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The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years.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.
The red-tinged glow of wraithstone lamps casts the metal passage to the Spider’s lair in a sinister light. Rose cannot help but see every new node, switch, or join as a potential trap. It takes an effort of will to banish the thoughts of flesh-melting acid and bone-crushing deadfalls dogging her every step. She had to appear confident in this little game she was playing with The Spider, not revealing what she knew of his betrayals. He was watching her every move, fingers poised to activate his defences, waiting for some sign that would reveal her true purpose. If she fails, he would kill her, but Rose carries the one thing that the Spider would risk everything for: proof of the Sorceress’s death. The Spider’s need and arrogance will be his undoing. Hopefully.
The tunnel seems much longer than usual, which she tells herself is to be expected considering how far The Spider has extended his contraption. But what if he is just toying with her, sending her round and round in circles until he tired of the game. Rose pushes the thought away, but it is hard to keep cool. Rose desperately wanted a hit of The Blue to steady her nerves, or even some alcohol, but she knows that the Spider is watching her. She needs him to think that he has the upper hand, that he is still in control.
The tunnel shifted and changed, swallowing Rose like a massive, if sterile, Rockworm. It would be easy for her to disappear down here. A bead of sweat formed on her back, trickling down as she crawled.
Then, abruptly, she sees another door, the familiar round hatch that always leads into the heart of the Spider’s Lair. Without hesitation she turns the valve and slides down into the belly of the beast, eschewing the brass-runged ladder, as is her habit.
“Hello, Rose,” the Spider’s voice is like a knife twisting in her. She is unprepared for the surge of hatred and it takes all of her self-control not to snarl. She wishes that she could have smuggled a knife or some kind of weapon in, but her metal arm will have to do.
“Hello, Spider,” says Rose, meeting his gaze. His eyes are as flat and predatory as those of his namesake.
“You said you have proof of her death?”
Rose could hear the hunger in his voice and she knew then that she had made the right play. He needed this, and his need made him as weak as that girl in the house on the road to Avalain, so long ago.
“I do, but first I want to know why you didn’t hold up your end of the deal Spider. What happened to the plan?”
“You have no right to question me, Rose. Show me the proof or you will suffer.”
Rose felt a thrill of excitement now. The Spider’s need robbed him of his detachment, making him seem almost human. She had power here, now.
Their eyes met. His hands twitched and he began to weave his metal threads. She did not look at them, knowing now what that motion portended. Funny, Rose had always thought he was drugging her.
“Come now, Rose,” said the Spider and he said the word.
Rose froze. Even now, the word pulled at her, like a ships anchor dragging her down into the deep. A command implanted in her head through years of hypnosis. The web that the spider always wove with his little metal strands.
“No,” she said again.
The Spider froze, eyes wide.
“You wanted her to kill me,” said Rose. “But you misunderstood the nature of her relationship with Lawch, Spider. For all of your plans and your schemes, you failed to see the obvious. She was bound to Lawch, not controlling him. He used love to lure her into a gilded cage, but you could never understand that, could you? Once I killed him, she was free, she was grateful.”
“But you have her ear?” he gasps.
“It was the price I asked of her to do this. For a man who gave me a new body you must realize that it was not hard paid for her, just a little pain. You saw what you wanted to see though. You dared to dream that your plan succeeded better than you hoped. Just as I let my ambitions blind me to who you really are, Olias Neatze.”
The Spider scrambles out his chair. “You remember.”
“I do,” says Rose, advancing on him, her metal arm balling into a fist. And she does, now. He has always been in her visions, her dreams, screaming through her subconscious. That is why she hates him so. he was the man holding her daughter on that day, the key to their little house. Had he worked his magic on Janiye as he had Rose?
“Stop this, Rose. Don’t take another step toward me,” says the Spider, leaping into another Room.
“I am going to enjoy this,” snarls Rose, lunging at him.
And as she passes through the threshold she feels as sharp and sudden pain and falls to the floor. Is it one of his traps? She hits the ground hard fighting the darkness encroaching on her, unable to move. The Spider turns her over.
“I am impressed that you managed to overcome the conditionning, but you really didn’t think that you could kill me in a body that I made for you, did you love?”