The Worm of the Ages

A myth of Färinor, taken from The Tower of Vargon.

The Loring poked the fire vigorously with a stick, making the flames leap on high and sparks climb dizzily into the night. His bald head seemed to glow in the sudden light, and his dark eyes glittered sorcerously. ‘Has nobody got a story to tell us?’

‘Old or new?’ asked Kataki.

‘Old, to be sure,’ said the Loring. ‘Tales and apples are bitter when picked unripe.’

Mazuj sighed. ‘My grandmother used to tell stories, but I don’t remember them well enough. Avel?’

‘I don’t remember my grandmother at all. I was too young when the reapers took her.’

‘Then it falls to me,’ said the Loring. ‘I never had a grandmother, but I can tell you a tale as old as I am, if that will do.’

Kataki laughed. ‘Were there tales so long ago?’ she asked archly.

‘There were deeds,’ the Loring answered; ‘they were made into tales later.’

Avel looked so eager that he almost seemed to smile. ‘Is it a true tale, Master Loring?’

‘As true as words will allow, child. It will not go easily into your speech, but I shall do the best I can.’ The old man stretched his limbs one by one, then sat cross-legged with his hands on his knees, facing the three children across the fire. ‘Hear and heed,’ he intoned, ‘while I tell of the Worm of the Ages.’ [Read more…]

Summing up

Thanks to that minor but inconvenient new malady that I mentioned earlier, I got less sleep last night, and less work done today, than I intended; but I did manage this much between about 10 p.m. last night and 10 p.m. tonight:

1 silly short story (‘A case of vengeance’), 3,239 words

1 vignette related to The Eye of the Maker (‘Droll’s audition’), 2,756 words

1 scene for the ‘Orchard’ (‘Fox and Lory’), 1,138 words

22 lines of verse (‘Out of the cage’), 185 words

The original ‘Christmas letter’ post, 2,541 words

Total for the 24 hours: 9,859 words

Plus various little odds and sods not worth counting. (I had a rough draft of about half the lines in ‘Out of the cage’ kicking around on my iPhone, so I did not, strictly speaking, write it all today; so let the pre-existing draft stand in the balance against the odds and sods, and call it even.)

I do not believe I could do that much every day, and would not wish to. But I think it is sufficiently established now that I can still write. The next thing is to write well, and to finish what I write, and to finish something that people will want to buy.

Wish me luck; I shall have sore need of it.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Fox and Lory

Some of my ‘auditions’ are not full stories or even full scenes, but tableaux, flashes of action, bits of dialogue. Sometimes they run together until they actually make up a scene. This bit, if it fits after editing, is for the ‘Orchard’, otherwise known as Where Angels Die.

[Read more…]

A case of vengeance

A silly squib. The idea has been kicking round in my head for years, and this seems as good a time as any to flush it out.


‘—Not exactly a ghost story,’ said the Middle Management Devil, between slurps at his tea. ‘They are not, aha, ghosts when we have them Down Below.’

(Never let anyone tell you that devils are witty or urbane. Only their P. R. department believes this, and a P. R. devil will believe anything. Devils are uniformly hideous, ill-mannered, awkward, and smelly. Imagine the worst science fiction convention you have ever heard of, and then imagine that the common interest binding the people there is not rocket ships or rayguns, but terrorism and torture. The very most polished devil is not quite as urbane as a farting contest at a NASCAR rally.)

‘Go on,’ I said, not because I meant it, but because there was no point in saying anything else. The stranger had slouched into my booth at Denny’s uninvited, taken a seat (now covered in slime), and struck up a tedious conversation, all without a word or glance of permission from me; and he had shoved a grimy business card at me—


—explaining, as if it were something that tickled him all over with pride, that the initials stood for that title which I gave in the first sentence above. He was clearly one of these mad monologuists that you see at diners after the bars have closed, and there was nothing for it but to hold fast and let him talk himself out.

‘Yes,’ he was saying, ‘the passion of vengeance is, aha, very good for business, you understand, but we know better than to indulge in it ourselves. The essential work of Middle Management would go completely to pieces. It’s enough to do to tyrannize one’s subordinates and backstab one’s superiors, when one does it in a purely professional and disinterested way. If one did it because of a petty personal grudge – now, I ask you: is there anyone in Hell that you would not hold a grudge against? Nothing would ever get done; nothing at all. The damned would pile up like cordwood, humiliated perhaps, but not actually tormented. Lower Authority would never stand for it.

‘Now this one fellow we had, oh, some centuries back, was absolutely eaten up with that very passion. Revenge, revenge, revenge. [Read more…]

Droll’s audition

From time to time, characters from my stories turn up unbidden in my mind, and perform scenes for me that they think I may wish to include in my books; or new characters turn up for the first time, and show me what they can do, and ask me to find them a place. The character you are about to meet is one of the first kind. I have known him for many years; he comes in at the middle of The Grey Death, the long-delayed second book of The Eye of the Maker.

He is a little fellow, not much over four foot high, with a marvellously shabby and scruffy beard, a mass of tufts pointing in all directions; he insists that he is a Dwarf, of the ancient and legendary mountain people, though of course all right-thinking folk know there are no such things as Dwarfs, and he is merely a midget with delusions of ancestry. His name is Droll Yocrin. The first name is tolerably obvious, and seems to suit him somehow; the second name is thoroughly obscure. There is a folk-etymology to the effect that ‘Yocrin’ is derived from ‘yoke-ring’ (for the O is long), but what on earth a yoke-ring may be, not even the folk-etymologists can tell me. Droll himself insists that it is a Dwarfish name out of the ancient mountain-language, but that his father did not teach him enough of that tongue to interpret it properly.

I hope you like him. He invited me just lately to visit him in his workshop – for he is a jeweller by trade – and see how he passes his Yule holiday. Yule in Pyrandain is more like the Scottish Hogmanay than anybody’s Christmas; it is the eve of the New Year, and an occasion for various festivities to break up the long cold darkness of deep winter. But there are glimpses here and there of something more—
[Read more…]

Christmas letter

Dear Theophilus,

It is long since I have written to you, for which I beg your forgiveness, and much has happened. I was furnished by the astounding generosity of my 3.6 Loyal Readers, plus benefactors I had not known of, with the funds to get a proper set of book covers done for the Orchard; only I have no book to wrap them round, for I have been ill and stymied. Ill, not only with my usual maladies, but with a recurrent flu, which may be the same germ that turned into pneumonia when my father got it, and carried him off. (You will know, of course, through the usual channels, that he has died.) I shall speak a little of my other troubles; then, what matters more, of my efforts – and what has stymied them. [Read more…]