Monday, 29 November 2010

Trevor and the Dragon - Part 2


Just moments later the archers flew around the corner and were met with a terrible sight. On the ground, covered in blood, mud and cow dung, lay a small boy. He was groaning pitifully, and the archers saw immediately the trail that led away from the boy and into the woods.
‘Dragon prints,’ said the archer called John of the Dale.
Their captain, Thomas Hook, traced the claw-footed prints towards the woods. ‘Follow,’ he said, and then he crouched by the small boy as his men ran off.
‘Dragon,’ groaned the boy. Hook had seen some scruffy-looking boys in his time – in the countryside in winter it was rare to see anyone looking clean – but this boy was by far the scruffiest he had ever seen. He was dressed almost in rags and wore a most unusual pendant – a featureless block of wood tied around his neck on a length of twine.
Hook picked up the groaning boy – noting with some surprise that he was remarkably heavy, despite his small size – and carried him back into the cow shed and lay him on a bed of hay.
‘Stay there, lad, I’ll send someone to help you,’ he said. The boy nodded, moaning.
Hook ran out of the barn, and after his men, wondering briefly as he went how a boy so scruffy and ill-kept could afford a pair of wooden spectacles.
He had not gone a hundred yards before he met them coming back the other way. ‘Tracks stop, captain, just over the hill,’ said John of the Dale. He added, with a perplexed expression. ‘There’s footprints coming back, captain, but...’
‘But what, lad? Spit it out.’
‘They ain’t dragon prints, captain. They’re a child’s footprints.’
By the time they ran back to the barn the small boy had gone.


Anyone watching closely would have seen a pair of small footprints appear in the mud outside the cow shed. Knights, however, are large, loud and permanently angry, and not by nature observant. And these particular knights, faced with the unenviable task of facing a very large, very angry dragon, had been drinking mead and cider all day long, and were less observant than most. The small footprints stamped themselves into the thick mud in a most truculent way (if invisible feet can said to be truculent) and then after half a dozen steps transformed into large, lizard claw imprints, which promptly accelerated over the fields at a speed which was, as anyone with any common sense whatsoever would have observed, quite impossibly fast.


The bare branches of the dank forest swayed, though there was not a breath of wind, and then, quite suddenly Trevor appeared out of thin air, half way up a tree. Trevor jammed himself firmly in the branches, and slipped on his spectacles. He transformed into the small, horribly mucky boy who the soldiers mistakenly believed they had rescued from the dragon.
‘Chunk?’ Trevor lifted his shirt and wiped the blood from his chest. The arrow, which would have gone right through a normal boy’s body like a hot knife through butter, had merely nicked Trevor’s almost indestructible hide. ‘Chunk? Wake up!’ he grabbed the wooden block in both hands and shook it. ‘Wake up! I need you!’
The Chunk made a loud choking, rattling noise and then fell silent.
‘Wake UP!’ Trevor roared, and then looked around warily at the creaking branches surrounding him. ‘Listen Chunk,’ he continued in a whisper, ‘those soldiers, they’re Dragon Rouge. I saw them. They had the sigil on their chests! They’ve followed me, Chunk! They’ve follow me from Mab!’
‘I blinking known all that, you wooden-headed, leaf-brained—‘
But the Chunk did not seem to hear Trevor. ‘THE IMMORTAL KING AEOSON, FATHER OF JASON OF ARGO – argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol AR, and is widely used to feed cats on the planet Falemachorus - IS LEADER OF THE DRAGON ROUGE – rouge – red – red, red was the farmer’s wife’s bottom - BELIEVED TO BE OVER TWELVE THOUSAND YEARS OLD AEOSON, ALSO KNOW AS MR VIM – vim cleans as it sweeps as it cares, buy vim at your local supermarket now - PROFESSOR SIDNEY SILEX AND JANGLE MUMBLES THE GUITAR – swingin’ little guitar – MAN IS NOW BASED ON THE LEGENDARY PLANET MAB – oh planets red and stars of grey oh burning amber space fiends—‘
Chunk vibrated suddenly like a dying animal, and then croaked two words:
The Chunk fell silent, and though Trevor shook it, screeched at it and bashed it against the tree trunk, the wooden machine was dead and silent.
‘Marvelous!’ spat Trevor. He pulled off his spectacles, and without a downward glance he ran across the treetops, following his nose.


It had taken Trevor almost five years to create the Chunk, though, in truth, he could have created the wooden machines much faster. He and Dr Arcania had been employed by the Dragon Rouge to create weaponry on the planet Mab, a mysterious world full of mythic creatures such as unicorns, Stympalian Birds and Kraken. Machines did not work on Mab, anything mechanical or computerised simply disintegrated, and Trevor and Dr Lambton Arcania were forced to use steam power and, eventually, to adapt the planets peculiar living trees into computers. Chunks were much more advanced than any computer in history, but their wooden parts made them extremely fragile, but Trevor had come up with a unique solution to this. Chunks would repair themselves when planted in the earth, and, in an emergency, could be planted in manure and would regenerate their broken parts almost immediately.
But, part of the reason why Trevor had ended up in a small dirty village in a small, dirty England, in the dirty Dark Ages was that when he should have been secretly working on the Chunk under the nose of the Dragon Rouge, he had, in fact, secretly been working on a sub-space portal which fitted in his pocket and teleported an endless supply of chocolate bars from the legendary Kissing Cow Chocolate Factory in the Bleak Republic.
And so it was that Trevor almost choked to death on a large piece of chocolate when the small boy popped up from behind the large heap of dragon dung on which he was sitting.


‘You!’ Trevor felt a lump of chocolate that felt like a chunk of brick lodge in his throat. ‘What are you doing here!’
Trevor made a strangulated choking noise and spat out a large chunk of chocolate. ‘Bloody Nora!’ he gasped. ‘Are you barmy, you whey-faced chimp?’
Trevor found himself looking at a wide puzzled face beneath a curl of yellow hair. ‘Chimp?’ said the broad shouldered boy. ‘What is a chimp?’
Trevor goggled at the boy. He was dressed in a dirty jerkin that might of once been white but was so thick in sweat, dirt, blood and dung that it had turned an oddly colourless green-brown. But that, Trevor reckoned, was probably par for the course on this filthy planet – what was surprising about the boy was that his body was criss-crossed with thick leather belts, and the belts were strung with swords, knives and short handled lances.
‘It doesn’t matter what a chimp is,’ the boy snapped anxiously before Trevor could reply. ‘You must leave here now!’
‘Eh?’ Trevor frowned at the boy. ‘I ain’t going nowhere chuckles.’ He shoved his chocolate back into his pocket, and glanced down at the wooden edge of the chunk that was sticking out of the manure pile, stood up and pushed it out of sight under his foot. ‘Who are you, king of Vir? I was here first, chimp face, and I’m not going nowhere!’ Trevor blew a loud raspberry just in case the boy didn’t get the message.
‘Listen to me,’ he whispered urgently, ‘I am Bob, squire of Sir David Hylton, and if he should find—‘
‘What is this?’ interrupted a loud, strident voice. ‘What is this peasant doing here, squire? Does he not know that this is the haunt of the dread demons dragon? Or,’ there was the snickt sound of steel drawn on steel, and suddenly Trevor found the blade of a sword under his chin, ‘is this serf under their control perhaps?’

To be continued...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Mid-Week Report: Frequently encountered problems with time travel

It has been a while since I wrote short stories. They used to be my stock in trade - in fact the first Super Maxwell book was published because of a short story I wrote for the British Council called "Surf City" - now I find it almost impossible to write anything under 400 pages! But with Trevor and the Dragon I am sticking strictly to 40 pages...well, maybe 50!
The other problem, of course, is that I am living in Trevor's future. The last time you saw Trevor in Super Maxwell and the Burning Boys he was stuck in Mab with Pugg, Bella and Mickey Prickle. The last time I saw him he was in New Paris, a city under siege, eating a chocolate bar and talking to Billy Barker. So I am having to be very careful not to give away any of the plot of the new Maxwell book, Isle of the Dead, and am having to reread the first two books, Last Heroes and Burning Boys to remind me what YOU know about Trevor!
Actually, they're a pretty good read - if you don't have them you should pick up a copy...
More Medieval tomfoolery with Trevor next Monday.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Trevor and the Dragon - Part 1


Trevor Smethurst is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most intelligent creature in the whole of the universe.
Unfortunately Trevor Smethurst is also, without the slightest atom of doubt, the stupidest person in the entire universe.
I don’t really need to explain this to you, as Trevor will do his absolute best to prove this himself in no time at all.
But … if you really do need proof…
Trevor has just invented, alongside Dr Lambton Arcania (probably the second most intelligent creature in the universe) a device called a Chunk. A Chunk is a computer made entirely out of wood, but as well as being the most advanced computer in existence it is also a functioning time machine, a compass, can make coffee and cola and knows all the words to every song ever written in existence (including the ones everyone would much rather forget about).
Brilliant, you might think, absolutely brilliant.
But Trevor being Trevor he decided to test the Chunk on himself…
…Which is why he is currently hurtling through time and space completely out of control.
This sounds extraordinarily exciting. It is not. All of time and space, all packed together all at once, is a sort of dirty beige colour, and by far the most interesting thing about all of time and space is Trevor himself.
Trevor Smethurst looks like a small tyrannosaurus rex dressed in a maroon blazer. In fact he is an alien called a Killian dressed in a maroon blazer. In one pocket he has five bars of chocolate, in another he has a Monkey Master Blaster collector’s edition ruler (Trevor’s favourite comic book) and on his right inside pocket he has a pair of spectacles. These spectacles are another astonishing invention (created by Dr Arcania) which transform the wearer into whatever species is on that particular planet in that particular time period – which is just about to come in very handy indeed.


Trevor opened his eyes and found himself looking up at a ragged wooden hole through which white cloud floated across a blue sky. The first thing he noticed was the atrocious smell, the second thing he noticed was the rather odd, rather squishy something he was lying on.
The answer to both the terrible smell and his odd resting place became apparent when Trevor sat up and looked around. He was in a filthy old cow barn that stank of years and years of manure. Specifically he was sitting in a line of cows, the cows to his right and left looking at him balefully – the cow he had landed on was squashed underneath him with its legs sticking out and was … Well, it was as flat as a cow pat.
Trevor wondered briefly if he had landed in Prezema. ‘Hello?’ he said to the nearest cow. The cow looked at him stupidly and licked its wet nostrils with a long grey tongue, and Trevor breathed a sign of relief. Prezemans looked exactly like earth cows, and for a moment he wondered if he might be tried for ungulate slaughter instead of just malicious damage.
Trevor stood and stretched. He took a bar of chocolate out of his pocket, took a bite and looked through the hole in the roof, speculating idly how far he’d fallen when the big beige space time continuum had spat him out. Falling from extreme heights was not at all unusual in Trevor’s experience – he had often woken at the base of a tower or in the middle of a forest with a smashed trail of foliage above his head. Trevor was a Good Man, a sort of teenage superhero, and falling off high things was, he supposed par for the course – and being virtually indestructible falling from very high places didn’t particularly concern him…
Trevor looked around, grinding chocolate between his wicked-looking t-rex jaws.
‘D-D-D-‘ Trevor’s eyes met those of a doughy-faced boy with long, limp hair, dressed in what looked very much like a brown carpet. ‘D-D-D-‘ the boy stammered. ‘D-Dragon!’
Trevor looked around. ‘Where?’ he asked – but the boy didn’t answer, he was too busy running out of the cowshed screaming at the top of his voice.
Trevor wondered briefly what a “Dragon” was, and then, as voices joined in shouts of terror outside, sensibly decided this was probably not the time to find out, and leapt vertically upwards through the hole in the ceiling.


Trevor looked around, and found himself deeply disappointed by what he beheld.
He was stood on the roof a ramshackle cow barn, thatch tickling his huge reptilian feet. Oddly, Trevor noticed, there seemed to be more cows outside the barn than there were inside, all lined up in a row tied together by a length of brown rope. The land all around him was flat and brown, with the occasional patch of grey to break things up a little. The only landmarks in this flat and muddy country were a hill in the far distance, surrounded by leafless trees, and the equally distant glitter of a brown river.
Brown was a big colour here, Trevor decided. The land was brown, the trees were brown, the cows were brown, and even the armour on the knights who were clanking towards his with their muddy swords not glittering, was brown.
‘Fie!’ shouted one of the knights. ‘What manner of hideous Satanic spawn art thou?’
‘Eh?’ Trevor replied.
‘Thou mayest speak with the tongue of man,’ roared the dirty knight, waving his rusty sword, ‘but thou art the fire born spawn—‘
‘Do-you-speak-Eng-lish?’ Trevor enunciated carefully to the red faced man in the tight fitting armour.
‘I shalt take my mighty sword and smite—‘
‘Sorry! Can’t hear you!’ Trevor interrupted, taking a bite of his chocolate bar. ‘And I don’t speak berk,’ he muttered to himself.
The knights - there were four of them in all, two very thin and two very fat – clanked about waving their swords and calling for their lances, horses and pages, and achieving very little. Trevor sat on the roof off the barn, wiping cow dirt off his tail, eating this way through his bar of chocolate and watching the knights with disinterest.
He wondered vaguely where – and when – he was, and decided it didn’t really matter much. The Chunk would power up again in a matter of a few minutes and he could head whenever and wherever he wanted. That was a point…
Trevor reached into his jacket and pulled out a small block of wood, tied around his neck by a length of twine. ‘Chunk?’ he said to the featureless piece of wood.
‘Where are we?’ Trevor asked.
The lump of wood hummed slightly, and then replied, ‘EARTH.’
Trevor sighed, and rolled his eyes. It was the oldest joke in the book among Good Men when you asked them which planet they came from they always replied “Earth” – because all planets were called Earth by their inhabitants, it was only aliens who ever gave them names like Zeta Reticula 5, or Dog Cheek Planet 73.
‘Are you trying to be funny?’ Trevor snapped savagely. ‘Do you want to be turned into a blinking pencil?’
‘SORRY, JUST MY LITTLE JOKE,’ Chunk replied in its flat wooden voice. ‘This is the planet Terra, third planet in the Sol System, located in the Western Spiral Arm of the Milky—‘
Trevor groaned. ‘I get the idea,’ he interrupted.
Monkey town, he thought miserably, planet of the blinking chimps. The knights had now rallied in a line and were marching forward and hacking at the thatch, several feet below Trevor’s feet. Trevor had lived on Earth five years before, surrounded by chimps and monkeys, and had been glad to see the back of the place. He had no desire to return to this particular planet at any point in its past and future – the climate didn’t agree with him, he didn’t like the food, and several people from Earth had sworn to kill him.
‘DO YOU WISH TO KNOW THE YEAR?’ Chunk enquired.
‘I couldn’t give a monkey’s chuff,’ Trevor snapped. ‘Just tell me how long it will take you to power up and get me out of here!’
Chunk hummed thoughtfully. ‘POWER UP WILL TAKE PRECICELY—‘
Chunk vibrated suddenly, and then fell silent. Trevor shook the time machine with a frustrated howl – and noticed that something long and thin was sticking out of its back.
Another long thin thing appeared suddenly between his legs, and he swallowed his chocolate with a heavy gulp.
Trevor sprang to his feet just as an arrow appeared where his stomach had been just a second before. The knights were still noisily clattering their swords and shields and hacking ineffectually at the cow barn roof – but they had been joined by three more men. These men were tall and muscular, and though not dressed in armour, had a distinctly military bearing. In their hands they held bows which stretched from their heads to their toes, and Trevor would not have believed that a human would have the strength to draw such an huge weapon – right up until the point that one of the archers drew back his muscular arm and let loose an arrow that flew true across the rooftop, and hit Trevor right in the centre of his chest.
Trevor stumbled back, and with a howl of pain and despair, he fell backwards off the roof.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks

Work continues at a pace with Super Maxwell 3 - the first draft of which I'm hoping to finish by Christmas. In the meanwhile as a little Christmas present to you all (and to celebrate National Short Story Day on December 21) I am going to be publishing my favourite teenage T-Rex, Trevor Smethurst's, first solo adventure - Trevor and the Dragon.
Between Super Maxwell and the Burning Boys (where we unexpectedly find him in charge of Pugg, Bella and Mickey Prickle in Mab) to when we finally catch up with Trevor (eating a rat on a stick in a steam caravan) in Super Maxwell and the Isle of the Dead Trevor claims 150 years have passed. So where has he been? Well - you will find out very soon!
I will start publishing Trevor and the Dragon online next Monday (November 22) over 4 weeks, and then publish the story in its entirety on National Short Story Day on December 21.
I will (honest!) continue writing The Resurrection Bureau in the New Year - but Maxwell started shouting a bit too loud in my ear and I had to get back to him. I want to find out where Maxwell's adventures take him more than anyone - so the search for Excalibur will have to wait a while...