The Sky-Pirates of Durn, part 18

2095

 

Chapter 18: Ankallat

 

The huge gate into the city was open and they could see people entering the city from the northern road. The next thing Meela knew they were past the gate and the city was around her. It had wide streets and sand coloured stone buildings, mostly all having round domes. She saw at the entrances there were often wide steps leading down into the ground. She could see people staring at her. They eventually stopped at a large building which had at least another upper floor. The camels sank down and they all dismounted, though Meela needed help with this. They led her down some stone steps and came into an underground room. Meela saw ahead of her was a bald man with dark skin and long white robes. He was very tall. The guide began speaking to him rather quickly and the man nodded. He came up to Meela and examined her eyes and felt her forehead. He barked out an order with a very smooth voice and a couple of other people came and carried Meela away to a room with a bed. Once she was lying down the man removed her bandages and looked at her wound rather gravely. He gently touched it with his long fingers.

“I think there’s more to this than it seems. There is poison in this wound.” he said to her. Meela nodded at his words. To her it all just seemed like a dream.

He left her and came back a short time later with a vial. He lifted her head and got her to drink it’s contents. It tasted bitter and brackish. She lay her head back.

“That was terrible.” she told him. He smiled briefly showing his white teeth.

“It was an antidote to counter the effects of the poison. It was a slow-acting poison that was draining away your life force making you listless. You should start to feel better soon.” He informed her. He then put a salve on the wound and bandaged her up again. He then laid his hand on the area and chanted a few words. The pain almost instantly began to lessen. Meela fell into a deep sleep.

When she awoke she felt a lot better and could feel her strength returning. She slowly sat up in the bed. The pain in her side was now hardly noticeable. She didn’t know whether it was day or night or how long she had been asleep. She looked around the room. The room was lit by a couple of lanterns. All her things were lying on a table on the other side of the room. She noticed there was a vent in the ceiling from which cool air was coming out. She slowly got out of the bed and stood up feeling her bare feet on the hard floor.

“So you’re finally up.” said the healer once he came through the doorway, appraising her as he did.

“How long was I asleep?” she asked him.

“Only a few hours. You were brought in here in the middle of the afternoon, and it is now the early evening. Once the poison was out of your system you began to heal quickly.” he answered.

“I’m feeling much better. I can’t remember much of the journey here.” she admitted.

“You were close to death when you arrived. The poison was working it’s way to your heart. If you had arrived a few hours later you might have been beyond my help.” he told her.

“Thank you for healing me.” she said to him. He smiled and bowed before her, which surprised her. “What’s your name?”

“My name is Déwag and this is my house. You are welcome to stay as long as you want.” he replied.

“Thank you Déwag.” she said, this time bowing to him in what she presumed was Yastelli fashion.

“You must be hungry. We are all about to sit down and have a meal. Please join us.” Déwag offered. She nodded and he led the way down a hallway to the dining area.

She came into a large room. In the centre was a low table with cushions around it. Already others were sitting there. She recognised the soldier and Aduna, but there were several others that were either assistants or other patients, she wasn’t sure. There was also another man there. He had long reddish-brown hair and his skin was a lot lighter than the others, more like the olive complexion of the people from the eastern provinces of the Empire. He wore robes that were a pattern of reds and browns that seemed similar to his hair but it also seemed to have a slightly metallic sheen to it, but maybe that was a trick of the light or maybe Meela’s eyes were still adjusting to things. There was also a strange glow coming from him as though inside he was made of light and his skin could only barely contain it. Whoever he was Meela found him intriguing. When she entered the room Aduna looked up at her and looked relieved Meela was on her feet again. Meela sat down opposite the strange looking foreigner. He smiled at her.

“Hello my name is Meela.” she said to him rather forthrightly.

“Hello Meela. I am El-Karoth.” he answered her in a strangely deep and reverberating voice.

“What are you doing here in Ankallat?” Meela asked him.

“I was waiting for someone to arrive.” he replied.

“And have they?”

“Yes they have now.” He said looking directly at her.

She was about to ask him something else, but before she could trays of food were set down on the table before them. The trip over the desert had made her extremely hungry. Before her were spiced lentils, cubes of braised goat and camel meat, cheese made from camel’s milk, olives and dates, and various types of flatbread. She piled a lot of the food onto the plate before her.

“It’s nice to see a woman with a healthy appetite.” El-Karoth said to her smiling. She smiled back and was about to start eating when Déwag suddenly stood up and began speaking:

“I would like to welcome Meela. She comes from the north and helped defeat Tigreralat’s attack on our borders several days ago. She also fought off a desert wurm yesterday saving her two companions.” he announced. He then presumably said the same thing again in the Yastelli language. Everyone looked at her in astonishment. Meela smiled at them feeling a little awkward. Once everyone had greeted her from where they were sitting they all began talking amongst themselves, and beginning to eat the meal in front of them. Meela just quietly sat there giving the food in front of her the full attention it deserved, and trying to ignore everyone else.

After she had finished eating she looked around the room admiring the mosaics on the walls. She noticed a vent in the ceiling similar to the one in her room.

“What are those vents for?” Meela inquired while pointing to the one in the ceiling. El-Karoth turned and looked at it.

“It’s piping in cool air to the room.” he answered her.

“How does it do that?” she asked her face frowning.

“Under Ankallat there is a vast cavern with an underground river. The air from that cavern is piped into many buildings in the city by a series of tunnels and pipes. You can actually go down some steps in this house that lead to this cavern. Many other buildings have them too. In fact most of the people in this city live underground, especially during the hottest months. The rooms we’re in now are underground, if you didn’t know.” El-Karoth informed her.

“I see.” responded Meela interestedly.

“It’s worth going down the steps to see the cavern.” El-Karoth suggested.

Meela nodded thoughtfully. She didn’t particularly like going under the ground. She left that to the dwarves, gnomes, and half-people. She preferred being above it all. She was sorely missing her airship and wondered how her crew were doing in Loro-Don. They were probably getting worried about her by now, since she hadn’t returned after a couple of days. She hoped Bronwyn hadn’t flown off without her.

“I once heard a rumour that there were some True-Elves living in the deep desert in an oasis. This oasis apparently has a portal that leads to their actual kingdoms. Have you heard about this?” she asked him. He smiled at her words.

“There are lots of rumours about what’s in the deep desert. Maybe they are there, but who can say?” he replied.

“The only other True-Elves I know of is the High Elf Queen and her people who live across the sea, but I’m not sure if they really exist.” Meela added.

“Again, who knows?”

“Maybe I should try flying there one day.” She suggested.

“Even if they are there, you probably won’t get there.” advised El-Karoth. Meela nodded slowly in agreement with his words.

After the meal was finished Meela returned to her room. She was still feeling rather tired and so she lay down on the bed intending to have a short nap, but went into a deep sleep instead. When she awoke it was the next day and she felt rather refreshed. Once she got out of the bed she saw there was a tray of food by the door which included, breads, fruits, and a hot drink made from infused herbs. While she was eating Déwag checked up on her.  He inspected her wound, which had healed up considerably since the day before. He advised the best thing for her to do today would be to rest as much as possible, and then left, but not before re-bandaging her wound again. Meela did heed his words though she had already decided she was going to have a look at the underground cavern that El-Karoth had mentioned the night before, despite her reservations about being under the earth.

After breakfast was finished she looked for the stairway that led down into the cavern. Once she found the way after asking another person she went down the steps that had been carved out of stone and came out into an immense cavern. It was vaster than she had expected. The cavern went on in either direction beyond her sight. She could feel a slight cool breeze on her skin. Down below her feet there was a large stream of water flowing along at a moderate pace. Under the water she could see crystals in the rock surface, slightly illuminated. Above in the cavern walls there was a slight phosphorescence from some type of moss, she suspected. As she was half-elven her vision could see a lot more in the darkness than human eyes could. She shivered.

She did not like being underground. The stories she had heard of the elves that lived deep under the earth made her uneasy. They had white skin that was cold and slimy. They were virtually blind in the utter darkness and felt their way along with their long arms and probing fingers. They could silently move up to you and drag you away to their underground lairs without a sound… And then there were the goblins. She had seen a couple in a Loro-Don, they had been maybe almost four feet high with light green skin. They mostly stayed out of sight deep under the ground where they engaged the dwarves in constant wars over the countless centuries. Many great battles were fought in tunnels, mountains, or deep under everyone’s feet, that no body else knew of. Meela knew a few dwarves that mentioned them briefly, but not in great detail. Goblins were odd, but it was the elves that lived in the deep that had always made Meela want to avoid going under the earth, even though no one she knew of had ever seen one. The stories she had heard when she was a child still made her shudder. Once she had seen enough of the cavern she quickly went back up the stone steps.

She kept to her room for the rest of the day. In the evening there was another meal, which was very similar to the previous night. When she went to sit at the table she noticed El-Karoth was not there and wondered if he had already left the city. She was told that Aduna and the soldier had been given fresh camels and had left that morning to go back to the fortress, as they were needed. No one knew what had happened to El-Karoth. After the meal Déwag took her aside and gave her a piece of parchment.

“Since it seems the Tigreralateans are now putting poison on their blades, I have given you directions on how to make the antidote. When you go back to Loro-Don give this to the alchemists there and get them to make as much as they can as we will all probably need it. I have some stores of it here, but not enough for a prolonged war with the Empire.” he told her. She took the parchment with thanks and hid it in her bag.

She went to sleep early again, but in the middle of night she was prodded awake by someone. She opened her sleepy eyes and turned to face the person. There in the darkness was a tall person with a faint glow. She knew it was El-Karoth.

“Meela.” he said.

“You weren’t at the evening meal. I thought you had gone.” she said half-asleep, trying to stifle a yawn.

“I was unable to make it to that meal.” he explained. “Do you wish to go back to Loro-Don?”

“Yes, but I don’t think I’m strong enough to teleport yet.” she answered.

“I can take you back. Just follow me.” he said in a quiet voice.

Intrigued, Meela got out of bed and watched him leave the room. She quickly put on some robes and grabbed her bag and then followed him out the door. She continued following him out of the building and into the wide street. He walked towards the wall in the north. When they got to the wall he quickly climbed up it. Meela watched him wondering where he was going.

“Surely a sorceress, and a pirate no less, wouldn’t let a single wall stop her.” El-Karoth said to her from above. She smiled and shook her head and then began climbing up.

Once they were both over the wall El-Karoth began walking into the open desert with Meela following him. Eventually he stopped and then turned to face her.

“Where are we going?’ Meela asked him.

“You’re needed back in the north. I can take you there granddaughter.”

“Granddaughter?” she replied confused.

“I have many grandchildren and you’re one of my favourites.” Meela raised her eyebrows when he said this. “I will take you back to Loro-Don. You can ride on my back.”

“Excuse me?” she said incredulously. “What the hell…” but her voice trailed away as she saw El-Karoth suddenly grow taller.

His skin started turning into bronze scales and wings started growing out of his back, and in a surprisingly short time there was an elder bronze dragon standing before her, the same bronze dragon that flew beside her airship a few days ago, she realised. She finally understood. Without a moment to lose she quickly climbed up the dragon’s leg and found a good spot to sit and hang on to, just below his head. The dragon started beating his wings with a tremendous echoing thud and in the next moment it was rocketing into the dark sky.

 

Next episode: The Debate in Loro-Don

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday night rambling

I did some baking again last night. I made some Afghan biscuits which are a New Zealand traditional biscuit. Don’t ask me how they got their name. Here’s what Wikipedia says about them: Afghan biscuits.

For all you Americans, biscuits here are what you would call cookies. I know for you biscuits mean something completely different such as biscuits and gravy, which I have tried and to me seemed more like scones.

Regarding the Sky-pirates of Durn I have decided I want to finish the story by the end of the year, which will mean I will have to publish a chapter each week from now on until the year’s end if I want to make this self-imposed deadline. All going well part 18 will appear in a couple of days.

I’ve run out of whisky. Okay I’ve had this bottle since late 2015, but tonight I decided to finish it. There was only a small amount left anyway. I think I may have to set up a Joanne Needs More Whisky fund shortly. If anyone has any ideas let me know… 😀

How is your weekend going?

Have you made any important decisions lately?

The Other Mirror (flash fiction)

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Last month I wrote a story called The Mirror in response to a fiction challenge by Fractured Faith Blog to write a story based on a sales receipt. While lying in bed, as you do, I came up with another idea for a story based on this receipt, hence the title The Other Mirror. I have thought of a third idea for a story based on someone finding a cheap copy of Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror (really good film by the way), but that’s as far as I’ve got. If anyone wants to write a story based on that idea you have my blessing.

I think I might be a bit twisted. Anyhoo…

 

The Other Mirror

 

I found a really cheap mirror at a local store and brought it home. I put it up in the bathroom as I thought the place needed to have a mirror. I reflected that it’s rather strange to have two women living in a house together and yet have no mirror anywhere. If I want to look at myself I have to use a DVD while Astrid doesn’t seem to care. She always looks good anyway.

Once I heard Astrid finally appear I showed her our new mirror in the bathroom. She smiled at me. I then went to look at both of us together in the mirror, but I could only see my own reflection even though Astrid was standing right behind me…

“Astrid?” I asked with a hint of concern in my voice.

“Yes my love?”

“How come I can’t see you in the mirror?”

“Because I’m a vampire, my darling.” She replied.

I turned around and faced her. She was smiling at me. She opened her mouth and I could see her long sharp fangs. I backed away from her.

“How come I didn’t know this?” I said as I watched her slowly advance on me.

“Because I feed on you every night and then erase your memory. This isn’t even the first mirror you’ve bought.” She picked up the mirror and dropped it on the ground. It shattered into tiny pieces. “Each time I destroy it and then make you forget about it.”

“Not this time!” I said as I pushed past her and ran for the front door. But when I got to it she was already there.

“There is nothing you can do. I’ll erase your memory and you will forget all this and we’ll be happy again.” She said advancing on me purposefully. I backed away from her until I hit the wall. She came right up to me. Her eyes…

She has the most beautiful eyes.

 

Joanne Fisher

The Sky-Pirates of Durn, part 17

2091
Sand Wurm by garinekoze

 

Chapter 17: The Wurm

 

The morning passed slowly in the hot sun. Though Meela was almost totally covered up she could still feel the heat pressing through to her skin. They rode in single file over an almost unchanging desert landscape before them. The hot sun and the pain in her side made her feel rather grumpy only after a short time of riding. She was starting to find it unbearable. It wasn’t just the sun and her wound making it difficult, but also the gusts of wind that distributed sand all through her clothing making her skin itchy, and the stink from the camel she was riding which had an unpleasant mix of old sweat and musky urine. She saw the camel in front of her urinate on it’s own back legs as it moved, which didn’t overly endear her to these animals. Usually she was fairly hardy when it came to traveling and experiencing new things, but today wasn’t one of those days. She reached for her waterskin to get all the sand out of her throat. Maybe Caelynn’s querulous nature is rubbing off on me she thought. Though she then reflected that maybe that was a little unfair, Caelynn’s behaviour had gradually improved over time. She was much better now than when they had first met.

They had been travelling for several hours now. Above, the sky was a cerulean dome with not a cloud in sight. Gradually the landscape changed. Sand dunes occasionally rose up on their left and right and way off in the distance there seemed to be a dark blur. At first she thought it to be some odd reflection in the distance, but as they got closer there definitely seemed to be something they were approaching, and not some illusion like she first suspected. Once they got closer still, Meela could see there were a few trees, possibly date palms. She felt thankful. It looked to be a small oasis they were heading for which possibly meant a rest stop for them all. She wouldn’t mind taking a break from the camel.

When the guide and the soldier before her arrived at the oasis they both stopped and the camels dropped down so they could dismount. The guide then came over to Meela’s mount and got it to stop. The camel sank down, almost throwing off Meela headfirst as it did.

“Lean back when they sit down or stand up.” the guide told her. Meela nodded in acknowledgement.

She dismounted from the camel and walked stiffly over to one of the date palms. Already she was feeling a little saddle-sore. She looked back to see the soldier who had been riding behind her had already dismounted. All the camels were now huddling together in the shade of the trees.

There was a small spring amongst the palms. They all refilled their waterskins and brought some food out. Meela washed her face in the spring. It felt so good to feel cool water on her face again and to wash off all the sand. She slowly sat down with the others on a blanket one of them had spread on the ground. All the food had been stored in muslin and was now being unwrapped. There was goat’s cheese, olives, dates, large red grapes, and some flatbread. Meela found she was hungrier than she realised and quickly ate what was before her. Sitting in the little shade that the palm trees provided made her feel a great deal better and her mood began improving with it. After she had finished eating, her guide, a woman with dark skin probably in her late twenties, came over to inspect her wound and bandages. She had seen her before when she was in the infirmary helping the other wounded. So she guessed she had been chosen as her guide as she was also a healer. Meela had to take off her own robes and the guide slowly unwrapped the bandage to reveal the wound which looked more agitated than it had this morning before they had set out. The skin around it was a deep red. She looked concerned and produced a vial from out her robes. She slowly spread the green salve from out of the vial onto Meela’s wound and then wrapped the bandage around her again. The wound’s throbbing pain began to hurt less, and Meela was grateful for that. Her guide began to get ready to resume their journey.

“We’ll have one more stop in a few hours, and then we will press on until it gets dark and then we will find a place to camp for the night.” she told her in a heavily accented voice. Meela nodded.

“What is your name by the way? No one has told me.” Meela asked her.

“My name is Aduna.” She replied, while starting to wrap up all the food that was left.

“My name is Meela.” Meela told her.

“I know.” Aduna responded continuing to wrap the provisions up and not really looking at her.

“When will we get to Ankallat?” Meela inquired.

“Probably this time tomorrow, all going well.” Aduna replied.

“Couldn’t we just continue traveling through the night?” When she asked this Aduna shook her head and gazed at Meela with a deadly serious look.

“Not a good idea. I don’t think your wound could handle so much traveling in one day. Also the desert wurms around here are more active in the dark. And they will attack anything that’s moving.” Aduna informed her.

“Desert wurms? I didn’t know there was such a thing around here!” Meela exclaimed. She hadn’t been told there were wurms in this desert, and she had never heard of sand wurms before.

“Yes the further south you go in the desert the greater the likelihood you will encounter one.” Aduna said. “I’d rather not see one. A single wurm could quite happily devour us all, camels included.”

“Are they related to dragons?” Meela asked intrigued about them.

“Yes. Distantly I think.” Aduna replied. With that she resumed packing up. Meela got the feeling she wasn’t that interested in talking about them.

A short while later they mounted their camels and began moving southwards in single file again. This time as the camel stood up Meela leaned back as she was advised to and she wasn’t thrown forward this time.

Again they were traveling on with an unrelenting hot sun glaring down on them. As the afternoon wore on the sun was slowly moving westwards and they began trekking more to the south-east. Meela noticed the land was beginning to change. The terrain began to be strewn with rocks that got larger the more they journeyed on, until she could see cliffs of light brown rock appear slowly before her in the distance.

They continued for several more hours and it was the late afternoon when they finally stopped again. By now they were amongst the cliffs and used them for the shade they offered from the sun which was now beginning to dip in the western sky. Again they all dismounted and an even more stiff and sore Meela joined the others for another meal. They had spread out another blanket as well as some small cushions which one of the soldiers had brought with them.

As they were eating and resting they all heard a strange noise. It was a rumbling sound, like continuous thunder only seemingly coming from the ground beneath them. The entire area shook with the sound which reverberated off the cliff walls. The camels who were huddled together looked rather nervous. Meela looked at the others and they all looked rather speechless. One of the soldiers decided to stand up and investigate the sound. He walked past the cliffs and back into a patch of open desert where he thought the sound had come from. He had his scimitar drawn and looked around rather nervously. At that moment he seemed to be thrown up into the air by something that emerged out of the sand below him. It was very sudden. The thing was snake-like though huge and it seemed to be covered in white scales that looked similar to a dragons hide. The front which had launched out of the sand was like an open mouth, and Meela could not discern any eyes. The thing rose out of the sand towering above them all with the soldier caught in it’s mouth. Then the solider screamed and they could hear his bones snapping as the wurm crunched down on him with it’s teeth. The others stood there feeling nauseated  and unable to do anything. And then in one heart-stopping moment as it quickly chewed on the soldier, it then swallowed and he was gone.

“It’s a desert wurm!” screamed the guide. “It’ll eat us all!” She then backed away quickly behind Meela and the other soldier.

Meela was at first frozen by surprise and then by shock. Seeing another person so quickly devoured like that was frightening. All of a sudden she snapped out of it, and realised she had to do something. As it towered above them looking like it was about to choose it’s next victim Meela hit it straight in it’s open gaping mouth with lightning that streamed from her fingers. The wurm was rocked backwards and then moved towards them again menacingly. It got closer to the sorceress that had tried to harm it. Meela realised with concern that it seemed to be immune from her attack. Great it has lightning resistance! she thought as her mind raced frantically about what to do next. She then fired a volley of magic bolts at it fused with both sonic and dark energy. This time the wurm let out a roar that shook the ground around them. She had hurt it! She continued firing volleys at it, knowing she was rapidly running out of energy, and feeling her wound was getting more inflamed. The wurm let out another roar and then dived into the sand beneath them, and then it was gone. Meela breathed a sign of relief and then collapsed onto the ground.

Aduna ran over to her. Meela was bathed in sweat. Everything around her was hazy and distant. The guide and the last remaining soldier carried her back to the blanket and laid her down placing her head on a cushion. The wound was hurting like crazy now. She could see the soldier and Aduna talking. No doubt they were discussing about what to do next. Aduna then informed her due to her condition they couldn’t really go any further today. Amongst the cliffs they found a shelf of rock they could sleep on and which might offer them protection from any further wurm attacks should another one come near their camp. The camels had run off, but the soldier was able to call them back eventually. They resumed huddling together by the cliff not far from the ledge.

Meela wrapped herself up in a blanket and lay on the thin bedroll. The sun had dipped below the horizon now and the air was a lot cooler. She saw the soldier sitting against the wall of the rock ledge keeping watch in case they were attacked again.  Meela felt drained and though she could see the stars shining brightly above, her vision seemed clouded and everything felt unreal or far away. It didn’t take long for her to drift off to sleep.

When she awoke the next morning she felt better but was still a lot weaker than she had been. They had a quick breakfast and then resumed their journey. As one of the camels lacked a rider now, it was led by the camel which the soldier was mounted on. Behind the riderless camel was Meela and behind her was Aduna. They rode a bit quicker as they wanted to get to Ankallat as soon as possible. When Aduna had looked at Meela’s wound after she first woke up it was a lot redder and there seemed to be tendrils of red moving upwards in the direction of her heart. Aduna had said nothing to her, but seemed disquieted. To Meela everything still seemed slightly out of focus. All she could do was hang on to the reins of the camel and stay as upright as possible. She also seemed to be sweating a lot more than yesterday.

They moved off towards the south-east with the sun beginning to heat up the air around them again. The lead camel set a quick pace for several hours. They had decided to not stop at midday but instead continue on until they got to Ankallat, both the soldier and Aduna didn’t want another death on their hands. Especially not the sorceress who had helped them defeat the Tigreralateans, and now the wurm that could have quite easily  killed and eaten them all. To Meela everything began to get featureless and hazy, like she was beginning to get lost in some white mist. She wondered if she was seeing things, or maybe the desert was shrouded in fog today. Though she had never heard of such a thing happening. She just focused on staying conscious and following the camel in front of her.

The desert terrain was getting more rocky. There were still large areas of sand they were traveling over, but they were also encountering more rocks and large formations of sandstone which the camels didn’t seem to like walking on as much. Because of this they were slowing down when they needed to keep going quickly. Meela began to doze, but would then sharply awaken when the camel would try to pick it’s way through the rocks.

It was mid afternoon when they found that the land was gradually sloping upwards to a ridge of sandstone. Once they crested the ridge they saw that it now sloped away to another area of sandy desert. Off in the distance they could see what at first glance appeared to be another wall of rock, but with more scrutiny they could see it was the city walls of Ankallat before them. They were finally there. Upon seeing the walls Meela breathed a sigh of relief before she fell into a dream again.

 

Next chapter: Ankallat

 

Previous Chapter: Part 16

 

Author’s note: I’ve had to cut this chapter in half as it was going to be too long. So what was meant to be one chapter will now be two chapters. At least I’ve now got Chapter 18 mostly written and it will give me more opportunity to describe Ankallat in greater detail…

When All Else Fails I Bake.

It was a good cake despite the haphazard icing…

I’ve been trying to fight off a depression the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately when I get depressed that’s when self-destructive thoughts begin creeping in to my head again. I want to write. I’ve got many ideas in my head of things I want to write about, but when I feel depressed my self-confidence goes out the window. The sad irony of it is that when I’m writing it makes me feel better about myself, but to start writing I have to be able to believe in myself and my writing abilities…

Cake #1

 

The most constructive thing I’ve done the last couple of weeks, apart from beginning to beta-read someone else’s novel, is that I’ve started baking again. To date I’ve made two chocolate cakes and now some chocolate chip cookies. I think I’m making them as an apology to everyone I live with for my shortcomings. I can be a moody bitch at times…

 

IMG_20180908_231125.jpg
My chocolate chip cookies merged into one giant one 😦

 

Anyway I’m planning to shortly begin work on part 17 of my Sky-Pirates story, so hopefully I will begin to feel better soon.

 

How are things going for you at the moment?

Ten Favourite Movies

I’ve not been in the mood to publish any fiction here over the last week, so I thought I would do something completely different. Creating a list of my ten favourite movies has been a bit agonising however. There are many films I love that I had to leave out and that was difficult. Trying to work out which film was better than another was often a practice in absurdity. So here is my definitive list of my top ten films, at this particular juncture…

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10. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Luc Besson, France, 2010)

Set during the early Twentieth Century, the main character is Adele Blanc-Sec, an author and explorer. At the beginning of the film she is in Egypt exploring the pyramids hoping to find an Ancient Egyptian doctor she wants to revive. We find out later it’s so she can cure her sister who is immobile due to having a large pin embedded in her head. At the same time a pterodactyl hatches out of an ancient egg in Paris and starts to cause mayhem around the city. When Adele returns to Paris she has to save the pterodactyl from some incompetent hunters and save a scientist (who is the one responsible for hatching the pterodactyl egg) as he is the only one who can revive the mummified doctor… If you want to know what happens next I suggest you watch the movie. It’s nice to see a movie like this which has a strong female lead character. It is quite fun to watch and makes me wish there was a sequel.

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9. Lost In Translation (Sofia Coppola, United States, 2003)

Bill Murray stars as a movie star shooting some whiskey commercials in Japan, while Scarlett Johansson is a wife of a photographer who is on assignment in Japan to take pictures of a Japanese rock band. Both Murray and Johansson’s characters both have insomnia and while staying in the same hotel strike up a friendship and start to go on adventures together in Tokyo during the evening. There’s a wonderful contrast between Murray’s character whose career is in decline and has been married for a long time, you see him talking to his wife on the phone about choosing the right colour carpet or dealing with some issue regarding their kids, and Johansson’s character who is only just got married and is still trying to work out her place in the world and who she is. There are some wonderful shots of areas in Japan the characters explore, and it’s fun to watch what the two of them get up to, such as going to parties or singing karaoke in a lift. Both Murray and Johansson both have good chemistry together and there are a couple of very tender moments between them.

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8. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, United States, 1982, Final Cut 2007)

I’m a fan of the later cuts of this film. When it was originally released it had a voice-over and a happier ending had been tacked on. The Director’s Cut around ten years later removed the voice-over, included a dream sequence with a unicorn, and chopped the happy ending off making it far more of a bleak near-future noir film. Much better. The Final Cut released in 2007 included changes in the sound design (I believe). The trouble is when this film was originally released 2019 would have seemed a long way off, but it is now just round the corner and thankfully our world is nothing like the one portrayed in Blade Runner. I think the trouble with near-future films is when we end up getting to the date the film is set in, the film can date pretty quickly after that. That said, I still enjoy watching both 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact, and we’re still yet to find any monoliths on the Moon or send a manned spacecraft to Jupiter…

2065

7. The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (Vincent Ward, New Zealand/Australia, 1987)

The only New Zealand film that made my list. Due to a lack of funding Vincent Ward had to also get money from Australia so he could shoot the film. A large chunk of my history degree was in the history of Medieval Europe, so I quite like films that are set during those times. For some reason I have some connection to the medieval period which I have yet to fathom. The film begins in Cumbria in 1348 during the Black Death and is set in a small village that mines copper. There is a boy in the village who has visions which he thinks show a way for their village to avoid being visited by the plague. In the dream a group of villagers tunnel through the Earth to come to the far side of the world, which turns out to be the city of Auckland in 1987. They bring copper with them to forge a cross to place on a cathedral as an offering. If they do it before the day breaks then the Black Death will miss their village, according to the logic of the vision. However in Griffin’s vision one them falls off the cathedral and dies… They had some fun with what would it be like for people from medieval times to be in a modern city, such as crossing a busy highway, or encountering trains or other machinery. This movie is a bit obscure but worth seeing. As an aside I always wanted to be a film director (once I realised I would never be an astronomer) and Vincent Ward wrote a book called Edge of the Earth in which he talked about his struggles to get his films made. Often the main problem was the struggle to find enough funds so filming could go ahead. And it was that and also a book called Gilliam On Gilliam, which had Terry Gilliam discussing his problems with getting each individual film made, which really put me off the idea of getting involved in film-making. The amount of money they had to find was enormous compared to getting funding to finish a manuscript of poetry, for example.

2063

6. Lost and Delirious (Léa Pool, Canada, 2001)

This is a coming of age drama set in an all-girls boarding school, and has a heartbreaking love story in it. The film is seen through the eyes of Mary (Mischa Barton) who has been sent to boarding school at the beginning of the film by her father and step-mother. Her mother died three years ago and she is still dealing with that. She’s assigned to a room with two other girls: Paulie and Tory who are in a relationship together, though it takes a while for Mary to realise this. When Tory’s younger sister enters the room one morning to find Tory and Paulie sleeping in the same bed together, she is horrified. Tory, terrified that her parents might find out, assures her sister that it was not what it seemed and she is not lesbian. Tory then begins dating a boy from the neighbouring school. Paulie is heartbroken by Tory’s decision, and her mental health declines rapidly through the rest of the film. It has a sad ending. There is some good acting in this film, especially by Piper Perabo who plays Paulie. At one point Paulie finds a hawk that’s been wounded, and you see her nursing it back to health during the nighttime. There’s also a wise-cracking gardener who helps give advice to Mary who is witnessing all the drama unfold before her. I’m not sure why I like this film so much, though for me it does have a deep resonance.

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5. Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden, 2008)

I’m a great fan of vampire films (in fact I’ve done a post on my favourite vampire films here), but I decided to only include one in this list. The Only Lovers Left Alive and Byzantium are films that might have made this list as well, maybe. This film was remade in the United States as “Let Me In’ which was good, but not quite as good as this original version, in my opinion. The story is about a boy who is bullied at school and is set in the early 1980s. One night a father and daughter move into the apartment next to his, and the girl befriends him, though it turns out she is a vampire. She helps him deal with the bullies, and, as they are both socially isolated, they hang out together. This film could be described as a vampire buddy movie with occasional disturbing moments of horror. If you’re not a fan of seeing lots of blood then don’t watch this.

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4. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia, 1966)

As I mentioned earlier I have a great interest in the medieval period. Hence why I’m a great fan of this film too. The film is about Andrei Rublev who painted icons during the Fifteenth Century in Russia. The film is episodic in structure showing key periods of his life and is filmed in black and white. I remember when I first watched it I was quite gobsmacked during the last part where you see a large bell being cast. It has interesting reflections on life and art. At the end of the film it goes to colour and shows the work of his that still survives. If you’re a fan of slow-moving films that are quite long, you should enjoy this.

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3. Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, United States, 2010)

I think this was the first role in a movie for Jennifer Lawrence, or at least the first one she got noticed in. She plays Ree Dolly, a 17 year old who lives in the backwoods of Missouri. Her mother is quite ill and so Ree has to look after her as well as her younger brother and sister. One day she is told by the Sheriff that her father failed to appear in court for a drugs charge and as he put the house they live in up for bail means that unless he finally shows up they could lose their house. So she goes looking for him, or to find out what’s happened to him. A lot of the people she goes to see are rather standoffish and not very friendly to her, as seems the custom of the area. Many of the men also seem to be addicted to crank and can sometimes be rather menacing. As Ree and her family don’t have a lot of wealth and are sometimes dependent on help from their neighbour, if they lose their house there is no where else for them to go. This film has some disturbing moments.

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2. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, United Kingdom/United States, 1985)

Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece is set in a bureaucratic dystopian nightmare. The main character Sam Lowry, played by Jonathan Pryce, works as a bureaucrat but is very much a dreamer and has an internalised fantasy world where he flies above the clouds. After a bureaucratic bungle and the wrong man is arrested and then dies during his interrogation Sam ends up helping to tidy it up, but while doing this runs into a woman he has been fantasizing about. She turns out to be a truck driver and while trying to get her on his side things start to fall apart for him. This film has seemingly nice people who do terrible things, such as Michael Palin’s character who is a friend of Sam’s but is also an interrogator, or maybe torturer is a better word for it. Wonderful set design with ducts that appear everywhere and rather formidable looking buildings. Has Robert De Niro as a rogue heating engineer. The ending is rather bleak.

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1. Star Wars (George Lucas, United States, 1977, Special Edition 1997)

If you didn’t realise this would be number one, then there’s things you have missed in my blog. I decided to go with the first one (that was filmed) as it launched a series of films that have captivated me for most of my life. I have very much a love for these films that is more emotional than intellectual. You don’t have to like these films to understand or get to know me, but it would certainly help 🙂

I could probably do another post like this as I’ve had to miss out several films that I really love, such as Paris, Texas, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Station Agent, Once, Girlfight, Go, THX-1138, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Big Liebowski, and Moon to name a few. Had I done this list on a different day some of these films might have ended up in the list.

On the subject of films I really want to see Guillermo del Toro direct a version of At The Mountains of Madness some day (I know he wants to do it). I don’t think I can state this enough times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are some of your favourite films?

Tuesday (poem)

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I’m posting this so you don’t think I’ve dropped off the face of the Earth. I was writing an article yesterday which I thought would be quick to write and planned to post it that evening, but it turns out it’s going to take longer to finish than I thought. So in the meantime here’s a short poem. It’s Wednesday here now, but I think it’s still Tuesday in some parts of the globe…

 

Tuesday

 

another day

comes & goes

 

love

comes & goes

 

I sit here in the gloom

staring out a dirt-flecked window

onto a darkening street below

 

my heart is empty

 

 

Joanne Fisher