A week later, Steve and Scotty got permission from their parents to camp in Scotty’s back garden. It was the summer holidays and they had already put the tent up, and arranged their gear. The boys each had a bag hidden inside. Scotty’s Mum had cooked some food earlier and they were now in their sleeping bags as dusk settled in. The boys switched off their torches at about 10:30 p.m. and their eyes became accustomed to the darkness. But they stayed awake, whispering about their plans for the night. Scotty looked at his watch and nudged Steve with an elbow. It was 11:36 p.m.

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Barks and growls reverberated around the trees and the dogs sped uphill. The gamekeeper stood with hands on hips and watched his dogs. The boys leapt to their feet and sprinted downhill. Scotty led the way as they weaved between the trees. All stealth was gone and they knew the gamekeeper would be able to follow their footprints. That was of less concern than the dogs, which were gaining. Scotty saw an old stone bridge in the base of the valley and headed to the left of the bridge. Steve followed and stormed toward the stream, trying to keep up with his bigger friend. Scotty got there first and turned around.

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Steve Nobody spent a lot of time in the local forest, known as Ragged Wood. He and his schoolfriend, Scotty, were into anything army. They formed a club called the Night Fighters and kitted themselves out in military clothing and equipment. In the local countryside, the boys learned about camouflage and tactical movement. They crossed barbed wire fences and explored the land beyond. With sharpened senses, they walked with stealth at day or night and became skilled in leaving little trail behind. Being surreptitious was essential because the fields and forest beyond were an estate owned by a wealthy family who lived in an enormous country house. The land had tenant farmers and a gamekeeper was employed in part to ensure no one trespassed on the private land.

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Despite their differences, the Gronk and Nobody families were both Outsiders. But the Nobodys did not care about status, although they saw education as important and sometimes did quite well for themselves. The Gronks, however, wanted to be higher up the social scale. Many an attempt had been made over the years to climb that slippery ladder. The rank of Poshey was the ultimate goal, but it had so far eluded them. Sooner or later, the Gronk family were convinced they would be rubbing shoulders with the Snook elite.

Continue reading “Tramp”

Know Your Place

The Snook should have been a model of respectability, but it had a reputation as a hotbed of snobbery and prejudice. Pleasant tree-lined streets shielded large houses from the roads, although there was some smaller housing for the less well off. It had been popular with the rich and even famous over the years, which enhanced its standing as the place to be. An obsession with status grew in the Snook and a natural order emerged. Separation was the order of the day, so everyone knew their place.

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The Snook

The modern day picturesque village of Snookington was known as the Snook. It used to be a charming little place set in beautiful countryside, but large swathes of forest had been cut down and housing estates now surrounded the original characterful cottages. An urban sprawl joined the village with surrounding towns in almost every direction. It was regarded as one of SmogCity’s leading urban villages. At one edge lay a token farm besieged by the metropolitan expanse. But the local powers-that-be intended to bulldoze the farm and replace it with more houses in order to stamp out any semblance of green.

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Two Schoolboys

The Gronks and Nobodys lived in Snookington Village right up to modern times with an enduring legacy. Each Gronk was riddled with resentment, while every Nobody had stubbornness running through their veins. The origin of this animosity had long since been forgotten in the mists of time. But one thing was sure. If a Gronk and a Nobody met, they never got along.

Guido Gronk was a tall, thin fifteen year old boy. Leaning against a wall, he looked at the gates of Snookington School on a dusky evening. He had just unwilling taken part in basketball practice. Smirking, he was proud his school the better of the two in the area. A group of boys wearing the blue blazer of Snookington School walked past and laughed. Guido’s face dropped. He was often the brunt of jokes about his first name. He preferred to be called Gronk, but some schoolboys Insisted on Guido. Or worse, Gweirdo. His peers thought Gronk was prickly and difficult, but he knew greatness was in store for him.

“Let them laugh,” he muttered. “When my genius is recognised, they’ll all want to be my friends.”

Gronk sighed and looked idly over the road. He saw Steve Nobody with scuffed shoes, a football and, inexplicably, wearing a blue blazer. How they let someone like him into Snookington School was beyond his comprehension. He hated anyone with the Nobody name. Steve was shorter than Gronk, about the same age, and shy. But he had a large group of friends, which irritated the hell out of Gronk. Beyond the confines of school, Steve spent time in the outdoors and played football with boys from the nearby Dundiston School. Most Snookington schoolboys looked down on Dundiston School and it had not gone unnoticed that Steve was fraternising with the enemy. Gronk looked at Steve Nobody as a soft touch, and intended to put him in his place.

The two boys knew each other only in passing, but were well aware of the long-running feud between their families. Stories passed through generations where a Gronk won an argument at one point or a Nobody got the upper hand at another. There had been a recent lull in the dispute, notwithstanding the underlying animosity. Guido Gronk was outraged when he heard anything positive about a Nobody. He figured they must be called Nobody for a reason; they were worthless losers. Whereas, he had been told the good name Gronk was synonymous with bravery and honour. He felt sure a Gronk was always right. About everything. Guido Gronk had a particular talent as a trouble-maker. And he was determined to continue the long-running enmity and break those no good Nobodys once and for all. Then dominance would enable his brilliance to shine.

Copyright © 2021 Callum Stanford.  All rights reserved.


Bolstered by money and contacts from Lord Snookington, Ned left the Snook and trained in the city courtrooms. Although clearly of a lower class, he was received well on account of stories emanating from the Battle of Snookford. Ned learned about laws, court procedures and etiquette. It was a slow process, during which he returned to the Snook at regular intervals to inform Lord Snookington of his progress. In time, Ned became a lawyer and, with a natural sense of fair play, settled back into the Snook and applied local custom with conscience.

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As Lord Snookington rested up, he walked through the Snook and watched the poor workers with heads down and rich folk parading around the High Street. He thought about the lack of opportunity for peasants, even though some had shown themselves to be capable of great things. He did not think the award given to Ned Nobody fully repaid the debt he owed. After all, without the actions of one peasant, he would not be here and the battle may have been lost. Harry wanted to change things. As Ned returned to work on a farm, Harry summoned him to the manor house once more. Ned stood in an enormous room overlooking the walled garden, wondering why he was there. Lord Snookington paced around and then stood in front of Ned.

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During the night, as he tried to sleep at the edge of a clearing, Ned looked at the silver and blue pendant he had received. He thought about the troubled past which led him to this moment. He sighed at the thought of killing Big Nose and Kroll in combat. Ned had avenged the death of his family, but it would not bring them back. At least the long-lived anger was beginning to lessen. He had the blood of many Malaxian soldiers on his hands and his demons were being laid to rest. Krea was his one regret. There was no going back to her in Malaxian territory. He reflected as the fire crackled, its flames dancing in the light breeze.

Continue reading “Homecoming”