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This means something. Being Grueheads I mean. The above quote from my Dear Sister @EnigmaInWords makes that abundantly clear. It’s funny, since the Rivers of Grue commenced their heavy flow back in 2013, so very much has changed. What began as a hobby, soon became all-encompassing, and has wound up being everything to this Mad Dog Englishman and his Crimson Quill. We’re talking vital like oxygen, precious like uncut diamonds, and more meaningful than I could ever have envisaged at the offset. Within weeks of conception, folk began to cotton on to this new trend, and something entirely unprecedented occurred. We started to build a family, lay foundations for something far grander than simply a blog. It was no coincidence that the lion’s share of those inspired were in or approaching their forties. You see, this happens to be the time when the wheels come off the wagon; when life grabs its dildo of choice and proceeds to fuck our skulls for the lulls. However, for as harsh as this reality might be, it actually makes way for our eyes to acclimatize.
This is precisely what happened to the Keeper of the Crimson Quill as I battled all manner of archdemons with a new model army by my side. Angels, Demons – all were welcome. None turned away from the gates because there were no gates. No secret knock, no dress code – just open bloody arms and a host who would bite off his own face mask to offer out a handkerchief. Mask is the operative word here as I’d worn one for over twenty years and no longer considered it the slightest bit necessary. Naturally, this entailed a dash of trepidation on my part as “BURN THE WITCH!” never gets any more musical to the ears of a sorcerer of sincerity such as I. But I wasn’t about to let this chance go begging, having been so fucking sedated for so damn long. I was the most dismembered of toys, busted up, savaged, and beyond all repair it appeared. But suddenly that was acceptable. Suddenly I wasn’t alone, even when scuttling off to my sanctuary to get down to some alchemy.
I forged a number of sturdy bottomed friendships straight off the bat and, while ordinarily I refrain from naming names, I have now achieved Crystalline and shall follow my heart accordingly. Thus, the following people I wish to single out with very distinct reasoning. You see, I couldn’t have made it through the bleak midwinter of 2013 and fallout of 2014, had it not been for each of these blessed souls and the lights they shone through the darkness.
My dear, sweet friend Alicia Darby – seldom have I met anyone as non-judgmental as she. Right from the very start, she believed in me, and that faith has never once wavered. We have spoken on the phone on numerous occasions and it has always been both a joy and past-themed blast. Should you be reading this now Alicia, and I have a rather strong feeling you will be, then know that you’re one of the sweetest people I know and I’m damn proud to have taken this journey alongside you. Life may get in the way, but true friendships stay the course, and do so bereft of effort. And that’s precisely what we share my Sister.
My Viking Brother C. William Giles single-handedly snatched me away from the abyss as I made my 10-day pilgrimage to his stronghold and healed my fresh scars. For the record, I reckon I was less than half a longboat from hypothermia setting in when the stork dropped me into his courtyard. Needless to say, we knocked back a lot of mead, bumped chests, and wrestled red meat from the bone with no cutlery. But most critically, this fine gentleman nursed me back to health when I needed it most. Goddamn it, I love you ferociously Brother. Truly a Nordic Warrior you are. Oh, and one of the best kept secrets in modern-day horror literature to boot.
My delightful friend Ann Thraxx and I have likely racked up at least 200 hours of talk time since we first met back in 2013 and I can genuinely say I’ve never met anyone quite like her. Annie’s a true designer original, a naturally gifted poet, and as straight a talker as they come. She’s also downright hilarious, hence the nickname Jester, and her wicked vein of humor happens to pretty much reflect my own. I teetered rather precariously over my chasm in 2013 and, while Annie was well positioned to either talk me out of taking the plunge or give me a shove to end my misery, she preferred just to sit with me. 3500 miles may separate us but it never feels like it when we talk. Indeed, when I jetted off to L.A. for seven weeks to make my film debut, it was she who called my mother just to keep her in the loop. I didn’t ask her and neither did she do this for back pats. She’s just Annie. And she’s my Sister.
Heather Free or Scarlet to the many who adore her is another of life’s little one-offs. She is also such a motherfucking Spartan. Seriously, the amount of shit life has heaped on her shovel could top up a thousand landfills. But for every last low blow it dishes out, her unshakable spirit sees her more than through. We have laughed together until our airways clogged, until clotted cream has streamed from our peepers, never more so than when Annie paid a weekend visit which culminated in “Dorks of New York: Unite”. In March 2015, Scarlet came galloping to the U.K. and ironically contracted a dose of self-titled fever during transit. I shit you never and know that she’ll be bursting a bladder as she reads this, she actually started decomposing. Right before my eyes. But do you know what? Her naturally self-effacing nature meant that she boarded that plane home (in quarantine I must add), with monumental dignity. Scarlet, you are one my all-time personal heroes. You taught me how to love myself again my Sister and I will always treasure that… and you.
Melanie McCurdie is a true Governess and I had the distinct privilege of spending time with her in person during my California stint. We used to sit outside our motel room, which we shared with the gentlest lion you could ever wish to meet, MMA brawler Matt Horwich, and chew the leather for hours on end. And do you know what I took from the experience? That she’s as good an egg as they come. She’s also a highly adept writer of dark poetry and fiction and has slayed many a heathen with that illustrious Scythe of hers. The Four Horsemen we called ourselves – Annie, Craig, Mel and I. Annie was Pestilence, Craig War, yours truly Famine, and of course, Melanie simply had to be Death. I see you Mel. Most clearly. And I raise my bloody chalice to my Sister, the Governess of Grue.
Next up is my Brother, dark prince Silent Shadow, and he actually lives no more than five minutes drive from my digs. I have known this fine gentleman for fifteen slash-happy years and our brotherhood has long since been dyed-in-the-wool. Anyone familiar with our YouTube podcasts will know just how unforced our chemistry is. Nothing scripted, just two old friends who act the same way with the cameras rolling as they do when they’re not. Last year, Shadow miraculously managed to scale Kilimanjaro for Cancer without getting fist-fucked by gibbons and will always have my eternal respect for that and many other reasons aside. Given that we live within a badger’s snot trail of one another, it might appall you to learn that we’ve hooked up one time in the past twelve months. But do you know what? That doesn’t matter. Brotherhood does and it is never once in question here. Stalk me later bro.
Then we have the mercurial Peter Kidder and my Brother has been in this up to his top fleece ever since the Rivers first bled. I shit you never, Peter posts literally hundreds of thousands of rally cries to both his Twitter and Facebook accounts. Better yet, he tailors each share to fit whichever group he deems will benefit from it most and does this not to receive thanks but because giving is his sole currency. He’s wholly disinterested in theatrics or drama, goes about his business with nary a fuss, and means a hell of a lot to a whole tribe of people. That I can state with vehemence. True Grue, through and bloody through. That’s my Brother. And like they say – “Everybody Loves a Kidder”.
Speak of the angels, Jilly Gibson is truly one such Seraph of Light. I met Jilly at a critical time in her life. Nay, a critical night in her life. She shattered and I caught the shards, patched her up through my Prose, and then watched her soar. And boy did she soar. Force of nature doesn’t even begin to sum her up as Jilly G. is also one to be reckoned with. But what I wish to focus on here is her commitment to a cause which may have gotten lost in the woods for a while there. I’ve been deep in the thicket, as has she, but through it all, we’re Brother and Sister. Indeed, adoption papers were posted the very moment this photo landed in my in-tray. How’s this for all in?
I know right? Pure signatory savagery; all the more brutal for the fact that this was bare fucking raw when the photo was taken. And that, my dear friends and chosen family, is how Jilly Gibson rolls. Moreover, it’s a constant reminder that we can overcome anything and still remain True to the Grue. The highest compliment I can pay you Angel is to elucidate that you inspired this very assignment by posting those shots to your Instagram. We’re lean and keen you see – a pair of wolves who savage gestures such as that and wrestle a thousand unspoken words from the gristle. To me it said one thing – you have my sword and my shield Brother. And I would say you’ve more than earned yourself that halo mine Sister.
Surprise! Surprise! There’s more than vague method in my madness this day Grueheads. You see, I couldn’t possibly hope to shine a spotlight on all the souls who have meant something more than everything to me over my tenure as Keeper and won’t even attempt such. Thus, my Queen and I have decided to make this a sequence and use it to build a new kind of Gallery within the Citadel. Immortalized within this shrine will be the works of all Grueheads, regardless of where they’re posted. Think of it like the ultimate in War Room and you’re in the right… well… War Room. It will take time to formulate but I shall continue to scribe pieces like this to celebrate each of you in turn. Because you all mean something more than everything to me. Right now, I’m in full-on battle cry mode – requesting the swords and shields of those in this from first bleed. For us to stand arm in arm and inspire through the glorious gifts we all have in our armory.
There is another story now to be told as the Rivers of Grue is no longer a blog but slaying and flaying Citadel now that I have found the Queen of my Soul. Grey and I have the courage of every last one of our convictions and share a love that defies fucking history. And the Elusive White Rabbit bleeds so red to purge the darkness straight out of her and turn it into something beautiful that only those well versed with darkness can truly appreciate. All of herself, without exception. Never anything less than all. And we have merged to such a degree that there’s no beginning or end to either of us. Through our Dark Fusions we can celebrate this love of ours free of boundaries or restrictions, through Rivers of Grue we plan to celebrate every last soul who we cherish so dearly.
Nigh on every last Fusion scribed is delivered through twinned tongue and our styles bleed into one another so naturally it’s scary good. Make no mistake, you’re not just reading the Keeper when you settle in for the Fusion. So you see, we had to fall in love. We had to fall hard. We have to live loud. We have to stand proud. We have to embrace our love like the world has been penciled in to end tomorrow around lunchtime. We have to tell our tales of truth. Our fiction. And we shall. For we are true to one another, true to our scars, true to those who adore us, true to those we adore, true to darkness, and to light, true to laughter, true to fright, true ruffriders, lovers, serial killers and lust-monsters, truly broken, truly mending, truly upended by the kindness we have received from so many. And through the Grueheads War Room we plan to unleash soon, we are bloody well True to the Grue. So what do you say? Are you in?
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill