Rotblossom Rose (1.7R)

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The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years.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

<>

Rose runs and the bleedwarpt berserker thunders after her.

As fast as she is, Rose knows that she cannot stay ahead of it for long in a straight up sprint. She chooses her path accordingly, pacing herself and taking the measure of her quarry as it follows.

Red bleedwarpt generally fall into two categories, hunters and berserkers. This one is the later she is certain; it is big and powerful and easily goaded. Such a creature can rip her in half it gets a hold of her,

They reach what looks like a dead end for her, with a ten foot wall dividing the tunnel into upper and lower halves. Rose pumps a little red serum into her blood through injectors in her mechanical arm and speeds up, sprinting straight at the wall. The beast bellows and runs after her.

A pace from the rock wall Rose jumps, her spiked boots catching the rock. Such is her agility that it appears that she runs right up the rock face. The berserker roars and grabs at her leg as she vanishes over the ledge. Rose rolls out of reach, gains her feet, and keeps running as the beast pulls itself up into the tunnel behind her.

Once, such mad determination would have scared her, but now Rose sees it as a weakness to be exploited. The berserker is intent on her, even as she tries to draw it into a trap.

This one is particularly fast, catching up to her quickly. At least it has not exhibited any other abilities. Reds rarely did, but some could spit flames or had acid blood. Mostly berserkers relied on strength, whatever their form.

It was close now, Rose could feel it looming over her. A rumbling growl sounded and she its felt hot breath on her neck. Up ahead she sees the tunnel split in two, as she knew it would. She had hoped to have more space between herself and the beast still, but the split presents a good opportunity to regain some distance.

A little jolt of The Red quickens her step. She reaches the split and turns down the left tunnel. The beast, a blur in the corner of her eye, moves to intercept, leaping, almost pouncing like a hunting cat. Rose, however, is faking her intent. She stops, turns back, and runs into the rightward tunnel. The berserker flies past her, its massive bulk slamming into the wall, a grasping claw slicing the air behind her.

Rose did not waste time looking back, sprinting as fast as she could. This one was too fast for comfort and the rest of the way left no room for her to gain ground. Soon enough she heard it behind her, heavy tread steadily getting closer and closer and…

Then up ahead she saw the opening that led into the chamber. The bleedwarpt was too close behind her for a graceful entrance. She ran. It followed. Rose reached the edge of the tunnel that led into the chamber where the rest of her team lurked. She shouted and jumped up toward the ceiling instead of down, catching a crevasse and lifting her legs up as the beast’s hand snapped shut inches away from her.

It falls twenty feet, landing with a thud on the chamber floor. Rose watches as a dozen men slip out of side tunnels and alcoves, attacking the bleedwarpt from all directions. The plan had been to lure it into chasing her past Green Jim and Cackles, but it was simply been too fast.

Geb comes at it from the front, all loud and aggressive, drawing its attention. The berserker’s eyes fix on him and it swing a massive arm. Geb blocks with his shield, but the blow sends him sprawling. Two of the other men run in, jabbing long needle-spears into its right side. The beast rears up and slammed down toward them, but they both jump away. As soon as it turns Cackles and Scarab hit it with nets.

The nets hit and wrap, turning the beast into a writhing ball of anger, briefly at least. It is then that Green Jim bring his Steamlance to bear. He chargeds in, expertly ramming the metal point into the berserker’s torso as it pulls the nets, barbs and all, from its body.

The Steamlance is a weapon designed to kill the most monstrous of Bleedwarpt. It consists of a metal lance with a secondary tip that is fired upon impact by an explosive charge.  The steam created by the liquid explosive is directed into the gap created by the secondary tip, creating an enormous wound.

Green Jim strikes well. The lance fires with a distinct rapport. The secondary tip rips through the berserker’s back and it falls into two pieces in an eruption of steam and flesh.

Cackles laughs.

<>

 

Advertisements

Rotblossom Rose (1.6R)

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.

<>

Not even the worst horrors of the depths can rival memory.

Rose dug exceptionally well for a half-dead woman with one arm, even without a boost from the Wraithstone she carried. Long hours in the slave-mines had taught her how to work when injured; there was no pity from men like overseer Kragorr, you either met your quota or you were beaten and denied food. Most people never recovered.

Rose missed her quota three times and still survived. The first was the worst. Kragorr had knocked her down with a vicious backhand, knocking all of the teeth out of the rotten side of her face, When he saw the rot on his favorite set of gloves, along with all of the blood, he’d started kicking her, again and again. Rose could not fight back: the best she could do was curl into a ball and protect her vitals. She thought that she would die then, and hated herself for being so weak, losing even this. As darkness took her, she’d heard Kragorr’s voice.

“Maybe I’ll take a visit to the comfort house tonight Rotblossom, have a poke at your girl while she’s still fresh.”

Something had welled up inside her then, and Rose had pushed herself up, blood spilling from her mouth, ribs feeling like shards of glass in her chest. Everyone looked away except Kragorr.

“I’d say that’s an improvement, bitch,” he laughed, turning his back and walking toward the overseers compound.

Broken bones and teeth hurt plenty, but nothing compared to the hunger that came that day and the next. Had she not found a tiny nugget of The Green she likely would have died.

As she dug into the soft ground of the old outhouse, Rose realized that she was thinking of Kragorr and the mines because she did not want to think about why she was digging, of what she was looking for and why. In a way it was a comfort to think of what she had survived at the mines, all except Janiye, and that sweet sweet moment when she had opened Kragorr’s throat with her shiv. It brought a shiver of pleasure to think of it even now.

“Who says revenge is hollow?” she rasped, knee deep now in the dirt.

Rose dug until the sun was high overhead and she began to feel feint. She doubted there was food worth eating in her ruined house, but the well still drew water. As barren as the lands around The Scab were, it was not for lack of moisture.

The water was cool and wonderful, and Rose took a moment to savour it. As important as her task was, she was not keen to return to it. She had to know the truth of what lay in the remains of the outhouse, but dreaded it all the same. Hope is monstrous, it’s loss even more so.

After gulping down enough water to feel full, Rose fished around in her pouch full of Wraithstone. She found the stone she wanted quickly, without even looking. Later on, she will realize what that means, but for now it was just an unconscious talent.

Rose took the bright green Wraithstone and gently rasped it along a file from Morn’s shop. Even though the file was weathered and warped it was still able to reduce some of the stone to a fine powder.

Rose had been ingesting shavings of Green Wraithstone both to keep the Rot from spreading and to sustain her when she cannot find food. The shavings filled her with unnatural vitality, but they also played havoc with her insides and often left her retching and whimpering as they passed. Powder in water was better.

She drank it, felt strong again, and returned to digging. After a moment she stopped, got out a blue Wraithstone, powdering and mixing it, then drank it as well.

It was late in the day when her spade struck metal. The hole was as deep as her shoulder. Gently she lowered herself and felt around, locating what she had struck, getting a sense of where it lay before prying it out of the damp, fragrant soil with her spade. She holds it up in the light where she can see it.

It is a child-size replica of a coil-sword, made by her husband, Morn, for their son, Gared.

The Blue brings clarity, but it was not enough to shield her from this memory, from the knowledge brought by that little sword. Madness washed over Rose. She was assaulted by the sounds of her son screaming, crying for help, and the laughter of the member of Lawch’s cursed band who caught little Gared up and sealed his fate.

Cackles was what they called that one.

<>

 

 

Rotblossom Rose (1.4R)

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 past is bifurcated: before, Rose had a future; now, there is only a list of names that must be crossed out.

Rose approaches the house where she once lived with her family. It is well placed on a rise overlooking the busy road to Avelain. Even now, early in the morning she can see caravans big and small, though none so close that she need worry about being seen. She knows that in her present state she will be mistaken for some pitiful Bleedwarpt creature, a being mutated by Wraithstone energy, and put down by an over-zealous guard.

The gate and walls around the house are still intact; they were well-built, made to keep her family safe from bandits and worse, That safety had been an illusion.

The house had been her idea, a way for them to escape the ugliness of the city called The Scab after Janiye was born. It had been hard at first, especially when her father disowned her for marrying a Gengan. But she and Morn had scraped by, travelling up and down the road in their cart, fixing broken wagons and re-shoeing horses for a reasonable price. They prospered and by the time Ollen was born they were well established. He with his forge and her offering private lessons.

The gate swung open easily as Rose entered the courtyard. The ruins of the house, the forge, and the stables greeted her, blackened by fire and stripped by sun and storm.

She still remembers the shock of waking to Janiye’s screams, just before dawn.

There were bones in the courtyard still, bleached white by the sun, and Rose smirks as she sees the first of them It seemed that for all their talk of brotherhood, Lawch’s band did not bury their dead. Two lay near the house where she felled them, unseen coming out the side door, and another by the forge.

Even from here she could see the broken skull of the bandit who died to Morn’s forge hammer.

Aside from those three, there was another set of bones. Rose had to force herself to look at them. Morn had been a big man, burly and full of energy. His skeleton, though it dwarfed those of the fallen bandits, seemed far too small to fit Rose’s memory of the man.

“This is our place. We made a life together out here,” she remembered Morn saying this, his voice full of pride and satisfaction, but not what had precipitated the words. Like much of her life and dreams from before, the memory had been eclipsed by what happened that day.

Rose did not remember falling to her knees. She was still weak from wounds suffered in the cave-in. She sighed and pushed herself to her feet, walking slowly toward where Morn lay.

He was a brave man, tough as they came, but Lawch and the others had made him scream in the end. She remembered that.

Looking down at the remains of her beloved Morn, Rose could see little spots of rust from the unfinished iron nails that they had driven into him. A few still stuck out from his pelvis and leg-bones, corroded stumps that brought back memories of screams and harsh hands holding her down.

Rose opened the pouch at her waist, taking out a dark blue Wraithstone. It was powerful, and even holding it brought clarity and focus. She closed her eyes, breathed in and exhaled slowly, trying to set her memories aside while she did what she needed to do.

Then with grim purpose she turned toward the charred outline that marked their outhouse and with her one remaining arm she began to dig.

<>

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 3.56

This is my weekly serial, written raw and uncut!

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

<>

“I can’t believe your going back to Myrrhn, Old Wolf.”

“Twenty years is a long time Thyra, I’ve built a life there.”

“You have friends here, too.”

I laughed. “How long will you remain here, Sea Wolf? I’d wager with your wandering ways I will see you as much in Myrrhn as I would at King’s Hall.”

Thyra nodded.

“Besides,” I continued, “my exile may be over, but my clan still hates me, and the king I once served is long dead. The North will always be in my heart, but it is no longer my home.”

Thyra frowned, but it was not in her nature to sulk; after a moment she turned back to me with a sly grin. “Are you certain you’re not a Sea Wolf, wanting to live your life in search of strange places and exotic peoples?”

“A fine compliment, but you’ve seen how well I sail.”

“Hah! we’ll have plenty of time to practice on the way back to Cassander’s shield, brother.”

<>

Three days after ending my exile, High King Athelbjorn abdicated in favour of his sister, Svana. Knowing what I knew, it was a wise decision; his secret was too great a weakness for the most powerful man in the North.

<>

The return trip to Myrrhn was free of both bad weather, and bloodshed. The city was shrouded in mist as we arrived, robbing me of a breathtaking view of the place that I had called home for so many years.

“I’ll miss you, old wolf,” said Thyra after we drank a parting round in the great hall of Cassander’s Shield.

“Then visit more often.”

“I’ll try. We’ll see where the wind blows me.”

“Thyra Hurnsdottir, you have been a true friend to me. You never doubted me. You risked your own reputation in supporting an exile. I owe you a debt, old friend… if ever you need shelter from a storm, Sea Wolf, seek me out.”

“I will. Farewell, Ragnar Skyggesson. May the gods watch over you on distant shores.”

<>

The mist lifted by the time I reached the house I shared with Vethri and Eiskra. The streets were crowded with people, most of them in a hurry, but I did not mind.

My stomach growled as I caught the scent of a steak and kidney pie cooked in Pelaram gravy from one of the charming little restaurants down the street.

There were no guards at the door, and for a moment, as I sounded the bell and heard no movement, I wondered if they’d gone out or…

Then door opened. The Twins and Carmen were there, enjoying red wine and brandy as they conducted Union business. It was a cheerful reunion.

I had just finished telling them as much as I dared of my meeting with Athelbjorn, feet up, glass of brandy in hand, when a knock sounded at the door. Carmen went to answer the door, leaving me alone with Vethri and Eiskra.

“I knew you’d come back,” said Eiskra quietly.

I nodded and smiled, but before I could speak, Carmen led a familiar figure into the room.

“I was hoping to find you here, Ragnar,” said Murith. “I could use your help…”

<>

And that is it, for now. Thanks for reading. I will be starting up another serial in a week or two!

 

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.55

This is my weekly serial, written raw and uncut!

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

<>

Kingshall was unfamiliar to me now. I kept recognizing bits of the place, but twenty years of prosperity and peace between the clans had shifted much of what I once remembered. The mountains, the hall, and the ocean remained the same at least.

I spent much of the next week drinking with Thyra, telling tales to fellow Nordan, and exploring the city. At some point the realization that I was just a visitor settled on me. The North would always be my homeland, but even if my exile was ended, it was no still not my home.

I longed for Myrrhn, for the people I knew, and for my life there. What was there for me here? My kin were dead or strangers to me, while my clan still resented me because of Wolki,

Once my mind was made up to return to Myrrhn, I began to enjoy my time in Kingshall, experiencing everything that I could, and savouring the tastes and sights without reservation. The rest of the time passed quickly.

<>

The ceremony was better attended than I was expecting. Thyra and the remaining handful of old Siggurd’s Kingsguard stood at the fore. They were heroes one and all and their presence signaled that they supported my return to their number.

Thyra looked bright and proud at their head, the most loyal guardian of a favoured king. Her heroism was true in my mind, even if that of the man she once served was tarnished.

Jarls, Karls, and others of the nobility of Nordan lands were present, along with those warriors of note and priests to the gods who were willing to attend. They lined the sides of the hall, watching as I passed. Wolki glared at me, but since the cancellation of my exile restored some lost honour to our clan, he could not forgo attendance. I smiled at him. The gesture was not lost on those present and a ripple of laughter passed through the Sea Wolf contingent, with the sons of Harald Magnisson standing proud behind their clan lord. I recognized a few other faces, most of them much older than when I last saw them.

Berkhilda was there, standing proud among the contingent from Clan Furis. I stopped and nodded to the fierce, fiery haired warrior, earning a small smile. No doubt she would want to hear how our battle with Cinder led to the recovery of Garmsbita.

I carried the old High King’s blade in my arms, the burnished decorations of the massive scabbard glinting in the sun. As I approached Athelbjorn on his dais, Svana at his side, I knelt and held out the blade.

“I, Ragnar Skyggesson, called Grimfang, Exile and Twiceborn have returned carrying a lost treasure of the king whom I failed to protect. I present to you, King Athelbjorn, Garmsbita, your father’s sword, lost when he fell at the battle of Drajinskyg, on the Spearmarch, twenty years ago.”

Athelbjorn looked at the blade for a moment, then descended and drew the weapon, leaving the scabbard in my hands. As he held up the blade, shining in the sun, the people gave a great cheer. I remained kneeling until it died down, thinking of the old days and what I knew now.

When the cheering died down, Athlebjorn spoke. “Ragnar Skyggesson fell on the field at Drajinskyg and later clawed his way out of the grave. He was branded a coward, cursed by the gods for failing to protect my father. But today he has proven those accusations wrong. He has, after twenty years of exile, long after lesser men would give themselves over to bitterness, returned to Kingshall in triumph, having recovered the lost sword of his king. In doing so he has proved that the yoke of exile was placed upon his shoulders wrongly, for no coward could have faced what he faced to recover this blade. Rise Ragnar Skyggesson, your exile is over. Your name will once more be honoured among those who served my father and also among those who have served me. There will be other honours paid to you, but now is a time for celebration. For now let us feast, drink, and tell tales in your honour!”

I rose, clasped hands with the king, and the merriment began.

 

 

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.54

This is my weekly serial, written raw and uncut!

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

<>

Athelbjorn stared at me in disbelief, as did his sister and his Kingsguard. The Nordan are an honour culture, and vengeance looms large in our minds. My words would seem strange to them.

“You would let this pass?” asked Svana. She seemed almost offended.

“You did.”

Svana’s eyes widened and her nostrils flared, I could see much of Siggurd in her then, though she had better control, if less humour,

“I was only his bodyguard, not his daughter. If you have given up your claim to vengeance, what right do I have to pursue my lesser claim and the strife that would follow?”

Some of the Kingsguard nodded. The shadows in the hall seemed to lessen, as if the eyes of the Gods were satisfied and passed on to other matters, We stood for a moment in silence, until High King Athelbjorn collected himself.

“Forgive me Ragnar Grimfang,” he said, looking at me. “I loved my father, but i could never forgive him for what he did, I challenged him to a duel to the death, you know.”

“You were barely more than a pup. Siggurd was the greatest warrior-king the North has seen for many years. It was a brave challenge, but it would be akin to a man fighting Furis the day after he finishes shield training.”

“Aye. Father said there would be no honour in it, after he knocked me down. I’ve never been much of a fighter.”

“The North has plenty of warriors. You are a good king Athelbjorn, I can see that in all of your deeds since The Spearmarch. If you believe that I was sent by the Gods to judge you, then take that to heart. As long as you are a good king, no one will seek to uncover your secrets. Even Wolki was more interested in protecting his own than finding some way of attacking you.”

“What do you mean, Ragnar?”

“The mystery of of how the Skaelings and Wights ambushed us on the Spearmarch involves a secret route used for smuggling. Wolki sought to kill me to protect that information. Instead, Ulfgorr met his fate.”

“That is good to know. I must say that you are not at all what I expected, Twiceborn.”

“Twenty years in Myrrhn have given me a different perspective, King Athelbjorn. Honour is not everything, especially to a man whose responsibilities extend further than his own sword arm. I have also seen the violence that some do to those closest to them, and learned to admire those who take what path they can to seek redress, even if it is a knife in the back. I will always admire your father for his deeds, and love him for the honour he showed me, but now that I know what he did to his family I will despise him for that. People are complicated and many of those you meet have a touch of the unexpected.”

“Well said. I will lift your exile, Ragnar Skyggesson. There will be a formal event later, but for now let me have the honour of welcoming you home.”

<>