All Qwyrk wanted was a few winter days of rest of and relaxation in the small town of Knettles in Yorkshire, but of course, it all goes wrong immediately. She wants to spend time and with her young human friend, Jilly, but Jilly and her not-so-imaginary friend blip have just met a remarkable boy named Lluck, who seems to be able to bend events to his favor.
Lluck is on the run from some awful and obnoxious goblins. On top of that, Qwyrk meets a mysterious and beguiling woman, who’s also looking for the boy. And in the dark, something wants Lluck for itself, but why?
Tim is giving away an Amazon gift card with this tour:
Still, he kept running, plowing through snowy lanes, stumbling more than once on wet cobblestones blanketed in a thin sheet of slippery ice and powder. His breathing was furious, his heart pounded, and he knew he was running out of time. He sprinted back out to a main street and worked his way through thronging crowds of holiday shoppers, trying to hide in their numbers.
“Blend in, shake them off!” But he knew his pursuers weren’t interested in these people; they were only after him. He ducked into another alleyway, sped for the exit on the other side, and almost crashed into a padlocked gate.
“No!” He slammed the bars with his fists.
They were near; he could smell them, like bad fast food and garbage, with a hint of cheap cologne. But he tried pulling on the lock, and sure enough, it came loose. He laughed and opened the gate. Dashing through, he shut it behind him and relocked it.
“Have fun with that, you knobs!”
He turned around and there they were: grotesque, lumpy goblin creatures with mottled grey skin, bulbous noses, and large, pointy ears. They were mostly bald, except for some wiry black curls under said ears. Their snarling grins revealed bared, off-white crooked teeth. Beady yellow eyes completed the horrific ensemble.
“Well, well, what ‘ave we got ‘ere?” the larger one grumbled.
“Looks like a lost waif in need of some assistance to get to where he’s goin’,” the other replied.
“I’m not going with you, you tossers!” he shouted, defiant. He raised his fists in front of him. They just laughed.
“You gonna take us on in a fist fight, little boy?” the big one mocked. “That oughta be entertaining. Maybe I’ll even let you get in a blow or two in before I mash your pretty face into the pavement!”
“Oh, I won’t fight you, you miserable troll! I’m just getting ready.”
“Ready for what, lambkin?” the smaller one sneered.
“For this!” He threw his open hands forward in one jerking motion, and at once, both fell on their behinds, slid on the ice, and smacked their heads on the stones. They groaned, but didn’t get back up. He stepped over them (well, on them really, just to make a point; he might have even dug his boot heels in a bit) and made his way back to the crowds.
Once on the main street, he looked around and saw the town hall in the distance, with its multitudes packed in to celebrate the holiday festivities.
“All those people milling about; you can lose them there. Then get the hell out of here and head south.”
He paused, took a deep breath, and ran again.
* * *
“I do love a good festive celebration!” Blip announced. Resembling a bipedal frog sporting a handlebar moustache and a proper Victorian-style mutton chop beard, he strolled along the pavement in his Regency riding boots, while swinging an ornate walking stick, every so often accidentally hitting a passerby and eliciting an astonished yelp. A red, woolen scarf wrapped snugly around his short, froggy neck completed the ensemble.
“I love it too! It’s so much grander than the one in Knettles,” Jilly Pleeth said in a hushed voice. She looked down at him, quite grateful that a magical two-foot creature who liked to expound on nineteenth-century philosophy couldn’t be seen or heard by anyone over the age of thirteen, give or take a bit. Of course, there were plenty of children about, a few of whom gasped and stared; but most ignored him, being far more fascinated by the lights of the Leeds Christmas market, the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate, the sounds of carols and stall hawkers, and the general merriment of the season. It was all rather like one of those displays in a department store window, but larger, louder, and less garish.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on the time, though,” she continued. “I need to meet mum and dad back at the train station in about an hour. They’ll be done with their stupid real estate meeting and keen to get back home before it gets too dark.”
“Come, come, my dear, no need to be so reserved, at least not in this instance! It’s the holidays, and the day of your birth is also upon us—twelve years!—so just this once, it is entirely satisfactory that we kick up our proverbial heels and live a bit. The holiday market is splendidly arrayed in front of us, a fine old tradition that I am glad to see being kept alive. So, throw caution to the wind, and embrace the revelry!”
“Oh, it’s not that,” she whispered. “It’s just, since most people can’t see you, I look like I’m talking to myself, like I’m a bit mad.”
“Hm, well yes, I do suppose that could cause some to think that you are a suitable candidate for admission to Bedlam, but again, this is the time for inversions of the social order in a controlled way, don’t you know? The Feast of Fools! The Boy Bishop! Saturnalian silliness! So I say, let them think that you are singularly odd and be done with it! And other children can see me, so what does it matter?”
“Yeah, but they probably just think you’re one of Father Christmas’s elves, anyway,” she said with an impish grin.
“Do not mention that reprobate in my company!” Blip admonished. “You know very well that the Father Christmas affair is a bone of contention with me!”
“Are you ever going to tell me what happened between you two?” she asked.
“A gentleman does not duel and tell, I’m afraid.”
“You fought a duel with Father Christmas?”
On the writing side of things, Tim lived in England for nearly seven years and has a PhD from the University of Leeds. He has written books and magazine articles about music, the arts, history, and business. He currently lives amid many books, antique music reproduction devices (that is, CDs), and instruments, and with a demanding cat. He’s also rather enthusiastic about good wines, single-malt Scotch, and cooking excellent food.