Rob sat in his nasty bedsit and waited for the water pipes to stop belching. Wayne must have cadged some money and was now in the shower, hence the racket. He squinted at his pictures in the dingy light and hoped to god he didn't need glasses like Jonty Styles'. Rob had really done himself proud with his latest production and most of it had even got off the picture stage and survived a few chapters, albeit with a few clunky injuries. He looked at his sketches of Sheltion, his very own Realm, with five continents and various cultures. All these ideas had came straight from Rob's head and turned into beautiful coloured sketches. Even Rob thought they were bloody good. Next he studied his drawings of Lawlim, his main city. Lawlim was the only city on the island of Lawlim and that gave Rob plenty of scope to draw the surrounding forest, arable and waterside regions as well as the magical city itself. The whole of Lawlim was protected by a magical barrier, sustained by those inhabitants who had been born with magic. Without that barrier, the Lawlims would be under threat of a deadly nature.
Twenty years ago, the Lawlims weren't Lawlims, they were a part of the continent of Ryan's general population, which consisted of ryanairs, humans and even a few rowans. Only ryanairs had the potential for magic and those who were born with it were soon marked out by those who weren't. The main aggressors were the humans. (needs editing coz it's such a lame cliche - RL). Many ryanairs were soon pushed to the west coast of Ryan's mainland. With the sea at their backs, and a human army in front of them, the ryanairs resorted to what they knew the best. A huge, dazzling light sprang up from the sea. The light shifted through the salty spray and caused a whole spectrum of colour that blinded their attackers. Many ryanairs stayed on the shore to sustain this magic, while the rest escaped in any small boat they could find. It took three weeks for the surviving boats to stumble across Lawlim. Obviously there was no reason why other vessels shouldn't also stumble across Lawlim and the aggressive among the humans would surely look for it. Again, the ryanairs used what they had, magic. A huge barrier was generated around the island that created a constant storm. This storm was almost impenetrable by boat and made Lawlim virtually inaccessible. Any boats that did manage to get through were noted closely by the Lawlims. If the survivors included ryanairs, then they were retrieved and tended. If they included humans, then they were left to fend for themselves. Very few humans gained enough respect to be allowed into the city of Lawlim itself and quite a few Lawlims regarded the humans as an inferior race and a sub species.
Rob grimaced as he read through his writing attempt. Obviously this was a basic draft and needed more work but it was still ... icky ... to read and jarred on his nerves. Why couldn't he do this? His illustrations didn't deserve such a naff narrative. He hadn't done much at all with his characters beyond the illustration stage. Whenever he tried, he ended up shoving it in a drawer because sketching his creations was far more enjoyable. Rob smiled at his character drawings.
First up was his main character and she was a babe. Stepney Lions was a cleric of Dinsen the Wise and also her High Priestess. She's rose to that position because of her high magical strength and had served the Lawlim, and her goddess, flawlessly and devotedly. Rob's first drawing of his heroine made him laugh quietly and remember Jonty's words of a decade ago. 'No big boobs on my wizard, please.' He'd redrawn her and now she looked less cartoonish and more mystical. She wore a plain white gown that Rob thought was a bit dull and in need of an edit, preferably to highlight, not display, her perfect figure. Stepney had long black hair, changed from the blonde that seemed to fit so well with the original boobs, and this hair she kept in place with braids and her clerical silver headband. Her eyes were a brilliant blue and they contrasted starkly with her dark hair. As a sign of her station, Stepney wore solid silver wristbands that were finely etched and carved by Dinsen the Wise herself.
Rob read through the descriptive notes he'd been making and tutted loudly. His crappy writing sold her way short so he screwed up the paper and tossed it in the bin.
Fenton Lions was Stepney's younger brother and the family resemblance was very noticeable. What Fenton lacked in the magic department, he made up for with sheer muscular size. He towered a good foot over his older sister and was twice her weight so it wasn't really surprising when he emerged as the head of Lawlim's City Watch and the peoples' most senior administrator. The biggest difference between the siblings was their personalities. Fenton was quite aggressive for a Lawlim and his opinions of humans were very much on the low side. Stepney was endlessly more tolerant and Fenton often irritated her hugely with his bigotry. One particularly bad tempered disagreement lead to Stepney hiring McLintock Kett as her personal bodyguard. McLintock had been a human survivor of a fishing trawler that had been blown off course and into the Lawlim storm barrier. He'd worked very hard to support himself, and others in need, and had formed a very basic type structure out in the forest lands. The respect he earned from some of his human fellows was soon noticed by the Lawlims and McLintock was given a job in the city as a guard to the administration hall. Even Fenton had once described him as a good man, then denied having said so an hour later. Stepney simply appointed another guard and employed McLintock herself. Fenton now tolerated him, seeing as he couldn't fault his work. McLintock himself was quite a striking figure. He had cropped fair hair, quite similar to Rob's only lighter, he also had green eyes like Rob's, oddly enough. He stood at six feet three which would be Rob's height if he wore heels and had a good athletic body, Rob wished. Rob wasn't quite sure of the direction McLintock and his amazing protagonist were headed in, but he needed the details to be good, in a non-perverse way, of course.
"Maybe I should do comics." Rob mused then disregarded the idea as being cack. Comics weren't real writing. Who ever heard of H.G Wells the cartoonist? He paid a swift apology to Tex Avery and Jack Kirby and rubbed his gritty eyes. No he didn't need glasses, he was just tired. How could all that imagination be there but the ability to put pen to paper not be? "Because you're a thicko, Lancaster." He muttered. "You're not a nerd, you're a dunce, pretending to be a nerd then denying that you're the nerd that you aren't. Whatever." Now he was getting depressed and frustrated. He heard the front door being slammed open and quickly put his papers away automatically.
"Rob!" Tommo almost battered his door in. "Rob are you still awake? Rob!"
"If I wasn't, I would be now." Rob opened the door and glared at Tommo as he swayed on the spot with a stupid grin on his face. "Yes?"
"Party at Baz's. We got a carry-out." Tommo slurred and Rob considered it. "If you don't come, we're all coming here to yours."
"My arse you are. I'll get my boots on." Rob shut the door on Tommo, checked his papers and folders were out of sight, then went along for some good old fashioned male bonding.
Rob's hangover made him sob, even before he'd opened his eyes. He was lying on top of the bed, fully clothed and half comatose. He couldn't even remember returning to his own bedsit. The clattering water pipes made him wail out loud and he dragged his eyelids open. His wail turned into a yelp when he saw someone in his room. Rob sat bolt upright and deeply regretted it. He recognised his visitor.
"Shit I have DTs. I'm hallucinating." Rob screwed his eyes closed, rubbed them, then reopened them. "I need help." He squeaked. "Stepney?" His protagonist was sitting on the plastic chair by Rob's table. She looked exactly as he'd drawn her, apart from her clothes. His Stepney wore a gown, this Stepney wore white leggings and a loose white tunic. Rob felt mildly hysterical when he recognised this attire as his own idea that he'd not yet put on paper. Her headband circled her head and kept her lovely black hair in place and her silver cuffs, shone and sparkled even though there was no direct sunlight. She was absolutely stunning and Rob was having some sort of alcohol induced breakdown.
"What a complete mess." Stepney said and Rob cried out and flung the quilt over himself completely. "Why do you people insist on poisoning yourselves?" The quilt was tugged off and Rob whimpered. "Do you realise that alcohol is fatally poisonous to every other animal lifeform? Young human males seem to be the biggest culprits for it."
"Who put you up to this and how did you get in here?" Rob snatched his quilt back and clutched it to his chest.
"Well I was instructed by Dinsen the Wise. I thought you knew that much already." Stepney looked confused. "As for how I got in here? Dinsen sent divine magic to my wrist-guards only last night. I am blessed indeed."
"No. no, no, no! Someone's been in my drawers." Rob stumbled past Stepney and opened the drawer that contained his folders. Everything was exactly where he'd left it, including the chewed up pen he'd put on top.
"Drawers? Not your underwear, I hope." Stepney laughed and Rob thought it sounded like music. Lovely and beautiful music.
"I didn't give you a sense of humour." Rob sat down on the edge of his bed. "You aren't real and I'm hallucinating. Some arse must have spiked my drink."
"Of course I'm real." Stepney tutted. "Apart from your hangout, you're fine. I checked."
"Hangover and no I'm not fine. Stepney I ... created you. I drew you. Pencils and paper and what the shit am I doing? I'm talking to a figment of my imagination. God I feel horrible."
"I'm not going to get any sense from you when you're like this." Stepney walked back over to the chair and picked something up.
"What the hell are those?" Rob squealed in alarm. "I didn't give you those!"
"No you certainly did not!" Stepney said indignantly, strapping a silver chain belt around her waist. Hanging from this belt were two curved, glittering silver blades. "These hand scythes were bestowed on me by the goddess herself when I was thirteen years old."
"Decorative?" Rob asked warily. Stepney gave him a condescending glare. "OK not decorative. You can use them?"
"If I need to, yes. You really need to get rid of your hangup. I'll help you." Stepney nodded.
"No!" Rob yelped. "Er ... no, I'll be OK. Sleep, I need sleep. I'll bloody throttle Baz." He flopped back on the bed and dragged the quilt back over his head.
Rob was woken some hours later by Baz hammering on his door again. He gingerly opened his eyes and was pleasantly surprised that he'd slept off that awful hangover. He was also vastly relieved to see his room was protagonist free. Rob dragged the door open, then dragged Baz into the room.
"Who spiked my beer?" He demanded.
"Huh? Well no one." Baz replied. "There was only us lot there, Rob. We wouldn't do that crap."
"How did I get back here?" Rob wasn't convinced.
"You came on your own, just. I watched you fighting with your keys for five minutes but you got in. What's up?"
"I closed that door, yes? I always lock up." No matter how drunk he got, Rob always locked the door. Gwennie had drummed this into him from the day he was given a key and it soon became automatic.
"Yes. You kicked it shut. Wayne locked the front door when we came home. You been burgled or something?"
"No." Rob heaved a sigh. "You would not believe the hangover I had earlier. Holy hell I've never had one like it. I couldn't remember locking the door, Baz, that's all. I got all paranoid."
"I have just the cure. You lot trashed my room! There's beer cans all over the bloody place and it stinks of farts." Baz pointed at his door.
"Well you shouldn't have volunteered your flat for a pissup then." Rob said unhelpfully.
"I didn't! Tommo did!" Baz objected.
"So go and howl on at him! Go on, shove off. I'm still a bit ropey." Rob nudged Baz out of the door and closed it on him. The morning's events were gradually fading from alarming and into absurdity. Rob took out his illustrations and shook his head at his own insane episode. Insane or not, Rob couldn't ignore a hint given to him by his own mind, even if that mind was like a brewery carpet. He redrew Stepney in her leggings and tunic and added the silver belt and scythes. That hangover had been something else and not a something he wanted a repeat of. Maybe he'd been over doing things. Maybe Tommo was right and he was spending too much time on his own with his writing. Blokes knocked about with blokes, doing blokey things like football and darts and the horses. When a bloke wasn't doing blokey things with the blokes, he had a girl. Is that what he was short of? He seriously hoped not, not that he'd ever voice that out loud. Rob had had quite a few girlfriends since his teens but nothing major. His last girlfriend was called Helen and Rob really liked her. He thought she was some sort of miracle personified when she hadn't objected one iota to Rob swanning off for the whole day when there was football match on, then turning up in the wee small hours, half cut and either singing his head off or swearing his head off, depending on the result. Even Rob thought his behaviour was out of order and inconsiderate at times so why hadn't Helen? One Saturday he decided he'd been an ape and planned a surprise for his considerate girlfriend. He turned up at her flat with a bottle of wine and a pizza only to find her in bed with a welder called Sean. Rob belted him all over the street without giving him the chance to get dressed. Helen had called the coppers! Rob got away with a fine because Sean the welder didn't press charges for some reason. The swine probably realised he was wrong. Helen's last known location was in a nightclub with Dez, the barman. Rob thought he'd had a lucky escape, but it had 'put him off' a bit. Anyway, how could he work on his novella with some girl nattering his ear off? As far as Rob was concerned, it was a private activity, rather than a closet one.