Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Chronicles of Jack The Axe


The Fall and Rise of Humpty Dumpty
Part Two

Reanimation time

Humpty’s eyes slowly opened and he realised he was uncomfortable and hungry, very hungry.
“Where am I?” he thought and raised himself on one thin bony elbow.
He was in an alley way, lying on a bed of garbage bags.
He tried his best to remember how he’d gotten here, the last thing he remembered was looking down over the wall to the Market Square - and it had been morning. Judging by the night sky above him now it was late in the evening.
Humpty got tentatively to his feet and straight away hunger pains racked his very being.
Opening his eyes when the pain subsided, he saw his smooth surface was now crazed with a million lines.
“What has happened to me?” he wondered as he was struck down again by the vicious cramping hunger pains.

He had to find food.

Humpty Dumpty stumbled around the alley using the high walls to avoid falling over. This was a natural instinct almost as strong as his need for sustenance.
High above, leaning over a rickety balustrade, the Necromancer watched with interest.
Humpty was confused and his memory virtually shot but his primal instincts were still strong. For the Necromancer this was an important step in the success of his plans.
As he watched Humpty stumble around below, his concentration was broken by loud, high pitched voices coming from the far end of the dimly lit alley.

Gnomes registered the Necromancer.


The Necromancer was invisible to those below but his vantage point gave him a wide angled view of both ends of the alleyway.
The Gnomes, who were drunk - as Gnomes tend to be most nights - were chasing a mongrel dog – they had plans to ride it like a pony. A spiteful pastime that Gnomes seemed to enjoy, but which often meant death for the dog, because the one thing Gnomes had a tendency to do was push things too far, too often.
The scared dog ran past the zombie Humpty and to the Necromancer’s delight Humpty ignored it. The Gnomes meanwhile saw Humpty come out the shadows staggering and came to the ill-informed conclusion he was as drunk as them. Immediately, they changed tack from dog riding to Egg mugging.
From his vantage point above The Necromancer grinned to himself, and almost laughed out loud as the Gnomes – three in number – circled Humpty ready to pounce.
The Gnomes as if prompted by some secret signal jumped as one onto Humpty Dumpty and tried to bring the Egg down. Humpty’s heightened senses went into overdrive as he smelled food and plenty of it, he then proceeded to bite and tear at anything that came within his grasp or reach of his mouth.
In less than a minute there was nothing recognisable of the Gnomes and as if some strange climax to the Necromancer’s experiment the dog returned and stole a piece of ragged leg without The Zombie Humpty reacting at all.
The Necromancer couldn’t contain himself and danced a jig on his balcony whilst clapping his hands.
“I’ve done it!” he cried and made his way down to the alley to collect his new weapon of much devouring.

To be continued.......

Edited by Cathie Tranent, art by Simon Sherry

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Chronicles of Jack The Axe


Some Time Later
The Fall and Rise of Humpty Dumpty
Part One

Humpty Dumpty was the King’s snitch.

All day long he would prowl the castle walls spying on the townsfolk in the square and the market place below and reporting any indiscretion he “thought” he may have witnessed to the King’s guard.
No stall holder made a mistake counting his change or selling bad produce. No beggars attempted to seek alms outside of designated areas or hassled the pedestrians without fear of retribution.
That was, of course, those who hadn’t paid the “right” tax to Humpty’s agents.
The resentment towards Humpty Dumpty from the general public was so intense that it came as no surprise that when his body was found broken and shattered at the base of the market wall. The thorough investigation that followed uncovered no one who heard anything or saw how it happened., despite all of Humpty’s personal belonging going missing and the large number of footprints in the goo that was the lifeyolk that his smashed remains lay in.
As fragile a being as Humpty was it was agreed by all and sundry that even an elephant would have trouble surviving a fall from such a height onto the solid surface of the market square.
Humpty Dumpty’s body was taken to the court coroner and after a short and somewhat suspect investigation his demise was attributed to Death by Misadventure.
When no family member, no matter how distant, came forward to claim the body, arrangement were made to give Humpty a pauper’s burial and the crown took possession of his estate. When the box containing Humpty’s remains went missing it was put down as to administrative error, quickly covered up by enterprising (read fearful) young clerks and hidden in a paper trail nightmare.
The box containing the last mortal remains of Humpty Dumpty didn’t go missing however; they were secretly appropriated by the Necromancer Department of the King’s Guard who were waiting for an opportunity such as Humpty’s death to occur. A simple avian type life form would be a fantastic subject for the reanimation experiments being carried out by the Necromancer.

So called Fairy folk creatures had become a problem in the kingdom over the last dozen or so (months?) when somewhere in the outer forests a seam opened and strange creatures started to appear .Talking animals, puppets, gnomes and other oddities arrived en mass coming to find sanctuary in the Castle and its surrounding woods and farmlands.
The old king had always been a merry ol’ soul but his kindness had been played upon by creatures that realised that they were living longer, were generally stronger and had a natural aptitude for scaring as many children as they could in a day.
Humpty was a classic example of power corrupting, as the King had no idea he was extorting funds from the traders. There were reports of puppets leading young boys from school to be used as slave labour for others, and the trade in kidnapped princesses was becoming a national sport.
Something had to be done to restore the balance and the Necromancer, working outside the boundaries of his brief, was going to give it a good hard shake to remedy the problem.

The Necromancer had the box with Humpty’s corpse placed on the operating table and ordered the gnome messenger killed and disposed of. This was an experiment of total secrecy and the Necromancer wanted no one to be able to trace it back to him. In truth, there was no Necromancer Department of the King’s Guard; this was just how he liked to refer to himself in his secret journals.
He was, in fact, the Postmaster General who had managed to come across the Book of the Dead in the Postal Service’s aptly titled Dead Letter Office. He had studied long and hard and had subsequently christened himself The Kingdom’s first Necromancer.
His abject hatred for Fairy creatures dated back to the time his Mother and the daughter of his sister were slaughtered by a wolf that mysteriously vanished along with any trace of his Ma.
The Necromancer swore to avenge his Mother and niece’s death and with the knowledge he had gleaned from the Book of the Dead, was sure he could bring the race of fairy mutants down and drive them from these lands.

The book had revealed to the Necromancer that a reanimated life form of a composite such as an egg would seek nourishment for the missing lifeyolk. This would entail Humpty seeking out similar life forms to eat to suppress the emptiness left by its missing internals and soul. Since Humpty was a Fairy creature he would ignore humans and only seek other fairy creatures as food.
In short, The Necromancer was creating a zombie fairy creature killing machine.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again, for one, because they had no idea how to go about it and two, they hated his guts and were glad to see him gone, but the Necromancer with a bit of patience and a lot of glue knew how to do it.

An obsessive compulsive gnome was the key to the reconstruction/reanimation of Humpty Dumpty.
The book, which seemed to communicate subconsciously with the Necromancer, was responsible for the knowledge of spells and majik needed for the task but the physical assembly of the crushed body of the egg would take a pair of patient and dexterous hands.
The Necromancer had found the gnome in the markets picking up dropped grains from a stall it was managing and forgoing all sales to finish the task.
The Necromancer spend a good part of a morning casually bumping the gnomes table and spilling more in a sort of sadistic experiment.
When the gnome had finished the Necromancer offered him a surprisingly well paid position in the Post Office for his diligence.
An offer the Necromancer would never honour and a post the gnome would never fulfil.

To be continued.......

Edited by Cathie Tranent, art by Simon Sherry

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Chronicles of Jack The Axe


Prelude Part Two
A parting of ways

Racing through the forest and its many game runs, it wasn’t long before they came across the body of one of the King’s personal messengers, a man Jack had met several times before. Barely alive and with vicious looking cuts through his torso, it looked like he had been attacked in a sword frenzy.
Jack tried in vain to give the dying man some water and extract any information out of him he could, only to have the man whisper the words “leave now” before breathing his last breath in Jack’s arms.

This spoke volumes to Jack, knowing what he did about messenger protocols and seeing it would be dark soon, called his men in and ordered them to collect the man’s body and return to the cottage.
Jack’s men mistakenly saw this as Jack heeding a warning from a dead man, but they should have known better.
On returning to the cottage Jack and his men were met by the local postman.
“You’re a bit late for rounds postman” said Jack eyeing the frightened man with a real sense of menace.
“No sir, I’ve finished the day’s duties, I’ve come to visit my Mother”
“What kind of man lets his Mother live out here?” demanded Jack.
“Aye, I’ve asked her to abandon these digs many a time, but she won’t leave. She says it wasn’t a bad place till those creatures come, Sir” the postman replied.

“Hmmm, well I can’t speak for your Mother boy, but I have a distressing sight inside for your eyes and I’m hoping you may shed a light on who it may be. Come with me”

Jack placed his hand on the postman’s shoulder and led him inside, where on first view he gasped from the sight of the blood sprays then ran to his Mother’s bed looking confused until he turned and realised there was a body behind him.

“Oh my” he sobbed and collapsed next to the body reaching out and taking the cape to his face where he wept without shame in front of the soldiers.

“You know the girl?” demanded Jack.

“My niece” came the postman’s reply “She, like me visits regularly to keep our Ma company.”

He looked up at Jack “Where’s my Ma?”
“That I can’t say,” said Jack “But we can’t stay here, we must get these bodies back to the town”.

With that, Jack ordered his men to carry out the unpleasant duty of bringing the bodies back to the Kingdom, the sobbing postman trailing behind.

On arriving back at Kingdom Jack made straight for the Palace and demanded an immediate audience with the King.

He was granted instant access to the chambers where the King was enjoying a private theatrical performance by a dancing cup and spoon.
On Jack’s arrival the King shooed the magical dinnerware away.
“Jack the Gi… Jack, what’s up old friend” the King caught himself just in time.

“I believe I found one your personal messengers today in the borderlands. He died delivering his note” Jack said with no introduction or greeting.

“Really? Was he abducted” the King said not meeting Jack’s stare.

“No, he was savaged, no doubt by the one he was delivering the message to”

“I don’t think so Captain, a King’s messenger only delivers the King’s own words”
“Aye, that he did, Leave Now, I believe they were.” Jack knew he was on very dangerous ground right now and he was very close to accusing his Sovereign of aiding a mass murderer.

The King saved him the trouble.

“Jack, what has happened will not continue. I assure you. Do not seek the perpetrator or bother with any more investigations. The killings have stopped and you will no longer need to worry about them”
“But why?” Jack asked.

“It is none of your concern, a debt needed to be repaid and it has”
“It was a wolf” Jack said.

“Yes, it was and if it returns you are welcome to hunt it down freely, but that will never happen” sighed the King.

“What of the victims, I met a man today who lost half his family, what of him?”
“Send him to me; I shall see he is cared for. Jack my conscience is also troubled here don’t you ever forget that.” The King sounded genuine.

“What of the Giant?” Jack said quickly, instantly regretting it.

“That is what a King does, Jack” The King’s mood had shifted quickly. “King’s make hard decisions, soldiers obey Kings Jack, not question them”
“Well your Majesty, this soldier has just become a free man”.

With those words Jack turned on his heels and never saw the King again.

The King having a good heart and a troubled conscience let him leave.

The King slumped into his chair and shook his head, turning it to see Humpty Dumpty step out from behind the changing curtains. He was holding the cup and spoon.
“I’m sorry Your Highness, I had no idea he was so clever”
“Aye, he is an amazing man and I’d stay away from him if I were you” said the King.
“I fear him not your Majesty because I know a deal’s a deal and you are a man of honour. Without the wolf there would be no goose”
“Yes but the death of a dozen subjects, the deception of an innocent giant, a deal with a monster, was it worth it?” mumbled the King.
“In the long term Your Highness, yes, you have given the Kingdom longevity. You are a true leader sire”
“Get out” said the King tired of Humpty’s silver but slippery tongue. “Just leave me in peace”.

To be continued.......

Edited by Cathie Tranent, art by Simon Sherry

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Chronicles of Jack The Axe


Prelude Part One

Murderer in the Kingdom

Jack had very reliable sources in the town market and this time he was sure he was going to get his man … animal … whatever… He was finally going to get the beast that had been eluding him for weeks.
The town was in a panic because of some rather gruesome murders in the kingdom. What made these murders the more disturbing was the fact that each crime was done in the victim homes after the murderer had been openly invited in.

Jack had been thinking of some sort of Fairy shape shifter. Heaven’s knows what these crazy creatures were capable of; the way they had become part of the Kingdom and the King’s acceptance of them was staggering. While most were harmless, every now and then something more sinister surfaced and this - thing - that Jack was now pursuing was one of the exceptions.

Jack led his men into the forest, not the safest of places now the seam had opened and others had started leaking through.

No one who came through knew how to return, thus the influx of Fairy people became a steady flow, with many a Kingdom dweller thanking the Gods that it was only the Fairy world that appeared to be connected.

Fears of the appearance of Dragons, Giants and Trolls were always being discussed in hushed conversations behind hands in the market square.

Dragons, Giants and Trolls, thought Jack, if only the people of the Kingdom knew the truth. Jack, being an important and high ranking member of the King’s elite guard was privy to probably more than any other living resident of the kingdom except maybe the King himself, and he had already done things he was not proud of for the survival of his home land and for his King. But those things were pushed far to the back of his mind as he prepared to hunt down his prey, the friendly killer as the locals had dubbed it.

Jack’s information had come from the Market Controller, a large egg type creature that had appeared several years ago in the first wave of immigrants from the seam.

He had been a novelty at first and till this day there had not been an appearance of anything like him.

He was unique.

The King took a liking to him and gave him a plum job controlling the traders at the market as a part of the new assimilation program for Fairy folk.

It was a role the Egg took on eagerly and it wasn’t long before Jack discovered that if the egg supplied information to the elite guard his other subtle indiscretions would be ignored.

Jack found the round, over dressed controller no more than a bullyboy and only ever acknowledged him when he had something Jack considered useful. The information on the killer was useful.
Humpty Dumpty - what’s with the stupid names wondered Jack – wouldn’t reveal how he got the information but hinted he had heard it on the grape vine. Jack was seriously thinking of going back and using a bit of pervasive force to extract the knowledge a bit later just for the fun of it.
There were still a few matters pending, like the disappearance of Pinocchio and who stolen the goose to settle yet.

As Jack approached the small cottage he positioned his men around the perimeter that way, if anyone was still inside they would be seen if they tried to leave. Jack himself was more than capable of taking on anything that may present any danger inside.
Silently sliding up to the front door he withdrew his axe from the holder that he strung across his back.
The last time he used his mighty axe in an act of violence it had earned him a new name from the King.
“Jack the Giant Killer”. A name he asked the King never to call him again if he wished him to remain in Royal service.
The memory still depressed him.
Moving closer to the door Jack noticed it was ajar and in one fluid motion burst in prepared for anything.
He knew immediately he was too late.
Slumped next to a bed at the far end of the one room cottage were the remains of a human, a girl by the looks of it.
A red cape had been discarded on a nearby chair, a popular fashion item for young women these days. On the bed were the bed clothes of an older person, but the person themself was nowhere to be seen. It looked like the killer only got one victim this time.
On closer inspection Jack found something positive about this awful scene, the killer had got careless. Though the girl had been mutilated in the usual manner, the bed clothes had traces of thick wiry hair all through them, indicating that the killer may have been interrupted and that this was no man, this was a wolf.
There could be no mistake. Jack had one of his men confirm it, a well-trained tracker who also said there had been another here - a human. And from the evidence presenting itself it looked like they had both run out and headed into the forest in the direction of the seam.

The seam or the gateway (it had so many names) was generally thought to be deep in the woods in a southerly direction from the Kingdom, but no one knew for sure, because the Fairy folk never remembered coming through it and no one on the Kingdom side had ever seen it. Jack and his men were not interested one way or the other in the seam just the murderer of the young lady in the cottage.

To be continued.......

Edited by Cathie Tranent, original art by Simon Sherry