Werewolf Mark Making

Werewolf Mark Making

By Nimue Brown

Proper artists don’t seem to talk about drawing and painting so much these days, as about ‘mark making’ (https://www.thoughtco.com/how-does-mark-making-affect-your-paintings-2577630)

Being improper artists, Tom and I like to draw and paint things. Sometimes I colour stuff in.

We got thinking about mark making when exploring the idea of an arts and crafts movement on the island of Hopeless, Maine.

We give you…. Werewolf mark making

Werewolf mark making is much sought after by some collectors on the island, although many people find it more gruesome than is strictly speaking necessary. As you can see from the above image, the slash of claws and splatter of blood on an object indicates an attack. Indeed, werewolf mark making items invariably come from the scenes of violent deaths. In the absence of survivors, the exact way in which the marks were made remains purely speculative.

It may be that the item has been held up defensively, but to no avail. Perhaps it was hit accidentally by a poorly aimed paw. Either way, it raises a philosophical conundrum for the potential collector: Can it truly be called art if the werewolf was not consciously making it as an artistic statement? It’s important to focus on the big issues in cases such as these.

Hopeless Romantics

While others rush to immerse themselves wholeheartedly in the fads and fashions of their age, over the years the inhabitants of Hopeless have steadfastly ignored such shallowness. This is not totally out of choice. In fact, it’s not at all out of choice. No one enjoys a spot of puddle-deep diversion more than the average Hopelessian but when you live on an island surrounded by fog and crawling with an assortment of nasties these things just don’t turn up by mail-order. Anything of a remotely novel nature generally arrives by accident.
One such serendipitous item is now  a treasured possession of Rufus Lypiatt, current landlord of The Squid and Teapot. This is a carpet-bag which was left at the inn by the renowned librettist, Mr. W. S. Gilbert. You may recall that Mr Gilbert returned to the mainland in something of a hurry following a night apparently disturbed by several spoonwalkers invading his bedroom. The bag he left behind contained several items of interest, not least of which was a collection of hand-tinted daguerreotypes of nineteenth century works of art, including some reproductions of paintings by the group who called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
When, in the latter years of the nineteenth century, this book was shown to Beatrice Merrywalk, one of the older girls in the orphanage, she immediately fell in love with Romantic art and Sir John Everett Millais’ painting of Ophelia in particular. Although she had absolutely no idea who Ophelia was, she sensed from the painting that here was young woman who epitomised all of the yearnings for tragic romance that stirred in her own breast. It felt to her that Death was the greatest artist of all, perfect in its dark finality. Having become quietly obsessed with Millais’ painting, she decided that she not only wanted to become Ophelia, the girl in the stream, but to be seen in that role forever, so that people would understand the turmoil and anguish churning in her young heart. To add to her sense of the dramatic, not to say melodramatic, she had come across ‘The Death of Chatterton’, another picture heavy with the illusion of romantic death, this time of a young poet. Maybe if she, as Ophelia, could find her Chatterton, they could let the world know of, and appreciate, their great pain.
That cruel trickster, Adolescence, is famous for filling certain young heads with dark clouds and yearnings for a picturesque death. It was, therefore, almost inevitable that Beatrice would find her Chatterton before too long had elapsed. He arrived in the form of Algernon Box, an unassuming young man who lived alone in an old and falling-down cottage next to a babbling creek that led down to the sea. Like so many on Hopeless, Algernon’s parents had disappeared under mysterious circumstances and as a consequence the lad was given to staring at the most incongruous items with dewy-eyed sensitivity and looking glum.
No one objected when Beatrice moved in with Algernon. The orphanage was happy to have one mouth fewer to feed. Besides, on Hopeless none of the usual rules apply. Life is difficult enough without unnecessary complications. To call these two young people lovers, however, would be a vast overstatement. They were bound together by a common bond of platonic melancholy. This usually involved staring at incongruous items with dewy-eyed sensitivity and looking glum. Their conversation, when it dragged itself out of the Slough of Despair, would invariably turn to the subject of finding a suitable artist to capture their last, tragic moments as perfect replicas of Ophelia and Chatterton.  They named the little plot of land upon which they lived Tragedy Creek and planned their suicide pact.
“Only Death will give us what we most desire,” said Beatrice, and she truly believed this to be so.
You may have noticed that Hopeless is quite a strange place. The unusual and bizarre is fairly run-of-the-mill around here. In view of that, neither of the two young people felt remotely surprised when, one dismal afternoon, the very man they had hoped for arrived at the door of their cottage. In a deep, sonorous voice, he introduced himself as being an artist visiting the island and asked to be invited in. His gangly frame, lean to the point of appearing cadaverous, seemed to fill the tiny kitchen.
In truth, this mysterious visitor did not resemble anyone’s idea of an artist. In his smart, dark business suit he looked more like a lawyer. Or an undertaker. The only clues to his trade were contained in the portfolio he carried under his arm.
“I have the paintings you requested.”
The pair looked at each other in puzzlement.
“Paintings? We’ve ordered no paintings.”
“Oh but you did. I heard you. Is this not what you most desire?”
The dark stranger placed the portfolio on the kitchen table and, opening it, produced two paintings. One was of Beatrice. This was exactly as she had visualised herself; Ophelia, alone and tragic, lying in the creek that ran by the side of the cottage. The other painting was of Algernon as Chatterton. He had painted him as though in his home surroundings.
They both gasped.
“They are beautiful,” said Beatrice. ”But how…”
“You asked. Don’t you remember?” said the stranger, then, without another word he picked up his portfolio and left. At least they assumed he had left, for the whole episode passed as if it were a dream. Only the two works of art lying on the table proved that any of it had really happened.
Several days passed before either noticed some subtle transformations occurring in the paintings. Small creatures had suddenly appeared around the bodies, which had somehow started to appear less attractive. Ophelia began to bloat. The pallor of both became quite ghastly.  After another week or so things began to look really awful. They had become carrion. Although the corpse of Chatterton was subject to the attentions of anything that could crawl, squirm or slither through his window, Ophelia, out in the open, fared worse.
By the end of the second week Beatrice and Algernon had to turn the pictures around so that they faced the wall. The images of each had become the stuff of the most horrible nightmare imaginable. Faced with such brutal reality all their ideas of romantic death were gone. Alone and terrified they clung fiercely to each other and wept.
It was the night-soil man who found them. They were huddled together in the little cottage, a look of terror and madness imprinted upon their young faces. They had been dead for some days. He looked around him at the sparse furnishings and few possessions. It struck him as strange that amid all the poverty were two quite beautiful paintings, each depicting doomed youth.
Even now, Tragedy Creek is felt to be the most melancholic place on Hopeless. In over a century only a handful of people have stayed in Algernon’s cottage for more than a night or two. The most recent resident was a would-be poet who was later discovered to be a escaped convict. Although he reported no strange experience there, some claim to have seen two unhappy ghosts walking from the front door to the babbling creek. It was long ago thought best that the paintings be removed to more cheerful surroundings. Today they hang safely behind the bar in the Squid and Teapot.  Occasionally Rufus will be asked who the artist is. He always gives the same answer, usually with a wry smile. “I’m damned if I can tell you…
Art by Tom Brown

Meet Philomena Bucket

Please meet Philomena Bucket. She has recently shipwrecked on the island (which may explain her worried expression)

Philomena is a Traveller. Which is to say,  the example character in the Hopeless, Maine role playing game which is in development by Keith Healing. The whole project is coming along beautifully and has a publisher, so, fear not (or, not too much) it will be with you in the fullness of time. Keith understands the setting and the story in a way that makes us nearly giddy and is finding ways of having players explore and interact with the island and its flora and fauna (and those things which are uncomfortably neither or both) and create experiences and dark adventures.

Here, in Keth’s words, is how Philomena Bucket was born (or created) with some rolls of the dice-

“Philomena Bucket
These numbers tell us a lot about her. Philomena is of average build (STR 11) but a little sickly (CON  She could well appear a little pale and wan. However, her manual dexterity is good. She is not stubborn but can possibly be manipulated (WILL 10) but is of above average intelligence. She gets on pretty well with people (CHA 11) and is naturally drawn towards things spiritual (PSY 15).
Philomena rolled 52 on Class, making her as Middle class as could be, and 47 on Age. The player determines that as this is towards the top end of the range Philomena is 28 years old.
Given her physical characteristics and her high PSY Philomena’s player decides that she is an Artist specialising in painting. Her high PSY and DEX give her a base skill of 36% to which is added another 10% for her age, giving a total of 46%. She is pretty good but a bit rough around the edges.
She is a keen amateur Biologist.
Finally, and intriguingly, she is albino.”

If the roll had gone another way, she would have been inexplicably attractive to small bits of metal.

If you would like to know how all of this is developing and keep up with progress and news of release dates and such, I can recommend following the development blog, here!

 

Hoping (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

The Stowaway

To discover the genesis of this tale we need to travel a great distance from Hopeless, to Catamarca Province which lies in the far north-west of Argentina. It was in this area, according to legend, that students of the dark arts would seek out the fabled Salamanca caves, where, some believed, lay the entrance to Hell itself. Here lurked terrors beyond our worst imaginings; terrors even greater than those encountered upon this island.
It was in these caves, in some far-off time, that the creature known as Manchachicoj was conceived, the spawn of a demon and a local witch. Manchachicoj soon grew up to be an eloquent, softly spoken romantic, driven by a burning obsession to seek out and seduce beautiful young women. Although his pedigree was a mixture of native Calchaquí and demon, with his charm and elegance you could be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that he possessed all of the attributes of a classic Latin lover. Sadly, this was not the case, for Manchachicoj was somewhat hideous to behold; everyone he encountered eschewed the amorous attentions of this stunted, ugly creature.
After many centuries of unsuccessfully pursuing this quest all over Argentina it gradually dawned upon him that he was definitely not widely regarded as being boyfriend material. So, one bright morning in the latter part of 1886, while loitering around the docks in Buenos Aires, he made the decision that it was time to move on – and the three masted barque making ready to set sail for Portland, Maine looked perfect for the task.
With sails billowing as they left the quayside of Buenos Aires, Captain O’Neill looked lovingly around his ship. The Annie C. Maguire had made good progress. The passage from Liverpool to Argentina had gone exactly to plan and now, with a cargo of salt beef, he was determined to reach Portland by Christmas Day. Others on board were his wife and an eleven man crew. Just four thousand, seven hundred and twenty five nautical miles separated them from Christmas dinner in Maine. Little did he know that deep in the hold, sharing a barrel with a quantity of salt beef, was a diminutive and not particularly attractive stowaway.
Being a half-blood demon Manchachicoj’s senses were sharper than that of any mortal. He heard every conversation on board clearly and was able to see perfectly well in the pitch-black belly of the hold. Besides this, he had little need for food or drink. Occasionally, however, it pleased him to help himself to a mouthful of meat, or, in the early hours when the sailor on the middle-watch was half asleep, would steal a sip or two of water.
The long voyage passed without incident, and on the afternoon of Christmas Eve the imposing tower of the Portland light came into view. Manchachicoj was quietly dozing in his barrel at the time and the buzz of excitement on board brought him fully awake. But there was something else, some sound in the distance beyond the hearing of the others that drew his attention. It was enchanting  – a voice so achingly beautiful that it stirred him in ways he had never known. He was suddenly wrapped in a maelstrom of tenderness and lust, joy and sorrow, sunshine and moonlight. This must be the voice of the lover he had sought for so many centuries.
He scrambled from the barrel and made to climb out of the hold. He swore to himself. It had been battened down to safeguard the cargo as they entered the rough seas around the coast of Maine. Undeterred and driven wild with desire to see the owner of such a wonderful voice he found a marlin spike and began to hack away at the wooden walls of the ship with a superhuman frenzy.
If you examine the official report regarding the sinking of the Annie C. Maguire you will be told that she struck the ledge at Portland Head Light. The Lighthouse Keeper and some volunteers made a makeshift gangplank with a ladder, allowing everyone to clamber to safety. The report goes on to say that the cause of the wreck was puzzling; visibility was good and the crew swore that they had plainly seen the Portland Light prior to the disaster.
The truth of the matter is that the barque’s rudder had been damaged when Manchachicoj burst through; she was out of control. And so was poor Manchachicoj. His head was filled with an unworldly music that promised pleasures beyond all comprehension. Little wonder that he was so determined. There can be few in this world more obsessive and insistent than a siren-besotted Calchaquí-demon hybrid.
There we must leave the crew of the Annie C. Maguire, who all survived without a scratch and doubtless got to enjoy their Christmas dinner in Portland, though salt beef would more than likely have been off the menu. As for the barrels of meat, many made their way to the grateful populace of Hopeless. How that little episode eventually unfolded, however, is a tale for another day.
Oblivious to the damage he had caused, Manchachicoj swam frantically towards the source of the sweet-voiced songstress – which happened to bring him close to the coast of Hopeless. Demonic types conceived on land are not the most natural of swimmers. His technique, for want of a better word, resembled something between a dog-paddle and a panic attack but nevertheless, what he lacked in style he made up for in enthusiasm. Through dogged determination he fought his way through the icy waters towards his goal.
Both of his hearts leapt in unison as he saw her, a vision of loveliness perched daintily on an outcrop of rocks, known to the locals as The Devil’s Fingers. She was as beautiful as he had hoped and envisaged – and he was not at all fazed by her fishy extremities. As far as he knew, all of the girls in Maine looked like that. You must understand, Manchachicoj had never seen a mermaid or even heard tales of their fatal beauty. He had no inkling that, if he were a mere mortal, by now he would have drowned, having been driven mad by her siren song. Happily ignorant of these facts he was in love and anyway, drowning isn’t an option for a demon, half-blood or not, however badly he swims.
By the same token, the mermaid was impressed. Here was someone who had survived long enough to put himself in line to be properly seduced by her. It had never happened before. And looks aren’t everything, she told herself. Manchachicoj pulled himself up onto the rocks and the two gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes…You may ask if there was a ‘happy ever after‘ for these two? Some of you will remember the report in The Vendetta a few years ago of a mermaid turning up and singing seductively on The Devil’s Fingers. We nearly lost a few good men that day, including the venerable Doc Willoughby. These fellows were more than a little appreciative of the song she sang and it took a great deal of combined effort to stop them jumping into the sea. Fortunately everyone survived, including the mermaid. She was something of a disappointment to those who saw her, though. To put it mildly, she certainly wasn’t gifted with classic mermaid good looks. Have a look at the picture. Let’s just say she takes after her father.

Art by Tom Brown

The Poet of Tragedy Creek

Some time ago our late, lamented arts editor, Miss Bathsheba Caudle-Green, thought that it would enhance the cultural profile of the island if we had our very own poet laureate. After some consultation with the Mayor of Hopeless (who, at that time, was Alphonse Crackstone), a mutual agreement was reached whereby a modest cottage on Tragedy Creek, plus a small annual stipend, was arranged for the use of the successful applicant. It was later revealed that this was only achieved after Miss Caudle-Green had gained a not insubstantial degree of leverage by making reference to certain interests Mr Crackstone had in the recently re-opened Madame Evadne’s Lodging House for Discerning Gentlemen (Under new management).
Disappointingly, no one from the island applied for the post, so tentative advertisements were placed in the prestigious Kennebec Journal plus several other mainland newspapers. Despite this, only one candidate came forward; a young man named Leonard Stanley. Miss Caudle-Green was much relieved that her artistic ambitions for the island were bearing fruit and Leonard was immediately hired with no questions asked. Having few belongings, to speak of, he was soon transported to the cottage on Tragedy Creek amid a whirlwind of publicity and excited anticipation. Hopeless waited with baited breath for the pure bardic outpourings of its first poet laureate.
After several months of silence people began to wonder if the odd bardic outpouring, or, at least, a bardic trickle of some description, might yet be forthcoming; or, indeed, if the elusive poet was still on the island. Eventually The Vendetta sent Miss Caudle-Green to investigate. She came back shortly afterwards with ‘something he had been working on’ which she published in the paper following week.

Ode to Hopeless
by Leonard Stanley

What a wonderfully strange place is Hopeless,
This island surrounded by mist (and sea).
I really believe I would cope less
well, if anywhere else I should be.
So I think I’ll remain here forever,
as I’m someone who’ll quite often stay
a long time in places like Hopeless,
where the deer and the antelope play.*
So…‘til the mountains all flatten and slope less,
and the gallows (if we had one) is ropeless,
and the Vatican’s empty and popeless,
It’s here I will stay and I’ll mope less
frequently, on strange and mysterious Hopeless.
An island surrounded by mist (and sea).

*Actually they don’t but I like the image and it rhymes.

Sadly, days after this was printed Miss  Caudle-Green resigned her position at The Vendetta, and has not been seen in cultural circles since. Mr Crackstone also vanished. It appears that he had secretly sold the cottage and took the proceeds, plus the funds for the laureate’s stipend, with him. With no job or home and despite (or possibly because of) his heartfelt Ode to Hopeless, Leonard Stanley was removed to the mainland. He was welcomed back by his previous employer who had been looking for him. He has now resumed his position in the piggery of the Bolduc Correctional Facility.

 

Art by Tom Brown

Save the Succubus Wasp

Octavius Chevin is a man with a mission. Originally trained as a naturalist he has spent his entire adult life on the island making galoshes for the fishing community. However, his retirement has allowed him to return to his first love of entomology. Recently he has campaigned tirelessly for the protection and study of one of the island’s rarest and most curious arthropods – the Succubus Wasp. A species he himself discovered, frozen in a block of ice, a year ago.
He’s written books and papers about Vespula Hasturis, to give it it’s proper name. He’s formed the local environmental organisation that seeks to protect the Succubus Wasp and, until recently, campaigned to expand the membership of the charity.
Unfortunately he remains the sole member of Save the Succubus Wasp. Due to becoming bed-ridden he has had to completely abandon his efforts to increase the organisation’s influence among the local community, but his passion for environmental work is undimmed.
Today, he lives by himself in the old mill out near Geezo’s Bight.
When this reporter visited the door was already open and he was met cordially by Mr Chevin who received him in his bedroom.
In person Mr Chevin cuts quite an imposing figure –  Despite looking alarmingly emaciated and somewhat wild-eyed, the man turns out to be rather welcoming. Speaking candidly and openly about having lost the use of his legs and being only partially able to use his arms, he remains sanguine. His voice is high pitched with a faint sibilant tone and he also has a nervous tic of punctuating his sentences with a short buzzing noise from the back of his throat. He becomes animated as conversation turns from his ailments to his beloved wasps.
‘I am privileged to be on a mission to preserve the natural habitat and therefore the small population of Vespulis Hasturis for the benefit of present and future generations’ he says. ‘It is a beautiful creature, but its numbers are dwindling: at the moment there is only one live pregnant queen wasp and two dormant, pregnant, ice-bound queens, on the island. There were more, of course, but since the discovery of the frozen colony and their subsequent revivification by my hands last year, they have inevitably come into contact with humans’.
He continues – ‘This resulted in their habitat being encroached on at a rapid rate and also some regrettable deaths, in both the wasp and human populations.
As a result, a lot of misinformed and plain ignorant opinions about these shy and retiring creatures have come about.’ Mr Chevin has started to push himself forward and attempts to lean in closer to me.
He carries on – ‘The wasp has a fascinating feeding cycle. The queen will inhabit the nearest living creature it can find and appears to exert some sort of mental control over it’s host by releasing a special type of pheromone into the nervous system, as a result the host loses all interest in eating and sleeping. As it feeds further on the host’s spinal fluid the host rapidly becomes paralysed. As there is a finite supply of spinal fluid, this necessitates that the queen must find a new host after a while. It is quite slow to disentangle itself from the cerebellum of it’s current host so it has to keep it’s potential prey occupied for quite a while before it can attack and infest it. They can’t survive for long outside of another living thing, you see’. Mr Chevin is now shaking with excitement.
I edge back a little as Mr Chevin seems to be unconsciously trying to grasp my wrist.
‘They only lay eggs once in a lifetime so it’s important that a steady supply of hosts is available to increase the chances of Queens giving birth to fertile males of the species and therefore being able to immediately mate again. Sadly the males die after the procreative act, only the queen matters!’
His voice becomes tremulous – ‘Our number one priority is to see them growing healthy and breeding and spreading and to stop this trend of dwindling numbers’ he says fixing me with that commanding stare of his. I agree that we have a duty to help promote the future of these fascinating insects but decide to excuse myself as Mr Chevin seems to be having some manner of fit. His head is shaking violently and rapidly from side to side and he sounds as if he is about to cough something up.
I make a hasty exit as I fear that my presence may have exacerbated his condition. In some extremity of discomfort I believe he involuntarily threw something after me, as I heard a thud as if something had forcibly struck the fine mahogany door as I closed it on my way out.
Environmental concerns are all our responsibility and this reporter asks his esteemed readership to consider taking up Mr Chevin’s ‘adopt a wasp’ campaign which proved so unpopular and short-lived last year. Subscriptions can be delivered by postal order to the Vendetta.
This dark gem is from none other than Mr Charles Cutting with art by Tom Brown.

The Night-Soil Man

The following article discusses certain delicate matters not generally aired in polite society. Anyone of a sensitive nature may wish to stop reading now.
Hopeless is wonderfully rich in strangeness and mystery. It is home to a multitude of weird and unworldly creatures and sometimes it seems as if an ominous magic is lurking around every corner. While the human population and the more commonplace animal species living here are wary of these praeternatural neighbours, all recognise that, whatever dangers threaten to beset them, the business of living has to go on in all of its aspects. This inevitably includes the production and disposal of – and I blush to have to mention it – sewage.
In these modern times most people on the island enjoy the convenience of an unseen, efficient method of waste disposal. In the past, however, the gallant Night-Soil Man was our only method of removing the offending effluent. It would be common, after dark, to hear him rattling along the cobbled streets in his heavily-laden donkey cart. Although those days are, happily, long gone there still exist a few Night-Soil Men to service the more isolated and sparsely populated areas where it would be almost impossible to install any form of financially viable technology which would be sufficient to the task of  tackling the problem.
Maybe the best known modern day practitioner of this dying trade is Shenandoah Nailsworthy, a master of his craft. For those brave enough to be abroad at night, his burly form can frequently be spotted, scrambling over the rocky headland, burdened down with a large, tightly-lidded bucket, which is carried on his back like a rucksack. It should be noted that traditionally the work is always carried out in the hours of darkness in order to spare the sensibilities of the client.
There is a veil of secrecy surrounding much of the Night-Soil Man’s work. Indeed, the code of confidentiality that exists between him and his client has often been likened to that of the confessional. As Mr Nailsworthy once commented, “What happens in the privy stays in the privy.” Who exactly he said these words to is somewhat unclear though, as most people are disinclined to stand within speaking distance of him.
The comparison with the priesthood, perhaps, is greater than many may realise, as the general effluvium which surrounds him makes enforced celibacy an occupational reality. This is why there has never been a proud family tradition of night-soil collection with the tools of the trade passed from father to son. It has always been the occupation of a solitary man.  By the same token, however, it keeps him alive, as the otherworldly denizens of Hopeless, however bizarre or deadly they may be, will invariably give him a wide berth. After all, a foul stench is a foul stench in whatever dimension you partially-inhabit. The noxious reach of this lonely profession’s reek has even penetrated the folk-culture of the island. Besides a reference being made to him in the well-loved ballad ‘Ghost Writers in the Sky’, he is commemorated in a once-popular children’s street game; the song that accompanied it may still be heard occasionally:

Oh have you smelt the Night-Soil Man, the Night-Soil man, the Night-Soil Man,
Oh have you smelt Night-Soil Man who lives in Hopeless, Maine?

Oh yes I’ve smelt the Night-Soil Man, the Night-Soil man, the Night-Soil Man,
Oh yes I’ve smelt Night-Soil Man who lives in Hopeless, Maine. POO!

According to custom, when this game is played two children form an arch with their raised arms and their playmates march underneath in time to the song.The child who is left standing beneath the arch when the ejaculation POO! is reached is deemed to be out (this last syllable should be shouted lustily and with feeling). The arms of the arch come down and the hapless child is allegorically put into the Night-Soil Man’s bucket and the lid sealed. Comparisons have been drawn with Oranges and Lemons, at the end of which the unfortunate loser is symbolically beheaded. It either fate were factual it would be difficult to pick a preference.
Rufus Lypiatt, the landlord of The Squid and Teapot, told me a charming story about his elderly cousin, Arabella, one of the few people who managed, on one memorable occasion, to have a brief conversation with Mr Nailsworthy. Apparently she had a very bad head-cold at the time. It seems that one night she had wandered down to the end of her yard to answer a particularly urgent call of nature just a minute or so before he made his nocturnal collection. Surprised and probably somewhat embarrassed on having intruded upon her, he asked why she didn’t put a lock on the privy door.
“There’s no need,” she replied. “I’ve lived here for over forty years and no one has ever tried to steal the bucket.”
Finally, it should be noted that should you find yourself in the position of requiring the Night-Soil Man’s services please don’t be tempted to cut corners and do the job yourself. It is a potentially perilous activity and the chances are you will not succeed. At best you will simply end up going through the motions.*

*Author’s note: Apologies for the last paragraph. The temptation was just too much to bear.

 

Art by Tom Brown

Hopeless, Maine Horoscopes

Horoscopes

Gemini: It’s your birthday, so you’ll be feeling your mortality keenly in the coming weeks. Death omens will be everywhere but if you are very careful, and avoid putting out to sea during the next tentacular spawning, you might just get through the year in something like a state of aliveness.

Cancer: Toilets are especially dangerous for you this month. Remember – always look before you sit, always have a talisman to clutch when you shit.

Leo: Be especially careful during any events of blood rain this month as your chances of slipping and falling to your death are higher than usual.

Virgo: Now is not the time to feel smug about apparent success. Now is the time to check carefully under the bed every night. Try not to sleep too heavily, it’s your only hope.

Libra: Beware of apparently friendly offers, the odds are they want something you won’t want to give.

Scorpio:  Nothing good whatsoever will happen to you this month.

Sagittarius: Next Tuesday you will be bitten by a dog. He’s probably rabid, we’ll have to kill him and some of you.

Capricorn:  The thing you are looking for has been eaten by a chicken, or buried by close family member for esoteric reasons.

Aquarius: Now is a really bad time for starting a new relationship. They’ll die, or they’ll kill you, or will turn out to have rabies from the Tuesday Dog Incident.

Pisces: I wouldn’t leave the house until after the full moon if I were you.

Aries: I’m pretty sure it was your dog. Everyone will blame whichever one of you it is and you’ll never be invited to parties again.

Taurus:  Late in the month, one of your more embarrassing secrets will be revealed thanks to a sequence of really bizarre coincidences.

The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow

Regular readers of the ‘Vendetta’ will recall that some years ago we reported the discovery of an ancient burial site in the garden of Mr Jasper Fingle. At the time there was a certain amount of shock expressed in some quarters that the island had been host to settlers much earlier than previously suspected. For some of us, however, this came as no surprise at all. Jasper Fingle lives very near to the area of the island known as Creepy Hollow. It was given this name years ago, not long after the arrival of the Founding Families in the early nineteenth century – and with good reason.
The Legend of the Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow, sometimes called the Woeful Dane, has irrevocably intertwined itself with the history of one of our oldest families, the Chevins. Young Ophelia Chevin discovered that she had the dubious gift of ‘The Sight’ when she was only eight years old. Unsurprisingly her imaginary friends were more numerous and a good deal more useful than those of most children. While others enjoyed the insubstantial companionship of mute entities whose function was to be merely there to listen, or take the blame for various misdemeanours, Ophelia’s were kept fully occupied. They not only played games with her but helpfully did many of her chores and made sure that anyone who had been foolish enough to upset her were soon to regret their actions.
The most unusual of these companions was a large and generously bearded wraith who wandered abroad with a pronounced limp and a mad look in his glowing eyes. Although somewhat alarming to behold, he harmed no one but spent his haunting hours frantically searching for his stolen gull eggs. It seems that he had lived on the island centuries before and the details of his tragic demise were related to Ophelia by the ghost himself during his more lucid moments. It is a well-known fact, as any self-respecting psychic medium will tell you, that there are no language barriers in the afterlife. Even the English spirits can manage to communicate reasonably well with anyone, although generally they prefer to speak, and sometimes wail, extremely loudly and slowly in their own tongue, certain in the knowledge that they will be understood.
It was not until she reached adulthood that Ophelia recorded the ghostly account in her journal, now a treasured document still in the keeping of one of her many descendants. I am privileged to have been allowed to peruse this document and relate to you the strange tale of The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow.
In those far off days the cliffs around the island were home to various colonies of sea birds. They would gather in their tens of thousands, squabbling, feeding, breeding – and most important of all, laying eggs. Like the inhabitants of St. Kilda in the Outer Hebrides, the early settlers became skilled in scaling the slippery cliff-faces, slick with algae and guano, to retrieve the precious eggs which had become, along with the occasional careless gull, the mainstay of their diet.
Old Lars Pedersen was lame and therefore had no skills as a rock climber or egg-thief. He was, however, an accomplished wood carver. He would barter his plates, bowls and spoons for furs, cloth and, more than anything else, gull eggs. The workmanship and art that went into these simple utensils was huge. His spoons, especially, were greatly prized. And rightly so, for the eggs for which he traded them had been hard won (and often hard boiled).
When, one morning, Lars  awoke to discover that his stock of spoons and all of his eggs had completely disappeared he felt as puzzled as he was distressed. His home was well furnished, he had a fine bronze torque, a beautiful copper mirror and many valuable pieces of jewellery that he had hoarded since his seafaring days. To steal only eggs and spoons and nothing else made no sense. Ever practical, Lars shrugged off the intrusion and set himself the task of replacing supplies of both. After a day or two of dedicated carving and oiling his bartering skills with copious amounts of mead he soon replenished his empty shelves with freckled eggs of various hues. Just a few nights later these too disappeared. Those versed in Old Norse profanities may well have recognised a few of the choice comments he made about the incident. Yet another theft was the proverbial straw that broke the pack-mule’s back. He decided there and then to stay awake and catch the thief in the act. For three long nights he lay beneath his furs feigning sleep but there was no sign of the burglar. On the fourth night, just as he began to think that the thefts had stopped for good, he heard an ominous scraping and shuffling noise. At first he could see no sign of movement in the darkened room. Despite this, the scraping and shuffling carried on, occasionally accompanied by some high-pitched, excited chattering. Still no one was visible in the gloom.
“I am bewitched” he thought to himself uneasily.
Suddenly a pale shaft of moonlight shone through the smoke-hole of the hut, directly illuminating the strangest creature Lars had ever beheld. He described it as somewhat resembling one of the fish-egg pouches often seen washed up by the tide; the type sometimes called ‘Mermaid’s Purse’. This creature was larger, though.
“About the length of your hand,” he told Ophelia.
Several sets of tendrils extended from its body. Strangest of all was the fact that the creature was actually entwining some of these tendrils around four spoons and using them as stilts. And by the intricate runic carvings along the handle they were his own spoons, no less! As his eyes became more accustomed to the moonlight Lars spotted other shapes in the dimly-lit space. There must have been eight or ten of them, each wearing spoon-stilts and carrying more eggs in their tentacular grasp. Lars could not help but let out a little cry of surprise. As one, every creature’s eyes suddenly turned towards his prone body, and now they glowed horribly with a fierce green luminescence. He couldn’t move. It was as if their baleful and malevolent gaze had frozen him to the spot. He watched in terror as the weird band thieves scurried stiffly out of his hut, gibbering and squeaking. The wooden eating utensils tapped the ground with an ominous rhythm as they conducted their own version of an egg and spoon race.
It wasn’t until the last creature had disappeared into the night that the use returned to the Dane’s body. Although his limbs were able to move once more he was rooted to the floor, unable to remove the image of those terrible green eyes from his rapidly disintegrating mind.
Soon, all reason had drained from him. In the confused jumble that now filled his head all that made any sense was the memory of those eyes. They burned into his soul and took on the hue and shape of gull eggs. Pale and speckled, sometimes they would be a delicate blue, sometimes brown but eventually, always reverting to those dreadful lurid, luminous green orbs. Eggs and eyes became indistinguishable, portals to a ghastly quagmire that sucked him down ever further into a dark morass of madness.
“ My eggs” he croaked,  trying to rise to his feet and failing miserably. His last actions were to reach out, clutching at thin air in a vain attempt to regain his lost eggs.
He was found at daylight lying cold and dead on the floor of his hut, a look of terror on his face and his eyes wide and staring at something that lurked beyond human vision.
For almost eight hundred long years his troubled phantom has haunted the place that has since become known as Creepy Hollow. He has witnessed the coming of the mysterious fog that seems to permanently surround the island. As the fog rolled in so the sea bird colonies deserted the rocks forever and with their passing the little Danish settlement disappeared, unable to sustain itself without their bounty.
Is it the body of Lars that Jasper Fingle discovered? We’ll probably never know. What we do know, however, is that those strange, misshapen thieves took a liking to spoons. They were a vast improvement on the twigs and bits of driftwood they had previously utilised. With these, they were able to climb and hunt much more efficiently.
Should you be on the island and in the vicinity of Creepy Hollow it would be fruitless to go looking for the Woeful Dane. These days he has become less substantial, and as his shade gradually fades so does his madness. If anyone should stumble on the wraith unexpectedly he would make a feeble attempt at the wild-eyed lunacy they might expect but it would be obvìous that his heart – if he had one – was just not in it. I have it on excellent authority that occasionally the ladies of the Mild Hunt have been seen to call by and whip him up a protoplasmic three-egg omelette but their spaniels invariably overdo the yapping and begging, and this, along with the pungent nether-winds of their famously flatulent mules, quite frankly, spoils the meal entirely for him. I don’t believe he’ll be seen at all before long. But don’t concern yourselves. There are more than enough ghosts and night-walkers on the island to furnish our nightmares forever.

 

Art by Tom Brown

Master Scutcheon’s Hairy Coffee

Master Scutcheon Bugleblower of Hopeless Maine has recently released a new beverage from his coffee concoctionary (otherwise known as his cellar). Master Scutcheon is well known for his Brown Lining coffee shop, where he has sold many strange and very brown coffees to the unfortunate souls who were lured in by the promise of ‘Genuine Coffee Liquid in A Cup’.

This new beverage has been named by Master Scutcheon as ‘Hairy Coffee’. After having left a cup of coffee lying about for several weeks and accidentally sprinkling exotic fungi spores into it, Scutcheon found himself confronted one morning by a large cup coated with hair, underneath which when he had managed to summon up enough gumption, he found lurking some coffee whose taste sent him into an ‘exquisite reverie’ that made him fall in love with coffee again and renew his vows to the Goddess Kafeteria.

Scutcheon then proceeded to find out how he had created this hairy coffee and having spent several months obsessively perfecting the right amount of fungi spores needed to create the ideal coating of hair, he finally announced from his shop door the dawn of a new age in coffee culture. Scutcheon has strong views about what constitutes real coffee, which he proudly tells anyone who asks, were passed down from his grandmother. Real coffee as he believes is all about the Brown Lining. This he will not elaborate on, so zealous is he about keeping his coffee recipes secret, but as drinkers of his coffee will tell you: ‘Brown and more brown, combining into a strata of solid brownness upon which you can rotate your finger for up to a minute without anything giving way’ often is what you find Scutcheon making and serving you.

A Hairy Coffee public trial day was held last week at the Brown Lining, where Scutcheon appeared apparelled unfailingly in his brown matching breeches, jacket, waistcoat, and tricorn hat. Several individuals participated, whether they were tricked into it or chose out of their own will, is as yet unknown. The Hairy Coffee was reverentially served with several of his stale biscuits from the bottom of the tin. At the time of the drinking Scutcheon gave a libation to the Goddess Kafeteria, and then he began to chew meditatively on one of his finest stale biscuits, enjoying the sound from the kitchen of his huge greasy coffee vat slowly congealing. The Hairy Coffee was particularly hairy that morning.

 

(By Robin Collins- art by Tom Brown)

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.