First Chapters – The Mystic Accountants by Will Macmillan Jones

Today’s First Chapter is from The Mystic Accountants, book two in The Banned Underground series, by my friend Will Macmillan Jones.

Will The Mystic AccountantsDESCRIPTION

The Mystic Accountants is the second outing for the dwarf rhythm-and-blues band and their jazz-loving, saxophone-playing bog troll leader. They are about to acquire a new band member too, but quite by accident. They needed a bass player, but will a rather chubby and frequently drunken Welsh Dragon fit in?

The Banned have been given a task – well, perhaps they were taken to task , but it wasn’t really their fault. After all, they hadn’t planned to demolish the mystical Throne of the Dwarf King under the Mountain during one of their gigs, had they? But the choice of punishment was easy: get locked up or go on a more-or-less paid-for Quest to find another Throne.

The Quest takes them across Wales, unexpectedly by way of various pubs and a beer festival, until they find … well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? And the Quest isn’t going to be as easy as they think, either. The Dark Lord wants to intercept the Throne for purposes of his own and his minions are in hot pursuit.

Will the King of the Dwarves sit on a Throne again? Will the Dark Lord triumph? Find out in this fast-moving, wisecracking, pun-filled satire on fantasy adventure quests.

Prologue…

Accountancy gets a very bad press. The practitioners of this arcane and intricate art are much more than just bean counters. The author has been an accountant for many, many years without feeling any compulsion to count the number of baked beans in a can. It’s 463. I googled it, honest.

The profession would get much more respect, if the general public only realised how many dark wizards used accountancy as a cover.

No frogs were harmed in the writing of this novel.

Chapter

The Lake District. Probably the most beautiful part of the whole of the British Isles. (Yes all right, I know that you think the bit of the world you live in is better: but you are only the reader, so your opinion doesn’t count. Unless you happen to be the Publisher, or the Author’s Bank Manager, when yes, clearly a mistake has been made and will be corrected in the next edition.).

However, this region – beloved by photographers across the world – has a downside. Occasionally, it rains. A fact known especially by the assistant photographers whose task (in return for meagre wages) is to carry all the kit and not to drop it in the mud, under any circumstances, on pain of pain.

Accordingly, unusually, and most remarkably, this evening it was raining. The waters hammered on the houses of the towns and villages, forcing visitors (completely against their better natures) to take shelter in the various pubs. The locals, used to the rain, found their own excuses for being in the local.

Much photographed and adored by the professional photographers, and hated in equal measure by those who had to carry the equipment, the mighty Lakeland Fell of Helvelyn stood tall against the storm, the delicate tracery of the attached Striding Edge laughing at the rain, whilst using the lashing water to make sure that the tracks became a nightmare for the next to assay the passage whilst burdened down with responsibility. ( *And four cameras, two tripods, assorted lenses, and (crucially) lunch.)

Down the slopes into the next valley of Borrowdale lay the ancient Bowder Stone, rumoured to be the trysting ground for various supernatural, mystic or uncanny beings, and in fact the Front Door to the Helvyndelve, the Ancient Dwarf Halls which lie beneath the frowning fells of Helvelyn. And quite a few other fells too, of course, the Mansion of the Dwarfs being frankly enormous and difficult to heat. On a night such as this, who would have been surprised at the sight of a large group of eldritch beings, dwarfs, trolls, half-elves and so on swathed and huddled against the rain, gathered together there? Their conversation could have been, should have been, mystical, magical, occult or paranormal, or indeed all of them at once.

“I don’t care who you are, if you haven’t got a ticket, you can’t come in,” said Security.

“But I’m with the Band!” said the first being in the queue.

“They all say that,” replied Security, in the form of two dwarfs clad in full body armour and bad attitudes.

“I’ve got a T shirt on.”

“All it says is ‘Let me in ‘cos I’m with the Band’,” pointed out Security.

“See?” insisted the would be concert-goer.

“£9.99 at the supermarket. Everyone’s got one.” The security dwarf opened his cloak and revealed a badly fitting t-shirt stretched over his armour.

“Come on. Some of us behind you are getting soaked, waiting out here!” came a complaint from further down the queue.

“Not my fault they didn’t put up any awnings,” replied the ticket-less one.

“Show us your ticket, or go away,” insisted Security.

“All right, I haven’t got a ticket.”

“Should have said so. Then you could just have bribed me straight off, instead of standing out there getting wet.”

There was a chink, as several coins passed hands. A derisive snort and several more joined the first set vanishing into Security’s secure pockets. The queue moved on.

Inside the Gate Chamber, a large dimly lit cave underground beneath the Bowder Stone, more security awaited the intrepid visitors.

“Helvyndelve Security. Please leave your spears, swords, staffs, wands, knives and other weapons at the desk, to collect on your way home,” said the banner.

“Good bit of spell casting that, Milim,” said the first underground guard, another medium sized dwarf who was also fully armoured.

“Getting the banner to talk like that saves us a lot of work, Daran,” replied his colleague, through his enormous beard.

“Pity it had a Yorkshire accent though.”

“Can’t have everything.   No, sorry Sir, got to leave that over there, collect it on your way out.”

“But it’s cultural!” objected the gig-goer.

“It’s also banned completely in most countries,” Daran insisted.

“It’s recommended for police use in the others.”

“But not here, so leave it.”

“ Guard?”

“Well done Sir. Identifying me as a guard wins you a prize.”

“Great! What did I win?”

“The right not to be assaulted gratuitously until you are on the way out again.”

“Guard? I’ve got a press pass!”

“Press past me and you will know about it. Get in the queue with the others.”

“Guard?”

“Yes Sir?”

“Says you have to leave your weapons here.”

“That’s right.”

“I‘m an expert in unarmed combat.”

“Then just leave your arms with the other weapons.”

Daran and Milim watched the guest, his empty sleeves flapping, join the wanderers down the dimly lit corridor into the heart of the Helvyndelve.

“I dunno, Daran, it’s not rocket science is it?”

“And he’s armless now.”

“I never expected the Banned Underground to get a house this size. The Chamber of the Throne’s going to be packed out,” Milim said to Daran.

“Archlord Lakin spent a lot on the advertising for them. Witches Chronicle, Modern Warlock, What Witch, The Craft Magazine, New Shaman, Investment banker International.”

“Investment Banker International?” queried Milim.

“Get a lot of the Mystical Edern reading that. Regular order at their Fairy Hill.”

“Always been a bunch of bankers, that’s true. Is the Lord expecting any trouble?”

“Don’t think so, really. The Tuatha can’t make the gig, Erald, their boss, has got them on some sort of team building exercise in Wales. It’s his latest management thing, he got it from that Lord Telem of the Edern.”

“What’s it supposed to do, then?” Milim wanted to know.

“I saw the brochure lying about. It is supposed to:

Encourage Coordinated Action

Enhance Teamwork

Develop Leadership Skills

Teach the Art of Delegation

Reduce Dependency on others

Encourage Self Reliance”

“What does he want to teach that lot those things for?” Milim asked.

“Improve their efficiency?” Daran wondered.

“The only thing they’ll ever be efficient at is drinking. And if they get any more coordinated at the bar, no one else will ever get served.”

“Talking of which, let’s get the doors locked and get a round in before the hospitality bar closes and the gig starts.”

“With Fungus the Boogieman and The Banned Underground playing, the bar will never close.”

Milim and Daran closed the Magical Doors, and locked them with the traditional magic spell:

“And bloody well stay shut!”

before following the last of the latecomers down the Western Passage to the Chamber of The Throne.

However much money had been spent on the advertising, the drinks, and the other drinks, the further drinks, the emergency drinks, the essential drinks for when the emergency drinks ran out, and the last ditch secret stash of drinks for real emergencies (such as running out of drinks), and the customary catering (“you want onions or fries with your burger?”) the backstage area was not so well equipped (except for the drinks).

The Banned Underground was enjoying the hospitality room, a curtained off area ten square and dusty feet behind the dais at one end of the enormous Chamber of the Throne, which lay deep below Helvelyn itself. The ancient, mystical, and woodworm infested Throne of the Mountain King occupied much of the space, but there was plenty left as a stage for the Banned Underground.

Popular in many quarters, and unpopular wherever bar tabs remained unpaid, the Band (all dwarfs with one exception) were:

Haemar                   lead vocals

Scar                           keyboards

Felldyke                  Drums, percussion, empty beer bottles etc

Gormless Golem   Guitar

And on Saxophone, a five and a half foot high luminous green BogTroll called Fungus the Boogieman

According to the fly posters presently being removed from various local car parks.

“I wanted those M n M things, with all the yellow ones taken out,” grumbled Scar, engaged in his favourite hobby: complaining.

Fungus was peering through the hastily erected curtain, which hung behind the dais on which the Throne rested. (After a hard day of being sat on by Lakin the Lord of the Helvyndelve, the Throne needed the rest.) His shades kept slipping down his nose in the heat, but he would not discard them.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Haemar gargling.

“Do you have to do that, Haemar?” Fungus demanded.

“Just lubricating my throat before the gig,” Haemar replied, unconcerned.

“Can’t you use WD 40 like any other singer?”

“This water is free. Look, it even runs free.”

“Down the wall, near the power socket,” observed GG who was fussing around as usual.

“Any normal singer would use beer,” said Felldyke the almost spherical drummer, who could be observed with a beer in each hand. Extra bottles stuck out of the special pockets he had sewn into his stage clothes. Spare drumsticks were rammed into every conceivable spot, and some of them were made of wood instead of chicken.

“I’ll do a sound check for the kit,” Felldyke said. He walked out through the curtain, and sat down at the drums. A hammer carefully thrown from the audience banged off his helmet, and he listened respectfully to the echoes.

“That’ll do,” he said.

“Where’s Gormless Golem?” asked Fungus, seeking his errant guitarist.

“He’s round the back somewhere, fiddling with the cables and amps,” replied Scar. “He plugged my organ in first, but wasn’t happy with my sound balance.”

“Only ‘cos you fell over on top of him” said Haemar, discarding the water and opening a whisky bottle.

“Tell you what, we’ve got a great crowd,” reported Fungus, excitedly. The Throne of the Mountain King lay on a dais in the enormous cavern, about nine hundred feet underground at the heart of the Dwarf Mansion. It was full of jostling dwarfs, trolls, the occasional elf and some witches and warlocks.

“Who cares?” said Haemar. “Who’s got the money?”

“Security, for security whilst we play,” Fungus said over his shoulder.

“Can’t trust that lot. Security are the biggest thieves around,” worried Scar.

“Where’s the set list?” asked Felldyke.

“What do you want to know for?” asked Scar.

“So as I know what to play.”

“Felldyke, you play the same beat to every song, so what difference will it make?”

“Where’s GG?” asked Fungus, bringing his head back through the curtain and again dislodging his sunglasses.

“Here, Fungus,” called Gormless Golem.

“What have you been doing back there?”

“Setting up the amps and cabling. Tell you what, with all this rain outside, it’s a bit damp back here.”

“It’ll dry out when we get going,” promised Fungus, unconcerned as his saxophone didn’t need electricity.

In the Chamber of The Throne, the noise of the excited audience took on a new quality. The dais shook slightly as a group of heavily armoured dwarfs tramped onto the stage. Several were wearing protective earmuffs, although the bright pink fluffy material clashed rather with their fetching grey metal helmets.

The Guard Captain drew a deep breath.

“Right you stupid lot, shut up,” he yelled.

“Why do you think we are stupid?” called a nearby member of the audience. The Guard Captain glared back.

“You paid to get in, didn’t you?”

Lakin, Archlord of the Helvyndelve and hence King Under the Mountain, then leapt onto the dais to the cheers of the crowd. He was a tall dwarf (that is tall, for a dwarf) and dressed completely in gleaming black ceremonial armour. He waved his arms in the traditional way, until the crowd quietened down.

“Tonight, we are going to hear The Banned Underground!” Lakin announced.

As this was printed on the tickets, it came as no surprise even to the drummers in the audience. So they stayed quiet, listening to the Lord of Helvyndelve. Disappointed in the lack of reaction, Lakin continued.

“As you know, they helped last year in the recovery of the Lost Amulet of Kings, which I now wear, and this is their Victory Gig. So, big it up for………….

THE BANNED UNDERGROUND!”

The audience responded now to his leaving, with a huge roar of approval. Security pulled away the curtains, and Haemar grabbed the mike stand, wrapping his trademark scarf around his left wrist.

“Here we go!” he yelled at the audience, and the Banned broke into ‘Going Underground’, their normal opening number.

Soon the gig had indeed warmed up, and the crowd were dancing. Well, most of them. The symmetrically challenged (one legged) Marvin was still complaining to anyone who would listen.

“He’s playing ‘At The Hop again’,” he complained

“Got to admit, they work hard,” yelled Daran to Milim, as a fast new number started.

“Dunno this one. What is it?”

“’Easy Living’, of course.”

“Is everyone having fun?” screamed Haemar from the stage.

The volume of the roar of approval caused Scar to fall over again.

“I’m gonna have to do something about his (un)sound balance,” fussed GG, from underneath Scar.

Felldyke started on a drum fill, as the Band drew breath. Unfortunately, he let go of one drumstick at a crucial point, and as the errant stick whirled across the stage to make a pinpoint landing in the left ear of the Captain of the Security Guard, he grabbed a replacement from his smock. A chicken nugget however made a less than resonant sound on the snare drum and had to be discarded. To be eaten later.

“Next, another old favourite,” Fungus yelled into the mike, whilst Haemar rescued GG.

The errant guitarist windmilled his right arm a few times, and careered across the stage, rather worse for wear from a combination of beer and being sat upon by a very heavy keyboard-playing dwarf.

None the less, the frantic opening chords exploded out of the amplifiers and assaulted the auditorium.

Gormless Golem bounced off Fungus, and staggered back, although to his credit, without missing a note.

Unfortunately, he failed to miss his speaker stack, which collapsed. Some speakers fell onto Felldyke and the Drum Kit, one large speaker toppled slowly over onto Scar’s keyboard, and the speaker’s head unit, stuffed full of complicated circuitry and above all else electronics fell into a large pool of water which had collected backstage.

“Jumping Jack Flash!” howled Haemar into his microphone, announcing the song: GG took to the air as the power fed back up the cable into his Telecaster guitar, and he flew across the stage (narrowly missing Fungus who ducked in time) to smash into the Throne. There was a mighty flash, the stage lights went out, and the Throne of the Mountain King disintegrated.

“Man,” said Scar, with feeling, “that Keef and Mick write smashing songs!”

Five extremely large Guards, each displaying a casual approach to both violence and personal hygiene formed a stage invasion.

“For your own safety, you will come with us,” growled their leader.

“Who’s threatening us?” asked Fungus, who was still a little shaken from the experience of a ballistic guitarist crossing his vision at a three inch distance.

“Will I do?” asked the Guard Captain, who had failed to remove the drumstick from his left ear.

“One good thing,” remarked GG as he left the stage slung over the shoulder of one guard.

“Do tell,” asked Fungus jumping slightly under the influence of too many mushrooms, adrenaline from the gig, and the sharp point of a sword in his back.

“At least I wasn’t using my Les Paul guitar.”

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2 responses to “First Chapters – The Mystic Accountants by Will Macmillan Jones

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