Rotblossom Rose (1.20R)

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The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years.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 sound of grunts and the thud of fists pounding into flesh filled the King’s End pub called Rippershead. As always, Rose watched the fighters intently. She had watched the biggest of the two countless times already and could almost read his next move by watching his footwork, eyes, and the movements of his hands. Thus it came as no surprise to her as his feet shuffled a certain way and he feinted left then hit his opponent with a devastating off-hand cross, sending blood and teeth spraying out across the raised fighting platform. The patrons of the Rippershead roared their approval as the massive fighter drove a knee into the gut and groin of his stunned opponent. As the other man bent double from the force of the blow, the big man grabbed him and with a bellow, heaved him above his head and held him there while the people shouted.

“FUCKING KILL THE FUCKER!” shouted a drunken merchant, surging to his feet from his table, a little too close to Rose for her own comfort. She was wearing her half-mask, and most people left her alone for fear of what might be beneath that cold half-face, but you could never tell with drunks.

The drunk was not the only one demanding his dose of brutality, and after a moment of holding his victim in the air, muscles bulging from the effort, the massive fighter slammed him into the platform with crushing force. As the watching patrons cheered and jeered, Rose shook her head. Only a fool would step onto the fighting platform with this beast unprepared.

“Poor fool will be lucky if is able to count to ten after this,” the man who addressed Rose was tall and broad shouldered, with keen eyes and dark salt and pepper hair. He had a weathered look about him, and moved with uncommon grace. He fit the description that the Spider had given her,

“You Geb?” asked Rose.

“I am,” said the man. “You must be Rose. Mind if I sit?”

“Be my guest,” said Rose.

A new set of fighters climbed up onto the bloodstained platform, but Geb kept his eyes on Rose. She could tell that he was trying to make sense of her, the mask, what he could and could not see. At least he wasn’t trying to size her up for a fuck, like most men.

“So your to be our new sniffer?” he asked.

“That’s what the Spider told me.”

“You ever been down into the depths?” asked Geb.

“I learned to find Wraithstone in the Kisavi slave mines,” said Rose. “If we failed to find enough enough of it during the day we went without food. My handler liked to beat us until we coughed blood to make sure we understood. I can find the Wraithstone.”

Geb nodded. “That’s good. Big blooms aren’t as common in The Depths but what we do find is a lot purer and a lot stronger.”

“That won’t be a problem.”

Geb nodded again. “The depths have things that the mines do not.”

“The Warpt?” scoffed Rose. “Am I supposed to be scared?”

“The poor sods you see rotting in the gutter are only a small part of what bleed warp can do to a man,” said Geb, settling back. “The tales you’ve heard about beasts that will rip a man in half, or beings that can kill with a glare down there are true. Their more dangerous to us than the big abominations that sometimes crawl out of The Gash, but they are also the best source of active Wraithstone in all of The Scab. Part of your job is going to be tracking these things. They are dangerous Rose, and I will be counting on you to not only track them, but to think clearly when we encounter them, and not get in our way when we take them down. I know you’ve seen shit, I can grok that, but you have not seen shit like this. Got it?”

Rose nodded. “Only one way to find out, in the end, isn’t there?”

Geb smiled, and nodded back.

<>

 

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Rotblossom Rose (1.19R)

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’s satchel is heavy with banker’s notes and long-form receipts from the Alchemist’s Syndicate as she makes her way through the maze of alleys, called Meryn’s Tangle, looking for the signs of her destination, the entrance to The Spider’s lair.

She walks alone, still bruised and cut from her battle with Cackles, but she has no fear here. Even if someone knew that she carried the notes and a handful of the choicest energized Wraithstone as well, only a fool would attack her now. The Spider is feared, even beyond the Hive, and for good reason. Entire gangs have disappeared in minutes in his territory, never to be seen again.

Meryn’s Tangle is alive with people. Even the most remote of its nonsensical alleys will have people in it. The tenements and shacks are as overcrowded as any in the hive, and many of those who live here are the agents of The Spider. Some of the people in the alleys recognize Rose, and give greeting, a hello or a nod, and today she gives them as much a of a smile as the good half of her face can manage. It is a good day: after all, Cackles is dead.

The Tangle is much older than The Spider, so old that many of its secrets have been forgotten in other power centers in the city.

Rose passes a sleeping beggar with a monstrously swollen arm, one of the Halfwarpt that call the Tangle home. Halfwarpt are feared, for obvious reasons, but The Spider lets them sleep in The Tangle, and protects them. He also makes use of any talents they might gain from the Bleed Warp.

Rose wanders, her eyes open for certain kinds of marks. She sees the first marks at the start of a covered alley where some children are tossing dice for a game of Yactus. The next set of marks appear above a door in a small tavern. She moves through the tavern sees marks on the stairs into the cellar. The bouncer watches her go down, but says nothing. In the cellar Rose spots the familiar trapdoor that will lead her down to the Spider’s lair. She pounds on the door and waits, after a moment it slides open, revealing a set of broad stairs leading down into the earth. Rose descends and trapdoor snaps shut behind her.

<>

The Spider’s underground lair is the most interesting part of Meryn’s tangle. Long before it became a slum, this part of the hive was home to someone who valued their privacy enough to build a spacious underground realm with a hidden doorway that could connect to dozens of places throughout the tangle. It was a marvelous machine, and one that only The Spider truly understood.

He greeted her as she descended into the mail hall. The Spider was alone, As always, Rose felt a shiver of revulsion upon seeing the man. She steeled herself, thinking ‘this man is an ally, trust him’, before meeting his gaze.

“Hello Rose,” said the Spider, weaving his metal strings into strange patterns between his hands, as always. “You’re not hurt too badly, I trust?”

“No,” said Rose.  “Here is the haul.”

She tossed him the satchel. The Spider counted the bank notes and examined the reciepts while she waited. This room was well appointed, with several couches, long tables, and bookcases.

“What of Cackles?”

“Dead. He Warpt on me. I saw some of it and made detailed notes.”

The Spider was fascinated by warping; he always wanted to know everything about the Bleedwarpt that they encountered.

“Fascinating. Did he still recognize you, Rose?”

“I believe so.”

“Oh, I look forward to reading those. Any Wraithstone from him?”

Rose dumped the energized stones out of her small satchel. The Spider bent over to examine them and Rose felt relief that his eyes were not upon her.

“This blue is his?”

“Yes, and the smaller red. The bright green one as well.”

“Of course, of course. How many does that leave on your list.”

“Lawch and his Bleedweaver and… and…”

Rose staggered, looked down and saw the floor rushing up to meet her, and then everything went dark.

<>

 

 

Rotblossom Rose (1.18R)

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 flexed her metal fingers. She could feel through them, not as well as her real hand, of course, but still… it was a marvel, she decided, a gift to herself for a job well done. Grimes, Blackeyes, and Nave were all crossed off her list now, along with Kragorr and her da. She deserved this, and besides she needed the hand to continue along the path of vengeance that would earn her redemption.

As she contemplated the hand, which was animated by the ‘phantom impression of her lost arm’, at least according the artificer who built it, she listened to the rhythmic thumping of two enormous brutes pounding each other with their fists. Every now and then a collective intake of breath of a cheer from the crowd around the ring drew her attention to the fight but tonight she could not concentrate on the match tonight.

Rose’s purse was almost empty now, all save for a small, dull red stone and the bright green stone that she used to ease her pain and stop the rot from claiming any more of her body. It was worrisome. She needed to find work, but her only real skill was coilsword fencing. Even with the new mask that she wore over the rotten half of her face it would be hard to attract students and too public by far.

“Excuse me, do you mind if I join you?” The speaker’s voice was rough and indefinably odd in Rose’s ears. The man himself was worse; Rose was not in a position to judge people based on their appearance by something about the man’s appearance was alien. He was tall and thin with joints that hinted at wrong angles. His eyes were pale green and his smile was devoid of both charm and warmth.

“I do actually,” said Rose, taking an instant dislike to the man.

“Then I will be brief,” said the man, sitting down. He held a series of metal strings in his hands which he wove with his fingers, creating a cascade of of strange patterns that drew her attention. Rose abruptly notice the two very large men lurking nearby; her visitor kept company with thugs. “People in these parts call me The Spider. I make it my business to understand who is buying and selling Wraithstone in this part of The Hive.”

“Well fuck off then, I am not doing either.” said Rose, her skin crawling just to look at the man. Something about him just repulsed her, and yet she could not come up with any reason why she should react to him that way. Later on she learned that The Spider had that effect on everyone he met.

“Ah, but you have been selling,” said The Spider. “And I think you have a good eye for Wraithstone. To cut to the quick, I want to train you as a sniffer, a finder of Wraithstone. Bleed diving is tough work, but it is very profitable if you are careful and smart. Come and visit me by Ten Dragon Fountain if you are interested in a job.”

And with that, he got up and left. It took Rose a few moments to get over The Spider’s strange, aberrant presence and the disgust the felt toward the man. She left hurriedly after that, feeling compromised, but no new dangers awaited her.

In the end, after learning that The Spider was, in truth, a strong presence in the Wraithstone trade, Rose decided to join him.

<>

Rotblossom Rose (1.17R)

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-thing-that-was-Cackles charges headlong at Rose, his tentacle arm snapping like a whip. Though his movements are ungainly he shifts across the chamber with frenetic speed. The demonic grin and malicious chuckling seems to proceed the undulating mass of his warping flesh. Rose is spellbound, watching the warping of her old enemy’s flesh while her instincts scream at her to move.

It is rare to see such warping. Bleedwarping is a constant danger in the depths, but so much, so quickly is the stuff of tall tales told among Bleever’s around the fire. Even one as experienced as Rose has only seen such a thing once or twice, and only then catalyzed by Wraithstone exposure instead of death. She has heard of death bringing on warping, everyone has, and like every good Bleever she knows the theory of it; but to see Wraithstone warping in action, in all its undulating strangeness, mesmerizes her

Cackles form seems to shift and remold itself as he runs at her. That hideous tooth filled grin widens until his jaws could engulf a wine-barrel. His legs flow and change, the joints bending at awkward, yet effective angles. And all the while he cackles.

The thought of that laughter breaks through to Rose. She flexes her metal arm, just so, injecting herself with a dose of the blue, chased by a double dose of the red. Blue calm sharpens her focus, serving her well as The-thing-that-was-Cackles whips his tentacle limb toward her. Rose anticipates the trajectory off that undulating limb and slips to one side. Then the red starts to work, filling her with energy and strength.

The tentacles whips along the ground after her, but Rose runs toward the wall and half jumps, half runs three steps up vertical surface before pushing off, turning in the air, jabbing Cackles with the needle spear. The tip lances into The-thing-that-was Cackles who jerks as the hollow tip sucks blood out of the wound. Rose ducks another crack of the tentacle arm, veers away from the monstrous mouth, and then pulls the spear out of the wound, kicking Cackles in the leg to slow him down before she darts away again.

Cackles laughs his sickening laugh and Rose notices that the flesh of his other arm has grown over the handle of his knife, as if trying to incorporate the weapon into its form.

As she sees this, Rose feels a tug on her leg and then she stumbles as Cackles grabs her foot with his tentacle arm. Rose jabs the tentacle with the spear, but the thick, rubbery mass is hardly damaged. Cackles knife hand stabs at her and that horrible mouth with its yawning, mad smile draws close.

Rose twists out of the way of the knife, feeling chips of stone bounce off her mask as the blade impacts the ground. The mouth looms closer and so she twists and shoves the needle spear into that vast gullet with all of her wraithstone fueled strength, The cackling stops, replaced by a gurgling sound, and Cackles veers back pulling the spear from her grasp.

Rose gets to her feet, scrambles across the rocks and dirt to the nearest weapon that she can see: an old pickaxe. She smiles as she feels the weight and sees that it still has an edge. She feels the tentacle groping around her leg, turns and brings the weapon down. The flat blade of the pickaxe cuts deep into the tentacle arm, taking out a chunk. The knife hand flashed forward and Rose lets go of the axe, dodges back, sidesteps the next attack, and yanks the pickaxe out of the ground. Her momentum carries her behind The-thing-that-was-Cackles and she swings the pickaxe into his misshapen head before he can turn.

The pick penetrates with a satisfying ‘thunk’ through flesh and bone and into brain. Cackles spasms, falls, and begins to flail. The spear remains in his mouth while the pick stays in the back of his skull.

Rose goes back to the supplies. This time her hands fall on a nice hackblade. She turns back to Cackles, still struggling to rise, and smiles.

<>

After she hacks Cackles to chunks, Rose checks the remains for Wraithstone. She finds a Red crystal the size of a thimble and a much smaller back stone; not bad for a Bleedwarpt that had not fully matured. Then she throws the remains into the cesspit, where Cackles belongs, After that, Rose waits for the lift.

<>

Rotblossom Rose (1.16R)

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.

<>

For a week after killing Grime Downbridge, Rose felt good. In fact she felt better than she had almost any time since before, save the day that she had slit Kragorr throat and escape the slave mines.

Kragorr was a more formidable foe, but with Grime she had been able to savour the look on his face as she stuck him in the groin and slit him open. Even thinking of it brought a smile to her face, at least the parts that could still move.

Smiling, however, reminded her of a different predicament. A woman with a face half-eaten by the Rot was quite distinctive, even in a part of The Scab where people were frequently afflicted with diseases and various type of Bleedwarp. A hood was a fine way to hide it most of the time, but she needed something else for occasions when she had to show her face.

A mask?

Yes.

<>

Ten days after she killed Downbridge, Rose was sketching masks, while sipping tea in her hideout. She found it hard to grip the paper with the iron hook or pick that she wore on the stump of her arm, but she was acclimatizing.

She was considering the idea of a new hand, one made of metal and powered by wraithstone, when a sound outside her door caused her to take pause. No one came to this tiny room in a forgotten corner of a run-down inn; even the owner of the building had been given strict instructions to leave her alone.

This is what I get for paying in advance… Rose thought as she stared at the door latch, turning ever so slowly. Was it locked? The latch stopped, jiggled, and stopped again, then silence.

Rose unsheathed her knife and slid to the wall beside the door as quietly as she could, readying herself to strike anyone who came through. There was no sound. But she also did not hear any bootfalls that would indicate whoever it was had left.

She was just beginning to wonder, when she heard a scuffle and then something hit the door, tearing it off it’s hinges. A big man walked into the room, a vicious looking hackblade in his hand. He cast about, looking for his prey.

The big man never saw Rose coming. She sprang into motion, driving her own blade into his kidney from behind. The man buckled, falling to the ground. He tried to struggled and Rose saw his face clearly. Their eyes met. What was he doing here?

The man was Nave Au’Sixthstreet, one of Lawch’s boys.

Rose was staring at the dying man’s face, dumfounded, when his partner slammed into her, bearing her to the ground.

“Sodding cunt, I’ll gut ya,” screamed a smaller man with weird irises, like looking at a starlight sky. She recognized this one too, called Blackeyes; another of Lawch’s mongrels.

Blackeyes slammed her head into the ground. Rose’s vision blurred and she felt the strength flow from her. Blackeyes raised his knife and brought it down. The pain of the blade puncturing her shoulder woke Rose from her torpor. She screamed and started to thrash.

“Shut up, shut up, shut up,” snarled Blackeyes, raising his blade again. Before he could bring it down this time, Rose swung her hook-hand, snagging the knee that was crushing her chest, dragging the sharp point in and under the cap.

Blackeyes wailed, trying to pull away. That only cause him more pain. He then remembered that he had a knife and tried to stab her frothing, screaming. He was bigger and stronger, but Rose kept knocking his blade off course. She yanked hard on the knee and the hook came free. Blackeyes fell back from her and Rose was free. She was on her feet and had Nave Au’Sixthstreet’s hackblade in her hand before Blackeyes began to move. By then, it was too late for him. He was bigger and stronger, but she was standing.

“You bitch, your going to– AARGH!”

Rose swung the Hackblade down, half severing Blackeyes hand at the wrist. He dropped his knife. Rose kicked him in the mouth with her big black boots, sending him sprawling.

“Look at me, Blackeyes,” said Rose. “Do you remember me?”

She waited for a glimmer of recognition in his eyes.

“You’re… you’re…”

The hackblade rose and fell, cleaving into Blackeye’s skull, neck, and shoulder. It was a messy weapon, but effective. When she was done, she turned to Nave.

He was breathing, but appeared to be paralyzed. His eyes rolled wildly and his mouth twitched as she approached. Like Grime, Nave and Blackeyes were the least of Lawch’s band, but Rose still hated them to the depths of her soul.

She sat on Nave’s back and whispered in his ear “Do you remember when you had me like this? What you did to me? Die.”

And she slit his throat.

Then Rose fumbled in her stones, taking the bright green one and touching it to her wounded shoulder. It helped a little.

When she was ready, she gathered her belongings and left the little room and never came back.

<>

She learned later on that Grime, Nave, and Blackeyes all worked together.

After that she was more careful to hide her identity. She bought two masks, one a plain half mask of a lady’s face, the other a full mask in the shape of a skull. She wore the second when hunting.

<>

Nave Au’Sixthstreet

Blackeyes

<>

Rotblossom Rose (1.15R)

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’s metal fingers furrow the rock and dirt as she is dragged, struggling toward the cesspool. Must be a roper, she thinks, as she reaches for her the blade that she has dropped. Just as she is about to be pulled past, she stretches to her limit and the tip of her fingers touch the blade. Then she hears laughter.

This is not the first time that Rose has killed a man only to have him warp back to life, but the sound of Cackles laughter chills her to the bone. The shock unnerves her and she fumbles the blade only to be yanked away before she can grab at it again.

Rose knows that if she is dragged into the pool of shit and refuse by Bleedwarpt Cackles that she will die. The grip of his single tentacle is monstrous strong, She looks around, hoping for something, anything that can use to loosen that hold.

She sees nothing. All of her tools are in the corner of the room, save that one blade which is out of reach; it may as well be in Avalain. She heaves and strains, but her cackling, gibbering assailant pulls her back toward the pit despite her struggles. She dares not look at Bleedwarpt Cackles.

Then her boots are splashing, kicking in the thick muck, Renewed fear surges through her and she pulls, inching out of the offal. But her enemy is not to be denied and it yanks on her. Rose can feel her mechanical arm separating from her shoulder. She does not want to die like this, not yet, not so far from the light.

Light,

The Lantern!

Rose snatches the lantern and rolls over just as the thing-that-was-Cackles yanks her again. This time it drags her halfway into the shit.

“Fucking die, Cackles!” Rose snarls and throws the lantern at his half-seen head. The lantern is a quality item, but Rose throws with desperate strength. She hears the reinforced glass shatter against the Bleedwarpt’s head, and then fire spills all over it, lighting the little room. The cackling stops, replaced by an awful scream, and Rose feels the grip on her ankle slacken, she digs her hand into the rock and heaves herself out of the muck, stumbling, then running into the next room.

The screaming stops and the light in the cesspit alcove disappears.

“Shit, shit, shit!” She realized that she’s left her hear in the room.

Rose runs to the supplies and grabs a needle spear. It is not the deadliest of weapons, but it has the advantage of reach. What she wouldn’t give for her Coilsword right now.

A familiar cackle sounds from the alcove, grating up and down Rose’s spine. She turns and faces that slice of darkness, spear in hand. The cackle sounds again, fuller and more malignant than ever. Something moved in the dark, just beyond her sight. Rose snarled, stilling herself.

The first thing she saw of him was the teeth, wide and flat, drawn up in a hideous smile too big for the doorway. From behind those wide, monstrous teeth came that haunting, horrible cackle. The mouth that emerged from the dark was far too broad for the head that followed, a tapered asymmetrical skull that was shaped as if he was wearing a floppy woolen cap. And above that impossible grin hung two black orbs full of hate.

“Quite an improvement, Cackles,” snarled Rose.

Bleedwarpt cackles was long and lean, with joins that bent in unnatural places. His left arm was a thick tentacle. His other was a human hand, clutching Cackles favourite knife, gleaming hungrily in the light.

Their eyes met, and for a moment, neither moved. Then Bleedwarpt Cackled began to laugh, a mad sound that clawed at the edges of Rose’s courage, and then he began to run at her.

 

 

Rotblossom Rose (1.14R)

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.

<>

Discovering that the old bastard was dead had left Rose despondent for days. The act of slashing his nameplate at the crematorium was defiant, but ultimately unsatisfying compared to the visceral sense of satisfaction that she had experienced when she had slashed Kraggor’s open and watched him die.

That act had been the only time that she had truly felt alive, happy? …no, content, since before.

Rose could not sleep, eating was a joyless chore, half of her was dead and without Wraithstone the rot would consume the rest. Death would be a blessing, and end to this, but it was one that she did not deserve.

<>

Lawch was had been easy enough to find, secure in the Bedrock Wards, but he was beyond Rose’s reach. She could have confront him directly, but Lawch was no softborn despite his place of birth. He moved like a striking serpent, and had bested her easily on that day. The old Rose would have said that it was his men that made the difference, but now she knew that it was him. There was something in Lawch that made him fast, deadly, and ruthless, a kind of clarity that she was only beginning to understand herself.

Besides, it was best to save him for last. It would be wrong somehow to cross Lawch’s name off first and end with say, Blackeyes or Stinknob. There was a symmetry to vengeance she supposed.

<>

In the hive they hadthese wonderful street carts, called Tapwagons, that soldalcohol at every time of day. Rose was sitting down near her favourite of these carts, taking the edge off another fruitless day with a bottle Aspith when she encountered the first name that she would cross off her list.

Aspith is a strong liquor, brewed with herbs and moss that were local to The Scab. It was strong enough to numb even Rose, but the same could be said for many Tapwagon favourites. It was thick and dark green, and she was told that it smelled like a cave, or something like that… What Rose liked best about Aspith was that aach taste was different, and it struck her as the perfect drink for a person who wanted to be alone with her thoughts. But, some people have different ideas….

“Oi, bleeder, give us that.”

Aspith was also quite expensive.

“Leave her alone, Grime,” warned the Tapwagon owner.

“Sod off Gragon, if you know what’s good.”

The name Grime was not an uncommon one in The Scab, and yet while the man in question snarled at the Tapwagon owner, Rose snapped into focus. One of Lawch’s band had born the name Grime.

“Come on, Grime, she’s a good customer. Leave her be an I’ll give you a bottle, on the house.”

“No. I wan’t this one. Now fuck off. I won’t ask again.”

Tapwagon owners were a tough lot, for obvious reasons, but Gragon hesitated. He was bigger than Grime, and younger, but he seemed afraid of the man for some reason. A shiver ran down Rose’s spine.

“Its alright, Gragon,” Rose rasped.

The tapwagon owner hesitated, and then pulled his cart away. Grime chuckled, turning to face Rose. Instantly, she recognized him as one of Lawch’s men. It was hard for her to forget them, even the least of them. She remembered seeing his face as she was pinned to the ground watching her husband and son die. She also remembered him from the rape that followed.

“Grime Downbridge?”

“Aye. I’ll take that bottle… by the depths, your an ugly one…”

Rose laughed.

Grime’s face twisted in disgust and he reached for the long-bladed knife that was sheathed at his waist. Most people, when confronted with a person who values life so little that they would stab someone because that person offends their eyes might hesitate. Rose did not.

As Grime Downbridge’s hand found the well-worn handle of his knife, Rose planted her blade just above his groin and stood, using the momentum to push the blade up into him. Hot blood spilled down her hands and Grime grunted and backed away, trying to contain his wound, not quite able to grasp his sudden demise.

“Who…?” he gasped as she came face to face with him.

“You helped kill my family two years ago on the road to Avalain.”

With a surge of strength, Grime pushed past her, but he was to wounded and stumbled as he tried to run. Rose caught him from behind, knocking him to the ground. She grasped his greasy hair and whispered in his ear.

“Should I rape you, now, Grime? I don’t have a cock, but I’m sure this blade will penetrate.”

Grime gurgled blood, struggling weakly. He was more or less dead, Rose realized; she’d done him quick. She drove her blade into the back of his neck to make sure, and then got up and left.

She was so elated that it took her two blocks to realize that she was covered in blood and leaving a trail that any fool could follow. She washed in drain-barrel and took a circuitous route back to her hideout. There, she reverently took out her list of names and slowly crossed one off.

Grime Downbridge

It felt wonderful, and she slept well that night, unbothered by her ghosts.