>Oh dearie me. Time is pressing on me with wingéd feeties. I am rushing to finish this book, and while it is going well, there is quite a lot of it left… so I leave you with the news that Eric Flint and I have put all our joint shorts, a novella and a Novelette set in the RATS BATS AND VATS universe up on kindle. Well, would have, except it isn’t showing up yet.
The cover for Crawlspace and other stories is just stunning – a high gloss platinum blonde with vast… tracts of land. Really. Go and look, would I lie to you (ans: yes. I write fiction. I am a professional liar, sometimes even almost believable).
And here is an excercise in character building from the WIP… it’s raw, first draft stuff.
“What are you planning to help us with? ” asked Meb.
“Food and shelter were what you sought, I thought,” said the Spriggan. “Shelter is easy enough. Food is a bit more difficult. Not food for the likes of you, anyway. Simple fare is also easy enough. But the noble ladies of Lyonesse wouldn’t want to eat that.”
“Given a choice, I would,” said Meb. “I’ve had enough of fancy food that tasted of stale bread for my lifetime. Give me stale bread that tastes like stale bread and I’ll be happy.”
“Ah. Stale bread is a challenge. We’ve got fresh, but it’d take a few days to make it stale. But if that’s what you want…”
“No, fresh is even better.”
“Well, it’ll make you sick, I shouldn’t wonder,” said the Spriggan.
“They’re dangerous, M’lady, said Neve timidly. “Spirits of old giants, so they do say.”
“Spirits of the rocks and tors actually,” said the spriggan. “And we’re dangerous all right, but not to you. Sadly.”
“The knockers and piskies did us no harm, Neve,” said Meb, reasonably. You even had Knocker babies on you lap.”
“Probably piddled on you,” said the Spriggan with a kind of glum satifaction. “They do.”
“They were good little things,” said Neve defensively. “Nice to me and M’lady.”
“Ah, should have been suspicious then,” said the spriggan. “I daresay they gave you food which turned your insides to wax or something.”
“You’re a grumpy so-and-so,” said Meb.
“We have that reputation, yes. Now if you’ll follow me I think we’ve got a few rabbits and some wild onions in the pot. Won’t agree with you of course.”
Meb shouldered the axe, stepped forward and took the rather surprised-looking spriggan by the arm. Gray-skinned and touched with lichens he was still warm, she noticed. “Lead on. Come on Neve. He won’t eat us, or he could have, because there is another one at the start of the lane. We’re between them.
The Spriggan blinked. “My brother will give you a hand with the bags, if you like,” he said, escorting her in as courtly a manner as any of the Haerthmen of the Prince’s retinue.
They walked up the hill, to where the abandoned walled fields gave way to grazing lands and to the rocky tor at the top. Meb recognise it from her day’s hunting, and realised just how close to Dun Tagoll they still were. “It was you that I saw, watching me, wasn’t it?”
The Spriggan nodded. “We weren’t too sure how to talk to you in all that press around you. Too much cold iron. It won’t kill us straight off, but we don’t like it.”
He tapped a rock and it slid aside to reveal a passage down. “An old tomb, he said. “Gloomy but clean and dry.”
Meb suppressed a shudder. “Just don’t mention the tomb part to Neve. She’s… she’s live a bit of sheltered life, compared to me. Can we leave it open?”
“It’ll let spiders in I daresay.”
“For now.” A glance showed Neve was pretty well white with terror. She winked at her, to tell her it would be all right. And Neve managed a smile, and appeared to relax slightly.
They walked down stone steps and into what should have been the cold tomb. The Spriggans plainly didn’t have much regard for these ideas, as it was pleasantly warm, and scented with… not dust and decay, but the smell of onions, garlic, and wild thyme, and cooking meat. It might once have been a tomb, but the current occupants had scant resepect for funerary furniture or the dead that might have lain there, having used the central scarophagus to make a table, on which they had laid a cloth, and around which they’d placed several three legged stools. A fire burned in a grate in the corner, with a pot hanging from a hob, from which the smells were plainly coming.
“Welcome to our lair,” said the spriggan, rather formally.
Meb wasn’t sure how one answered that, but she had a feeling that formally would be best. “Our thanks to you. May it remain dry and warm and safe,” she said.
“What… what are you cooking?” aske Neve, warily.
“Rabbits, I told you. We have to make do. We can’t get enough unwary travellers these days,” said the Spriggan tending the pot.