The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Blade Breaker 1.37

The night is full on and time is ripe for Ragnar Grimfang and his pack to take to the streets of Myrrhn.

This is my weekly serial. Here is a link to the first post. Here is a link to last week’s chapter in case you missed it. Here is a link to a guide.

“War,” said Sildus, looking up from the list.

“Really?” said Murith. “A genocidal cult based on ideas like culling the weak from the mortal herd and the divine right of the powerful wants war? I never would have guessed that meself.”

Git snickered.

“–it’s true,” said Sildus, colouring a little.

“It is,” I said, stepping in before Murith could continue to upbraid Sildus. “Why these people though? I don’t see the Watch Marshall, the Gate Captains, or anyone high up in the smuggler’s guilds. Those are people could provide the easiest access or assitance for any invasion or raid by devout forces. In fact I don’t recognize a lot of these names. What does a nobody like Madrinpo have in common with Lily Gemarkand?”

“Well?” said Sildus, shooting an acidic glance at Murith.

Murith shrugged. “These people have to have something in common. It will take a lot of detective work, but I will find the common linkage between them. This will require careful analysis and a strong work ethic.”

“Knowledge,” said Git, leaning over the list.

“Yes, knowledge too,” said Murith. “I know this city in and out. I know the criminals. I know the citizens. I–“

“Knowledge and… access,” said Git, looking up from the list. “I recognize quite a few of the names on this list. Some of them are my colleagues.”

“What kind of knowledge?” I asked, ignoring the you’re-not-so-smart-now look that Sildus shot Murith and the return glare.

“Magical stuff… trinkets and enchantments seem to show up,” said Git. “A few of my rivals are here, but no one who deals purely in alchemy. I wasn’t approached. This guy also deals in antiques. This woman sells Elven wines and dyes. This one lectures on history…”

“So we’re dealing with something old?” asked Renoit.

“Old and elven perhaps?” said Murith.

“Where do I know this name from?” Git asked Murith.

“He’s an architect, he built the arch on the long span and designed the new addition to the bell tower on Tallowglass,” said Murith.

“He’s not the only architect on the list,” said Renoit. “These two own estates near mine. I also see the name of a lecturer on magical theory.”

“Where does Madrinpo fit in?” I asked.

“Kamesin Greeneyes was considered a maverick among his people, wasn’t he?” asked Murith.

We nodded.

“So, he traveled the world finding useful lore if I remember correctly,” said Murith. “A priest of his could easily have knowledge that the Devout want, or access to people that they want to coerce.”

“That must be why they want Madame Glorianna then.” I said. “She has access to all kinds of clients.”

“Let’s leave access aside,” I said. “It is important, but not much of a clue. That leaves us with history, Elves, architecture, travel, and magic.”

There was a long pause while everyone thought. Then Git groaned.

“Do you remember when we stumbled across that old elven place under the North Docks?” he asked.

“How could I forget?” I asked. “You nearly had us all convinced that we would be rich if we could find a way-seal–“

The ways were an ancient series of portals that the First Empire, the dominion of the Aven after they humbled the Gods and before they made war among themselves, used to travel all over the world. They were mostly haunted and broken now.

“Oh,” said Murith. “Travel. Elves. Magic. They want to use the ways. This is bad Ragnar.”

I could only agree.

Shadow Wolf Glossary and Character Lists

My brother requested that I pull together some terms and notes for my Shadow Wolf serial, just to help people keep up with the story. It is by no means comprehensive.



  • Bjorn Magnison: Sapphire’s lover. Originally Ragnar thought Sildus killed Sapphire because he was jealous of her and Bjorn. Later he finds out that Sapphire, Sildus, and Bjorn were all lovers.
  • Crimson Wind: Madame Glorianna’s Sirutiran Bodyguard. Later revealed to be a Devout agent.
  • Git Thunderpants: Part of Ragnar’s crew. Git is a goblin, skilled in alchemy. He fights well, mostly through the use of distraction. Git and Ragnar met through adventuring.
  • Lily Gemarkand: Young, rutheless, and somewhat deranged, Lily Gemarkand is head of the Gemarkand Family, one of the seven families that dominate much of the trade in Myrrhn.
  • Madame Glorianna: Ragnar’s Boss. Madame Glorianna is the head of the Doxie’s Guild, making her a person of enormous influence in Myrrhn.
  • Magnisons, the: Bjorn’s family and clan are eager to carve up whoever they think killed him.
  • Murith Stouthand: Murith is a dwarf who grew up in Myrrhn. She currently works with the Watch, but is too honest to make it into the higher ranks. She used to adventure with Ragnar, and helps him out with interesting cases.
  • Ragnar Grimfang: Ragnar is a Nordan exile, and the hero of the story. He is average size for a Nordan, raven haired, and somewhat pale. As an exile he is not protected by the laws in Nordan lands. Ragnars past has not been revealed in the story but his exile was caused by failing to protect someone important, and he is a Twiceborn, a type pf ascended, which means at some point he died and later returned from death. Ragnar is a decent fighter, and his sense of Nordan honour makes him reliable in a city known for double dealing and betrayal.
  • Renoit: Part of Ragnar’s crew. Renoit is a swordsman from Loragons trained in Spranos sword-fighting. He is an ascended and made enough money from duelling to retire to Old Myrrhn.
  • Sapphire: Sapphire is the murder victim that starts off the Blade Breaker cycle. She is the lover of Sildus and Bjorn, and the sister of Lily Gemarkand. She worked at the Pink Pearl, a high class brothel that catered to the elite. She was a follower of Kamesin Greeneyes, a Sirutiran God.
  • Sildus: A member of the Guild. Sildus is one of Sapphire’s lovers and was framed for her murder. Sildus is not his real name.

The City: Myrrhn is a port built on a rocky archipelago that sits between the continents of Cayllandros and the Old World. It sees a lot of mercantile traffic and has been a free city for much of its existence (on and off). Myrrhn is often called the City of Assassins because of The Guild. Myrrhn is very cosmopolitan, but somewhat savage and dangerous to the unwary. The city is very old and has many tunnels and lost places, often attracting adventurers.

  • Doxie’s Union, the: Most of the prostitution in Myrrhn is affiliated with the Doxie’s Union. The Doxie’s Union is very influential, but decentralized.
  • Old Myrrhn: The oldest (intact) and richest neighborhood in Myrrhn. The seven families, greatest of the old Merchant Houses, live here.
  • The Guild: The Guild is an organization of Assassins, sometimes called the Nightblades. They openly operate in Myrrhn with semi-legal status. Their actions are governed by the laws of Myrrhn and The Guild itself.
  • Tallowglass: The seat of government and administration in Myrrhn. The name is apocryphal, coming from industries that used to be practiced there.
  • Watch, the: The Watch is a militia that keeps order in the city. Old Myrrhn has its own, privately run, watch.

The World

  • Nordan Lands: The Nordan Occupy a vast, rugged land west of the Old World. There are many Kingdoms in the Nordan Confederacy, as well as Clan Domains, independent tribes, affiliated peoples, and so on. All of them are, in theory, bound to obey a summons by the Nordan High King or High Queen in times of war.
  • Verdant Court, the: The Elves are ruled by the Verdant Court, which is located to the North of Myrrhn, in the Old World.
  • Sirutira: Sirutira is a vast plain southeast of Myrrhn, famed for its vast herds of cattle and the fierce horsemen who live there.


  • Ascended, the: The ascended are those who gain immortality and great magical power. One type of ascended are the Twiceborn.
  • Devout, the: The Devout worship strength. The Strong rule those who are weaker than them, while the weakest are vermin in the eyes of the Devout. The Devout adhere to their philosophy with fanatical zeal. They were once feared in the south until a rare alliance of all of the powers of the civilized world came together to smash them at the end of the War of the Ascended.
  • Garm: The Nordan God of secrets and rulership. Called the fate-thwarter. Think of him as an Odin figure, but with the key difference that he reads the strands of fate and tries to avert the worst outcomes.
  • Forgotten, the: Old Gods who maintain some of their divinity, but are no longer worshipped,
  • Kamesin Greeneyes: An ascended who became deified by eating the heart of a Forgotten God of Death.
  • Kiyari: A Sirutiran sword. Analagous to a katana in quality and fanboy reputation, if not in form.
  • Shadow Wolves, the: One of the Nordan Clans. The Shadow Wolves skirt the Nordan sense of honour. They do not fight fair, and often employ subterfuge. They are looked down on by the other clans for this, but are still considered part of the clans.
  • Skygge: The god of shadows, trickery, and wolves. Skygge is one of Garm’s sons. He is analagous to Loki in Norse Mythology, but never actually betrays his family.
  • Twiceborn: The Twiceborn are those who rise from death. Often they seek to revenge a great wrong. Some Twiceborn even rise if their body has been destroyed. Killing them a second time usually does the trick, although they are ascended so they are tougher and more capable than mere mortals.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Blade Breaker 1.36

Gather round, gather round, tis time once more to continue the tale of Ragnar Grimfang, twiceborn exile, as he investigates a strange series of killings on the deadly streets of Myrrhn.

This is my weekly serial, the beginning is can be found here. (follow the links in comments to read along)

Missed last weeks? Try this link.

“Murith found something you should see,” said Renoit. The swordsman looked even more disgusted than usual, which was impressive. I braced myself and entered the shop.

Stazz and Sons was well appointed for a place that was built several levels down the sewers and tunnels beneath Myrrhn. The interior was not large, but it had comfortable chairs, wooden counters, and a perfectly flat stone table covered in expensive looking jewelers implements.

Stazz and sons were lying in pools of blood on the floor. The Devout are vicious killers who worship power in all its forms. They are not kind to those who fail them, seeing killing those weaker than them as both a divine right and a form of gruesome entertainment.

“Obviously Stazz outlved his usefulness,” I said. Likely they made the man watch his sons die first; such cruelty appeals to the minds of the brutal.  I looked around, trying to see what Murith had found. The dwarven woman looked smug. Behind her, Git was pocketing the jewels and gold.

The three bodies had multiple wounds, all consistent with swords and knives. The older man, Stazz, had his throat cut, execution style. The question was, why?

I moved over to the work table, shooing the looting goblin out of my way. I saw several rings. One of them seemed similar to the one worn by the doomed Sirutiran Priest, Madrinpo. A true Devout needed no ring to ensure their loyalty. Madrinpo was being coerced, or forced to wear the ring as part of an agreement with the Devout. It could even be that he was doing business with them, and the ring was the price of their patronage: insurance that he would never speak of them. I picked up the ring and looked at it more closely, then handed it to Sildus.  The inscriptions were also very similar.

The ring was conformation that the Devout were involved with priest Madrinpo. It did not tell me what they wanted with him or why they were connected with the cult of Kamesin Greeneyes in Myrrhn. Subtle wasn’t their style, so I doubted that the plan was too cunning for me to understand. I was missing something.

“Ok Murith, what did I miss?” I asked.

Murith grinned. “Ragnar, you always lose sight of the big picture after a battle.”

“Tis true,” said Git. “Remember that time you blundered into that pit after fighting that ogre in that set of caves down the side of Smugglerside?”

“Still trying to forget, thanks,” I said. I cleared my mind and looked harder. I saw a ledger on the counter behind Murith. It was burned. The Devout did not want to leave any evidence of their activities. I looked around. Then I saw a sheet of paper on the desc near the tools.  I picked it up. It was a list of names and measurements. It looked like ring sizes. Scanning the list I saw Priest Madrinpo’s name, with a checkmark next to it. I also saw Madame Glorianna, Bjorn, Lily Gemarkand, and other names I recognized on the list. Some had checkmarks, some did not. I handed to the list to Sildus.

“Is that what I think it is?” I asked Murith.

“If you think it is an extortion list for people to fit with killer rings, then yes,” said Murith.

“That explains where Lily got her hands on a Devout,” I said. “They must have tried this trick on her. So we know part of their plan. They wanted to use these rings as a form of compulsion to gain power over influential citizens of Myrrhn. To what ends?”

“War,” said Sildus, looking up from the list.

Image Change: A New Cover For Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! I am full of Turkey and pie, and generally pretty zonked. Domains of the Chosen Book Four is moving along nicely, and in preparation for wider release Dan and I decided to redo the cover of Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale to match the more popular style of Bloodlust: Will to Power.

Domains of the Chosen Book One. Original Cover.

Domains of the Chosen Book One. Original Cover.

This is the very first cover that Dan designed for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale. It is a little blurred out because of a custom re-size, but you can see the important details. The cover works quite well, especially on trade paperback. At the time we were happy with it. It is distinctive, it does not prejudice the reader with images of the characters, and it conveys meaning to anyone who reads the book.

Some people like it, some people did not.

For Bloodlust: Will to Power I let Dan have a freer hand. This is what he came up with.

The Nearly Complete Cover for Book 2. Points to anyone who can spot the differences.

The Nearly Complete Cover for Book 2. Points to anyone who can spot the differences.

This style is less metallic/shiny, and more grainy. Lookt at the lines on the Lion’s mane and the Scorpion. It is one of the Woodcut styles that Dan has developed over the years. People really loved the final version of this cover. Most importantly it looks good as a thumbnail, a full size image, and a physical image on a paperback book. After some thought, we decided to change the cover for book one to emulate this style.

The Retouched Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator's Tale.

The Retouched Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale.

Not only does this cover emulate the style of the Bloodlust: Will to Power cover, it also has a few changes for clarity.

  • The sub-title has expanded. A Gladiator’s tale is now bigger and more readable.
  • Domains of The Chosen: Book 1 is now on the cover, clearly calling out that the book is part of a series.
  • The texture of the cover is more visible. Dan was disappointed that black leather texture he used did not pop on the original cover. He added a digital light source to make it more visible at the top, fading down into black at the bottom.

Not bad, eh? If you prefer the new cover and have an ebook, just update the version via amazon (why it does not prompt you to update is beyond me).

Cheers, and happy Turkey day for my Canadian friends.

Shadow Wolf: Blade Breaker 1.35

Once again tis Thursday and time for some Shadow Wolf.

Shadow Wolf is my weekly serial, which I write to develop my first person narrative style. Start here if you want to read the whole thing.

Did you miss last week’s post? here it is!

“People like these always leave a trace,” I said, motioning to the Stazz and Sons entrance-way. I stopped before entering, looking back at Git.

“Are you certain those two Devout are dead?” I asked. Even the meanest of Devout devotees are hardened warriors, and I did not want any surprises.

“No,” said Git. “But it will take them days to dig their way free, if they don’t succumb to poor air or starvation first. A fitting test for their philosophy, truth be told. Survival of the strongest…”

“Very funny Git,” said Murith. “Now none of you should touch anything inside until I get a look at it. You might spoil a clue.”

As Git and Murith made their way inside, I caught Sildus’s eye. “That was quick thinking with the light.” I said.

Sildus reddened a little.

“I’m serious,” I said. “The Dwarf and the Goblin can see perfectly in dark conditions. It gave us the advantage. I’m not mocking you Sildus. Why would you think that I am jesting?”

“Well,” said Sildus. “I had heard this rumour. Read it actually, in the accounts we have of the Nordan invasion of the city, that the Shadow Wolf Clan can see in the dark. I’m just embarrassed that I bet your life on false information.”

I laughed. “Actually some of them can. And they like to spread the rumour that they all have supernatural powers. I am an exile however, most of the clan’s tricks are denied to me because of that.”

“What about that growl you made when we first met. I could have sworn their was something behind me in the shadows,” said Sildus.

“Most of the clan’s tricks are denied to me,” I answered. “But not all of them. I have a wolf… spirit, I can call on from time to time.”

“Oh, what is its name?” Sildus asked.

“Tis not the type of spirit that you would call by name,” I said, chuckling. I knew the name, of course. Demon would be more accurate. My ancestors made grim pacts in the shadows to defend the north against dire threats.

“That tattooed fellow was quite the fighter,” said Sildus, politely changing the subject.

“He seemed on par with the Devout that I fought in Lily Gemarkand’s little arena.” I said. “So far thought, we have yet to encounter a true Devout, one of their ascended.”

“Do you think that is where this will lead?” asked Sildus, looking young and worried for a moment. I realized that he had likely sword vengeance for his lovers and did not relish facing that kind of foe.

“They had Crimson Wind,” I said. “I doubt she is their only alpha. Just treat them like a regular mark if you can. Ascended are harder to kill, but most Devout are not subtle. Use your brain, like you did with the lights.”

“Thanks, Ragnar,” said Sildus.

Before I could answer, Renoit appeared, signalling for our attention.

“Murith found something you should see,” said Renoit.



James Bond Complex, continued (now with Dirty Harry and Ferguson)


A year and a month ago, I posted an article called the James Bond Complex in response to the NSA revelations, in which I argue that spy fiction is likely more harmful than Fantasy because is is very, very hard to mistake the real world for a Fantasy world, no matter how many bad movies come out that say otherwise. Meanwhile someone who mistakes the world of a good spy thriller could do a lot of damage. Fantasy is not written to be realistic, even the most hard-bitten Grimdark is seriously removed from the real world. Mean while a good spy-thriller is usually meant to seem as realistic as possible. This is not a knock against spy thrillers, but rather the logic of people who attack Fantasy and Super-heroes as dangerous. Even children know better than to try flying after they watch a superman movie for the most part, but it seems increasingly possible that some powerful people, and even whole agencies are carrying out their James Bond fantasies.

Lets take the recent focus on Ferguson, Missouri. The spectacle of a heavily militarized police force confronting protesters shocked everyone who hasn’t been paying close attention to the post 9/11 use of force. Hell, even the Republicans came out as against the use of that level of force, at least before they were reined in and reminded where they stand on (non tea-party) protesters.

Ferguson has shed a light on police militarization in the US (among other places) in the same way that The Snowden Revelations (give em’ hell Ed!) demonstrated the pervasive perfidity of the spy agencies. Both groups have abused the post 9/11 homeland security zeitgeist to enrich themselves with new toys, new powers, and new mandates.

One of the more interesting statistics to come out in the spate of articles about Ferguson was that 62% of Swat Raids are drug-searches. This of course brings me back to the war on drugs, and the images and propaganda of my youth that painted junkies as incredibly dangerous, almost civilization threatening, instead of merely sad and problematic in most cases. And that reminds me of another fun fictional character: Dirty Harry.

In the same way that I can see that the NSA has a little bit of a James Bond Complex going on, I also think that some police forces have something similar going on with Dirty Harry.

In a fun coincidence Dirty Harry came out in the same year that Nixon coined the phrase “war on drugs”.

For those of you who are unaware of what I mean by Dirty Harry, take some time to watch it before I spoil it for you. The series is emblematic of a certain style of police movie in which a detective decides to act as a vigilante because the justice system does not stop crime and the only way to end a killer is with a bullet. Basically the usual ends justify the means as long as the bad guy gets it stuff. It is remarkable how similar Jack Bauer from the TV show 24 and Dirty Harry are, actually. Right down to the willingness to torture, as long as it might save an innocent.

Part of me wonders if it Dirty Harry and James Bond pass muster simply because they have been around for so long. The thriller may once have been controversial the way the first person shooter or D&D were, but gradually became dominant, but still controversial, and then just gradually became accepted. Perhaps movie audiences will soon look upon Spider Man as we would James Bond, and just judge the film on its merits instead of as a superhero movie… that might be kind of nice.

Still, I think Fantasy, Comic Books, and other Geek Chic fiction come out a little ahead because they cannot be mistaken for reality by most people. It is a simple point, but one that bears mentioning, especially when the old guard still occasionally looks upon gaming as dangerous, D&D as satanic, comic books as insanity inducing, and so on. Genre fiction that is obviously removed from reality is rarely mistaken for real.And here we are in 2014 and it seems that the “shoot first and ask questions later” ethos so heavily promoted by vigilante cop movies like Dirty Harry seems more alive than ever. Meanwhile, I still don’t see any ring wearing Hobbits stabbing anyone in the back…


Also a questionable role model.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Blade Breaker 1.34

Once gain friends, tis time let loose the wolves of Myrrhn, as I continue my Thursday night serial.

Obligatory [link] to the first post. You can start there and read through using the links in comments..

Missed last week’s post? I [Link] to that as well.

The lights went out. There was a scream. I heard the rustle of armour rushing toward me before my eyes could adjust, but I did not panic.

Fighting underground is different than fighting on the street or in the forest. Corridors, caves, and tunnels are unusual terrain, with their own eccentricities and opportunities. Weapons that are superb above ground, like the longbow and the greataxe, are often unwieldy or even useless in the deeps. I knew I could count on my crew in this kind of conflict; in Myrrhn their are plenty of opportunities for adventure under the streets. Even Renoit could not resist the tales of Akbar the Kamoule’s lost fortune.

Judging by his eagerness to start a fight down here, I supposed Sildus was no stranger to tunnel fighting either.

The Devout could obviously see better in the dark than I could, at least initially. But they were not ready to take advantage of the plunge into gloom. The Devout attacking me stomped forward in heavy plate, swinging a broadsword like he had all the room in the world. It was easy enough for me to keep out of his way as my eyes adjusted.

I heard the clatter of spings and strings, Murith’s crossbow firing, and the thunderous sound of a bolt hitting metal, but I did not hear a scream

After a few blinks I stopped retreating. I caught the Devout’s sword with my pick, then slammed the backspike of my axe into my opponent’s armour, pulling him to me as it caught.  The Devout was strong, as I expected, but I held him for long enough to heave him off his feet. He was surprisingly swift getting to his feet in plate armour, but not so quick that I didn’t put the sharp end of my pick through his helm before he could get his balance. He did, however, have enough life left in him  to deliver a savage blow to my ribs with his sword before falling. Fortunately my armour held.

Catching my breath I turned back to the fight. What I saw surprised me.

The Tattooed man, easily visible now as the patterns on his skin glowed in the shadows, was somehow fending off both Renoit and Sildus. As I strode forward, I saw him block a wicked slash from Sildus and then avoid a thrust by Renoit, leaping up and sending both men reeling back with a split kick. He dropped to the ground, turned and punched, lightning quick, sending Sildus crashing into the wall, then turned to face Renoit, his hands glowing with power.

Renoit raised his rapier in salute. The tattooed man sprang, catlike. The swordsman darted forward and the Tattooed man flew past him in the dark. Renoit pivoted, assuming the same stance. The tattooed man muttered something, low and gutteral, sending power crackling through his tattoos. I could see now that he was bleeding. Renoit had struck him as they passed. The tattooed man rushed forward again, Renoit lunged. This time the Tattooed man hit Renoit as well, and both men staggered as they passed.

“AXE,” I yelled. The Tattooed man looked up. I wonder if he saw my blade whirling through the dark before it buried itself in his head. Renoit finished him with a thrust to the heart as he staggered back. The runes faded.

I pulled a glowstone from my pocket. The soft light revealed two dead devout in their ornate armour, one with a bolt in his chest, and the tattooed man. Renoit was rubbing his arm, which hung limp at his side. Sildus was moving gingerly, pulling a Myrrhnese stilletto out of the eye socket of one of the downed guards. Murith was looking around warily.

“We are short two Devout and one Git,” I said. My exclamation was followed by a muffled boom and a flash of flame from on of the side tunnels.

“I’m alright,” came Git’s voice.

I learned very early in life never to chase a goblin down a dark tunnel, part of the whole tunnel fighting experience. If someone can see better than you, and knows how to use the terrain, they will quickly turn a reckless chase into a trap.

“I’ll check the shop,” said Sildus.

“Watch out for traps,” I said. Although I doubted the Devout had set any. The Tattoed man was trap enough in my mind. Few people could challenge Renoit in open combat.

“Let me see that arm,” said Murith to Renoit, taking some healing salve and a splint from her belt pouch.

I walked over the the Tattooes man and yanked my axe from his head. Sildus re-emerged, making a sour face.

“They kill him?” I asked.

“Him and his assistants,” said Sildus.

“So much for Stazz and Sons,” I said.

“A dead end, how dissapointing,” said Renoit.

“Not necissarily,” I said. “Lets check the shop and the bodies for clues. There is bound to be something of use to us here; people like these always leave a trace.