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The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years.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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Welcome Isaac!

The newest addition to our family was born on the 16th of July, 2018

Isaac 17th July 2018

Obviously, things are a little crazy here, in a good way. Iron Faction should be out by the end of the month. If you want an early reading copy, let me know. Here is a little teaser…

Golem_rough

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 (1.37R)

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 meets The Spider in his lair to hand off the green Wraithbone that she stole from the Kisvavi slave lord. She represses the urge to grimace and look away as he examines the stone with an expert eye, making little clicking noises and taking as long as possible. He always does this with Wraithstone, she is familiar with it from all of the business they’ve done over the years. If he notices her revulsion, he does not take note.

There is something monstrous about The Spider, but Rose has never met anyone who can quite describe why they find him so unsettling. Physically, his cadaverously thin body and eerily symmetrical face are nothing compared to the horrors of her own ravaged body and yet people who find Rotblossom acceptable are still repulsed by The Spider. Even Scarab treats the man like sour milk.

It is not the smell, nor the way he talks, but rather something about his mannerisms that hint at what lies beneath the surface.  It is hinted at in the the way he is always weaving a brace of garrotes like a web in his fingers, in his half-lidded, dead-eyed gaze, and in the knowledge of what he has done to gain his pre-eminent position within the hive.

The Spider is a monster; the kind of person who has engaged in the most disgusting and decadent of acts just to say that he has experienced them.

But Rose trusts The Spider completely because they both want Lawch dead. Without him she has little chance to get to the man who presided over the death of her family and even less chance to overcome the sorceress that guards him.

He continues to examine the stone until Rose is certain that he is about to complain, then nods and sighs.

“Excellent grade for our purposes. Not too pure to be rendered, but pure enough to hold a lot of strong bleed. The measure is really impressive, at least a seventeen. The Kisvavi must be livid.”

Rose does not ask how he knows. The Spider had ears everywhere, even in the Bedrock Wards.

“It was faster than scabbing,” she responds.

“But also less profitable and more dangerous,” answers The Spider. “We both know why you went after The Kisvavi. The escaped slave was a nice touch. They will think that he was the killer, at least until they think to track down the guards that saw you leave.”

“They will be out of the city by then,” retorts Rose.

The Spider looks up. His pale eyes meet hers and she suppresses a shiver.

“No one ever really escapes The Scab, Rose. You of all people should know that.”

Memory pushes on Rose. She wills it aside and changes the topic.

“What next?”

The Spider smiles. His teeth are unnaturally perfect, and the gesture is as devoid of pleasantry as a Rockwyrm opening its maw to bite you in half.

“Well Rose, we can’t have you visiting, our old friend Lawch looking like that. He’ll smell you a thousand paces out… no, that look won’t do, its time for a disguise.”

A he pulled out a vial of clear, refined Wraithstone essence. THE CLEAR. The most valuable substance known in The Scab and handed it to Rose.

“This is going to hurt, I’m afraid,” said The Spider, grinning and fingering the green Wraithstone. “Drink up.”

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Rotblossom Rose (1.36R)

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 stumbled down the tunnel after the Rockwyrm. She was drenched in Ferret’s blood and felt winded from being squashed inside the alcove with the dying scout. All of her digits worked, and aside from balance she seemed to be moving fine.

Ahead she heard shouts and saw flashes of light. In one hand she held the bloody hackblade that she had taken to the Rockwyrm, in the other the one of the lightsticks from her pack.

“What I wouldn’t give for a Coilsword,” she muttered.

The darkness loomed around her, and Rose realized that she had ventured into a room. A point of light outside of the soft radius of her light  resolved into an ember; one of the larger lights used by her group lay crushed on the ground next to a boot with the bloody stump of a leg sticking out of it.

“Fuck,” said Rose. If the rest of the Scabbers died she doubted that she would be able to get out of the depths; she was just too new at this.

“So what are you going to do about it Rotblossom?” she asked. She ignore the broken body and hurried toward the sounds of fighting. The only care she took was to avoid blundering into a pit or tripping over the uneven ground.

She saw dancing lights, heard the sound of something huge moving and shouted orders. Was that Geb, handsome reliable Geb, still alive?

Rose sped up, slipped in some gore, and then skidded several bodylengths frantically trying to stop herself. She saw dancing lights on an ancient stone wall opposite her, realized that she was in another large room, and then she saw the Rockwyrm.

It was huge and covered in segmented plates. Geb was in its mouth.

“Get down!” said a voice from beside her. Scarab.

As Rose stared she realized that Geb had wedged his shield in the Rockwyrm’s mouth. The Wyrm was shaking its maw back and forth, trying to tear a chunk out of its prey, too stupid to realize that what it was biting would not be dislodged that way. Geb was tossed about like a toy in a dog’s mouth, but he held on, his boots braced in the beast’s bloody maw.

“Rose, Get down!” Scarab again.

Rose ignore him and ran forward, moving toward the Wyrm and Geb. Something whooshed past her shoulder in the dark and then the Worm’s side seemed to pucker and burst. She was showered in gore. The beast thrashed, dropping Geb. Jack Rumbarrel ran out of the dark, hacking the beast with his axe. Rose close the last few strides and brought her hackblade down, trying to cleave into it, dig deep and hit something vital. The Rockworm thrashed, then rolled toward them. Jack gave a shout and backed away swiftly, but Rose was too slow. The bulk of it threatened to crush her.

Spurred by the thought of what happened to Ferret, Rose jumped up, stabbing her hackblade into the side of the Rockwyrm. This gain her enough purchase to pull herself up and over as it rolled. The world titled, Rose scrambled, and then her feet found solid rock and she pulled the blade out and rolled away. She shoulder struck an outcropping, hard, but she avoided being crushed.

She came up to see that part of the Rockwyrm was now on fire. It thrashed, bleeding from a half dozen gaping wounds. At its head, Geb moved in with grim intent, his shield held high and a long-vicious looking blade in his hand. The Rockwyrm seemed to give a sigh as he closed, too injured to want to live. Then Geb struck, driving the blade deep into the head above the maw. The beast convulsed and then it was no more.

Rose picked up the hackblade and began to dig for the Wraithbone she could sense from withing.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.35R)

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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In the end Rose leaves the Kisvavi scion dead and bleeding on the floor. After a moment’s thought she decides to leave the way she came in, through the secret slave tunnel and down to the guarded platform where ‘special’ goods are delivered to the masters of the high ward.

“Follow me, and do not say a word,” Rose says to the wide-eyed slave boy. “As far as anyone else is concerned you are still a slave, my slave. Do as I say and you will have a chance of surviving; fail me and you are on your own. Nod if you understand.”

“Yes,” he says, nodding. His form is exquisite.

Rose cracks the whip, snarling as he flinched. “I said nod, not speak, fool. I don’t want to hear your voice. We will leave your wounds as is, for realism. Now, follow me.”

Taking a collar and chain off the wall, Rose puts the hard metal around the man’s neck, ignoring his trembling. How odd it must seem to him for a killer in a skull mask to rescue him from torture or death, only to put the chains on him again. Had she been in the slave-boys place, she would have attacked.

She leads him down the corridor and out through the secret door. The night is cool and the lights of the city flicker all around them. She descends slowly, leading the slave-boy, making no effort to hide.

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“Halt, do not move!” two of the guards raise fire-spitters, aiming them at Rose.

She stops.

The guards stare at her. A cloaked figure, wearing a skull-mask that glowed silver in the half-light; she must make quite a sight. The moment lengthens. The guards seem unsure of how to proceed. Rose waits.

“Is there a problem?” she asks.

“What are you doing here?” asks the lead guard. “No one told us you were coming.”

Rose laughs. It is not a pretty sound. “You didn’t need to know. As for why I am here; let’s call it payment for services rendered.”

She yanks on the slave-boys chain and he stumbles forward, half-naked and covered in whip-welts. Tension melts from the guards as they see him. This is the kind of encounter they are used to.

“Right, right, let’s see your identification.”

“How about I stay anonymous?” says Rose, placing one of her stolen Wraithbone stones on the ground between them. It is more money that all four of the guards, the two she can see and the two she can’t, will make in a year. The wealthy of The Pinnacle are notoriously cheap.

“Is that a bribe?”

“Let’s just say it is for services rendered,” says Rose, laying down another stone, this time with her metal hand. They watch her carefully as she straightens, afraid now.

If they attack now, she will have to use the slave-boy as a shield and then kill them. Hopefully they find her fearsome enough to take the easy offer.

“So be it,” says the Guard. “I’m tired of this city anyways. Time to retire.”

Rose nods and walks past slowly, as if she does not care at all about the weapons aimed at her and the calculations going on in each man’s head. Her boots touch the street and she turns and heads toward The Hive feeling their eyes on her as she fades out of sight.

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She lets the slave-boy go in an alley outside a riotous Red Ward brothel.

“Thank you.”

“You can thank me by keeping out of the mines.”

The boy, now free, nods. Rose turns and leaves him, without another word. She has the stone she was looking for, the first of the items The Spider needs to help her get at Lawch.

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