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Book Review – Different Seasons by Stephen King

Different Seasons by Stephen King (Hodder Paperback, 2012)

This book is a collection of four Stephen King Novels; Hope Springs Eternal (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption), Summer of Corruption (Apt Pupil), Fall from Innocence (The Body), and A Winter’s Tale (The Breathing Method).

Hope Springs Eternal

This is my favourite of the four stories. It’s a beautifully written novella that first came to my attention through the film, Shawshank Redemption.

Hope Springs Eternal is the story of Andy Dufresne’s stint in Shawshank Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover, told through the eyes of Red, a fellow inmate. At times, Hope Springs Eternal is horrific to read as we see Dufresne attacked by The Sister’s, a gang of prisoners who prey on the vulnerable, and his treatment at the hands of the guards and the Governor, especially when Dufresne uncovers evidence to prove his innocence. Essentially though, Hope Springs Eternal is a story about hope as Dufresne clings to his innocence and the idea that, one day, he will get out of prison.

Summer of Corruption.

This has also been made into a film called Apt Pupil starring Sir Ian McKellen.

Apt Pupil begins as thirteen-year-old Todd Bowden uncovers evidence to suggest a neighbour, Kurt Dussander, is actually a fugitive Nazi war criminal. Instead of turning Dussander into the authorities, Bowden manipulates and blackmails him into sharing stories about the horrors and atrocities he committed in the Second World War.

As the story progresses, the pair form a sort of friendship or bond that brings the worst out in each other. Being reminded of his past reignites Dussander’s dark side. In turn, Bowden’s destructive bond with the Nazi encourages and grows Bowden’s own dark side. The result is horrific.

Summer of Corruption is horrific, but also strangely absorbing.

Fall From Innocence

This was my least favourite of the four novellas. As with the above two stories, this novella has also been made into a famous film called Stand By Me.

Fall From Innocence is set in 1960 in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, and follows a group of boys as they set out to find the body of a twelve-year-old boy, Ray Brower, who went missing and is presumed dead. The story is narrated by the adult Gordon Lachance and is told from his point of view.

This is a coming of age tale. A story of boys from dysfunctional families coming to terms with where they come from and the harsh realities of life and death.

Personally, I found this story a little bit boring (sorry, not sorry) but I know many of you will disagree.

A Winter’s Tale

Now, this little story tucked at the back of this large novella is a bit of a strange one to review as it seemed to be vastly different from the three preceding stories.

The Breathing Method follows David, a Manhattan lawyer who is invited by a senior partner of the law firm to join a mysterious Gentlemen’s club where the participants are encouraged to tell stories.

On one such occasion, Dr Emlyn McCarron tells the horrific story of a woman who is determined to give birth to and raise the illegitimate child she is carrying, whatever the cost. The Breathing Method refers to the technique that McCarron teaches her to keep her calm during childbirth and which has an unintended and gruesome consequence when the woman is involved in an accident.

A Winter’s Tale is very atmospheric, a chilling tale which really is a story within a story. I just wish it had been longer!

Conclusion

This anthology collection is well worth delving into. I would give it 4 1/2 stars out of five simply because I found The Body a little boring (however, I know many of you will disagree!)

Great for those who love to read about real-life horror. Not so great for those wanting some of that supernatural horror King writes so well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dragon Rider – Part Twenty

Dragon Rider

Chapter Nine Continued

Foxes

‘You will listen now Drake, and listen good, for you will need all the help you can get.  There are things that you do not know yet, things that you will need to know if you are to travel to the Underworld and come out alive.  As I have already told you, you will need a key to gain entry into the other realm and, as you have seen this fire-djinn with a Hand of Glory, it makes sense for us to summon him now, to see what information we can gather from him.  If we are very lucky he may still have it in his possession.’

‘He’ll have hidden it,’ said Drake, huddled on his chair like a sulky child.

‘We will never know unless we give it a try,’ said Alchymia, turning her attention back to the spellbook in front of her.

‘Whatever.’

‘As I was saying, Willow,’ said Alchymia turning back to look at Willow, ‘the last time I summoned a demon was over one hundred years ago, so I may be a little rusty.  There are many ways to summon demons; some are benign, others quite evil, and, of course, all take different times to perfect and all produce different strengths of control.  Are you with me so far?’

Willow nodded enthusiastically as she drunk in every word Alchymia said.

‘As time is not on our side, I think it would be a good idea to do a quick summoning spell although this means we will not have full control over our subject.’  Alchymia pointed over to a table by the wall covered in small bottles of oils, jars of ingredients, and different coloured infusions, the long sleeve of her gown skimming the pages of the spellbook.  ‘Willow, would you collect together some of the infusions on the table over there for me?  The Come to me, and Protection drafts as well as the crushed dandelion, sweet woodruff and the cardamom pods, oh, and bring the small bronze cauldron over too, would you?’

‘Okay, got them,’ said Willow, glass bottles jangling as she brought the ingredients over to Alchymia.

‘Right,’ said Alchymia.  She clapped her hands together and the spellbook closed in front of her.  She pointed to the bed and the book gently took flight, flapping its way over to the other side of the room, coming to rest gently on it.  Alchymia rose gracefully from her chair, like a ghost.  ’Drake, if you wouldn’t mind?’

Drake stood up and moved to stand by Willow as Alchymia thrust her hands out, commanding all the furniture and books to slide to the edges of the room, leaving the bare, wood-stained floorboards free to perform magick.  With another flick of the hand she produced a white chalk stick from the air.

‘I gebannan fif-brond steorra e hring!’ she commanded, and the Chalk dropped to the floor as if guided by some invisible hand, and immediately began roughly marking the shape of a five-sided star, encompassed in a circle, onto the dark wood with thick, noisy strokes.  Once the pentagram was complete, Alchymia sprinkled all of the dry ingredients into the cauldron and then tipped in the strong-smelling Come to me draft and the blood-red Protection draft before placing it at the north point of the star.

Alchymia stood over the cauldron, ‘Fyrwylm!’ she exclaimed and the cauldron burst into life, hissing and spitting as the ingredients fused together in a bubbling mass of sweet-smelling orange goo.

‘I think we are ready,’ said Alchymia, nodding appreciatively as she stood back to admire her work.  She grabbed a small wooden box from a pile of boxes on the floor.  ‘Drake, if you wouldn’t mind holding these?’

Drake took the box from Alchymia and clicked it open.  ‘Iron filings?’

‘Yes, it is just a precaution, in case the djinn needs to be subdued for any reason.’

‘Iron makes them weak,’ explained Willow.

Drake looked at the small particles of black metal in the box and nodded his head in approval.  ‘Must remember that.’

‘Out of your mood now?’ asked Willow.

‘Maybe,’ he shrugged.

Alchymia stood just outside the summoning pentagram, the potion in the cauldron bubbling away at the top-most point of the star, its sweet-smelling fumes making the air hot and heavy.  She stood at the opposite side of the pentagram and lifted her arms as if in supplication to the Gods, exposing her delicate arms as the sleeves of her pale blue gown slipped past her elbows.

Alchymia closed her eyes and began to chant the words, ‘Aspryttan Pyro, I gebannan eow,’ over and over again, her voice barely raised above a whisper.  The white chalk stick began to furiously scribble Pyro’s name, over and over again, inside the pentagram as its edges began to smoulder like tinder when it first catches the flame.

Suddenly it went dark, the room lit only by the orange flickering light of the pentagram as it began to burn more brightly. Alchymia continued to chant the spell until, finally, the pentagram burst into flames, snuffing out a few seconds later as the air was sucked from the room.

It was difficult to breathe; Drake could feel his lungs aching as he fought for air, the hot, sweet-smelling fumes from the potion, still bubbling fiercely in the cauldron, were catching in his throat, making him want to gag.

There was a whistling sound, like a kettle coming to its boiling point on a gas hob, accompanied by a cool breeze as refreshing air was pumped back into the room.  There was a loud thump and the sound of someone cursing in the darkness in front of them.

Daylight flooded the room revealing Pyro bent double in the middle of the pentagram, dressed in brown chinos and a stained light blue shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his knobbly brown elbows.

‘Yeah,’ he screamed, to no one in particular, ’come on, you want a piece of me?’  He smacked his butt cheeks with the palms of his hands.

‘No!’ shouted Drake, as he bounded across the room and threw the small wooden box in his hands at the back of Pyro’s head.

‘Ow!’ said Pyro as he stood up, stroking the back of his head.  ‘What did you do that for?’  He had a puzzled expression on his face and he was swaying like a branch in a gentle autumnal breeze.  His eyes suddenly snapped shut and he crashed to the floor in a heap.

‘Drake!’ shrieked Willow, ‘What have you done?’  She ran over to where Pyro lay, ‘Look, he’s got a lump the size of the Orb of all Mystickal Magick!’

‘I couldn’t let him gas us all, could I?’ said Drake.

‘That was what the iron filings were for.’

‘Oh.’

Fulcanelli rubbed himself up and down the djinn’s legs, ‘I like him Mistresssss,’ he purred, ‘Can we keep him, pleaseeeee?  He looked at Alchymia with his cute green crossed-eyes.

Alchymia was holding a glass of dark amber liquid in her hand.  She swept over to where Pyro lay and bent down, taking his head in her free hand.  ‘Here, have some of this,’ she soothed, pouring the cool liquid into his mouth.

Pyro’s eyes flickered.  ‘Am I in heaven?’ he asked, a dopey looking expression upon his face.  ‘I can hear the Cherubs playing their harps!’  But then he threw his hand up to his throat and gagged.  He continued to clutch at it, grimacing.  ‘Ah! What have you done, witch?  Whiskey and hemlock?’ he screeched, as he jumped up and backed into the corner of the room, his face full of fear.

‘What am I missing?’ asked Drake.  He was now standing in front of Pyro like he was a prize attraction in a Freak Show.

‘Whiskey and hemlock,’ croaked Pyro still clutching his throat.

‘It will neutralize the fire aspect of Pyro’s nature whilst we perform the interrogation-’

‘Interrogation?’ shrieked Pyro, quickly hiding his hands behind his back.

Alchymia glided over to Pyro, the hem of her blue gown smudging the chalk markings on the floor.  She grabbed the top of his head and thrust a small celestial-blue Angelite crystal into his mouth and clamped it shut with her hands.  Once she had counted to fifty-three she released him.

‘What…are you…doing?’ spluttered Pyro. spitting the crystal out on to the floor and clutching his throat again with his knotty hands.  ’What is it with everyone?’ he cried, ‘How much has one djinn got to put up with?’

Alchymia grabbed Pyro’s face in her hands and inspected it, turning it this way and that in her long fingers, before turning her attention to the blue crystal.  She picked it up off the floor and rolled it around in her hands.

‘So?’ asked Drake.

‘He has not been put under a Silence Spell but was Bound quite tightly to whoever summoned him previously.’  Alchymia swept over to Pyro, grabbing his face again in her cold hands.  ’Who ordered you to steal the Hand of Glory?’ she demanded, her eyes locked onto Pyro’s.

‘What?’ said Pyro, shrinking further into the corner of the room.

‘The Hand of Glory.’

‘I don’t know.  I already told Drake-’

‘Have you still got it?’ asked Alchymia, her eyes boring into him.

Pyro nodded weakly, his eyes wide with fear.  ’In my right trouser pocket.’

Alchymia’s body relaxed, she sighed and turned to look at Drake.  ’He still has the Hand of Glory, but as for who sent him to steal it, he was telling the truth, he did not see.’

‘Can I go now?  I’m having a really bad couple of days,’ sighed Pyro as Fulcanelli began rubbing himself against his legs.  ’I think…I need to sit down.’

‘We’ve got trouble!’ shouted Willow peering out of the window from behind the thick grime.

Alchymia and Drake swept over to her.  ‘The dwarves,’ hissed Drake.

‘I was hoping we would have more time,’ said Alchymia, spinning on her heels, ‘I have so much I need to tell you.’

‘Time’s all used up,’ said Drake, ‘we’ve got to go.  Will you be okay here?’

Alchymia laughed, ‘I think I can look after myself.’

‘Okay,’ replied Drake, ‘is there a way out of the back?’

‘Yes, Fulcanelli will show you in a moment.’  She pointed to the cat who was still beside Pyro, licking his paw.  He stopped and heaved, ejecting a large orange fur-ball from his mouth onto the wooden floor.  ’But first I must tell you all that I can.  Promise me Drake that you will not leave Willow.  You will need a witch to get through the Underworld alive.  This,’ she said, producing a roll of brown parchment from within the flowing sleeve of her gown, ’is The Scroll of the Dead.  It is what the Dwarves have come to Nowhere for.  Only with this and the help of a witch can you hope to enter or leave the Underworld because only a witch can read it.  This parchment contains all of the spells you will need to successfully reach the Iron Fortress.  Guard it with your life.’  She handed the scroll to Willow.

‘Alchymia, we really need to go,’ said Drake, looking out of the window.  He stooped down and grabbed his Zephyr and Willow’s rucksack.

‘You will also be needing this,’ said Alchymia, holding out a necklace with a silver pendant suspended from the bottom of the chain.  The pendant looked like an angel to Drake, with its silver wings protectively curled around a vial of red liquid.

Drake threw the rucksack to Willow, who caught it in one hand before placing the scroll of parchment into it.  He slung his Zephyr on his back and took the necklace.  ’What is it?’ he said, placing the chain around his neck.

‘It is the Blood of Isis,’ said Alchymia, ‘an Amulet to give you protection against my sister, Brimo.’

‘Your sister?’  Why the hell hadn’t she mentioned this before?

‘Yes, Brimo is The Overseer, the Queen of the Dead.  Be on your guard Drake because she will try and take your life.’

‘I will, thank you,’ said Drake.

Alchymia placed her icy hands on either side of Drake’s face, he could feel the cold penetrating deep into his skin.  ’Your father would be proud of you, you have grown into a strong and brave young man.  Be careful and next time, do not leave it so long before you visit me.’

‘I won’t,’ said Drake, his face turning slightly red, ‘and thanks, for everything…and I’m sorry, for earlier.’

Alchymia smiled, but it was a sad smile which did not reach her eyes.  ‘Be careful out there Drake.  And one more thing, what do you want me to do with the djinn?’

Drake laughed devilishly.  ‘I’ve been thinking about that; I’m going to take him with us.’  If I can’t find the book on my own, well, he may as well come along for the ride too.

‘Drake,’ said Willow, her voice betraying her exasperation, ‘you can’t force him to come with us-’

‘I can and I am.  Besides, you know what they say about keeping your enemies close.  When they summon the little shit for the Hand of Glory, I want to know.’  He strode over to where Pyro was cringing in the corner of the room and bent down so that his face was level with Pyro’s.  ‘Now Pyro, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way, that’s completely up to you.  Either you come quietly or I carry you out of here, the choice is yours.’

‘I’ll come quietly,’ mumbled Pyro, a look of resignation on his face as his jowls drooped low.  But Drake could see a look in his eye which made him suspect that, as soon as he could, he would try and get even.  But he’d be ready.

‘Do not worry,’ said Alchymia, holding up a purple candle bound in gold ribbon, ’with this candle I have created a basic binding spell.’  She clicked her free hand and it sprang into life.  ’It will prevent him from hurting you.  That is, I am afraid, all I have time to do.  If he thinks about, or is compelled to hurt you whilst this candle is still burning, he can only inflict minimal damage.  The effects of the whiskey and hemlock will wear off very shortly.  Fulcanelli, if you would show them the exit.’  Alchymia waved her arms in the air and the bed on the far wall disappeared to reveal a doorway leading into a bare room, dark except for small shafts of light escaping from the edges of a boarded-up window.

Drake grabbed Pyro by the collar.  ‘Ow, you little-’

‘Oops, I guess the whiskey has worn off, but I can only cause minimal damage because of the candle.’  Pyro shrugged, ‘It’s just an allergic reaction I get to annoying people.’

Drake scowled and roughly shoved Pyro through the doorway.

Fulcanelli stopped abruptly by the door.  ‘The stairsss down are behind thissss doorrr.’

‘But Alchymia told you to show us the way out,’ said Drake.

‘And I haveeee…must gooo…Mistress in dangerrrrr.’  Without another word the cat shot back across the room like a rocket and was gone.

Drake’s body tensed, his hands flexing at his sides.  He turned his body slightly and looked back to where they had come from, then he looked back at the door.

‘What’s your problem?’ asked Pyro.

‘You!’ snapped Drake pushing Pyro out of the way.  He smacked the door with his boot and it blasted outwards onto a steel balcony with a staircase that zigzagged down to the street below.  Warm sunlight flooded the room, dazzling off the wet roofs of the timber houses lining the street outside.

Drake stepped out and closed his eyes, letting the sun’s rays warm his face.  It had been so long, he thought, Nowhere might be primitive, but at least the sun does shine here.  In the distance, he could hear the Healers’ chants rising and falling on the breeze as they made their rounds.

‘Excuse me, do we really have time for sunbathing?’ asked Pyro.

There was a loud bang from somewhere below.  Drake snapped his eyes open and tilted his head to the side, analysing the commotion.  There was another bang, the sizzling of laser fire and the rhythmic drumming of boots on floorboards.

The dwarves and boggarts.

They had forced their way into the building.

And they were advancing.

Fast.

Death’s Apprentice – Part Thirty-Seven

‘Well,’ said Joe.

‘Well,’ said Hel.

‘I’d better be getting on then.’

‘Okay,’ said Hel.

‘Okay.’

‘Thank you, though,’ said Joe, although he was unsure what he was actually thanking her for. But at least she’d fallen silent and the questions had stopped. He raised the Book of the Dead in his hand in a kind of salute and, without another word, turned and strode off into the trees.

The ground underneath Joe’s feet was springy and covered in branches and decaying leaves. The air smelled musty and damp which reminded Joe of autumnal walks with Lola by the cut.

Lola. His heart-strings gave a twang. He was never soppy or sentimental, except when he thought about his dog. He hoped they were taking good care of her at the funeral home.

The trees were tightly packed together, their gnarled branches like long fingers above him, their roots snaking across the uneven ground below him. He stumbled a couple of times as he tried to get away from Hel but he couldn’t go too far because he needed what little light there was so he could look at the book in his hands.

He stopped at what seemed like a good spot. The trees in front of him were becoming even closer together and Joe knew he’d struggle to see anything very much soon. He needed a torch. A torch would have been very good. He had one on his phone. Except…

Except, he’d given it to Charon. And it didn’t have very much charge on it anyway.

He opened the book and flicked through it until he found the section on The Forest of Suffering. The handwriting was a neat cursive in black ink. He began to read:

The Forest of Suffering

Dark and bleak.

You won’t make it through. So don’t bother.

But if you don’t want to take my word for it, try it.

And pray.

For there are things lurking in the trees that are worse than Cerberus himself.

Joe doubted very much that there could be anything very scary in these woods if Cerberus was anything to go by. Cerberus had proved to be quite a letdown. But then, that kind of was the story of his life.

He turned his attention back to the book:

It is said that the trees move in the Forest of the Suffering. They somehow manage to block the traveller’s way so it becomes impossible to break through. And then, when they trap you in their evil lair, they begin to whisper dark words into your ear. The traveller will slowly become mad through their words.

 Many souls have been lost to the trees. They linger, still half-mad in the forest, calling out and driving other’s to their deaths with their incessant sorrowful cries.  

 Joe looked up and listened. There was no sound at all so he very much doubted that this bit could be true either. Although, it was rather strange that there was no sound at all. No birds, no breeze, no…

‘What are you doing?’ A sweet little voice cut through the silence.

Dragon Rider – Part Nineteen

Dragon Rider

Chapter Nine Continued

Foxes

The gates to Nowhere were locked tight, with one-hundred bolts, one-hundred keys and a whole lot of magick, at twelve p.m. sharp to prevent the murderous redcaps (rat-like creatures who soak their hats in the blood of their victims) rampaging through the town.  Mind you, how they got past the Search and Security Team and the Kraken was anyone’s guess.  But as it was well past eleven o’clock when they had finally finished their conversation, Drake and Willow had no choice but to stay the night with Alchymia who had lightened the mood with a banquet fit for a King.

Drake hadn’t put up much of a fight and instead had taken his fill of the mountains of cooked meat, bread and treacle sponge that Alchymia had conjured out of thin air, before he slumped, belly full, beside Willow, in front of the crackling fire.  Alchymia proved to be an excellent host, amusing them with ancient stories of myth and mysticism.  He knew she was trying to ease their worries for one night, but the more she tried, the more he could feel the dread growing in the pit of his stomach like a heavy stone.  To even contemplate going into Death’s domain was crazy, but Drake knew there was no escaping from it now; his fate was sealed and had been from the moment he’d agreed to Funestus’ proposition.

At one o’clock Willow and Drake had collapsed, as far apart as possible, on the comfiest bed that they had ever slept on, and had instantaneously fallen into an enchanted, dreamless sleep.

Drake woke to the sound of birdsong floating in on the warm autumnal sunshine peeping in through the grimy window.  It was peaceful here, in this room.  For a few precious moments, it felt like he was home, and then it was gone, interrupted by the sound of Willow snoring next to him.  He lifted himself up on his elbows; he could see Alchymia sitting in front of the roaring fire toasting crumpets for breakfast.  Fulcanelli was nowhere to be seen.

He swung himself off the bed and went to sit down next to Alchymia.  He picked up a crumpet from the blue china plate beside her and speared it onto a long rod, a huge grin on his face at her attempt at domesticity.

‘You don’t usually cook, do you?’ he asked, as Alchymia tossed a blackened crumpet into the fire.

‘No,’ she said, spearing another crumpet onto her rod, ‘I do prefer to use magick; it is much more controllable.’

‘I think we can manage without breakfast,’ he said smiling and prodding at the fire.  But, despite the fire, the room had suddenly grown frosty.

‘I know what you are thinking,’ said Alchymia abruptly, ‘and I will not allow it.’

Where the hell had that come from?  ‘Excuse me?’ asked Drake, turning to look at her, the smile evaporating quickly from his face.

‘I am not going to let you leave without her,’ said Alchymia, motioning at Willow with a quick flick of her head.

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ said Drake, a black cloud suddenly falling over him like the night.

‘So you weren’t planning to slip out whilst she was asleep?’

Drake fidgeted in his seat.  ‘No.’

Alchymia raised an eyebrow.

Drake sighed; there was no point arguing.  ‘Okay, okay,’ he said raising the palm of his free hand.  ‘How did you know?’

Alchymia’s face softened and she smiled at him warmly.  ‘I know you Drake, I know how your mind works.’  But the warmth soon turned to a mixture of concern and disbelief.  ‘Do you think that you will not need help on this quest of yours, did you not hear me when I told you how dangerous it is going to be?’

‘Of course I heard you,’ said Drake, prodding the fire again with his iron rod, ‘I just work better on my own.’

‘How do you know that when you never let anyone help?’

Drake seemed to be studying the sizzling flames of the fire as they licked his increasingly blackened crumpet, but really his eyes were unseeing, his mind elsewhere.  Finally he took the crumpet out of the flames, looked at the burnt lump welded onto the end of the rod and threw it back into the fire.

‘Why do you insist on pushing people away?’

‘I don’t.’  He spat out the words with a little too much venom.  Why the hell did he sound like a sulky child whenever she questioned him?

He slumped back in his chair, resting his elbow on the broad wooden arm of the chair, covering his face, his mark, with his hand.  If only he could gouge the mark out with a glass shard, make it disappear forever.

‘Your burning hatred and uncontrollable desire to avenge your father’s murder will destroy you Drake, not the fact that you are the last Dragon Rider in existence.  You push those that care away, afraid that they might get too close and see the real you, the part of you that cares, that loves.  Do you think that protects them?  Or is it yourself that you are protecting?’

What did she want from him?  Did she want him to admit that life was just easier if he only had himself to rely on?  He sat there in silence, unwilling to give her what she wanted.

‘If you continue to allow your hatred to fester inside you like this, it will kill you.’  Alchymia leaned back in her chair, her face seemed to have aged greatly in the space of a few moments, as if the weight of the world rested on her shoulders.  ‘A wise man once said that those with revenge in their hearts must dig two graves; one for their enemy and one for themselves.’

Drake flexed his hands, the anger was pulsing through his veins waiting to strike like a poisonous snake.  ‘Are you lecturing me?’ he spat through clenched teeth, ‘You’re not my mother!’

The watch on Drake’s wrist began to bleep.  ‘I have to take this, it’s Gizmo,’ he said, leaping up from his chair.  The desire to get out of the room was almost as overwhelming as the need to argue back, to vent his frustrations.  He glared at Alchymia for a few seconds and then, without another word, he bounced out of the room.

He could feel the pressure in his skull again, it was stabbing at his brain like an ice pick.  Why did she always make him feel like a little kid?

‘Okay, Okay!’ spat Drake to the watch, as he sat down on the crumbling staircase in the other room.  He could hear the rise and fall of voices behind him; Alchymia must’ve woken Willow up so his hopes of escaping from Nowhere without her were well and truly shattered.  Despite what Alchymia thought, Drake knew Willow would only slow him down and right now all he wanted to do was to find the book, get back to Devilsgate and sort out Fenrik.

Drake pressed the button on the side of his watch and Gizmo’s heart-shaped face appeared in front of him.

‘What’s wrong Gizmo?’ asked Drake, noticing immediately that Gizmo looked nervous, his appearance not as immaculate as usual.

‘Look, don’t worry,’ said Gizmo, looking furtively over his shoulder, ‘but we had a bit of trouble here last night.  There were demons-’

‘How many?’

‘I don’t know, four or five, hard to say,’ said Gizmo shrugging, ‘it was dark.  I think they were after the computer stuff, anyway, we managed to get rid of them but-’

‘Are you okay?’

‘Yeah, yeah, I’m fine but-’

‘And the warehouse?’

‘Yeah, they tried to set it on fire but we stopped them, Falkor scared the living dead out of them-’

Drake’s eyes narrowed.  ‘Falkor?’

‘Er, yeah-’

‘Gizmo?  What aren’t you telling me?’

Gizmo scratched his head and grimaced.  ‘He’s bolted Drake, don’t know where he is or-’

Drake closed his eyes and sighed, as he tried to keep that angry serpent inside him under control.  ‘Okay, look, it’s not your fault.  Keep everyone together, watch each other’s backs and make sure you keep a lookout, okay?’

Gizmo nodded.  ‘How’s Willow?’ he asked.

‘She’s fine,’ said Drake, ‘We’ll be back soon.  Look after yourselves.’  Drake pressed the button again and Gizmo’s face disappeared.  He hadn’t got the patience to deal with Gizmo’s sentimentalities.

Complications, always so many goddamn complications!  And where the hell was Falkor?  If he got caught…No, he couldn’t even try to think about that now, there was too much crap in his head already.

Drake stood up, his head pounding, and he swept back into Alchymia’s room.

Willow was sitting by Alchymia.  A heavy book, bound in a rich red cover, floated before them, its thick pale brown pages open.  ‘I do not summon Demons as a rule, indeed-’

‘They’ve attacked the warehouse…lots of them…last night…’ said Drake, kneading his forehead with his hand.

‘Slow down Drake,’ said Willow, her face ashen, as she shifted around in her chair to see Drake, ‘what’s happened?’

Drake halted his frantic pacing.  ‘It must be Fenrik…it must be…’

‘What’s happened?!’ repeated Willow.

‘There was an attack on the warehouse last night.  Demons tried to nick the computers and set them on fire.  Falkor helped scare them off but now he’s bolted…If they get hold of him…’

‘But The Warehouse is okay?  And Gizmo?’

‘Yes, yes, they’re all holed up there, but Falkor…’

‘Falkor will be fine,’ said Alchymia who was now flicking her eyes over the book in front of her.

‘How do you know?’ snapped Drake, his anger still boiling over from their conversation, or Alchymia’s lecture, depending on your perspective.  She didn’t know everything; she didn’t know how intrinsically linked he and Falkor really were.

Drake knew that for the moment at least, Falkor was unhurt because if he was damaged in any way he would feel it deep down in his very core.  This was the bond that held them together; Reciprocity; the effect whereby any injury caused to himself or Falkor was felt by the other in all of its agonizing glory.  If Falkor was killed, well, Drake would feel that too, and Drake would eventually die heartbroken, that much was certain; but Drake’s own death would be slow and painful as the link between dragon and rider gradually dissolved.  Slowly, madness would spread through Drake like a poison, infecting every part of him until, eventually, his own madness would force him to end his own life; only then could he join his dragon forever in the afterlife.

This was Reciprocity in its most raw state.

‘Because he is a dragon, a wild animal who is perfectly capable of looking after himself,’ said Alchymia, not lifting her ice-blue eyes away from her spellbook.

‘Drake,’ said Willow.

Drake didn’t hear her, his mind was racing.  He started pacing up and down again mumbling to himself.

‘DRAKE!’ shouted Willow.

‘What?’ snapped Drake, spinning on his heels to face her.

‘You might want to sit down-‘

‘Willow,’ sighed Drake, rubbing his forehead with his fingers, ‘I haven’t got time to sit down!’

‘Sit down,’ commanded Alchymia.

Drake stood still, his eyes flicking from Alchymia, to Willow, to the chair and back again.  He huffed and finally sat down.

‘Gizmo will be fine, he’ll deal with it; we’ve had enough practice.  Anyway, we’ve got our own stuff to worry about.’  Willow coughed nervously and leant forward in her chair, like she was expecting a bomb to go off.  ‘Drake,’ she said, looking at him sheepishly, ‘we’re going to summon Pyro-’

‘You what?’ shouted Drake, bouncing back out of his seat almost the second his bottom had touched it, ‘What are you talking about?  Why?  I don’t think so, I don’t want that foul little-‘

Fulcanelli dashed out from under the bed and gave Drake a quick nip on his leg.

‘Drake, sit down, you are scaring my cat,’ commanded Alchymia.

‘I’m scaring your cat?’ said Drake, sitting down, rubbing his leg.  ‘He just bit me!’  He looked at Alchymia, but the look on her face told him to leave it.  He crossed his arms, slumped in the chair and turned his gaze to the fire.

Death’s Apprentice – Part Thirty-six

The girl placed her arms behind her back and began to swing from side-to-side. She looked up at him and said, ‘You’re alive.’

No shit Sherlock is what he wanted to say but instead, he replied with a curt, ‘Yes.’

‘Why?’

‘What do you mean why?’

‘Why are you alive?’

‘Because I’m not dead.’

‘I think you’re being a little impertinent.’

Joe didn’t even know what that meant. ‘If you say so,’ he said. He really just wanted her to go so he could look at the Book of the Dead in peace.

‘Why are you here?’

‘I’m on holiday.’

‘No, you’re not.’ The girl thrust her owns out to the side, her fist rolled into tight little balls. The hounds surrounding her all stood up and began to give throaty grumbles.

It was a little orchestra of growls that put Joe on edge.

‘What’s your name?’

‘Joe.’

‘Joe what?’

‘Joe Bones,’ he replied.

‘Why are you really here?’

What to do? Tell her the truth or find some excuse? Joe decided on a solution somewhere between the two.

‘I’m here to find something for someone.’

‘What?’

‘I can’t tell you.’

‘Why?’

‘Because…’

‘Because what?’

‘Because I don’t know who you are.’

‘Well, that’s easy. I’m Hel,’ she said, thrusting out a little pink hand towards Joe, ‘pleased to meet you.’

Joe took her cold hand in his. It was ice cold. ‘And I’m Joe.’ All the hounds relaxed again.

‘I know,’ she said, ‘you told me.’

‘Well, it was very nice meeting you but now I have to go.’

‘Go where?’

‘Through the Forest of Suffering.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I need to.’

‘But why?’

‘To get to where I’m going.’

‘Where are you going?’

‘Through the Forest of suffering,’ said Joe through clenched teeth. Boy, he was glad he didn’t have a sister. Well, not one that he knew of anyway.

‘You’ll never make it through there,’ she said. She folded her arms across her chest.

‘Well, I’ll take my chances. Besides, Charon said I wouldn’t make it past Cerberus -‘

‘Cerberus? Why? Cerberus won’t hurt you. Not when I’m around.’

Joe stifled a laugh. ‘Okay, if you say so.’

‘I can help you through the forest.’

‘I’m okay thanks.’

‘I don’t think you are.’

So, you wanna be a writer? To pants or to plot?

Have you been reading Death’s Apprentice?

If you haven’t, don’t worry, you’re not in trouble 🙂

Death’s Apprentice is a writing experiment I’m undertaking where, every Wednesday, I sit down and write a portion of my next novel without having plotted any part of the storyline. This is an experiment for me as I’m usually more of a plotter than a pantser.

But what is a pantser?

A pantser is someone who writes without plotting, they pretty much write by the seat of their pants. They let the situation and the characters determine what happens next.

As a plotter, writing Death’s Apprentice as a pantser is really taking me out of my comfort zone and that’s definitely not a bad thing.

As a plotter, I usually have a fairly good idea of my characters because I write quite detailed biographies for each one. I also pretty much know how my story will end, I just don’t necessarily know all the plot points of how I’m going to get there. Think of it as a bus journey; I know where the destination is, I just don’t necessarily know all of the stops on the way.

A true plotter would probably have mapped out all the stops. I plot as I’m going. This gives my brain time to think and gives me space to breathe. This is how I work but you will find what works for you the more you write and experiment.

What are the advantages of plotting?

You know your characters. You know what drives them; their flaws and their ambitions, their thoughts and desires. It should make writing them slightly easier as you know what they want and what they would do in any given situation.

You know, when you begin writing, the destination you’re heading for. This can give you more confidence as you write.

It keeps your writing on track and you will be less likely to ramble. You will be more likely to stick to the point. This can mean less editing (although that’s not always the case).

What are the disadvantages of plotting?

Sometimes, sticking rigidly to a plot can make your writing boring.

There are no surprises for you to deal with as you write.

Your writing process may lack spontaneity.

It can make the author less open to changing a part of the storyline if something better presents itself.

It can stifle your creativity and make the process boring.

So, what can you do?

Personally, my approach is to plan but remain open to new ideas. I’ve learnt to be flexible and that’s why I plot as I go along.

I make sure I have detailed biographies of my characters and this is one thing I don’t rush. Knowing your characters before you begin to write helps a lot. It gives me confidence as I write and, I think, it makes the characters richer as you bring them to life on the page.

I have a bare skeleton of where I’m going. With Dragon Rider, I knew that Drake, my lead character, would have to face Death in her domain. I knew he would have a face-off with Fenrik, the being that murdered his father. I knew his need for revenge would hinder him. I knew how the book would end. I just didn’t know exactly how I was going to get there.

The most important thing I’ve learnt though is to let things go when they don’t work. My original plan for Death’s domain was so boring and it didn’t make sense. I ended up cutting around 20,000 words and starting again for that section. And that’s okay.

Neither plotting nor pantsing is perfect. No one way of writing is correct and the other wrong. I believe you have to do what works for you and finding what that is will only come with experience and writing practice.

So, what have you found that works for you? Do you write detailed character biographies? Do you have a clear idea of where you’re going? Or do you, indeed, fly by the seat of your pants?