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Chapter 5 (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
Chapter Five.

It was then the storm broke. Whatever had held it, snatched the wind away, was gone. As was any peace left upon the planet. The wind roared and trees creaked and branches broke. The snap and crack of backbones, limbs and shattered skulls, the high pitched screams of men sent mad with fright, all pitched in and seemed as one. The sounds of the storm, the maelstrom that was the Demon on the hunt. It was one great howl and crack and creak, all marching to the drumbeat of the rain upon the roof. The rat-a-tat-tat of picnicking soldiers and a freckled youth, marching to hell.

The caravan shook and shaked, pitched and yawed. The elemental forces outside, the storm, the supernatural. They seemed as one. Were one. It was all one great storm of primordial, primeval power. Unspeakable frenzy and fury.

Morvern was terrified. So frightened. She was wrapped in a carpet holding Crow tightly to her breast. Holding on to him as if he was the only thing keeping her safe, anchoring her to some sense of sanity. She could sense the Demon. Try as much as she could to block it out... It was so fast... so fast and vicious and quick, and powerful. So hungry. It had no remorse, no pity. Only a soaring triumphalism at finally being free. An unquenchable thirst for... It was so fast. The soldiers had no chance. Then it was over.

What had seemed a life time took perhaps two minutes. It might have been one. Forty-one soldiers, gone. Morvern had no sense of time only terror. She was crying. Crying her eyes out. Thinking on all the soldiers sat picnicking in the sun, singing and laughing and joking. They had just been men. They were not evil. Some would have had children. All would have had parents, brothers, sisters. Morvern couldn't believe what had happened. How had her Grandmama... Her Grandmama! Morvern was terribly worried. What of her? She hadn't come in. What if the soldiers had shot her, or the Demon... Demons didn't keep to their word.

Then she heard it speak. Its voice was indescribably awful. She had no words for it. The sound hurt her head. But she could understand...She couldn't keep it out.
“I have kept my side of the bargain. They are dead. I will take them and their things to the other side. Leave no trace. Now release me Witch. My patience is at an end.”
Her Grandmama… she spoke back.
“Good. I hold no truck with your kind, but I have no argument with you. You've kept your word. Now begone. BEGONE AND NEVER RETURN AGAIN. IN THE NAME OF LUCIFER I COMMAND YOU, BEGONE.”

And with that she cast a spell that Morvern was not familiar with. It was exceptionally powerful. Morvern could not only sense it but feel it. She had never sensed a spell before, let alone felt one. Not ever. It made the air and her body hum. There was a loud crack, the sound of the rent between the worlds opening. Then the terrible presence, that black weight upon her heart, that of the Demon, it went. Disappeared. And the smell, that horrible smell, was blown away by a sweet, beautiful odour. Leaves on a summer breeze. It was the smell of the Magick of her Grandmama. It was so soothing, such an utter relief. The whole world felt lighter, purer. Like a stain had been wiped clear.

Morvern realised she had been shaking. Become a quivering wreck. But something in that smell revitalised her. Made the pain so much better. Still, she felt a horrid sense of loss. Something had come into their world and dirtied everything. She hadn't even seen it. That was one thing to be thankful for. But its presence, that horrible presence and unending hunger. The ravages of its rampage. If it wasn't for the smell. The sweet smell of her Grandmamas Magick, she thought she might have been swallowed by despair. For that black thing was a pit of despair, despair and madness. She shuddered once more. Crow was shuddering. Then her Grandmama came in.

She was surrounded by a globe of blue light. It had arrows sticking out of it. Normally Morvern would have thought this strange, but she could barely think at all.

“Lass? Girl, are you there. Are thee alright?” Her Grandmama sounded tired and sick with worry, a little shaken even... Old, she sounded old.

“I'm down here Grandmama.” Morvern replied in a tiny little voice.

“YES”, her Grandmama shouted triumphantly. “Yes, by Lucifer's mercy we've made it alright.”
Then she quietened, her voice was remorseful and thick with worry.
“Oh my dear child. I'm sorry for all of that. I'm so sorry that you had to... I tried everything I could. I thought I'd tricked them. I know I can seem cruel and do nasty things... but even I... I never wanted to have to do that... it was the last option... the one I didn't want to have to use. Not on them, not on anyone.” She paused, sighed. Sat down and thought.
“But that's life duck. Its tough and nasty and you don't survive by being nice. They backed us into a corner, it was kill or be killed. There was no other way to do it.”
“But all of them Grandmama? They were nice, friendly, normal, we were getting along, having fun...”
“Yes we were and under different circumstances that would have continued. We could have met them in a pub, or in a town on the street and gotten on famously. Been friends. Today they could have gone on their way and ours on ours. We would have all wished each other a fine journey. All looked back on a fun afternoon, had a tale to tell. But that didn't happen.”

“They were soldiers. Soldiers always follow orders. They may not like it, they may disagree. If a vote had been taken, I dare say the lot of them would have let us go. But that's not the way the world works. Did you see how they all changed as soon as their Captain came back. How they changed when he gave that order. Like a pack of feral dogs they were. A switch clicked in their brains. That's how they survive. They have to kill on demand, or even worse, then do their best to forget about it. The more they do it the less it jars. They become desensitized to it. They have to. They'd go mad otherwise.”

“That's the thing about people ducky, in a perfect world we'd all get on fine - and unless people find out who we are they treat us fine. We may get stick for people thinking we're Gypsies, but most normal people can get past that. Will treat you as equals, friends. Become bosom buddies. But if they find out you're Fazidi, or if someone more powerful tells them to chop you up. It doesn't matter how much they might have liked you. What could have been. The vast majority just can't see past it. Can't or won't think for themselves, or at least don't have the bravery to. Well Imperials at least. They've been so conditioned by the Church, to hate and fear us. All rational thought goes out of the window. In Prague they call it the great defenestration of rational thought.”

Morvern, despite herself, couldn't help but laugh at that. It was a pitiful little laugh, but still a laugh.
“But why all of them Grandmama? Couldn't we let some of them go? It was such a cruel way to die... to be... to go... over their forever and ever.”

“Oh ducky, I know its horrible, but it was the only way. If even one escapes then word gets back to his Master. What happened, where we are, many of my secrets that are even secret from you. He would be able to discern a great deal - that I want him to have no handle on whatsoever. If we'd tricked them it would have been okay. But by doing that I've revealed certain information. Little pieces of a puzzle, that he might just be able to piece together. I can't risk him having that knowledge.”

At that she suddenly stopped stock still. As if only thinking on something for the first time. Morvern could recognise that her Grandmama was sliding out, sensing her way through the forest. For what, she had no idea.

“Shit.” She cried. "The treacherous bastard's left one alive.”

She started pacing back and forth, talking to herself underneath her breath.

“Never trust a Demon, always check, never trust the word of a Demon. They always leave you some sort of trouble. Parting gifts.”

It was as if she was reciting a well drilled mantra. Something impressed upon her from a young age, again and again.

“Well I've messed this up right royally. Shit! Bugger, f'ing bollocks, bugger.”
She was still pacing. Then she stopped. Came to a decision.

“Right lass, there's nothing for it. You will have to kill him.”

Morvern felt sick.

“Don't fear, he'll be crap at getting through the forest compared with you. You'll catch him up in no time. Mab will guide you. The rain and wind will hide any sound, not that you make any. Find him quick then take your time. It's just like shooting a stag. No different. You hear me? Hopefully he's injured and near death anyways - but don't count on it. Prepare yourself like you're hunting experienced quarry. Do it well. Do it clean. Shoot him then slit his throat. Don't take any chances. Go.”

Morvern found herself out in the storm. The sky was black. Trees and branches were cracked and smashed, torn up and uprooted. One had been ripped out and pile driven back into the dirt, its roots now served as boughs and twigs, clumps of sodden earth and tattered shreds of surcoats were the leaves. The whole world was upside down. Everything was ripped apart.

The devastation seemed unending. What was the work of the storm, or where that had been overtaken by the rampage of the other thing. Well it was impossible to tell. Seemed to matter little now. Morvern was just glad that thing had in part stuck to its word, for their were no mutilated corpses festooning the trees. No tattered scarecrows this time, looking down at her with hollow eyes.

That had been her greatest fear. For she still vividly remembered when she had not cast the circle right. When she had spent two days burying stitched together monstrosities. That had been terrible. But at least they had been animals. If it had been the soldiers. Folks she recognised...

There was not a single sign of bodies or blood. Just snapped and broken, twisted mangled trees.

She stood there as if in a trance, for in truth she was in shock. What she had gone through. The fear of what she might find. Her mind was numb, she felt barely alive. The rain and wind. It was all so much. So ferocious. But her mind could not take all that overwhelming elemental force. Could not take it in. Make sense of it. Nothing made sense. She did not know where she was. Had no sense for this broken forest and howling gale, lashing rain. She didn't feel the cold. She felt nothing.

She just stood there bare foot in her perfect white dress and crown of flowers. Soaked to the skin. Tears streaming down her face. Then she felt her bow in her hand, her quiver on her back, her knife in her fist. She saw Mab flying back to her through the trees. And Crow. Crow was there by her side. Up on her shoulder. Wrapping himself around her neck. Giving her kisses. Never had she needed him more. He gave her strength and a calmness of mind.

Her senses returned, although not all of her. She just knew what must be done. What she must do. For she had lost all handle on that. The shock. She knew what she must do. For the safety of her kin. It was simple. Inevitable. Her course had been set.

Mab had found it. Found her prey. He battled hard to fly for the wind was terrible. Darting low to the ground, landing often as he could - to avoid tumbling off like some tattered kite high up in the air. Or smashing on sideways into some deep red trunk. It was very dangerous for him.

For Morvern it was not so bad, even though the wind had her bent over double. She was lithe and fleet of foot. Could naturally sense where the trees would offer little pockets of relative calm. She did not think of falling trees, or branches crashing down from high above. She didn't think at all. She just did. Vaulting over fallen logs, slipping through the low branches and under-brush with total unconscious ease.

She kept going, through the storm, the never ending wind and rain. The swirling leaves and stinging water on the wind. Time had no meaning. She just was. Was following her path. It seemed pre-ordained and she did so unquestioningly, without thinking.

Then she saw something. It was a man. Struggling on through the woods and weather. He had a sword but not much else. He was totally inept. Was barely making his way on near all fours. Morvern closed in silently. She knew she must get close, for the wind could carry her arrows off -target easily. Lessen the force of their impact. She wanted a clean kill. It was safest. Kindest.

She got closer, much closer than she would have ever done normally. There was no chance he would hear her. Ten paces. Enough time to shoot if he turned around. She drew back her bowstring. Waited for a lull in the wind. Imagined he was a stag. Aimed for the heart. She had never killed a man.

She shot. He moved. The arrow was blown off course, went straight through his lower back. He stood bolt upright in shock. She shot again in the blink of a eye, knowing in but a second he would be doubled over in pain. It was the briefest of windows, but the second arrow found his heart. She had shot from so close, both had gone deep, very deep. If not straight through him. He was not a threat. When she shot a deer she always slit its throat. Gave its last rights. Stopped its suffering. It was the way of the forest.

She crept over to the man. Bowstring still drawn. Kicked him over.

He was the boy. The boy with the kind and freckled face. The one who had translated for her Grandmama. Been reluctant to deliver the message of deception that meant her death. He had been a sweet boy. Polite and apologetic. He was young. He had laughed at her Grandmama's jokes, joined in with the magic tricks.

Morvern kissed him on the forehead and then the mouth. Whispered the sacred words into his ears. Slit his throat. Then closed his eyes. She wept.

The storm died down. They carried the boy back to the Caravan on horseback and between them dug him a grave. It wasn't deep, but the best they could do. They picked a peaceful spot. Some place wildflowers and mosses would grow over the dirt.

Morvern stood alone in the rain, herself and her dress, her hair, all soaked through. The world was dead. She wanted the rain to keep on pouring. Wash it all away. Wash away her skin and soul until she was clean. Her Grandmama took her elbow and gently guided her back inside.

She placed Morvern in her great wing-backed rocking chair next to the stove. Busied herself lighting its fire with plenty of wood, plugging all of the holes, closing the trapdoor and all the windows. Morvern was cold and wet. She didn't want to stay there. Didn't want to make camp anywhere near that place. Her Grandmama could tell. She checked on all the animals, that they were alive and accounted for. Still tethered to the back and set off driving the Caravan away from all that was behind them. The branches were no longer falling and no trunks blocked the road. It was almost a miracle. It wasn't safe to drive. But they would make do.

Morvern sat alone by the fire. Her mind entirely blank. It was Crow who helped her. He brought towels and fresh clothes, blankets. It was amazing what he could drag around with his teeth. Or just push over from the nest above. He would have made her a brew if he was able.

For a time, a very long time, she just sat their. Entirely blank. Crow curled up around her neck trying to give her comfort. Then he licked her, licked her face and kissed her and brushed her with his tail. Rubbed his whole bendy back against her cheeks and nose. He kept doing it until she rose somewhat from her stupor.

The warmth of the fire and the affection of her friend. It loosened her a little. Not by much, but she stood up, caught her reflection in the mirror. She looked like a ghost. Her pale skin and dripping white dress. Her hair black as midnight, the flowers in it dead. She looked gaunt and pallid, her bones sticking out where her sodden dress clung to her body. All angles and ribs, like a skeleton. And her face...her face and her eyes... Her face appeared dead, drained of all colour, expression. Her eyes were too... blank and empty... just deep pools of nothing... but not at the back... right far their behind, they were haunted. Her eyes were haunted. Perhaps her soul too.

She didn't think on it. Only observed. Dispassionately. Remote and removed.

Then Crow was with her again kissing and cuddling her and stealing her away. Away from the ghost. Back to the living. She started to move. Slowly at first. but enough to start rubbing herself with towels. They were old and coarse, so she rubbed herself harder, for the warmth it brought back and the act of scouring her skin. She scratched and scoured at herself until she tired herself out. She wanted to be clean.

Eventually she dressed herself in warm and comfy clothes. Put some socks on. Settled back into the wing-back next to the fire. It gave her some peace.

She was dry. Warm. Her hair was still wet so she rubbed it hard with towels. Then wrapped herself in blankets. She did it all robotically, without thinking. For if she started to think there is no telling what she might do.

Then Crow brought her her comb and she sat in a daze, combing her long locks again and again and again. Slowly, without any thought. She stared at the fire and watched the flames burn. It was hypnotic. The comb and the fire. The rain on the roof. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. Time was meaningless. For she was alone in a moment that never resolved.

The Caravan stopped moving.
“I'm just going to draw the circle.” Her Grandmama shouted from out front.
“We're here now, nice little spot. Far away from all and else.”

She was gone for some time, but not too long. Then she came back in.

She looked at Morvern closely then started to boil the kettle. She was sopping wet, the rain dripping off her many shawls. They were piled all over her. She looked like a heap of washing. It was only her beaky nose, jutting out up front, that gave any sense of a person being inside at all. Morvern might have laughed if she'd been there at all.

Her Grandmama started pulling off layers, then more layers, scarves and shawls and blankets. By the end of it she was at least a foot shorter. Her normal four foot nothing. It was remarkable she could bear such a weight. Drenched as it all was in rain. She took it all off, everything, stood there naked in front of the fire. It wasn't a pretty sight. It should have been a shock. Something to rouse the dead. Morvern had never seen her naked. Not since she was little, if at all. She dried herself off with towels. Put some clothes on. Made them both a brew.

She started busying herself, she pulled her bed down from the ceiling, made it and then went looking for something.

Above the bookshelves, at head height, were a line of cabinets that ran either side of the Caravan. On the left they were all full of medicines and herbs and strange powders. Powerful drugs. Bandages and the such. But mainly things Morvern's Grandmama used to make potions. The ingredients and pestles and mortars, and little crucibles. All the alchemical devices that she needed to boil or distil this thing and that. Some of it was crap. Big jars of interesting looking powders or herbs labelled as the fantastic. When all they were really, were cheap innocuous stuff. Things to flog to idiots. There was all sorts in there, poisons and acids and alkalines, things that might explode or catch fire when exposed to the air.

Morvern didn't know what her Grandmama was looking for. She hadn't really noticed. She didn't care.

It was a bottle of whiskey. Hidden away at the back. Her Grandmama poured them both - a more than healthy dram in their cuppas. Then sat down next to Morvern on the smaller less comfortable chair.
“You ever smoke my pipe?” Morvern wasn't sure if it was a trick question. But she was too adrift to even think to lie. She didn't consider a beating.
“Yes sometimes. Not much. It made me sick the first time.”
Her Grandmama laughed. It was a warm and gentle laugh. A quiet laugh of shared experience. One she'd had herself in a time long gone by.
“Do you like it?”
“Yes its quite nice on occasion, if one wants to unwind, or feel naughty.”
Her Grandmama laughed again. Just a little chuckle.
“Good, at least you wont be sick then.”
She went back to the cabinet and ferreted around inside for something.

Morvern drank her tea. It was hot and warmed her from the insides. The whiskey was very nice, it calmed and warmed her, the two sensations spreading throughout her body at the same time. Down through her breast and arms and legs to her fingers and the tips of her toes. It was like she had put on another warm layer. Blanketed herself from within. She felt more peaceful. Suddenly at home. The familiarity of the fire and their Caravan and all of their things. She was safe now. Back home. Back home with her Grandmama and Crow. She was safe now.

Her Grandmama came back with an unfamiliar pipe and a little bag of something.
“This your Mother's pipe. Here have it. I suppose you're old enough to smoke now. Not too often mind. You see what I cough up in'tmorning. Like all good things its best in moderation. Now where's that whiskey gone. I've drunk mine.”

Her Grandmama had never talked of Morvern's mother. Let alone gave her things that had been hers. It was the first time. Somewhere at the back of Morvern's mind it registered. Clicked. Not fully. But it was a nudge, a nudge that started her on the path back into near consciousness. It would come with time.

Her Grandmama didn't bother making more tea, just poured the whiskey neat into both of their mugs. She filled up Morvern's pipe for her, even though Morvern could do it for herself. Morvern went to drink the whiskey.
“Only little sips pet. It'll choke ee otherwise.”
Morvern took her advice. It was very strong, made her gasp and jolt. That woke her up. She giggled.
“Here let me light your pipe. Its yours now see. Got birds carved on it.”
Her Grandmama lit the pipe and got it going, passed it back to Morvern. She only had little puffs. She wasn't used to more.
“Your Mother carved that herself when she was about your age. Whittled it away in secret cos I wouldn't let her smoke. She was good at it. Did a good job. Probably learnt it off that carpenter. He was an apprentice. He was your Dad. Nice lad he was, although I pretended I didn't approve. Best to keep em off balance. He was terrified of me.” She laughed a little at the memory. Then laughed some more, wholeheartedly.
“Really scared of me. Who wouldn't be? Oh I had some fun with him. Only light hearted mind.” Morvern doubted that. But the thought made her giggle.

Thoughts were starting to register now. Things were sinking in. Her Grandmama's voice, her anecdotes, they were comforting. The thought of her family. She didn't dare question her Grandmama in case she stopped. She was still sore about it all. Broken hearted. Her only daughter. Morvern could tell. Sense it in her. Behind all the bluster and layers of armour.

It was the most her Grandmama had ever said. Morvern knew nothing of them, how they died. She looked at the pipe. It was beautiful. Not a masterpiece, but carved with love and care. Elegant in its naivety, the unpractised hand leant to the vitality of the images. The birds were bold yet simple. The carefree carvings, their unschooled lines, lent to a sense of freedom. The birds were soaring, soaring between the clouds. Morvern gasped, for she suddenly realised how precious a gift she had received. She wept with joy.

“There, there duck its not all bad. We're together. We're safe. We're home now see.”
Then her Grandmama looked at her properly and saw why she was crying. She came over and sat on her knees. Gave her a cuddle.
“Well at least you've woken up now. Let's have a bit of peace. Remember and be thankful. Try and have some fun. For tonight is a solemn one. But the dead are best remembered by the living. The living living and having some good times for those who can't.”
“Get that Whiskey down you, for its not polite for me to pour another when there's still some left in yours.”

“Its never stopped you before.” Morvern had no idea where that had come from. Or even if she'd said it. But she must. It was an almost automatic response. A standard quip. But it signalled her entry back into the world of the living. Little steps at a time.
“Oi, mind it you. Honestly that girl, so sharp she'll cut herself.” She turned to Crow.
“See what I have to put up with round here. Pure insolence. Cheek. Young people nowadays, no respect for their elders and betters. You give an inch and they take a mile. Always answering back. You finished that girl? You're slower than that bleeding carthorse Turnip and you ain't old and knackered from pulling wagon round all day.”

Morvern had been sipping, sipping perhaps a little too quickly, whilst her Grandmama embarked upon her diatribe. She let out a giggle at her Grandmama and her nonsense. Then another for no reason at all. Then she slammed her empty mug down onto her arm rest.
“Hit me.” That made her Grandmama laugh again.
So she poured them some more. Then she reached into her little bag and produced some green plant buds. They were small and smelly.
“This is pipe weed. Some people smoke it with tobacco, sometimes on its own. I'm not much one for it, but I think today I'll make an exception. It's quite powerful stuff if you haven't had it before, so I'll put some in my pipe and you can have some small puffs if you like.”

She picked apart the buds and put some into her pipe with her tobacco.
“It's quite nice, should relax you, maybe make you a touch giddy, but more likely just very giggly. It isn't a powerful strain. I don't like those.”
Morvern's Grandmama lit her pipe, got it going. Had some deep puffs. Then offered it to Morvern.
“You want some little owl, don't take big puffs, only little ones, only a few. With the whiskey you'll be sick if you have too much. I don't want you going on no whitener, your pale enough as it is.”

Morvern heeded her Grandmama's advice and was careful. She didn't want to be sick. She took three small puffs, spaced them out gradually. Then handed it back to her Grandmama. At first she coughed and felt a little light headed, then more relaxed. A little floaty.

Morvern found she was enjoying herself now. The warmth of the fire. The homeliness of it all. Her Grandmama sat upon her lap, one arm wrapped around her shoulder. Crow around her neck.
They all cuddled up together, pulled a blanket right up to their chins. Morvern's Grandmama rested her head against her shoulder. Stroked her hair. Morvern was contented. She felt at home, she felt safe.
“Grandmama, so much has happened... so much I don't fully understand. There are so many questions.”
“I know sparrow legs, but there's no point going into that now. It can wait until tomorrow. After we've both had a good nights rest. When we're able to think clearer.”
“What about some story then? Come on Granberry its the holidays.”
“Mmm, I'm a bit worn out, knackered... I tell you what we'll do. Tomorrow whilst we're riding up front I'll answer all your questions and then we can have some story. Some after dinner too. Tonight I just want to have some fun, let my hair down. Spend some quality time with my favourite Granddaughter. What do you say?” She was tickling Morvern underneath the blanket, which made her squirm and giggle, laugh and giggle uncontrollably.
“Okay, okay I relent, I give in, you vile virago you hunchbacked harridan.”
“Vile virago, hunchbacked harridan? Just cos I'm too unlearned to understand youse and you're long words, don't mean I can't take offence!” She knew exactly what they meant.
“You and your cleverness, thinking you're better than us with you calling yourself 'one' and all.”
She put on an overly posh accent and gave a more than passable impression of Morvern,
“'Why Grandmama one is so terribly vexed by your most horrid and egregious behaviour.' That's you, always thinking you're better than us, Lording it over poor little old uneducated me, like thee's somekind of Princess. Well I've got news for you poo poo shitface. I've had enough. I'm taking back my wing-back.”

And so began the battle for the wing-back.

Morvern was in hysterics. Her Grandmama attacked viciously. Showing no mercy. Making the most of her opponents weakness for immature humour. She was old and small but held the higher ground, perched as she was atop of Morvern's lap. She knew her strengths and made the most of them whilst her opponent was incapacitated. She was shorter but much stronger and had fingers that were bent and crooked but tough as nails. She jabbed them hard into Morvern's ribs. Her famed two finger death attack. One she had used so successfully over the years to admonish Morvern when she had displeased her. It was a hammerblow. Successive hard jabs into the girls ribs had her yelping in pain and gasping for air. It might have been all over but for the whiskey and the weed, they had desensitized Morvern to the pain, emboldened her.

Her Grandmama might be strong, be on top of her, but Morvern was quick and clever, young and nimble. She held the advantage in both height and reach. Doubled over and out of breath, in hysterics as she was - taking a consistent pounding to the ribs, she was in a desperate spot. She knew she must fight for her life. Fight dirty like her Grandmama. For whoever claimed the wing-back was surely the master oft the house and Morvern felt her time had finally come.

With her right hand she grabbed her Grandmamas right ear and twisted it hard. It was a move she'd learned from the best. One guaranteed to lead to submission under any circumstance. Her Grandmama howled in pain and the death jabs to Morvern's side stopped. It was sweet relief. Her Grandmama was in trouble, she grabbed at her hand but Morvern would not let go. It was surely all over, but Morvern's Grandmama was no walkover. She was a street fighter. She lined up her enormous nose and beak butted Morvern in the eye repeatedly.

Morvern however had been biding her time, her long left arm snaking under the blanket and finding its prey. In the forest she was the ultimate hunter, lithe and graceful, silent and deadly. Just as she was now, her left hand finding the old ladies inner thigh and her fingers and nails pinching it hard. It was an excruciatingly painful move. Another she had learned from her Grandmama. The combination of the inner thigh pinch and ear twist, two deadly submission moves, were sure to have her Grandmama tapping out. But this was no hunt through the forest. This was a scrap with a crazy old Witch who wanted her wing-back back. It was her back yard. She knew every crevice and corner of it and knew how to take advantage.

She was tough as old nails and didn't give a shit.

She ceased all attempts at defending herself, interfering with the holds. She took the pain. She made three, hard, two fingered jabs at the ribs from either side, quickly and with great force. They hurt, momentarily stunned Morvern, but to her credit she did not let go. Then she feinted with her nose beak and Morvern had to move her head to the side. A quick forceful karate chop and her ear was free. She grabbed the arm and got Morvern in a half nelson. Now she made her home advantage pay.

She lodged her fingers in the deep claw marks that Mab had scoured away over the years. Used the leverage to get one leg and then the other underneath her opponent. She could have got her in a full nelson, made her tap out. But the old coot wanted complete victory. This was her wing-back, her rightful place at the head of household. She used her position, her leverage and her immense strength and tossed Morvern right over the back of her, high over the armrest. It was the perfect half-nelson to release suplex. None better had been performed from a wing-back chair in all of human history.

Now it is fair to say that Morvern's Grandmama may have gotten a little carried away. For the caravan was only small and she had tossed her some three feet in the air and perhaps some five feet in distance. On another occasion she might well have crashed head first into a wall, or smashed straight through a window. Perhaps careened into the stove and caught fire. Fortunately that was not the case. Morvern landed on her Grandmama's bed and whenever the tale was related from that day forth, that was what her Grandmama vowed she had been meaning. In truth she hadn't a clue, but some truths are best left unsaid. Better for family cohesion.

Morvern's Grandmama stood on top of her prize. Raised her arms in victory.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, here's your winner, by way of toss out, still undefeated, the Queen of the Caravan, the Fighting Fazidi, the Wing-Back Warrior, undisputed in her place of prominence as the head of the household. Still keeper of her wing-back chair. Gerty the Grappling Grandmama.”
She brought her hands together in front of her mouth and started making crowd noises, cheering and the such.

Morvern was sore, a little dazed and somewhat dispirited from being so roundly beaten by a tiny women eight times her age. But even she couldn't help but laugh. Laugh hysterically. She rolled around on the bed in fits of giggles. It went on for so long she thought she was going to do herself a mischief. It was worse than the fight.
Then little by little she stopped laughing and her Grandmama came over and they both got into her bed.
“You alright little owl?”
“Yeah I'll live. How about you?”
“Oh I've had worse, you fight dirty, I learned you good.” She sounded proud. Only Morvern's Grandmama could be proud her Granddaughter knew a good inner thigh pinch.
She'd brought over some more whiskey and their pipes.

So they talked, talked and laughed and giggled. Went through a blow by blow recounting of the fight. Told each other stories and took each other into their confidences, shared secrets. Their hopes and fears. Talked a lot of immature rubbish too, for they were both quite gone and enjoyed being puerile. It was strange though, for all that had happened, that day had brought them the closest they had ever been. Almost as equals. They had always been close in a way, but not an obvious one. There had always been a distance. Sometimes a yawning chasm. Something had happened that day to diminish it. Bring them much closer. It was almost as if they were friends.

Her Grandmama went and got yet something more from the medicine cabinet. Had to get a key out, for it was in a locked box. It was a little bag and another pipe. A different pipe. It had a much longer stem.

“This is my opium pipe. You've been through a lot today. Stuff that will take a long time to process. You need a good sleep, a calm mind. We'll have a small puff on this before bed and you'll have a long and dreamless sleep. It will sort you out for tomorrow. Don't be getting used to it though, for this is only for surgery normally. If I ever find you smoking this you'll wish you hadn't been born.”

Morvern knew she was serious but couldn't help but giggle. She had been giggling a lot that night. Her Grandmama gave her a fierce stare and then laughed as well.
“I mean that, its highly addictive. Ruins lives.” Still she couldn't stop laughing. Eventually they finished.
“Do you want me to rub your joints Grandmama?”
“No you've been through enough for one day.” She said with a knowing smile.
“Besides its is a wonder what a half nelson suplex does for the joints, best I've felt in years.” She raised her arms and flexed her muscles like a prize fighter. The giggles continued.
“Right bedtime. Use the piss pot whilst I load the pipe.”
They settled down next to each other heads right up close, boosted up by numerous pillows.

Morvern's Grandmama lit the pipe and had some tokes. Then she passed it to Morvern. She did likewise in return. They passed it between them just a few times, then Morvern curled up next her Grandmama, her arms wrapped around her. Her head nestled against her. She was asleep in an instant.

Her Grandmama finished the pipe and poured herself some more whiskey. Lit up her tobacco pipe and puffed away. It had been a busy day. She'd had to use all of her experience - shock tactics, booze, drugs and love, to stop Morvern from sinking into despair. It wasn't what might be called orthodox parenting, but she'd done the best she could.

She'd worried that she might loose her, what with the soldiers, but she could deal with that. It was the other that had worried her the most, how she was in the head. How she'd get through it. She hoped tonight had helped. It was worth a twisted ear. It was the next day and the days after she was worried for now. The lass was tough and independent, she'd made sure of that, but she was delicate deep down. Like her mother.

She sighed a little sigh then leaned over and whispered very quietly in Morvern's ear.
“Happy Birthday sweet fifteen.” She then gave her a kiss goodnight and went to sleep.
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Staff member
Media Manager
It's a good opener, very vivid.

But do watch out for excessive use of filler words like "all", and also for excessive sentence fragments. Use sparingly for greater impact. Same with repeated images; eg "Whatever had held it, snatched the wind away, was gone. As was any peace left upon the planet". This could read "Whatever had snatched the wind away was gone." If your writing is solid enough, it will be clear that the notion of peace is gone. The opening paragraphs are good but they seem to make the same point over and over. Choose just a couple and move on.

When you use dialogue, you tend to use ~only~ it at that moment. Try and mix up general narration etc in the dialogue to stop it becoming too talking-headsy.

I think one main issue is that the excess use of sentence fragments makes it a bit less smooth of a read than it could be. For each sentence fragment see if you can narrate in some description of the world, which is I think the main thing missing. Don't overdo it, but just choose a couple of spots where the pace doesn't seem right, and see if you can expand it a bit. IT might increase your word count but in this chapter there seems to be a lot going on so it's a little hard to really settle into the world. Take your time, especially with bits that aren't all super high paced.

The other issue is there are quite a few minor words: all, were, stuff, got, big, make, was. These sort of small words can often be replaced with more impactful language. Try a few synonyms or more showy text for these and see what happens.

But in general not too bad. Sounds like a compelling fantasy premise you've got set up here.


Senior Member
thank you, your kind considered and informed comments have cheered me up no end. Yes I think when I wrote this chapter I wrote it a bit too quickly, got a bit carried away with all that was going on. I'm afraid quite often I write the dialogue first, so I can keep my thread, then go back an add the parts you would normally have following it after. Unfortunately I quite often forget to do it! I will now doubly check for it when reading things back (sometimes I've read something back so many times I miss the bleeding obvious). I will edit he opening paragraphs as per your suggestions. Very good advice.

You're advice about sentence fragments and taking my time is (as all of your advice greatly appreciated) and everything you have suggested here, I will not only use to edit this chapter, but all previous and use to help inform all my future work. The point about the minor words is well taken. A problem I've had in the past is being far too overly literary (excessively so) trying to show off every writing skill under the sun. I made a conscious effort in this book to use such passages very sparingly, but being so conscious of it has probably meant I have forgotten to use the right words when I could and should. I will go back and sort it.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read it, I very much appreciate it,
All the best PG