Shadow Wolf Sagas: Blade Breaker

Hi folks, sorry for the interruption, I was busy releasing Warbound: The Shield Maiden, my third novel and also the third Domains of the Chosen book. Buy it!

Once again, however, it is time for some Shadow Wolf!

Start at the beginning.

Catch up with the last post.

I was missing something. Sapphire’s lover didn’t kill her, nor did Lily Gemarkand, her sister. I was missing some vital insight that would help me catch wind of the killer.

While a prostitute, even an elite lady of the evening like Sapphire, could never claim to lead a safe life, it took extraordinary effort to silently break into her rooms, drug both her and Bjorn Magnison, and kill them by inches. It limited the suspects by both means and motive. It took skill to see the plot through, and of those those with the skill only a few would bother.

One angle I had not covered was that Sapphire’s murder might be part of an elaborate plot to discredit the Assassin, the man I knew only by the, likely false, name of Sildus. If the Guild of Assassins got word that one of their number killed a woman in a protected establishment, in a vicious crime of passion, then it would go very badly for Sildus and perhaps even reflect poorly on his superiors. I did not understand enough of the politics of the nine masters of the Guild to presume, but Sildus seemed to think it was a real enough possibility that he was looking into it.

Another possibility was that one of Lily Gemarkand’s enemies had done in her sister. In my discussion with the head of the Gemarkand house, before she’d forced me to fight a warrior of the Devout for her enjoyment, she had let slip that she kept in contact with Sapphire. Lily was a ruthless, slightly deranged woman who had eliminated her rivals to  become the head of one of the seven families before she was thirty. Miss Gemarkand didn’t seem like the type to waste time on Sapphire purely out of sisterly affection.

What were they plotting? was it enough to get Sapphire killed?

The idea that first leapt to mind was that Lily was maneuvering to have Sapphire replace madame Glorianna as head of the Doxy’s Union. Madame Glorianna’s power rivaled that of a merchant family, and would certainly make Sapphire a useful ally for her sister. I mulled it over. The idea was intriguing, but I could not think of a way to have Sapphire replace Madame Glorianna. I knew enough about the Doxy’s Guild from the twins, my bedmates, to understand just how popular Madame Glorianna was among her charges. Besides the viciousness of the crime was too extravagant to her.

I did not want to go back and ask Lily what she had been sticking their noses into. After her little pit fight, I felt that the less time spent in her company, the better.

I decided to revisit the Pink Pearl and look again at the records kept by Sapphire’s boss, Chloe. Perhaps I could puzzle out Lily’d intent by the pattern of her visits or through Sapphire’s clientele. Even if such information proved to be a dead end in finding the killer, learning more about Lily Gemarkand could prove to be useful, especially if I ever wanted to repay her for the fight that she’d forced upon me.

I decided that perhaps it was time to call on some help as well. Watch Sargent Murith was very good with records, you see.

Snowpiercer, Metaphor, and Systems.

Watch it.

Watch it.

Last week I released, Warbound: The Shield Maiden, the third book in the Domains of the Chosen series. If you have read my other books check it out and leave me a review!

While recovering from this ordeal I watched the movie Snowpiercer, an interesting movie that has gotten a fair bit of buzz lately because of the drama surrounding its release in the US. You may have heard of it.

Spoiler Warning

The movie is about the last survivors of an ecological catastrophe that has frozen the planet. They have gathered on a supremely advanced train that circles the earth, the Snowpiercer, where over the last seventeen years a sort of model state has developed.  The film chronicles a revolution in which the 99% who live in squalor in the back car slums try to overthrow their oppressors from the front.

The film is visually sumptuous, well-acted, and very topical. The cast is impressive. I would heartily recommend watching it to almost anyone I know. If you cannot find it in theaters, it is available on demand in some places (that’s how I watched it).

Here are a few of the more interesting bits.

  • The Metaphor: The Train in the movie is an obvious metaphor for human society on any level, shrunk down to a microcosm where history unfolds at an accelerated pace. It makes for a riveting story of class warfare in a rigidly authoritarian system governed by the passengers in first class. The Metaphor is heavy handed, but it is treated with sensitivity and massaged into a decent story.
  • The Train Itself: The Snowpiercer is an enormous train, billed as a perpetual motion wonder machine, where the engineer is treated a a kind of messianic figure. The train is impressive and enormous, and as the rebellion progresses towards the front we are treated to a series of vividly imagined train cars that serve purposes from luxurious baths, schools, and ugly food processing places.
  • Tilda Swinton: It is hard to stand out in a film full of great acting talent, but Tilda Swinton’s Minister Mason is an amazing blend of satirical upper class viciousness, dictatorial monster, and hardened survivor. It seems to be that a large part of the success of this portrayal is a dark version of a certain iron-lady, a very appropriate portrayal for a movie about class warfare.
  • The Action: Director Joon-ho Bong (You may know him from The Host, or other movies) does an excellent job in adapting action sequences to the unusual environment of the train, while at the same time evoking images of revolutionary and class warfare conflicts. This is the best part of the movie in my mind. Each fight tells a story. Each fight is part of a larger struggle and they all seamlessly blend together into a truly impressive whole. The use of light and dark, blood, the linear environment of the train, and shifting imagery really made an impression on me.

Go see it.

If you have seen it, think about what the movie says about systems.The train is a closed system. Those who benefit from the system, no matter what their class may be, act to defend the system during the rebellion. Some do so blindly, and when the system is revealed to be a manipulation they kind of go nuts. Those in charge take the more cynical, world-weary view that they are merely bringing order to the inevitable, no matter how monstrous their actions. Those who suffer most simply lash out blindly for the most part. The only solution is presented very starkly at the end: derailing the system.

Teaser Tuesday

In two days I will upload Warbound: The Shield Maiden to Amazon. If all goes well it will be available for download on Thursday.

I want to thank everyone who helped me out or offered encouragements. This year has been tough, with several deaths and unfortunate events, not just for me, but for my family and friends. With your help I persevered, perhaps even prospered in some ways. I am truly lucky to have friends, family, and fans who care so much.

Here is the final version of the cover.

The Final Version

The Final Version

Damn fine work.

And here is one last set of teasers for ya’ll. I hope you enjoy the book.

Finally, the time came to embark. The Bright Company, Ninth Legion in tow, marched through the North Gates of the Capital, down through the tall-house tenements, up through the industrial districts and out onto a long pier full of ships.

            The people of Krass lined the streets to watch the procession. The expedition to Ithal’Duin was seen as folly by some, but most people were eager for tales of new lands and the hope of new opportunities that they might bring.

            Chosen Brightloch, smiling at the head of the parade, with strange-eyed Ri[click]va at his side drew many cheers. Some among the crowd remembered his time in the arena, fifty years past.

Vintia marched with the Eighth Cohort, the first unit of the Ninth Legion to reach the ships. The engineers of the Eighth would oversee the loading of artillery and other delicate equipment through out the day, while the rest of the Legion would assist the civilian pioneers.

            Legions on campaign typically included a contingent of professionals that tended to their needs.  These ranged from smiths and healers, to herdsmen and cooks. The Bright Company included a much larger number of these, adding prospectors, surveyors, and many other specialists who would ready the Chosen’s Domain for settlers.

            Many of these civilian pioneers had been handpicked by Brightloch himself. They were rugged travellers who rode in collapsible waggons. Whether stream powered, elemental, or animal driven, these waggons would be rapidly dissassembled and stowed aboard the ships.

            Over two dozen transport vessels, escorted by a trio of fearsome Ironclads, would make the journey.

            A smaller crowd gathered the next day, as the sun rose and the ships finally set sail. Vintia scanned the people gathered, a cheering mass, looking for familiar faces as they wind pushed them away from home and toward adventure.

And here is a second bit. These excerpts twere added to the book during late re-writes, both based on reader feedback, from my sister and brother, if I recall correctly.

“I like it here,” said Sadira looking out over the Spires of Kirif from a sheltered cove. They lay on the beach, naked and entwined, watching the Fologi play in the wake of three massive ironclads headed to Fort Nerus.

“It is rather far from Krass,” said Gavin. “Are you sure?”

“You and I are only allowed a single Domain,” said Sadira. “And a single vote in the Council of the Chosen. Why hurry? We can also communicate without a link over long distances. What stops us from continuing our explorations here? I am fond of the idea that others won’t be looking over our shoulders all the time.”

“So be it,” said Gavin. “Let us be a little more open about it than Chosen Brightloch.”

“I would prefer to stay out of Kirifan politics as much as possible,” said Sadira.

Gavin laughed. “What about your plans to reconquer Avenholt?”

“Don’t think I’ve given up on that, Gavin,” said Sadira. “I am an ambitious woman, and I am learning the value of patience. I will follow that dream when I am ready. I will enjoy the fruit that is Ithal’Duin while it is at hand, learn what I can, and move on. We don’t have to settle here.”

The Cover, In rough

After a long day I had Dan’s first full draft of the cover for the Warbound: The Shield Maiden waiting for me!

The First Image (note the brightness of the purple)

The First Image (note the brightness of the purple)

I like the composition, but the purple struck me as too intense. After discussing this and a few other changes with Dan, here is the second iteration.

The Second Draft

The Second Draft

Compare the two. I find the second more to my liking. I suggested a few more changes, which are not on this version. Mainly positioning font stuff. In all I am very happy with it.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Blade Breaker 1.23

Once again, Ragnar Grimfang is on the prowl… in my weekly serial story.

The first Shadow Wolf entry.

Last week’s entry, for those who missed it.

I certainly hoped it was fear that I saw in Lily Gemarkand’s eyes. A man has his pride.

Her guards escorted me from the compound. I was barely given time to clean the blood off my armour. I did not fancy having to explain a crimson stain to glory seeking Old Town watchmen.

It was  a welcome relief then, when the evening rain began to beat down on the tiled roofs of those venerable houses, washing me clean. I escaped Old Myrrhn with little hassle.

I was in no mood to return to the comforts of the little house I shared with the twins. Miss Gemarkand’s arena battle left a foul taste in my mouth. It is not that I minded killing Ravak Kal Marud. The Devout are murderous bastards who made a religion of might making right. They are a source of sorrow and destruction wherever they are found, and I saw no evidence that he had been any different. More than that, he had been a worthy opponent, despite not being ascended. His physical prowess and his skill at arms had been more than I expected. I did not regret killing him. Our duel would be a tale worth repeating.

Although having that fight forced upon me was vexing. My people value freedom even more than glory, and being forced into a fight, however worthy, for the entertainment of a spoiled merchant princess was an affront. I wondered how I could possibly gain vengeance on one of the few people powerful enough to sleep easy the city of assassins. Nothing leapt to mind. Other Nordan might have been able to rouse their kinsmen for a raid or an embargo, but I was an exile. I would have to let it go, for now.

Lost in thought, I wandered the dark, rain slick streets of the city, crossing over onto Market Isle. The empty stalls and quiet waggons were a far cry from the bustle the day would bring. A few caravan guards eyed me suspiciously from small gatherings. I thought for a moment about trying to find the roving night bazaar, the city’s best black market, but even that challenge seemed sour to me tonight.

I left the market, heading out via the Emperor’s Arch, the newest and most impressive bridge in Myrrhn. An enormous span of iron and cable the bridge arched over several of the poorer islands, allowing visiting merchants to make their way directly to Market Isle without having to navigate some of the less reputable neighborhoods. Unlike the rest of the city the gleaming metal form of the bridge seemed almost limp in the wet and the dark.

There were observation platforms on the bridge. I made my way to one that have me a good view of the sea to the north and west.

I was bothered by my lack of progress. I believed the assassin, Sapphire’s erstwhile lover when he said he did not kill her. I also believed Lily when she said that Sapphire was far more useful to her alive. That left me with no immediate suspects for what seemed to be a very personal killing.

I had to be missing something.