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The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years.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