All posts by Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things.

Devious Devices

Here’s a fine tale from the Hopeless Maine RPG developer – enjoy!

The Hopeless Traveller

I was sat in my favourite armchair one evening last week, reading the Vendetta and enjoying a brandy – from the last shipwreck, you remember? Lovely stuff. Anyway, there I was, glass in hand, God in his Heaven and all right with the World when I became aware of a soft clicking. Now I don’t own a clock and this noise seemed to be moving around, so I sat as quiet as I could. You know how it is when you are straining to hear something, every sense becomes heightened and damn if didn’t see something move near the top of the curtain, just out of the corner of my eye. 

I softly put the glass down, rolled up the paper and advanced on the curtain with the grace and stealth of a Leopard. Don’t scoff – a Leopard, I tell you. Anyway, the ticking got a little louder and…

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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)

Traditional songs from Hopeless Maine

What do people sing on Hopeless Maine, when the fog swirls ominously around the windows? What do they sing to children too frightened to sleep? Or for that matter at the Founders Day when residents gather together to look mournfully at the inedible flora and fauna their ancestors found on arrival here?

There are of course many traditional songs. here are some collected by author and filkloreist Sheila North, on the subject of The Night Potato.

 

You can find more Sheila North here – https://sheilanorth.wordpress.com/

Here’s a tentacular cover Tom did for Sheila’s short stories…

 

Hopeless Classified Ads

WANTED Clown tears, milked from the finest European clowns, urgently required to oil the Hyperbaric Orchestra Machine I have brought to the island at considerable expense for the benefit concert for orphans by several careless witches, who misplaced my supply of prime Pagliaci weepings. All leads welcome, to Glitchy, c/o the orphanage. Please do not disappoint the orphans any more than they have already been disappointed!

Fed up with dust?

Can’t quite get into the corners?

Just want to be able to spend some time not doing anything?

Walden Pond Frog’s  trained dust-cats are here to help.

Annoying corners? No problem. Not enough time? They do not need supervision and can safely eat dust without you needing to do a thing.

Yes, we too have heard the rumours. If the dust cats have any negative effects on you or anyone else, we will not be willing to accept any complaints. We would not greatly appreciate any feedback you have.

We do not accept any feedback about missing items that may have only occurred after your purchase of one of our dust cats.

FOR SALE:
Trepanning kit. 2 Trephine Drills,4 knives, 1 set of pincers,1 skull harness, a copy of ‘Trepanning for Dummies’ by Brian Damage + 2 ‘practice’ skulls in a silk lined case. One previous (careful owner). Ideal for the a young craniectomologist or amateur enthusiast. Will accept an offer on the price. Contact Nahum Petulance via the Vendetta.
(Thank you to Glitchy – Adam Horovitz, Walden Pond Frog – James Colvin and Nahum Petulance – Charles Cutting)

Tales of the night potato

The Legend of Stern Ericsson

By Graeme Talboys

Ericsson’s field is given to grass now, sour and wiry. Even the passing geese refuse to stop off there on their journeys to wilder climes. Nothing but the thin, cold wind plays there, and its game is spiteful.

Few, now, know who Ericsson was. Some even doubt he existed at all. But he did. He dug the soil of that field in a daily battle, breaking the sod as it slowly broke his back. For many years he had risen daily to the task with the rising of the sun and worked until the sun was gone from the sky. He grew vegetables there in the strange soils on the haunted hill.

It left little space in his head for ought but the small compass of earth in all its forms and moods. Letters meant nothing to him yet he could read the history of the world in that patch of soil. Many say it drove him mad. Once placid, his eyes had, in latter years, begun to glow with dull and obsessive fire.

With gothic inevitability, it was the night of a full moon that others noticed his eyes had taken a different shine; the same night that he was first heard to mutter: “They are here. The night potatoes are here.”

Some put it down to drink which he consumed with a destructive steadiness. Others simply pointed to the fact that no matter how much he consumed, his walk was ever steady and his speech never slurred. And those who put it down to the strong ale soon abandoned the idea as he was heard muttering it over and over at all hours of the day long after he had stopped appearing in the tavern of an evening. And he had taken to carrying his large, sturdy fork wherever he went – a fearsome tool that had broken many acres and lifted many a vegetable.

In the end it was thought his long years of toil had broken his mind before it had broken his back. Until, that is, a child who was out after dark when he should have been abed and asleep came screaming into his parents’ kitchen with tales of angry potatoes, eyes aglow, scuttering along Ericsson’s field.

Roused, the village men turned out in force. Alas, too late. What heroic action had been fought, they could not tell other than by surmise. All they saw as they approached the field was Stern Ericsson silhouetted against the rising moon, laying about his person with his dread fork as he was assailed by the vengeful tribe of root vegetables, their eerie pale eyes aglow with vengeance for generations of their brethren.

By the time the villagers had reached the spot, the warrior horde of perennial nightshades had gone. As for Stern Ericsson, prone on the ground he had tilled for decades, it was a sight they would never forget – the horror and despair in his sightless eyes; his arms and legs planted in the ground, earth banked up around his corpse.

The winter that followed was hard on everyone. Ericsson’s harvest had upped and run and there was little appetite for potatoes that year. And for many years after. Even now they are an imported delicacy, a luxury only to be found in shipwrecks.

No one knows what made them turn, nor why they turned on Ericsson, but there his field now lies, the cold wind knifing its way through the rough grasses. And if you dare to venture along the lane at night, just as a moon is rising, you’ll see a mound in silhouette, the final resting place of Stern Ericsson.

http://www.graemektalboys.me.uk/

 

 

From Lou Lou Pulford

“Where d’you want me t’put ‘em Ma’am?”

Perhaps there had been a misunderstanding. Another one. I had asked for vegetables. I had asked this very clearly and slowly, stretching my mouth around each syllable after the fashion of all well bred English women travelling abroad. Again it seemed my earnest attempts at meaningful communication had fallen foul of the islanders’ intellect. I do not mean to say that the locals here are backward in any way, simply that years of isolation for any community will lead eventually to the evolution of a very particular strain of intelligence… and it was the brick wall of this esoteric wit that my own frazzled faculties have been thrown up against since my arrival three days ago.

It was only a month or two ago that my dear friend Nimue Brown sat in my little soup kitchen in Lancaster nodding and smiling and making encouraging noises at my, obviously foolish, suggestion of a holiday to the island of Hopeless, Maine. Being a witch in my country is never easy, as women are not permitted to practice magic. I manage to hide my identity by running a little soup kitchen for the street orphans of Lancaster but it is a terrible strain and so when I heard about the plight of the poor orphans of Hopeless I decided to hitch my soup cauldron to the back of my broomstick and see if I could lend a culinary hand – nothing makes one forget the misery and futility of a poverty stricken life like a hearty bowl of home cooked soup.

It was now midnight (ish) on the third day since my arrival and, having spent a good amount of energy explaining why ‘bottom of the garden stew’ is not a nutritious diet for a growing child and the last of my good will reserves arguing that ‘just because it came out of the sea does not mean it can be called sea food’, I was now faced with a man bringing me armfuls of wriggling, root-flailing abominations insisting that these were potatoes.

‘Night Potatoes, Ma’am’ he sounded both exhausted and inexplicably pleased with himself.

‘Oh…but they are…um…moving?’ I thought I had made it quite clear that vegetables should on no account move of their own volition – much less glare at the cook with glowing eyes!

My benefactor leaned in conspiratorially ‘ better than them Gnii Ma’am… and the Spoon Walkers… and the Post Meridian Cucumber… and them After Eight Carrots..’

It was true; ever since the soup kitchen had opened its doors I had been inundated with a dauntless stream of locals proffering their contributions to the pot (along with various blessings, charms, curses, death threats…)

I sighed, better perhaps to humour this gentleman and his Night Potatoes than risk him return with some more frightful offering. ‘Very well, thankyou, thankyou so much I’m sure I shall find…something to do with them.’ I smiled gratefully and closed the door, leaving myself distressingly alone with a kitchen full of sinister spuds, who were now congregated around the stove, blinking menacingly at me with probable murderous intent. I rolled up my sleeves, picked up a rolling pin in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other and thought fondly of the onions of home, once again it was going to be a long Hopeless night but I was determined that at the end of all the screaming and the torment, all the carnage and the blood, there would be soup.

https://smithandskarry.wordpress.com/

Utterly Hopeless Music

Quite some years ago, musician and composer Johnny Benson approached Tom at The Steampunk’s World Fair in New Jersey and they talked about the possibility of a soundtrack for Hopeless Maine.

We of course said yes. The result is a lovely, haunting and atmospheric body of music. The titles are…

Hopeless Maine,  Salamandra, Pallad rock (the orphanage), Ribbons in her Hair, Of Woods and Witches and Just Off Shore.

It’s a soundtrack for Personal Demons – book one, or the second bit of The Gathering, after The Blind Fisherman, depending on which version you have.

You can find Utterly Hopeless on itunes, and if you poke about the internet, its on other music sites as well.

https://itunes.apple.com/gt/album/utterly-hopeless-ep/id760207227?l=en

The Lost Library

By Mark Lawrence

book-ghosts

Four walls, black with the memory of the fire that took the roof. Cold now. Even the stink of char is gone, rain-washed into the gutter. The building is haunted, naturally, how could it not be? What ruin that watches the world from dark windows is free of spirits? But the ghosts here are those of books. The phantoms of hundreds. Untold worlds and lives, riveted to ten thousand pages, each letter a black nail pinning to the page mysteries and marvels, all ready to unfurl in an open mind. They died with a crackle and a sigh and their ashes spiralled glowing into the dark skies of an all Hallows eve. Frogmire Morton built this place and filled it with row upon row of leather-clad tomes, wisdom rubbing worn covers with whimsy. Where they came from, and who wrote them, is perhaps as big a mystery as any contained within their many chapters. Why they burned though, that, sadly is no mystery at all. Little is as frightening to those seeking dominion over others than dissenting opinion, and in Frogmire’s small library were a multitude of voices, each page a window onto other worlds and other ‘might be’s. The ghosts of those books rustle here when the wind is still. Their characters walk invisible. They parade and promenade, discuss and discourse. And the children that play here on the black mud floor, with four scorched walls and the sky for a roof, find their imaginations infected with such strangeness that they return time and again. It seems a strange place to find hope. But hope is strange.

(Mark Lawrence is the author of numerous fantastic dark fantasy titles, and if you are somehow unaware of him, please saunter  over to his website and learn more! http://www.marklawrence.buzz/)

The Hopeless Chaffies

Jamie Smart, creator of Chaffy, tells us, “Chaffies are small, innocent creatures, renowned for getting themselves lost in the most unexpected and bewildering places. Usually they’re spotted hiding in long grass or rolling out from under a bed, but these Chaffies went far beyond. Into the disturbing realms of Hopeless, Maine. To be fair, they still seem to be enjoying themselves, at least those that aren’t drowning or being chased by nightmares made flesh. However they got there, and whichever creatures they befriend, we hope they’ll find their way home safely. We doubt it, though.”

 

Hopeless Chaffies by Tom Brown, with colours by Nimue Brown, based on the Chaffies of Jaime Smart. Find more Chaffies here – http://www.findchaffy.com/

Peffa Oidy Witches sighted!

leftwitchdpscomp

Conventional wisdom suggests the sight of a squadron of over 200 airborne witches roaring out of the fog on bright-red, burning vroffa-brooms might make for a most ‘twizzly’ sight. But as this is Hopeless Maine, here we must remember that all convention mostly slithers slowly back into the murky seas of logic that surround the island like an ominous tentacle disappearing under the slooping waters…

The reality, were you ever to be perched on a jetty by the shoreline, your ears pricked by the throbbing hum of the approaching horde – would of course, be arguably different from your expectations.  And here, I’m assuming that you’re rather like the witches in question – a visitor to this most peculiar place, keen to encounter its many irregularities whilst trying your best not to be drowned, eaten – or worse….

So, with these pretexts aside, let us look up into the swirling mists and search the fluffing-white for the witches themselves…

There!

You’ve missed them!

Whole coven just flew right passed you!

….for these black-hatted sisters are far from ‘ordinary’ too. These are the ‘peffa-oidy’ witches from The League of Lid-Curving Witchery’ in Winchett Dale – and like you, they’ve come for a holiday to this most curious of places.

A holiday? Witches?

Listen, it’s not easy being a ‘peffa-oidy’ witch. First, there’s the whole ‘peffa-oidy’ thing – ie: being ‘very small’. Most are little larger than a mouse, some occasionally might rival a small kitten – but only in stature. They’d stroff the kitten, obviously – but probably only after teasing it for a ‘very long time’ in order to get their own back on felines, generally.

Their brooms are often little more than twigs, their hats the size of thimbles – so really to have 200 fly past in the fog and miss them completely is quite the most normal thing to expect…even in a place as tangled and tentacled as Hopeless Maine.

Oh, and if you do see them (most likely settled in a flock upon the boughs of an obliging tree in night’s early hours) back away slowly…peffa-peffa-slowly – for they never sleep, they only pretend…

(If you need more Peffa Oidy Witches in your life – and we think you do – then have a look at Phil and Jacqui Lovesey’s work over at http://www.matlockthehare.com/)

Local Woman Takes The Plunge

artistLOCAL WOMAN TAKES THE PLUNGE AND OPENS GALLERY OUT ON GEEZO’S BIGHT

Local artist, Fuschia Van Der Hvergulmir, has taken the plunge and opened a gallery out on the small bay known as Geezo’s Bight which is situated on the northern coast of Hopeless.

The designer, who has previously had her work exhibited in the town hall, makes jewelry and ‘objets d’art’ from items that she discovers in the pit near Geezo’s Bight.

‘I’ve been exploring the pit for a few years now’ Mrs Van Der Hvergulmir told Frampton Jones of the Vendetta ‘ I used to beach comb but that became problematic when an albino seal (at least I think it was a seal) got very territorial and took to chasing me away every time I went down to the beach.’

‘Then I discovered the pit when out for a walk with my husband and our dog, Pepper. I still haven’t got to the bottom of it yet!’ She laughs.

Mrs Van Der Hvergulmir said that she and her husband Glenn thought long and hard about opening her own gallery given the current bleak economic outlook, but decided she would regret it if she did not at least try.

‘I’m really excited’ she said.

“I’ve had a really positive response – fellow businesses have been particularly supportive – and so far we have had five customers since we opened our doors three months ago.’

Mrs  Van Der Hvergulmir has built a workshop at the back of the gallery so she can make jewelery while being on hand for customers.

The jewelry and ‘pieces’ themselves are somewhat hard to describe given the strange quality of the materials used. This reporter particularly liked a crouching figure made from a sort of crumbly pumice stone entitled ‘Lier-in-wait’ and also a necklace made of a dark viscous substance that gives off a dull brown radiance.

The Van Der Hvergulmir Gallery produces one-off commissions, including engagement rings and is open to the public on Saturday between the hours of 1.00pm to 3.00pm.

(This Vendetta contribution was written by Charles Cutting, of http://charlescutting.com/ author and illustrator of the most excellent graphic novel – Kadath. Art on this piece by Tom Brown.)