A Teaser for Tuesday

Barring unforeseen events my next Domains of the Chosen book, Bloodlust: The Sum of Hate will release next week. Here is a taste:

<>

The body was pinned to a tree with javelins through each shoulder and one in the belly. It was easy to read pain in the features of the dead man, although softened by death and decay.

“This is bad,” said Elder Hissu.

“This is my father’s work,” said Riritaka. “He wants to cause panic.”

“Who is this man?” asked Gavin.

“He is known to me,” said Elder Hissu, sadly. “He is a trader among your people, beloved by both the Legionnaires and those who seek peace among the tribes.”

“The scouts tell me he was put here four days ago,” said Strategos Mora. “This was done while we were attending the sodding peace talks.”

“Yes, that sounds like Gotka,” said Riritaka. “He will come for us soon.”

“How far away from the fort are we?” asked Gavin.

“If we marched clear through the night we could get there in less than twenty hours,” said Strategos Mora. “We cannot outpace The Pale in the jungle though, Chosen. Only the best of the scouts could manage that feat, and even then, it would be risky.”

“Can we evade them?” asked Gavin.

“No,” said Strategos Mora. “We believe they watch us, even now.”

“It is possible,” said Chosen Brighthoof. “But surely not in numbers large enough to be a threat.”

“The watchers will be directing two groups,” said Riritaka. “One will be between us and the fort, the other will be trailing us.”

“Should we move to the coast then?” asked Gavin, trying to formulate a plan.

“They would expect that, would they not?” responded elder Hissu, turning to Riritaka.

“Yes,” said Riritaka. “The paths to the coast will be heavily trapped.”

“Strategos Mora, how far away are your men?” asked Gavin.

<> (The edits on this next part have not been approved, so this is raw.)

The Duellum Dominantium was one of the few times that both groups enter the fighting grounds at the same time.

Silvius, followed by the mountainous form of the Gorehound entered from the south, while Sadira and Sapphire Kiss entered from the north. A half-million fans, all on their feet, screaming and cheering, greeted the four Gladiators as their feet touched the white sands.

Sadira, known for her flashy entrances, merely gave a salute to the crowd and then plodded to the centre of the Arena. The audience was taken aback; those who hated Sadira filled the air with jeers and boos, while those who loved her felt a touch of fear at the sight of their vivacious hero looking wan and full of sorrow. Sapphire Kiss walked beside her like an energetic filly following in the wake of an old mare, eager and ready to fight.

Silvius strode across the sand, his hair spilling over his shoulders in magnificent curls, jaw set in a confident smile. Everything about him shone, from his armour and the edge of his Draklaive to his oiled skin. He stood a head taller than Sadira and Sapphire Kiss, and looked leaner and more powerful than he had in many years.

Behind him lumbered the Gorehound, huge and foreboding.

For The Duellum Dominantium, Quintus diKrass, the most famed arena announcer of the day had been brought out of retirement. He named each of the fighters in turn and they all gave a salute. Sadira’s was curt, in marked contrast the impressive flourish given by Silvius.

“It looks as if the flower of Daer has wilted,” intoned Silvius. “Have you come to regret challenging me, kitten?”

Advertisements

Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: Will to Power (Domains of the Chosen #2)

bloodlust_wtp_cover2

An intense rivalry over the greatest prize imaginable.

“Why are you doing this Karmal?” said Sadira. Her body was battered, but she too was full of power. She saw now that Gavin and Giselle and Vintia and Cleothera had all been right; Karmal was no longer her fiery rival and fierce friend. She had become a monster, inside and out, a woman who had given up her friends, principles, and humanity to be the next Chosen.

“Because I am better than you,” replied Karmal.

They circled. This time, when Sadira’s eyes met Karmal’s there was no give in them, only hurt and defiance. Karmal saw this as a weakness.

“Why prove it in a Deathmatch?” asked Sadira.

“It’s all about power, you dumb bitch,” sneered Karmal. “You are the only one standing between me and my rightful place. Valaran is old news. He got soft and I took his place. You should have backed out when I declared Ut Nex. I’m the strongest now. I might even have saved a place for you and Gavin in my Hearthbound harem. But you stayed in my way, hogging the spotlight as always, all flash and no substance, and now I am going to FUCKING KILL YOU AND CARVE YOUR SKULL INTO A CROTCHPIECE…, and just so you know, I wasn’t exactly rooting for you, even back in Dreadwood.”

 

Tuesday Teaser

This week, I’m going all the way back to Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale, the first book in the Domains of the Chosen Series

Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator's Tale.

Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale. Click for amazon link…

“Chosen’s balls girl, you look angry,” drawled tall, flame-haired Karmal, trying to divine the source of her friend’s irritation. She was keen for the drama that usually followed when Sadira lost her temper. “Has some little tart dared to piss you off?”

“No Karmal,” answered small, bright eyed Vintia, pointing at Gavin “She’s trying to get the attention of that guy.”

“Who? Him?” said Karmal, trying to divine why Sadira, her friend and rival was interested in the figure below them. “He’s a Gladiator, but he doesn’t look like your type, Sadira; he’s not important enough for us to know and not attractive enough for us to care.”

“I think he’s handsome enough Karmal, but you know Sadira’s just angry that she can’t get his attention,” responded Vintia, snatching a small piece of honey-dipped, pickled ginger from a passing tray “He seems more interested in food than anything else. Maybe you could use that to your–”

“Good idea,” interrupted Sadira, snatching a sticky piece of ginger from the same tray and hurling it at Gavin’s head with a deft flick of her wrist. For a woman of her skills it was an easy shot and she hit her moving target perfectly, the honeyed ginger sticking to his cheek with a wet smack. Vintia’s mouth hung open in shock, while Karmal let out a delighted laugh that could be heard over the background chatter. Sadira waited for the man to turn, a thrill of anticipation quickening her pulse.

Gavin felt something splatter just below his eye, sticking to his face. A strong smell of ginger and a distinctive smacking sound accompanied this odd sensation. He heard Karmal’s laugh then, which sounded very malicious to him. He raised his hand to his cheek, which remained sticky even after he removed the offending hors-d’oeuvre. He looked around, colour rising to his cheeks, deeply humiliated at being the sudden centre of attention. His immediate thought was that someone was trying to humiliate him.

A lithe girl next to him raised her hand to cover her laughter. Gavin snarled, looking around, and his eyes were drawn inexorably to Sadira. When their eyes met, Gavin, full of anger, met her piercing eyes did not look away. Beauty did not matter to him then. He squared his shoulders, cloaking himself with all the dignity he could muster, ignoring everyone but his assailant. A long moment passed as the two stared at each other across the crowded room. A shiver ran down Sadira’s spine. She felt suddenly childish, embarrassed by her rash and mean-spirited behaviour.

This little morsel leapt to mind because it was my stepson’s birthday today (technically it is still Tuesday somewhere) and his grandmother took him to a local restaurant, the Old Mill. Despite never having the pleasure of eating there, the Old Mill was such a fixture of my childhood, riding past it every day on the bus, that it made its way into the Campus Martius.

This scene is where Gavin and Sadira meet for the first time. Gavin is as socially awkward as a young Gladiator can get while Sadira is a bratty teenage queen bee at the time. Queue fireworks!

Tuesday Teaser

This week we have a throwback to Bloodlust: Will to Power.

The Cover for Bloodlust: Will to Power

The Cover for Bloodlust: Will to Power

One of the part I enjoyed about the book is the rivalry between Karmal and Sadira, and how it boils over, turning friendship into hate. It was fun to write, especially when the insults became personal and vicious, and remains a highlight of the book for me.

“I lived in your shadow for years,” growled Karmal, runes on her war-cleaver flickering; Sadira could sense ripples of magic from the weapon, as well as the patterns of the some more exotic disciplines taught to Karmal which she measured as they talked. “I never really realized how much you were using me until you cost me that ranking match in Brightsands.”

“We won the match, remember?” said Sadira, a touch of icy impatience creeping into her voice. “You just failed the ranking part. I passed it. Does that not tell you something?”

“It tells me that you are a spoiled little slut who gets what she wants because everyone wants to fuck her,” snarled Karmal, hands tightening on her blade, muscles heaving with anger.

Both Karmal and Sadira are classic ‘alpha’ characters with very bold, direct personalities and extremely competitive natures. Originally I was not going to give either of them a major role in Will to Power, but fans demanded more of Sadira and Karmal made the perfect foil…

A snap of power from Sadira sent green tendrils surging from the sands, grasping greedily at Karmal’s legs. She was used to this tactic and avoided tripping as they held her. Sadira charged. Karmal ripped her foot free. She screamed, swinging her war-cleaver in a broad horizontal arc. Sadira sprang as she came close.

Catching Karmal’s blade with one of her own, Sadira flowed with the momentum of her opponent’s strike, rather than parry. In effect, she rode Karmal’s swing. The spectators cheered this difficult manoeuvre. The powerful motion flung Sadira into the air. She landed gracefully, rolling as she struck the sands, flowing into the Razorwing’s flight dance as she came to her feet. She whirled and slashed, attacking, while Karmal tried in vain to turn and face her. Her swords came away bloody. Sadira whirled way, laughing cruelly.

“Face it Karmal, you don’t have the finesse to beat me,” taunted Sadira. “Why don’t you…”

Her words were lost as the scent of blood filled Karmal. Changes in her body had made her acutely aware of such things. Her vampiric desire for blood. Her berserker rage. Her demonic hatred. All of her disciplines gave her great strength and destructive power but eroded her self-control. Power raged through her as the blood and pain whipped her into a frenzy. She wove a spell directing that power at Sadira, so swiftly that it took the Shadow-Elf by surprise.

Fire erupted from Karmal and the crowd gasped as it washed over Sadira, engulfing her entirely and turning her words into a frenzied scream.

Pick up the book to find out what happens next…

Tuesday Teaser

This week I’m headed back to the one that started it all, Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale

Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator's Tale.

Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale.

This scene takes place in Scorpion’s Oasis, a luxurious desert spa town where the Blue Faction has dominated the standings for over a decade. Sadira, ever seeking greater challenges, decides to see if she can tilt the balance in favour of the Red Faction, and thus win even greater acclaim. Gavin and the others follow.

In the scene the Gladiators are fighting mechanical serpents that can burrow through the white sands of the fighting ground and spring suddenly from ambush. Two teams of Gladiators are competing to kill these beasts, with the team that gets the most kills winning the match (how barbaric!). Faction contests are notoriously complex however, so Gladiators gain more point for spectacular kills and lose points if they are knocked over or eliminated. However, the opposing team is disqualified if they score a kill on a Gladiator of the opposing faction. This creates and interesting dynamic where the fighters are jostling for position, but not seriously attacking each other, while trying to hunt down and avoid deadly monsters,

Sadira sensed motion beneath her. She held still, channelling power into a spell-weave that sent a pure, powerful surge of adrenaline coursing through her body. Gavin, his eyes finding her, channelled power into a spell of his own, enchanting her further. The two magics mingled, life entwined with thought; Sadira felt immense strength and vitality coursing through her limbs combined with the stillness of perfect focus. The world slowed around her. She waited as the sand stirred.

The metal serpent seemed to leap at Sadira in slow motion. Its gleaming coils began to close around her, almost too fast for the audience to follow, yet barely moving from her perspective. Calm suffused the Gladiatrix. When she moved it was an explosion of bladed fury to those who watched, but to Sadira the motions were simple and unhurried. She whirled, feet moving in the most intricate of dances, through three perfect steps, as the clockwork serpent coiled inwards. Her deadly twin obsidian blades cut elegant flowing arcs on both sides of her as she completed each step. Each  cut was flawless, done so quickly and perfectly that to the audience her blades appeared to make all six cuts in a single motion, like a steel flower opening at the sun’s touch: a six-bladed blossom.

As the serpent fell into a half dozen pieces, oil pouring like black blood onto the sand, Sadira stopped, absolutely still and poised, the powerful magics coursing through her forming a brief pyrotechnic halo. The world seemed strangely out of focus for her as the effects of thep otent enchantments wore off. She breathed deeply, adjusting to the normal flow of reality again. She could still feel the afterglow of her magic mingling with of Gavin’s, leaving her breathless. She felt somehow, profoundly different, as if she had crossed some great unseen threshold.

Wonder suffused the arena; for a heartbeat no one spoke, and no one moved. The crowd could sense that they had witnessed greatness and the scene was now etched into the mind of everyone watching: that steel edged flower opening to reveal the Gladiatrix within. They knew now, all of them that they were in the presence of one who would be Chosen. Sound built slowly, dammed in by awe, and when it came the roar of the crowd was as if each man and woman was a lion. They forgot themselves, caught up in the moment, shouting their praise, reveling in the transcendent.

This scene speaks for itself in my mind. It is the first proof that when Gavin and Sadira work together, they are capable of great things.

Tuesday Teaser

Tis Tuesday once more, and time for a teaser from my upcoming book, Bloodlust: Red Glory.

“That was brave,” said Sadira as Sapphire Kiss passed out of the arena. “I’m not sure I would have the steel to do that. She looked so confident as well.”

Gavin smiled, remembering his first match against Sadira in this every arena, which had ended up with him losing and her naked. Life was strange. 

“Looks can be deceiving,” said Ravius from the other side of Gavin. “I’ve heard ugly things about the Skin Leagues.”

“I think they are an insult to the Games,” said Vintia from beside Sadira. “I can’t believe that woman made the final selection and neither Tenisha nor Richelle did.”

“Popularity counts,” said Sadira. “That has always been part of the games. How is Sapphire Kiss more of an insult than Gloria Bella Maxima?”

“Her record isn’t as good,” said Vintia. “But I don’t like Gloria Bella Maxima any more. Neither of them would last through a real battle.”

Sadira laughed. “You are getting curmudgeonly as a Warbound, love. I’m sure many people thought the same about myself.”

“I never did,” said Vintia. “But you’re right. This, all of this, just seems so disjointed after the realities of campaigning in Ithal’Duin.”

Sadira shrugged.

“I can see what you mean Vintia,” said Gavin. “Everything seems a little off.”

“No surprise there,” said Ravius. “You still have trouble grasping the fact that you’re a Chosen, little brother.”

Sadira laughed, Gavin smiled.

“Do you suppose Crimson Rod is going to come out naked as well?” asked Sadira.

Sapphire Kiss, one of the main characters introduced in Bloodlust: Red Glory, is a Gladiatrix with a checkered career who keeps her dreams of being a Grand Champion alive by joining the Skyclad League. The Gladiators in the Skyclad League must fight with their loins and chests bared and can only wear armour, not clothing. It is the invention of the perverse Chosen Silvius, who seeks to exploit the already sexualized nature of the Great Games. [Note that I am aware that Skyclad means no armour either, in traditional use.]

Objectively the Skyclad League is no worse than the Death Leagues, which seek to exploit the savagery of the games. However I find the idea of the Skyclad Leagues more difficult to write about. I suppose, even for me, sex is still more taboo than violence. Such is North American media culture I guess.

The Skyclad League, often called the skin leagues in a derogatory fashion, is generally looked down on. Yet it does get Sapphire Kiss into the Grand Championships. It is a dilemma we are all familiar with in the modern world.

Teaser Tuesday

A teaser from Bloodlust: Red Glory, my next novel.

Sadira and Gavin arrived, the smell of the sea still clinging to them, just in time to see Fiona begin. They were ushered into the private box without ceremony. Chosen Marius turned to them, eyebrow raised, but Sadira stopped before she could speak, staring down at Fiona, lost in memory.

Gavin felt a pang of sorrow from Sadira as flame-haired Fiona entered the fighting grounds, moving with the grace of a predator and the swagger of a born performer. The Chosen knew what his beloved was thinking, and would have known even without their mystic bond.

Sadira gripped the hilt of the monstrous war-cleaver at her side, knuckles going white around the hilt: adamantine wrapped in long strands of hair so much like Fiona`s. That hair had once belonged to her rival and friend, Karmal.

I wonder if it is barbaric or touching that Sadira wraps the hilt of her sword in the hair of the woman who once wielded it.

This passage, from the beginning of the book, serves as a bridge between Bloodlust: Red Glory, and Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden. The death of a Chosen serves as a catalyst for events within the Empire…