The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.21

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise. This week as a bonus I was sick and exhausted to boot!

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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I was curious. I knew that The Nightblades were in conflict with Wolki, and that it had something to do with the items that Cinder was trying so hard to steal. I did not know why Factor Octavia and the most powerful guild in Myrrhn wanted my help. To say that my ears were eager for her words would be an understatement.

“Firstly, The Guild has put a bounty on Ulfgorr,” said Factor Octavia. “It is a restricted bounty currently; Ulfgorr is no longer welcome in Myrrhn.”

“How much?” I asked.

“It is an internal affair, Ragnar Skyggeson,” said Factor Octavia. “The bounty is for only for assassins.”

“Then why am we here?”

Factor Octavia pushed her glasses up her nose and looked at Carmen, then me.

“Normally only the very best among us would be able to engage in the hunt for Ulfgorr. There is a promising Adept, however, who has proposed a cunning plan that involves you, Ragnar Skyggesson, and Murith Stouthand. I like her plan, not only because it helps preserve guild assets–“

“She means she does not want to risk any of our top talent,” said Carmen.

“But also because Nordan involvement will make it less likely that your people seek retribution. The adept in question is free to share her reward with you; it will be substantial, possibly even life-changing.”

Carmen grinned.

“If I understand what you are eluding to, you want us to kill Ulfgorr, and Carmen is going to help us. The Guild will be grateful if we do this. You are being tight lipped about the reward, which intrigues me. We both know money is no object to The Nightblades–“

“Money is my job, Ragnar,” interrupted Factor Octavia. “While The Guild has a considerable balance sheet, we Factors take objection to the idea that that our coffers can flow freely.”

“It was merely a turn of phrase, Factor, forgive my lack of precision,” I said. “What I meant to convey is that if it were money being offered you would be more forthright. You are a person who deals in exact sums, as you inferred.”

“Clever, Grimfang,” said the Factor. “Yes. What we give you depends on the outcome of the situation and other external variables. It is a complex calculation that involves many in The Guild.”

“But we get to kill Ulfgorr without repercussions, with help from The Nightblades,” said Murith.

“Yes,” said Factor Octavia.

“That is good enough to get my agreement,” said Murith. “Ulfgorr is a monster.”

“Murith is right,” I said. “Carmen’s help is good news. Ulfgorr will not let our last encounter stand and we are pleased with any assistance that you offer, reward or no… but, I am still curious about why Wolki is here and what has put him at odds with you. It does not bode well, in my mind.”

“It does not. That is why we want you here, Grimfang.”

I looked at Carmen. She smiled slyly. I looked at Murith. She looked annoyed, but shrugged. Ulfgorr was going to come for us regardless, why not act as bait?

“Very well. Let it be done.”

Sunday Night Teaser

Watched the latest episode of Sherlock tonight, so instead of a dissertation on some topic, I will leave you with a teaser from my upcoming book.

Still, Shagra was a master ranked Gladiatrix and a Grand Champion, and Chloe had to admire that the woman still fought here, risking death instead of retiring to a comfortable life as a trainer or joining the Masters League in the Capital. Shagra was set for life, as easy as a Gladiatrix could have it, and yet she continued to perfect her craft on what was the harshest fighting grounds in the Domains.

Chloe allowed a moment for the members to admire Shagra. The Gladiatrix remained motionless, stoic really, showing no sign of emotion other than a sense of predatory readiness.

When she judged the time was right, Chloe stepped forward.

“Members, for your pleasure, this Gladiatrix will face a beast that has killed a dozen Gladiators in the Supplicants Arena, a notorious beast that was once a murderous criminal, I give you Vespus the Living Hive!”

Vespus rose into the arena unchained. The beast knew the rituals of the arena well enough to sit still. It was large, easily twice Shagra’s height. Its mottled flesh was green, brown, and yellow all pooling into each other. It moved like a great gorilla, with massive forelimbs and shorter legs, but was hairless and with a wide mouth full of hooked teeth.

Of course Vespus the Living Hive’s most impressive feature was on its back, where a huge hump of tissue spread out like a howdah, punctured by innumerable finger sized holes. That hump was home to a unique species of wasp that Vespus controlled. In the beasts previous fights the Gladiators that it fought were either swarmed by wasps or were so busy destroying them that they lost track of the beast and were pummelled to death by its crushing fists.

Chloe hoped that Shagra had it in her to overcome the beast, but Vespus was one of the best monsters that they’d had in the Killer’s Circle in ages. It was best not to become attached to a Gladiatrix in the Death Leagues.

The trumpets sounded.

Shagra stood her ground, casting a series of spells to enhance her physical prowess. Vespus growled and thumped its chest. A hum came from the arena then, one that Chloe could feel to her very bones, and then finger sized insects began to shoot forth from the hive.

Some familiar faces there… but in what context is the question 😉

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.20

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise. This week as a bonus I was sick and exhausted to boot!

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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It was foolish to trust Carmen. She was beautiful, she was smart, and she was a nightblade. Still, the information that she gave me about Wolki looking for a sword was nearly as tantalizing as her flirtations. As we walked toward the looming bulk of Night’s Finger itself, my mind danced between thoughts of her lithe form in my arms and what sort of sword Wolki might be be after.

Magic weapons are, as one might expect, considered the greatest of treasure among the Nordan. My people are very fond of their arms and armour and most of the clans have armaments dating back to their great heroes and even the divine founders of the clans. Wolki would certainly kill to recover the lost sword of Skygge, for example, or even a blade from one of the other clans, which could be traded for a favour from a grateful Jarl.

Of course there were other blades that had been lost over the years. I knew one, the Blade of High King Siggurd, lost in the battle where I died my first death. It seemed unlikely that Wolki would care enough about that blade to risk the wrath of the Nightblades though.

“You’re quiet all of a sudden. Nervous?” said Carmen.

“Not at all, I am just thinking.”

“Regretting not taking me up on my offer I hope,” she said with a wicked smile.

“That goes without saying.”

Carmen led us through hidden alleys, past fountain squares, and even over a thin metal bridge between two building. We made rapid progress toward Night’s Finger. I saw a familiar figure waiting for us outside the only visible entrance in the massive building.

“Murith, it is good to see you.”

“Likewise, Old Wolf. Who is your friend?”

“This is Carmen. She is with the Nightblades.”

Carmen smiled. Murith looked her up and down and then nodded.

“How was the meeting?” I asked

“The watch presented our case to a high ranking guild factor and her assistants.”

“Factor?”

“Most of The Guild havenothing to do with assassination, Ragnar,” said Carmen. “A Factor in the Nightblades performs the same function they do in a merchant house. Think of them as an accoutant or a financier. Can I ask the name of this one, Murith?”

“Octavia.”

“I thought so,” said Carmen. “That is a good sign for us. Come on, then. I’ll explain on the way. Octavia handles accounts for the City of Myrrhn itself. She understands the politics  of the city and the world and what needs to be done to keep the peace. If you met with her, it means that The Guild is seriously considering acting against Ulfgorr.”

“That is welcome news,” I said.

Carmen led us into the cavernous foyer of the tower, a room bustling with activity. It looked almost like a bank or a place where commodities were traded. Money changed hands. Transactions were recorded. Deals were made. The only difference was that in this place they sold death and protection.

As she walked, Carmen’s dexterous hands greeted people she passed with rapid hand-signals. I doubt many outside of the guild would notice her signing, let alone be able to read it.

“I’m asking for directions,” she said before I could ask.

She led us up to a fourth floor and along on an elegant balcony overlooking the famous board where the largest contracts were listed and then into a meeting room decorated in brass and dark wood where a bookish looking woman was sitting in a leather chair sipping a glass of wine while she examined reports. She looked up as we entered, and stood.

“Greetings. It is nice to meet you Ragnar Skyggesson. I am Octavia, senior Factor with The Nightblades of Myrrhn.”

“Well met, Factor Octavia,” I said.

“I know Carmen, and I have already met with Watch Sargent Murith. You may be wondering why you are here and what the Guild’s has decided to do about the actions of Ulfgorr of the Shadow Wolf Clan. I will explain everything.”

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Teaser

It is late, late Sunday night, and I am a little too tired to push out a full post, so instead I will share a little bit from my newest Bloodlust title, which should be out at the usual time this summer. Not sure on the title yet.

Obviously this is raw, unedited, and needs a lot of shaping.

Towering over Chosen Silvius, The Gorehound seemed out of place on the perfectly coifed fighting grounds in Silvius’s palace. He was too large, too square, and far too ugly for an arena usually reserved for the Chosen’s personal amusements.

The Gorehound peered at him with eyes mostly hidden under a thick brow, a dog-faced mask hiding his nose and lower jaw. Silvius had seen him without the mask, but it was hardly an improvement. The man was just ugly.

The Gorehound’s reputation for brutality was well deserved, having spawned numerous imitators after his career faded. He still fought in pit-arena Deathmatches in the Trapholds, killing criminals and heretics, ending innumerable lives over a decades-spanning career as a master that went most unnoticed in larger, more popular arenas.

In one thick hand the Gorehound carried a crude looking club, too heavy for most men to carry, covered in cruel spikes. His other arm ended in a gauntlet with spike and a bladed buckler attached to it. The fist spike itself looked more like some mad butcher’s tool than a traditional weapon, with a hooked point and jagged edges.

Even his armour spoke of single-minded dedication to relentless destruction on the fighting grounds. A heavy harness with thick metal plates protecting his vitals, the Gorehounds protective gear also covered striking surfaces such as knees and elbows with reinforced metal and short, jagged blades that could shred any opponent unfortunate enough to be caught in his grip.

And, to Silvius at least, he was so very, very ugly. While the Gorehounds huge frame was covered in muscle, he was thick and almost looked fat with little definition in some places. The beast’s head was shaved clean, but his chest, where unarmoured, was covered in coarse black hair like fur. His gear was functional at best, with little embellishment or even an attempt to match materials.

“Yet another reason why you don’t want to fight by Skin League rules Silvius,” said Chosen Noxaia from the announcer’s box in the viewing area above the fighting grounds.

Chosen Brand beside her, smiled thinly.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.19

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise. This week as a bonus I was sick and exhausted to boot!

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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Following Carmen through the streets of the Bonemarket, I made an effort not to glance up at Night’s Finger looming over us. The building was fascinating at this distance, a jumble of towers woven together, some of which appeared to be made from black glass, others from bricks of dark grey stone. I did not want to stand out by gaping at it.

The Bonemarket was less crowded than most districts in Myrrhn. The people on the streets moved with purpose, and there were no buskers, food carts, or wagons where merchants sold goods. There were very few shops in general, but I was always surprised at the number of inns, taverns, and fountain squares we passed through.

I did not see anyone who looked like an Assassin, of course.

Carmen had pulled down her hood, and pulled off some of the fake skin that made her look like an old woman. She moved through the streets with real familiarity, ducking through alleys and hidden doorways to shorten our trip. Soon enough we arrived at a sturdy doorway in a back alley courtyard.

“Welcome to my lair, Old Wolf. Come on in.”

I hesitated for a moment, unsure of myself. Was Carmen  just being flirtatious or seeking something more? And what if she was.

Carmen’s was already pulling off her clothes as I entered the little house, hanging the baggy robe in one of three walk-in closets in her front hall. Distracted by the sight of her lithe form appearing from beneath the dumpy clothing, it took me a while to realize that her abode was actually much larger than it appeared from the outside.

“Do you like the view?”

“Yes. The room is nice too.”

By the time that my attention snapped back to Carmen, she was down to her underwear. It was far more functional than the frilly garments that some women wear for display, and much sturdier than the practical stuff. It was held on with sturdy straps almost like a suit of leather armour. As I watched, Carmen’s fingers deftly undid the straps lifted the bra off. Her breasts were not especially large, but they practically exploded as the garment containing them fell to the ground.

“Gods, that thing is restrictive.”

“Combat bra?”

“Something like that. Custom made and very expensive. Do you like it?”

“Sure, I have to say it does look better on the floor though.”

“Thank you. Maybe we can compare equipment a little more thoroughly sometime.”

Carmen stretched, giving me a lovely view of her profile and the muscles beneath her sun-kissed skin. I laughed. Being a doorman for The Doxies’s Union meant I was used to conversations with beautiful and alluring women in various states of undress. Carmen was a skilled flirt, but I wasn’t breaking a sweat as I enjoyed the view and the conversation.

“Honestly, I would enjoy that, in any sense of the sentence, Carmen. You seem alright for an assassin, although I wonder if you are trying to give an old man a heart-attack as part of a contract.”

“You don’t need to worry about my knives anymore, Ragnar. I might have other plans for you, but you’ve shown me great kindness.

“You have been helpful to me as well…”

“Actually, I haven’t.”

I raised a brow. Carmen seemed to deflate a little, shifting from seductive to vulnerable.

“I was thinking of fucking your brains out to assuage my guilt over this, but it seems like a stupid idea now.”

“Over what?”

Carmen looked me in the eye. All thoughts of sex fled as I read the signs of inner conflict in her gaze.

“Do you remember the crates that Cinder was loading onto her ship, and how Ulfgorr was after them?”

“How could I forget? Was that one of the Thirteen with you?”

“Yes, Master Stiv.”

I nodded. I had heard of old man Stiv before. It did not surprise me that one of the Thirteen would appear if Wolki and Ulfgorr were involved.

“You see Ragnar,” said Carmen. “After you set me straight in our meeting in Cliffshadow, the Nightblades gave me instructions to steer you toward Cinder. You have a way of… breaking… complex entanglements.”

“What was in the crates?”

“I don’t know about the ones that we recovered from the ship, but I do know that both The Guild and Ulfgorr searched for the crate that fell off the boat. They found the crate, but not the contents. Ulfgorr attacked you because he thinks you have it; a sword I heard. I don’t know much else, and The Guild would be very angry with me for telling you this much.”

I absorbed the information, surprised at Carmen’s candor. Could I believe her? And what kind of sword would set Wolki and the Nightblades against each other?

“Thank you, Carmen.”

“I’m sorry, Ragnar.”

“Don’t be. I understand conflicting loyalties.”

“I’m an idiot, let me get dressed.”

“You are not, and I am certain that the sex would have been fantastic.”

She laughed. “Thanks, I may take an I owe you on that, Old Wolf…”

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New Year’s Resolutions (As a Writer)

Due to a family emergency, I missed posting this yesterday, but the sentiment remains the same.

2016 was a fairly good year for me as a writer. I made a bit of money, and managed to put out two books. Better yet, I managed to get a few enthusiastic reviews and had some enjoyable dialogue with people who have read my work. I even had a person put up their amazon review of my work on the US and UK sites, which is super nice (why Amazon does not collect all reviews for all marketplaces is beyond me).

Joining the Friends of Vocamus press genre writer’s circle in 2016 has been a boon as well. I have been to two of the monthly meetings and learned some interesting things about the local writing scene as well as some useful promotional ideas.

What I failed to do in 2016 (aside from convince people that voting for Cheeto Jesus is a bad, bad idea) is adequately promote and market my work. I have had a decent year with Twitter, but could drive more people to my blog and Facebook page. With eight books under my belt, and decent reception from people who read them, it is time to figure out marketing and social media (while keeping my soul and dignity intact).

Considering this has got me thinking about what I can do to improve my writing and book promotion in 2016, aside from the obvious improving of the fundamentals. Here are my writers resolutions for 2016.

  1. Promote my summer release on at least five secondary book sites: This requires money and the ability to schedule in advance. Secondary book sites, places like Bookbub, can drive a lot of traffic toward your sales and book releases. I would like to explore these for my next major release.
  2. Learn to type: I have written and published over 800k words and I do not know how to type. W T F. I could save myself so much time here.
  3. Put more effort into adwords and facebook ads: My third resolution is a bit more complex. Both adwords and facebook ads are very, very tunable. As an amateur user I can put in quite a bit more time learning the ins and outs of these systems to get more bang for my buck. One of the suggestions from my author circle that I wanted to try was concentrating add buys on the weekend instead of running the same amount every day of the week.

Simple stuff, but also time consuming…

As for what is up for release this year, I am starting the first draft of the seventh Domains of the Chosen novel after I post this (2017 and I am already 1500 words behind… yay). I am also working on the third Shadow Wolf novella, which should release in the fall.

If I have enough time and energy I may re-release book one of the Domains series with a new cover and some additional information, but that seems overly ambitious for a year where I am taking on extra hours at my dayjob already.

 

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.18

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise. This week as a bonus I was sick and exhausted to boot!

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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I drank with Birgir and his men late into the night, long after Wolki and his men left. There was no doubt in my mind that the current master of the Shadow Wolves would seek out his henchman, Ulfgorr. Later, when the beast was healed, he would seek me out again, Wolki would make certain of that. I would have to ready myself for that encounter.

I set those thoughts aside and enjoyed my time with the Sea Wolves. Birgir listened to my tales of Myrrhn and repaid me with a wealth of news from Nordan lands. I found it hard to conceal my hunger for news of my homelands and old friends.

It was dark when I left Cassander’s Shield, I doubted that Wolki and Ulfgorr would dare to attack me so close to protected ground, but I kept to well lit and well-trafficked areas on my return home.

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Vethri and Eiskra greeted me as I returned home. Eiskra seemed amused as I related my exploits at the Nordan stronghold, while Vethri rolled her eyes.

“Did you remember to ask about who killed Rake?” asked Vethri.

“As soon as Wolki spotted me that line of inquiry was scuttled. Given his surprise at my presence though, he could not have been involved.”

“Are you sure he wasn’t faking, Ragnar?” asked Eiskra, her face taking on a comical expression of surprise.

“Wolki never fakes something that would make him seem less knowledgeable or less in control of the situation. His reaction would have been different had he expected me there. He seemed genuinely surprised that Murith and I bested Ulfgorr as well.”

“Speaking of which, with Murith’s testimony you could take news of Ulfgorr’s attack to The Nightblades; they will not look kindly upon an outside assassin acting in Myrrhn,” suggested Vethri.

“I don’t know…”

“Well, it might be worth visiting Night’s Finger regardless,” said Vethri. “If Lily Gemarkand is nervous, she might have a price on her head.”

All active assassination contracts are displayed in Night’s Finger, a process that allowed the potential victim to outbid the person who placed the contract, often creating a bidding war of sorts.

“Couldn’t she just buy it out?”

“Not if her available money is tied up in some other pressing venture,” said Vethri. “It is worth checking…”

“…And asking about Ulfgorr while you are there,” added Eiskra, grinning.

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Night’s Finger is one of the most recognizable structures in Myrrhn. Visible from several islands away, it thrusts arrogantly into the sky, crooked and irregular looking. Its odd appearance is due to the fact that it is actually several adjoining towers that have been built into and atop each other over time.

Night’s Finger dominates the Bonemarket, a small district island in the middle of the Myrrhnese archipelago. The tower itself is off-limits to most, save for the foyer at the very bottom where the public can access various records related to assassinations and buy contracts.

More important clientele can arrange meetings with representatives of The Guild at one of the Luxurious hotels or brothels on Bonemarket, or elsewhere in the city.

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I arranged to meet Murith at the bottom of Night’s Finger, but shortly after entering the Bonemarket I sensed someone was following me. Rather than trying to throw them off my trail, I merely stopped and waited.

After a moment an old woman approached me.

“Ragnar, how did you know?” said a familiar voice; Carmen, once an apprentice to my enemy, Sildus.

It took me a moment to see lithe, beautiful Carmen through the wrinkles. I laughed.

“I had no idea, actually. Just though I was being followed. You should have been more patient my friend.”

“Ugh,” Carmen’s wrinkled prosthetic face took on a sour look briefly. “Your friend Murith arrived early with a watch delegation. They are meeting with Guild representatives. Since this disguise is now useless, I want to change. How about you follow me?”

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