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David Clement-Davies does his first reading from his crowd-funded novel and publishing project Dragon In The Post, that you can also read part of up on WATTPAD

To hear the author reading from Dragon In The Post click the audio arrow below. To go to Wattpad or Indiegogo click on the underlined links. To hear the second instalment just CLICK HERE

If you, your family and children enjoy this reading and story please help us start a grass-roots fire by spreading the word and crowd funding it into a real book, sent to you, in the post by CHOOSING ONE OF THE PERK LEVELS AT INDIEGOGO

Many thanks and although we are doing wonderfully at 53% funded, it ain’t easy, we have ambitions to raise more than the 4.5k target, to open the door on many things, coverage is coming in the Hampshire Chronicle and so the deadline has just been extended to the full-time limit available at Indiegogo of 60 days. That now ends on August 27th but momentum is always vital and remember if we do not hit the 4.5k target by then indiegogo will take a bigger percentage of any money raised.


The painting is the wonderful image of a Fire Cutter, a dragon that cuts a door into another world for Gareth Marks, done specially for the project which you can own too as a signed print by being the highest of the next four contributors!

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Facebook and Social Media ‘Press Release’



With 23 Days to go, of the highest contributions or raised contributions among the next SIX backers on Indiegogo one person will also own this wonderful Fire Cutter by Yasmin Foster. You can do that right now by going to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dragon-in-the-post/x/8028980

Thanks so much Yasmin and other frolics to come. – Contacted local papers, cutting the flying film and training for South Downs Walk! Hope you all had a lovely weekend but we need to up the intensity and contributions. PA PRESS

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At 50% funded come and help crowd fund this story into a real book, not an Ebook, and sent to you in the post. You can have your name posted here and in the front of the actual book, while you can visit the Indiegogo project right now by CONTRIBUTING HERE


Yet there was one figure in the great kitchens that seemed to take an interest in the three of them that day – Herbert the Kitchen Phoenix. In between his food tastings and his endless tears at the slaughter taking place, the strange bird would suddenly swoop over and check Gareth’s Correcting, or nod as Sarissa strained at the spit, or look on approvingly as fat little Sao finished another batch of dirty plates. He seemed to like the three of them.
They all wondered how the bird moved around so fast, steam coming from his ears, since he seemed so ancient and his feathers kept moulting everywhere. The activity in the kitchens was frantic, and soon several of the scullies were in tears too, at their treatment by the Cooks, but Bouchebold seemed oblivious to it all and in a very good mood.
Until something terrible happened. Gareth had put down his chopping knife, as his arm was aching so much and suddenly noticed those two crates, now marked VERY DANGEROUS.
Well, he had seen too much already to be put off by this, not least his Godfather’s Very Dangerous Book, so when Gareth was sure no one was looking, he slipped over to take a peek.
Both had large white cloths over them and Gareth decided to look at the delivery from the Dark Wood first. He peeled back the cloth and inside were heaped luscious looking berries, a bit like blackberries, except a deep, dark red, and next to them, the strangest looking mushrooms he had ever seen.
They were huge blue-green toadstools, that seemed to have orange eyes in the top of them, which seemed to blink every now and then and stalks of the purest, nastiest looking black. Gareth noticed a sharp scent, coming off the berries, that made his eyes water and as he leant nearer to smell them, pulled back, because a terrible scene had just flashed in front of his eyes.
Gareth Marks thought he saw an animal, like a wild boar, in a wood, throwing up its head, as it crashed to the leafy ground with an arrow in its side. Then the poor creature was on its back, kicking its legs and blood was everywhere, soaking into the soft ground, as little bushes, with berries on them, bloomed from the earth. Gareth hurriedly pulled the cloth over the nasty things, as he thought he saw one of those toadstools quiver and turned to the second crate. A strong smell of salt and sea was filling the air now and, gingerly, Gareth pulled back the cloth, to see five enormous fish. They were like silver Sea Bass, although they had giant rounded heads, and, the strangest thing of all, they seemed to have lizard’s feet too, just below their fins.
Gareth noticed the crate was swimming with water but it was the magical sheen on their scales, silver, red, and a flashing turquoise, that made the boy reach out and touch one, with his forefinger, to stroke it lightly.
As soon as he touched the wet, Gareth felt a jolt run up his arm, as if he had put his finger to an electric socket, at home. Then the strangest feeling washed over him. At first it felt wonderful, like a sudden exhilaration, yet, with it, came an enormous sadness. Gareth’s eyes were suddenly dark, and he could hardly breathe. The sadness, that made him think of Herbert’s tears, was followed by thoughts of his dad, and then his horrid stepfather, and a terrible feeling of anger enveloped him, that made Gareth want to scream.
Then all these feelings were flooding over Gareth at once. He felt as if he was drowning, and in his mind he was underwater, while all around him were shadows of the strangest creatures imaginable. Dark, unformed shapes, flashed past his sight, and his eyes were stinging, as if washed by chlorine in a public swimming pool.
Now Gareth felt an impossible sense of despair too, and was falling, sinking, deeper and deeper, drowning, but he sensed what lay below had no end. It was like passing through the Seer Guard again.
He heard a screech, felt something hard below him, that hurt, but still he was falling, as if being sucked downwards, into the dark, with only the dim sense of sunlight somewhere very high above, getting fainter and fainter. Gareth felt he wanted to die in that moment, to give up, above all to stop the terrible, uncontrollable feelings washing through his being. Yet he felt water on his face, just specks, and could suddenly breath again, and his eyes began to clear.
He saw the Kitchen Phoenix first, hovering high above him, shaking its head and crying, and then Sarissa and Sao were peering down at him too.
“Gareth, are you ok? What happened?”
Gareth remembered thinking what a nice face Sarissa had when she smiled like that, but suddenly he was back, awake, on the hard floor, and now Bouchebold was glowering down at him too, pulling Sao and Sarissa aside.
“Get up, boy,” the Dragon chef bellowed.
Gareth struggled to his feet and looked around guiltily. The whole kitchen had stopped work to look.
“It’s lucky you only touched some water from the Foundless Sea,” said Bouchebold gravely, “and didn’t eat one of those DeathBerries. You’d have been dead on the instant. You have to soak DeathBerries for days, to take the poison out. So to turn them into Bloodberries.”
Gareth gulped.
“If one of those ToadShrooms had woken, and hopped out, they could have got into the grounds, and sown themselves all over the place. They can make people see the strangest things.”
Gareth looked nervously towards the first crate.
“As it was we nearly lost you though,” said Bouchebold, “Only Herbert’s tears brought you back again. No salt in them, only healing.”
Gareth looked gratefully at the old bird, who had perched on top of a casserole dish, the same colour as its feathers. He seemed to be smiling.
Sarissa and Sao were looking with great concern at their friend too
“But if I just can’t trust you to take orders,” scolded Bouchebold, “you haven’t a chance working for me, lad. You’re demoted, right now, to the lowest kitchen Peel Stacker. I’ll think of a real punishment later.”
Bouchebold was looking over to a filthy pile of potato peelings being gathered in a corner.
“Yes, Dragon Chef,” said Gareth miserably, still feeling shaky on his feet.
“WHAT DID YOU SAY?!” boomed Bouchebold, immediately.
Gareth saw the look of terror on the Choppers’ faces and remembered the term he was not supposed to use down here.
“Dragon Chefs?” bellowed Bouchebold furiously, “We’ve no filthy Dragon Chefs in Pendolis.”
Bouchebold had grabbed a huge ladle and seemed about to strike Gareth with it, but he slammed it against the counter instead, again and again, until it bent in two.
“Those lying, preening, self-regarding frauds. With their Blue Ribbons and their smug recipes, and their nasty little self-serving club. It’s all about Gold and Celebrity, nothing else, while half of them couldn’t cook a boiled egg properly.”
Herbert the Kitchen Phoenix had started to cry again to sob, but Bouchebold glared dangerously at Gareth.
“Out of my sight, underling,” he cried, “before I boil you alive in sizzling rabbit fat.”
One of the Choppers had grabbed Gareth’s arm, and was pulling him hurriedly towards the potato peelings.
“Don’t worry,” he whispered kindly, “he’ll calm down soon enough. There’s too much to do, today.”
“But why does he get so…”
“Upset? Because they denied him the Blue Ribbon, of course,” said the Scully, “The greatest accolade in all Blistag. When he was a Dragon Chef himself.You can only enter if you’re a Three Tail Chef, anyway.”
“He was one?”
“Oh, yes, and to none other than the Black Warlock. Before he got quite so dark. Bouchebold hates to talk about it.”
The scully had said this in a whisper but Gareth suddenly felt there was a grave mystery about this Bouchebold.
“It’s a wonder the Dragoman took Bouchebold in at all. But he does like his deserts.”
With that, they heard a scream, from somewhere down those passageways.
“What was that?” said Gareth.
“They’re probably torturing that mute, who brought in a FireCutter, to get him to talk.”
“But that’s silly,” said Gareth, thinking Pendolis horrid indeed, “if he’s mute, he can’t…”
“Don’t do to ask too much here,” said the scully gravely.
Like the others, Gareth got to work again, though among the potato peelings now, near a cook who seemed to be working on a pudding, with a veritable Cornucopia of strange ingredients, that kept drawing the twelve-year-old’s attention away from his peelings. While Bouchebold calmed down rather sooner than he might because the First Cook was suddenly looking towards the pass.
A Lady was standing there, one of the Dragon Maidens, in her high collared red velvet gown. It was the beautiful raven haired girl, they had noticed on the balcony.
“My Lady Mordanna,” piped Bouchebold immediately, pulling out a handkerchief and mopping his brow, then giving a very low bow.
“Good Bouchebold,” said the maiden softly, dipping her head gracefully, “Lord Cracken sends his regards, but wished me to inform you we’re gathering in the great hall. I wanted to see the kitchens too, I admit.”
“Yes, my Lady. And everything is perfectly on time. We’ll serve the Dragoman’s favourite pudding too, tonight. Bloodberry soufflé.”
Mordanna looked rather amused but she was suddenly looking about the kitchen and her eyes had fallen on Sarissa Halleet, looking embarrassed and resentful at that spit.
She smiled rather kindly, then she swung her head to take in Sao, and finally Gareth. The jewel held on forehead, by that necklace, or headlace, sparked in the light of the glowing kitchen fires.
The Dragon Maiden looked very out-of-place in a kitchen, but as she stood there, something strange happened. It was as if all the stove fires flickered and dwindled at once, and a shadow passed over the room. Gareth saw the glow from that archway increase, and wondered again if a Dragon was lurking beyond.
Bouchebold suddenly looked very worried too, as a lost, faraway look came into the Dragon Maiden’s deep, dark eyes.
“Strangers,” she whispered suddenly, in an even stranger voice, “Strangers, here in Pendolis, beyond the Seer Guard. They are important though. Vital in the Dragon Wars. The Prophecy comes, but there is evil among us already from the Black Warlock himself. The Seer Guard shall be breached. Something new is happening, born this very day.”
As Gareth listened, he felt those feelings overcoming him once more, but the stoves blazed in the kitchens again, and the shadow had passed. Mordanna was blinking, as if quite unaware of what she had just said.
“Well, Bouchebold,” she cried cheerfully, “I can’t wait to try your delicious food. The Dragon Warriors are starving.”
The Dragon Maiden turned and swept away, as all the kitchen staff looked rather warily at the First Cook.
“What are you all gawking at,” Bouchebold cried, “you know they can’t remember, when they’ve just prophesied. Now hurry up, we must get the food to the Pass.”
So they began to serve the dishes they had prepared that day, in a frantic flurry of activity. Suddenly starters were moving towards the Pass, to be taken upstairs, by eager servants in gold tunics.
Gareth’s mouth began to water furiously, as he saw that array of food; delicate Sweetmeats, slices of honey coated ham, terrines of liver pate in Brandy, and quails eggs, on a bed of delicate green and red leaves.
All the while, Bouchebold was sweating, shouting out orders, and this time Gareth wished he had forgotten him, because every time Bouchebold caught sight of Gareth he scowled furiously. Gareth thought of some punishment to come and knew that if he could not make up for himself, he would have a very hard time of it indeed, in the great kitchens of Pendolis.
His fear got worse, when he went to collect some soggy potato peelings and knocked over a little jar, of the most horrid looking brown liquid that tipped straight into one of the waiting dishes.
He caught hold of the thing, just in time, and felt he should tell someone but to his horror someone snatched up the dish and hurried it away towards the Pass. But so the main courses were sent up to the rooms above too. Great trays of what looked like sliced Rhinocerous. Platters of rabbit casserole, with duck hearts, chickens and beef, and fishes, and enough food to satisfy an army.
Now the desserts began to move. Oranges in caramel, strangely coloured jellies, delicate sugar biscuits, a huge bowl of red, orange and green triffle, someone said was called The Painted Dessert and all seemed to be going well, until Bouchebold wandered over to the cook nearest Gareth and there was suddenly a terrible roar.
Bouchebold had just dipped his finger into whatever the man had been making.
“Wrong,” he cried, “disgusting. I can never serve Lord Cracken or the new Dragon Warriors that. That’s not a BloodBerry soufflé mix at all, you idiot. It’s ruined.”
Herbert had flown in now, to try the thing himself, and the scrutinising Phoenix shook his head mournfully.
“Well, Herbert,” said Bouchebold, “what’s wrong with it?”
This time the Phoenix seemed totally at a loss. A limp feather dropped from its right wing.
“Really, Herbert,” snapped Bouchebold, “are you losing your palette?”
“Excuse me, Sir,” said Gareth nervously.
“You,” snorted Bouchebold, as he turned to look at the twelve-year-old, “You dare to interrupt Bouchebold, after all you’ve…
“Er, I think it’s the Cinnamon Flour, First Cook,” whispered Gareth, “He didn’t put in any Cinnamon Flour. I’ve been watching.”
Bouchebold, not to mention the rest of the kitchen retinue, looked at Gareth Marks in absolute astonishment but Bouchebold suddenly blinked and beamed.
“Cinnamon flour,” he cried, “But of course. You’re absolutely right, young man. It’s missing Cinnamon Flour.”
Bouchebold hurried over to a large glass jar, and when he had added six heaped tablespoons of orange-brown Cinnamon flour, then tried the thing, he seemed back to his old self again.
“Redeemed,” he cried, looking fondly at Gareth, “You’ve redeemed yourself, all right. You’ll rise as high as a BloodBerry Soufflé, and work with Bouchebold himself, one fine day.”
Gareth was naturally delighted and Sarrisa and Sao were looking at him in amazement, wondering how on earth their friend had known. They did not see him carefully replacing one of the torn pages of Pendelion’s book in his pocket. At the curling top the fragment said – “Bloodberry Soufflé. A COUNTRY RECIPE.”
“Quick now,” cried Bouchebold, “into the oven, straight. With the reaction of the BloodBerries, especially ones we’ve been soaking for months, it’ll only take five seconds heat. Then it must be served piping hot, with Whipped Dandelion Cream.”
One of the scullies had opened a huge oven, like a terracotta pizza oven, with a stone and glass door and lit at the bottom by an open flame. But as he did so the flame went out. Not just in this oven though, for all the fires in the great kitchens, guttered and died.
“No,” moaned Bouchbold, “not now. It’s impossible.”
“What’s wrong, First Cook?” said Gareth, “Why have the stoves…”
“Dragon Gas,” answered Bouchebold sharply, “the Dragon Gas must have run out. It happens sometimes. They must have forgotten to fill the tanks, but the whole citadel’s fired on it. Pendolis runs on Dragon Power. Farty creatures that they are, especially fed on Buttersqueak, like our Dragon in the next chamber. My pet.”
Gareth wanted to laugh, for the glow beyond had disappeared, and he suddenly realised what that strange smell in the kitchen had been. The kitchen fires of Pendolis were lit by methane gas, from actual Dragons.
“It’s a disaster,” moaned Bouchebold. “We’ll be on bread and water for a month, if Cracken doesn’t get his soufflé. The first day of Dragon Training too, and the whole meal’s failed. I’m ruined, ruined.”
Bouchebold had suddenly stopped though and swung round to look piercingly at Herbert. The old bird suddenly appeared terrified and now it was shaking its beak furiously, and flapping its wings too.
“Oh yes, Herbert,” insisted Bouchebold, “It’s the only way now, my dear old friend. And besides, its near your time, anyway.”
Bouchebold stood back and was holding open the oven door. Herbert had a very resigned look on his face but he suddenly took wing and sailed inside. The Phoenix settled on the ledge, below the huge soufflé tin.
Bouchebold shut the oven door fast and Herbert sat there, peering back through the glass, tears streaming down his feathery face. Bouchebold was crying too but it seemed that his culinary artistry came before anything else.
“Hey, what’s happening, Gareth?” whispered Sao, who had wandered up too. He looked fit to drop.
“Not sure, Sao. The Dragoman wants his favourite pudding.”
Inside the oven the Phoenix had closed its huge eyes and started to quiver. It was as if it was turning itself on, because, suddenly, its wings and feathers caught fire.
The poor bird flared there, before their eyes below the soufflé, and suddenly there was a flash of intense light and flame. Herbert the Kitchen Phoenix exploded into flames, which licked up around the edge of the soufflé tin, and suddenly the dark red Bloodberry mix was rising over the top, as Herbert vanished in a puff of smoke.
Bouchebold pulled open the oven immediately. Below the risen soufflé, Bouchebold was pulling proudly out with a pair of mauve oven gloves, was nothing but a mound of glowing ashes, with a lonely, half burnt feather sticking out.
“A triumph,” cried Bouchbold, regarding the pudding fondly. “Well done, Herbert, cooked to perfection.”
“Poor Herbert,” said Sao sadly, “he’s dead.”
“Well, he looked exhausted anyway,” said Gareth, consolingly, “and he really couldn’t stop crying. Everything seemed to upset him.”
Bouchbold had hurried the piping hot soufflé into the hands of a server, but now he turned towards Gareth and Sao, as Sarissa wandered over.
“You’ve done well, lad,” he said admiringly, and Sao looked at his friend as adoringly as ever, “quite saved the day. So for you, and your friends here too, there shall be a very special reward.”
“Reward,” said Gareth sceptically, feeling utterly miserable for Herbert, who after all had saved his life, when he had touched the fish and the water from the Foundless Sea.
“Of course, Garnet. Tonight there’s extra cabbage, and tomorrow, you’ll be given the morning off. Back to work by elevenses, mind.”
“Tomorrow,” groaned Sarissa, “You mean we have to do all this again? I could sleep for a month. And my arm hurts.”
“You may go with the Stewards,” continued Bouchebold, “out into the countryside, and make sure the Dragon Gas is turned back on.”
“Thanks very much,” said Gareth half-heartedly.
“It’s hard and smelly work, fetching Dragon dung,” said Bouchebold, and he suddenly looked at Gareth sharply, “not to mention very dangerous.”
Sarissa was scowling furiously at Gareth now.
“But it will take you in sight of the young Dragon Warriors,” added Bouchebold significantly, “and their earliest training. Few get to see that, especially from the kitchens.”
Gareth Marks brightened immediately, and with that, they all saw it. The embers in the open oven stirred, and a bright red head popped up and looked around. Suddenly a winged shape exploded out of the oven in a shower of soot, flew into the air and settled safely on the top of the hob and shook itself.
“Hello, Herbert,” said the Great Bouchebold cheerfully, “Welcome back, and very well done. The Dragoman will no doubt reward your greatest sacrifice, too. Perhaps he’ll find you a lady Phoenix.”
The children laughed, for the little kitchen Phoenix was standing there, beaming stupidly, not a tear in its clear, sharp eyes. Its wings were as bright and fresh as if it had been new-born, which, of course, Herbert the Kitchen Phoenix just had!

David Clement-Davies Copyright Phoenix Ark Press

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Gareth Marks was in a world of dream, or nightmare. On a mean little cot in a dingy basement in Pendolis where the 12-year-old was now sleeping he suddenly heard a soft, whispering voice in his darkened mind.
“Gareth, where are you, Gareth? I can’t even see you.”
At first the boy thought that it was his mum but the voice became clearer, delicate but strong and almost beautiful, and he saw his little dragon, the Firecutter, hovering before his eyes again.
“You must get out of there, Gareth, it’s not safe. No where’s safe any more. Not even Pendolis.”
The dragon’s mouth didn’t move at all but she was definitely speaking to him. Gareth Marks felt an awful ache and reached out to the little creature, but like a spirit, trying to escape capture, it flapped its blue wings, pulled backwards in the air, and was gone.
“NO. Don’t leave me. Not again.”
The 12-year-old woke with a jolt, shivering badly, and sat bolt upright, half expecting his step dad to be there. Instead he saw Sao Cheung standing at the end of his cot, smiling kindly at him, although his eyes were red and puffy, and he had obviously been crying.
He was holding some clothes in both hands and his Baseball jersey was gone. Instead, the Chinese American boy was wearing baggy moleskin trousers, leather sandals, and a kind of rough sacking, that looked like it was made of coconut hair with a big pocket at the front. It made him look slimmer.
“Hiya,” he said softly, blinking, “I didn’t want to wake you.”
“Thanks, Sao.”
“Er. They brought us these,” said Sao, holding out the bundle of rough clothes, “They say they want us at work in ten minutes.”
“Work?” mumbled Gareth wearily, half thinking himself back in the flat in London. His back was aching.
“Scullies. Kitchen boys, I guess,” whispered Sao, “The twins have started Dragon training. I saw them through the window, this morning.”
“Morning?” said Gareth, “But how long have I been asleep, Sao?”
“Hours and hours. A whole day and night, and more. I had some really weird dreams. It was horrid.”
Gareth rubbed his eyes, got up and took the unpleasant outfit. He suddenly felt a pang of jealousy for the older twins, joining those tough looking Dragon Warriors, and wondered where Sarissa was. They had taken her to a different room, the morning before. Then Gareth thought of the poor mute boy, and his smuggled FireCutter. He shuddered.
“Gareth, er, it’s going to be ok, isn’t it?” asked Sao Cheung nervously. “Please.”
“Yes,” answered Gareth kindly, not knowing at all, “I promise.”
The poor eleven year old looked a little reassured.
“And I promise something else, Sao, I’ll find a way to get us all home. Somehow.”
“They left us some water and funny biscuits,” said Sao, more cheerfully now, looking to a battered metal tray, sitting on a wooden table in the corner. The room was like a stone cell, with a metal grill over the window. From the light outside, Gareth Marks guessed it was about mid day in Blistag.
“Go and have some, Sao,” said Gareth, yawning but trying to be the adult, “I’ll get changed.”
The 12-year-old boy was used to dealing with himself at home and pleased to get out of his pyjamas, and into some shoes, and proper clothes, although he made sure to collect all the pieces of the very dangerous book and stuff them in his front pocket. As Gareth turned there was a thumping on the thick wooden door that made them both jump.
“Scullies to the ready,” cried a gruff and angry voice. “Bouchebold is waiting and it he doesn’t like waiting.”
“Bouche…what?” whispered Sao nervously.
“Come on, Sao,” gulped Gareth, “Keep your eyes peeled and stick close to me.”
As the two boys pulled open the door and stepped outside into a narrow stone corridor, lit by burning braziers in brackets on the walls, they saw other scullions emerging from their rooms too. From their evident confusion it seemed they were just starting too. They were one or two grimy faced girls amongst them, although they were mostly boys, tall and older than Gareth and Sao, about ten of them in all. They were all silent and nervous, as they stood in their coconut sacking and they looked rather brow beaten and frightened.
Gareth grinned immediately, surprised how glad he was to see Sarissa again, as she came storming out of a door on the right, dressed like Gareth and Sao, although with a kind of white napkin on her head like the other two girls. Sarissa Hallet was addressing no one in particular but she kept looking around frantically.
“I demand to be sent home immediately. I’m Sarissa Hallet and I’ve got a tennis…”
Sarissa suddenly noticed Gareth and blushed and fell silent. He and Sao Cheung lined up beside her as a tall, thin scullion, marched up and down the line. He was about seventeen, with a mean, angry face and he looked at them all in utter contempt, with a definate hint of cruelty in his mean little eyes.
“Buttersqueak fodder,” he snorted scornfully and Gareth Marks wanted to run at him with his head, “Nothing but filthy Buttersqueak Fodder. But know yer place, right, and learn the rules around the Great Bouchebold. Do as you’re told, work yer fingers to the bone, keep quiet, and you’ll be rested and fed, more than water and biscuits too. I takes my cut, mind. Cry, steal, make wave, or mess up and you might be fed to a dragon instead.”
They all looked wretched and bowed their heads.
“But one tip, above all,” said the bullying scully, “While you’re working in the kitchens or anywhere near Bouchebold, never, ever mention Dragon Chefs, right? Now come with me.”
The chief scully turned on his heels and dutifully the ten of them followed down the dingy, flickering corridor, Sao, Gareth and Sarissa taking up the rear. The stone passages seemed to go on forever, as they traipsed along, sensing the weight of an entire citadel above them, and wondering what they were about to face. But at last they saw a blaze of light ahead and heard the sound of shouts and frantic voices, the bustle of hectic activity. The new scullions were all flabbergasted as they stepped into the open room.
The great kitchens of Pendolis were like a huge stone cathedral or a stone vaulted wine cellar, billowing out smoke and steam, like incense, lined with wooden work benches, above which, from metal racks, hung huge spoons and knives, colanders, kettles and saucepans and copper pots, that shone like evening gold.There were people everywhere, cooking over open flames, washing in great stone basins, like cattle troughs, or preparing food, from great mounds of fresh produce, piled everywhere.
In one corner was an enormous bench, completely clear, that opened beyond into a dark hall, while in another was a great stone archway that glowed with a dim orange firelight. A giant carcass that looked like a miniature rhinoceros was slow roasting on a huge spit in the centre of the kitchen as scullies stood around and basted it in oil and fat. But strangest of all the flames seemed to rise out of the ground, with no coal, or wood to feed it, and Gareth noticed a peculiar smell, slightly unpleasant, mixing with the many delicious scents he recognised around him.
To one side of the cobbled kitchen were lined bulging sacks and every now and then cooks would shout and scullies would run to the sacks to bring them more ingredients as they worked over their hobs, where flames seemed to rise magically too, since Gareth Marks was sure Pendolis hadn’t invented modern cooking methods.
The haze was like being in an old-fashioned train station and the place like a little citadel itself. The newcomers noticed that every now and then a cook would turn on the scullies though and shout, clip one over the ear, or give them a kick with a boot.They saw all this through the haze like a magical dream itself, but suddenly a huge shape loomed out of the steam, there was a sharp cry of HALT and everything stopped moving.
The most extraordinary man was standing there now in a shining white chef’s outfit, smeared with blood and gravy. Huge, not for his height, but his girth and his chubby, rubicond face. It was so hot and red it looked like a Halloween pumpkin with a blaze of shock white hair on the top, that made him look like a mad, but rather brilliant professor. His eyes were gleaming, although the strangest and purest blue and he was sweating profusely and looked rather angry. The scullies suddenly looked terrified, even their leader, because he was also holding a huge chopping knife in his gigantic, fat fingered hands. But the chef suddenly smiled and it was like the sun coming out.
“Here, now. The new recruits!” he cried, in a rather squeaky, high-pitched voice, “How very splendid. Der-licious. And so much to do today too. I am the Great Bouchebold and this is my little kingdom. We serve the entire citadel, of course, but we’ve a special banquet tonight, for the start of the season. The first day’s often the hardest so we must serve the young Dragon Warriors something tremendous.”
The Great Bouchebold had begun to walk up and down the row slapping that knife rather ominously into his sweaty palm and eyeing his new recruits.
“The Dragoman will be there too, of course, ‘the Man Upstairs’, who adores his food. Though little does he know who’s really in charge, since an army marches on it’s stomach, eh?”
Bouchebold grinned and winked and turned to look back at his little army, hanging on his every word now.
“The Dragon Maidens will be there too,” Bouchebold went on in his odd, breathless voice, glancing at Sarissa and the other girls, “and to please THEM, we’ll have have to be real magicians, tonight, even you scullies.”
The new kitchen scullions were trying to nod and look interested.
“You may not have been chosen as fit to be Dragon Warriors,” said Bouchebold, “but you’re still young, so worthy to do your bit in the kitchens, in the great fight. It’s a war down here too, remember, so just try to do as you’re told and we’ll all get on splendidly.”
The new scullies were all rather relieved since Bouchebold did not seem a bad sort at all, until he stepped up to each and began prodding them, tweaking their cheeks, feeling their biceps, or surveying them carefully, as if they were all the finest cuts.
‘Scrubbing’ he would decree, with a laugh, or ‘Peeling vegitables’, or ‘basting’.
As he did so the elder scully pointed to one part of the kitchen and they filed meekly away, until Bouchebold scowled at him and pointed to a sack of potatoes.
At last Bouchebold came to Sarissa, Sao and Gareth though and it was Sao he was suddenly scrutinizing carefully. At first Gareth Marks fancied there was some recognition at the podginess of the Chinese boy, until he realised he was looking at Sao’s eyes.
“Extraordinary,” the Great Bouchebold whispered with an odd little giggle, “most remarkable. We should send you to see the Great Naturalist. What can you do though, lad?”
Sao Cheung gulped and shrugged.
“Dish washing,” said Bouchebold immediately, looking at Sao’s stomach, “and no pinching food.”
“If I have to work here,” said Sarissa suddenly, straightening her back with immense dignity “I’m not washing or scrubbing, I assure you. I’m pleased to help you cook though. As a Sou Chef,” she added knowledgeably. “I’m nearly fourteen, you know.”
Sao gulped and ducked slightly while Gareth Marks looked nervously at that gigantic knife, but they both sighed with relief as Bouchebold roared with laughter and rocked back on his heels. The roar, it has to be said, was more like clattering saucepans and ended in a high-pitched squeal.
“How splendid,” he cried, “Really delectable. You’ve spirit, girl, and I always like that in the mix. Just can’t get the help any more, so I’ll trust you with some basting, today, if you can lift the ladles. But keep your pretty nose clean and learn, girl, then who knows, in a year or two you…
“A year,” cried Sarissa Hallet in utter horror.
“Time flies like Dragon wing in Pendolis,” said the enormous cook and even as he said it, Gareth thought, at the very far side of the kitchen, he saw something take to the air from a pile of plucked chickens.
Bouchebold was pointing now and Sarissa and Sao were already moving off towards their allotted positions, obediently, but the cook turned to Gareth Marks now. He did not speak for several moments though.
“Hmmm. There’s something keen in your eye,” he said, at last. “Some boldness. Discernment too, perhaps.”
Bouchebold suddenly flipped the huge kitchen knife and offered Gareth the handle.
“Correcting,” he said, looking significantly to a group of scullies in a line, also wielding chopping knives, waiting in front of a bench piled with plucked animals, vegetables and spices.
“Correcting, Sir?” gulped the twelve-year-old nervously, although trying to look enthusiastic too. Gareth wanted to make an impression.
“The produce,” explained Bouchebold a little wearily, “there’s something wrong in Pendolis now the Black Warlock’s slobbering over everything and we have to be careful. Puts everyone off their food too, upstairs, if we don’t prepare and present, absolutely perfectly.”
Gareth Marks looked confused.
“So when a cut of lamb turns up with a sow’s ear or a lamprey starts to look like a lobster, we chop, separate and put things back in order. Order, order, order. It won’t ever go to high table, but nothing’s wasted down here.”
“The Teller,” said Gareth suddenly, his eyes sparking furiously, although his head was starting to spin too, “Because they say the Teller’s wounded?”
“You’re sharp, lad,” said Bouchebold approvingly, “For one so young and lowly. With ears to the ground too. That’s good. Very goos. In training, or down here. But what’s your name, lad?”
“Gareth Mar…. Er, Gareth of the Mark,” corrected Gareth, trying to stand taller.
“Got one, boy?” asked Bouchebold and his pure blue eyes narrowed.
“One, Sir?”
“A mark? Scar, birthmark, lesion, cicatrices, sixth finger?”
“No,” answered Gareth softly and he blushed. Bouchebold seemed rather disappointed as he loomed over him.
“Pity. I thought there was something about you. Everything in life is about the best ingredients but it’s important to stand out in Pendolis too. Mind you, the first lesson in blasted Warrior Training, they say, is always pick the right moment to show your true stuff. It can be really vicious out there, at times, and I mean, we’re making heroes here, not idiots.”
Bouchebold winked.
“Yes, Sir” said Gareth, feeling like an idiot and wondering what the twins were getting up to in their warrior training. He was suddenly glad he had been given kitchen duties.
“And stop calling me, Sir, lad. It’s COOKS down here. First Cook, in my case. Got that, Garnet?”
“Yes, First Cook, but it’s Gar.”
“And take a tip from Bouchebold. High or low, whatever it is you do in life lad, do it well. Everything you learn is of use, everything. But here, very few will tell you how it’s really done. Why should they? I mean they have their own dreams and ambitions. So you have to learn on the job. LEARN.”
“Yes,” said Gareth Marks, as BoucheBold seemed to look at him rather significantly, “thank you, Sir.”
“Manners too. I like that. Perhaps we’ll have you serving then, in six or eight months time. Now, musn’t dawdle. They’ll soon be waiting at the Pass.”
Gareth Marks suddenly felt home sick.
“Kitchen Staff of Pendolis,” bellowed Bouchebold though, swinging round dramatically, “Back to work now. Keep it tight and together and Good Luck, one and all. A Working kitchen is a happy kitchen. GET IT DONE.”
Bouchebold flicked his head and started to move off towards the bench as Gareth followed meekly but suddenly there was a flash of red and a bird went sailing over their heads.
“What’s that?” cried Gareth, ducking. The bird had settled on top of an enormous upturned copper cooking pot and he looked around as if he owned the place.
“THAT?” said Bouchebold, looking rather irritated with Gareth for even asking, “THAT is not a THAT, boy, but Herbert, the Kitchen Phoenix.”
“Phoenix,” gasped Gareth Marks, “the mythical bird that rises from…”
A thin wisp of steam seemed to be rising from the Phoenix’s feathers even now while Herbert had a decidedly sour expression in his doleful, watery eyes and his red feathers looked rather old and mangy. In fact one suddenly fell out, drifted into a bowl of jam and burst into flames.
“Mythical!” squeaked Bouchebold, looking very flustered indeed now, “oh, we don’t use such language in Pendolis, dear me, no. You’ll be saying Dragons are mythical next, heavens, or chimera, gorgons and even the Last Unicorn. Herbert would get very steamed up to hear he’s mythical. And Herbert has very good ears, or had, before he started to go a little deaf.”
Gareth shivered and suddenly remembered that horse he had seen running in terror from the Dark Wood.
“Yes, Sir, I mean First Cook,” corrected Gareth Marks quickly, “of course. You don’t use Dragons then, in your kitchen?”
Gareth was thinking of those recipes in Pendellion’s book and Bouchebold looked at him sharply. His face had suddenly become rather hard and suspicious, but it softened again.
“None to spare, nowadays,” answered Bouchbold almost wistfully, “But Herbert is my real eyes and ears down here,” he added fondly, although he seemed to be talking to himself now, “Quality Control, you see. Could never manage without him, dear creature. Herbert has a perfect palette too. Herbert’s worked and slaved in the Kitchens of Pendolis even longer than I have. And that’s nearly 80 years.”
Gareth was astounded, since the First Cook looked rather young, but even as Bouchebold said it the old bird took wing again and landed next to a cook who had been tasting something with a spoon and was looking rather confused.
The Phoenix stuck his head straight into the saucepan and, when it emerged, it was dripping with a thick, wine dark gravy. Gareth wanted to curl up with laughter as Herbert shook its head furiously and nodded its beak towards a pile of fresh rock salt. The cook looked rather crestfallen but added some obediently, and then some more, as Herbert nodded, rather superiorly too, then flew away in disgust, with a mournful and disapproving screech. The inspecting Phoenix settled by another cook now, chopping huge red onions this time, nearly the colour of its moulting feathers. Rather than do anything though, the bird just stood there, and Gareth suddenly realised huge tears were streaming from its feathery face.
“Is he chopping them wrong?” asked Gareth, holding his knife even tighter, and determined to make an impression today.
“Not at all,” said Bouchebold. “Best slicer in the kitchens. Trained him myself.”
“The onions then,” said Gareth, because Herbert the Phoenix was literally sobbing now, as the bird stood there watching.
“They’re sweet onions, not eye waterers,” answered Bouchebold, grinning. “Thing is, poor Herbert can be rather sentimental and always gets upset at cruelty, especially to vegetables.”
“Oh,” said Gareth Marks, thinking Pendolis the maddest place he had ever been now, and feeling suddenly lost again. He saw Sarissa by that spit-roast rhinoceros thing trying to pick up an enormous copper spoon, very irritably indeed, and poor Sao rolling up his sleeves, by a stone water trough and the most horrendously large pile of filthy plates.
Gareth looked down at the bench they had stopped at. It was ranged with plucked chickens, ducks, rabbits and geese, but they all had something slightly wrong. A rabbit had a frog’s legs, a duck had sparrow’s wings, a chicken had what looked like the comb of a Dragon. Gareth Marks felt rather sick but Bouchebold had suddenly reached out and grabbed one of the chopper’s arms.
“Not like that,” he growled, looking significantly towards that stone archway with the red glow, “or I’ll send you to work cooking for the Dragons, and you wouldn’t like that at all. Be careful and precise.”
Gareth wondered if Dragons really lay beyond and was rather startled by Bouchebold’s change of mood and tone but two men had come bustling across the room now, carrying two large wooden crates.
“Your fish, Bouchebold,” grunted one, “fresh from the Foundless Sea.”
“And a delivery of berries and champignon,” said the other, “from the Dark Wood.”
The Great Bouchebold’s glowing face lit up immediately.
“At last,” he cried delightedly, “The special ingredients. I thought they’d never get through, with the wars. Put them over there and don’t forget to mark them VERY DANGEROUS.”
The men nodded gravely and the great Bouchebold swept away into his kingdom, as Gareth was left with his chopping knife wondering what could be dangerous about food. So it began, their very first day’s work in the great kitchens of Pendolis.
As they worked Sao, Gareth, and Sarissa kept checking on each other’s progress, although they often lost sight of each other in all that smoke and steam. Gareth also kept trying to catch the First Cook’s eye, since he felt they had made some special connection but as he went about, testing, checking and suggesting, and the cooks took out their anger or frustration on the scullions, the Great Bouchebold had completely forgotten who they were.

David Clement-Davies Copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved Published by Phoenix Ark Press

You can join the campaign on Facebook too, with David Clement-Davies, or at the page “Stories in The Post – The Dragon tries again”. There is an online meeting tonight with the Street Team about strategy at 6pm London time. You can also read what has been blogged so far on Wattpad.

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12_001Hooray, we’re at 30% already on Dragon In The Post and with far fewer backers, which is exactly why I am going to mention names like Barb, Trais, Melody, Sharon, Cath and all Phoenix Ark Press readers and those inspired by the Fellowship of The White bear too. Contributions are wonderful, but with a lower target this time this is so not just about money but a constituency, a readership, a shared publishing endeavour and making it happen for a Dragon story and much more.

Come home then and help us soar! People are sharing wonderful art of the Facebook page “Stories In the Post” and in the Phoenix Ark group, while the Dragon is up on Wattpad and more to come later. It would be lovely if you’d become part of the adventure today by going to Indiegogo to contribute by BACKING THE DRAGON but also spreading the word to break through again for DCD and real books, in the post.

Well done and thank you.

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how wonderful not to sweat too much about a campaign this weekend and yet see it rise already to 21% and nearly 1K! THANK YOU SO MUCH, although I’ll be discussing contributions individually and seeing if I should return any money I think you can’t afford. I’ve also put in an OPT OUT clause if I don’t make it and there will be no hard feelings if anyone changes their mind.

Still wonderful though if you want the book, like the Dragon story and will contribute.

You can become part of that adventure for me by CONTRIBUTING HERE


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