About the Book

You might say this book is in the tradition of J. R. R. Tolkien (structurally, it is): but you probably wouldn't.  You might say it is in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs (structurally, it is); but you probably wouldn't say that either.  You might be willing to venture Terry Prachett, or Henry Kuttner, but at core you would have to reference Lewis Carroll (that's logic!).

At the end of The Particolored Unicorn , the young Marquis Piswyck, his fiancée Miranda, and Lifesaver, the unicorn, were heading east across the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon, at the heart of a conjured hurricane.

Now, prepare for Piswyck's Return!

Riding the Eye of the Hurricane, Piswyck, Lifesaver, and Miranda arrive in Carsonne, only to find the country torn by civil war.  The roads across the mountains remain closed, food is growing short, and the Countess has put an exorbitant price on Piswyck’s head.  Can the young Marquis unify his people, fight his way past abberant mythozooic monstrosities, and win against the dual armies of the corrupt tax collector Lomfroth and Kracmalnic the Mad?  -- Not to mention, werewolves,  sea monsters, and biological warfare.  -- Read on, in this highly-humorous, action-packed and long-awaited sequel to The Particolored Unicorn.

'Storm Wars thunders along in grand, exotic, picaresque style. The 
reader is swept up in the wake of the ludicrously entertaining
adventures of the sexy young Marquis Piswick and his sardonic 
particolored unicorn, Lifesaver.

‘Like most classical heroes Piswick has great flair, ingenuity and  
level-headedness, all of which he needs in a chaotic world
fraught with deadly whimsicality. It’s all about fighting, morality,  
mad invention, satire, blue wine and silliness. And monsters –
of course – human and otherwise.

‘I’ve waited years for this book to come out. With a lot of modern  
fantasy being so drably serious, it’s bliss to have a cocktail
like this: piquant with magic, frothing with romance, spiked with a  
salty wit.’

- Paul Magrs, author of ‘Never the Bride’ and ‘Doctor Who – Sick  

ISBN13 (TP) 9781436394758
ISBN13 (HB) 9781436394765

To Purchase This Book Press Here

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Return to Carsonne ...........................................................11
Chapter 2: Into the Imported Forest ...................................................31
Chapter 3: The Defense Of The Fire Brigade ....................................50
Chapter 4: Problems At Plocking .......................................................70
Chapter 5: Outfi tting the Army ..........................................................90
Chapter 6: The Power of Negative Thinking .....................................110
Chapter 7: Mr. Glisterberry’s Glorious Gloppery ..............................133
Chapter 8: The Woeful Weird of the Werewolf of the Weir ..............153
Chapter 9: The Serpentine Leopard ...................................................174
Chapter 10: Back and There Again ....................................................194
Chapter 11: The Kraken Wakes .........................................................214
Chapter 12: The Purple Root Crop’s Calumny ..................................234
Chapter 13: And the Pigs Shall Not Lie Down With the Ducks .........255
Chapter 14: Like Flakes of Fire From the Sky ....................................275

Chapter One

Return to Carsonne

“Unless I miss my guess we’re going to crash,” moaned the parti-colored unicorn, who persisted in his airsickness. “And all be killed,” mumbled Piswyck, continuing to try to concentrate.

Ahead was the coast of Carsonne and well behind was Bermuda, and all around them was the swirl of the hurricane (the sudden crash of thunder, the forked flash of lightning, the clean smell of rain), a matter which mitigated against romance.—Not that Piswyck would have opposed romance; the four days spent crossing the Atlantic in a hot air balloon represented the first opportunity he’d had to be in such close, nay, intimate , contact with his lady love, Miranda, since . . . Well, ever!

But their rations were primarily Miranda’s very own delicious homecanned cabbage rolls (Piswyck wondered still why it was called canning, when it fact it was a process of preserving in glass jars: which jars, surely, nobody had ever called cans ) and Lifesaver, the particolored unicorn, had become rapidly crepitant upon consumption of said delicacy, thereby dispelling whatever atmosphere of romance might remain during hard days and nights of singing the spells that kept the hydrogen (which was the second buoyant ingredient in the balloon) from being ignited by the lightnings of the hurricane, which Piswyck himself had called up to help them escape.
Miranda’s wicked Uncle Smagdarone and a host of other afflictions. It was not easy keeping the balloon bouncing about the eye of the hurricane, rather than being sucked into its stormy rim! And it was cold so high up: the yellow and black wool suit in which Miranda had dressed him for the voyage (to match her own Victorian ballooning outfit in the same colors: but hers had a bustle) had proved very much inadequate to the task of keeping him warm.

Piswyck was almost grateful for the slight ache of the sword wound in his shoulder and for the burns encircling his neck, his biceps, his wrists—an so on, down his body—that he had inflicted upon himself in order to be free of the bondage in which Smagdarone had placed him preparatory to his planned vivisection. The pain helped to keep him awake.

Furthermore , it was highly likely the Countess must know of their coming, provided she had not depleted completely the power of the Appearing Egg while moving Mad King Ludwig’s castle (Neuschwanstein) to Far Bermuda as payment to Smagdarone for keeping Piswyck prisoner. Oh, she would be mad regarding his escape! She would be watching the coast, scanning the skies, acutely aware of the balloon in which they traveled, and prepared to receive them in the direst manner imaginable!

Unless it should be that a hurricane’s energies were sufficient to mask the movement of individuals in lighter-than-air transport . . . Physical energy was often enough to interfere with magical means, Piswyck knew. His father, now the Countess’ prisoner, had taught him that. So they had that hope. But the three of them were exhausted! The steering of a balloon by spell and song is difficult enough, even if one has not to contend with a hurricane.

Half of Piswyck’s energy had been used up by the magic, the other half in teaching Miranda and Lifesaver as much of the appropriate sorcery as he could, in order to get a precious little sleep. Lifesaver had been fellow-pupil to the Black Elves regarding weather magic, so he, at least, had a hold on the ideas involved. Poor Miranda had only her covert observation of her uncle’s forbidden experiments in biological alchemy on which to build her practice. It was remarkable how well she did, considering that.

It had been a hectic voyage, and Piswyck remembered his father’s sage advice that long trips were among the hardest tests that friendship could endure. He almost laughed, thinking of his father. How insignificant his own trials must be, compared to the horrors his father might even now be enduring at the hands of the Countess! He must win his way across Carsonne to the Countess’ castle and free his father. As long as the Marquis Oswyck was a prisoner, Carsonne was at the Countess mercy, and it was doubtful that she had any.

Piswyck tore his mind away from the more cosmic theater of his troubles and returned his attention to the present problems. He focused his awareness on the winds, on the moving masses of fluid air; but even as he did, things promised to get worse.—For the hurricane was breaking against Carsonne’s famed Coast of Monsters. The energy of the great storm was being dissipated by its assault on the solid mass of the land and the uneven surfaces against which the winds blew. Even as Piswyck croaked out one more modified song spell, it became impossible to maintain the classically beautiful spiral of the storm: so like a galaxy of clouds, when one examined it on the plane of pure spirit.

“Holy Shit!” exclaimed Miranda, pointing, and then she blushed at her own use of such a word. “Look at that one!” The interruption of his concentration was sufficient to cause Piswyck to lose control of the air current that had been keeping the balloon clear of a cross-wind coming off the land, and the brightly-colored craft was sent sailing toward the opposite side of what was quickly becoming the former calm within the storm. Piswyck vouchsafed a glance in the direction of Miranda’s gesture and saw something thrashing in the churning waves below that was vaguely reminiscent of a centipede, except that its many legs were replaced by paddles, its color was purple with patches of pink, and it was the size of a small palace.

It wasn’t really very remarkable, considering its location. Now if old Ralph, the chartreuse septapus had been in evidence— “My friend, an army marches in the sun!” cried Lifesaver, and he pointed with his clear carnelian horn. Piswyck looked, and, sure enough, where the sun broke through the storm, an army moved north in an orderly column: drenched and muddy but clearly dressed, even at this distance, in the yellow of the Countess. It had been a long time since Carsonne had seen an army march across its soil, and Piswyck could not imagine the occurrence resting well with the people. But then, the people (and he among them) had somehow managed to ignore the way the Countess had sealed off the country by loosing stone trolls in the mountains and making the roads impassible in general by the loosing of water trolls.

He had taken some time during his journey to Bermuda to think about this problem, and to remember the currents of history which his father had charted for him; and the only conclusion that he could draw was that people had, generally, short memories—and were incredibly stupid. Populations could be pushed by war, but they could even more easily be led by fashion. What one generation fought for to the death, the very next sold for a pittance; the whole of Humanity’s house had to be cleaned again and yet again. Piswyck remembered his father saying to him once that the major purpose of civilization was maintenance; and seeing an army marching in Carsonne he could well believe it!

The clouds moved, interposing themselves between the sun and the army; then it rained on the parade. The column of soldiers vanished behind the drawn curtain of grey water falling and Piswyck returned his attention to the business at hand, dimly aware that naps were not enough for a magician in action, and that the forces with which he dealt were beginning to manipulate him more often than he them. At least it had been a smooth ride. Nothing in the world was as close to floating on a cloud as was riding in a balloon. As the wind moved the whole thing, the only perceptible motion was visual. No wind against the face, as in riding horseback, or in hang gliding—only the smooth sense that the world was withdrawing into a great drama while the gondola of the balloon was isolated in a wicker wonderland of peace and tranquility high above . . .

Piswyck shook his head, trying to clear it. Now was not the time to succumb to sleep. While it had been relatively easy to get the balloon up (and, with the aid of Miranda’s portable solar barbecue, a reasonably easy thing to keep it up), without experience, the landing of the balloon was going to be a problem. And they soon would have to land, for now they moved over Carsonne itself, and the storm was breaking up rapidly. Even if the hurricane had masked their approach, it would do so no longer. Even if the Countess had not seen them coming, she would be able to see them soon if they stayed airborne. They would have to land and disappear, the three of them, and with the rain it was not going to be possible to disguise Lifesaver by coating him with mud the way they had when he and Bethsda . . .

Piswyck supposed that sometime he would have to tell Miranda about Bethsda. “Do you know what to do to get us down?” Lifesaver asked Miranda. It seemed a fair question, and clearly Miranda was the appropriate person to have the information, as she, at least, had previously been up in a baloon.

Unfortunately, she did not have it. “The balloon was always tethered when Uncle Smaggy took me up,” she replied. “He just signaled to one of the servants and they cranked us down with a winch. I am embarrassed to say: I don’t know how it works!”
Piswyck looked up at the glorious contraption above them, copied in decoration from the classic balloon in the long-lost film of The Wizard o f Oz , and without thinking, glanced down at Miranda’s feet. Alas, she wore no ruby slippers. But . . .

“I’ve been examining all the stuff overhead,” Piswyck said, and he noted that his speech was getting a little slurred from his lack of sleep. “I think if we pull on that rope it will let some of the air out, and we’ll descend.” “Are you sure?” Miranda asked.

“No, but the plane below us is only so wide, and I would rather try to get us down on the flat than smash us into the mountains, or shred us in the forests.” Miranda and Lifesaver looked down, observing that what Piswyck said was true. They were moving over a flat plane, farmland for the most part, but seemingly ill-used. There was clear evidence of the passage of an army through the planted fields, and there was also evidence of burning, both of fields and of farmsteads.

“I think, my friend, your homeland is a mess,” Lifesaver noted. “That army was moving north,” Piswyck said tiredly, “and we are moving south, still with the wind. If we go down here and strike out east, toward the mountains, we may be all right. Provided they didn’t see us when we saw them.

“Then what?” asked Miranda.

“We find a place where I can get some sleep,” Piswyck said. “If it came to a fight right now we had might as well all lie down and die.” Without waiting for further consultation, he reached up and gave the rope he had mentioned a slight tug. Nothing immediate happened, so he gave it a harder tug. Then he remembered that one did not feel changes in the movement of a balloon as rapidly as, for instance, changes in the motion of a boat. He glanced over the side of the gondola and tried to gauge any change in their speed, but at that moment the great air bag belched slightly and their descent became immediate and rapid. “What did you do that for?” Miranda cried.

“We need to get down,” Piswyck mumbled, but wondered as he said it if perhaps he had tugged too hard. “I think I’m going to puke before we die,” groaned Lifesaver, and without waiting for encouragement the unicorn put his head over the side of the basket and emptied his stomach, greatly surprising a pig passing below.

“Piswyck, do something!” Miranda adhorted, but, seeing the bleariness in his eyes, she didn’t wait for him to comply. She grabbed the serpent staff with which he’d first conjured the storm, held it gingerly up, and began chanting something about a duck that didn’t make much sense to Piswyck. At least, he thought wearily, she was trying. And, after a moment, there did seem to be some change in their angle and speed of descent. They weren’t going quite so fast, and they were leveling out, sailing across a large field in which a herd of dairy cattle grazed. Piswyck looked back in the direction of the coast and saw that they had passed over the several buildings of a farmstead; then he looked ahead and saw another group of buildings directly before them.

Perhaps, he thought wearily, too directly before them. It was obvious the balloon itself would clear the top of the barn, but it was not so apparent whether the gondola in which they rode would clear it. If they hit, going at the speed they were travelling, they would have all the likelihood of survival of a duck egg hurled at a dinosaur!

There was, however, one chance. Before reaching the barn they would fly over a field in which the farmer had stowed his hay in ricks, and, nearer the barn, there were large piles of cow manure. If they could get down fast enough, and at the right height, they could hit one or more of the hay ricks and possibly rob the moving system of the balloon of some of its kinetic energy, and maybe even— “Quick, Miranda, the knife!” Piswyck said, rallying one last time the remains of his reserves.

“The knife?” she asked.

“The one we used to cut ourselves free of your uncle’s tether. Start sawing through the ropes, now!”

“What ropes?” she asked, finding the knife and brandishing it.

“The ones that hold us to the balloon!” Piswyck said.

“I knew I never should have gone aloft,” said Lifesaver morosely. Eschewing magic completely, Piswyck focused his attention on the balloon and the rope controlling its contents. Using short, sharp jerks, he did his best to let out very small bursts of hot air and hydrogen, alternately looking up into the cathedral space of the gas bag and down at the rising farmscape.

“Hold on tight,” he advised as they got closer and closer to the hay ricks. “And Miranda, don’t cut all the way through the ropes until we’re really close, maybe not even then. The shock when we hit the hay may be enough to snap them for us.”

“I wish that we had seat belts in this thing!” said Lifesaver.

“What, pray tell, is a seat belt?” Miranda asked as she sliced.

“I read about them in an ancient book,” said Lifesaver. “They hold you to the seat you’re riding in.” “Lifesaver, we don’t have any seats,” Miranda said sensibly, but just then her slice was so severe that two of the eight corner ropes broke loose, throwing them all around enough to be terrifying and leaving them suspended by only three pair of ropes, two pair of which she had already cut partway through.

“Hold on tight!” Piswyck said again, immediately understanding the logic of the long-lost seat belts as he contemplated the prospect of the three of them being hurled from the moving basket to the ground; still too far below.

“I don’t have any hands with which to hold!” Lifesaver cried, but it was too late to make that observation. At that moment the bottom of the gondola collided with the top of a hay rick and they were all shaken to the teeth by the collision.

The blow, however, did not deter the motion of the balloon, which, despite this slight setback, buoyed bravely on toward the barn, dragging its wicker basket behind it into another immediate collision, this time a little closer to the ground, and a little more amidships.

Conversation aboard the craft was replaced by grunts and screams, and the unpleasant miasma that suffused the atmosphere of a sudden gave evidence that Lifesaver was having the wind knocked out of him. The second collision had a side-effect which no one had anticipated. Piswyck, exhausted, trying to concentrate and trying to survive, held on tightly to a rope, just as he was advising the others to do (though how he expected Lifesaver to do it he had not considered). Unfortunately, it was not one of the ropes that bound the basket to the balloon; it was the rope with which he had been slowly letting hot gas out of the envelope above. The second collision not only snapped two of the remaining support ropes, it threw Piswyck forcefully to one side, causing him to pull the rope to which he clung mightily.

The balloon belched, and the whole contraption sank sickeningly as it sailed free of the second hay stack, bounced off the side of a third, then crashed directly into a fourth, snapping the remaining pair ofropes that Miranda had partially cut and dumping all three of them, young Marquis, Lady Love, and Unicorn, into one of the farmer’s soft, moist, cushioning, manure piles. Along with the remaining canned cabbage rolls and the magical staff with which Piswyck had conjured the hurricane: among other things.

And just in time!

Freed of its burden, the wilting balloon lifted, smashed the gondola into the side of the barn (a woesome rending of wicker indeed!), got the gondola stuck under the edge of the eaves, and, with one final act of glory, lifted part of the roof of the barn upward, to reveal the astonished faces of more than thirty partisan soldiers hiding there.

But Piswyck didn’t learn about that part until the next morning.) The shock of being thrown from the gondola into the manure pile was sufficient to knock him out. When he awoke, a few moments later, and saw both Miranda and Lifesaver standing over him, covered with—with worried expressions—he knew that all was well. He smiled, and allowed himself to sink back into the steaming ordure, and the sleep he knew he deserved.