Today's post is an amazing story by Benedict Jacka, author of the Alex Verus series.
I adored FATED, the first book in the series, and I just about died reading this story.
I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Alex Verus' world, here's a quick description of the characters:
Alex Verus: a mage who can see the futures. That's right, futures. He can see all of his options and makes his decisions accordingly so he is a formidable dude.
Luna: Alex's friend. Her family was cursed generations ago and so Luna can't really get close to anyone. When she does, bad things happen to them.
Sonders: a mage with the Council who meets Alex and Luna in FATED. IMO, one of the most endearing characters in the book.
Deleo and Cinder: two bad guys.
Read on to find out what antics Benedict gets up to with his characters and make sure to stick around for the giveaway, where you have a chance to win a copy of FATED, courtesy of the lovely folks at Penguin!
The Tale of Hansel and Gretel
Once upon a time, a poor woodcutter and his family found themselves starving due to a great famine. His wife convinced him that their only hope of survival was to abandon his children, Hansel and Gretel, in the deep forest. Alone, the children wandered lost for many days . . .
Luna: “Can you see any way out?”
Luna: “This is great. Everyone complains about global deforestation and we manage to get stuck in the Amazon Basin. How did we even get here?”
Sonder: “I’m not sure. Last I remember I was—”
Suddenly, both children came across a strange cottage in the middle of a glade, made of gingerbread and sweets!
Sonder: “Wow. That’s amazing!”
Luna: “Is that chocolate?”
The starving children quickly began to eat the house.
Sonder: “This is really good! Don’t you want some?”
Luna: “I can’t, I’m on a diet.”
I said, the starving children quickly began to eat the house.
Luna: “I should eat the— wait, no I shouldn’t.”
Sonder: “Aren’t you hungry??
Luna: “Yeah, but look how much sugar’s in that! It’s about a million calories!”
Suddenly, the biscuit door swung open, and a face emerged, peering at the two children!
Alex: “Hey! Stop that!”
Alex: “What do you mean, ‘oops’? You’re eating my windowsill!”
Luna: “If you didn’t want it eaten, why did you make it out of dessert?”
However, the old wo— the man quickly controlled his temper and smiled, inviting the children within.
Alex: “But the shop’s still open, I guess. What are you looking for?”
Alex: “Uh . . .”
Sonder: “I don’t think this is a shop.”
Alex: “. . . No, it’s not. That’s weird, it just slipped out. Anyway, come in.”
But unknown to Hansel and Gretel, the man was an evil witch!
Alex: “Excuse me?”
I mean, an evil warlock.
Alex: “That’s better.”
Sonder: “Who are you talking to?”
Alex: “. . . I’m not sure. Wait, who are—”
Inside, the wi— the warlock invited them to sit at a table filled with delicious food!
Alex: “Well if you’re that hungry, you might as well eat that instead of snacking on my front wall.”
Luna: “Thank you.”
Sonder: “Thanks. We were really lost out there. Uh, sorry about the damage.”
Alex: “Oh it’s okay, I’ll fix it. You can stay overnight and I’ll lead you out of here tomorrow.”
But the warlock was lying, for he had no intention of ever letting the children go. He was an evil man who fed on children, and the gingerbread house was his trap!
Alex: “Hee hee! Sleep well, little children, for tomorrow I will cook and eat . . . wait a minute . . .”
Luna: “Did you say something?”
Alex: “I’m not . . . Look, something weird’s going on.”
Sonder: “I know.”
Luna: “You do?”
Sonder: “Yeah, there’s no way this house should be holding together. Gingerbread doesn’t have anywhere near the tensile or the compressive strength to be used as a construction material. Plus it biodegrades way too fast, so rain will—”
Alex: “No, not the house. It’s about tomorrow.”</>
Of course, the warlock did not tell the children his plans.
Sonder: “You don’t think the foundations are stable enough to last through the night?”
Luna: “Will you shut up about the house? What’s going on?”
Alex: “I think tomorrow I’m supposed—”
I SAID the warlock did NOT tell the children his plans.
Alex: “—I’m supposed to cook and eat you guys.”
You are the worst villain ever.
Sonder: “You’re kidding, right?”
Alex: “Look, this recipe book I’ve got is nothing but ways to prepare children. Take a look.”
Luna: “Huh? These are measurements for— oh God, I’m going to be sick!”
Sonder: “Wait, you’re going to EAT us?”
Alex: “Don’t be disgusting. Of course I’m not.”
Yes you are.
Alex: “I said I’m not. Why the hell would I want to eat you?”
Luna: “I don’t know! You’re the one with a book which has children’s body parts sorted by protein and fat content!”
Alex: “Look, will you just listen a second? Something doesn’t make sense here. Where did this house and all the food on the table come from? And why am I treating you like children when you’re obviously not?”
Luna: “And why are you wearing a dress?”
Alex: “I’m not— oh. What the hell?”
Sonder: “I don’t think you’ve been living in this house.”
Sonder: “Well, I just looked back. You’ve only been in here about ten minutes. Before that there’s just a fuzzy patch. I think this place has only existed that long.”
Well, there goes any hope of meeting this deadline.
Alex: “Did you hear that?”
Luna: “Hear what?”
Alex: “I keep feeling the futures ripple. There’s someone else here . . . Hey! You!”
Alex: “Who are you?”
I’m the narrator. Or at least I was before you stopped following the script.
Luna: “Who are you talking to?”
Alex: “Listen carefully. It seems like it’s part of this world, but it’s not.”
Oh, whatever. Look, could you just move along with the story, please?
Alex: “Not so fast. What story?”
Hansel and Gretel.
Luna: “Hey, someone’s saying my name . . . Wait, no they’re not. My name’s Luna.”
Sonder: “That’s not my sister’s name.”
Luna: “I’m not your sister, you idiot!”
Alex: “Wait a minute. So you’re the one who put us in this story?”
I had to pick something the audience would be familiar with, all right? And I think you should be grateful I went for Hansel and Gretel. I was this close to doing Cinderella with Deleo and Cinder as the two ugly sisters.
Luna: “Why are you doing this?”
Look, we needed a story with an April Fool’s theme, and I figured putting you guys in a fairy tale would get a few laughs. If you’d just followed the script we’d have been done by now.
Luna: “What happens at the end of the script?”
You get home safe and live happily ever after.
Alex: “Wait, what happens to the witch? And why does this house have such a huge oven?”
Would you quit asking questions? The story isn’t going to end until the witch gets defeated.
Alex: “. . . Okay then. So you can narrate things into existence? And you do it by talking in that font?”
What? Look, the sooner you finish this the sooner we can all go home.
Alex: “Ahem. Suddenly, a baseball bat appeared in the warlock’s hand.”
Hey! Stop that!
Alex: “Cool, it works. Then the narrator, who was really an evil witch, appeared in the house."Narrator: “What? I’m not supposed to be here!”
Alex: “Hey, Miss Witch. Turn around.”
*WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!*
Alex: “I think that counts as ‘defeated’. Oh, and April Fools, asshole.”
Sonder: “Do you have to keep kicking him like that?”
Luna: “So what are we supposed to do now?”
Alex: “I figure we grab some lunch, head for the nearest path, and start looking for a way out.”
Sonder: “Oh, that makes sense. This effect would have to have a limited radius. If we get far enough from the epicentre it should collapse.”
Luna: “It’s kind of a shame. I would have liked to see what it felt like to get a ‘happily ever after’.”
Alex: “I guess you’ll have to make do with THE END.”
Has this left you wanting more? I bet it has! Here’s more on FATED:
Alex Verus is a diviner, able to see the future. This is impressive to most people but less so to other mages, who can do things like throw fire, disintegrate things, and fly. Right now Alex has a problem – a site’s been discovered containing an ancient and powerful relic, and lots of people are looking for a diviner to open it, including a trio of dark mages, a faction of the Council with an agenda of their own, and a shadowy figure out of Alex’s past, all of whom are looking to recruit, press-gang, or kill Alex, not necessarily in that order.
As if that’s not enough, Alex has to take care of his would-be apprentice, who has some connection to the relic which is making her a target as well . . . and who also just happens to carry a curse that’ll kill anyone who gets too close, assuming the mages hunting her don’t do it first. His allies are an air elemental with the memory of a goldfish and a creature living under Hampstead Heath that would make most people run screaming.
Sometimes seeing the future isn’t as fun as it sounds.
Penguin is graciously offering one (1) copy of FATED to a lucky reader.
To enter the giveaway, obey the Rafflecopter!
Ends Sunday, April 15, 2012
(like all of our Paranormal April Fools’ giveaways)
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Benedict Jacka became a writer almost by accident, when at nineteen he sat in his school library and started a story in the back of an exercise book. Since then he's studied philosophy at Cambridge, lived in China, and worked as everything from civil servant to bouncer to teacher before returning to London to take up law.