Tales Of The Knotlands: Bow Loin – 1. Channel Watching

Stood looking out over the Channel, that thin ribbon of water separating France from England – Angleterre; the Angled Tear; the Spirit Of Angle Hand sat next to him. Robespierre’s thoughts were guillotine edited; a swiftness cutting through the pretence he had been wont to display in the past. Wanker they called him – and they laughed as he tossed merde tete back at them.
How long was it since those forces had invaded his home and buckled the tower, razed the remains of their culture to the ground? Every single person with any kind of power suffering, it seemed, l’esprit d’escalier; tongue-tied when their words of power were most needed. France had fallen, like everywhere else, under the tide of shadows that swirled through the body of their planet.
‘So, exactly how fucked is it old chap?’
‘You are, how do you say, the spirit of the place? You should be able to sense that, non?’
‘Of course, Jacques, I was just hoping you might give me some conflicting information. Yes, cross to the front of me, dragon to the rear, I surely do have a good notion of precisely how far up the river we are without the proverbial paddle. it’s just not bloody cricket, is it?’
‘Hmm, je voudrais un biere, et tu?’
‘Anything stronger?’
‘Absinthe.’
‘Sure, why not? Can’t do any more bloody damage, can it?’
John let out a sigh that had so many things to communicate it wasn’t exactly sure what to sound like. The Spirit Of Angle Hand – they told him the piece of metal in his possession was the sword of King Arthur and that he could slay anything that threatened England with it, but the fact that he had been forced to turn tail and go to ground in this sympathetic hidey hole in France didn’t give him much hope. Seriously though, why was the bloody thing so small? If he was threatened by a slightly menacing cocktail sausage then he might be able to despatch with one swift prod of his trusty Excalibur; other than that he’d have to rely on a miracle to get him through.
Jacques returned with the beer and the absinthe. They’d bonded over their common roles; their common failures. They were both resurrected archetypes meant to protect their homelands but both countries had them set to revenge protocols which meant they were both activated once the damage was done.
‘You know, Jacques, old bean, I feel like I’m about as much use as soft toilet paper at a colostomy bag convention.’
‘I know what you mean; it’s like we’re patients on permanent bed rest who they roll once in a while to stop us getting pressure sores.’

Tales Of The Knotlands: Decanted Berry Tales – 1.Ushering In A Pilgrim Age

‘Pissheads are fiction factories, as are drug-users; we’ve been setting the seeds and then harvesting them later when they ripen.’

‘These motherfuckers that you call Pilgrims?’

‘Yes, they sometimes take a while for the calling to reach them, but the keywords are out travelling the land in many forms.’

‘What do you mean, Harview, the memes? The urban myths?’

‘The graffiti, the folk songs, the poems – anything that can convey information is used.’

‘And what are these fictions for? What do we need these psychic engines to do?’

‘Well, the forefront of this conflict is going to be fought in words …’

‘A debate?’

‘Of sorts. From the heads of these poor unsuspecting dreamers shall spring forth the saviour of mankind.’

‘Sounds a bit far-fetched if you ask me.’

‘You’re employed to be the cynic in this venture, Clint, so if you acted in any other way I would be somewhat disappointed – no, more than that: I’d be worried. Reliability is a key ingredient in what we’re doing here. Prophecies only come to fruition because we can rely on certain things – that’s how prophets operate, even if they don’t do it on a conscious level, they have an ability to analyse all the data which is there in the world and pick out the elements which are going to be of paramount importance in shaping things the way someone wants them to be shaped.’

‘This has to do with what happened recently in L’undone, doesn’t it?’

‘Yes. No point in lying to you we are readying a force to go after the Great Bittern.’

‘How? Why?’

‘Because it should have stayed dead. That was what was intended – but the way in which it was despatched was sloppy. This time we won’t make the same mistakes.’

‘But, Harview, this thing came back from the dead as a man, how do you expect to kill that?’

‘We have our ways and means – one man’s god is another’s devil, and we just so happen to know some people who believe that the worst thing to happen to this country is that thing coming back from the dead. These people have long known what to do were such an eventuality were to occur …’

‘Let me guess, they have some kind of sacred blade that will despatch their quarry.’

‘My, you’re a bright one, Clint – not much keeping things from you, is there? Don’t worry, the sarcastic tone from you doesn’t bother me – you don’t need to believe in any of the mystical bullshit as you so charmingly describe it – no, all you need to do is believe in me and what I say.’

‘Well, you can count on that.’

‘Good, that’s good to hear. And of course I already knew that or we wouldn’t be sat here having this discussion.’

Tales Of The Knotlands: Ah, Freak, Ah – 1. The Green Man

No one remembered what had burned this place so badly, but they did know who was reponsible for the healing of small parts of the country. His green skin marked him out less than his tribal scarrings did – some revivalist branch of one of the Masai tribes, so he believed. It was hard to remember anymore – there wasn’t anyone else to confer with and since the event, which remained large, though sketchy, in everyone’s memory most people had suffered some memory loss regarding what they did before.
He wasn’t really sure how much of the body he occupied was human anymore, but the genesplice which allowed him to photosynthesise had been a necessary procedure if he was going to be able to eke out a living. He’d been crossed with a particularly hardy strain of plant so he didn’t need much of anything to survive and it was rumoured that he might die without water only to revive on its return.
The dream: Africa. So many places huddled together inside the embrace of that word. The white man, the black man, the green man – all born here from inside the bustling skull of a dreamer that did not know whether it was Darwin, Hanuman or a waking Dogon prince come to reclaim his throne.
He called himself Sika, meaning honey, for he arose after the land had been stung many times in the dying throes of those who tended the flowers, brought forth food, drank nectar. Many confused mythologies, many roots hacked, many branches bleeding sap. His name was a backwards reaching link: an invocation of a past no longer close at hand.
They called him the Green Man; Vert – his visits were a benediction to most. Some hunted the rumour in hope of finding promise of a brighter future; some just hunted for him, wishing to do him harm. He was not easy to catch; he became many things as his homeland did. His long stride carried him across the vast plains, across the shifting sands; he swam Mother Nile, looked up at vast continental swathes of dream condensing into stars above his head.
They said it began here. They said it ended at the heart of the Knotlands – L’undone.

Tales Of The Knotlands: A Merry Curr – 1. Liberty

How long had he lived inside the hollowed out form of this ancient thing? He wasn’t sure it really meant anything to him or anyone anymore – they had stopped calling it the Statue and referred to it as the Shrine and he had become some kind of priest by default. It was true that he defended the thing but he didn’t believe in liberty or anything.
Seriously, what was it that they were free of? Authority had disappeared for sure – when it became obvious that a centralised power system wasn’t going to work anymore the country had fragmented not just into the constituent states which made up the country but communities operating on a much smaller basis and with a more local site specific set of laws. No one felt oppression being pushed on them from above – instead the thing that oppressed them was the all pervasive poverty and the lack of any route out of it. America didn’t mean much as word or a concept any more. Did he think they might be able to rebuild it from the raw materials that they had here? He doubted it – he didn’t actually think that anyone was even vaguely interested in that kind of horseshit anymore.
Vulture was out on a sweep to pick up what carrion he could – he was the best scavenger in the business, and Charley Stick did not think he would have fared so well for so long without him. Charley Stick: High Priest of Liberty – he climbed the stairs and went to light the torch.
He’d heard that packs of bootleggers were roving through his neighbourhoods; doing battle with a group calling themselves Prohibition. These rats weren’t bothered about being on a sinking ship as long as they got to call it their own.
The dry twig snap of gunfire in the distance was a daily thing. People being territorial in a kingdom of fuck-all; it was as stupid as it had always been, but it was their choice, and they held to it steadfastly.

Tales Of The Knotlands: Nor Witch, Nor Folk – 1. Which Lights?

1. Which Lights?

The witchlights burned bright; skulls burned black, stripped of skin, and used to hold small pots of oil that were lit to keep the witches away. She’d travelled about three days by foot to get there and it made her nervous to see the lights still in evidence. Hopefully they wouldn’t try to get too close a look at her because if they did then they might see the markings – then it would be her skull that was hot with righteous flame. Everyone out here was scared – more scared than usual since the news had spread around the country about the passing of the Great Bittern.
She’d been sent to meet with an elder of the Untied Knot, the sisterhood who had been charged with the care of the weapons of the Middlelands. They had need of some help in the North and she had been chosen to come and make their petition. She brought offerings – stories, spells, and other things of value to her tribe; and she had the gift if the silver tongue. Daughter of a poet and a High Mage – she was seen as the perfect ambassador; she only hoped she could live up to the faith that they had placed in her.
Maylor was nervous – no one that she knew or had heard of had ventured this far from home and ever made it back. She loved her home and the thought of never seeing it again weighed heavy upon her.
The fear had thankfully never spread out as far as her home – in their region they were held in high esteem and seen as protectors of not just a disappearing way of life of but of the very lifeblood of the land. They had refugees in their coven from all over the place and it puzzled her that one of their number was here, so close to the bosom of the enemy. She knew though that she did not understand all that was going on in this world but if she waited and was patient then an answer might come to her.
She gave the town guard the name she was furnished with and it worked like a skeleton key – perhaps this witch she had come to see had some kind of glamour over these people.For a second she felt slightly safer, but then she reminded herself that if she were to get too comfortable because she was in the presence of someone powerful she might get careless when she was out of it – then she would end up dead. Time would reveal all – this journey may bring nothing but pain to her people; she would be patient.