[PI] The Cumberland Chronicles – Worldbuilding – 3503 words.

Total word count. 3503

The premise for this collection of writing is that the stories are set in the same world.

The Rising.

2438 word count.

Jack watched the torch light sputter and died. The wisps of black smoke from the wax tallow merged with the darkness of the ceiling. A single sash window filtered the murky moonlight through the scummy glass; It blotted the squalid room with its dark shadows.

A young lady lay spread out on the bed, her skirt smoothed back down to cover the gaping hole he had created. Her blood-soaked torso was opened to the night. Two rough brown paper parcels with grubby marks laid on the bed by her open mouth and sightless eyes. He picked them up joyfully and placed them in his black bag. Silver knives sparkled, as he latched the surgeon’s bag and stood up. Reaching a sticky gloved hand for the knob, he opened the rickety door as stepped out.

Screams filled the night. His first thought was that the police had found the other murder, but that was over a mile east of here. Maybe it was the working girls, who knew what depravity they stooped to. Jack reached down to unsnag his red line cape from a splinter on the door. Screams again, not just ladies, no, there were also men’s, and there were tinged with fear.

He hurriedly walked to his carriage; his black shoes glistened from a street lamp, the orange glow resting peacefully upon two big draft horses. Both snorted and fidgeted; White froth hung from their bits, and their eyes were wide with terror.
The sound of his heels on the cobbles should have alerted the dark shape hunched over on a slim platform atop the carriage. Jack’s man servant swayed with the beast’s movement but made no attempt to help his master into the carriage. Jack coughed as the figure gurgled something incoherent and lurched off the side.

The impact sounded wet and hard. Jack reached down to help him up while the horses shied away a little, taking the carriage with them. A bang from behind him caused Jack to turn, the lady approached him on unsteady legs; her white blood-stained dress hung loosely about her shoulders; dark-red marks clotted the front of her dress, as did the slowly dripping trail from her under carriage. Jack staggered back.

Mary’s cocked her head to one side and stared back at him. Although, now her bloodshot eyes looked back at him with a purpose. Something caught at his heel and pulled at his trousers, Jack lost his bag as he swung his arms in a futile attempt to keep his balance. Mary screamed and stumbled towards him as Jack’s man servant pulled him to the cobbles. The Ripper’s scream blended with the night as Mary and his man servant fed on his flesh.


In another part of London.

Tarrin pulled a steady stream of energy from the trees into his body and directed it to the veil. The energy shimmered and sparkled reds, blues, and purples. The ecstasy of the magic pulled at him and tempted his mind to vacate his body and dive into the ever flow. A vast river of magic that any with the knowledge could tap into, as long as sufficient energy was exchanged.

After some time Tarrin stopped and wiped at his high brow, his antlers also had perspiration on them from the effort of enhancing the veil. A giant barrier that separated his world from the brutality of man.

He stood atop a huge oak tree in the middle of the small woods; the flat out crop of the tree top had been magically flattened and widened for the keepers of the veil. A few leaves crunched under foot as he took a step to survey the shimmering colors. All was good, and he wouldn’t need to come back for some time as a slow stream of energy from the trees now fed the veil.

Tarrin’s thin frame was covered in the brown fabric worn by the harvester’s tribe. A traveling tribe of elves whose purpose was the up keep of the veil. Tarrin turned his purple eyes down into the trees and the landscape beyond. A tall clock could be seen far off, as did a giant Ferris wheel. The rising sun washed the tree tops, but as he watched, a darkness seemed to creep over some, as if the leaves were turning black. The tall figure knell and touched the tree floor, soon a series of branches had formed stairs. As he descended he heard the heavy foot fall of someone running to meet him.

A young elf slid through the leave to a stop before him. Tarrin stepped graciously off the last branch and looked at the newcomer’s eyes. Green with a twist of yellow looked back at him. He didn’t need the young one to talk to know the fear in his heart.

“What is it Glis? What has happened?”

Glis’s 6 and a half foot high still had to look up to the towering Tarrin.
Glis’s white cotton pants sustained several rips on his flight here and quite a few dirty marks from the tree trunks.

“The trees are dying, and not just for winter. First, we thought it was some sort of cold, but it’s affecting them much too quickly. You must come and see.”

The panic in Glis’s voice caused Tarrin to shiver; he placed a slender hand on the young elf’s shoulder.

“Show me.”

Glis nodded and darted off through the tree with Tarrin’s browns robes flapping behind him.


In another part of London.

The small hole smelled of offal and shit, but that didn’t bother Momo; it was just another day for a goblin in the underbelly of London. Hopefully, the dock men would leave him some carcasses to feed on. The gloom of the night was slowly starting to recede with the rising sun and allowed some additional natural light to enter the brick chamber.

Momo hung his lantern on a broken nail, the small baby Flubbs within continued to convulse over each other. The blue light they made was good enough to see by in the darkness of the tunnels.

As time passed Momo realized that he wasn’t hearing the usual sounds of people banging the crates on the docks. The little Goblin adjusted his sack and pulled at the dirty rope that held it in place. Once it may have been white and would have been fit for the Goblin King, but seeing as it was floating in the Great reservoir, and nobody else wanted it, he had taken it for himself. That was pretty much the Goblin code, if you wanted it, you took it. That was if you could take it from its current owner, and weren’t stopped by a nuggen to the head.

Momo reached up and grabbed hold of the cold metal wrung, and slowly climbed the rusty ladder. At the top, he carefully lifted the metal grate with his balding head and peered out. Quick as a flash he ducked his head back and slid down the ladder, his four toes feet hit the water, and it splashed up his sack.

The Goblin shook his head. His flabby green cheeks flapped back and forth as he pulled at his leaf-shaped ears in distress.

“Dey saw Momo? Tis not right, oh no. Not right, not right. Spell not working, must tell Horg.”

The slapping of his feet echoed around the tunnel walls as he raced to Nextus, the goblin kingdom. The Flubbs continue to slither over each other in their blissful ignorance.


A few months later.

Sir Patrick Grant GCB had thought he had seen a lot of death as the King’s man. Numerous battles aboard His Majesty’s fleets had made him feel akin to it, a fatefully servant to it, steadily and efficiently dispatching souls to it.

That was until the rising.

Sir Patrick listens as the tall creature spoke gruntled English. The heavy air was pungent with the smell of burnt wood; the fire in the grate helped to light the room along with hundreds of assorted candles.

The four creatures had called themselves fair folk, but for the life of him, he couldn’t imagine why. They resembled humans in the only way a being with two legs, two arms, a body and a head could. However, the resemblance stopped there.

Their faces were pointed at the chin, and no discernible ears could be made out. At the top of their heads, antlers of various shapes and length poke toward the vaulted ceiling. The lead fair folk legs were stick thin and covered by a wadding of brown cloth that was tied around its waist with ribbons of vines. A thin sheet of the same fabric covered its skinny torso but left elongated arms bare. Their skin shore with a faint purple glow that reflected within the eyes. Sir Patrick couldn’t make out if it was the color of its Iris’s or just the reflection of its skin.

“We have lived longer than most here, but this we have never seen.”

Along with the fair folk, a number of other creatures huddle around the tall figures. One, a rotund blob with yellow boil ridden skin, that laid on a smelly litter carried by six sweating goblins. The Goblin King belched and picked at his nose finding the result more interesting than the conversation. Momo hung back in the shadow cast by his liege.

No one stopped the weird congregation from entering the war rooms at the college. The fact that the strange fair folk had been able to repel any who approached was fascinating to Sir Patrick.

What he had thought was deformed humans affected by the rising were apparently infected creatures that he believed only lived in fairy tales.

Sir Patrick pulled himself upright in the brown wingback chair and readjusted his red naval jacket, a few medals clinked together. The five other men at the long polished table hadn’t adapted to the shock as quickly as he had, and some still stared open-mouthed at the intruders.

“Our homes have been equally affected by this disease.”

A squat man with a jet-black wig balanced precariously on his head, and an oiled mustache wider than his face, pointed as his monocle wobbled and fell upon the table.

“Not a disease, a virus.”

The towering figure turned its purple gaze toward him. Lord Buford slowly sang back to his chair, collected his monocle and looked down into his lap. Tarrin continued to speak to the one he thought was in command.

“My people have been touched with this…virus.”

Tarrin rolled the new word around his mouth.

“It is not just my world that is in danger, but all of ours.”

Tarrin opened his arms wide to encompass the raggedy group. Sir Patrick raised one thick white eyebrow as he filled his glass with water.

“If what you say is true, then we must work together, but first let me ask, how is it that your kind has managed to stay hidden from us?”

Tarrin’s companions whispered behind his back, and one put a hand on his shoulder.

“My brothers wish that I do not tell you this, after the last time we walked together, but I feel a level ground is needed. We possess what you humans call, magic.”

Sir Patrick nodded and sipped from the water, his white mustache getting wet in the process. No surprise there he thought.

“Magic? Then how is it that your kind has become infected, mustn’t you have the power to stop such a thing?”

Tarrin shook his head slowly as a few deep lines formed across his forehead.

“This…Virus. It’s in the air. We breathe it just like everything that’s been infected. Our powers come from the energy of the trees, but they too, as you have seen, have succumbed to it. Only some have remained unchanged, like us. But for why? We do not know.”

Sir Patrick nodded again and looked at the boarded-up windows. The tiny flames from the candles danced and caused shadows to play on the surface like the snakes he had once seen being charmed in India.

“It is as you say, most of our race has also succumbed to this thing, only us here have survived. It is quite possible that there are others, but unless they’re found. I fear that they too will become like theses….”

He turned to the monocled man.

“What did you call them Jeffery?”

The little man swelled with pride and nodded vigorously.

“Zombies, Sir Patrick, and if I may, I have an acquaintance in Moorfield that has managed to send me something quite interesting.”

Sir Patrick steepled his finger together and glanced through bushy eyebrows at the towering Tarrin, then back at Lord Buford. The tubby Lord was practically bouncing on his seat bursting with his news.

“Go on.”

Lord Buford nodded. It was unfortunate that the seat was higher than he was tall, and so after a small wiggle, he dropped off the seat. Lord Buford had been a member of the upper elite society, born to the infamous Lord Buford senior who was the adviser to King James I.

He had inherited his fathers cunning and knack for predicting the out come of political events. Although a prolific drunk, he had frequently many social gatherings to gain the favor of the nobler families. He had somehow managed to survive where all of his peers had not.

Lord Buford’s black wig danced along the edge of the table as he came to stand by the fair folk. He looked up at Tarrin as he and his three companions looked down.

“My friend is a doctor at the Moorfields infirmary; he noticed a change in his patients whilst in their cells. After a few days, he saw that they had become weak with hunger. He has written that he has found a way to inhibit the aggressive traits of the virus and bring back some normal cognitive functions.”

Lord Buford poked at Tarrin’s knee and pulled a thin strand of fiber off his garments. He replaced his monocle to better look at the strand and continued to talk while rolling it between thumb and finger.

“He also suggests that we just do nothing. Apparently, these zombies will eventually die of hunger. It may be the only way to survive this.”

Tarrin reached down and swatted the annoying creature away. Lord Buford scurried off offended. Sir Patrick looked to Tarrin, and to the assembled crowd.

“I think it might be prudent to pay this doctor a visit, what is the name of your acquaintance again, Jeffery.”

“Dr. Jekyll, Sir Patrick.”


Hammer Falls.

Words count 1065.

“Magic? I’ve heard of that, but I’ve never thought it was true.”

Andy rubbed his hair and dislodged the dust.

“Aye, ‘Tis a lot o’ things ya race dunni know if ya ask me.”

The speaker’s gruff voice sounded extra deep within the chamber he had landed in a few moments ago. Andy looked at the weird little man in front of him. He resembled a human but only smaller, and not what humans called their vertically challenged brothers, but in fact, a real to life dwarf.

“But what about those things up there, Aren’t you bothered?”

“Agh, we dunni care about ya surface dwellers. We’ve encountered ya before. Who’d ya think helped ya with ya tunnels?”

“But people are eating people up there.”

“Look, laddie, I’ve got bigger problems, so if ya don’t mind?”

He had called himself Stonehand when he had picked Andy up and dusted him off after the floor had collapsed. If it hadn’t been for them damn things trying to eat him, he won’t have tried to escape through the underground tunnels.

You see; Andy is what’s known as a Tosher. He had, like a handful of entrepreneurial street rats, found a way to earn a few coins by scavenging lost treasures in the sewers of Victorian London. If it wasn’t for his small knowledge of the tunnels under the smoky city, he wouldn’t have lost the flesh-eating people. His friend Tommy, wasn’t as lucky.

Stonehand grumped and raised his hammer for another strike on the rock wall.

“That stupid floor has covered the damn shaft. I’m gonna have t’ smash me way back now.”

Stonehand grumbled as he raised a heavy looking metal hammer, the thick wooden shaft had small craving along its handle, and a blue ribbon tied off at the end. The dwarf placed the hammer on one shoulder and dusted off his green trousers, that done; he lifted his long beard and threw it over one shoulder and then spat on his hands. The hammer rang against the stone; the echoes vibrated through Andy causing his teeth to chatter and made him cover his ears.

After a while, the ringing in his ears had abated, and Andy’s eyes started to adjust to the gloom. Lucky for Andy, he was still only a kid; a fully grown adult would have been bent double in these dwarven tunnels. A small glass jar with a faint blue light swung in the dwarf’s hand as he trundled down the smooth tunnel. As Andy focused on it, he was sure that something inside was moving, or maybe it was the onset of claustrophobia, and he was losing his mind.

“Where are you taking me?”

The dwarf continued on, his long graying beard still thrown over his shoulder.

“Am not taking ya anywhere; ya great lought, ya following me.”

Andy thought for a second and shrugged. He had nothing better to do and seeing that going back the other way could quite possibly lead to him being eaten or worst. He thought he might as well explore with the grumbling dwarf.

“So, where are you going then?”

Stonehand stopped so suddenly that Andy bumped into the back of him. He might as well of bash into a brick wall, the impact would have been the same. The dwarf turned his head, and his pop belly followed. His neat black jacket was cut from what looked like leather and had been expertly sewn. Yellowish eyes looked into his soul and then looked him up and down. Stonehand snorted and turned around again.

“Not that it’s any of ya business, I’m getting away from ‘ere. Mind, I’m a tad lost now, with that blasted tunnel collapsing.”

Stonehand looked slightly embarrassed as he looked over his shoulder at Andy. The small space only being big enough for single file.

“Maybe I could help. I know my way around these tunnels.”

Andy’s smile faded as the dwarf’s laughter boomed along the tunnel. After a while, Stonehand settled down to a snigger and wiped at his eyes.

“Ah, ya good fun boy’o, maybe I’ll let ya keep me company.”

A small blue light ahead gradually grew larger as the two progressed along the tunnel. A weird sound like rushing water could be heard.

“Um, Stonehand?”

“Aye laddie.”

“What that light?”

Stonehand turned his head and looked back at Andy. A worried expression clouded his wrinkled face.

“Y’all see soon enough.”

After a few minute, the tunnel opened up to an enormous cavern, Andy looked up at the cavernous ceiling and noticed large worm like creatures slithering over the stalactites. The blue light was coming from their bloated bellies and their bioluminescent trails.

Just under the ledge a large metal tube with gusting water spraying into the air. The cascading waterfall crashed down into a lake with clear water. The pool emptied to a river mouth that ran away from the rock face.

As Andy followed the river, he saw an underground city sprawled out before him. It was so big that Andy couldn’t see the end. The city had deep gashes through it that looked like streets, some sort of commotion what happens along them. Tiny figures were crowded in various places, and some of the square stone block houses were alight with fire. At the center of the city, carved out of the stone wall was a huge castle. A stream of dwarves in armor was running around the upper balconies chaotically.

“Wow, what is this place?”

The dwarf brushed past him.

“This is Hammer Falls.”

A vast stone staircase beckoned them to the cave floor. Before Andy could ask what was happening, Stonehand had darted down the stairs, the iron lamp swinging violently against his thigh.

The descent was taxing on Andy’s skinny legs, and soon his dirty gray shirt felt sticky with sweat. Halfway down Andy stopped on a wide platform, and looked down at the city.

“Wait!”

The dwarf stopped to face him with a screwed up face.

“What’s the matter now?”

“What’s happening down there?”

“They’re fighting.”

“I can see that, but why are they fighting?”

“Cuz the king had just been murdered.”

Andy threw his arm up to his mouth and sucked in a deep breath.

“Oh no, who would do such a thing.”

Stonehand looked down at his feet and kicked a small pebble of the precipice.

“Me.”

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