Monday, November 22, 2004


And A Note...

Right - 60 days seems a good time to bring to a close this attempt to bring the world of Barbarienne to a new audience, at least for a while - it's kept me away from writing new scripts for upcoming projects, about which, no doubt, more will appear soon over at the website.

The stories we've related here correspond, generally, to the eight issues of the Barbarienne comic series published a few years ago. The origin tale in issue one is covered, roughly, by days 4 (September 27th) & 5; "Captives of the Churmuk" from issues two and three is covered by days 14 (October 7th) to 18; the "Fever Dreams" in days 21 (October 14th) to 23 come from issue four; "The Slavers" from issue five is covered basically by day 41 (3rd November); and the "Barbarienne versus Cuirass" saga, from issues six to eight, runs from days 50 (12th November) to 58. We also had days on which not a lot happened, of course, as you do, while days 26(October 19th) to 35 focus on a slightly rambling new tale of a devilish dagger.

In the original comic, the narration tended to alternate between issues between Charol and Memree; keeping with Charol here did have a few problems, and our narrator had to resort to blatant deception concerning the battle with Cuirass, I'm afraid. The first three issues are also, on the website, available in a more sexually explicit, or "naughty" to use a technical term, version. Charol generally underplays the sexual side in her writings here, except for the kinkiness of the first issue's set-up and one particular day about halfway through! For the sexier Barbarienne comics,set a little further down the timeline, take the link to Atomic Books and type "Barbarienne" into their search box...the first four issues are out of print, but Barbarienne #10 has just been published.

So, it's been fun - if there is any huge demand or outcry we might very well continue here, but at the moment this blog will have to stand as it is, and as a useful link from the website. Two months without missing a day was rather good, I think, so let us quit while we are ahead.

Sunday, November 21, 2004


Day 60

The nights are getting longer, the winds are getting sharper... winter is definitely not that far away. It took a while for us to get out of our nice warm bed, though we weren't as late as on the previous morning, so breakfast was not a problem. After that Memree and I dressed a bit more warmly than usual, and headed out into the city, determined to see more of it than we had so far, to experience the bustle of the docks, the hustle of the markets, see the ceremonial guards at their drill, and generally store away a few more memories of the place.

It does make Redwall seem like a sleepy backwater. The market we spent most time at must have been ten times the size of Redwall's, and it was only one of a number in various parts of the city. We bought fur-lined coats with fur-lined hoods, sturdy winter boots that come up almost to the knee, heavy winter trousers, and various other stuff, not all of it by any means as practical.

We had a noon meal at The Treasure Hunter - the same fish soup, and the same dumplings floating in it. It seemed strange not to have Cleve with us this time. Nothing had come of our notice on the wall there, and we asked the landlord to remove it... seeing that we were one person down, he didn't ask any questions, and that meant we had to appear more solemn than we were feeling, which was simpler than explaining what had actually happened.

The slave market here is big, too - as there aren't any big wars going on, it was mainly slavegirls in their flimsy, tiny costumes, all trying to look their best. The more you cost to buy, the better the conditions you can hope for, is the theory. Of course, the injections they get, the "All Virtue Preserv'd" treatment, ensures that they look pretty darn good, it adds a lot to their cuteness. It's a bit of a devil's bargain, of course - returned youth, an extra-long life, increased attractiveness, weighed against, well, the libido boost, the slavery bit, and the chance, low though it is, that the treatment won't work, but slam into reverse so hard that it kills. The older the subject, the higher the risk. That's probably why the ladies of society haven't gone in for it, though when you see the results, it must be a temptation. I'm approaching my prime, I suppose - it would be nice to stay this way!

But, as you can tell, we didn't really do much today. And we must very soon make our decision, whether to go straight back to Redwall, or find some adventure elsewhere before winter comes. Despite taking our names off that wall at The Treasure Hunter, our options are still very much open.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Day 59

Actually, as far as the city of Broadwater and the general outside world is concered, this is more like Day 53, I think - time played strange tricks down there, which is hardly surprising. But I tell it as I experience it, even though some of the postings from Grishelm and the caves had to be reconstructed afterwards, as I didn't play as prominent a role in the events as I appeared to. But I'm up-to-date now, which was made easier by the fact that, cleverly, we did very little today. A lie-in so late that it took all of Memree's considerable persuasive powers to get the tavern to provide any sort of breakfast, then me getting this book properly in order... I'm not sure why I am so obsessed with writing it all down, but it does help me make sense of things.

Should we feel sorry for Cleve, injured at the end of our battle, and now trapped down in that tiny world? I don't think so, especially after seeing Sprite grown up! She wanted to have her voice - she has it now, and a better companionship than we could have offered, a more comfortable retirement than most sell-swords get.

Have we seen the last of Atzmon? I wouldn't bet anything valuable on it, she obviously has powerful demonic friends, or she wouldn't have come back this time after we lopped her head off, what, about five ten-days ago? I can hardly blame her for wanting revenge for that... I suppose some sort of obsession with both Memree and me is understandable. She called Mem "Emmie" once, I think. Presumably she knows more about Memree's past than anyone else, though she was hardly likely to share it with us...

As for the "trinkets" I mentioned, well, they are the type of item one has to be very, very careful about. We don't need to sell them at the moment, and they take up very little room, so, rather than visit shops and mages who we don't know and don't know us, I think we'll take them back to Redwall with us, and enlist Delinda, and Ashil, and maybe Man Coker, to try and find out if we have anything that is more than just decorative. Rings and amulets can have a lot of interesting, and useful, properties!

So, a lazy day. Tomorrow will be a bit busier, if only because we have promised ourselves a shopping expedition to the main markets here.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Day 58

Outside in the courtyard, we saw a familiar block of stone - and Sprite, no longer with the bandages around his chest, jumped down from it when he saw us.

Memree grinned. "Sprite - it's good to see you, I thought you were tied to Grishelm."

Sprite smiled broadly. "The outflow of magic here has let me come through for a moment - I thought you would all appreciate a ride back to the castle." He paused. "But Cleve is injured...?"

I'd honestly not noticed. Cleve had been limping a little, but of course she'd not said anything... then I looked more closely, and saw how pale she was, and how she clutched her stomach.

Sprite made an engulfing gesture, and we were all on top of the stone...and the courtyard flicked out of existence around us, replaced, after an instant of darkness, by the ruins of the castle, in its cave, with the campfire still lit and Hengist standing patiently. And then we were on the ground again... though, while Sprite, Memree and I were standing, Cleve was hovering just above the ground, flat, with a glowing aura around her.

"It's some sort of magical residue, a spell of your foe's", Sprite said. "I think it would kill her, if she left..."

"You can save her, Sprite?"

He nodded. "Temporarily, at least - and I'm sure my father will augment it. He always says I should have some company."

Cleve smiled, and spoke. "That settles it, then - I think I would like to be your companion, Sprite."

Memree turned to Sprite, who was looking a lot happier now. "You said you could make her young and skinny, like you - well, how about making yourself a bit bigger, is that possible?"

Sprite stared at her for a moment - and then he was suddenly full-grown, muscular, and just about the most handsome man I'd ever seen. His voice, when he spoke, was deeper too. "Well thought, my lady!"

Sprite's magic, now that it was home, soon got Cleve on her feet again, and after a little packing of Hengist's bags, and plenty of hugging and farewells, Memree and I were soon on our way out of the caves, back into the sunshine, and heading back into the city, and the Speckled Leaf tavern. Maybe we'll check in with the adventurer's inn tomorrow, The Treasure Hunter... on the other hand, in all the confusion I did manage to grab a few odd little trinkets from Atzmon's rooms, I wonder if I picked up anything valuable...?

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Day 57

Cuirass had flown to the Grishelm cave on the back of a huge bird, and there had been some sort of transportation spell that had made it a very short journey. We were hoping that the spell was still operating, and that the bird was big enough to carry four women rather than just the one. It was waiting behind a bit of the old castle wall, and seemed happy enough for Cuirass to mount it, though its beak did look rather hard and sharp when it pointed it in our direction. Still, one after the other we piled on behind Cuirass, and it didn't object. Sitting on the feathers was quite pleasant, actually, though we had to hold on to each other tightly when it spread its wings and took to the air.

No normal bird could have managed the load, but Atzmon of course had used magic on some ordinary creature, and it flew - straight for one of the cave's walls! I was starting to wonder if jumping off would be a good idea, but Cuirass didn't seem worried - and instead of hitting the wall, we popped straight through it, and out onto a grassy, sunlit slope not far from, well, either a large, fortified house with a tower, or a small castle.

"That was fun", Memree said cheerfully. "I hope we can get back that way, as we left our stuff by Grishelm, and Hengist."

We headed for the castle-house, hoping that Atzmon wasn't watching us and devising some nasty welcome. Cleve climbed up the outer wall very quickly, using tiny gaps and cracks - she let down a rope for the rest of us, I was impressed with how fast Cuirass climbed, considering the weight of her armour.

"You next", I said to Memree, stepping aside as some guard or other landed head-first on the ground close by.

"I suppose it's too late to just write her a nasty letter...?" Memree grinned, and I gave her a boost up the rope, which she certainly needed, even though carrying her crossbow across her back meant both arms were free. I followed, and we were all on the top of the wall. Yes, definitely a castle, with battlements like that. We went quietly down some steps into the small courtyard, and Cleve risked a peek through a narrow window, and beckoned us to join her.

There was a good-looking woman in a close-fitting, armless dress, sitting staring at a mirror - and the 'mirror' showed Sprite's block of stone, occasionally fading to white and then refocussing. A black cat was sitting close by, and we could just make out what the woman, Atzmon, was saying.

"Whichever one I try to focus on, I just get that lump of stone - that damned Grishelm has too much magic in it!"

"They must all still be in the catacombs below", the cat purred... I didn't so much hear its voice, as feel it.

"I suppose so, Hugo, but I don't like it - our silly conjured warrior has freed herself from my control, and that makes me uneasy..."

"She did what you wanted", the cat commented. "She killed Charol, with Memree watching. That would have relaxed the spell... maybe the belt just fell off."

"Probably... the transfer won't last much longer, anyway - and then back she'll go, to her watery grave!" She laughed. "But I would so like to see my dear old friend Emmie again, if the little bitch hasn't killed herself!"

Sometimes you can get what you wish for. Cuirass looked grim, but marched over to the front door, while we three kept close to the wall alongside. She knocked, and a little window slid open.

"Open up in there! I have urgent news for your mistress!"

"I never even touched her", the reply came, from some sort of half-troll.

"No - your employer, simpleton! Open up and let me in!"

"I've always thought her rather bright, personally", he rumbled. "But we've instructions to be nice to you, so you'd better come in."

"Would 'being nice' extend to breathing in a different direction?" The door had opened now, and Cuirass was edging round it.

"Sorry, this is the only way I know - OOF!"

We were in, now, and a couple more guards didn't really give us much trouble. We'd tied up the comedian, and one of these two got similarly lucky. We moved off down the corridor, with Cuirass leading the way, heading for Atzmon's mirror room.

I can't say we actually managed to surprise her, but she'd not had any time to prepare for us. Cuirass went in first, and some sort of magic ray reflected back off her chestplate. Atzmon gestured at her cat and spoke a single arcane word, and it was suddenly some sort of furry monster, more like a minotaur or a two-legged wolf than any feline.

"So, you've come back to me, Verdandi? And you've brought me Memree to play with again, how nice!"

And then she saw me, and her face lost its colour. It was my turn to smile. "Hello, Atzmon - I do like your new head."

"You! But I had you killed."

"Are you getting worried yet, Atzie? Neck giving you any twinges...?"

Suddenly Atzmon was in tight trousers, boots and a jacket, and holding a glowing, slender-bladed sword - and she was leaping forward, straight for us! The Hugo-thing growled and advanced, but...well, I decided that Cuirass, or Verdandi, deserved the first crack at the mage, so I blocked Hugo, used the hilt end of my sword - and Cleve threw a spear, probably taken from the wall, and transfixed the brute. He fell, writhing, and turned back into a cat - a cat with a spear through him from end to end.

Atzmon's sword clashed with Verdandi's - and the glow extended from the mage-sword, began to cover the brave warrior as well. She groaned, but did not retreat. "Monster!"

"That's it, feel the pain, savour its embrace", Atzmon gloated. "It's the last thing you'll ever feel."

Memree fired her crossbow, it bounced off Atzmon's face. The glow around Cuirass was more like flame, now, and she was turning red, I think her breastplate, her cuirass, was actually starting to glow, as Atzmon broke away at last and turned towards me. And, with one desperate effort, the dying, baking hero was able to stab at Atzmon with her own sword, now hot itself from the magic... she sliced into Atzmon's side, and then she fell. "Something to remember me by", she gasped.

Memree ran to her, but Cuirass told her not to touch her, as the spell could bake her too. "Don't be sad", she said. "I died five centuries ago, these last few days... a bonus. But my spirit will live on, and we shall meet again, I hope..."

"Who's next for death, then?" Atzmon's wound had bled, but only briefly, and I'll swear even the jacket itself was healing.

"You are", I shouted, and brought my sword forward, hoping to hit her blade hard enough to knock it out of her grasp - it didn't work, but at least my weapon seemed proof against the burning spell.

"You're a fool", she shouted. "Maybe I'll take your body, now this one's been marked by that stupid cow - then Memree would really like me, wouldn't she?"

My reply was a punch straight to her jaw - it hurt my hand, but in a really good way! Some sort of wide-angle light flared from her hand, but I ducked under it, and had the very great satisfaction of burying my sword right in the middle of her stolen, well-developed chest. The only trouble was, it didn't seem to bother her at all, and it meant I'd lost my weapon...

"Ah, Charol darling, it's not that simple", she told me. "It will take more than what you've got to kill me!"

I looked around at Memree, holding the crossbow, tears streaming down her cheeks, standing close to the pile of ashes and empty, half-molten armour that had been Cuirass, and at Cleve, with a sword ready to either throw to me or at Atzmon. "Well gang, we've got her attention..."

Cleve threw the sword like a dagger, but it went into some sort of magical vortex and vanished before it could reach Atzmon. She looked around, and saw the spear that had killed the mage's monster-familiar, and tugged at it, pulling it out of the small but surprisingly massive little cat-corpse. Memree fired a bolt, but again it was harmlessly deflected, then turned to help Cleve, while I just stood confronting Atzmon with a small dagger I normally just use for cutting food.

"Whatever the body, I'm stronger than you, Charol, aren't I?" Atzmon gloated. "And I think you've run out of tricks now - haven't you!" Her hands moved with incredible speed, and suddenly she was strangling me. I tried to cut her arms with the dagger, I think I did draw blood, but she was winning, until wham, she was spun away, and I could breathe, and see that between them Cleve and Memree had transfixed her on their spear. And this time she wasn't laughing. Her whole body seemed to shrivel, until it was just old skin covering older bones, even her head seemed to deflate, and then the fire licked over her...

She was dead, or at least as dead as such mages of darkness ever get - and we, except for poor Cuirass, were alive.

But it's getting late - tomorrow will be one of those "ties up loose ends" reports, okay?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Day 56

I had actually woken a little earlier, and put some water to heat over the fire before dozing off again, so I'd been vaguely aware of Memree and Cleve returning, and, in a sleepy way, surprised that Memree half-fainted and had to be supported by Cleve. And was that the armoured fighter Cuirass with them?

Luckily, a large block of rock was suddenly alongside us, and the child-creature Sprite was sitting on it, his bare chest wrapped round with bandages. "Well, I did try to warn you", he began. "'Whatever happens here', I said. I couldn't really let you in on my plan, or that Atzmon woman wouldn't have been convinced."

Cleve glared up at him. "Well that was a rotten trick to play on us, on poor Memree especially - she saw her friend killed in front of her eyes."

"It was", Sprite agreed. "But otherwise, if I hadn't taken Charol's place, then Cuirass here would have stayed under Atzmon's spell until she'd found the real one here, helpless, and killed her... and probably the pair of you, too."

"Hold on", I said. "Let me get this straight... while I was sleeping here, you pretended to be me, joined my friends in their search below, fought Cuirass as me, and got killed, as me...?"

"Not exactly killed", Sprite said patiently. "I do have a few talents of my own, but Cuirass ran me through with her sword most convincingly, and the psychic surge of that, combined with the magical aura around the castle area anyway, broke Atzmon's control over her... as you can tell from the way she isn't screaming and killing people at the moment."

I scratched my still-sleepy head. "I've got to get this all down in my book, maybe if I do, it will make some sort of sense."

Sprite laughed, a joyous, youthful sound. "Ah yes, your precious 'book' - you do that, I hope your faraway readers appreciate it all." He turned towards Cleve. "But, Cleve, you didn't get very far with Sunil, did you?"

"He said 'Why, stay here, then' - before Cuirass appeared."

"Ah, that means he reinforced my little spell... it will work forever, now, while you are in Grishelm."

"And when I leave...?"

Sprite was gently lowering himself off the block of stone, now, finding little foot-holds in its cracks and hanging on to the top. "No voice, Cleve - until you return." He let himself drop the last distance, landing lightly. "But you've seen some of this place's secrets...why not stay here?"

"It's very..." Cleve seemed lost for words.

"Be my friend!" Sprite seemed as young as he looked, now. "We could live by the sea - I could make you young and skinny like me." And he smiled, shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other.

"Well Cleve, you could do a lot worse", I remarked. "I don't think life here with this character would be dull." I resisted the urge to stroke the little god-child's curly hair. "But let's wait until we've settled our score with Atzmon, shall we?"

Cuirass nodded. "That sounds like the first order of business, Sera Charol."

"Yes", added Memree. "If she's grown a new head, let's go and lop this one off, shall we?"

And that's the plan for the morning. But getting these pages brought up to date has tired me out enough for one day. Again, my apologies for the necessary deception, but now we are back on track, and going after our old enemy, so tomorrow is going to be fun!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Day 55

Cuirass just stood there for a moment, looking at the lifeless body in the water in front of her - and then she turned towards Memree and Cleve, and gave an awful smile. "The bitch is dead - and I could kill you, too, I can kill you any time I choose, just remember that!"

And then the sea and land blurred, and Cleve and Memree were back in the dungeons of Castle Grishelm once again... but Cuirass was there, too, her sword still dripping blood, and she seemed, well, different...

Memree was sobbing onto Cleve's shoulder, restraining Cleve from attacking Cuirass. "She's dead", she managed.

"Uh... we're back in the catacombs now", Cleve said. "It's all my fault, I'm so very sorry..."

"What happened?" Cuirass sounded puzzled. "I feel as if I've got the most awful hangover, but..." Her voice trailed off.

"Murderer!" It was Cleve's turn to restrain Memree now. "You killed Charol!"

Cuirass looked at her sword, and seemed shocked to see the blood there. "I... I did? I don't remember, it's all so blurry, I remember fighting her and wounding her in the shoulder, and then flying that bird back to Rosella Atzmon, the healer who...what did she say? Charol had been hired to kill her, and only I could protect her...?"

Memree stopped struggling, but she was still angry. "Atzmon's no healer, she's some sort of demon-powered mage, a warlock, an evil, amoral bitch - and she bent your mind, you idiot!"

"The magicks in this place must have broken her hold over you", Cleve put in. "Are you truly the lady Verdandi? I read about you in old books, when I was young..."

"So these ruins are of the Grishelm I knew, centuries ago?" Cuirass sheathed her sword, and groaned. "That warlock hooked me out of my time, played me for a fool, warped my mind, made me a murderer..."

There was silence for a while. "Well, Charol made me promise to go on, she knew what would happen - and she also said we should go back to where we were camped, where our supplies and our packhorse Hengist are. Let's do that, shall we?" Memree was trying hard to be brave, but her voice nearly cracked a couple of times.

And so it was that Cleve and Memree went back up the stairs, accompanied by Cuirass... and saw the flickering campfire still burning, a pot of water steaming over it, and Hengist nibbling at the weeds that had grown up between the stones... and also saw me, Charol, asleep, where they'd left me.

Well I had to be slightly misleading, and I apologise, to tell the story properly - but you knew I wasn't really dead, Ser Librarian, I hope, or else I couldn't have been writing this. The next day's worth should attempt a slight explanation, as we get back to proper honest narration!

Monday, November 15, 2004


Day 54

Memree looked around, looking very happy. "Charol, you're healed!"

"Not exactly - but I'm fine for this job, lady", I replied.

"If we are lucky, we can win back Cleve her voice permanently, down here", Memree said.

"There may be treasure, too", Cleve said, not meeting the newcomer's eyes. "But this is why I came, and I'm really sorry I wasn't honest with both of you."


"Even if we fail in this, you both have my undying gratitude."

I grinned. "You can't fail, now that I'm with you, warrior."

Another door, another flap covering a window - and another sudden transition, this time to a dark, thunder-wracked moorland leading down to a dark, stony shore. Where last time there's been a massive rock cube, this time there was an even more massive rough-hewn rock throne, empty for a moment until a blast of lightning hit it full on, and a bearded giant, robed and booted, was suddenly sitting there.

"Another petty pilferer to judge, is it?" His voice was slow and deep and rumbling, as he looked down at the three women. "Speak now, if you have anything to say."

Cleve cleared her throat. "Lord, I ask that -"

"Stop!" His voice boomed, and thunder echoed it across the moor. "I am Sunil, and it amuses me to bring Grishelm's would-be looters here for their eternal judgement, so speak carefully, creature!"

Cleve stepped forward, and dropped to one knee. "Oh Sunil, I came not to steal, but to ask a boon of you..."

"Speak, then. You have your small friend's acceptance, and that means much to me - but you have very little time."

"Outside Grishelm, I'm a mute, Sunil - I cannot speak..."

"Why, stay here, then, woman!" The words hung in the air, until, with another flash-crack of lightning, the throne was empty again - and the warrior Cuirass materialised on the beach behind the three, just as the first heaving drops of rain began to fall.

"This time I'll kill you", she yelled, charging forward with her sword raised. "Kill you all!"

"This can't be the true Cuirass, the Lady Verdandi", Cleve said. "She was a hero, vanished 500 years ago..."

"As a warrior, though, she's awfully convincing", Memree said - and just then the world shifted, and all four women were back in the Grishelm dungeons once more, with Cuirass and my swords clashing.

Memree looked around. "This place is too small - we must find another door. Charol was injured, she can't hold her off for long, we need more room..."

Cleve approached the third door, and kicked it in. "Come this way!"

And now everyone was again at a seashore, but in sunshine, and with a gently sloping beach, and the fight continued, though everyone was knee-deep in the water.

"Cleve, how are you at fighting homicidal madwomen?"

"It's you she wants, Sera Charol, but I'll try..." And Cleve closed in, sword raised - but without relaxing from her swordplay, Cuirass somehow kicked out, hard, and Cleve flew backwards into the sea, losing her sword. Atzmon must have been watching from somewhere safe, as her puppet beat back my defending blade... she'd allowed Cuirass too much free will the previous time, but now she was firmly in control.

"This Cuirass is too much for me, Memree", I said, panting.

"You'll stop her - I know you will, my love!"

"Look, girl - whatever happens here, promise me you'll go on. You must get back to where you left me, to Hengist - and then you'll understand - promise me!"

"Kill you!" Cuirass shouted. "You bitch, you thief, you stole her!"

"You can't win, you know." The sword was heavy in my hand, the whole body seemed ready to fail - too much had been asked of it.

Cuirass gave a cackling laugh, sounding chillingly like Atzmon herself. "Tell me that again when you're dead!"

"I'm scared", Memree told Cleve, who'd managed to find her sword again and was ready to advance into the fight. "Charol sounded so odd, as if... I'm scared."

"Me too", Cleve replied. "That anyone could last so long against that metal-sheathed killing machine--"

And then, it happened - the sword of Cuirass went straight through my defences, and straight through me, pushing me up and back, blood spurted everywhere, and it was a lifeless body that tumbled into the sea, watched in shock by the two horrified companions.

One thing's for sure, if I make a post tomorrow I'm going to have some explaining to do...

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Day 53

There's no way I can tell this adventure properly without cheating, so I apologise in advance. For a start, I'm not writing when I should, but later, and under different circumstances, and I'm writing about events that I personally didn't experience... that sleeping potion was pretty strong, and I was pretty weak!

So, Memree and Cleve descended some ancient stone stairs, into the bowels of Castle Grishelm.

"You think we can do this without Charol...?"

"We try", Cleve finger-signed back, looking around at the rubble-strewn corridors, and checking the map.

"But she's the fighter - I'm useless with the sword, and a crossbow's not much use at short range."

"You brave, Sera... that what counts", came Cleve's finger-reply.

"I'm scared witless, if you must know." Memree looked around wide-eyed, fingering the hilt of her sword.

Cleve gave an encouraging smile, and her fingers flashed again. "And me - but we go anyway. Both of us brave!" She walked along the corridor, heading for the door at its end. "When I hold my sword, I cannot sign-talk, so follow what I do closely!"

"All this had better be worth it - we should have just turned back, and tried again in a few days."

"No, must be now", Cleve signed, and pushed gently at the door - the wood came away from its hinges, and fell inward and down a spiral stone staircase, making an awful amount of noise. It was darker down below, and Cleve pulled an ancient torch off the wall, and handed it to Memree. Memree lit it, and followed Cleve cautiously down the stairs.

Below they found a square room, with various doors, closed... what looked like prison doors, with small barred openings in them, covered by wooden flaps.

"If other people have explored these tunnels, they were easier on the doors than we were", Memree commented, as Cleve carefully lowered one flap, and looked into the - dungeon? Apparently not, as bright sunlight flooded out, and engulfed both of them. Cleve and Memree found themselves in what was apparently a forest clearing, with the sounds of birds and insects, a gentle summer breeze, and a feeling of peace. Memree let the torch drop, and its flame immediately went out. Cleve had her sword in her hand, looking about for any foe, but the only item at all out of place in the scene was a large block of stone, old and mellow and half as tall again as Memree... with a young, curly-haired boy in shorts, tanned and cheerful, sitting casually on top, feet dangling over the edge.

"Now this is..strange", Memree was saying, in fact she'd began to say it before the shift, and her voice faded away as she saw this peaceful new place.

"Now that's a fine greeting, Vel Memree", the boy said, smiling.


"Am I? Just call me Sprite, will you please... but I'm more interested in you, and what brings you to Grishelm."

"Cleve wanted us to come - she was given a map, she told us there was a treasure here."


"Yes - we freed her from service to a slaver, and then discovered that she could use sign-language, and that I could understand her."

"Sign-language?" Sprite seemed puzzled for a moment. "Oh, finger-talk! I see... Cleve is a mute. That explains a number of things."

Sprite turned his attention to Cleve, who had sheathed her sword. Memree wasn't sure that Cleve had followed her conversation with Sprite, it might have been meant for her alone. "Don't be alarmed, Sera Cleve. My name is Sprite, here", he told her "... and in this place, and only here below and beyond Grishelm, you can talk."

"Uh..." Cleve was curiously tentative. Her mouth moved, but she didn't say any more.

"But that's what you came to Grishelm for, isn't it, Sera?"

"The...the man who made me the map said there was a possibility I could be made whole here, yes," Cleve said quietly, eyes cast down.

"But the danger, Sera - so few return, do they? Is that why you brought Memree and the barbarienne with you? What did they have to gain from risking their lives?"

"I thought there would be treasure... some treasure, M'ser", she mumbled, looking quickly at Memree and then away again..

"You did? You didn't trick them into coming here, for purely selfish reasons...?"

A tear rolled down Cleve's cheek. "Well...." She blinked fiercely, trying to discourage further tears. "Please don't hurt them, Ser Sprite, it's all my fault... and Charol's up in the castle, wounded..."

Sprite turned to Memree. "Cleve deceived you, I'm afraid. As far as she knew, the only treasure to hunt here below Castle Grishelm was a rather risky chance for her to regain her voice."

In a very small voice, Cleve said "Yes..." She was on her knees now, facing the stone block.

Memree gripped her shoulders. "Oh Cleve, you should have told us - we only wanted the treasure for you, Charol and I have got our own money." She hugged her. "Not being able to talk, to communicate - that's terrible, and if there is any way I can help, I will, I promise, and Charol will too, I know!"

"I'm only a minor, local spirit", Sprite told them. "Further down are the powers you need, Cleve, and you'll find them a lot rougher than I am. All I can do is give you this talk-spell for a while, and give you the boost your party needs..."

And with that, either Sprite and his forest faded away, or Memree and Cleve did, as they found themselves back outside the door, feeling fitter and stronger than before. Memree found that she was holding the lit torch again. Time continued to pass strangely, because as they turned away from the sunlight and closed the flap on the door, they heard a familiar voice behind them - my voice!

"So, you thought you'd explore all this without me, did you?"

Well that may not be precisely a day's worth of narrative, but it still makes a good stopping-point, with the three figures together, reunited for the next stage...

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Day 52

I feel quite a bit better this "morning" - Memree used some potions and other supplies on me while I was out, and was pretty happy with my progress, starting the day with changing bandages.

"I guess I... made a mess of that fight, didn't I...?" I moved the fingers of my left hand carefully... everything seemed to work, albeit stiffly.

Memree gently smoothed some ointment onto my shoulder. "Don't worry about it. You're alive, and that's what matters."

I smiled. The ointment was warm and numbing. "Use plenty of that stuff, love - I don't want to start a new collection of scars."

"You keep quiet, and concentrate on getting better."

"Yes, boss... but with Cleve silent, somebody has to keep the conversation going."

Memree turned towards Cleve, who was tending a small fire in which porridge was being prepared. "Yes - you still haven't explained why you didn't help us, Cleve..."

I watched as her fingers signalled her answer. "What's she saying?"

"She assumed you wanted to fight one-on-one, and could handle that 'Cuirass' woman, so she held all happened so quickly..."

I nodded, and felt a twinge, grimaced. "That's true, we both under-estimated her. Just because she's a few arrows short of a full quiver, it doesn't mean she can't fight."

Cleve spooned out a big bowl of porridge for me, and Memree added a generous dollop of runny honey, and stirred it in. I thought I was well enough to sit up and feed myself, but instead Memree rearranged some of our packs behind me, and then began to feed me. "I could get used to this life of luxury", I commented between mouthfuls.

Cleve did some more of her finger-talk, and the spoon nearly missed my mouth as Memree concentrated on it. "Sorry", she muttered, scraping some food off my lip. "You need to rest today, Cleve reckons it would be safe to leave you and Hengist here, while she and I explore the first couple of levels below the castle, make sure the map is right. You ought to take a sleeping potion - though I'm sure you want to write at least a few lines in that book of yours first."

So that's about all I have to write, for now - "Felt a bit better, had porridge for breakfast, watched my best friend vanish into a crypt without me." I'd better drink that potion now, I'm glad I insisted on the wine-based version!

Friday, November 12, 2004


Day 51

I don't recommend being woken by a giant spider's palps brushing your face - though this particular specimen seemed more curious than malicious, and scurried away when I began to move. And boy did I move! With its long dark shaggy coat, it was probably about as bulky as Hengist, but rather more agile, and it was across the chamber and away into a small tunnel before I'd got my sword clear of its scabbard. The yell I'd emitted woke up Memree and Cleve, so we decided it must be morning, and had a quick, cold breakfast, before continuing forward.

Grishelm Castle was in the next cave along, which was the biggest we'd been in. The roof of the cave had a blue glow to it, probably an old magic like the fire-globes, and there was coarse grass on the ground, and the overgrown ruins of an old town...and skulls, half-covered in soil, with lichen on them.

"What happened here, d'you think?"

I sighed, and pushed at a half-embedded piece of stonework with my foot. "Whatever it was, it was a good few centuries ago - look how deeply imbedded these stones are. A castle, with its own small town around it - Hel, someone must have got annoyed."

"Look, if what we're doing comes down to grave-robbing..." Memree looked very serious.

"I don't think so, my love... it may even help to bring a sort of peace here."

We entered the castle through its main gate, stepping over the remains of a rotted portcullis. The light from above was so like daylight, it seemed strange not to hear birds singing, to feel a morning breeze. Time had mellowed the stonework; in places part of the wall had fallen down, or been pushed.

"What a beautiful place this must have been, once."

"Just a castle", I replied, looking round carefully, my hand on the hilt of my sword. "I've seen better."

And that was then a figure appeared on the stone steps down from the wall, a young woman with curly black hair in gleaming, old-fashioned armour, including a shiny breastplate, sword in hand...the final defender of the castle, a ghost? No, much too solid and real for that. "Today you die, Charol", she shouted. "You and your two accomplices!"

She knew my name? "And you're the guardian of the ancient tombs, I assume - not as green and scaly as I'd expected!"

"I'm here to end your killing days, assassin!" She lunged, and I backed cautiously, and parried.

Now this was strange. "Assassin? The local cobwebs have affected your brain, brass-bra..."

"Cuirass! Call me Cuirass, you cold-hearted killer - let it rattle in your dying throat!" She was good - I ducked away from a fast-sweeping blade.

"Well if you don't like me, come right out and say it", I replied. "Has someone hired you to kill me, is that it?"

"I'm protecting that gentle healer Rosella Atzmon from your hired blade, you murderer", she answered, and our swords clashed full-on, with sparks and general clatter.

Now this was a development. "Atzmon? What lies has that she-devil been telling you, Tin-Top?"

"She paused, sword at the ready. "No lies - but I'm her protector, and all who seek her harm must die", she shouted, "Starting with you!" And with her free hand she swung, catching me clean on the chin and knocking me back, nearly making me fall.

"But... why are you here in Grishelm, Sera?" Keeping her talking seemed like a good idea, while the buzzing in my ears gently subsided. The point of my sword wobbled a bit, I wasn't ready to defend quite yet.

"Grishelm?" She looked about, surprised. "But this is a ruin... I know Grishelm, it's a fine town, I have friends there..." She paused. "The shape is familiar, of the castle and the cave... but this place has been abandoned and rotting... for centuries..."

Her hesitation was brief, however - too brief, and with an angry shriek she lunged at me, I tried to dodge, but her blade sliced down into my shoulder. I went down on my knees, dropped my sword, and she raised hers - but Memree ran forward, and dropped beside me.

"No! Don't hurt her - please!"

"She must die", Cuirass said, her sword raised over her head. I might have been able to dodge her first blow, but I was in no condition to to dodge a second. I mumbled something, telling Memree to run...hopefully Cleve, though no great swordsman, would be able to cover their retreat...

"Why?" Memree asked, tearfully. "Has she done you any harm?"

"She can't hurt Lady Rosella now", Cuirass said to herself. "You must..." she stopped for a moment, and then continued. "You must...look after her, and tell her never to threaten the lady again..."

I think I lost consciousness for a little while; Memree has managed to stop the bleeding, and bandaged me, luckily it's not my sword or pen arm that's been damaged. Apparently Cuirass mounted some sort of huge bird and flew off, back to "Lady Rosella" Atzmon, who isn't going to be pleased that I am not dead yet, if I'm any judge of character.

But I really can't write any more today. Actually Memree has been doing most of the actual pen-to-paper stuff, that's alright isn't it? As long as I dictate it...

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Day 50

It's strange, but, now that we are underground, time just seems to be working differently. Following the map Cleve had acquired, we went through a pass inland from the main tunnel area where we'd been so recently, and it can't have been any later than mid-morning when we actually entered the first caves, but after crossing a cave or two inhabited by nothing more scary than a few rabbits, we were already beginning to feel tired.

We brought torches and oil lanterns, but the light level is actually quite good at least in the big caves, once one gets used to it. The walls glow, just a little, it seems to be some sort of lichen, and there are some large posts with what look like real flames on their tops, encased in glass globes. Memree tells me they must be magical artifacts, they've probably been "burning" for centuries. When they were started, I suppose there were people living here, not just ruins and monsters.

According to the map it's not much further to Castle Grishelm itself, but we've stopped, lit a fire for a bit of extra warmth and comfort, eaten what was going to be a noon meal, and seem just about ready to fall asleep...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Day 49

Memree and I were still getting dressed this morning when Cleve knocked on our bedroom door. I unlocked it and she practically bounced in, smiling eagerly and carrying, you guessed it, a treasure map, which she triumphantly passed to me.

"A genuine fake treasure map?" I looked at it sceptically, and noticed that, at least, it didn't pretend to be old. The name at the top was 'Castle Grishelm'... the sketchy diagram would presumably make sense if one was actually there, wherever 'there' was. "This 'Castle Grishelm' is part of the local cave and tunnel system?"

Cleve's fingers were moving quickly, and Memree's eyes were following them carefully. "Cleve won the map at cards last night, so at least it didn't cost anything", she said. "The man sketched it out at the table, Castle Grishelm is an old ruin in one of the first big caves, a lot of adventurers pass that way - but it has dungeons, and those dungeons have...secrets? Secrets that only this map can reveal."

"So we need to team up with dwarves, elven archers, and a half-orc or two, on the chance that this map is genuine, and that the 'secrets' involve treasure rather than deathtraps?"

"Cleve says no - it's an easy cave to get to, the three of us can do it, the system's worst monsters never come up that high."

Fine - we were going to take the word of a losing gambler, and stake our lives on it. I was tempted to ask around a bit, see what I could discover about this underground castle...but the face you chatted to over a tavern table might next appear behind a battleaxe in the underground, convinced that you were after a treasure worth killing for. Cleve was overwhelmingly keen on this project, and, well, if it was a less dangerous area than most, and there was a chance of finding something other people had missed...well, call me a sucker, but the idea was starting to appeal to me.

So we made some preparations today, including getting plenty of bolts for Memree's crossbow, and a good supply of the best ointments and potions and poison antidotes from a reputable apothecary. Apparently the route we are taking is open enough for Hengist, so we'll be letting him carry all our stuff, including ample fresh water, biscuits, and smoked meats, enough provisions for a ten-day at least.

And tomorrow, as quietly as we can, we'll set out on this ridiculous quest!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Day 48

Memree, Cleve and I ventured outside the city walls today, just to explore the area where some of the treasure run tunnels and crypts begin. Cleve and I had our swords, and Memree carried a light crossbow, but we weren't dressed or prepared to actually go any distance inside, and made a point of acting like casual visitors, carrying a picnic basket.

It seemed like a good idea to get a general impression of what goes on there, and I suppose it was, but in some ways it was a rather depressing place. We saw one group coming out of a tunnel, running and stumbling and half-carrying one of their number whose tunic was badly stained with blood - something had followed them, we heard the eerie screaming noise it made, but it wasn't going to come out into the open daylight. There is apparently always at least one healer on duty there, and we saw him administer some potions to the group, or its surviving members. There were two elven, or maybe half-elven, archers in the group, and I suppose a red-bearded dwarf with a large double-headed axe is a necessity, but the humans with swords looked like cannon fodder to me... a resource easily replaced in a city like this. The mage was young and female and rather pretty, and unable to stop crying, so the group must have lost at least one member precious to her. She'd presumably had a staff when she went in, and lost it, which would have just about halved her effectiveness as a spellcaster.

There was a stall selling potions, though the colours didn't look quite true to me, I'd always buy from a proper shop or someone I was sure about, and the man and woman behind the table, while cheerful, didn't strike me as the sort of people who would be particularly careful about getting their ingredients at the right time, and generally going to all the trouble you have to if the various combinations are going to work fully.

We watched a large group going into a rather elaborate entrance - three women and a man with crossbows, a massive man or half-orc perhaps with a sword almost as tall as me, a white-haired but clean-shaven mage with a metal staff with a line of light up its entire length, his female apprentice with her own staff and a pack of books and spell ingredients, a couple of female human swordfighters, and a rather young dwarf, his beard cropped short, carrying a warhammer. They had a donkey too, its packs only half-full - leaving room for treasure, but I'd have taken a full load in, and discarded any surplus supplies if the amount of loot took up all the room.

We sat on a stone bench to eat our lunch, and I offered a pie to one of the city guards, who was standing close to us, watching that group enter the tunnel. "Are they after any special treasure, M'ser...?"

He smiled, and took the pie. "Oh, I expect they have a wondrous map, crinkled and fragile with age - or from being held close to a forger's fire! There is treasure to be found down below, but I'd rather stay poor and live a few years longer, myself, the tales people who make it out of there again tell are not for the faint-hearted."

Memree took a spare beaker, and poured some beer from our flagon into it. "Are there actually monsters down there...?"

"Thank you, Sera - just the one small beaker, I do have to stay alert, it's not unknown for something to come out of a tunnel, chasing a crypt raider." He perched himself on the end of our bench. "Once you get past the first tunnels, there are larger caves, and, with the hot water springs, there's vegetation, and a small amount of light, so the place does actually attract what we think of as monsters... and if you get lower still, there are massive snakes and spiders, and ruins of some early city built down there when the world was a bit younger." He paused to take another bite of the pie. "The original folk died out, but their magic became part of the very stones, and warps any creatures who attempt to live down there, so that a fugitive thief can turn into some sort of flesh-eating ghoul, and not one that you can stop with a couple of arrows." He shook his head. "One day we ought to clean the place out, many people are sure that innocent city children and drunks get kidnapped in the night and end up as captives down there, until they change so much that they become monsters themselves... but you could send a whole army in there, and still not find half the rooms... and maybe lose half your men, if you weren't careful."

A little later another party of adventurers emerged - they'd got some treasure, it was obvious, but there was also business for the healer, and we could see him looking grim as a tall woman gently put down a slender half-elf she'd been carrying across her shoulders. Broken bones she could mend, cuts and bruises could be healed, but even the finest healers have their limits...

So it wasn't just Cleve who was a bit quiet when we walked back towards our tavern, this afternoon.

Monday, November 08, 2004


Day 47

Actually, we behaved more like wide-eyed visitors from the country today than adventurers looking for work - but it makes sense to explore the city and try and understand how it works. As you might expect, the main market is large and excellent; we will probably need to buy some cold-weather clothing before too long, and the range and prices were very tempting, but that's something we can put off until we're ready to leave the city and head back to Redwall, and that is unlikely to be very soon. I bought some trousers and a frilly-fronted white shirt, somehow in a place this size I don't feel as comfortable as usual in leotards and things like that, so I am dressing more "respectably", and my wardrobe is a bit limited at that end of the spectrum.

The castle is really impressive, at least viewed from outside. There must have been a natural cliff overlooking the harbour, and the castle was built on top of it... and then the rest of the cliff, except for a gently curving ramp-road up to its main gates, was dug away, and the town itself built, or rebuilt, at a level not much higher than the docks, presumably making a fair amount of use of the rubble. No invading army has ever managed to take the castle by force, and I doubt if the castle will ever fall that way.

We found a tavern used by adventurers, The Treasure Hunter - we had lunch there, just some fish soup with dumplings floating in it. The landlord could tell at once that Cleve and I were "in the adventuring trade", and has added the three of us to a wall he has there. I don't know if anything will come of that, whether ambitious dukes and deposed kings make a habit of reading tavern walls, but the landlord only gets a few coins if we do get a job we like because of it.

Cleve seems to be a bit of a gambler when it comes to card games, and is tending to spend her evenings at a table in The Speckled Leaf, holding a fan of cards close in front of her. The players even stack up little piles of coins in front of them, honestly! She seems to be doing okay, and enjoying herself, I suppose it is a social thing she feels she can be a part of, even without a voice. I have warned her that, if she runs up a debt in my name, my easiest way to get the money will be to sell her to a slavemaster, so I don't think she is likely to do anything too rash.

So, Ser Mage-Librarian, that is all I have to report to you today. Spending one's time doing almost nothing is easier to actually do than to write about!

Sunday, November 07, 2004


Day 46

Broadwater is certainly big. I suppose most of the bustle will be in the docks area, but we've found a decent tavern well away from there, on the feeling that it would be less noisy, less likely to be completely full already, and probably cheaper too. I chatted to one of the gate-guards, as mid afternoon is a relatively quiet time for them, and he recommended the place, and gave us directions. The owner of The Speckled Leaf, Armon Birch, is his cousin apparently, and Armon and his wife Athriel seem to be running a clean and welcoming establishment. Cleve has her own small room on the attic floor, and Memree and I, naturally, are sharing a slightly larger room on the main upper level. Hengist is in the stables, and the other two horses have been passed over to the people Ashil asked us to leave them with, so they are no longer our responsibility.

We had an early dinner, with an excellent vegetable soup with fresh-baked bread, then some sort of baked fish, which was very tasty. Apparently Armon brews his own ale in the basement, and it was excellent, dark and smooth and not too sweet. We were offered some local cheese, but by that time all three of us were pleasantly full, so we just took further mugs of the ale to chairs by the fire.

"So, we're here, in Broadwater", Memree announced, putting her mug down on the table. "Now what, my barbarienne?"

"We look for a job worthy of our many talents", I told her, and grinned. "Maybe we join a party going into the underhills in search of treasure, or maybe somebody has a dangerous but rewarding mission that only we three can handle. A princess to rescue, a kingdom to save, an evil wizard to thwart - happens all the time, so why not to us?"

Memree sighed. "My own fault, I should have asked you before you drank that second pitcher-full..."

After our time on the open trail, I must say that I'm about ready to fall into bed. It's good to have some privacy, after having Cleve so close by, so that bed is starting to look very inviting. Oh, and I must remember to get some sleep later on, heheheheh...

Saturday, November 06, 2004


Day 45

Sharing a horse with one's girlfriend may be bad for the horse, though the one I'm riding is a pretty large, powerful animal, but it has its compensations, especially on a cool autumnal day. Memree did suggest that she could sit astride the horse backwards, so that we'd be face to face, but I do have to give at least some attention to where the horse is going!

So, a whole day on the trail. Considering that Wealdstone is a fair-sized town, and our destination, Broadwater, is a large and busy coastal city with its own harbour, I'm surprised we've not seen more people along the way - people on foot we're overtaking, people with faster horses and less time overtaking us, and all sorts of people, with and without carts, coming in the opposite direction. But, while there have been some travellers, including one merchant caravan coming from the coast, with everyone in sight obviously half-convinced we were bandits about to raid them, it does seem to me to be surprisingly quiet.

The only interesting conversation started during our mid-day stop, just by a pleasant little stream so clear one could see small fish darting around from one clump of weed to the next. Cleve leaned in and picked some of the weed, then passed a few leaves to me - she chewed on a leaf or two, and smiled... it was watercress, so we had some with our cold game pie. Tayne's wife Sharna was an excellent cook, and the mixture of rabbit, chicken, and I think partridge, was extremely tasty.

"Cleve's a mute", Memree said as we rested afterwards in the sunshine. "And I can't remember anything before you rescued me from Atzmon's awful dungeon, not so many ten-days ago - you're collecting some strange companions, warrior."

"You think so? I'm getting used to it, it certainly beats travelling alone, or with some scruffy male who's convinced he's in charge." I made a silly face. "He may not fight as well as me, but... oh, forget it!"

Memree chuckled. "Cleve says she's met too many men like that!"

"Is there any other kind?" I rolled my eyes. "Good for just one - what did you say...?"

Memree looked startled, not just from the change in my tone of voice. "She... she talked! With her hands.. sign language..."

"Since when can you--"

"I don't know!" Memree looked scared. "I didn't know I could, until just now, when I saw her fingers moving. It must have come from before... before Atzmon did what she did. Was it from me, or did it come from poor Marius Restormel, whose life-force that she-demon used to power her spell?" She shivered. "Someone hold me... I feel cold..."

So I held her, and then we mounted up again, and rode, which meant I could continue to hold her, and Cleve hasn't "said" anything else yet, which is sensible of her, as Memree has had a bit of a jolt, an unpleasant reminder of a time best forgotten. But it's good to know that we can hold a two-way discussion with Cleve, I'm sure that will be very useful in the days ahead.

Tonight's camp was, again, a place often used by wayfarers - the area for the fire had even been paved with large stone slabs, black from heavy usage over many centuries, I think. There was a pile of firewood ready-cut - we used some to start our fire, and then topped up the pile with a similar amount while we waited for the water to heat. So I can't really think of anything else to report today - though with any luck, tomorrow will see us arrive in the Big City!

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