Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.
The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.
The sound of grunts and the thud of fists pounding into flesh filled the King’s End pub called Rippershead. As always, Rose watched the fighters intently. She had watched the biggest of the two countless times already and could almost read his next move by watching his footwork, eyes, and the movements of his hands. Thus it came as no surprise to her as his feet shuffled a certain way and he feinted left then hit his opponent with a devastating off-hand cross, sending blood and teeth spraying out across the raised fighting platform. The patrons of the Rippershead roared their approval as the massive fighter drove a knee into the gut and groin of his stunned opponent. As the other man bent double from the force of the blow, the big man grabbed him and with a bellow, heaved him above his head and held him there while the people shouted.
“FUCKING KILL THE FUCKER!” shouted a drunken merchant, surging to his feet from his table, a little too close to Rose for her own comfort. She was wearing her half-mask, and most people left her alone for fear of what might be beneath that cold half-face, but you could never tell with drunks.
The drunk was not the only one demanding his dose of brutality, and after a moment of holding his victim in the air, muscles bulging from the effort, the massive fighter slammed him into the platform with crushing force. As the watching patrons cheered and jeered, Rose shook her head. Only a fool would step onto the fighting platform with this beast unprepared.
“Poor fool will be lucky if is able to count to ten after this,” the man who addressed Rose was tall and broad shouldered, with keen eyes and dark salt and pepper hair. He had a weathered look about him, and moved with uncommon grace. He fit the description that the Spider had given her,
“You Geb?” asked Rose.
“I am,” said the man. “You must be Rose. Mind if I sit?”
“Be my guest,” said Rose.
A new set of fighters climbed up onto the bloodstained platform, but Geb kept his eyes on Rose. She could tell that he was trying to make sense of her, the mask, what he could and could not see. At least he wasn’t trying to size her up for a fuck, like most men.
“So your to be our new sniffer?” he asked.
“That’s what the Spider told me.”
“You ever been down into the depths?” asked Geb.
“I learned to find Wraithstone in the Kisavi slave mines,” said Rose. “If we failed to find enough enough of it during the day we went without food. My handler liked to beat us until we coughed blood to make sure we understood. I can find the Wraithstone.”
Geb nodded. “That’s good. Big blooms aren’t as common in The Depths but what we do find is a lot purer and a lot stronger.”
“That won’t be a problem.”
Geb nodded again. “The depths have things that the mines do not.”
“The Warpt?” scoffed Rose. “Am I supposed to be scared?”
“The poor sods you see rotting in the gutter are only a small part of what bleed warp can do to a man,” said Geb, settling back. “The tales you’ve heard about beasts that will rip a man in half, or beings that can kill with a glare down there are true. Their more dangerous to us than the big abominations that sometimes crawl out of The Gash, but they are also the best source of active Wraithstone in all of The Scab. Part of your job is going to be tracking these things. They are dangerous Rose, and I will be counting on you to not only track them, but to think clearly when we encounter them, and not get in our way when we take them down. I know you’ve seen shit, I can grok that, but you have not seen shit like this. Got it?”
Rose nodded. “Only one way to find out, in the end, isn’t there?”
Geb smiled, and nodded back.