Vikingr Teaser

Vikingr Teaser

Cover 2

Stones crunched under Erikr’s feet. They had made it to the beach. Men lined the side of the longboat, hammering sword, spears and axes against their shields. Erlingr and the other karls raced ahead, their feet pounding on the wooden planks of the pier. Erikr tried to run faster but all of the muscles in his legs burned. Suddenly, he was dragging his burden alone. Turning back, he saw Alva sprawled on the beach with her hands clutched around her ankle. He dropped the deer’s heavy carcass and sprinted back to her.

“It twisted!” She cried.

Men and women poured out of the meadow, their faces contorted with rage as they saw their enemies climbing aboard the ship. Then they whooped in victory at the sight of Erikr and Alva crouching halfway between them and the pier. The enraged crowd surged down onto the beach. Erikr hauled Alva to her feet and dragged her down the stony slope. Their feet slipped and skidded on the wet rocks as they drew closer to the longboat. On board the ship, the karls shouted and gestured wildly behind them.

Alva’s ankle gave out at the pier. Feeling her weight pulling down on his shoulder, Erikr looped his arms under hers and hauled her down the walkway. Rough hands reached down and dragged them both up over the bulwark and onto the deck of the longboat. They lay panting where they were deposited as oars were brought over and braced against the pier. The longboat slowly drifted away from the shoreline while howls of impotent rage burst from the mouths of their frustrated pursuers.

You can find Vikingr by clicking this link!

Death Row Express (short story)

Useless Book Club

Books HD

Here’s a short story by guest writer K. B.

“You’ll be put on death-row express.”

“I’ll be put on what?”

“Death row express, death row but more express. Expressly death row. No need for any extra faffing here!”

“I haven’t been charged with anything, why exactly am I being sent anywhere?”

“Well, we’ve had a look at your total life achievements and find them underwhelming. So we’ve decided this is best for everyone involved.” This came from the somewhat portly gentleman sat next to the man who declared the sentence.

“So, you’re telling me that not only is this meeting not to discuss the photocopy incident, but that I’m to be put to death?”

“Don’t be so melodramatic. No one’s being put to death, there’s far too much paperwork involved in that. Not to mention those pesky human rights activists… You mentioned a photocopy incident. Care to elaborate?”

You can…

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Scafell Pike #7 (finale)

Scafell Pike #7 (finale)

Lu stepped over the threshold and into the bustling warmth of the country pub. Hikers, ramblers, locals and tourists were crowded around her, laughing and talking over pints of ale, gin and tonics. She felt a tightening in her throat where the killer had tried to strangle her. The warmth was close to suffocating after the chill of the mountainside.

Suddenly, she spotted something distinctive. All of her attention was focused on the red anorak draped over the back of a chair, her field of vision closing in so that it was the only thing she saw. Lu didn’t know what she was doing, but the coat was drawing closer to her. She was walking towards it like a woman in a dream, a waking nightmare. Her hand reached out and brushed against the slick plastic material.

A man turned, casting a casual look around the pub. Beyond him she saw mouths open in laughter, teeth bared in aimless chatter and lips pressed to the rims of pint glasses. But in the man’s face there was utter shock, perhaps even fear.

“Murderer!” Lu shouted, stabbing at the man with her finger. “He’s a murderer!”

The hubbub died down to a soft murmur. Every tongue in the place was stilled and each pair of eyes fixed itself on Lu’s quivering face. She was exhausted and emotionally drained, but elation leapt in her breast when she realised that the killer had been caught.

“You’re her.” The man said, narrowing his brows and taking a hesitant step back. “You’re the madwoman who chased me down the mountain.”

“Don’t play dumb!” Lu snapped, stepping after him. “I saw you throw her off the cliff. I saw you kill your girlfriend.”

People muttered darkly on all sides, moving away so that a wide circle formed around Lu and the killer. A wall of stern faces and suspicious scowls surrounded them.

“My girlfriend is back home. What are you talking about?”

The man took out a mobile phone and starting pressing buttons. Lu heard a dial tone ring a few times and a woman’s voice answered. Voices grumbled  and, as she looked around for support, Lu saw that their angry stares all fell on her. Her hands began to shake with mingled frustration and embarrassment.

But she had come too far to give in. She knew what she had seen. If she hadn’t seen it, she would have taken her own life. Witnessing that innocent woman’s death had given her a purpose, a reason to go on living. She refused to let it go.

“Then it was another woman.” Lu said, and then turned to the onlookers. “It was a woman in a bright blue anorak. He killed her because she wouldn’t marry him. Trust me, I saw it!”

She had thought the pub patrons’ glares were the worst of it, but they weren’t. Now people turned away, whispering to each other in tones of sympathy. Lu didn’t want them to feel sorry for her, she wanted to be believed.

A rough hand touched her arm and she jerked backwards. The killer was standing close, near enough to her that she could smell hops on his breath. He gestured to something, pointing at her chest. She looked down with the patron’s muttering loud in her ears.

“Poor thing, it’s sad really.”

“Probably unhinged. Someone should do something.”

“Is there anything we can do?”

Lu looked down and saw the bright blue anorak she had put on that morning.

You can read the first Scafell Pike here.

Saxon Story #9

Saxon Story #9

Hastings

The lord’s pavilion was alive with the sound of pipe and drum, the smells of roasting boar and stag, the orange glow of fire and candle spreading warmth and good cheer throughout. Men-at-arms in their elaborate surcoats jostled on long benches beside stout bowmen in boiled leather jerkins. All stood to applaud their commander and host as he took his high seat.

“We have defeated the Saxon king!” He cried out over the merry hubbub, firelight shining golden on his steel mail. “We have conquered this land and now, after much suffering and privation, we may enjoy the fruits of our victory!”

It seemed as though he would say more. His aristocratic chin lifted slightly and the perfectly manicured beard bobbed in a prelude to speech. But before another rousing cry could wash over the revellers, the heavy tent flap behind him was lifted, showing a brief glimpse of gathering darkness beyond.

“Fruits, did ye say?” A grating voice asked.

The scowling housecarl’s arrival was met with a rasp of steel as a hundred blades were drawn. Armoured figures dashed to their lord’s side, shining armour and flashes of orange candlelight on polished swords.

Before cold, sharpened steel could meet Anglo-Saxon flesh, a harsh sound ripped through the air. It was a sputtering, trumpet-like sigh of wind escaping the housecarl’s backside. He folded scarred hands across his mouth, gasped and began to caper about as though trying to waft the smell away.

“It seems I’ve had too much fruit already.” He said in a tone of mock embarrassment. “They’re making cider in me belly.”

In a moment, as the joke sank in, the pavilion erupted into a clamouring din of laughter. Fists hammered table tops and the lord waved his hand over his wrinkled nose, smiling wryly at his closest companions.

At the back of the feasting tent, Breya wriggled on her belly beneath the low awning. She looked up to see the housecarl scampering about the floor like a mongrel, begging scraps from the lord’s table. The Normans cheered at his antics and stamped their feet.

She dashed forwards to a pile of baggage, keeping her body hunched, and began rifling through the saddlebags in search of treasure.

Find my historical novel Vikingr on Amazon Kindle.

Fury

Fury

Fire

The feeling was nothing. It didn’t make me want or think anything, just emptiness.

It was a black void drawing my stomach tighter into a gripping knot until my whole body shook with the tension.

Something raw and ugly was growing inside me, a deformed monstrosity that screamed and howled in disfigured fury.

The tightly wound cord grew taut, quivered, scratched like a boiling rash, snapped. Everything broke loose. Cursing, shouting, thrashing anything near me until it was crushed into a fine dust. Fire leapt inside, white flame consuming red embers.

And then, a cold spread of ice through my veins. Revenge would be slower, require more energy, but when the hunger was released it would devour everything.

I drew it back inside and locked it tight in my chest. Fury saved for another day.

Ripper #9 (finale)

Ripper #9 (finale)

Battersea bridge

Matthews wasn’t quite sure what had happened. He remembered the sharp glare of moonlight of the edge of thirty or more drawn razors. The taste of London smog, smoke and dust, had been thick in his mouth. He’d seen grimy grey water spreading out as he fell towards its surface, or else it had fallen towards him.

Whether he standing, lying or still falling he didn’t know. He could feel the whole of his surroundings spin around and stay deathly still all at the same time. His eyes weren’t opening and that was a concern, but Matthews felt relaxed in spite of it.

He groped towards his chest and his movements were sluggish in spite of his desperation. One finger met with coarse fabric and found it damp. Relief washed over Matthews with the realisation that he was bleeding. It answered some of his questions and at least, he thought, the doubt was gone.

Now he did open his eyes, groping through the clouded darkness for some sign of light or life. An object swam towards him, a crumbled deck sprouting a decayed mast of brackish timber. Matthews tried to breathe sweet, crisp night air and inhaled foul Thames water. It burned in his lungs, but brought with it a certain peace.

“So that’s where I ended up.” Matthews thought as light shone blinding in his eyes.

Palmyrian Night #3

Palmyrian Night #3

Palmyra tower

“If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” – Pearl Buck.

Four men entered the silent tomb with stamping feet and heavy, panting breaths. Bardisan knew one of their number from memory. It was the legate who had sought him out in the shadows of the Palmyrian slums. A tall crest of red-painted horsehair hung like a martial peacock’s tail from the top of his helmet. Behind him was a junior officer, thin and pale, and two cavalrymen whose imposing bulks seemed to fill the small, dark space.

There was a military swagger to how the larger three walked. It was a clap of hobnailed sandals against stone flagstones which seemed to threaten a sword’s point in the gut if a man stepped across their path. The legate peered into the sarcophagus in front of them, started back and bellowed. His shout was Latin, incomprehensible to Bardisan, but he took the general meaning of it. Raw anger and white-hot frustration echoed through the tomb.

Bardisan shuffled across the great stone beam and felt his foot snag against a sharp edge. The strap of his frayed sandal broke with a snap. As if time had slowed, Bardisan watched the ragged flaps of leather tumble down through the shadows and clatter to the stone floor. Four rough, pale faces caught the moonlight as they looked up towards him.

Read the latest Palmyra news here (BBC) and click here (Sacred Destinations) to find out more about the city’s fascinating history.

For something similar, and an excellent read, check out Emperor and Prophet on one of my favourite blogs (John’s Life and Travels)!