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New year, new writing.

This year will be one of creativity and forward movement. I have a novel to get published, another one to start writing and I’m also going to be starting my career in gaming journalism (there will be a new blog for that soon, so keep an eye out if that’s your thing!).

 

But it’s time for the new stuff. Here’s my latest short story, which began as an experiment with a new writing style and ended as a new idea for one of my existing characters.

It’s a bit darker than my usual material, with more swearing and violence than you might normally see, but I hope that doesn’t offend you enough to stop you having a read!

Please feel free to give feedback (in fact, I actively encourage it) though I will apologise now for the formatting – I’ve had no end of trouble trying to format it for WordPress, but this is the best I could do for the moment…

 

 

Fire In Her Eyes

“Goddamn it!” Jorl was complaining about something again. He was always annoyed about something. Give him a world filled with beautiful women wanted fucking, he’d find something wrong with it.

He had a point this time, though.

Our target was down at the bottom of the valley, where the snaking dirt road met a small village. Rocks and loose stones would make the trip down dicey, but the worst part was the dozen mercenaries camped within the mass of log structures.

Thade’s men.

“Goddamn it,” Jorl complained again.

Not many people realised it, but Jorl was no regular warrior. No regular man, as it happens. He had spent many years as an elite soldier for the previous King of the Northlands, only no records would ever tell of Jorl’s exploits. Only myth and legend remained.
His massive hand covered my shoulder – and then some – as he drew up behind me. “Stay here,” was all he said. After that business in the Drift, I knew to listen when he said that.

Jorl was almost a caricature of a man, his size would be comical if he weren’t so damn fearsome. He stood a good couple of feet taller than any normal man, with shoulders broader than a man is tall, arms like tree trunks and hands that could reach fully around the waist of many a serving wench – and had, time and again. With fingers thick as his, it’s no wonder women loved him.

His caricatured looks weren’t solely confined to his torso, neither. His mouth was hidden behind so much beard that when he spoke, you’d swear there was an echo off the cavernous hair. His legs were amusingly stumpy too, or would be if he wasn’t so unnaturally fast on them. I’ve seen him outrun deer, leaping on them like a ravenous lion, though at least he used a blade to kill them quickly rather than sinking his teeth into them.

His size belied his stealth, however, as the mercenaries below would soon discover.

Jorl had trained me to see like he did, like the fabled cat people of Athrine, seeing in the dark almost as easily as in daylight. It was the only reason I could see him stalking his prey.

The sun had left the world in gloom, ghostlight taking its place and leaving the village a grey mass of shacks, the odd burning ball of orange signifying the torches illuminating the dirt roads between.

Dressed in his darkest browns and greys, Jorl was a shadow moving through the trees to my left, down the treacherous slope toward the village. He pulled the bow from around his chest, lifting it over his head and knocking an arrow in one smooth motion.

The man was an artist with a bow. He just knew the strength of the wind, its direction, the precise distance of his target, the exact downward curve of the arrow’s trajectory. He called it training. I called it magic.

The first merc met his maker silently. The shaft protruding from his eye socket had killed him instantly as the steel bit into his brain. He fell into shadow, his companions oblivious to his demise. The second fell just as silently, left sitting against the dark timber of the nearest shack.

The third one was the problem.

Some people are just born lucky. The third mercenary definitely was, although luck eventually runs out. Jorl’s arrow would have pierced the man’s skull if it weren’t for the drunken sickness causing him to double over, splashing vomit over his boots. The arrow clattered noisily off the rocks behind.

Then all hell broke loose.

The village exploded with life. New mercenaries, clad in mismatched armour of leather, iron and plate, poured from inside what must have been the tavern, their comrade’s panicked shouts alerting them to the presence of the as-yet-unseen archer.

Jorl calmly looped the bow back over his shoulder, letting it rest on his back as he hunkered down in the brush and unsheathed his knife. I held that knife once, felt like a longsword to me.

I honestly pitied those men. They never stood a chance.

In no more than a minute, the colossal assassin had made his way soundlessly down into the valley and looped his way behind the group of six mercs. He cut the first one almost in half, the knife cutting from waist to shoulder and spraying gore all over his companions and killer alike. Curses and cries of vengeance filled the next few seconds as the other five men moved to surround Jorl.

Gods, I pitied them.

Three of them attacked at once, blades coming in at all angles. Jorl swatted one of them away like a fly, sending him sprawling into the dirt, as he ducked under another. That one went careening into one of his friends, the two of them tumbling to the floor with a shriek – the swiper had been skewered on his friend’s spear. The final blade in the opening salvo came at an awkward angle but Jorl easily grabbed the attacker’s arm in his massive fist, twisted it violently and threw the screaming merc away like he was nothing.

The two left standing gave each other a look, unsure of what to do against such reckless ferocity. That look was about a second longer than Jorl needed to stick his knife through the windpipe of one and twist the other’s head so hard that his neck may have shattered. I’ll carry that sound to my grave. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine.

“That’s far enough, old man.” Two more of Thade’s men had emerged from a building down the road, dragging an unconscious teenage girl between them.

Jorl shot a look at the prone survivors of his massacre and, knowing they didn’t dare get up, turned to the new arrivals. “Son,” he sighed, “don’t be stupid.”

Oh shit, this was gonna get ugly.

“Way I see it,” the biggest of the two mercs, still only as tall as Jorl’s chest, began, “you move, she dies.” He put the point of a dagger to her throat.

“You have no idea who that is, do you?” Jorl took a step back, a strange mixture of fear and amusement in his voice.

“Oh fuck,” I whispered to myself in the darkness. If Jorl’s afraid, you better believe you’re in the shit.

Jorl’s gaze was fixed on the girl now, mine followed suit. She was skinny, probably around fifteen years on this godforsaken world, dressed in battered rags that might once have been a dress of some description. Her brown hair had been shaved on one side, exposing some kind of inked marking that ran over her ear, but long locks tumbled freely down the other side. More inked symbols ran down her left arm, visible even through the dried blood and bruising, and there was a hint of something similar through the tears in the back of what used to be her corset.

The two bumbling kidnappers were paying too much attention to Jorl, not noticing the girl stirring in their grip. Not noticing the inked runes beginning to glow about her skin.

Until it was too late.

The mouthy one got it the worst, his hand literally melting away as the girl’s flesh turned to flame. His screams bubbled as she seized his throat, his eyes lighting up like lanterns as he expired in several kinds of agony.

The silent one tried to run. The teenager turned to him and I finally saw her face clearly, saw the fire in her eyes. No wonder Jorl was afraid, I’d never seen a rage like it. Her hand shot out and fire burst forth from her palm as if it were a dragon’s maw, leaving behind a charred skeleton that crumbled to ash on the breeze.

“Move.” The girl stalked past Jorl, leaving a trail of smouldering footprints in her wake. The big man stepped aside immediately, not even daring to look into the girl’s eyes. The remaining men were scrambling to their feet and trying desperately to get away from this fiery incarnation of Death. In a brilliant blaze of light, wings of light spread at the teenager’s back, spitting sparks onto nearby huts.

An inferno ravaging most of the village, she floated toward the mercs and whispered something to them, allowing them to flee in absolute terror. I still have no notion of what she had said, or why she had let those few in particular escape, but there was obviously some control to her chaos.

“You can come out now.” Those burning eyes fell on me, glowing bright in the fire-limned silhouette against a backdrop of hell.

For an eternity I couldn’t move. I’m ashamed to admit that I almost wet myself in fear as the girl started toward the base of the hill.

“It’s okay, girl,” Jorl’s reassurance brought me back to my senses.

As I stepped from the brush, I once again saw the teenager as I’d first seen her: skinny and bruised, covered in tattoos. Not a revenant of malice or rage, but a fragile girl of flesh and blood. Jorl unravelled the cape he’d wrapped around his face and draped it over the naked girl, her clothing burned away in the inferno.

He seemed to relax as she smiled and nodded her thanks. She was obviously weakened, resting heavily against the big man’s open palm, holding her upright.

“Lizza,” Jorl said, “meet Kyra.”

Hello all!

 

I’ve been away from my blog for quite a while now, initially to take a few weeks to finish writing my novel. Turns out that took a lot longer than intended!

I’m very happy to announce that I have finished the first draft. It took quite a while and even took a few surprising turns, even for me, but it stands at 123 pages (though that’s A4 pages within a word processor, so that may change with time) and a healthy 72,224 words.

There’s still a lot of work left to do – the first draft is only the beginning, after all – as there’s editing and whatnot, plus I haven’t even settled on a title yet. Anyway, I’ve just got to look into printing off a copy to read through with a red pen at hand, then I’ll start looking into getting it published. I know the odds of that happening are reasonably slim, but I also have self-publishing on the table as a back-up.

 

I’ll apologise for waffling on, but it’s a milestone I wanted to share as I’m pretty proud of myself. A short break is in order now, possibly with a return to Friday Fictioneers on the cards if I can figure out the change in format these days! If anyone wants to help with that, please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

 

Time to sign off, but keep your eyes peeled for some new short stories appearing here at some point soon. Also, I’ve been considering a move into games journalism, so look out for a possible new blog appearing for reviews and other articles – if you’re interested in that kind of thing, of course…

 

 

Gaz

Here we are again, that wonderful time of the week where we get to flex our writing muscles, courtesy of Madison Woods.

Madison’s flash fiction site is here: http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/

The photo prompt this week spoke to my fantasy side, so I decided to once again delve back into my own fictional world created for the novel I’m writing (apologies for the shameless plug). Though the actual #FF story has nothing to do with the novel itself, I just decided to have a little play with one of my characters.

CatFishing

Harlan sat by the river, twirling the short blade in one paw as he watched the rising sun’s light dance on the water’s surface. His tail twitched in the breeze, his soft brown-and-black fur rustling like a field of long grass.

     He purred as the fish weaved through the currents beneath the rushing water, the knife between his claws targeting its prey.

     Amber light glinted off the blade as it flashed through the air, cutting into water and fish flesh in the blink of an eye as the rope went taut.

     “One less fish for the dead,” Harlan purred as he pulled in his catch.

After introducing my main character, Niiko, in a #FridayFictioneers story two weeks ago, I decided it was about time I showed a little more of her story. I picked a brief excerpt from what is currently the fifth chapter, “The Titan.”

As this is my first novel, I’d love to gather some feedback on something I’ve been writing for years. Please bear in mind that this is the first draft, so there is still plenty of room for improvement!

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Jin stared down into the valley, watching as the lifeless corpses of his friends were rising to join the ranks of the undead pouring up the slope toward him.

     He was petrified.

     “Arrows!” someone called out behind him.

     Like a swarm of angry bees, the arrows flashed over his head and down into the mass of rotting flesh and teeth below. Some found their mark, piercing the hearts of a few dozen who fell dead. Can you call them dead? They were already dead before, Jin thought. A surreal moment washed over him, pulling him from the madness that threatened to engulf him.

     The throaty wails of the oncoming horde snapped Jin back to the horror before him. The scourge of undead swept up the hill relentlessly, some now with arrows stuck in their arms, legs and faces. They seemed to feel no pain.

     Something struck him in the face, knocking him to the ground.

     When he opened his eyes again, his vision swaying as it tried to right itself, he could have sworn he heard a cackling from within the undead racing up the hill. He touched his head, blood, he realised, bringing his crimson-stained hand down before his eyes.

     A gurgling, wrathful scream preceded the mess of torn blue flesh and cold, dead eyes that sprang up the hill and landed in front of him.

     The creature had a thin layer of decayed blue skin draped over its skull and rib cage, a few strands of dirt-covered hair protruded from its head. Torn, blood-soaked breeches covered what they could of its legs, themselves almost completely devoid of flesh save for a few scraps that clung to the bone and rotting muscle beneath. It raised its clawed hands to strike…

*

     Niiko raced toward the blonde haired young man on his back at the head of the defenders, the creature standing over him pulling back its arms to tear the poor man to shreds.

     Without thinking, she unsheathed the sword from her back and tossed it in the direction of the Blighted warrior. The blade spun end-over-end, gathering speed as it cut through the air before thudding into the creature’s side and knocking it off balance.

     With a scream of exertion, she leaped forward and swung her axe with all her might.

 *

     Jin looked on in disbelief as the stranger’s axe bit into the creature’s chest, cutting into its heart. The woman grabbed the hilt of the sword she had thrown and kicked the Blighted with such force that it ripped free of the two blades and went hurtling down the hill, knocking down the nearest of the oncoming undead.

     “On your feet, soldier,” the woman’s soft voice seemed to float through the rain as she turned toward the horde, her weapons held by her sides in an iron grip.

     The woman’s hood had slipped down, her bright red hair waving in the biting sea breeze. Her dirty grey cloak flapped to one side, her toned legs stood apart and her boots dug into the muddy ground.

     Jin reached for his sword, lying on the floor beside him, and lurched to his feet. He was ready for a fight.

 *

     The smell of rotting flesh filled Niiko’s nose as the first wave of undead washed over the survivors atop the hill. Faces of ragged, torn flesh rose and fell before her, blades flashed and metal sang, black blood spilled and tormented screams rang in her ears in the heat of battle.

 *

     Despite the insanity that surrounded him, Jin saw the woman as a whirlwind of fury ahead. Her sword and axe glided through dark flesh with ease, leaving a pile of corpses around her and more were sent rolling lifelessly down the hill.

     Those ones won’t rise again, thought Jin as he parried another creature’s blade, every strike is precise, she punctures every undead heart within reach. Following the red head’s lead, he followed the recoiling movement of the parried Blighted with a thrust of his sword. It crumbled to the floor from the gaping wound left in its heart.

*

     General Alvaro stood atop the battlements above Leynas’ gates, his fingers gripping the stone tightly enough to whiten his thick knuckles.

     He was a strong, thickset man of sixty years. His features had been worn by a lifetime of war, battling his way through the ranks. His face carried echoes of the wins and losses throughout his career, all manner of scars faded within growing wrinkles and his receding grey hair was a reminder of his increasing age.

     His piercing, icy blue eyes focused intently on the young woman carving a bloody hole in the attackers’ lines. Who was she? Where did she come from?

     Her power was incredible, something the General had never seen before.

 *

    “They’re retreating!” somebody was shouting behind Jin as he leaned over, resting his hands on his knees and trying to catch his breath.

     The young woman still faced down the hill. Jin could see that she was breathing heavily from the way her body gently rose and fell, yet her posture showed a refusal to relax.

     His ears were assailed by a horrific shrieking sound from across the valley.

 *

     Niiko grunted, stifling a scream as the fierce sound seemed to cut into her mind. She fell to one knee, dropping her weapons beside her as she clutched the sides of her head in a desperate attempt to stop the pain.

     Yesssssss, the voice hissed inside her head.

     “No!” she roared, unaware of the men and women around her.

     You’ve had your fun, whelp, the demon spat.

     Niiko refused to give in, clutching her head ever tighter in the vain hope that she could remain in control.

     Now it’s my turn.

 *

     Alvaro watched as the young woman cursed and thrashed on the ground, the sight was making his soldiers nervous. He had to do something.

     His eyes were drawn to a sudden movement across the valley.

     Loud cracks accompanied the sight of a giant beast swatting aside trees at the edge of the Dead Forest on the opposite side of the valley. Its long arms were themselves as thick as tree trunks, almost as tall too as they nearly reached the floor. It was no more than shadow in the darkness of the rain clouds, but Alvaro could see that it stood on powerful squat legs and its eyes seemed to shine through the veil of grey rain, two bright violet flames glaring at the gates of Leynas.

     The General sucked in a long breath.

     “GIIIIIAAAAANNNNT!”

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Copyright © G. Bailey 2011

It’s Friday Fictioneering time again – amazing how quickly it comes around each week – and our gracious host, Madison Woods, has put forth the photo prompt for our 100-word stories this week:

You will find Madison’s story here: http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/blank-100-words/

My story this week is only loosely based on the picture and, coming in at 113 words, it’s a little over the limit this week.

As always, please leave any feedback you can as I appreciate your help in the learning process – after all, no writer is ever satisfied with what he/she can write. There is always room for improvement!

Crimson Sunset

Niiko stood atop the hill, her red hair flowing in the breeze. She gazed down at the shadowy forest below, the last remnants of sunlight softly glinting off thousands of leaves.

     You know what’s down there, the devil rasped within.

     She did know.

     But how had they got ahead of her? She’d been so careful to keep the creatures behind her. Facing them again might kill her.

     She had no choice. Her sister’s life depended on it.

     She took a deep breath and allowed the demon’s power to course through her, feeling her grip tighten on the bejewelled sword in her hand.

     One way or another, death would reign in the forest tonight.

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