Graeme Smith - Books
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SPOILER ALERT! :-)
Whenever you're writing a series, all the 'Great Books of HowToWrite' will tell you how even if the books are a series, each one should be able to be read on its own. Which, yes, is excellent advice!
Um, or mostly it is (blush). Er, or, quite possibly, I might not have read all the Great Books properly yet (blushes again).
So. Spoiler alert. YOU MIGHT NOT WANT TO READ THIS UNLESS YOU'VE READ BOOK 1. Of course, you can if you like :-). But there may be things you find out about Book 1. Yes, I'm probably a Bad Person(tm), but I figured I'd give you a heads up. Anyway, here we are. I'd apologise to Mr William of the shaking Spear - but I probably wouldn't mean it (last blush - for now :-) ). A NOT SUMMER NIGHT'S SCREAM - over to y'all!
A Not-Summer Night's Scream - The Book of the Idiot (Chapter One - From an Idiot to a Not-King)
It was a cold and frosty night. I know—nobody cares about the weather report. But it was still a cold and frosty night. My Maj… Queen Son…
It’s been a few years now. I’m still not sure I’ll ever get used to it.
Sonea was asleep. I wasn’t—but then, I didn’t. Don’t. Not much, anyway. Sonea thinks it’s the pink. After we were married, she told me. ‘No,’ she said. ‘You can’t keep your own rooms.’ And she didn’t care about the secret passage. In fact, she had it blocked up by Serjeant Connor. She was absolutely adamant, whatever adamant is. I think it’s a kind of minstrel—we just haven’t invented him yet. Anyway, she told me I was just going to have to get used to thinking about her and beds in the same sentence. Without blushing. And that she had all sorts of ideas in mind to get me used to it. And, since the subject had come up, why didn’t we go and start right now?
I asked her if we shouldn’t let the Archbishop finish marrying us first. At least I wasn’t the only one blushing.
Oh, yes. Apparently, we were really married when she took my Dukedom away. But we had to have another ceremony afterwards. Just a small one—few hundred people, a dragon or three, the Archbishop. Sonea had wanted to get married in her Towonda leathers, but the Archbishop said it was a bad idea. That people ‘expected’ certain things. My Majesty told the Archbishop people could expect whatever they wanted, and maybe they should expect a new Archbishop. They compromised. My Majesty wore a dress. A pink leather one. And her sword.
Yes, her sword is pink. No, I don’t know how they make them. And no. We didn’t invite my Mother.
So Sonea had a bigger bed made and I got to not sleep in it. Well, I did sometimes. Just not for very long. Idiots don’t sleep much—things go wrong all the time. People who think they matter, as opposed to people like me who know we don’t, don’t care how much of the candle has been burned. The knock on the door, the note saying what uniform is the uniform of the day—or night—well, you get used to not sleeping. These days nobody was knocking at the door. Not unless they wanted to get exiled. With an axe. But I liked not sleeping—I got to watch Sonea.
You see, when she was awake, she was My Majesty—Queen Sonea. And she belonged to everyone, and everyone belonged to her. But when she was asleep? Then she was my Sonea. And I didn’t even blush.
So, I was awake. With my Sonea. And then the window tapped.
A tapping window, when the window is as high as ours is, is something to ponder. Serjeant Connor said the ivy had to be taken down now I didn’t need to climb it anymore. I asked him what he meant and that I wasn’t in the habit of climbing the Queen’s ivy. He said ‘No, of course not, Your ‘ighness. That’s why I never told the guards on the roof not to shoot you, laddie. ‘Cos Nobody climbed up the Queen’s ivy, did they Your Majesty?
Sonea agreed with me. She liked the ivy. So, the Serjeant agreed not to take it down. One day we looked out of the window and the ivy was gone. The Serjeant said it must have been torn down in the terrible storm we hadn’t had that night.
The window tapped. Sonea stirred, and I wasn’t letting that happen. I opened the window. It was Jack. Jack’s a friend of mine. He’s an artist. He draws on windows when the nights get cold—you’ve probably seen his work. He can go wherever there’s a window if he wants to enough. And he wanted.
“Jack! What brings you here? Well—the window I suppose. You, er, you tapped?”
“Zegorian! I ‘ad to come!”
No, he’s not an elf. It’s just, when you’re made of ice even your voice tends to have sharp edges.
“Jack. Is zomezing—I mean, is something wrong?”
“Zhe fired ‘er, Zegorian! Zhe fired ‘er!"
“Who did, Jack? Who, er, fired who?”
“Your mozzer! Ze Zythorax! Zhe fired my Agloolik!”
Wherever there’s ice, there’s Jack too. And Agloolik was ice. Or used to be. She’d been—well, she’d been liquidated. And Jack told me how.
The wall was a towering mass of ice. Or rather, the towering mass of ice made a wall.
Agloolik, spirit of the ice, guardian of fishermen, hunters and (for some reason she had never understood) artichokes, agreed. She also wished her dear, but not-very-bright, beloved Jack wasn’t quite so found of playing poker with demons who had too many arms with too many sleeves extra cards could hide in. And vowed to explain her wishes to him when her time in Aberystwyth was over and she’d finished paying off his latest debts. Explain them with a brick if necessary.
When an imp six inches high calls an eight-foot demon who also has lots of arms, with a sharp pointy thing in each one, a show-off, one might expect the imp to change its name to Bob. Shish-K to the friends it might hope would attend its funeral. But if the imp already has a name and that name is Lord Kulshashar, then it’s the eight-foot-tall demon who smiles as sweetly as a demon can, pretending it (or she in this case) had a sudden attack of temporary deafness. “Of course, Lord Kulshashar. You! Icy thing! More ice!”
Agloolik poured on more ice.
Biting her tongue (and telling herself she’d glue it back together later), Agloolik smoothed the surface of the ice wall.
“Right. That should do it. Enough ice, icy thing.”
“Will this take long, Scythorax? I have a fresh batch of souls to introduce to eternal torment. I’m thinking of putting them on reality TV, as soon as they get round to inventing television upstairs. Of course, it won’t hurt them, but the suffering everybody watching them will endure will be delightful.”
“I think I’m ready Lord Kulshashar.”
“Do get on with it then, Grand Devourer. I’d hate to have to make you Junior Under Devourer. Hmm—actually, I probably wouldn’t. You would, though. Hate it, I mean.”
“You and your little jokes, Lord…”
“Did you say little, Temporary Assistant Junior Trainee Nibbler? Little?” Lord Kulshashar was very sensitive about some things.
“Pfah. Males.” Scythorax muttered under her breath.
“Did you say something, Scittle Tax? Did you?”
“No, Lord Kulshashar. I’m sorry, Lord Kulshashar.”
“I should hope not. Now get on with it.”
“By the rings of Turgid’s moon, by the power of sky and rune…”
“Scythorax. I’m short of time. There’s no need for the tourist stuff. Just get on with it!”
“But the words are… I like the words!”
“Get. As in, on. While you still have all your arms. Also as in ‘on’. As opposed to ripped from your screaming carcass, simmered with some garlic and—well, and something not-garlic.” Lord Kulshashar had many talents, but he wasn’t an elf. So cooking wasn’t one of them.
Scythorax waved one of her arms. The ice wall shimmered, then turned to what would have looked exactly like glass if anybody upstairs apart from dragons had been able to melt sand yet. An image appeared. Two people were asleep in bed. The sheets were pink.
“There you are. Well. I promised, and now you get to find out how I keep my promises. I’ll get you, Segorian! I’ll get you, Sonea! Yes, and your little dog too!”
Lord Kulshashar coughed. “Scythorax?"
“Yes, Lord Kulshashar?”
“They don’t have one.”
“Don’t have one what, Lord Kulshashar?”
“A little dog. They don’t have a little dog.”
“Dog? I don’t care about a dog! Especially one they don’t have!”
“Oh, but you said it, Scythorax. You said it in the challenge. It’s the Rules. If you say it, you have to do it. Now you have to get their little dog too. Which might be a little hard, don’t you think? Given they don’t have one. A dog, that is? It looks like you’re going to lose, Under-Munchy One.”
“Aaaaargh!” Scythorax screamed. Mother can be like that—though mostly she gets other people to do the screaming. She kicked the ice wall. A large part of it snapped and fell off. Mother can be like that as well. She turned to Agloolik. “Right. If they have to have a little dog, get them a damned dog, icy thing!”
Before Agloolik could even move, Lord Kulshashar spoke. “Oh, don’t worry Lady Scythorax. I’ll take care of it.” And he waved a languid arm. Suddenly, at the foot of the bed, there was a dog. Or rather…
“Lord Kulshashar! That’s not a dog! That’s a… it’s a werewolf!”
“Well. Isn’t that what you wanted, Scythorax? You did say a damned dog, did you not?”
“But—but I meant…”
“Oh, no need to thank me, Lady Scythorax. Always a pleasure. Mine, at least. And—well, you did say dog. So. A dog. And dogs are really, really loyal. To their owners, I mean. At least, this one is.”
“But—but, a werewolf! They’re—they’re nasty! They can only be killed with silver bullets, and nobody’s even invented guns yet!”
“Yes. I know. It will be most…interesting. Yes, interesting. And there I was thinking this was going to be boring. Heh—do enjoy yourself, Lady Scythorax.” As Lord Kulshashar faded from view, the sound of his laughter decided it had squatter’s rights and continued to echo for some time.
Scythorax looked at Agloolik. “And just what do you think you’re laughing at?”
“But Grand Devourer! I wasn’t! It was…”
“Enough! You’re fired!” A bolt of flame shot from Scythorax’ finger. Which isn’t good if you’re an ice demon. “Oh, hells. I’m melting. I’m melting! If you ever touch a card again, I’ll bloody well kill you, Jac…” and Agloolik poured to the ground—liquidated.
“An’ zat waz zat. I zneaked in an’ waz able to zoak ‘er up wiz a zponge. Well, moz of ‘er. ‘Er left arm iz going to be zhorter zan ‘er right, I zink. I’ve got ‘er on ize, but it’z going to take agez to get ‘er back to ‘er cold zelf. But zhe’s alright. I think zhe’s talking to me. Well, or zwearing. I can’t tell, all I zee iz bubblez at ze moment. But I came, Zegorian. I came! I ‘ad to tell you! Your mozer’s up to zomezing!”
“And just who might you be, ice sprite? Oh, Rover! Good doggie! Er… Segorian. Why do we have a dog? We don’t have a dog.”
“Oh. You’re awake, My Maj… Sonea. Don’t you think we have a dog?”
“Of course we have a dog. We’ve always had a dog. We just didn’t have one when I went to bed…” her Sonea-ness stopped, her lips moving as she replayed what she’d said. She looked at me. “Segorian. We have a dog. We’ve always had a dog. We just didn’t have him when I went to bed. Right?”
“Right, My Maj… I mean, right.”
“It’s your damned mother, isn’t it?”
I sat down on the end of the bed. Some days, you just shouldn’t wake up. I knew it was going to be my fault again. But that’s my job—I’m a husband. “Yes, dear. It’s my Mothe…”
The sky howled.