|Art by Dave Candlish|
As we speak (are we speaking? I am, anyway) Davey Candlish labours on this year’s PARAGON Annual, like Hephaestus at his forge, hammering panels into shape and beating scripts to even out the blemishes. It is said that this very week the annual will be unleashed upon mortals, its contents only guessable by the prophetic or the insane.
And that’s all true – except that there’s one bit I don’t need to guess at, for my own contribution this year is another Spencer Nero prose story. I enjoy writing these, particularly the conversations between Spencer and Mr. Alabaster: necessity dictates that the latter doesn’t get a lot of panel-time in the regular strip, so it’s always fun to flesh out their increasingly fractious relationship. (The trick seems to be that one of the pair is always trying to annoy the other – but who’s being irritating and who’s being reasonable frequently alternates.)
Anyway, more word on the annual itself once it’s out, but for now, here’s a special sneak preview of my tale, Spencer Nero’s Secret, which reveals a hitherto unknown* and extremely alarming fact about the Civil Centurion – a fact which may lead to his downfall! What is Spencer’s secret? Oh, all right, I’ll tell you. Read on:
A strange and awkward silence fell as Spencer looked at his hands. He was gripped by a piercing chill, as if buffeted by the icy winds of the grim North Sea.
“Are you all right?” Alabaster asked, noting the Civil Centurion’s sudden pallor.
“I… have a confession,” stammered Spencer queasily.
Alabaster smiled benignly, like a disapproving but not entirely unsympathetic uncle. “Spencer,” he began. “Is this about your secret collection of - ?”
“No!” interrupted Spencer. “This is worse. Much worse.” He paused, trying to collect himself. “It’s been my hidden shame for so long,” he finally blurted out. “I’ve never been able to admit it. I just couldn’t accept it was true. But the fact is…” He dropped suddenly to his knees, clutching his head in his hands. He tried again to speak. “The fact is…”
“Yes?” prompted Alabaster.
Oh, hold on. Turns out I’m not allowed to let it slip after all. Buy the PARAGON Annual if you want to find out!
*Well, unknown unless you bought the Spencer Nero Compendium.