Tuesday Teaser

This week I’m headed back to the one that started it all, Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale

Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator's Tale.

Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale.

This scene takes place in Scorpion’s Oasis, a luxurious desert spa town where the Blue Faction has dominated the standings for over a decade. Sadira, ever seeking greater challenges, decides to see if she can tilt the balance in favour of the Red Faction, and thus win even greater acclaim. Gavin and the others follow.

In the scene the Gladiators are fighting mechanical serpents that can burrow through the white sands of the fighting ground and spring suddenly from ambush. Two teams of Gladiators are competing to kill these beasts, with the team that gets the most kills winning the match (how barbaric!). Faction contests are notoriously complex however, so Gladiators gain more point for spectacular kills and lose points if they are knocked over or eliminated. However, the opposing team is disqualified if they score a kill on a Gladiator of the opposing faction. This creates and interesting dynamic where the fighters are jostling for position, but not seriously attacking each other, while trying to hunt down and avoid deadly monsters,

Sadira sensed motion beneath her. She held still, channelling power into a spell-weave that sent a pure, powerful surge of adrenaline coursing through her body. Gavin, his eyes finding her, channelled power into a spell of his own, enchanting her further. The two magics mingled, life entwined with thought; Sadira felt immense strength and vitality coursing through her limbs combined with the stillness of perfect focus. The world slowed around her. She waited as the sand stirred.

The metal serpent seemed to leap at Sadira in slow motion. Its gleaming coils began to close around her, almost too fast for the audience to follow, yet barely moving from her perspective. Calm suffused the Gladiatrix. When she moved it was an explosion of bladed fury to those who watched, but to Sadira the motions were simple and unhurried. She whirled, feet moving in the most intricate of dances, through three perfect steps, as the clockwork serpent coiled inwards. Her deadly twin obsidian blades cut elegant flowing arcs on both sides of her as she completed each step. Each  cut was flawless, done so quickly and perfectly that to the audience her blades appeared to make all six cuts in a single motion, like a steel flower opening at the sun’s touch: a six-bladed blossom.

As the serpent fell into a half dozen pieces, oil pouring like black blood onto the sand, Sadira stopped, absolutely still and poised, the powerful magics coursing through her forming a brief pyrotechnic halo. The world seemed strangely out of focus for her as the effects of thep otent enchantments wore off. She breathed deeply, adjusting to the normal flow of reality again. She could still feel the afterglow of her magic mingling with of Gavin’s, leaving her breathless. She felt somehow, profoundly different, as if she had crossed some great unseen threshold.

Wonder suffused the arena; for a heartbeat no one spoke, and no one moved. The crowd could sense that they had witnessed greatness and the scene was now etched into the mind of everyone watching: that steel edged flower opening to reveal the Gladiatrix within. They knew now, all of them that they were in the presence of one who would be Chosen. Sound built slowly, dammed in by awe, and when it came the roar of the crowd was as if each man and woman was a lion. They forgot themselves, caught up in the moment, shouting their praise, reveling in the transcendent.

This scene speaks for itself in my mind. It is the first proof that when Gavin and Sadira work together, they are capable of great things.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Red Fangs 2.30

Last week I wrote two posts in the series — just to confuse people…

I felt like some more Shadow Wolf this week. This is part of my weekly writing exercise, written raw and rough. The first story arc, Blade Breaker, can be found here. The first story of this arc, Red Fangs, can be found here. The previous week’s post can be found here (and also here, since I did two)


The street in front of Git’s shop was a grim little abattoir, awash in blood, with a pair of charred forms smoking amidst the corpses. There was too much blood, far too much with only a dozen lying dead before us: the vampires had obviously drunk their fill before seeking us in battle. I have heard tales of a single well-fed bloodsucker letting loose a torrent of blood, when split open by swift sword or hungry axe, that could knock a half-giant from his feet. I could almost believe the tales now, I have seen battlefields with less blood.

“Murith, how are your wounds?” I asked, tearing my eyes from a lazy flow of gore down a street grate. There would be a feast below us tonight.

“I’ll live Ragnar,” returned Murith as Git fussed over her wounds. “Now please tell me that the death of my watch squad has nothing to do with your fucking escapades.”

I turned to find the dwarven woman glaring at me. She was pale, but there was still fight enough in her that her glower smoldered.

“I–” I began.

“This is Cinder’s doing,” intoned Berkhilda. “It is the way of Cinder to stir up discord between Vampires and those who do not drink blood. Cinder wants a war. Killing a watch patrol is a good way of striking fear and stirring up anger in the general populace.”

Murith’s anger deflected to the giant Nordan vampire. If she was impressed by Berkhilda’s massive frame, fangs, or warlike demeanour, she gave no sign.

“Who are you?”

“I am Berkhilda Furisdottir. My mother was a warrior of great renown in Clan Bloodaxe. I myself am–.”

“I don’t need the list of your deeds,” said Murith. “I don’t want to be here all night.”

“Thanks,” said Berkhilda, sounding genuinely pleased. “In truth, you would probably know me better as the daughter of Lazar Vintul.”

“You must take after your mother,” said Murith, raising a brow. “What are you doing with this bunch Berkhilda?”

“I am helping Ragnar hunt down Cinder,”

“Who is Cinder exactly?”

“He, or she, is the one responsible for Delilah’s death,” I said.

“Cinder is a rebel among my people,” said Berkhilda. “Or rather was, a long time ago. He was killed. Now other rebels use the name Cinder to stir up discontent. The often pretend to be the one, true Cinder until they are dragged out into the light.”

“I followed leads to Cliffshadow and the Jetties, Murith,” I said. “This Cinder has been amassing an army and raising funds. This goes far beyond vengeance for a lost friend. Something is stirring in the shadows.”

“Something is always stirring in the shadows in this city Ragnar,” grumbled Murith.

“Cinder killed your squad and I could use your help, old friend,” I said.

“Fine. Are you willing to go out with me and check to see if any of my men made it?”

I nodded. I did not bother arguing with Murith about her wounds. She was bound by duty and Murith never shirks.

“I will go,” said Berkhilda. “We still have a little time before dawn comes.”

“Lead on, watch Sargent,” I said.


Tuesday Teaser

This week’s teaser comes from Bloodlust: Red Glory, book four of the Domains of the Chosen series.


This week’s post concerns Scarmaker, easily one of the creepiest characters I have created. Scarmaker is a Gladiator from the Death-Leagues, a vicious killer whose sadism is only exceeded by his lust for power. I was reminded of him when a friend mentioned just how nasty they thought this character was. (fair warning to those who read on, some of his scenes might turn the stomach of sensitive readers)

Then Chloe caught sight of Scarmaker. Her lips curled involuntarily. Scarmaker was in the shadows, of course; they seemed to follow him, wrapping around him like the arms of a protective mother. Hidden in the inky dark, Scarmaker was grappling with an unlucky Gladiator, holding the man with his legs while pulling his knife upwards through his belly toward his chest. He cradled his opponent like a lover while his blade did its work, unhurried despite all the chaos around him. While Chloe watched Scarmaker’s other hand crept between his victim’s legs, groping and violating. Chloe turned away, bile rising in her throat.

As the hostess of the Killer’s Circle Chloe diSilk had seen every sort of violence imaginable, but Scarmaker was monstrous in ways that she could not put into words. Physically, he was extraordinarily handsome, yet that beauty could not mask his love of depravity. Cruelty, sadism, and sociopathy were the bread and butter of her arena, but this Gladiator turned Chloe’s stomach even when he wasn’t fighting. She almost cheered when Shagra moved toward him, heaving her maul and sending it crashing down. Scarmaker disentangled himself from his prey with serpentine grace, rolling out of the way. Shagra followed, relentless despite the shadows that now enveloped her.

Watching him is one thing, but getting inside his head is another.

They were waiting for him in his arming room, as they always did. Scarmaker let his armour fall to the ground so that their eyes could feast upon his form in all its naked glory. He was already aroused; killing always did that for him.

He stopped to sniff his fingers; the scent of his latest conquest still lingered. He licked them while his thralls watched, six pairs of eyes, eager and fearful.

Scarmaker had managed two kills in the brief struggle on the fighting grounds. He could have had a third but he had decided to gut one while fondling him, enjoying making the man squirm and struggle instead of killing him. It was the right of the strong to use the weak as they desired. A little rape was the perfect garnish for such a slaughter.

It was most unfortunate that Shagra the Bloodless had interrupted his play. Fighting someone that tough was boring to Scarmaker. It was as if she didn’t even feel pain. Pity.

So bloody nasty… I feel like I need to shower every time I get in his head. Scarmaker represents a flaw in the Great Games, the fear that a lunatic could win a grand championships and find a place among the Chosen. Of course, the idea of Red Glory was to show some of the maneuvering behind the arena battles, and how the selection process does not come down entirely to skill or popularity, but rather involves a great deal of politics, patronage, and outright cheating.

Scarmaker floated across the sand, arms held out like wings, shadow billowing in his wake like the ashen smoke of a volcano. The crowd, sensing his impending ascension, cheered. No doubt they hoped to gain his approval.

After his salute, the prey was let loose into the arena.

“Disappointing,” muttered Scarmaker. “The arena masters will pay for this insult.”

Shining brass skin covered four automatons. Much of his magic was useless against such creatures, as was all of his mastery of cutting and bleeding. He hated fighting brass men. It was one of the many reasons that he eschewed the degenerate Faction Leagues and had made his home in the Death Leagues.

It was distasteful to fight things that could not bleed or feel pain. Best to kill them quickly.

Our little killer nearly ruins his own chances when he perform less than spectacularly in his first showing in the Grand Championships, essentially sulking because he draws automatons over living prey. Of course his recovery is spectacular:

Scarmaker got to his feet; the Manticore was charging him, hackles raised, madness and hate filling its huge eyes.

“Time to scream, beast,” muttered Scarmaker, weaving a pair of powerful spells. Magic coursed through him, and instantly the Manticore’s wounds began to putrefy. Pus ran into its eye and its charge slowed as movement became excruciatingly painful. It yowled like a tortured cat.

Scarmaker laughed, revelling in the sound. Now was the time to show his audience what he could do.

Drawing on tremendous power, his channelling bolstered by the crowd, the lean Gladiator jogged forward. The Manticore assaulted him with a mental blast, sending him reeling, but he righted himself quickly, and leapt at the beast. Fang filled jaws snapped at him as he touched the beast on one of its wounds then pushed off and rolled away.

The Manticore growled. For a moment, nothing seemed to happen, and then the beast’s skin began to crawl of its own volition. The Manticore howled in absolute agony, a sound so horrific that the spectators were frozen in fear and horror. It clawed and rolled around as its skin shifted on its body, huge tears appearing as if it was a bloody fruit peeled by a deft hand.

The crowd was stunned to silence as the beast flopped over, overcome by pain, its hide torn and flayed. The tortured screams reached a fevered pitch, turning gradually into whimpers as the Manticore was overcome. The scene filled many of the spectators with horror.

Scarmaker walked over to the Manticore. It was alive, barely, kept conscious by the spell. He raised his weapons to the crowd in supplication, asking for a show of thumbs as if this were a Deathmatch. After recovering their wits, the crowd gave him their reaction.

Scarmaker turned swiftly and plunged his blades into the Manticore’s eyes, pushing his hands into the sockets and driving them deep into the beast’s brain.

You would be right to feel pity for the poor beast. Of course, that idea is part of Red Glory as well…

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Red Fangs 2.29

I felt like some more Shadow Wolf this week. This is part of my weekly writing exercise, written raw and rough. The first story arc, Blade Breaker, can be found here. The first story of this arc, Red Fangs, can be found here. The previous week’s post can be found here.


The door thundered, startling me. My hands went to my belt instinctively, seeking the haft of of axe, before reason took hold. Often, after fighting, I find myself starting at even the slightest of threats while the fires of battle cool.

“Calm down, brutes,” said Git.

Berkhilda’s axe was twitching and her eyes were wide. I was not the only one who was drunk on the aftermath of bloodletting, it seemed.

“Its Murith,” continued Git.

“How can you tell?” I asked. Git’s ears were large, but his hearing was not nearly as keen as mine.

“I have a series of mirrors set up to let me see who is outside my shop,” said Git proudly. “She’s alone, interestingly enough. “

The knock came again, louder and more insistent.

“Open up you wee arse, this is serious!” came Murith’s voice.

The note of panic spurred me into action. I met Berkhilda’s eyes, long enough that she grasped my meaning, and then turned to the door.

Murith’s back was to me as I ripped open the heavy door. The tepid air of Burning Hill stank even worse at this late hour, and much of the street was now lost in mist. I could sense movement in the dark, and Murith stank of sweat and blood. A red stain pooled at her feet, but she stood steady as an old ironwood.

“Stay behind me,” she whispered.

A form coalesced in the mist. Scarecrow-like, moving erratically, half-falling, half crawling its way toward us. Murith raised her arbalest, a massive crossbow, and sighted. The form paused, sniffed, and paused again. Then with a hissing growl it came at us. I saw it clearly then, a thin, drug wasted man with a mouth full of razor teeth. Murith’s weapon twanged. The bolt slammed into the vampire-junkie, sending him flying as if he were nothing more than a child’s doll. I stepped around Murith, watching more forms in the mist, knowing what they had to be, but hoping they were not.

“You’re wounded, watch Sargent,” I said. “Git is inside.”

“Ragnar?” said Murith, hissing between her teeth as she stood. “My men–“

“Are dead, or you would not have left them Murith,” I said.

Murith’s brow knotted, a sure sign of a coming tempest, but the storm was forestalled as Berkhilda strode by us, axe in hand, eyes blazing, armour and fangs gleaming in the half-light as she snarled at the forms in the mist.

They came at us, snarling and gnashing their teeth, attacking with the mad ferocity of rabid dogs. Murith dropped another before they reached us, then Berkhilda crashed into them like an avalanche, sending two them sprawling then bringing her axe down in a vicious stroke that painted the cobbles red as it bit into the shoulder of her foe. A pair of jerky, swift-moving figures leapt on her, biting and clawing and she roared, shaking them. Following in her wake I caught the head of one of her assailants with the back-spike on my axe and pulled him, jerking, from her. She grabbed the second and dashed him against the ground.

I heard a sound behind me, and whirled, catching a leering, lamprey-mouthed fiend with my hammer, crushing his skull and dashing him to the ground. A second caught me from the side, incredibly strong despite her emaciated form, taking me off my feet and slamming me into the ground. I rolled back, kicking her off me, then regained my feet swiftly. This time, when she leapt at me, the vampire-junkie caught my axe on the back of her neck as I stepped aside, tripped her, and brought it down.

The night flared into light and heat washed over me. Turning I saw a jet of flame blossoming from a nozzle above Git’s door. Two forms staggered back, screaming, as the flames consumed them.

I looked around. Berkhilda grinned at me in the firelight. Git was tending to Murith’s wounds. Of our assailants I saw none but the dozen corpses littering the streets.


The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Red Fangs 2.28

The Shadow Wolf Sagas are a weekly writing exercise that I engage in. The first story arc, Blade Breaker, can be found here. The first story of this arc, Red Fangs, can be found here. The previous week’s post can be found here.


“So you brought Lazar Vintul’s daughter here to die in my shop, that’s great Ragnar, just great,” the Goblin grumbled. waving his hands indignantly.

Berkhilda growled, causing Git to take a step back, but she was too weak to do much more than stay upright. Interestingly, Git’s assistant, the bookish looking one who I always thought he kept around because her looks help sells his goods, did not seem intimidated at all. She kept on mixing the ingredients the Goblin handed to her has he paced and ranted, examining us with quiet interest.

“You know what they do when they are dying, right?” said Git. “You and are are like giant healing potions to her right now.”

“Weren’t you worried about her dying a moment ago?” I asked. “Berkhilda had ample opportunity to bite me on the way here.”

“I hear they don’t like the taste of Twiceborn,” said Git.

“Have you tasted your healing potions?” I asked.

“My healing potions are practically Thraxian Red!” said Git, puffing out his chest. “You drank a salve that one time. Let it go Ragnar.”

“Who keeps salve in a bottle?” I said, grinning when Git wasn’t looking.

Berkhilda was slumped against me, but she was still moving. Git’s assistant finished mixing her concoction and lifted the dull grey bowl to a perch over a blue flame.

“Shouldn’t you be helping guard the twins, instead of this?”

“I’d love nothing more, but the Twins think that their enemies would try to get to them through me, They want me out of the way until the Doxie’s war is over. They have so many guards that the house is practically a barracks now.”

“Ugly business that,” said Git. “Who would have though prostitutes could be so vicious?”

“I will never ceased to be amazed at the oddities that let fly from your lips Git,” I said, shaking my head.

“What stops one of their rivals from taking a contact out on you?”

“The Obsidian tower is sitting this one out, officially, Even the Thirteen don’t want to risk alienating whoever the next leader of the guild is. I suspect they also don’t want to take sides in what could be a prolonged conflict, either.”

“I don’t know Ragnar, people are grumbling.”

“This is Myrrhn, Git, people are always grumbling about something. The Guild will only intervene if one of the sides stops paying the Nightside Tithe. Anyone who is losing that badly will give up and leave the city, rather than risk that.”

“I suppose. It sounds a lot like the poisoners association to be honest.”

“I thought you didn’t sell poison.”

“I don’t. Mostly. I sell antidotes though — helps to know what people are using to keep my stock prepared.”

I nodded. “We almost done? My friend is heavy in all this armour.”

Git looked over to his assistant who nodded poured the contents into a chilled vial. I could smell blood in the vial, which made sense. What else would you use as a base for a cure for a vampire. Git handed me the vial.

“Berkhilda,” I said — loudly. Her head snapped up, eyes meeting mine. I tried to pour it into her mouth for her, but she took the vial on her own and downed it in a single gulp. Git stepped back.

Berkhilda surged upright, standing on her toes, muscles rigid. Her eyes bulged. Her hand squeezed my pauldron.  All of a sudden, small puffs of smoke came up from her wounds, and then she relaxed.

“… that was rigorous,” said Berkhilde. “I feel ready for battle though, thank you Ragnar’s friend.”

Before Git could answer there was a loud knocking from the door of his shop.

Tuesday Teaser, now on Wednesday!

I had a major deadline to meet yesterday, so I’m a little late…


This is a little scene that I added to my latest book. Zellin is a Sword-Bearer who uses his talents to infiltrate the enemies of Khazak Khrim. Sword-Bearers, for those who have not read my books are dwarves who forge magical blades that house their spirits when they die. They can gradually take over the bodies of anyone who wields them, and created the Vvath Empire partly by gifting these swords to the unwary in the days after the Reckoning.

All of the Sword-Bearers are Giifted (magic-users). Zellin is able to take people over much more swiftly and can cloak his metal self. He is thus a perfect spy in many ways, although his experiences often clash with his faith.

Though the shadows were long, and the moon loomed overhead as Zellin slipped from silk sheets and warm embrace, knife in hand, the city of Spires was wakeful yet. The great coral towers, alive and deadly, stood vigil over the noble houses of Kirif while the waves caressed the beaches and water wound its way through endless canals, caves, and pools between the causeways. In those pools the Fologi roamed and frolicked, fearsome when roused. The Kirifans could almost be forgiven, thinking they were warded from attack.

Zellin was not the name he used among the people of the Spires. To them he was [Pop]shi, a merchant from a small spire, well-travelled and well-liked. In truth his spirit resided in the knife that he bore, one of the fabled blades of Khazak Khrim, and his body was only a husk that he had possessed.

Creeping away from the room, he slipped through the ghostly curtains and onto the wide balcony outside where he paused for a moment, listening to the soft breaths coming from the bed. When he was satisfied that all was well, he moved toward the pack that he had hidden which contained maps and enough supplies to reach the Homeland, all in a cunning cipher. He would climb down to the side of the tower and make his escape by simply walking out of the city; the Kirifans were often abroad at night.

The Sword-Bearer was leaving the city. It was time to return to the hallowed halls of his homeland with the maps and lore that he had gathered. [Pop]shi’s Kirifan lovers were beginning to suspect that he was not well, or perhaps even not himself. Perhaps it was because he did not partake of their debauchery with as much enthusiasm as the real [Pop]shi. Enjoyable as his Kirifan wives were, they were tainted by their sinful desires.

It was a point of contention among them that Zellin shied away from cunalingus. He could barely bring himself to kneel before a woman though; such acts were forbidden by the Forge Father.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Red Fangs 2.27

The Shadow Wolf Sagas are a weekly writing exercise that I engage in because it is fun. The first story arc, Blade Breaker, can be found here. The first story of this arc, Red Fangs, can be found here. The previous week’s post can be found here.


“Let’s see how well you fight, Grimfang,” Berkhilda growled.

My grip shifted on my weapons. I could see no easy escape here and silently cursed myself for not paying the signs of the streets more mind. Ah, well, everything seems like fate in hindsight. Our attackers halted abruptly ten paces from us. Then, with swift precision half of them raised crossbows and fired. Bolts sprang through the air, like black birds in the gaslight.

I flung myself aside, arm up to cover my face. Always wear a helm. Despite my speed I felt several impacts and a sharp pain on one thigh and just below my ribs. Kingsmail is superb at deflecting most attacks, but stilletto heads at ten paces will cut through anything but enchanted plate. Hindsight.

Berkhilda didn’t even duck. By the time I regained my feet she was engaged in a whirling melee, screaming an oath to Furis at the top of her lungs. Our attackers scattered before like lambs before a wolf. She caught one with that axe, a swift lunging stroke, that sent the cloaked figure tumbling to ground in two parts. Her eyes and fangs flashed predatory as the light caressed them.

I got to me feet swinging my hammer into the face of a masked attacker with a satisfying crunch. His long blade clattered to the ground as he fell. Two more approached me, darting in from opposite flanks, I threw my weight at one, pushing him into the stone wall of an ancient villa, and kicked the other in the knee, halting his attack before I brought my hammer down upon his skull.

Then, where there the night had been filled with the sounds of clashing arms and the grunts of fighters, there was only the clatter of footsteps. The would be killer that I held against the wall struggled, but could not break my hold.

“Cowards!” called Berkhilda, as if she could call them back.

The Vampire’s axe was slick with gore, and there were four bodies marking the progress of her charge. Not all of the blood on her armour was from them, however.

“You’ve been wounded, Berkhilda,” I warned her. I could see several of the bolts had found their mark.

“Don’t worry yourself on my account Ragnar, these little scrapes won’t bleed any more unless I want them too,” she said. “Do we know who these fools are?”

“Mercenaries. I recognize the masks, question is who sent them?” I answered. “Does it sound like something Cinder might do?”

“Why don’t you ask this one?” Berkhilda pointed at the mercenary I was holding with her axe, a dangerous gleam in her eye, he went still.

I punched him in the stomach, doubling him over and then stepped back. “If you know anything, you might be able to purchase your life.” I said.

The mercenary looked at Berkhilda and then around for escape, eyes wild beneath the mask. I stepped in and punched him again to get his attention.

“Listen friend, you really don’t have anything to gain by holding back,” I said,

“They don’t tell us who hired us–” he began.

“I know, but they must have given you a description of who to attack. Was it me or her?”

“Both… both of you.”

I looked over at Berkhilda, she had pulled out one of the Bolts and was making a sour face.

“Any special instructions?” I asked.

“Uh… shoot first then close… and they gave us something special to put on the bolts.”

“Do you have any?”


“Find some on your dead mates and I’ll let you live.” I said. “Try to run and my friend will eat you.”

While the mercenary scrambled on the ground. I looked over at Berkhilda. She looked dazed. Obviously whatever had been applied to the bolts was meant to harm her. Twiceborn like myself are quite resistant to poison, which is a rather useful trait in Myrrhn.

“Found it,” The merc held up a steel vial.

“Good,” I said, taking the vial. “Be more selective of your next contract.”

“Thank–” The mercenary began, his sentence ending as I knocked him out with a sharp tap from the haft of my hammer.

I sniffed the vial.

“Wh-what is it?” asked Berkhilda.

“Silver, heartwood, and garlic oil,” I said.

“Vampire’s bane,” she muttered. “Old recipe too. Garlic is anachronistic.”

“Are you able to move Berkhilda?”

“I am fine Ragnar.” she said, but stumbled after a few steps.

I moved forward, letting her lean on me. “I’d rather not report back to your father that I failed to keep you alive. Come we’ll visit an old friend of mine who can get rid of the poison and provide some shelter from daylight.”