Tag Archives: Horus Vere

Let the Cast Assemble

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I tend to write a wide variety of stories with many different characters. However, if you were really paying attention, you know that a few characters have come up more than once.

The first of these is Klista. She first appeared in the story See the World Through a Cardboard Tube! and then recently in The Recruitment of Bruce Riansson.

Klista is a mysterious character. She is a woman who apparently has no trouble traveling between worlds or even quickly in space. Where she comes from is unknown. She often wears a red cloak and carries a bag of strange, possibly magical, items. As for what she does, she tells Bruce Riansson to “think of me as a type of guide. I show secrets to people who need them and who are worthy.” What this actually means, will be explored in later stories.

Joining her is Bruce Riansson, a former innkeeper who was exiled from his home country of Indrake for harboring a fleeing traitor. Because The Recruitment of Bruce Riansson occurred first, Bruce is actually the unnamed male assistant in See the World Through a Cardboard Tube!

The second recurring character is Horus Vere. He was the main character in The Mermaid’s Kiss and I Was on Trial Once… He come from the same world as Bruce Riansson and is a professional traveler, who seeks adventure and whatever profit he can make along the way.

A third character who will become a recurring character is Edward “The Squid” Morrison, who appeared in the recent story Saturday, 4am. He is an extortionist and scavenger in post-apocalyptic England who is out to find what he calls “hidden pearls” of the old world, the time Before. He is accompanied by his recently-acquired android follower, Droog.

I will still write unrelated stories, but I will write more stories to expand these three story arcs. Let me know if there is one character whose stories you particularly enjoy and I will try to do more with them.

I Was on Trial Once…

“What is your name, sir?” the magistrate demanded. I stood facing him, in front of a packed courtroom of people who seemed very curious in my fate.

“My name is Horus Vere,” I replied proudly. It is a name to be proud of.

“And what is your profession?”

“My family are traditionally glaziers, but I am more of a merchant. I find things here and there and sell them, in order to pay for my travels.”

“Ah, so a thief then?”

“Put down salvager, if you please, if there is a box marked ‘Profession’ that must be filled in,” I said. “Now, if I might ask a question, why am I here, instead of being on the road to Hatavass, as I had planned?”

“You are charged, sir, with spooking a horse and causing a thousand crowns of damage to a load of expensive pottery. Do you deny it?”

“I do not deny being there,” I said, “but it was the red poltergeist that spooked the horse.”

“A poltergeist!” The magistrate looked outraged. “You are saying you saw a poltergeist in the road?”

“No, your honor. It was invisible.”

“Then, how do you know it was there? And how can you call it red?”

“For both those questions, I have only the word of Brokker.”

“And who is he?” The magistrate’s tone was soft and dangerous.

“He called himself a spirit sage. I only met him that day. It was he that told me that a poltergeist was stealing my shoe.”

The magistrate threw up his hands. “I have no idea what you are talking about. Please start this whole mess of an account from the beginning.”

“I am afraid I have just told you everything,” I said. “I was just about to break camp when I could not find my shoe. Brokker came along and told me he had seen a poltergeist taking off with it. A red one.”

“Yes, you mentioned that detail already,” the magistrate said. The crowd tittered with delight. “Tell me then, how the horse came to be spooked?”

“Well, for a crown Brokker offered to show me where the poltergeist had gone. My shoe was hardly worth that much, but I had never seen an invisible red poltergeist before, and since having only one shoe is as good as being barefoot, I agreed. We were running along, when I banged into the fox.”

“The fox?”

“Well, it was in a cage,” I said, “obviously. It was in a pile of other wild animals in cages, all headed to circuses and menageries. You should have heard the racket.”

“Yes, I see,” the magistrate said, wrinkling his forehead. The crowd was entranced. Even if admission to the courtroom had not been free, this would be money well spent.

“So, I knocked over the fox cage, which was fine, except it broke open and the fox ran into a group of schoolchildren being led by two nuns . . .”

“Whatever are you talking about?” the magistrate asked, exploding suddenly with anger. “Why were there foxes in cages and nuns with schoolchildren wandering around in the forest?”

“This was not in the forest—it was here in the city. I camped in Fountain Square last night. Did they not tell you?” The look on the magistrate’s face showed that they had not.

“Get to the horse,” he said.

“Well,” I continued, “the fox was darting here and there, and nuns and children were screaming and crashing around when Brokker suddenly said he saw the poltergeist. It had dropped my shoe but Brokker said he could find out where it had dropped it. So we took off running through the square, dodging screaming nuns and vaulting over children. ‘It’s going for that horse!’ Brokker said and he jumped for it. I tried to follow, but I had been running with only one shoe and I tripped and fell at the horse’s feet. It reared up and started charging around the square too. Brokker said that the poltergeist had jumped on its back. The wagon wheel hit a small anvil that I had been planning to trade and the whole load of pottery slid off and smashed on the street.”

“That was quite a story, Mr. Vere,” the magistrate said, although he did not sound impressed. “Do you have anything to add?”

“Yes, your honor. I got my shoe back. Brokker produced it and said the poltergeist had given it to him, so I was obliged to pay him the crown. In any case, all’s well that ends well, right?”

*         *         *

That night, I told the story to a group of eager bar patrons at the renowned establishment, the Feathered Pork Chop.

“What happened then?” they asked. “Did they make you pay for the pottery?”

“No, I was acquitted on that charge,” I said, “although I did get fined half a crown for illegally sleeping in Fountain Square. I don’t mind though: it’s not every day you get to see an invisible, red poltergeist.”



The Mermaid’s Kiss

This story was inspired by the song, Turn Loose the Mermaids, by Nightwish. I recommend it for reading music.

It was the kite that I saw first as I hurried along the dusky road in search of a place to camp for the night. It was a small square of dark blue that bobbed and swayed in the upper breezes, far above the hedgerows that bordered the road closely on both sides. I came to a gap and saw the world suddenly open in front of me.

I was standing on the top of a slope that descended several stone’s throws to the edge of a firth, an arm of the ocean that stretched inland to the mouth of a fast-flowing river. On the slope was a cemetery and in the twilight, each etched stone had its identical shadow that stretched back towards the east. On one of these stones, close to the water’s edge, I saw a hunched figure sitting and holding the string of the kite.

I went down to talk to the person and perhaps find a place to stay the night. When I got closer, I saw that the figure was an old man dressed in a tattered grey jacket. He was staring out towards the firth, but looked up at me when I approached.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said without preamble. “This is not the place for your sort.”

“And what sort is that?” I asked.

“The uncursed sort.”

This intrigued me immensely. “My name is Horus Vere,” I said. “I collect many things in my travels but mostly I love stories. Tell me, is this cursed ground?” I sat down on the gravestone of a Mr. Archibald Duggan (1550-1623) and waited for his reply.

“Why else would an old man be flying a kite alone in a graveyard at sunset, if he were not cursed?” he asked. I had no response to this feat of logic, so I waited patiently for him to continue.

“I used to come here every day when I young, to fly kites with my friends,” he said. “One day, we arranged to meet here in the afternoon, but the wind was strong that day and the others decided not to come. I launched my kite as I waited and it tugged fiercely on the string. A sudden gust snapped the string and it fell into the firth, about a score yards from shore.

“I should have left it—any sane person would have—but it was my favorite kite and I hated to lose it. So, I took off my jacket, tunic and trousers and waded into the frigid water. I was a fair swimmer, but the wind was blowing from the land and quickly pushed the kite further from me. When I finally reached it, I looked back to see that I was far from land and the wind was pushing me even further towards the middle of the firth.

“The swim back was a nightmare. I made very slow progress and I could not rest or I would be pushed out and lose what distance I had gained. My head slipped beneath the surface, but I pulled myself up. I went down again, and again I thrashed to the surface. But I was exhausted and I knew that I was about to drown.

“Finally I sank down into the darkness of the firth, too exhausted to struggle anymore. I breathed in a gulp of water and my consciousness was just starting to fade, when I felt something brush my arm. I thought it was a fish at first, but then it grasped me. Something pressed against my lips and air was forced into my lungs. I opened my eyes and saw a woman swimming in front of me, her skin a greenish tinge from the water.

“Several moments later, I pulled myself, coughing, onto the shore. The woman was beside me, and I could see now that even in the air, her skin had a greenish cast. She was naked and beautiful.”

“A mermaid?” I asked. I was beginning to think this man was either mad or toying with me.

“Do you believe in mermaids?” he asked.

“I have never had any reason to.”

“Neither did I,” the old man said. “She did not have a fish’s tail, as they do in the stories, but she was no ordinary woman.

“‘Thank you for saving me,’ I said to her and she nodded. ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’ she asked. ‘Kiss me again,’ I said.

“I had not been meaning to say that and I was embarrassed, but she crawled carefully up to me, keeping one foot in the water, and kissed me again. Then she told me her name and slipped back into the water.”

“What was her name?” I asked.

“I cannot tell you.”

“You have forgotten it?”

“No,” he said. “It is a name I could never forget. As soon as I heard it, it crept into every corner of my mind and I could keep my mind on nothing else. I would not tell it to you, lest the same thing happen to you.

“For several years after that I would come here and meet with her. Sometimes I would summon her by flying the kite, but sometimes she would call to me with her singing. She had a high, whispering song that floated on the breeze and drew me irresistibly to her.

“When I was seventeen, the town found out that I was meeting with someone here most every day. I heard the word ‘monster’ and ‘succubus’ whispered about. They came to kill her, but I saw them coming up the road, my father leading the way. She begged me to go with her, but I was afraid.

“‘I will wait for you here,’ I said. ‘But I cannot return,’ she replied. I was still afraid and did not believe her fully. She gave me one last, long kiss and then dove into the water as the people reached the top of the hill.

“I was sent away to the southern counties by my father, but I returned and stayed here, tending the graves and flying my kite. I have waited years for my lost mermaid. I could not have stopped even if I wanted to. The memory of her last kiss still burns on my lips and her name is as fresh in my memory as always.”

The old man stopped. I wondered if he told this story to everyone who stopped by or if I were privileged somehow. The sun went down and the golden color drained out of the landscape. Soon the darkness would be complete.

“You may stay in the old cottage by the woods,” he said. “I will stay here.”

I would have argued with him, but the memorial stone of Mr. Archbald Duggan was none too comfortable and I gratefully moved to the cottage. It was shabby and dank, but when I got a fire going, it cheered up immensely.

I awoke in the middle of the night to hear the wind sighing in the branches outside. With a start, I thought I could catch words in it. I jumped up and looked out the window.

The moonlight was shining brightly on the cemetery and the black water of the firth. The old man was gone from his gravestone perch. I put my hand on the door latch, but something stopped me, perhaps my oft-unused common sense. I went back to my bedroll on the floor and lay listening to the melodic breeze playing through the trees.

The next day dawned sunny and clear. I packed up my things and went to see if the old man had returned. His seat was empty. I stood for a while, and was just about to leave when I noticed something buried in the grass by the gravestone. After digging in the tangled grass, I pulled out a rotted cross of wood with several scraps of dark-blue cloth still clinging to it. Nearby was a spool of twine that fell apart when I picked it up. It must have lain there for years.

I thought of taking a piece of the cloth to remember this place with, but I knew it was not for me. The wind was singing in the trees again as I left, but I dared not look back at the water for fear of what I might see and what I might do then.

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