Saturday 11 September 2021

[Glory Brats 34] New Arrivals

Eventually the tears stopped, and she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. She stared into the darkness down the track and quickly got to her feet. There was a faint light bobbing in the distance. She supposed she should run back and warn Glory, but her feet took her towards the light, not away from it. There was a hollow space carved out in the side of the wall a bit further along, just wide enough and deep enough for an engineer to stand in while a train hurtled past; plenty of room for a small girl. 

She could hear their footsteps crunching on the gravel as they approached. It didn't sound like just one or two people - more like a crowd. She shrunk back against the brickwork; maybe this hadn't been such a good idea. The first few soldiers passed the hole in the wall without noticing her, their attention focused ahead. Suddenly a light shone in her eyes, and someone grabbed her by the arm and hauled her out into the open.

Friday 3 September 2021

[Glory Brats 33] A dangerous mission

The basement was quiet, and dark. Sparrow risked a sweep of the torch she'd brought with her. It revealed boxes stacked two or three high. She ducked back down into the tunnel and whispered to the others to follow her up. While they were scrambling up the ladder, she walked over to the boxes and cracked open one of the lids with a crowbar that was lying on top of the first box. She shone the torch over the contents. Picking up one of the packets, she chucked it to Zed, who caught it awkwardly.

"Hey, check it out - it's army rations. They must have stopped a supply run."

Saturday 26 June 2021

[Glory Brats 32] Glory Brats

"You brats worked hard today."

Sparrow nodded, her eyes half closing again. Any elation she had felt earlier had disappeared and now she just felt tired through her whole body. She shivered and hugged her hands around the edge of the warm plate. Carter shrugged his jacket off and draped it over her shoulders. It smelt of sweat and smoke, but she didn't mind. The weight of it was comforting.

"Eat up, kid, you're a Glory Brat now."

Tuesday 25 May 2021

The Muckle Cauldron

Is it a tale of witches you're speering after now? Ach, awa wi you, you've had all my tales. Well, mebbee not all. You've heard about the brounies and the bogles, and you know well enow to poke a hole in your eggshells so as the witches canny use them to sink ships. And about elf-shot cattle that sicken and dinnae thrive when a witch puts a spell on them. But I've ane tale left that you've no heard. Pull up that wee stool then and mind you dinnae stop peelin those tatties.  When I wis a wee lassie, I was aye slipping off to do ma ain thing, or threepin at the auld folks to tell me a story - aye, jist like you now, altho I flatter mesel that I'm no as auld as they yins.

But this time I'd been caught and told to clear out the auld threshing barn. It was a richt stoorie place - fu o spiders. So I wisnae best pleased and I didnae tak ower much time wi my task. I carried out all the sticks and stalkies to the midden at the back o the yaird, and swept a bit stoor an oose oer the threshold. This still left a wheen o trashtrie frae the hoose at the far end, and I amused mesel by luikin through it. Maist o it was trashed - a luggie that had tint it's chain, a yoke wi a muckle crack in it, twa bits o a bowl I mind my sister brak on the hearth. But there was ane thing that caught my een - a muckle great cauldron, fat and blackened wi fire. It had unco marks around the rim, and seemed to grow in size before ma verra een. All o a sudden the air aroun me grew derksome an I shivered in the cauld. I ran oot the barn screaming o bogles and lang leggity beasties.

They gathered roun and speired at me what the matter was but not ane o them ever minded seeing the cauldron afore. All but the auldest auld yin who nodded and minded a story she'd heard as a wee lassie, jist like I was. A loon wha minded the plough was makin his way hame frae the smiddy, an the road took him along towards the auld Kirk o Alloway. It was an eerie place then as it is now, wi hoolets an siclike craturs, an weel-kent as a place o ferlies an unco doings. The nicht was mirk, the rain was plashing and spattering doon, an the wind squalling amang the trees. As he drew close to the Kirk he noted a bricht glow glimmerin roun the auld stanes. His thochts turned to witches, and the verra Deil himself, wha was said tae sit in state in the ruins.

Noo there are twa thochts as to why he did what he did next. Ane says that the Almichty above gave him courage; anither has it that he'd got unco fou at the Smiddy. For whatsoever reason, he took ae step towards the Kirk, an anither, an reached the windae afore he knew what his ain feet were daein. An eerie glow cam frae a fire made up in the middle o the ruins. The place was empty. He heard a soughing noise frae ahint him, and turned tae see derk shapes o men, and wimmin, in the field by the Kirk. Ane by ane, they each pullit up a stalk o the ragwort and cried out some word or words that he didnae catch. An ane by ane each rose into the sky wi shouts and skirls. The ploughboy was left alane. 

The flames frae the fire still danced though, sae he loupit up through the windae an drapt doon intae the empty Kirk. Atop the fire he saw a muckle cauldron, black as pitch. The contents seethed and jouked - heids o bairns no yet blessed by a meenister, lang banes o those hangit on a gibbet, an ither foulsome things. He seized the side of the cauldron an rocked it back an forth on its chain, makin the foul liquid spill oer the lip. He poured oot the contents onto the hearth an unhooked the jinkin chain. Empty noo, the cauldron didnae seem sae heavy, sae he raised it oer his head and tuik it hame, where it stayed in his faimly doon through the years tae this day.

The ithers aw laughed an clappit the grandame for the tale, an slipped back awa tae field and fireside. My fright almaist forgotten in the sun, I spiered at grannie to go wi me tae the barn, an see the muckle cauldron for herself. She hirpled oer the yaird an in at the barn. The corner was still derk an fu o shadows. A wee mousie rin oot oer the stanes but she paid it no mind. The cauldron sat there, lowring at us. 

"Thon's but a gey guid parritch kettle," grannie said, an seized it by the handle to swing in the crook of her arm. She scoured it and rinsed it, and set it on the hearth and cooked her sowans in it on the morn. An afore ye ask, she didna dee til some years after that, an ne'er took ill afore her last. Sae mayhap it was but a tale. An what happened tae the cauldron ye ask? Whit did ye think ye were peeling tatties intae?


speering (asking)

elf-shot (flint arrowhead thought to be made by fairies)

threepin  (insisting or persisting)

stoorie (dusty)

midden (rubbish pit)

oose (fluff)

wheen (indefinite quantity)

trashtrie (worthless rubbish)

luggie (bucket/pail with 'lugs' or ears rising up from the staves)

tint (lost)

muckle (big)

unco (strange)

loon (rascal)

hoolets (owls)

ferlies (unusual sight)

mirk (dark, gloomy)

fou (drunk)

soughing (noise as of wind through trees)

skirl (shrill, piercing sound, shriek)

loupit (hopped)

jouked (bobbed)

jinkin (making a chinking noise)

clappit (pat affectionly)

grandame (grandmother or great grandmother)

hirple (to walk slowly, to hobble)

lowring (scowling)

parritch (porridge)

sowans (a dish made by soaking oats in water) 

Sunday 23 May 2021

[Glory Brats 31] Sparrow's Mission

"Follow the main passage to the end and take the stairs up to the street level. The gate up there will be open." Glory handed Sparrow the torch. "You should find the survey team over where we came across you lot. Keep to the smaller streets and come back this way when you're done." 

Sparrow clicked the torch on and cast the beam of light along the passageway. It stretched off into the distance.

Glory patted her shoulder. "You'll be fine." 

Friday 14 May 2021

[Glory Brats 30] The Battle Begins

Sparrow grabbed Zed's hand and they ran down the slope, skidding in the dust and debris. Behind them, there was an explosion, and the tunnel entrance was hidden in a cloud of smoke. As it cleared, they could see the radio operator lying on the ground by the gate. They ran back to see if they could help.

He was coughing as they approached, his body shaking with the effort. He shook his head from side to side as if trying to clear ringing in his ears. His lower trouser leg was torn open, with a gash on the skin below. A shard of metal jutted out from the wound, blood seeping around the edges.

Friday 7 May 2021

[Glory Brats 29] The Station

The base turned out to be in the depths of the station. There were more young soldiers guarding the gates at the bottom of the stairs down from the square, and even more spread around the concourse in various stages of uniform. Some were sitting around playing cards, others were sleeping on thin mats between the pillars.

The returning soldiers laid their guns down and took off their helmets and jackets. Beneath their camouflaged faces they were young. Older than Bee of course, but not that much older. The captain looked to to be one of the older ones. "Carter, take that kid to Medic right away. The rest of you, stop standing around staring like you've never seen a bunch of kids before."