Arthur and Amorrie in London

A Soupçon of Magic

‘With an ear-ripping roar Tabitha thrust her trusty dried stalk of goat pizzle towards the monstrous hagfish that Heliconian’s magicks had awoken from deep below the Reedston Fen.

‘“Tabby, quick before it slimes us all,” screamed Naomi, stumbling as she tried to turn from the whiskery horror.

‘“By Shait’n’s claw, you shall not prevail.” The pizzle hummed, then whined, and, with a burst of unearthly radiance, lightning flashed towards the hagfish catching it full in its fat–’

‘No more Shadmas, I pray you,’ said my mistress, as I was building up to a florid fusillade of straining adjectives.

‘But mistress, I have far more for you to get your teeth into, magicks rain down from every quarter, Tabitha taps into unworldly powers such as have never bee–’

‘It is stirring stuff I grant you, but…’

I have heard it all before. She little understands what readers look for in a novel. Does she not read the dense columns devoted to Umbra gold and magicks in the Umbra Abominables? These scandal sheets are regularly read out to the regulars in The Scuttled Sea-hag. Of course, few of the clientele are able to read or write, but all still hunger for tales of wild magicks and beautiful Umbra maidens who live atop treasure hoards and give their hearts and gold willingly.

My mistress, J. L. Dawn, believes that no story should rest upon an immensity of magick power, for, she argues, if the hero or heroine is the most powerful person in the book, where is their vulnerability.

Whether it be fists, or swordplay, or conjuring tempests of smiting power, she will not have it. Her heroes are weak-muscled cowards such as Arthur Tenebris, or lowly men such as Minister Stanton, who barely even counts as a gentleman. They cannot muster even a plague of lice or a smite toenail spell between them.

‘Magic must be hard won, Shadmas,’ says she. ‘I liken it to coal. From it, you may conjure heat, but it comes with eye-watering smoke and any careless wielder will be burnt. Magicks should exact a terrible price, require hard to find elements or only work during advantageous times or conditions.

‘Only then does the reader experience a real fear that their hero has no easy way out of the dilemma in front of them.’

We will see… if she ever gives me a chance to pen a chapter. I will put the power of 100 suns at Lavinia Gracegirdle’s fingertips. How the denizens of the Scuttled Sea-hag will roar when she sets the formidable Mr Mack’s breeches aflame in The Queen ‘tween the Tides. Rather than the fate delivered by my mistress’s plot, which will leave them sobbing into their Old Tom.