Rotblossom Rose (1.10R)

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The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years.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.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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Rose remembers returning to The Scab after her escape from the mines and her trip to the ruins of her old life,

The City has been around since before The Bleed was discovered. Far enough back, so far that it is blurred even to the learned, and there was a mountain where The Gash is, and in that mountain was the seat of a great kingdom, dwarves they say. The ruins of that place lie way down in The Gash, now; a place that draws the ambitious and the foolhardy further into The Depths,

TThis kingdom of Dwarves was there when Wraithstone was first discovered. There are conflicting tales of what happened then. Some say that the discovery of the stone undermined the kingdom, others say that the Wraithstone fell out of the sky, shattering the mountain and the Dwarves as it ploughed into the earth.

Since then The City has changed hands hundreds of times in countless wars, been the seat of world spanning empires, and the centre of great events. Countless buildinsg have fallen and arisen, toppled into the depths, or simply been built over in the endless parade of years. All that matters is that The City is built on the source of all Wraithstone, and Wraithstone is the source of magic.

The Scab is what people have call the city for as long as anyone cares to remember. Gazing out at it, Rose thinks the name perfectly appropriate. The City clusters around The Gash, that great wound in the earth, as if trying to cover it, even spilling down the sides of the the web of smaller chasms. There are beautiful parts of the city, she knows. The peaceful parks and gardens of The Bedrock Wards spring to mind, as well as fantastical buildings such as The Silverthread Span, the improbable bridge that connects the two sides of The Gash. But the city as a whole is ugly, and the moniker of scab suits it well. It is a place founded on ruin, built of ambition and greed, all mortared together with the blood of an endless supply of foolish victims.

Rose should have known better than to think that she could escape it.

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Her first days back in The Scab were desperate and dangerous. Rose had no coin, and precious little supplies. The streets of The Hive and other, lesser slums were full of those who preyed upon others, from vulgar pimps to vicious cutthroats.

For fear of being mistaken for a Bleedwarpt or a plague victim, Rose kept herself covered and shunned open areas for the relative quiet of back alleys and side-roads. She kept to herself and avoided anyone who might be a threat.

Hunger gnawed at her, but Rose kept herself going with tiny doses of Wraithstone; red for energy, blue for clarity, and green for health. She carried a fortune of the stuff, enough to buy a sizeable house in The Hive, but knew that if she revealed what she carried she would be dead within ten steps. Places like this bred the kind of desperation that led men to kill.

By the time she reached the closest Syndicate trading house, two days later, Rose was gnawing on scraps of wood and discarded bits of food fallen on the streets. She had two close run ins with gangs, but had avoided them by scrambling up the sides of the shacks. She was too weak to outrun a healthy man, but her time in the mines had taught her to climb exceptionally well, and she outpaced her pursuers both times. Of course, had they known the wealth of Wraithstone that she carried, they would not have broken off the chase.

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The Syndicate controlled all processing of Wraithstone in The Scab. They were utterly merciless about destroying anyone who tried to compete with them, even sending agents and assassins far afield to eliminate anyone who tried to emulate their business without leave.

The squat building that Rose arrived at on her third day back in The Scab was built like a fortress. Thick walls, solid construction, windows that even a child would have trouble fitting through if they somehow removed the bars. For burly men wearing face-masks and the crimson uniforms of the Syndicate, guarded the entrance.

Rose joined the line. The man in front of her sniffed, and turned, frowning at her stench. Rose showed him her middle finger. She was safe enough now, no one would start a fight here.

“Go die in a hole you festering cunt,” sneers the man, turning away.

Rose wheezes out a laugh.

It takes an hour for the line to shrink enough that Rose is in the trade-house. There she watches men and women in white shirts with crimson vests bearing the heraldry of the Syndicate haggle with those selling them Wraithstone. There is also a line where people are trading tarnished copper, silver, and gold disks for fresh metal. The Syndicate makes a killing on that.

It is more interesting inside the trade house, and time passes quicker. Rose leaves an hour later with enough coin to live comfortably for a while and a few silver disks of her own to draw the residual bleed from her body.

Then she buys a room at a secure inn. The stew she buys in the tavern below it, is the first real food she has had in some time. It tastes so good that she almost cries.

Then she buys a bottle of Hiver Screech, strong stuff, and drinks herself into a stupor before stumbling to bed. The simple mattress is shockingly comfortable and soon Rose has fallen to a deep, silent sleep blessedly free of dreams of her dead family and the wicked, wicked men who killed them.

As she snored, the list of names of the men she must kill rested on the table beside the bed, waiting.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.9R)

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.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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The Bleedwarpt Berserker’s legs writhe on the floor, while the upper half drags itself toward Green Jim with powerful arms. As it moves it leaves a trail of blood and guts, but it does not seem to care.  Rose, dropping to the ground, sees Green Jim fumble the cartridge for his steamlance, eyes wide as the Berserker looms. He gives up and grabs the lance, using it like an awkward spear.

Green Jim is lucky; the rest of Roses’s crew is well practiced. As the Berserker propels itself at Green Jim, Geb gets in front of it. The beast launches itself at the big man, intestines flapping behind it like some obscene leash. It is horrifically vigorous, and slams into Geb’s shield with a riotous thud. Rose feels her heart lurch, but the big man keeps his feet and smashes it with his shock-mace before backing out of reach.

As two of the men jab it with needle spears, Scarab rushes close and drives a rockbiter piton into the ground beside the thrashing beast . At first Rose is confused by this, but then she realizes that the piton is anchoring the nets that still partially entangle the beast to the ground.

“HARPOON!” she shouts.

One of the men obliges, firing a spring and steam driven spear. There is a pop and hiss, then the barbed spear slams into the berserker torso, a line trailing behind it. Rose helps grab the line, feels it twist as the beats moves, then they secure it to the ground with another piton.

By now Green Jim has reloaded his cumbersome Steamlance. Secured by the net and the harpoon, the berserker torso can do little more than snarl as her steps up and rams the weapon in again. This time he strikes it in the chest, blasting its ribcage open and sending an arm flying off over their heads.

“Woooo!” shouts Green Jim, covered in gore.

Cackles laughs. She tries not to think about killing him.

Rose lets out a breath. No one appears to be seriously injured. The legs are still thrashing weakly, but they posed little danger.

“Not bad,” says Geb.

“Agreed, let’s not let our guard down though,” replies Rose. “The noise and the blood are bound to attract attention. Best carve it up and get out.”

As she speaks, she watches the men descend upon the corpse, hacking at it, looking for the rich deposits of energized Wraithstone on its bones and in the knobs on its skin. Even through the blood, some of the tiny stones glow an angry red. As the others are busy she sees Cackles pocket something from the Berserker’s corpse when he thinks no one is watching.

“Cackles, why don’t you show us what you just pocketed.”

She says it loudly enough that everyone hears. The men stop mid-harvest, looking at Cackles. He might be an old hand, but he is new in the crew, and not yet trusted. Stealing from your crew is a fast way to get rich, but

Cackles looks to Scarab, then to Geb, no doubt hoping that one of them will over-rule her.

“Show us,” says Geb.

Rose hopes it is Wraithstone. That would make it easy. The crew would help her do Cackles no questions asked.

Instead Cackles pulls out what looks lie a well worn necklace, with three disks of gold.  The gold is tarnished from exposure to the bleed, and has lost all of its lustre. Most of the men lose interest immediately: the gold is valuable, but not nearly worth enacting harsh justice. Rose sees an opportunity nonetheless.

“Give it here, Cackles. I will be taking it to the syndicate. Everyone will get a share of the proceeds but you. On this crew we split everything. Got it?”

Cackles hates being singled out for punishment as much as she expects. The humiliation lights the fires of hatred in his eyes, ensuring now that he will act upon his suspicions of her when gets a chance.

Rose pretends not to notice his glare, and goes back to helping the men gather Wraithstone.

<>

After a few minutes of work, they have filled a small container with gory, glowing red rocks.

Scarab whistles as he puts the last fleck of stone in.

“That’s good stuff captain,” he says. The shade and intensity of the glow is an indication of how energized the stone is.

“Aye,” says Geb. “And a lot of it, too. I could buy a house. A nice one, outside of the Hive.”

“Keep dreaming,” says Scarab.

Rose just smiles. Cackles is still sulking, shooting dark looks toward her. It is almost too easy.

“Hey… that necklace,” begins Green Jim, looking at the half-tarnished silver disk hanging from his wrist. “Was he a delver too?”

Scarab and Geb look at each other, then burst out laughing. Rose rolls her eyes.

“Yes, Green Jim,” she says. “Most of the Bleedwarpt that we hunt were once people like you and I. This poor sod was probably part of a deep delving team that got caught down here.”

“Three gold disks is enough to get down to the real money,” says one of the men. “Dwarf ruins and shit from before the bleed.”

“True,” says Geb. “But we make far more profit off a kill like this then a lengthy, dangerous expedition. Too many of those kind of dives end up with this.”

He points at the berserker. Green Jim mutters, shaken at the idea that their quarry was once like them.

“Enough chatter,” says Rose. “We need to get away from all this blood, clean up, and make camp until the lift arrives. We have some time left, and I don’t want anyone getting sloppy down here. Let’s move.”

The men obey even Cackles, who follows sullenly, shunned by the rest of the men now. Rose can feel his anger.

Fucking Cackles.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.8R)

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.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

Cackles. In the present he is just a name waiting to be crossed off her list, but in the past the wounds are too fresh and he is a nightmare.

Rose held up the little sword, lost in memory of that Nightmarish day.

She was down, disarmed by Lawch, and held in the dirt of the courtyard. She struggled to regain her feet, but the massive Kolim that held her might as well been made of stone.

“Oh, we’re gonna have some fun wit’ you, bitch,” said a young man with startlingly blue eyes beside her as he fit some kind of strap around her neck. “I cain’t wait… they always make me go last.”

“You know why that is, Stinknob,” said the Kolim. “No one wants the rot.”

Distantly, Rose is surprised at the menace in the Kolim’s voice. The giant beings are generally placid, only violent in self-defence. This one is aberrant.

“That ain’t it, Ogre, that ain’t it. I don’t got it. I don’t got the sodding rot.”

He did, as Rose would soon learn firsthand.

“Take it up with Lawch,” growled Ogre, nearly crushing Rose as he shifted in irritation.

“I–“

What Stinknob was going to say next, Rose would never know, as Morn grunted in pain and Janiye finally found her voice, screaming.

“DADDY”

A figure in a black robe, handsome Avalainian with a beard neatly trimmed to come to a sharp point stood above her husband, a hammer in one hand and a dozen nails in the other. Another nail protruded from Morn’s back where he lay.

Rose struggled. For a moment she thought she felt the mass upon her shift. If she could just get up, and get to her sword she could save them, she could save them all. But her struggles were nothing to Ogre.

“These are excellent workmanship,” the Avalainian, whom she would later come to know as Arthrin the Mendicant said.

“There a point to that?” asked the spindly limbed young man who held Janiye, his hand over her mouth now. Rose could see her daughter’s eyes rolling like a colt cornered by Bleedrats.

She hated herself then. Hated that she had been to weak to stop these wicked, wicked men and too foolish to see them coming. She never really stopped hating that girl pinned under the Kolim, even after escaping the mines; she though of herself as a different person, Rotblossom Rose instead of Rose Before.

“Let him have his fun,” said Lawch, the leader of the band, looking like the lord of the house with his feet propped up on a table. He was dressed in fine clothes and had the look of an aristocrat, smoking a pipe like he was out on the town rather than overseeing a murder.

Arthrin the Mendicant drove another nail into Morn’s back. Her Husband roared in pain. Tears ran out of Janiye’s eyes above the hand that held her mouth closed and Rose screamed.

And then it happened. Her little boy, Gared, burst out of the place where he liked to hide while playing outside on warm days. The sudden motion caused Lawch’s band to bristle, weapons springing to hand. Gared, brandishing his tiny sword ran straight at Arthrin the Mendicant, screaming ‘let him go’ and attacked. He was the very picture of courage and fury, and his lunge was superb. Rose at taught him well.

But he was far too young, and too small, and his heroism meant nothing to these men.

“Ow,” said Arthrin as Gared’s sword slipped past his guard. Then he sent the boy sprawling with a kick.

The rest of Lawch’s band laughed. Morn, Janiye, and Rose all screamed as Cackles picked Gared up. Giddy with amusement, the grinning bandit could barely keep out of reach of her son’s tiny blade.

“Enough,” said Lawch. “Get rid of him.”

Rose screamed herself raw as Cackles walked over to the outhouse and dropped little Gared in.  Cackles turned and laughed, as the horror of the day washed over Rose robbing her of strength.

And what followed after was torture, murder, rape, scalping, and then the mines; a slow dismantling of her life by men and women steeped in cruelty. They took everything from her, even the memory of happiness.

And as Rose regained her senses sometime after finding Gared’s little sword, she swore an oath to kill them all, writing their names with her own blood upon the first version of her list.

And then Rose got up and took a shot of The Blue to chase away the memories. Then she gathered what she could find in the shattered, burnt out remains of her old life, and walked down the gentle path toward the road that would lead her back to the city called The Scab.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.7R)

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.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

Rose runs and the bleedwarpt berserker thunders after her.

As fast as she is, Rose knows that she cannot stay ahead of it for long in a straight up sprint. She chooses her path accordingly, pacing herself and taking the measure of her quarry as it follows.

Red bleedwarpt generally fall into two categories, hunters and berserkers. This one is the later she is certain; it is big and powerful and easily goaded. Such a creature can rip her in half it gets a hold of her,

They reach what looks like a dead end for her, with a ten foot wall dividing the tunnel into upper and lower halves. Rose pumps a little red serum into her blood through injectors in her mechanical arm and speeds up, sprinting straight at the wall. The beast bellows and runs after her.

A pace from the rock wall Rose jumps, her spiked boots catching the rock. Such is her agility that it appears that she runs right up the rock face. The berserker roars and grabs at her leg as she vanishes over the ledge. Rose rolls out of reach, gains her feet, and keeps running as the beast pulls itself up into the tunnel behind her.

Once, such mad determination would have scared her, but now Rose sees it as a weakness to be exploited. The berserker is intent on her, even as she tries to draw it into a trap.

This one is particularly fast, catching up to her quickly. At least it has not exhibited any other abilities. Reds rarely did, but some could spit flames or had acid blood. Mostly berserkers relied on strength, whatever their form.

It was close now, Rose could feel it looming over her. A rumbling growl sounded and she its felt hot breath on her neck. Up ahead she sees the tunnel split in two, as she knew it would. She had hoped to have more space between herself and the beast still, but the split presents a good opportunity to regain some distance.

A little jolt of The Red quickens her step. She reaches the split and turns down the left tunnel. The beast, a blur in the corner of her eye, moves to intercept, leaping, almost pouncing like a hunting cat. Rose, however, is faking her intent. She stops, turns back, and runs into the rightward tunnel. The berserker flies past her, its massive bulk slamming into the wall, a grasping claw slicing the air behind her.

Rose did not waste time looking back, sprinting as fast as she could. This one was too fast for comfort and the rest of the way left no room for her to gain ground. Soon enough she heard it behind her, heavy tread steadily getting closer and closer and…

Then up ahead she saw the opening that led into the chamber. The bleedwarpt was too close behind her for a graceful entrance. She ran. It followed. Rose reached the edge of the tunnel that led into the chamber where the rest of her team lurked. She shouted and jumped up toward the ceiling instead of down, catching a crevasse and lifting her legs up as the beast’s hand snapped shut inches away from her.

It falls twenty feet, landing with a thud on the chamber floor. Rose watches as a dozen men slip out of side tunnels and alcoves, attacking the bleedwarpt from all directions. The plan had been to lure it into chasing her past Green Jim and Cackles, but it was simply been too fast.

Geb comes at it from the front, all loud and aggressive, drawing its attention. The berserker’s eyes fix on him and it swing a massive arm. Geb blocks with his shield, but the blow sends him sprawling. Two of the other men run in, jabbing long needle-spears into its right side. The beast rears up and slammed down toward them, but they both jump away. As soon as it turns Cackles and Scarab hit it with nets.

The nets hit and wrap, turning the beast into a writhing ball of anger, briefly at least. It is then that Green Jim bring his Steamlance to bear. He chargeds in, expertly ramming the metal point into the berserker’s torso as it pulls the nets, barbs and all, from its body.

The Steamlance is a weapon designed to kill the most monstrous of Bleedwarpt. It consists of a metal lance with a secondary tip that is fired upon impact by an explosive charge.  The steam created by the liquid explosive is directed into the gap created by the secondary tip, creating an enormous wound.

Green Jim strikes well. The lance fires with a distinct rapport. The secondary tip rips through the berserker’s back and it falls into two pieces in an eruption of steam and flesh.

Cackles laughs.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.6R)

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.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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Not even the worst horrors of the depths can rival memory.

Rose dug exceptionally well for a half-dead woman with one arm, even without a boost from the Wraithstone she carried. Long hours in the slave-mines had taught her how to work when injured; there was no pity from men like overseer Kragorr, you either met your quota or you were beaten and denied food. Most people never recovered.

Rose missed her quota three times and still survived. The first was the worst. Kragorr had knocked her down with a vicious backhand, knocking all of the teeth out of the rotten side of her face, When he saw the rot on his favorite set of gloves, along with all of the blood, he’d started kicking her, again and again. Rose could not fight back: the best she could do was curl into a ball and protect her vitals. She thought that she would die then, and hated herself for being so weak, losing even this. As darkness took her, she’d heard Kragorr’s voice.

“Maybe I’ll take a visit to the comfort house tonight Rotblossom, have a poke at your girl while she’s still fresh.”

Something had welled up inside her then, and Rose had pushed herself up, blood spilling from her mouth, ribs feeling like shards of glass in her chest. Everyone looked away except Kragorr.

“I’d say that’s an improvement, bitch,” he laughed, turning his back and walking toward the overseers compound.

Broken bones and teeth hurt plenty, but nothing compared to the hunger that came that day and the next. Had she not found a tiny nugget of The Green she likely would have died.

As she dug into the soft ground of the old outhouse, Rose realized that she was thinking of Kragorr and the mines because she did not want to think about why she was digging, of what she was looking for and why. In a way it was a comfort to think of what she had survived at the mines, all except Janiye, and that sweet sweet moment when she had opened Kragorr’s throat with her shiv. It brought a shiver of pleasure to think of it even now.

“Who says revenge is hollow?” she rasped, knee deep now in the dirt.

Rose dug until the sun was high overhead and she began to feel feint. She doubted there was food worth eating in her ruined house, but the well still drew water. As barren as the lands around The Scab were, it was not for lack of moisture.

The water was cool and wonderful, and Rose took a moment to savour it. As important as her task was, she was not keen to return to it. She had to know the truth of what lay in the remains of the outhouse, but dreaded it all the same. Hope is monstrous, it’s loss even more so.

After gulping down enough water to feel full, Rose fished around in her pouch full of Wraithstone. She found the stone she wanted quickly, without even looking. Later on, she will realize what that means, but for now it was just an unconscious talent.

Rose took the bright green Wraithstone and gently rasped it along a file from Morn’s shop. Even though the file was weathered and warped it was still able to reduce some of the stone to a fine powder.

Rose had been ingesting shavings of Green Wraithstone both to keep the Rot from spreading and to sustain her when she cannot find food. The shavings filled her with unnatural vitality, but they also played havoc with her insides and often left her retching and whimpering as they passed. Powder in water was better.

She drank it, felt strong again, and returned to digging. After a moment she stopped, got out a blue Wraithstone, powdering and mixing it, then drank it as well.

It was late in the day when her spade struck metal. The hole was as deep as her shoulder. Gently she lowered herself and felt around, locating what she had struck, getting a sense of where it lay before prying it out of the damp, fragrant soil with her spade. She holds it up in the light where she can see it.

It is a child-size replica of a coil-sword, made by her husband, Morn, for their son, Gared.

The Blue brings clarity, but it was not enough to shield her from this memory, from the knowledge brought by that little sword. Madness washed over Rose. She was assaulted by the sounds of her son screaming, crying for help, and the laughter of the member of Lawch’s cursed band who caught little Gared up and sealed his fate.

Cackles was what they called that one.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.5R)

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.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

The present is safer than the past. Old wounds are familiar and loss is dulled by twenty years and nine names crossed off her list.

Rose clings to a rock face in one of the lesser chasms of the depths. Most of what she can see blow her in the dim light of the depths is a black abyss, a near twin to that of the great chasm called The Gash, lacking only in scale and in the distant purple glow of the furthest depths. The Glow is from a molten sea of Wraithstone, enough to make every man and woman in the world immortal, unreachable because The Bleed would warpany living thing into a puddle long before they reached that depth.

Rose gazes into that depth a little too long.

“Three more names,” she promises to the abyss. Then, she doses herself with a little bit of The Blue, bringing clarity and focus.

Rose is well aware that she is addicted to both The Blue and The Green, common distillates of active, colored Wraithstone. The Green keeps her from losing more of her body to the rot, The Blue keeps her sharp.

Focused now, she waits in the crevasse. The Blue flows through her, changing the her perception of the flow of time, enhancing her senses. She hears Cackles and Green Jim whispering down the tunnel, waiting in ambush. Scarab and Geb will be near them, but they are quieter. She smells blood and bone on the kill below, still fresh, probably human meat given the bounty on its head. She feels the faint vibration of great machines above through the rock; they near Syndicate territory, the hub of Wraithstone industry in The Scab, the vicious monopoly feared and respected by almost all of them.

She waits, perfectly focused, clinging to the rock face like a fly on a wall, listening, feeling, sniffing at the air. She is good at this. She knows their quarry will return to the kill. It is only a matter of time.

She hears a heavy tread and something big moving in the cave off one side of the crevasse below her. Waiting, she hears it approach the kill, then the sound of flesh tearing, bones crunching.

A musky, peppery scent fills her nostrils. The beast has gone red, she guesses. Red is angry, violent. It will chase her, which makes things easier.

Slowly, gently, and mostly importantly soundlessly, Rose lowers herself to the lip of the cave on the side of the crevasse. She is so used to maneuvering on the edge of the abyss that she does not even register the nigh infinite drop below as she turns upside down, braces with her leg and peers over the top lip of the cave.

There in its rocky den, she spots her quarry gnawing on a man’s thigh. The Bleedwarpt is big, looks to have been an Avalainian or a Hilmin once. Now it is just an ugly mass of muscle, knobby hide, and a wide, flat face with four eyes and sharp teeth.

“Hey beautiful,” she rasps.

The beast looks up with too-human eyes. Flesh hangs from its mouth in red strips as it stares, startled.

Rose drops, fires her tube dart into its chest, hears the thud of it penetrating flesh and runs.

The Bleedwarpt thing bellows in rage and follows after.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.4R)

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.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

The past is bifurcated: before, Rose had a future; now, there is only a list of names that must be crossed out.

Rose approaches the house where she once lived with her family. It is well placed on a rise overlooking the busy road to Avelain. Even now, early in the morning she can see caravans big and small, though none so close that she need worry about being seen. She knows that in her present state she will be mistaken for some pitiful Bleedwarpt creature, a being mutated by Wraithstone energy, and put down by an over-zealous guard.

The gate and walls around the house are still intact; they were well-built, made to keep her family safe from bandits and worse, That safety had been an illusion.

The house had been her idea, a way for them to escape the ugliness of the city called The Scab after Janiye was born. It had been hard at first, especially when her father disowned her for marrying a Gengan. But she and Morn had scraped by, travelling up and down the road in their cart, fixing broken wagons and re-shoeing horses for a reasonable price. They prospered and by the time Ollen was born they were well established. He with his forge and her offering private lessons.

The gate swung open easily as Rose entered the courtyard. The ruins of the house, the forge, and the stables greeted her, blackened by fire and stripped by sun and storm.

She still remembers the shock of waking to Janiye’s screams, just before dawn.

There were bones in the courtyard still, bleached white by the sun, and Rose smirks as she sees the first of them It seemed that for all their talk of brotherhood, Lawch’s band did not bury their dead. Two lay near the house where she felled them, unseen coming out the side door, and another by the forge.

Even from here she could see the broken skull of the bandit who died to Morn’s forge hammer.

Aside from those three, there was another set of bones. Rose had to force herself to look at them. Morn had been a big man, burly and full of energy. His skeleton, though it dwarfed those of the fallen bandits, seemed far too small to fit Rose’s memory of the man.

“This is our place. We made a life together out here,” she remembered Morn saying this, his voice full of pride and satisfaction, but not what had precipitated the words. Like much of her life and dreams from before, the memory had been eclipsed by what happened that day.

Rose did not remember falling to her knees. She was still weak from wounds suffered in the cave-in. She sighed and pushed herself to her feet, walking slowly toward where Morn lay.

He was a brave man, tough as they came, but Lawch and the others had made him scream in the end. She remembered that.

Looking down at the remains of her beloved Morn, Rose could see little spots of rust from the unfinished iron nails that they had driven into him. A few still stuck out from his pelvis and leg-bones, corroded stumps that brought back memories of screams and harsh hands holding her down.

Rose opened the pouch at her waist, taking out a dark blue Wraithstone. It was powerful, and even holding it brought clarity and focus. She closed her eyes, breathed in and exhaled slowly, trying to set her memories aside while she did what she needed to do.

Then with grim purpose she turned toward the charred outline that marked their outhouse and with her one remaining arm she began to dig.

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