Cheeseburger Gothic

The Sky Lords - Fanfest 2015 by BrianC

Posted March 3, 2015 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

At first glance I thought this was a Superman crossover. Instead, it's an offstage look at how Dave got himself in this mess. It was somebody else's fault!

Mith-EL turned to see his brother Rah-EL integrate and walk through the mists of the edge towards him. His brother carried with him a resigned expression and was clothed in light and fire. Mith-EL himself chose not to cover what was not flesh in anycase. He had no mortal needs and thought little about mortal matters… usually.

“Brother is this why you have called me here?” Rah-EL indicated the lensing point before them, it was an eccentricity of space and time, a fold in space containing a singularity. The EL could use the lens as a focus to view any place in time and space, and his brother now had it focused on an insignificant world they had not visited for hundreds of millennia. “Look Brother” Mith-EL spoke “That which we had sealed has been sunderd” Mith-EL pointed towards the lens as his brother focused on it, his mind fully realising the whole of the reality of the world encompassing the entirety of all living things, knowing all their hopes and dreams, fears and hates. In that same instant he knew the discordant stench of the other their greed and hate their mind of animal cunning and intelligence. In that same instant he knew of the bore and the seal. He knew the whole of the peril before him.

Rah-EL spoke “Who is responsible, brother” He turned his accusing gaze on Mith-EL, known as the Gardener as he Rah-EL was known as the Judge. “Not I brother, and not Ur-EL either she never tires of her experiments and is beyond the mists seeking answers about the before” He grimaced “Luth-EL is lost to us, banished for her transgressions, as unlikely as it would seem the sentience on this world has broken the seal on the prison of the other.”

He shook his head and wonder and disgust at what he had just said “Impossible!” Rah-EL retorted “But yet how else could it have come to pass, why was the seal in this plane, it was sent beyond never to be opened, Luth-EL sent it hersel…”

Rah-EL’s eyes widened in understanding, and Mith-EL snorted “Her plans where ever complicated and long brother, it took me a while to understand what had happened as well. That is not what concerns me however, it is done. We cannot undo it and even if we could convince Ur-EL to leave her experiments we would not be able to re-seal the prison without Luth-EL, and she is gone. Punished by the EL and sent outside the plane. My concern is the risk, the other in this guise is not without guile it is possible with the example of the intelligence of this world they may spread to other worlds in this region…” Mith-EL trailed off the question implicit “We cannot intervene in the affairs of the mortal intelligences, we are constrained by our purpose. We were able to seal away the other, as it is not of this realm. They fight alone”

“Perhaps not brother, this one interested me.” With a brief gesture the lens changed to show a member of the local intelligence leaping between two local flying machines of unremarkable design and landing. “He carries a weapon of dark purpose and intellect, and more than that brother, know him”

Mith-EL turned to look at his brother indicating the man before them seemingly frozen in mid-air Rah-EL turned his focus to the man, and shook his head again “Strange he seems to have a fragment of the power of the other, but… it remains uncorrupted in him. Even though his man himself is filled with corruption. The power is changing him he’s feeding it and he doesn’t know what its doing.” He turned to Mith-EL “Your doing brother?” Mith-EL shook his head and said “No brother never was I this subtle, this is the work of the Ur-EL, and it is an ancient working set into the seal itself, it seems like even so long ago the Warden did not trust Luth-EL”

“So there is hope?” Rah-EL questioned his brother “Yes Brother there is hope”

“For now”

11 Responses to ‘The Sky Lords - Fanfest 2015 by BrianC’

Surtac reckons...

Posted March 3, 2015

Nice - I enjoyed that.

Respond to this comment

Therbs puts forth...

Posted March 3, 2015
What an interesting take. Nicely done.

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted March 3, 2015
Yep, liked it, too.

Respond to this comment

Darth Greybeard would have you know...

Posted March 3, 2015
Ditto. Damn Sky Lords - I blame them very much.

Respond to this comment

GhostSwirv mutters...

Posted March 3, 2015

Very nicely done and what I'd also like to know is how JB captured a Minecrafted image of Professor X and Greybeard in fanfic garb?

GhostSwirv over and out ... the marking awaits.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted March 3, 2015
There is a website featuring photos of us together. It is very popular with hot babes. Not that Greybeard or I can do anything about it, but it is still nice to know.

GhostSwirv has opinions thus...

Posted March 3, 2015

ProfX, that wouldn't be ...

by any chance?

Ummm just asking for a friend?

GhostSwirv over and out of cheap data

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted March 3, 2015

Respond to this thread

JG asserts...

Posted March 3, 2015
Cool, Brian. A spectator story. Great to read your view of the interested but somewhat unfazed and removed Sky Lords. They look like Lego props in the pic. Still to come across Sky Lords in Resistance but have now encountered your character, PNB. Classic.

Respond to this comment

pitpat puts forth...

Posted March 3, 2015
Thanks Brian was cool

Respond to this comment

BrianC mumbles...

Posted March 18, 2015
Thanks Lads.

Im glad you all enjoyed it.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'The Sky Lords - Fanfest 2015 by BrianC'

A Matter of Elvish - Mark Williams Fanfest 2015

Posted February 28, 2015 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Another lovely piece of story telling, this time by Sparty. There really is some good work in this little festival.

The huge orcy things armour just shook off the blow and Ben’s War Hammer shattered in two.

The next hit will end this he thought. He did a quick mental inventory. No useful weapons left, he was bleeding everywhere and the rest of his team were all down. They were on their own and no rescue was coming. Oh well, he thought, sometimes you just have to hunker down and roll the hard six.

Time to take a chance and roll the dice.

"Ok I cast firestorm"

His friends groaned -"it's a tiny room!”

Mark, the dungeon master, refereeing this particular game, snapped out an answer. “you’ve said, you've cast it- roll the damage". He was interrupted by Rico, dyed green haired, hyperactive and unable to sit still once his role playing character was out of action. Rico came rushing back into the room holding his iPad. “Jeez put on the TV now- you don’t want to miss this!”


They watched the coverage from the basement of a house eight blocks from the FEBA or forward edge of battle area) as Dan the ROTC cadet confidently informed them. Not in the stunned silence like most groups of viewers gathered around TV's across the United States. This group conducted a live commentary on the WBN footage of the first battle of New Orleans.

"Oh that's gotta hurt"

"Nice warbow shot, definitely rolled a critical hit there"

"Now that's the sound of an AK 47 going full auto"

"Thing is with Tbow, he may be a drug dealing gangster bastard but you know he's good to his Mom and that he's got your back when the monsters come"

I reckon that must be a warhammer"

"No look it's an axe"

"Axe hammer!"


'That must be some crowded airspace with all those news choppers and gunships"

"Oh dear, Now that was always going to happen".

When the battle had started and the first flashes and bangs had occurred, Mark, wanting to keep their focus on the game of Daemons and Damsels (3rd Edition!), he had spent to much study period time devising, had assured them that it was just downtown fireworks, probably a stag party. He now regretted that mis-undersestimation, as Bush the dimmer might say.

Halfway through, when it had seemed that the battle might come their way, the group had discussed whether to enact their apocalyptic bug out plan. Ironically they had never actually developed a protocol for middle earth style daemons, but a combination of their plans for dealing with Alien invasion and Zombie outbreak (the slow kind – being non athletic indoors kids they pretty much knew it was game over in the case of the fast kind) would have suited the situation. The problem was that the one thing more fun than trying to escape a daemon apocalypse was watching the said Daemon apocalypse, on a 52 inch High definition plasma TV in skywalker surround sound, punctuated with real time twitter updates.

Even so Dan, not having his ROTC uniform at hand, had insisted on donning the chain mail he kept in Mark’s basement and which he wore during his live action role play events.

A stoke of lucky timing had ensured that various parents were away, and the FEMA state of emergency takeover of cell phone frequencies, meant they spent the night undisturbed from "oh my god come home "phone calls.

Susannah, the token female who had been playing Daemons and Damsels (DnD for short, due to international copyright reasons) with them had become a definite fan girl of The Dave. "he is soooo toned" she purred. Mark agreed, getting a strange glance from the others. “Not that there is anything wrong with that” he quickly added.

They played back the video of Dave’s football field length leap onto the back of the pickup truck (CNN now called it his signature move) in slow motion, which meant it was pretty much normal speed on playback). They argued over his abilities. Super enhanced, but still basically human fitness and muscle or supernaturally magical. The boys not being gym types went for magic, Susannah, while not being affected over a TV broadcast by Dave’s yet to be defined pheromones, was just sixteen, so insisted it was all " natural' .

They knew better than to try and go down and watch live from the side lines. They’d all seen Mad Max beyond Thunder Dome and Gladiators 2: Aurelius rising, and knew what could happen to spectators at blood sport events.


It was a sleep over. The sun was well up by the time they struggled out of their sleeping bags. The TV was still on in the background, a rotund white haired author of fantasy novels was a talking head giving his “views”, the closest thing to an 'expert' the news channels has been able to find. Becoming a media commentator on the events looked like a good career move for him given that real life had just out paced the slow delivery of his fantasy novels.

Dan, rose very slowly, He’d worn the chain mail armour (with a House of Humakti Tabard, painstakingly hand sown in by his mum) all night as a matter of principal. It clearly weighed him down. He sniffed at the air, “Jesus it stinks in here”.

Susannah was pottering around making coffee, "I've opened all the windows"

Mark spoke announcing with confidence that comes from being both a games master and having just seen his world view pretty much validated the night before. , “The wind direction has changed. It's blowing in from down town” (it hadn't), “and that's the smell of burnt flesh” (it wasn't ).

Once more ADS suffering Rico burst into the basement room "Hey quick come, you'll never believe what’s happened"


They stood in a group around the wood shed out-back. Dan now complemented his chainmail and tabard (House of Humakti motto: "we may be arse holes but at least we are Humakti arseholes”) with a homemade morning star. Mark held a hedge trimmer (electric but the cable did have a very long extension). Rico hand in his hand an iPhone with a Startrek universal translation app running ( Klingon to human and human to Klingon being the only two choices) and Susannah sipped from a cup of coffee.

The beast had crawled into the shadows of the corner of the woodshed. Blood followed it and it was completely unmoving, not noticing them even with the hedge trimmer now rotating, and Dan’s chainmail at full clank.

"Is it one of those Slithereen?" Rico wondered

“No too thin” Dan snapped back in an authoritive fashion.

"It's a dark drow" Mark suggested.

“No it's not, too short” Dan contradicted.

Mark pondered for a moment "Definitely a dark drow"

Rico had moved closer - "What do we do with it. Its injured but I’m pretty sure it’s not dead.?"

Susannah picked two items off the shelf in the woodshed and held them up for all to see.

A roll of duct tape and plastic ties.

A little while later they were ready.

"Ok if he moves, Susannah don't wait to use the crossbow” Dan instructed. And she did indeed have a homemade crossbow- usually armed with rubber tipped projectiles for live action roleplaying but this morning a six inch iron nail sat in the groove. They had steel ones that would certainly fly further but was convinced that iron would hold mystical properties when used against evil creatures. They had debated if the horde were actually evil – after all they just came from a different belief system not based on Judeo Christian values. This led Dan to expand on his theory that the Orcs in Lord of the Rings were driven to war by population pressure and being forced to exist on marginal land, much like the native Americans. In the end they decided iron just looked better.

Sometime later they had finished trussing the Beast up who was now awake but unmoving.

There was no debate. They had a live survivor from the battle, they could hand him / it, no it was very definitely a HIM, over to the authorities or they could ensure that someone who actually knew what they were doing did the interrogation.

An hour later, having moved on from Klingon (the two languages really did sound similar), Susannah stepped a little closer and passed a carton of isotonic drink, with a straw to its mouth.

She spoke a few words softly and clearly, with an apparent Irish lilt “Gi nath lam hí ” and the beast spoke back. In Elvish. Rico ran excitedly back inside to get the Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion appendixes.

Susannah turned back to the boys. "He's a "thresh". I've told him he is our prisoner but also that under guest right we will now protect him.

They nodded sagely.


In the days that followed the first battle of New Orleans, the US armed forces suffered a deficit of intel on the horde. Dave, their walking Horde Wikipedia was all to often on task and unavailable. But they did get some very useful tidbits of information, the best of which usually came via anonymous emails through TOR from a user signature of “the Dungeon Master”.

10 Responses to ‘A Matter of Elvish - Mark Williams Fanfest 2015’

Sparty is gonna tell you...

Posted February 28, 2015
Awesome picture selection Birmo- if the writing gig doesn't work out you could try being an editor!

Respond to this comment

Matthew F. swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 28, 2015
Hah, I actually have some of the Warhammer orcs from that first pic. I cut the weapons off them and used them as blitzers for my Blood Bowl team.

Respond to this comment

Bunyip mumbles...

Posted February 28, 2015
Brill. And extra geek points for the Runequest reference. Ta muchly, Sparty.

Respond to this comment

she_jedi mutters...

Posted February 28, 2015
I so enjoyed the dig at GRRM, and the Tolkien reference. Perfection.

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted March 1, 2015
Just simply loved it.

This fan fic festival is unexpected big fun.

Better than the Grantville Gazette. Enough of these would make a good companion anthology.

Respond to this comment

Therbs puts forth...

Posted March 1, 2015
Enjoyed that one. A pet thresh for every home.

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted March 1, 2015
Not my thresh

Respond to this thread

JG ducks in to say...

Posted March 1, 2015
Terrific, Sparty. Overtones of ET. It's great reading all the different stories and interesting perspectives in this fanfest. Great choice of pics for the stories, JB.

Respond to this comment

GhostSwirv reckons...

Posted March 1, 2015

Lovely work Sparty, very much like the setting of your tale as a few miles away from the Miami Incursion about real characters just getting on with their daily lives.

I was wondering that since your thresh was likely going to live in the shed that maybe you might consider naming it Frosty, after say Nick from Shaun of the Dead.

Its just an idea feel free to pass on whatever intel you deem appropriate to the proper authorities.

GhostSwirv over and out.

Respond to this comment

Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted March 3, 2015
That was geek-tastic! The wet dream of all D&D players everywhere. (Remembers when GenCon was a couple of hundred unwashed geeks).

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'A Matter of Elvish - Mark Williams Fanfest 2015'

Fangr vs the Wave: Fanfest 2015 by Damian Cody

Posted February 27, 2015 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

A little crossover action in this short pen sketch by Damian Cody of a poor, hungry Fangr which chose the wrong narrative arc. This is an idea I like so much I could myself stealing it for a short story.

It was part of a scouting party when the avalanche happened, being smaller than the others it was spared death but was stuck between two large boulders. After much struggling, Fangr freed itself and crawled out, confused but drawn to the light from above, it was brighter than any it had know. Fangr slowly made its way forward towards the light, slipping between the rocks and the dead of the scouting party. Eventually it arrived on the surface of a place not know, but legends of the old ones filled its mind. Was this the over-world where the human cattle lived? Digestive juices filled its mouth at the thought of the meat, the blood wine and the rewards the Queen would bestow upon the lowly fangr who had found an entrance to the world of man.

It proceeding with caution, remembering stories about the human world and the burning light from above. This light did not burn, it was warm and the air shimmered like the air above a freshly filled blood pot.

It decided to look around for proof of the over-world before returning. To bring back fresh human meat would please his Queen, if it dared it may even sample some for itself before returning.
It wandered, at first cautious, eventually it bored of the solitude and went at its own pace. It was the same everywhere, piles of what it guessed were human coverings covered in some sort off goo. Hungry and desperate, it tasted some, discovering it was enough to keep his hunger at bay as each light cycle passed.

Eventually it gave up, the hunger for real food and the irritation from the shimmering light drove it back to the tunnel entrance, it looked back one last time, disappointed there would be no blood feast, this world was dead.

14 Responses to ‘Fangr vs the Wave: Fanfest 2015 by Damian Cody’

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted February 27, 2015
Thumbs up!
On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted February 27, 2015
What a cool idea.

Respond to this comment

she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted February 27, 2015
That was fantastic!

Respond to this comment

JG is gonna tell you...

Posted February 27, 2015
Humanising the Fangr. I feel the desolation and emptiness. Nice take on the story.

Respond to this comment

Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted February 27, 2015
Love the concept. Well played.

Respond to this comment

sibeen is gonna tell you...

Posted February 27, 2015
OK, now I am confused.

John, was it you who placed the 'Wolfram
& Hart" bit at the end of <s>dickhead's</s> Boylan's
spiel, or was it own idea?

Christ, I may have given out kudos where none belonged,

BTW, Damien, a fantastic mash up. Loved it

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted February 28, 2015
It was John's addition. I had to research the reference to find out what it meant.

Anthony would have you know...

Posted February 28, 2015
I merely assumed that Boylan had submitted it on company notepaper.

Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted February 28, 2015
Well played Sir.

Respond to this thread

Drew-mo puts forth...

Posted February 28, 2015
Love a good crossover. It has potential.

Respond to this comment

Sparty would have you know...

Posted February 28, 2015
Great little idea - an strangely affecting - . Be nice to see Kolhammer turn up and kick some Horde butt.

Respond to this comment

Darth Greybeard ducks in to say...

Posted February 28, 2015
Nice one. You thought Skorzeny was tough eh Harry?

drew-mo swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 3, 2015
+1 Internetz to you, Sir.

Respond to this thread

Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted March 3, 2015
Very good ... great crossover.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Fangr vs the Wave: Fanfest 2015 by Damian Cody'

Fanfest 2015, When did you last see the Dave? By Jason Cox

Posted February 25, 2015 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

A somewhat darker piece, and shorter, with a twist at the end I rather enjoyed. I made one or two quick sub edits for consistency.


The small boy made no sound. His face was contorted in pain. His sweat had soaked his face and the Indians Baseball t-shirt he wore was so wet as to become see through. The sneakers he had pleaded to have for his seventh birthday were now putrid with a mix of his sweat and the urine he could no longer contain. He was aware of none of these things. His was simply a world of pain.

The three Lore Keepers explored his mind as best they could. This mind was different to theirs and contained places they knew nothing of. The search for information about the one they called Dave had not gone well. The boy knew little except what he had heard from his friends, what the Hunn would call nestling mates. This was of concern for the Lore Keepers. They had expected the Dave to be famous in both Clan and Sect. There were far more disturbing things in the child’s mind.

The surface dwellers had changed much since the Lore Keepers last knowledge of them. They were far more of them now and they had weapons the likes of which the Hunn did not understand. This was not the most disturbing information they had gleaned from the child.

A door slamming against the wall broke the silence. The Queen’s Guard entered the Lore Keeper’s Cathedral walking with all the arrogance his position demanded. “The Queen desires her feast. Have you finished with the child?”

“The child can tell us no more.” The Lore Keepers spoke together their three voices blending into one. “He knows little of the Dave. The humans have populated the planet and are now plentiful. There will be enough food for all once we take the surface back. They know nothing of the Sky Lords”. The Queen’s Guard nodded. “This is good”. The Queen will be pleased.

“There is bad news. They have a hero mightier than Dave. We have been fortunate that the boy has knowledge of his weakness and we can easily defeat him. Tell your scouts to search the over-world for a substance called kryptonite. If we tip our arrows with this the Superman cannot harm us. Tell this to your Queen”.

The Guard left dragging the tasty boy with him. There would be much fame to the one who killed the Superman and it would be his.

10 Responses to ‘Fanfest 2015, When did you last see the Dave? By Jason Cox’

insomniac asserts...

Posted February 25, 2015
Interesting take that fictional characters could form part of the human experience for the Under Realm. I'd place it on the same level as religion.

Respond to this comment

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted February 25, 2015
Oh I loved that! What a genius twist at the end

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted February 26, 2015
Really good. Very cool.

Respond to this comment

Sparty asserts...

Posted February 26, 2015
Good story - gets you thinking in all sorts of directions- The Supes reference has now made me imagine George Costanza captured by the Horde..

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted February 26, 2015
That isn't how I perceived the thrust of the story. The kid told them about Superman because the kid thinks Superman is real. He isn't, but the Lore Keepers can only pick up what the kid believes and knows - and the reality of a seven year old boy is not always based on reality.

For me, this story makes me wonder what the Horde would do with information pertaining to Santa Claus gleaned from a child that believes in him. And, as Brother Insomniac notes, the consequences of human religious beliefs.

A good story, Jason: terse and thought provoking, creating ripples of possibility from the stone your story dropped in this pond.

MickH ducks in to say...

Posted February 27, 2015
But you're missing the obvious extension to this Pual in that they will think that Jesus is real and is most probably one of the Sky Lords.
This could greatly effect any decisions the Horde may make about re-taking the outer realms

Respond to this thread

Therbs mutters...

Posted February 26, 2015
Good stuff. The introduction of Invisible Friends is a gem.

Respond to this comment

Rhino mumbles...

Posted February 27, 2015
Great twist ... enjoyed that very much. Nice job!

Respond to this comment

JG ducks in to say...

Posted February 27, 2015
Yep, a great twist.

Respond to this comment

MickH has opinions thus...

Posted February 27, 2015
Well Done Jason.
Short sharp and to the point with a twist

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Fanfest 2015, When did you last see the Dave? By Jason Cox'

Fanfest 2015. The Favourite, by Professor X Boylan

Posted February 24, 2015 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

To mark the release of a second helping o' Dave, we'll begin the Festival of Reader Fiction tonight. It seems appropriate to kick off with the Prof, since has already proven himself such a worthy addition to the canon of The Dave.

On which topic, allow ME to remind y'all before we begin. Although I might borrow from these stories in the future, none of the pieces we'e about to read can yet be counted as Canon.

THE FAVOURITE - by Professor Boylan

As the Grymm Elder grew closer to the Queen’s private parlor, he felt her thoughts pushing against his skull – probing - like long, boney human fingers - the wall around the Elder’s mind. He felt the Queen’s presence grow as he walked steadily through the grand chamber’s dim red-lit gloom. Her unseen presence beat at him like the waves of an ancient ocean crashing on the rough rocks; like the roll of thunder booming before rain fell from the almost forgotten open sky.

The Elder ignored it all. He saw it as courtly drama, a game: the Queen flattered him, paying him a compliment through her token attempt. Nothing could so easily invade a Grymm’s mind – not even the Low Queen of the UnderRealms.

But age-old tradition dictated what came next: the Grymm Elder entered the Queen’s parlor, dropped to his knees, retracted his fangs and talons and bared his neck for her teeth and claws to ravage, if she so desired.

“Rise and speak,” the Queen commanded, sprawled upon her bedrock throne.

“The Grymm Council is concerned about the human,” the Elder began as he rose from the hard stone floor.

“Which human?” the Queen asked.

“Your new pet.”

“Ah. That human,” the Queen said, shifting her massive bulk to a more comfortable position. “What concerns the Grymm Council?” she asked.

“We gave the human to you as a gift with the expectation that you would eat its flesh and slake your thirst on its blood, and that you would be pleased.”

“The gesture did please me,” the Queen said.

“But you did not kill it,” the Elder continued. “You did not eat it. You did not drink its bloodwine.”

“No. I did not.” The Queen paused, her reptilian face unable to so much as hint at the amusement this meeting provided. “The human is too puny to make a proper meal. A mere morsel. A mere drip of bloodwine. My hunger is not so easily satisfied.“

“Your appetite is legendary, Majesty, and this concerns the Grymm Council,” the Elder said.

“Are you saying you are worried that I am getting fat?” the Queen asked.


“Yes. Overweight. Possessing an inappropriately large physical bearing, resulting in socially rejection,” the Queen explained. “And counterproductive if intent on attracting the amorous attention of others,” she added and waited expectantly.

“I understand and accept the traditional protocols, Your Majesty,” the Elder carefully said,” but I feel the need for honesty.”

“You could always open your mind to me,” the Queen suggested. “I would then know the truth that concerns you without any threat of deception.”

“According to our ancient customs, I respectfully decline your invitation.”

“Then you may speak freely,” the Queen said.

“Your concern that I think you are “fat” is at the heart of the Council’s reason for seeking this audience,” the Elder explained.

“How so?”

“Your questions – and your equally alarming comments – demonstrate that you have changed,” the Elder said.

“No I haven’t.”

“Yes, you have.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Yes you have. For ages untold you have never asked any Grymm if you look fat.”

“Do I look fat?”

“You see, that is what I am talking about,” the Elder said. “You have never asked that question.”

The Queen said nothing.

“You’ve changed, Your Majesty. We feel the human is responsible.”

“You fear the human’s influence,” the Queen said. “You fear it will corrupt me. You doubt I will dominate the human.”

“No. I have no doubts. But I am told you cannot enter its mind,” the Elder said.

“None of us can,” the Queen observed. “Humans do not share the gift of belonging to a group mind.”

“True, but none of us imagined that you would also lack the ability,” the Elder said.

“You fear my lack of power?”

“No, not at all. We fear that you do not recognize this vile creature for what it is. We fear it weaves words into magick that veils your vision and leads you astray.”

“Magick!” the Queen snorted in derision. “There are no magicks in these humans.”

“There is magick in the Dave,” the Elder stated.

“Yes, but the Dave is unique,” the Queen explained. “The Dave is the only one. There are no others. This human you fear is like all other humans - like spiders so small and so easily crushed.”

“I have undeniable proof that this human has corrupted you,” the Elder said.

“Are you prepared to reveal your evidence?” the Queen asked in deadly promise.

A sense of encroaching doom struck the Elder. But the Grymm Elder came to this moment prepared with a weapon that he hoped he would not be forced to use. He said a word designed as both sword and shield in the battle for his life, cast forth to both disarm the Queen and push his argument forward.

“Bacon,” he said.


“Yes. Bacon. The human assists you to acquire great quantities of bacon,” the Elder said, avoiding any hint of accusation.

“It is widely believed by humans throughout the Above that there is no such thing as too much bacon,” the Queen said.

“It is not the amount of bacon you consume that concerns the Council. It is the undeniable fact that bacon has replaced your desire for human flesh and blood.”

“I have not hid my fondness for bacon,” the Queen said. “It is delicious.”

“Yes. Granted” the Grymm Elder conceded. “I sampled a morsel once. Very tasty. “

“Only a morsel?”

“Only a morsel, Your Majesty. It is a substance that is difficult to procure.”

“And expensive.”

“And expensive,” the Elder agreed.

“Yum boogie,” the Queen said.

Not understanding the reference, the Elder moved on. “In addition to preferring what you refer to as “pig meat” to human flesh, it is whispered that you forego bloodwine in favor of a liquid called “Zinfandel.”

“From California.”

“I don’t know what “California” is, Majesty.”

“It is a human land of great riches. Did you know that California is the only place Above that has the zinfandel grape because there was a war, and all the seed burned, but immigrants to the Realm of California brought seeds with them and they planted them everywhere and now I can drink of that bounty?”

“I … did not know that.” The Grymm Elder shook his head

“My pet human told me that the existence of Zinfandel combined with my desire for it is proof that even human history serves my interests. If not for my desire, it is possible that war may not have been fought casting those immigrants to a new home to save the varietal,” the Queen said.

“Is that also true for durian?”

“You know of durian?”

“Yes, of course we do. And we know of stinky tofu, Epoisses de Bourgogne and black truffle. We know your pet human has established a network of contacts throughout the Above to provide you with exotic luxuries that do not just tempt you, they change you, coaxing you to reject our ancient ways, our ancient wisdom, in favor of foreign ways and alien values,” the Elder said. Suddenly his dignified reserve crumbled, exposing his fear. “You no longer hunger for human flesh and blood,” the Grymm Elder said. “You prefer bacon and pork chops and wine and chocolate.” Saliva jetted into the Elder’s mouth at the thought of chocolate.

“Oh yes,” the Queen said, taunting the Grymm and ridiculing his chocolate lust. “I have learned it is very nice to nibble on a bit of chocolate between sips of Zinfandel. But only the dark chocolate. The milk and white chocolate varietals are an abomination.”

“You see, Majesty?” the Grymm said. “This human is changing you, shaping you. Influencing you. Humans - not plants and their byproducts – are our prey.”

“There is nothing wrong with a salad every now and then.”

“Did the human tell you that?”


“Most definitely. What is salad? Whatever it is, it is another example of the human influencing you directly, circumventing intermediaries such as the Grymm in their efforts – their duty - to protect your interests and the interests of the Horde. All Grymm desire nothing more than to continue serving and protecting you, to represent your personal will.”

“The Grymm Council fears that this human is replacing the Grymm in my esteem.”

“The human is dangerous,” The Elder repeated. “It adapted to our ways and learned the Olde Tongue far too quickly.”

“Yes, I found that surprising, and it is one of the reasons I did not kill and eat it,” the Queen said. “The human you fear is no threat to us. It is weak and vulnerable – but it is also valuable, if not for the only reason that it teaches us how the Dave thinks and plans. Did you know the human was an advisor to the Dave?” the Queen asked.

“I learned that, and it concerns me,” the Grymm Elder admitted. “We should kill it and then - according to our eldritch traditions - we should present its skull to the Dave, so that, although the Dave will hate us, he will respect us - and know that his friend is dead. If not, the Dave will mount a rescue attempt as honor requires, and he will attack at a time when we are most vulnerable, as is the human way.”

“There will be no rescue attempt,” the Queen said. “The Dave and his ‘Scooby Gang’ of warriors believe this human is dead.”

“I still fear this human, Your Majesty. My heart and soul tell me that we should kill it.”

“And I may, but not until I’ve learned all it knows.”

“I know you interrogate it,” the Elder said. “But so far the only information we’ve obtained is stories of the Dave’s unsuccessful coupling with a female human and the Dave’s hatred for a malevolent being called Vietch.”

“I am gaining the human’s confidence, securing his loyalty to me and to our cause,” the Queen explained.

“Perhaps some torture would increase the likelihood of a successful interrogation,” the Elder suggested.

“Torture is so inelegant,” the Queen retorted, derisively waiving her talons and flicking her tongues.

“’Inelegant?’ What does that mean?”

“Never mind.”

“Kill the human, my Queen! I beg you to kill it.”

“It is no threat. It is weak.”

“No longer. I am told that you have assigned him Minion and Thresh as attendants and a squad of Fangr to command.”

“There have been three attempts on the human’s life. I seek to protect a valuable asset.”

“You have allowed the human to arm his retainers with human weapons and to have them trained in their use by something referred to in whispers as ‘the Rhino.’” The Elder watched for the Queen’s reaction, to see if she, too, had heard these same terrified whispers.

“I am interested in human weapons,” the Queen said without betraying any of her internal thought process or emotions. “Human weapons have been effective against every class of daemon that serve me, every clan, every sect.”

“We can prevail against the humans without changing who we are, Majesty,” the Elder said. “The Grymm fear that, by allowing the human so much freedom to travel between here and the Above, by allowing him to arm his retainers, you make the human far too strong.”

“I smell jealousy,” the Queen said, soft laughter rumbling in her throat. One of her tongues flicked out of her mouth. “I taste fear,” she said. “You fear that the human is replacing the Grymm in the hierarchy of my court.”

“A hierarchy that has existed since the beginning,” the Elder said.

“Change may be necessary to conquer the Above and to retake our rightful place beneath the open sky.” The Queen paused. The Grymm Elder felt her thoughts probing his, pushing – not with any hope of breaking through – but for the simple pleasure that came from squeezing his mind like she would squeeze a fresh, still beating heart to lick its juices.

“Leave me now,” the Queen suddenly commanded.

The Grymm Elder turned and left the Queen’s parlor. In the cave corridor the Elder’s adjutant joined him as the Elder walked back to Grymm controlled territory.

“You heard?” The Elder asked.

“Yes. I heard,” the Elder’s adjutant whispered back.

“And your thoughts?”

“The Queen is lost to us.”

“We must kill the human at once,” the Elder insisted.

“I fear that can no longer be done.”

“Then what do you advise?” the Elder demanded.

“We should stop all attempts to assassinate the human,” the adjutant said.

“What? And let it continue to poison the Queen against the Grymm?”

“It is clear that has already happened,” the adjutant said. “Further unsuccessful attempts to kill the human will only reinforce the Queen’s attachment to her dangerous pet.”

“Then what can be done to rid us of this troublesome beast?” the Elder hissed between clenched fangs.

“Seek out the human,” the adjutant advised. “Form a false alliance. He is weak and greedy. We will promise him more than he receives from the Queen if he betrays the Queen.”

“And then?” the Elder asked.

“Approach the Sliveen and Hunn Council Elders and form a true alliance with each.”

“And the Scolari?”

“The Scolari will remain loyal to the Queen,” the adjutant predicted.

“Most likely, yes,” the Elder agreed. “But we don’t need the Scolari.”

“No, we do not. We will need the Sliveen and Hunn when the time comes,” the adjutant again advised. “When we are ready, we use the human and his Fangr and Thresh ‘strike force’ to overthrow the Queen. For her own good.”

“Then we kill the human,” the Elder said. The adjutant was silent, and the two continued to walk in silence.

“Have you heard of ‘durian?’” the Elder suddenly asked, breaking the silence between them.

“Yes,” the adjutant admitted. “It is said the scent of the durian is a perfumed aroma that rivals the delicious odors of the finest, oldest blood pots.”

“I have heard the same,” the Elder admitted.

“Perhaps,” the Elder suggested “perhaps we should not kill the human immediately.”

“I agree,” the adjutant quickly said. “The human must die, of course, but not until after we have assumed control over his trading network. Especially the one that provides bacon.”

“And chocolate,” the Elder said, fantasizing about plundering the Queen’s private larder, imagining durian, bacon and chocolate devoured together with abandon.

*** ***

The Queen watched the Grymm Elder leave her throne chamber. She watched as the Elder’s adjutant slithered up to whisper in the Elder’s ear. She watched them both walk into the darkness beyond.

A small human stepped out of the shadows behind the Queen’s throne rock.

“Did you hear?” the Low Queen asked.

“Yes, Majesty.”

“And your thoughts?”

“The Grymm plan rebellion,” the human stated.

“Your recommendations?”

“It is likely the Grymm Elder will seek a meeting with me in an attempt to persuade me to assist the Grymm to overthrow you,” the human began. “I will, of course, appear to cooperate, to accept their bribe, but only to learn all of what the Grymm plan so I can best advise you, my Queen.”

“Good,” the Queen said. “I approve. Is there more?”

“Continue to expand your trade connections with the Above,” the human advised. “Continue your efforts to establish diplomatic contact with competing human national factions. Continue your plan to modernize. You cannot retake the Above without modernizing. And continue to train and arm the thresh - who will be loyal only to you.”

“I will do as you advise,” the Queen said.

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” the human said. “The Grymm will bow to your authority and adapt to the New World you engender. If not, they prove they are weak and are fit only as meat for the blood pots.”

The Low Queen was silent for a few moments, apparently deep in thought. Then she asked:

“Does this rock I am sitting on make my butt look big?”

“Absolutely not, Majesty. You are truly a vision of loveliness. Can I get you any more bacon? Perhaps some prosciutto crudo,” the human suggested.

“No, not now. Do you have any Ghirardelli chocolate? The kind with the gooey caramel centers. And some of that Zinfandel I drank yesterday.”

“The 2010 Ridge East Bench?” the Boylan asked.

“Yes, that is the one. Blood red, lots of spice, finely balanced. To die for.”

“I’m afraid we are out of that one, my Queen,” the human said and bowed his head. “The 2010 Ridge East Bench zin is popular Above and it is difficult for our agents to locate and purchase.”

“I remember that happening to the Brunello di Montalcino.” The Queen writhed in frustration. “It was soooo good. But you let it slip away forever. No amount of precious metals, gemstones or rare earths will procure more – because there isn’t any. And now I am deprived of the 2010 Ridge East Bench as well because you didn’t have the simple foresight to order enough.”

“I expect to receive more very soon, and my Thresh apprentices have just installed an electric cooler so that we can cellar as much as two cases at a time,” the human said.

“I am deeply disappointed,” the Queen rumbled. “I should eat you and be done with you. It would make everyone happy.”

“I have failed you, my Queen,” the human said, going down on one knee and baring his neck for the killing stroke.

“Don’t do that. Just don’t. I hate it when you do that. Everything’s fine.”

The human looked up at the Queen. “Everything’s fine?” he asked.

“Yes. Just fine,” the Queen said. “Look, I value your judgment in such things. Is there anything else available in sufficient quantity to satisfy my thirst?” the Queen asked.

“I have a lovely French Margaux I strongly recommend,” the Boylan suggested.

“Very well,” the Low Queen sighed. “I suppose I can make due.” She shifted her massive weight on her rock throne. “And maybe a little Virginia country ham. Nothing fancy; just a nosh.”

32 Responses to ‘Fanfest 2015. The Favourite, by Professor X Boylan’

Anthony has opinions thus...

Posted February 24, 2015
Boylan on Boylan?

Respond to this comment

NBlob mutters...

Posted February 24, 2015
Everyone deserves representation & counsel.

Respond to this comment

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 24, 2015
Most excellent

Respond to this comment

Sparty is gonna tell you...

Posted February 24, 2015
So woosy submitting copy BEFORE a deadline, I'm sticking to the end of month deadline, and now revising with Dave 2....

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25, 2015
I'm glad it's not just me rushing to meet that deadline. I'm resisting the urge to revise based on Dave 2, I'll never get it finished if I do.

Respond to this thread

JG reckons...

Posted February 24, 2015
Bravo, Paul. An excellent story. Joanna

Respond to this thread

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted February 24, 2015
"It is widely believed by humans throughout the Above that there is no such thing as too much bacon." By the Sky Lords that made my day.

Respond to this comment

sibeen mumbles...

Posted February 24, 2015
Fuck you, Boylan...just FUCK YOU!!!

rips up carefully worked on and worded manuscript in disgust

I'll admit it, I won't be topping that.


BTW, absolutely loved the Wolfram & Hart reference at the end. Bravo.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted February 25, 2015
You don't have to top it. I can't win the prize. The only reason I lowered my personal standards enough to allow me to write "fiction" was my incorrect belief that my character was going to be killed off, and I hoped to give X new life by winning this contest. Now I know the character survives, so I can't gain anything except the inescapable knowledge that I debased myself for little more than the admiration of people who didn't notice any of my allusions to classical literature or the obvious and admirable fact that almost all of the dialogue is written in iambic pentameter blank verse. Oh, Homer! Oh, Virgil! Oh Dante! Oh, Milton! Oh, Goethe! Oh, Koontz! Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?

But I digress. Please don't let my poor attempt dissuade you from throwing your very large hat into the ring.

Respond to this thread

Rhino puts forth...

Posted February 25, 2015
Original comment didn't work ... odd.
Bravo! Bravissimo, Herr Doktor Professor!
Outstanding job, Mr. Boylan. That was great!

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25, 2015
And the reference to "the Rhino?"

Rhino mutters...

Posted February 25, 2015
It only made me love you more...

Therbs asserts...

Posted February 25, 2015
I might add that the dragon farts in the morning.

Respond to this thread

Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted February 25, 2015
Reads very much like Charles Stross.
Excellent work, Professor X Boylan.
On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

Rhino reckons...

Posted February 25, 2015
I will have #TheDaveDeux on Friday.
So much for working.

Respond to this comment

GhostSwirv mumbles...

Posted February 25, 2015

I despair of an Above where the Boylan is Chief Counsel to the Low Queen - is there any hope for humanity once X rewrites our destiny and commandeers all the bacon?

GhostSwirv over and out to continue redrafting, recrafting, redacting ... oh bollocks!

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted February 25, 2015
Commandeer? No, purchase on the open bacon market. The Low Queen's money is as good as anyone's.

GhostSwirv is gonna tell you...

Posted February 25, 2015

The mind boggles at what currency the Low Queen is likely to trade in and what advice your X-ness has proffered as to a Share Portfolio of choice.

GhostSwirv ... still redacting, removes animal products from the menu.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted February 25, 2015
It isn't very difficult to convert precious metals and gems - which should be plentiful in the UnderRealms - into cash that can be deposited in banks around the world that specialize in laundering black cash (Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands Israel, Lebanon, Panama, the Philippines, Russia, etc.). Once cash is legitimized the rest is intuitive, with buying political influence as the central goal.

I would advise the Low Queen to invest in tech stocks (3d printer tech in particular) and the emerging markets that are poised to replace China as the source of cheap labour for manufacturing (Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, etc.)

GhostSwirv asserts...

Posted February 25, 2015

You really do have the campaign all figured out, ... don't you?

Respond to this thread

she_jedi would have you know...

Posted February 25, 2015
Oh happy day! Just discovered I now have an extension on my Roman essay, which now gives me time to finish the Dave, my Dave fanfic, and yeah, my uni assignment. Hooray!

It's just as well because fictional Boylan kept me up way past my bedtime last night being all wildly entertaining and shit, and now I'm paying for it. Do you really look like a Klingon, or is JB just messing with you? :)

Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25, 2015
"Dave, my Dave fanfic, and yeah, my uni assignment"
Heh, I like the order of importance there.

Bondiboy66 is gonna tell you...

Posted February 25, 2015
Perhaps a slightly smaller Klingon, with far less facial protrusions.
btw - you dun rite goodly Prof.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted February 25, 2015
Yes. I look like a Klingon. Imagine a short, long armed, hairy Brad Pitt with a bumpy skull.

sibeen reckons...

Posted February 25, 2015
Brad Pitt?

Shakes head and wanders off in disbelief.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted February 26, 2015
Despite the Brad Pitt comparison, the image is nevertheless fairly repulsive, especially if you add the part about having connecting eyebrows, being bald, overweight, and having a penchant for spontaneous nosebleeds.

Respond to this thread

Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted February 25, 2015
Choice Bro. Very choice.

Respond to this comment

Surtac puts forth...

Posted February 25, 2015
Beautiful work, Professor.

Respond to this comment

Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted February 25, 2015
's a pity that Professor X Boylan is kicking arse and taking names in Dave 2: Boylan Boogaloo.

Respond to this comment

Therbs asserts...

Posted February 26, 2015
A well put together piece Paul. I liked it a lot.

Respond to this comment

MickH asserts...

Posted February 27, 2015
Golf clap for the proffWell done sir, well done.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Fanfest 2015. The Favourite, by Professor X Boylan'

Foxhound free until Jan 14

Posted January 12, 2015 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

James Phelan's 2006 thriller Foxhunt is free down under for the next week, and only 99c O/S. It's the one where I die.

Always worth revisting.



‘This is incredible,’ Alissa Truscott muttered to herself for the hundredth time that day. With almost every bone perfectly in place, it was the most exciting archaeological find any of them had ever come across. Alissa knew that soon, when the secrecy of the expedition was lifted, their discovery would stun the world.

Just as incredible as the preserved skeleton was the surrounding earth, which contained fragments of assorted flora, suggesting the figure had been buried ceremoniously. The emphasis on the rituals of death at such an early prehistoric period was an amazing revelation, made even more so by crude stone pictographs cut into the tomb walls, hinting at the life once lived and a belief that it could be carried on after death.

‘How are you going there, Alissa?’ inquired a deep, resonating voice. Richard O’Brien was a die- hard Irishman with a large soup-straining moustache that made up for the lack of hair on his head. He had barely managed to squeeze his girth through the crawl space into the tomb itself, a small ante- chamber to the main cave system. The process had resembled a walrus moving across the ground.

‘Fine, thanks, Professor O’Brien,’ replied Alissa in her southern US way, richly articulated unlike the stereotypical drawl. She had six years at Princeton to thank for that.

‘Magnificent,’ O’Brien said, taking in the fully exposed skeleton. ‘Shall we discuss our impending fame over lunch? The National Geographic photo- grapher has arrived.’

Alissa wiped her thick cotton sleeve across her brow; it came away with a dirty smudge. ‘Remind me to freshen up if a camera gets pointed my way.’ She offered O’Brien her hand and he took it in his, pulling her slender frame to her feet. ‘I’ll leave my workbook here and finish up after lunch.’

The other members of the dig were already in the mess tent, exchanging the data they had uncovered during the morning in their separate areas of the cave system. On the table were several varieties of preserved vegetables, some dried meat and fish, a large bowl of yellow dip and a mountain of fresh flat bread. A decanter of one of O’Brien’s reds was being passed around to add to the merry atmosphere and a small CD player was playing in one corner.

‘Alissa, come sit down,’ called Christian, a Danish student studying with her. He was holding an open sandwich in one of his long tanned hands; the other held a tin cup of wine. He scooted across the pine bench and made space for her shapely behind; it had become open knowledge that the two had begun an affair shortly after their arrival in Iran. The twenty-three-year-old Alissa would admit to no one, especially her new casual lover, that he was the first man she had slept with. She was a little disappointed that he was a bit clumsy but, admittedly, it wasn’t a bad way to spend the cold nights of the desert winter.

Towards the end of their lunch, O’Brien, who had ended up beside Alissa, turned to whisper to her while the others were busy laughing at a story the National Geographic photographer was telling.

‘I forgot to mention it earlier—last night I was preparing our material for the photo shoot and I noticed some of the excavated material is missing.’ The soft smell of wine was evident on O’Brien’s whispered words.

Alissa, fearing the worst, felt her stomach turn. ‘Not the organic material, or the tool fragments—’ O’Brien cut her off: ‘Shhh, not so loud.’ He looked around to check everyone was still pre- occupied. ‘Nothing that important, but puzzling nonetheless. It’s the rock trays, the mineral samples.’ Alissa looked from O’Brien to the others in the room. ‘The mineral samples? You’re sure someone’s not running tests on them?’ She knew the answer

though: O’Brien ran a very tight ship.

‘They’d have to clear it with me and sign them out.’ O’Brien had a distant look on his face, trying to grasp a reasoning that he was sure was out there


‘It wouldn’t surprise me if Orakov didn’t bide

by your rules,’ Alissa said. ‘He’s given me the creeps since day one.’

O’Brien cocked an eyebrow, considering the comment. ‘Before we figure out who, we have to ask ourselves why,’ he said eventually.

The CD player stopped mid-track, hardly a rare occurrence due to its state. Christian, who had been humming along to the tune, got up to check and quickly saw it had no power at all.

‘That bloody Russian hasn’t fuelled the generator again!’ he shouted, interrupting the photographer’s current anecdote.

The tent went silent and all nodded agreement that the generator had gone off.

‘I’ll fix it myself,’ Christian mumbled as he donned his parka and made for the door. He was only halfway to it when something came rolling through the doorway. Every eye in the tent stared uncomprehendingly at the small metal object as it tumbled across the floor.

An intense light and tremendous thunderclap rocked the tent and Alissa was thrown backwards onto the sand-covered floor. The last thing she saw through a smoky haze was the unshaven face of Dimitry Orakov staring down at her, an automatic pistol comfortably gripped in his hand.


The parade attracted a fanfare the like of which had never before been seen along the main streets of Grozny. State-funded vendors supplied hot foods to the crowd, while thousands of soldiers and police in dress uniform kept any citizens from flowing onto the sanctioned-off parade area. Every able body in the city had turned out despite the cold. Steam rose from the masses, giving physicality to their vocal jubilance. Independence had taken almost ten thousand military and civilian lives to achieve. Not only lives, but also years of hardship and misery for all concerned. Almost all.

The towering broad-shouldered man dressed in a long cashmere coat, Italian suit and shirt had not felt such pains. He had spent the past four years travelling between Grozny and a luxurious secret retreat, all the while maintaining true control over his semi-autonomous country through Russian- friendly rulers. Disposable men.

Now the time had come to take the reins himself.

President Sergei Ivanovich of the Republic of Chechnya stood on the decorated back of a flat- bed army truck—against the advice of his personal security chief—resplendent in the glory of the moment. For too long he had stayed in the shadows. Now he was the centrepiece of the procession, a convoy of over two hundred military vehicles. No one would dare make an attempt on his life today. In death he would become a martyr, creating even bigger problems for Mother Russia. And the local bands of rebels knew how ruthless he could be— a botched assassination attempt and the capture of the perpetrators had proven that point.

The people loved the show. Not that they really knew much about Ivanovich, besides his stellar career trajectory in the KGB and subsequent position as special military aide to the old Politburo, the former USSR’s governing body. Being labelled by Putin as one of the most dangerous men in the world had guaranteed his prominence to the Chechen masses. They knew he looked like a leader, spoke like a leader.

Leading ran in the Ivanovich family. Ivanovich was old-school Soviet; his lineage had all been officers in the Soviet army and his younger brother was the current Vice-President of Azerbaijan, Chechnya’s neighbour on the Caspian Sea. Already that alliance had reaped mutual benefits: free trade, dual citizenship, a combined military force.

Ivanovich waved to the masses, a collective of exiles driven to the region over the past two centuries. He had made it clear that their lives and futures were entwined, destined for greatness: a nation which would be heard on the world stage.

A security officer walked over to the float and passed up a folded note, which Ivanovich opened and glanced at quickly. He smiled. He waved. He threw his fists into the air and shook his arms to display the emotions he felt.

Yes, he thought, yes! Now we will have real power!

High above, death loomed. Orbiting slowly and silently, unknown to almost all in the world.



The day was windy and bright. Clouds whispered through the sky and an aeroplane soared overhead. It was a time of peace and quiet on the beach; too early for most tourists but too late for the morning anglers. Only one figure disturbed the serenity, his large feet splashing in the warm tropical water of the Indian Ocean. For Lachlan Fox this was the most peaceful place on Earth, a sanctuary from the real world.

Every morning for the past few months this had been his ritual: a seven o’clock run along the beach for five kilometres and a swim back.

Fox paused at the end of his run and stretched out against the lone lifesaving tower that marked his distance. The paint flaked beneath his hands as he worked the tension out of his thighs. He couldn’t help but laugh as the tower moaned against his weight, his own body protesting against the force. Every movement of his legs was a chore, but thankfully getting easier with each day of rehab. The swimming was therapy.

Five minutes and several routines later, he walked into the water. Every few seconds one of the soft breakers that rolled through the mouth of the cove sprayed against him, the waves remaining upright in the offshore breeze. The wind carried the noises of a small town rising.

Fox could see movement atop the far headland, mainly kids and their dogs running from house to house in search of whatever entertainment was on offer inside, getting as much as they could out of their morning before school. Fox looked at his house in the distance and saw the specks of kids playing cricket in the street.

For a wonderful moment his mind was free of purpose. Just the water and sky and murmurs of life.

The lapping water against his waist brought him back. The bay went deep fast, and there was no standing still in the shallows as the gradient of loose sand lured swimmers out. With the sea calling, Fox duck-dived under a fresh set of waves and broke the surface with a practised freestyle.

Almost back where he’d started, Fox climbed the weathered wooden stairs leading up the steep cliff face of the northern headland of Flying Fish Cove.

The island’s only port, and the township of Christmas Island, grew around the cove’s arc like a crust. Most beach-view houses were original settlements, dating from the island’s early days as a phosphate mine for the British Empire.

Fox’s house was a never-ending renovation job, already with six months’ worth of his own blood and sweat. Inside it looked like a bookstore, with barely a piece of wall in view. Stacks of The Islander, the local newspaper that Fox had created and edited each month, were piled like skyscrapers in one corner.

Fox entered, picking up the mail behind the door and flicking through it. The letters from the mainland he tossed on the unopened heap near the coffee table, the familiar handwriting of friends and family among the official correspondence.

He walked to the bathroom on autopilot and let the warm shower from rooftop solar pipes engulf him, the water removing both the sand and salt from his tanned skin. It had been a couple of days since he’d shaved and he lathered up whilst still in the shower, shaving with the speed and precision of someone who’d never used an electric razor.

Towelling off in front of the mirror, he decided to pick up the pace of his current exercise regime. Not that his six foot two, ninety-kilogram frame wasn’t toned—it was merely something else to set his mind to.

He brushed his wet hair out of his eyes and left the room and its mirror, no longer noticing the pink scars that carried so many memories.

At ten o’clock that evening, Fox emerged from a pub and started walking home. It was balmy and the wind had picked up strength; bits of foliage were flying about. Cyclone Catherine, which was meant to skirt the island the next day, was closer than predicted. He pulled his collar up around his neck to shield himself against the sea spray—a futile gesture. The fine mist soon soaked him through.

Walking through the town’s small botanical garden, Fox thought he heard a cry. He stopped to listen, but with the wind so strong it was impossible to pinpoint. Branches scraping metal roofs and loose items knocking about created a symphony of chaos. A few more paces around a bend and he came across three burly men, the type of merchant seamen who frequented the island’s casino. They were blocking his path, and that of two young women headed in the opposite direction. The pair clung to each other for support, fear in their faces.

‘Evening, boys,’ Fox said as his danger sensors lit up.

‘Fuck off—this ain’t your business,’ replied one of the men in a deep, heavily accented Afrikaans voice. Two more figures emerged from the bushes to Fox’s right.

‘How do you know what kind of business I’m in?’ asked Fox, buying himself time to weigh up his opponents. ‘Why don’t you boys leave those girls alone—I’m sure you can find something you like at the casino.’ The casino was a notorious spot for Thai prostitutes.

‘Piss off, mate, last chance.’ This came from a mountain of a man to Fox’s right.

Fox took a few more steps towards the five beefy men surrounding him. ‘You see,’ he began in a low, calm voice, ‘there’s the problem.’ His blue eyes came alive and gleamed before the threat in front of him.

The first two sailors looked at each other in bemusement.

‘Last chance, boys . . . how about I spot you a couple hundred for a good time some place else?’ Fox continued in the same crisp voice. His days in the navy had included being at the pointy end of enough conflicts to know what he could handle. This situation was borderline. Have to catch them off guard if it blows up...

Of the two men to Fox’s right, the largest, apparently the leader, gave a laugh.

In a lightning move that none expected and barely saw, Fox knocked two of the thugs to the ground. They dropped with cries of agony, whilst in seemingly the same passage of motion Fox’s leg spun to his right with perfect timing. The resulting crunch was sickening. The man on the receiving end fell to the ground clutching his throat, barely able to breathe after the gracefully savage blow.

Fox was now facing the last two standing, the leader being one of them. His look of fright and disbelief turned to rage and he gestured his remain- ing henchman forward.

Fox let him approach. When the man produced a long curved blade, the two women—until now stunned into silence—let out shrill cries.

The two men mirrored each other’s movements in a circular motion, much like a battle of wits between a matador and a near-defeated bull. The thug made his blunder when he got tired of sending jabs at Fox, which were expertly parried, and made an angry slash at his opponent. Fox jumped back a little to let the swipe go by, then caught the beam- like arm of the man and broke it like a twig across his upcoming knee, following with an elbow in the man’s face.

Fox turned to where the leader stood, but was a second too late. Another cry came from the women, this time in warning, as Fox moved around, but a blow to the side of his head, accompanied by the shattering of glass, ended all motion.

Fox’s eyes were still open when he hit the ground in a heap. The last thing he remembered passing through his blurred vision was a pair of feet moving towards him.




MARCH 2005

Fox lay in a pool of mud, the rain cutting visibility to a few metres. To his left was Leading Seaman John Birmingham, covered in blood from a gouge across his brow.

‘They’ve got us pegged, Lieutenant,’ Birmingham said as he loaded another high-explosive round into his M203 grenade launcher.

‘Looks that way, JB,’ Fox said, using a small mirror to look above the rim of the trench they had taken cover in. If they didn’t move in a few minutes, they’d be fully submerged in the torrential downpour. Fox felt the mud sucking him down and shifted his weight to compensate. His fatigues were heavy with rainwater. Not that the Royal Australian Navy’s Clearance Divers minded getting wet. Especially CDT4, specialists in shore assaults and the most active unit in the Australian military.

‘Try to get the others on the blower again,’ Fox said, as a spray of heavy-calibre automatic gunfire tore into the trees around them.

‘Damn if these are bloody militia!’ Birmingham said, trying the satellite phone again.

‘Indonesian Army, you reckon?’ Fox wiped down his Austeyr assault rifle, wishing he had one of the SAS’s new M4s—much better in the wet.

Several more shots rang out, splinters of wood showering them, before Birmingham answered.

‘They’re M16s, boss—and they’re gettin’ closer. No answer on the sat-tel.’

Fox looked across at the confident face of Birmingham and was glad he had chosen him for this recon. There was supposed to be a prison camp of East Timorese refugees nearby, and the man next to him had seen more combat than anyone else in CDT4. Birmingham’s cool head under live fire was invaluable, especially since they were well outside the mandated security zone and no one knew where they were.

‘Ideas, JB?’ Fox asked.

Birmingham looked about him; the visibility was unchanged. ‘Fire a couple of HE rounds and bolt, or wait here for a full company of bad guys to show up.’ He took a couple of jelly babies from his top pocket and passed one over.

‘Hmmm, tough call,’ Fox said.

‘That’s why you’re paid the big bucks, sir,’ Birmingham said, cocking his M203 ready for fire. ‘Okay, let’s do it. We’ll hump it north, exactly a kay from here, if we get separated,’ Fox said, inserting a round into his grenade launcher.

‘On three,’ Fox said, getting ready to move. ‘One,’ Birmingham said, moving into position. ‘Two,’ Fox said, doing the same.

‘Three!’ In unison the pair raised to one knee, brought their grenade launchers up . . .

. . . and came face to face with thirty rifle barrels, topped by the camouflaged faces of Indonesian Special Forces and the unpainted faces of the local militia.

10 Responses to ‘Foxhound free until Jan 14’

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted January 12, 2015
Did you discover your namesake here or were you informed before it happened?

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted January 12, 2015
I approved.

Respond to this thread

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted January 12, 2015
I'm proud of you, John.

You didn't fire the fucking thing off in a closet this time. ;) Or did you do it off stage?

Umm, where does he get that the M-4 works better in the wet?
Seriously, excellent stuff. Going to have to add it to my stack.

On the Outer Marches

Therbs mumbles...

Posted January 12, 2015
James Phelan has a back catalogue of 'splodey/action gear worth a look and not only 'cos JB gets his beans cashed in the first Fox book.

Respond to this thread

tqft asserts...

Posted January 12, 2015
Only if I transfer my amazon account from a USA one to Australian amazon. And not have my US amazon credit transferred.
Also will I lose access to books released in US but not in Oz?
Am I allowed to hate on amazon?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted January 12, 2015
No. It is dangerous even thinking it.

Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 12, 2015
The last guy who tried it went to pieces. All over the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. In shark faeces.

Respond to this thread

Bangar is gonna tell you...

Posted January 12, 2015
Can heartily recommend Mr Phelan's work. Very good reads and he should apologise (OK buy a beer) for tuckerizing the Boss.
PS read the alone series, bugger got me on the first book

Respond to this comment

Chaz is gonna tell you...

Posted January 13, 2015

Have to say it made my day to see The Scribes literary death so quick in the book....

As JP is such a nice guy everyone should buy his books.

Respond to this comment

Surtac puts forth...

Posted January 13, 2015
Acquired it yesterday and finished it this arvo. A great little read, and Mr Phelan will be getting some more of my shekels.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Foxhound free until Jan 14'