Category Archives: Fiction


Marlene stood staring out the window, phone still clutched to her ear though the call had ended. A call she’d been expecting for a while now, and hoping for for many years before that. Frank was dead. And then the tears hit her. The relief. He was gone. Finally. She crumpled to the floor and sobs came. Great heaving sobs of – well she didn’t know, joy? Was it ok to feel joy at a man’s passing? Even if he was an evil sonofabitch? Damn it, she felt joy! And damn it, too, if she wasn’t gonna be there to see them put that bastard in the ground. But how to get there, that was a problem. She cursed the idle rust heap that passed for her car sitting on the overgrown lawn outside. Miles from the nearest bus out here. Hell. She would just have to hitch-hike. There was no other way. Picking herself off the floor, she headed to her room to pack. 
Two hundred miles. Only two hundred miles to go. Her forehead rested against the glass of the car window. Her second ride of the day. The first had been a church-going lady who’d dropped her the far side of Poton. She’d offered a prayer for Frank’s soul when Marlene had told her she was on her way to a funeral. Marlene’d had to stifle a “Ha!” She’d been waiting about a half hour on the outskirts of the town when Billy had pulled up in his father’s sedan. 
“Where ya heading’, Mar?” he’d asked leaning across the passenger seat to speak to her. 
“Frank’s funeral,” she simply said. 
“Oh.” He pushed open the door and she sat in amongst the candy wrappers and empty chip packets. And that was it. They didn’t have to speak. Billy knew the score. She’d let it all pour out on his lap one drunken night two years ago. It was a night for revealing secrets. His one of light and happiness as he finally came out. Her’s one of darkness and sadness as she’d opened up about Frank. The minister. The man of God. The man of hate. Her father. 
Their church in Topeka was small. Isolated. The way Frank liked it. That way he could control the comings and goings a lot better. That way he could preach his own particular brand of faith to the true believers. His family. His followers. And, with her twin Joe, her other half,  she’d bought it all for so many years. Filled with her father’s righteous anger, they’d picketed those poor men’s funerals. They’d shoved fliers and posters dripping with bile in the faces of people in every town across the state as they’d travelled from one “Den of Sin” to another. They’d judged all by their father’s yardstick and justified all by their father’s word. The so called word of God. Marlene was content. Safe and happy in her nest of hate with the brothers and sisters she loved. Convinced of their righteousness and their place in heaven. 
But the cracks had started to appear. It was hard to travel to all those places without picking up some doubts. Without seeing some of the reality of the world. These weren’t all sinners. These were just folks trying to live their lives as best they could. And God wanted them all to burn? Both herself and Joe began to doubt. She’d gone to Frank with her doubts and he had railed and ranted at her. 
“This was how they get you”, he’d cried, “with their comfort and normality. God doesn’t want you comfortable, girl,” he had wailed. “He wants you on your knees! Get on your knees for God! Pray for forgiveness! Pray for your soul!” And she did. Dropped to her knees there and then, yearning, begging for God’s righteous forgiveness. Praying for the strength to do His work. She devoured the scriptures from the family bible. Armoured herself with fire and brimstone. 
And this had worked for a while. Her fervour bright again. The pickets re-invigorated by the Word. Joe, though, he’d gone quiet. Shut down. Like God’s fire had gone out in him. And she began to worry. 
About a month after her panicked soul searching, Joe disappeared. No one would tell her where he had gone. Frank wouldn’t even say his name.
“That fag lover is gone! God wants his army to be vengeful and strong. Not weak and pitiful. You mark my words, girl. God has a special place in hell for the lovers. For the meek. For the kind. Now you pray like you’ve never prayed before.” And he’d grabbed her then, forcing her to her knees with him, gripping her shoulders tight. Not for the first time, she’d felt the fear. He was manic. Raging. Violent. Every prayer ended with a slap across her cheek. Every psalm with a punch to her chest. For weeks she endured these special prayer sessions. Feeling every inch of “God’s” wrath. Every inch of the betrayal her father felt towards her brother, beaten into her instead. And finally she had seen him for what he truly was. A bitter, twisted old man. So full of ire at the world. So empty of feeling and empathy for anyone else. A violent madman. Pure and simple. 
With a clarity she’d never felt for his word of God, she woke. And got the hell out of there. No doubt her name no longer spoken amongst her brothers and sisters. No longer spoken by any in the church. She’d lost her entire family. But she’d gained a life. She’d never found Joe. He’d disappeared completely. None of the others in the wilderness, as she liked to think of the other banishees she’d come across, had heard from him. Older brothers and sisters, cousins she’d never known had gathered round her. Taken her in. Shown her actual love. She’d struck off to Poton on her own. Needing the space. Needing the time to build herself a new. And then she’d received the call. 
They pulled up opposite the building. It looked so small now. Drab. Rundown. Ringed by police and surrounded by a mob. The loved ones of the people whose funerals’ they’d picketed. Their turn for righteousness. She could not blame them. It’s why she was here herself. She watched from the across the street as her step-mother Margorie, her father’s second wife after Marlene’s own mother had died, stepped up to a make shift podium to address the gathered media. The madness was there too. Marlene could see it in her eyes. Anger and hate. No sadness. No love. Just resentment at the world as her words were amplified from the speakers set up at the gates of their small church. Some bull about not worshipping the dead. There’d be no funeral. They’d cremated Frank already. He was with God now, training the angels for the coming apocalypse. She went on and on, defiant, remorseless in the face of the angry crowd. A crowd that was quickly turning ugly. Marlene watched as a young man at the back of the crowd threw something. An egg, judging by the splatter on Margorie’s face. The crowd cheered. More missiles flew. Less organic more solid, and then the police were pushing forward, dispersing the crowd, yet cursing the woman they were protecting. Marlene sighed. Even in death, Frank was causing nothing but trouble. 
Then she saw him. Just standing there in the middle of the mini-riot. Still and cool as a breeze on a hot Kansas day. Joe. Like that first ray of sunshine after a thunderstorm. Banishing the years of darkness, worry, guilt, and anger. There he was. Alive. Well. Smiling. A big grin spread across her face as he started towards her. Joe was here. Frank was gone. His ghost finally exorcised in death. 

Another shorty, again inspired by a writing prompt from Jessica Cauthon. A bit longer than the last, but I still enjoyed writing it. And not a hint of swords or sorcery.



The Shopping Trip

A car splashed by on the dark, wet road, it’s headlights reflected in the dozens of puddles of the potholed yard. Derek sucked in a breath, trying his best to keep himself out of sight against the tall, concrete gatepost. He chanced a glance at his wrist watch, the hands glowing in the dark telling him it was too fucking early and too fucking wet to be out and about. And too fucking late to do anything about it. He had to get the “shopping” done this time or there’d be nothing for the kids when they got up. In just over three hours time. 

He had a more pressing deadline though. The Greenstar truck would be here in just under an hour to haul away the rubbish from the back of Supervalu. He needed to get in there before they came and while the store was still locked up. Sunday night shopping. Or, more correctly, Monday morning. He’d always enjoyed a Sunday evening shop. Back when there was actually money in the account. Before the kids. And the mortgage. And the unemployment. And the massive hole in his heart where Charlene used to live. The ache never really went away. Sure it had dulled some, with a bit of time. But Jesus, he missed the bones of her still. 

He sighed. Shook his head. No point on dwelling on that now. Plenty of time for moping when the smallies were out at school. When he had the house to himself and her ghost. Time to put some food on the table. He unrolled the ugly rug and hefted it over the top of the gate, disarming the barbs of the wire as it flopped down. She’d always hated that rug. A present from her own mother from tenerife or las palmas or some other cheesy sun holiday. Well it’s finally getting a bit of use, love, he thought to himself. He took a run at the gate, using his momentum to propel himself up. Belly flat against the manky faux aztec pattern of the rug. And over. 

Wobbling slightly, he landed with a light splash. The rain was coming down again. Starting to get heavier. Great for cover, made it less likely that twitching curtains would spot his morning shop. But it made the picking through the dumpsters all the more unappealing. Still, waste not want not, Charlene had always said. He liked to think she’d be kinda proud of him. The eco warrior credentials, the planeteering that he’d condescendingly tolerated when she was alive came in so handy now that austerity was repeatedly kicking him in the nuts. He hefted open the lids of the massive purple bins, maglight clenched between teeth as he pulled himself in. 

It always amazed him how much good shit they actually threw away. A torn cereal box? In the bin. Out of date by a day or two? In the bin. Bent tins. Ugly fruit. Last year’s models. All in the bin. The place was actually a bit of a goldmine. And now so soon after halloween, the unsold sweets, nuts, crisps. Jackpot. He had to move fast. Had to fill the rucksack and get the fuck out. Before they woke and missed him. Before security were up. Before the bin men came. 

Later. Home. Showered. Clothes in the wash. All traces hidden. The cupboards stocked. Tupperware was his saviour. Keeping the cereals, biscuits, pastas. All that shite. No need for torn packets and unwanted questions. The tins were up high enough to hide their batteredness. Fruit salad for breakfast. All cut up and tasty, belying their ugly origins. Another successful shopping trip. 
Just a little shorty. based on a writing prompt I got here:


A quick shortie for a Wednesday evening.

He doesn’t even notice me. Sitting up there, head resting on his folded arms, sucking on some sour candy like he always does in the afternoon classes. My mouth waters at the thought. I’m slouched down, slid into the rough, plastic seat, the afternoon sun blazing through the windows making the classroom uncomfortably hot. There’re twenty four or five other boys in the room, all sweating in the early summer heat, listless, bored shitless by the grey man droning away at the top of the class. Jesus Christ, would he ever just fuck the fuck off? 

I shift in my seat, trying to get someway comfortable, grey polyester blend clinging to my sodden back. My eyes are drawn to him again. Fuck. What is wrong with me? I’m supposed to be madly in love with Jennifer, aren’t I? We’ve been going out for three whole months. Like, long term. And yet he’s the one who occupies my thoughts. The blonde hair, the brown eyes, the perfect, sallow skin. Hardly ever seems to have acne, and when he does, they make him, I dunno, even cuter, more human, more adorable. 

My gaze follows the line of his back, crappy grey shirt tight against his torso. Jesus. A flash of skin between shirt and belt, as he shifts in his seat. Too fucking much. Shit. Now I’m getting more uncomfortable. A tightening, if you will. Think unsexy thoughts, think unsexy thoughts. My girlfriend is the first thing that pops into my head. Well that’s not a good sign. I’m fifteen. I’m supposed to want her. I’m supposed to, like, really want her. Thinking about her is supposed to give me boners, not kill them. 
I don’t want to think about it and yet I don’t want to not think about him, about James Paige, the stupid, dumb, jock motherfucker and his stupid, hot face. And body. And fucking everything. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. 



Sigur II

Sigur stared into the ashes of the low campfire. The leather thong binding his wrists cut into the flesh, causing him to wince with every small movement. His legs were shackled firmly with iron chain, a rough iron stake keeping him tethered to the bole of the tree against which he leaned. Grey light from the coming dawn seeped into the clearing through the leaf-clad branches of the trees. Bruises covered his face, arms and body from the attack of the previous hours, his left eye swollen shut, the taste of his own blood in his mouth. He could not stop shivering, his lean torso naked to the winter’s air. Opposite, seemingly dozing, was his attacker. Sigur stared fearfully at the prone form of the viltari ranger in the early morning gloom.

He’d been hunkered down beneath the canvas, protected from the worst of the night’s weather, waiting for his father to return. Rogar had been gone for hours and there was no sign of the rain letting up. The great tarp and the sacks of fleece had actually been quite a pleasant shelter. But it had meant that he had been oblivious to the ranger’s approach. He’d yelled in terror when the ranger had thrown back the canvas and threatened him with a nasty looking axe. He’d panicked and tried to run, clambering over the sacks of fleece in the opposite direction of his attacker. But his feet had become tangled in the tarp and he’d pitched headlong to the ground. Dazed, he’d desperately tried to scramble away but the ranger was on top of him so quickly. The man moved like a wolf, fast and vicious. He’d beaten Sigur about the head and body with a flurry of blows, quickly incapacitating the boy. Before long, Sigur found himself trussed up, like a calf awaiting slaughter and dragged to his attacker’s camp. After that, things only got worse. Much, much worse. He’d pleaded with his captor, begged the ranger to stop. But Sigur’s cries only served to enflame his attacker, driving him on to crueler, more depraved assaults. A night time of purest agony. Sigur didn’t know there could be such pain. He’d cried out for his father to save him at first, then for the gods, then for his mother. But nobody came. 
The viltari had finally tired in the early hours of the morning, chest heaving from his exertions. He’d grinned horribly as he’d secured Sigur to the tree. 

“I sent my boys to take care of yer Da. He’ll not be coming back for you,” the ranger had said as he’d hammered the stake into the tree, delighting in yet another torment. “You belong to good old Olaf now.” 

Sigur just whimpered and said nothing, grateful that the assault had stopped and terrified for when it would start again. Olaf had settled down, then, before his low campfire leaving Sigur petrified and shivering with the coming morning. His tears started again then, streaming down his face, stinging his poor, battered eye. He suppressed his sobs as much as possible, trying his best not to make any noise lest his cries endangered the respite from the previous night’s torment. Crushing despair overwhelmed him as he curled his body into a tight ball at the base of the tree. He heard movement behind him and started at the prospect of another assault from his captor. But the noise hadn’t come from the clearing, it had come from further down the hill, away from the direction of the road. A new terror gripped Sigur. Olaf’s companions, surely, returning from their hunt. 

Rowenna II

There was the faintest hint of smoke in the air as Rowenna emerged from the tunnel. The grey light of the coming morning was welcome after so long in the dark of the underground passage. Her soldiers had scouted the area before they’d allowed her to come out into the open, and they were still on alert. The tunnel had brought them to a dense part of the woods. The entrance had been overgrown, obviously undisturbed for many years, until the scouts had cleared it. Rowenna took in her surroundings. They were on the northern side of a small wooded hill about six leagues from the city. Six of her troops remained in a semi-circle surrounding her and the tunnel, waiting for the scouts to return from a further reconnaissance. The other two soldiers were carefully re-positioning bush and foliage to re-conceal the tunnel. With luck, it’s presence would remain undiscovered. As it stood, it was going to be nearly impossible to get such a large group through the woods without leaving behind some trace of their having been there. She could only hope there would be opportunities to leave false trails later. 

Rowenna watched as Woyan’s ears pricked at a particular bird call. He put his hands to his lips and mimicked the call expertly. Now that was a handy skill to have. She would have to remember to get him to teach her that. In fact, she would have to remember to get him to teach her a lot more about the general business of surviving on the run. Courtly life had taught her a lot, but living off the land, moving undetected across strange lands were all things that she’d only had cursory instruction in as a child. That would not do. She marvelled at how the two scouts returned to their location; how carefully they stepped and yet how alert they remained. If she hadn’t been paying attention she would not have noticed them rejoining their group at all. 

“Your highness,” the first scout, Orla, bowed. “We’ve spotted a small camp at the crest of the hill. It’s about five minutes from here. We didn’t want to get too close, but Brev and I made out two occupants. One is definitely valtari, most likely one of their rangers. The other seems to be a captive. Probably local.” Rowenna seethed at this news. The barbarians were already taking captives! 
“There’s more, your highness,” Orla continued. “There are signs of at least two others having passed through this area, heading north east. We nearly missed them at first, so I reckon we have at least two more rangers in the vacinity. Most likely raiding some of the surrounding farmsteads. Other than that, the forest remains undisturbed. Certainly no signs of any large groups.”

Rowenna considered this. It was vital that they get away from here as soon as possible. Retreat and regroup. She wouldn’t believe that the viltari were in full control of her entire country. They had struck at the head in a daring raid. But western cities must surely still hold. There’s no way her brother and his northern bitch could have orchestrated an occupation of the entire country yet. Of course, he wouldn’t need to occupy the entire country. He was the king’s son, most would bend the knee to him no matter what the circumstances of his ascendency to the throne. She had been thinking of who she could trust, who would be loyal, for their entire journey through the secret tunnel. It was decision time.
“Your highness,” Woyan spoke softly, “I think we should keep moving. West is our best option. To Welde and your father’s cousin’s holdings.” Rowenna nodded. 
“You’re right, sergeant. I’ve been thinking that west is indeed where we should head. But first, we must rescue this captive.” Woyan looked perturbed. 
“You don’t agree, Woyan?”
“It’s very risky your highness. No one knows we’re here, how we’ve got here or where we’re heading. We still have that to our advantage. If we stop to rescue this captive, we risk being discovered by the ranger’s companions. I think we should keep moving.”
“I understand your reluctance. But we must do this.” Rowenna was whispering, yet determined. “We’ve fled the city, aye. Tails between our legs. And aye, we must keep moving. I’m keenly aware of our situation. My situation. But we’ve lost so much this last day and I’ve a mind to make a brief stand. We’ve ten of the my father’s finest fighters. I trust each one of you with my life. But what is that life worth if I can’t save even one of my people? We have to do this, Woyan. I have to.”
Woyan was silent for a moment, contemplating her words. 
“Very well, your highness. It will be done. And my apologies.”

“No apologies necessary, sergeant. Bring me the captive. And bring me the ranger too. I’ve also a mind to have a conversation with a viltari.” 


Elan lay awake, gazing at the ceiling of the king’s chambers. His chambers. Chalia dozed peacefully, her golden haired head against his chest, a pale hand resting on his taught, flat stomach. He loved the contrast of her creamy white skin against his dark, nut brown complexion. He had the tall, lean yet muscled frame of the Eldemere royal lineage and she the lithe build of the viltari nobles. Only their eyes were the same, a deep blue that put him in mind of the skies over Crimesmere at dusk. They would make handsome children. 

He couldn’t sleep, of course, how could he? The plan had worked. It wasn’t without it’s hiccups certainly but all in all things couldn’t have gone better. The city had fallen and he was king. And all because of the divine creature sleeping beside him. She fascinated him in every way. Her exotic, pale skin; her strong will; her quick mind. And the things they did with each other’s bodies. They’d pleasured each other in ways he had never even thought possible. 

He thought back to when they’d first met beneath the great white walls of Crimesmere. Five hundred leagues to the north of Elde city, Crimesmere was the gateway to Eldemere. It wasn’t a particularly large city, but it was situated in the Mother’s valley, the only pass through the mountains that marked the border between Eldemere and Viltar.  A holy place, the druivs claimed it was at Crimesmere that the Mother had birthed her youngest, Mesmere, the god of hope and dream. The city had grown around the shrine, in the days when Viltar and Eldemere were part of the old empire. But since the collapse of the empire centuries ago, it was a constant source of strife between the two countries, a tantalising prize that Viltar had numerous times tried to wrest from their neighbour. Eldemere had always held the barbarians at bay, and Elan was to be the latest in a long line of royal governors of this vital stronghold at the edge of the Eldish territory. Chalia had arrived not long after he had, a vast viltari army at her back. And she’d waited. Her forces set up camp outside the great, white walls of the city. They didn’t attack. They sent no messengers. Just waited. For the new governor to go them. 

What had this exotic barbarian princess been waiting for? His councillors advised him to wait. To let her do her worst. The walls of Crimesmere had stood for centuries, never once falling to an enemy attack. Elan had been intrigued. And so he had called for a parley. It was a beautiful summer morning as he’d rode out to meet northerners, his personal guard numbering two hundred highly trained and combat ready troops. The meeting point had been agreed, within the shadow of the walls and within range of archers in both camps. A tent had been set up for the encounter. He remembered the excitement he had felt as he pushed back the canvas to enter the small pavilion. He’d been expecting a dull governership, stuck nearly two thousand miles from the excesses of Elde city that he’d grown fond of. And yet here he was, in his first week, treating with a viltari princess. 

It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the dull light of the tent. She was already there, waiting. He barely noticed the three or four viltari who attended her nor did he pay much attention as his own attendants filed in behind him. She was beautiful. Her golden blonde hair was short, though long enough at the front to need tucking behind her perfect ears. Soft, pale freckled skin. Deep blue eyes like dusk. She held herself with incredible poise, appearing relaxed yet confident. In charge. She was dressed in simple linens, over which she wore a leather breastplate. Every inch, the warrior princess. She had smiled and gestured for him to sit opposite her, bidding him to join her in a drink. His attendants had objected fearing poison, and he had acquiesced to their tasting the mead, all the while holding her gaze, enraptured by her smile. 

A sudden knock at the door shook him from his reminiscing. Chalia stirred from her sleep. They were both instantly alert and reaching for their robes. They’d known their rest would be brief. 

“Beg pardon, your majesties,” came the voice from without, “but you commanded us to come no matter the hour. We found it.” 





“Oh my gods, don’t stop, don’t stop!” the bald headed man pleaded, grasping handfuls of Meredith’s long brown curls. She tried not to gag as he thrust his cock in and out of her mouth. Her tongue darted artfully around the head, swirling shapes across the tip and down his shaft. Her hands moved gently across his ample belly, down the front of his thighs and into the crease between his legs. She cupped his balls gently, jiggling them slightly with one hand while the fingers of the other hand sought out the sweaty crevice of his arse. One finger at first, probing the sphincter. Then two, thrusting now in time with the thrusts of his dick. 

“Holy fuck,” Renald gasped as he fucked her mouth harder. Meredith could taste the telling saltiness of the pre cum on her tongue. A third finger should do the trick. 

“Fuuuuck,” he exclaimed as she plunged her third finger up his arsehole. She felt the hot flush of acrid salty cum hit the back of her throat and swallowed. Once. Twice. Three times. She slipped her fingers out. Four times. She swallowed the final spurt and let his softening cock slip from her lips with a gentle kiss to the tip. Renald flopped back onto the bed, panting. Meredith climbed up, straddling his heaving, sweaty torso and bent over to kiss him, her milky white breasts brushing tantalizingly against his sopping skin. She pressed her lips to his and then slid off to the side, resting her head against his great, flabby shoulder. This was the bit she detested the most. Having to lie there, breathing in his dank, musty stench, listening to him try to catch his breath like a stuck pig. Why did the fat ones always want to fucking cuddle? It made her want to wretch. Sure, he paid well enough but would it kill him to bathe at least once before one of their sessions?

“Weeping Jilly, but you know how to spend a man, Meredith,” Renald said, finally regaining his voice, “and that thing you did with your fingers. Holy Mother and Father!”
“Did you like that, my Lord?” she asked demurely, propping her self up on one arm to look at him. Her face was a picture of carefree mischief. An act of course. Practiced over many years. Got to give the customers what they want. 

“Well, a bit of warning wouldn’t have gone astray but, aye, it did the trick and no mistake,” he grinned. Meredith traced a finger impishly between the two mounds of his massive man breasts, casually circling a hairy nipple before playfully pinching it. 
“Oh I have many a trick that you’ve yet to see Lord Renald. Would you care to experience another?” 
“Ah, would that I could, m’lady, but the affairs of state can be postponed no longer.” Affairs of state. Meredith had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. He was a minor court functionary. Responsible for making sure the Impira’s bastards had enough pocket money or some other equally unimportant job that could have been performed by any number of the trained monkeys that passed for courtiers in the capital these days. But she was supposed to be impressed. And so she looked impressed. 

Renald rolled his large frame off the bed and started to dress; his deep blue cotton tunic first, then a white, linen toga bordered with the same azure of the tunic. Finally he began to re-adorn himself with his many gold bangles and ostentatious rings. He looked every part the courtier. Meredith shuffled her still naked form to the edge of the bed and sat expectantly, waiting for him to hand over her payment. He rummaged in the many folds of his toga, searching out one of his many hidden pockets before pulling out a blue velvet purse. It was heavy with gold, as it always was, the weight delighting Meredith as he dropped it into her lap. The first genuine pleasure he’d given her all morning. She smiled as he made his departure, full of guff and bluster about how weary the world would feel until their next encounter, then collapsed back into the bed with a sigh of relief. 

There was a timid knock at the door. 

“Come in,” she called, knowing full well it would be Fenn with her bath. Sure enough, the houseboy bumped open the door with his backside, dragging a wheeled copper tub with him. A cloud of steam whisped and swirled about his head as he pulled it into the centre of the room. He popped out of the room again only to return moments later with a bundle of clean towels and her favourite soaps. Meredith eased herself into the tub, relishing the sharp heat of the freshly drawn water, and began to wash. Before too long, there’d be another sweaty oaf pawing at her. But for now, she would enjoy the simplicity of a gentle soak. And a fat purse. 

Told ya! 



Meredith – a warning

Ok so fair warning, things are gonna take a turn for the explicit in the next snippet from the story. And there’s probably going to be some blood and guts too in future installments. Just wanted to give folks the option of turning back now. You might find this next one a bit uncomfortable. Certainly you can give it a pass if graphic descriptions of sex are not your thing.

Still want to read on?

Are you sure?

Well, ok then. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.





I haven’t posted in a couple of days – I wanted to give ye a little break. But here’s another one of the little snippets I’ve been working on. Enjoy. Or not. I can’t make ye.


The smoke from the castle fires hung heavily over the city. The rains had done little to lift the heavy pall and had only served to turn the ash that had blanketed many of the buildings close to the old walls into a slick, black mud. Sally peered around the corner of the alleyway in which she and her family huddled. The market square was in turmoil, the city watch waging a pitched battle against the barbarian invaders. Strange. She could swear there were palace guards fighting with the northern invaders. Whose colours were those, though? Not the king’s and not Princess Rowenna’s. Prince Elan’s? Surely not. It was unthinkable. They’d all been caught off guard, guards and citizens alike, by the sudden appearance of the viltari on their streets. She couldn’t believe how fast the city of Elde had descended into chaos. She turned to her husband.
“The square is impassable. No way through. We’ll have to try a different route. Just give me a moment to think.” Efrim nodded at his wife and drew their three children closer. Elaine and Ruth were white with fear but little Rory was oblivious to the danger. They all looked to their mother with quiet expectation. Efrim too. Sally leaned against the grimy wall and closed her eyes for a moment, trying to clear her head, trying to keep it together. The attack had started at the castle and spread from there. The viltari must have had help from the inside, and if those were the prince’s troops fighting alongside the barbarians, that would explain how they’d been able to so quickly and thoroughly overcome the castle’s defenses. A small expeditionary force to begin with, with a larger force waiting in the wings somewhere. That’s what she’d have done, back in the day. She had to get her family out of the city. But how? The main gates would surely be under seige by now, either from within or without. The harbour would be the same. She needed help, needed someone who knew how to get things in and, more importantly, out of the city without attracting attention. She needed Mervin Shallows. 

“We have to head for the Murk,” she declared. Efrim regarded her with trepidation. 
“The Murk? Are you sure, Sally? Maybe we should head for the harbour?”
“No, my love, we have to head to the Murk first. We need to find Mervin Shallows, if he’s still in the city. Or one of his crew at least. The harbour might be our way out but we need to know more. The Shallowmen have always had their smugglers’ routes. We need to find them.” Efrim gulped at the prospect, and rightly so. The Shallowmen were notorious, vicious and cuthroat, and none more so than their leader Mervin. Certainly not the kind of people that decent, hard working folk like Efrim and Sally Baker should even know. But Sally One-Eye was a different story. A story that Sally Baker had tried very hard to forget, to move past. She’d put all that behind her, or so she’d thought, when she’d pitched up in Elde city. A chance for a new start, she’d hoped. A chance to leave the Bloody Company behind. To start the family that herself and Efrim had talked for so many years about starting. 

Now, though, the old life, the old way was the only choice she had to save them all. And that meant finding Shallows. And calling due an old debt. 




Rogar was a little anxious to have left Sigur on his own. But the lad was growing fine and strong and it would do him good to feel trusted. T’would do him no good to be molly coddled and him nearly a grown man. Rogar couldn’t believe his eldest boy was a full fourteen years old. It seemed like not so long ago that he’d wrapped Sigur in swaddling clothes for the first time, a squalling newborn angry and hungry and covered in the grime of birth. The goodwives of the village hadn’t left him hold the babe for long before they were back in, fussing and foostering, clucking like mother hens over the child. Rogar had sat with his wife then, awestruck at  her calm composure, her complete embrace of motherhood. There was no job too small or inconvenient that he wouldn’t do for that woman. He’d always been mad about Marga, and the birth of Sigur only served to strengthen that. 

And, of course, over the years they’d been blessed with another six children. Every one a joy to him and Marga. He’d never once had pause for regret. Sure, things were lean at times, but Rogar was never one to shy from hard work and he’d built himself a nice little small holding on the outskirts of Renware. They weren’t rich by any means but they were more comfortable than most. He’d been looking forward to this trip to the city. A chance for himself and the boy to get away from the farm for a bit. Sigur was a quiet enough lad. Thoughtful. Smart. Reliable too. But a bit overlooked at times in the whirlwind of everyday life in the cottage. Two younger brothers and four younger sisters to contend with, each one more of a show off than the last. Rogar was proud of how Sigur looked out for his siblings, even if it meant going without himself or being the one in the shadows. That’s why it had been so important to have the lad with him on this journey. Gave them a chance to enjoy each other’s company in a bit of peace. 

They’d been making the most of it too, up until the wagon got caught in the mud. And even that made Rogar smile, thinking of his son landing flat on his arse in the mud. No, Sigur would be fine. T’was getting darker and wetter for sure, but he’d be grand out until Rogar could get back to him. The lands around the city had been trouble free for generations. And the folk who farmed the lordlings estates for them were always good to an honest man in need of a dig out. 

Rogar crested a small hillock and found himself looking down on a small cottage. They’d passed it earlier that morning and himself and Sigur had smiled and laughed as the farmer’s children had run alongside the wagon for a ways. Full of the bubbling questions of childhood. What’s in the sacks, mister? Where are ye from, mister? Can we have a ride on the back of the wagon, mister? Rogar had pulled in and Sigur had lifted them up onto the back of the wagon for a short spin as far as their mother who’d been working in the field a little further down the road. She’d been a friendly sort and Rogar was confident he’d find the help he needed to get his wagon on the road again. The lanterns burning in the windows and the smoke rising from the stone chimney certainly seemed hells of a lot more inviting than the scuttery shite of a rainstorm that was pelting him now. 

As he approached the building, the ass started to pull against the reins. Rogar tugged forward, but the donkey was having none of it as it dug its feet in to the churned mud of the cottage yard, ears pressed firmly back against its head. Rogar eased up on the reins, allowing the donkey to back up. There was something in the yard that it didn’t want to be near. No point in fighting the stubborn beast. He walked the donkey back towards the gate post by the road, looped the reins loosely around the hitch there before trudging back through the muddy yard. 

The rain was deafeningly torrential as he approached the cottage door. He raised his fist to bang on the wood and froze. The door jam was splintered, the door itself askew in it’s frame. He pushed on the door gently with his foot and peered carefully into the gloom. A fire was still blazing in the hearth, and a couple of lanterns illuminated flickered and guttered on the window sills. 

“Hello?” he called out, cautiously. There was no answer. The door banged crookedly on it’s twisted hinges as he moved inside. The table was set for a meal and looked like it had been that way for a few hours; a few bowls with cold stew, a half eaten loaf, a lingering smell of burnt meat. He looked around the one room that made up the cottage. The beds in the corner closest the fire were all empty. A single rocking chair stood still opposite. No sign of anyone. Except for the roaring fire, it was if no-one had been here for hours. This wasn’t right. A log shifted in the fireplace with a crackle, startling him. The flames flared briefly as the fuel adjusted, and with it the aroma of must have been burnt pork. No, not quite pork. It was similar but different. Rogar’s stomach churned at the realisation of what it was. It was a smell he hadn’t encountered for many years. Not since his soldiering days. It was a smell he’d hoped never smell again. The smell of burnt human flesh. He forced himself to inspect the hearth more closely. And felt the blood drain from his face. There. Unmistakable. The charred bones of a child. 
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