Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Chronicles of Jack The Axe

The book of Knowledge

The Necromancer closed the book and sat down, and joining his fingers in the shape of a steeple, stared intently at the leather bound tome in front of him.
Something wasn’t right.
The book had changed his life, brought him a wealth of knowledge and made him capable of amazing deeds, the reanimation of Humpty Dumpty probably his most remarkable, but lately he wondered whether he might have a problem on his hands.

The Necromancer – in his guise as Post Master General – had discovered the book in the Dead Letter Office earlier in the year on a routine search of valuables he thought may be worth keeping - one of the perks of the position. Still in its wrapping, the book had seemed to call to him and when he unwrapped it, as a lover of antiques its ancient leather and brass binding appealed to him on sight - it was only after he began to read the contents that it revealed it secrets.

The book translated every page for the Necromancer as he read them and when he was disturbed by some of his colleagues they actually believed he was reading another language. It seemed the book was only allowing itself to be read by him.

The only words that the Necromancer couldn’t read and the book wouldn’t translate were the heavy embossed letters on the cover. Any clues to its title inside the book were sadly missing.
After much searching in the King’s library the Necromancer discovered an ancient alphabet that Scholars had been working on but had abandoned.

After much guess work the Necromancer had concluded that the title must be the Book of the Dead, even though he wasn’t exactly sure.

It was this title and the secrets revealed to him about the rising of the dead that made him take his secret title The Necromancer. Plus it gave him an excuse to wear a big black robe and pointy hat without feeling silly.

Now dressed in said attire, looking at the book the Necromancer was worried because it had seemed to suddenly stop revealing any more pages to him. Even the ones he read earlier seemed to be hidden from his eyes. It was like the book was shutting down.

The Necromancer threw his pointy hat onto the book and left the large reading room to make some lunch.

Had he maybe used up all of its magic? he wondered and then his mind went back to thinking of his stomach, and how well a nice roast beef sandwich would hit the spot.

As he closed the reading room door he couldn’t hear the distinctive but muffled cackling laughter coming from between the covers upon which the hat now perched.

Jack of all trades

Jack swung the axe over his shoulder and made his way towards the stream. The midday sun had reached the perfect spot for him to escape the constant shadows of the mighty forest surrounding the Kingdom. The sun always felt good on his face after a morning of tree felling.

Jack led a good, structured life, one week marking and cutting down dying or diseased trees, the next reducing and splitting wood, the next hauling it into the town square in the Kingdom.

Just the right amount of alone time, good solid hard work and time spent in the hell hole of a market. The structured routine of his life was something he loved and inherited from the twenty odd years he had worked with the King’s Elite Guard. It was now embedded deep into his very soul.

He didn’t miss the constant danger and ridiculous orders at all, but the self-discipline he had learned made him who he was today. Responsible only to himself and that’s exactly how he liked it. Master of his own domain.

His solitary life was only rarely interrupted by the occasional visitor to the forest (usually lost) or when he went to market to sell his wood, and even then he often paid others rather handsomely to man his stall and sell his goods.

He didn’t really have any use for money, as his life was simple and uncluttered.
The woodsman knew of the Kingdom’s wealth and could have been as rich as the King if had wished, because Jack was the one responsible for the King owning the Golden Goose in the first place.

Jack’s axe was more than his work tool; in his past life as a member of the Elite Guard it had become Jack’s weapon of choice and earned him the unwanted title of Jack the Giant Killer from the King.

A moniker he wanted nothing to do with these days.

He knew he was a wanted man by the Giant community, lucky for him they were few and far away these days not being a clan to mingle with Fairy folk or humans.

He often thought of the sacrifice he had made for his King in killing the poor giant whose goose was the financial saviour of the struggling Kingdom. Admittedly, it wasn’t as big a sacrifice as the giant had made and to this day the body still lay where it fell.

The King needed bold measures to save the Kingdom from bankruptcy and Jack was a loyal subject. Still it wasn’t enough reason for him to leave the guard, that was a whole different matter.

When he had been unable to save an elderly woman and her grand daughter from the lies and deception of an enchanted wolf he was devastated. Their remains still haunted his dreams and he often stood outside the deserted cottage whenever he felt depressed to convince himself that things could be worse.
The whole episode reeked of conspiracy and was the nail in the coffin that made Jack resign his commission.

The Woodsman never forgot the look of despair on the face of the postman whose Grandmother and niece had been murdered or the white wash carried out by the King due to lack of evidence and prejudices against Fairy folk.

Jack felt powerless and thought about going after the culprit himself. As it was, the Wolf left the area and as Jack had lost the stomach for his work and took his pension and his guilt and retired to the forest.

To be continued.......

Edited by Cathie Tranent, art by Simon Sherry

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