Rotblossom Rose (1.41R)

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The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years.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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Lawch is exactly as Rose remembers. Blue eyes like chipped ice, lean face with a square jaw and high cheekbones, framed by curled blond hair. He has the kind of mouth that the romancers wax poetic about, expressive, sensual, and above all, cruel. He is well dressed and carried a sword and dagger on his belt.

He strolls into the pub with the easy confidence of a man whose conscience has never been troubled and who has never been given cause to doubt his own abilities. His eyes rove the room, both in greeting and in challenge, as various well-wishers and sycophants in call out his name in greeting.

His eyes stop briefly as they meet her’s. Rose meets his gaze, making no attempt to hide. There are two women with them, young, immaculately coiffed, and dressed to draw the envy of men. Neither of them is the sorceress, the eater of Wraithbone, the person who Rose most fears at this moment. The Spider was right about that; hopefully he was also correct in predicting that Lawch would not be cautious enough to retreat and call upon his most dangerous living ally.

The thought of the sorceress brought a thrill of fear. Those who could consume Wraithstone and perform magic with its energy were unpredictable in power, but always dangerous.

Lawch did not leave. Instead, he turned to his companions and spoke. They floated away while he walked directly to Roses’s table and sat down across from her. Halfway to her he broke into the kind of smile one reserves for an old friend. Rose felt calm descend on her as she saw this; he did not want to make a scene in front of his peers, nor was he afraid of the obvious trap.

“I must admit, Oliffer did a superb job with you, darling,” he said as he settled into the chair. Oliffer was The Spider’s real name. “It will be interesting to see if his mental conditioning lives up to the promise of that beautiful exterior.”

“I have no idea what the fuck you are going on about, Lawch,” said Rose. Conditioning? did he think she was some kind of fake?

“It was years ago, but she didn’t talk like gutter trash from the low wards,” sneered Lawch. “What is this? do you know what someone like me does to people who cross them?”

“I remember perfectly,” responds Rose. Her good hand twitches, wanting to grasp the hilt of her coilsword and shove the blade down the bastards throat and then watch it tear him apart. “You and your band killed my family, Lawch. You made the mistake of letting me live. Now I’m here to give the Depths their due.”

Lawch threw his head back and laughed. “By the Wound, that’s pathetic. Looks like old Oliffer is slipping. I might leave enough of you alive to convey that to him.”

“You think I’m an imposter.”

He took a swig of wine, Red and expensive. “Yes. We left the Redshire girls alive, its true, but they died in the slave mines. The young one killed herself when she got tired of being used by the men there; her mother died in a cave-in. I have seen the death logs. I went and looked after the first time your boss pulled this little trick.”

Rose stared. First time?

Lawch laughed. “The Spider has a peculiar sense of humour. He thinks that sending whores and addicts that he has bodysculpted and hypnotized into thinking that they are Rosaline Redshire, a woman he and I were hired to kill twenty years ago. He is using you to remind me of a debt he thinks that I owe him, or something like that. I used to be bothered by it, but now I just look forward to coming up with interesting ways of hurting his messengers. I’m thinking of skinning you alive, what do you have to say to that?”

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Release Schedule Update & Teaser

I am pushing the release date of my next book, Bloodlust: Iron Faction to the end of July, mostly because my next child is due to be born in the week that I originally planned to release the book (16-20th). As important as the book is, being there with my wife in the hospital for the birth of our child obviously takes precedence.

It also gives me more time to get my butt in gear for marketing, so without further ado, here is a teaser from Bloodlust: Iron Faction.

The speaker’s voice rose, getting louder.

“Hate is the heaviest of burdens because the lie of tolerance forces us to hide it. Instead of spitting on the Minotaur and the Quickling, we are forced to share our streets and our women with them. Is that what you want for your wives and daughters? I know I don’t.”

The crowd shouted back now animated and angry. Some of them laughed at his disgusted expression, but it was not joyous.

“These ‘wise’ men have their noses buried so far in their books that they do not see the truth that is plain to you and me. Our great society is infested with parasites. We are told to tolerate the Gifted as they practice the very powers that will doom us all. We are told to tolerate the unnatural created races while they eat all our food, take all our jobs, and bring crime to our communities. We are told that our hate is wrong.”

The crowd roiled and seethed, as if burned by their own anger.

Rotblossom Rose (1.40R)

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 heard a shuffle, muted, distant and saw one of the outer camp wards flicker in warning.  Her hands went to the hackblade leaning beside her, and she tensed, waiting. Most creatures were driven off by the wards Geb said, but Rose was not willing to trust them completely. She never was.

She was standing watch on the second day of waiting for the lift after the encounter with the Rockwyrm. Most of the Scabbers were sleeping, all save herself and Jack Rumbarrel who were on watch and Scarab who was too paranoid to sleep.

“Something followed us here,” said Scarab, cradling his weapon and peering out from the firelight.

“Just what we need now… some kind’o creeper,” grumbled Jack, peering into the dark beyond the light. This camp was more expansive, but there was only once entrance to cover. Two good fighters could hold off an army here.

“How do you know?” Rose asked Scarab.

“Just a feelin’, Rotblossom,” said Scarab. “There’s always things out there, just beyond the light. Some of them have never seen the sun. That Rockwyrm would have eaten us all if the torchies hadn’t blinded it, but it was a dumb brute. Some of those that live in the dark are smarter than us, and far more patient than a deep wolf, or a Rockwyrm.”

“My money’s on a wrongblood,” said Rumbarrel. “Something that has been warpt by the Bleed, maybe even a former scabber. There the most dangerous. They still know all our tricks, understand how we think and how to get to us.”

“Sod that,” muttered Scarab. “If they understood my thinking, they’d never have succumbed to the bleed in the first place.”

The ward was no longer flickering. Rose was about to respond when she saw a shadow pass in front of the light from the ward. Her hackblade sprang to her hands and she shifted to strike anything that might pass through the entrance. Both men shifted; they’d seen it too.

“Fuck Spider for not using a base camp with a bloody door,” muttered Scarab. “Cheap bastard.”

“Shhh,” shushed Jack Rumbarrel.

A faint scuffle, came from the cave beyond the entrance to their camp. The three of them remained, poised on the edge of action. Rose felt her heart pounding. The she heard the sound again, a clicking, claws on rock she imagined. It was closer this time.

Jack Rumbarrel hefted a one handed spike-driver, a bizarre looking but deadly weapon, and a round shield. Their eyes met.

Something moved at the entrance.

Scarab was the first to act, firing his crossbow from a perch further back in the camp. The twang of the string rang out, followed by a thud and a grunt. The shadowy form at the entrance fell away.

“Haha!” exclaimed Jack, springing toward the fallen foe, spike driver poised to strike.

“Don’t!” came Geb’s warning shout as Jack passed through the entrance.

Rose was moving to follow Jack. The big man took up most of the entrance but she saw claws or jaws close around his head. There was an awful crunching sound and Jack’s body jerked. The spike driver fell to the ground.

Rose grabbed Jack’s belt and pulled with all of her might. Scarab fired again. The rest of the camp surged to wakefulness behind them.

The pressure on Jack’s body suddenly gave way, and Rose tumbled back. The big man fell. Blood splashed into the entrance from the stump of his neck. Rose rolled back and scrambled behind a well-worn rock that provided protection, hackblade raised to ward off an attack.

Scarab fired again as the rest of the team moved into defensive positions. Rose peered out into the dark beyond the entrance. She saw nothing. She heard no more scuffling.

“Was that a fisher?” she heard someone ask. “Was that a fucking fisher?”

They watched the entrance until the lift arrived, hours later. No one slept. Geb looked utterly defeated as they passed out of the depths into the city above.m Rose could see then that he took every death on him.

“You warned him, Geb,” she said.

He nodded and looked back down at the depths, brow furrowed. They had made a fortune, far more than expected, but he was thinking of the cost.

The Spider, on the other hand, did not care who had died and was very pleased at their take.

 

Rotblossom Rose (1.39R)

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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For once Rose feels more disgusted by someone else in the same room as The Spider. This blonde, blue eyed stranger with her highborn cheekbones and smooth, unblemished skin. This is the woman who is most responsible for that day. She meets Rose’s gaze unflinchingly, staring back from the polished surface of the mirror.

“Was it worth the pain?” asks The Spider.

Drinking a full bottle of The Clear, along with The Spider using the Green Wraithstone that she liberated from the Kisvavi, has healed Rose’s ravaged body. Not just healed… she is young again. It was a painful process, but he underestimated Rose’s tolerance. She lived with crippling pain every day as The Rot consumed her body, suspended only by regular doses of The Green.

“It will be worth it when I kill Lawch and his bitch,” responds Rose, still staring at herself in the mirror. She hates her old face, wants to spit, or break the mirror.

The Spider laughs. It is a jarring sound devoid of warmth. Rose rolls her eyes.

“Lawch will not have forgotten this face,” he says. “It will be key in luring him into our trap.”

“This plan of your involves an awful lot of risk on my part–” begins Rose.

“–and none on mine,” answers The Spider, licking his too-full, too-red lips. “Yes, it is quite a good plan. Did you expect anything else, Rotblossom?”

“No.”

“I would actually miss you if he killed you, you know,” he continues. “You are one of the best Sniffers in The Scab, Rose. Even now, after so many years. I’ve taken good care of you.”

Rose raises an eyebrow.  The elegant face in the mirror seems to amplify the gesture with her prefect brows. This causes Rose to frown, which feels odd to her.

“What the fuck did you do with my mouth?”

“Your teeth have grown back. I had to break and reset your jaw a few times while it was healing. I’m surprised you did not complain more.”

Rose opens her mouth, examines the white, perfect teeth within. This makes her think of Cackles, which improves her mood a little.

“Alright, your malevolence,” she says, using a moniker she knows he loves. “Tell me, how are we going to bait this trap of yours?”

<>

With a pretty face and a lithe figure, Rose finds it shockingly easy to make her way into The Bedrock wards. Even the brutish men at arms who guard the approach to the ward in which Lawch resides are exceedingly polite as she passes them, at least to her face. Their lingering gaze is uncomfortable, a reminder of the cruelty of some men. It also reminds her of how long it has been since she has been with the better kind of man, how she longs for sex, kissing, even a caress.

She wonders what Geb would think of her new look.

Then, with a snarl she dismisses those thoughts. That was the kind of thing the girl with the little shop on the road to Avalaine spent her time thinking.

Rose made her way to The Surly Scabber, a pub which The Spider said that Lawch frequented almost every day. It was dark and quiet, and smelled of wood, brass, and wine.

She could smell.

She sat down and enjoyed a drink.

It did not take him long to find her.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.38R)

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.

<>

“I hear them,” said Scarab. “Let’s move.”

Deep wolves. As if anyone in The Scab even knew what a wolf looked like. She could hear their rumbling howls though. They smelled blood.

“He’s right, Rose,” said Geb. “Wraithbone won’t matter if we’re dead. Worse than them will come for a meal like this.”

“Fine, fuck it,” said Rose. “We have enough.”

Two bags full. With three of them cutting and Rose directing them, their take is impressive. The Rockwyrm yields excellent grade crystals, slightly energized red and green.

“Only seen two of those bastards up this far before,” says Miriam to Rose, strangely conversational, as they leave the great corpse behind.

Aside from Ferret, whom Rose saw crushed by the beast, it swallowed Darling the Mender and Jim Lowrock, one of the torchbearers. Rose can barely picture either of them, Darling with strong hands and kind eyes, Jim with an easy smile when he talked to Harmony, but she can see the loss weighing upon the others. Geb, especially, took it hard; she could see it in the set of his shoulders, tense and hunched.

They quickly left the Rockwyrm behind, pausing only to wash the blood from their clothes in an underground stream before marching toward a nearby camp.

“How quickly can we get out of here?” she asked Miriam.

“It’s not that simple, Rose,” said Miriam. “The Lifts only descend at the agreed upon times. Negotiating an emergency lift is dangerous and expensive. Also there is the increased likelihood of running into other Scabbers, which we do not want.”

Rose understood that part; they were carrying a fortune in Wraithbone and obviously down several hands. They would make a tempting target to a fresh crew with flexible morals. Down here there would be no consequences to such an action.

The marched hard for the next three hours, reaching a camp built in a ruined hall. Geb scouted it to make certain it was unoccupied and then they unburdened themselves. Once the camp was secure, Rose passed out immediately, sleeping without dreams.

<>

Breakfast was hard tack and soup made from powder mixed with water from a small stream nearby. Water abounded in the depths.

Rose ate ravenously, noticing that most of her companions lacked any gusto. She hoped none of the blamed her.

“Right,” said Geb. “Let’s have it out. We lost good people back there. Ferret, Jim Lowrock… Darling. Say what you need to say.”

“I’ll miss Darling,” said Scarab. “That girl patched me up more times than I can count. She was a generous soul. Never understood why she chose to come down here with the rest of us… I should’ve asked her.”

“Ferret was the finest scout I’ve worked with,” said Miriam. “Sad that his first mistake was his last?”

“Mistake?” asked Rose, almost offended.

“Aye,” said Jack Rumbarrel. “Do you not remember the smell of the Rockwyrm? that should have warned him.”

“I have no sense of smell,” answered Rose.

“He just didn’t expect to see one up here,” said Geb. “I still don’t believe it.”

“We’ve made our quota and more, I say we head back to lift and wait it out,” said Miriam.

“Anyone disagree?” asked Geb.

No one did.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.37R)

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 meets The Spider in his lair to hand off the green Wraithbone that she stole from the Kisvavi slave lord. She represses the urge to grimace and look away as he examines the stone with an expert eye, making little clicking noises and taking as long as possible. He always does this with Wraithstone, she is familiar with it from all of the business they’ve done over the years. If he notices her revulsion, he does not take note.

There is something monstrous about The Spider, but Rose has never met anyone who can quite describe why they find him so unsettling. Physically, his cadaverously thin body and eerily symmetrical face are nothing compared to the horrors of her own ravaged body and yet people who find Rotblossom acceptable are still repulsed by The Spider. Even Scarab treats the man like sour milk.

It is not the smell, nor the way he talks, but rather something about his mannerisms that hint at what lies beneath the surface.  It is hinted at in the the way he is always weaving a brace of garrotes like a web in his fingers, in his half-lidded, dead-eyed gaze, and in the knowledge of what he has done to gain his pre-eminent position within the hive.

The Spider is a monster; the kind of person who has engaged in the most disgusting and decadent of acts just to say that he has experienced them.

But Rose trusts The Spider completely because they both want Lawch dead. Without him she has little chance to get to the man who presided over the death of her family and even less chance to overcome the sorceress that guards him.

He continues to examine the stone until Rose is certain that he is about to complain, then nods and sighs.

“Excellent grade for our purposes. Not too pure to be rendered, but pure enough to hold a lot of strong bleed. The measure is really impressive, at least a seventeen. The Kisvavi must be livid.”

Rose does not ask how he knows. The Spider had ears everywhere, even in the Bedrock Wards.

“It was faster than scabbing,” she responds.

“But also less profitable and more dangerous,” answers The Spider. “We both know why you went after The Kisvavi. The escaped slave was a nice touch. They will think that he was the killer, at least until they think to track down the guards that saw you leave.”

“They will be out of the city by then,” retorts Rose.

The Spider looks up. His pale eyes meet hers and she suppresses a shiver.

“No one ever really escapes The Scab, Rose. You of all people should know that.”

Memory pushes on Rose. She wills it aside and changes the topic.

“What next?”

The Spider smiles. His teeth are unnaturally perfect, and the gesture is as devoid of pleasantry as a Rockwyrm opening its maw to bite you in half.

“Well Rose, we can’t have you visiting, our old friend Lawch looking like that. He’ll smell you a thousand paces out… no, that look won’t do, its time for a disguise.”

A he pulled out a vial of clear, refined Wraithstone essence. THE CLEAR. The most valuable substance known in The Scab and handed it to Rose.

“This is going to hurt, I’m afraid,” said The Spider, grinning and fingering the green Wraithstone. “Drink up.”

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Rotblossom Rose (1.36R)

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 stumbled down the tunnel after the Rockwyrm. She was drenched in Ferret’s blood and felt winded from being squashed inside the alcove with the dying scout. All of her digits worked, and aside from balance she seemed to be moving fine.

Ahead she heard shouts and saw flashes of light. In one hand she held the bloody hackblade that she had taken to the Rockwyrm, in the other the one of the lightsticks from her pack.

“What I wouldn’t give for a Coilsword,” she muttered.

The darkness loomed around her, and Rose realized that she had ventured into a room. A point of light outside of the soft radius of her light  resolved into an ember; one of the larger lights used by her group lay crushed on the ground next to a boot with the bloody stump of a leg sticking out of it.

“Fuck,” said Rose. If the rest of the Scabbers died she doubted that she would be able to get out of the depths; she was just too new at this.

“So what are you going to do about it Rotblossom?” she asked. She ignore the broken body and hurried toward the sounds of fighting. The only care she took was to avoid blundering into a pit or tripping over the uneven ground.

She saw dancing lights, heard the sound of something huge moving and shouted orders. Was that Geb, handsome reliable Geb, still alive?

Rose sped up, slipped in some gore, and then skidded several bodylengths frantically trying to stop herself. She saw dancing lights on an ancient stone wall opposite her, realized that she was in another large room, and then she saw the Rockwyrm.

It was huge and covered in segmented plates. Geb was in its mouth.

“Get down!” said a voice from beside her. Scarab.

As Rose stared she realized that Geb had wedged his shield in the Rockwyrm’s mouth. The Wyrm was shaking its maw back and forth, trying to tear a chunk out of its prey, too stupid to realize that what it was biting would not be dislodged that way. Geb was tossed about like a toy in a dog’s mouth, but he held on, his boots braced in the beast’s bloody maw.

“Rose, Get down!” Scarab again.

Rose ignore him and ran forward, moving toward the Wyrm and Geb. Something whooshed past her shoulder in the dark and then the Worm’s side seemed to pucker and burst. She was showered in gore. The beast thrashed, dropping Geb. Jack Rumbarrel ran out of the dark, hacking the beast with his axe. Rose close the last few strides and brought her hackblade down, trying to cleave into it, dig deep and hit something vital. The Rockworm thrashed, then rolled toward them. Jack gave a shout and backed away swiftly, but Rose was too slow. The bulk of it threatened to crush her.

Spurred by the thought of what happened to Ferret, Rose jumped up, stabbing her hackblade into the side of the Rockwyrm. This gain her enough purchase to pull herself up and over as it rolled. The world titled, Rose scrambled, and then her feet found solid rock and she pulled the blade out and rolled away. She shoulder struck an outcropping, hard, but she avoided being crushed.

She came up to see that part of the Rockwyrm was now on fire. It thrashed, bleeding from a half dozen gaping wounds. At its head, Geb moved in with grim intent, his shield held high and a long-vicious looking blade in his hand. The Rockwyrm seemed to give a sigh as he closed, too injured to want to live. Then Geb struck, driving the blade deep into the head above the maw. The beast convulsed and then it was no more.

Rose picked up the hackblade and began to dig for the Wraithbone she could sense from withing.

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