November Rain

It has often been noted in these tales, and, indeed, in various other articles appearing in ‘The Vendetta’, that the climate enjoyed by the islanders of Hopeless, Maine, is not particularly agreeable. In fact, the words Awful, Atrocious and Abysmal spring to the tongue unbidden when conversing about the weather. As a rule, there is little to choose between the seasons; habitual fog, steady drizzle and cold winds are standard fare, whatever the time of year. Occasionally, however, these relatively minor inconveniences are totally eclipsed by a weather-front so foul that islanders have little choice other than to hole-up in their respective homes, and pine for those halcyon days of habitual fog, steady drizzle and cold winds.

November must have been in a particularly bad frame of mind when it descended upon the rocky shores of Hopeless. The days of late fall and winter are short enough at the best of times, but the glowering skies, heavy with dark clouds, kept all hope of reasonable daylight firmly at bay, until night fell, starless and bible-black, as Dylan Thomas might have said. And then the deluge came. Rain as heavy and unremitting as any on the island could remember, carried on a bitter wind and thrown down in torrents.

Reverend Davies peered out of his study window and watched the rain bouncing off the roof of the Pallid Rock Orphanage.

“This is divine retribution,” he muttered to himself. “We are being punished, that’s for sure. I should have seen it coming when the blasted Bucket woman brought that heretical alchemist fellow here. No good was ever going to come of that.”

It was true that Philomena Bucket had brought Doctor John Dee to the island some time before, and, for reasons known best to himself, Reverend Davies was never slow to blame ‘the blasted  Bucket Woman’ for any mishap that might occur.

Suddenly a figure flickered past the window. It was the wraith of Miss Calder, impervious to the rain, doing her nightly rounds. The Reverend instinctively jumped as she slid effortlessly through the wall and into the study.

“I do wish that you wouldn’t do that, Miss Calder,” he said, anxiously gripping his chest.

“Sorry Reverend, but you need to know that the rain has flooded the old stone privy and damaged the wall. Luckily none of the children were in there at the time. I’ve made sure that they are alright, but it will need attending to as soon as possible.”

“There’s nothing we can do until this infernal rain eases up,” said the Reverend, gloomily.

“Well, nothing lasts forever,” said Miss Calder, brightly, “and we both know things can change.”

“Maybe someone or other can repair it when the weather brightens up a bit,” said the Reverend. “Although, it has been pitch black out there for days, and it’s hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain.”

“I think you’ll find that if they have a lantern it shouldn’t be an issue,” said Miss Calder.  “I’ll see what can be done in the morning,”

“Thank you,” said the Reverend. “Oh, and Miss Calder…” he added, a little awkwardly.

“Yes?”

“When you go to ask, try not to worry people too much. You know… The Face thing…”

Miss Calder nodded her ghostly head. She was aware that when she became excited or agitated her usually pleasant features dissolved into a grinning skull, which tended to put even her closest friends on edge.

It was almost midnight when Miss Calder set out to visit Rhys Cranham, the Night-Soil Man, guessing that the inclement weather would prevent him from going on his rounds. She was by no means certain that Rhys would be able to help, but she never missed the slightest pretext to visit him.

Rhys was standing in his doorway, staring glumly at the rain and worrying about overflowing cess-pits, when the phantom administrator of the orphanage fluttered into view.  A Night-Soil Man’s life can be lonely, so Rhys was more than happy to have some company, as long as she managed not to do The Face thing. Unfortunately, Miss Calder frequently experienced feelings of excitement and agitation in Rhys’ presence, so keeping her features under control required a great effort of will.

“Good evening, Miss Calder,” said Rhys, ever the gentleman. “It’s good to see that someone is able to get out in this lousy weather.”

“Well, I’m not really a someone anymore,” she replied sadly, then added, brightening up, “but being a ghost can have its advantages.”

Rhys knew exactly what she meant. An ordinary mortal would not have been able to stand within yards of him without retching. The smell went with the job.

“So what can I do for you?” he asked.

Miss Calder’s pallid countenance passed from pale-green to a delicate shade of red.

She composed herself and told him about the problem with the privy at the orphanage.

Rhys pondered a while.

“I’m fairly sure that Reverend Davies would not want me there during daylight hours,” he said, “but I’m not going to be able to do any of my own work until the rain has stopped for a couple of days and the water levels go down.”

“It would be wonderful if you could help,” said Miss Calder.

“One snag, though,” said Rhys. “I am going to need some light, and I can’t imagine that anyone is going to be able to get close enough to me to hold up a lantern.”

“I could,” said Miss Calder excitedly, almost forgetting herself and making ‘The Face’. Then she realised that being a ghost, she was no more capable of holding a lantern than she was of hugging the Night-Soil Man.

Dejected, her glimmer became little more than that of a fire-fly.

“Do you always fade when you are sad?” asked Rhys.

“Yes,” her voice was little more than a whisper.

“And glow when you’re happy?”

“Well, yes, I suppose I do.”

“Then maybe I can work by the light of your happiness,” said Rhys.

“So you will mend the privy roof?”

“Only if you are there and feeling happy,” he replied with a smile.

“Oh, I will be happier than you will ever know” thought Miss Calder, and her phantom form shone like a beacon in the darkness.  

At The Bridge of Bottles

The bridge of bottles connects Gaunt Street to Gaunt Town. Also known as The Old Town, Gaunt Town is the oldest part of the island’s major settlement. It remains inhabited, but mostly not by people. It is not a place for the living, nor for those who intend to remain living, as James points out in our current show.

The bridge of bottles crosses The Gaunt River here. Those of you who know your folklore will be aware that there are all sorts of things who do not like to cross running water. Being on the Gaunt Street side of the river is considerably safer than being on the Old Town side. Especially after dark.

The living tend to stay out of The Old Town. It is a place of shadows and unease. Even on the best and brightest days, it is never warm there. The past sits heavily on the land. However, there are many who venture as far as the bridge of bottles, to make their own strange rituals.

Quite how, or when or why any of this started, no one knows. These days, there are always bottles on the bridge. People bring them with little offerings inside. If you don’t have an empty bottle you can spare, it works just fine to bring the offerings and drop them into one of the empty bottles. There are always empty bottles, the offerings are usually accepted.

What meaning you bring to this is personal. Perhaps you wish to placate something by making an offering here. Perhaps you need to atone, or to seek good fortune. That’s between you and your bottle. Between you and whatever empties your bottle. Choose your gift carefully.

They say that blood makes the most powerful magic. It is a risky thing though, to give another entity a taste for you in this way. What is most personal is most potent, but there are always consequences. 

(With particular thanks to Keith Healing, who discovered the ruins of the Old Town while he was working on the role play game, and worked out the connection between Gaunt Street, the bridge of bottles, and that especially haunted bit of landscape. Gaunt Street, for anyone who hasn’t put it together, is where Owen, Lilly May and Donald take up residence in the graphic novel ‘Victims’. )

Spooky songs

Here are some more videos of The Ominous Folk of Hopeless, Maine singing.

We sing at events partly because it’s fun and partly as a way to share the island with people and lure them in.

Lowlands is one of the first songs we took out on these terms – death and ghosts…

Here we are singing Anne Lister’s Moth song at Shrewsbury Steampunk Spooktacular. This one is part of this year’s show, which has a Hopeless romance theme. And anyway, moths.

Another one from our recent gig at Woodchester Mansion. Ravens, and death. ‘Nuf said.

The Halloween Party

by Martin Pearson
After braving the vertiginous descent that took her to the tunnels, Marigold found, with no small measure of relief, her journey through the Underland to be uneventful. Philomena had mentioned that no one had walked through the region for some weeks, so she was surprised to find that the rush lights, placed in great iron sconces along the walls, were burning as if they had been lit that very hour.

Marigold felt bad about stealing Philomena's key to the faux-chest in the attic, the secret entrance to the Underland. She felt certain that the barmaid would understand her reasons; surely, if anyone could cure her amnesia, and tell her where her home was to be found, it would be the mysterious Doctor Dee, whom Philomena had first met there. 
As she walked along the fire-lit paths, Marigold pondered the information that Philomena had unwittingly given her, regarding the cave which lay at the very end of the tunnels. Apparently, it had presented itself differently each time she had visited. Well, however the cave chose to appear to her, Marigold decided that her course was set, and there would be no turning back until she had either found Doctor Dee, or solved the mystery of her origins herself.

Marigold's heart missed a beat; the mouth of the cave loomed before her. It was smaller and less imposing than she had expected and pale fingers of mist reached out, as if beckoning her to come in. The heat from the rush-lights had kept the tunnels warm, almost too warm for her to need the blanket that she had thrown over her shoulders when she left The Squid. Now, however, a cold draught made her skin prickle, and she drew it close around her. Then she took a deep breath and stepped into the reaching mist. 

 "Oh, for goodness sake!" Marigold exclaimed crossly.
The view in front of her bore absolutely no resemblance to the inside of a cave, or an Elizabethan alchemist's study, as she had hoped. In fact it bore no resemblance to anything other than the island of Hopeless, Maine. She could see the Gydynap hills outlined in the moonlight.
 "I've taken a wrong turning somewhere," she muttered. That at least explained why the air had grown so much colder. Hopeless was dreary at the best of times. Now, at the end of October, the island was definitely trying on its winter wardrobe.
Marigold looked about her, trying to get some sense of where, exactly, she was. The cave mouth had disappeared and the only landmark was a stone cottage. There was a light in one of the windows. Whoever was inside would hopefully be able to direct her back to The Squid and Teapot.

The young man who answered her knock smiled broadly. A welcoming, golden light flooded through the open doorway.
 "Of course I can tell you how to get to The Squid," he said amiably, " but come in and have a drink and a bite to eat first. We're having a celebration. I suppose you could call it a Halloween party."
 "Halloween? Is it really? Gosh, I've lost all track of time since my... since my recent illness" said Marigold. " Well, just for minute or two wouldn't hurt, I guess. Thank you."

It was obviously a family gathering. The cottage rang with the laughter of three generations, a dozen happy people all clustered around a great oak table that was laden from end to end with the sort of food and drink that the inhabitants of Hopeless can usually only dream of. A blazing log fire roared in the grate, and slender white candles burned with a pure and even luminosity.
Marigold was puzzled by the opulence, but appreciating her good fortune, hung her blanket, to which she had pinned the chest key, on a hook on the wall. Gratefully she took a seat at the table.
 "This is so lovely," she thought, wine glass in hand and reaching for another helping of roast potatoes. "It certainly beats starry-grabby pie." 
She put her head to one side and tried to remember why she didn't like starry-grabby pie. Come to think of it, what was starry-grabby pie anyway? Wherever did she get that silly name from?
 "More corn, Marigold?" said the young man, "Let me top your drink up..." 
 "Thank you," she replied. "This is such a wonderful evening, I wish it could go on forever, but I must leave soon."
 The elderly woman sitting beside her smiled warmly. 
 "Why not stay a while longer? There's no reason for you to leave just yet."
 " No, I've no reason to leave... " said Marigold, dreamily.

Philomena peered down the yawning shaft of the chest that squatted in a corner of the attic. 
 "We're going to have to leave it open," said Bartholomew Middlestreet . "It has only been a few days. You never know, she might come back that way."
 Philomena said nothing. With, or without The Sight, she knew that such a thing would be unlikely. She really wanted to seal the passage up forever, cut the ladder from the wall, lock the chest and throw the key - the key she no longer possessed - far into the ocean. 

It was on the following morning, while walking with Drury,  that she found the blanket. Her blanket. Drury, for reasons best known to himself, had decided to explore a ruined cottage in Creepy Hollow. It had been little more than a couple of walls and a heap of rubble for years. The blanket had been lying on the floor. At least it looked like Philomena's missing blanket, though it was faded now, and thick with dust, as though it had been abandoned there fifty years ago. 
 "Oh Marigold," she thought to herself, "I don't know who or what you found in the cave, but I'm pretty sure that it wasn't John Dee."
She picked up the blanket and noticed that an iron key had been pinned to one corner. Philomena recognised it immediately.
" She won't be coming back, " she said quietly to herself. "And this must never - will never - happen again."

Philomena had long doubted that she possessed any magical skills, despite the assurances and protestations to the contrary of both John Dee and the ghost of Granny Bucket. So maybe she thought, as those words left her lips, that the earth tremor was a coincidence. Nothing remarkable; seismic activity was commonplace enough in the state of Maine. 

Bartholomew Middlestreet had to steady himself when the tremor hit. It seemed to come from directly beneath The Squid and Teapot, shaking the building so hard that pictures fell from the walls and crockery smashed. In the shaft that led to the tunnels, the agonized metallic death-rattle of the long iron ladder could be heard as it pulled away from the fabric of the walls, becoming suddenly, and unaccountably brittle, bending and shattering beyond repair.

Far beneath the inn, deep in earth, many hundreds of tons of rock tumbled like skittles, sealing forever all access to the Underland.









Screamers

Screamers are charming little creatures resident on the island. They don’t mean any harm, they just want to get on with their lives.

Their lives involve hanging out in the undergrowth, and killing small prey by first stunning and disorientating them. That’s where the screaming comes in. It’s a terrible noise and will also stun and disorientate humans. It’s just that we are far too big to eat and they don’t tend to hunt in packs.

This screamer is the work of Cliff Cumber.

Screamers are fragile little things, and are easily harmed. It doesn’t take much effort to kill one. This, however, is a singularly bad choice. While the body of the screamer may fly apart, the scream does not. It continues. It may follow you.

This does not entirely answer our frequently asked question of ‘what is screaming all the time?’ Lots of things scream. People especially. Not all screaming can be attributed to screamers be they alive or deceased.

This next screamer is the work of Matilda Patterpaw.

Screamers are one of the few beings that can live inside helltopiary. Apparently the helltopiary has figured out that the consequences of eating screamers are far worse than the consequences of leaving them alone.

Why we don’t have gun fights

Steampunks tend to be fond of preposterous weaponry with things you can point at people being popular features for costumes. Hopeless, from that perspective, is disappointedly short of things you can shoot people with. 

Part of the problem is the damp. Which is relentless and gets into everything. Gunpowder is notorious for needing to be dry in order to work and so mostly… it doesn’t. 

If you were going to try and make your own gunpowder, you would be further thwarted by the total lack of saltpetre on the island.

Import used to be a thing, back in the days when boats managed to get to the island deliberately, and it wasn’t all accidental shipwrecks. If you’ve wondered about salvaging gunpowder from a shipwreck, let me refer you back to the issue of dampness and the impossibility of drying anything out without using a fire.

This, incidentally is almost certainly how Ignatious Chevin blew up his house a couple of years ago. His grasp of chemistry was not all that it might have been, and he had managed to get a lot of barrels of gunpowder from the beach.

About the only reliable ways of firing weapons is either to get some wood and gut and make a bow, or you have to stuff a demon up your blunderbus (not a euphemism) and keep it angry enough that it will attack someone else when you fire it, but not so angry that it blows up in your face. Firing an apathetic demon who is sick of your shit can lead to results that will amuse onlookers but will do nothing to help you in a fight.

Ladies Who Lunch

The atmosphere in The Squid and Teapot was convivial this lunchtime, in direct contrast to the dismal mist swirling ominously outside the windows of the inn. Marigold pondered for a few moments before helping herself to a small slice of starry-grabby pie. It was a strange dish, to be sure, but was regarded with some fondness by the islanders of Hopeless, Maine. Convinced, as she was, that Hopeless had always been her home, it seemed only common sense that she had been eating this particular delicacy for years. So, why didn’t she consume it with the relish of a true-born islander? Oh, this was the trouble with amnesia, she thought. How on earth could you be expected to know if you liked something, or indeed, someone, prior to losing your memory?

With this thought fresh in her mind, Marigold glanced across the table at Philomena Bucket, whose slender, pale features belied the justice she was doing to the hearty portion of pie on her plate, not to mention the foaming tankard of Old Colonel at her elbow. At this hour of the day Marigold preferred to drink some of the innocuous sarsaparilla that the teetotal distiller, Norbert Gannicox, had gifted her from his private store. A pint of Old Colonel was far more than she could face at midday, but each to their own.

Had they always been friends? Marigold felt awkward about asking Philomena directly. Despite her amiability, there was a certain reticence – even evasiveness – about Philomena that Marigold could not fathom.

“When I told you about my amnesia, and how I wanted to find my family, you said that it’s a pity that someone, who you called Doctor Dee, wasn’t still around, as he would probably have known what to do. Do you remember?” she probed. “He sounds like a fascinating character.”

“Ah, dear old John Dee,” said Philomena, warmly. “You’re not wrong, he was certainly fascinating… maybe a bit too fascinating sometimes. I’m sure you would have liked him, but there were some folk around here who found him to be something of an acquired taste.”

“Not unlike the starry-grabby pie.”

Suddenly mortified, Marigold immediately clapped her hand to her mouth, alarmed that she might have said this aloud, and was relieved to find that she had not. Instead she asked,

“So, where is he these days?”

Philomena had no wish to have to explain about the tunnels to the Underland, the enchanted cavern and Dee disappearing, probably back to Elizabethan England. It would have been too much too soon for Marigold to take on board.

“Oh… back to where he came from, I imagine,” she replied, adding quickly, “well, there is a lot to do now that lunch is over. I must get back to work.”

Marigold watched the barmaid drain the last drops from her tankard, pick up the plates and cutlery, and drift off to the kitchen, returning to her duties.

“What are you not telling me?” she muttered to herself.  

It was some hours later when Marigold wandered over to the Gannicox Distillery, returning the now-empty jug into which Norbert had earlier poured the sarsaparilla. She knew that Norbert and the folk at The Squid and Teapot were close friends and wondered if he might shed some light on the whereabouts of the mysterious Doctor Dee.

“Doctor Dee?” said Norbert. “He was a great fellow. A real gentleman… and a bit of a magician, one way and another, so they say.”

Marigold looked incredulous. A magician? Why hadn’t Philomena told her?

“How did you meet?” she asked, and Norbert, never slow to spin a good yarn, told her all about the way in which he had journeyed through the Underland with Bartholomew Middlestreet and Philomena. He related how they had miraculously found themselves thrown into the study of John Dee, the famous Elizabethan alchemist, before the four of them were unceremoniously dropped through some significant events in history, and returned to the tunnels that stretched beneath the island.

“Of course,” said Norbert, proudly, “we would never have found any of that without the key to the secret passageway, left years ago in the keeping of my grandfather, Solomon Gannicox.”

Norbert was on a roll by now, and it took little persuasion for him to relate the story of how they had discovered the faux sea-chest in the attic which was, in reality, the entrance to the Underland.

“And where is the key now?” Marigold enquired casually.

“Fastened to a piece of string and hanging around Philomena’s neck. She reckons it’s the safest place for it, until we can find a better place to hide it. She says that the cave is becoming ever more dangerous to visit. Something weird happened to her the last time she was there, and she won’t talk about it.” said Norbert.

Marigold walked from the distillery, her head full of the tale that Norbert had related. She felt sure that if she could get to the enchanted cave and meet Doctor Dee, her memory would be restored and she could find her family. But would Philomena take her there? She could at least ask.

“Definitely not!” said Philomena, much later that night, after the inn had closed. “I’ve got no wish to go there again, and I don’t honestly think it was ever meant for the likes of us to find. Norbert should never have told you about it, Marigold. It just gave you hope where none exists, believe me.”

Marigold, sitting in the large armchair that graced the corner of Philomena’s room, looked tired. She smiled and nodded her acquiescence. Philomena breathed a sigh of relief that the younger woman was willing to let the matter rest so easily.

“Your memory will come back in its own good time, don’t fret,” she told her, and the two settled down for a chat and a nightcap of the non-headwear variety.

They had not been talking for long when Philomena realised that Marigold had fallen asleep in the chair. Not wishing to disturb her friend, she gently placed a blanket over her sleeping form, before blowing out the candle and climbing into bed.

It was late, late into the night, and Marigold was sure that Philomena was in a deep sleep. She stole from the chair and, taking out the small scissors which she had brought for that very purpose, snipped the string around Philomena’s neck and pocketed the heavy brass key. Quiet as a mouse she wrapped the blanket around her shoulders, slipped out through the door and, having lit the stub of a candle, crept up the stairs to the attics.

To be continued…

His Late Master’s Voice

Memory of a hand, swollen about the fingers. A hand that offered food, that patted. 

The familiar smell of a body that meant home. Belonging. Comfort.

The way they both changed. He knows, and he doesn’t know because Drury thinks about things in his own way. Part of him is still a mud rolling puppy. All of him is still the dog he used to be. Sometimes he forgets about his bones. He recalls bodies as though they were still here, as though nothing has changed.

But also the wind whistles between his ribs sometimes and he knows this is not how it used to be. 

A machine that does not smell of person. A voice that does not belong in a machine. Whispery and distant, caught in wax – not that Drury understands the process. A voice that would make his heart hurt, if he still had one of those. He doesn’t know where it went.

When I was a little child

I went into the sea

Down I went

And down I went

One, two three

And all the hungry fishes

Came to look at me

And ate me up

And ate me up

One, two, three.

Now I’m in the water

Calling, follow me

Tender little girls and boys

One, two, three.

It’s just a nursery rhyme. Something said to amuse babies as they fall asleep. There’s nothing substantial here. Just the remains of a dog, listening with total adoration to the uneasy whispering of his late master’s voice.

When is Hopeless?

If you’ve been paying close attention to the blog, you may have found yourself wondering, when is Hopeless? 

You may have noticed that our guest writers don’t all operate in the same timeframe. Nils Visser brought a story to us that connected with his Wyrd Woods. Martin Pearson’s Squid and Teapot stories relate directly to history as we know it. Keith Errington’s Oddatsea places Hopeless in a steampunk sort of history.

Is it all just chaos? You might reasonably ask.

Well, yes and no.

I have an entire other novel (Spells for the Second Sister) that turned out to hold the key to all of this. I’ll be self pubbing that one in the foreseeable future, for anyone who gets the urge. One of the central concepts in that book is of a tidal reality. Places move in relation to each other, and many places exist that are versions of the same place. When the tide is out, they’re all distinct and separate places, but as the tide comes in they merge, overlap and sometimes crash messily into each other.

Hopeless exists in that tidal reality. People who have read New England Gothic will already know that Hopeless has layers, and that its many different places all in the same place. As a consequence, it’s a relatively stable point in a constantly shifting universe.

This is also part of why it’s so hard to leave. It’s not just a case of getting out, but of getting out to wherever specifically you want to go. The tides of the universe are just as likely to throw you back at the island as the local sea currents are. 

Marigold

Part of an ongoing Tale from The Squid and Teapot by Martin Pearson.

Almost two weeks had passed since Rhys Cranham, the Night-Soil Man, had brought Marigold Burleigh to the door of The Squid and Teapot. Rhys had discovered her body upon the Gydynap Hills, cast down like a broken and discarded toy.  Thinking her dead, and therefore unheeding of his noxious odour, he carried her into the town; Rhys had no wish to leave the her as fodder for whatever night-creature might chance by. He knocked on Doc Willoughby’s door but it was apparent that the curmudgeonly physician had no such sensibilities. The Doc had refused to lift a finger to help Rhys, but brusquely told him that the girl was dead and therefore beyond help, before slamming the door in his face. Miss Calder, the ghostly administrator of The Pallid Rock Orphanage, however, disagreed. She assured the Night-Soil Man that there was still a spark of life flickering within Marigold – and who could be a better arbiter of judging the fine line between life and death than one who had passed over it herself? She advised that Rhys should take the young woman immediately to The Squid, where she could be properly cared for.  

Although Marigold had regained consciousness within a few hours, it had taken a week or more for her to be well enough to leave the confines of the inn, and even then all memory of her past life evaded her. When she first appeared on Hopeless she had told islanders that she was a nurse, but in truth, she knew nothing about nursing, for the words had not been hers, but those of the dark entity who had possessed her.

Those who have followed these tales will recall that Trickster had been making trouble on Hopeless for quite some time. Previously, using Linus Pinfarthing as his ‘meat-suit’, he had caused death, misery and mayhem before his downfall had put a stop to things for a while. Later, taking on the form of an innocent-looking white hare, he had been thwarted by the unlikeliest of heroes, a raiding-band of spoonwalkers, who had driven him into the sea. However, Trickster was determined, if nothing else, and this rejection only served to encourage him in his mission to spread as much mischief as possible throughout the island of Hopeless. The unfortunate white hare soon perished in the cold Atlantic but Trickster found other meat-suits, or, more properly, fish-suits and fowl-suits; bodies which lasted long enough to take him to the mainland… and that is where he spied the pretty girl wandering along the seashore.

Marigold Burleigh, if indeed that was ever her name, had little idea that the sudden strange sensations gripping both her mind and body had anything to do with Arctic Tern that had plummeted from the sky, to lie dead at her feet. It took only a matter of seconds for all memory of her old life to slip away forever, and for the creature that was Trickster to become her puppet-master.

I will leave you, the reader, to imagine how Marigold might have persuaded the captain of the scruffy Down Easter to take her aboard. Trickster had no scruples, and whatever indignities his attractive young meat-suit may have suffered in order for him to achieve his aims, were neither here nor there, as far as he was concerned. Similarly, the way in which the captain and crew of the Down Easter perished troubled him not at all. It is sufficient to say that by the time the small craft beached on the shores of Hopeless, having miraculously avoided floundering upon any of its treacherous rocks and hidden reefs, Marigold was the only survivor. All this, of course, was hidden from Marigold, who later assumed that she was suffering from temporary amnesia.  

Ariadne Middlestreet was the first to notice Marigold’s change of character. Before the episode on the Gydynaps she had appeared confident to the point of arrogance, but now she had become withdrawn and given to wandering around the island, as if searching for something. Even those who have lived on Hopeless for all of their lives would be fearful to do this, but Marigold seemed to see no danger. Ariadne tried to alert her to the hazards that lurked around every bend, but to no avail.  

“She’ll be fine,” said Philomena Bucket, reassuringly. “I’m always out and about at all hours of the day and night, and no harm has befallen me.”

“Yet!” said Ariadne, pointedly. “Although, I sometimes think you lead a charmed life, Philomena.”

The barmaid coughed awkwardly. It was unlikely that a truer word had ever been spoken in innocence. Philomena was well aware of the strange abilities she had inherited from her ancestors, but had never shared this secret, not even with her closest friends.

“I’ll ask Rhys to keep an eye on her if he sees her wandering around at night,” she promised, not realising that this is exactly what the Night-Soil Man did whenever he spotted Philomena herself walking the hills after dark.

Over the centuries – millennia, even – few have survived possession by the Trickster. Linus Pinfarthing lasted for a short while, but only by regularly drinking himself into a stupor, a strategy which eventually killed him. Marigold, on the other hand, survived because she had appeared to be physically weaker than she actually was. Now that Trickster had left her, taking with him all recollection of her past life, a gnawing ache was left; an ache to know who she really was, where she had come from and if she had any family. Unaware that Hopeless held no answers for her, Marigold resolved to not rest until the truth was uncovered.

“What can possibly go wrong?” she wondered.

To be continued…

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.