The Witch Watch: Gilbert Is Dead

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 5, 2012

Filed under: Projects 149 comments×300.png

Gilbert felt suddenly compelled to wake up. At the same time, he felt that waking up would be wrong, perhaps even rude and offensive. He didn't particularly want to wake up. Quite aside from the proddings of his conscience, he just wanted to keep doing what was already working for him, but he was finding it increasingly difficult to resist. In the military he'd learned that when you're called, you're expected to get out of bed first and then wake up. This habit was deeply ingrained.

The room faded into view around him. Overhead were solemn stone walls, illuminated by a flickering light somewhere off to one side. The walls had alcoves with coffins in them. He was in a crypt, like the kind used by the wealthy to bury their beloved, deceased, and exceedingly well-off relations. It was clean and well-kept, and the only thing remarkable about the crypt was that he was in it.

Gilbert sat up, and he heard someone gasp. His limbs felt numb and heavy. His mind was in much the same condition.

“M-master! Welcome back. Everything has been done according to your wishes,” the voice said nervously.

Gilbert turned and saw a young man kneeling on the cold marble floor. His spectacles glinted in the darkness, reflecting the light of the lantern held in his trembling hand. There was a thin mist on the floor around him.

Gilbert waited for things to settle down inside his head. When he was younger, he'd had a few episodes where he had gone drinking with his fellows and awoken later to find he'd misplaced himself. He found that sitting for a few minutes would do wonders in these cases, and eventually the details would come to him. Usually he just needed one memory to get the process started. Maybe he'd recall what he'd had to drink, or the girls he'd met and what he'd said to them. Or perhaps memories of a fight would surface and explain fresh bruises. Once a piece of the previous evening was in hand, the rest would fall into place and he would be able to remember where he was and how he'd gotten there.

Except, this wasn't happening. His memory was obstinately blank.

The kneeling fellow rose slightly and stopped, seeming to test to see if it was acceptable to stand up all the way. When all seemed well, he stood and relaxed slightly. He looked at Gilbert expectantly.

“Where am I?” Gilbert asked at last. The echo of the stone chamber made his own voice sound odd and unfamiliar to him.

“Your Lordship,” the young man said with a bow, “You are in the family mausoleum.” He consulted a pocketwatch. “It's midnight, or rather recently passed. October first. As I said, everything according to your instructions.”

Gilbert looked down to see that he'd been sleeping on a stone slab, although he felt no worse for it. He suspected the pain would set in once the drink had left his system. “What in the name of the Queen's dainties am I doing in a tomb?”

“Ah yes. You did mention that your memories might be a bit… reluctant. That should pass in a few minutes.”

Gilbert looked down. He was wearing a white robe. A long staff had been laid on his chest, and was now sitting in his lap. He grasped this curious object and caught sight of his hands. They were yellow, dry and somewhat withered. There were cracks in the surface, like parched earth. “My hands!” he cried, letting the staff clatter to the floor.

“I think you were preserved very well in here. I imagine your remaining flesh should last you quite a while.”

“Preserved?” Gilbert asked, suddenly suspecting he'd gotten himself into more trouble than usual this time.

“Your Lordship, do you not remember your plan?” The young man spoke with his head lowered slightly, and with an obsequious attitude, as if he expected Gilbert was going to beat him at any moment. Gilbert could think of no reason to beat the man, other than the fact that he kept talking to him in this infuriating way.

“No. And stop calling me ‘Lordship'.”

“We managed to obtain the… items required for your revivification, and the spells you devised have worked as planned.” The young man held up an unremarkable crystal necklace as evidence.

“Magic? Now you're campaigning for a punch in the nose. I might have done a few things that I'm ashamed of, and a whole lot more that I should be ashamed of, but I've never gone in for the dark arts. The last fellow who accused me of witchcraft got himself dragged out of the pub and kissed the cobblestones until he begged my pardon.”

The young man bowed, “Master, this is most unexpected. Is this some sort of test? I don't know what I should do.”

“You could stop calling me ‘master'. That would be a good start.”

“But… you are my master,” he protested. At this he pointed to the wall, where the following words had been engraved:

Barrington Oswald Mordaunt

Viscount of Ravenstead



Gilbert looked at the stone. “That name is familiar,” he said slowly.

“Yes!” the young man said eagerly. That's your name. And I'm Simon, one of your inner circle servants. We help you in your studies. Perhaps you remember me? I've been in your service for years.”

Gilbert rose and pointed the staff at the engraving. “That's not my name,” he said firmly. “I'm Gilbert Hiltman.”

Simon had already seemed nervous and anxious, but now he had the appearance of a man caught in the throes of primal terror. “No!” He squeaked as he placed his hand on his heart. His face had gone white and he seemed to be breathing quickly. “But… how did you come to rest in the Master's chamber?”

Gilbert stared at him. After a few moments Simon blushed. “I guess you wouldn't know that yourself.” Simon looked around the chamber, as if he expected to see another body at hand. “I don't know what I did wrong. I really don't. Where is the Master?”

Gilbert guessed that Simon was not yet twenty. It was hard to judge. He seemed thin and malnourished, and might look older if he was properly fed. He was dressed in a rumpled shirt which might only be called white by the most generous observers. It was marked with fingerprints of black grime. Over that he wore a brown waistcoat. There was a bowler hat atop his head, under which his hair had been allowed to grow wild. His trousers looked as though they were expertly tailored ten years ago, and thoroughly mistreated since then. The knees were torn and threadbare. He was standing at the center of an elaborate circle of symbols that had been drawn onto the stone floor in charcoal. Along the edge of this was a ring of dwindling candles. Nearby was a large, ragged book, hanging open and revealing unwholesome truths.

“I'd apologize for all the time and effort you wasted in bringing back the wrong fellow,” Gilbert said. “It's a shame to see young people dabble in evil business. But I'm rather more upset at the prospect of being dead myself.”

“You don't understand!” Simon cried. “We are in a great deal of danger. The others are waiting outside. This is… our group has worked for years to achieve this. When they discover I've brought back the wrong man…” His voice trailed off as he stared out into the darkness beyond the chamber.

“Yes?” Gilbert said impatiently. “What will they do? Notify the police and complain that their illegal magics have been misappropriated? Write a scathing editorial? Sue me? Kill me?”

“Well, yes. Or rather, they will undo the magic binding you to this world, returning you to death. After which they will torture me to death for my failure.”

Gilbert sighed, which made a deep, hollow hiss that seemed to echo all around him. “Maybe this is why people don't join cults and practice necromancy. I suppose we must both blame your mother, for raising an imbecile.”

A voice called from outside, “Simon! What news?”

Simon put his hand over his mouth. He looked very close to tears.

Gilbert did not particularly like Simon. Quite aside from his necromancy, he seemed to be a coward, and Gilbert could not abide cowards. But he didn't like the idea of the lad being tortured to death, either.

The voice continued to call Simon. It was demanding, and grew steadily more impatient.

Simon paced furiously, casting his eyes around as if he expected to find a means of escape in the dusty corners of the room. At once he stopped pacing and turned to Gilbert. He spoke with a trembling voice, “Perhaps we can pass you off as the Viscount. We could return to the estate, and then I could look in his Lordship's library to see if I can find a way to sort this out.”

“We'll see,” Gilbert said. He slid himself off the stone slab and stood up. His body still felt a bit numb but his legs were able to hold his weight and he seemed to be as strong as ever.

Simon blinked in surprise as he looked up at Gilbert. “You are very tall!”

Gilbert sighed again, “You know, people have been telling me so since I was fourteen. Constantly. Yes. I am tall. Thank you. I had noticed before, actually.”

“Sorry,” Simon stammered. “But this might impede our deception. His Lordship is of normal stature, at best. Or was, before his death.”

“You think they'll notice? You didn't.”

“You were lying down!” Simon said defensively. “And these men have known the Viscount since before I was born. You have to understand, these men are deadly serious. We call them the ‘Four Horsemen'. Not to their face, mind you, but the name suits them. They are the elders of the Order of the Eternal King.”

Gilbert laughed. “Was that name not already taken by some other cult?”

“You jest, but these men have done horrible things to attain the power they have. They're all Dukes or Barons or that sort of thing. Some of the other acolytes told me that one of them is even a Member of Parliament.”

“If this lot is so bad, why don't you just leave? It's not right getting mixed up in business like this.”

Simon shook his head. “I can't. I just… you can't get away from the Lord Mordaunt, even in death.”

“Fine,” Gilbert said, “Lead on.”

Simon stepped out of the circle of writing, being careful not to smudge his work. He snuffed out the candles, leaving them with just the meager light of his lantern. He retrieved a dark robe from the corner of the room.

“You wear black robes in your cult,” Gilbert observed. “Why don't cults ever wear yellow robes? It would catch people off guard.”

Simon unfolded the robe. “I took it off because I didn't want it dragging all over my writing while I worked, and I was worried that I'd set myself on fire with all these candles about.”

“Let me wear it,” Gilbert said. “I don't like parading around dressed like this. How short was your master? His burial gown looks like a tunic.”

They left the chamber and Simon led them up a long set of narrow stone steps. He walked holding his lantern out in front of him, while Gilbert trudged behind in his new black cloak. He'd pulled the hood up, and his face was in deep shadow. He walked with the ornamental staff, using it like a walking stick.

At last they came out into the brisk night air. The stars were out and the moon was nearly full. They were in a small graveyard. In front of them was a low hill, leading up to a darkened manor. To the left the land sloped away down to the road. To the right were open fields, hedged in by dense trees. The place struck Gilbert as familiar, but his memories were slippery.

Four men awaited them, dressed in similar black cloaks. As they exited, the Four Horsemen drew back their hoods and knelt down. All of them were gray-haired men with grim faces.

“Welcome back, your Lordship,” the oldest said. He had a gravelly voice with an aristocratic accent. “All is in readiness. What is your command?”

Simon had walked around behind the men and was now grinning nervously and motioning silent applause. It's working!

“Stand up!” Gilbert commanded.

Simon grew wide-eyed and glared at Gilbert. He held out his hands in dismay. What are you doing?

The Horsemen also seemed curious at this. Perhaps it was his voice. Or his accent. Or his height. They rose, but they did so looking at one another in confusion.

“Gentlemen!” Gilbert boomed, “You stand before the mighty Viscount of Pugilism!” He grabbed the heads of two of the men in front of him and cracked them together. The men went limp and collapsed into a heap of wrinkles and black wool.

“That's not the Viscount!” cried one of them. “What have you done, foolish boy?”

Gilbert socked the man in the bridge of the nose before anyone could fashion an answer for him.

“Treason!” screamed the last horseman, and he reached beneath his robes to draw a sword. Gilbert caught his hand and pushed the sword down before it left the scabbard. The man put his other hand on the hilt, and the two strove like this.

“Gilbert!” Simon cried.

The horseman found he could not overpower Gilbert's grasp, but he continued to try and free his sword. Since he couldn't bring the sword up, he tried holding it in place and pulling the scabbard away by moving and twisting his hips.

“Gilbert, look!” Simon said, his voice rising in escalating panic.

Gilbert allowed the horseman to twist around, struggling comically against his iron grip. Once the man had bent himself into a truly absurd and untenable position, Gilbert yanked sideways and sent him to the ground. A firm kick to the head quieted the old man. “There,” he said to Simon, “Now you're free to leave these nasty fellows.”

“Gilbert!” Simon shrieked, “The road!”

A party of some half-dozen men had arrived, riding on carts. Some bore lanterns and swords. Others bore rifles.

“I thought you said there were only four!” Gilbert snapped.

“These fellows are not from our order,” Simon hissed in a stage whisper.

“Halt!” One of the newcomers shouted, “In the name of the Ministry of Ethereal Affairs and Her Majesty the Queen, you are ordered to stand and declare yourselves!” They hurried up the hill, their gear clanking as they moved.

“Bloody hell. It's the Witch Watch! We'll hang for sure,” Simon said with despair.

“Don't worry. We're not with this lot,” Gilbert said as he prodded one of the horsemen with his foot, “Just be polite and explain that you were only working with them out of fear.” Gilbert threw back his hood and walked down to meet the Witch Watch.

“No, don't!” Simon shouted.

Several things came to Gilbert's mind in this moment. One was noting that his strange echoing voice – which he had attributed to being inside the tomb – was still strange and echoing, even outside. The second was remembering what his hands looked like, and how the rest of him was likely in similar condition. The third was that he was currently dressed in the black robes of this cult and carrying some sort of ornamental scepter, which would not only make him look like a member but might go so far as to suggest that he was the ringleader. The Witch Watch had found them in the countryside at night, and likely had news of what was supposed to be happening here. They would be expecting trouble, and everything about this scene would tell them that they had found it.

The lamp light fell on Gilbert and the captain of the group went wide-eyed. “ABOMINATION!” he screamed.

Gilbert wasn't sure if he should hold onto the staff to defend himself, or surrender. In a panic, he tried to do both and raised the staff over his head.

“Spellcraft!” screamed the captain.

The men fell to the ground. At first Gilbert thought they were all cowering, but then the rifle shots came and he realized there would be no sorting this out tonight. He spun around and fled.

As he turned, he caught sight of the person at the rear of the Witch Watch. It was a woman. She looked thin, almost waif-like. She had stood at the back with a pistol in her hand, and now that the men had taken cover she was walking up the hill, heedless of the shooting and supposed danger of spellcraft. Shockingly, she seemed to be wearing trousers.

Gilbert saw no more of her. As curious as it was, he was more concerned with not being shot or (worse) captured. Great Britain prided herself on even justice and humane executions, but the Witch Watch was one of the last institutions that – if popular gossip was to be trusted – still wielded the older, harsher style of law enforcement.

Gilbert sprinted away from the watchmen, casting aside his staff as he did so. Simon had wisely begun running several seconds sooner, and thus had a good head start. Nevertheless, Gilbert's great strides allowed him to catch up quickly. He was glad to discover that whatever strange things had befallen him, he was still as able-bodied as ever. He wanted to look back and see what his pursuers were doing. Gilbert wondered if the riflemen were giving chase or sharpshooting. He was also anxious to get another look at the woman, just because. But he didn't dare take his eyes off the ground in front of him. They were running through a graveyard at night while being shot at. Tripping could be fatal.

The gunshots rang out surprisingly quickly, and at an even rate.

“They have very good rifles,” Gilbert commented as they ran.

“What?” Simon gasped. His steps were already faltering.

Gilbert grabbed him by the shoulder and hauled him sideways, “This way. Into the trees.”

The shots fell silent as Gilbert and Simon dove into the shroud of the forest. The men shouted to each other, but Gilbert could not catch the words.

“We'll never escape them all,” Simon gasped. He stopped and conscripted a tree to keep him from falling over.

“We don't need to escape them all,” Gilbert pointed out. “They won't all follow and leave the Four Horsemen unattended. I suspect no more than half of them will give chase. Come on. Walk if you can. The woods are big and lanterns can't see far. We should be fine as long as we can get some distance before daybreak.”

It was dark here under the trees, and Gilbert could only barely make out Simon's outline as he pulled himself upright. The bright moon was fortunate. There was just enough light for them to move without running face-first into a tree. Simon stumbled now and again on tree roots, but the shouts of their pursuers became increasingly distant.

“How many are there, do you think?” Simon asked as he struggled for breath. “I didn't think to count them.” They had been fleeing for perhaps a quarter hour and had now stopped for another rest.

“There were six men,” Gilbert replied, “Four rifles. Two swords with lanterns, one of which was their captain. Plus the woman. They won't send both lanterns away, which means we only have one lantern chasing us. Most likely not the leader. He'll want to investigate the goings-on at the tomb, and leave the chase to his men.”

“You know a great deal about the Witch Watchers,” Simon marveled.

“No. I know a great deal about being a soldier. And the task of running around in the woods looking for a deadly wizard, at night, with one lantern, is exactly the sort of job that an officer would delegate.”

Simon slumped down against an old tree-trunk and hung his head between his knees. “I see. You're right. They must be assuming you're a wizard. Who ever heard of performing a revivification on a common soldier?”

“Who ever heard of reviving the wrong person?” Gilbert shot back.

Simon was quiet for some time. Gilbert waited patiently as the boy recovered his breath with much coughing and sighing. For his own part, Gilbert didn't feel short of breath or even tired.

When Simon's breathing had settled, he pushed himself upright. “You said there was a woman there. I hadn't noticed her. I do wonder what that was all about. They're wizard hunters. Well, wizard killers, really. I wonder why they would bring along a woman for grim work like that.”

“Let us make every effort to not find out,” Gilbert suggested.

Trivia: “The Witch Watch” was originally going to be titled “Gilbert is Dead”, but there was already a play by the same name.

You can get the book in print, or for your Kindle, or Nook, or even as a PDF if that’s what you’re into. Just look here.


From The Archives:

149 thoughts on “The Witch Watch: Gilbert Is Dead

  1. Factoid says:

    I like the title “Gilbert is Dead”. Did you know there’s another book on Amazon called Witch Watch? It looks like some kind of picturebook.

    1. Heather says:

      True but no “The Witch Watch”.

      1. Shamus says:

        I didn’t see “Witch Watch” until after we already published. :( I even googled for it while writing.

        Hopefully no trouble comes of it.

        1. X2Eliah says:

          Probably not, after all the printed names, referred names, names on amazon and etc. are different, and the search results for the two terms seem to distinguish the two correctly.

          But, yeah.. sometimes this stuff can be a pain, so heartfelt hoping there’s no fuss about this (“Witch Watch” was released in 1980s something though, iirc, so maybe it’s just way past it’s prime-time anyway).

  2. Jeff says:

    Putting up this excerpt was a good idea, Shamus, since my interest has gone from “Eh, what’s that really about anyway?” to “Dang it, now I need to get a copy!”

    1. Chris B Chikin says:

      It’s worthwhile. I’m at the end of the first chapter just now and the feel is sort of Terry Pratchett meets steampunk Victorian England only with the overall insanity dialled down a couple of notches.

      EDIT: Although the Pratchett vibe might be just me, given that I finished reading Mort right before starting The Witch Watch and I’m probably not far enough through it to tell for certain.

      1. Heather says:

        I read a lot of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett and really think Shamus’ writing does have a Terry Pratchett vibe though I have NEVER gotten him to read a Terry Pratchett book.

        1. Hitch says:

          Has he ever read, “Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke? I suspect not, or we may never have gotten “The Witch Watch.” It’s another first novel with a somewhat similar theme. It’s set in a alternate England of the early (rather than late) 19th century and deals with the return of magic. It has a very different writing style. Clarke deliberate evokes the prose of the period rather than writing in a modern voice as Shamus does, but I think it likely anyone enjoying one book would also appreciate the other.

          1. Heather says:

            Interesting. Shamus’ entertainment reading habits include the same websites he has been reading for 10 years, the occasional news article–especially gaming news plus LotR about once a year or so (and less often Douglas Adams). I am sure he has read other things but he prefers to stick with what he loves for regular reading. So convincing him to read something he hasn’t enjoyed previously is…tricky so I usually don’t bother. :)

            1. Zak McKracken says:

              This is really strange to me. Re-reading the same books? Alright, there are books worth reading twice, but … I’m imagining young Shamus (haha, pun!) going “I’m not going to read this “Lord of the Rings” thing, I’ve already read Alice in Wonderland, and I liked that so I’ll stick with that…

              Dear Shamus: Go and read Pratchett. Now.
              It wil not just entertain you, it will make you a better person without you even realizing before it’s too late. It will teach you about the human condition, about society, about people and states, about … jokes. Really godd jokes, too. I mean, the guy was promoted to nobility for this!

              And you’re wife’s gonna be happy about it.
              And your kids.

              And probably half your blog readers. if not more. And they’ll be happy to cope with any reduction in content of this blog due to this. Am I right?

              1. Heather says:

                I reread favorite books multiple times as well though I have a wider variety of rereads since I like to have a book going at all times and he only occasionally gets the urge to read. Favorite books get reread on a yearly basis for me. For him to, though in Shamus’ case he likes to keep the list simple. The nice thing about rereading is that you can read for a few minutes and put it down if you have a lot of other things going on. If you are reading something new you may find you hate it, you may find that you get interrupted in an important part and so on. So I get why, I just wish he had more variety so we could share more. Usually he ends up listening to me read favorite bits aloud so he is at least exposed to all my favorites. :)

                1. Zak McKracken says:

                  Haha, this is cool. I started reading reading to my wife, and that worked great for Pratchett (which she loves now) and some other books. Then I started with the Hobitt, and there isn’t a single page in that book (that is, in the first quarter, I stopped after that) during which she hasn’t fallen asleep … I’m doing something wrong :(

              2. krellen says:

                Actually, we expect blog posts about Shamus’s Pratchett reading insights.

              3. Freykin says:

                It’s not too strange a practice. I go back and forth from reading new material to rereading ones that I highly enjoyed. It’s kind of a comfort thing, I think, to go back and read what I read as an adolescent. Nothing cheers me up/puts me in a good mood like sitting down and reading some Redwall or a David Eddings book.

          2. Matt K says:

            More acurately, Strange takes place around the Nepoleonic Wars (and don’t mind me I just can’t spell today).

            That was a great book (I found it at a used book store is essentially new condition for cheap) plus I loved the footnotes.

            As for this book, it’s on my amazon wish list (print edition) but I have like 10 other books to get throught before I can buy anymore (although I’ll probably cave sooner, especially if there’s a signed edition).

        2. Adam says:

          Never read Terry Pratchett? Do me a favor Mrs. Young and dopeslap him for me.

          1. Heather says:

            I agree– plus it makes it awfully hard to share all the awesomeness when he HASN’T read it! Thankfully my kids don’t take after him in this and happily read Terry Pratchett so I have someone with which to talk about the books. (The also adore the movies, which are pretty awesome.)

            1. tengokujin says:

              BBC movies FTW!

            2. Steve C says:

              Wait, wut? Movies? There are Terry Pratchett movies? Why didn’t I know this sooner?!?

              +1 for dopeslap

              1. Zak McKracken says:

                There’s Hogfather (the first movie), and then later they made “The Colour of Magic” and “The Light Fantastic” in one go. Samwise Gamgee plays the tourist … ahhh … Sean Astin! Thank you IMDB!

                Having read the books, I was a little … disappointed. My wife didn’t read the books and also wasn’t too impressed. Then she picked up one of them nonetheless, and _that_ got her hooked :)

                1. Heather says:

                  We kind of adore The Hogfather. In fact Mr. Tea-time inspired the thief card for Sherwood Showdown.

                  1. OEP says:

                    IMO, the best Pratchett books are the Tiffany Aching series. And Nation is pretty awesome.

                    1. Heather says:

                      Nation was all right. I adore the Tiffany Aching books. Interesting enough they remind me of Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service though I am not really sure why other than both are witches. I think maybe because of the attitude of both girls, somehow they remind me of each other.

                2. Hitch says:

                  Also, most recently (as far as I know) Going Postal.

                3. There’s also a cartoon version of the book with Music with Rocks in, and Sky just did Going Postal.

            3. SyrusRayne says:

              There are prisons, filled with people who haven’t read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Horrible things happen there. You owe it to yourself, to us, to the world to save Shamus from this most cruel of fates. Only you can do this.

              If you don’t… I’m afraid I’ll have to inform the Thought Police.

            4. Zak McKracken says:

              The movies … actually I wasn’t so impressed. They seemed to me like they just translated the obvious jokes to film and then made a lot of effort so everyone would get every single joke. By explaining them.
              At the same time, they lost a lot of the subtle hints at greater things that are in the books. It’s like an 8-year-old telling you about a Simpson episode or … any Pixar movie, basically. There are several layers of awesome in the books that didn’t make it into the movies.

              1. Heather says:

                I didn’t say the movies were great, just that my kids loved them. Keeping in mind it is hard to find decent sci-fi/fantasy in general and for the 9-12 year old crowd specifically. Compared to most of the tripe out there the movies are pretty awesome (and the kids love Pratchett’s humor.)

                1. MichaelG says:

                  The movies try to stick too closely to the book, in my opinion. That kills the timing and makes them long and drawn out.

                  Parts of Hogfather are probably the best of the series though. Going Postal is a bit tighter than the book, so it’s not bad.

                  1. Zak McKracken says:

                    Being fair, it’s probably difficult to translate Pratchett’s way of writing about something into the movie’s way of showing it to you.

                    In my opinion, the movies show too much, too directly. But then, when reading the book you can at least pause to think, so it’s okay if you don’t get a hint at once. If that happens in a movie, you’re lost.

        3. X2Eliah says:

          … So – is Shamus avoiding to read Pratchett because of some quasi-hipster anti-mainstream impulse or….? Because seriously, he really should read some of Terry’s best works at least – if for personal professional growth, if nothing else.

          1. Heather says:

            I would say it is more lack of time– he always has way mor eon his plate than time allows.

          2. Shamus says:

            He’s on my list of Stuff I Should Read Someday.

            I need a paypal button where people can donate hours instead of money.

            1. X2Eliah says:

              Aye, that makes sense. There is a solution to the lacking time issue, ofc – you just need to turn from a ‘doer’ into a ‘manager’, pushing and prodding other people’s bottoms so they do the work in your place. Because then you can spend the exact same amount of time being unfriendly towards people, bossing them around, and getting subsufficient results. But, for some reason the world thinks it’s the right way of action, so buttocks get prodded.

              And if you had read a certain T.P. book, you’d catch a reference in there.

            2. Dave B says:

              Or perhaps a place for people to sign up to read stuff for you. That way people can stop bothering you to read X book, play Y game, or watch Z tv show. Instead they can take care of all the tedious parts and you can experience the awesomeness by proxy! Too busy for your hobbies? Outsource them!

              Ps. I would happily donate a few hours to you if I could.

              1. Mari says:

                In that case, I’m donating my next re-read of the P.I. Garret novels by Glen Cook to Shamus. He MUST read them and since I re-read them semi-annually anyway this seems an equitable deal. Everyone else seems to compare Shamus’ writing to Pratchett and I can certainly see that but to my mind he’s much more Cook-like in his narrative voice.

                1. Heather says:

                  Still haven’t read Cook. Need to remember to check our local library just in case (they only have a few Pratchett books.

            3. Chris B Chikin says:

              I’ll donate my hours in return for money? :D

              1. Heather says:

                Um, money? What is that? You mean people have this thing?

            4. Rick says:

              Time as a currency? The movie In Time was pretty good.

              1. Simon Buchan says:

                Ironically, it had pretty bad pacing problems :)

            5. SyrusRayne says:

              Well alright, but to agree to that I’d really need to know how quickly you read. I could probably spare a couple of nights. I waste that time sleeping, anyway.

        4. Lesquille says:

          Before I’d finished reading the first sentence, I thought “this reminds me of Pratchett.” Definitely reminiscent of his style.

        5. Tizzy says:

          Excellent! Make sure to keep Shamus away from Pratchett then, as I am much more interested to read him channeling his inner Terry Pratchett anyway…

    2. Dragomok says:

      I have exactly same feelings.

      It will be the third thing I will immediately buy when I have enough money.

      1. albval says:

        For me this was the second in line. Now the money is gone – but the book won’t arrive until April. April! I might have bought ME3 by then and how am I supposed to read the book in that case?

    3. Sean says:

      Agreed. I was thinking of buying it anyway to support your work, but having read this, I immediately went to Amazon and ordered a copy.

      I’m really looking forward to reading the rest.

    4. Scourge says:

      Very much agreed! Its been to long since I last read a good book and this.. this definitely sounds like one!

      And very much agreed with the rest, it has a very Terry Pratchett feel to it.


      This book is hilarious! I say we need a TV tropes entry for it because it is made out of hilarity, wit and a very compelling story.

  3. Mark says:

    What is this, the first chapter? something new? spoilers for the book?


    1. Heather says:

      The first section in the first chapter. Each chapter is broken up into multiple sections, usually from different time frames or view points.

    2. cerapa says:

      Looks like the first chapter to me.

      EDIT: Ninjad.

      1. Chris B Chikin says:

        I immediately recognised the first sentence and was like “WTF Shamus? I just paid for it two nights ago and now you’re putting it online?” But no, it’s just a preview. Worth getting though, especially if you have a Kindle.

        1. Rick says:

          Even if he was for some reason giving it away for free I’m still glad I paid for it. It’s well worth the tiny price he put on it and I’m glad to support him for his work.

          I’ve never been interested in history or fantasy books so even though I was hooked by Free Radical cover to cover I doubted I would like The Witch Watch as much as the technical cyberpunk story but I’m thoroughly enjoying The Witch Watch.

          Hopefully he’ll get more than just money though… It’s already looking like his audience is growing very nicely and hopefully this will inspire him to write more great books.

    3. Bubble181 says:

      This was my response as well. Comments FTW or something like that :-)

  4. Paul Spooner says:

    Although the clean text is an elegant solution, some introductory “Here’s what I’m doing and why” might not go amiss.

    Also, nice intro. Not too over the top epic, not too dull. I like Gilbert’s practicality reflected in Simon’s panic.

    1. X2Eliah says:

      Yeah, basically this. I thought you were posting an “alternate-outcome” sequence that ends with Gilbert ceasing-to-exist at the very start (Sort of a “what if” kind of thing).

  5. Drew says:

    Looks like the print version is now available on Amazon. I’ve placed my order.

  6. X2Eliah says:

    Can I just say, I’m sort of glad you didn’t call your novel “Gilbert is dead”. Because.. I remember at least one other book that was “…. is dead” (no idea what the name of the dead person was), and it was pretty rubbish.

    Also, a blank, front-faced title “Gilbert is dead” really implies a different style from yours, Shamus.. Some proto-surrealist dadaism literary wankery is what that title is reminiscent of, to me. “The Witch Watch” at least betrays a sense of humour, double-meanings, subtexts and a lack of a ridiculous desire to “shock” or “upset” the reader for novelty’s sakes.

    Also, yeah, choosing the right title is a real pain. Imo, you pretty much dodged a cowpie there, no offense if “Gilbert is dead” was anyones favourite.

    1. Dave B says:

      Are you perhaps thinking of John Dies at the End? Maybe not, but that is the first thing that came to mind when I read your comment. (I have not read that book BTW, so I don’t know if it was “pretty rubbish” or not)

      1. krellen says:

        JDatE is a great book, although every version that has existed (there were two separate incarnations of an online version and now a print version) has been different in some way.

        1. Simon Buchan says:

          Lets hope the movie is good.

          1. SyrusRayne says:

            WHAT. WHAT?!

      2. X2Eliah says:

        Possibly not. Is that the thing by that Cracked-writer? If so, then it’s not the thing I meant.

        1. krellen says:

          Yes, JDatE is “the thing by that Cracked-writer”.

          1. Soylent Dave says:

            Is it any good? Amazon keeps recommending it at me, and I’m rebelling in a sort of “I won’t dance to your tune, social engineering bot” kinda way.

            But then I keep thinking “but I might like it”

            1. krellen says:

              Well, it’s one of my top 5 books, but apparently I need to read more.

              Also, no one I know has read the version I did, which has my favourite scene in it, so YMMV.

            2. peter says:

              if you’ve read and liked the works of joe hill (horns, heart shaped box), or warren ellis’ crooked little vein, they share a certain feel. it’s pretty good stuff.

    2. Bret says:

      Maybe Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead?

      But that’s really, really good. One of the best plays ever.

  7. drlemaster says:

    Did anyone else feel a Reginald Cuftbert vibe when Gilbert declared himself to be the Viscount of Pugilism, and proceeded to stake claim to the title?

    1. Ermel says:

      I was reminded of Pugilism and the Third Autistic Cuckoo. Let’s see who gets that one. And Shamus: Thanks for posting this. I’m sold. Off to Amazon now …

      Yours, Ermel.

      1. Mari says:

        I suspect Shamus himself will get that one as he’s reputed to be an Adams fan. For the record, as popular as the Hitchhiker’s books were, they’ll never be as awesome for me as Tea Time was. That was one of my favorite books ever (along with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, of course).

        1. Heather says:

          I agree. We own all Douglas Adams books (and have watched the showand listened to the radio version multiple times. The kids adore the tv series from the 70’s or early 80’s. In fact we even own Starship Titanic the video game AND audio book. Brilliant game if it weren’t so buggy. “MMMmm, I LIKE chicken.”) Hmm, I am partial to Dirk Gently but Tea Time is pretty awesome. The couch problem often comes up in conversation, as do numerous Adams references.

          1. chiefsheep says:

            I just have to add that as a huge Douglas Adams fan I’m off to The Original Cast – Reunited Live On Stage in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show – Live!

            I remember listening to the whole thing years and years ago on the radio, and now the original cast are getting back together this summer for a one night show – can’t wait!

    2. swenson says:

      Ahaha, yes! I didn’t realize that before, but it is very much true. Gilbert is much more stable than Reginald, however. And he takes fewer drugs.

  8. Mersadeon says:

    This was interesting. If this is availible in Germany (I will look it up immediatly after posting this), then I will get it. I like that our protagonist is tall. It has been a while since I read a Fantasy novel with a tall, common soldier as the protagonist (except in books with many, many viewpoint-characters).
    Also, one can really feel the “Shamus-ish-ness” in this. I like it.

    1. Heather says:

      Yes, is available in Germany.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        Available from Smashwords and Amazon (including as electronic version. Haven’t found any actual books yet, except if you order from, but that’ll cost a lot in shipping.

        1. Heather says:

          You can also buy the print version from Createspace (if you look at the sales page Shamus linked to you will see– should be since on the front page it links to all the editions except smashwords which you can find under the Books tab.) Not sure if they ship to where you are.

          1. Rax says:

            That’d be for Berlin, so using createspace you can either have the book sometime next month or pay almost 1.5 times the price of the actual book just for shipping.
            I’d probably just go with the digital version, even printing the whole thing would be a lot cheaper.

            1. Heather says:

              If you email me separately we can see what shipping would be like for us directly. Shipping from the US is pretty expensive in general but I have shipped paintings to Germany before with no issue so could check what shipping would be for a book. We are going to be ordering a bunch of books for PAX so will have some spare that we can send out if it works out better. — Looks like it would cost $16.95 US to ship and take 6-10 business days after we got our shipment.

          2. Zak McKracken says:

            Even funnier here: If I click on “add to cart” on Createspace, it tells me “Title The Witch Watch is not available”.

            Anyway, I think I’m going to try this newfangled e-book thing anyway. Prevents me from having to buy new bookshelves, which makes live easier when moving, and it’s what people do these days. I’m told.

            1. Um, that might be because today we discovered a bit of a messup on one of the pages (an image went off the page in the print version, so Shamus had me upload the fixed version, which meant it needed reviewed again… should be up now or soon since the review process is finished. So frustrated about it but so it goes.

    2. bigben says:

      Also, if you like to read about tall protagonists, I would strongly recommend The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher :)

      Also, if you like magic and wise-assing and fighting against odds and awesomeness…

      I like those books.

      Also I began reading the first few chapters of Shamus’ book, and it is definitely worth the money and up there with my favorite ones. May even buy a printed version to put it on the shelf. Always liked his writing.

      And Heather: those Illustrations are really good :)

      1. Clint Olson says:

        I’ll second the recommendation for The Dresden Files. When people ask who my favorite authors are, I tell them “Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, and Shamus Young” — they’re all authors that I’ve (to my knowledge) read everything they’ve ever written, and will read everything they ever write.

        1. MichaelG says:

          I’ve only read the first Dresden files book — thought it was only OK. Do they get better?

          I’ve also seen a couple of episodes of the TV program, but didn’t think they worked as well as the book.

          1. Friend of Dragons says:

            I’m a big fan of the series, and I would agree that the first few aren’t exceptional. But if you stick with them, they keep getting better, and many of the more recent ones are just awesome.

          2. Heather says:

            My oldest and I love the tv show and I keep meaning to borrow the books from my brother (we got him the series for his birthday since he loves Jim Butcher.) That said I HATED the other books by Jim Butcher that my brother tried to tell me I would love (felt like D&D campaigns– which would be awesome if I were playing but not so much to just read.) So, I have been kind of leery of trying.

            1. Captainbooshi says:

              You really should give the Dresden Files a chance. I buy every Dresden Files book the day it comes out, but I’ve never read more than the first book of his other series, and feel no particular need to. They are very different in tone and style.

          3. bigben says:

            That one time he… no, I can’t spoiler it. Let’s just say: The books definitely got better. I’d say around book 4?

          4. David W says:

            Yes, they totally get better. The first few books are only worth reading to illuminate plot points in the later ones, or if you’re really bored. I do agree book 4 is where Butcher really hit his stride, and he’s been slowly but steadily improving ever since. He’s now the only author on my list who I consider an automatic purchase, rather than waiting for reviews or the price to fall.

      2. Just noticed the note at the end about the illustrations. Thank you (think that might be the first comment about them I have seen. :))

  9. Scerro says:

    I read what I could of it on Smashwords. I’m going to try and pick it up during my spring break while I go back home and I won’t have my computer to play other games, which would normally keep me distracted.

  10. NyalaNevermore says:

    Why, this is very nice. I liked the humor and the described events so far. Plot looks very promising. Guess I’ll just go and try to buy this electronic internet book thingie for internet money.

  11. Irridium says:

    Yeah, I’m definitely buying this. Right now.

  12. Sven says:

    I just ordered the paperback version to be delivered to Germany. I am kind of curious to find out how long it will take :).

  13. mac says:

    Is there a way for me to get this (the print version) in the UK? I like ebooks for long trips but generally prefer the dead tree kind.

    The us (print) version is $20, which is fine.
    But then add uk shipping
    and customs
    and VAT, on the price+shipping+customs
    and then post office handling fees (for keeping your package while they wait for you to pay the customs+vat)
    and it gets to an amount that makes me sad :(

    If I can’t get the print version I’ll just buy the ebook, but I do love my dead trees.

    1. Hitch says:

      Can a UK bookstore order it by the ISBN and bypass much of that for you?

      1. mac says:

        I don’t know, but I’ll try that. Thanks!

      2. Hwwg says:

        I do say, my good sir, the ISBN encryption will prove most useful to this acquisition.

    2. Sumanai says:

      While ISBN was mentioned, in case anyone else wonders this and doesn’t have a local bookstore or they can’t or won’t get the book, it should appear in other Amazon sites in a few days. Although I’ve already ordered from the US (apparently I’m the only one who got a good deal for postage), I’ve been looking out for The Witch Watch on and and no luck, yet.

      1. It should be up on the other country sites soon– Amazon takes a while on some of these things.

  14. Garci says:

    This pretty much settles it. I was torn between wanting to buy the book and… well, not paying the insanity that Amazon thinks is appropriate for shipping it to Germany, but hell, I’m so reading this. It’s moments like these when I curse my inability (read: refusal) to get a Kindle or similar

    1. Rick says:

      You can read Kindle books online or your smartphone.

      Alternatively from the page Shamus links to you can buy PDF or plain text versions.

      1. Simon Buchan says:

        Just to note that the Kindle “cloud reader” browser app is quite fast and about as good as you can get on a screen – so long as it is well calibrated (in particular, not overly-bright) it should be entirely readable there – far more so than most web pages.

  15. Dork Angel says:

    Yes, got a Pratchett vibe from it myself and am intrigued. I’ve just finished his latest one and was thinking it will be sad that at some stage there won’t be any more.

    As an aside I don’t think you pay custom charges, etc on items under £25 if shipping to the UK.

    1. mac says:

      IIRC, the figure is £15, including shipping…

  16. ooli says:

    I dont want to nitpick or anything, but you basically lost me at the point where the servant tell “I was your servant for years” .. And then Gilbert reply “No I’m not, I’m Gilbert”.
    May be it is explained later on, why the servant did not recognize the guy he served for years. But the way the misunderstanding comes out was too abrupt for me.

    Anyway, it’s very well written, and witty. I should get over this blind memoryless servant.

    1. Shamus says:

      He does indeed explain this very thing in the next section.

    2. X2Eliah says:

      Eh, nevermind, Shamus answered already.

  17. Steve C says:

    “You know a great deal about the Witch Watchers,” Simon marveled.

    “No. I know a great deal about being a soldier. And the task of running around in the woods looking for a deadly wizard, at night, with one lantern, is exactly the sort of job that an officer would delegate.”

    I haven’t read your book (yet) but that’s an excellent line. Your blurb conveys information but isn’t a hook. This line is a great hook, it invokes emotion and has real meat on it. It’s the type of line that if on the back cover would make me keep the book in hand rather than put it back on the shelf.

  18. Adam says:

    SOLD! :goes to buy it:

  19. DrKultra says:

    So I was going to get this book eventually, then I read this teaser and already ordered the book.

    You shrewd marketer you Shamus.

  20. Baltar says:

    Wow, sold. Completely sold. Gonna download that PDF and throw it onto my tablet tonight :D

  21. Guvnorium says:

    Am I the only one who realized that this (and more) has been available for preview since the Kindle version was released early? That was one of the things that got me to buy it before official release! It’s a good hook, the opening is…

  22. Venalitor says:

    “Let us make every effort to not find out.” Sounds like something Groucho Marx would say.

    edit: aaaaaannnd, purchased

  23. Zak McKracken says:

    Hands up everyone who had to think of Simon the Sorcerer when Simon’s name came up in the book!

    1. Simon Buchan says:

      I had a different problem.

      1. Sumanai says:

        And that’s why it’s good to have a foreign name that is rare even in that country.

      2. Zak McKracken says:


  24. Jarlek says:

    I was planning on getting this book. Now I have to get it now.

  25. Friend of Dragons says:

    If my nook wasn’t impersonating a paperweight at the moment I’d have gotten it already.

    Although you can just read nook books on a computer…

  26. Radagast says:

    Looks great! Is it going to pop up on the Canadian Amazon site at some point? Link

    1. Heather says:

      It should be available on– though they are currently having trouble with books not linking properly to author pages and between books so you may have to search manually.

  27. Well not sure if yer looking for crits or anything of that nature, but I will note that there were a couple points where it gets a bit info-dumpish. It’s most apparent in the paragraph describing the kid. Going into such detail about the state each piece of clothing is in isn’t necessary or even important and it halts the flow of the narrative.

    It doesn’t even make much sense for Gilbert to notice such superfluous details barring any context not provided in this snippet. It would make more sense not to dully describe the boy’s appearance, but describe the impression Gilbert get’s from observing him. Let our imagination fill in the rest, unless knowing the knees on his trousers are threadbare has some plot relevance…?

    That aside, the important parts IMO – the characters – are distinct and enjoyable. It looks like a story with a lot of promise.

  28. William says:

    just like to politely disagree with neil there, i personally don’t find the verbose description of simon boring, one of my favourite authors, neil gaiman, tends to do something similar in a lot of his books. I think it helps you to paint a picture of this fellow, and it lets us know he is down on his luck, maybe once from finery or at least working for nobles/ rich people something similar, but now on hard times, providing the reader with the opportunity to extrapolate this information for themselves, struggling to put little pieces of information together into something coherent, much like gilbert is doing at that point.

    1. Simon Buchan says:

      Oddly, though, Shamus only describes each character’s clothing and the state of decay of Gilbert – most characters do not get descriptions of their physical appearance. I find it perfectly fine as a style (someone’s clothing tells you a lot more important information about the character than their eye color, for example), but if it was not deliberate Shamus should probably be made aware of it.

  29. george says:

    Shamus, I promise that when I get out of University and obtain a stable income, I shall purchase your book.

    Or better yet, get someone to buy it for me for my birthday (but I promise I’ll finish a song of ice and fire before then, only 2 books!)

    Ahh the life of a Uni student, spent all my money on buying my instrument, sad to say. Now I’m just a leech on my parents after the government cut me off.

    2 Things I noticed though:

    Missing an ‘ ” ‘ at ‘That’s your name’ (then again I don’t think you ever fixed the spoiler warning ‘concersation’…)

    And, the guideline ‘say, don’t tell’ (in regards to behaviours, how they spoke, etc), you don’t seem to follow it much… but I actually rather like it here.

    Also, I keep thinking of Gilbert Grape.

  30. Mukk says:

    Read the preview. Bought the book. Read the book last night. It was good.

    I’m left wondering about the undead protagonist thing. Yahtzee did the same thing. Did you guys come up with this idea separately or did you have some kind of collaboration?

    1. Dave B says:

      I have not read Mogworld but I think I remember this question being answered before, and (someone said) the similarity is entirely coincidental.

    2. Shamus says:

      I didn’t even know about his project until I had devised my story.

      1. rofltehcat says:

        It is really a bit like a curse, isn’t it? :D

  31. Reach says:

    Reading this, “Good Omens” immediately comes to mind. This is a very, very good thing.

  32. Pingback: Italy! | Mythgamer
  33. froogger says:

    The first one is always free, is it? Damn you for sucking me in like this.

    …and now I have to look up “obsequious”.

    1. krellen says:

      I wonder if Shamus knows that word, as I do, because of Starflight. Shamus?

      1. Shamus says:

        Yes! The first time I heard it was in SF.

        The second time was in the TMBG song “Turn Around”.

        Fun word.

  34. Sumanai says:

    This teaser displeases me. The estimated time of arrival for my copy is early next month.

    But, when my brother order a Kindle it arrived in two to three weeks instead of three to four. And the cheapest Kindle is in my price range. Hmm…

  35. Syndic says:

    This was a really nice read, and I’d love to buy the full book… however, I’m not buying a PDF for 5$, so I was looking at the dead tree version (I like having actual books at home). Sadly, amazon won’t sell it to me here in germany it seems. Is there any other way to get it?

    1. It will be available in Germany soon– it just takes a while for Amazon to get up to date in all the areas.

      1. mac says:

        Aaaargghhh! Can’t wait any longer!

        I have the amazon search page for ‘the witch watch’ bookmarked, I was checking it so often.
        Hurry up hurry up hurry up!

        Sorry, I’ll go sit in the corner and wait patiently :p

        Cool illustrations, by the way.

      2. Syndic says:

        Ah, thanks!

        I’ll bookmark that then ;)

  36. squishydish says:

    I’m so glad I already ordered TWW on Saturday. Because of that, I can keep my anticipation in check; otherwise, this taste would make me near-frantic with waiting. BTW, I’m unemployed, but I went ahead and bought the paper version because I just know I’m going to want to lend it to (push it on) my friends.

  37. Jeff says:

    I don’t suppose you could put up a link in the “Support this fine website” section that guides us towards buying your book? I think I’ve gotten a little confused over where to go.

  38. droid says:

    I kinda feel sorry for Gilbert. He never asked for this.

  39. mac says:

    Ummm. I’m not sure if this is the right place to put this, but I don’t use twitter, so can’t do it there. I got really excited when I saw your tweet in the sidebar (about TWW being available) but it’s still not showing up for me on

    1. mac says:

      Woohoo! It showed up on amazon! Not available yet, but I can order and forget about it until it shows up at my door. :)


  40. Garrett Carroll says:

    I know I’m probably several years late, but I highly enjoyed the first chapter. Opening a book and already action is running at you. The story is explained interspersed with said action. Might be getting the book in the near future. Print version too. I’m trying to fill my small bookshelf, and, of course, I’ll be reading it.

  41. baud says:

    That was a very good first chapter.

    Also the link for the picture at the top of the article is broken.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.