A Teaser For Tuesday

It is Tuesday and time for a teaser.

This week a teaser from my new book, Bloodlust: The Sum of Hate.

The crowd had a mixed reaction to Spider Fang: some cheered, while many actively booed him or shouted threats; Spider Fang was infamous in the Faction Games. He had a reputation for questionable victories and he also had the distinction of being the only active Gladiator to have over a dozen wins by forfeit, all due to opponents becoming suddenly ill or simply giving up before they took to the stands. Many whispered that his mother’s manipulations were the cause of such strange behaviour, but none could prove it.

“Ready for round two, ugly?” asked Spider Fang as he came to rest across from her.

“Have you forgotten the taste of my axe, little man?” she retorted.

“It won’t be so easy this time,” he smirked. “Without your team’s help, you will never catch me with that slow, ungainly body.”

“You better hope not, Spider Fang,” said Green Glory, shaking her horn. “All it takes is one hit from me. You know it in your heart; just think back to our last encounter.”

“I’ll rectify that, soon enough.”

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A Teaser For Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from my new book, Bloodlust: The Sum of Hate, which is out now on Amazon. This work sees the action return to the Arena as Sadira now faces a duel of honour against a fellow Chosen, prefaced by a full blown tournament where each Chosen fields a team, fighting to earn advantages in the final match.

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 Kingblade’s. As soon as this registered she started looking for the metal-clad Stitched and pushed her way toward the closest one. A mace handed Zombie 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.

Kingblade saw Green Glory’s score jump ahead of his, and he began to surge into the horde as well, cutting down Zombies with powerful strokes. As they closed around him, one of them gouged his leg with a jagged hook, slowing him down for a moment. He growled and crushed its head with a powerful backhand.

Both Gladiators were fighting hard now, drenched with sweat and breathing hard. Many of the spectators were on their feet, shouting praises for their favourite. In the Platinum Circle Lounge, a round of late betting was taking place, with princely sums wagered on the exact spread of points.

The undead, relentless and vicious, pulled at the Gladiators. Each of their steps became a burden. An especially energetic Zombie leapt onto Green Glory’s back, clawing at her head with the hooked blades that were attached to its wrists instead of hands. Reaching back, she tossed it into the fray and then pushed forward again, crushing more foes underfoot while she looked for more of the armoured Stitched.

Kingblade’s sword became a blur of steel and blood, chopping through every Stitched around him. Though he now realized that the metal armoured zombies were worth more points, he did not push toward them, opting instead to kill those within easy reach as quickly as possible. Every stroke brought two or more down, soaking the sands around him red with blood and littering it with severed limbs and broken bodies.

Green Glory saw Kingblade’s score surge upward; she was losing ground. She shouldered toward the closest metal clad Stitched, but the ranks of her foes did not buckle. Bellowing she pushed into them again, toppling and crushing some, but she was not able to get to her target. Then she pushed a third time, half pushing, half leaping over the wall of the undead.

Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from my upcoming work, Bloodlust: The Sum of Hate (Domains of the Chosen #7).

The book centers around a duel between Chosen Sadira, one of the series most popular characters, and Chosen Silvius, an enjoyably scummy villain who takes on a new light in the Trump era.

This teaser focuses on an event that stretches all the way back to book #3, Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden, involving accusations against former Senior Centurion Hephus, who took field command of the Eighth Cohort of the Ninth Legion at the battle of Fort Nerus. Hephus is a Gifted (a magic-user) and the Gifted are not allowed to command in the Legions, by ancient tradition. The good guys argue that an exception had to be made for conditions in the field, while others argue that the Law is the Law.

Hephus’s focus snapped back to the inquiry as Assemblyman Skavetz called a witness.
“Legionnaire Septimus Bron, please take to the podium of truth.”

Maximus Skavetz cut an impressive figure in his formal toga. He was tall, square-jawed and straight-backed, with dark curly hair and piercing eyes. His voice, however, was what set him apart; a rich, a commanding bass that could thunder in judgement or offer deepest sympathy.

Hephus recognized Septimus Bron. The Legionnaire looked nervous and uncomfortable before the assembly as he moved forward and took his seat behind a heavy marble table facing the assembly. He had a noticeable limp and one side of his face was viciously scarred.

“Legionnaire Bron, do you know this man?” Skavetz pointed toward Hephus without looking at him.

“I do, sir, that is Senior Centurion Hephus of the Eighth Cohort,” said Bron, looking at Hephus. “He’s a good–”

“Please refrain from offering your opinion unasked, Legionnaire,” interrupted Skavetz.

There was some muttering among the assembly at his title. In the Legion, the Gifted were not supposed to command the Legionnaires. It was a fear founded in The Reckoning, the disaster cause by those who commanded the forces of magic, nearly destroying the world. The Legions were now see as a counter-balance to the power of The Chosen and The Gifted, answering to their own command structure and the people of Krass.

“Legionnaire Bron, firstly I would like to acknowledge your bravery and your service to The Empire. You have suffered greatly to bring us victory. We have brought you here to clarify some questions about the battle of Fort Nerus and the role played by one Hephus Krassius. I will be asking you questions which you should answer to the best of your ability. Please refrain from conjecture or colour commentary; this inquiry is purely factual. Do you understand, Legionnaire?”

“Yes sir,” said Septimus Bron.

“Very well, my first question concerns the promotion of Hephus Krassius to Senior Centurion. Septimus Bron, were you aware of any other surviving Centurions in the Eighth Cohort?”

“Yes, but…”

“Please keep to the questions Legionnaire Bron,” said Maximus Skavetz in a patronizing tone. “Were any of these other Centurions Gifted?”

“No, sir.”

“Interesting. What position did Hephus occupy before his ascension?”

“He was in charge of munitions and forging, sir.”

“Is that a command position, Legionnaire?”

“No sir.”

<>

Sunday Teaser

A little teaser from my WIP.

Riritaka is always a character that I am trying to make better use of…

The report from the Legates was promising. While skirmishes were still common and traps were being set, there had been no large scale attacks or ambushes in more than a year. The Legions did not advance beyond the borders of Trial’s Watch, and The Pale did not attack them in force.

“What do you make of this Riritaka?”

“Some of the Tribes, especially those who have suffered greatly in the wars, want to have peace and time to lick their wounds and replenish their losses. If the Legions leave their territory they have less desire to fight. Some of the Tribes from further south and west will push for war, I think, because they have more to gain, even if The Pale suffer; the war is not on their territory and they can always seek respite when they need it.”

“Should we seek to ally with the closer tribes first then?” asked Gavin. “How would we even communicate a desire for peace with your people.”

“If The Pale are still sending out war parties to … skirmish, as you say, and make traps they will be watching this place closely. I can go into the Jungle and speak to them, or I can signal them.”

“Going into the jungle seems too risky,” said Gavin. “Why don’t we try to signal them first.”

“Ech,” Riritaka made a sour face. “I knew you would say that Gavin Chosen. It is much work. I must carve a spirit stick… a totem banner, you would say.”

“If you knew, then why haven’t you started Riri,” said Headtaker.

Riritaka rolled her eyes.

“Perhaps I can help with this,” boomed Chosen Brighthoof. “I and many among my rangers, are adept at that kind of carving.”

<> 

The Totem Banner was a carved wooden pole covered in animal shapes and the pictograms favoured by The Pale for quick communication. It was painted in vivid colours for the most part, although the carved animals tended toward more realistic colour schemes. Gavin thought it was impressive.

Chosen Brighthoof’s rangers dug it into the ground on a high hill between the jungle and Trial’s Watch, some distance away from both. Riritaka directed them to place various stones around the bottom, judging it like a master sculptor.

“What do we do now?” asked Gavin.

“We come back tomorrow and see how they have responded,” said Riritaka.

Sunday Teaser

I am going to skip the politics tonight. It seems that everyone is aware of what is going on, one way or another 🙂 Instead, here is a bit from my work in progress, which still lacks a working title…

In this scene we have Gavin speaking in favour of a political proposal by one of his peers, a peace mission to The Pale.

Gavin swept the room with his gaze, continuing.

“The Pale are much like us. They have loyalties, they can be reasoned with, and I can tell you with certainty that decades of bloody warfare in The Trials have worn them down as well. We have much to gain from finding peace with them beyond a secure. Goods from the lands beyond The Trials will flow into The Empire once more and our people will gain access to new markets for their wares in return. We will gain safe passage to the lands beyond The Trials, something denied to us by the pirates on Sudra’s Horn. The Domains will expand, gain new knowledge, and grow in power and prestige.”

While he could see that his words had much approval, Gavin could also see some of his peers muttering or frowning in disapproval. It was not hard to guess why; many of them hated the idea of outsiders immigrating to The Empire.

“To those of you who fear contamination of our culture outside influences, I have but one thing to say: history has proven time and time again that walls are the end of Empires. We must meet go forth and meet new friends and new enemies on our own terms. Our ancestors, and some of you in this room sought shelter during the harsh days of The Reckoning. At the time this was wise decision for the storms of The Reckoning were beyond even the strongest of The Gifted. The great walls of Krass kept us safe. And yet, when the storms passed did we remain here, content in our shelter? No, we did not. The Legions, the Chosen, and the pioneers of The Domains marched out to meet the world. Sometimes we conquered, but when faced with a difficult enemy, sometimes we sought peace. Are The Pale any more alien to our ways than The Trolls who now share our Empire? I say that they are not.”

Some nodded approvingly, while others made sour faces.

Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden, third book in my Domains of the Chosen Series.

Bloodlust TSM cover

At its heart, The Shield Maiden is a tale of imperialism, strangers in a strange land, and people making the best decisions that they can when the shit really hits the fan.

Most of the book takes place on Ithal’Duin, a ‘lost’ continent that the people of the Domains have rediscovered. After an initial exploration, Chosen Brightloch, the newest of his kind besides Gavin and Sadira, forms an alliance with the people of Kirif and decides to make his Domain in Ithal’Duin. Vintia, fresh from retiring as a Gladiatrix becomes a Warbound with the Ninth Legion which joins his expedition.

The Domains are meant to be the reader identification culture in the series. The Cultures of the Domains are strange. The Kirifans frolic in the waves and live in strange towers of living coral. The Fologi are vicious man-eating Dolphins who live in Kirif. The Deoman are unknowable behind their masks, driven by strange impulses. The vast Empire of the Vvath is populated by slaves and ruled by Swords that bear the spirits of the Dwarves of Khazak Khrim.

But the strangest of all of the creations in the book is the sentient magical disease known as the Shugothoth. This creature is inspired in part by Lovecraft and in part by Everblight (from the Warmachine miniatures game, a Hordes faction). Once the Shugothoth infects a creature it can spy on the world through them and attempt to take over their body. It can then mutate the creature if it desires. The Vvath hate the Shugothoth and are engaged in the genocide of the Niyiki to stop it from spreading. We learn that Dwarves are immune to it, but only later find out why.

“ENOUGH!” snarled the First Shield. “Your demands do not matter. We have discovered this disease. We also know about your swords. We are the Ninth Legion of Krass. We have claimed this land and paid for it in blood. We will not surrender our arms to a foreign power. If you wish to make war on us, do so at your peril. Even if you kill the last of us others will come.”

“The Vvath do not fear your petty Empire,” said the Blade-Bearer. “As for your deaths, we could just leave you here. Shugothoth is no simple foe. It will starve you out until you are too weak to resist and then add your men to its ranks. You have no hope of survival but us. If you surrender, we will negotiate safe passage, under escort, for any uninfected men. Ithal’Duin belongs to us. Your skulls will decorate our walls before long.”

“Then come for us,” said the First Shield. “The Ninth Legion is ready for any foe. If any of our men wish to join you now, I will not stop them.”

None of the Legionnaires moved.

“Your leader is a fool,” said the Vvath loudly. “Your Kirifan allies have been ruined by our thralls, the Deomen. Surrender to us and you will live, if you are not infected. The alternative is to stay here and die. Our armies can fill the horizon.”

“Perhaps they can,” said Strategos Teven, stepping to the fore, “but unless I miss my mark, you won’t risk exposing most of them to this disease. Just how many Shugothoth-resistant soldiers can you afford to lose before you can no longer contain it?”

This happens to be true.

Alarmed, Shugothoth reacted to this new threat. The head of the great serpent and the beady eyes of all of the remaining Crocodilians snapped towards the Shield Maiden. A keening sound rose above the din of battle and, as one, they all charged toward Vintia.

While the Crocodilians were slowed by Vintia’s ice, the great serpent was far too massive, cleaving through the frozen water like an ironclad. Drovers and Legionnaires fired spiked guns into the beast, but these seemed as pinpricks to such a creature.

Vintia raised her shield as the serpent reared back. She could see something else, hateful and alien, staring out at her from behind the window of its eyes. She did not flinch, but returned that hateful glare with a look of defiance in her eyes. The head of the beast twitched and then dove toward her, maw gaping until it seemed about to swallow the sky.

I like the idea of looking into the eyes and seeing something else in there, something unexpected…

Understanding Red Glory

It looks like my next book, Bloodlust: Red Glory will be out in eBook format on Wednesday (or at least submitted to Amazon on that date, sometimes it takes a while for it to propagate). With that in mind, I will be concentrating on discussing and promoting the book for the next few days.

Red Glory is a return to a more unusual format. Readers of my books will be familiar with the basic structure from Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale and Bloodlust: Will to Power, where each chapter is set around a match in Gavin Valcoeur’s career in the arenas of the Domains. Red Glory follows that basic structure, with most chapters being centered around a match in the arena.

The disadvantages of that kind of structure are obvious: it requires a hell of a lot of fight scenes, and such a rigid structure can get in the way of narrative flow. However, many readers enjoyed the episodic, predictable build of the story moving from chapter to chapter almost like a TV series or a connected set of short stories. I decided to return to this for Red Glory, which is another story about the arena, but instead of following a single Gladiator, I follow six fighters seeking to win the ultimate prize.

At its heart Bloodlust: Red Glory is the story of an event. The Grand Championships themselves are a character in the story, at least that is how I see it.

After finishing Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden, I sat back and reflected on what I have wrought and written. The Grand Championships are barely covered in Bloodlust: Will to Power, despite being the pinnacle of the whole series. Gavin gets inserted into them purely through the will of the people and the manipulations of others. In the first books the readers only get to read about his involvement in a single match in the whole event, and in the interludes where Sadira fights Karmal. In retrospect those few chapters do not quite capture the epic scope of the Grand Championships.

Some events shape the societies that celebrate them. The great religious pilgrimages. The state of the Union and massive election campaigns in the states. The moon landings. The Super Bowl, The Olympics, and the World Cup. Each of these events brings the far flung reaches of the civilizations that birthed them together, uniting even the most diverse peoples for a time. They also exhibit particular characteristics. The Olympics foster a sense of fellowship through competition, bringing nations together through sport, but sometimes this competition becomes more than sport. Meanwhile the Super Bowl and the World Cup are rowdy, flashy events where the corporate sponsors are very much in evidence. These attributes give grand events a personality of sorts, which is something that inspired me in Red Glory.

I have already written of how the Great Games are a violent collision of sport, hero worship, and politics. The enemies of the Domains are humble by its Gladiators in ritual combat. The Gladiators, in turn, perform to gain the favour of the people, which is the only way that any Gifted will ever be trusted enough to join the ranks of the Chosen.

But I felt the need to further characterize the games, to breathe life into the Grand Championships. The Grand Championships are the pinnacle of the arena, an event that defines the Domains of the Chosen. Bloodlust: Red Glory is the tale of this event. The Gladiators, the Chosen, and the Citizens, victors and victims both, are caught up in the tide of feverish expectation. Like all such events, the Grand Championships take on a life of their own, crushing some and bringing prosperity to others. It touches everyone, even those who are repulsed by the vicious underpinnings of the fighting grounds. Defining this event in detail gives the reader a better idea of the culture of the Domains.

In the end I needed to write Red Glory to better define the Domains for the series to come. The Domains are modern in some aspects, and we all understand imperialism, but the bloodier aspects of the arena are harder for us to grasp. At the heart of it all lies the fear of the Reckoning, and the covenant that the Chosen made with the people of Krass to survive. Underneath all of the bread and circuses, what can we learn of them?