The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.26

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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“Are you certain you want to face Ulfgorr in one on one combat Ragnar?” asked Vethri, looking me in the eye. “I know that it is the honourable thing to do, but from what you have told us about him, it seems like it will be tough to win.”

“That is putting it diplomatically. Ulfgorr will likely paint the challenge ring with my blood.”

“Then why do it?” asked Carmen.

“Its a Nordan thing,” responded Eiskra. “The nobles are big on honour and single combat, even the women.”

“Without honour I will never be free to return to Nordan lands.”

“It seems like a foolish thing to throw away your life for, Ragnar,” said Carmen. “I know you love your homeland, but even without it, you still have a good thing going here. I envy you.”

“Do you really Carmen?”

I was a little wroth, but she did not seem to care. “Do you think that I would have fallen prey to someone like Sildus if I had friends like yours, Ragnar? The Nightblades recruit ‘most of us from pickpocket gangs and the like in the run down parts of the city. I don’t ‘have very many good memories of my youth; just little victories like getting enough to eat or finding a warm place to sleep when it got cold. I used to think that I was special, just to have escaped that, but now I know better. You have so much more than I do in that regard.”

I nodded. “What you say is true: I have always been fortunate to find myself in good company. But I cannot shirk this fight. Ulfgorr will not stop until one of us is dead. Fighting him in the challenge ring ensures a fair fight, and a chance to regain my honour. I cannot pass it up.”

“Fine,” said Carmen. “What are the rules of this fight? how can we help you win?”

The rules are simple. We both enter the challenge ring. We fight until one of us is dead. No one outside the challenge ring can help.”

“Can I poison your weapons?”

“That would be dishonourable.”

“Can we spend a small fortune on an enchanted blade?” asked Vethri.

“We could, If we had time. It is not exactly sporting, but then again Ulfgorr is a wolf-changing berserk. Sadly, there are no smiths that I know if in this town who could produce a better blade than I have now in the time before the fight.”

“I’ll see if I can get Git to make something useful for you with that fire concoction of his,” said Murith. “It seemed to work well on Ulfgorr the first time.”

“It would have to be thrown though; I don’t want to warp my blade.”

Carmen laughed. Cackled more like. Everyone looked at her.

“This has given me an idea that might help you out Ragnar. I have to return to the tower…”

“Are you going to give voice to this though of yours?”

“Nope. Nightblades prefer surprises. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt your honour, Ragnar.”

And she slipped out of the carriage and melted into the crowd.

“This should be interesting,” said Murith.

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Sunday Teaser

Tis late and here is a teaser for my friends, from the first draft of my next Domains book.

With a reputation as a defensive fighter, the crowd did not expect Green Glory to be truly competitive with an offensive virtuoso like King Blade. They cheered as she adopted her risky strategy, trampling her way to the depths of the horde.

Scores of stitched surged into the fighting grounds, trying to overwhelm the Gladiators. They battered Green Glory mercilessly leaving deep gashes in her hide. She shook them off like a seabird drying herself, and kept pushing into them, stomping everyone she overpowered into the sands. Such was her fervour that she threatened to overtake King Blade’s impressive score.

King Blade swung his sword tirelessly. Such was the dance of his blade that none of the stitched got within arm’s reach. The crowd cheered his skill, but he could tell that they were swayed by Green Glory, who put herself in harm’s way in order to seek victory. Thus, the big charger redoubled his effort, paying less mind to his own safety as he cut down stitched after stitched.

Not all of the stitched wore furs and leather, and when Green Glory cut down one of the zombies that was wearing and iron breastplate, she saw her score jump by several points, briefly overtaking King Blade’s. As soon as this registered she started looking for metal-clad stitched and pushed her way toward the closest one. A mace handed stitched smashed her side as she pushed, but she sent it sprawling with a flick of her horn and then brought her axe down onto the armoured figure, cleaving through the helm and spilling its pickled brain.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.25

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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“What was that?” asked Carmen as our carriage lurched into motion and began to roll down the cobbles and away from The Pink Pearl.

“We cut Diamond Silvermane loose,” said Eiskra. “Now no one can claim that we are forcing them to remain in the Union.”

“Without membership in The Doxies’s Union she cannot speak at our gatherings, either,” said Vethri.

“And without the Union she will have to find her own doormen,” I added. “Some of the bouncers that I saw there were mercenaries. It takes a very select temperament to tend the door at a brothel; mercenaries are prone to violent solutions and intimidate the patrons.”

“I’m glad it was well thought out,” said Carmen. “The look on her face as you left was pure gold. I loved it. This is fun.”

“Good, I’m glad you think so,” said Eiskra. “We have your first client waiting at our house.”

Carmen laughed, looking down at the array of devices that were part of her costume. “I would hate to be that guy.”

“Who said that the client is a man?” asked Vethri flatly.

Carmen’s eyes went round. Even I had trouble telling when Vethri was lying. After a moment they both burst out laughing.

“Sorry, Carmen,” said Eiskra. “There actually is a client waiting for us at the house. After all this I’m eager to see to her. Our business requires strict confidentiality though; you never know what they will let slip during the… interrogation.”

“It does sound like fun,” said Carmen.

“Should you be discussing this in front of me?” asked Murith.

“You would need to join The Union, and swear an oath,” said Vethri.

“I will get back to you,” said Carmen. “We have members in The Doxies’s Guild, of course, but I am not certain what my superiors would think.”

I was about to respond when the driver lost control of the horses. The carriage rocked violently and then came to a stop.

“You better come out and see this Ragnar,” said the Driver.

I stepped out of the carriage, hand on the hilt of my hammer. I could smell him. There, standing in the street like a lunatic was Ulfgorr. He was in human form, wearing an old overcoat. There were still signs of burns on his face, but I was dismayed at how quickly the damage seemed to have been undone.

“I see that the burns have made you less ugly, Ulfgorr. Did you come back for more?”

Ulfgar rippled, a grotesque sound rising from his throat. I heard Murith load a bolt in her arbalest behind me. Then, with visible effort, Ulfgorr relaxed.

“Wolki…” he began, spiting out the words as if they were spoiled. “Wolki bade me speak to you Grimfang. He wishes to meet and settle differences. To negotiate, or fight if that is your desire. At the fortress, in the challenge ring.”

My heart sank. The challenge ring was used for single combat. For a warrior of renown to refuse a challenge there was a great dishonour. This was a setup for humiliation or death.

“I will be there.”

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Sunday Night Teaser

A little teaser from my WIP:

Tugging on his mustache to hide the expression of pride on his face, Hephus watched as Bastion performed a second kata for a crowded room full of Iron Faction.

“He is impressive,” said Publius, standing beside him. “A metal Legionnaire.”

“Aye,” said Hephus. “The men accept him as one of their own. I theorize that shared hardships increase the rate at which bonding between occurs between sentient automatons as it does between the rest of the Legionnaires.”

“Interesting,” said Publius. “Is Bastion as attached to his flesh and blood comrades as they are to him, then?”

“Yes,” said Hephus. “He will not execute orders that will harm his fellows.”

“What criteria do you use when making that judgement? Is it an absolute or do you follow some kind of utilitarian guideline?”

“It is organic, learned behaviour,” said Hephus. “He learns from watching the Legionnaires and analyzing their actions as you have seen, but he also learns their morals and virtues like a flesh and blood child would. Occasionally he has questions, which I help him with, but it is not a programmed response.”

“Some might say that you are simply relying on second-hand programming, then. If much of our behaviour is determined by heredity and instinct, and he learns from us, then isn’t he inheriting our programming?”

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whore’s War 3.24

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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The Pink Pearl was newly renovated and very popular. We were ushered around the back  by a pair of burly doormen in black leather studded with ‘diamonds’. The perfectly manicured garden path let to a little patio cut off from the rest of the grounds, sheltered from the rain by the series of decks and balconies above. A little round glass table awaited us with chairs set all around.

As the doormen left, a pair of servers, one young, one old, appeared, bringing wine and port as well as a tray of cheese and grapes.

“Diamond will see you shortly,” the elder said as they departed.

I could sense more ‘doormen’ nearby, my ears picking up the sound of leather creaking and my nose the odor of the cologne that they were told to wear.

Carmen held up her hand in making a gesture or inquiry. “Five?”

I nodded affirmatively, wondering if she was just guessing or she had some other method to count the guards. I doubted her senses were as sharp as mine.

The Twins sat down at the end of the table facing the door. They were dressed in simple evening wear appropriate to a Myrhnese woman of any station; a knee length back dress, short black blazer, and knee-high black boots. Vethri wore a simple gold chain, while Eiskra wore her favourite ruby ring.

Carmen was still dressed in her ‘apprentice’ clothing, although she now carried weapons both hidden and in-character.

Vethri and Eiskra looked at each other once and settled, still as statues. I contented myself by listening to the sounds of the Pink Pearl and the streets beyond.

Diamond Silvermane waited just long enough to make her entrance. She strolled through the heavy oak door, resplendent in a cloak of white minx fur and the most impressive diamond necklace that I had ever seen. Her silver hair billowed about her head like a candle flame. She smiled at the twins, but there was little warmth in her eyes.

A pair of guards followed her out. These carried swords.

“Welcome to the Pearl, fellow whores,” said Diamond Silvermane. “The best brothel in Myrrhn.”

“You seem a little understaffed, Diamond,” said Eiskra.

“We’re just busy, darling,” said Diamond Silvermane. “But I do thank you for your concern.”

“Half of your rooms are empty,” said Vethri. “We know the capacity of this house and we know that the Silk Swan is already drawing some customers away from you now the Dierdre Dark and Troy work there.”

Diamond Silvermane laughed. “You’re right. Those two do have a loyal following, and I admit that their defection has caused us to lose their regulars. But you can see that we are busy and I assure you I am recruiting new talent; young women who will build their own followings. Now I assume that you did not call this meeting simply to insult me, girls. Let’s do business.”

“We are not going to take you to council.” said Vethri.

“Pardon?”

“We have decided not to challenge The Pink Pearl’s severance from The Doxies’s Union. We welcome the competition; Myrrhn has always been governed by market interests and we will not try to force you or your girls to join us you do not want to.”

“That’s all. No need for wine or anything,” added Eiskra.

The Twins stood, in unison. It was a gesture complicated by the fact that Vethri was a head taller than Eiksra, but they managed it.

Diamond Silvermane look confused for a heartbeat, then she recovered and stood as well. “Are you certain you don’t want to discuss this further?” she said, a little less bombastically.

“What is there to discuss?” asked Vethri. “Thank you for your hospitality Diamond, I know that The Pink Pearl is in good hands.”

“Have a nice afternoon,” added Eiskra, a little too gleefully, I thought.

And we left.

“What was that?” asked Carmen as soon as we were in the carriage.

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Sunday Teaser

A little teaser from my WIP.

Riritaka is always a character that I am trying to make better use of…

The report from the Legates was promising. While skirmishes were still common and traps were being set, there had been no large scale attacks or ambushes in more than a year. The Legions did not advance beyond the borders of Trial’s Watch, and The Pale did not attack them in force.

“What do you make of this Riritaka?”

“Some of the Tribes, especially those who have suffered greatly in the wars, want to have peace and time to lick their wounds and replenish their losses. If the Legions leave their territory they have less desire to fight. Some of the Tribes from further south and west will push for war, I think, because they have more to gain, even if The Pale suffer; the war is not on their territory and they can always seek respite when they need it.”

“Should we seek to ally with the closer tribes first then?” asked Gavin. “How would we even communicate a desire for peace with your people.”

“If The Pale are still sending out war parties to … skirmish, as you say, and make traps they will be watching this place closely. I can go into the Jungle and speak to them, or I can signal them.”

“Going into the jungle seems too risky,” said Gavin. “Why don’t we try to signal them first.”

“Ech,” Riritaka made a sour face. “I knew you would say that Gavin Chosen. It is much work. I must carve a spirit stick… a totem banner, you would say.”

“If you knew, then why haven’t you started Riri,” said Headtaker.

Riritaka rolled her eyes.

“Perhaps I can help with this,” boomed Chosen Brighthoof. “I and many among my rangers, are adept at that kind of carving.”

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The Totem Banner was a carved wooden pole covered in animal shapes and the pictograms favoured by The Pale for quick communication. It was painted in vivid colours for the most part, although the carved animals tended toward more realistic colour schemes. Gavin thought it was impressive.

Chosen Brighthoof’s rangers dug it into the ground on a high hill between the jungle and Trial’s Watch, some distance away from both. Riritaka directed them to place various stones around the bottom, judging it like a master sculptor.

“What do we do now?” asked Gavin.

“We come back tomorrow and see how they have responded,” said Riritaka.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.23

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

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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Murith and I sat down for a drink while we waited for The Twins and Carmen. The common room of the Inn of the Willing Wench was full of boisterous men and women from far off ports and smelled of bread, spices, and Brunor’s famous lamb stew.

A light cider accompanied a bowl of stew for me, while Murith drank a dark ale with bread and cheese.

“How can you be certain that Ulfgorr will come after us directly?”

“He’s cunning, but not especially strategic. Given that Ulfgorr rarely faces anyone that he can’t tear apart or sneak around, he’s never had to think that hard about it. Wolki is the brains of the pair, and I managed to beard him in hid den so to speak; he will be wroth beyond thinking. Ulfgorr will seek him out and Wolki will order my demise. They won’t approach the act like idiots, but they won’t be extra cautious unless we give them reason to be.”

“They sound like serial killers.”

“They aren’t called that when they hold positions of power, Murith.”

The Dwarf woman guffawed, I smiled. Getting Murith to laugh is often difficult, but always worth the while.

“Here they are, Ragnar.”

Vethir, Eiskra, and Carmen turned heads as they moved through the common room. Each of them wore leggings of black leather, stitched to reveal a little of their legs down the side, black silk corsets with spikes that looked almost like armour, save for the generous amount of cleavage showing, and long gloves that matched the leggings. Vetheri and Eiskra wore sashes of a deep, rich burgundy around their waists, advertising their status highly skilled Dominatrices and the formal half-masks often used at Doxies’s Union protests and masquerades. Carmen wore a sash of a brighter red, proclaiming her status as an apprentice in the arts that Vethri and Eiskra had mastered. Her haughty look had vanished as well, replaced with that of the watchful student, complete with glasses and a severe bun in her hair.

I noted that Carmen would easily be able to hide  her weapons in plain sight, as tools of the trade and props. She winked at me and started to make a lewd gestures, but Vethri’s voice froze her.

“Carmina, show some dignity, you are an adept now, not some lusty novice.”

To her credit, ‘Carmina’ did not even flinch. Instead she feigned contrition. “Yes, Domina.”

Murith looked at me, eyebrow raised. It was a convincing disguise and one that would allow Carmen to stay near us without attracting undue attention.

“Well done,” I said to Vethri and Eiskra as they squeezed into the booth with us. “Murith and I think it best to go about our business as usual and try to discover what links Lily Gemarkand, Diamond Silvermade, and Wolki together in this. What is our next course of action?”

“We have arranged a meeting with Diamond Silvermane,” said Vethri. “We want to discuss terms. She has been surprisingly amenable.”

“Since your investigation has run into a dead end we have also decided to offer a reward for any information about Rake’s death,” said Eiskra. “One silver per tip, Two gold bars if it leads to capture of the one responsible.”

“Why such a discrepancy?” asked Carmen.

“We expect to be deluged with useless and misleading tips,” said Vethri. “The silver is a form of charity to those who want to test and see if we are serious or just trying to look good. The gold is the real bait.”

We finished our meal quickly, and then made preparations to meet with Diamond Silvermane.

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