Rotblossom Rose (1.27R)

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The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years.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 several days after rescuing the woman and her child from the Wrongblood Ghouls, Rose is deeply conflicted. Helping others was a fool’s game in The Scab, especially for someone like her. People that she did not know were a risk that she could not take; the woman would talk, and word could get back to Lawch.

Her enemy has eyes everywhere. He is not as entrenched as The Spider in places like The Hive, but Lawch has amassed a staggering amount of money and influence in the years since he killed Rose’s family. He has enough to afford skilled bodyguard, and a small harem of women kept young with yearly doses of the clear. People in The Hive would turn Rose over to him in a heartbeat, just to win his favour.

Worst of all though, is that while Rose fades away slowly, ravaged by a disease barely held in check, hard living, and simple, human aging, Lawch is as young and strong as he was in the prime of his life. Time is not on her side.

To beat an adversary like Lawch, Rose needs to control the flow of events. She needs to plan meticulously and execute flawlessly. There is no room for mercy, and feeling sudden compassion for a woman beset by random misfortune, however worthy is a distraction.

No, worse than that. Compassion is a weakness; it is what would have driven that insipid girl in the house with the forge on the road to Avalain to action. At least before everything was ripped away from her by Lawch and his band. Rose hates that girl.

She cannot afford a mistake now.

<>

“Green G: A, M: 15+”

Rose examined the note. The hand was that of The Spider; even his penmanship seems strange, with tall letters all bunched together like the legs of an alphabetic arachnid.

It revolts her to think that he was here, in her room. She has to remind herself that he is her ally, and that she needs him, and that she can only defeat Lawch with The Spider’s help (reminder for later repetition). Even then the thought of him sours her mood considerably.

The note makes sense to her. The Spider wants Wraithbone, energized to green. The ‘G’ stands for grade, meaning that he wants an A grade shard, which is one that it is at least 80% pure. The ‘M’ is short for Measure, as in the measure of how energized the Wraithbone is. 15  is very high, impossible to come by outside of The Depths.

Rose has no idea what The Spider wants with the stone. Green Wraithbone is used to heal and grow; a stone of that type could cure a major disease or help regrow a lost limb. Of course, it is valuable, and it is possible that he wants it to use it for trade. It might not even be related to their efforts to attack Lawch. The Spider is not always forthcoming.

Rose takes the note and tosses it in the fire.

“Leave it to The Spider to start off with a big ask,” she mutters, pacing. After a moment she sighs and begins to think.

Where can she find Wraithbone of that quality and measure without putting together a full team?

She can only think of a few places, none of them easy or safe…

<>

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Rotblossom Rose (1.26R)

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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The Depths were a revelation to Rose.

Though she was born in the The Scab, she had always imagined the depths to be caves but there were signs of older civilizations crushed down by the endless succession of their descendants. On her first day she found mortared stones from an ancient wall and stairs carved right into the rock, leading to a passage choked by rubble.

“Down deep you can find the kingdoms of the Azir, the Dwarves,” said Geb. “Their halls were built to last, and they are intact even now. Those who make it down that far and come back whole are wealthy beyond imagination.”

“Have you ever been?” asked Rose.

“No,” said Geb. “I had the chance of joining a deep expedition once. I always regret not going.”

“They came back wealthy?”

“No,” said Geb. “But they might have, had I been with them. I will never know.”

Rose could hear sorrow in his voice. She later learned that his brother and sister were lost on that venture.

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Light was precious in The Depths. Everyone carried two simple torches as part of their kits, in case of emergencies. The ‘Torchbearers’, Harmony, Jimn Lowrock, and Undothu of Skarm, actually used heavy hooded lanterns that burned refined Wraithbone Oil [trying Wraithbone instead of Wraithstone here]. These impressive sources of illumination were resistant to shocks, wind, and even being immersed in water for brief periods. The hood of the lantern could be adjusted to throw enough light to fill a decently large cavern, muted or hidden, or concentrated into a bright beam.

Light was important. Light was the difference between life and death on most delves. It was something that Rose had taken for granted, even in the slave mines.

Later on, Rose would learn that being a Torchbearer was dangerous, like putting a target on yourself.

They are also expensive to use. Wraithbone oil was not cheap.

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“How long have we been down here?” Rose asked Geb on one of their stops.

Ferret chuckled. Scarab made disgusted sound.

“Almost eight hours,” said Geb. “You feel tired because you are not yet used to the bleed down here. Its stronger. It disturbs the rhythms of your body. You’ll learn to adjust and tell the time.”

“If she lives long enough,” said Scarab.

<>

There were a large number of insects in the depths, particularly worms and grubs. Fungus and mushrooms were thick in many places, and there were other stranger flora. Rose was told to touch nothing without asking first. Even the moss could be deadly.

<>

They stopped frequently for Miriam to consult her maps.

Ferret was their scout on that delve. He would venture somewhat ahead of the group, with an eye for potential danger.

They were nearing a place where Miriam said that they could camp for the night when Rose saw Ferret’s lanky form tense in the passage ahead of them. She was about to speak, but Geb put a finger to his lips. Beside them, Jack Rumbarrel lowered his pack to the ground and took grabbed his axe, creeping forward until he was close to Ferret. Rose did not understand what was occurring, but she could see that the others were tense.

For a moment none of them moved. Rose could hear every shift in position and every breath her companions took. The light dimmed as the Torchbearers used the hoods on their lanterns to focus the light into beams, pointed at the side of the passage they were in. That, too, baffled Rose.

Ferret, barely visible now, wiggled his fingers.

Geb lifted his shield.

Ferret moved, throwing himself against the side of the tunnel. As he did so the entire side of the tunnel opposite him seemed to fly open and something big came out. At that moment the three concentrated beams of light swung onto it.

Rose glimpsed a many legged nightmare, covered in brown chitin, with slavering jaws and four eyes.  It was the size of a horse. It seemed blinded by the beams of light and as she tried to make sense of it, Jack Rumbarrel stepped in and planted his axe squarely in the middle of its head. Ferret jumped back, as did Jack, leaving his axe in the beast’s head. It shook and scrabbled and then died.

“Fucking Grabbers,” muttered Scarab, spitting. Several of the others followed suit.

Geb chuckled. “Well Rose, tis time to earn your keep. We need to cut it up and get the Wraithbone out.”

<>

 

Rotblossom Rose (1.21R)

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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Knives and bloody spikes. Morn’s voice, full of pain and despair. A dark pit. Gared screaming “mamamam”. The leering grins of the men who rape. Janiye’s lifeless body.

Rose wakes, gasping for breath. Her head is swimming. Her body feels wrong, like it is not hers, somehow. Her wild thoughts collide and memory threatens to drag her down to a place that she knows she will never come back from. She fights it, reaching out for a little vial full of electric blue liquid that she keeps beside the bed.

The Blue hits her like a wall of calm. Her thoughts organize. Memory subsides. She gets control of her breathing. The headache remains. She is in one of her rooms, the one that others know about. The last thing that she remembers is meeting the Spider.

“I’m quite surprised that you have not warped yet, Rose,” says a familiar voice, the Spider, his overly precise diction only adding to the violation of his presence. “This is what, the fifth time?”

“Fuck off, I’ve lasted longer than any sniffer you’ve ever had,” says Rose.

“Which is one of the reasons that I treasure you, my dear,” says The Spider.

Rose wonders why she had so much trouble focusing on The Spider. She laughs a little when she realizes that she should take it as a blessing, since she cannot abide the glassy, alien stare of his or his habit of endlessly weaving the metal strings he carries. The laughter causes her head to spin.

“The Depths can take me once I’ve done Lawch. Are you going to help with that, boss?”

“I am,” says The Spider. “I have enjoyed plotting his demise. He will rue the day that he betrayed me.”

“Rue the day?” for some reason Rose found that turn of phrase amusing, she laughed again, at least until a spike of head pain sobered her once more.

“Yes. Rue. The. Day. Lawch has kept me from my rightful place among the lords of this damned city for decades. I will see him dead. The irony of him being killed by one of his victims is delicious.”

Rose knows very well that no one in the Bedrock Wards would ever accept The Spider among them. There has always been something just… wrong… about the man. Even Rose hates just being around him, even though he treated her fairly despite her diseased and mangled exterior; at times she finds it hard to see him as human and easier to think of him as the arachnid he takes his moniker from.  He can not see it though, despite the brilliance that has led him to power in The Scab, The Spider is blind to the fact that most of his fellow men will never want him among them.

He sees what he wants to see.

But, the truth is that Rose will ally herself with anyone to get to Lawch. Cackles is dead and she has… two… more names to cross off her list.

“So, what’s the plan, boss?”

<>

 

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.

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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.

 

 

Rotblossom Rose (1.3R)

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 present comes down to three names waiting to be crossed off, the last on a very long list.

“Is she really that ugly under the mask?” asks Green Jim, the youngest man on their dive. “I mean… the way she moves…”

“Ask her yourself, kid,” says Scarab, smiling as Rose steps out of the dark.

“Captain, I…” stammers Green Jim.

Rose meets his eyes and holds, letting the moment stretch uncomfortably. She has a reputation for severity. There are rumors about bad things happening to those who cross her. She lets her hood fall back, revealing the mask that covers the ruined half of her face and lifts her metallic arm. Green Jim swallows hard.

“I’d gladly bed you, boy,” says Rose, sitting down slowly. “As long as you don’t mind the rot.”

Everyone else around the fire laughs as Green Jim relaxes.

It is the third day of the dive and Rose is running a crew for Nietch, the man they call The Spider. She is the best sniffer outside The Syndicate, bringing in hauls of Wraithstone that have made her boss into the most powerful man in the Southside Hive. Deep Delving is a dangerous business, far less sure but far more profitable than mining Wraithstone blooms in the badlands further away from The Gash, at least for small outfits.

As always, Rose seats herself across the fire from Geb. She likes looking at him, and does not mind that he knows it, The big man is often smiling, even in the deeps, even with the company he keeps. It does not hurt that Geb handsome in a rugged kind of way, confident, and even-tempered. He even smells nice.

Today though, her choice of seating has more meaning. She is careful to make certain that Chris Cackles is seated to her right, fearing hat if she can see him easily, she might give herself away. It is important that he does not know that she recognizes him, and thinks that she trusts

Like Green Jim, Cackles is new to her crew. Unlike Green Jim, he is an old hand to the deeps. In spite of his grey hair, he is an agile climber and a sharp-eyed scout. The men respect him already and he has already eased into his role on their expedition with little fuss.

“Listen up,” says Rose. “Geb, Scarab, Cackles, I want you to make sure everyone is prepared. Tomorrow we are going after a live one, near the underside of Syndicate territory, bounty on it and everything. You all know what that means.”

“Sure thing, Rose,” says Geb.

“Yes, boss,” say Scarab and Cackles.

“What’s a live one?” asks Green Jim.

“A bleedwarpt thing,” says Scarab, rolling his eyes. “Why the fuck d’you think we need an extra Lancer, boy?”

“I though you just liked my company, Scarab,” says Green Jim, acting hurt.

Most of them chuckle as Scarab gives the younger man a dark look.

“Bleedwarpt have some of the best Wraithstone inside ’em,” intones Cackles. “Not a lot, but potent stuff, full of power. The stones you get from them make the strongest juice… I’ve got a furnace in my shack that still runs off a Red I got from this Bleedwarpt rat-thing fifteen years ago. Have I told you the tale?”

As Cackles spins his tall tale, Rose is only half-listening. Her focus is on the day ahead, and how she intends to cross another name off her list before they leave the depths.

<>

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.47

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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Carmen emerged from the shadow of a drainpipe beside a window ledge two stories above the cobbles. She grinned down at me and then dropped to the ground, making barely a sound as she hit the ground.

“Did you really hear me, or were you just guessing Old Wolf?” she asked.

“You are never as quiet as you think Carmen. Did The Twins send you to watch my back?”

“They suggested that they would be grateful if I did,” she answered, looking around the street. “But even without them, The Nightblades have a vested interest in seeing you survive until the Whores’s War is over and you have returned to the north.”

“Am I allowed to know that?”

“Yes,” said Carmen, turning to face me. “I took a risk giving you the sword. Had you died, The Guild probably would have discarded me.”

“Discarded is a nice way of saying executed…”

“It sounds worse to me, actually. Execution at least has a level of formality. But you killed Ulfgorr and disgraced Wolki and The Guild is very pleased with us both.”

“Did I earn you a promotion?”

“Yes, actually,” said Carmen, stepping in close. Her scent washed over me.  “Feel free to claim your reward… Vethra and Eiskra don’t mind, I asked them.”

I laughed. I was certain that Carmen was serious, but her motives were not nearly as transparent as her body language.

“I think I will, but that will have to wait until I return from the North.”

“You’re coming back?”

“I am. If I am able.”

“I’m intrigued,” said Carmen, stepping back. “Care to share what you know?”

“With you or The Nightblades?”

“Ouch. Point taken.”

<>

The days after my meeting with Lily were a frenzy of meetings with The Doormen and Bouncers of the Doxies’s Union. After my name was cleared, my former influence returned. Many of the old hands who provided security at the Union’s various brothels had trained with me in Madame Glorianna’s day. They were as loyal as you would expect, and it was not hard to convince most of them that Diamond Silvermane was not good for the Doxies’s. This was no surprise to me, in truth.

What was gratifying is how much my name meant to the newer Doxies. I was no longer old Ragnar the Nordan, I was Ragnar, the guy who killed a werewolf to avenge Rake. News of my deeds had spread throughout the Union and members greeted me wherever I went. My very presence helped our cause. That was gratifying.

<>

 

A Teaser for Tuesday

Barring unforeseen events my next Domains of the Chosen book, Bloodlust: The Sum of Hate will release next week. Here is a taste:

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The body was pinned to a tree with javelins through each shoulder and one in the belly. It was easy to read pain in the features of the dead man, although softened by death and decay.

“This is bad,” said Elder Hissu.

“This is my father’s work,” said Riritaka. “He wants to cause panic.”

“Who is this man?” asked Gavin.

“He is known to me,” said Elder Hissu, sadly. “He is a trader among your people, beloved by both the Legionnaires and those who seek peace among the tribes.”

“The scouts tell me he was put here four days ago,” said Strategos Mora. “This was done while we were attending the sodding peace talks.”

“Yes, that sounds like Gotka,” said Riritaka. “He will come for us soon.”

“How far away from the fort are we?” asked Gavin.

“If we marched clear through the night we could get there in less than twenty hours,” said Strategos Mora. “We cannot outpace The Pale in the jungle though, Chosen. Only the best of the scouts could manage that feat, and even then, it would be risky.”

“Can we evade them?” asked Gavin.

“No,” said Strategos Mora. “We believe they watch us, even now.”

“It is possible,” said Chosen Brighthoof. “But surely not in numbers large enough to be a threat.”

“The watchers will be directing two groups,” said Riritaka. “One will be between us and the fort, the other will be trailing us.”

“Should we move to the coast then?” asked Gavin, trying to formulate a plan.

“They would expect that, would they not?” responded elder Hissu, turning to Riritaka.

“Yes,” said Riritaka. “The paths to the coast will be heavily trapped.”

“Strategos Mora, how far away are your men?” asked Gavin.

<> (The edits on this next part have not been approved, so this is raw.)

The Duellum Dominantium was one of the few times that both groups enter the fighting grounds at the same time.

Silvius, followed by the mountainous form of the Gorehound entered from the south, while Sadira and Sapphire Kiss entered from the north. A half-million fans, all on their feet, screaming and cheering, greeted the four Gladiators as their feet touched the white sands.

Sadira, known for her flashy entrances, merely gave a salute to the crowd and then plodded to the centre of the Arena. The audience was taken aback; those who hated Sadira filled the air with jeers and boos, while those who loved her felt a touch of fear at the sight of their vivacious hero looking wan and full of sorrow. Sapphire Kiss walked beside her like an energetic filly following in the wake of an old mare, eager and ready to fight.

Silvius strode across the sand, his hair spilling over his shoulders in magnificent curls, jaw set in a confident smile. Everything about him shone, from his armour and the edge of his Draklaive to his oiled skin. He stood a head taller than Sadira and Sapphire Kiss, and looked leaner and more powerful than he had in many years.

Behind him lumbered the Gorehound, huge and foreboding.

For The Duellum Dominantium, Quintus diKrass, the most famed arena announcer of the day had been brought out of retirement. He named each of the fighters in turn and they all gave a salute. Sadira’s was curt, in marked contrast the impressive flourish given by Silvius.

“It looks as if the flower of Daer has wilted,” intoned Silvius. “Have you come to regret challenging me, kitten?”