Vellichor #atozchallenge

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Vellichor; the strange wistfulness of used bookstores.

What is it about used book shops? You go, you browse, you pick up a few books, you read a few pages, sometimes you buy book/s and other times you don’t. You might stay for coffee if they  have a cafe. It’s a meeting place, a talking point, a land of discovery.

You like the smells that whiffed from the shelves; old ink, yellowing pages, dusty attic, dampness and salty tang. You like running your fingers over cracked spines and flattened leather. You like pulling random books out and seeing what they are. You wonder who the previous owner/s and why they give this book up.

You enjoy a good mystery and there is always just more then the story inside to be had. You adore supernatural and horror too; ghosts give you chills and vampires have you shaking at your knees. You love adventures to far off lands or under deep seas or high in the sky. Science fiction always makes you ponder if this is what the future will really look like even though it’s your less favourite.

If you could you’d live in the used book shops. In fact, your home is slowly turning into one. Your bedroom is floor to ceiling with books! You’ve read most of them, but there are others still waiting to be read and still you go to the used book shop to see more. It’s an addiction, a terrible terrible addiction and yet, its harmless.

Ukiyo #atozchallenge

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Ukiyo; ‘the floating world’, living in the moment, detached from the bothers of life. 

It was a taste of freedom to be floating so high without a care.

Tsundoku #atozchallenge

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Tsundoku; buying books and not reading them then allowing unread books to pile up together.

I entered my granddad’s house and my heart filled with panic. I was surrounded by piles and piles of books. They reached from floor to ceiling and were stacked everywhere. Narrow passageways lead to each room and you had to sideways step through. I held my breath as I squeezed down the hallway into the living room.

Four walls of books met my eyes. They must have been stacked three or four deep! In the centre was an old, comfy armchair and a reading lamp, but that was all the furniture there. I looked around, titles and book spines flashing before me.

Maybe further inside the house wouldn’t be as bad?

I was wrong! There were books filling the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom. It was as if a large library had been packed into a two down to up terrace house, only someone hadn’t realised there wasn’t enough space.

What was I going to do with it all?

I sank on to the armchair and looked around. My head began to come up with ideas; from the simple – getting a skip- to the more extreme – opening my own bookshop or library.

I knew my granddad had been a hoarder of books, but I could never have imagined this.

Somnambulist (Part 2) #atozchallenge

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Somnambulist; a person who sleepwalks.

As soon as they were done eating, Chase tidied up and Faith dug a paperback romance novel out and began reading it. The camping lanterns glowed softly, casting just enough light to see by. The night was growing cold though and Chase wished they had matches.

‘I’m going to check again,’ he announced as he left things to dry.

Faith looked up at him, slight confusion on her face.

‘For the matches,’ Chase explained, ‘maybe I just missed them?’

‘Okay. I’m going into my sleeping bag. To get warm,’ Faith spoke.

Chase nodded and went over to the tent. He unzipped it and began looking through the bags again. Faith brushed past him, wiggling out of her boots as she did so. Chase heard her moving things around and the air bed squeaking.

‘I know I packed them,’ he muttered.

Faith sighed and said, ‘forget it. Come to bed. We’ll keep each other warm.’

‘It’s still early,’ Chase pointed out.

‘You got any better ideas?’ she snapped.

Biting his tongue to keep silent, Chase grabbed the other lantern and arranged it next to the one Faith had brought inside, so that they had a large pool of light. He zipped up the tent and took his trainers off.

Not being a reader, he hadn’t brought anything to do and he felt too awake to sleep. He changed clothes, noticing that Faith hadn’t bothered to get out of her jeans and hoodie. Chase put on some PJs pants and an old Star Wars t-shirt then got into his sleeping bag.

‘I guess we are going home tomorrow, then?’ he asked slowly.

Faith glared at him over the top of her book, ‘Looks that way,’ she answered.

‘I’m sorry, okay? I wanted to have a break from things and money is so tight right now, I thought this would be a good idea. If I’d remembered the matches it would be fine. What else can I do?’ Chase demand.

Faith was silent for a few moments. She turned a page then put down her book to look at him, ‘I don’t know what you can do, Chase. I knew this was a bad idea from the start. What’s wrong with another weekend in anyway? I’m too tried to fight about this now. I’m going to sleep.’

‘Well, I can’t!’

‘Here then, read this,’ Faith stated and handed him her book.

She turned off the lantern next to her and rolled over.

Chase took the hint and began flicking through the book. It was a simple romance story of a lonely girl meeting a heart throb man and the two of them slowly falling in love. Chase turned back to the began and read the first few pages.

‘This is boring. How can you read this?’ Chase muttered.

Faith hushed him and snuggled more down in the sleeping bag.

‘Guess I got nothing better to do.’

Chase turned another page and read a good few chapters. The story still not grabbing him, but at least it had made him tried enough to try and sleep. Putting the book down close to Faith, he turned out the lantern and drew her into a hug.

Faith, who had been dozing on and off, shuffled about so they could be comfy together. She sighed into his arm and fell asleep soon after. It took longer for Chase, but being warm and comfy helped and he dozed off.

Chase came slowly too, fighting to stay asleep, but he didn’t make it. Opening his eyes, he looked into pitch blackness. He wondered what had awoken him then realised he had to go. Growling, he fumbled in the dark for his trainers, put them on and felt for the tent zip.

Letting himself out of the tent, Chase grabbed a lantern and went out into the woods. He turned the light on and found the nearest tree. A cold wind blew around him, stealing away the warmth from the tent. Setting the lantern down, so the light pooled around the tree roots, he relieved himself.

Collecting the lantern, he headed back into the tent. Pulling his trainers off, he turned the light off and snuggled back down with Faith. His hands sank through her empty sleeping bag.

Puzzled, he felt further to the side, but he found nothing. Chase grabbed and turned on the lantern again. Light shone down, showing him that Faith wasn’t inside the tent.

Maybe, she went out too? he thought.

Looking around, he spotted the other lantern and her boots which she clearly hadn’t taken. Chase unzipped the tent and standing on the edge, shone the lantern around. Faith wouldn’t have gone far. She clearly, trusted herself to find the way back more then he had.

She disturbed me going out, Chase thought, maybe she was so desperate she didn’t have time to grab her things? She’ll be back any moment now.

Watching out for her, Chase studied the shadows that the light was casting over the grass and trees. Trying not to think what was further out there in the darkness, he debated what to do.

Shrugging, he placed the lantern down outside of the tent, left the half unzipped and climbed back into bed. At least, Faith would be able to see the light now. Settling down, Chase fell into fitful dozing. An hour or so later, he awoke and saw Faith’s sleeping bag was still empty.

Panic floored him.

‘Faith?’ he cried out.

Scrambling, Chase put on his trainers and grabbed the other lantern. He unzipped the tent and got out. Leaving the first light as a beacon, he scouted the edge of the clearing calling his girlfriend’s name.

He heard and saw nothing.

Ploughing further into the woods, he roamed a large area. Low branches scrapped his face and arms, he stumbled over half hidden tree roots and startled small animals. He switched from shouting her name to screaming it. He tripped through a patch of brambles, feeling thorns snag on his pants. He tugged himself loose and hurried down to the river.

In the lantern light, he could see the shallow water slowly moving over large rocks. He walked downwards for a few minutes then turned and walked back up. He looked as far as he could and checked the other side of the river too. There was no sign of her or anything else that indicted she had been here.

‘Faith,’ he yelled, his voice growing horse, ‘where are you?’

Pausing, he caught his breath and tried to calm himself. Ideas about what had happened raced through his mind. Had she fallen and gotten hurt? Had someone kidnapped her? Had she really got lost in the woods?

Chase wiped his face, feeling his cheek wet with tears. He calmed himself and decided to check back at the tent. If Faith wasn’t there, he could take the car until he got signal on his phone then he could call the police. Heading back, he kept a look out, but tiredness had hit him.

Half way back to the tent, he heard the sound of voices and laughter. He stopped and listened hard. Turning to his right, he walked slowly over. The voices grew then as he got closer they fell silent. He paused then heard Faith’s voice saying something.

Crying out her name, he pushed through the undergrowth and saw Faith sit on the floor, with her back to a tree.

‘Faith? What happened? Are you okay? I’ve been looking everywhere for you!’ Chase gushed.

He knelt down before her and began checking her out. She seemed unhurt. There was a dreamily look on her face and her eyes were shut.

Chase shook her, but she didn’t respond.

‘Faith?’ he called.

He pulled her into a hard hug, feeling at a total loss. Barely holding back tears, he tried to figure things out, but he couldn’t.

‘Chase?’ a breathy voice whispered in his ear.

‘Yes?’ he said, pulling back from Faith.

‘Where are we?’

Chase looked at her. Faith’s eyes were half opening and she was struggling to stay awake and move.

‘In the woods. You left the tent and I’ve been looking for you,’ he explained.

‘I don’t remember….I was having this strange dream about fairies…’ Faith uttered.

She shut her eyes and lent against him, exhausted.

‘It’s okay. I got you now. Do you think you can get up?’

Faith mumbled something and Chase pulled her up.

‘Let’s go back to the tent. You’ll feel better soon,’ he added.

Grabbing the lantern, they slowly made their way back and once there, Chase put Faith to bed and spent the rest of the night watching over her.

Somnambulist (Part 1) #atozchallenge

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Somnambulist; a person who sleepwalks.  

Hammering the last of the tent pegs into the soft ground, Chase felt glad to finally have put up the four man tent. Sitting back on on his heels, he made sure the tent wire was tight and the peg firmly in. The thin rope give off a high pitch twang as he flicked it. Nodding, he got up, mallet slowly swinging in an arm that had gone numb with the strain of working.

‘Tent’s up!’ he called cheerfully.

He walked back around and saw his girlfriend building a fire a good few meters away. She had made a rock circle and was now building up a pyramid of branches. An range of camping things were around her as if she been searching through them.

‘You okay, Faith?’ Chase asked.

‘I can’t find the matches. You did pack them right?’ she said over her shoulder.

‘Yes. They were on your list.’

Faith pulled a face and turned to carry on building the fire, ‘You better find them.’

Chase put the mallet back in the tent bag and came to her side. He began searching through the bags. Everything had been in order, but Faith had messed things up. He found the pots and pans, the BBQ stuff, beach towels, tins of cola and clothes.

‘They’re not there are they?’ Faith said, sounding smug.

‘They might be in the car,’ Chase answered.

Leaving things more of a mess, he walked back to the  small red car, which they had parked just out of view in the shade of the trees. The clearing they where in was a jagged circle shape, boarded by tall trees. It was a sheltered spot but very accessible by the little road that ran straight through it from the main one. The clearing was a well known camping area, but most people came in summer or the warm nights of autumn.

Chase had decided that April would be warm and dry enough for this little get away. As he opened the car door though, he had his third doubting moment.

If there are no matches, we’ll have go home. Sure we can do without them, but cold meals? And if it gets colder later? Faith won’t like that. Maybe we could stay the night? I don’t want to take the tent down now I just got it up, thought Chase.

He began rummaging in the car. Hoping that the matches had fallen out or he’d put them somewhere safe before they left. Finding nothing, he double checked everywhere. Maybe, they had slipped down the seats? Maybe, they had gotten to the back of the glove box? Under the foot mats?

Nothing. Sighing, he stood up. Closing everything and locking the car, he went back to Faith.

‘I can’t find them,’ he announced.

Faith sighed deeply and tossed the last of the wood down. She got to her feet, cleaning her hands on the knees of her jeans.

‘You better get rubbing two sticks together then,’ she stated.

Chase shrugged and replied, ‘I’ll give it a shot.’

‘I’ll sort and put things away,’ Faith added.

Chase sat down and began looking for two sticks that would be suitable. Faith collected the bags and began moving stuff into the tent. Around them, a gentle breeze shook the newly leafing trees, birds sing the last songs of the day and the sky was turning dusky. Hardly anything else could be heard, even if a car drove past, the road was a good few miles away so the sound was faint.

After a good few minutes of rubbing sticks and trying to make sparks with stones, Chase give up. He sprawled out over the just dry grass, exhausted. He shut his eyes and tried to think of what to do.

It’s not the end of the world. We have camping lights and cold food we can eat. Can’t cook meat though…or heat up marshmallows. 

‘Have you given up?’ Faith’s voice cut into his thoughts, ‘I’m going to the stream to get water. It’s all ready going dark. So decided what we are eating.’

Chase opened his eyes and raised himself on his elbows. Faith was framed nicely by the dusky pink sky. She looked dirty and tried though.

‘Fine…This isn’t the romantic weekend I had planned,’ Chase responded.

‘That would have been a hotel,’ Faith uttered.

Chase heard her, but he let it go. It was an on going argument, he had given up on.

‘Want a hand?’ he said instead.

‘No,’ Faith declared.

She grabbed the things she needed and stalked off. Chase flopped back on the grass and watched the sky turn into twilight. After a few minutes, he got up and dusted himself down. He walked over to the tent and saw that Faith had all ready pumped up the double air bed. She had put the sleeping bags and pillows on too, making the bed look inviting. 

At the foot of bed, Faith had put the other bags and suitcases. Chase started looking through them then remember that all the food was in the car. Grabbing a tin of cola, he opened it and walked over to the tree line. 

The wind picked up, shaking the trees and the bird song died. Chase paused, feeling a chill across his bare arms. He frowned and glanced around, but he couldn’t spot anything. 

Night has arrived, he thought. 

He went to the car and got out things to make sandwiches and the picnic snacks. He went back to the tent and picked up the camping lanterns. He turned them on and set them by both sides of the tent door. He got making sandwiches. By the time he had put things together for a simple cold meal, Faith arrived back with a bucket of water and another bucket filled with water bottles. 

‘Dinner’s ready,’ Chase declared. 

‘Thanks,’ Faith said, she placed the buckets down next to the abandoned stack of wood and joined him. 

Chase handed her a plastic plate filled with tasty things then started to eat his sandwich. 

‘Chase, have you been here this whole time?’ Faith asked slowly.

‘Yep,’ he replied around a chunk of sandwich, ‘why?’

‘Whilst I was getting the water, I felt like someone was watching me and then after, when I went to….I heard whispering.’ 

Chase paused and looked at her. Faith’s face was full of puzzlement and she hadn’t touched her food. 

‘I called out and there was nothing. I looked around, but I didn’t find anything,’ Faith added. 

‘It wasn’t me and nothing happened here,’ Chase pointed out. 

Faith nodded and began eating. 

To Be Continued…

Rubatosis #atozchallenge

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Rubatosis; the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat.

The silence was deafening. There was nothing for miles, the desert was seemingly empty of life. And yet, I was here, driving my jeep over dunes, around or through rock formations, heading for a place that always seemed just out of reach like a mirage.

The Archway to Heaven, the locals called it. I had come out all this way to see if it was true. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to find anything but it would be nice if there was an angel waiting for me or if a flight of stairs shimmed up towards the sky.

Finally, I made it to the arch! I cut the engine, got out and climbed up the dune. I stood under the arch and listened. I could hear my heartbeat hammering away and once I’d stilled my feet on the shifting sand, my heart was the only thing I could hear. I felt disturbed and the knowledge that I was alone out here weighed down on me heavily.

The last of the daylight left the sky, the dim gold colours giving over to total darkness. I looked and above me, I saw Heaven.

Querulous #atozchallenge

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Querulous; complaining in a whining manner. 

Mum said I was just too much and this would be better all around. I didn’t believe her though but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I’d never travelled by myself before and it was a long way to go to Aunt Maggie’s. I’d be excited about going on the train, but now two hours later, I was bored.

The train was rattling loudly and clicking over the rails. Rain was hitting the window and the countryside was racing past in blurs of green and yellows. I couldn’t focus on counting sheep or other animals now. For awhile, I had watched the old woman, who I was sharing this carriage compartment with, but then she had fallen sleep.

She reminded me of my great grandmother because of all the wrinkles and old dress. The woman had been reading, then knitting a scarf, then eating lunch before she had gone to sleep. I was tried too, but feeling awake. Leaning against the window ledge, I watched the rain and began thinking.

I wasn’t being sent away because I was bad, mum had made sure to tell me that, it was because she wasn’t well. She needed someone to look after her and there was no one, so she had to go to hospital which meant there was no one to look after me. I couldn’t be by myself, not just because I’m only thirteen, but because I have autism.

Autism is a hard thing to explain to people, so I don’t talk about it often. Mum says, I’m not different, I’m normal, but I just have a special way of thinking and doing things. There are lots of other people like me and they have their own ways too, just like everyone else does. I wish I didn’t have it though. If I was normal, I could look after myself and mum better.

Instead, I’ve to go to Aunt Maggie’s though I’ve not seen her for years and she’s not really my aunt but a very old friend of mum’s. I don’t know how much she knows about me, but mum says she’s really nice and with it being half term, I won’t have to move schools. Hopefully, she’ll be nice and let me play games and read my comic books all the time.

I had been fighting going to Aunt Maggie’s for the last two weeks. Mum had slowly started suggesting it along side explain things to me. I told her I could stay in the hospital with her or someone else could look after me. What about my normal babysitter, Nancy? I really like her and she always makes me laugh. I’d have anyone, I plead; even Mrs. Cramps, the crazy lady who smells bad and lives at the end of the street.

No, mum had said, no one else can do it. Please don’t make this harder. Be a good boy.

I was a good boy, but I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay with her. I wanted to stay in my bed, in my room, in my house. I didn’t want to go to some place new. I don’t like new things, especially if it’s noisy. Mum knew that and still she had tried to make me excited about going. It hadn’t really worked even though the train had been a nice distraction.

That’s how she’d really got me on the way to Aunt Maggie’s and the bag fill of snacks, toys and comics. Now, I was getting close to arriving and meeting Aunt Maggie, my mind had changed again. No longer did the way mum had put things make a difference. I just knew it was going to be too hard. I couldn’t be good if I didn’t like it. That was just the way it worked.

I shut my eyes, listening to the rain falling and the old woman snoring. I’d try my best I decided then if I was really good, maybe I’d be able to go home faster.

Petrichor #atozchallenge

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Petrichor; the pleasant smell of the earth after rain. 

Everything smells better after it’s rained. There’s a cleanness in air which my ma said was God washing and cleansing everyone. I use to believe that without a doubt. Now though, I’m not sure. There’s so much I believed in as a child which has faded now I’m adult.

It’s strange how different things are after the rain. You notice the pools and reflections of things more. The sounds of splashing wheels and feet. The dripping of drops off things. I randomly remember a boy once telling me that the rain was actually a leak from Heaven’s showers.

I wondered for ages how that was possible and pictured angels having showers all together. Or God having a bath and all the water overflowing. Maybe that was the real reason behind a flood?

When you’re a child it’s easier to believe in these things. As an adult you are more logic and less imaginative. You know how rain is made and why it falls. The novelty of it has worn off too, like snow. I use to love snow! Now, it’s just a pain.

Even though, I know the truth behind things now, it doesn’t take the pleasure away from them. During the rainfall and afterwards, I open my window to let all the smells and sounds in. I sit on the ledge and take deep breaths till I feel calmer. I try to think of nothing at all, but sometimes like today, my mind wonders.

I look up at the sky, where the dark clouds roam and a few rain drops still linger. Are God and the angels up there right now having a bath and cleansing the poor below?

Opia #atozchallenge

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Opia; the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable.

He was holding me tightly and I was staring into his brown eyes trying to decide what to do. I felt a weird mixture of emotions and too much was tumbling through my mind to focus. I knew I should say something, but the words wouldn’t form.

His eyes were so intense with the weight of the question that I felt vulnerable. What would he do if I said the wrong thing? I couldn’t think of that. However, I couldn’t think of an answer either.

I took a deep breath and tried to break eye contact with him. I just needed a moment without his gaze. Would he see that as a wrong move though? Catching myself just in time, I wondered what was really holding me back from answering him.

There were too many things….What did I want though? I bit my lip, juggling the words on my tongue. It could only be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ that I squeezed out. My heart knew the right one to say, but my head said the opposite.

Whatever I picked, it would change both our lives.

‘Well?’ he said, finally crumbling at the long wait.

I took a deep breath and hoping I said the right thing, I replied, ‘I love you too.’

Nefarious

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Nefarious; extremely wicked or villainous.

Morgrim Redsbeard sat in the far corner of the Dragon’s Broken Claw inn, nursing his eighth pint of ale and believing it would cure his headache. Keeping low, Morgrim tried to blend in with the shadows, hoping no one recognised him. He wasn’t in the mood to tell tales of his victories tonight.

The Dragon’s Broken Claw was the most popular drinking hole in Eleria Town. It was just bad luck that Morgrim and his adventuring companions had decided to spend the night here. Morgrim glanced up, taking in the packed room with hooded eyes. The loud noise of voices wasn’t helping, but he didn’t feel like going to his shared bedroom just yet.

Taking a mouthful of ale, Morgrim wished he was drinking something more to his palette, like a nice golden dwarven beer. Also, instead of being in this man inn, he wanted to be in the great dwarf halls of his home, surrounded by kin.

Sighing into his tankard, Morgrim tugged at his long red beard which his ancestors had always been famous for. His finger caught in one of the knots and he was distracted for a few moments. Then out of the crowd, a voice caught his ears.

‘There’s always been outlandish rumors surrounding the Grey Tower. Only a few have ever be there though and many more have tried but The Dead Marshes have seen to ’em.’

Morgrim turned and scanned the over-crowded room for the speaker. There was  a tall man standing at other table close by on the left. At first glance, the man could be mistaken for a elf, but Morgrim’s eyes could tell he was just a fair skinned and haired man. There were other men seated or gathered around the table, they were all holding tankards and there was the remains of a meal on the table. The men looked eager to hear a tale.

‘They say an evil wizard rules the land there and he binds all creatures to do his bidding!’ the man continued.

Morgrim huffed into his ale. He had been to The Dead Marshes months ago and he had seen this so called evil wizard with his own eyes. For him, the fight hadn’t be worth it, but at least there was no more trouble for the surrounding villages.

‘Have you been there?’ a drunkard shouted.

A wave of voices followed demanding similar answers. A few other voices called for more drinks and someone else shouted for bread and cheese.

A ghost of smile appeared on the man’s face and he replied, ‘no, but a friend of a friend has! And he said it was the worse thing he every saw. There were armies of goblins and other such creatures working for this evil wizard. The whole land had been stripped bare and fires were burning everywhere. The smell was vile and chocking.’

‘Evil wizard my a-‘ a voice roared but was cut off by raucous laughter.

The man banged on the table and shouted above the noise, ‘This wizard is so wicked that soon everyone will be in danger! He is coming here and either he’ll bend you to his will or slay you all!’

Silence slowly began to fall over the inn. Heads turned and a few voices whispered.

‘It’s true! I tell ya. His name is becoming the most feared across the lands. He wields power no one has every seen before. He is blessed by dark Gods and he is friends with the giants and dragons. Right now, he is gathering his armies to invade. He’ll stop at nothing till he has complete rule!’

Morgrim slide his empty tankard away. His headache finally fading. He reached behind him and from the wall took his warhammer into his hand once more. The weight of the weapon give him great comfort and he always made sure it stand by his side.

‘How do you know this, Man?’ Morgrim spoke quietly in his deep voice.

Heads turned Morgrim’s way and a few elbows nudged each other as people recognised him. A full silence fell on the inn room and it seemed like breathes were being held.

‘It’s been circling for months. Travellers and messengers have been bringing word to the courts,’ the man explained, ‘though I’m sure a dwarf like you would know all about it.’

Morgrim stood up, the table pushed away by his broad and muscular body. He held his warhammer tightly but none threateningly. Casting his eyes, around the room to see that he had everyone’s attention, Morgrim turned back to the man.

‘I see you don’t know who I am, Man. I am Morgrim Redsbeard and I have been to that Grey Tower in The Dead Marshes which you speak of,’ Morgrim stated, ‘and I’m tell you now no such wizard ever lived in that tower.’

The man swallowed, looking deflated and started searching for words to make a come back with.

‘If you want a tale about an evil wizard, I could tell you one. Many have fallen to my warhammer,’ Morgrim declared, ‘innkeeper another pint of your finest ale. I’ve a tale that will chill your very ears off.’

(Characters originally from The Dead Marsh story. Which can be found here;  https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/the-dead-marshes-part-1/)