Category Archives: WIP

randoms xi: arena fighting

The sword swings—too slow, too high—and Lake needs little effort to avoid the arcing blade

“Not good enough.” 

Nemeric grunts. His tunic darkened by sweat, eyes wide and wild, his breath hard and ragged. Not pacing himself at all. 

“Like we practiced,” Lake tells him. “One-“ 

Lake pivots from the hip, weapon raised, sweeping inwards. A clash of his sword against Nemeric’s, the shock of it felt in the fingers and forearm. 

“-two-“ 

Lake pivots into a high, fast backswing and Nemeric dances away to avoid the speeding sword point. 

“-three.” 

Nemeric is recovering as Lake thrusts forward, a quick jab, no danger of it reaching Nemeric but he oversteps backwards, stumbles, falls flat on the sand as Lake moves in. 

“Better,” he says. 

The crowd roars in the high stands around them. Not for Lake and Nemeric. The main action is taking place on the broad wide expanse of the Square—in fact a rectangular plateau of bright white marble in the centre of the stadium—whilst Lake and Nemeric shuffle and feint and make a show of struggle, in the shadows near the edge of things. 

Nemeric is flailing around with his sword as he struggles to rise, red faced and gulping air. 

“Quickly, man, quickly,” Lake tells him. “Much longer and they’ll think your heart’s not-“ 

A howl from Lake’s right and he spins.  Continue reading

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randoms vii: waste ground poppies

“You can’t walk up and stick a bullet in this guy. That’s just-”

Albrecht knows better. “I’m a pretty good shot.”

“Ain’t what I mean,” Mato says. Shakes his head. His face is hard to read in the dimness of this makeshift bar. “That’s not it at all.”

Albrecht sighs, runs a slow hand across her buzzcut hair; she’s got bandages and splints on a couple of her fingers, bruises fading across her knuckles. “Okay,” she says at last. “Let’s have it then. Everything you know.”

Mato gives her nothing.

Albrecht uses her good hand to push a full bottle of bourbon across the table. Backs it up with two packs of cigarettes, still sealed, Prime quality. “Tell me about Topper.”

This story will be a sequel to this oneBroken Rooms: Observe & Report

Broken Rooms RPG

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randoms v

First thing Malley thinks when she hears the sound of a child, crying:
Is this a trap?
Has to wonder, given the state-of-the-world and the way-of-things because, no question, there are some out there who’ll trick and trip and snag the unwary anyway they can. That’s just being a sensible rat, isn’t it? That’s just being safe.
Quiet, and slow, Malley shuffles forth on soft paws, shoves her gleaming sword back over her shoulders (where it hangs loose and close to hand on a twist of waxed twine). Narrows her eye and takes a peek.
She’s only got the one eye, these days, on account of not being careful some years before, but that’s a different tale.
Malley looks out from a hiding place under a damp jumble of discarded planks and plastic sheeting.
In the shadow of the grey stone arches of the eastern bridge, a stretch of churned earth riverbank, smeared with muddy snow and frozen solid in the chill of a winter not ready to leave the stage.
The river surface, at the water’s edge, still showing white and solid; the ice so cold and firm you could walk on it, if you fancied, if you didn’t mind the dark depths beneath.
Malley hears that sound, like a baby, mewling in frustration and fear.
A sudden movement-
Just ahead, something grey and murky shifts and squirms, a few steps out upon the ice.
A bag of some kind, Malley reckons, and within the bag a shivering shape is moving, crawling, struggling. Malley hears it crying out again, trying to get free. Not a baby after all then, but something else in need of help.
Something dangerous.
Help the helpless, her old mam used to say, didn’t she?
Even if-
Yes, her mam would be telling Malley now, ‘cos you don’t know if one day you will be the helpless one. Right?
Malley looks at the quivering bag on the icy river.
She looks back towards the tumble of planks and plastic that covers an entrance to her current home; safe, warm and secure.
Malley rubs the patch that covers her lost left eye.
“Right you are, mam,” she says, and she goes to find some string.
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randoms iv

“How did we build the Crow Boy?” Mourne said.
Elgar considers this for a moment.
“That’s a very good question-”
“Rhetorical,” Mourne told her.
Elgar nodded like she understood. There’d been a lot of that.
“Adding a shade of drama to the affair, see?” Mourne continued. “A touch of the old theatric, you follow?”
Elgar—just an apprentice—not really following at all, but she kept it quiet. Eyes open, beak shut. Just here to learn. That’s the way.
“This is just rehearsal,” Mourne went on. “They like a bit of palaver, up at the Parliament.”
He nodded his dark head and cast a glance around the crowded, cluttered jumble of his—being polite—laboratory. Mourne tutted and sighed to himself for a heartbeat or two.
“How did we build the Crow Boy,” he said.
Tap of his talons on the grey stone floor, Mourne answered his own question: “We crafted with blood.”
Collected from a human child, Elgar knew, gathered up with a square of silk on a summer’s day. Raised voices, running feet, a harsh and desperate wailing; quite did her ears in, that did.
Another tap on hard stone. “We worked with breath,” Mourne said.
Stolen from a different, sleeping child, Elgar remembered, and captured cold in a bright crystal globe.
One last tap. “We built with bone.”
Mourne’s tone serious, solemn, and the words faded slow into dead air.
“Well,” Elgar said. “It weren’t quite so straight as that…”

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randoms iii

I stand behind shaded glass, and look down upon the city.

Not much to see from here, unless you have an interest in the jagged peaks of building tops and the thin black points of the support-spires erupting from a wide dark sea of webs; sharp angles tangled with brighter strands of fresh silk and brushed by fleeting fingers of speeding cloud.

Close to the distant horizon—beyond the city streets and suburban homes and all the farms and villages unseen—the sun stands still in a sky of washed out blue.

If I press my hand against the glass I touch the coldness of the air outside. The chill of winter biting at the world.

Here, so close to the Daughter, so far from the shroud that follows me, I feel alone.

I lower my hand and step back.

I turn at the soft whisper of an opening door, the click-click-click of boots on polished marble flooring. This room is opulent but sterile; every surface pristine, precise, harsh. No furniture, no comfortable waiting area, no casual ease. A tall curve of window, a series of doors of various sizes, and the broad checkerboard floor across which marches the stern stiff form of the tower-master, Crick.

He snaps to a halt and presents a vague outline of a salute, which I return with neat precision.

“Widow Enke,” he begins. “So good of you to attend-” as if I had a choice “-the Daughter will see you now.”

Nothing more than that, he spins about and click-click-clicks away and I follow—at a quick step with my palms damp and my heart racing—into the blackness beyond the doorway, into the presence of my god.

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randoms ii

He must have known this day would come. Perhaps he wanted to be caught? Certain irregularities in his behaviour had been revealed; it began with task-sheets incomplete, unscheduled travels under the dark, it ended with one too many rebels escaping from our nets.

When I find Widow Brin, when he has at last stopped running, he is in a dank and dismal top floor room at an end-of-the-line hotel.

He waits at a table topped with brittle ancient plastic. A breeze from the open window flutters thin and dirty curtains. Brin’s personal issue weapon is on the table in front of him. He does not move as I step into the room. I aim my own pistol at his head as I approach.

I reach out mind-to-mind and he resists the pressure, fights the intrusion, but there behind the barriers I sense the fatal spark of infection. A sliver of fracture/light that twists inside Brin’s brain. A subtle seed of evil.

“Don’t save me,” he says.

He reaches for his gun.

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