Nan Knows Rhinos (extended)

So nanowrimo ended and I have spent a month or so away from the thing I spewed into existence for that month. Being of an unsound mind and even unsounder body i thought I might pain you all with the first chapter of the novel I wrote in a month. So, here in its lightly edited format is the first chapter of a work that can only be described in the poorest of superlatives.

The Prophecy of Nacht


Mark Keating

2007 Nanowrimo Novel

For Leigh,
the whole of my sky

Chapter One

Samuel von Nacht was a very ordinary boy. He lived in a very ordinary house. Which was situated in quite the most ordinary little village on the edge of an ordinary town. There was an unremarkable stream that ran near the bottom of the garden which contained some rather ordinary frogs with the occasional newt, which was to all expectations, ordinary.

Samuel was not quite like other boys though, as Samuel never dreamed big dreams. Every boy and girl that Samuel knew had big dreams. Some of them had dreams of being astronauts, or fire men, of rock stars and super models. But, not Samuel. In this regard he was a little non-ordinary. As Samuel dreamed of one day growing up to be an accountant. Like his grandfather had once been. Samuel would like to make his grandfather happy by following in his footsteps, by being a great accountant, and pwerhaps by owning an ordinary accommodation next to unremarkable landscape features.

Samuel lived with his grandfather, who was his mother's father, in their very ordinary house near the unremarkable stream. He had lived here, as far as he knew, since he had been born. Samuel's parents were both dead. They had died, his grandfather said, in a rather unnecessary accident involving a fish and a spanner that baffled most people. Samuel was to be told more of this, once he was old enough to know how such an event could come to pass. Samuel did not question this any further as his grandfather was often quite sad when speaking of Samuel's parents. Samuel often wondered if the fish had survived.

Samuel's life, aside from the tragedy of his parents, was quite dull. Though this is often the case for boys who dream only of being accountants. He went to school, where he achieved good results for little effort. Samuel preferred this as he didn't like to excel at things, it wasn't expected of him and it would be obtuse. Obtuse was a word Samuel liked to think of and observe as a limiter to his life, he also liked the word as it reminded him of triangles. Samuel played football, rugby and the local sport of nadger-snatch with some of the other boys, and generally he enjoyed sports where he could be part of a team. Often the other boys would make him the captain of a team, or a referee as Samuel was very fair in his decisions and the other boys found his words to be naturally wise. This confused Samuel as he never really tried to be any different, he just considered matters carefully and came to the most efficient decision to the best effect. It was always to his great surprise that crowds of people could be persuaded to easily follow his word. As his grandfather would have it, Samuel balanced the books.

Samuel only really achieved excellence in one class at school, as already mentioned he would not allow himself to achieve at any others. This class covered the field of mathematics. Samuel allowed himself to excel in this class as Samuel loved numbers, and knew he had to master them so that one day he could indulge in the heady delights of triple entry book keeping.

Samuel's grandfather was a kind man, in his own way. He didn't like to indulge Samuel in too much fussiness, so bought him sensible gifts for birthdays and holidays. Samuel would often open his presents to find strong walking boots, jumpers or trousers. It wasn't that his grandfather didn't believe in fun, he would often regale Samuel with stories of accountancy and financial records of such disarray that months would be spent tracking down where a single penny had hidden. The way that his grandfather related these tales made them sound as exciting as any quest to rescue damsels from dragons or exploration of weird and wonderful new worlds.

In this manner, Samuel had lived his life thus far. It wasn't extraordinary, but to Samuel it wasn't, quite, dull. It was just ordinary, he liked it this way, and so did his grandfather. This is perhaps why, it was such a huge surprise when one day his grandfather exploded.

One moment his grandfather was sitting at the breakfast table enjoying a nice, and quite ordinary, cup of tea, the next he was patterning the walls and cupboards with most of his insides.

Samuel was more than a little surprised. In point of fact he was so surprised that all he could do was sit there and look at the insides of his only living relative. Not that the relative appeared to be living after such an event. What he saw when he looked into the gore of his, now deceased, only living relative was an even greater surprise than the aforementioned explosive redecoration of the room sans grandfather. Had Samuel not taken that moment to faint the sight he saw may have stunned him into even greater silence.

~ § ~

When Samuel awoke from his faint it was to discover two things. The first thing he discovered was that he was lying on the kitchen table and he had no knowledge of how he got there. He was lying on the table that was smeared with the remains of his exploded maternal relative, and normally this would be the most horrifying concept that he could imagine, but unfortunately for Samuel there was something worse. There was the face looking down at him. It was one of the largest faces that Samuel had ever seen and it was attached to a giant head. The face was mostly beard and hair. Between the beard and hair was a nose that looked as if a cow had punched a piglet flat and atop this a set of bushy eyebrows that almost hid the warm blue eyes, in fact on their owen the eyebrows would have hid most couches. This wasn't the horrifying item that has been alluded to, nor was the giant sword the huge figure was holding that had blue flames flickering across its razor sharp surface. The horror was that this face and sword had been seen by Samuel a scant moment before he had fainted. This face had been looking at him from the centre of his grandfather's chest, and now Samuel believed it was about to do the same act to him, but even this was not the most horrifically gross item he had ever seen.

Samuel would have spoken, or perhaps screamed, even gibbered in terror, but the huge head spoke first and it was with a voice so loud they were probably listening in the next county.

“He lives,” cried the bushy, great head, “oh blessed be the sixteen twisted spires of Dalrithia where the mighty Junac once crossed the rivers of Halinor with the famed jewel of Perrinala, he lives.” Samuel could hear the plates rattle in the cupboards, which themselves shook, by the loud notes issuing from cavernous lungs.

Samuel watched as the bushy head lifted back so that his world could be filled with the huge form the head was attached to. Samuel's first thought that this was a giant was now confirmed as the form had to stoop as he stood. His height was so great that he reached beyond the ceiling, his shoulders were at the level of the top of the door frame. But Samuel thought little more of this at the moment as he was still too stunned. He didn't even think about the fact that the man was wearing bright blue chainmail, had a white cloak of what looked to be silk and had a huge horned helmet slung under his arm. He also did not take in the fact that the man also had another giant sword strapped to his back. Instead Samuel lay there with his mouth open, to all observers he seemed to be catching flies. He was still too stunned to speak. In fact he was too stunned to faint, which he would have done had his mind dwelt at any point on the pool of innards in which he lay.

“All of you come forth quickly and with voices mellowed like the little children of Merring Woods singing there songs of beholden promises to the daisies, whose yellow light doth glow with an inner essence of calm on those summer evenings when the rays of a middling sun drape the land with their silky essence.” the giant paused and took a deep breath which sucked all the air from the room and almost made Samuel's ears pop from the loss of pressurisation, “come forth on traipsed feet as if you step within the calm waters of a gentle brook seeking to tickle a fish from a lazy purchase behind some smoothened rock so that you might richly roast it in grimemoor juice freshly plucked in the shade of a sycamore tree.”

“You know, we really should stop him eating peaches,” said a smooth voice from somewhere behind the giant.

Samuel tried to look past the huge figure, who was at that moment turning to answer the owner of the new voice, and it was at this point that he saw the most horrifically gross thing he had ever seen. It was worse than seeing his grandfather explode and even worse than realising that he was lay in the remains of his grandfathers innards. What Samuel saw, was the blown open remains of his grandfather calmly sat in his usual chair by the stove, sipping tea and smoking his favourite briar pipe. His grandfather's body was split open like a freshly popped tomato, but he smiled and winked at Samuel.

That was when Samuel fainted once again.

When Samuel awoke for the third time that day it was to one of the most pleasant sights he had ever witnessed. In fact, had you asked him it was to see the most beautiful face he had ever seen. The face could grace a million product sales. It was well balanced with every feature in perfect proportion to each other and with a symmetry that would make a sculptor weep and blind himself so that he may never sully his eyes with something less beautiful. Samuel felt strange stirrings in his breast and an even stranger sensation in other parts of his body as his stomach growled and turned over. He realised that he was immediately and indefatigably in love and then his mind reasserted normality for itself and instructed him that the love was never meant to be. A small part of Samuel's heart died that day and he knew he would never gaze at anyone in the same way ever again. Somewhere in Samuel's dreams he would have the briefest of visions of a life spent in the arms of the body that belonged to that great countenance, and it would haunt him till the end of his days.

The face smiled and in a rich and mellow voice it said, “ow do kid, 'ow's yer feeling?”

Samuel blinked a few times and tried to sit up but a hand touched his chest and pushed him gently down. 'Now, now, son,' said the beautiful one, 'best be lying down for a few, I'll wager.'

Samuel realised that he was lying on the couch. He was also undressed and thanked the heavens that he was covered in a blanket as he did not wish the owner of the beautiful face to see him naked. Especially since he had recently felt such strong feelings.

Samuel's brain had now fully switched on and had come to conclude several other facts about that beautiful face. The first fact that it had noticed was that it was a man's face and Samuel was not normally attracted to men. The second fact was that it was attached to the body of the smallest man Samuel had ever seen. He was about two feet in height and yet perfectly proportioned. He wasn't squat or short, he was just not as tall as other men.

'Now, you lie still kid and 'ave a sup of this,' the small man passed Samuel a glass with a sweet yellow liquid inside.

“What is it?” he asked with a voice that sounded husky to his own ears.

“Just a small herbal medicine, dinna worry lad I's trained as a doctor,” he smiled at Samuel.

“Oh, right, thanks, should I call you Doc?” said Samuel in an overly animated manner.

“Oh, I wouldna', I never passed any of t' 'xams lad,” the small man said, “I'll go an' tell t'others that thee is all reet.” The small man wandered out of the front room and into the kitchen.

Samuel sat up a little and took a sip of the liquid as his mouth did feel dry. The sweet juice was surprisingly rich and had a bitter after taste that was somewhat akin to cinnamon. He heard the sound of approaching feet that made the floor and the sofa shake and then once again the large bearded face loomed into view over the top of the couch and smiled warmly at him. “Ah,' it cried, “he wakes again as once I did after the seventy battles of Gar Man Sor where I did fight for hour upon hour on blood soaked beaches slick with the gizzards of my comrades and patterned with the milky dew of the yannark beasts that we had slain.” The face smiled at him again, “Hello my boy,” it said with an unnerving briskness, “aren't you going to give a hug to your uncle Tambou?”

“I have an uncle,” was all that Samuel could manage to say.

“Of course you do, boy,” said Tambou, “well I am a sort of uncle, you might say, if like me you are constrained to the shortness of familial relationships much like the Sindou tribes people of Nanophina who have sometimes as many as a thousand members to their immediate family and whole cities can be just one big relation and to which a wedding is not merely a cause for enjoyment but a national holiday as everyone is invited.” Tambou ended his speech with a mighty fit of laughing that shook the glass in the windows.

“Oh,” said Samuel, “right,” he further continued, “erm,” his brain paused, “who are you all and what happened to my grandfather?”

“Please allow me to talk,' said the smooth and rich voice again.

Samuel turned as an immaculately dressed man walked into view. He was dressed in a rich purple velvet jacket with hundreds of looped buttons, his trousers seemed beautifully fitted and embroidered with a pattern of black dragons barely visible on the black leather. He had tall swash topped leather boots. His features seemed a little harsh, he had a cruel smile set below a thin moustache and above a trim goatee beard. His hair was pulled back into a widows peak and knotted at the back, held in place it seemed by a single thin chopstick.

“If we allow General Rineman here to continue we may loose an entire morning,” he smiled at Tambou and winked conspiratorially at Samuel, “I'm afraid the poor man has had too much fruit.” The sharply dressed man sat down at the end of the sofa. “Now, allow me to begin,” he smiled at Samuel, “and please, no interruptions as they can be so inconvenient.”

“Firstly, this is General Rineman,” he indicated the large man behind the sofa, “and I suppose he is a sort of uncle to you.” He turned and looked at the small man who had come back around the sofa. “This chap is called Pulch and he is a dwarf.”

“I think they are referred to as vertically challenged, or some other such term, now,” said Samuel.

“Please do not interrupt,” said the man, “otherwise I will get quite cross.” He stared hard into Samuel's eyes and suddenly Samuel felt that this man was somehow a very dangerous person to be around if he was angry. It wasn't the feeling that the man may turn large and green with rippling muscles, for that one would just have to paint the general a sprouty colour. It was something different, the feeling a mouse gets when it stares into the eyes of a shark that had somehow evolved legs and had taken to hunting rodents on the land.

“Sorry,” said Samuel.

“You are forgiven,” said the man with a trace of a cruel smile. “As I was saying, he is a dwarf from the undermountain dwarves. Which means of course that he lives and hides underground for most of his life like his kinsmen. He is apparently,” he coughed politely and Samuel noticed him hide a thin smile, “one of their bravest warriors.”

“Please to see thee again kid,” Said Pulch bowing to Samuel and scowling at the well dressed man who was talking.

“This,” he indicated a figure out of Samuel's view so Samuel turned and then he saw the second most beautiful sight he had ever seen. She seemed to float around the edge of the sofa as if the air was blowing her graceful form along. She was around five feet tall with long blond hair tied into a braid down her back. Her eyes were large and almond shaped with graceful arched brows above. They were of a rich green colour though Samuel thought there was also a hint of brown or orange flecked within them. Her nose was small and slim and set above a perfectly formed mouth with rich full lips. She smiled at Samuel and again he was glad that the sheet his his nakedness.

“This,” the figure spoke again in a louder, and terser, voice, “is Caprice, she is an elf, apparently.” His voice showed more than a trace of displeasure at this fact.

Caprice waved at Sam and then suddenly squealed and giggled, “wowee,” she declared, “there's even more cool stuff in here.” She ran over to the cupboard and started to pluck the possessions that Samuel's grandfather owned from their places on shelves and cupboards to study them. The ones that seemed to interest her she put into a satchel, the others she tossed to one side. Samuel decided not to say anything as the man who spoke might become annoyed, though Samuel was a little upset at her causal thievery.

“This gentleman is called Malad,” the sharp suit indicated a man approximately the same height as his grandfather. The man had a full white beard that stretched to his knees and was dressed in long flowing robes that to Samuel seemed a little tattered and moth eaten. “he was once known as the Great Mage Roit, now he's a bit of a bumbler, but a necessary one.”

“Why thank you,” said Malad with a trace of a sneer to the man, he then turned to Samuel, “Hello my boy, you won't remember me but I have been waiting to talk to you for a very long time, I am so terribly sorry about the mess in the kitchen and the circumstances of our arrival.”

“I saw you climbing out of the inside of my grandfather,” said Samuel as the memory flooded back “along with him, I saw your face and that sword inside my grandfather's chest. “Grandfather…” his voice suddenly broke as tears ran down his face, “Grandfather exploded. You had a sword,” he pointed at Tambou, “you made him expode.”

“Yes, I'm rather afraid I did explode,” said his grandfather as he suddenly appeared in front of Samuel, his chest still gaping and dripping bits of lung on to the carpet.

“Arrrgggghhhhh,' screamed Samuel. “How are you here?”

There was the sound of metal upon metal and suddenly a great sword swung over the top of the couch and passed straight through his grandfather as Tambou roared, “what is it boy? Are we being vexed by one of the hidden dangers of the netherworld whose countenance once revealed will split the hairs from a megalithic lap bunny at sixty paces.”

“No,” screamed Samuel in horror, “it's my grandfather, can't you see him?”

“Course I can boy, he's smeared all over the kitchen.” roared the giant.

“No,” said Samuel, “he's in front of me.”

“Ah,” said Malad, “allow me to explain.” he smiled and sat next to Samuel. His grandfather seemed to hover out of people's way so that they didn't pass through him. “I am afraid that your grandfather is haunting you. That would be his ghost that you are seeing. He is in fact dead.” he placed a friendly arm on Samuel's shoulder.

“Oh,” said Samuel and burst into tears.

“Aw,” said Caprice, “the little human is sad. I will sing a song to cheer his heart.”

“Oh gods not that,” said the sharp suited man.

The beautiful woman poked out her tongue and turned to Samuel, she smiled at him and pulled a huge harp out of her small satchel. Samuel was about to remark that the harp couldn't possibly fit in the small satchel, but instead he kept quiet and tried not to look at his grandfather who was waving at him and winking, occasionally his grandfather would pull bits of organ from his carcass and study it. Samuel wondered if he had banged his head and was having some form of a delusion dream. The only fault in this was that he rarely dreamt, he didn't really have the inclination to waste his imagination on a dream.

“This will lift your spirits,” Caprice said in a melodious voice and started to strum the harp and hum then she burst into a gentle song, “oh sweet little child, rest your weary head, think not of such sadness, like the fact your granddad's dead.” Samuel's mouth dropped open and tears fell from his chin. The woman was ever so slightly off key on her instrument but played it well, her voice was in a different key, as if signing a different tune to what she was playing. Samuel, however, didn't notice any of this as he was still too stunned by her words.

“He exploded in the kitchen, bits went everywhere, there was quite a lot of mess, but I have pretty hair,” she trilled and smiled, “so calm now sweet child, and think perhaps of joy, your granddad was getting on, he wasn't a young boy, perhaps it was his time to die, he probably didn't care, and anyway he's dead now and I have pretty hair.” she finished her singing and strummed on the harp for a few moments before stopping.

There was a generous round of applause from the other people while Samuel just stared, his mouth open and his mind agape. This was the most odd day he had ever known, he thought that he must in fact be going mad, as he really couldn't recall banging his head.

“Well,” the man said, “one last person to introduce, and that would be me.” He stood up and smiled warmly at Samuel.
“I am Humphrey Boggart, or his Imperial Highness, whichever suits, and I murdered your parents.” he laughed a little, “and you know, they haunt me, so there's a whole bunch of your family in this room in one incorporeal way or another.”

~ § ~

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