Author Archives: Alen B Curtiss

About Alen B Curtiss

Born in the southern counties of England, Alen has travelled extensively throughout the UK, living for a time in most of it's various different regions. Now settled in the Lake District, he has decided to dedicate his time to one of his greatest passions - writing. An avid reader, and a big fan of horror, fantasy, sci fi, adventure, and anything else in between, Alen has decided to write in all the various styles that he loves. As he has said - "They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. I say a journey into the fabulous unknown begins with the first word on a blank page."

#StLuciaChallenge Update


Well here we are, at the end of the first month. Actually, to be more accurate, it’s the end of the first calendar month; in terms of the challenge itself it’s only the 24th day. It seemed like a good place for an update, though, so here it is.

First off, some links. The original tongue in cheek challenge can be found here. The revamped, totally serious challenge can be found here. A spreadsheet with numbers and stuff on it can be found here.

Talking of numbers, here’s some more. The total distance between the UK and St. Lucia is 6,718km. My target is to reach the halfway mark, 3,359km, by the end of this year. As of today I’ve covered 190.90km, which means I have 3,168.10km left to go. That means I need to travel 9.49km every single day between now and the end of the year to achieve my goal.

By the way, these are distances covered on my cross trainer contraption, not actual kilometres travelled towards St. Lucia. That would be silly. And yes, being from the UK I do prefer to use miles as units of distance but the techno-gadget-thingy on the contraption only deals in kilometres. So I have no choice in the matter. The techno-gadget-thingy also needs a new battery. Remind me to put one in later, would you? There’s a dear.

The past 24 days haven’t been too bad, all things considered. The first day of the challenge I struggled my way to 4.10km. This morning I did 12.4km. A respectable improvement, I feel. I did overdo it at one point, doing thirteen straight days. On the thirteenth day the contraption kicked my arse and I failed to reach the daily target I had set myself. The following day I wanted to do nothing but sleep.

So lesson learned. And let’s face it, at forty-nine years of age, while still a long way from my dotage, I’m no longer the spring chicken I once was. It would do me well to try and remember that, at least once in a while.

As a result I’m going to take every Sunday off from the contraption, just put my feet up and relax. I’m going to aim for a minimum of 12km a day when I do use the machine, a total of at least 72km in a six day week. That is more than enough to achieve my goal, though those figures do depend on me actually cross training my way to at least 72km a week. Real life generally has other ideas – ill health, injuries, alien invasion, Armageddon, those kind of things – so we shall see.

I’m still listening to The Stand audio book by Stephen King as I try to pound the contraption into submission. Judging by the rattles and bangs it makes as I use it, it might not be long before it falls apart. Or that could be me, it’s hard to tell. For those interested, in the book the Judge has just left on his excursion into the west, Nick is about to talk to Tom Cullen about doing the same – M-O-O-N, that spells Tom – and Harold has just spent his first fantasy ridden night with Nadine.

And that, as they say, is that. I’ll post semi-regular (also known as ‘when I can be bothered’) updates on here. Daily updates can be found on my Twitter – @ABCurtisss – and daily totals will be on the spreadsheet.

Onward, ever onward!

As always, that shallot.



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Posted by on January 31, 2019 in St. Lucia Challenge


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Reasons I don’t like Anthem

anthem banner

Apologies, it’s just yet another clickbait title, as there are no reasons I don’t like Anthem.

I like it. I like it a lot.

What’s that? You don’t like the fact you were dragged here under false pretences? You only came here seeking reassurances that your opinion it must be a trash game just because it’s EA is a valid one?

Well, tough.

“What about the problems people were having all weekend when trying to play the game?” I hear you cry.

What about them? They were frustrating, yes, but that’s all. If the so-called V.I.P. Demo had actually been branded as a Closed Beta (which, in essence, is exactly what it was) then all the hue and cry about those problems would have been considerably less. Better to expose those problems now and get them sorted before the full launch, don’t you think?

Oh yes, that’s right, you don’t think, do you.

So okay, just to appease you, here’s a reason I don’t like Anthem… I can’t play the full release version until the 22nd of February.

Good enough? Oh, you’ve gone. Well never mind then.

So why did I like playing the small slice of Anthem that was available in the closed beta… V.I.P. Demo, I mean. Well I’m not entirely sure, as it’s a combination of a lot of different factors. The freedom of movement in the game is a big factor. You can walk on the ground, and run, dodge and jump – always helpful, I’ve found. But then you can also fly, and hover, and dive under the water, all of it seamlessly, once you’ve mastered the controls, that is. But hey, why shouldn’t flying full pelt into a cliff or building be celebrated?

The look of the game is another factor. The landscape looks stunning in its rendering, sure, but it’s the style that I really liked. Huge, towering mountains, deep – very deep – crevasses and gorges. Flowing, meandering rivers, thundering waterfalls. Dark, labyrinthine caves, and crumbling ruins. It fed my imagination perfectly.

anthem javelinsThe gameplay was good too. Movement was quick and responsive. The shooting felt solid and accurate. All four of the available Javelins (the mechanised suits the player’s character wears when out in the wilderness) had a distinct style of play (your basic tank, spellcaster, DPS dex, and robust all-rounder class types) with their own, unique abilities. As such the majority of play styles should be accommodated for. One friend commented that it would be nice to have the ability to swap shoulders when aiming a weapon, and I agree. Hopefully this might get implemented at some point.

You can also customise the look and colours of your Javelin. The options were limited in the demo, but more will be available in the full release. This is perhaps the single most important aspect of the game. As we all know, the better you look the better you play, am I right? Right! And if you are going to get steamrollered by that boss at the end of that dungeon, it’s vitally important you look your best while it happens.

“What other game is Anthem like?” I’ve heard people ask, and I’ve heard a few mention Destiny as the answer. In a way it is like Destiny, but in the same way Fortnite is like PUBG. Anthem is also like Warframe, but in the way Gran Turismo is like Project Cars. The best thing to do is take the game for what it is. If you like fast-paced shooters, if you like sci-fi fantasy, then you’ll probably like Anthem. As it’s also a Bioware game there should be a good story to go along with the gameplay, if you like that kind of thing.

What you shouldn’t do is dismiss the game, or any game, just because you dislike the developer. Or publisher. Or both. Or because your babysitter’s boyfriend’s brother’s friend’s best mate says it’s bad.

This isn’t a review piece, by the way. I’ll maybe do one of those after the full release. This is just a few thoughts after a few hours playing a demo kind of piece. But so far so good. I liked what I saw and played, and I’m looking forward to the full game.

Next weekend, from Friday 1st February, Anthem will be having another beta… demo, sorry. This one will be open to all, so feel free to give it a go, if you would like to ‘try before you buy’.

Anthem, by Bioware and published by EA, will be fully released on all platforms on the 22nd February. There is a way to play it earlier, but as I can’t do that I’m not going to explain how. It’ll be available through all good retailers. And some shitty ones too, no doubt.

As always, that shallot.



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Posted by on January 28, 2019 in Gaming


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Conversations With My Neighbour #01

It’s very early afternoon, and I’m sitting with my feet up, having a nice after-dinner cup of tea. The rest of the day looms before me like a gaping chasm waiting to be filled with activity. Well it can damn well wait, I’m too cosy-comfy doing what I’m doing. Which is nothing. I like it.

There’s a knock at the door. I can tell by the incessant rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat which seems to go on forever that it’s my neighbour. I groan. He’s a nice enough guy but… well, yeah. With a sigh I grudgingly stand up and make my way to the front door.

The key rattles in the lock – more to signify my annoyance than anything – and I eventually pull the door open. The hinges squeal in protest – I really should get around to oiling them – and I know just how they feel.

Silhouetted in the doorway is the slightly dishevelled, slightly lopsided, slightly garlic-smelling figure of my neighbour. In his hand is his mobile phone, and he thrusts it towards me before even saying anything. Conversations with my neighbour usually start with a “problem” with his phone. Or his iPad. Or his DAB radio. Or his… well, you get the picture.

“I’ve lost half me contacts! I want to call someone but they’re not on there!” It’s snowing heavily, and large, wet flakes settle on the phone’s dirty screen, melting almost instantly as if immediately regretting their choice of landing place. I hold out my hand, and the phone is shoved unceremoniously into it. I don’t say anything. No words are needed.

Losing a lot of his contacts is a common occurrence, and an easy fix. My neighbour’s phone’s contact list has two sections – favourite contacts and all contacts. His large, thick fingers, and clumsy touch, are not suited for a touch screen and he’s constantly touching or swiping the wrong thing.

I magically make all of his contacts reappear, then hand the phone back to him. “There you go, buddy, all sorted.”

He gapes at me – the look of a man who has just witnessed the world’s most impressive conjuring trick. Then that smile, that look in his eyes, the ones that say there’s more to come. “I have an announcement,” he duly announces, confirming my suspicions.

This is how it usually goes – fix whatever problem he has with whatever gadget, and then listen to whatever it is he really wants to tell me. I often wonder if the gadgets are “broken” on purpose, just so he has the excuse to knock on my door.

250px-thetwilightzonelogoHe stands there lopsidedly, snow piling up on his scant hair, a vacant expression on his face. Somewhere in the distance a dog barks, once, twice, confirming that we’re not in the Twilight Zone. At least not yet.

“And what would this announcement be?” I gee him along, thoughts of my tea going cold giving me the courage to ask.

“I’m getting married!” He declares, a sickly grin on his face. A face which is slowly turning a pale shade of blue in the cold.

Perhaps if I leave him out here long enough he’ll freeze solid, I think, more than semi-serious. Then I could slide him away along the pavement, like a bartender sliding a drink along a bar.

“Married?” I ask, deciding to hurry things along instead of delving into amateur cryogenics. “That’s… erm… nice. And when will that be?”

A confused look flits over his face, to be replaced by the wild grin, the piercing eyes. “I don’t know the date but I asked me mam to let me know when I need to put me suit on, and then I’ll turn up at the church!” The grin wavers when I take quite a while to reply. Let’s face it, his answer needed some dissecting.

“Well okay,” I reply at last. “Sounds good. Best of luck.” What else could I say? Well don’t be so fucking stupid, sprang to mind but, you know, discretion.

“I’ll invite you, you can come too,” he chirps, obviously happy I settled on the former of my two answers. “We can have a few marriage beers too!”

I’m already easing the door closed, the hinges creaking with mirth. “Okay, thanks, that’d be nice.” Nice? No, no, no, that’s definitely not the right word.

The door’s finally closed. I lock it, then double check it’s locked securely. I’ve had quite enough of the outside world for one day, thank you very much.

I haven’t checked my diary yet, but I’m completely certain that whenever this “marriage” is, whenever the “marriage beers” will be, I’m going to be insanely busy, so sorry, I can’t possibly spare the time.

And my tea has gone cold. Great.

As always, that shallot.




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Posted by on January 22, 2019 in Neighbour Conversations


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Two weeks in… #StLucia

Okay, okay, yes it’s another clickbaiting, slightly (very) misleading title that gives the impression the content is about something it’s not.

I couldn’t help myself.


Not sorry.

The Pitons of St. LuciaWhat the title actually means is that I’m two weeks into my St. Lucia challenge, and not that I spent two weeks in St. Lucia. Chance would be a fine thing. Still, a virtual journey there by cross trainer is better than no journey at all.

Or so I tell myself.

My original, very tongue in cheek challenge can be seen here. My more recent, more serious challenge can be seen here. The spreadsheet with distances and stuff on it can be seen here.

So many links to click, so little time!

So what have I learned in the past two weeks? Well, as I’ve never used a cross trainer (elliptical) in a serious way before, quite a lot. Up until now I used a routine devised by myself, using just a set of variable weight dumbbells, a skipping rope, a deck of playing cards and a stopwatch, to get and keep myself fit. After months and months of not doing anything at all, fitness-wise, it seemed prudent to start back on the road to fitness on something less strenuous.

I’ve learned that up to about 5.5km I’m fine, then things get tough up to about the 7.5 or 8km mark, then it’s easier until I finally run out of steam. Today the steamless point was reached at 10.3km, a respectable improvement on my initial 4.1km thirteen days ago (including two rest days). My steam will last longer as time goes on and my stamina increases.

I’ve learned that 10km on my machine, at the pace I go (about 36 minutes for the 10km), burns 150 calories. Well, according to the techno-gadget-thingy that’s attached to the machine and throws numbers at me whenever I use it, that is. I realise that the techno-gadget-thingy is probably wildly inaccurate but that’s okay, they’re my numbers and I like them.

the standI’ve learned that listening to an audio book while I use the machine works best for me, it enables me to keep a consistent pace. I found out that if I listen to music my pace matches the tempo of the melody, and I wear myself out too soon. The same goes for watching sport or a TV series, my pace will speed up and down according to the action, or lack of, on the screen. So I’m currently listening to Stephen King’s The Stand. Because it’s long. Very long. And because I happen to like it. Which helps.

I’ve also found out that my cheap, unknown brand cross trainer was cheap for a reason. I have to tighten up all the bolts before every use, and still by the time I’m fifteen minutes or so into my routine it’s clanking and banging like a demented clanky-bangy thing from deepest, darkest Clankbang. It’s very likely (completely certain) that the poor thing won’t make it to the end of the challenge. Which is going to cause somewhat of a problem, as my supply of coin of the realm is far too limited to invest in a new one.

I’ll cross that bridge (ocean?) when I come to it, though.

And that’s about it, I think. For now, at least. As a side note, from today I need to cover 9.51km a day on my machine in order to reach the halfway mark by the end of the year. Achievable, it would seem, but that figure does suppose that I do it every single day. We shall see.

Daily updates can be found on my Twitter – @ABCurtisss – and the hashtag #StLuciaChallenge. More lengthy updates will occasionally appear right here on my blog. As if by magic!

As always, that shallot.



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Posted by on January 21, 2019 in St. Lucia Challenge


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On my way…

st lucia sunsetSo, here we are, a week into my St. Lucia Challenge (#StLuciaChallenge on Twitter). Well, not really a week as it’s Sunday today and I only started on Tuesday. So 6 days in. Well, not really 6 days, as I’ve had today and yesterday as rest days. So 4 days in.

But hey, 4 days is almost a week.

According to the spreadsheet I created (which you can view here at anytime to keep track of my progress) I’m 22.5km into my journey, out of a total of 6,718km, so there’s still a long way to go.

A very long way.

A number of people have pointed out that it’ll be nigh on impossible for me to complete that distance by the end of the year. This is something I already knew. I never expected to actually complete the challenge, I set it up purely for the motivation. It was just a numbers game.

Considering how many people have become so invested in my little challenge though, I’m going to alter it somewhat, to create a target that’s realistically possible.

Starting tomorrow – 14th January – I’m going to aim for 50% completion of the total distance by the end of the year. So that will be 3,359km travelled by next New Year’s Day. That works out at 9.48km (rounded up) per day from now. A far more achievable, and civilised, amount, I feel, even if I have the occasional day off and have to make up the difference. On New Year’s Day I’ll set a new date to complete the total distance by.

So, why not grab yourself a cross trainer (elliptical) machine and join me on my virtual journey to St. Lucia? By year’s end we could find ourselves stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean wondering what the hell we’re going to do next.

But won’t it be fun!

Daily updates on my progress can be found on my Twitter account – @ABCurtisss – and there will (possibly) be weekly updates on here.

As always, that shallot.




Posted by on January 13, 2019 in St. Lucia Challenge


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St. Lucia bound…

Well, okay, the title might be a tad misleading, as I’m not bound for St. Lucia at all. At least, not physically. I’ll elaborate shortly but first, for those who do not know who, or what, St. Lucia is, let me enlighten you.

Google is your friend, mate, so get to it… okay, okay, I’ll save you the bother. St. Lucia is a small island in the south eastern Caribbean. Part of the Windward Islands, St. Lucia lays just south of Martinique, north of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and west of Barbados.

And it just happens to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.

The Pitons of St. Lucia

Now, I’ve never been to St. Lucia, and due to current life circumstances there’s the very real possibility that I’ll never get there but that doesn’t mean I’m not in love with the place. A couple of years ago I was helping out with a project involving pirates – real ones from history, not the Jack Sparrow kind – and research led me to Pigeon Island and Rodney Bay in the north-west of the island. From there I explored and I was captivated by the beauty of the beaches, mountains, forests and waterfalls, fascinated with the history and traditions, entranced by the people, spellbound at the towns and small fishing villages.


And I’m rambling again. Tough, my blog, my rules.

There is a point to all this, I swear.

For many a month now, due to the aforementioned life circumstances, I haven’t been getting out of the house very often, and any semblance of exercise has gone out the window. Not a great state of affairs when you’re a writer and spend the majority of time sat on your ever expanding arse.

So it’s time to make a change. Not really because it’s the New Year, but also because it is – I’m not going to wait until the summer, the time is now or never at all. In a dark and spooky corner sits a cross trainer (elliptical machine), gathering dust and weeping tears of loneliness. It’s a shame to let it quietly rust away and so I’ve resolved to put it to good use.

And just what has all this codswallop got to do with the Caribbean island of St. Lucia I hear you grumble. Well, if you – yes, you! – will just shut up a moment I’ll tell you.

Motivation, that’s what.

Not the “if I’m a good boy and exercise quite a lot then I’ll buy myself a ticket to Hewanorra Airport” kind of motivation, as the lack of a lottery win, and other stuff, makes that idea unfeasible.

It’s more of the “distance travelled while stationary on a cross trainer” kind of motivation.

According to it’s 6,718 kilometres from the UK to St. Lucia (yes, I prefer miles but the gadget doodah on the machine only measures in metric. Probably not even accurate to boot). I’ve decided, in my infamous and dubious wisdom, to try and travel that same distance on my cross trainer by the end of the year. Not all in one go, obviously. It works out at a gnat’s over 18.4 kilometres per day. But that is over 365 days, and we’re already seven days into the year. And it’ll be a long time before I’ll be able to actually do 18 kilometres on my machine in one session. And yes, I’m well aware that I’m setting myself up for a fall. But still.

If you don’t try you’ll never know. If you don’t take the first step you’ll never travel anywhere, and blah de blah.

To me it’s great motivation. If I can pull it off, not only will I be one hell of a lot fitter by the end of the year, I’ll also be able to relax on a sun-kissed tropical beach, sipping a well deserved Moscow Mule.

In spirit, at least.

Starting tomorrow (I did an experimental solitary one kilometre this morning, but I won’t count that one) I’ll begin in earnest. I won’t be doing any great distances to start with, my poor, knackered body will take a while to get into the swing of things. I’ll tweet daily tweeties recording that day’s distance achieved, on my Twitter account using the hashtag #StLuciaChallenge. I’ll also do a weekly post on here.

Okay, I think that’s everything, for the time being. Now I’m off to Google Sheets to try and figure out how to do a spreadsheet to record distance travelled, distance to go etc, which I can then share. Unless any spreadsheet geniuses out there would like to make one for me… Edit: I managed to make my own spreadsheet, find it here (go me!).

pigeon-island-nationalAs always, that shallot. Here’s to cross-training pirates everywhere!




Posted by on January 7, 2019 in St. Lucia Challenge


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Hobbits and Hogwarts

Greetings, Earthlings!

So last night I started rewatching the Lord of the Rings movies, just because I couldn’t sleep and nothing else took my fancy. I was streaming the first of the trilogy on Amazon Prime Video, and before the movie started an advert for the Lego Harry Potter Express was shown. The combination of the two tales reminded me of a short, short story I wrote some time ago where I also combined Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

So I thought I’d post it here.

Aren’t you lucky.

Hobbits and Hogwarts

Gandalf strode back to where, ten minutes beforehand, they had briefly rested. His companions trailed behind, heads bowed, studiously avoiding any eye contact. Elvish whispers mixed with Dwarvish mutterings as they grumbled amongst themselves.

Frodo! What are you doing? We must make haste if we are to reach the Mines of Moria before nightfall!” The wizard’s eyes gleamed, and the tip of his staff glowed as his temper rose.

Frodo sighed. Could he never get any peace? He marked the page in his book, and peered up at Gandalf.

I’m reading. You know, expanding my mind? You should be pleased,” Frodo said. “This book is about a wizard at school. Did you ever go to a wizards school, Gandalf?”

Behind the tall wizard muffled sniggering could be heard.

Is there anything so foolish as a Hobbit?” Gandalf spoke in but a whisper, yet still the companions flinched, as if he roared like a sun struck ogre. “Some do not know the meaning of the words make haste. Others clearly do not know when silence is the better option!”

The sniggering stopped abruptly. Merry and Pippin edged behind Aragorn, hoping the tall Ranger would deflect any more of the wizard’s wrath.

Gandalf glared at Frodo. “Get up, Master Baggins, and shoulder your pack. I do not use the words make haste lightly.”

Frodo remained still, loathe to stir from his comfortable position. Comfort had been a rarity so far on this quest but Frodo had managed to find it here on this mountainside. The loamy soil between large boulders cushioned his backside perfectly. His pack, after a few minutes of wriggling to and fro, now supported his aching back just so as he reclined upon it. His large feet were enjoying the respite from trudging over rough terrain. A cool breeze tickled his toes, airing them nicely.

But, Gandalf, it really is an excellent book,” Frodo tapped the cover with one long fingernail as he spoke. “I feel sure you would like the young wizard, Harry. And the headmaster of the school – why, he reminds me greatly of yourself. It’s almost as if the author has used you as the inspiration for the character!”

Aye, the halfling speaks truthfully,” a rough voice interrupted. Gimli shouldered his way through the assembled group. Legolas hissed in warning. The Dwarf halted next to Gandalf, leaning on his axe as he continued.

I have heard tell of this book. It is sweeping across the land faster than Sauron’s fell army. Only it brings joy in place of despair.”

The wizard mumbled to himself, but the glow of his stave’s tip lessened. Gimli pressed on.

You would do well to listen to the halfling, Gandalf. Heed his words. This is a good book.”

Gandalf flashed Gimli a look which would have withered the stoutest of men, his dark eyes glowing once more. Gimli stepped back a pace.

The day I need advice on my reading matter from a Dwarf, Gimli, son of Gloin, has not yet arrived! Learn from the two fool Hobbits – silence is best!”

Legolas stepped lightly forward and rested his hand on Gimli’s stout shoulder. The dour Dwarf grunted, but refrained from shrugging away from the lithe Elf’s touch.

Gandalf – Mithrandir,” began Legolas, his voice light and musical in the thin mountain air. Gandalf turned his gaze upon the Elf. “As much as it pains me to agree with a mere Dwarf, the gallant Gimli is correct. This book, about the schooling of a young wizard, has brought joy to many. In these dark days a little light should always be welcomed. Is this not so?”

Enough!” Gandalf planted his staff into the rocky ground. The dry terrain cracked, the staff shot a lightning bolt high into the cold blue sky. The wizard’s shout echoed across the landscape, the very mountains trembled.

And what say you two?” Gandalf stabbed a finger at Aragorn and Boromir. “Do the mighty men of Gondor have naught to say of this book?”

Aragorn met the wizard’s fierce gaze with his cool grey eyes. His countenance was calm, but inside his spirit quailed. He had been witness once before to what happened when Gandalf the Grey lost his temper. He had no wish to see it again.

I know not of this book, or of the Harry of which it speaks, Gandalf.” Aragon was pleased to note his voice remained level, no quaver betraying the turmoil he felt within. “Maybe Boromir has heard of it in Gondor.”

Boromir shook his head vigorously. “Uh, no, not I. But I have been otherwise employed, defending my land from Sauron’s minions.” He glared at Aragorn. “I leave the reading of storybooks to children and womenfolk.” He felt it prudent not to mention his own copy of the book secreted in his pack.

Um, excuse me sir, if I may?” Sam stepped out from behind Boromir. Merry and Pippin attempted to wave him away, but he ignored their flailing hands and whispered cautions. All eyes turned on him as he moved to stand before Gandalf.

Samwise Gamgee, well well,” said the wizard. “What, pray tell, would a Hobbit gardener have to say about such a literary work? And more fool me for enquiring!”

Sam wrung his hands together, nerves getting the better of him. “I, well… Umm… I…”

Gandalf pointed his staff at Sam. “Well, what is it? Spit it out Samwise. Speak now, or forever hold your peace!” Sam flinched but held his ground.

Begging your pardon, Gandalf sir, but Master Frodo, he be right about this here book. Misters Legolas and Gimli have the right of it too.” He nodded at the Elf and the Dwarf, who bowed their heads in return. A faint smile played on Legolas’ lips. Sam stood straighter, emboldend by their support.

There’s many a child back in the Shire that’s read about the wizard Harry, about his friends and their adventures and such. And, well…” Sam faltered, his face reddening.

Say what you mean to say, Master Gamgee, my patience is wearing thin!” Gandalf folded his arms and scowled at Sam. His staff stood upright of its own accord, standing sentinel by its master’s shoulder.

Well, the headmaster – Dumbledore – he, well… he,” Sam stammered, blushing furiously. Eight pairs of eyes watched him intently. Even the chill mid-afternoon wind abated, as though waiting to hear what the Hobbit would say next.

Sam took a deep breath, and spoke in a torrent of words. “Master Frodo was right. Dumbledore is just like you. I mean, you’re just like him. I mean, you’re both like for like, Gandalf sir. When I first clapped me eyes on you I thought you was Dumbledore himself, stepped right out of the pages of the book to say hello!” Sam fell silent as he ran out of breath.

Gandalf blinked. He furrowed his brow, drawing his bushy eyebrows together. He hmm’d and he ahh’d. He looked back along the way they’d come, down the mountainside at the thick forest which sat below, silent, dark and brooding. He looked along their chosen path, the high mountain pass which was their destination, grey, cold and forbidding.

Sam wrung his hands. Frodo lightly caressed his book. Boromir, Aragorn, Merry and Pippin drew close to Legolas and Gimli, the companions crowding together as if for mutual support.

So!” the wizard said at last. “I have reached a decision, after thoughts that were both long and deep. If this book is good, as both Master Gamgee and Gimli, son of Gloin, have attested,” Sam blushed once again. Gimli looked on, stony faced.

And,” Gandalf continued, “If it is indeed a small glimmer of light in these dark days, as our Elf friend has claimed,” Legolas bowed slightly. Gandalf nodded back. “Then I believe that it will be in all our best interests to hear what it says. Maybe we all can learn some lesson from it. Not all that is dark is lost, when a light, however small, still shines.”

And you wish to know more of this Dumbledore, as you are so alike,” Gimli growled. Gandalf gave him an evil look. The Dwarf watched the small speck of a bird soaring high above them, stoically ignoring the wizard’s gaze.

Aragorn spoke up. “If we are to listen to the story Frodo has in his book, then we had best make camp.” He looked around, his experienced eye taking in the surroundings. “This is as good a place as any.”

Gandalf spoke a quiet word and a campfire appeared upon the ground, flames crackling brightly. The companions shrugged off their packs and dropped wearily to the floor, making themselves comfortable around the fire. Legolas produced two rabbits he had slain and skinned that morning. Aragorn spitted them and hung them over the fire to roast. Merry and Pippin lit their pipes, and competed with Gandalf at blowing smoke rings. The wizard, who had plucked his already lit pipe right out of the thin air, comfortably won each round.

At last, the amicable chatter tailed off. The rabbits had been consumed, and mugs of frothing ale poured. The sun began to slip down behind the high mountain tops, and dark shadows crept in from the east. As one, the companions inched closer to the cheery, dancing flames. Gandalf tapped out his pipe, emptying the bowl into the fire, and looked across at Frodo, who had been silent for some time.

Now then, Frodo my lad, where is this book of yours, hmm?” Gandalf’s good humour was a stark contrast to his foul temper of that afternoon. “Why don’t you return to the beginning, and read it aloud for all our ears?”

Frodo started, suddenly brought back to the reality of the evening. Good company, good food, good ale, and a warm fire had lulled him into almost believing he was back in the Shire, back in the warm confines of Bag End. But no, here he was on a lonely mountainside, in who knew what part of the land. He wished, not for the first time, that he had never seen or heard of the One Ring, that Bilbo had left the blasted thing under the mountain where he found it.

His only comfort on this journey had been reading about the exploits of the young wizard Harry, who lived in a made up fantasy land. This land contained self propelling carts called cars, and even bigger devices for transporting passengers the author had mysteriously called trains. Steam trains. Frodo’s imagination had worked hard at visualising the weird and wonderful contraptions described within the pages of the fantastic story, and he delighted at the images it produced.

But now he would have to share the book’s wonders. If Gandalf said it was for the best, then so be it. He sighed.

I’m no good at reading out loud, Gandalf,” Frodo said, glancing at all the faces peering at him in the gathering darkness. He held the book out. “I think… no, I know you’d be a lot better at it than I.”

The wizard took the proferred book and studied the image on its cover. He refilled his pipe, lit it, and blew out smoke which took the shape of a flying owl. He looked from face to face, interested to see eager anticipation etched on each one. Anticipation to match his own, he noted, surprised at the notion. Gandalf opened the thick volume and turned to the first page of text.

Very well,” he intoned, “then I shall begin. Chapter One… Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say…”

The old wizard read the story of the young wizard and his school. The companions listened, entranced. The night drew on, and somewhere, in the darkest of dark places, a small light glimmered into life, casting back the pervading evil. If only for a little while.

The End.

And, as always, that shallot.

Until next time, laters…


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Posted by on November 23, 2018 in Writing


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