forests, than they heard the door slam behind them. And as it slammed shut, the locked clinked, temporarily holding the terrors inside.It wasn’t the terrors the caused Winefry and Scragg’s blood to run cold. It was the grumbling, rumbling and banging that came from the Manor itself that really frightened them. This wasn’t just border terrors, terrifying as they may be, this was the darkness in the Manor, leaping out to try and recapture them and make them stay. So, with just the slightest glimpse at each other, they ran for their lives. Being faster, Scragg grabbed Sir Winefry and threw him on her back, then she galloped like she had never galloped before. Scragg had been quite a lazy cat when she first encountered Winefry. Still, since that time, their many adventures and battles had hardened Scragg up so that she was a lot more agile, wiry and fast.As the chase continued, so the time ticked on relentlessly towards midnight. The whole of the forest seemed to come alive the closer it came to midnight, things seemed to get brighter and brighter, almost as if everything had a little light of its own. The terrors could be heard howling and crashing through the undergrowth. Having been freed from the Manor they now hunted down their prey - as Winefry, riding Scragg - headed as far away from the Manor as they could manage.It became harder to run the closer it came to midnight as the beauty of the forest seemed to want to arrest their flight and slow them down. In a moment of distraction, Scragg took a path she didn’t know and sealed their fate for the route led them to the bottom of cliffs that they would never be able to climb – at least not with the terrors and the darkness on their trail. Arriving at the cliffs, they realised the hunters were too close for them to retrace their steps. So, jumping down from Scragg, Winefry pulled out his sharpened poker. With their backs to the cliff walls, they stood side by side to face their pursuers one last time, unwilling to hurt those who were usually their friends but, for now, overcome by the darkness.As the terrors approached, so the clock on the Manor began to chime. As it did, the wolf moon shone down, watching them all - as the midnight hour arrived.The three terrors, eyes glowing a constant green, crossed in front of each other as they approached their quarry. They had time. The bottle and the cat were trapped, there was nowhere they could escape to. But as the clock on the Manor struck midnight, someone appeared that no-one had seen before. She must have always been there, but somehow they’d missed her. Her appearing was that of pure light, blazing in the darkness. It was almost as if the moon itself was pouring its light into her. As she shone, so the light seemed to flow off her, and the ground around her glowed brighter and brighter.The terrors didn’t know what to make of it. Obviously, part of them wanted to run from the light lady. But another, deeper part wanted to be with her. It was that part which won, as they slowly, at first, approached her. And, with each step they took towards her - and her light, the three terrors became more themselves again. They became beautiful, fun-loving and carefree border terriers who ended up running up to the lady and demanded cuddles and tummy rubs and showered her with licks.Winefry and Scragg just watched, transfixed by the beauty of the scene and the wonder of the light lady. They didn’t feel the same kind of fear they had felt as the darkness and the terrors had chased them, but they still felt fear – just a different type of fear, the kind that recognised that something more – something better was there with them. The beautiful borders started to play with each other. As they enjoyed themselves, the lady turned and moved towards Winefry and Scragg. But as she turned, a loud crack of thunder echoed overhead, and the sky started to turn black. The blackness was coming for them. The dogs ran to be closer to the light, content to stay by the ladies side even as the storm of darkness erupted all around them. Thunder roared, lightning flashed – all of which seemed unable to touch the lady of light.Winefry and Scragg pressed themselves against the wall of the cliff as the storm surrounded them. They started to feel themselves being pulled up from the ground. So grabbing hold of each other and the wall - they held on for all their strength until suddenly, the raging storm fell silent, and its power faded, and they dropped back down to the ground. Looking up, they realised the lady of light had approached them. They were now within the boundary of the light that shone all around her.‘Must you go?’ She asked. Her voice was even more beautiful than they could imagine.Winefry didn’t know how to answer and was about to say something when, to his complete surprise, one of the border terriers responded.‘My lady,’ started the beautiful, scruffy little dog – it was little more than a puppy – it was Horatio. ‘They cannot stay, the darkness would consume them, and we would be forced to chase them until either they or we are dead. They have saved us from so much, protected us from the vile enemies and given us hope, but if they stay now, they may never get the chance to leave again.’ Then the little dog paused. ‘Please, have mercy on them and on us, for we hate what we have become.’‘But if they leave, then no one else will be able to, until they return.’ The lady answered the little dog. Winefry and Scragg looked at each other, not really sure what was going on. However, they knew the darkness was angry and could see and hear the powerful storm overhead and outside of the light surrounding the lady.‘But if they stay, what will that cost us? Will we become the monsters and be forced to kill and hunt and destroy for the darkness?’ The little dog was quite bright – but I guess isn’t that surprising for a border terrier. ‘Please, my lady, have mercy on them and on us. We all know that no choice is not without consequence, but if we have any say in that choice, then please, we chose light, we chose life, we chose hope, and we trust you.’The lady of light laughed and leaning down gave the little terrier and then all three terriers a great stroke and fuss. Winefry and Scragg just watched, unsure of what on earth was happening.As she played with the dogs, the lady turned her head to talk directly to Winefry and Scragg.‘So, it seems that you will leave us – and with that, you have my blessing. But know this, your leaving will cost us, the Manor, these terriers and all who live in the villages a great deal. We will be trapped until you find your way back to us and set us free.’ At this, the lady left the dogs alone and stood up. The three dogs immediately sat up and watched. ‘Your destiny has always been to leave. But it is also that you must return when you have found the key that will bring an end to all this. Only then will we all be free to return ...’ At this, she smiled as if realising she was about to say more than she should. Then once again, she focused her attention on the bottle.‘Your sharpened poker, Winefry.’ The lady asked.The bottle looked a little surprised, but without a word, he took out his sharpened poker and with the handle towards the lady of light and bowing slightly, he passed it to her.Taking the poker, it seemed to transform and change in her hands until it was a perfect sword.‘Kneel Winefry, kneel Scragg.’ The lady commanded.At her command, the two found themselves on their knees, unable and unwilling to resist the authority that came from her words.Taking the sword, the lady of light tapped the shoulders of the bottle and the shoulders of the cat and then held the sword out in front of her, speaking to them through the sword as it were.‘Arise Sir Winefry, arise Lady knight Scragg. Now you are bonded knights of the lady of light, and you are at my beck and call. It is my command that you leave this place and travel until you find all that is needed. That is, the key and all its parts, to set this place free once and for all.’As she said these words, the storm roared and thundered and blazed lighting all around, while at the same time however staying in the distance, held at bay by the lady of light.‘Although your journey will be long and hard, remember to whom you belong, for what you seek, and for what you fight. You belong to me. You seek the key and its part. And you fight, to bring freedom; freedom for all who live under the control of the darkness. My blessing will remain on you - only live up to your calling, be brave, be bold and be strong and know that someday, you will return.’At that, the lady waved the sword towards the cliff wall. Sir Winefry – who now really was Sir Winefry and no longer pretending to be Sir Winefry, and Lady Knight Scragg (who from this point would be known as Lady Scragg) – both felt a cool breeze behind them. But they didn’t turn to look, because, like the border terriers, they only wanted to be with, and look at, the lady of light.Then, the lady handed the sword back to Sir Winefry, who was still kneeling. Taking it, he stood up and put in back into his belt which he now realised had a real scabbard for the sword! Next, the lady turned to Lady Scragg and said.‘Lady Scragg, I have no weapon for you as you already have formidable weapons of your own in those claws and teeth. However, I will give you my blessing, and this is what it shall be. When it is dark, and there seems to be no hope, you will always be able to find my light. When you see it, follow it and, if they are willing, lead others to it.’ As she said this, she placed her hand on Lady Scragg’s head, and a very loud purring could be heard!They weren’t precisely sure quite how much time had passed, but as if to remind them, a loud crack of thunder seemed to intrude. The lady didn’t look up at the storm all around them, but instead gestured behind Sir Winefry and Lady Scragg and smiled. Her smile was blindingly beautiful, but the two of them, while reluctant to look away, knew what they needed to do. Bowing a low bow, they then turned to see a tunnel behind them in the wall of the cliff. With the slightest glance at each other, the bottle and the cat walked into the tunnel. As soon as they did, it started to close behind them. However, as they walked, they looked back, unwilling to leave the lady behind. And, as they walked away, the roar of the thunder grew, and the light from the lady began to fade.However, the lady had not finished. Around her were three border terriers, who had chosen to love her rather than obey the darkness. Their lives were in danger.Looking at the beautiful dogs, the lady crouched down and gathered them to herself. The darkness roared at this - as if it felt she had no right to gather his monsters to herself.‘My beautiful ones,’ the lady of light started. But even as she spoke, the area of light around her began to pull back towards her. ‘Now, like me, you will be unable to leave this place until we are set free. I know that you too are being attacked by the darkness and it is changing you and wants to change you more. So, this is my gift to you. Know that for a while, you will be separated from one another, and you will not remember, but I leave you with this.’ At that, she kissed each one in turn gently on the top of their heads.To anyone watching, this seemed like nothing. But for the border terriers or the sometimes border terrors, they knew what she had given them. It was just a tiny part of her light that made its way deep inside until it would be needed.Then all hell let loose. A terrible scream was heard, Sir Winefry and Lady Scragg turned to look and were horrified as what they saw. Just outside the shrinking light from the lady of light stood a young girl, the same young girl Sir Winefry had seen all that time before when he first met the lady of light. Somehow the girl had been safe from the storm while the lady was in full light, but now it was fading, the girl was being exposed to the violent darkness, she was in danger.Sir Winefry and Lady Scragg turned and ran back as fast as they could only to see the lady of light look at the young girl, the darkness and then look at them. She pointed at the wall of the cliff which started to close faster and then … well, there’s no other word for it, she exploded … exploded into blindingly incredible light. Winefry and Scragg were thrown backwards by the blast, and the cliff wall closed – there was no return. There was now nothing they could do except go forward on the mission they had been given. So, silently, and with very heavy hearts, the two heroes picked themselves up and continued to walk into the dark tunnel. They had no idea what lay ahead for them, but strangely, they were still at peace, believing that the lady of light knew what she was doing and they could trust her. Horatio had seen it all. The young girl who had appeared outside the shrinking pool of light. He had heard the terror of her scream as the darkness found her and started to attack. He has also seen the concern and love in the lady’s eye. He had watched as the lady seemed to grow, then the light that had been fading flooded back and exploded out from her. It was as if the lady herself exploded with the light.He had also seen in the moments before, the look of love from the lady for the girl. It was the love of a mother for her daughter - and had sat down, overwhelmed. The power of that love was so vast that no darkness could ever contest it. And indeed, the darkness had no answer. The storm and the light erupted all around them… Then, they were three borders terrors once again alone in the darkness. With eyes aglow, the monsters of the night kept no memory of what had happened. Instead, with no sign of anyone, or anything else, including the darkness, they sniffed the cold night air. Then turning, they made their way back to the Manor before the snow arrived.As they returned, however, deep inside, all three of them knew something was different. Although...
12 minutes | a year ago
Episode 4 - Winefry the Exterminator
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishScript:Episode 4 - Winefry the ExterminatorTo his surprise, Winefry found he had to start his role as an exterminator of dark rodents almost at once. For no sooner had he left that place and passed through hidden passageways in the Manor than he came across a most unusual situation. Scragg, the ginger cat, was cornered but three huge dark rats and had obviously been in a furious fight as another rat lay dead close by. Scragg was bleeding quite badly from a wound in her side. The three rats were about to move in for the kill as Winefry walked around the corner.The battle that ensued was fierce, fast and decisive. In a flash, Winefry's poker was out which gave Scragg just enough time to react and jump out of the way of yet another rat that had been hiding close by. Winefry's poker sword despatched 2 rats in quick succession before the third and the fourth one which had been hiding, had time to react. Then one of the remaining rats leapt on Winefry, while Scragg turned on the rat that had been hiding.The rat that landed on Winefry pulled him down hard to the stone floor with a deafening clatter. But this time, instead of a cracking sensation, Winefry simply bounced, rolled and whipped himself back to his feet and thrust his poker sword deep into the attacking dark rat.As he did this, Scragg furiously tore at the last villain, forcing it to a standstill and making it raise its claws to protect itself. Helpless and unable to see because of the intensity of Scragg's attack, the doomed rat was easy pickings for Scragg who moved forward and used her mouth to finish off the assailant once and for all.With that done, both Winefry and Scragg spun to face each other, unsure of motivation and intention of the other. Scragg had her claws out and was covered in blood, some her own but most from her attackers. Winefry had his poker sword raised, ready to fight. For a long moment, unmoving except for heavy breathing, the two of them stood facing each other. They stayed like that, unsure what to do until the last dark rat Winefry had run through with his poker sword, mumbled slightly, and Scragg's hair stood even more on end. In a flash, Winefry's sword swooshed and the rats head bounded across the floor, landing at Scragg's feet.Then, reasoning that as they were both attacking the rats, they were both probably on the same side, Winefry shrugged his shoulders. Then, raising his poker sword in front of his face, he saluted the cat, bowed from the hips, turned and walked off. Scragg watched the strange bottle warrior leave with a puzzled expression on her face. But after a few moments, she also shrugged slightly, picked up the head of the rat and made her way back to the kitchen where much fuss was made of her by everyone. Not quite as much fuss as was made being of the puppy Horatio. But almost - and Scragg could live with that. So, in the months that followed, the brave Winefry continued to vanquish dark rats all through the Manor. Sometimes he worked alone, and sometimes he was helped by Flannel, Spanner and later by Horatio – who seemed to be a little different from the others – especially around full moon. Although mostly he worked with Scragg, developing a slow, grudging friendship and respect for each other, as the two of them whittled down the numbers of their implacable enemies.However, it was the very last battle of the remaining giant and extremely vicious dark rats that set the scene for Winefry and Scragg's next adventure. The battle took place in the cellar and was a terrible affair. All the remaining dark rats had decided to band together to make one last, make or break stand against their enemy Winefry. The remaining rats chose to attack as a group, to defeat the wine bottle and, if possible, bring an end to his rule of tyranny. Well, that's the way they saw it. Winefry saw it in quite another way. He saw himself as freeing the Manor from monstrous vermin - precisely as the lady of light had commanded!The trap was set with nothing less than Scragg the ginger cat herself, being captured and tied to a pillar in the cellar. Bloodied and beaten, she was left to cry for help. Quite how long she cried for, I can't be sure. Still, it was long enough and loudly enough to get the attention of Winefry - who cautiously made his way into what he knew, had to be a trap.No sooner did he approach Scragg, who was taking a pause from crying to concentrate on trying to lick her tummy (which she couldn't do because she was tied to a pillar) - than the enemy attacked. Their idea was simple and should have been most effective. They reasoned that Winefry was a bottle, and as such while being robust, he should also have been very brittle so that being hit by stones would be enough to crack and break him. However, what they hadn't taken into account was that Winefry had been healed and commission by the lady of light, and was now far more substantial and durable.The attack began with rock after rock being hurled at the unprepared wine bottle. Many missed and a couple hit Scragg instead, who started to make a great deal of fuss about it. Not a few of them, however, hit the bottle clanking and clinking against his sides. But, he did not break, and he did not shatter. Instead, as each rock hit, his sides actually seemed to move like an extra thick skin under the rocks. Then, they snapped back to their original position, flinging off the stones in the direction they came. The wild rodents could be heard cursing as the rocks slammed into them. Then, the battle really started. Winefry launched himself at the rodents, who viciously swiped at him again and again but to no avail. To swipe at the bottle was useless. It was solid and yet - if it was in danger of breaking or shattering, it simply gave way under the attack only to bounce back once the attack had finished. In the ensuing battle, Winefry showed skill and talent the like of which could hardly be believed.The rodents had planned well and equipped themselves with dangerous weapons of their own. They attacked Winefry with bats and rolling pins, with large metallic trophies and – somewhat surprisingly, short metal tools that looked like trowels. One of them even had a hammer which he swung around wildly. This could have been very dangerous for Winefry if it had any real control of the heavy thing. Instead, it ended up causing more damage to the other rats than to Winefry who simply sidestepped the hammer and continued his attack. The hammer-wielding rat eventually killing three of its own before Winefry was able to run it through with his sharpened poker.As it happened, the hammer was even more helpful to Winefry. This was because when a rat was wounded or had its own weapon knocked from its hand, it would lung for the hammer and snatch it from the dead hand of one of its fallen companions. In the heat of the battle, it seemed to think that something that large and dangerous would help it stay alive. Of course, it didn't! Every time one of the rats picked up the hammer, they sealed their own fate. It was simply too heavy for them to fling around effectively, making them easy pickings for the speedy and skilful Winefry.Scragg, having recovered from the earlier rocks, just enjoyed the show, unable to escape her bonds but feeling safe with Winefry around.By this time, with all the skills Winefry had picked up and all the experience he had gained warring against the dark rats, it really wasn't a fair fight. Rodent after rodent was dispatched with Winefry's sharpened and polished poker until there was only one left. Although that one was the biggest and most ferocious of them all, who, against the odds, was to give Winefry his first real opposition.I think it was Scragg that saved Winefry, who had parried, fought, raced, danced and despatched dark rodents in front of her all this time, protecting her from any onslaught from the rats who seemed to want to kill the cat almost as much as they desired to destroy the wine bottle.The colossal rat leapt on Winefry, and all seemed as it had been with the previous rodents, with nothing so much as leaving a scratch on Winefry, until, that is, the colossal rodent lashed at the top of the bottle, where a covering of protective wax overlaid the cork which stopped the contents from draining out. As the rat slashed at the wax, it dug through to the cork and Winefry momentarily lost his sight as he was blinded by the power of the rat's attack. Searing pain ripped through his head, causing him to stagger back into the body of the cat, who was watching the whole thing with a mixture of terror and amusement.Then, the rat realised that it had finally hurt the bottle. Rushing in for another attack, the rat once again slashed at the remaining wax and especially at the cork, causing the bottle to fall again, harder against the cat. As he fell, his sharpened poker caught the cat's bonds, weakening them, before it dropped from Winefry's hand and clattered to the ground.The rat had the bottle exactly where it wanted him. It should have wasted no time and gone in for the kill to finish off Winefry as quickly as possible. But the rat was enjoying its moment too much to allow its enemy to die a quick death. Instead, letting the bottle fall to the floor and role away from the cat and, with a smile of wicked satisfaction on its fact, the rat walked right up to the self-styled knight as he lay helplessly on the floor. Then, slowly extending its claws so that its nails glinted in the low light, the rat reached back, ready to start its death slash at the now utterly unprotected cork of Winefry.So absorbed was it in its moment of apparent victory, the rat completely ignored a snapping noise behind it.As the rats claw descended, so another claw flashed out and ripped across the rat's throat, causing it to stop mid-slash. Then the rat was grabbing at its neck, gasping and gurgling as blood flowed down the front of its body.Scragg watched with great satisfaction as the rat fell first to its knees and then, while shaking a fist at both the cat and the bottle, it fell face-first onto the floor as dead as it could possibly be. So, the last of the dark rats were dead, and Winefry's commission ended. In time, Winefry's cork would recover, and the wax would grow back. But, in the meantime, the darkness was not happy.
14 minutes | a year ago
Episode 3 – Horatio Arrives
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishEpisode 3 - Horatio ArrivesOne of the dogs Winefry had noticed, a female border terrier called Flannel had got fatter over recent weeks. As he waited and watched that evening in the kitchen, he saw her lie down in her basket - as her partner, the male border, Spanner, watched and waited with her.But tonight was not to be a typical night. The dark rats seemed to know something was happening, something Winefry knew nothing about. There was an excitement about them as they waited in their holes and behind the walls and cupboards. The cat, Scragg, came and went. There was no animosity between the borders and Scragg as they’d grown up together and considered themselves family. Winefry noted that Scragg seemed on edge, coming and going, waiting and watching, sniffing and chasing - anything she thought might be a rat - or rat-related.Then, as Scragg left the room, a noise from the hall caught the bottles attention and the attention of Spanner who lifted his head and walked to the door to look. Spanner seemed unwilling to leave Flannel for some reason. Scragg was nowhere to be seen.What happened next left Winefry shocked - he had never seen anything like it before. Suddenly, the room filled with rats which split into two distinct groups. One group moved around Spanner by the door, while the other group headed for Flannel who, for some reason, seemed to be unable to do anything except pant and look uncomfortable.In a flash, Spanner attacked the rats around him as the other rats moved towards Flannel intent on taking from her something Winefry could never have imagined. For from Flannel, the most amazing thing Winefry had ever seen was coming, a tiny version of herself and Spanner, a miniature and apparently completely helpless dog.The rats wanted the miniature dog, to rip it to pieces and eat it. Winefry didn’t think, he reacted. He was a creature of the darkness, the darkness had given him life. But, he was also a creature of light. He was a creature of the moon. The same cold wolf moon that beamed through the windows this very night, revealing a scene before him of Spanner fighting for his life, and the other rats bounding towards Flannel and her helpful miniature dog.Winefry found himself zipping through the air - as his long, powerful legs thrust him towards the helpless Flannel who could do little more than growl and snap at the approaching rats.The sharpened poker was in Winefry’s hand. Then it was through the back and heart of the largest of all the dark rats attacking Flannel, the one that was about to snatch the miniature dog, intent on ripping it apart.At Winefry’s unexpected intervention, the other rats paused, unsure what had happened or how to react. They had assumed the wine bottle would keep out of it like it had for the last year. They had also thought that it was like them, a creature of the darkness – but now they realised they were very wrong, that this thing was dangerous.That moment's pause gave Winefry all the time he needed to pass between the rest of the rats as he pulled his weapon out of the dead rat and let its body slumped to the floor. Then, he stood in front of a rather shocked Flannel who had never even noticed the wine bottle before.The bloody battle of the other rats and spanner continued. Spanner was holding his own for now, there were dead rats around him, but he was bleeding quite badly and could not help. That had always been the dark rats plan, to distract and detain Spanner, while they stole the miniature dog from a seemingly helpless Flannel.No one could have predicted the intervention of Winefry. And, if it hadn’t been for him, the miniature dog would already be dead – ripped to pieces and food for the rats.The moments' shock passed, and the rats around Flannel, fuelled by a new rage at the thwarting on their plans, attacked again, determined to get their prize. Winefry’s poker sword, sharpened and thinned, flashed faster than the eye could see. And, as the carnage continued, the wolf moon silently, but not disinterestedly, looked down and shone on the scene of the fight. A fight to the death. And, it especially watched the little puppy born at midnight and defended by a wine bottle which came from darkness.Each time the rats advanced, Winefry’s poker sword left more dead and others wounded. Meanwhile, the snarling and barking of the fight with Spanner - had started to wake up the people in the Manor as voices could be heard, but help would not arrive quickly enough. So the carnage continued with Winefry protecting the lady Flannel and her helpless miniature dog with everything he had. The rats were creatures of darkness. They were far wiser than your average rat, so quickly they realised they couldn’t defeat Winefry one by one, they had to attack as a group. (P) Multiple times, Winefry was knocked to the hard ground, and he could feel cracks – something his gut told him were very bad. But that would have to wait because he knew that what he was doing was more important than his own life. So, after each clattering to the floor, he leapt back to help Flannel protect the miniature dog. More rats left - bloodied and wounded, and some were killed until one last attack by the rats sent Winefry flying against the stone wall and he heard the crashing of broken glass. But even this would not stop him. He could hardly move but forced himself on, to get between the rats and the little one, but it was no use. Flannel was being held down. The rats were almost at the little one. Winefry had nothing left! His life was literally draining out. So, with the last of his strength, he plunged himself forward and fell between the attackers and the little one.Then, light! More light than it seemed possible flooded the room. At that, the rats raced away, and Winefry was vaguely away of Spanner rushing over, covered in blood - and of Flannel reaching for the little one. The light didn’t stop but intensified, more and more powerfully until Winefry closed his eyes – which had almost been ripped off him as the rats tore at his label. He knew it was his end, he knew he couldn’t continue, but there was a strange peace in that even so. He had done all he could, he had helped to save the little one and that was enough as the light started to seem to fade.But then it didn’t! Instead, a voice called out to him! ‘Winefry’. He didn’t even know anything knew else his name, but as it spoke his name, so a little life seemed to return, and the light grew stronger again. ‘Winefry,’ the voice spoke his name a second time, and even more strength flowed back into him. Then a third time, but this time with much more tenderness than he had ever known, ‘My dear, dear Winefry,’ the voice said. As it spoke, he felt something he had not known before, the gentle touch of something – someone - who loved him more than mere words could express.At the touch, Winefry felt his strength fully return, and his eyes opened. Not only did his strength return, but his label reattached to its place. Becoming un-torn again and free from scratches - his eyes could fully redraw so that he could once again see everything around himself. He was lying next to the miniature dog in Flannels basket. Around them, lay the bodies of several giant rats. Flannel and Spanner were looking at him with great concern in their eyes. Yet, incredible as that was, it wasn’t what grabbed his attention and wouldn’t let go. Instead, right beside him was a lady more beautiful than he had ever seen, emanating a wonderful, gentle light that filled the whole kitchen. Her hand was on him and wasn’t about to let go.Then, the lady spoke. Not to Winefry at first, but to Flannel and Spanner. ‘My dear ones,’ she started, ‘don’t be fearful. I will give you all the protection you need for yourself and for your little one until he can defend himself. He will be brave and extraordinary. And, he will make you very proud - although there will be a time when you will be separated from him – but don’t worry, he will be watched over and loved.Spanner and Flannel looked at each other, and the little dog, and from what Winefry could tell seemed to understand every word the lady of light spoke to them.Then, the lady of light spoke to Winefry again. He felt a bit silly at this point for having called himself ‘Sir Winefry’ before, and thought it best not to say anything. The lady had still not removed her hand from Winefry, who was starting to feel a little uncomfortable.‘Winefry,’ she said again, ‘you have shown that even though you came from the darkness, you are a creature of light. And, I know that you will be the one who will bring freedom when the times have reached their fullness, and the darkness seems to have won. So, I will give you a gift to help you on your journey.’As she spoke, Winefry felt her hand growing warmer as it seemed to become even brighter as it held him.‘This is what I give you. While you will still have a weakness, it will not be your body or your wonderful face.’ As she talked about his face, there was an twinkle in her eye. Winefry wasn’t at all sure she was completely serious when she used that word, ‘wonderful’. ‘You will fight and fall but now you need not fear that your body will fail you as it did here. You gave your body to save this puppy – Horatio.’ As she said this, Flannel and Spanner looked at each other. Apparently, the name of the puppy was already decided! ‘Now I give you all you need to be a protector. At the right time, you will leave, and we will seem lost until you come back to set us free. But until that time comes, set this Manor free from the remaining dark rats. It’s going to be hard, Spanner and Flannel - and eventually Horatio - will help, along with another. And when it is done, then the next chapter of your adventure will begin.’ Archibald & Horatio. The moments that followed seemed disconnected from what had just happened. Suddenly, the light in the lady dimmed. Then, the door flew open, the ordinary electric lights flashed on, and the room started to fill with people. Winefry found himself moved quickly and carefully to the edge of the room by the lady, to a place where he could watch and escape unseen. As she walked back to the dogs, the lady of light – now thoroughly dimmed – as dim as all the other humans - looked a little shaken, as if she had just seen the dead rats for the first time. Another older woman came and comforted her and Winefry was sure that this older lady - that the others were calling Roseberry - had seen him. Although she did nothing more than look and seem to nod in his direction.Then, the ugliest child imaginable ran into the room. Quite what age it was Winefry couldn’t tell, but as it came in it ran past the dead rats and over to Flannel and Spanner, hugging them and looking horrified at the cuts on them both. The older woman was already getting things together to deal with their wounds. Then the ugly child saw what the lady of light had called the ‘puppy’ and the most revolting look swept across his face, and, as the wolf moon continued to shine down on them both, watching and waiting, the ugly child held the little puppy while Flannel looked on, apparently unconcerned. Winefry was amazed that they let this wickedly ugly child hold the puppy. Still, the lady of light was there – even though she seemed to have forgotten who she was – so somehow he knew it would be ok.As he started to leave, another child appeared, a girl about the same age as the ugly boy, who seemed to be somewhat alarmed by all the dead rats. So, instead of going to the puppy, she walked over to the lady of light and snuggled into her, while keeping a close eye on the puppy and the ugly child.The last thing Winefry heard as he walked away, fully recovered and ready to do what that lady of light had asked, was from the ugly child. He heard the boy say in a rather nasally and whiny way, ‘Mummy, Daddy.’ He must have been talking to the other ugly humans who had come into the room with him and were looking rather concerned ay the mess. ‘I will name him Horatio Fleming McNaughtie – THE border Terrier.’
13 minutes | a year ago
Episode 2 – The Malevolent Darkness
Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart GarfinkleArtwork by Steve EnglishThe script:Episode 2 - The Malevolent Darkness The Manor was always a little strange. Beautiful as it was - a Tudor manor house set in the idyllic scenery of the North Yorks Moors, it was still considered by anyone who knew it as a place to be avoided.At the start, it was little more than a feeling, a sense that something wasn’t quite right. But then, as time pasted, that sense of things not being right developed into a sure knowledge that something was wrong. Something in or maybe with the Manor just wasn’t right.Quite how long this feeling lasted, I have no idea, that’s lost in the annals of time. Yet, I do know how it started to show itself - because you can’t hide darkness in your inner being. If there is darkness inside, as sure as eggs is eggs, it’s going to come out. And, that’s precisely what happened in the Manor.Maybe it’s a little unfair to blame the Manor itself as in all probability, it wasn’t the Manor so much as something coming to live in the Manor that brought that feeling of unease. Yet, as time past, the sense of it being something other than the Manor faded, until it felt like it was the Manor – as if whatever it was that caused all these problems had become one with the Manor.Where the darkness arrived from and how it came to live in the Manor are stories for another time. But, for this story, it’s enough to know that the darkness lived in the Manor and to all intense and purposes - it was the Manor.As the darkness grew and began to be absorbed into the very fabric of the building, it started to show itself as small things changed. (P) Items that belonged in one place would turn up in another, and it wasn’t just little things. In time, whole rooms would relocate to different parts of the Manor. Then, the Manor itself started to change. Once, it had been beautiful to look at, and no doubt - generations of the wealthy and privileged had basked in the glory of the Manor, its rooms, its gardens and its opulence. Until that is, that beauty started to fade. For, as I said before, you can’t hide what’s inside. Because, it seemed, there was darkness in the very bones of the Manor - as over time it transformed from a beautiful country house into a particularly nasty and creepy little castle. A castle that was always changing, always transforming and never at rest. After all, isn’t it said that there’s no rest for the wicked?Of course, the people who owned, lived and worked in the Manor didn’t miss out on the effects of the darkness. As soon as they realised what was happening, they tried to sell the place, and at one point they even wanted to abandon it. But, the family who lived there – the Briggswath’s – were unable to leave. Every attempt to sell fell through, financial problems ensured they stayed to try and work the land. But when they almost gave up and decided to abandon the place, somehow it knew. Every way they went ended up returning them to the same place because the Manor wouldn’t let them go.Then, as well as the Manor and the things inside it changing, the people and their pets also started to be affected. The Briggswath’s had been a beautiful family, the daughters quickly married and sons longed for by others from far and wide – until they weren’t. Beauty turned around, packed up its bags and left, leaving each successive generation more affected by the darkness. Even their pets were affected, and none more than their beloved border terriers. The Briggswath’s had kept border terriers since before they were kennel club registered, and although they were working dogs, it didn’t take long for them to work their way into the hearts of the Briggwath’s and so become family pets.At first, the border terriers had become harder to groom. Their features became a little more extreme with each new generation, even when fresh blood was brought in from outside. Yet they were still dearly loved - with a bond between Briggswath’s and borders that was hard to explain – a relationship built on love, loyalty, faithfulness and fun.And so, reluctantly, the Manor continued to be the seat of the Briggswath family, and its influence on everyone and everything in it or near it continued to grow.The Origins of Winefry. Now, the dark influence inside the Manor was always felt most in the places lease visited by humans and their pets, places like the cellars or attic. Yet of all the hidden places in the Manor, the eves of the roof - where no one could go - felt the darkness most.As it happened, when the Manor house was initially built, there had been a phase when the builders – who were a somewhat superstitious bunch – would hide a bottle in some place like the eves. Quite where this notion came from, I don’t know. I suspect the builders also had little idea, as they trusted an apprentice on his very first job with the duty of hiding the bottle in the Manor. What they failed to mention to the poor apprentice was that a bottle should be empty, or at least have some home-made potion in it. However, with this little detail missed, the poor apprentice had gone and spent his entire first pay on the best bottle of wine he could find. Then, he had then gone to a great deal of trouble to hide it in the eves of the roof, in a place where it should never really be found. Precisely the type of site the darkness loved.So, for a very long time, the darkness worked into the bottle hidden in the eves. (It was also working on the bottles in the cellar – all 8 rooms worth – but that would take a little longer as people occasionally came to the cellar). The first the bottle in the eves new about it was when it felt a slight cramping in its neck. At that, it wiggled into a more comfortable position, rubbed its neck with its hand and stayed put for another long time. It seemed to drift in and out of awareness – only waking when at night there appeared brightness from the full moon somehow filling the eves.It continued this way for many years as the darkness in the Manor, and the power of the full moon, combined at midnight each month to bring life to the bottle of wine.Startled by a strange howling as the cold wolf moon slowly reached its peak and midnight arrived, Winefry (somehow the bottle of wine knew its own name) awoke. Listening to the howling, the brave bottle felt that the animal calling to the moon was calling to him as well. At that the struggle began, legs and arms pulled out from the bottom and side of the bottle as he pushed and shoved his way out from the hiding place the apprentice had left him many many years before. It took time, but that was one thing the brave bottle had plenty of.Quite how long it took to leave his captivity and enter the attic proper, I can’t say. But at the next full moon, Sir Winefry, as he started calling himself - as he rather fancied the idea of being a knight (again, no idea how that thought came to him!)… but at that full moon, he was found chasing shadows and imagined monsters in the attic.Winefry was a strange thing to look at. The label had faded many years before. However, the ink hadn’t actually left the label, rather, pooling under it somehow, it waited, ready to be used when the bottle awoke. So, instead of showing what had been written or printed on the label when it was new, the features of Winefry appeared, drawn in the mysterious ink. He had intense eyes that seemed to pierce through everything he looked at. His nose was long, but as it was drawn on the label, it tended to only ever be seen from the one side or the other, flicking between the two sides in a moment as he moved. His mouth was quite large, although he tended not to say a great deal. Oh, and he had a not so great moustache. To be honest, it was his weakest feature, thin and wispy – although for some reason he actually seemed quite proud of it! His eyebrows, on the other hand, were thick and very expressive, probably doing more talking than actual words. When he made noises as he chased supposed monster around the attic, they were nothing more than grunts and sighs – and no, before you ask – I have no idea how a bottle of wine speaks. Still, you must remember this is Manor Rott, Grott & Snott and ‘normal’ does not apply!Legs and arms had come somehow from the bottle and were long and thin and apparently quite strong as they seemed to carry around the bottle with ease. The arms also seemed to have no problem when armed with an old poker from a fire set which had somehow found its way into the attic rather than recycling or a charity shop. Somehow the self-styled knight managed to sharpen the poker, so it more closely resembled a sword. However, it was still a heavy thing being designed to poke around bits of coal and wood rather than to parry and thrust as a real blade would do.Quite how the darkness had worked in the wine bottle wasn’t completely obvious at first. Expect of course that there was a walking, talking and warring wine bottle in the attic, running around stabbing things and cutting them to pieces. The thing is, having been awoken by the darkness, you would have expected Winefry to have absorbed is tendencies and desires, almost as if it were a child of the darkness.The rats of the Manor had absorbed the darkness. With each new generation, they had grown more muscular, more intelligent, uglier and with a blood lust to match. The residents of the Manor had pretty much gone to war with the rats, using everything they could think of to try and get rid of the vermin. But nothing had worked, and the ‘dark rats’, as they became known, had become more powerful and dangerous. Even the cat Scragg had struggled to chase them away and was in danger of becoming one of their victims herself.But something else had also been working on Winefry through all those years hidden in the eves. The moon had done its part. Somehow, it had shone on the roof and passed its energy through to the wine bottle. And, that energy was never more felt than on the night of the full moon. So when Winefry, the self-styled knight appeared in the attic, having freed himself from his prison, he was an unknown entity to all.At first, he practised his sword-play with the sharpened poker. It was a good thing to practice with as it was heavy and needed lots of skill to flash it around, which Winefry mastered in a surprisingly short space of time. The rats, however, gave him space, not quite sure what to make of him but assuming that he would be on their side, a child of the darkness. Before long, Winefry learned how to move from the attic into the Manor proper and still keep himself hidden from the many people and animals inside.While still practising his sword-work, he scoped out the Manor and learnt of all the things inside, rats, people, cat and dogs. And so it continued until the deepest winter, and another full moon.
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