Research, the Great War and Band History

IMG_5603In Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse, I wrote in a reference to one of the former incarnations of the band: the trunk that the band carries around contains a few artefacts, including a horseshoe which Bartos, of revered memory, once used to hold ghouls at bay on a battlefield in France in World War I.

This year is the anniversary of the start of that war, and there are all kinds of solemn and striking stories being told: reminding us how it began, and why it didn’t stop sooner.

Here in London, where I am on holidays and looking for material for several books, including the next Kitty and Cadaver novel, I have seen a couple of terrific exhibitions. The Cartoon Museum has on display a number of newspaper cartoons and postcards, not only from the Allied perspective but from the Germans and their allies too. Seeing how the other side saw things is always an interesting perspective, and British cartoonists occasionally showed a human side to the nation’s enemies as well.

Public opinion, as expressed through editorial cartoons, advertising and postcards, isn’t as cut and dried as you’d sometimes think. It’s one reason it’s always a good idea to return to primary documents rather than rely on later interpretations.

The Imperial War Museum also has a Great War Gallery, proving very popular, and it threads the historical narrative with homefront conditions and some alternative perspectives as well.

All of this viewing of exhibitons and documentaries and reading of articles is essential so that I can one day write out the whole story of Bartos and the horseshoe – an idea which popped up when I was at Genrecon one year and took part in a writing exercise. This short piece was, I think, the first thing I wrote in the Kittyverse.

Now I know that Bartos is Slovakian (a country then under the power of the Austro-Hungarian empire) and Piotr is originally from Russia (then allied with Great Britain, until the Russian Revolution saw its withdrawal). I now know what those two men were doing together in France, and where they were first – but I don’t know yet who else is in their incarnation of the band, or their fates. It won’t all be happy endings, obviously.

In the meantime, here’s that exercise I wrote.

Kitty reached instinctively for the horseshoe lying in the folds of greased brown paper at the top of the trunk.

“This feels… strong,” she said, rubbing her thumb across the grains of rusted metal. The brown streak on her skin tingled.

“Good choice,” said Yuka, “Steve says it’s a hundred years old, that one. Bartos, the percussionist back then, was caught in the Somme, a ghoul was coming up from the bomb crater for him. This was all he had. That and a tent peg. But he made music with that horseshoe and his voice, and held it back until Piotr could arrive with his flute.”

There will be more stories set in the band’s 700 year history coming from my experiences on this trip – and I’ll post some of them here when I’m done.

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

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Story Told 1: Wieliczka Salt Mine – another story!

In Untold Story 1, I invited readers to give me their ideas of what happened to one incarnation of the band down in the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow. The first story in response was by Sally Koetsveld – and today we have a new take on it from Yvon Hintz, who last week gave as a Story Told for Hungary’s Goblin Park.

Wieliczka salt mine (1)Breath of God

Although the site itself was new, workers were convinced that there was  something old and evil in the Royal salt mine in Wieliczka. They said that it lived in the underground lake and caused a feeling of unease throughout the galleries.  Although work was going on as normal the men were unhappy and fearful  which meant that production was not as good as it could have been.

Johannes and his band had come to the attention of one of the owners of the Polish salt mining company. He learned that the musicians were not only creators of pleasing music but that there was magic in their songs and rhythms… magic that could overcome evil. He had heard of them defeating a vicious dragon in neighbouring Bohemia and thought they might do some good in the mine… either soothing the disturbing presence or driving it out.

They felt something as soon as they entered the mine. Agnes, the most sensitive of the group, said that it was an ancient evil with great power. It was dangerous, but also lazy… it didn’t want to move. Johannes wanted to tell the mine owners to let it lie but Agnes assured him that if left, it might one day become so annoyed by the workers that it would rise up in anger and kill someone. Better, she said, for them to raise it now and deal with it.

They began to play. Johannes tapped his drums, Hugo played the violin, Agnes plucked her dulcimer, young Galfridus blew on a gemshorn and Maud sang a chant that wove between the music, pulling all the sounds into a harmonious whole.  The music shimmered off the grey walls. It was heard by the workers in the galleries, it was heard by men carving a statue  and it must have been heard by anything sentient in the waters of the lake, but it caused no response.

Galfridus suggested they add something new to the mix. He had bought an odd instrument from one of the mine workers, who had purchased it in a distant land but found himself unable to master it. It was based on the simple goat skin and flute arrangement made by farmers but with  a better bag and flute and several drones. It was badly out of tune, but he had worked on it and now it produced a sound so sweet that he had named it Breath of God.

Breath of God, when Galfridus first fired it up, caused the musicians to cover their ears in torment, but as the pressure in the bag built and the sounds from the drones and the chanter came into harmony with each other it became less noise and more recognisable music. The sound… a cross between a violin and a flute… skirled through the mine and was heard even by people as far away as the village.

Johannes agreed that  when properly played it did produce a rich, full sound with intriguing harmonies and that it was most definitely loud enough to wake the dead, but thought that on this occasion it might be better if they stuck with their tried and true instruments.  Galfridus packed away the Breath of God.

They renewed their effort till at last the lake began to stir. The waters rippled, the air seemed to throb and a deep groan shuddered through the mine. Agnes told them that it was awake and aware. A quiver crept into her voice as she added that it was very, very strong.  Johannes looked at his little group and wondered if their power would be enough to contain the ancient evil they were about to call forth.

He would later blame himself for this moment of doubt for in that moment something burst from the lake and an invisible force swiped at the five musicians. Agnes and Maud shrieked as they were knocked down, Hugo cried out for the safety of his violin and Johannes himself gave a cry of pain as he was flung bodily from the shore of the lake to hit the wall. His head cracked against the rock hard salt and he felt his senses begin to leave his body. Fear coursed through him. Without him… without all of them playing, the thing they had just let loose would be free to leave the lake and roam and kill. What had they done? He tried to lift himself up but his limbs refused to move. He could only watch in helpless horror as the unseen evil battered his comrades around the chamber. He feared they would all be killed.

Maud tried to sing even as she took refuge behind a barrel, but there was a quaver in her voice that ruined the magic. Hugo cradled his violin and tried to draw the bow across it strings. His arm was battered away from the instrument. Agnes saw her beloved dulcimer mashed into splinters and a tangle of strings.

Then Galfridus rose with the bag of Breath of God tucked under his arm. The steady drone of multiple, tuned pipes filled the air, quickly joined by the higher, complex tones from the chanter.  The ground beneath them shuddered and the lake waters heaved as the thing protested.  Galfridus took a step toward the lake, something howled objection, he took another step and the groan became a shriek, he walked slowly and steadily and the Breath of God seemed like a wall of sound that matched the ancient forced and pushed against it…. pushing it back little by little toward the lake. The water splashed and heaved, then settled, rippled and was still.

As he was being carried from the mine Johannes heard young Galfridus boasting about the power of the Breath of God. He told him that he had done well and had probably saved their lives, but that he should pack away the instrument because there was a good chance that the miner who had owned it, had tried to play it while at work and that it, in fact, had been the thing that had originally roused the ire of the ancient in the lake.

– Yvon Hintz

Yvon is a writer and artist from WA. Read/see her work at Word Cafe: Yvon HIntz.

Kitty and Cadaver is the latest incarnation of a band that began in England in 1267. Their mission? Protect the world from the things that hide in the dark, using magic through music. The Untold Story posts show fragments of their 700 year history. The details have been lost in time – so I invite you to imagine what the story could be.

Stay tuned for the next Untold Story!

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Story Told 2: Goblin Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn Untold Story 2, I invited readers to tell me about the ivy-choked ‘Goblin Park’ in Keszthely, Hungary. Yvon Hintz’s writes about an earlier incarnation of The Band, and their encounter with angry spirits among the trees…

Goblin Park

They were tired from a night of fighting a nest of demons that had infested a house but they had promised to entertain at the festival in the little market town of Keszthely on The Balaton. So they found the strength and played lively music to entertain the people. The laughter and the music revived them somewhat in the course of the evening but tiredness soon returned and when the festivities ended, they still had to get home. A travelling music group rarely had money to spare and that night was no exception; they could not afford to hire a carriage. They had to walk and the quickest way to their lodgings was across the town, through a dark, wooded area with unsettling feelings.

They were surprised half way along the path through the trees by the appearance of a young woman and her statement to them that there was magic in music. They could not disagree… using the magic of music to fight the evils of the world was what the band was all about. She had heard them play and understood their power and asked for their help to free her lover from a grove in the wood. Had been killed by an older man who had thought that she was his to marry. That man had then died and in his spite his spirit had moved into the wood where she and her lover and first met and sang and loved and been so happy. He vowed they would never be happy there again.

Her heartfelt plea could not help but soften the hearts of the musicians and tired though they were they took out their instruments and began to play and to sing and to tap out a rhythm that would induce the wayward spirit of the man to leave the grove and allow the young man’s shade to go to its natural place in the world hereafter.

But there was something not right. The evil seemed stronger than they had expected, its hold on the wood more tenacious than even their weariness would have predicted.

They played, they sang, they sat on the ground to stop themselves from falling down in dead faints and still the evil kept its grip.

Their leader, an older man, one whose years had given him wisdom as well as experience, suggested they change their mode of attack to one less headlong. ‘Sing to the plants’ he told them- make the wood itself do their bidding to hold the evil in its leafy arms.

The trees bent, the grasses rippled and whispered to their command and vines began to grow and snake across the ground. With a sigh of wind through the leaves the wood expelled the spirit that had held it in thrall. The man was angry. He railed at the group… he cursed the girl… he renewed his vow to make sure that she and her lover were never happy in this place.

They intensified their singing and their music but they could not get the man’s spirit to leave and he was strong, seeming to draw power from trees and rocks. In spite of his power, however, another spirit appeared – that of a handsome young man. The girl gave a happy cry and ran to him and the band almost faltered in their playing and singing as the pair met and melded in spiritual union. It had not occurred to them till that moment that she was in spirit also.

The pair had eyes only for each other and the musicians smiled as they expected them to fade and disappear into the world beyond where they belonged. But something was still not right. The evil they sensed in this place was still with them, still powerful, and it was not all coming from the vengeful shade.

It was the youngest member of the band who realised the truth. She played her flute and while she played images and visions would sometimes come to her. The vision that came to her now, which she quickly shared with the others, was that the lovers were not entirely innocent. When the older man had become too much of a irritant to their plans they had murdered him and laughed as they wrapped his body in cloth and rocks and threw it into the lake and then laughed again as they came to this wood to enjoy this place they had claimed as their own. When they eventually died he had captured their spirits and kept them with him in the wood.

With an understanding of the situation now, the group felt renewed strength of body and will. They played harder, they tapped and sang and the plants that had been for so long tolerant of the spirits in their midst turned against them, trapping them, holding them, preventing them forever from moving on, leaving them together in their own green hell.

If they had not been so tired the group might have tried to clear the place completely, but their beds called and dawn was coming and they felt that justice had been done. Perhaps, some time in the future another incarnation of the band would find the wood and finish the job.

– Yvon Hintz

Yvon is a writer and artist from WA. Read/see her work at Word Cafe: Yvon HIntz.

Kitty and Cadaver is the latest incarnation of a band that began in England in 1267. Their mission? Protect the world from the things that hide in the dark, using magic through music. The Untold Story posts show fragments of their 700 year history. The details have been lost in time – so I invite you to imagine what the story could be.

Stay tuned for the next Untold Story!

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Untold Story 2: Goblin Park

Kitty and Cadaver is the latest incarnation of a band that began in England in 1267. Their mission? Protect the world from the things that hide in the dark, using magic through music. The Untold Story posts show fragments of their 700 year history. The details have been lost in time – so I invite you to imagine what the story could be.

Goblin Park Keszthely HungaryThe walk from the train station into the Hungarian spa town of Keszthely goes by this dark and overgrown park. The park contains a small shed, from which desolate cries whisper in the twilight. On stormy nights, the cries ring out as though the trees themselves despair of ever escaping the vines that cover and choke everything.

Something bad happened here, long ago. Perhaps something good, as well. Perhaps someone was taken by the park, or perhaps someone escaped it. Is it the lost souls who cry, or the enraged park itself?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWrite your idea of what happened in the comments or submit 500-1000 words to kittyandcadaver@gmail.com and the best ficlets will go into a follow-up Story Told post. You can set your drabble/ficlet anywhere from the 13th to 21st century.

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Story Told 1: Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka salt mine (1)In Untold Story 1, I invited readers to give me their ideas of what happened to one incarnation of the band down in the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow. Sally Koetsveld answered the call, and here is her fabulous poem/story!

The Horror In The Deep
From deep below a tinkle
Crystal chimes discordant
Chink, chink, chink the heartbeat
Of the deep, echoing from the core
Of the earth.
Down, down, down.
Crystalline, pink, white ,blue
Hollow and full
Form and formless.

What horror waits for you?

No golem, no cthulu
but all the same it seeks
to freeze, to frame, to light.

A dwarf in search of perfect gems?
An ogre in search of food?
Not these either.

In the deep it sings to you, for you, at you.

In the deep, deep, deep.
Below the lake that is not a sea, not an ocean
But the portal to the core of the earth
It sings.

An Artist surfaces.

Keen eyes and many deft hands steal the music played to soothe the restless
Dead, and with magic of its own, uses the music to
Carve in the salty rock a curse, an invocation, a dark blessing hidden in the shape of the would-be Saviour.  It has a sense of humour, that Dark Artist, that Magician.

The salt caverns ring with delicate beats as the Artist claims more souls
Crystalising them into their sculptures.  Their hearts still beat and tingle.

Even now, when visitors grace those caverns they hear the whispers of those trapped souls, the loudest and oldest the Bard and Saviour who tried to quell the Magic Beast and was turned into its first creation.

Tread quietly and listen.
Sing his song.
You may yet free them all.

  — Sally Koetsveld

Thank you Sally for playing with us in the Kittyverse!

Another Story Told for the salt mine is by Yvon Hintz: read Breath of God.

Kitty and Cadaver is the latest incarnation of a band that began in England in 1267. Their mission? Protect the world from the things that hide in the dark, using magic through music. The Untold Story posts show fragments of their 700 year history. The details have been lost in time – so I invite you to imagine what the story could be.

Stay tuned for the next Untold Story!

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Untold Story 1: Wieliczka Salt Mine

Kitty and Cadaver is the latest incarnation of a band that began in England in 1267. Their mission? Protect the world from the things that hide in the dark, using magic through music. The Untold Story posts show fragments of their 700 year history. The details have been lost in time – so I invite you to imagine what the story could be.

Wieliczka salt mine (1)The Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland has been operating since the band began in the 13th century. People have been carving figures down there for centuries. An earlier version of the band was there, and at least one of the musicians was badly hurt by something nasty that lurked in the underground lake.

Write your idea of what happened in the comments or submit 500-1000 words to kittyandcadaver@gmail.com and the best ficlets will go into a follow-up Story Told post. You can set your drabble/ficlet anywhere from the 13th to 21st century.

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.