Tag Archives: Hopeless

Mrs Beaten and the giant oceanic gnii

Mrs Beaten is strangely quiet. She hasn’t put up a single judgmental poster in more than a week. Has she fallen ill? Was she kidnapped? Or does it have something to do with the giant oceanic gnii?

Has she been silenced in favour of more exciting news? Would you be perfectly happy if that were true?

Back when Hopeless, Maine had an economy, and seaweed was not the primary content of everyone’s diets, the wealth of the island was due to giant oceanic gnii. Hopeless was on the migratory route of these amazing creatures. As a consequence traps were laid and a refinery built, and the oil and the money rolled in.

The giant oceanic gnii stopped coming after a while. Some thought they had become extinct, others that the clever beasties had simply learned to avoid the nets. Either way, no one has seen a giant gnii in a long time.

And yet this image is clear evidence that one has been by – there’s no other way of getting that sort of a view, and the tentacles and lamps are highly suggestive.

If you’ve seen the giant oceanic gnii and want to send in a report, please do!

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The Necromancer

There are some who maintain that Hopeless, Maine, has not always been as fog-bound as it is today. It is thought that there have been odd, brief periods in its history, when the island has enjoyed a reasonable climate and played host to all manner of flora and fauna. It was, presumably, in one of those gentler times that the Vikings settled here.
Many of these early settlers became adept at gathering the eggs of the gulls that lived and bred, in their thousands, in colonies on the cliffs. In the tale ‘The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow’, it was revealed how one settler, a spoon-whittler named Lars Pedersen, was driven to madness and death by the spoonwalkers who stole, not only his spoons but also his precious horde of eggs. As a result his wraith, locally referred to as The Woeful Dane, was frequently seen roaming the area searching for the pilfered eggs.
All that we know of Lars’ demise and subsequent haunting is thanks to young Ophelia Chevin, a child of one of the founding families, who had been blessed with the dubious gift of ‘The Sight.’ Ophelia faithfully recorded the information in her journal, having had several amiable conversations with the ghost.
Prior to these revelations, those who witnessed this apparition roaming the island had no idea that he was merely looking for eggs. Over the years various theories evolved regarding the reason for The Woeful Dane’s ceaseless quest and unsurprisingly, favourite among these theories was that he was looking for a lost horde of Viking silver that he had buried somewhere, carelessly omitting to mark the spot.
Four long centuries had passed since Lars had died and the legend of lost Viking silver was firmly established as fact. Many a brave – and some would say foolhardy – adventurer perished looking for it. Life on this island is hazardous enough without wandering around at all hours, digging in vain for something which has never existed. Despite the high casualty rate, people continued to risk life and limb, seduced by the promise of untold riches. T’Abram Spitch was one such person.

T’Abram  found himself on the shores of Hopeless following a shipwreck. Anyone who knows anything about the island will recognise that this is by no means unusual. The ever-present fog that clings to Hopeless like a cold, damp mantle has claimed, over the years, many a good ship and an untold number of lives. On the plus side it has served to bestow a reasonable supply of salvageable goods and some occasionally interesting castaways. T’Abram Spitch was nothing, if not interesting. I have no idea where, exactly, in the world he came from but what I do know is that he claimed to be a magician. I am not talking about someone pulling a spoonwalker out of a hat or inviting you to pick a card. T’Abram Spitch was a fully-paid up, practising necromancer who had fled his native shores to avoid persecution and a toe-curlingly unpleasant death.
It must be remembered that even those with saintly ambitions, lofty aspersions, devilish plans for world domination or the power to invoke the spirits of the dead are all subject to human failings; strange, unbidden thoughts; annoying tunes popping into the head and the occasional urge to speak in silly voices. It is what makes us who we are. And T’Abram Spitch, despite his billowing robes, flowing beard and sigil-carved staff was no different from the rest of us. T’Abram had, besides an ample supply of annoying tunes and silly voices at his disposal, a host of secret desires. Chief among these was a lust for great riches.

The necromancer had been on Hopeless for just a few weeks when the rumour of a long-lost Viking horde came to his notice. Since his being shipwrecked he had looked bedraggled and despondent, a shadow of his former self. It was as though the words ‘Treasure’ and ‘Silver’ immediately cast a glamour over him and the veil of despair slipped away at their mere mention. His eyes glittered like stars as he visualized himself unearthing such wealth. Though many had searched for centuries to no avail, T’Abram was certain that he, above all others, was destined to find the Viking silver. His ability to conjure and command the spirits of the dead would surely be the key to his success.

In those days it was even rarer for people to wander abroad during the hours of darkness than it is now. There was no Night Soil Man patrolling the headland, standing downwind and keeping a benevolent eye on the unwary traveller. The only inn on the island, The Sweaty Tapster, would bar its doors and pull down the shutters to keep out unwelcome night-walkers. This is why no one was there on that moonless night to see T’Abram Spitch on the bleak headland, robes wildly flapping in the wind, as he prepared to conjure the spirit of Lars Pedersen, the legendary Woeful Dane.

Those who have read the tale ‘Ghosts’ will be aware that Lars Pedersen, the ghost and Lars Pedersen, the tenant of his own private Valhalla, were two very different entities. When he stepped into our dimension Lars was the gaunt, mad-eyed wraith who had struck fear into the hearts of so many. Lars, at home, as it were, was far removed from that. He was enjoying an eternity of wine, women, song and sunshine. This version of Lars was young, strong, handsome and as full of life as someone who has been dead for centuries can be. He would pick his hours of haunting with care, especially avoiding Valpurgis (May-eve) and Midsumarblot (the 21st of June). These were especially popular events in the spirit calendar and tended to attract more ghosts than Lars wanted to associate with. There were also other occasions that The Woeful Dane made a point of staying in his feasting-hall; these were the nights of the dark of the moon, when the waning moon has vanished and the new moon is yet to appear. These two or three days in the lunar calendar always attracts the worst kind of wraith. These are the ones who tear through the night, screaming and wailing. They frighten children, tear at the flesh and make fun of other spirits who, for example, might be going about their legitimate business searching for lost eggs. These were certainly not the type that a gentle ghost, such as Lars, would wish to encounter. No, Lars Pedersen stayed at home during the dark of the moon. Or, at least, that was his intention.
There can be few things more annoying than being pulled by some unseen force from one’s feasting-hall just as the party is getting started. This is exactly what happened to Lars. One minute he was happily swilling back mead, with a wench on either arm and a roasted boar on the table. The next, he was whisked away to some dark, chilly rock and suddenly transformed into the gaunt madman of legend, The Woeful Dane. To say that he was miffed would be an understatement.

Although he had called up a score of spirits during his career, T’Abram had never encountered one like Lars before. The Viking’s madness had struck after being caught in the malevolent gaze of a spoonwalker raiding party. As a result his dead eyes now bulged horribly and shone with a ghastly green light.
From Lars’ point of view, the necromancer cut an equally unsettling figure. If was plain to see that T’Abram had adopted the deranged wizard look with some enthusiasm. The pointed hat, star-spangled robe and long, bristling beard was almost comical in appearance. What was deadly serious, however, was the staff that he wielded. It was the source of all of his power. Everything else about him was pure theatre. It was this staff, carved with powerful sigils and now glowing with an unearthly light, that had drawn Lars from his feasting-hall and held him powerless before the necromancer.
In the tale ‘The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow’ I mentioned that, for ghosts, there exists no language barrier. They converse with each other and understand all human – and probably animal – speech. So when T’Abram commanded Lars to find and reveal his long-lost treasure the old Viking understood every word. Unfortunately, as the long-lost treasure did not actually exist, he had absolutely no idea what the necromancer wanted. This served to weaken the hold that the glowing staff held over him, allowing Lars to use a little bit of artistic licence in leading T’Abram to his heart’s desire. It also gave him the chance to get his own back for being rudely removed from, what had promised to be, an agreeably pleasant evening of Valhallic debauchery. Lars knew where something was buried. It was not treasure but it would do nicely.

This world of ours is old beyond our imagining; a thousand or more cultures may have risen and fell long before we began recording history. It would be arrogant in the extreme to believe that only within the sphere of our knowledge did anyone set foot on Hopeless. The Vikings were certainly not the first settlers on the island. Lars knew this; he knew that buried deep beneath the rocks was something that so offended some of the island’s very earliest inhabitants that they bound it with spells and cast it deep into the earth. It was something that really ought to stay buried.
T’Abram followed the wraith with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. They wound through the scrubby trees and rocks until, in a clearing, Lars stopped, and pointed to the ground. The necromancer immediately set to and started removing the stones and earth. Lars’ work, it seems, was done; he was dismissed. The ghost was relieved. He really did not want to be around when this particular ‘Treasure’ was finally unearthed.
The work was long and hard, even with the tools that T’Abram had slyly taken from the people who dwelt in the shadow of the Gydynap Hills. At last, after many days, his shovel hit something that was not made of rock. His heart missed a beat. Could this be it at last – the long-lost Viking horde?

To be continued…

Art by Tom Brown

Daphne and the Fallen Stars

Daphne was down at the sea shore again. She was staring out to the greenish-blue-grey wash of the unsteady sea. So many thoughts were being washed around her head. They were about her mother and father whose lives had been lost out there in that monstrous wild of water. They were on a ship that sank. Daphne knelt down in the tidal grit and began to find bits of flotsam and shells. She gathered them with ritual obsession and her hands worked with the flotsam and shells as if putting together a puzzle only she knew. She finally stopped and looked at what she’d done. It was a ship. Or rather The Ship which her parents and many others had gone down with when it sank before she has any clear memories; this ship was so much part of who she was Daphne could not think of herself as Daphne without knowing she was Daphne from the Ship.

But she heard somebody else walking on the shore and her mind went away from the Ship. He had a large shabby frock coat on with many stains and weathering that it’s original colour was obscured. A battered bicorn hat sagged on his head. The man was staring out to sea with the wind in his grey beard.

After a while she decided to go over to him.

‘Who are you?’ she asked.

‘Cuthbert Thorrock’ he replied with a throaty voice.

‘I’ve not seen you here before’

‘Have you been watching the stars? They’re falling out the sky’ he answered her as if swapping news on the weather.

‘When did you see that?’

‘It’s been happening more and more, the stars aren’t staying up there anymore and they’re coming down here, watch out young lady you might be crossing paths with one!’ he turned his eyes towards her and they were full of the sea waves and clouds. He coughed loudly and spat into the shore grit.

Cuthbert Thorrock said no more, and Daphne stood with him a little longer looking out to sea. His big frame hardened with the life he’d had felt oddly reassuring to have next to her, perhaps this was what a father was like: dependable and under a big old coat with a smell of the world.

‘What’s your name young lady?’ he said after the silence.

‘Daphne’

‘Ah’ he said, and then he shifted and began to walk away again. His steps crunched over the shore with weight.

She took herself back up the narrow path onto the land. There was a rock not far away where she saw somebody was sitting. As she walked closer she saw it was a woman in a long black dress with long black hair under a neat lace snood. Daphne thought perhaps she’d come from a funereal and was stopping at the morgue on the way back, like people did.

‘Good day young lady have you seen any of my sisters?’ the woman spoke before she’d even reached her. She turned and her face was pale and beautifully shaped as if glass. She smiled at Daphne and she knew she should not have gone over. Behind her the sea tides hissed. Stars were falling.–

Words by Robin Collins-Art by Tom Brown

Thirty years on …

Thirty years on …

Thirty years had passed since the Reverend Crackstone’s disappearance. The only person who knew the exact circumstances of his demise was Betty Butterow. Her dark hair by now was shot with silver but she was as beautiful as ever and still working as a barmaid at The Squid and Teapot. Although the fog-bound landscape had changed little, much had happened on Hopeless in those intervening years, as you will see.

 

Soon after Crackstone’s disappearance Betty and Joseph, the Passamaquoddy trader, set up home together in a small cabin in Creepy Hollow. At the time of this tale Joseph would be seventy years old, or more but still sprightly and continuing to ply his trade between Hopeless and the mainland.

 

Isaac Lypiatt had taken over the role as landlord of the inn following the death of his parents, Sebastian and Madrigal. Sebastian’s last couple of years had been spent in retirement, reminiscing in the snug of the Squid with his friend Bill Ebley, who was also Isaac’s father-in-law. It had come as something of a surprise to both families when Isaac proposed marriage to Mildred, a girl twenty years his junior. With their marriage, however, a valuable link was forged between the inn, the Ebley Brewery and the distillery (you may recall that Mildred’s mother was Costanza Gannicox).

 

You may remember, in the tale of ‘The Wendigo’, Randall Middlestreet had been thrust into the role of a full-time Night Soil Man within weeks of his leaving the orphanage. For all of his adult life this job was all he had known and it was beginning to take its toll. When, at the age of fifty, he had asked at the orphanage if there were any likely candidates to be his apprentice he was sent a a surly young man with a decidedly selfish streak. His name was Jarvis Woodchester. Randall was not confident that he would get on particularly well with his new assistant but hoped for the best; he was glad of all the help he could get.

Five years slipped by and to everyone’s surprise Jarvis became as competent a Night Soil Man as any who had gone before him, lithely scrambling over the rocky headland with his bucket on his back. It was with some relief that Randall relinquished many of his duties to his young protege, whom he trusted implicitly. He had spent over forty years of his life surrounded by stench and darkness, forced into celibacy and, save for necessarily distant communication with Joseph and Betty, virtually friendless. The role of Night Soil Man was considered to be a job for life but Randall Middlestreet was contemplating the unthinkable –  abdication.

 

Few people had seen Randall in daylight but news of his abandoning the position as Night Soil Man had spread like wildfire. This behaviour was unheard of and one or two of the more conservative islanders disapproved of such a flagrant break with tradition; Randall’s mind, however, was made up. It took several days of diligent scrubbing to remove the trademark smell of his calling completely, but with the aid of Joseph and Betty – who were thrilled at his decision – Randall was completely deodorised, dressed in some of Joseph’s old but scrupulously clean clothes and ready to be integrated fully into Hopeless society for the first time in his adult life. The house at Poo Corner and all that it contained was now the exclusive property of the new, young Night Soil Man, Jarvis Woodchester.

 

When Randall walked into the bar of The Squid and Teapot the place fell silent. Randall paled, convinced that he was being ostracized for his decision. Then someone started clapping. The applause became contagious. Even Lady Margaret D’Avening, the ghost who haunts the privy of the inn, popped her head out to see what the fuss was about. Regular readers will recall that Lady Margaret’s head was detached from the rest of her, so when I say she popped her head out, I am speaking literally. As it was not a full moon and being something of a stickler for tradition, she was loathe to manifest totally. Isaac Lypiatt handed the newly liberated Randall a foaming pint of ‘Old Colonel’ and the keys to the old attic room, which long ago was occupied by the young Betty Butterow. It was now his for life, if he so wished. Randall was overcome with emotion. He had no idea that anyone would do such a thing for him.

 

This new way of life required quite a bit of adjustment. To be able to walk and talk with others, to share meals and enjoy  convivial evenings in the Squid were pleasures most took for granted. For Randall each one of these things was a novelty. The only downside was his vulnerability. In his role as Night Soil Man the less friendly denizens of the island had given him a wide berth. It was the one advantage of the stench that had perpetually surrounded him. These days, however, he had no such protection and had to remember to exercise caution when out and about.

 

When, a few weeks later, Joseph asked Randall if he would like to join him on a trip to the mainland, the ex-Night Soil Man had no idea how to respond. The chance of a glimpse of the wider world was as terrifying as it was tempting. He agonised over making a decision for days on end. Eventually curiosity overcame fear and, with no small amount of trepidation, Randall found himself gingerly scrambling into Joseph’s canoe.

With a mixture of excitement and anxiety churning within him he wondered what adventures might be waiting on the other side of the treacherous channel that would take them to the coast of Maine.

 

Once on dry land Joseph’s first point of call was the home of his cousin, Samuel. Joseph’s heart always dropped when he re-visited the reservation. The poorly built wooden shacks, often with earth floors and no sanitation, were far inferior to the simple but comfortable conical birch-bark wetus, or wigwams, his people lived in when he was a boy. Unemployment was high and living standards low. Samuel was one of the more fortunate ones, though. For years he had made a precarious living as a trader to providie for his large family. Today Joseph was interested in a supply of beaver pelts that Samuel had obtained. He knew that his cousin would drive a hard bargain, even for family, but he was happily prepared to haggle. What he was not prepared for was the news that Samuel could not wait to impart.

“There’s been a woman here asking after you.”

Joseph raised his eyebrows quizzically.

“She was old,” said Samuel. “I mean, really old. Older than you, even.”

Samuel was Joseph’s junior by only ten years but he never missed an opportunity to tease his cousin about his age.

“Who is this woman?” asked Joseph, faintly irritated.

“A Mrs. Spillman. From Baltimore, I think. Said she knew your parents, years ago.”

Joseph shrugged.

“And where is she now?”

“ We knew you were due to show up sometime soon, so the Sakom said his family could put her up for a night or two, seeing she’s old, and that. They’ve got the best place on the reservation but it ain’t up to Baltimore standards, that’s for sure.”

The Sakom is the elected governor, or chief of the tribe. This was a generous thing for him to do. Joseph decided to waste no time and see what the woman wanted. Having nothing better to do, Randall tagged along. To Joseph the reservation was downtrodden and commonplace. Randall thought it was the most exotic place that he had seen and was keen to look around.

 

The Sakom, holding Mrs Spillman’s arm, led her gently out of his home and introduced her to Joseph. The old lady was small and her back bent but her eyes flickered with a mischievous fire that belied her age. She reached up and stroked Joseph’s face.

“Joseph. Dear Joseph,” she smiled. “Is it really you?”

The Indian drew back a little. He had no idea who she was, or how she knew him.

“ Mrs Spillman, ma’am, forgive me but I don’t know who you are.”

“No. I guess you don’t remember. It was a long time ago and you were a child. But hey, where’s your manners?” she laughed brightly. “Who’s your friend, there?”

Joseph blushed faintly.

“Sorry, ma’am. This is my good pal Randall Middlestreet.”

The colour drained visibly from Mrs Spillman’s face, as though she had seen a ghost. Her bottom lip began to tremble.

“R… R… Randall Middlestreet?” she stammered.

Suddenly, with surprising vigour, she fell forward and threw her arms around a very surprised Randall, hugging him tightly.

He could feel her frail body racked with sobs as she clung to him.

“My son. My son,” she cried. “My beautiful boy…”

 

To be continued…

Art by Tom Brown

The nameless beastie

Hello people! (and others)

We have come to a terrible realization, which is to say, the island of Hopeless, Maine has no sinister mice (or similar). They find their way into nearly everything else Nimue has written and now that this terrible flaw, this gaping void (as it were) has been revealed to us, it must be rectified. Therefore- I drew this little chap on Monday and posted it around on social media and asked for what we might call it.

You all did not disappoint us, and gave many suggestions. We are now throwing the decision back to you, using this cunning poll thingie. The name with the most votes will be the species name for the nameless beastie. Here we go…

Next week, we will be asking you all for tales regarding this, as yet nameless thing!

 

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

 

 

Tentacoils

‘Twas chillblist, and the tentacoils
  Did writhe and wrangle ‘midst the waves:
Beleaguered was my little boat
Far off the coast of Maine.

Above the storm, a voice sang fell

 A knell, if not a note in tune,

But th’ wind did snatch the words away

 And left my soul in swoon.

 

“Beware the mermaids, child!” it cried
  “The howlers wild, with nails that slash!
The noisome gnii, the beasts of sea
and those your spoon wouldst snatch!”

 

 

“Beware the tentacoils!” it sang

“Beware the stinging succubus

The eyes that glow, the shades that grow,

And demons of the dust!”

 

But firm I took my oar in hand:
  Long time in dark for hope I sought —
‘till in Hopeless State I came to rest,
And lay awash in thought.

 

And, as in lone despair I lay,
  Demonic Shades, with eyes of flame,
came salivating for my soul
And sang, o sang, my name

 

And so a while I’ll linger on

To wander Hopeless in a daze

And bathe my soul in demon song

For all remaining days…

 

‘Twas chillblist, and the tentacoiled
  Did writhe and wrangle ‘midst the waves:
Beleaguered was my little boat
Far off the coast of Maine…

 

Words by Lou Pulford.

Art by Tom Brown

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)

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/)