The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.28″

It has been an eventful week here. A windstorm blew shingles off my house yesterday, which is not common in this part of the world. I am dead tired, but here nonetheless. This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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The fortress of Cassander’s Shield brooded, outlined in red and gold as the sun set behind it. The docks were thick with longships showing the shields of every clan, with the heraldry of many prominent Nordan among them.

They did not challenge me at the gates of the bridge to the Nordan quarter this time. Instead, the guards, four grey-bearded veterans clasped hands with me as I passed.

“Gods be with ye, Grimfang,” said the eldest.

It appeared that Ulfgorr was even less popular than an exile.

“My thanks, warrior. It is unfortunate that you are stuck out here on guard duty.”

“Mayhap he has no stomach for slaughter, old wolf,” said another of the veterans. They all laughed at this, and I did as well; Nordan have a peculiar sense of humour. Behind us the Twins exchanged glances with Murith,

“If I die, at least I will die with honour.”

“That is true,” said the first.

“Let us hope that the gods smile upon ye, Shadow Wolf,” said the second.

“And that your sword strikes true,” said the third.

“And that your shield is as strong as your will,” said the last.

I nodded and led my procession through the gates. The Twins were with me, of course, as was Murith, Git, and Renoit. There were a great many more besides; friends from The Doxies’s Union and people that I had helped or adventured with over my decades in Myrrhn. Whores and mercenaries bumped elbows with scholars and merchants. It was quite touching.

As we approached the steps leading to the great metal doors of the fortress, I caught a familiar scent. I looked up to see her standing before me, clad in bright armour and bearing her fell spear.

“Thyra! I did not expect to see you here.”

“Old fool. I crossed half an ocean riding Hurn’s own storm to get here. I would not fail to bear witness when my sword-brother faces the demon wolf himself.”

“Ah, you do me too much honour Thyra. You are a hero of the North, the last of Siggurd’s Kingsquard. I am but an exile, shamed for falling before my king.”

“Put away the long face brother. You are not so shamed that this cannot lift your heart.”

And she held up a suit of armour identical to the one that I last wore on the day of my exile from Nordan lands. It was finely made kingsmail with black plate pauldrons, gorget, and vambraces. On it was the insignia of Siggurd ‘Stormbreaker’, once the high king of the North and with that of his successor.

“The Queen?”

“No, the boy. He is old enough to lead now. When I asked, he gave his blessing. Perhaps this will give Wolki pause.”

My mind had trouble keeping pace. The young High King had given me permission to wear this sacred armour; it was a great and unexpected honour. I could not understand why it was being bestowed upon me, save as a courtesy to Thyra, who was a real hero.

“Thank you, old friend.”

“May it bring you victory this time, Ragnar.”

Of course, one might look upon the armour as a last comfort from a merciful king to a fallen exile meeting an honourable death…

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.27

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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“You’re going to face Ulfgorr in single combat? Did I hear that right?” Git did not look impressed. Being from Kanung, he understood the concept of honour, but he was not an adherent at all.

“Living in Myrrhn has made you cynical.”

“Not at all, I came to live in this city because I found that the culture aligned with my view of the world,” said Git. “Did you come here to say farewell before you commit suicide by ascended werewolf?”

“Some thing like that. But just in case I change my mind, do you have any of that concoction that Murith used when we fought him.”

“I do,” said Git. “Do you want it as a weapon oil or a throwing flask?”

“Won’t it ruin any weapon I place it on?”

“Will that matter if you are dead?”

“I think the flask is a better option, if only for the element of surprise.”

“Just don’t drop it. Once the white sparkstone within is exposed to the air it will start to burn and light the sunfire oil immediately.”

“That is good to know.”

“I would warn you against using it to kill yourself, but I don’t think that is necessary now.” said Git.

“I can beat him.”

“Let’s not equivocate possibility with probability, Ragnar. You and I have not always had an easy time as friends, but I do not want to see you die. Thus I cannot approve of your actions here. Wolki would never have sent Ulfgorr to challenge you if he thought you would win.”

“That is true. But there is always fortune and the favour of the gods.”

“And what secrets do you have to sell to Skygge that would cause him to favour you over the Lord of his clan?”

“I’ll think of something. Thank you for everything Git.”

“I hope you do Ragnar friend, I really do.”

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“I could fight him for you, Ragnar. We could do this if you Challenge Wolki, he will name Ulfgorr as a Champion and you can name me as yours.”

“I don’t think I can regain my honour if I let a Loragonian Duellist fight my battles for me. Besides on the off chance Ulfgorr were to best you, we would both die, which is not a risk I wish to take Renoit. You have stood beside me through many a tough battle, but this battle I must face alone.”

“May I come to witness the duel?”

“I would be honoured Renoit. But before that day comes, there is another way you can help me. I feel a few practice bouts with you would help sharpen my skills; I will need to use finesse to stand against Ulfgorr in a duel.”

“And finesse is definitely not your strongest asset… I don’t suppose I could convince you to use a sabre?”

“I prefer to stick with a Nordan blade; we don’t have enough time to break in a new weapon, let alone learn a new style of fighting.”

“That is unfortunate. I have a silver sabre that would do the job nicely. I call her Adrianna.”

“I hope Adrianna does not feel spurned, but I am loyal to my own blades.”

“Very well Ragnar, let’s see if I can teach you something useful this time,”

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.26

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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“Are you certain you want to face Ulfgorr in one on one combat Ragnar?” asked Vethri, looking me in the eye. “I know that it is the honourable thing to do, but from what you have told us about him, it seems like it will be tough to win.”

“That is putting it diplomatically. Ulfgorr will likely paint the challenge ring with my blood.”

“Then why do it?” asked Carmen.

“Its a Nordan thing,” responded Eiskra. “The nobles are big on honour and single combat, even the women.”

“Without honour I will never be free to return to Nordan lands.”

“It seems like a foolish thing to throw away your life for, Ragnar,” said Carmen. “I know you love your homeland, but even without it, you still have a good thing going here. I envy you.”

“Do you really Carmen?”

I was a little wroth, but she did not seem to care. “Do you think that I would have fallen prey to someone like Sildus if I had friends like yours, Ragnar? The Nightblades recruit ‘most of us from pickpocket gangs and the like in the run down parts of the city. I don’t ‘have very many good memories of my youth; just little victories like getting enough to eat or finding a warm place to sleep when it got cold. I used to think that I was special, just to have escaped that, but now I know better. You have so much more than I do in that regard.”

I nodded. “What you say is true: I have always been fortunate to find myself in good company. But I cannot shirk this fight. Ulfgorr will not stop until one of us is dead. Fighting him in the challenge ring ensures a fair fight, and a chance to regain my honour. I cannot pass it up.”

“Fine,” said Carmen. “What are the rules of this fight? how can we help you win?”

The rules are simple. We both enter the challenge ring. We fight until one of us is dead. No one outside the challenge ring can help.”

“Can I poison your weapons?”

“That would be dishonourable.”

“Can we spend a small fortune on an enchanted blade?” asked Vethri.

“We could, If we had time. It is not exactly sporting, but then again Ulfgorr is a wolf-changing berserk. Sadly, there are no smiths that I know if in this town who could produce a better blade than I have now in the time before the fight.”

“I’ll see if I can get Git to make something useful for you with that fire concoction of his,” said Murith. “It seemed to work well on Ulfgorr the first time.”

“It would have to be thrown though; I don’t want to warp my blade.”

Carmen laughed. Cackled more like. Everyone looked at her.

“This has given me an idea that might help you out Ragnar. I have to return to the tower…”

“Are you going to give voice to this though of yours?”

“Nope. Nightblades prefer surprises. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt your honour, Ragnar.”

And she slipped out of the carriage and melted into the crowd.

“This should be interesting,” said Murith.

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Sunday Teaser

Tis late and here is a teaser for my friends, from the first draft of my next Domains book.

With a reputation as a defensive fighter, the crowd did not expect Green Glory to be truly competitive with an offensive virtuoso like King Blade. They cheered as she adopted her risky strategy, trampling her way to the depths of the horde.

Scores of stitched surged into the fighting grounds, trying to overwhelm the Gladiators. They battered Green Glory mercilessly leaving deep gashes in her hide. She shook them off like a seabird drying herself, and kept pushing into them, stomping everyone she overpowered into the sands. Such was her fervour that she threatened to overtake King Blade’s impressive score.

King Blade swung his sword tirelessly. Such was the dance of his blade that none of the stitched got within arm’s reach. The crowd cheered his skill, but he could tell that they were swayed by Green Glory, who put herself in harm’s way in order to seek victory. Thus, the big charger redoubled his effort, paying less mind to his own safety as he cut down stitched after stitched.

Not all of the stitched wore furs and leather, and when Green Glory cut down one of the zombies that was wearing and iron breastplate, she saw her score jump by several points, briefly overtaking King Blade’s. As soon as this registered she started looking for metal-clad stitched and pushed her way toward the closest one. A mace handed stitched smashed her side as she pushed, but she sent it sprawling with a flick of her horn and then brought her axe down onto the armoured figure, cleaving through the helm and spilling its pickled brain.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.25

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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“What was that?” asked Carmen as our carriage lurched into motion and began to roll down the cobbles and away from The Pink Pearl.

“We cut Diamond Silvermane loose,” said Eiskra. “Now no one can claim that we are forcing them to remain in the Union.”

“Without membership in The Doxies’s Union she cannot speak at our gatherings, either,” said Vethri.

“And without the Union she will have to find her own doormen,” I added. “Some of the bouncers that I saw there were mercenaries. It takes a very select temperament to tend the door at a brothel; mercenaries are prone to violent solutions and intimidate the patrons.”

“I’m glad it was well thought out,” said Carmen. “The look on her face as you left was pure gold. I loved it. This is fun.”

“Good, I’m glad you think so,” said Eiskra. “We have your first client waiting at our house.”

Carmen laughed, looking down at the array of devices that were part of her costume. “I would hate to be that guy.”

“Who said that the client is a man?” asked Vethri flatly.

Carmen’s eyes went round. Even I had trouble telling when Vethri was lying. After a moment they both burst out laughing.

“Sorry, Carmen,” said Eiskra. “There actually is a client waiting for us at the house. After all this I’m eager to see to her. Our business requires strict confidentiality though; you never know what they will let slip during the… interrogation.”

“It does sound like fun,” said Carmen.

“Should you be discussing this in front of me?” asked Murith.

“You would need to join The Union, and swear an oath,” said Vethri.

“I will get back to you,” said Carmen. “We have members in The Doxies’s Guild, of course, but I am not certain what my superiors would think.”

I was about to respond when the driver lost control of the horses. The carriage rocked violently and then came to a stop.

“You better come out and see this Ragnar,” said the Driver.

I stepped out of the carriage, hand on the hilt of my hammer. I could smell him. There, standing in the street like a lunatic was Ulfgorr. He was in human form, wearing an old overcoat. There were still signs of burns on his face, but I was dismayed at how quickly the damage seemed to have been undone.

“I see that the burns have made you less ugly, Ulfgorr. Did you come back for more?”

Ulfgar rippled, a grotesque sound rising from his throat. I heard Murith load a bolt in her arbalest behind me. Then, with visible effort, Ulfgorr relaxed.

“Wolki…” he began, spiting out the words as if they were spoiled. “Wolki bade me speak to you Grimfang. He wishes to meet and settle differences. To negotiate, or fight if that is your desire. At the fortress, in the challenge ring.”

My heart sank. The challenge ring was used for single combat. For a warrior of renown to refuse a challenge there was a great dishonour. This was a setup for humiliation or death.

“I will be there.”

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Sunday Night Teaser

A little teaser from my WIP:

Tugging on his mustache to hide the expression of pride on his face, Hephus watched as Bastion performed a second kata for a crowded room full of Iron Faction.

“He is impressive,” said Publius, standing beside him. “A metal Legionnaire.”

“Aye,” said Hephus. “The men accept him as one of their own. I theorize that shared hardships increase the rate at which bonding between occurs between sentient automatons as it does between the rest of the Legionnaires.”

“Interesting,” said Publius. “Is Bastion as attached to his flesh and blood comrades as they are to him, then?”

“Yes,” said Hephus. “He will not execute orders that will harm his fellows.”

“What criteria do you use when making that judgement? Is it an absolute or do you follow some kind of utilitarian guideline?”

“It is organic, learned behaviour,” said Hephus. “He learns from watching the Legionnaires and analyzing their actions as you have seen, but he also learns their morals and virtues like a flesh and blood child would. Occasionally he has questions, which I help him with, but it is not a programmed response.”

“Some might say that you are simply relying on second-hand programming, then. If much of our behaviour is determined by heredity and instinct, and he learns from us, then isn’t he inheriting our programming?”

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whore’s War 3.24

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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The Pink Pearl was newly renovated and very popular. We were ushered around the back  by a pair of burly doormen in black leather studded with ‘diamonds’. The perfectly manicured garden path let to a little patio cut off from the rest of the grounds, sheltered from the rain by the series of decks and balconies above. A little round glass table awaited us with chairs set all around.

As the doormen left, a pair of servers, one young, one old, appeared, bringing wine and port as well as a tray of cheese and grapes.

“Diamond will see you shortly,” the elder said as they departed.

I could sense more ‘doormen’ nearby, my ears picking up the sound of leather creaking and my nose the odor of the cologne that they were told to wear.

Carmen held up her hand in making a gesture or inquiry. “Five?”

I nodded affirmatively, wondering if she was just guessing or she had some other method to count the guards. I doubted her senses were as sharp as mine.

The Twins sat down at the end of the table facing the door. They were dressed in simple evening wear appropriate to a Myrhnese woman of any station; a knee length back dress, short black blazer, and knee-high black boots. Vethri wore a simple gold chain, while Eiskra wore her favourite ruby ring.

Carmen was still dressed in her ‘apprentice’ clothing, although she now carried weapons both hidden and in-character.

Vethri and Eiskra looked at each other once and settled, still as statues. I contented myself by listening to the sounds of the Pink Pearl and the streets beyond.

Diamond Silvermane waited just long enough to make her entrance. She strolled through the heavy oak door, resplendent in a cloak of white minx fur and the most impressive diamond necklace that I had ever seen. Her silver hair billowed about her head like a candle flame. She smiled at the twins, but there was little warmth in her eyes.

A pair of guards followed her out. These carried swords.

“Welcome to the Pearl, fellow whores,” said Diamond Silvermane. “The best brothel in Myrrhn.”

“You seem a little understaffed, Diamond,” said Eiskra.

“We’re just busy, darling,” said Diamond Silvermane. “But I do thank you for your concern.”

“Half of your rooms are empty,” said Vethri. “We know the capacity of this house and we know that the Silk Swan is already drawing some customers away from you now the Dierdre Dark and Troy work there.”

Diamond Silvermane laughed. “You’re right. Those two do have a loyal following, and I admit that their defection has caused us to lose their regulars. But you can see that we are busy and I assure you I am recruiting new talent; young women who will build their own followings. Now I assume that you did not call this meeting simply to insult me, girls. Let’s do business.”

“We are not going to take you to council.” said Vethri.

“Pardon?”

“We have decided not to challenge The Pink Pearl’s severance from The Doxies’s Union. We welcome the competition; Myrrhn has always been governed by market interests and we will not try to force you or your girls to join us you do not want to.”

“That’s all. No need for wine or anything,” added Eiskra.

The Twins stood, in unison. It was a gesture complicated by the fact that Vethri was a head taller than Eiksra, but they managed it.

Diamond Silvermane look confused for a heartbeat, then she recovered and stood as well. “Are you certain you don’t want to discuss this further?” she said, a little less bombastically.

“What is there to discuss?” asked Vethri. “Thank you for your hospitality Diamond, I know that The Pink Pearl is in good hands.”

“Have a nice afternoon,” added Eiskra, a little too gleefully, I thought.

And we left.

“What was that?” asked Carmen as soon as we were in the carriage.

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