Rotblossom Rose (1.45R)

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The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years.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 keeps Lawch waiting. They both understand that this is but foreplay to the clash of swords, and even though she aches to kill the bastard, forcing Lawch to wait gives The Spider more time to work his peculiar magic.

Lawch threats lose focus as Rose slowly drinks a glass of decadently expensive ice wine and his eyes dart toward the door every time a woman walked in. He is as uncomfortable with this as she is, which it bearable. The smart move would be to get up and walk away, but he is a bound to her now as she is to him, by his own demons.

Rose affects a slight smile as she sips her wine, responding to Lawch’s comments with a detached politeness that she hopes will annoy him. Inside though, she is drowning in worry. Chief among her fears is The Spider and the hypnotic web of metal that he always weaves in her presence; she can see it now, the blackouts that it has caused, the pieces of her life that she is missing. It might not even be her life; what if she is just another victim with stolen memories?

She desperately wants a hit of The Blue and the clarity it will bring. But she can’t, she needs to save everything for the duel, Lawch is too dangerous to do otherwise.

And yet, her memories seem so real. Yes, she can see the gaps where The Spider has taken time from her. But the reality of that last day on the Road to Avalain is so vivid that it stands strong. She remembers her family, she remembers what Lawch and his band did to them. She remembers the visceral satisfaction of killing each of them, working her way up to this moment. That thought centers her.

In the end it all rests on how good she is with the blade; she can prove her identity in blood.

She does not hear the muttered threat that she interrupts as she stands, throwing down the crystal wineglass which shatters and draws the attention of everyone in the place. Even in this kind of tavern, in this place, everyone loves a fight; it is The Scab, after all.

“Sir, I have a quarrel with you that can only be settled when one of us is dead. You killed my family on the Road to Avalain and sold me into bondage. I will see you dead for it.”

Rose is pleased as an electric thrill runs through the foppish scions of the Bedrock wards and the wealthy merchants watching them.

Lawch grins and shakes his head. “You’re not that girl, and even if you were you would still die tonight. I am going to hurt you, and these good people are going to laugh as you die, just like all the others.”

“There can only be one response to that, Lawch, and I will write it with your blood!”

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Rotblossom Rose (1.44R)

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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Roses’s challenge shocked the room to silence. As a rule, anyone could respond to a challenge, but she stood out. In the Scab oddities are respected and feared, and madness was next to greatness, and so everyone sat up and paid attention. Odds were tallied. Money changed hands.

“Rose, this is insane,” said Geb, standing up.

“Bet on him if you like.” she retorted, already walking forward, her eyes on her quarry.

Ogre was a Kolim. Like most of his people, he was massive and thick limbed, standing head and shoulders above even the biggest man. Unlike any Kolim she’d ever heard of, Ogre was aggressive, leaner and more muscular that his kin. Rose was certain that he was warpt.

As Rose advanced she let her cloak fall, revealing the mechanical arm that she now wore. It was an expensive model with fully articulated fingers and the full range of human motion. It was also stronger and harder than a flesh limb and had injectors for Wraithstone oil built right into it. Odds changed. Money moved.

Ogre was rich. A long career of beating vailglorious idiots to death in blood-sports all over the city combined with the exotic attraction of a docile Kolim ‘gone bad’ had made him enough to retire to a Bedrock ward a decade ago. He stayed in the game because he enjoying maiming and killing people; it was something that Rose could respect.

She looked him in the eye as she entered the fighting grounds.

“I’m going to rip that arm off and sodomize you with it,” growled Ogre as she stood before him.

The part of Roses’s face that was visible smiled.

“You’ve already done worse to me,” she says quietly. She thinks back to that day, Ogre holding her down while Cackles throws her Gared into the cesspit, pushing her into the dirt while everything is taken from her, even hope. The murders, the rape, what more could he do?

“Can’t say I remember you,” said Ogre. “You won’t be the first idiot that seeks vengeance only to die by my hand.”

The referee approached Rose, examining her arm. After making certain the the chambers for the wraithstone oil injectors were empty he turns to Ogre,

“This prosthetic grants increased strength and striking power,” he intoned. “According to our rules such arms can only be used in this kind of fight if the opponent agrees. Do you agree to allow the challenger to fight using the is appendage, Champion?”

“I will allow it,” said Ogre, examining the unmasked side of Roses’s face. The crowd cheered. Odds changed and money moved.

The crowd cheered. Rose flexed her metallic fingers.

“Fight!” said the official. “FIGHT!” roared the crowd.

Ogre began to walk toward her.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.43R)

Had a busy day pushing the final changes for Bloodlust: Iron Faction which will release on July 31st and straight up forgot to do the blog. My mistake, friends!

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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’m thinking of skinning you alive, what do you have to say to that?”

Lawch’s flawless smile does not even waver as the threat leaves his mouth. Rose is more confused by the prior assertion that The Spider has sent women who look like her to accost Lawch before. It takes an effort of will to push her questions aside and grab hold of the reality in front of her and respond to the smiling monster across from her.

“Seems pretty mild for you Lawch,” she drawls, proud of her seeming composure. “But I guess once you killed someone’s family, raped them, and sold them into slavery you have to fall back to the old standbys. Honestly though, next time we go through this try something like ‘I’m thinking of violating you with my blade’, or ‘I’ll feed you to my dogs’, piece by piece, while you watch’. Just as violent, but not overused at all.”

Lawch chuckled. “Not bad at all. There is just one detail that Oliffer has overlooked, it would seem.”

“What’s that?”

“You speak and carry yourself like low ward trash, darling. Rosaline Redshire was a bedrock girl, as sweet as they come.”

“I killed one of your men on that day. You watched while your men drove spikes into my husband to kill him, threw my little boy into the cesspit to drown in filth, then you raped my daughter and myself.”

“That is true. So what?” Rose was shocked by the casual admission of his crimes. Lawch treated the recounting as barely worthy of recollection.

“How would I know these things if they did not happen to me?”

Lawch laughed. “Every single hypnotized Harlot that Oliffer sends asks that question. Each one is more convincing than the last, but you can’t be the real thing. The girl whose face you wear died a long time ago. You have been Hypnotized by an ugly hateful bastard of a man who thinks he can get under my skin with this. Honestly, I thought we’d settled this when he realized that I enjoyed his little presents. You would think that a man as monstrous as he would understand me better.”

Rose fumbled for a moment, staring dumbfounded at Lawch. Did he truly think he could gaslight her with his tale of hypnotized body doubles?

“What about your men? I killed all of them. I drowned Cackles in a cesspit in the depths and then killed him again when he warpt; is that a false memory?”

Lawch smiled and this time Rose could see that he believed what he was saying. It was then that she suddenly realized what that the chains that The Spider wove between his fingers when he talked were for; he was indeed a

“Yes. People like Cackles lead rough lives. Oliffer has killed everyone who worked the Redshire job with us, and he’s been paid handsomely to do so I believe. He’s has always been very good at what he does. Now why don’t you challenge me to a duel so I can bat that expensive toy out of your hand and start the real fun?”

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Rotblossom Rose (1.42R)

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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“All I am saying is that you are too good a man to drink yourself to death, Geb,” Rose spoke as loudly and clearly as she could, even though it hurt her tattered throat to do so.

“Tell it to Jack and the others,” said Geb. He looked like a shadow of his former self, drink and guilt gnawing at him like hidden leeches.

The table between them was inhabited by two empty glasses and a half-full bottle of good gin. In the background two muscled figures faced each other a fighting ring, trading blows that would down most men in a single hit. Rose had money on the Kolim. Kolim were a rarity in any kind of sport, being inclined toward calm, but this one was a little warpt. He was very aggressive.

“You were half asleep when the Fisher nabbed him,” said Rose. “I was standing right beside him. I felt his body jerk and die. If anyone was to blame for his death it was me; I was standing watch with him.”

“You didn’t know what a Fisher was, Rotblossom.”

He was trying to alienate her by calling her Rotblossom; it was cute.

“Even people who live sheltered lives in the bedrock wards know what a Fisher is, Geb.”

“Bullshit,” said Geb, his cheeks reddening. “You’ve heard the stories, you might even know the theory or seen some corpse in a museum, but until you’ve faced one in the depths, you don’t know shit. You didn’t know better, I did.”

“So did Jack,” said Rose. “Miriam told me last time I saw her; he’d seen them before, even killed one. He should have listened to you Geb. You did your best. None of them were your fault.”

“Fuck off, Rose.  I’m not coming back.”

It had been six months since her first expedition into the Depths. Rose had returned twice more, successfully, but she needed someone like Geb to anchor her team.

“What makes you think I’m here just for you?”

“You’re here to watch the Kolim fight?” scoffed Geb. “You’ve seen him kill before, when we first met here. I can’t imagine he’d hold much interest for someone like you after watching him in more than a few bouts. He never loses. The bastard is a wrongblood, I’m sure of it.”

“You’re not far off in that regard,” said Rose. “But he can be beaten.”

“Not by anyone here,” said Geb, flatly.

“The night is yet young,” answered Rose. “But you’re right, Geb, I do want you on my team. I’ve been down twice, and we take casualties every time. There’s never a shortage of wannabe Scabbers out there, but a man of your talents is hard to come by. You can keep my people from dying. We can build the best crew The Scab has seen in decades. Think about it.”

Geb grunted, then changed the subject. “What’s with that new arm of yours?”

Rose held up her mechanical arms. It was a wonder of the craft, and powered by Wraithstone essence. It gleamed in the light and drew a few looks from nearby tables.

“While the ol’ pickaxe had a certain charm, this affords me the agility I need, Geb,” she answered. “I can climb with both hands, hold a weapon, and so much more. Even better, it has a Wraithstone injector for emergencies.”

“That’s crazy, you’ll end up warpt.”

“I’m more careful than that.”

“Says every Scabber who ends up warpt, ever.”

“Okay,” said Rose, smirking. “But I thrive on danger, Geb. As you are about to see, again.”

“What?”

Behind them The Kolim stood, bellowing his anger.

“Is there anyone who can fight me, anyone at all?”

Rose stood. “I can, you honourless son of a gutter-rutting ghoul.”

Ogre stared. Geb swore.

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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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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?”

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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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