Rotblossom Rose (1.55R)

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The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years.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 is walking to a favorite Tapwagon, looking to drown her nervous energy with some of the new ‘honey screech’ that is becoming popular in the hive. The complex flavours excite something in her, as well as the usual soothing numbness, and she knows Wraithstone is involved.

It has been seven days and Rose has yet to penetrate the Spider’s paranoia. He fears some trick by the Sorceress and Rose suspects that he meant her to die upon meeting the woman.

She has left him three letters, written in the complex code that he taught her, and answered two of his. Rose has also met with one of his agents, who asked her simple questions about her past, examined her mechanical arm, and even taken a small sample of her blood for The Spider. She told the man that she had proof of the Sorceress’s death, but would only show The Spider.

It is frustrating, but is is exactly what she expects from him. The Spider’s paranoia is his best defence against everything but Chaos; he did not expect his pawn to survive after killing the King.

The long wait has given her plenty of time to make other preparations, at least.

Rose turns down a familiar alley, and slows. Something is different. She makes it her business to know the territory that she travels. Outwardly, few would see the change, but she is wary now and doing a mental inventory of the weapons she has, the places where she can be attacked, and where she can run to get away.

The tension mounts, she cannot see any signs of ambush or hear anything untoward. She is on the verge of backing out of the alley and fleeing when she spots a sewer cover that she knows was not there before. It is marked, to those who know what to look for, as one of the entrances to The Spider’s lair. She had not expected it so far from Meryn’s Tangle; The Spider has extended his reach.

She kneels and presses the hidden buttons that will alert the man himself that she is here. She does not have to wait long.

“Rose?”

“Of course,” said Rose. “I know you can see me, old friend. Lawch and his pet Sorceress have been dealt with.”

“I find that difficult to believe.”

Of course you do, bastard, she thinks, you left me to die at her hands.

“I have proof of her death,” said Rose coldly. “I want answers in return. Why didn’t you kill her, for example?”

Her words were greeted with silence. After a moment, she spoke again, carefully keeping an even tone.

“If you do not let me in, all contact between us will be severed, and you will never know what happened to The Sorceress. You have five seconds to make your decision, Spider. We both know you will never have a better chance than this. What are you so afraid of?”

The hatch hissed and slid open, revealing the familiar tunnel that would lead her to the Spider’s Lair. She knows that it is trapped, that he can kill her in an instant as she traverses it, likely in some horrible, but antiseptic manner like acid or fire or suffocation. In the end though, she is as much a prisoner of the moment as he is; she drops into the black hole and goes to meet her fate, whatever it is,

But as she disappears into the black she sticks a tiny copper pin in the cover, a sleight of hand that not even The Spider notices.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.54R)

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 man, black hair graying at the temples framing a square jaw and a handsome face, smiled at Rose as she entered his shop. She was grateful for the half-mask that hid much of her face; it gave her an excuse to keep her head down, all the better to obfuscate her hate.

The man’s smile remained, but his eyes changed as he measured Rose.

“How can I help you, miss?”

Arthrin the Mendicant’s shop was on Overlook Lane, one the places where the most successful merchants and tradesmen had their shops. Rose fondly remembered shopping here with Edward and her father in her youth. They had forged the hilt for her Coilsword at a shop nearby. There had been a toymaker close-bye too, with wonderful brass soldiers and exotic games from the five kingdoms, but that shop was only a memory. Overlook Lane was prosperous and busy, and the Silverthread Span glittered through the shop window as it caught the last rays of the sinking sun.

“I need help,” said Rose, her voice rough and raw like a poorly oiled whetstone on a battered blade. “I have The Rot. Bad. It is said that you are one of the best at taking away the pain.”

Arthrin the Mendicant’s smile broadened. Rose could see the boyish glee in his eyes. It was true that he was a skilled physician, but his real trade was in torture. His clinic helped people, but those in the know could hire him for other functions. The decadent madness of the truly powerful in the city called The Scab knows no bounds. Even then, that was not enough. Rose was certain that Lawch’s old friend was stalking and killing for his own pleasure, dissecting his unfortunate victims from the poorer wards that clung to the sides of The Gash below The Silverthread Span.

“Of course, but my skills do not come cheap.”

“I do not have much money, sir, but I do have this,” Rose held up an energized Green Wraithstone, the kind much sought after in healing. It was not conspicuously powerful, but it was still worth a lot of coin.

Arthrin paused and licked his lips. The old predator had not been truly challenged in years, it seemed. “May I see that?”

“Not until you sign a notary contract to heal me in exchange for the stone,” rasped Rose.

Arthrin’s brow furrowed, his mile disappearing. “I cannot do that. Get out of my shop, vagrant and go crawl back into the gutter. I am a businessman of renown and reputation, not some criminal who needs to be bonded by contract!”

Rose had hoped that he might try to strike her right there, but Arthrin restrained himself.

“Suit yourself, bastard,” Rose spat, desecrating  and turned, limping out the door and turning down the street toward the span.

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Rose becomes aware of Arthrin following her halfway across the span. The wind is savage at this time of day, whipping across the chasm at a pace that should rock the slender, unsupported thread that runs across the gaping crevasse below. Rose, still faking the limp, looks back at her shadow.

Arthrin is wearing wind-goggles that mask his face, and a black long-jacket. He grins when he sees that she has spotted him. It is a grin she has seen before, on that day in her little house on the road to Avalain as Arthrin drove spike after spike into her beloved Morn while Lawch and his band of bastards laughed. How many people have seen that grin as they died?

Rose turns and begins to limp faster. Arthrin matches her pace, relaxed and certain of the kill. He has no desire to kill her on the bridge, of course; he likes to take his time. She leads him on, until they come to a part of the Span which is deserted, with no one within a fifty paces either way.

Rose turns; it is her time to smile. Arthrin the Mendicant stops, his hand reaching for his knife, his expression betraying concern. Rose lets the ragged cloak hiding her metal arm drop. The wind snatches it, pulling the garment off the bridge and into the void below. She lets him see her as she stretches out, lithe and confident, a predator of a higher order. She puts on her silver skull masks and advances on him. His knife flashes into his hand, a well concealed short-sword into hers. His eyes widden with fear as she knocks his blade from his hand and drives the blade into his gut, pushing him up against the edge of the span. He is undone by the blow, soiling himself as he is overcome by pain and fear.

“Wh–” he gasps.

“You killed my family. You and Lawch, on the road to Avalain, twenty years ago, Arthrin. I want you to die slowly, as you killed my husband. Only instead of spikes, I think I will let the fall do the work.”

She pushes him against the railing, her metal arm crushing his shoulder. He struggles, but a twist if the blade in his belly robs him of strength and with a grunting effort she heaves him over, breaking his grip.

“NOOOOOoooo!” wails Arthrin the Mendicant as he drops into The Gash, his eyes full of horror as gravity takes him.

Rose watches him as he falls, savoring the moment, knowing she will have quiet dreams tonight.

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Two days later a Bleedwarpt Titan crawls up the side of The Gash, wreaking havoc until the Steamlancers down it. Rose is left to wonder…

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Rotblossom Rose (1.53R)

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 candle sputters out as heavy metal pole flies across the room, a lethal projectile driven by rage. Rose stumbles as she launches it, barely able to compensate for the massive effort that it takes to throw such an object.

The sorceress’s does not even look at her as she raises a hand. Her veins pulse blue, as if she were a glass vessel filled with molten sapphire lace. Rose feels the bleed, as pure and strong as if she were drinking the best stuff she has ever had. A shiver runs down the hairs on the back of her neck as the candle-stick stops in mid flight, and then slowly drops to the ground.

“Rage and muscle will get you nothing here, girl,” says the Sorceress. “Neither will all your prowess with a sword. If you realized your potential, you could face me as an equal, perhaps even overcome me as I–“

Rose hurls herself across the space between them, a very different kind of projectile, flooding her system with every bit of Wraithstone that she can inject. This time the sorceress meets her eye, and waves her hand. Her veins flash blue again. Rose feels something hit her chest and she flies backward as if kicked by a mule. A gentle force arrests her fall and she comes to a rest floating in space, held immobile.

The Red pulses through her veins, and Rose, without the outlet of motion and violence froths rabidly.

“FUCK YOU CUNT, I’LL CUT YOUR FACE OFF. I”LL GUT YOU AND LEAVE YOU FOR THE WRONGBLOODS. I”LL MAKE YOU BEG FOR DEATH!”

The Sorceress waits patiently, even picks up an elegant crystal glass and sips at some red wine. Watching Rose as she spits and sputters. Rose hangs in the air, part of a demonstration of raw power that she finds more shocking with each passing moment.

“Are you done?” asks the sorceress.

“Yes” croaks Rose, her voice breaking with anguish. “Just finish it.”

The sorceress laughs. In twenty years of trying, Rose never uncovered the woman’s name or any other salient point about her, now she realizes why. The Sorceress, like The Spider, has been moving the pieces of this game.

“I’m not going to kill you, Rose.”

“You should. You have to. I will not rest until I see you dead for what you did to my family, bitch.”

“I had no choice in that, I was bound to Lawch.”

Rose laughed, a sharp rasp that ended in a cough, from habit. “You seem pretty capable of making you voice heard to me. I killed Lawch and yet here I am, helpless as a fucking child. How could he force you to do his bidding?”

“The same thing that made you think that you could escape The Scab and live at your little house on the road to Avalain. I loved Lawch… I was young, he was charming and dangerous, and not at all afraid of what I could do. He used my love to extract a promise that bound me to him, one that I could not break.”

“You helped keep me a live… I broke it for you…” said Rose, feeling ill.

“Poor Rose, a pawn in so many games… Yes. You killing Lawch freed me. I knew what you were when I saved you from death and I knew that you would kill Lawch if you could.”

“Great story. I will still kill you.”

“No, you won’t. I have two names that are not on your list that should be and one that was, that should not have been. I will trade these to be free of your hate.”

Rose stared.

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A Teaser for Tuesday

This week’s excerpt is from Bloodlust: Iron Faction, the eighth book in my Domains of the Chosen series.

In this part of the book, gavin and Sadira have a perilous encounter with an old foe, The Wirn…

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“Sounds—”

A dreadful cry echoed above them. Gavin turned to see the massive winged form bearing down on them, raising his shield as adrenaline set his blood aflame. The head and the barbed tail of the beast were instantly identifiable: a wyvern! On the beast’s back was an armoured Wirn. Snow shot into the air as they landed nearby and Gavin blocked a sudden tail strike that shot forth, partly obscured.

Further up the hill came more shrieks and the sounds of metal on metal, the sizzle of spells, and the war-cries of a battle joined.

Gavin could feel Headtaker draw an enormous amount of power from him, shrugging off Wirn twisting, and saw a bright flash as she called lightning down on one of the mounted Wirn.

Anger spurred Sadira to action, and she charged the closest Wyvern, brandishing her greatsword. The tail flicked toward her as she closed, and she dodged out of the way of the wicked barb, then sidestepped out of reach as the beast sought to bite her in half. She bought her sword down on its neck, but a band of thick metal thwarted the killing blow. Before Sadira could strike again, the beast swung around and butted her aside with its armoured head. She rolled to her feet perilously close to the mountain edge. An arrow from the beasts’ rider skipped off her pauldron as the Wyvern closed.

“Not this time beast!” shouted Gavin, charging forward to aid Sadira, his shield held high. The monster remained intent on Sadira, and so Gavin leapt in, knocking the Wirn rider out of its saddle and into the snow, grabbing the back and pulling himself up.

Sadira howled and lunged thrusting her blade into the neck of the Wirn before he could rise. His blood gushed out onto the snow as she darted away from his mount. The Wyvern screamed and lunged at her, but Sadira danced out of the way of the lashing tail and snapping jaws.

Rotblossom Rose (1.52R)

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 approached Ogre, circling to the left to avoid his dominant hand. One solid hit could finish her, but she could see that the gigantic Kolim was shaken.

“A cornered rat bites twice as hard,” a saying common to the Hive flitted through her head. It was true, in this case. Her opponent understood the stakes now, he would not be caught underestimating her with his life in such danger.

Ogre’s eyes followed her, small and black under his heavy brow. Unlike most Kolim, his head was shaved clean and he radiated a kind of watchful aggression, like a Deep wolf about to pounce.

Their audience was quiet, the room packed with people pulled in from the street to see the spectacle of a man thought to be invincible facing a serious challenge. A few of them shouted occasional jeers or words of encouragement, but for the most part they just watched. It was too late to wager, by then.

The massive Kolim threw a powerful jab as she closed, which Rose stepped around and delivered a devastating punch to his side with metal fist. Ogre grunted, unfazed by an attack that landed on solid muscle and bone. His fist choped back toward her, a swift backhand, forcing Rose to duck and then scramble back as he followed up with an attempt to snatch her up into a lethal embrace.

Rose sneered, Ogre growled.

How can I end this? Rose wondered. Ogre was fighting defensively now, keeping her out of the way. He was bigger than her, but she had to work more to keep out of his way and the Kolim had a well-deserved reputation as tireless workers. She danced in, baiting him to attack, but was disappointed when he delivered a swipe designed to push her away.

“You’ll have to do better than that,” snarled Ogre, lunging at her.

Long hours of watching Ogre fight let Rose see the opening she was so desperately looking for; a slight wobble as his fist snapped out toward her, cause by his foot coming down a fraction too soon for such a powerful blow to be perfectly balanced. She ducked, coiling to spring up and hit him in a sweet spot just below the sternum. But some instinct, primal and undeniable, warned her and at the last moment she veered aside and rolled away. She felt the wind of a massive fist passing by her the back of her head. As she gained her feet she turned sweeping her metal arm in a blind arc behind her, hoping to catch Ogre before he could recover from his attack.

There was a distinct impact and Rose heard a grunt front Ogre. The room went silent. Rose felt Ogre’s arms close around her then, and a thrill of fear shot through her. She knew what it was like to be helpless in that terrible grip. And yet, even before she could could react, she realized that his grasp was fumbling, more for support than an attack. She looked back at him.

Rose’s gaze traveled down her metal arm, to where her fist was buried in the soft part of Ogre’s neck. Her backhand had crushed his windpipe. The beast eyes rolled in terror and anger as he pulled her toward him. Rose tried pulling her arm away, but as wounded as he was the giant had her arm in a death grip. He was keen to get the rest of her, to drag her down into the dark with him before he choked.

“Not today, bastard,” said Rose.

She reached up and released the lower three-quarters of her arm from the metal ‘nerves’ and studs embedded in the stump. Ogre fell back as it suddenly popped free. His face was purple now.

 She met Ogre’s eyes as he struggled for a breath that would never come, still trying to crawl toward her. “Satisfaction claimed.”

And then he was dead.

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A Teaser for Tuesday

Tis Tuesday teaser time once more!

Here is an excerpt from my new book, Bloodlust: Iron Faction.

This one is a little weird. The Shugothoth is a thinking disease, while Lignam is a simulacrum created from an evil Gladiator and a vampiric plant that took root in a cultist. In a cosmic sense they both want to shift the world and the use of magic away from the Domains of the Chosen.

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The air was thick and strange now. As Lignam came closer to the source of the power he sensed, the Shugothoth sent swarms of bees and blood wasps to assault him.

These proved to be a growing nuisance, for though the grim totem quickly broke each wave, close to the heart of its power the Shugothoth seemed more willing to face pain.

Tiring, Lignam paused to channel, tapping into the power of the elements. He did not like invoking the old magic that he had retained from previous lives, but he could not deny that it had its uses. He wove the pattern and cast his spell. After a moment, his armour began to glow with heat. The insects all around him curled up and fell from the air or were simply burnt to ash. Lignam himself was subject only to minor discomfort from the heat.

After several minutes, the insects let up, and Lignam ceased feeding power to his spell, letting it expire. His armour cooled and, as he pushed forward, looking around, he realized that the annoyance caused by the insects had hidden a change in the jungle from him.

The Shugothoth was capable of creating predatory trees and warping living things, but in the place that Lignam’s senses brought him to, it had altered the entire ecosystem. Every living thing was warped and changed.

Enormous trees bore egg sacks containing an army of monstrosities like grotesque fruit. As Lignam watched, one of these eggs split, birthing a multi-headed serpentine creature that proceeded to eat the remains of its own placenta before undulating toward the centre of the infected jungle.

And there, beyond dozens of such acts of tainted parturition, Lignam beheld the source of the power he could sense; an enormous grove of festering, pulsating trunks with limbs like a kraken’s arms dropping down from the canopy. Hives of deadly blood wasps ringed that inner grove, vomiting forth clouds of the vicious little creatures, defenders that could thwart even him.

Rotblossom Rose (1.51R)

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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“Fuck!” Rose bolts up, silk sheets sliding off her skin, an unfamiliar caress to one one who lost such sensations long ago.

She is disoriented by her opulent surroundings. The poster bed that she was sleeping in is larger than any she has seen, elegantly carved from a fragrant dark wood. Brass rings set into the frame speak of certain sensual proclivities. Heavy red curtains hide the sun, but give an impression of height than only comes from a bedrock manse.

Rose wonders why she is here. Did Lawch kill her? Then she remembers the sorceress, and the shock of it is like being dropped into ice water. Her heart beats hard as she looks around frantically. No clothes. No Coilsword. What the fuck is going on?

And then a woman in a long red dress enters the room, and Rose’s heart lurches. The sheets fly off as she scrambles to her feet, casting about for a weapon. She uproots a heavy candle-holder the size of a quarterstaff from beside the bed and turns to face her adversary.

Lawch’s sorceress.

Dark hair with a streak of red and pale green eyes. The sorceress simply smirk’s at Rose, watching her from a cross the room with a tray laden with fruit and wine.

Anyone can enjoy the beneficial effects of distilled Wraithstone, a powerfully energized stone, alchemy, and even magical devices powered by the stuff. Some fools grind it into powder, snort it, or ingest it for more powerful effects with more direct control of the power contained within. Most of those are consumed by the powers they seek to command, burning out or ending up on a swift path to becoming a wrongblood. Sorcerers are the tiny minority who don’t. Somehow they transcend the Wraithstone and attune to the bleed itself.

Sorcerers are powerful enough even to deny the ancient families that control The Scab and even the Alchemist’s Syndicate is wary of them.

The sorceress raises a brow and Rose feels foolish. The distance between them is too far. She remembers seeing the woman after her fight with Lawch (THE BASTARD IS DEAD!) and the unsurprising realization that The Spider had betrayed her, but nothing after that.

“What have you done to me, bitch?” snarls Rose.

“I saved you from death, and not for the first time,” says the Sorceress. “Lawch poisons his weapons. He bribes the officials every time it is discovered. You were almost dead when I arrived, my dear.”

“Why would you save me?”

“You know why.”

Rose’s mouth opens, but the words evaporate. She thinks of her time in the depths. Her trek back to the little house on the road to Avalain after escaping the slave mines, holding a Green Wraithstone in her mouth. How her silver barely tarnishes in the bleed by the time Geb has already gone through a gold. How she has survived, for two decades, against impossible challenges. Her mind rebels against the idea, because having such a gift poisons her idea of her self and her quest for vengeance, one woman against the powerful. And yet… She closes her mouth and lets the candle holder rest, keeping her hand on it.”

“I knew it when I first saw you,” says the Sorceress. “If I were as strong as I was now I could have convinced Lawch to let you live or killed him and his band of monsters to save you, sister. But I wasn’t even as strong then as I think you are now. All I could do was convince them to keep you alive, sell you to the mines and watch–“

The Sorceress looks down, her flawless face breaking for a moment. Rose shifts the moment their eyes break contact, bringing the heavy candle-stick up and heaving it through the air like a spear.

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