Month: October 2015

Happy Terrifying Sundering of the Veil Between Worlds

While you enjoy your “candy” and chortle at hokey horror movies and generally have a grand old time spare a thought, won’t you, for us here in Ireland as we cower in UTTER TERROR as the Dagda withdraws his protection and every foul dead and demonic thing swarms through the open sidhe to prey on our terrified populace as happens every Samhain. No. No. Enjoy your “trick or treats” (for us, there is only “trick”. Only ever “trick”.) Listen to “The Monster Mash” as we cover our ears from the mind-shattering screams of the banshee. Have fun carving your pumpkin Jack O’Lanterns.

See this? It’s a medieval Irish Jack O’Lantern. It’s carved from a turnip. Lower your ear to its mouth, and it will tell you the hour of your death.

But anyway, I have briefly left the safety of the Samhain bunker to let you know that there is a BIG update coming on the 8th of November. Something really cool. Something I can’t talk about yet. But it’s big. Or it will be, if I survive. OH CRAP I’VE BEEN SEEN!

"THERE YOU ARE! OH MAN, I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR!"

“THERE YOU ARE! OH MAN, I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR!”

"Please! Let me live! Take one of the maps!"

“Please! Let me live! Take one of the continents!”

"ONE OF? SORRY BUDDY, I ALREADY FUSED THEM INTO ONE MASSIVE CONTINENT FOR MY OWN TWISTED AMUSEMENT!"

“”ONE OF”? SORRY BUDDY, I ALREADY FUSED THEM INTO ONE MASSIVE CONTINENT FOR MY OWN TWISTED AMUSEMENT!”

"MOOOUSSE...HELP...US..."

“MOOOUSSE…HELP…US…”

"God I hate Halloween."

“God I hate Halloween.”

The Devil’s Heir- Chapter 6

CHAPTER 6: THE STOOP-BACKED CITY

They drove for what felt like miles until finally the city began to shade the horizon, slowly becoming darker and more solid.

“Who built this place?” Marie whispered, and you had to whisper.

“No one knows.” said Angela “It was always here.”

And it looked like it had always been there. The houses looked like ruins in the jungle look, as if they are part of the trees and the vines, as if they too are of the forest and not made by man. They looked as if they had been grown, as if the bricks and mud and mortar had slowly pushed their way out of the ground and come to rest. No two were alike, some leaned left and some right. As they drove through the streets she saw that there were quite a number of people out, but they looked fewer, because everyone kept their distance from each other. Nobody walked in pairs, and everyone walked hunched and with their eyes downward cast, stark against the pale walls of the silent, grave-like houses.

Marie felt a shudder pass through her, and the walls on either side of the street seemed to cave in a little closer. She sat back in her seat and closed her eyes, and felt for her comb.

If you could, for a moment, be whisked away from home and stand in any street of the city, you would at first be struck by the horrible, unbreakable greyness of the place. The buildings were as grey as the sand which was as grey as the people which was as grey as the sky which was as grey as the buildings…and on and on it went in a never ending cycle of dullness and despair. But after a few minutes you would begin to feel a horrible sensation that you had been here before. Those grim, rainy Thursdays. Those winter vigils at inner city bus stops with the sky hanging like an iron dome overhead. For purgatory is little more than life played again, a repeat of the main feature. Only now the jokes have been done to death, the twists can be seen a mile off, the characters irritate through familiarity and anything that once was new has now been seen a million times before.

The truck finally shuddered to a halt and there was a silence.

(more…)

fox

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

I’ve got a lot of love for Roald Dahl, even if he was a bit of an unpleasant cuss. He taught me how to read, after all. When I was around four or five years old I was taken to Temple Street children’s hospital for one of my periodic lung re-inflations (I had asthma and smog in Dublin in the eighties was so thick you could chip your teeth on it). While waiting to be seen I picked up a copy of The Magic Finger, which I remember being the first book I ever read through from beginning to end. Dahl was huge when I was growing up. He was our JK Rowling. That probably says something about us, but then again, I think it’s often overstated just how violent and horrifying his stories were. I mean, sure, they were violent and horrifying, but it was all a matter of tone. Roald Dahl was like Rebecca Black, he sounded a lot worse than he actually was. A plot description The BFG or The Witches is arguably more horrific than the books themselves. Roald Dahl took horror and made it so ridiculous and luridly over the top that you couldn’t help but laugh at it. In doing so, he made our terrors ridiculous. I think that’s why so many children loved his work, even nervous kids like me. Roald Dahl didn’t make us feel scared. He made us feel brave.

The trouble with adapting Roald Dahl for screen is that, by necessity, you lose the author’s voice and that tone I talked about often goes out the window. That’s how you get something like the 1989 BFG film which, while certainly not bad, is just cussing terrifying. There have been just under a dozen films based on Dahl’s work (not counting his own screenplays like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and they range in quality from “terrible” to “one of the greatest movie musicals of all time”.
Chocolate

With the same story at both poles, oddly enough.

Today’s movie, Fantastic Mr Fox, is based on Dahl’s 1970 novella of the same name. It’s probably fair to call the book “minor Dahl”, it’s certainly not as well known or beloved as Matilda, BFG or The Witches but I really loved it as a child. It’s a simple enough story, Mr Fox steals poultry from three horrible farmers, said farmers roll up with some serious firepower and blast Mr Fox’s tail off but he gets the last laugh in the end by tunnelling into their farms and stealing all their cuss and throwing a big cuss-off party. Whatever, I really liked it. But as you can probably tell it’s a fairly slight story which honestly is perfect for adaptation. You see, the best Dahl movies are those where someone with their own distinctive voice comes and builds a story around Dahl’s basic framework. And there are few voices in Hollywood as distinctive as Wes Anderson, who’s work is so distinctive that Slate created a Wes Anderson bingo card.
Would you like to play a game?

Would you like to play a game?

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The Devil’s Heir-Chapter 5

CHAPTER 5: THE BLACK SCORPION

I am not weak, thought Mabus.

I am strong, and Hell has made me so.

As he stood on the balcony of the Chamber gazing out at his city he gripped the railing and felt the solid stones beneath his feet. I am solid, he thought. I am durable. I am not a wet lump of tissue and nerve endings bottled in a glass womb, I am free. I am whole. I am strong.

And Hell has made me so.

“Master?”

Mabus turned to Groethuis.

“Forgive me Doctor.” he said “I was somewhere else.”

“Where, if I might be so bold to ask?”

“Out there.” he said, stretching a spindle-like finger out to where the line of the storm broke and blurred the red horizon. Hes out there waiting for us. Out there is Dis, the infernal city. Pandaemonium, where the devils hold council in golden chambers. Out there is Caina, Antenora, Ptolomea…Out there is Judecca. Out there is the Black Throne. And out there…

He paused.

Out there is a little girl looking for her father.

He fell silent.

(more…)

The Devil’s Heir-Chapter 4

CHAPTER 4: IN THE ETERNAL HURRICANE

He wondered where she was now.

Often he would hear the men talking, telling that they had seen her, a red-haired girl far in the distance struggling against the raging wind.

Last night as he had lain in his tent he had heard a lone voice singing in the darkness, low and clear through the never-ending wolf howl of the storm.

Marie most innocent

Hear my song.”

Watch over me.”

And lead me through the night.”

Already they were singing hymns to her. And often when watches were changed in the night the standard salute of “Ave Mabus” was answered with “Et Ave Marie.”

Cole wondered if Mabus knew that he was now sharing his divinity with her in the minds of his soldiers. He wondered what it was about her that appealed to them.

He supposed that it was the idea of a girl descending into Hell out of love for her father, someone who didn’t have to be here but chose to be. But he knew his men, and he would not have thought them prone to sentiment. Devotion to her had sprung up almost overnight and had taken him completely by surprise.

Where would it end? Two days before a Hussar had been knifed in the mess for telling a rather gruesome joke about her death.

Maybe it was because they needed more than Mabus could give them. Mabus could inspire them, rally them, threaten them, terrify them. But he could not love them. Mabus could send them out into the desert. But only Marie could care whether they lived or died. At least, so it was in their heads.

Cole opened his eyes and watched the darkness. For tradition’s sake he pulled at the chains but they held as firm as ever. He remembered the first thing he always told a squad before he took them out on a sortie. “Die before you let them take you prisoner. Always. Do not let these things take you alive.”

Great advice Cole, he thought to himself. If only you weren’t the only one in the squad who hadn’t followed it.

“Your move.”

“Do I even have a chance of beating you?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Way I was trained. I have to be able to predict any possible outcome. So if I’m in a fight and there’s more than one guy, I have to be able to out-think any plan they might come up with and I have to do it quickly. War is like chess, that’s why it was invented, to train princes and generals to think tactically. So just like I can see any outcome of a fight, I can see any outcome of a chess game.”

“So I can’t beat you?”

“No. Your move.”

Isabella blew a clump of black hair out of her eyes with a grumpy huff and moved a bishop three squares diagonally.

“Check.” she said, without much enthusiasm.

“Good move.” he said kindly and moved a pawn forward, trapping her bishop. Isabella swore under her breath.

“Where did you learn to play?” he asked, lining up the pieces he had conquered in neat little formations.

“Mariana.” she muttered, her hand covering her mouth as she tried desperately to rescue the board.

Cole didn’t say anything. Mariana was a taboo subject.

She had been foster mother to Marie and Isabella and had perished along with all the other Temporal Adepts when Mabus had bombed their council. Marie and Isabella had been spirited away by Mabus, and had ended up in the Scorpion’s unlikely care. Now Marie was gone, traded by Mabus to the demon Rashgiel, and Isabella was left alone, with only Cole for company. Their relationship was complex. On the one hand, Isabella was very grateful to have Cole. On the other, she could never forget that he worked for the man who had taken everything away from her.

“Cole, what did you do?” Isabella asked him.

“What?”

“Well, you were going to Hell, weren’t you? That’s why you joined with Mabus.”

Her dark eyes seemed to be probing him. He wondered how someone so young could look so sick of life.

“What did you do?” she asked him.

“I killed a lot of people.” he said simply “That’s the long and short of it.”

(more…)

DuckTales_the_Movie_-_Treasure_of_the_Lost_Lamp

DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

Eighties kids have a tendency to loudly proclaim that the cartoons they grew up with, your Masters of the Universe, your Transformers, your My Little Ponies were so much better than the cartoons made for kids today.

Why do they say that? Lead. Lead was in everything back then. Paint, exhaust fumes, you name it. And lead is well known to have a harmful effect on intelligence. Couple this with the radiation from the hole in the ozone layer frying their brains and the still lingering effects of Chernobyl and quite frankly it’s a wonder that your typical eighties kid can tied their own shoes, much less attempt an objective assessment of the state of made for TV animation then and now. God love them, they’ve suffered through so much. Now, I am an eighties kid by birth but I converted to the church of 21st century animation a looooong time ago so let me put this one to bed. No. Cartoons were not better in the eighties than they are now. Know how I know? Because cartoons have never been as good as they are now. Pretty much every cartoon made for television from the nineteen fifties to late eighties was garbage. Sure, there were talented people working on them, but they were people, not gods, and there simply was no way to contend with the forces of microscopic budgets, corporate mandated toy-schilling and stiflingly conservative broadcast standards and create something consistently excellent or even good. Yes, occasionally an episode of Transformers might get through that still holds up today but these were very, very rare exceptions (I’m talking exclusively about American TV animation I should hasten to add). Contrast that with today: American animation studios are consistently making shows for kids that are better than most of the stuff they make for adults. Pearl from Steven Universe is one of the most fascinating, layered, tragically flawed characters on television right now, period. Gravity Falls is unfolding an ongoing mystery plot with a skill and intelligence that The X-Files and Lost could only dream about. Adventure Time takes Twin Peaks to school with its pure surrealism. Eighties, I hate to break it to you, even our remakes of your shows are a tenfold improvement. You have Transformers? We have Transformers: Prime. You have Thundercats? We have Thundercats 2011. You have My Little Pony? We have Friendship is Magic.  

GIJoeHeader

You have an army?

We have a HULK.

We have a HULK.

So what happened? Whence came this huge leap forward in quality?

Where else?

Where else?

 

So some time in the late eighties Disney rolled up their sleeves and decided it was time to show these chumps who the big dog was. Disney began producing high quality TV animation intended for syndication. Critics scoffed, saying that this was an expensive folly that would bring the Disney company into bankruptcy.
"Ha. Motherfuckers never learn."

“Ha. Motherfuckers never learn.”

Instead, these shows completely revolutionised the American animation TV landscape. Soon after, Warner Bros also got in on the act with Tiny Toons, Animaniacs and Batman the Animated Series to name a few. In essence, all modern TV animation owes its existence to Disney’s gamble in the late eighties, and in particular to their most popular show; DuckTales.
The massive popularity of DuckTales is something that’s always confused me a little. I mean sure, I watched the show and I liked it fine, but what is it about this story about three duck kids and their miserly grunkle that made it to 100 episodes? Couple of things. Firstly, simply by dint of the fact that it wasn’t terrible it was already head and shoulders above pretty much any other cartoon on the air. But I think another key to its longevity was the fact that it’s quite similar to Doctor Who. One of the reasons that show is older than Jesus is because, aside from the fact that they can recast the main actor, the Doctor has a machine that lets him go anywhere in space or time. There is literally no end to the stories you can tell with that basic premise. And in a way, Scrooge McDuck also has a TARDIS. He’s so wealthy that there’s literally nowhere on Earth he can’t afford to go. Want to do a story on the bottom of the ocean? Scrooge buys a submarine. Want to take him to space? Scrooge buys a spaceship. Want to do a story with dinosaurs? Scrooge gets his personal mad scientist to build him a time machine. Want Scrooge to meet Satan? He has a heart attack and goes to hell because it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to see heaven. Again, you will never run out of stories.
Another thing to consider is that DuckTales was based on a hugely popular comic book, by the legendary Carl Barks. Although Donald Duck was of course created by Walt Disney, it was Barks who did more than anyone else to flesh out everyone’s favourite psychotic waterfowl, creating Duckburg and a whole host of supporting characters; Scrooge McDuck, Gyro Gearloose, Flintheart Glomgold, Magica deSpell (it truly was a duck blur). The Duck comics have never really been huge in the States where the comics scene is of course SUPERHEROES SUPERHEROES SUPERHEROES NOW UNTIL THE END OF TIME but they’re very popular in what I like to call “Asterix country”, Europe, Latin America and Asia. In fact, I even tried to get my hands on a copy of The Many Lives of Scrooge McDuck for this review from my local comic shop. This lead to the following exchange. I swear to almighty God I am not making this up.
Comic_Book_Guy_WEE

“Sorry, it’s sold out. We sold the last copy to Killian Murphy.”

“…Killian Murphy? The actor?”

“…Killian Murphy? The actor?”

“The Scarecrow himself, yes. He came in here and asked specifically for anything pertaining for Scrooge McDuck. Who were we to refuse him?”

“The Scarecrow himself, yes. He came in here and asked specifically for anything pertaining to Scrooge McDuck. And who were we to refuse him?”

I SWEAR TO GOD.
But yes, Donald Duck comics are a big effing deal in many parts of the world. Personally though, I always found the entire concept of DuckTales the TV show to be really depressing. Think about it. Hewey, Dewey and Louie get sent to live with their uncle, Donald. I don’t think we ever found out why in the show, but there is no good reason that happens. And then, after losing their parents, Donald passes them off on his uncle, a miserly one-percenter who clearly cares more about his money than his nephews while Donald is off in the navy. Those three little ducks must be carting around a metric ton of abandonment issues. The reason why Donald isn’t present in the series apart from a few cameos is that Roy Disney didn’t want any of Uncle Walt’s classic characters getting TV stink on ’em. Instead, the character of Launchpad was created to fill the role Donald usually did in the comics. Today’s movie, Treasure of the Lost Lamp, came out in 1990 and served as a season finale of shorts to the beloved series. Did DuckTales go out with a bang or a whimper? Let’s take a look.

The Devil’s Heir-Chapter 3

CHAPTER 3: A MAN RETURNS TO A BAR

In a cell so small that the walls pressed in on his shoulders, back and chest Thomas Hieronimo squatted in perfect stillness like a fly caught in amber.

He had been here so long he had begun to forget what he looked like, and now when he thought of himself, he saw himself as sensations, four points of pain in blackness. And yet, he knew that he was not hungry or thirsty. And that terrified him, because if he had not been here long enough to become hungry or thirsty, if he had really only been here hours, or maybe even minutes…

He screamed suddenly and he felt his scream shiver along the walls like rippling water.

If he had only been here for minutes, then what would the years feel like?

Then suddenly, there was a creaking and Thomas was bathed in yellow light and his darkness-gorged eyes became pinpoints of agony.

Through streaming tears he could see two figures silhouetted against the light, black as death

Minutes later he was being marched through the hallways of the Combat Tower with two Red Scorpions behind him. Every joint in his body was screaming in pain but he refused to let it show. If these goons were marching him to a firing squad he’d be damned if he’d give them the entertainment value of a silly walk.

The walked what seemed like a mile of grey floor and wall before reaching a tiny green door.

One of the Reds opened it, roughly shoved Thomas inside.

In the elevator, crushed between the two Reds, Thomas came dangerously close to panicking.

Just when he felt his last nerve about to snap the door opened and they were out in hallway.

Another mile of grey floor and wall was walked.

Another door, larger this time, black.

The Red pressed a button.

Thomas watched the door swing open and felt hands grip either shoulder.

This is it, he thought.

He was quite surprised therefore to find himself flung roughly through the air and onto the street.

He leaped to his feet, ignoring his protesting muscles, and proceeded to brush the sand off his clothes.

Sand?

That wasn’t right.

He turned to face the two Reds.

“Go on.” said one “Beat it.”

(more…)

Any artists want to make some money?

Hi peeps. Okay, confession time. A few years back I did a stupid thing. I got a chest tattoo without checking the artist’s previous work. I figured that the design I wanted was simple enough that I didn’t really need Carvaggio. Turns out I did.

Drink it in.

And now you know why I go by “Unshaved” Mouse.

Sooo…I’ve been wanting to get this fixed pretty much since I got the damn thing but the question has always been how. So I’m turning to you guys. If there’s anyone out there who reads this blog with some artistic chops, draw me up a design and send it into unshavedmouse@gmail.com. If your design gets chosen you shall be reimbursed fifty yankee dollars. Couple of things to note.

  1. Feel free to make the design your own. As long as the basic idea of an eclipsed sun ringed by eight moons is still there, you are free to experiment in any style, colour, motif, whateva. At this stage I’m just looking for a really striking design.
  2. There may not be a winner. If I don’t see a design that doesn’t really speak to me…I’m not going to spend many hours getting it excruciatingly and permanently engraved on my skin. Sorry. I’m weird like that.
  3.  Lastly, please share this to any artist friends you know.

That about does her, thanks guys.

The Devil’s Heir- Chapter 2

CHAPTER 2: THE SANDSTORM

It had come from nowhere, a great brawling, howling, sucking monster of a sandstorm that tore at her face with granite claws and seared her ears with its wail. She felt like she was in a storm of razors as they struggled blindly over dune and down crevice. Finally she felt Angelas strong, bony hand clasp her by the elbow and her mouth at her ear screaming We have to stop! Its getting too bad.

Unable to answer without getting a mouthful of sand, Marie simply nodded. She dropped to the ground and pulled her dress over her head. She was now in a tiny little sunless world, the storm a dull roar around her head. Then she felt Angelas cloak being thrown over her, and the world expanded as she pulled the dress down and looked around. The cloak was barely big enough to cover her shoulders. She held the fabric close to her and hunkered down. She could make out the huddled outlines of Angela, Geoff, Hannah and…where was Tristan?

Angela and Marie peered out from under the cloak and looked desperately around.

There! Angela called out and pointed to a tiny figure in the distance, stumbling pathetically and screaming in pain as the sand tore at his face.

Get back under! Marie called Ill get him.

Without waiting for a reply, she closed her eyes and concentrated.

She was in a meadow, watching a rabbit amble softly over a grassy knoll, green and dashed with yellow cowslips.

She opened her eyes. All was still.

The roar of the storm was now a gentle, deep, loving croon. The grains of sand hung in the air, turning ever so slowly, softly, softly. The sky was in need of a good dusting.

The distant figure of Tristan, infinitely clearer in the frozen storm, stood out stark and rigid.

Marie ran towards it.

Behind her, the statue like figure of Angela began to slowly change, as a look of shock and amazement spread over its glacial face. The eyes widened, the jaw slowly grew slack with the wonder of seeing this young girl seemingly run like the wind.

Marie was not really running any faster than she normally could. She had simply slowed down time around her, so that she could cover the distance before Tristan could wander even further away.

Her feet lightly touched the sand, the footprints only forming several seconds after she had run on.

She loved this. Once, she had only been able to do it unconsciously, and had associated it with danger, fear and death.

Now, it was something she could do at will. Just stop the noise and the chaos, and everything would become still and beautiful.

She reached out and touched Tristan, releasing the slow time bubble around her.

And reeled as he punched her full in the face.

She lay on the sand , her head swimming. The pain ground her skull beneath it’s iron thumb.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

She had come up behind him too quickly. Most likely she had scared the life out of him and he had responded with instinct.

Shielding her eyes against the hissing sand, she got shakily to her feet. Her face was on fire but, oddly, there was no blood.

Tristan had run off, and had vanished into the maelstrom.

Marie suddenly realised that she had no idea how to get back to Angela.

She heard a roaring in the distance. And something told her it was not the storm.

She felt for her blade. It was there.

She felt for her comb. It was not.

Her hands plunged into the sand, desperately clawing through the grains hoping to feel a thin sliver of bone. It was gone.

No, no, no, no, no…

She was now blind, the storm had become so bad, and still she scraped and dug, hoping against all odds that she’d find the one and only thing that gave her a link to her father. When she felt it’s coolness in her hand, she felt his hand on her shoulder. It’s scent was the musky aroma of his beard. It was a wand that could conjure her father’s spirit from beyond the grave.

(more…)

The Devil’s Heir- Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1: DRINKING FROM THE LETHE

The sand was sifting in the wind, and the iron coffin was now half buried beneath the lead-grey grains.

Slumped over the open casket was the withered, stiff body of a Shade. The wind tugged gently at it’s ragged, black garments and the hood had been blown back, revealing the creature’s pale, wrinkled features. Fluid still seeped from the wound in it’s chest, staining the grey sand.

Alive, it had been a snarling, terrifying thing. A harvester of souls and haunter of nightmares.

Dead, it was small and piteous. The face, now that the cruel mouth was slack and the golden eyes dead, looked fragile and very old.

Leading away from the casket was a small trail of prints which led off into the distance towards the huge ebony black mountains. They could be seen making their way up a huge hulking sand dune, like the wake of an ant in a bowl of sugar. And slowly, as the wind blew and the sand swept, the little footfalls drowned quietly, and were gone as if they had never been.

You could see her from a thousand miles away.

Whether against the endless grey sky and sand dunes that mirrored each other in colour like a reflection in a lake or against the great hulking range of obsidian mountains, she stood out like a flame in the night. The wind caught her great bonfire of hair and cast it back and forth so that it looked like she was burning from the head up. See her now; the collar of her dress pulled up over her nose to screen out the sand, and her eyes are a green you’ve never seen before. In her left hand she holds an old bone comb, in her right a blade with a golden handle. She is perhaps thirteen years old. No more.

Marie stopped.

The storm was getting worse, and the mountains seemed no closer than when she had set out days (weeks, months, years, hours?) ago. This place was unlike anywhere she had ever been, and she had travelled throughout much of space and time in her short life. She had seen the Moon from the inside. But this place…

The sand was grey.

The sky was grey.

The mountains were black.

And nothing more. Nothing changed apart from the wind picking up occasionally. The entire landscape seemed frozen in time. It had even infected her body. Since coming to this place she hadn’t eaten or drunk. Her body no longer made waste. And when she slept, which was rarely, she no longer dreamt.

Nonetheless, it was now getting harder to see, and the sand was getting in her eyes. She bent down and drew her head back into her dress like a turtle retreating into it’s shell. Huddled on the sand, she waited for the desert to calm, and slept.

She was woken by a stabbing pain in her chest. She gasped, and sat up, thinking that perhaps she’d rolled onto a particularly sharp stone. But no, the pain was still there. For an insane second she thought she was having a heart attack. But the pain was in the centre of her chest, between her lungs, a hard little nugget of discomfort. She breathed in slowly and gently, and the pain receded to a dull ache. She slowly got to her feet, made sure she had her comb and blade, and set off again towards the mountains.

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